Do the Right Thing

This month one of the things we’re talking about is the topic of possibilities, and as I was thinking about this topic I got an email about one person’s thoughts on decisions that some businesses have made that impact us, the users. I completely understand that a business is providing a service or product for a reason, usually to make money, and that they make decisions and changes based on what they think or believe will be helpful to their customers/users and don’t need any permission from customers to do that. However, when you get many complaints about something, there has to be a line of questioning taken regarding whether the right possibility was chosen or if the wrong one was.

One of the ways to analyze a potential decision is to consider whether it’s a win-win-win decision, meaning that everyone involved benefits in one way or another. No, everyone most likely won’t get everything they want, but if it’s a true win-win-win decision, everyone should win in a way that makes them happy.

More people are choosing to make win-win-win decisions, and are more open to negotiations than they have been in the past, which is great.

Another way to check the possible options and paths to travel is to consider if making that move would be the “right” thing to do. The “right” thing will likely be a little different for everyone, but most people can agree on the things that are wrong decisions.

Which brings us to the conclusion that with every crossroads in life or decision to be made, there’s a “right” thing to do and a wrong thing to do, or maybe even several possibilities along the right and wrong spectrum. If you can tell which is the wrong decision to make or wrong road to travel, then the only way you could fail or make a mistake is if you ignore what the “right” thing is to do and choose the wrong path.

I believe that there’s always more than one option available to pursue or choose, the question is what choice you make when presented with a bunch of options. Most of us don’t intentionally choose the “wrong” thing, most of us don’t have all the facts or details or make an innocent/honest mistake. The issue is when you know that you could be doing something better or in a way that would give people more of what they want, and choose not to. What will you choose?

Reality Reflection: Your Great Ideas

When was the last time you had a great idea?  Maybe it wasn’t cure AIDS or world peace great but great in it’s own context.  It could be something as simple as a great idea for dinner, or a bigger breakthrough idea for a client or at work.  Great ideas don’t have to be complicated or multi-stepped, though sometimes they are, these little bursts of insight are your mind’s way of showing you that you’re smart and capable and brilliant.  Sometimes they come immediately while other times your brain has to work through things for a bit before it can spit out greatness.

Why do I bring this up? Because as we get to the end of this month and consider what’s next I wanted to make sure we talked about mental health, including confidence.  Our minds are amazing creations that keep us going, that grow if we feed them and are essential to living.  Think about the term ‘brain dead’: without brain activity there’s nothing we can do without the help of modern medicine, but if we were to lose an arm or leg or are scarred in some other way, we could still function and even have an amazing life should we choose.

So what choices have you made thus far in your life?  Have you chosen to believe that you are capable of having good ideas and that you’re an amazing and talented person or are you just focused on the voices of others who have told you you’re not good enough or that the ideas you’ve come up with are stupid?  Now I’m not saying we all only have amazing ideas and none of your ideas were ever bad or silly, just that you are fully capable of having great, life-changing ideas that can not only rock your world but others’ as well.  Some people choose to use their minds for bad things, and you may choose that as well, but I believe it’s better to use our minds for the good of ourselves and others, rather than for harm.

My encouragement today is that you believe great things about yourself and your future, because you are worth an amazing future that allows you to show off a little who you are and what you can do, is filled with great people who love you and you’re working on achieving your big dreams and goals by overcoming the challenges and obstacles you face and coming up with new great ideas every day.

Reality Reflection: Books are Awesome

This past Friday was Read an eBook Day and September 6th was Read a Book Day, and of course it’s back to school month so there’s lots of talk of learning!  I am a huge book lover, I love reading articles online and in my emails and think that reading is one of the best ways to learn.  Of course there are other ways of learning, but to me it’s one of the best and most enjoyable.  There’s nothing quite like holding a book in your hand, but eBooks have certainly revolutionized the book industry and made it much easier for everyone to be able to read, not just those who have access to physical books or a place to keep them.

I always check out book list posts when they come through my inbox because I like to know what other people are reading both fiction and non-fiction.  Sometimes there will be books that inspire you or give you a new perspective on something that you would have never picked up yourself but thanks to someone else’s recommendation you’re able to read.  I usually go first to my local library and see if I can get the book through there since it’s not necessarily something I want to keep a copy of.

One of the things I’ve been seeing lately on posts like these and especially others that talk about the benefits of reading is how down on fiction books they are.  I love reading books about and by great leaders that can help further my knowledge about business, people and personal growth.  I’ve even read a couple good history books.  But the majority of books I read are fiction books, as are the majority of books I read with kids.

Why do I love fiction books?  First because of their passion for adventure, curiosity, love, relationships, learning, growing, dedication and sense of accomplishment.  Many authors do extensive research before doing writing and do their best to make many of the details in their books accurate to how things are in the world and given the fictional setting and characters is often a more palatable way for people to learn things.  Second because they keep us adults connected to the passion and energy that kids go through life with.  We encourage our kids to read anything they can get their hands on and enjoy when they’re kids. But when they become adults we start telling them to read newspapers and serious publications because the fiction they used to read can’t be good for anything now as adults.  But as with other things, it’s not true.

I believe there’s a need for us as adults to spend time in worlds where things are a little less structured and a lot more fun.  We’re super serious because of all that goes on in the world and because of all we’ve seen.  But just because we need to know about the reality of the world around us, doesn’t mean that a little fun, adventure and out-of-the-box thinking can’t get us just as far or further than if we just work with the box.  So get out there this week and try a new author, read a favorite author’s latest book, or pick up one of your favorites and get lost in it for a little while.

Reality Reflection: Times are Changing

September is just around the corner, can you believe it?  Many states have already gone back to school and the rest will start soon.  School is something I alternately dreaded and looked forward to.  I believe there’s a lot we can improve on with regards to school, but that’s really a conversation for another day.  Today I want to talk about what a new school year is all about.  With a new school year comes chances to reinvent yourself, chances to change, changes whether we want them or not and opportunities for learning.  All of these things are opportunities we have as adults at any time, but times like the new school year, new year and changes of seasons are all times that we’re reminded of or feel a desire to make changes.  Yes, these can be scary or intimidating moments, but there are several things that have helped me through them.

First, the fact that we may not have an option.  The fact is there are always things that are new and different with a new school year.  It doesn’t stay the same, and even if you were to repeat a grade things would be taught different, the classroom may be different, there may be different teachers and homework may be different.  Very few things stay exactly the same all of the time.  So rather than fight to keep things perfectly same, maybe it’s time to learn to go with the flow of change.

Second, get creative.  You remember what it was like thinking about Halloween as a kid and contemplating who you wanted to dress up as.  As an adult you may dream about what it would like to be someone else or live life in a different way.  In this day and age there are very few things that say you can’t try new things or go new places or be someone different.  It’s easier than ever to start a business or learn a new skill or work in a career you never thought you could get into or place you could do the work in.  If you’re really serious about that dream, I believe you can get creative to make it happen.  There are more resources than ever and more ways you can make your dreams a reality if you’re willing to get a little creative at how you accomplish them.

Finally, reinventing yourself and change can be fun.  Whoever said change is bad and has to hurt was wrong.  Yes, there are usually some growing pains, but your attitude towards the changes can play a big role in how those changes ultimately go.  Many people have turned what could be painful changes into a game to make them more fun and easier to get through.  When you’re playing a game you’re thinking about winning big and crossing the finish line, not focusing on the fact that you might lose a turn, go back a few spots, lose some (play) money or lose a round.  You’re also celebrating the little wins that you hope and think will get you to the big win.

It may not seem like change is the best or easiest option, and sometimes it isn’t.  But all too often we put too much pressure on ourselves and as a result the change is a lot more difficult than it had to be.

Do You See What I See?

I love writing and reading, it’s something I’ve always loved. I enjoy the story as well as the process of doing the writing, and creative outlets like writing are an important part of my life and health. You may be familiar with the debate that’s been raging for some time about how many blogs and books there are and how sometimes it seems like everyone is saying or writing the same thing. Maybe there aren’t any new ideas, but I haven’t read too many books or blog posts that were exactly the same. Everyone and just about everything is different in at least a couple of ways, and I believe we can keep writing and reading because everyone sees things a little differently, and, even more importantly, I believe that there are still some new things and thoughts to come.

If you had asked someone in the 1800’s about what they thought the future would hold, they might have come up with some interesting ideas, but I have my doubts that they would come up with laptops and iPads, or the ability of the internet to connect different parts of the world instantly. So I don’t think it’s possible for us to run out of ideas, we’re just in a phase where we’re working with what we have and not ready to make a big upgrade yet. When it comes to the concepts that people say are overdone and overrated and overused, I’m always amazed when I read a new author or article about a topic and see things differently because I’m seeing things through a new perspective, their perspective.

Yes, there will always be someone who sees too many similarities and can’t appreciate the creative output. There will always be a critic in your life that you can’t stand. Why? Because some people just can’t see beyond their personal box. That’s not wrong, it’s just how they are. But I believe life is to be lived and can’t be fully lived if you’re not willing to see beyond where you are.

“Faith is raising the sail of our little boat until it is caught up in the soft winds above and picks up speed, not from anything within itself, but from the vast resources of the universe around us.” W. Ralph Ward

Creating Together

As we finish out this month’s discussion on creativity I wanted to share one last encouragement with you. One of the best things about creativity is when we get to celebrate what others have created. I know, it can be hard to appreciate some of the things that others call art, because they just aren’t part of your taste profile or preferences, and that’s OK. You don’t have to appreciate everything that everyone does. But that doesn’t mean you have the right to judge them for creating something you just can’t appreciate (they might even go so far as to say you’re the one with the problem, not them!!).

As is pointed out throughout the Bible, God wants us to build each other up, not hurt each other. And while some criticism of art is expected, even necessary so we can improve, and because everyone has an opinion, if it’s not celebrated too there won’t be a point to creating it. After all, most of us are working in hopes of creating greatness, not for endless criticism and judgment.

So when you see art don’t just throw out your judgement of it or laugh it off and be done with it. Take a minute to see if you can see the artist in the creation, see what they may have been trying to express through it, and see what it reminds you of. You never know how God will use what someone else has created to inspire you. And don’t forget to give the artist some encouragement and tell friends who you think might enjoy what they’ve created. After all, there are things that God created like bugs and slugs that not all of us appreciate yet He still loves them and has created them with a purpose in mind.

“We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.” Romans 15:2

Curiosity and Creativity

Do you know one of the best ways to build your creative storehouses and become inspired? Curiosity!  That’s right, if you look at the world with an attitude of curiosity and go through life with a willingness to try new things and learn what things do and how they work, not only will you be more creative but you may even become more cultured, more productive, and create more amazing and creative works of art. Your curiosity will make you a better artist and expand your horizons to what and how you can create.

Trying new things is healthy for all of us, whether we believe we fit in the traditional definition of creative or not.  Even if you’re not into photography, painting, sewing, dancing, construction, or any of the other things that fit in the typical creative standard, the ability to be creative and think creatively is important for all of us.

If you’re able to be creative in your job you’ll come up with better solutions for your customers and clients.  If you’re able to be creative in your relationship it will probably last longer and be healthier.  If you’re able to be creative with your family you’ll hear the dreaded phrase “I’m bored!” a lot less.  And if you’re able to be creative and curious in life in general you’ll find more things to be happy about and appreciate, which will make the tough times easier and good times better.

What have you tried or learned lately?  What inspires your creativity?

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Walt Disney

A Mind for Creativity

Creativity is part copy part innovation.  When we create stained glass windows or draw pictures often we copy those that we admire or learn from the styles of masters to apply to the designs we create.  It’s not a bad thing to learn from what others have done or respect a particular creative style, it’s only when we try to replicate exactly without considering individual differences and unique possibilities that we can run into trouble.  God may have created some of us that look alike or enjoy a lot of the same things, but there is at least one difference between each and every one of us.

Being creative starts with how you think though.  If you think everything is the same and there’s nothing new, that will most likely be what you end up seeing.  If you think that you’ve heard all the answers and there is no hope you’ll live a hopeless life and not find any possibilities or options you could pursue.  If you believe God has given up on you, that’s the reality that you could find.  However, when you open your mind to the possibilities and are willing to learn and try new things God will be able to open the door or window that you’ve been waiting for.

What do you need to create in your life?  Do you need to create a new relationship? New hearts and solutions in your current relationship?  A new job?  A new relationship with yourself? A new relationship with God?  More freedom? More happiness? What do you need to create?  Start by considering how you think about things, especially those you want to create and see how you’re limiting yourself there.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Romans 12:2

Creativity and Perfection

As an artist, and slight perfectionist, I often struggle to find a happy medium between the two.  It isn’t ever easy, but I’m learning to let the creativity win and relax on striving in my art, in whatever form it happens, to be perfect.

Perfection is a worthy goal most certainly.  I love knowing that I’m truly satisfied with the appearance of something.  Knowing that I’ll get more praise than criticism, and that I won’t look at it and always pick out the imperfections.  But the concept of art was designed almost as the opposite of perfection.  Some art is perfect in some people’s eyes, and others can’t see any beauty in it.  That is one gift that art gives us.  Some people enjoy dancing and work hard to perform well.  Some do yoga and work on their form and stretching.  Yet others don’t appreciate dancing or yoga, but do find value in painted pictures or needlepoint.

Another aspect that is definitely prevalent with perfection is the acceptance of their art with others.  For some their art is a performance and they live to get the approval of others.  For others, the approval factor is a downside to art.  I think it works both ways.  With the criticism of others you can become a better artist.  If you can’t see that your legs are in the wrong position, you need someone to tell you so that you can perform better, or feel better.  You can improve your painting and drawing with a little constructive criticism and critique too.  Someone’s advice about your garden or about your creative decorating may give you a good idea that will help you get closer to the desired perfection.

Most importantly when struggling with the challenge of perfection, don’t forget to enjoy the experience.  Art is all about the experience, about learning about yourself, about healing, about sharing yourself, about opening the world to your perspective.  Many of the biggest “mistakes” and “imperfections” have revolutionized aspects of the artistic world.  There wouldn’t be new dance styles without imperfections, there wouldn’t be new plant species without mistakes, some of the most beautiful paintings wouldn’t have occurred without imperfections.

What encouragement will you find and new doors open from welcoming a little criticism?  Try it this week and find out!

Creating the Existing

This month the topic we’re working through is creativity. Creativity is something that applies to all our lives, from the creative answers moms give to their kids’ questions, to the structures we create to live in and look at, to the ways we’re working to heal and keep people alive. As we dive further into the topic of creativity today I want to address something that’s a truth and a lie wrapped into one. You’ve heard it said that there are no new things, we just keep bringing stuff back? In some ways I think this is true, but probably not how you think.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said: “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”

This quote reveals the answer to the question of whether there can be new things in life. Technically there are no new things, just new ways of seeing and or using what we already have. The simplest definition of creativity is seeing new things in existing things, like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry suggests. Life isn’t always about making new, but of making the best use of what you have.

So before you permanently ink creativity into the list of things you aren’t good at, take a moment to consider exactly how creative you could be. Maybe you’re creative with your kids and tell them stories or build legos with them. Maybe you’re creative with your clients and help them organize their homes. Maybe you’re a counselor and help people see things from a different, creative, perspective. The very core of creativity is creating, and I believe that life is what you create of it. As the old saying goes: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.