New Year, Clean Slate

There are lots of sayings that get shared around the new year, some having to do with change or resolutions, but the one I want to talk about today is starting fresh, or more precisely, starting the year with a clean slate. It’s a little early to get spring fever and get the cleaning bug, but for those of us who had people over, or the winter clouds have hidden the dirt spots and the sun this past weekend revealed them, or we’re just read to put everything away and tidy everything up after the busy holiday season while we’re stuck indoors, it’s a great time to do some cleaning and organizing.

In most cases, it’s best to start with organizing and picking through what you have, buying containers to better store things, and investing in storage that’s right for your space and needs. Organizing is time to go through what you’ve got, especially those boxes and places that you haven’t touched in years and decide if you really need to keep any or all of it any longer. Especially with all of the new items you’ve purchased or received over the holidays, it’s better to get rid of anything you want to get rid of before trying to find space for the new stuff. Don’t forget to donate as much as possible, and not just throw stuff out. Many towns do bulk pick-up and you can put your stuff out the day or night before and much of it will get picked up by neighbors and people who pass by, especially if it’s good stuff.

After you’ve done organizing and before you finalize where everything is going, it’s a great time to do some cleaning too. Often disorganized homes become dirty homes because you can’t do anything around or under or over the piles of stuff, so it’s important to make time for cleaning while you’re doing the organizing too. I was thinking as I did my laundry the other day how much better I felt about living and working in my space when it was more organized and clean, even just the little I had time for that day, and the same will be true for you as well.

So you can start with the most obvious, or go front to back, or go top to bottom, or do what frustrates you the most, or do what will free you up the most first. Seeing the result of that cleaned and organized space will likely motivate others in your household to step up and clean their spaces or help you with the rest too, because they’ll be jealous of the good work you’ve done. And if the spring cleaning bug hasn’t hit you yet, those cold winter nights are a great time to make a list of what you do need to get to and will do when the spring arrives.

A Year of Promises?

This year more than other years I’ve been seeing some backlash on the whole new year new you idea and resolutions as well, in part with people just not talking about it at all. One of the big reasons I like talking about the new year is because it naturally encourages change, and change is something we all need to work through and talk about. Change should be a year-long conversation, but if we are at least having the conversation once a year, that’s better than nothing. So for this year to be mostly back to business as usual, it’s gotten me thinking about if we’ve reached a place that we need to have a different conversation about the new year and change.

Maybe instead of talking about changes, we’re going to have conversations about promises to do more, be more and live more. In that conversation it’s as important to talk about the ‘more’ aspect as it is to talk about promises. Are we better or worse at keeping our promises from a year ago? Are we more or less committed to our relationships than a year ago? Are we more or less committed to making decisions, and smart ones at that? Or have we given up on making promises because we seem to fail so often with how quickly the world changes and how much harder it is to anticipate everything going on in the world and our lives?

The past year for me has renewed commitments and promises to family and those I care about, but in other aspects it hasn’t been as reassuring. I also see some people making and keeping promises to themselves and making commitments to themselves and the people who are good for them. Every day that we wake up we know that God is keeping His promises to be with us. We still have a long way to go on navigating promises in this new, fast paced world, but keeping our promises as best we can may be what we need in our lives right now, and not more change. There’s always room for improvement in our lives, maybe this time the improvement is about following through and not about making changes.

Do you need to make some promises or work harder to keep some promises you’ve made?  Maybe you don’t need new resolutions, you just need to commit to the ones you keep making.

Songs of the Season: Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Today I want to talk about one of my partner’s favorite Christmas characters and the story shared through the song Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The song tells the story of a reindeer with a red nose who was teased for having one because all the other reindeer had regular dark colored noses, how fog created a dangerous flying situation for Santa on Christmas Eve, causing Santa to ask Rudolph to lead the way so they could see and deliver all the presents to kids for Christmas, and being a true leader Rudolph stepped up and led the way and saved Christmas.

One of the biggest reasons people love the song is because it’s about victories for the underdog, for the weird ones, for those who are different.  I don’t know too many people who haven’t been bullied at some point in their life or felt different and like they couldn’t compare to others.  Sometimes our harshest critic is ourselves, but often that rejection or questioning starts with what someone else says or does.  It’s sometimes hard to accept what’s different about you as something good, but as Rudolph showed, it’s being different that can make the biggest impact or be exactly what’s right in a situation.

It’s also a song about teamwork. Most of us have worked with a team in our years in school or work that has been less than awesome or supportive. It wasn’t an easy experience and you may have been downright excited to be done and not work with that group going forward. I can’t imagine Rudolph was excited to work Christmas Eve with the other reindeer, at least not until they showed him that they were accepting of him being part of the team, that he was a valuable asset for the team, and that he was welcome with his red nose. Rudolph had to have the courage to be open to accepting their change of heart and trying to work with those who he hadn’t gotten along with, or his hurt could have ruined Christmas for all those children.

This Christmas I encourage you to embrace what’s unique and special about you. After all, that’s what the Christmas stories are about: both Santa and Jesus bring something to the table that the rest of us can’t and don’t. And if you’ve got a relationship that needs some work, I encourage you to step up and try to make your part in it right so that you can hopefully move forward better together. Life is too short to let our differences keep us apart or for us to let things that should be fixable to cause permanent division. Choose to celebrate together this holiday season and work together to make victories happen for those you love.

Combining Old and New

Can you believe we’re almost to another holiday season? Holidays are interesting because they’re a mix of new and old, traditions that have been around for years and the creation of new traditions, ornaments and decorations we’ve loved for years and new ones we’ve found in our travels, and gatherings of new friends and memories of those who have moved or passed in the last year. Maybe this year you’re going to return to traditions that you loved in the past or maybe this is the year you do something completely different. There isn’t any rule really except that you make time to celebrate with those you love (including yourself).

The concept of mixing old and new is a great one to apply to victories. Sometimes victories are made when we do the tried-and-true thing. Other times we have to remember the definition of insanity (doing the same thing and expecting different results), and know that we have to do something different if we want a different outcome, and want to actually get to a victory instead of getting stuck as we have in the past. Sometimes there is a degree of luck that goes into our victories, especially with things that we can’t control like the weather, but most of what brings us to our victories are things we can control or have a sufficient level of influence over.

Doing something new can be exciting, but it can also be scary. There’s a huge level of unknown that we have to face when adding something new to the mix, so it’s expected to feel some fear. One way to combat those feelings of uncertainty and fear is to find excitement in the process, just like we feel a feeling of excitement even when we add new things to the mix when it comes to the holidays. Focusing on the excitement of what you’ll gain when you accomplish the victory can help you keep going even when moments of fear and uncertainty arise.

This holiday season I encourage you to try something new, and to make some new plans for the new year ahead. Doing something new doesn’t mean you have to leave behind all that you love, it means balancing keeping what you love and works well for you and losing what’s holding you back and add in what will make life easier, better or more rewarding. What new things are you planning this holiday season?

Reality Reflections: Celebrating Veterans

This month is all about being thankful, and today I’m thankful for all of the ads I’ve heard over the past few days, signs I’ve seen, notes posted online, and stories I’ve heard shared about veterans, and the companies and people who are stepping up to support them and their families. Every year it seems like more companies are recognizing that not only is it good business to share that you support veterans, it’s also good for morale within your company, your community and your country. They’re absolutely right that it’s good business and good for morale, but it’s also a reminder that companies have a choice to make about how they lead, and choosing to lead by supporting veterans is a great way to lead.

As people and customers, we too have a choice in who we do business with, who we donate to and how or if we participate in supporting the people around us that we share this world with. Everyone has a need of one kind or another, all of us have basic human needs to be met, and on top of those needs some people have needs because they’ve screwed up in life or have made bad decisions, others have needs because they’ve been dealt a bad hand in life, and others like our veterans may need help because of the sacrifices they’ve made.

So yes, today and every day I’m thankful for our veterans.  I’m also thankful that I’m able to personally support organizations that support veterans, thankful that I’m one of the businesses that supports veterans, and thankful for all the ways businesses are stepping up to not only support but also recognize and celebrate our veterans. Some veterans say that they are who they are and did/do what they did and don’t feel a need to be recognized, but everyone needs to be recognized when they do the right thing, do the brave thing, or put their lives on the line, so make sure you find a way to give back or thank a veteran this weekend.

Going Back to Simple

I’ve been thinking about simplicity recently from many perspectives. On one hand I can appreciate the layers, steps and things that are involved in making things get from point A to point B. We don’t simply go to the farm stand and pick up our vegetables for the week, we go to the food store that got food from around the country or even around the world. Both are “simple” for the consumer, but for everyone else involved, it’s not that simple anymore. I also understand that there’s a lot more involved in getting electricity from point A to point B or creating an app than it may seem on a surface level. I also understand that what one person likes another doesn’t and that’s why families buy several different kinds of mac and cheese or other products because they can’t agree on one.

But at the same time I think in many ways we over-complicate things. Why do we need 6 apps to communicate with each other when email works just fine? Why learn things in school and college that have no practical application on your future especially with all the advances in technology and information? Why do busy work at your job? Why assign the same task to two different people with there being only one logical answer or result? Why make people jump through hoops when it’s truly not necessary? Why can’t we reduce the red tape and go back to a simpler life?

What is it about the simple life that has been speaking to me recently? I think a big part of it has to do with freedom and not making things super complicated when it’s not necessary, not having to learn new things around every corner, and not trying to fit your square peg into a round hole. As I said earlier, one size doesn’t fit all, so why are we trying to put everyone into a box or force everyone to do things one specific way? I think part of it has to do with not understanding what others don’t find simple, and not understanding that what you find simple isn’t simple to them or vice versa. It also may have to do with things not being explained in a way that makes sense or shows the value of switching or doing it differently.

This week I encourage you to release yourself from some of the pressure you might be feeling to add more to your list or do things a certain way. Especially with the holidays coming up and more that’s going to be added to our plates, now’s a great time to either learn how to do it because it makes sense to or find a way that works better for you, even if that means stepping back according to some.

Making Smart Choices

A topic I think about regularly is choice. It’s come up with some early holiday sale commercials and previews in the past few days and will more so as the days get closer to Black Friday and holiday shopping and choosing which holiday events and gatherings to attend, and it’s also something we deal with in many other aspects of our lives like healthcare and even people we’re friends with or in relationships with, not to mention the shopping we do on a regular basis throughout the year.

Everyone from the general populous and average consumer to business owner is blessed to be living in this time because we’ve got so many options available to us. This is such a huge blessing because we’re not stuck shopping or doing business with just one provider, we’ve got options. We don’t have to choose to do business with or shop with or be friends with someone who we feel uncomfortable around or doesn’t understand us or isn’t really offering something we like.  Sometimes we do have to do some work to find the right option for us, but let’s be honest, we’re shopping around and researching normally anyway, so we’re not likely to do much extra work anyway, right?

Of course, that puts a lot of the responsibility on the shoulders of business owners to provide accurate information, timely responses and of course be super customer friendly.  When any one of those aren’t working for us, we’re heading elsewhere and a business has lost a sale.  On a personal level whether talking about employees and bosses or friends and extended family, it’s a responsibility on all our shoulders to treat each other as humans, and with respect and dignity.  We don’t have to be friends with or connected to everyone, so don’t feel bad about making choices that are right for you.

And we can’t deny that there is some responsibility on our shoulders, and that’s to not just go with our first option blindly. We are still responsible for doing our due diligence in researching a company or person we’re connecting with, and making sure they’re a good fit for us. When you’re having a bad gut reaction or not feeling like you’re heard or feeling like there’s missing information and things just aren’t lining up in a way that makes you feel comfortable, walk away.  There’s nothing wrong with going with your first option, but it’s just smart to make sure that the first option is really your best choice.

What smart choices are you making this week?