Life Before and After

This morning I read some wise insights shared by Laura Scholes through Chip Conley’s Wisdom Well email series. I encourage you to read the whole post, but the essence of the post is talking about seeing life in before and after stages, especially when big changes happen to help with the processing and applying of lessons. These types of changes could include moving on from a job, transitioning to married or divorced life, building or selling a business, or experiencing something like most of us are experiencing with Covid-19.

While we never want to experience some things more than once in our lives (or at all), the likelihood that we’ll get sick or change jobs or that our world will experience something like this virus again is higher than most of us would like to admit. It’s not really smart to try to wish it away or pretend it didn’t happen when the world is able to return to a more normal life. Yes, we can and should put the past in the past, but only after using the lessons it has taught us to plan and prepare for the future, whatever it may hold.

Yes, we should have fond memories of what it was like when we could move about freely and with an innocence that we had most of the answers we thought we needed about health. We should remember how hopeful we were about this new year and decade. We should remember how much we loved spending time with others and how it felt to be part of an in-person community. We should also remember how horrible it felt to hear about the number of people sick and dying around the world from this virus. We should also remember how it felt if we had the virus or if someone we loved had it. We should remember how tough it was to be out of work or suddenly working from home.

So with those memories in mind, it’s up to each of us to use the precious time we have now to the fullest, and to do our very best to look out for the others that we share this world with. For most of us, it won’t be a huge hardship going forward once we get beyond this, we can simply work harder at keeping ourselves and our places clean and being considerate if we’re not feeling well to help avoid something similar in the future. It doesn’t mean no fun gatherings, just to be more conscious about each other in the future. The bigger changes should come with careers and businesses and non profits, who should be more proactive about planning for something like this in the future, both financially and with regard to other resources including employees and customers.

What future are you going to help build?

Time for Spring

Yesterday was the first day of Spring. I’m thankful that nothing can change the arrival of the seasons, they happen on their own and change every year. It is encouraging because it keeps things moving and if you don’t like a season you know that in a few months the seasons will change again. I love spring because of all the cheerful colors that appear, the overwhelming signs of life everywhere, the baby animals, and the return to life from all of us who really don’t like winter. It’s also a big sign of hope for the US as we struggle with this virus and the abrupt halt that has come to much of our world. The past week has been a very crazy one, so today I thought we’d celebrate a little spring life and talk about bringing spring to life in your home.

Spring does mean that we’re getting closer to the end of the school year, so it’s a great time to get more creative with educating your kids when they’re starting to get a little antsy with traditional learning. Tons of organizations and companies like zoos, Explore.org, and Scholastic just to name a few, have opened up some resources for free, and have other resources like live video that are always available. I’ve also seen museums that offer virtual tours, and that can be a great way to visit place around the world without even leaving your couch. Giving kids the opportunity to explore topics that interest them means that they’ll be more likely to do the work and keep learning, and you might learn something too.

Spring is also a great time to get outdoors more, whether it’s on your front steps or in the back yard or hiking in the woods. Yes, physical activity is encouraged, but so is getting crafty and creative and even reading, as long as you’re outside enjoying the fresh air. So go ahead and plant a garden or a garden box, do finger paints, paint the house, color a picture, read a book or magazine, do a puzzle, or do a craft with your favorite medium outside. Craft companies like Joann and Michaels have craft ideas posted on their websites, and of course Pinterest is a great resource for all things creative if you need ideas.

Finally, make sure you make time to breathe new life into your world. Maybe we can’t all be out doing what we usually do to welcome in spring, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our usual (or better than usual) spring cleaning, plant new plants, open our windows or turn over a new leaf in our lives. In fact, the disruption that is happening in our world could help many of us finally make the decisions and changes that we’ve been putting off.

What will you do with this new spring?

Reality Reflection: An Abundance of New Years

So today has been the start of the Lunar/Chinese Year. In case you haven’t heard, it’s the year of the rat. Something I’m fascinated by is how often we may start a year. There’s the new calendar year that started 25 days ago, there’s the Jewish New Year which typically happens in September, there’s the Lunar/Chinese new year today, a business can start a new year at any point throughout the year, and people have birthdays (new years of their lives) throughout the year.

In many respects I like the idea of having new years to help us mark time so that it doesn’t just all blend together and there are milestones to acknowledge and celebrate. It also helps with record keeping and helping people understand and predict where things may be heading with their lives. I also greatly appreciate the opportunity to start fresh because there are some days (and years) that you just don’t want to repeat or continue, which is technically something we can do with each new day or month.

But on another level I get frustrated by the focus on all things new and the lack of time taken to appreciate what we have or really dig into whatever part of our journey that we’re on. As I shared about on one of my other blogs today, we can run through life focused on shiny new things, or we can make a better effort to make the most of the special moments that come our way. It’s not that I don’t think new things can be good for us, just that sometimes it’s necessary to complete the stage of the journey that you’re on before moving on to something else, unless you know that that opportunity won’t come your way again.

Where are you at in your life journey? Are you looking for a new adventure? Ready to start a new stage or head to the next part of your journey?  Struggling to work through what life is throwing at you right now? Digging into a project or experience?  Or just enjoying the ride?

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.

Maximizing January

The new year is here and with it lots of people and businesses are talking about new things and change. Are you one of those people who loves resolutions? Or do you prefer to pick a word of the year? Or do you just keep going on with your regular life and largely ignore the calendar change? There are lots of people who support doing resolutions, we all have areas of our lives that need change after all, and having something as clear cut as a new year and month are great visual representations for when and why to start. I’ve not been someone who has done many resolutions in the past, although I do think the new year is a good point for taking an evaluation of yourself and how you’re living and working. The past few years I’ve picked words to live by, and some years they have more of a lasting effect on my year than others. I’m probably going to pick a word or few to focus on this year, but haven’t quite decided yet.

As I read all the reflections from people sharing their words of the year and some posts about resolutions and how to attack or approach this new year, I got to thinking about the fact that some 80% of resolutions fail within the first two months of the year. It’s almost funny how large of a failure rate that is, especially with how many people know about and participate in resolution making. It really makes a poor statement about how well we can commit to things and how important our resolutions were to us in the first place. Yes, some of those failed resolutions were met with circumstances that people could never have predicted or anticipated, but the majority weren’t.

So I got to thinking about January and how people are living up to their resolutions this month. What if we chose to tap into this change energy that shows up in January and worked extra hard in January to accomplish all that was on our to-do lists or even just a few things that are really important for us to do or have bothered us for a long time? What if you commit to eating well every day this month (with a few special treats mixed in of course)? What if you committed to clean and organize your whole house this month? What if you committed to reading a new book each week? What if you committed to working with a counselor or coach or consultant for the month either by yourself or with your partner? What if you committed to learning something new each day? What if you finally worked on that book you’ve been meaning to write?

What impact would a successful and productive January have on the rest of your year? Maybe you won’t have a completed resolution you can show off at the end of the year, but maybe thanks to a good January, you’ll feel more confident and have a better attitude towards the rest of the year, or maybe there will be a whole other positive result that you could never have predicted. What will you be doing with your January 2020?

Reality Reflection: The Myth of Catching Up?

Lately it seems like all I’ve been doing is trying to catch up. It’s not always my fault either, like when the weather is bad and adjusts my plans for me, or when ants decide my house looks great to live in and stops the work I was doing, or other people change their plans and delay mine. I don’t cause any of those things, but as a result things I’m trying to get done or places I’m trying to go become exponentially more challenging, and things get pushed off because other things are of higher priority. While I have some more to manage in my life than others, I do know that others have even more they’re trying to manage than I am, and it got me wondering if anyone ever truly catches up on their whole to do list.

I think it is a good lesson in learning to prioritize, making sure that we are doing what’s important and letting go of what’s not really important. It’s also a good teacher of patience, that we learn to be patient with ourselves and others. Finally, it’s also a good lesson in alternatives and being able to restructure, reconsider, redo or find options that work.

As I was thinking about catching up, I got to thinking about change and how some say that change isn’t good or they don’t like it. I don’t know about you, but I like to change my clothes each day and I like when the weather changes to be warm again, and people like to change to a partner that’s more loving and caring. Often change can be good., and we experience many of the same emotions when it comes to change as we do catching up. We feel feelings of frustration and fear when we’re behind or not on board with the change, and we experience happiness and excitement when we experience good changes and catch up on things.

So I don’t believe that ‘change is good’ is a myth, I think it’s definitely possible for change to be good, depending on the situation. I don’t know if it’s truly possible to ever be all caught up though, because with each new day we’re given new things that have to be tackled, even if they’re the same things we did the day before like eating or getting the kids to school. Maybe the point isn’t about getting caught up, but being productive and slowly but steadily getting things done.

Times of Change and Reflection

I’m never surprised but always blessed when the verses that pass through my life reflect what’s going on in life and the world around me. This week I read the passage, 1 Peter 1:24-25, which talks about how beauty fades but the word of the Lord remains forever. In some ways it’s one of the more depressing verses in the Bible, and really seemed appropriate with the beauty of nature changing and fading all around as we head into winter. Yes, there’s beauty to be seen in the stark grey trees against the blue sky or the white snow everywhere, especially when it’s on the trees in the early morning sunshine, but compared to the other 3 seasons, we’re entering the months and the season that beauty isn’t defined or displayed as most people expect.

As much as we don’t like thinking about the loss of beauty that we’re seeing around us, and as difficult as it is to be reminded that things change or die or don’t remain the same, it’s something that God shared throughout the Bible in reminders of different kinds including Ecclesiastes 3: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up…”

This chapter in the Bible also brings up something else we struggle with and dealt with this weekend, and that’s time (with the end of daylight savings time) and the idea that there’s time for everything. I know some people would laugh at that statement, because it sure doesn’t feel like there’s time for everything, it’s why we’ve got to-do lists that go unresolved for weeks and even years.

Maybe these first two weeks of November are an opportunity for us to do some reflecting and checking of our priorities and even consider the more difficult aspects of life such as pain and loss. We’ve got some really joyous opportunities ahead of us with Thanksgiving and all the December holidays, but sometimes we need to deal with the harder stuff before we can get to the good stuff.  I encourage you to make time to talk with God about things like priorities, needs, desires, dreams, change and time and ask Him for His guidance and wisdom.