Character Creates Opportunity® – The Hard Work of Listening: July 23, 2015

Let’s face it, there is a lot of chatter in our world.  Whether it is on the television, through the internet, in various social settings, at work, etc.  We hear a lot of chatter.

With so much noise and information around us (along with less than an optimal amount of sleep), we have a natural coping mechanism to just tune things out or engage in very superficial dialogue without truly listening.  Our most common reaction is to sit still and endure it, just like we did doing a boring class in school.

Many times, our filtering mechanism for all the chatter goes overboard and we lose the important skill of really listening when it matters most.  As we continue our journey to build and strengthen our character, the discipline to listen is an important element for having a positive impact on those around us.Family is disconnected image

Many psychologists would say that there is an unfortunate pattern for many of us in that we can carry on, with a pleasant disposition, our activities outside of the home whether that is with friends, at school, work, or various social activities.  We seem to blend in well and minimize or eliminate any attempts to rock the boat.  However, when it comes to our home life, the description of most family therapists, pastors, and relationship experts would commonly say that it is in the home where the disposition changes, the willingness to endure weakens and many times, all you know what breaks loose.

The same can be said about listening.  Many times, we take a more active role in listening to a customer, a colleague at work, a friend on the street, or even that really boring teacher, but when it comes to those closest to us, we are relatively quick to downgrade our listen skills.

There is no doubt that the volume of information coming at us will continue to increase over time.  Very few of us would find “getting off the grid” to be a productive solution to our problems with listening.  Given this reality of increasing information and noise in our world, we need to take hold of a few truths about the importance of listening in order to have a positive impact on those around us.

  1. Listening shows others that we care. Asking questions to ensure understanding, maintaining eye contract, acknowledging the information being shared, etc. takes effort and focus.
  2. Listening is the gateway to understanding. Improved understanding helps us see through the veil of “I am ok” to uncover the real issues impacting someone around us.
  3. We can’t listen to everything or everybody. The reality is that there is a lot of noise out there that needs to be filtered.  We should choose to filter most of it in order to focus our efforts on those we care about most.

As we do the hard work of listening, especially with those closest to us in our home, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to have a positive impact on those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – What to Believe? July 16, 2015

Whether it is assessing students in the classroom, employees at work, or relationships at home, there is a consistent and important debate that happens around what it takes to reach one’s full potential.

A great deal of the debate revolves around the idea of nature or nurture.  Basically, is my potential governed by some hard-wiring at birth or is my collective life experience the major driver of my potential.

This debate, in some form or fashion, has been around for thousands of years and will continue to be carried out by wise and well-intentioned people throughout our lives.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, in our daily lives we come to realize that our potential is neither about our nature or the nurturing we did or did not receive.  Our potential is a product of the choices we make today.

The choices we make on what we believe about ourselves and how we respond to various situations are the major drivers of reaching our full potential.

However……It is incredibly important that we gain understanding about some of the deep seated beliefs we have about ourselves that may be concealed from the busy day to day reality of our lives.

The enclosed video link is one of the most viewed videos on YouTube having been viewed over 65 million times.  It touches on the very foundation of what we believe about ourselves.  Even though it is delivered from a female perspective, the essence of the message covers both genders.

Whether it is the reality that we are more beautiful than we think, stronger than we think, more capable than we think, or more helpful than we think, what we believe about ourselves matters in our desire to reach our full potential.

There are two helpful action steps in addressing the reality that we all have some deep seated beliefs that over the years may go unnoticed.

  • Tell someone they are more beautiful than they think, stronger than they think, more capable than they think, or more helpful than they think. The reality is that we all could use the encouragement and we are just the right person to step up and fulfill the need.
  • On a personal level, our unique life situation will at some points on our journey face the reality than no one may be around to remind us that we are better than we think. In those times, we need to rally hope from a source like our memory of someone who believed in us, our faith, a reminder of our past ability to overcome, in order to muster the strength to keep moving forward.

As we make the choice to believe we are more than we think and encourage others that they are more than they believe, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential help others do the same.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Small Acts Matter: July 9, 2015

In our consumer driven marketplace, it is sometimes difficult to avoid the big sales pitch being made by products or services that promise to change us for the better.  Whether it is the latest diet plan bringing meals to our front door, a fitness craze that seems to work for everyone, a proven business building program or perhaps that relationship improvement program that can solve our most struggling personal relationships.

We all, at some level, desire to make forward progress in the important areas of our lives.  Discontent with our present situation is always the first step in bringing about positive change.  Psychologists will often say that we really only work effectively to bring about change when our level of frustration and pain with our present situation reaches a level that makes the thought of trying something new seem not so bad.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, there is a reality check around bringing about significant positive change in our lives that we all could use an occasional reminder of every now and then.

The reality is that both academic research and our own personal experience would remind us that bringing about significant positive change in our lives is not about the next biggest, greatest idea, it is about small, consistent acts over time that lead to significant milestones being accomplished.

Small acts matter in bringing about major change in our lives.Father-Instructing-Son

The biggest thing we can do to bring about positive and meaningful change in the important areas of life is to take small steps in the right direction.

As the well-known USC professor and psychologist (more affectionately known as the Italian Love Doctor), Leo Buscaglia (1924-1998) once said, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

The same principle that Buscaglia described in his research that was the cornerstone to improving relationships, mainly that small acts matter, is the same principle that applies to other important areas of our lives and personal development.

As we all have the desire to bring about positive change in important areas of our lives, while we wait and hope for the next great idea to energize our efforts, we should begin to take the initiative to start small and take a few steps in the right direction.  In the end, regardless of the next big idea, it will always be the small acts that matter in sustaining positive change in our lives.

Here are a few ideas on small acts that matter in some important areas:

Money and savings:  Put aside a small amount each paycheck for that rainy day fund.  It does not matter the amount, it is the small act of saving consistently that matters.  The old penny jar we had as kids can always be a good place to start.

Relationship struggles:  Perhaps it is time to simply shut up and listen with the intent to understand the other person.  We see the world as we are, not as it is.  The small act that matters in relationships is to focus more on understanding than on being understood.

Diet and exercise: While we continue to buy the next great diet and exercise plan (the consumer does drive most of our economy so at least we are supporting a good cause with these purchases) we should start with a small step in the right direction.  Perhaps we can start by brushing our teeth after dinner as opposed to just before bed as that has been shown to reduce the mid-evening munchies which are so problematic to our waistlines.  Small acts matter in bringing about big results.

Pursuing a really big dream beyond our present circumstance:  Spend 15 uninterrupted minutes in the quiet of the morning or late evening thinking, dreaming, and planning.  We become what we think about, so the small act of clearly “seeing” that really big dream is an important one.  Taking action should always follow at least a little bit of thinking and planning to be most productive.

Moving forward in bringing about positive change in our lives will always be grounded on the small acts that matter.  As we decide to implement a few small acts that matter, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to overcome resistance to change and reach our full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Forgotten Freedom: July 2, 2015

The upcoming 4th of July holiday weekend celebrating the birth of the United States and the freedom we enjoy is a great time for our nation, our families and our local communities.  Taking the time to reflect on the blessings of freedom and the sacrifices made on the altar of freedom to keep us free is an important part of our national holiday.

Our nation has a great history.  Relative to many other nations in the world, we have a relatively young history.  In full transparency, we can openly discuss the ups and downs and the pains and gains of freedom in our nation and our impact around the world.Flag

Just as our nation has its own history, each one of us has our own history and story behind our lives.  Our own personal history very much shapes who we are and our view of the world.  We may not be as open and transparent with our full life’s history like our nation’s history is on display, but just like our nation, some of our history is painful and some of it is cause for great celebration.

As we continue on the journey to build and strengthen our character, we all need an important reminder about the most forgotten freedom.  This forgotten freedom is the essence of the foundation of life itself.  This forgotten freedom transcends a nation’s borders, encompasses all people of all faiths and all walks of life.

The forgotten freedom is the freedom we all possess to choose our response in any given situation.

The freedom to choose our response is the initial gateway to reach our full potential.

The forgotten freedom is not listed on a formal declaration of independence, declared on some approved political document, or sanctioned by some governing body.  The freedom to choose our response in any given situation is provided to all people regardless of place of birth, economic status, race, or religion.

Many times in life, we will use our personal history as a reason for our response, whether effective or ineffective.  We often times will blame our past as a rationale for poor choices and outcomes that fell short of expectations.

The timeless, universal, and self-evident truth found in the forgotten freedom reminds us that we are responsible for the choices we make today, regardless of our history.

When we see ourselves as free to choose our response in any situation, there are several positive outcomes that result from our choice:

  • Restrictions are minimized: We are no longer bound to the negative side of our personal history that may hinder our growth. The painful comments of others in our past, the expectations of others that may box us into a certain way of life, or the negative voice inside our head that creates a huge barrier to our future growth become less restrictive.
  • A new source of energy is unleashed: There is energy contained in the freedom to choose. When we see ourselves as unshackled from a painful past, the limitations based on the expectations of others, we experience the full energy of freedom. As Moshe Dayan, the military and political leader of Israel during some difficult times in the 20th Century said, “Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.”
  • A positive example is set for others: When we live a life that demonstrates to others the freedom to choose a more effective response even in the most difficult situations, we will have a positive impact on others.  The example we set will impact those around us, especially those closest to home.

It is not easy breaking free of the confines of our past, but as we continue to exercise this most forgotten freedom, the freedom to choose our response regardless of our situation, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and be a positive impact on those around us.