Character Creates Opportunity® – The Courage to Ask: Thursday, August 27, 2015

There is a tremendous need in most areas of life to squeeze out inefficiencies that slow us down or cost us time and quite often money.  In many organizations today, we often hear about creating a more efficient work environment in order to maintain competitiveness in the marketplace.  On a personal level, there are websites that can help us be more efficient with planning schedules, meals, vacations, and just about anything else.  There is also no shortage of books or consultants we could employ to help us be more efficient in what we do.

There is one critical area that often gets overlooked on a very personal level in families, friendships, and other close relationships.  The courage to ask for help is often times what separates a willing helper from a person in genuine need of help.

As we build and strengthen our character, it is the courage to ask for help that can create massive efficiencies in the strengthening of our close relationships.

We could spend a great deal of time discussing why we don’t ask for help, but suffice to say, many of us do not reach out for help when we truly need it.  We typically march on until disaster strikes and the cover-up has lost its effectiveness.

It may not be what we see on the news or read on the internet, but I am a firm believer that in most of our homes, schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces, people are genuinely willing to help someone in need.  What we all lack is someone with the courage to ask.

Yes, we all can, and need to, improve our listening skills and our ability to discern the real question behind the question.  However, experience would tell us that we are all good at the cover-up.  What would bring incredible efficiency and strength to our close relationships is if we personally modeled the courage to ask for help.introvert

As a parent, we would give anything to hear about the real struggles of our children to offer help and assistance in overcoming a challenge.  Many times children (of all ages) don’t ask.

As a spouse, we would benefit much more from hearing what is at the heart of the struggles that often times manifest themselves in other ways like defensiveness, stonewalling, or contempt that cover up the real need for help.  Many times spouses don’t ask or give up after a few years of asking.

As a friend, we would open the door to much richer relationships if we went beyond the “everything is fine, things are great” comment and genuinely opened up and asked for help.  Many times friends don’t ask.

There are a number of benefits that we can bring forward when we have the courage to ask for help:

  • We bring clarity to the need. Too often, our relationships wonder with unproductive energy spent trying to figure out what is at the heart of the struggle.
  • We enable someone who wants to help with the opportunity to productively help. Many times there is a willing helper without the understanding of where or how to help.
  • We demonstrate to others the necessary courage to be vulnerable and ask for help. Our example will help them during their time of need…and we all have times of need.

Many times, the complexity of our lives will hinder our ability to know exactly how to describe what it is we need help with and we just know the reality that we are hurting.  A simple, soft call for “help” can open the door for a more productive discussion than maintaining the cover-up until disaster strikes.

As we demonstrate the courage to ask for help, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to build stronger relationships with those closest to us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – A Lifetime of Cramming: Thursday, August 20, 2015

I am sure we can all relate to the strategy of cramming to study for that big end of semester exam.  We kind of paid attention throughout the semester, but in the end, we believe an all-night session of studying will be an effective option to make up for a semester in which we did not give our full attention.Cramming

More often than not, we probably found that despite all the warnings of how ineffective the cramming strategy was to learning, we experienced that cramming for an exam seemed to result in the outcome we needed for the moment in that we passed the test and the course.

Unfortunately for many of us, we continually employ the cramming strategy we learned in school to solve many of life’s pressing challenges.  We cram in a great deal of catching up on relationships with that much needed date night and family vacation to shore up those critical, close relationships.  We provide the all-encompassing life-skills speech as we prepare children to leave the home for summer camp, college, or to move out on their own.  We have that upcoming reunion, wedding, or annual health check-up and we figure we can starve our way into losing that much needed weight in the last few weeks before the event.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important that we face the reality that we will fall short of our full potential if we deploy the cramming strategy to the really important things in life.

Building and sustaining a healthy relationship is not built on that one weekend get-away to rekindle love and caring.

Preparing children for life outside of “home sweet home” is not accomplished in a 15 minute send-off speech prior to that all too sudden good-bye.

Maintaining optimal health is not accomplished with the occasional crash diet and two week exercise routine.

Achieving financial freedom is not established through that one great idea for a get rich quick scheme.

The really important things in life will always be judged by one of the most critical guiding principles of life, the Law of the Harvest. Simply, we reap what we sow.

The law of the harvest in the natural world is as true as the law of gravity.  If we want to reap an abundant harvest of corn or soybeans, there is only one pathway to follow: The Law of the Harvest.  If we asked any farmer 2,000 years ago or one today in the fields of Nebraska, we would get the same general response.  There are no shortcuts to an abundant harvest.

We cannot vacation in the spring and summer and then deploy our cramming strategy for an entire growing season into September.  There is no way to pay for the “Speed Pass” lane on the farm and there is no “Easy” button.  The natural law of the harvest will always be our judge.  Just like the law of gravity governs our eventual return to the ground no matter how high we jump, the law of the harvest governs our ability to produce our most essential food sources for life.  In addition, the law of the harvest governs our ability to reach our full potential in the most important areas of our lives.

When we face the reality that the cramming strategy we deployed in school will not produce the abundance we desire in the important areas of life and we take meaningful steps overtime to reap an abundant harvest, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and have a positive impact on those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – A Worthy Timeline: Thursday, August 13, 2015

The clock is ticking all around us.  We have a time schedule to keep in order to catch the train in the morning, to complete a project by the deadline, to graduate on time, to finish that much needed project around the house, and the list could go on.

If we are not very thoughtful and intentional about the schedules we keep and projects we place on plate, we can end up just running, or just living, from one timeline after another.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, there is a worthy timeline that often goes undetected but can make all the difference in our ability to have a positive impact on those around us.

We all experience frustration and disappoint in our lives.  Discontent is very often the first step in the creation of anything of value.  As a matter of fact, academic research and our own experience would demonstrate that we really only move in the direction of making meaningful change when we are absolutely fed up with our current situation.

A worthy timeline that often goes unchecked is the time between our initial sense that change needs to happen and the time we actually begin to make meaningful progress to bring about the change. In reality, sometimes that timeline can go on forever on the most meaningful things in our lives.

The time we realize we need to continue our education, formally or informally, to remain relevant in today’s job market.  The time we realize our family life is revolving around schedules and it has been a long time since we had a meaningful connection.  The time we realize our waistline is growing at an unhealthy pace.  The time we realize we need to get our household budget under control.  The time we realize our anger has dampened the joy in our home.

The time we realize we need to make a change and when we actual starting making progress towards the desired change is a timeline worthy of our attention.Driving on an empty road towards the setting sun

When the gap in time gets too long, we move quickly from the ranks of the self-aware focused on reaching our potential to the ranks of complainers and excuse makers.  When the timeline gets too long, eventually those around us realize we really don’t care enough to change and then trustworthiness falls.  Soon we are on a short timeline to becoming irrelevant and losing our ability to have a positive impact on those around us.

We need to be careful that the old Credence Clearwater Revival song about “someday never comes” does not become an anthem for some of the most needed changes in our lives.

As we realize the need for change in our lives and we very efficiently start making progress in the right direction, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and have a positive impact on those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Our Turn with Disappointment: Thursday, August 6, 2015

Throughout life we will experience disappointment.

Sometimes we experience disappointment in the classroom, the workplace, our home life, and our community. These disappointments can vary in degree from the slight disappointment that rain caused the game to be delayed or our drive-thru order was missing some fries, to the significant disappointment that turns to heartache and despair when the dream of a close knit family is now facing the reality of a deep, challenging family conflict.

Although we all wish to avoid a great deal of disappointment in this world, the reality is that we all will have our turn with disappointment.  Most of us will find a way to move through it, some in silence and some with a loud roar.  There is no escaping disappointment.  Our well-worn path to address disappointment is to rally our own strength, perhaps we are fortunate to gain some encouragement from others and our faith, and we endure with the hope that we will continue to grow stronger through the experience.

Many times, our initial reaction when it is our turn with disappointment is to focus on our own our pain. Given the extent of the situation, it may be a very real and practical response to focus on our own psychological survival.

However, as we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, there are a few additional responses beyond focusing on ourselves that can bring about a positive impact when it is our turn with disappointment.

First, our personal experience with disappointment allows us the opportunity to build empathy towards others walking through a similar valley.  We can become a credible source of understanding to others with each and every time it is our turn with disappointment.  Those around us do experience a level of disappointment at certain times in their lives and we can effectively build an authentic and helpful connection with others through our own journey with disappointments.

Points of ViewSecond, our personal experience with disappointment allows us the opportunity to build humility in realizing that everything is not in our control.  We can keep our thought life strong, we can make effective choices, but we do not control the final outcome.  We can only control our response to that outcome.  It takes “two to tango” and there are often times a great deal of factors that can impact the outcome.  Make no mistake, we need to always take responsibility for the outcome. However, building humility in realizing we are not in total control of everything strengthens the opportunity to build genuine connection to others around the reality that we are stronger together than we are alone.  Despite the persona of how macho it is to “John Wayne” it all alone, we are much more effective in this world when we build a force of interdependence among families, partnerships at work and in the community.

Third, our personal experience with disappointment reminds us to be thankful for the little things.  Psychologists, pastors, and friends would all say that being thankful for the small blessings in life is a sure way to maintain our mental health throughout the inevitable chaos and challenge of life.  Whether it is enjoying a sunrise or a sunset along with the fact that we had one more day with those we care about most, gratefulness for the little things will help us when it is our turn with disappointment.

As we put effort into more effectively dealing with disappointment in our lives, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to have a positive impact on those around us.