Character Creates Opportunity® – On the Edge of Despair: Thursday, September 24, 2015

Let’s face it.  There are times in our lives when we face the toughest of circumstances and we stand on the edge of losing hope.

Whether it is a close relationship that has unraveled and the reality of “happily ever after” seems unreachable.  Or maybe it is the teenage or adult child who has lost their way.  Or maybe it is the hopes and dreams of a business that has just run out of cash and its demise is imminent.  Or maybe it is the sense that the safety and comfort of the “good old days” are never coming back in our communities.Mistakes Couple

These are the times when all the money in the world could not buy a quick fix out of the situation and all the pump-up, positive thinking, motivation speeches sound like nails on a chalk board.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is on the edge of despair where we can find opportunity to learn and grow through difficulty.

On the edge of despair, is where our masks come off and the costume party we have been attending comes to a close.  In the very raw, unguarded, and openness of pain, when we have no strength to hold up the mask of “everything is fine,” we now can begin to move forward on the path to learning and growth.

On the edge of despair, there are several things to consider as we look to build and strengthen our character through these moments of opportunity:

  • The most effective direction to move is forward towards the hurt and embrace the unguarded, authentic moment of pain. Take the mask off to begin to grow.
  • Be intentional about avoiding the routine addictions we have learned to cover the pain. We all have our own ways of coping to keep the costume party going.  Growth comes when we realize the party cannot go on forever.
  • Communication in times of pain is real, genuine and priceless for our growth. We should find someone we can trust and open up.  If we do not have someone in our close circle to confide in, then we need to seek out a pastor or counselor as the pathway to health is accelerated with open communication of our pain.
  • Our very best will emerge from the pain. Psychologists and our own experience would demonstrate that we only grow in struggles.  “No pain, no gain” is not just a slogan for coaches during practice.  We have a massive human weakness to get soft, complacent, and lazy during moments of calm and order.  We should use the times of pain to grow…it is our only chance.
  • No matter what the outcome of our present struggle, there is one positive step that can come out of any difficult situation. We can, and should, use our feelings of raw hurt to grow in empathy for others.  Our pain can be a catalyst for our growth in compassion for the struggles of others.  Another incredible accelerant on our pathway to health is when we turn to help others through their struggles.

When we stand on the edge of despair and we focus on growing through the struggle, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to remain on the path to our own emotional health and well positions us to be a helping hand to others.

One last point:  When we turn the corner on this present struggle, we should remember that life will always have another interesting event awaiting around the next corner.  If we can address our present struggle in a healthy way, we will be in a better to position to address the inevitable next bump in the road.  Enjoy the journey!

Character Creates Opportunity® – A Path to Stronger Relationships: Thursday, September 10, 2015

We live in relationship with others.  Whether we are an introvert or an extrovert on the personality scale, we live in relationship with others in the home, the school, the workplace, and the community.  Psychologists, pastors and wise old folks would tell us that life is about relationships and a healthy life consists of healthy relationships.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important that we identify some guideposts to keep us on the path to healthy relationships.

We live in a world that is quick to pass judgement.  It seems as we have all transitioned into the speed of the digital age for telecommunications, we have also accelerated our willingness to make judgements just as fast as we can scroll through a social media page.

This accelerated pace to judgement creates a risk for us veering off the path towards healthy relationships.

Empathy, the ability to understand and “feel” the emotions of another individual, is one of those important guideposts to keep us on the path to building healthy relationships.  Empathy is our gateway to understanding and understanding is the foundation for healthy relationships.

Empathy not only give us a better perspective through understanding, it can help us answer the question about why someone acted the way they did in a particular situation.

Expanding our level of empathy is not accomplished in a quick scroll through our most recent social media updates.  Empathy takes an investment to understand someone’s experiences, beliefs, and assumptions in order to better understand why they are the way there are and why they did what they did.

Like a lot of things in life, growing our empathy takes time and effort.  It is our choice.  Driving on an empty road towards the setting sunHere are just a few thoughts around empathy that may help us to stay on a path to stronger, healthier relationships:

  • The ability to understand one another through growing our empathy is the foundation for healthy relationships.
  • Empathy takes an investment and we have limited resources of time and effort. Start with those relationships that matter most.
  • Quick judgments on behaviors we don’t like because we don’t care enough to grow our empathy is rarely going to help us bring about the changes we desire in close relationships.
  • A simple starting point when we feel like passing a quick judgement is to simply pause and ask, “Please, help me understand…”

As we continue to grow our empathy in the relationships that matter most, we will carry that discipline to our broader view of the world around us and we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to remain on the path building healthy relationships.

Character Creates Opportunity® – A Major Threat: Thursday, September 3, 2015

There is no denying that our world continues to grow in complexity, intensity, and uncertainty.

There are major international and domestic threats to our way of life that we often hear about in the news or experience directly in our communities.  The transparency of life that comes with the digital age also poses a threat to some very private situations or some regrettable activities that would have caused much less collateral damage in times past.  The complexity of life these days seems to pose a significant threat to the peace and stability we all yearn for in our lives.

However, there is one threat has been with us through the ages that continues to challenge us more than any other in the quest to reach our full potential.  The threat of isolation for an individual or a group presents a major threat to reaching our full potential.

Healthcare professionals, in both academic research and practical experience, would tell us that personal isolation is the greatest predictor of health outcomes.  Those that are struggling with physical or mental ailments, do worse when facing a situation alone as opposed to those who have a support network to help get through the struggle.

As we continue to build and strengthen our character, we must be vigilant in addressing the continual threat of isolation that can create major risks for us achieving our hopes and dreams.

There is a tendency that when we face struggles, we turn inward as oppose to turning outward to others to address our situation.

  • In our schools, students who struggle academically or socially tend to keep their challenges to themselves.
  • In our homes, when relationships are strained, we have a tendency to go to our separate corners or simply attempt to put up a wall to separate us from our problems.
  • In our workplace, there is a sense that we need to figure out the problem ourselves as opposed to reaching out to draw on the experience and knowledge of others.

The impact of isolating ourselves in the midst of struggles can have a significant negative impact in many areas of life.

Below are a few thoughts on what we can do to address the major threat that isolation poses in reaching our full potential and helping others to do the same.

  1. Gain a greater appreciation for the reality that we all have a tendency to turn inward when facing difficulties and the poor outcome that can be the result of that decision to turn inward.
  2. Be continually on the lookout for our own risk of turning inward and also for those closest to us who seem to move into more isolation over time.
  3. Model the way for those around us by reaching out to others when we are facing difficulties in a genuine and authentic way to encourage others to do the same.
  4. Take the time to highlight the positive outcomes that were the result of coming together as a family, a workgroup, or a class to reinforce an effective choice that avoided the threat of isolation.Points of View

As we remain vigilant in facing the major threat of isolation, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and help others do the same.