Character Creates Opportunity® – The Waiting: Thursday, February 25, 2016

I think Tom Petty was right when he sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

There is excitement at the start of any major endeavor.  Whether it is a new job, the start of a relationship, the preseason for an athlete, or the “black Friday” kick off of the holiday shopping season, there is always a great deal of excitement in the beginning.

Then there comes the unspectacular, slow-moving grind between a great start and the exciting finish and the accomplishment of the goal.

As we continue to build and strengthen our character, the perspective we bring to the waiting period can make all the difference to the eventual outcome we are seeking.

It has often been said about athletic competition that the success achieved during the season is a direct result of the hard work and effort put in during the “off season” when there are no fans cheering and there is just the quiet of practice.

In pursuit of any academic endeavor, there is excitement at the start of the program and on graduation day, but in between is filled with the long, slow grind of the learning process.

Many close relationships have the excitement and “fireworks” at the start of the connection only to be replaced with the often unspectacular day to day plugging along of building a life together.

In the raising of children, parents work to do their best to build a strong foundation and prepare children to stand on their own in the world, then there is the waiting to see if they can actually do it.Sunset moment

The waiting period for life’s major events may seem like a long, slow grind with nothing happening, but in reality, this is the process of refinement.  Similar to the refinement process of removing impurities from the smelting of gold and silver, the waiting period is part of our own personal refinement to ensure the purity of our intent.

In the journey to build heath in a close relationship, it is the refinement of “me” not “you” that strengthens the relationship.  The refinement process removes the impurities of selfishness, stubbornness, and apathy to bring out the purity of love and sacrifice to make a close relationship work over the long term.

The preseason for an athlete is when the refinement process begins to shape and strengthen the mind and body to sustain health through the long, arduous season.

The process to achieve an advanced education takes time.  The waiting period between that exciting start and graduation day will remove the impurities of shallow motives and half-hearted effort only to reveal the purity of commitment and the quest for learning and growth.   

As we all will encounter the waiting in our journey towards the accomplishment of life’s goals, here are few thoughts to continue in the journey:

  • There are no overnight successes. We do ourselves a favor by eliminating that dream and replacing it with the reality that anything worth something is going to take time and effort to achieve…even “love at first sight” takes effort over the long haul to make it last.
  • Purification happens during the waiting and purification is essential to achieving a worthy goal. Time spent moving towards a goal takes effort and that effort removes a great deal of impurities to ensure what emerges is the purity of commitment and focus.
  • The learning and growing that occurs in the waiting period is what will build our strength to set the bar even higher after we complete the current goal we are facing.

As we gain perspective on the value of the waiting period and even though it is still “the hardest part,” we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to build great relationships and reach our full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Power of Reflection: Thursday, February 18, 2016

There is no denying that we live in a fast paced world.  Information about world events travels in an instant, products and companies in the marketplace are seemingly disrupted overnight by innovation from all corners of the world, and schedules in our home and communities seem jammed to capacity that planning a meal with friends takes on the complexity of planning a massive military operation.

In this busy world of ours, many times we do need to figure out how to keep pace just as a matter of survival.  Ask someone in the taxi business how their life has changed since UBER came to town. Ask someone in the music business how their life has changed since the days of NAPSTER, YOUTUBE and streaming music.  Just mention and most traditional businesses (not just bookstores), start to get anxious.

These events are not just “business” events.  These massive, rapid shifts in the marketplace impact homes, families and communities.  It is important that we all figure out how to keep pace with our rapidly changing world just to ensure we can provide the basics for those closest to us.

However, even in our fast pace world, there is the need for pause and reflection.  As a matter of fact, our intentional effort towards making time to reflect on the things that matter most, is even more critical in a fast paced world.  As we continue to build and strengthen our character, the power of reflection will provide opportunity to more effectively navigate a world that is moving at light-speed.

“The unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates

Whether we describe it as prayer, meditation, quite time, or whatever, the need to make time to consistently reflect on our lives, the relationships we are building, the choices we are making and the direction we are headed is critical to reaching our full potential.Young woman drinking cup of coffee in restaurant

In the busyness of this world, without reflection, we run the risk of heading full steam over the proverbial cliff, climbing the wrong mountain, or unknowingly dismissing those close relationships that we will most certainly regret at some critical moment in the future.

Here are a few thoughts on leveraging the power of reflection to reach our full potential:

  1. Be intentional and make a plan. Nothing worthwhile ever gets done when we just “wing it.”  Sustaining a plan for reflection takes some personal initiative.
  2. Be specific and consistent on a time. Some of us are early morning people, some are night owls, and some can tune out the noise in the middle of a busy day to find some time.  Just like the research tells us that great, healthy sleep patterns are found with a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, the same is true for strengthening the power of reflection.  Find a time that works and stick with it.
  3. Be focused on the big picture. In reflective moments, try to move from the day to day issues to the longer term big picture thoughts of relationships, areas of service and legacy building.  Reflecting on these items has been shown to build hope even when facing very difficult circumstances in the present.
  4. Be prepared to take a few notes. Jotting down a few thoughts and ideas has been demonstrated to be an effective first step in achieving our hopes and dreams in the important areas of our lives.   

As we become intentional on finding some time to reflect away from the busy lives we all lead, we will continue to 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® – Unspoken Questions: Thursday, February 4, 2016

There was a recruiting campaign that the US Army developed in the 1980s called “Be All You Can Be.”  Even though the US Army has launched several effective themes since (“Army of One” and “Army Strong”), the “Be All You Can Be” theme continues to resonate in popular culture as it speaks to reaching our individual potential.

When we genuinely care about making progress towards reaching our full potential in the important areas of life, there is always a struggle to keep moving forward.  Whether it is our own experiences, the thoughts and opinions of others, or the unfortunate “poor timing” of our last effort to make a change, we begin to question what we are doing and the probability of success in reaching our goals.

In the real and practical world, as opposed to sitting in the audience and listening to some pump-up motivational speech, there are a few unspoken questions that either become STOP signs to our progress or guardrails as we continue on our journey.  The unspoken questions are “What will they think?” and “What will I tell them?”

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important that we acknowledge these unspoken questions and deal with them in a way that does not impeded our progress in reaching our full potential…Not someone else’s view of our potential (fill in the blank…a boss, a spouse, a parent, a child, a key stakeholder) but our own personal view of our potential (the sky should be the limit, in case you have any doubts).high achiever

Here are a few considerations to effectively address these unspoken questions:

  • Acknowledge that it is our own fear that is woven into these unspoken questions. Fear of failing, fear of what others will think, or fear of disappointing someone is often reflected in addressing these questions.  Fear is a reality that most of us face, but in the long run, it is not a healthy driver of our decisions on the journey to reach our full potential.
  • Acknowledge that we do care about the answers to these unspoken questions. It is not an effective strategy to say we just don’t care about what others think. The reality is we do care.  The greatest desire after taking care of our basic necessities of life is that we all want to feel a connection with others and that we belong.  Thinking about the potential answers to these questions is interconnected to meeting our basic need to belong.
  • Acknowledge that the choice is ours: STOP sign or guardrail. As opposed to letting these questions become STOP signs to making a necessary change in our life, we should leverage them to refine our thinking and clarify our intentions.  This step will help us strengthen the decision we are making and solidify our resolve to move forward with the change no matter what we face. 

One final consideration that falls into a slightly different category than the above points is for each of us to work hard at not pre-judging a potential response by someone close to us.  Just because they responded with “what, are you crazy?” the last 100 times we made a major decision to take action and change course, does not make it helpful to pre-judge their next response.  Just as we hope to learn and grow, we should give the benefit of the doubt to those closest to us that they have the potential to learn and grow to become an encourager as opposed to an impediment to our efforts to reach our full potential.

As we learn to more effectively address these unspoken questions, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and reach our hopes and dreams.