Character Creates Opportunity® – The Price to Pay: Thursday, September 29, 2016

I am not sure where you find yourself today, but I would be willing to guess that not everyone is walking on Easy Street.

There is most likely an important relationship that once was close but has now grown cold.  There is most likely a struggle at work on a project, a team, or hitting a budget.  In our once tranquil communities, there is most likely some tension and safety concerns.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, an important part of our personal growth is in maintaining our efforts to reach our goals when it is the time to pay the price.

Throughout the ages, in various forums, it has been said that sorrow is the price we pay for love.  Failure is the price we pay for success.  Pain is the price we pay for compassion.  We all could add a few more to this price list.

The human experience is such that we cannot experience the full potential of love without having experienced the pain of sorrow, loss, and a broken relationship.  We cannot demonstrate the full potential of compassion without having experienced our own sense of misery and suffering.  We cannot have a full appreciation of achievement without having journeyed through the valley of failure.

Those “full” souls around us, we can probably see a few in our mind’s eye right now, are the ones who have experienced, journeyed, and stretched the boundaries of the “other side” of the human experience and have paid a high price.    We all have a unique life journey.  However, even in our uniqueness, we have all experienced both sides of the journey and the price we paid has made an impact on us.Sportive Couple walking on rural Road foggy Mountains Sunset

Here are a few thoughts to remind us about the price to pay:

  • There is always a price to pay. The other side of love, joy, and peace will always be a part of our journey.  The ultimate purpose for the other side I don’t claim to know, but for the present, the other side brings us to a greater level of fullness for love, compassion, and commitment to reach our full potential.
  • Look, learn, and appreciate those around us who express a fullness of life for love, compassion and persistence for they are certainly the brave souls who have stretched the boundary on the other side. We should follow the example of their fullness.
  • Share our story…at least with those we care about most (perhaps not on social media, but face to face would be the best encounter). Others need to hear the truth that there is always a price to pay.  We are not forever walking on Easy Street.  We will make consistent progress on reaching our full potential as we are reminded of the truth about the price to pay.

It is an important reminder, that as we pay the price on the other side of our journey, we will build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Difficult and Necessary: Thursday, September 22, 2016

There is an important reality we all must face.  Even with all the support and care we may have around us, there are times when we are truly on our own.Cramming

  • When taking an exam in biology class, we are on our own.
  • When dealing with an unruly 2-year-old in a crowded shopping mall, we are on our own.
  • When making a sales pitch to a customer, we are on our own.
  • When covering a wide receiver man-to-man on defense, we are on our own.
  • When we are “in the moment” with a difficult relationship conflict, we are on our own.
  • When we face that choice right now to support a harmful addiction, we are on our own.
  • When we enter the ring, we are on our own.

For many of us, we have others in our lives who care for us and provide much needed support and love.  Having healthy, supportive relationships in our lives forms a critical foundation for a life of positive impact.  However, the most difficult and necessary reality we all must face is that there are certain critical moments in life when we are all alone and need to stand and deliver.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, an important challenge we need to accept is that we are on our own as we guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions.

Below are a few positive outcomes from accepting the reality that we are on our own:

  1. We learn that we are responsible and accountable for the decisions we make. Playing the “blame game” is not an option when we are on our own.
  2. We become free to guide our own thought-life, not mom or dad, a spouse, teacher or boss. We own our thoughts…and what we think, we become.
  3. We are well-positioned to make a decision on our faith. Just like in the Biblical story of David and Goliath.  David was physically alone in the valley with Goliath, but he knew he was not truly alone.  When we find ourselves all alone in life, we are in a most perfect position to make a decision on what we believe.

As we accept this most difficult and necessary conclusion that even with others around us, there are times when we are all alone, we build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential.  Also, as President John F. Kennedy most famously said, “Pray not for easy lives, pray to be stronger men,” we are in a great position to make a decision on what we believe.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Today and Tomorrow: Thursday, September 15, 2016

Let’s face it.  There is a lot of stress and worry in our world.  It is becoming more and more difficult for all of us to put on our “happy face” on a routine basis and sweep stuff under the rug.

It is not just geopolitical factors and a stumbling global economy that are driving the tension. We experience most of the pressure in our homes, schools, at work, and in our communities.  Peace, joy, and happiness seem to not make interesting headlines, so we usually get a real adult dose of the pressures of our world from all the major news outlets.

At times, a little stress in our lives helps to kick us into gear and get down the path we should have been going a while ago.  For the most, however, consistent stress and worry is not healthy.

One important truth is that stress and worry do not take away the pain that may come tomorrow, but they sure take away our strength for today.  Today and tomorrow are often connected by stress and worry.  As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, principles like perspective, hope, and carpe diem (seize the day) with help us effectively deal with stress and worry in order to reach our full potential.

How we guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions around today and tomorrow will help to determine our impact.  Here are a few thoughts to consider in order to connect today and tomorrow in a most meaningful and productive way:

  • Reality check. It is important to acknowledge the truth that we all have some degree of stress and worry. We are not a one-off freak show because we worry and feel stressed out. Sure, some of us may be a bit better at concealing it, but we all live with it.
  • Small steps. The Grand Canyon was not created by a meteor strike. It was the slow steady movement of water over time. It is tempting to think that one great event, a great pump-up speech, or some motivational insight will help us overcome stress and worry.  Practical experience teaches us that our daily habits, the laying of bricks one by one, is what brings about a solid foundation for lasting change.  First steps
  • All we have is today.  Living productively today by being present, mentally and emotionally, is our best way to link today and tomorrow.  Maximizing our impact today brings a sense of peace about facing tomorrow.  To be very candid, there will be times when the worry of tomorrow will be a bit too much to bear by just trying to stay focused on today.  When that is the case, one small step to take is to use today to completely focus on preparing for tomorrow.  The active preparation for tomorrow has a natural way of building confidence to face the next day’s challenges.

We all will face stress and worry throughout our lives.  As we take small, consistent steps to guide our thoughts, decisions, to maximize today, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to have a positive impact on those around us and enable us to reach our full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – One Simple Truth: Thursday, September 8, 2016

Finding truth these days seems so elusive.  It is not just because we are in a political season.  Our world continues to grow in complexity and intensity which provides an opportunity to cover up truth in a maze of complicated, uncertain, and seemingly unique situations.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, there is one simple, universal, and timeliness truth that we will cover in today’s blog that should not be dismissed among the complexity that continues to grow all around us.

Before covering the one truth, here is a little background.  At Harvest Time Partners, the intent of our work is to reinforce that Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential regardless of our situation.

Why is character so critically important?

In answering that question, below are two realities we all must face in life:

  1. We will experience both ups and downs, great highs and great lows. Whether it is in school, work, our community, and certainly in our homes, we will encounter situations that provide us with an opportunity to learn and grow. There is no “easy street” to live on…we cannot fully appreciate great highs without experiencing great lows.
  2. There are always three aspects to our experiences:

a SITUATION: There is our present situation.  Sometimes our situation is beyond our immediate, personal control like the weather, a call from a close friend with an unexpected terminal illness, a reckless driver running a red light, an outburst from an individual in an overwhelming situation, etc.  Other times, we made a decision to place ourselves into a certain situation.Relationship difficulties

a GAP: There is a gap, a moment in our consciousness, that forms our response to the situation.  The gap could be a split second or a long period of time.

a RESPONSE: There is our response to the situation.

The one simple, universal, and timeless truth is this: How we fill the GAP will determine our potential and our emotional health. 

In the GAP, lies our character.  We are not confined to a stimulus-response type paradigm like animals.  Our unique human quality, our character, provides us with the potential to choose our response in any situation.

The truth about our potential in the GAP has been around for ages.  The world’s dominant religions all teach this truth and modern history has provided numerous examples of this truth.  We possess the potential to rise above our situation and effectively use the GAP between our situation and our response.

Our character is Standing in the Gap® between a situation and our response.

Our character is our inner voice (our internal compass) that guides our thoughts, decisions, and actions.  When we guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions by principles like courage, loyalty, honesty, and commitment, we build and strengthen our character.

As our character is strengthened, we develop our most effective response in the GAP. 

Our most effective response will eventually lead to an improved situation and a pathway to reach our full potential and sustained emotional health…and the opportunity continues with every situation.

How does this play out in the real world?

In the workplace:

  • With a situation of tremendous personal success, do we take all the credit or do we acknowledge the principles of teamwork and the commitment and sacrifices of others?
  • With a situation of a major shortfall, do we blame the boss, company red tape, competition, or do we acknowledge the principles of personal responsibility and continuous learning to expect of a better outcome next time?

In the classroom:

  • With a situation of a poor grade on an exam, do we blame the teacher and the “system” or do we acknowledge the principles of preparation, planning, and humility to ask for help?
  • With a situation of bullying or shaming, do we ignore the environment, or do we acknowledge the principles of courage and compassion to defend those who may not be able or willing to defend themselves?

In the home:

  • With a situation of a wayward teenager or adult son or daughter, do we dismiss them or do we acknowledge the principles of loyalty, commitment, and understanding to ensure no one feels all alone?
  • With a situation of a struggling marriage (all marriages go through difficult times), do move quickly to the exit, or do we acknowledge the principles of commitment, sacrifice, and gentleness (strength under control) to navigate the incredibly painful episodes in marriage?

As we face situations in life, there is always a gap between our situation and our response.  How we fill that gap will determine our potential and our emotional health.  Our character stands in the gap and our Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential regardless of the situation.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Bright Side of Loneliness: Thursday, September 1, 2016

If we chose to believe the statistics, either ourselves or someone close to us on our left or right struggles with feeling alone.  If we take an honest reflection of our own lives, there are probably times when we felt the sense of being out there all alone facing a particular situation:

  • In the workplace, we can feel alone in dealing with a difficult boss, being a part of a project team that just doesn’t function like a team, or when we lost that “critical” account and everyone is turning their eyes on us.
  • In school, when the “cool” group leaves us behind or we are chosen last on the playground for kickball, we can feel a bit lonely.
  • In the home, we can feel alone during times of struggle in a marriage, children whose birth order may align with certain experiences (it is more than just the middle child syndrome), or when adult children start making life choices that conflict with the hopes of parents.

We can all feel lonely from time to time.   Mirror

There were two times in my adult life when I have walked down the road with a friend facing a terminal illness. In both experiences, they commented how wonderful it was to have family and friends around to help them in their most difficult situation.  However, both of them, from very different backgrounds and walks of life, made the same comment to me that even with all these people around, their journey down that final road is an extremely lonely one.

As we continue to build and strengthen our character, embracing the bright side of loneliness will help each of us reach our full potential throughout the ups and downs of life in our home, the workplace and community.

Like most things in life, we can view challenges as a reminder of our own weaknesses or we can use challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. We make that choice every day and dealing with loneliness is no different.  We have a choice.  There was recently some published research on the best ways of coping with loneliness and of all the options like group therapy, community intervention, pharmaceutical treatments, etc., the most effective was some individual support to encourage changing our own thoughts and beliefs about ourselves.

As we view these occasions of loneliness as opportunities to grow, here are a few ways to remind us of the bright side of loneliness.

  1. The first step towards self-improvement. The quiet of loneliness is a helpful place because the first step of any great movement starts with struggles in the present.  In the quiet of loneliness, quite often we can see the need for change.  Whether it is in our careers to find something purposeful that excites us, or in our educational pursuits to study something that can help us to have a real positive impact, or in our homes to take steps to be a better spouse or parent.  Our desire to improve our situation starts with some dissatisfaction of the present.  In the cold quiet of loneliness, we often find the spark to ignite positive change in our lives.
  2. We can make a quick turnaround. In the final assessment, making a shift in mindset is all up to us. There is empowerment and energy that comes with standing and facing our situation alone without the challenges of miscommunication, unmet expectations or half-hearted commitments that sometimes comes with large group efforts.  We can move quickly in guiding our own thoughts, decisions, and actions.  As we look into the mirror, we need to ask, “What are we waiting for?”
  3. A helping hand to others. Our journey through loneliness can be a helpful source of encouragement to someone who needs it most. We should be genuine and authentic in sharing our journey with someone else.  As Plato once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Someone close to us may need to hear our example of overcoming, but they may be too ashamed, embarrassed, or hurt to ask.  Sharing our journey with those we care about most should be thought of as a potential source of encouragement to them, not a needed badge of honor for ourselves.

As we chose to see the bright side of loneliness, we can increase our chances of overcoming.  We will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and have a positive impact on others.