Character Creates Opportunity® – To Be Remembered: January 26, 2017

For a variety of reasons, most of us will not have our names in the history books, the world-record books, or any other well-known document read by millions in the next 100-200 years.

Most of us have a knowledge of and maybe some vivid memories of a few key people in the generations of our past. We certainly can remember parents, grandparents, and perhaps great-grandparents, but it starts to get real fuzzy after a few generations. Depending on our level of engagement with parents and grandparents, we may have memories of their friends, maybe coworkers and bosses, but for all practical purposes, there is limited personal knowledge beyond the family tree when we go back a few generations.

So, there we have it; a practical view of being remembered and leaving a legacy is that we probably have a realistic chance that our grandchildren and maybe our great grandchildren will remember us. I can remember a great quote from Cal Ripken upon his retirement from baseball, when he was asked, “How do you want to be remembered?” Cal replied, “Just being remembered would be nice.” In many ways, a great hope for all of us would be to “just be remembered” by our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I doubt any of us can recall whether a great-grandparent wore fashionable clothes, drove the finest car of the day, had a great watch, or some other material possession. At most, we remember, or we were told, whether or not they were involved in their family, in their work, and in service to a cause bigger than themselves. We remember if they were kind and helpful or mean and hurtful.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character and reach our full potential, it would be great to have a few generations along the family tree not only “just remember us,” but remember us as kind, helpful, productive, and committed to our family and to a worthy cause…the things that matter most.Sunset moment

As we think about leaving a legacy, here are a few practical considerations:

  • We need to be intentional with our efforts to leave a legacy as there is a great risk of being forgotten. Like many important endeavors, intentional effort begins with a big dream or idea, followed by the very practical steps of making a plan and then the discipline to work the plan. Leaving a legacy within our families is too important to just “wing it.”
  • No matter what has happened in the past, today is the best day to start fresh and moving forward to create the legacy we desire.
  • As the saying goes, our thoughts turn into actions; our actions turn into habits; our habits develop our character; and our character becomes our legacy. Leaving a legacy starts in our thought life. When our thoughts, that drive decisions and then actions, are grounded in principles like commitment, loyalty, and sacrifice, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to leave the legacy we all desire.

We only have that great unknown which is “the rest of our lives” to make progress.  Enjoy the journey.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Why Not Ask? January 19, 2017

There is no denying that we have entered into the age of instant access to all types of resources to help us be more efficient and effective.  On the personal development side, 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 in everything we do.

There is one critical area that often gets overlooked on a very personal level in families and 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 momentum in strengthening our close relationships and having a positive impact to overcome some area of struggle in our lives.

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 our 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 or the real comment behind the comment.  However, experience would tell us that we are all very good at the “cover-up.” We are very effective at continuing to attend the costume party and wearing our best mask.

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 can come about when we have the courage to ask for help:

  • We bring clarity to the need. Our relationships often wander with unproductive energy spent trying to figure out what is at the heart of the struggle or a particular behavior.
  • We provide someone who wants to help with the opportunity to productively help. There is often times 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 build courage to ask for help 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 simply maintaining the cover-up until disaster strikes and the costume party ends.HELP

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® – The Challenge to Keep Serving: January 12, 2017

Throughout the years, there has been a steady amount of academic research, business experience, and personal testimony in support of the concept that when we view our role as serving others, we form a strong foundation from which to create value.  Whether we are serving our customers, the teams we work on, members of our family, or people in our community, the idea of serving others helps strengthen our efforts to accomplish great things.

In the service of others, especially in the home, we have a clear opportunity to meet our greatest need which is to know that we matter to someone.  Even as we have an abundance of opportunity to meet this need in the home, practical experience would tell us that this need is often met on the job and in the community given the many conflicts that arise in the home.  Given the truth that no accomplishment can compensate for a failure at home, the need to sustain an attitude of service in the home is critical.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, there is an important paradox in the role of serving others in the home that we need to understand as we genuinely work to meet this important personal need of knowing that we matter to someone.

We have all heard the saying, “opposites attract.”  It is definitely true in the scientific world and it also seems very common in the human condition with finding a mate.  How did she do that?We see the real-life examples of this all around us:

The “organizer” who is paired with the messy and frantic.

The “stable and secure” with the chaotic and risky.

The “provider” being able to help the one in need.

The “afflicted and struggling” being supported and encouraged to change by the martyr.

We all bring certain strengths to a relationship and we use those strengths in an honest, genuine attempt to serve and help our mate.  Most healthy relationships are grounded in serving one another.  This heart-felt commitment to serve and support our mate provides the foundation for meeting our deep personal need to know we matter to someone.

Most often, we feel secure in using our strengths to serve our mate because it is a known skill for us and we are confident in our ability to deliver the service and meet the need.  We genuinely feel that by serving our mate in this way we will satisfy our own need of being wanted, needed, and appreciated.  The general expectation is that our mate will recognize our service and deliver a response that will confirm our need to know we matter.

Because of real practical differences in how we show love and appreciation and in our personalities and communication styles, the Servant’s ParadoxTM comes into play in two ways:  Many times our mate will (1) Not “see” our intent to serve and will view our efforts as belittling or demeaning and (2) If they do “see” our intent to serve, they will respond in a manner that does not resonate positively with us.  The eventual outcome is that we don’t feel appreciated and don’t meet the need to know we mattered to someone else despite all of our genuine efforts to serve.

With this clear disconnect, frustration eventual sets in.  We start to resent those qualities in our mate that we originally intended to use our strengths to serve and help.  We quit serving, contempt sets in soon after, and we start talking about “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for a break-up.

The cycle continues as we find another mate with the same gaps as our first and we faithful try again to serve with a known strength of our own.  In addition, even if we endure this disconnect with our mate, the age-old challenge of balancing effort between work and family, the Servant’s Paradox has a tendency to shift the balance over to work instead of our mate when the need to know we matter is felt greater in the workplace than on the home front.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, below are a few steps to take in addressing the Servant’s Paradox and maintaining the effort to serve:

  1. Acknowledge the reality that we all have a need to know we matter to someone.
  2. Appreciate the fact that each of us genuinely serves with our strengths to meet the needs of our mate.
  3. Be intentional about understanding the different ways our mate feels appreciated in their commitment to serve.
  4. Act on the understanding to deliver in a manner that resonates with our mate to meet the need to know they matter in our lives.
  5. Keep serving. Serving others is the timeless, universal principle that will not disappoint in the long run.  It is the long run that matters.

As we continue to serve and work to effectively recognize the service of others, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to sustain our efforts to serve others and we stand a great chance to meet our need to know we matter.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Looking Back: Thursday, January 5, 2017

If I were to ask you, “What are the most difficult problems you face today?”  What would you say?

Is it a difficult relationship at home, school, or work?

Is it a health issue for you or a loved one that now demands your full attention?

Is it a business or financial worry that seems insurmountable?

Is it a past experience that continues to stir feelings of fear or shame?

Let’s face it, life is tough.  Competition in any business is now global and seems to appear almost overnight.  Families face an endless amount of “on demand” distractions and busyness that gets in the way of quality face to face time and relationships.  Communities seem to lack the necessary resources to support a growing number of challenges.

Despite the many challenges around us, as the saying goes, “history often repeats itself” and we have proven our ability to overcome challenges in the past and with the building and strengthening of our character, we have a good shot at not only surviving, but thriving in the times ahead…but it won’t be easy.

There is large body of academic research and, if we are honest with ourselves, a fair amount of real-life experience, that would indicate how we view our past can either help or hinder our effectiveness in the present and future.  The view we “see” when we are looking back into our past is critical as we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character.  Gaining a healthy perspective on our past to enable a brighter future is a “look in the mirror” kind of moment for each of us to make a positive impact on ourselves and those around us.

When thinking about some difficult experiences and relationships we had growing up, do we still see bitterness and pain or do we see personal learning and growth?

Does the thought of a difficult close relationship in the past bring about anger or have we gained a sense of perspective and/or understanding?

We have all experienced our own unique set of challenges in the past.  Comparing our stories is not healthy, but how we view those unique experiences can be fertile ground for personal growth.

Here are a few thoughts on looking back to gain strength for the future:high achiever

  1. Viewing past challenges as opportunities for learning and growth is a proven pathway to emotional heath and positions us for positive impact in the future. Viewing past challenges as reminders of our weaknesses is a proven pathway to keep us down.
  2. Maintaining bitterness and anger towards an individual or experience in the past harms us and, by direct relationship, harms those we care about most around us today. Bitterness and anger drains us of much needed energy that could be used more productively to reach our hopes and dreams.
  3. No matter how old we get and how experienced we are, there is always an opportunity to learn and grow. Maintaining a learning mindset as we grow old will help us stay young…and not get so cranky.

Looking back to find learning and growth as opposed to bitterness or reinforcement of our shortcomings is a choice only we can make.  We own that choice and can’t give it to anyone else.  As we make the most effective choice to learn and grow from our past, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our hopes and dreams.