Character Creates Opportunity® – Transitions Part II: Thursday, May 25, 2017

Last week’s blog focused on how the typical transitions in life can be great opportunities for personal growth.  When we are intentional about learning and growing instead of resisting change through these often difficult transitions, we find ourselves on an effective path to reach our full potential.

For most of us, the typical transitions in life come about by just following the crowd in the routine choices of life.  Most of us simply follow the crowd.  The student transitions through school years and then into the workforce.  The transitions into marriage, children, and caring for aging parents all somewhat follow the flow of the typical journey of our modern life.  As we discussed last week, these transitions can be difficult, but they also afford us a tremendous opportunity for personal growth.

The focus of this week’s blog is on how we can identify and create transition moments in life in order to ‘raise the bar’ in our personal growth and to provide a helping hand in getting out of a rut we have created during times we have become comfortable, settled, and perhaps a bit complacent.

We have all heard the simple truth that “life is a journey, not a destination.”  However, for most of us, it is those destination points in life (graduation, a good job, a family, a role in service to others) that pose our greatest risk of becoming complacent and settled.  Our mindset becomes “I have worked hard, persevered through challenges, learned, and ‘arrived.’ Now I can take my foot off the gas and coast for a bit.”  We all know that mindset is a recipe for disaster in the workplace, in maintaining a marriage, raising children, and in any other meaningful role we may play in life.

Instead of getting stuck in a rut or risk a disaster in an area of life that we genuinely care about, how can we maintain a desire for personal growth during the routine seasons of life and mimic the opportunity to grow that we find during major transition points in life?

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Accept the Reality that our current status (a good job, a committed marriage, emotionally healthy children) is at risk if we are not intentional about our own growth. Will Rogers said it best, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”  We are at risk the moment we feel we “arrived” on the fresh side of a typical transition point in life.
  2. Clarify Intentions. It is important that we clearly decide what we want to become and how we want to act in the many roles we play. “Winging it” sounds cool on the dance floor, but in the really important things in life, we will fall way short of our potential without being intentional with our efforts.
  3. Leverage the natural rhythms of life as fresh starts to make incremental changes to improve. Routine points in the year like the start of summer break, going back to school, the New Year, anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, even “Mondays” can be extremely practical and relevant times to declare a fresh start on making a small, incremental change to reach a new goal.
  4. Sustainability. For many of these typical transition points in life, we are in it for the long haul.  We don’t start and then stop being a parent, or being a son or daughter, and most of us will be “working” at something throughout our lives.  Marriages, well sometimes that may be a different story, but our original intention is to be in it for the long haul. We have all probably experienced times when we tried to make massive changes in some area of our lives after attending a “pump-up” motivational event, “re-dedicated” our efforts to something, or a genuinely significant life event (sickness, family break-up, job loss etc.) caused us to “wake up” and try to get on the right track.  The data would demonstrate that massive life changing plans usually are not sustainable for any of us over the long haul.  What seems to work best is making small, incremental change over time that builds momentum for us to sustain heading in the right direction over the long haul.  Decide on small changes and start making progress.
  5. The Crowd We Keep. We often tell our kids how important it is that they hang out with the “right” crowd, not the “wrong” crowd, because for most of us, we follow the crowd.  As adults, we don’t always take our own advice.  We should seek to connect with those who are encouraging and supportive of heading down an effective path vs. those who bring negativity and apathy on any path.  Find the “right” crowd and stick with them, just like we tell our kids.

Like most things in life, the choice is ours.  We can become set in our ways and find we have created a rut or worse a coffin that limits our potential.  Or we can ignite a spark of change during the routine seasons of life so we can continue to grow and reach our full potential.  As we decide to continue to move forward in growth, we build and strengthen our character and realize the truth that Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and make a positive impact on those around us.


Character Creates Opportunity® – Transitions Part I: Thursday, May 18, 2017

As we continue on our own personal journey to build and strengthen our character, the topics for the next two blog posts will be around the important opportunity for our personal growth that comes in the form of transitions in life.  In today’s update, we will focus on transitions in the typical seasons of life.  Next week, we will focus on the need to create transition moments in life in order to continue to raise the bar in our personal growth or as a helping hand to get out of a rut we have created during the somewhat steady, routine seasons of life.

Psychologists, counselors, and a fair amount of academic research would indicate that transitions in life can be a major source of stress and anxiety.

As students, there is the stress of transitioning from middle school to high school and high school to college and/or the workplace.

As adults, the transition of single life to married life, married life to life with children, and then the reversal of roles as children transition to take care of aging parents.

In the workplace, we see transitions happen with new leaders joining the team, promotions or downsizing, acquisitions, new markets we enter, etc. that all bring about stress and strain in the workplace.

Over a few generations, we have seen our communities in transition from relative safe-havens to places where metal detectors greet us in schools and public buildings and the thought of a child riding a bike across town makes us anxious.

The stress and strain in these transitions is typically unavoidable for most of us.

However, with a slight shift in mindset, these transitions offer tremendous opportunity to grow and reach our full potential.  The mindset shift occurs when we acknowledge these simple truths (A) There will be periods of pain and discomfort in all transitions (B) There is truly no way to turn back the clock to the way things were as life is always moving forward whether we acknowledge it or not (C) Embracing these inevitable transitions opens a door to reach our full potential.

Once we make this mindset shift, the benefits to our own personal growth and to the positive impact we can have on those around us is tremendous.  When we are intentional about learning and growing through these typical transitions in life we will:

(1)    Gain a broader perspective:  As we transition through new experiences, we develop a greater understanding of other people’s points of view, experiences, and approaches which expands our thoughts and improves our decision-making ability.

(2)    Build resilience and strength for the future:  Life will never be free of transitions.  We can have confidence in knowing that as we grow through this current transition, we will become stronger and more resilient to deal with the next challenge in our journey.

(3)    Get a chance to push the “reset” button:  Let’s face it…we all make mistakes.  When we walk through these major life transitions, we are afforded the opportunity “start again” with the benefits of past learnings to guide us to more effective choices in our new roles and relationships.

In dealing with the typical transitions in life, the choice is ours.  We can go “kicking and screaming” through these transitions, or we can embrace the chance to build and strengthen our character and realize the truth that Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Cost: Thursday, May 11, 2017

We all have a few areas in our lives where we wish things were “a little better.”

Perhaps it is the sales of a certain product line at work, a tough relationship with a disappointed customer, the grade in a difficult subject in school, the strained relationship in our home, or the social trends in our community.  Toss in our own personal financial situation or our growing waistline and I am sure we can all find an area or two where we wish things were “a little better.”

Reaching a sense of fulfillment and emotional health in knowing that we actually made progress in doing “a little better” is going to take some effort.  More often than not, the effort required usually involves a change in behavior. We are all probably familiar with Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Nothing happens without change.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, the question we need to address is, “What is it going to take to get “a little better” in that important area of our life?”

Many times we know, or someone tells us, what that small incremental change in behavior needs to be.  In places like work and school, there is usually a consistent roadmap to follow and we just need to make the choice, step-up the effort and deliver.  There is a cost of time and effort, but it is pretty predictable and the choice to follow the roadmap is ours to make.

The more difficult decisions are in the areas that really matter in the long haul of life, like our close relationships and the legacy of our efforts and accomplishments.  In these important areas, there may not be a clear roadmap and the near-term costs may seem quite high:

  • To mend a strained relationship, many times we need a desire to be reconciled rather than to be proven right, we need to shut-up and seek to understand as oppose to giving our opinion, and/or we need to extend favor when the natural tendency would be to fight back.
  • To impact our legacy, many times we need to sacrifice in the near term to ensure a brighter tomorrow. Whether that is saving today vs spending to have some money for the rainy day that will come, grinding it out in a job so that those closest to our care can have opportunities we did not, or taking a risk and following a different path than we were “supposed to follow.”

As we all consider the costs in these big and important areas of life, we need to be reminded that there is a relatively small cost of trying and failing when compared to the significant cost of regret that comes with not trying at all.

We will build and strengthen our character as we keep “trying” and our Character Creates Opportunity to do “a little better” in the big and small areas of life.  Based on my experience and the experience of so many around me, I want to extend a word of encouragement to those who continue to try; Keep getting after it, it is worth the cost.