Guarding Time – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, March 29, 2018

The technology advances in support of renewable energy and recycled materials continue at a tremendous pace to ensure we protect the precious resources we have on our planet for future generations to enjoy.

The conversation gets kind of quiet when it comes to the technological advances on increasing our time. We face the same challenges people did 2,000 years ago and most likely those challenges will be the same for people 2,000 years from now.  We cannot make any more time.  We all get 24 hours each day and that is it.  

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, how we guard our time will be a series of important decisions we make daily that will impact our growth and our relationships.

Here a few thoughts on the importance of guarding our time:

 (1) Time is the great equalizer in our world. It does not matter how rich or how poor, how intelligent or how ignorant, how privileged or how shunned, everyone gets the same amount every day.  There will never be the possibility of a Congressional mandate to redistribute time from those who have plenty to those who have little.  With an equal amount granted to everyone, those who use it wisely reap the greatest rewards regardless of their current situation.

 (2) Time is our most precious asset.

“All my possessions for a moment of time.” Queen Elizabeth on her deathbed in 1603 

Most of us have experienced the clarity that comes with an end of life experience for someone we love and respect.  We have no desire to find out how the stock market closed, take a call from a customer, review the highlights from the big game, or check an update from our favorite social media platform.  In those closing moments, the priorities of life get simple and clear.  We remain focused on family, friends, and shared experiences with those we love.

 (3) Time is easy to track. Similar to how we can quickly determine our priorities when we review our bank or credit card statement, we can do the same for time with our calendars. 

  • Just like writing down our goals, when we place things on our calendar, there is a certain clarity, objectivity, and force that gets things accomplished. If it is important, put it on the calendar.
  • Be careful of gaps or unaccounted for time in our calendar. Many times, these gaps are spent drifting somewhat aimlessly with our favorite diversion or method of “chilling out”.
  • Block time to think, assess, and refine the priorities of our life. The busyness of our calendar is not a proxy for success.  We need time to think, plan, and be intentional about the priorities of life. Sitting and thinking maybe a higher priority than hustling to “do something” for the next hour.

As we make daily decisions to guard our time, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity for us to reach our full potential.

A Decision to Go Deeper – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, March 22, 2018

With the wonders of modern technology, we now have previously unthinkable amounts of data at our finger tips.  We get instant access to updates from friends and family that no less than 20 years ago would have taken days of phone calls, hours of letter writing, and lengthy conversations over picture books at holiday gatherings. We also get a continuous update on news from around the world on every topic imaginable.

We scroll, we scan, we swipe, and we move on.  We are now tremendously efficient at getting a surface understanding of the world around us, including those we care about most.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important we still maintain the discipline to dig a little deeper with the things that matter most.

If we keep working on it, we will become continually more efficient at the scroll, scan and swipe routine to absorb a surface level of more and more content.  With technology improvements, we will probably just blink our way through content in the not too distant future.

The challenge for all of us in this day of scroll, scan and swipe, is can we still exercise the discipline to care enough to go a little deeper? Have we lost the ability to recognize the signal of something bigger beyond the headline or the comment below a post?  Regardless of how many headlines we can skim, the real satisfaction of human connection remains when we can make the decision to go a little deeper with an individual or an issue that matters.

Here are a few thoughts on the decision to go deeper:

Capacity:  We do not have unlimited capacity.  We need to make some choices. Once we choose to care enough to go deeper, to slow down, and to understand something, then we probably need to decide to not even scan the surface on certain topics.  It would be a more effective choice to just save that capacity for the things we choose to go deeper.

People: People are the gateway to understanding the issue in a more meaningful way. Whether we agree or disagree on a topic, understanding the individual on a deeper level will expand our understanding of the issue at hand.

Small steps: Take a small step each day to pause and choose to dig a little deeper.  Pick up the phone to talk, or sit face to face and have a discussion, or simply read beyond the headline. 

It is important for the relationships and issues we care about most that we do not lose the skill and ability to dig a little deeper to understand more and connect better.

As we make daily decisions to go a little deeper with people and issues we care about most, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity for us to make a positive impact in our world.

Character Creates Opportunity® – A Seasonal Clean: Thursday, March 15, 2018

Whether it is a spring cleaning or a fall clean-up, the seasons of the year often make for great motivation to clean out the garage or basement, tidy up that storage area, or finally throw out some things in the back of the closet that have not seen the light of day in about a decade.  There is usually a psychological breath of fresh air that comes after completing a seasonal clean and provides us with a rejuvenating sense of new energy to move forward.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, we need to be intentional about conducting a seasonal clean in some new areas that garner the attention in our lives.

Let’s face it, we all spend a great deal of time in front of a screen these days whether it is a computer, tablet or smart phone. 

What are we consuming on a regular basis? Is the content that we routinely screen through positive, uplifting and encouraging or is it negative and filled with anger and frustration?

Just as we feel a breath of fresh air when we finally clean out that closet and get organized, we have an opportunity to clean out the routine garbage and consistent impediments online that we scroll through and get a breath of fresh air and perspective from our digital life.

Here are a few thoughts to help encourage a seasonal cleaning for our digital storage area:

  • Control: With today’s technology, we have the ultimate control to turn on or off content. We no longer live in a world with 3 major network TV channels and a force feeding of content.  With a few easy clicks, each of us can control what shows up on our screens.
  • Uplifting: We live in a world that is tilted toward the negative and the worry of breaking news. It is extremely difficult to stay away from the negative slant on things in our day to day lives. We need a few consistent sources of uplifting and encouraging content.  Our digital life is best positioned to be that source.
  • Selective Withdrawal: We have all created some habits and patterns to our digital lives.  Take a weekend or a few days of vacation and get off the grid.  The experience will open our eyes to a few things we have been missing and will be a good source of motivation to do some house cleaning of our digital life when we get back on the grid.
  • Outside Opinion: How many of us have the courage to let someone look over our shoulder at our online habits or retrace our digital footprints over the last few days, weeks, or years?   We all have a tendency to find a good hiding place inside our online world.  Shining a light on our online habits may be what is required to break some strong chains we have created in our online world. What we do online directly impacts those we care about most.  We need to build up the courage to do whatever it takes to break some negative online habits.   

As we consistently rely on a spring cleaning or fall clean-up to get our house in order, we need to be intentional about doing the occasional clean-up in our digital world.  As we guide our digital world with selections focused on encouragement and compassion, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to build habits that will form the foundation to reach our full potential.   

Character Creates Opportunity® – Hindsight: Thursday, March 8, 2018

We often hear the expression “hindsight is 20/20” in the discussion of mistakes or choices we may have made during our life.  The belief is that we can always see clearly when we look back over our experiences compared to plowing along throughout our journey of life without knowing exactly how things may turn out or how specific events may unfold.

Volumes of academic research, world renown behaviorists, and the occasional kitchen table psychologist in our homes would agree that there is a fundamental choice we make as individuals when we look back into our past and that choice drives an incredibly consistent and predictable outcome in our future.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, an important question we need to answer around this generally accepted belief that we have 20/20 or perfect vision looking backward is, what do we choose to see?

First off, if we are being open and honest, none of us had a “perfect” past nor could we all agree on what a “perfect” past would look like. In addition, getting stuck on comparing each of our pasts is not productive. We all had some bumps in the road in our life experience.  For example, parents may have parented out of their own pain or lack of understanding, we may have encountered harmful life experiences that were completely out of our control, and people may have come into our lives without the most admirable of intentions.

All of these events in the past have an impact on each one of us.  When we look back on these events, what do we choose to see?

Do we see consistent reminders of our own shortcomings and a reinforcement of the darker side of our nature?  Does what we see cause us to hold onto bitterness and regret?

Or

Do we see some difficult experiences where we persevered, learned and grew?  Do we see opportunity where we can leverage those painful experiences to be stronger going forward and use those experiences to be an encouragement to others journeying on a similar path?

The choice is ours to make. 

A good counselor and 100s of hours of counseling many times will be very helpful to our journey to overcome some pains in our past, but in the end, we have to make the choice.  Not our psychologist, pastor, or life-coach.  You and me need to take it all in and make the choice on what we see in our past.

This stuff is not easy.  However, the choice we make drives such a consistent outcome in our future that we need to make the most effective choice we can.

As we look to reach our full potential and be an encouragement to those close to us, we need to choose to learn and grow from our past instead of using the clarity of hindsight as steady reminders of our perceived limitations and shortcomings.  As we guide our thoughts about our past by principles such as understanding, courage, and compassion, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to build hope for the future for ourselves and those close to us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – A Chance for Admiration: Thursday, March 1, 2018

Across numerous social media platforms, we have a wealth of opportunities to showcase ourselves.  These platforms have given us a chance to reconnect with friends from the past and get real-time updates on those we care about most.

With all the fanfare on the upside of life being put in front of us across our favorite social media sites, one area of reality that continually gets hidden in the mix is the acknowledgement of where we fall short in being our best self.

Let’s face it, we all fall short from time to time and have areas where we continue to struggle.

As we continue our journey to build and strengthen our character, the courage to acknowledge and address the times we fall short is an important element to help us reach our full potential and have a positive impact on others.

We all fall short in some areas which adds to our uniqueness as humans.  Here are few areas that perhaps many of us can relate to:

  • We harbor struggles from past experiences that weigh on our outlook in the present and hope for the future.
  • We have a shy personality that holds us back from reaching out to new experiences and people.
  • We have a short temper that harms a close relationship.
  • We dislike numbers and details that result in some painful situations with our finances.
  • We dream a little too much which leaves us little time and energy to do what needs to be done…or we spend too much time hustling in all directions and could benefit from a little more dreaming to gain a clear direction.

Regardless of our unique areas where we fall short from time to time, the genuine and authentic acknowledgement of these areas, provides us with several benefits:

(1) We can be in a healthy position to address them.

Once we have the courage and maturity to see them for what they are, we are taking the first step to minimize their potential negative impact on our situation.  This first step opens the door for a game plan to effectively deal with a shortcoming.

(2) We provide someone the opportunity to show their strength.

The diversity of strengths and weaknesses in relationships in the home and teams at work or in our community helps us be more effective.  In addition, acknowledging the strength of others in an area where we fall short forms a strong foundation for building health and commitment in a relationship.  Knowing we are helping someone in need is a strong attraction to strengthen commitment and loyalty in a close relationship.  For those most intimate of relationships, consistently acknowledging someone’s strength in an area where we struggle can help over time to lessen the impact of the typical points of friction in close relationships.

(3) We open a door for the admiration of others.

When was the last time we told someone close to us that we admire them for a particular strength?  In the busyness of our lives, we somehow lost the significance of the fine art of admiration and the acknowledgement of the everyday heroes in our lives.  More than likely, they are not seen on the nightly news, but their impact on us is much greater than those we see in the headlines. Their unique strength may be what supports us in an area where we fall short consistently and keeps our family or our team moving forward in an effective direction.  We should reach out with admiration to those we care about most as I am sure they would love to hear from us.

As we gain the courage to acknowledge some areas where we fall short, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to reach our full potential and have a positive impact on others.