A Clear Warning Sign – Character Creates Opportunity®: June 21, 2018

We have all felt overwhelmed from time to time. Feeling “flooded” is a nice, polite way psychologists describe our situation when we feel we have reached a final breaking point in relationships, careers, and other endeavors.

There is no denying that our experiences in the home, school, workplace, and community continue to grow more complex and create new challenges for all of us to reach our hopes and dreams.

As our situations continue to get more challenging, the principles we rely on to keep moving forward in our journey do not change. As we guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions based on principles such as courage, perseverance, loyalty, and faith, we will more often than not, make the most effective choices to address the complex reality we are all facing. Techniques may change, but principles are timeless and universal to support our cause.

Throughout history, as the challenges seemed to grow greater, principle-based actions of individuals and movements rose to the occasion to overcome. If we all took a moment to reflect on our own story, I am confident we would find times where we faced seemingly insurmountable challenges and managed to overcome.

However, there has always be one clear warning sign that if not addressed, will turn a near term derailment into a permanent loss in the pursuit of our goals. This warning sign is a more formidable obstacle in achieving our goals than the actual challenge we face. This clear warning sign is when our thoughts, decisions, and actions are guided by the phrase, “I just don’t care anymore.”

Apathy is the real enemy in the long journey to pursue our hopes and dreams.

When we come to the point of not caring about the important issues within our families, the challenges of our chosen profession, the pursuit of education throughout our lives, or service in our communities, then the battle is over. Sun Tzu said, “Every battle is won or lost before it’s ever fought.”

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, we must continue to care about the things that matter most, even in the face of extreme difficulty and struggle.

Here a few thoughts to identify and address apathy before it gets a tight grip on us:

  • Self-Assessment: No one knows our inner thoughts, but us. It is critical that we “look in the mirror” and continue to assess the genesis of our own thoughts that drive our decisions and actions. An honest self-assessment is our best tool to identify apathy in our mindset.
  • Choices: We can only effectively give our energy to a few causes. The world is too challenging to give partial effort and expect to make a difference. We need the discipline to clearly choose whether to go “all in” or don’t go at all. In today’s vernacular, my kids would say, “Go big or go home.” We should determine what we care about most and act accordingly.
  • Long-term: There is no cause worth pursuing that will have an “overnight success.” There will always be a series ups and downs…sometimes extreme ups and downs. It is important we don’t get too elated or too down in the short run but focus on staying the course and caring throughout the long journey to reach our hopes and dreams.
  • Observation and Action: Be on the lookout for this clear warning sign in others. Apathy can metastasize like a cancer within families, the workplace, and our communities. We all need some courage to have the difficult conversation when we see apathy in others and share an encouraging word about the importance of addressing it and overcoming for the good of the family, the team, or community.

As we continue to guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions by principles such as sacrifice, commitment, and understanding, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity for us to keep apathy out of our lives and away from those we care about most.

Asking Questions – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, June 14, 2018

Have you ever been in a situation where you had no clue about what someone was talking about or no understanding about a concept that a group of friends or colleagues were discussing?  Most of us have an experience or two like that and we will most likely have more as we continue along in our lives.

We have all heard the old saying, “there are no stupid questions.” However, we have all experienced a few times when that has not always been true and so our tendency is to keep quiet, muddle through, and hope we won’t look like a complete fool in the discussion.

The problem with keeping quiet and muddling through is that without asking questions to gain understanding, we don’t add new insights to our experience, we waste some time and energy when we are confused, our growth is hindered, and we fall short of reaching our full potential.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important that we build the courage to ask questions that can help us learn and grow.

We learn and grow when we move beyond our current borders. One very simple and effective way to grow is to have the courage to ask a question when we don’t understand.

There continues to be a steady stream of published research on the benefits of asking questions that should be a source of support and encouragement to all of us to ask questions when we don’t understand.  In reviewing many of these studies, I thought the three take-aways below were most helpful to build our courage to raise our hand and ask the question:

  1. When we ask questions to better understand a topic, we learn (not too surprising).
  2. When we ask people a question about a topic or idea they are discussing, we provide them with some encouragement and a boost of confidence. People feel better about themselves when they are genuinely asked a question from someone who wants to learn.  Encouragement and confidence is a wonderful gift we can give someone just by asking a question.
  3. When we ask people a question and they feel affirmed and a little more confident about themselves, they think more highly of the person who asked them the question. So as opposed to having that not so hidden glaze of confusion on our faces, by asking the question, we elevate our potential in the eyes of others. Helping others to see our full potential is a door opener to a world of possibilities for us and those we care about most.

As the saying goes, repetition builds retention, so here is a quick summary.  When we ask questions (1) We learn (2) We encourage others (3) People end up thinking more highly of us.

The next time we are involved in a discussion around an idea or a concept we don’t understand, stop and ask a question…every time.  With this small change in our behavior, we will ensure we keep heading in an effective direction to reach our hopes and dreams.

When we develop the courage to ask a question, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity for us to learn, grow, and reach our full potential.

Addressing the Negative Part III – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, June 7, 2018

This is the third and final segment of a message on the importance of how we can effectively address the negative drains of energy on a personal level.

As a reminder from last week, there is a great deal written about the importance of a positive mindset, counting our blessings, looking at the bright side of events and how that positive mindset can create a renewable source of personal energy to make progress in reaching our hopes and dreams.  However, we do not have a great deal written about or discussed on how we deal with the negative, unproductive drains of energy on a personal level.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, effectively dealing with the negative, unproductive drains on our personal energy will help us remain on a productive path to reach our full potential.

Parts I & II of the message addressed Worry and the trifecta of negative energy Anger-Bitterness-Resentment. In part III of the message, we will address the negative energy associated with being Lost.

Most of us lose our way from time to time.  Whether we are on the highway towards a new vacation spot or on the proverbial “highway of life,” we get off track, veer off our original plans and eventually realize we are lost. In both situations, we spend a great deal of unproductive energy wandering around when we could be more productive with our energy if we took some time to figured out where we are and where we need to go.

There are a few simple, but often underutilized steps to minimize this unproductive energy drain and free up capacity for positive energy to move us forward.

When lost on “the street” searching for a destination, here are a few simple steps: (1) Stop and ask for directions much sooner than we have in the past. (2) Instead of yelling at our travel companions, we should ask for their help.  They bring a different perspective from their seat and at this point, a different point of view maybe just what we need to help. (3) When in doubt, upgrade the software on your GPS.

When lost on the “highway of life” searching for a destination, here are a few ideas: (1) Acknowledge we came off the path at some point and are now lost. No sense playing the blame game or feeling regrets. Just simply acknowledge we are lost and getting nowhere. (2) Spend some quality time alone and with a few people you can be very “real” with who won’t move quickly to judgement, shame, or a quick fix to your current situation.  Spend the time necessary to figure out where you want to go and make a plan to get there. Spending the time upfront is critical, but so few of us actually do it.  Einstein is noted to have said that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.   We should use a similar construct as we determine our life’s destination.  Where do we want to go?  Send some time thinking about that critically important question. (3) Make the decision to start heading out in a particular direction, buckle-up and learn to enjoy the journey.

As we take steps to minimize the negative, unproductive drains on our personal energy, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to achieve our hopes and dreams.