It is Your Turn to Ask – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, December 27, 2018

When was the last time you asked for help…in any area of life…whether it was something big or small?

For many of us, it may have been a real long time ago.

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 ask for help. We typically march on until disaster strikes and we have blown our cover-up, or we fall short of a goal because we stubbornly tried to go it alone.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, having the courage to ask for help can strengthen our relationship with others and make positive strides towards reaching our full potential.

Let’s face it, we all could use some help. Whether at work, home or in our community, a little help could go a long way in achieving a goal or objective.

Some of the typical excuses we make for not asking for help are (a) We have this stubborn myth that men and women should be self-reliant, and only the weak need and ask for help (b) We don’t want to be a burden to others (c) We have asked for help before and been ridiculed or shamed and just don’t want to go down that path again.

Like many situations in life, when we take our focus off ourselves and look to others, we can find some insight to support our personal growth and maturity.

When we ask someone for help, we strengthen our relationship with them because:

  1. We affirm that they matter to someone else (us) in a most genuine way as we openly acknowledge they have the skills, abilities, or resources to help. By asking someone for help we meet a most important human need in them, to know that they matter.
  2. We demonstrate that we trust them in a most open and vulnerable way. We acknowledge we are in a vulnerable spot and we trust them to help and not hurt. Trust is essential in building long-term healthy relationships…and we could all use a few more relationships built on trust.
  3. We open a door for them to give instead of receive. We all know the truth in that it is better to give than to receive and we enable them to experience the joy of giving without any guess work.
  4. We set a positive example for others to follow. We all need some help and our ability to demonstrate the courage to ask may help others to ask for help during their time of need.

As we demonstrate the courage to ask for help, we will build and strengthen our character, and Character Creates Opportunity to build strong and healthy relationships with those we care about most.


A Holiday Connection – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, December 20, 2018

As the holiday season comes into full swing, many of us are preparing for some extended visits with family and friends to relax, celebrate, and probably overeat. Also, many of us may take time this season to connect with people in our community who are in real need and try to provide some temporary relief.

During this time of year, it is important to remember that psychologists, academics, and our own kitchen table experience would tell us that our greatest need beyond the basics for survival is our need to feel we belong and are accepted.

We can all relate to the positive emotional sense we feel when we know we are part of a team on the athletic field, the workplace, the community, and certainly the home.  When we join efforts with others to support a cause bigger than ourselves, we feel most alive.  Whether that cause is building a strong family, a winning basketball team, a competitive business, a community project, or the defense of a nation, the sense of belonging meets a real personal need. Knowing we are an accepted part of something bigger than ourselves is critical to our emotional health and stability.

When we become disconnected or feel rejected from a group, we struggle.  In the absence of a sense of connection to others and a cause greater than our own, we all can become susceptible to loneliness and periods of sadness that can potentially lead into depression.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, an important opportunity for all of us this holiday season is to give the gift of genuine connection to those we care about most.

As our world gets more connected with technology, research would show that we are all at risk for minimizing the benefits of genuine connection. In addition, today’s technology enables the instant personalization of getting what we want, when we want it, and many times that fosters isolation instead of connection during our “free time” beyond school, work, and the essentials of running a home.

Social scientists would say that our technology dependent connections impact the depth of our relationships mostly because we lose empathy. Sure, emojis help with emotional connection, but it is not optimal.  I am sure we have all seen a picture of a beautiful sandy beach and I hope most of us have felt the warm touch of beach sand between our toes.  There is a difference in the connection.

As we approach these final weeks of the holiday season and the opportunity to provide the gift of a genuine connection is most available, here are a few thoughts:

  • Be intentional about slowing down and spending some time looking people in the eyes, sharing a warm embrace, and listening more than talking. It would be helpful to put the devices in a basket somewhere for just a few moments.
  • Conflict in the home is the most heart-breaking of all of life’s struggles. For those close relationships that may have grown cold over the year (or over several years), use the holiday season as momentum to act with courage and reconnect with them using the helpful guideposts of empathy, humility, and a genuine desire to repair the damage.
  • There is no single action that makes an individual feel like they matter more than when we help someone in need. When we find ourselves at a low point during the holidays (which is very common, despite the overload of “happiness” we see posted on social media), find a charitable organization and see where to help. It will make a difference in the lives of others and ourselves.

It takes an intentional effort to give the gift of connection to those around us. However, as we make the effort to build stronger connections with those closest to us, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to contribute to the emotional health and well-bring of those we care about most.

The Voice – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Voice…not that one, but the voice in our heads.

In case you have not yet accepted the reality of our situation, let me reinforce a simple truth, life continues to get more complicated and uncertain. Whether in the home, workplace, or community, the rate of change, across so many mediums, is staggering to think about. These changes can bring about some of our biggest fears and some of our biggest hopes.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I happen to have separate conversations with a few close childhood friends. In addition to reconnecting on some wonderful memories, we all came to a similar conclusion after 50+ years of living that “I did not think it would be this difficult.” It being life, family, work, and making it all come together just like we had hoped it would.

Sure, many things in prior generations were just simply “swept under the rug” and not discussed. It seems like now we are all a little more willing to open up and put our lives “on the table,” but regardless, life is continuing to get more complicated.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important that we have some healthy guardrails in place to train and guide The Voice we all have inside our head.

We all have The Voice that comes out at various moments to either cheer us on, remind us of our shortcomings, spitefully tell us “see I told you so” or encourage us to look forward with hope or with fear.

Here are few ideas to help ensure we establish some healthy guardrails to hear more of the encouraging side of our Voice and less of the discouraging side of our Voice:

  • The Gap: We become what we think about…more often than not. We still have ultimate control over those thoughts in the gap between our situation and our response. If we can pause and fill that gap with principled thoughts around hope, sacrifice, and courage, we can respond more effectively to the situations we face.
  • Perspective: We are on a journey that inevitably will have some ups and downs. Keeping a perspective that the passage of time is our best counselor will help us remain on track towards our goal of maintaining peace of mind through the valleys and the mountain top experiences of our lives.
  • Reality: We can’t effectively address all our challenges alone. Being intentional about building healthy relationships and taking a risk to be vulnerable in opening up about ourselves to build those relationships will foster a support structure that will help us withstand life’s challenges.
  • Step by Step: Focus on moving forward one day at a time. Yes, it is important to have a long-term game plan that seeks to achieve peace, purpose, and positive impact. However, in the often dark valleys of our journey, just putting one foot in front of the other and taking life day by day is the most effective way to carry-on.

As we focus on maintaining some healthy guardrails to support The Voice inside our own heads, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to reach our full potential and have a positive impact on those we care about most.

A Quick Fix – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, December 6, 2018

If we are honest with ourselves, we all desire a quick fix to what ails us.  There must be a simple pill, an “easy” button, or a conference we can attend to pump us up enough to address our greatest challenges immediately with a few simple steps. And if that does not work, lottery winnings can ensure that plenty of money will take care of everything.

We all know the odds of winning the lottery are very slim, but the potential for a massive quick fix always taps into a deep yearning within all of us.  With regards to money and the quick fix, I think Sigmund Freud said it best when he described that given a choice between treating rich or poor patients, he would always choose rich because they already know that money will not solve their most difficult problems.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, we need to genuinely confront the areas in our lives where we are still silently waiting for a quick fix to our challenges. Just like winning the lottery, the odds are stacked against us, so the most effective choice is to plan and prepare to make steady progress in the right direction to address our most challenging struggles…and start working the plan.

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

Once we move beyond the myth of the quick fix, we can begin to make progress in addressing our most difficult problems.  The consistent, daily implementation of effective habits, not an intervention of the next “great” idea, is the only proven method for addressing our greatest struggles in life.

Here are a few thoughts on the habits we can make part of our routine:

  1. Do we care enough to solve this one? This is a helpful question to ask as solving our most difficult problems will take effort and focus every single day.  We can’t do everything, so answering this question will help narrow our efforts to what matters most in life.
  2. Do we know what it looks like in the end? Clearly being able to see what the goal is will help keep us remain on a consistent path.  The clearer we have the goal defined, the better our chances of achievement.
  3. Do we believe we can achieve it? It will be incredibly difficult to effectively address our struggles if we don’t genuinely believe they can be solved.  Start to believe now.
  4. Principle-based habits. We should guide our thoughts, decisions and actions based on principles like honesty, commitment, compassion, and hope as we go about our daily activities to address our most difficult problems.
  5. The journey to address our greatest struggles is a life-long pursuit. Our focus should be on learning and growing as we journey along which will set a solid example for others to follow.

As we walk away from the myth of the quick fix and become intentional about delivering on the habits that will lead to effectively addressing our most difficult problems, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to reach our full potential.