Before It Is Too Late – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, January 31, 2019

There are a great deal of benefits to the “always on” and connected world we live in today.

We have instantaneous access to the activities of those we care about most. We can quickly find people and services to help when we are in need. We can efficiently get educated on a new topic and expand our horizons to grow.

Most social researchers and psychologists would agree that one area of human development that seems to be in decline as a result of our connected world is empathy. Our ability to “walk in the shoes” of someone else, see experiences from their viewpoint, understand their perspective, and feel what they feel, seems to be in rapid decline.

Our willingness and ability to empathize with those we care about most is an essential component to build the kind of healthy, lasting relationships we all desire.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important that we acknowledge the risks that our connected world brings to our ability to empathize with others and take some necessary steps before it is too late, and we lose the skill altogether.

There are several simple steps we can all take to improve this most needed interpersonal skill:

  1. Listen more and talk less.
  2. Hide our phones and be totally present.
  3. Ask a few simple, open-ended questions instead of blurting out some solution or “brilliant” idea. “When that happened, how did you feel?” “What else was racing through your mind when they said that.”

The above examples are common, practical steps that we all know we should do and just probably need a little encouragement and motivation to kick things in gear. We all need to get motivated : )

However, there is one fun and meaningful exercise that we probably haven’t tried in the past. This exercise has been proven time and again to improve this most needed interpersonal skill of empathy.

Taking away one of our senses, especially our sight, has been proven to expose our gaps in empathy and with some simple practice, we can significantly improve our emotional connection to those we care about most. Here are a few steps to get things rolling:

  1. Use bandanas, blindfolds, or just be creative on totally blocking the sight of you and the other person.
  2. Start a conversation about the simple things that occurred during the last 24 hours. Perhaps share a discussion about some upcoming plans or a prior experience. Move beyond the facts and describe how you felt and ask the other person to describe their feelings around the events.
  3. As we grow in comfort with this visually impaired interaction, we can eventually gain the courage to talk about the difficult topics we probably have been avoiding in our close relationships. In these difficult conversations, work hard to keep the discussion focused on our feelings, not simply passing judgement and shame onto the other person.

Empathy is a critical skill for us to build. We need to keep our eye on the prize of building our empathy to improve the relationships with those we care about most despite how difficult it is to work through some deep-seated issues.

As we become intentional about growing our empathy before it is too late in our ever-expanding, electronically connected world, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to build healthy relationships with those we care about most.

PS – Have some fun with the blindfolds…and try not to take things too seriously.

Learn Something New – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, January 24, 2019

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” Albert Einstein

There is no denying the fact that our world continues to increase in complexity and intensity. Our lives in the home, workplace, and community do not get easier, we just get better at addressing larger challenges.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important that we proactively access a steady stream of ideas and insights and remain intentional about learning something new to ensure we stay on a good path to reach our full potential.

For many of us, we may have graduated from school and to some extent, the education system told us we were done learning. We only needed to live a few weeks past graduation to know that was not true.

When we think about being at the top of our game, we think highly of athletes and movie stars having skill coaches, nutrition coaches, lifestyle coaches, etc. However, why is it that some of the most important roles we play like being a parent, a spouse, and a leader outside the home (in business, community, politics, etc.) still have an uncomfortable stigma with getting outside help to be our best? For most of us, these are the most important roles we will likely ever play, and we are still wandering around on our own to figure things out and almost feel shame or embarrassment in seeking a trusted advisor, life-coach, psychologist, or uplifting outside influence to help us be the best we can be.

Here are a few areas to help us all continue to learn something new:

  • People. New and old friends can be great sources of insight. Are you making new friends? That is not just a question we should ask our kids transitioning to high school or college. Interactions with somebody new can open us up to learn a thing or two.
  • Places of community. We find purpose in community with others, whether that be in our faith, some workout group at the gym, a book reading club, a young mom’s group, etc. Places of community can be wonderful sources of new ideas and insights.
  • Formal learning. When was the last time you sat in a classroom to learn something new? I am big fan of online education tools, but there is also something powerful about being physically with others while trying to learn. Whether it is a cooking class, a nutrition class, a marriage and family class, or learning how to build a website, some classroom activity is good for any age student.

Having a large appetite to learn is a good thing. However, we should be careful that all this new insight we gather does not violate some fundamental principle that we know to be true. A principle like the law of the harvest; Simply, we reap what we sow and there is no quick fix to achieving our goals. We can’t have our cake, eat it too, and still lose weight. Let’s all make sure to use some principles that are timeless and universal to act as guardrails as we work to learn something new.

As we continue to place a priority on learning something new to be the best we can be, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to reach our full potential.

 

The Gathering of Wisdom – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, January 17, 2019

Where do we look for insight and guidance?

There is truth to the old proverb that we become “the company we keep.” A legitimate question for each one of us (adults too, not just our kids) is, “Who are we hanging around with?”

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, we need to be thoughtful about where we gather insight and guidance as our world gets more complicated.

In today’s world, social media makes it almost too easy to gather ideas and points of view from others. If we are not careful, we can passively let the artificial intelligence of search engines and news feeds keep us boxed in to just seeing our current point of view and not exposing us to other ideas.

Wisdom, most often, comes with age and experience. One common misstep in our technology driven world is that we tend to move quickly to dismiss “old folks” that may not be willing or able to keep up with the pace. In addition, given our new-found enlightenment and transparent world, we may dismiss old folks through pre-judgment as being insensitive or uncaring to the needs of others.

As we look to gather wisdom around us, the truth is that we do build our knowledge and awareness from prior generations. Before we move to quickly to dismiss the old folks who may seem out of touch, below is some wisdom taking from research conducted on people over 100 years old. The below captures the essence of some things these centenarians wish they knew then what they know now:

  • Relationships matter. Time with people you love is the most important. In our busy world where we are going in several different directions, be in the moment when you are with those you care about most…and try to make more of those “moments” by saying “no” to other less important things that can consume our time.
  • Go beyond the norm. We tend to live a life based on other’s expectations. As a result, we may be placing boundaries around our potential. Take a chance to make a greater impact by being you, not someone else.
  • Quickly let go of bitterness and anger. We all get hurt in relationships. The quicker you can learn to forgive and not be shackled by your own anger and bitterness, the better off you will be and those you care about most.

As we become intentional about gathering wisdom to be the best we can be, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to have a positive impact in our world.

Common Experiences and Shared Learning for Positive Influence

Character Creates Opportunity® – Probably, NOT on our List: Thursday, January 10, 2019

If we have lived more than few days in relationship with others, we probably have seen our fair share of mistakes. Some mistakes were done to us and some mistakes we did to others. We all wish close relationships were easy, but the truth is, they are not.

Mistakes in relationships are sometimes light-hearted, but they can also bring about a great deal of pain.  As with most things in life, we have a few choices on how to respond to mistakes.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, effectively addressing mistakes in our close relationships is critically important to reaching our full potential and having a positive impact on others.

For most of us, we have learned that remaining bitter and angry for a long period of time after mistakes does not particularly help the situation. Bitterness has been proven to result in greater pain and problems for all involved.  In addition, the one who holds onto bitterness usually suffers the most compared to the one who first stumbled and fell short.

There are many terrific resources for us to gain some additional insight on effectively addressing mistakes in our relationships. Just search the internet and we can learn the 3 steps to forgiveness, a time to heal, the pathway to peace, etc. You get my point. Many of these resources will be helpful, if we follow them, in responding effectively to mistakes.

There is one step that is most likely not on these types of “to do” lists and is probably NOT on our list either.

Most often, when we don’t handle mistakes in a healthy way, we end up isolated and alone. Since feeling like we belong, and we matter are essential to solid emotional health, we can find ourselves in a real tough spot when mistakes send us to our own corner all alone.

On the other side of a painful mistake, there is one of the most effective ways that we can rise above and many times, permanently solidify someone’s sense of belonging and acceptance. We can take an action step they may never forget. The additional step that is probably NOT on our list is to show redemption towards the individual who hurt us. We rebuild a sense of belonging and acceptance when we demonstrate grace through communicating redemption towards the individual who made a mistake.

The act of “clearing” one’s debt or “saving” someone from the continual pain and isolation of a poor choice and communicating our willingness to trust again is probably the greatest challenge we will face in terms of building strong and healthy relationships after a mistake. Providing redemption from past mistakes, as opposed to remaining bitter, has been shown time and again to build a strong sense of belonging and connection to those closest to us.

As we make the effort to build healthy relationships through the power of redemption with those closest to us, we will build and strengthen our character, and Character Creates Opportunity to support the emotional health and well-bring of those we care about most.

Managing Expectations – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, January 3, 2019

The start of the new year always seems to be a strong source of motivation for us to make a few plans to improve our situation in some important area of life like a close relationship, change a few ineffective habits, get after some professional goal, or simply to shrink our waistline.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, the new year also brings forward an opportunity to manage our expectations around the goals or resolutions we set going into the new year.

The truth that needs to be reinforced in order to manage our expectations during the start of the year is that for all the important improvements we wish to bring about, just about every one of them won’t happen overnight. The important things in life don’t have a painless risk-free short cut, EASY button, and we can’t purchase the FAST-PASS to eliminate some barriers.

The new year and the resolutions we put forth, presents a great opportunity to remind us of the one natural law that most directly governs the accomplishment of any new year’s resolution or life goal, The Law of the Harvest. The law of the harvest is the simplest and most powerful life-transforming principle.

The law of the harvest, in the natural world, is as true as the law of gravity. If we want to reap an abundant harvest of corn or soybeans, there is only one pathway to follow and there are no shortcuts. We must spend time in winter to make a plan and prepare to implement when the spring comes. In the spring, we must prepare the ground and plant the seed. In addition, throughout the spring and summer, we must cultivate the fields through a long growing season. Then, and only then, will we reap an abundant harvest in the fall.

As we look to accomplish important goals in the new year, the law of the harvest will always be our judge. As we manage our expectations for goals in the new year, here are a few points to help us all reap an abundant harvest:

  1. Make a plan: For important goals in life, “winging it” will not be a successful strategy. Once a goal is set, we should spend some time making a simple action plan to pursue the goal.
  2. Disaster may strike: Many more times than not, the law of the harvest will guide us to accomplish our goals. Certainly, there will be the occasion when disaster strikes and wipes everything out. However, for the vast majority of seasons, if we adhere to the principle of the law of the harvest, we will reach our goals in a most predictable fashion.
  3. Keep the faith: In that dark, lonely valley after our exciting start has faded away and our goal still seems so far off in the distance, we should keep our faith that the law of the harvest will return abundance if we keep working our plan…it almost always will.

As we use the new year to set some goals and manage our expectations with the truth contained in the law of the harvest, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to achieve our goals no matter what comes our way.