Proceed with Caution – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, March 21, 2019

There has been a great deal of discussion around the world recently over the benefits and challenges of our transparent, instant communications via social media. It is quite typical in the natural evolution of new technologies to have questions raised and some words of caution expressed. As we all remain actively engaged in our online social networks with no apparent indication of slowing down, there is the occasional need for a few reminders of the guardrails that can keep us out of harm’s way.

The world of marketing, current events, sports, and entertainment have all captured the trend and most of our information gathering is done online. The average person spends a significant amount of time on social media every day. Rather than pounding out the traditional hourly statistics (which do vary quite a bit), suffice to say our appetite for online activity is not going to slow down any time soon.  

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, our online activities, specifically our activities via social media, need to proceed with caution to ensure we remain connected and safe with those we care about most.

With 2+ billion people being relatively active on social media every day around the world, there is huge leverage to being connected in order to remain relevant, timely, and current on the events in our world, neighborhoods, and family and friends. The instantaneous sharing of information is a great draw for efficient learning and growth. However, researchers would say there are also a few reminders that are needed to ensure we don’t slip off the road and end up in the ditch with some poor social media habits.

Below are a few guardrails to help us proceed with caution and continue to enjoy the benefits of our connected world:

Everything is Perfect.

Most updates we see from family, friends, and those in our community are positive and upbeat. We love to share some great family events, a night out on the town, some wonderful celebration with friends, etc. It is important that we don’t get caught up playing the comparison game and in some personal moment of feeling down, add fuel to the fire by perhaps thinking our life is not as fun, cool, and satisfying as everyone else.

Very few people post a nice video update of the time they lost their temper, slammed a door, and said something they regretted. However, we all still do those things even though they don’t make our social media feed. It is important that we remain grounded in the fact that we only see a certain side of life online and we should avoid playing the comparison game in our heads.

Scrolling with Anger.

When we have the occasional disagreement or fallout with a friend or family member, it can be tempting to spend time alone scrolling over some activity to continue to stir the pot on our frustration. In the quiet of our scrolling, we can run the risk of getting into a negative place with our thoughts of others. It would not be a healthy choice to swirl in anger online. We would be wise to just simply cancel a connection with someone or close down the feed and walk away. Nothing good comes from anger expressed on line.

Physical Presence.

With all the upside on staying connected online, there is a degree of empathy and the benefits of physical presence that are lost when most of our social interaction is done via social media. It is important we remember to get engaged face to face and touch those we care about most from time to time to keep life real and connected. There is a genuine risk that as our world becomes more connected online, we become more disconnected and we lose the critical benefits of face to face communication and physical touch that is needed to keep our close relationships healthy and secure.  

One additional note to keep us all a bit restrained and to ensure we proceed with caution with our online activity. Unlike generations before, our online personal activity stays around forever. Everyone has access to our activity if they want to search hard enough. Someone is always watching, and it can always be easily traced directly back to us. Proceed with caution.

As we continue to enjoy the benefits of our interconnected world online and we proceed with caution with a few solid guardrails, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to be a great example for those we care about most.

Taking a Shortcut – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, March 14, 2019

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  

As things like technology continue to transform our lives in so many ways, we are still hindered by some of the basic human tendencies to look for a shortcut in the important and very challenging situations in our lives. Here are a few recent examples:

  • Another college admissions scandal where people were trying to find a shortcut to get into some of the best schools in the nation.
  • Politicians who pitch sound-bite ideas to solve some of the most complex, multi-generational challenges of our nation.
  • A dizzying amount of relationship quick fixes that bring the false-hope of making conflict and despair quickly disappear from our closest relationships.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important that we swallow an adult dose of reality and fully appreciate that there are no shortcuts to making a sustained difference in the important things in life.

Let’s face it, we all would like a shortcut to solving some challenges. “There has to be an easier way” is a recurring theme when we face a difficult challenge. There may well be a few efficiencies or techniques that can help, but there is no “easy” way to address the more challenging events in our lives.

Here are a few reminders of truth as we tackle challenges in our lives:

  1. It is getting close to springtime in many parts of the country. The spring season reminds us of the one basic natural law that directly translates into a relevant, practical, and universal truth necessary to accomplish our hopes and dreams: The Law of the Harvest; simply, you reap what you sow. There is no short cut to an abundant harvest. We must prepare the ground and plant the seed in spring and cultivate the crops throughout the summer growing season in order to reap an abundant harvest. Achieving the important things in life adhere to this same simple truth…with no exception.
  2. Universal principles like persistence, courage, compassion and hope are needed to guide us to achieving the important things in life. A quick-fix has never been shown to have a sustained impact over the long haul.  A few helpful techniques do come about over time, but it is time-tested principles that form the foundation to eventually bring about the results we are desiring to achieve.  
  3. Extending the opportunity to others for a second chance, especially those closest to us, is important to the long-term health of close relationships. If we are self-aware enough and take an honest look at our own personal history, we probably have made some decisions to find a shortcut or we took the bait for a seemingly cheap, easy way to accomplish some major goals. Our poor choices may not have made the national news (which I am sure we are all thankful for) so we should guard against getting too personally judgmental on those that did have the spotlight shine on them and simply let the scales of justice handle the process.  Perhaps extending the opportunity for a second chance will help them in their time of need. I am sure we would appreciate some support if we found ourselves in a similar situation.  

As we all move into springtime, let’s use the reminder of the law of the harvest to guide us to principle-based decisions and actions in facing our challenges, both big and small. As we avoid some troublesome shortcut, we will build and strengthen our character, and Character Creates Opportunity to achieve our goals no matter how difficult they may seem in our present situation.

Feeling Stupid – Character Creates Opportunity®: Thursday, March 7, 2019

It has been said that discontent with our current situation is the first step in driving change. When things get bad and the pain of continuing our current path is greater than the perceived pain to change, then we begin the journey to change. When we get so sick and tired of our current situation then we make the effort to change.  

As we reflect on our own experience, we would probably see a similar pattern of delay until we reach the end of our rope and then we rally the strength and courage to change our ways.

After we overcome the first step and decide to change, it is often the second step that derails our efforts. When we change and try something new, the next step in the process is that we feel stupid (or incompetent, inadequate, or foolish).  

  • How did you feel when you first tried to snowboard?
  • How did you feel when you first tried to do yoga?
  • How do you feel each time your phone gets an upgrade with some new software?
  • How do you feel when you try to make a difference in your home and try something new?

As we try something new, we often feel stupid and sense a difficult road ahead with the new endeavor and we back off from effectively making the change.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, finding ways to effectively deal with this second step in making a change will be critical for us to reach our full potential.

Our world continues to change at a rapid pace. If we are unwilling to learn new skills and adjust our behavior from time to time to be more effective, then we will soon find ourselves falling behind and not being our best for those we care about most.

Here are a few thoughts on helping all of us move more effectively through the second step of the change process, the sense of feeling stupid:

  1. Safety in numbers. Everyone feels stupid when they begin a new task…they may not show it as much as we feel it, but the truth is, everyone feels a bit inadequate from time to time.
  2. No pain, no gain. Ok, it is an overused phrase, but it is truth. Just like starting a new exercise routine, we know we are going to feel a bit sore as we work muscles in some new ways. Our experience would tell us that we do feel better in the end.
  3. Take baby steps. There is no need to take huge leaps into change. Small steps can build massive momentum over time. Just keep stepping forward and we will get better at the new task.
  4. Stay humble. Stumbling through new areas to learn and grow keeps us humble. Maintaining our humility is a good thing for ourselves and the example we set for others. Even is the best of times when we appear to be crushing it in this world, we don’t want to get too proud of ourselves…it can be super painful when we fall from a high place.  

As we become more intentional about working through the feeling of being stupid when we try new things, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to reach our full potential and be our best for those we care about most.