No instant gratification in greatness…

April 18, 2023

There are some events or competitions that take very little time in themselves. The 100 meter dash comes to mind or a quarter-lime drag race. Both can be over in under 10 seconds, but both events are really just the culmination of lots of hard work – sometimes years’ worth of preparation.

We have become a society more conditioned to, and used to, instant gratification. Patience and perseverance have been largely relegated to the dust bin of history in this era of smart phones and short attention spans. The mantra, “we want it all and we want it now” rules the day for many.

Yet, there are those who still understand that great things take time and sustained effort. Every now and then the TV coverage of one of those seemingly short-term successes will go behind the scenes to report on the amount of training time and effort that went into that 10 second blast of success. Only then do we appreciate the patience and perseverance of the winning athlete that went into that moment.

Many people pursue great things/goals without giving much conscientious thought to them. Being a good person, spoouce or parent pops to mind. Goals like those are just lurking there in the back of your mind. One might pause every now and then to think about what the “right thing” to do is in any particular situation, and the commitment to being a good person or a better husband or parent kicks in and guides your decisions.

Unlike the winner at the end of the 100-meter dash, we do not get to wrap ourselves in a flag and take a victory lap for having been a good person or parent. We may sit and reflect upon the success of the parenting work that we put in as we listen to our son or daughter take their wedding vows. I suspect that there isn’t a dad or mom who didn’t tear up while doing the wedding dance with their child. That was their victory lap and they realized it.

As I enter the Autumn years of my life, I look back and realize so many of the ambitions and goals that I pursued, including most of those that I accomplished, turned out to be relatively meaningless. The goals that really mattered – to be that better person and a good husband and parent – are still what drives me day-to-day. Those are great things worth pursuing with patience and perseverance. My hope is that my last thought on earth will be – I won those races.

Then, I’ll take my victory lap in heaven.

You make change happen…

April 17, 2023

Many people start their day hoping (dreaming) that something will happen during the day to change their life and make it better.  The truth is that change only really happens when you make that change happen. Waiting passively for something good to happen that will change your life has about as much chance of success as buying a lotto ticket hoping that it will make you rich. Does it happen sometimes – Yes. Does it happen often – No.

Many people allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the thought of change, or at least the change that they desire. The change may seem to be too big to possibly accomplish. They cannot “see” how to get from here to there.  Those who succeed do so by turning the change that they desire into their goal and never losing sight of it. They then spend the mental time to break down the intermediate steps that may be required to accomplish that big goal and turn those steps little goals along the way. They can end each day by looking back on their accomplishment of a little, intermediate goal or two and feel good able making progress towards the big goal.

If they suffer a setback it is usually only a setback to a small portion of the journey towards their big goal. That setback does not mean that they must abandon their big goal, but perhaps some of the intermediate steps and goals must be retried or even rethought.  They get another chance to change their own direction.

The key to accomplishing your big goals and changing your life is making that decision to be in charge of the change, instead of just waiting for it to happen.

So, take charge. Be in charge. Make change happen in your life and the changes that you desire will come true for you. It may make you smile to think of yourself as the little red boat in the graphic sailing off in a new direction. Don’t be scared. Be excited. You are changing for the better.

Have a great week full of change and new adventures!

Don’t let comfort restrict you…

March 27, 2023

As much as it is about courage, today’s graphic is also about getting out of your comfort zone. Let’s face it, being able to see the shore give us a sense of comfort and security. It is much more comfortable to sail up and down that shoreline, never losing sight of it, than it is to venture out so far that we can no longer see the shore.  It can be a very lonely and frightening experience to be in the middle of the ocean or of a Great Lake. If you haven’t been paying attention the first thing that will hit you is that you have no idea in which direction to even look for the shore. That’s scary.

However, if you began this journey by preparing and having the necessary tools to navigate in the open water, you will know both where you came from and where you are headed. Assuming that there is something waiting at the destination worth making the trip for, you will be filled with anticipation rather than dread.

Life is such a journey. As children we tend to stay close to the shoreline, touching base with home quite often. As adults we learn to let go of the comfort of “home” in order to seek new adventures, new jobs, new relationships. Sometimes those early journeys don’t work out and we may end up back at home. Perhaps we didn’t like going away to college as much as we thought that we would or maybe that relationship that we thought was going to last forever suddenly fell apart. Any number of things may lead us back to home or cause us to at least touch that base again. Still, the pull of the unknown and the anticipation of what is on the other side, keeps us going back out, way from the shoreline. For most, a new shoreline or home base is established, based upon new relationships. Old, comfortable traditions give way to new traditions and new comfort zones grow to replace the old, abandoned ones.

The point is that one must let go of the old shoreline and bravely venture out where is cannot be seen in order to find what it waiting on the other side. One must break out of their comfort zones. Yes it takes courage to let go of the old; but dreams seldom happen right where you were standing. Dreams almost always happen just beyond the point where you can see the comfortable shoreline that you are currently on. Let go and venture out.

Take action…be in motion

February 28, 2023

I got this graphic in one of the daily inspirational emails that I get…

It reminded me of one of the laws of physics which states that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion and bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. If all you do is to dream about a different future for yourself, you will tend to stay at rest. Successful people who fulfil their dreams tend be be those who take action and are in motion – doing things rather than just thinking about things.

The fear of failure is what most often what keeps people trapped in their dreams, instead of achieving them. Successful people will tell you that being in motion, doing something is key, even if that something leads to a failure; for out of our failures we learn and we adjust. Thomas Edison is famous for his quotes on how many times he failed before he achieved some of his greatest successes and realized his dreams. So, being in motion is important, even, if you are moving towards a failure.

Do not let yourself get stuck in your dreams. Go out and take actions to achieve them. Be in motion and you’ll always be learning and achieving. Take the actions to make your dreams your reality.

Be in motion.

Be what you were…

February 21, 2023

That tag line is from an ad for an application called Bend that appears to offer instructions for stretching and exercising that is aimed at restoring some of the flexibility and range of motion that older adults may have lost. I’m no0t sure that I agree with the thought of be what you were. It is a nice thought but one that holds out false hope of rolling back time. None of us can do that, but we can decide to be the best that we can be right now, without worrying about trying to recapture what we were.

As an older adult I am concerned about things like my balance and flexibility; things that I just took for granted earlier in life. I have accepted that I have reached an age where others may view me as being “elderly”, even though I don’t feel elderly. The word “elderly” carries with it a lot of negative baggage. It seems like elderly people are thought to be frail and perhaps in poor health. I suppose that it would be hard to be in perfect health at my age (79 this year); however, I’m not in poor health.

I may download that app to see what advice is has; not that I expect to be what I was, but maybe I can be a little better as I am. What about you? Do you dream of being what you were or do you just try to be the best that you can be now?

So, start already…

February 16, 2023

Procrastination is the biggest roadblock to success if not to greatness. Pausing to think before acting may be OK, if that pause is limited and temporary. That pause needs to be focused upon the positives and not the negatives that one can see in the actions ahead. So, start already…

One does not have to have all the answers and solutions to possible scenarios in order to get started. The real key is having confidence in one’s decision making when the unexpected things pop up along the way. I most often pray not so much for a specific positive outcome but for God’s help in making good decisions on things that crop up in the future. Try it. Maybe it will help get you off the starting line. So, start already…

Love yourself first…

January 18, 2023

“If you truly love yourself, you’re never really alone.” (Charlotte Gale, the new owner of Duck Ledges Island) The quote appeared in a story about Charlotte buying Duck Ledge Island, Maine, after meeting the requirement to spend a night alone on the island in the tiny cabin that is there. Her quote came in reply to a question from the seller about whether she felt alone in the tiny cabin on the little island in the middle of nowhere. The seller liked her answer and felt that she was the right person to whom to pass the island.

I remember in my corporate life taking a class called “I’m OK: you’re OK”. It was based upon the book of the same title by Thomas Harris. The class focused upon how to recognize the different personality types that one might encounter and how to deal with them. Whether we realize it or not that is what we do every day in life. Life is transactional. The key here is the first line – I’m OK. You must understand and be OK with who you are in order to deal with (have transactions with or even love) others.

Many people spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out what others are thinking or what is motivating them to do what they do. I’m sure that you know people like that. That seemingly inquisitive bent is not so much driven by real interest as it is by those people being unsure of themselves. They don’t love who they are, so they keep looking for examples from other people, hoping to find someone that they can be like. Their thought process is “I don’t love me; can I be like you?”

People wandering around in this state often use the phrase, “I’m trying to find myself.” The truth is that you are not lost, you just don’t love yourself, yet. There is a popular TV show called, “This is us”. It is premised upon following the lives of relatively ordinary people. Perhaps we should imagine ourselves as being a new show called, “This is me.” You’re gonna love the main character. In this show the main character is comfortable with who they are, how they look and how they act towards others. The main character loves themselves. Put yourself in that role.

I have posted here a few times about forgiving yourself and about loving yourself. I think it is critical that you accept and love who you are before you can even try to love someone else. That even includes loving God. If you cannot or do not love yourself, you will end up blaming God for your perceived shortcomings. Maybe that is a chicken or egg conundrum. Perhaps, if you truly accept God’s forgiveness and unconditional love for you, that will allow you to forgive and love yourself. Try it.

I realize that this sounds like overly simplistic advice, but the truth is that it is that simple. Stop hating yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. Love yourself first. You will find that just by being real and getting comfortable being who you are, others will be more comfortable being with you. You may also find that others who are around you stop faking it, too. The world is a simpler and nicer place when everyone doesn’t have to remember all of the lies that they were trying to live.

Love God, love yourself, love life.

Be the light…show the love

January 16, 2023

Today is Martin Luther King Day in America and I am reminded of this saying from Dr. King –

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

While Dr. King was undoubtedly referring to the darkness and hate that manifested itself in the racism of his day (and unfortunately that of today), the thought applies equally well to other aspects of our daily lives.

Lurking in the shadows of the lives of many is the darkness of depression and the fears of to many drive the hate of bigotry and anti-LBGTQI behaviors. More darkness cannot drive out the darkness of despair and depression and fomenting more hate does not resolve the basic fears that drive bigotry.

Only by accepting the love and light of the Son of God into our lives can we overcome the darkness and dispel the hate. Dr. King knew and believed in the power of God’s love to overcome the darkness and fears and hate that he faced as he fought to bring justice and equality to all people.

King was a great civil rights leader, but he was first and foremost a pastor, a man of God who was trying to share the message of the good news of Jesus Christ. He was driven as much my the teachings of Christ as by his own feelings about the injustices that he faced as a black man in America.

Today we focus upon Martin Luther King, Jr. the civil right leader, but every day we can take lessons from Dr. King, the pastor, and find ways to “love your neighbors as yourselves” (Mark 12:31).

Be the light in someone’s darkness and the love overcoming someone’s hate. Only you can do that.

What direction are you facing?

January 13, 2023

This little saying from a cartoon character caught my eye this morning – “Just remember… if things look hopeless, maybe you’re facing the wrong direction!” (Ziggy)

Most of us face disappointments or setbacks in life, some much more than others. How we react to those events dictates how we feel about life and our circumstances. One’s faith has a lot to do with those reactions. I like this quote to help explain that – “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” — D. Elton Trueblood, Quaker theologian and chaplain

We will continue to be disappointed if we constantly demand proof from God that he is watching over us. Rather, we need to have constant trust in the direction that God is taking us in and in the final result, even unto death.

Perhaps Ziggy is telling us that we are looking in the wrong direction when we look for God to resolve all of life’s issues for us instead of accepting what has happened and trying to learn from it. I have posted here a few times about the little prayer that I used to refocus upon the trust of my faith – “Not my will, but thy will be done.” That is a prayer that does not demand proof from God, but which reinforces trust in where he is taking you.

So, turn away from hopelessness, turn away from seeking immediate relief from life’s trials and turn toward trust without reservation in God’s plan for you.  That will allow you to surrender the idea of being in control, allow you to forgive yourself for getting into the present circumstances and give you the strength to go on, knowing that you are following God’s will.

What direction are you facing?

Don’t be lonely…love yourself

January 6, 2023

This quote, that I got in a recent email, states eloquently the end result of forgiving and accepting yourself – “What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.” (Ellen Burstyn)

I’ve known people who just couldn’t stand to be alone. I don’t think it was self-loathing, so much as being so unsure of themselves or so unforgiving of themselves that they did not find being alone to be good company.

That’s really sad because we are all destined to be alone for some part of our lives, and for some for most of their lives. Being alone doesn’t have to maker us feel lonely. After all, you are spending time with the only human being that you will ever truly understand. I suspect that the feeling of loneliness is really a sense of lack of validation, the need to have someone else always there to tell you that what you are doing or thinking or saying is “OK”. It’s as if they needed permission for everything in life. They have a need for everything that they do to “fit in” to the lives of those around them. When they are alone, there is no one to accept and validate what they are doing, thinking or saying; and for them that it frightening. People who do not need that external validation are comfortable being alone and are often identified as “self-reliant”, “independent” or “confident”.

I have posted here a few times about forgiving yourself. I think carrying around guilt and not being able to forgive yourself for past mistakes lays the groundwork for becoming dependent upon the acceptance of others – it requires constant reassurance and validation and abhors time spent alone with feelings of guilt or remorse.  

The road to recovery from the insecurities that cause loneliness begins with accepting that God loves you and forgives you all of your sins. If you can accept that, then it is a short mental jump to forgiving yourself and from there not requiring the validation of others to love yourself. Once you can love yourself you will begin to enjoy the times that you have alone and never have the feelings of being lonely. You will realize that God is always there with you. The conversations that you can have with God and with yourself when you are alone will more than fill the void that you may have felt when you were alone in the past.

What a lovely surprise you will discover when you accept God’s love, and love yourself, and discover how unlonely being alone can be.