Lessons From 2020

Most people agree that 2020 has been the strangest year of their lifetime. Even my 90+ year-old father says that it is the weirdest time he has experienced. Some people have described it as the “Perfect Storm” with COVID-19, George Floyd’s death, and Cancel Culture surfacing in an election year. But, what lessons have we learned from all of this?

 

Let the Grumbling Begin

 

Listening to all the grumbling going on in America, one might surmise that the biggest lesson that we have learned is that we, as a people, are very accustomed to doing what we want. We do not like rules. Additionally, people are definitely not patient.

 

Well, these are all truths about the American people. However, none of these “lessons” are hardly a revelation. For years, the behavior of people has demonstrated impatience and a dislike for rules. 2020 has simply brought these issues to the surface.

 

Fear and Frustration

 

For many people, the grumbling comes out of fear or frustration.  People were and still are afraid of COVID-19. The virus can result in serious issues or death. Thus, it is something to take seriously. However, the fear in many cases is so deep that people assume it is even more dangerous than the facts show.

 

Similarly, the frustration that people feel over the rules, trying to work at home and manage children in the house, being away from friends and family, etc. overwhelms many people. Each of these things is a frustration in its own right, but together they create a frustration that many people have never experienced before.

 

Therefore, perhaps the lessons of 2020 are that fear and frustration can truly take over your life.

 

Human Interaction

 

Being away from friends and family is more than a simple frustration. It makes life difficult. Humans by nature are social beings. They need interactions with others, including hugs and touch. The need for interaction is the reason why many people consider solitary confinement cruel. So, although people today aren’t completely isolated from all human interaction, it has been greatly curtailed.

 

In many cases, workers are working remotely from others in the same company or seeing clients via video or telephone. Having personally worked remote, had remote workers working for me, and having seen clients remote, I can tell you that the reports of something being lost in an electronic-connection are very real. It is much more difficult to build a personal connection and to understand the other person’s perspective when not in person.

 

Thus, perhaps the lesson of 2020 is that human connection is an essential element of life.

 

Anger and Violence

 

There are several sources of the anger and violence that is being demonstrated in the streets of American cities. Some people are truly upset about equality and justice. At the opposite end of the spectrum are people that simply want destruction. No matter the reason for the anger and violence, we have seen that standing back and allowing them to act out does not work. Anger and violence just beget more of the same.

 

Therefore, perhaps the lesson of 2020 is that you need to take action if you want to stop a behavior. It might also be that if we want love and acceptance, we need to visibly demonstrate the same. Alternately, it may be that life is short or at least too short to be consumed with negative emotions.

 

Our choices Do Make a Difference

 

People’s perspective on life in 2020 is very much based on the decisions they have made when faced with the 2020 challenges. Some have chosen to listen to the drama and hype while others have listened to the facts. Similarly, some have decided to do what is right for themselves and their families without judgment of others. Meanwhile, some have decided that what is right for them is the answer for everybody.

 

Choices during this time also include deciding to be happy and find creative solutions to a person’s business and/or personal pursuits. Others choose not to look beyond what 2019 offered, leaving them feeling stuck and frustrated.

 

Thus, the lesson of 2020 may be that each of us is in charge of our own happiness.

Other Lessons

 

2020 has presented the opportunity to learn many other lessons as well. The lessons each person can learn from this situation are as unique as the people themselves. Some may learn that they need to spend more time with their family or may come to consider time with loved ones precious.

 

Others may focus inward and see that they need to put themselves first more often. Perhaps they learned the value of down time or having a hobby. They may even come to really appreciate many things that they previously took for granted.

 

Whatever your story, make sure that you learn as much from 2020 as you can. If you don’t learn, you are likely to repeat the lesson. Something most of us don’t want to do.

 

To Be Present Or Not To Be Present

To be present or not to be present is a question people consider when going to an event or activity. However, they don’t often consider if they are truly present once they have arrived.

 

Somewhere Else

 

People are experts at not paying attention to what is going on around them. How often have you seen someone walking down the street with their earbuds in talking away and clearly not noticing other pedestrians or motor vehicles? Or, perhaps you have seen the same kind of person texting during a meeting or a family dinner.

 

Matter of fact, at times you may have found yourself paying less than full attention. It may be that you are multi-tasking, focusing on worries or thinking about what could have been.

 

Being Present

The concept of being present is simple. You simply need to pay attention to what is going on around you and brush aside thoughts of other things. This focus, however, is very challenging for people today. Technology and the fast pace of the world contribute to this problem.

 

Yet, without focus on what is happening around you, you cannot be mindful. Likewise, if you are not present, it is very difficult to listen to others and understand the information that they are trying to convey. Additionally, it is impossible to tune into your body to understand the messages that it has for you. Therefore, by not being present, you are basically flying blind.

 

Value of Being Present

If you limit multi-tasking and focus your attention on being present, your eyes will open and you will have the opportunity for a more fulfilling life. You will have better and more meaningful conversations and relationships with people in your life. Furthermore, you will be more in touch with your true feelings and will be more attuned to your body.

 

Moreover, being present opens the door to truly experiencing life instead of simply existing. Every hour you spend being present is an hour that you spend being connected. Although you may be touching a hundred things when you are multi-tasking, you often aren’t connecting with any of them.

 

Taking Action

Therefore, the next time the telephone rings stop what you are doing and really connect to the person on the other end of the call. Likewise, put down all your electronic devices and set aside your thoughts of other things when you are meeting with other people. Whether the meeting is for business or personal reasons, you will gain so much more by actually being there.

 

Choose to be present; choose to be connected!

 

Be a survivor

My grandfather believed that if something bad happened to you or your family that you simply carry on. It happened. It is a fact. Furthermore, he never thought for a moment that you should stop and wallow in what happened. You do need to process what has happened as moving on without working through the issue can be harmful. However, you can’t let the bad things in life define you if you want to be a survivor.

 

Being A Victim

 

The negative situation could be a circumstance, an event, etc. You may have been born very poor, you may have been attacked, been adopted, or may have been verbally abused. In the moment, it is reasonable to consider yourself a victim of the situation. However, you don’t have to remain a victim.

 

It is all about where you focus your energy. If you focus your energy on being a victim, you have no chance to move forward. You are guaranteed to remain a victim.

 

Anything Is Possible

 

On the other hand, you can make the choice to focus your energy on surviving and moving forward. In some circumstances, a positive focus can be extremely challenging. However, a positive focus is always an option.

 

Part of a positive focus is simply starting from the perspective of what you can do instead of what you cannot do. Be willing to take steps forward. Then, surround yourself, as much as possible, with strong people that support you.

 

Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and retired neurosurgeon, is an excellent role model for survivors. After his mother found out her husband was a bigamist, she raised him and his brother alone. They were poor and she only had a third grade education to rely on.

 

Despite those limitations, she knew education was important and she believed in her sons. She insisted Ben spend time reading and learning. He found over time that he enjoyed learning. His focus on education paid off. Ben showed that if you focus your energy on surviving and moving forward, anything is possible.

 

Ability

 

So, if someone tells you fractions are hard, you have a choice. You can unconsciously comply with their statement or you can show you are a survivor by conquering them.

 

Likewise, if you are told you can’t do something because you are a girl. Realize that being a girl is simply a fact. Some limitations do exist based on societal norms or physical limitations. However, for the most part, your gender does limit your possibilities.

 

Don’t fall victim to other people’s “rules.” If you want to do something, stand up and say, “I can do it.”

 

Medical Issues

 

The same is true when faced with a medical issue. If you find out that you have a disease, you can become a victim and assume that you have no chance to overcome it. On the other hand, you can fight it with your heart and soul.

 

Similarly, some people just know that they are going to get the common cold, the flu, or COVID-19. They are “victims” before they are ever exposed. This belief actually makes these people more susceptible the virus. On the other hand, if you are strong and take a survivor mindset, you stay safer from the virus.

 

Negative Events

 

Although anyone can be victimized, having a mindset of a victim can make a person more vulnerable to negative events. Similarly, those events can control the person’s life if they continue to have that mindset.

 

However, if the person has the mindset of a survivor, they will have a much greater chance of moving past the event – no matter how awful the event was. This doesn’t mean that there is no pain. It simply means that the pain does not control the person’s life. It is with survivor attitude that nearly everything can be conquered.

 

Be A Survivor

 

The theme song to the show Reba says, “My roots are planted in the past.” This is true for each person. You can’t escape facts and it is no use trying. You can’t change who you are or what you have experienced.

 

However, the song goes on to say, “Who I am is who I want to be.” Again, this is true for each person. You have choices and you can decide what defines you.

 

In the end, if, like Reba, you have “the heart of a fighter,” you will be able to say, “I’m a survivor!”

 

Squeaky Wheel

As you interact with people, you likely recognize some people as very quiet. Meanwhile, others are vocal Some of these people may express their opinion whether you want it or not. And, others will be insistent that the conversation and focus is on them and only on them. These people are squeaky wheels who want to determine for you where you put your focus and energy.

 

Different Shapes and Sizes

 

Squeaky wheels come in many different forms. Sometimes the one demanding attention is the boastful star employee. Other times the overly dramatic child demands 100% of your attention. At other times, it is a small handful of customers who demand everything be done their way. Squeaky wheels can also be political activists or the news media.

 

Desire to Placate the Squeaky Wheel

 

It is understandable to want to placate the squeaky wheel. Most people want to fix what is wrong or support those who are in need. However, often people are driven to focus their energy toward the squeaky wheel for two more personal reasons. First, and simplest, they simply desire peace and quiet. The second reason is that they want to be seen as taking action on the situation.

 

In the second scenario, often the person reacts and takes a stab at doing something very quickly to address the situation. This action is any action that appears to address the situation. However, it is typically an action taken without thoroughly thinking through the situation, the true causes of the situation, or the consequences of the action being taken.

 

For example, a CEO may commit in a meeting with a large client to making a change that the client is advocating be made. However, often that CEO hasn’t taken time to understand the problem that the client is attempting to solve. Likewise, often they do not understand enough about the details of their product to know the effort, cost of such a change, and impact to other customers. In the long run, the requested change may not solve the customer’s problem. However, they are the hero(ine) in the moment.

 

Real Solutions

 

Real solutions require much more effort than solutions decided in the spur of the moment. It is critical to search for the underlying problem instead of acting in the moment or simply giving the squeaky wheel what they are demanding. Without taking time to search for the underlying problem, the likelihood of a “solution” actually solving the problem is low. In some cases, the solution may actually worsen the problem.

 

You can be more successful when you take time to investigate the issue at hand.   Looking deeply at issues and understanding true cause and effect can lead to a more complete understanding of the underlying problems.  By understanding these problems, you can create real, lasting solutions.

 

That said, at times, it can be a struggle to hold out for a real solution because the squeaky wheel often ratchets up their pressure to meet their demands. However, it is critical not to simply give in to get the squeaky wheel to quiet down. Doing so, can cost time, money, and even your way of life. And, to what benefit? If you take this path, in the future, you will likely be right back where you are today doing it all over again.

 

Missing The Important

 

An often-overlooked aspect of listening only to the squeaky wheel is what you are missing. If you just listen to one child, what do you miss with other children? How does it affect your relationship with them? Similar questions can be said about your quiet clients, friends, constituents, members of your congregation, and members of society in general. If you only listen to those that squeak, what are you missing?

 

Things you may be missing are as diverse as our population. You may miss developing an employee with great potential, you may miss that a friend or child is struggling with drugs or alcohol, you may miss signs of mental health issues, and you may miss the desires of the majority. By not listening to the broader community, it is almost guaranteed that you are missing a part of the picture.

 

All the Voices

 

Thus, it is imperative to focus your energy on listening to all the voices. It is important to list to the child who is experiencing many issues, but it cannot be at the cost of ignoring your other children. Likewise, you cannot listen only a select few employees, ignoring all others.

 

The key here is to really listen. It is important to explore and get to the bottom of the issue. After understanding, consider options, get input, and take thoughtful action. It is only through thoughtful action that addresses real issues that effective change can be made!

 

The Salem Witch Trials

I have always been fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials. The belief that witchcraft was behind unexplained fits of young girls resulted in accusations of witchcraft being thrown in every direction is quite intriguing. I would love to know what “caused” those symptoms the girls displayed. The bigger question, however, is . . . Why did accusations of witchery become popular in 1692?

 

The Salem Witch Trials of 1692

 

Looking back at what is known about the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials, we find young girls behaving in an unusual manner. Not knowing what caused the behavior, it was believed that the girls were possessed by the devil. They then accused three women of being witches and bringing this upon them. Thus, the first case of witchery came to trial.

 

Oddly, there were other girls that soon exhibited the same symptoms. Hence more cases. Still, more and more accusations abounded in Salem and other areas more distant. By May of that year, there were so many cases that a special court was appointed to handle them.

 

Even upstanding members of the community were accused and found guilty of being witches. Rebecca Nurse, a possible distant relative of mine, was one of those people. In her case, they found her not guilty, then guilty, then she received a reprieve, and finally she was hung. She was 71 and was supported by a large number of people in the community. Yet, it didn’t save her.

 

In most cases, however, men and women were found guilty based solely on the accusation. None of them were allowed to have lawyers and had a difficult time defending themselves. Have you ever tried proving that you aren’t a witch?

 

The question was . . . Why were so many people so willing to believe that members of the community were witches? Speculation includes that the people funneled their fear of outsiders and other fears into the witchcraft hysteria.

 

The hysteria quickly wound down and dissipated in 1693. Many of the convicted witches were later fully exonerated. Unfortunately, it was too late for those who were hung or died in prison.

 

McCarthyism

 

In 1953, Arthur Miller brought the Salem Witch Trials to life in his play “The Crucible.” He was driven to write the play because of current events. At the time, Senator Joseph McCarthy used “witch hunts” in the name of stopping the spread of communism.

 

McCarthy was a fearmonger, constantly stirring the fear of Communism, which was very pervasive in the 1950s. The fear was so strong that many people were accused of being communist or communist sympathizers. Many of them lost their jobs or were blacklisted despite not belonging to the Communist Party. Others were afraid to object for fear that they, too, would be given the badge of communist.

 

Those accused were investigated or questioned before panels. Like the Salem Witch Trials, accusations were often accepted even when there was a lack of evidence. Likewise, the risk the person posed to the country was often elevated. Still, the damage was done although many decisions would later be reversed or determined to be illegal.

 

Repeating The Past

 

It is 2020 and despite the 5th and 14th amendments to the Constitution guaranteeing due process we are again repeating the Salem Witch Trials. The witch trials have been modernized, but they still have the same principle of guilt by accusation.

 

In today’s world, you aren’t likely to be hung after an unfair trial where you have to defend yourself. Instead you are “cancelled” by a decision of the Internet mob. In cancel culture, you aren’t given a chance to defend yourself at all. The Internet mob decides what is right and what is wrong. You can be found guilty by association. Worse yet, you can be found guilty for not publicly taking a stance on an issue at all.

 

It seems that like in 1692, fear has driven the world a bit mad. Today it isn’t a fear of witches or communism that is behind the accusations. Yet, it remains a fear based on people being different and having different perspectives.

 

The Tech Giants and the mob rule simply do not allow for free thought and conversation. They have decided to take the law into their own hands and change all the rules. One and only one opinion is allowed in the social media court. Wish to explain yourself or even to apologize and you just may find yourself banned from the platform.

 

If you think it is only people with extremist viewpoints that are banned, I suggest you do more research. Like Rebecca Nurse, who was an upstanding citizen respected by many, you may be accused if you don’t parrot “the stance” perfectly.

 

What We Can Learn?

 

So, what can we learn from our current situation? First, history does repeat itself unless you learn from it. Clearly, we have not yet learned this lesson.

 

Second, there are many dimensions to being different. Anytime someone is condemned simply because they are different it is wrong.

 

Third, judging without a fair trial or worse without any facts is a disgrace. And, it means that a majority of the time you will be wrong.

 

And, fourth, fear can drive people to act a little crazy. As discussed in our recent article “Why Fear,” Franklin D. Roosevelt was correct when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

 

The bottom line is that we need to learn to accept people who are different – no matter what that difference may be. They may look different, act different, express their feelings in a different way, have different religious beliefs, have different political beliefs, raise their family in a different way, etc.

 

This sentiment was echoed on a Little House on the Prairie rerun as I was writing this article. Laura was pleading with the people of Walnut Grove to stop a woman who was considered odd from leaving town. Laura said, “So what if she was different? We’re all different!”

 

Walk In Your Shoes

You are likely familiar with phrases that include “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” Generally, that phrase is used to indicate that you don’t understand someone else’s situation until you have lived their life or at least understood their circumstances. It is very valuable to consider someone else’s situation before you judge them. Likewise, it is also important to walk in your own shoes.

 

Define Your Shoes

 

To walk in your own shoes, you first need to consider who you really are. What are your true experiences and beliefs? What are your goals? Your dreams?

 

This is a process of learning who you personally are without influence of the “shoulds” of the world. For example, if you dream of being a teacher, embrace that even if your parents or spouse think you would make a better lawyer than teacher.

 

After you define who you are, you can consider any information that you have gathered from trusted outside influences. Then, determine if you can glean any facts from the information that may be important as you move forward. If so, tweak your goals and dreams accordingly. It is important, however, not to lose focus of your true self. Likewise, don’t let educational and financial requirements for realizing your dream or reaching your goals determine those dreams. Always focus first on who you really are. You can focus later on how to get there!

 

Natural Feelings

 

Additionally, it is important that you feel your own feelings. If something makes you angry or sad, that is natural. What is not natural is to feel angry or sad because you are told that is the way you should feel. Feeling how you are told to feel instead of feeling how you truly feel is not being authentic.

 

Pressure

 

You always have influences within your personal circles. Friends and family often feel they know what you “should” do or how you “should” feel. In recent years this has been escalating within the media and groups outside people’s personal circles. More and more it is as if you don’t have a choice as to the actions you take or how you feel about a given situation. It has risen to the point that you can’t even be quiet and keep your perception to yourself as other people and groups will interpret a meaning from your silence.

 

Walk In Your Own Shoes

 

To truly walk in your own shoes, you must be authentic to yourself and ignore these outside influences. To do this, take in information, consider it thoughtfully, and decide how you feel about it. Then express your feeling or don’t based on what you desire.

 

Giving in to people who attempt to guilt you into feeling a certain way or taking a specific action is no different than giving the grade school bully your lunch money. Instead of folding, you must stand tall. Look them in the eye and take a step forward in life.

 

Only take those actions and feel feelings that are authentic to your beliefs and life experiences. When you cower to the influence of others, you lose your power. And, you lose who you really are.

 

Need help taking that first step, contact us and learn how Imagine If Coaching and Consulting can help you on your journey!

 

Focus on what is under your control

The world today is challenging all of us. For most of us in the United States, we are accustomed to being able to do what we want, go where we want, and live in any fashion that we choose. By standards of yesteryear and even many countries today, we live in luxury. And, most people here have never experienced restrictions on our freedom. Now, we are facing a time where restrictions limit us. In that light, each of us must focus on what we can control.

 

The Great Depression & WWII

 

The last time there were significant nationwide restrictions on Americans was during World War II. Most of the people that experienced the days of the Great Depression and WWII are no longer with us. Only the few remaining members of the Greatest Generation remember those days. It is from them that we can get some perspective on the situation we are facing today.

 

Availability of Items

 

The challenges of the Great Depression and WWII were different than the challenge we face today. Still, there are some commonalities. During the 1930s and 1940s, the government rationed items because we could not get items, such as, sugar and coffee in a big enough supply for everyone to have as much as they desired. Other items, such as, shoes were rationed to save materials for the war. An important factor is that this wasn’t for a couple of months. These restrictions went on for several years, although some were eased over time.

 

Today items, such as, toilet paper and hand sanitizer are difficult to find in stores. However, the reasons are different. It isn’t that we can’t get materials to make them or that they are needed for another reason. Instead, they are scarce because of panic buying and in some cases hoarding with the idea of profiting off of the situation.

 

The availability of most items should return to normal shortly as people see that supplies are replenished and opportunists find that selling these items more difficult than they imagined due to rules put in place by online marketplaces. To assist with the situation, stores have begun rationing the number of some items that an individual can purchase at a given time until people return to normal purchasing patterns.

 

You can’t control what is on the shelves, but you can ensure that you buy only what you need. Perhaps consider a few extra items so that you have to shop less often, but don’t over do it. Consider how long it will take you to use the items you purchase. The less we all panic buy, the less likely we will have new restrictions on our freedom to purchase items of our choosing.

 

Restaurants and Bars

 

During the war, restaurants stayed open in most areas. However, some had limited hours. Likewise, in some areas nightlife was put on hold by local governments. The reasoning being that it was wrong for people to have fun while our soldiers were risking their lives. Yet, theaters were still open and people did get a burger and fries now and then.

 

Today, restaurants and bars are closed or have limited take-out and delivery services not because it wouldn’t look right, but instead to curb the transmission of COVID-19. One huge difference is that today people eat out far more than they did 80 years ago.

 

Eating out is a habit and some people do it daily. Thus, it seems like a much bigger issue to most people today than it was in 1940. This restriction on our freedom seems to some as overwhelming. If you are one of them, I recommend learning to cook (if you don’t know how), spending time with your family, learning about something you are interested in, or doing some other home activity that you enjoy. If you are an extrovert, talk on the phone, have group chats, email, message, and use social media sites to stay in contact.

 

Businesses

 

Already gyms, restaurants, museums, theaters, and other businesses have had their doors closed or their business greatly altered by government rules. Additionally, there are rumors that some businesses will be asked (or told) to convert to making medical supplies. This type of thing did happen during WWII. Businesses had no choice. The government told them what they would be making and the timeline they had to make it.

 

We aren’t accustomed to the government dictating the closure of businesses or what businesses can and cannot do. However, the longer this outbreak goes on, the more likely business decisions will be controlled by the government. Still, it doesn’t mean that it will be forever. As WWII ramped down, businesses returned to making the products they had made before the war almost overnight. In some cases, the first new civilian products rolled off the assembly lines the same day the restriction was lifted.

 

Travel Restrictions

 

People travel much more today than they did in the 1930s and 1940s. People fly at the drop of a hat, cruise on the oceans, and drive across the country without it being a big deal. It was just a part of life up until the last few weeks when travel restrictions started being put in place.

 

Travel restrictions today are a bit different than during WWII. During WWII, people weren’t technically restricted from travel. However, gas rationing made it nearly impossible to travel. And, if you blew a tire, you probably weren’t getting a new one for a long time, as they required government approval to purchase. Likewise, you had to have government approval to purchase a car or a tractor. Fortunately, we haven’t reached that point.

 

Travel may be greatly restricted right now. So, what can we do? Travel online. Research places that you would like to someday visit, find museum collections online, share stories of previous travel, etc. Use technology to bring travel and exotic places into your life.

 

Focus On What We Can Control

 

The government may control many aspects of life, however, they don’t control everything. Thus, it is important for each of us to focus on what we can control. We cannot control that we can’t hang out at our favorite restaurant. However, if we can afford it, we can still order take out. We can also experiment with making new kinds of food, try new hobbies, etc.

 

We don’t have to allow restrictions on our freedoms to lead to negative thinking. By focusing on what is under your control, we will keep a positive mindset and make it through this situation better people than we were before. We have the Greatest Generation as our role model. Make them proud.

 

Join us March 26 as we discuss Being In Control In Uncertain Times.  The event is FREE.

 

 

past present future

 

Our past, present, and future are all strongly inter-connected. If not for the past, we would not be the people we are today or having the experiences of the moment. Likewise, without our experiences today, we would not have our future of tomorrow.

 

Accepting The Past

 

Although many people would like to change the past, it is far better to accept the past for what it is. Whether it was good or bad, it was an element that helped make you who you are. When we don’t accept the past, it continues to dominate the present. Thus, the past doesn’t simply contribute to our present, but it controls it.

 

Accepting that the past does not mean we have to approve of things that happened during that era. Neither does it mean that we ride on our laurels of the past.

 

It is best when we simply acknowledge that in the past we have been in good situations and bad situations. Likewise, we have done things we are proud of and things that we would have liked to have done differently. Still, all those things remain in the past.

 

100% Responsibility

 

Sometimes we have challenges moving past things that others have done in the past. It is important to understand that we can and should take responsibility for those things that we have done. However, it is unhealthy to take responsibility for what someone else has done to us or someone else.

 

If we perceive something was done to us, we can use that to make us stronger and to move forward. If we try to own the other person’s actions towards us, we are giving them an excuse and not allowing them to own up to their responsibility. It also gives power to their actions.

 

As humans, we want to “fix” every problem, person, and situation. The reality is that we cannot. We can only take responsibility for actions that we have taken, learn from our errors, and move forward committed to live a good life.

 

Living Today

 

We must realize that although we cannot change the past, we can take control of today. It is critical to realize that the actions we take today will shape our future and may affect the future of others, as well. This isn’t to say that every decision made each day has to be fully analyzed for impacts on the future.

It would be impossible and frankly unnecessary to analyze every decision. For example, deciding to do the dishes or wait until later isn’t likely to have a big impact on our future. However, some decisions have long-term impacts. For example, deciding to check text messages while driving could completely change multiple people’s lives. Thus, it is important to check in occasionally and ask “Am I on track to make a better tomorrow?”

 

The Future

 

This all leads us to the future, which will become the present and then the past. Living in the future is similar to living in the past. Although the past and present affect the future, focusing on the future and neglecting the present will lead us down a path of regret.  

 

We need to plan for the future and realize the impact of our actions on the future. However, if we live only for the future, we will fail to live at all. For example, if we always save every dime for tomorrow, we will never spend it as tomorrow never comes.

 

Therefore, we must understand that the past, present, and future are intertwined. Remember, although the past helps make you who you are, it does not define you. No matter your current circumstances, you have the choice to act today in a way that will create a brighter tomorrow!

 

Invest In Yourself

 

 Investing In Others

 

People often put others head of themselves. They see friends, family and strangers struggling financially, emotionally or in some other manner. When this comes to a person’s attention, they often jump right in to help even if it comes at a great personal cost. For instance, a family member may help a cousin that is going through surgery or illness. This is fine, if the person has the time and energy to invest. However, if they are not overly well, this additional burden may take a toll on their health.

 

Other times people observe or believe they observe something in others where they believe the other person needs to address some type of personal issue. For example, we have had numerous people that attended a class and remarked how someone they knew needed that class or an upcoming class. They proceed to attempt to get that person to attend future events. Often the person is not ready or simply not interested in making a change and the person fails to get them to attend. The person who tries to encourage them may become emotionally drained in their effort.

 

Other times, people feel driven to help people on the other side of the globe. They often donate time and money to these causes without knowing if the money and supplies will actually reach the people in need. The only way to know for sure is to participate in the delivery of services and goods, which can be quite time consuming, potentially risky, and at times expensive.

 

Knowing Your Limits

 

Helping others is a wonderful thing to do. It is important, however, for people to know their limits. Whenever possible people should match their skills, time availability, and financial situation to how they help people. For instance, I help people who are adopted find their birth families. This is something that brings them joy and for which I have skills. I would be far less efficient and far more stressed trying to build wells or homes in a third world country. Meanwhile, a carpenter might have no idea how to find a birth family. By choosing to help within one’s skills and limits, the person is helping others while also taking care of him or her self.

 

Still, there are times when a person has to simply take time for him or her self and not help others – even their friends or family. For people that say, “I can’t do that,” I remind them of the airline safety instructions. They tell you that if the oxygen masks are deployed you should secure your mask before placing a mask on someone that might need assistance. The reason, of course, is that if you can’t breathe, you can’t assist someone else.

 

The same is true in life, if a person runs out of steam and become wore down, ill, financially ruined, etc., they can’t help others. However, if they take time to invest in themselves, they have a higher chance of being healthy and vibrant. Thus, they will be in a much better position to help others.

 

Invest In You

 

Investing in oneself doesn’t require a lot of time or money. However, it should occur regularly. It can be as simple as meditating for 10 minutes per day, taking a bath and shutting out the entire world, listening to music that you really love, or reading for pleasure. If the calendar and bank account allows, it is desirable to include occasional bigger investments, such as, long hikes, energy work, classes, or retreats.

 

For people that have a difficult time investing in themselves, they need to realize that all people need some self-care. They may not feel they need it. Perhaps, they feel they don’t deserve it. Maybe they feel there are others that need it more. No matter the argument, they need to go back to the basic concept, put your oxygen mask on before assisting someone else. That tells them everything they need to know. Care of self must come first before one can care for others.

 

Do You Invest In You?

 

So, the question is “How often do you invest in yourself?” If you don’t invest in yourself regularly, consider adding some self-care to your calendar. Remember, it doesn’t have to require a lot of time or money. You do, however, need to make an effort. No one else can do it for you.

 

Making A Difference: The little thing

 

 

You may be familiar with the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and it is all small stuff” by Richard Carlson. In that book, the author describes one hundred techniques (or thought processes) to get through your day with less anxiety and stress. These techniques vary broadly covering everything from choosing your battles to imagining your own funeral.

 

Focus On The Important

 

The ideas behind these techniques are to get you to focus on the important things instead of letting little things take over your life.

 

In his book he talks about smiling at strangers and performing random acts of kindness. Each of these things could be classified as “small stuff.” However, these aren’t things to sweat, but things to do to bring joy into someone else’s life and ultimately your own.

 

Small Things Make A Difference

 

It is these very small acts that can make a difference in the world. Consider, if every person on the planet replaced even one snippy remark, aggressive action, or unkind word with a positive loving action each day. It would totally change the world!

We can’t likely get everyone around the globe to participate, but we can lead by example. Smiling and showing interest in other people is one of my favorites. It doesn’t cost even one second to smile.

 

And, it takes very little time to inquire as to how someone is doing. It is important, however, that when you inquire you should actually care about the other person’s answer. Do not be like many cashiers at grocery and big box stores who inquire as to if you found everything, but who have no course of action if you did not. You need to be prepared to provide kind supporting words or assistance if necessary.

 

Other simple ideas are to hold a door for someone, carry something for them, help them with their child, or offer to let someone go ahead of you in line. None of these cost money and most of them cost very little time.

 

Other relatively low cost ways to make someone’s day include: making or buying someone a card, taking treats or a meal to a neighbor, buying a box of Girl Scout cookies, or paying for someone’s meal.

 

Doing Something Bigger

 

Occasionally, you will have an opportunity to do something a bit bigger directly for someone. This may be someone in trouble or someone that has fallen on hard times.

 

One example of an opportunity that came my way was a man and his school-age son who stopped at our house one day. They told us that they needed some additional money to pay for school supplies and other school expenses. They didn’t ask for a handout, but simply asked if there was any work they could do to earn some money. We were happy to oblige. We had some yard work that we could have done ourselves, but instead we gave them the opportunity to earn some cash. Even better, the son had the opportunity to learn about the value of work. It was a huge win for everyone!

 

You Can Always Make An Impact

 

You may not have an opportunity like that every day or you may not be able to assist someone in that way due to your own finances. However, there are always small ways to make a positive impact in other people’s lives. Try to do something positive every day – even if it is simply posting something positive on Facebook. You never know how one simple act might change someone’s life!