Archive | July 2012

Why is it so hard to …

Why is it so hard to …, well you can fill in the blank. It could be dieting, exercising, working around the house or on a fun project. It doesn’t seem to matter that these are really good things especially when they are completed. After all, you do get a good feeling and a sense of accomplishment when they’re done, but for some reason there are times when you just can’t get started or if you’ve started, finished. What’s the deal with this?

A good quote may motivate you. The story about a successful athlete (like those in the Olympics) or a saga about someone who beat overwhelming odds can inspire, but the bottom line is we need to get up and do it. No one will come knocking on our door and offer to do it for us. We’ve got to move ourselves to action. Do we need to realize that our lack of action will bring consequences or do we just wait and hope we don’t reap negative rewards for our lack of effort?

I spoke with a frustrated teacher the other day and after listening, I’d feel that way, too. He was telling me about some students in his class who basically refuse to read – we’re talking English class where that’s the main focus! The problem is these students would prefer to play video games or hang out with their friends rather than read. They are  capable, but because they made other choices when it came to the use of their time, their skills in the area of reading were diminished. When the teacher apprised the parents about the problem (Guess what. The kids were not doing well in the class – surprise, surprise.), their comment reinstated the fact that the kids did not like to read. If the kids don’t care and the parent’s don’t care, it’s a whole lot harder for the teacher – not impossible, just more difficult.

The thing is, these kids illustrate some of my own struggles and maybe some of yours. I don’t like to diet and exercise and so I have to really push myself to do it if I want to lose weight. Sometimes I’m successful and other times, I’m not much different from those kids. At least I know that I have no one to blame but myself if my clothes don’t fit. Those kids and their parents probably won’t look into the mirror to find their culprit.

Let the games begin

You’ll not find much time left on the countdown clock for the start of the 2012 Olympics. Very soon you’ll hear the words, “Let the games begin.” Will you be watching?

Whether you’re a dedicated sports enthusiast or an occasional viewer, take advantage of the events in these next couple of weeks. Look beyond the gold, silver and bronze to see the stories of commitment, concentration, control, and courage that enabled these athletes to accomplish their goals and realize their dreams. Regardless if they win a medal, they qualified to participate in the XXX Olympiad. That is no small feat.

As you watch and listen to commentators regale you with facts and statistics, see if they inspire you. Regardless of their innate talent or abilities, each one (not just the track stars) had hurdles to overcome whether physical or emotional. None of them woke up one morning and decided to try out, and each one learned from the experience. I think we can learn from them as well.

You might enjoy reading what Penelope Trunk learned about business from playing beach volleyball or Christie Rampone gained in the area of leadership from her soccer experiences. And, you’ll become aware of many more inspiring stories once these games begin.

We will hear a lot to inspire us, and we’ll see examples of successful results. Will it be enough for us to do what it takes to follow our dreams? It could.

What’s so great about the Comfort Zone?

Have you ever spoken with a person who was miserable in his job? He hated to get up in the morning and face the onslaught of meetings, messages and minutia. He lived for the weekend reprieve, yet if you tried to pin him down on what he’d rather do, he had no answer. He’d bought into the old adage that the bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush. Although the proverb warns against greed, it can also imply being satisfied with the status quo. In other words, it’s easier to exist in what you know and are comfortable with rather than try to improve yourself and grow to experience more. You know where he lived? Right in the eye of the Comfort Zone.

I’m not going to pick on that individual because if truth be told, we’ve all lived there at one time or another, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out why. What’s so great about enduring and tolerating unpleasant situations, behaviors and habits when they do nothing for us? Do they help us develop new skills, meet new people, see new places? Will we experience greater focus, commitment or self-discipline and better health? Are we truly better off? We need to ask ourselves these and some other important questions especially when we find ourselves in difficult or stressful situations. Our friend may not be able to quit his day job just yet, but he can begin to make changes to reinvent himself so that he can fulfill his dreams, goals and purpose.

Like him, I have areas of my life that I want to see changed. While one of TV’s total makeovers would be nice, it is not reality because lasting change requires commitment, action and time. I believe it also requires God’s power, and I am enlisting His wisdom and strength to do it because, frankly, I see nothing great in the Comfort Zone.

Moving out

Do you hate to move? I’m actually talking about changing your residence rather than a physical feat, but if you have ever transferred from one location to another, you know there’s plenty of exercise going on during the process.

According to Melissa Data and the US Census bureau, “out of a population of 282,556,000 people, 40,093,000 moved. That’s an overall percentage of 14.19 percent annually.” Were you one of them?

As an adult, I have had to move several times. Yes, adventure of a new beginning on the other side beckoned me, but the pre-requisite involved going through the mountains of things collected and stored in boxes in the basement and attic, stuffed into closets and cupboards or mounded on the shelves. Then I had to go through it all and discard, give away, sell or repack what was left, pack it into a truck, haul it to the new location and find a place to put it all. Here’s the strange part. When I went to move the next time, I found some of these same boxes still packed from the previous move. I guess the items in these containers weren’t useful after all, though they brought a measure of comfort. It may sound comical, yet isn’t this sometimes how we live our lives?

We get excited about a new job, new neighborhood, new relationship or some other new enterprise, and we prepare for the change. Our confidence is high. We lay aside the old routines and familiar traditions, a few unproductive habits and negative thought patterns. We’re making a fresh start.  We pack up the outstanding skills and characteristics that provided the opportunity and get ready to go. We make the move and transition into the new situation, but it appears something is holding us back. Alas, we discover those boxed up fears and past failures we had before. We did not get rid of them. We just packed them up and brought them along.

When we embark on a new situation or opportunity, we need to make sure that we don’t tote along any excess baggage. It adds no value, but it can certainly produce unnecessary weight that could hold us back.

Look around. Do you have any beat up old containers filled with bad memories, resentment or fears? Getting rid of them will be your biggest boost to making the move out of your Comfort Zone to the next successful phase of your life.

Fantasy vs. reality

Do the shootings in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater that killed 12 innocent people trouble you? You don’t need to answer, because I am sure they do. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. Yet we also struggle with the why of what would possess one human being to raise himself up against an unsuspecting crowd to try to annihilate them? Does dressing up as a fantasy villain excuse such violence? Why was it so difficult for him and other  people involved in similar tragedies to tell the difference between fantasy and reality?

Fictional superheroes and bad guys aren’t new. They were around when I was a kid, and likely when my parents and grandparents were also, but the difference seems to be that more people strove to be like the hero than the villain. Good and evil were clearly defined, and good always triumphed over evil.

Today’s heroes, whether it’s Batman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman or a host of aliens with a penchant for saving their worlds, are make believe, but then so are their arch enemies. Fictional stories can’t be the reason because even in the old westerns, people recognized that all the actors were playing a role. In fact, the actor meeting his demise in one film was often seen the next night in another show.  Even when it was based on true historical personages, you knew the bad guys from the good and you never wanted to be the ones wearing the black hats.

Maybe we need to hear more about the real life heroes who make sacrifices for other people. They do their best everyday at home and at work. They put food on the table, care for the sick and hurting as well as a host of other things that don’t get their names in lights. Maybe we should start sharing how these people make a real difference in defeating the negatives that permeate our worlds.

I wonder if the issue isn’t deeper than that. Perhaps it stems from the lack of absolutes in the world or more specifically from eliminating God from the picture. Maybe the real problem is that these folks don’t know that God not only exists, but that He loves them so much He sent His Son to die to pay the penalty for their sins so that they could be with Him forever. Maybe they don’t know that all men are evil and that only God can change them. Maybe we need to be bolder and tell them.

I don’t know what was going through this man’s mind when he conjured up his diabolical scheme, nor do I have an outline or list of bullet points to follow to eradicate such behavior. This I do know, however. We can do better at doing what is right and good. That’s a beginning and one that will make a difference.

Remembering Lee

People stand out in your memory for many reasons, but primarily because of the impact they have had in your life. When that influence changes you in positive ways, they’ll remain forever in your heart. Lee Wagner was one of those people, and tomorrow I will attend a dedication of a library in his honor.

Lee was the Director of Training and Organizational Development and my boss for several years before he passed away in 2006. Yet for all the time I knew him, he was also a friend. He was a genuine human being with depth of character and a warm and caring personality. In addition, he had a wonderful sense of humor and often recounted humorous anecdotes from his personal experience to illustrate and make his points.

Lee was extremely intelligent, and he coupled that with wisdom. Many sought his counsel. One of his strengths shone through in the way he viewed people. He listened, really listened. Lee had an uncanny sense that allowed him to see you through the eyes of your potential, and he backed it up by helping you to achieve it. He understood the connection between professional and personal and took a genuine interest in all who crossed his path. He was never superficial.

He loved his family deeply. It showed in his eyes and the many stories he recounted about their lives.  His concern for their welfare was so evident, especially in his last days. They were the pride of his life.

One of the things he taught me was to look at problems carefully. Don’t look for superficial reasons that initiated the situation, but dig deeper to find the root cause. Deal with that and you have a real solution. Once the status has changed for the positive, look back to see what lessons you have learned so that you can clarify what went well and what you don’t want to repeat in the future.

Lee made a difference with his life, and I along with a host of others miss him.

Do differences in learning style preferences affect relationships?

Do you want to weigh in on this topic? I’ll start by giving you my answer, “Yes.” This is not based on any scientific studies but totally on personal experience. My husband and I have been married for a long time and though we have had some ups and downs, we are more in love today than ever. That said, our learning styles have impacted our relationship and perhaps even caused some of those blips in the road.

You see, my husband is a visual learner. Give him a book or show him a diagram and he has whatever the task or skill mastered. I, on the other hand am an auditory learner. I can listen to the radio, a conversation or presentation, and I have the concepts and examples down pat. Give me a book, and it takes a lot longer unless I read it aloud.

I know there are divided schools of thoughts on learning styles and their impact on the way kids/students/adults learn, but I think they have merit. There are three basic styles, auditory, kinesthetic (hands on) and visual. Each person responds better to one or the other. It does not necessarily mean that a person cannot learn if material is offered in a medium contrary to his/her style preference, it just takes longer.

For example, if my husband wants to share information with me, he will print it off and hand it to me or send me a link to a website. I will take the information, but I do not get as much (if anything) from it because it is one more thing to read. Although I enjoy reading, it is not my favorite way to learn, so I’ll put it on the back burner. If he would tell me what excited him about the information or how it is relevant to me/us, I am can absorb it quickly and am more likely to pick up what he’s handed me in visual format so I can learn more.

Because I can pick things up from the auditory messages that surround me, I assume he’s hearing it too. When I share information, I try to explain it to him and it goes right over his head. He’d prefer if I’d write it down or send him a link.

Now that we are spending a lot more time together (the kids are gone), we are relearning how to communicate and knowing our learning styles and preferences is making the transition a lot easier. Now I understand why he gives out books for gifts and why he prefers to print and share, so I’ll send him links, etc. He’s learning too, and we talk a lot more. He understands I need to have things explained verbally in order for me to get it. You know, I think our marriage will work after all.