The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

INVEST WISELY TO MASTER (RATHER THAN BEING MASTERED BY) THE HANDS OF TIME...


Some people work through one project at a time – from start to finish – then move on to another to maximize their productivity.  Others work on multiple tasks by attacking different priorities – setting aside one project in favor of another prior to its completion – until all work is eventually completed in what they feel is the most timely and efficient manner .  Still others tend to operate by “putting out fires” as they jump from one critical need to another without taking the time to think about how best to coordinate their efforts, working on one thing UNTIL something seemingly more important needs their attention to fix.  We find ourselves worrying needlessly about things outside of our control – wasting precious hours thinking about why something cannot be accomplished (or was not done) rather than taking intentional action to move towards a desired outcome.  We feel there is never enough time to finish what must be done (but always have time to redo something that may have been done incorrectly).   We spend hours worrying about things outside of our control and getting stressed about finding time to do everything that needs to be done (rather than focusing on doing “something” then moving on one step at a time).  Without proper planning and focus we often find ourselves slaves to the very clock we so desperately seek to master – struggling to complete anything (rather than everything).

Far too many complain more about the lemons in their lives – the disturbances, distractions and annoyances – than celebrate the opportunity to make (and enjoy) lemonade.  We dwell upon the fact that others possess the attributes we want rather than embracing and exhibiting our individual gifts and abilities.  Rather than finding satisfaction in all we have accomplished, we see only what has not been finished due to a lack of time or how much better a job we could have done “if only” more time had been given.  Rather than acknowledging how what we did may have positively impacted another we often choose to focus on what was not done (rather than what was done) and how much more should have been accomplished (rather than being happy for what was brought to conclusion).

Everyone can lose themselves in thoughts about what COULD HAVE BEEN.  It is easy to dwell on lost opportunity – to excuse a lack of execution by saying that the time for action has passed or something is no longer worth the effort since “things are OK now” (though they COULD be better).   It is harder (but much more rewarding) to anticipate WHAT MAY YET BE – to seek issues not yet identified and commit to their being accomplished, accepting each minor accomplishment as but a step on the road towards the fulfillment of a dream.  Life is not measured by the time it takes to accomplish our objectives but rather by the objectives we are able to accomplish in the time we have been given – not by how long (or short) a time it takes to do SOMETHING but rather by the impact we are able to make upon the lives of those around us by what we are able to accomplish.  We must define objectives and measure accomplishments (rather than overly documenting steps and focusing upon the time it takes to accomplish things) if we wish to invest our limited time wisely.

Perhaps the return on our investment would be much greater if we thought more about opportunities to explore areas not previously identified rather than dwelling upon how content we are to live within our normal routine finding satisfaction in accomplishing our routine objectives.  We often find ourselves buried by what must be finished rather than truly celebrating all we have done when se seek closure to the opportunities that require our attention as we move on to those yet to be accomplished.

We should seek fulfilment in life by exploring solutions to unresolved issues rather than making excuses for unintended omissions.  We should find peace within the hectic world around us as we take our lives back from the clock that will tick relentlessly (and uncontrollably) on.  Time should never become a measurement of how long it takes to fulfill our destiny or the standard with which our identity, success and accomplishments can be measured.  Instead, we should identify our accomplishments, measure our abilities and strive for the realization of objectives (rather than focusing upon the path or time it took to get there).  Time invested wisely can never be wasted but wasting time worrying about how it may have been inappropriately spent (by yourself OR others) is never a good investment.  Choose wisely as we can either master our time (reaping the rewards of our investment) or be mastered by our time (never accomplishing what we wish to do or see what we want to experience) – the choice (of being master or mastered) is up to each of us to make.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

RECOGNIZING AND REALIZING REALITY DURING TOUGH TIMES


CDC says surgical masks can replace N95 masks for coronavirus ...During these times of acceptable social distancing, wearing masks in public, locking ourselves away from people and minimizing travel our society is not only suffering financially but we are all taking an emotional hit to one of the most important aspects of our lives – how we interact with, enjoy, thrive with and grow from other people.  It has been deemed necessary to lock ourselves behind closed doors (regardless of where or how we live), using that isolation as an excuse to avoid public spaces, work accountability, human interactions and (in some cases) the acceptance of altered personal hygiene practices and/or “public” dress codes while avoiding established standards, traditional expectations and interactive face-to-face communications.  Expectations tend to be "looser" when established ourselves and employers, not knowing what to expect or how to manage remotely, tend to accept what is provided rather than what could be accomplished.  Therein lies the problem - recognizing and realizing reality can be (and often are) two vastly different points upon the continuum of life.




Some (particularly those afraid or unwilling to learn from failure) proudly proclaim that setting low expectations will keep them from ever being disappointed – that living a life without stretch goals will shelter them from ever failing.  They live life wandering aimlessly upon roads paved by others – within the walls they have allowed to be constructed around them (having no windows from which to see nor doors from which to enter or leave).  They avoid unexpected detours or excursions while finding comfort and security in the things they know (and have seen) work in the past.  Those setting no (or low) expectations – fearing the pain of failure more than anticipating the rewards of success – may survive in life but will not experience the “thrill of victory (NOR the agony of defeat.”)  While accomplishing that which is expected and predictable they will rarely achieve their full potential – often maintaining life but rarely thriving in their personal endeavors. 

Far too often isolated individuals begin to canonize themselves – putting themselves first and everyone else a distant second.  They de-energize relationships by focusing upon the shortcomings of others (often to make up for a lack of confidence or low self-esteem in themselves).  When we pull others down – highlighting their deficiencies in an effort to elevate ourselves (surrounding ourselves with individuals who will not or cannot challenge us) – we may rise to the top of a pool of mediocrity but will rarely reach the pinnacle of individual success or accomplishment.  How can we expect our efforts to be maximized if we focus upon what could go wrong or what must be avoided rather than identifying alternative paths or actively seeking a direction that might provide better results as we initiate activity that will pull others with us to a better place?  Rather than seeing failure as a destination that should be avoided at all costs (or exploiting the failure of others for personal gain), much can be gained by viewing failure as a springboard to success – a flexible base that brings us back from life's depths to an innovative or previously untested solution.  If we seek to thrive (and live OUTSIDE of isolation) we must recognize that “getting up” is more significant (and critical) than “falling down.”  Believing that the “light at the end of a tunnel” is an opportunity not yet realized rather than a train heading towards us on a collision course reflects the assimilation of dreams into daily reality – but unless we at least venture out onto the track from our isolated privacy we will never recognize NOR experience that full potential.

Accepting that our own (or another individual’s) weaknesses are insurmountable results in our believing failure is final.  If, however, we acknowledge deficiencies or unexpected situations as bumps in the road as we relentlessly move forward seeking to accomplish our dreams – as we refuse to accept a disruption in our expectations as an “end game” to our efforts – we will find new ways to make things happen within a world that may look drastically different from any we had ever imagined.  Destiny becomes an inflexible limitation only when we allow ourselves to be controlled by a lack of expectations and a fear of failure.  We will lose in life only if we accept what we have and who we are as being all there is or ever could be rather than seeing our present as but a temporary resting point on our journey through today while seeking a different (and better) tomorrow.  All individuals have a past comprised of actions taken, relationships forged and things accomplished and a present comprised of the things they choose to do and relationships they wish to maintain.  The future, however, is defined by what we see as being possible which we allow ourselves to bring to fruition rather than how we allow ourselves to be constrained by things mandated absolutely by others – by what we permit ourselves to imagine rather than how we allow ourselves to be restricted by actions or individuals outside of our control. 

During these times of fear, constraint and uncertainty we must not only be safe but must also be practical while intentionally choosing how we wish to live and what we wish to accomplish.  If we choose to live in the memories of what we once had, we limit ourselves to things already experienced.  If we choose the comfort of what we have achieved, we limit ourselves to those things already accomplished.  If, however, our future is defined by the dreams and expectations expressed within pages of a book not yet fully written our possibilities will remain pathways to a reality limited only by our acceptance of those things we accept as unalterable or undeniable truths.  When our dreams become the things we anticipate and expect (rather than visions held tightly within the privacy of our individual hearts hidden by the darkness of night) – when we awaken to the inspiration our dreams provide as probability of things that will come (rather than things that might be but a distant possibility) – ONLY THEN will we be able to realize our full potential (rather than to live out the expectations of another).  Until we embark upon paths once hidden beneath the endlessly shifting sands of time while actively and intentionally seeking unrealized opportunity (instead of blindly accepting mandated priorities and expectations imposed upon us by others) will we be able to experience the world through wide open windows and experience life’s reality as being the promise and fulfillment of our dreams.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

WHY SETTLE FOR CHANGE WHEN YOU COULD TRULY MAKE A DIFFERENCE


Were we to live in an ideal world, everyone would focus more on new beginnings than on conclusions or endings.  “Drawing a line in the sand” would define more our intent to move forward than to keep us from stepping back – to establish that we are initiating a new path or direction as we seek a different destination rather than highlighting where we do not want to be.  Far too often, however, people think that closing one chapter is more important than opening the next – that finding closure is somehow more critical than initiating change.  I would disagree, preferring to think that drawing a line in the sand should serve as a springboard that launches you towards the discovery of a not-yet realized reality existing deeply within your imagination rather than as a perceived barrier to keep you from falling back into your old ways.

In any decision we make or action we take we should always reflect upon successes and failings in the past while seeking to clearly differentiate our dreams and/or goals from our present realities before intentionally acting to bring them to fruition as we seek to make a difference.  Allow each day’s sunset to bring closure to life’s challenges so that morning might offer a fresh new beginning – whether it be a new project or simply a different perspective that transforms frustration or ambivalence into opportunity.  Far too many well-intended individuals stagnate as they cross their line in the sand because they were more concerned with enacting change – with stepping away from unwanted actions or results – than they were with charting a new path and moving forward towards a new destination.

The next time you draw a line in the sand, think about the new realities that you wish to establish or bring to fruition through the actions you will be taking rather than focusing upon what will no longer be done because you stopped performing or acting in a particular way.  One cannot drive safely or reach their desired destination by constantly looking in the rear view mirror.  While they CAN focus upon where they have been they CANNOT focus upon where they are going.  We build the future upon dreams that become reality – not on the actions taken to avoid negative consequences.  Refuse to live in a world of “what is” and you just might find yourself firmly rooted in one made up of “what if,” “what could be” or “why not?” 

What intentional acts have you taken lately to initiate change – to develop a new path or truly make a difference in where you are going rather than simply stepping away from where you have been?  In the actions that you have recently taken and the changes you have recently made were you more driven by moving forward towards the unknown or were you more motivated by a fear of falling back – of becoming what you were but do not want to be any longer?  Were you more hesitant to let go of “what is” than you were excited to reach out for “what could be?” Were you truly more focused on where you might travel, looking ahead towards the journey rather than simply trying to keep from falling back?  While both are necessary, one cannot make a difference simply by accepting that things must change - he or she must INITIATE and FOLLOW THROUGH on their actions to make a difference.

When you come to the point in life that you KNOW things must change and you REFUSE to live another day doing the same things that bring unwanted (or potentially destructive) results, draw your line, step over it, then move steadfastly forward towards the realization of a goal or the discovery of a new destination.  Refuse to limit your potential by focusing upon what you want to leave behind rather than seeing clearly what you wish to accomplish.  It is only when one truly walks away from stagnation (rather than accepting it or simply stepping aside to avoid it) and chooses to move relentlessly forward towards the possibilities the future holds (rather than accepting continuous disappointment found within their current situation) can the world be turned upside down.  It is then that one can begin to truly make a difference rather than simply initiating a change.

Monday, May 11, 2020

THERE IS MORE TO LEADING THAN CAPTURING THE WIND


Every team needs a leader – but rarely can one individual set the course, trim the sails, maintain direction and stabilize the ship by him or herself without the help or assistance of others.  True leaders emerge during times of trouble, turmoil and strife – riding the strength of their convictions – as they leverage the abilities of others to accomplish exponential multiples of what they could have achieved by themselves.  While there should be very little difference in one’s leadership style when enjoying success OR facing unexpected hurdles, far too many “competent” managers take full responsibility for accomplishments while blaming mistakes on the actions (or inactions) of others rather than sharing credit for things done well and accepting responsibility for unwanted or unintended consequences.  A good manager assesses his or her situation, gathers metrics that explain or clarify what has happened in the past and plots a course that will build upon what has proven successful (or been demonstrated to fail) so as to minimize risk and maximize the potential of positive results.  A good leader bends to fit into their surroundings rather than standing firmly against life’s storms.  An exceptional leader utilizes all the resources at his or her disposal to ensure success, safety and continued progress rather than seeking personal praise and short term-gain (popularity, acceptance, being “liked”) while pursuing excellence. 

Leadership is like a ship at sea as decisions made and actions taken need a form of propulsion (to make them move forward), a means of stabilization (to keep them on track), a method to control direction (to ensure they do not drift aimlessly) and a way to see beyond the horizon (to safely travel a charted course) in the pursuit of a not yet realized (but well planned and intended) destination.  When setting and communicating a course of action, a Leader must take responsibility for his or her actions AND the consequences of the team’s actions by taking ownership of a situation rather than blaming another for an unfortunate circumstance – accepting and facing reality while constantly pushing towards an anticipated destination.   He or she must act as a sail by capturing the wind to push the team forward – anticipating and avoiding changes in the winds that could disrupt progress.  Without a sail (or motor, for the less classical thinker), a ship will drift endlessly upon the currents having no control of its motion or expected results.  A sail pushes a ship forward much as a good leader encourages forward progress by recognizing and anticipating the contributions of each member as the team progresses towards a final destination.  A sail does no good if left folded for, no matter how much good a sail COULD do, if it is removed from its proper place on the mast of a ship no intentional progress will be made.  Similarly, if a leader spends time collecting data points and focusing upon what has happened in the past at the expense of what could (or should) happen in the future it is like setting a folded sail upon the deck of a ship with no intention of rigging it to the mast.  The means for success may be within reach but when active and decisive leadership is missing, a team will wallow and drift aimlessly before eventually (possibly) reaching a destination (which is often unplanned, unexpected and less than ideal) than was anticipated. 

A ship needs both a rudder and a keel in order to “stay the course” as it progresses forward.  Without some form of steering a ship cannot turn – and while the quickest path between two points IS a straight line, life rarely provides unobstructed access to our goals.  Without some kind of stability – a keel or ballast beneath the surface – a ship will tilt, lean and possibly capsize before it reaches its destination.  A Leader must ask the right questions when investigating a situation – listening for useful input from others – while steering around obstacles (or correcting missteps) in the pursuit of a final objective.  A Leader takes his or her personal obligations (and credibility) more seriously than his or her personal work expectations.  Anticipated or planned objectives invariably change but a course charted by intentional thought and navigated with integrity can lead a team through any unexpected obstacle or unwanted disruption.  Trust is not earned easily will be granted when those being led see an individual consistently demonstrating through his or her life the ability to maintain control and provide the stability needed to keep a team on course.  While taking the easy road that needs no navigation or situational stabilization (allowing unequitable situations to exist within a team or partially concealing a truth) may be less painful and create fewer short-term disruptions or distractions than would direct confrontation, individuals preferring to dodge responsibility for their choices and actions will never be seen as credible leaders when given the opportunity to lead.  Straight and narrow paths through waters having no turbulence are rarely encountered in life yet those that PROVE themselves credible tend to develop the “hands on deck” that will make any rough water much more navigable.

A ship cannot travel forever without stopping for replenishment.  While a sailboat needs only the wind to move forward and a nuclear-powered ship could theoretically travel nearly forever, both have to stop at some point to resupply.  A ship does not typically reach its final destination by accident or without the ability to seek safety from the elements to resupply and rest its crew or – regardless of the ongoing ability of propulsion – the journey would be fraught with danger and distress.  Ships need an anchor to secure them while considering a new course BEFORE venturing forth if a destination is to be reached with maximum efficiency.  Likewise, a team needs “an anchor” to hold it back long enough to examine how it must proceed as it seeks new and innovative routes to accomplish its assigned objective.  Fools rush in – leaders step back so they can understand what was done, why it happened and what could be done differently BEFORE pushing relentlessly forward.  UNLESS a leader can identify sails, rudders, keels and anchors within his or her team – accepting each part’s abilities to contribute and limitation that keeps it from acting independently (in order to augment it with what is needed to ensure success) – the path taken will never be traveled without tragic mishap.  

A great leader may serve as the sail to his or her team – capturing the wind and transforming it into the propulsion needed to reach a destination – but must also recognize the necessity of stability, direction and the time for reevaluation if he or she hopes to be successful in moving effective problem resolution and the intentional accomplishment of our objectives.  Crisis becomes the testing ground for leadership excellence – one can either hold fast by creating, examining and reviewing metrics that clearly define what has been done in the past OR one can set sail while maintaining stability and establishing a course of action that will demonstrate confidence and ensure credibility and take intentional action that will initiate movement AWAY FROM what always was TOWARDS what could be but has yet to be discovered.  The decision (and the differentiation between GOOD and GREAT) is entirely up to the leader to make and express to his or her team.

Friday, May 1, 2020

The Courage to Continue Brings Success


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Sir Winston Churchill


Success often comes to those willing to not only wait but also to those actively in pursuit of “outside of the box” thinking.  New directions, products, goals, destinations, partnerships and alliances never before thought possible have emerged from the “shelter in place” economy.  We all do things differently – the degree of success achieved often directly linked to the amount of risk we are willing to take, the confidence we have in the gifts we are given and the courage we have in our ability to learn from failure.

Many of us have experienced failure to varying degrees during the past several months.  Our comfortable existences (built upon personal dreams that came to fruition through hard work and determined actions) crashed upon rocky shores – dismantled by a stormy world and its altered expectations that we could not have anticipated nor controlled.  Stories about plant closings and personal loss became more the norm than the exception – the negative reality (and its perceived lingering impact) overshadowing news about business expansion, short term disruption and the predicted rapid return to “normal” – all totally unexpected even two short months ago when our economy was moving along at an unprecedented rate.  Unanticipated failure, uncontrollable restrictions, unwelcome disruptions, unwanted time away from what we want and need to do and forced “confinement” within a limited space and a handful of people (for those fortunate enough to share their home lives with others) are all issues that must be dealt with in a world that seems to have run amok – fallen over the edge – leaving many abandoned within its wake.  In times such as these we must either accept that we cannot control certain aspects of our lives and move on OR become lost in misery and self-loathing – painting ourselves as victims within a world over which we had no control – and wait for “things to get better.”

In order to grow in life we must experience failure – know that everything happens for a reason but that sometimes the reasons for things happening are to help us learn rather than to provide us results.  If we are to thrive in life we must truly believe that learning lessons from our experiences today (rather than trying to avoid all potential of failure or shortcoming) will actually allow us to move relentlessly towards a brighter tomorrow.  “Getting by” can be done with very little risk, investment or commitment.  Thriving is reserved only for those willing to try without guarantee or promise of success – to recognize that falling is not failure, rather failing to get up after falling is the only true impediment to success we will ever face.  While some may limit their potential by doing only that which they know will work (for whatever reason feeling that what has been is all that will ever be), others will fly like eagles by recognizing no life is without disruption and that one can only truly live life after they accept failure as a given and recognize the strength that can be gained ONLY by working through that failure.  Individuals whom consistently taste success and thrive during times of turmoil typically define their future ONLY by its potential rather than by imaginary restraints (be they real or perceived) constructed from beliefs and conditions within their pasts that cannot be overcome.  Once achieved, success should be viewed as a means to an end rather than an end in itself.  Success can lead to obsolescence without continuous attention to and improvement of the choices we have been given.

Failure is not fatal UNLESS we accept it as a conclusion to our actions rather than an unplanned stop along the way.  Let us not look into the face of failure only to find that “it is us.”  Move forward with courage to establish lofty goals – never resting on the laurels of past successes.  Seek new mountains to climb – refusing to be lost in the dark valleys of missed opportunity.  Though we are emerging from the mists that have slowed our journey, our road to recovery has not yet ended – our destination has yet to be fully revealed.  Failure can only become success when we exhibit the courage to continue.  While we all assume our share of blame in this world, we should never allow ourselves to be accused of following the crowd we were destined to lead – of becoming but an “accepted” part of the problem rather than an essential part of the solution.  Our dreams will be realized only when we continuously move forward in our quest for new realities, accepting failure as a part of that ongoing process we cannot control – a part that will negatively impact us ONLY if allowed to grow unabated within us because we do not have the courage to move on or the desire to grow.

Monday, April 27, 2020

EMBRACING CHANGE...


Their aimless wanderings lay behind them…
Their paths weaving desperately through the wilderness…
Coming near then veering away…never quite crossing or becoming one. 
They stood at a crossroads…
Looking back in an attempt to see how their lives had unfolded...
Looking ahead towards a future not yet defined.
Increasingly tired of their struggles within a thankless world…
They sought a path that would lead towards truth…
An obscure trail that would carry them to a brighter future... 
Deliberately they turned, moving forward into the vast unknown…
Leaving behind the comfort and security their past once held…
Intentionally embarking upon a path that would change their lives forever…
  

Why do people seek change?  What makes us decide to do things differently – particularly if the things we are doing provide us comfort or bring us success?  What makes us wander from “the familiar” in search of unknown opportunities?   During times of “social distancing” and having our normal lives turned upside down by uncontrollable circumstances we all are looking for different ways of doing things - resolving to change in ways that will allow us more personal fulfillment, success or stronger relationships.  Several factors must be recognized, however, if we wish to move beyond our current station in life – beginning with the deliberate consideration of an intentional action that, when taken, will forever change where we are as it redefines where we are going (one cannot do the same things they have always done and expect different results UNLESS something or someone else changes and the “same” actions are received or perceived differently).

Everyone desires success (though success cannot be granted to another for we all define it differently).  Far too often, however, success breeds arrogance, which leads to complacency.  If we ride a single success beyond its effective lifespan…thinking “our way” is the only way…someone else will either rise above or beyond us (by improving upon what we do), force us to change (by revealing the shortcomings of our established approach), or disrupt our stagnant but comfortable existence (by offering a more exciting or effective option).  We must actively appraise the things we do – both in our work and our personal relationships – if we wish to remain vibrant and relevant.  By continuously analyzing our strengths and weaknesses, identifying those things that hold us back and enhancing those that pull us forward, we will remain effective (happy, fulfilled and growing).  Recognizing that the only constant in life is change will allow us to accept the reality of failure (and the learning it brings) rather than fooling ourselves into believing that smooth sailing and unlimited success will reward those that plan sufficiently or anticipate only positive results.  Success does not come from frantic movement without direction or purpose – from deft reactions to unexpected disruptions – we must occasionally stop what we are doing, think about “why” we are doing it and “what” it is bringing us then consider alternatives before intentionally moving forward – whether it is in the same direction we were going or upon a path not previously considered.

To initiate change one, three major issues must be intentionally and consciously addressed:

  • We must acknowledge where we have been, recognize what we have done, and wish to be or accomplish something different before we can start travelling upon a new path.  How can we better serve our customers?  What can we do to improve a relationship?  Must we alter our behavior so that we can remain relevant within a changing world?  Whenever we recognize our goals (OR previous realities) have changed we must step from our original path onto one that will refocus and redirect our efforts so that we can move forward towards a new destination. 
  • We must stop doing the things we are doing – that we have always done - no matter how effective they may have been in the past (or potentially still are)...  While identifying what must be done to create meaningful change, paths (and methods) needing abandonment or alteration will inevitably be revealed.  Can a workforce that values time off from work be effectively disciplined with suspension?  Can an individual communicate effectively without embracing technology and learning how to “entertain” using Power Point?  Can two people maintain a meaningful relationship if neither is willing to “walk a mile” in the other’s shoes or does not listen to what the other says, suggests or expresses (through words, tones or actions)?  As long as even one stakeholder in a relationship, team or other closely knit group is unwilling to change it is improbable that audacious goals can be accomplished (or, potentially, that even the status quo can be maintained). 
  • As we identify and abandon the things that hold us back we must continue doing things that produce positive growth and change.  We all have personal strengths – characteristics and traits responsible for the success we have experienced.  Everyone can celebrate a “peak of accomplishment” in their past.  Far too many, however, choose to dwell within the quiet valleys created by past success while grazing upon the spoils that were created RATHER THAN planning for disruption and constantly looking up towards the mountains around us in search of a path that will lead us to new beginnings.  In order to realize meaningful change we should continue doing the things that will bring us to our heights as we discard those that might bring us to our knees. 
People must change more than their outward appearance if they expect their results to shift significantly.  We often hear about “new and improved” products only to find nothing but the packaging has changed.  Television networks frequently move a failing show from one night to another in order to gain viewers from a less competitive offering.  If we are resolved to change we must consciously decide NOT to “stay the course” by intentionally clearing (then following) new paths into an unknown wilderness.  We must acknowledge our past (both the wins and the losses) before we can define our present (from which we must move forward) if we harbor any expectation of creating a different future (either personally or professionally). 

A change in season often triggers a desire to alter our behavior and move forward to a more promising future.  In order to accomplish change it is important that we continually take stock of what we are doing and where we are going – then actively seek paths and partnerships that will lead us from complacency to new destinations, new relationships and new opportunities.  Short term success may thrive within stagnation but since the only constant in life is change, we must be vigilant in our search for new truths and intentional in our actions if we wish to experience life beyond the crossroads.

Friday, April 10, 2020

VALUE YOUR TIME AND FIND JOY IN THE JOURNEY



During this time of unprecedented “isolation,” many are grumbling about all they cannot do rather than all that might be possible.  Why is it that people tend to rush to judgment (particularly of others) without trying to find “the story behind the story?”  Too many hurry up to wait and do anything but “stop to smell the roses” or try to accomplish all that really NEEDS to be done rather than all that they may WANT to be done.  We seem to worry more about how quickly we can finish the race (the lawn, the wash, the cleaning) than about the joy along the way — or even the satisfaction derived from simply crossing the finish line (eventually even if not “first”).  People far too often worry needlessly about things outside their control rather than identifying the things over which they do have influence and acting upon them.  The “stay at home” order is a reality – perhaps a huge inconvenience and a potentially crippling blow to our economy, but a reality that we – as creative individuals – have the ability to work with and through but not ignore or pretend it does not exist.  Fearing that we do not have the time to slow down – to appreciate the things around us because of the unrealistic expectations we sometimes place upon themselves – makes us slaves to the very clock we desperately seek to master as we try to keep ourselves busy to the point of exhaustion so we can complete a journey rather than seeking the enjoyment along the way as we move towards completion.

Many people complain about the lemons in life rather than celebrating the opportunity to make lemonade. The summer weather is too hot (yet January and February will almost certainly bring complaints about it being too cold)...I cannot stay at home because there is nothing there to do (while complaining there is too much to do when in the office so they never make it home on time)...I hate being alone at home (when many have a family that could be loved, relationships that could be strengthened and appreciation that could be shown).  Rather than finding satisfaction in who they are, what they are becoming and all they have accomplished, some see only what has not been finished due to a lack of time, what others are not doing and how the inability of someone else to contribute is getting in the way of what is not getting done. They spend time wishing they had something more rather than being grateful for what they have – wanting what another might have rather than seeking how they might be able to access things that are truly important.  We have become a nation of complainers who find satisfaction in bringing others down in order to make ourselves look better rather than elevating ourselves so we can pull others up with us.  Perhaps we should choose not to rush to judge others by taking the time to ask WHY someone acted in a way we might feel is foolish or ill-advised. Rather than expediting our condemnation, we should take time to consider that our own perspectives (expectations and frustrations) might be the cause of our exasperation rather than the well-intended actions of someone else that just do not fit into our inflexible reality.

Think about how much our words might matter if we offered advice and counsel rather than critically dismissing another’s action as being worthless, wrong or misguided.  While not everyone agrees with the short-term impact that the Governor’s (and the President’s) decisions are making on their lives – and the immediate impact may seem dark and irreconcilable – what has been decided is done so perhaps it is better to work with it rather than complain about it.  Complaining about decisions over which we have absolutely no control provides a short-term “fix” as it allows us to “vent” about our misgivings.  Unless (and until) we take positive action (sometimes which might include enjoying the things we would not have been able to see had we done things the way they have always been done to achieve what has always been accomplished) we will not be able to develop realistic expectations so we may never taste the satisfaction of accomplishment.

Why hurry up to wait? I have been passed by countless drivers rushing to get to a destination that might include half empty parking lots, ravaged grocery shelves and vacant offices as they refuse to leave the deserted passing lane upon which they choose to travel.  If you are going to have to wait anyway, use the time preparing for the journey. You can only control your own behavior. Each individual must take responsibility for his or her own actions so that they might be able to enjoy the rewards (or deal with the repercussions) that result from those decisions.  If someone is frustrating you by being late, use the time productively to think about how you might be able to change the situation. Avoid the senseless feeling of angst caused by another’s thoughtless action by taking something you can do while waiting.  If you can arrive early to a meeting, maximize your time by doing so but call ahead to make sure it is alright with the person you are meeting rather than showing up unannounced. If you are going to be late, call ahead to ask if it is alright or if you should reschedule. At least your tardiness will not be holding others up.  Perhaps focusing on your own flexibility (which you CAN control) will help to make your journey more enjoyable than fretting about another’s inflexibility (rudeness, tardiness or lack of purpose) over which you truly have no control.  Rather than worrying about all that is not happening or not getting done during these times of health crisis, what COULD you be doing to better yourself or help others?  Far more can be accomplished in life when we truly draw a line in the sand and step forward without looking back rather than simply putting out toe over the line but never moving beyond it.

People can be far too quick to blame and too slow to seek responsibility.  They far too often assign fault and transfer blame as to why something cannot be accomplished rather than to seek a workable solution and ensure its implementation.  Some measure the moments of their life by counting the number of breaths they take – the number of things they accomplish or the magnitude of their success. Might not a better measure of our lives be to track the number of moments we can discover that take our breath away – the depth and breadth of our accomplishments or the impact of our relationships? Spend time during the coming “weeks at home” to immerse yourself in the beauty our region provides – the depth of the relationships we have with the families that surround us.

Though we cannot alter the reality in which we find ourselves living we can stop chasing the hands of time as they race relentlessly around the clock. The sands of time will not bury us if we become the master of our own universe by taking the time to appreciate not only where we are going but also how, when and if we chose to arrive. Stay safe during these troubled times but be practical.  Use the time you may not have wanted to accomplish things you had not previously imagined and enjoy sights, relationships and activities that you may once have made yourself too busy to recognize.  Should you add this attitude of discovery to your daily routines when life begins to return to normal, what could possibly stand in your way from reaching the realistic destinations you establish when focusing upon what you can control, influence or change.