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!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

THE ROAD TO RELEVANCE

People yearn for recognition – to contribute to the success of whatever they do – seeking to become an integral part of their organization, their relationships or their interaction with others – hoping that their ideas and opinions will help make a difference.  If we fail to establish a “case” for our inclusion by doing the same things that have always been done in “tried and true” ways that may be effective but lack innovation, we will probably be seen as important but not critical – a necessary evil or potentially an identifier of the problem but not an essential part of the solution.  The first step to relevance – to becoming integral – should start with some serious thought about the things that DO NOT create personal credibility. 

Information is rampant in today’s society.  Electronic communications, on-line searches, magazines, newsletters, trade journals (even newspapers, believe it or not) are available to anyone opening their mail or turning on their computer or subscribing to a news or information resource.  There has been a proliferation of “personal coaches” and “relationship managers” seeking individuals that can be convinced they need to be led down a narrow road to success.  The market is flooded with “self-help” books and “how to” manuals attempting to provide wisdom, experience or role models to a searching public.  With all this data, information and opinion available, why would anyone need someone to interpret the material so that it can be appropriately used?  Unfortunately, merely finding material, data or examples of how others have become successful will NOT add to personal or professional credibility in today’s information age.  In order to become integral we must help learn how to APPLY the information available in a manner that will effectively promote excellence – knowing what to use, what to minimize, what will “work” and what will not be acceptable – if we are to become relevant in our relationships.

To become a part of the solution (rather than simply an ongoing part of the problem) one must learn how to ANTICIPATE THE NEED for a solution by knowing enough about a situation to predict what might go wrong (OR what could actually “go right” and needs to be advanced).  Just “doing” your job, or filling in space and time with conversational words rarely provides the insight to become an integral partner.  One must delve deeply into the inner-workings of an operation to fully understand it – to give more than they might receive in a relationship to fully appreciate it – if he or she is to become a trusted and valued partner.  Do not recruit from a job requisition or job description – learn about the job as if YOU were going to perform it.  Do not generate policy simply because someone feels it is needed – find out why the need has been perceived and make sure the policy being requested really addresses the root cause of the problem (rather than treating an annoying or highly visible symptom).  Do not be the first to say “I am sorry” or “It was my fault” (unless that is the truth) – be honest and open with your admissions, always seeking how to fix what may have gone wrong and how to keep it from recurrence rather than assigning (or assuming) blame if you seek a sincere relationship between equals.  The first step towards “becoming integral” is to become knowledgeable of situations, environmental influences, cultural impediments and value requirements before acting.

If information, data or examples of successful behavior were all that the world needed, why would it need you?  Whenever you are asked to give advice or answer a question, ALWAYS respond in a way that adds value to the data you find and the information you give by interpreting it into something that can be understood and applied to resolve an issue recognizing the cultural, ethical and situational parameters of your audience.  This interpretation may differ depending on whom you are dealing with – be it an hourly work team, an executive management group OR a personal (or family) situation of significance – but YOUR relevance will be based upon the value you give those to whom you communicate and the RESULTS (intentional action) your advice initiates.  Since your success is often dependent upon another’s ability to implement, NEVER give information (examples or advice) and walk away.  We must equip others with the tools needed to successfully take action after identifying a path upon which they will travel if we are to be seen as effective contributors.  If we are not actively leading we must “get out of the way” so that others can succeed – we must monitor and observe (rather than telling and directing), honestly “not caring” who gets the credit as long as an appropriate solutions comes to fruition. 

In order to be seen as integral to anyone or any process we must identify root causes and seek workable (acceptable) solutions while focusing on the “ends” (as we seek to acknowledge and influence the “means”).  Information without application is like a tire without air – it may be “there” but not really useful to anyone (UNLESS you are a tire swing manufacturer or you design/install boat bumpers).  When we put air in the tire it becomes a tool.  Showing others how applying information to resolve a problem or advance an effort helps create an invaluable tool that can become a repeatable process “owned” by others (so you can move on to identify and resolve other issues or concerns).  Your investment in developing others to identify issues, apply their abilities (or expand their knowledge so their impact might increase) and initiate intentional action will provide unparalleled returns. Becoming a part of another’s solution (rather than a solution to another’s problems) will help you to gain (and retain) credibility, integrity and respect.

The road to “becoming integral” is not a path for the weak-spirited – for anyone unable (or unwilling) to interpret data, create solutions, intentionally act then measure results (and reset as necessary).  Become integral by seeking workable answers that help resolve seemingly impossible situations when implemented through intentional actions taken to make observable (sometimes unexpected) differences.  Change is not often simple – nor is it predictable – so initiating and/or contributing to it (particularly to the transformation of others) is not an easy road to travel.  Striving to MAKE a difference (rather than BEING the difference) will help you discover the path towards relevance sought by many but traveled by few.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

BOUNDARIES AND BARRIERS

What forms a boundary for you?  Is it your life experience?  Things you did (or did not do) as a child?  Your respect and reverence (OR disrespect and irreverence) for the past – for the way things have always been (or could have been different)?  Perhaps you find comfort in predictability – your actions driven by the fear of travelling down a new and unknown path – preferring to live within the secure understanding that things should be as they have always been.  Far too many people live within the confines of their “known worlds,” excusing their inability to reach beyond where they are by claiming satisfaction with “the way things are” rather than reaching for what has yet to materialize (or potentially has not yet been imagined).  Do you live inside of your boundary waters – safe from the trouble and turmoil of life and everyone or everything that is different from you – or do you live seek to experience life as it could be rather than as it is?  Might you face stagnation in your life if your waters rarely flow from here to there – becoming nothing but a catch basin for ideas entering your universe but never letting them pass through or move on?  Without a constant flow of water – in with the new and out with the old – life will eventually die.  Unless we continually refresh the boundary waters of our minds, our hopes, dreams and aspirations will also wither and die – yet the delicate balance between holding on and moving on must be intentionally addressed to ensure our success.  When is “holding on” too much and when might “letting go” be too drastic?  We must learn from our past AND our present if we are to build a dynamic future.

We sometimes steep ourselves in heritage, immerse ourselves in history and surround ourselves with the accomplishments of those who came before us as we seek safe passage through life upon a trail that was blazed for us.  Our safety and comfort, however, should we choose the path well-traveled may come at the expense of meeting people new to us and accomplishing things not yet considered possible.  Though we may find peace and tranquility when drifting upon calm waters that have been contained by the limitations established by the efforts of others, should we intentionally release our boundary waters by opening the floodgates and stepping out of the basin built by others – turning from what we are towards what has yet to be considered – the possibilities that we might discover are limitless.  We do not need to eliminate the dam that holds our waters back but we do need to allow a flow of thoughts and ideas to escape from our pond to minimize stagnation.  We do not need to build new bridges each time we face a difficult task but we do need to seek alternative ways to span our troubled waters lest we find ourselves captive within the tributaries meant to keep others out.

People should cherish tradition yet continually seek new and better ways to do things (that may become someone else’s tradition in the future) if they wish to move beyond their current realities to accept new possibilities.  Tradition can be the basis for action taken but should never become a destination in and of itself.  Far too many individuals hide within the richness of their traditions, holding on to the past rather than reaching out for their future.  We must determine the course that sets our direction – that defines the ultimate destination to which our paths may lead – by considering those that came before us while bringing to fruition the reality that sets the stage for those who will follow.

One must continually give in order to gain.  While knowing we often receive back much more than we give, such a return should be a bonus rather than an expectation.  We should, however, be prepared to give more than we ever imagined possible when seeking more than we thought might be attainable should we choose to step beyond the boundaries (and barriers) of an established and comfortable past into the unlimited world of future possibilities.  The greatest possibilities that have yet to be accomplished in our lives arise from expanding our current reality into an unlimited tomorrow by applying the lessons we have learned from every action we have taken towards the resolution of problems not yet defined or fully realized.  As we let loose the boundary waters to flood beyond our surroundings into the spillways of life we will be exposed to opportunities previously beyond our imaginations and possibilities never before considered.  Only when we identify our potential will we be able to realize it – when we look past the pages that have been written in our book of life towards a future without rhyme, reason (or restriction) – will we be able to accomplish all that life holds for us.  Only when we tap into our boundary waters and release them to feed and nurture the ideas around us will great things begin to happen – will the fruits of our labor bring to fruition those things in our lives we previously chose not to accept or refused to imagine as being possible.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

IS YOUR LIFE A CONTINUUM OF THINGS DONE OR A REALIZATION OF THINGS NOT YET CONSIDERED?


In living life we can choose to follow the crowd and do what others want and expect us to do OR we can forge our own way to find what lies beyond the horizon.  We can care about others or we can care about ourselves.  We can acknowledge the efforts put forth by others or we can claim their results as our own.  We can choose to make possible all things or we can accept all things as being possible but fail to act thereby minimizing the probability that anything other than what is will ever be.  Unless we establish a destination before beginning our journey, how can we hope to differentiate between what is possible, impossible, or extremely tough to accomplish – for without vision, planning and focused work, what dream can become reality?   

Can we move beyond “safe” if we prefer to travel upon the easy and tested path?  When we choose to live within our comfortable surroundings or our familiar environment, how can we ever move from our present reality to our potential reward?  Until we risk more than others think is safe, how can we expect to accomplish more than others think possible?  We tend to get from life no more than we expect so those refusing to establish goals for fear of failure will ultimately fail from a lack of hope or promise.  We may not be seen as failing if we choose not to set specific goals BUT how can we realize success without first determining what we wish to accomplish?  How will you know when you have arrived if you have never thought about where you are going (though you will never be lost if you do not know where you are going)?  How can you expect to succeed if you choose not to identify (or expect) success? 

What wisdom is there in putting ourselves first – in trying to advance ourselves at the expense of others when others have situations that are much more in need of advancement?  While we should not seek to eliminate our shortcomings or address the shortfalls of others without expecting some sort of personal investment, is it not wise to grow from our own investments and teach others how to lift themselves up so we will not have to care for them forever?  What greater gift can we give another than self-sufficiency and worth as it elevates them while allowing us to be lifted as we improve the world around us?

How can we move beyond our present reality without first dreaming about what could be possible as we move away from what we know towards what has not yet been considered?  Life is practical – filled with actions that result in reactions and causes that necessarily bring effects.  Rather than simply living life and accepting what comes as all that could ever be, allow yourself to live out the promise of your dreams as you intentionally plan and act to bring them to fruition.  Replace the hollow satisfaction derived when we chase after hopes of others with the fulfillment that comes from forging our own path as we seek to realize our own potential.

Unless we recognize that what we have accomplished is not all that we will ever do – that what we have realized is but the beginning of what we might hope to achieve – we will never become more than what we already are.  Unless we identify what we want, what we hope to do and where we want to be – then act intentionally to move towards the fulfillment of these dreams and aspirations, how can we expect to accomplish anything other than what another has envisioned or assigned?  Knowing what to do and when to do it may meet the minimum requirements of life or accomplish the assigned objectives of others but what might YOU do differently (or be free to act and accomplish on your own) if released from the chains of propriety or the boundaries created by the expectations and direction of others? 

What dream have you shut down – closed the door upon – because you preferred to “live life safely” or chose NOT to “rock the boat” as it might interfere with your defined (and comfortable) sense of reality?  Rather than looking upon life as a continuum of things done and accomplished, perhaps it might be more fulfilling if we were to define our current (short-term) success by the things we have achieved while determining our value by the number of opportunities that have yet to be resolved and establishing our worth by transforming our possibilities into a reality upon which we can continue to build.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Reflections on Advancement and Achievement


One cannot be successful if he or she strives simply to maintain their position in life rather than striving to grow.  Employees cannot do only what has been assigned – meeting only the minimum expectations - if success and fulfillment are desired.  A relationship can survive but will rarely thrive unless someone is willing to put the other’s needs first – having faith that an equal and opposite reaction will fill their own needs to overflowing. 

Spring ushers new life into a previously frozen world but we rarely experience a renewal of hope without first enduring the potential flooding that thaws and rains may bring to our otherwise dry and predictable lives.  In order to reach the possibilities that are before us we must continually renew our own expectations by identifying and nurturing our dreams of “what could be” rather than accepting and being content within the complacency of “what is.”  We must fully accept that nothing is impossible if we are to re-imagine our lives – that no obstacle or barrier can keep us from reaching our destination – UNLESS we allow our own feelings of self-doubt (or importance) to get in our way.  We must recognize that there are four factors in life that can easily disrupt our journey – four self-defeating attitudes can keep us from reaching our full potential.  In order to thrive we must learn to identify how these factors influence our lives and look beyond the short-term satisfaction they may bring to accomplish more than we may ever have imagined possible.

It is “human” to bask in the glory of our accomplishments and accept “what is” as being “what will always be.”  It is an indicator of advancement when we recognize that all we have done is but the beginning of what we have yet to do.  Getting a job and doing all that you were told was once the primary factor in keeping a job for life.  That is no longer the simple solution within today’s world.  An engineer or HR Professional will not survive without updating his or her understanding of current systems or laws.  A production worker probably cannot be blind to automation and statistical process control techniques.  No relationship can grow without seeking new opportunities to share – new paths to explore – for without an overriding destination our journey will stall and our opportunities slip through our fingers.  Individuals who refuse to know anything other than what they have learned in the past typically fail to grow as their experiences of “what once worked” will not prepare them for an unknown future.  When one stops learning they tend to fade away and die.

One can survive by efficiently doing all they are asked or told to do but he or she will never truly thrive unless their efforts exceed expectations by producing results that are mutually beneficial to all involved.  Growth results from the expansion of one’s experience and capabilities rather than an effective utilization of their demonstrated skills and abilities.  We can efficiently express our thoughts and ideas by using an e-mail or texting someone but a conversation could more effectively resolve an issue without extensive (and time consuming) “replies and clarifications.”  Much can be learned by listening to tones, inflections and observing mannerisms during a conversation that may never have been considered when looking at “the written word.”  A recent State Farm Insurance marketing campaign demonstrates how different inflection can create a totally different meaning as the owner of a car that was vandalized says “This cannot be happening to me!” in misery and dis-belief while a daughter receiving a new car says the same statement with enthusiasm and excitement.  The same can be said of our actions.  We can appear to be busy as we do the tasks that have been assigned by stretching them out to fill the time we have OR we can act with a sense of urgency to accomplish what is needed allowing us the time to seek what else could be done.  Individuals advance in all aspects of their lives when they fully embrace the time they have been given to achieve not only those things that need to be done but to also identify and clarify those things that have yet to be accomplished while leveraging their proven abilities to realize unexpected consequences.

An individual who believes they are irreplaceable will probably never be replaced – NOR will they be given the opportunity to grow.  One cannot move forward unless (and until) someone else can do what they alone have been able to accomplish in the past.  We cannot advance to the next level in our job, relationship or anything else in life until we are willing to leave where we were comfortable by climbing towards the next plateau – by leaving behind that which makes us seem irreplaceable as we boldly move ahead to seize that which could provide us with a new sense of relevance.  If an individual bases their importance on feeling that nobody could do what he or she does, that person has unknowingly accepted a self-imposed limitation on his or her future growth (and ultimate satisfaction).  If nobody else can do what you do – as well as you feel you can do it – then you never will have the time to do anything other than what you have assumed as your singular and indispensable role.   Individuals who believe they are “critical” or “singularly essential” within their limited and specialized role do not foster growth, rather they reinforce stagnation, tend to accept mediocrity, and rarely rise beyond their current level of accomplishment. 

People who believe they know all the answers rarely even know half of the right questions.  Individuals that know how (and what) to question are much more valuable than those who feel they know all the answers.  One must always be open to new ideas, techniques, and ways of doing things in order to grow – and this openness to consider other avenues or solutions does not come from isolationist thinking or shutting out different ways of thinking about things.  One can truly contribute to the growth, health or potential of any situation ONLY after establishing that change is at least wanted (even if not yet fully welcome), identifying and discussing the positives (and limitations) of the current environment, recognizing the benefits and ramifications of doing things differently before initiating intentional actions to move the process forward.  Imposing such drastic change based on one’s personal knowledge, abilities or experiences may be efficient but learning to ask the right questions that identify concerns, objections and hesitancies (be they real or imagined) will help accomplish lasting and positive change by engaging all involved in the development of an effective solution.

Do not take success, achievement or advancement for granted.  Take the time to plan where you are going, think about how you will get there, and maintain an open mind that is free from self-imposed barriers, limitations or obstacles along the way.  Today will never become tomorrow but it does become yesterday when tomorrow comes.  Looking back instead of ahead, remaining content with the “what is” rather than seeking “what could be,” and doing what works rather than what might work better are signs of terminal stagnation – often leading to frustration due to a perceived lack of opportunity, accusations that “someone else” is preventing you from advancing and elimination of any hope that one’s individual efforts could ever result in positive change.  When we plan our advancement by reflecting on the past and the present – considering the accomplishments of those who came before us and the contributions of those currently around us – we will be able to reach our goals by defeating the attitudes that would otherwise hold us back.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

SEASONS OF CHANGE


Why is it that so many people “live for today” rather than planning for tomorrow?  Why do they live in the past rather than chasing their dreams of a brighter future?  What comfort can be taken in things that have already been “said and done” knowing that closing the door to those things not yet imagined only traps us in a world holding no new experiences and having no opportunities to grow?  Sadly – particularly to those living within the comfort of their present reality – today will never be tomorrow but it cannot escape becoming yesterday when tomorrow, no longer the future, becomes today.

Many individuals view work as being their “beginning and their end.”  While paid activities may not have started as being a reason for living, the daily tasks, responsibilities and accomplishments that we immerse ourselves in can become more important to us than relationships, activities or travel.  Work is somehow predictable and rewarding.  It provides a venue in which we can excel (or at least contribute) and thrive (or, at a minimum, survive) without unexpected or unanticipated roadblocks altering our paths or activities.  Routine can be comforting to many – knowing what to do, what to expect and what to anticipate is somehow reassuring to those seeking the satisfaction of being a contributor (rather than an initiator) and accepted (rather than questioned or feared).  Individuals having achieved a measure of success and recognition in their past (athletes, public figures, industrial leaders, politicians) – particularly if they are not motivated to grow beyond the success they once achieved by identifying and developing a different strength or aptitude – are great examples of this sense of acceptance.  One of life’ greatest travesties can be seen when an athlete leaves school early for his or her shot at professional sports then has no “fallback career” when the window of opportunity slams shut.  These gifted entertainers live for today based on the skills and abilities they nurtured yesterday but often give very little thought about tomorrow (which, unfortunately, becomes today sooner than they could have ever realized).

People once grew for a season, learned for a season, worked for a season then retired to rest for the last season of their lives.  During the season of growth, children identified their strengths so they could be developed (and their weaknesses so they could be bolstered or avoided).  They sought interests and areas they liked before having to focus upon one or two paths that might ultimately lead to the realization of their dreams.  The season of growth was never meant to be lived in – only to be passed through on the road towards the season of learning.

Individuals went to school, work or the military to hone and develop the skills they developed during their youth.  The season of learning allowed people to experiment in a “safe environment” before having to utilize their abilities to earn a living or support a family.  Socialization, the widening and paving of paths discovered as a child and the crystallization of goals came together to help individuals spring from their “today” as they ventured into tomorrow – to build careers, become successful and “make their mark on the world.”  Though some might hold onto this season by augmenting their experience with lifelong learning, many built their castles upon the foundation of learning as they sought the security of a season of work.

Work, a season starting as a necessary means to accomplish a desired end, has been fed by ambition and nurtured by a sense of comparison to others (rather than a measure of what each individual might be able to contribute and accomplish individually).  The season of work has provided wealth, growth, sustenance, recognition and success for many – allowing individuals to identify areas in which the strengths identified as children and nurtured through learning are able to be applied to give them internal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.  These achievers rarely feel they are working in this season as they love what they do and either plan for a season of rest OR intentionally seek to avoid ever tasting such a time.  Others have found work to be a “necessary evil” rather than an enjoyable release.  They seek an escape from their season of work rather than an elevation into more responsible and rewarding levels.  They often perform as they are told (rather than fully utilizing their skill sets) and do what needs to be done (rather than what COULD be done).  Regardless of an individual’s perspective, the season of work eventually comes to an end so that we can enter the season of rest (either with open arms or with trepidation).

If an individual has successfully “lived for tomorrow” rather than being content with today – has moved from their past by developing their strengths to make a difference in whatever was accomplished – each day in the season of rest may become but a step of the ladder as one continues to climb towards their future.  An individual who was content with “today” during his or her season of work may find themselves living in yesterday’s world rather than identifying and reaching future goals.  The season of rest may become one of disenchantment – wishing for something that was never to be since no planning was ever done to make it a reality. 

Though today cannot become tomorrow, yesterday will never be forgotten if we build upon the skills identified in our youth to enhance our abilities as we learn that can be applied as we work so that we can rest having made a difference to all around us. 


“Live for Today?”  I think not…for tomorrow will soon come and I will dwell but for a moment within each passing day as I move constantly from yesterday towards a not-yet-realized future…

Friday, January 5, 2018

GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO (PLAN AS THEY) WAIT…

People used to work hard for most of their lives before stepping aside to enjoy the fruits of their labor in a seemingly short period of retirement.  They gladly left others to fill the void their absence created – seeking the time to do what they wanted to do rather than what they had to do.  Health insurance, an inexpensive benefit meant to prevent financial disaster caused by a serious health condition, was readily available at a reasonable cost upon retirement.  Designed to provide a source of income that would “give back” the money workers put into it to augment the responsibilities families shared with their aging relatives, Social Security became the primary resource for many aging individuals.  Employees fortunate enough to receive a pension while working often entered retirement with the thought of “living high” rather than of simply “getting by.”  Others planned to fund their golden years using equity from their home.  People focused more on “when” retirement was going to happen than “if” it could ever occur – rarely thinking about what they would do to fill their days.  Unfortunately, many live life "hoping for" a pot of gold at the end of their rainbow, seeking a hidden treasure buried within the caverns of their minds, rather than working to create a fulfilling life that can be supported and maintained through intentional planning.

Today, things have changed.  More workers are leaving the workforce than are entering it.  Family is taking a diminished role in caring for its aging members, often relying upon facilities that can provide appropriate medical care rather than putting their life on hold to help a relative in need.   Healthcare Insurance provides cradle to grave coverage for all conditions (or potential conditions – or lifestyle choices made to improve their perceived quality of life) but is so expensive that it is hard to pay premiums when no “condition” exists and harder yet to pay for unanticipated consequences should a major illness occur.  Our social welfare system takes care of individuals in ways that family and/or churches once did – with the responsibility to finance these services resting upon a minority of the population to support an ever-increasing majority of individuals choosing to leave the workplace.  Our Social Security safety net is no longer sustainable yet the meager funds available seem to be ear-marked for those that contributed least while disqualifying from benefits those that contributed most (since they probably saved individually for their own retirement rather than expecting some other entity to take care of them).  People COGNITIVELY understand that saving early in life for retirement makes sense yet few young people have the PRACTICAL ABILITY to begin saving when they really should – either because they feel invincible OR they cannot afford to save because of the high price of living and the relatively low available income stream.

Are YOU planning (and saving) for retirement or are you expecting a system that faces bankruptcy to care for you?  A recent survey found that the average retirement-aged American worker has savings of less than $50,000. Though housing prices are going up right now, and home equity is still seen as a source of retirement income, people are living independently longer so appreciated home value may or may not be available when needed to help fund retirement.  While the cost of living is relatively stable, the economy is precarious enough that a single “pebble” of economic or political unrest dropped into the sea in which we live could potentially cause a tidal wave that could destroy our unsuspecting shore.  While the best option for retirement savings would be to put as much away as possible from an early age, most do not truly begin saving until their mid- to late-forties.  There is no time, however, that is “bad” for beginning as long as we focus on the end we wish to achieve and take intentional and measured action to attain the security that comes with financial independence.  Take advantage of your organization’s retirement plan match (if one is available) to maximize your contributions and talk to your Plan Administrator to utilize investment options that “fit” your risk tolerance (how much you are willing to lose in the short run in order to maximize your gains in the long run).  We must think, anticipate, prepare, initiate, monitor and test everyday as we perform at work.  Unless individuals use the same perspective when taking on the responsibility for their own future they may find themselves woefully unprepared to enjoy the opportunities that a “different” lifestyle presents.

What are you relying on to help cushion your landing should you choose to escape the regularity of your work world and venture into the uncharted waters of retirement?  Are you preparing for the future or sitting passively on the sidelines waiting for life to happen?  Are you planning what you will do with the time you may have available if you do not adhere to a structured schedule?  We all have been “important” to others while working – fulfilling a vital need, supporting a necessary process, contributing to the success of others – what are you doing about filling that “satisfaction” void that many face when they leave the workforce EVEN IF they are financially prepared?  Most would say that “stepping aside” is never easy.  Having a sound plan as to how you will make yourself FEEL whole and a well-funded retirement nest egg that will provide financial peace of mind as you open a new chapter in your book of life will determine whether you begin your new adventure having a “golden goose” to support you or discovering that your “goose has been cooked,” providing you with short-term support but NOT the long-term comfort you had imagined.  Having fiscal peace, though important, is not enough.  Plan ways that you can continue to make a difference BEFORE you retire so that you can maintain the sense of value and worth you receive during your days of obligation at work throughout your days of opportunity beyond the work environment.

Friday, December 22, 2017

ARISE AND AWAKEN - KNOW WHAT (AND WHEN) IS ENOUGH


Everyone comes to a fork in the road – a place in life where they say “no more” while seeking “no less.”  They realize that life cannot continue at the insane pace we tend to pursue – that running towards a goal must be more important than running from something – but that both become equally important when we allow fear and emotion to drive our decisions.  We eventually (and inevitably) run into a wall when our dreams for the future are met equally (and convincingly) by our memories of the past – locking us firmly into a “present” that is not growing, fulfilling or likely to change. 

Some might say that “when we quit learning, growing or changing we die.”  Perhaps it would be better to simply say “ENOUGH” and move on without fighting, crying or struggling – without senselessly holding on to what we have (particularly that which does not contribute to our own or other’s growth) by over-valuing what has been (using our past accomplishments as destinations rather than foundations) rather than seeking what has not yet been revealed (looking over our shoulder to where we have been instead of ahead to where we wish to go).  When you quiet your soul and vanquish your fears – calm your apprehensions and begin to recognize that the light at the end of the tunnel into which you have entered may not be a train coming at you but rather a beacon leading you towards a dream that has yet to be realized – you enter into a new world of possibilities that sees life 
through a lens of “what could be” as an achievable alternative to “what has always been.”

We all awaken to a time we realize that our hoping for someone to give us something we do not have must stop – that we can no longer wait for change to “just happen” or happiness, safety and security to be waiting for our discovery around the next corner.  We must consciously and intentionally act to initiate change.  We must come to terms with the reality we all have strengths (and weaknesses) as well as beauty (and warts) – that nobody can (without intentional thoughts and actions) live like “Prince Charming” or “Cinderella” waiting to find or discover happiness in which to live ever after.  We must realize that life cannot be a fairy tale unless (and until) we recognize that peace and serenity is born through an acknowledgement of our own imperfections and an acceptance of the imperfections of others.  Once we awaken to realize that life must necessarily be an ever-melding mix of hopes, dreams, accomplishments and expectations – a fluid state of flux rather than a static state of entitlement – we can cast off the chains that hold us back so we can reach out to grasp the lifelines that will pull us forward.

As we travel through life we realize that people do not always say what they mean or mean what they say – that not everyone will always be there for us (though someone or a group of trusted individuals WILL BE if we allow it) nor is life ever “all about you and you alone.”  We must learn to stand on our own and take care of ourselves – building safety and security through our self-reliance (which, unlike an island, cannot truly survive life’s storms without external support).  We must stop complaining about other people and blaming them for things they may have done, instead looking to undo what we ourselves may not have done and learning that the only certainty we can count on is the unexpected entering our lives.  We must stop judging and pointing fingers and start accepting others as they are – overlooking their shortcomings and accepting their human frailties – if we are ever to accept ourselves as being similarly fragile and equally as imperfect while striving to grow and succeed.

We view ourselves (and the world around us) through a filter born of the messages and opinions ingrained in us throughout our childhood then reinforced by the successes or failures – the acceptances or rejections – we have experienced as adults.  Only when we begin to sift through the “junk” we have been fed about how to behave, what to wear, how to act and what to value – to determine what is real and important to us rather than reaching towards what was expected to be valued and significant for us by others – will we learn to open ourselves up to new worlds and different points of view.  We cannot begin to reassess and redefine who we are and what we really stand for until we recognize that our individuality is shaped by both external influences and internal desires, and that we must come to own what we can initiate and accept what we cannot change before we can move forward in life.

As we awaken to the possibilities of life we begin to learn the difference between wanting and needing – discarding the doctrines and values we have outgrown or should never accepted to begin with as we follow our hearts, instincts and consciences.  We learn that it is truly in giving that we will receive – that we can discover fulfillment and accomplishment through our creating and contributing ONLY if we stop maneuvering through life as a consumer long enough to recognize that creation and consumption are distinctly different paths leading towards opposing and conflicting objectives.  We must learn the differences between guilt and responsibility to thrive.  We must learn the importance of setting boundaries and knowing when to say “no” when necessary rather than always saying “yes” for when we extend ourselves beyond what we are capable by doing to relieve the pressure on those around us we may actually stifle the growth of others while reducing our own ability to try (initiate or master) new things.

In the depths of our confusion when we find ourselves at an inexplicable fork in the road we come to realize that, for the most part, we get from life what we believe we deserve (whether that be good or bad) and that much of life is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In order to achieve success we need to believe that success is probable (or at least possible).  We must recognize that anything worth achieving is worth working for – and that wishing for something to happen is far different than working towards making it happen.  In order to initiate change we need to identify a destination we wish to achieve, establish a direction we will travel, then exhibit discipline and perseverance to stay on track.  Before embarking upon a journey of change, however, it is important that we recognize nobody can do everything alone and it is OK to ask for help (and not a weakness of shortcoming to accept it) as we move forward.

When feel that an impossibly large load has been dumped in front of us in life – that there is no reasonable or realistic way to get around the obstacle in front of us – we may come to realize life is not always “fair.”  We do not always get what we think we deserve and sometimes bad things truly do happen to good people.  We must learn to fight for what we want in life, however, rather than living under a cloud of impending doom if we hope to understand that fear of failure is not the only impediment to our growth – that a fear of success (and the unknown that accompanies it) may be an equally binding tie that binds us where we are, keeping us from moving towards what we could become.

We all awaken to a new dawn each day we rise.  If we are to make the most from the days we are given we must learn from our failures rather than allowing ourselves to be buried by them.  When we face life with and attitude of “Why Not?” rather than wallowing in one of “Why Me?” we seek the path leading towards the “what might be possible” rather than settling for “what is and will never change.”  When we courageously live our lives “as they could be” rather than being content to find comfort in “what they are” we will find ourselves awakened to a world of possibilities.  Share your world with those around you so that you all may gain and grow through your independent and intentional discoveries.