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!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

REALIZE YOUR REALITY

Some people sleep without dreaming and awaken rested.  Others dream while sleeping and awaken inspired.  Dreams are important as they allow us to visualize what we wish to accomplish before we begin a new journey or even expect anything different than we already do to happen.  Life based on the premise that what “is” will never change is not seeking all that living might offer but rather concealing what we can offer by hiding our potential as we hold on to only what has been experienced.  How can light be shed into the darkness if we are content to live within the four walls of our present reality being afraid to open even the windows to enter the world of possibilities?

Some (particularly those afraid or unwilling to learn from failure) live by the axiom that setting low expectations will keep them from ever experiencing failure or being disappointed with less than stellar results.  They live life by meandering aimlessly upon roads developed by others that typically are the straightest path from here to there as they avoid unexpected detours or excursions.  They find comfort and security in the things that they know (and have seen) work – that may not bring the BEST results but have been proven to lead to a result that satisfies minimal needs.  Those setting low expectations – fearing the pain of failure more than anticipating the rewards of success – may survive in life but will rarely experience the thrill of victory (OR the agony of defeat) as they exist within a world of getting by and making due rather than being exceptional and initiating change.   While usually accomplishing that which is expected and predictable, they will rarely thrive or achieve their full potential. 

We de-energize our relationships when we focus upon the shortcomings of others.  When we pull others down – highlighting their deficiencies in an effort to elevate ourselves – we may rise to the top of a pool of mediocrity but will rarely reach the pinnacle of individual success to which we can pull others with us.  How can we expect our accomplishments to be maximized if we focus upon what could go wrong rather than trying to identify alternative paths or directions that might provide better results?  Rather than seeing failure as a destination that should be avoided at all costs (or exploited for personal gain should others experience it), perhaps much could be gained by viewing it as a springboard to success.  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.

Accepting that our own (or another individual’s) weaknesses are insurmountable results in our believing failure is inevitable – a probability – or at least an acceptable end result.  If, however, we acknowledge deficiencies as bumps in the road, relentlessly moving forward as we seek to accomplish our dreams – refusing to accept a disruption in our expectations as an “end game” to our efforts – we will find new ways to make things happen.  Destiny becomes an unreachable reality only when we allow ourselves to be limited by a lack of expectations and a fear of failure. 

We all have a past comprised of actions taken, relationships forged and things accomplished.  We all have a present comprised of the things we choose to do and relationships we work to maintain.  The future, however, is defined by what we allow ourselves to accept as our destiny.  If our purpose is based on the things we have done and the memories of what we once had, we limit ourselves to a life already lived – our potential defined by what we have already experienced.  If, however, our future is defined by the dreams and expectations expressed within the pages of a book not yet written – if we live within the premise that all we have done, all we have accomplished and all we currently have is but a premonition to what might yet remain to be discovered in our lives – our possibilities will remain pathways to a reality limited only by our blind acceptance of those things we accept as truth or the beliefs we accept as unalterable.  Our dreams become reality when we anticipate and expect rather than simply holding thoughts tightly within the privacy of our individual hearts...when we awaken to accept the probability of things once considered to be but a distant possibility...when we actively follow the paths once hidden beneath the sands of time and imagination.  It is ONLY THEN that we will realize our reality as we become all we were meant to be (rather than remaining what we have become or continually reliving what we once were).

Thursday, July 15, 2021

REAL CHANGE MUST BE INTENTIONAL

 They arrive at a crossroad…

Looking back to see how their past had unfolded...

Looking ahead towards a future not yet defined.

     Increasingly tired of their struggles within a thankless world…

They sought a solitary path that would lead towards truth…

An obscure trail that would carry them to a brighter future... 

Deliberately they turned, tentatively moving forward into a vast unknown…

Leaving behind the comfort and security their past provided…

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 – particularly if our success leaves us feeling empty?  What makes us wander from “the familiar” in search of unknown challenges, opportunities and destinations?   There comes a time in life that we all reflect upon what we have done, what we are doing and (often) seek different ways of doing things and alternative destinations as we determine what is really valuable – what is real – in our lives...resolving to change in ways that will allow us more free time, “true” success or more relevant and tangible rewards.  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 and what we wish to achieve (one cannot do the same things they have always done NOR value the same things they have always valued if different results and/or rewards are expected).

 Everyone desires success (though success cannot be granted to or bestowed upon 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 assume our market share (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 option).  We must actively appraise the things we do AND why we do them (both in our work and our personal relationships), constantly adjusting, revising and changing at least the “how” (if not the “why) we do them if we wish to remain vibrant and relevant.  By continuously analyzing our strengths and weaknesses, identifying those that hold us back and enhancing those that pull us forward, we will remain significant to ourselves and to those around us.  Recognizing that the only constant in life is change should allow us to accept the possibility of failure (and the learning it brings) as long as we accept the premise that success does not germinate from frantic movement without direction or purpose.  In order to move forward we must occasionally stop what we are doing so we can start something else.

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

  •  We must acknowledge where we have been, recognize what we have done, and desire 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 – that time has kept moving forward while we have remained steadfastly planted in one place – we must leave our original path to discover one that will allow us to refocus and redirect our efforts as we seek a new and different objective.
  • 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.  While identifying what must be done to create meaningful change, paths (and methods) needing abandonment 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 – to speak freely and openly while actively listening to hear what is being said by the other? When one arrives at a crossroad, life can either stagnate at the dead end or proceed in a different direction, at a different pace and seek an alternative objective.  An intentional decision to change is required to initiate a change in course. 

  • 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 responsible for the success we have experienced.  Everyone can celebrate a “peak of accomplishment” in their past.  Far too many of us, however, choose to dwell within the quiet valleys that provide shelter from the wind while gazing up at our past accomplishments.  In order to realize meaningful change we should continue doing the things that raised us to our heights, discard those that brought us to our knees and seek new paths that will lead us to new discoveries.

We must alter more than our outward appearance if we expect our life to change 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.  In order to realize change we must continually take stock of what we are doing and where we are going – then intentionally seek paths that will lead us from complacency to discovery...from stagnation to new relationships and opportunities. We must fully define our present (from which we will be moving forward) and acknowledge our past (both the wins and the losses) so that we can put aside those things that hold us back and embrace those ideals that would allow us to change if we harbor any expectation of creating a future that is different than what we have always done or what we are currently doing.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

DOES PRIDE HELP SOLVE PROBLEMS OR IS IT PURELY PROBLEMATIC?


Pride becomes a driver as insecure leaders seek to bring to fruition their internal perceptions by de-valuing the thoughts and ideas of others.  Selfless actions can become the impetus for monumental change if performed unconditionally without anticipation or expectation of personal recognition or reward.  Those who act selflessly in their pursuit of success will almost always become great leaders that receive (without asking) support from those they lead.  Those that pursue success through their self-serving (and depreciating) acts may become adequate managers but rarely will they lead.

One can be morally and ethically strong when they act with selfless sincerity.  When driven by the whims of pride it is much easier to display moral and ethical weakness to those around you as your drivers are to attain status, recognition or wealth rather than respect, trust and value.  We tend to become more like those with whom we choose to associate than those we might wish to be as we reflect the actions, values and perspectives of those around us (even though we may keep the attitudes we might wish to portray hidden deeply within the shadows).  

Pride can destroy relationships.  When one loves (or finds great comfort in) him- or herself there is often very little room left for anyone else.  The feeling of self-advancement caused by caring for “number one” can cloud what might be an obvious choice – blurring an otherwise clear decision or directive that would benefit the whole as much as the individual.  When one puts the needs of others first when making decisions, even a good idea (which may not be the “best” solution) can be provide exceptional results due to the support and invested interest it receives from stakeholders.  When pride elevates the desires of “one” above the needs of others, failure becomes not a matter of “if” but rather of “when.”

Strong, unselfish leaders learn how to resolve what they can, recognize what is beyond their personal capabilities, and seek help (with humility) when initiating change that could be beyond their personal control.  When a leader focuses more on results than worrying about who receives the credit, great things can happen. When an individual focuses on “...what is in it for ME?” rather than on “...what is in it for US?” the focus becomes prideful, selfish (AND ineffective).

Prideful leaders: 

  • Devalue the work and efforts of others
  • Claim individual ownership of the team’s results
  • Consistently puts his or her own welfare ahead of their team’s
  • Have difficulty hearing others when they make suggestions or try to initiate change as they are typically speaking rather than listening
  • Think they “know everything,” failing to see the need to “learn anything new” or acknowledge the wisdom, experience or ideas of others
  • Will begin to spiral towards obsolescence once they feel they have “arrived,” unless they continue to seek life’s lessons from the people, places and things around them needed to grow
  • Use deferral is an ally – if unable to shift fault to others they often remain silent (as if nothing had happened) or excuse a mistake as being a decision based on bad information
  • Find it hard to say, “Thank you” or “I am sorry” (as they are not truly grateful to acknowledge another’ contributions and reticent to admit to their own mistakes) 
  • Do not feel compelled to move onward, upward, or forward.  They are often so content with “what is” they could care less about “what could be.” 
  • Often feel and act as though “above” the rules (which obviously control, apply to or were developed to control someone else). 

 Unselfish leaders: 

  • Act with consistency and reasonableness – treating everyone equitably based upon their contributions to the whole (as opposed to equally where everyone is the considered to be the same) 
  • Speak with sincerity when giving directions, suggestions or comments – taking the time to explain not only the “what” but also the “why” of each request 
  • Explain both the rewards of accomplishment and the results of failure – then help those working for them discover the road to success
  • Allow themselves to be lifted “up the ladder” upon the outstretched hands of those around them rather than “climbing over them as if they were the rungs of a ladder on the way to the top”
  • Watch and listen attentively to others, acting appropriately upon what is seen and heard...willing to accept responsibility for decisions, change their mind when conditions change and give others the same ability to learn from their mistakes
  • Give credit when it is due and provide guidance when change is required. 
  • Accept blame for the mistakes for which they are ultimately responsible
  • Help others learn from (rather than being destroyed for) their mistakes
  • Recognize that the growth of a group or organization...of a relationship...is an end-goal rather than simply a step on the way towards self-fulfillment.
If you claim individual credit or responsibility for the things that “go right” while shifting the blame for shortcomings or deflecting criticism towards others as an excuse for mistakes you may find yourself alone at the top – standing precariously upon the unwilling backs of those you stepped over while rising.  If you speak softly as you act loudly – praise generously while accepting accolades reluctantly – you will find yourself pulling others with you as you achieve all that you can by becoming all that you hope to be.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Life Goes Softly…


Life is a gift but we often feel we should be able to hold it in our own hands, unwrap it whenever we want and play selfishly with it so that we might find gain without ever feeling or experiencing pain.  Anyone can steer a ship through a calm sea but it takes a master to find safety within a storm.  While life provides us with a plethora of opportunities, it also gives us just as many challenges  It allows us to feel great joy and promise but also can leave us feeling insignificant and meaningless.  We tend to compartmentalize both our thinking and our potential when we focus upon how many breaths we are given in life or try to understand why breath may have been taken away from those we love far too soon (often selfishly questioning why it has been allowed to continue in others we may not so fully embrace).  We must recognize that unless (and until) we open up our horizon to a world of possibilities rather than focusing upon our (perceived) undeserved suffering, inequity or unfairness we will be unable to find moments that (in a good way) take our breath away. 

Life can be full of both happiness and grief – both the beauty of the Creator and the loss that accompanies His creation’s departure.  When we take time to recognize the surroundings in which we live we can see incomparable power in the mountains, rivers, lakes and oceans...the peaceful silence that a forest provides...the support that a close friend or partner might give to us yet we will also experience the hollow feelings that a broken friendship, a shattered dream or one’s unexpected death can leave behind.  Throughout the pandemic’s disruption we were brought to the heights of this world when a loved one’s sickness was overcome yet brought to our knees when one far too young or significant to us may have been taken away. 

As humans, we have an issue of control – wanting to control all things that touch our lives so that we can have what we want when we want it.  As a point of reality, we must recognize those things we can control, those things that are out of our control, and seek the wisdom to know the difference.  It is during these times of hope – of a return to what we might consider normal as the pandemic draws to a close – that many are haunted by things they do not understand nor seem able to control. We can become overcome by grief or loss that was not expected and unexplainably left our lives empty or shattered.  As life goes softly, fulfilling its course and validating its purpose, we must think about not only what is happening but why it might be occurring in our otherwise ordered and structured lives.  We must learn to seek the good – perhaps even try to find the good within each unexpected bad thing that might happen – yet realizing that as life goes softly by us it can leave a path of destruction in its wake.  We cannot see its winds, we can only feel them and experience what has been left behind as we move forward.  Sometimes, when we reflect, we can sense life’s winds touching our faces and, if we truly take the time to understand those things we can control and accept the reality of those that we cannot, might actually feel the breath of the night as it passes.  That is the intent of this poem – to step back so you might take time to be one with yourself AND your world...written out of thoughts and memories of sorrow but recognizing that life truly goes softly as we move forward through it. 

The Breath of the Night…

She came lightly upon the breath of the night…

            Dancing with reckless abandon across the meadows of my mind…

                        Flying carelessly through the shadows of my soul…

            Seeking only to bring joy to those who would know her…

Sharing herself freely with any who might care.

 

She came lightly upon the breath of the night…

            Lighting but for a moment before moving on…

                        Touching down but long enough to hint of her presence…

            Leaving those who missed her searching for meaning…

And those she touched during her brief stay wanting for more.

 

She came lightly upon the breath of the night…

            Blending with the quiet whispers of the ocean…

                        Warming the cool, damp evening air…

            Bringing the light of day to a blissfully warm and comforting reality…

Opening the eyes of those too blind to otherwise see.

 

She came lightly upon the breath of the night…

            Dreams of her laughter filling the now silent air with music…

                        Thoughts of her smile making the brightest of stars seem pale…

            She briefly lifted the veil of oppression from a world of sorrow…

Shining brightly within a troubled night trying to hide our dread within its darkness.

 

She came lightly upon the breath of the night…

            Her colorful nature contrasting with the world’s muted shades of grey…

                        Her presence made real within the hearts of all who knew her…

            Forever changing a world she was chosen to enter but in which she could not stay…

Now looking down upon us cradled safely within the arms of a loving God.

 

She left seemingly as suddenly as she came…

            Not given the time to accomplish all she had intended…

                        Not fulfilling the promise of her physical being…

            Not touching the lives that may have thrived in her presence…

Leaving lightly – as she came – upon the breath of the night.


Perhaps we could find purpose in each passing – find joy in each moment – rather than holding on so tightly to our losses that we are stifled and destroyed.  Perhaps we should embrace the fact that we cannot control everything nor know the reasons that some things happen while others do not.  Perhaps it is better to ask the right questions...those that may not provide answers but can possibly allow us to find meaning within (and because of) each moment – so that we can eventually move forward towards the hope and promise of a brighter tomorrow as we, too, drift lightly upon the breath of the  night. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

FIVE FACTORS THAT CAN TEMPER FIRST IMPRESSIONS

People tend to rush to judgment and often create “first impressions” of those they meet, work or seek to develop relationships with.  We tend to label those we encounter as being either “good or bad” (before we take the time to validate our assumptions), “doers or dreamers” (based on the pace or thoroughness of their actions) and “engaged or dis-engaged” (based on their observed behavior patterns) without really looking at who a person is rather than what they might be doing.  While we often must act quickly, if we want to develop long-lasting or meaningful relationships we must take time to learn about others – about why they think, act and respond as they do rather than basing our opinions ONLY on what we see being (or NOT being) accomplished – if we are to accept (or at least understand) people “as they are” rather than force them to become “what we might wish them to be.”  Five factors we should consciously (and intentionally) avoid when meeting people for the first time (as our initial impressions and perceptions are established) would include:

Rather than allowing unfounded perceptions or “surface-driven” first thoughts to form the baseline from which all other actions, thoughts or decisions are built we should take the time to learn more about a person before labeling them based only on an initial impression.  Pre-judging people can minimize how their skill, experience, background might be able to ultimately impact a relationship OR can establish expectations that are nearly impossible to fulfill.  Our perceptions often taint our thinking and we make decisions based on inaccurate (or untrue) information.  We sometimes establish another’s value or ability to contribute based on our thoughts, emotions, perceptions and “gut instincts” which, though developed through years of observation and validation, do not always tell the full story about how others could make an impact or significantly change the “course of time” if they were given the opportunity to try, the freedom to fail and the ability to make an independent difference.

Clarify some of the “whys” before reacting to what was done (or not done) as expected or assumed when working with another.  NEVER jump to judgment without first finding out “the rest of the story” as relationships, partnerships or workplace environments of mutual trust and respect are established.  We often lose sight of where we are going because we focus on what we think we know to be right.  We lose the ability to consider what COULD happen because we are so caught up in what IS happening or HAS happened in the past.  It is easy to form an opinion about someone based on our own limited perspective or self-contained world view but such responses often limit the potential others can realize.  It is much harder (though ultimately more productive) to consider what could be impacting the life, times and decisions of another or share the “glory” with someone having different experiences they successfully apply to create an alternative solution.  It is much easier to simply consider what we think or believe when rushing to judgment than it is to entertain the possibility that something “different” could help to create a better reality.  Our initial impression of another can and will impact how everything plays out in the future by setting the tone for what is the “right and acceptable action” someone feels they are allowed to take (or what limitations they feel placed upon them by our pre-conceived expectations).  Acting on our first impressions or basic instincts without seeking clarification of another’s intent, experience or ability can often lead to what could have been an avoidable disaster.

Do not assume to know what others are thinking or limit what they can contribute by inserting personal biases into their lives, actions or good intentions...by over-laying your own limitations upon their value system, passion or desire to contribute.  One of the most critical components within any relationship is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of all stakeholders so as to maximize the positive contributions while helping to limit those that might be detrimental to accomplishing an established objective.  In thinking about what employees (friends or individuals involved in a relationship) might be able to contribute, it is best ask questions and listen to responses – to seek first the thoughts and ideas of others before acting on our own – or we might miss unconsidered successes that would never happen without a generous dose of “why not?” thinking.  Though many of us fight hard to “do things our way” and overlay that “way” upon those around us, the contributions of others can be meaningful and significant ONLY IF we allow people to express their thoughts, learn through their failures and feel safe to grow. 

Think before acting then act before your thinking paralyzes you.  Many individuals tend to shoot before aiming – often prior to even establishing a target – then spend countless hours repairing the damage they may have done through their rash actions.  While “things” can often be repaired or replaced when damaged by actions that disregard potential consequences or even initiate failure, people tend to “scar” more easily and “fail to forget” more than they will ever “learn and remember” when constantly criticized (be it gentle OR relentless).  Forming a “first impression” is normal and natural BUT refusing to move beyond that baseline after learning more about a person, place or situation creates a foundation of ongoing disappointment, frustration and failure – sometimes one that can be overlooked by the one initiating a first impression but rarely embraced by the individual who has been compromised or minimized by the actions of another..

People can contribute positively to us OR weigh us down – and we can impact others in the same way – depending on how we approach them (AND how they respond to us).  Rather than allowing “first impressions” to set our direction – to label those around us before coming to know them – pay enough attention to what is being said by others, why things are being done as they are, and what else could be accomplished BEFORE acting.  When we verify our perceptions before passing judgment we can often avoid making assumptions that could lead us down the wrong path (AND potentially isolate or alienate another in a way that minimizes their future contributions).  If we actively seek what others think, listen to what they say (paying attention to how they say it), and monitor what they wish to accomplish (providing help and guidance along the way but avoiding telling them where to go and how to get there) we will most always be able to move forward with good intentions (though not necessarily YOUR good intentions) and accomplish much (though not necessarily what YOU thought should be accomplished). 

First impressions are simply initial reactions or responses to another that we (in our heads, hearts and reactions) set without rhyme, reason or validation.  Temper your first impressions so that you can avoid bringing another down (or limit their potential) while lifting yourself up.  Helping someone else shine will allow them to grow and develop beyond your initial expectations of their potential and often allows them to achieve much more than they may ever have imagined possible.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

IS THE “BOX” IN WHICH YOU LIVE A PRISON, A PLATFORM OR A STARTING POINT?

Many people reference “thinking outside of the box” or “being confined within the box” when describing how an individual acts and reacts to issues, situations or their environment.  Some might even reference being “boxed in” or “boxed out” when it comes to relationships with others – particularly if the relationship is particularly strong or possibly “going south.”  We often use euphemisms as we attempt to describe situations, feelings or what guides our thoughts and actions as we live each day but is being in or outside of a box necessarily good, bad or perhaps a little of both?

Those whom approach things from a “known, tried and tested” perspective are usually considered to be “inside the box” thinkers.  There is nothing innately wrong with thinking inside of the box but those that operate comfortably within their boxes are usually able to function, perform and produce ONLY with what they have at their fingertips – within the scope of past experiences – and often operate within the confined walls of their own or other’s expectations.  They are dependable and competent “doers” but (and what comes after the “but” is important) they rarely discover things that “could be” because they are narrowly focused upon “what is.”  When what is accessible – what has been included with them inside of their box – is enough to make them happy, fulfilled and content then living inside of the box can be a good thing.  Unfortunately, most individuals tire of doing the same thing over and over – especially if it entails the same processes, leverages the same tools or resources and provides the same outcomes – as it tends to become more of a familiar routine than a revealing adventure.  Thinking inside of the box may be good for someone wishing to minimize their challenges (as well as their opportunities), accomplish the wishes of others (rather than fulfilling their own dreams) and preferring to stay below the radar (possibly even closing the box to hide from the world’s attention) BUT most would prefer to gain more from their efforts and contribute more through the actions they take and the choices they make.  Inside the box is sheltered, safe and provides a “tried and true” existence presenting few opportunities to fail but such an existence provides limited chances to discover anything new. 

Some might say they want to be outside of the box with their thinking – that standing upon the top of the box would allow them to operate without containment, restrictions or expectations – but they find unless they have committed to operating alone without robust interactions with others they become isolated and stranded upon their island.  Someone taking pride from standing upon their box – their mountain top – can become an individual trapped within their lofty position, able to see the world but unable to interact with it...capable of envisioning where they might wish to be but incapable of reaching beyond the precarious perch upon which they have firmly planted their feet and taken up residence.  Standing on your box allows you to view but not to share...to see but not to embrace the things around you as you seek to be seen and yearn to be recognized.  Recognizing and identifying your potential is a good start but in order to act – to make a difference – one must become engaged within the opportunities presented and available.  If all we do is stand above where we were – gazing upon the potential around us without ever acting or engaging – much could be imagined but very little would be accomplished.  In order to make a difference we must not only get outside of our boxes, we must utilize the tools at our disposal – test our boundaries – as we initiate change by stepping outside of the boundaries of our imaginary box.

When we step down from our soapbox, committing to action rather than relying upon the eloquence of our lessons and lectures, a new world of opportunity awaits us.  What was once outside of our reach becomes available to us.  What was but a thought or dream can become reality.  We can hold new tools in our hands, identify undiscovered places in which we could wander and formulate different applications for commonly accepted practices when we watch from within our box.  We can stand upon the box to see what could be accomplished and where we might be able to go IF ONLY we were to risk stepping down from our lofty perch. Those willing to live outside of their boxes (to truly live and explore the world as it could be rather than as it is) must immerse themselves in a reality that was no more than an improbable vision when they stood within the security of the box they once called home.  They must be unafraid to risk failure (and accept the certainty of learning from it) if they wish to step down from the precarious perch upon the top of their box as they venture out into a world of possibilities (rather than living comfortably within a world of probabilities).  The difference we are able to make will always be limited by the box in which we allow ourselves to be captive.  Our potential is restricted unless we are able (or willing) to leverage the resources we might be able to access OUTSIDE of the box to resolve potentially unknown circumstances that can be addressed only if we initiate change to accomplish planned or anticipated results. 

In order to lead (OR establish/maintain a meaningful relationship) we must acknowledge the limitations our “boxes” put upon us and consciously choose to climb out of our confined surroundings AND step down from the feelings of omnipotence that standing upon our platform might evoke.  We must become engaged within our surroundings – utilizing new and untested options that might suddenly (and mysteriously) become available to us outside of our standard and comfortable mindset. When we truly “think and play” outside of the box, our achievements will not be contained and our influence cannot be restricted.  We will become unique (and innovative) enough to be recognized as leaders (or co-equal contributors within a solid and significant relationship) when the actions we take and the results we achieve are built upon personal credibility and demonstrated strength of character rather than based on the volume and tone of our words.  Personal success and relational excellence can ONLY be built upon a foundation of recognizing and acknowledging our self-imposed limitations, a framework of intentional action to remove the boundaries our limitations present and a structure of purposefully exploring and expanding the new horizons revealed when we chose to abandon our comfort zone and get (and truly live) outside of our box.

Monday, May 10, 2021

DARING TO LIVE OUT OUR DREAMS

We share much with others as we live life.  We share the things we do, the air we breathe and the places we visit.  We share our accomplishments (whether they bring us success or result in failure).  We share relationships and possessions.  We share our thoughts when we converse.  We share our families, our friends and our acquaintances.  We share (or should share) what we think, how we feel and what we hope to be within our relationships.  Sharing our workload and the results of our efforts has become the norm in business.  Working as teams to share tasks that magnify our individual contributions by blending them with the unique gifts others are given to accomplish collectively much more than could have been completed on our own has become the mantra of workplace efficiency.  With such an emphasis on sharing, however, what is truly “our own” in this life shared with others through common ground, shared existence and team-based accomplishments?  Perhaps we need to look no farther than our hopes and dreams – our aspirations...goals and wishes...to realize what makes us uniquely and individually different from those with whom we share so much of ourselves.

Dreams are thoughts not yet realized – aspirations not yet brought to fruition...the basis of our goals and the foundation of our good intentions.  We can live life without dreams but cannot embrace its full potential – become all that we can hope to be or realize all that we might wish to accomplish – without first thinking about what we want to become or what we desire to do within the lifetimes.  Those that perform to the standards and expectations of others often become great contributors as they add value to society.  Those that allow themselves time to identify their own aspirations within the safety of their dreams AND work towards bringing those thoughts to fruition WHILE benefiting the greater good by performing their daily and expected tasks will not only add value to society but also open new horizons and discover new paths that can serve as stepping stones to a new and unrestrained future.  To dream, however, we must be willing to move from the safety of our “present” into the unknown opportunities of a “future” that have yet to be fully realized.

Dreams are not the “substance” of life – they are the icing on life’s cake.  They are not the “why?” people often seek when confronted with an unknown or unanticipated situation – they are the “why not?” people accept as they roll with the punches life throws at them while moving continuously forward.  When we risk more than others think is wise expecting to accomplish more than others think possible it is often because we allow ourselves to dream more deeply than others might think practical.   It is only then that we might realize our hopes and aspirations are more important than walking lockstep within the expectations of others.

While we share much in life with others, we rarely share more than the things we are able to easily do or accomplish.  We are hesitant to share our fears – or to open ourselves to the possibility of failure in the eyes of those we work with, talk to or confide in.  If we were to share our dreams with others – to both seek their assistance in accomplishing them AND to hold us accountable in bringing them to fruition – imagine how much we might expect to realize.  When we settle for those things, thoughts and actions that come to us easily we become “adequately mediocre.”  Seek to achieve excellence...to attain personal satisfaction...by dreaming of all you could wish to be so that you might establish the ultimate target – the final reward available to you only when striving to achieve all you could wish to accomplish.  Rather than living the life that others might establish for you, generate a new normal by living your dreams – by risking more than others might think wise – so that you will be able to accomplish more than others might think possible while becoming all that you were meant to be.