Category Archives: As We Move Forward

What are we focused on? How can we move forward in the hardest times?

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As We Move Forward: If You Knew You Could Not Fail

As We Move Forward: If You Knew You Could Not Fail

“What are your biggest dreams?” Most people will share these dreams while at the same time talking about how impossible they are, that they are just too good to be true. For every seemingly impossible dream, you can think of, think of someone who has done the very thing you are dreaming about. Start looking into what they did to make that dream happen.

One way to approach this is to begin asking yourself what one thing you would do if you absolutely knew you would not fail. I do not really want to do all the things I have dreamed of doing in my life. A few I lack the ability to do. Some others I lack the drive to follow through with everything involved in getting the dream accomplished.

I have said for years that I don’t yet know what I want to be when I grow up. That has meant not limiting dreams and always being open to possibilities in life that come up. This has resulted in some exciting adventures in my life. During college, I struggled with the decision of where to attend seminary. There were twelve schools around the country that met the criteria It was looking for. I asked someone whose advice I respected was how to make the choice. He advised me to pick four schools that represented different areas of emphasis as well as different areas of the country. His counsel was to expose me to as many different things as possible during this period of my education.

The choice I made reflected as much diversity as I could have envisioned. It opened some possibilities I had never considered before and caused me to question and examine many things I had always taken for granted. As a result of this experience, while many of the vocational choices I made were consistent with the values I have always held, they were based on a broader base of experiences than I had previously known. Even though we made the decision to return to the state I grew up in, that decision was made in the context of other options available to us.

In the context of our experience, my wife was able to make a significant career decision that included graduate school. We made some decisions to enable these things to happen that we might not have had the courage to make if not for the growth we experienced during this part of our lives.

During this part of our lives, our individual and our shared dreams helped give us a sense that as we moved forward we could not and would not fail. We dared to dream big, and the dreams led to even bigger and more exciting things in our lives.

Pondering

Are there dreams in your life that have seemed impossible? Are there dreams you have pursued anyway? How has that gone for you? Do you have dreams right now that you would like to follow, especially if you knew you could not fail? Write one of these dreams down and think about what it would mean in your life if it became a reality in your life.

As we move forward, it can be helpful to take stock of our dreams. They don’t have to be life-changing, just big enough to get you excited. What is one dream you could see yourself following, especially if you knew you could not fail? I have one in mind. Do you? Let’s each examine those dreams. Where will be if and when we follow ours?

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jae Bloom.

As We Move Forwaerd: Being Content

As We Move Forward: Being Content

Woman Looking Contentedly
Happy girl looking sideways with smile

Would you describe yourself as being content? What does that mean? One way to describe being content is as being satisfied and happy. This can mean different things to different people as well as at different points in our lives. As a small baby, we are content when we are fed, dry, and have enough sleep. Otherwise, we most like likely express the degrees to which we are not content by how loudly we are crying.

As in this example, content doesn’t imply a condition that lasts permanently or one that takes into account all our needs and desires. For instance, we might be content-happy and satisfied following a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with family we love and get along with. It wouldn’t really be old to eat that well [and probably that much] every day, but it is hard to top our feeling of contentment at a time like that.

When a number of different social and economic groups were asked about how content they were-how satisfying their life is overall, from the most wealthy, to people who eke out a living off their land, levels of contentment or satisfaction were remarkably similar.

This study took money off the table as being the ingredient to guarantee a happy, contented life. How many times have we thought, “if I just made a certain amount of money, I would certainly have contentment and happiness.” Time after time it has been demonstrated that wealth alone does not automatically guarantee satisfaction and contentment.

There are times when contentment is less important than striving to achieve. We have those periods in which we are focused on becoming the best we can possibly be. This can be in school, focusing on academic achievement, athletic prowess, musical or dramatic pursuits. It can be hard to be content when we are striving with every fiber of our being. We temporarily trade satisfaction for the excitement of reaching a goal.

A worthy goal in life is to be able to be content while striving for excellence and achievement of a goal. A truly mature person can be both content and satisfied while striving to achieve great things. This doesn’t happen for everyone. It may not even happen for a majority of people, but it is a truly worthwhile life goal.

Man Looking Content Holding a Cup of Coffee
Cose up portrait of a happy smiling man in eyeglasses holding cup and looking at camera isolated on a black wooden background

As we move forward, think of a time in your life when you were content-both happy, and satisfied. What was going on in your life at this time? Are you experiencing contentment in your life now? If so, how does this factor into your sense of well-being at the present time?

If you are not feeling content—happy and satisfied, what might be going on in your life to keep you from experiencing contentment? it’s a fair question. Our experiences in life should bring us happiness and satisfaction. As we move forward, let us make contentment—happiness and satisfaction, the goal of every aspect of our life. Ask yourself if anything that does not lead to happiness and satisfaction belongs in your life. I do not believe it does in mine.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jae Bloom.

As We Move Forward: The Importance of Balance

As We Move Forward: The Importance of Balance

Rowboat

I remember learning to row a boat and to paddle a canoe. The first thing I learned in the rowboat was how difficult it is to propel a boat. One of the other things I learned was that each of my arms has a different level of strength. Not only did my arms get very tired as I continued to row the boat. I discovered that the boat had a tendency to turn in the direction of my weaker arm. Since I couldn’t make my weaker arm pull harder, I found myself relaxing my stronger arm to achieve balance.

This might seem obvious, but I started to see how the concept of balance enters into every area of our lives. I have thought a lot about the areas in which I tend to excel. The areas in general in which people might tend to achieve high skill levels could include athletics of various types, music, theater, academic accomplishment, or several other areas.

The example of a child prodigy comes to mind. There are numerous stories of children who were identified as gifted in something like music or athletics. In the accounts, often the family of the gifted child will make extreme personal and financial sacrifices so the child can develop their talent to its full capacity. Every time I watch the Olympics, particularly in sports like skating and gymnastics, I always wonder what happens in the life of the performer after their days as a prodigy are over.

I know a few go on to achieve celebrity careers as adults, but I always wonder about all the young people who trained as hard and did not achieve recognition like medal status in an Olympic event. Do they have the balance in their lives to allow them to achieve happy, fulfilled lives as adults?

The question of balance comes up when looking at the life of a child actor, particularly one who achieves great success in a certain role. While some make the transition from success as child stars to successful adult performers, it seems that many never do. I have read many accounts of child stars who struggled to become happy and successful as adults.

Child balancing on ledge

How is it going with rowing your boat? Is one arm stronger than the other? Is one arm getting tired faster than the other? Are you losing strength as you attempt to move the boat forward? How are things balanced in all the areas of your life? Keeping two things in balance may be challenging. Keeping more things in balance becomes even more difficult.

As we move forward, let us enjoy the areas in which we excel. These are the fun, creative parts of our lives. To balance these with the other things that make up our lives keeps us alert to all that is going on around us. What kinds of balance do you see in the lives of those around you? Are there ways you can help others achieve balance in their lives?

That’s A Crazy Idea

As We Move Forward: That’s A Crazy Idea

ABCs

We start out in life by learning things that are already known. We learn to color within the lines. We finally master our ABC’s. Following that we learn the sounds the letters make. This leads to sounding out words. This, of course, leads to reading and writing sentences. The fact is for some people, that is as far as this goes. We all learn to use language sufficiently to communicate in our daily lives. Some of us become somewhat skilled at the use of language to communicate, and others have only a functional grasp.

The same pattern holds true for the use of numbers. After we learn to count, there is a lot of time and effort that goes into learning various functions. I remember learning my addition tables. Many of these we simply memorized. Learning by rote gave us a basic grasp of the tools we need. There were, if memory serves correctly, also multiplication tables to be learned. A lot of work went into the process. I do recall a real sense of satisfaction at mastery of all those facts.

Music is another discipline that starts out by memorizing. If we make any real progress in either vocal or instrumental music, learning the noites is the basic starting place. To advance, we learn things like octaves. We also become aware of sharps and flats. Relatively few people make it beyond a rudimentary understanding of music theory, but there can be limitless satisfaction for those who do.

These three areas in which ideas and feelings can be expressed and communicated represent some of the areas in life in which most of us acquire a basic understanding. It is entirely possible none of us has gotten a crazy, brilliant idea in one or more of these areas. As an example, I have never had a moment of inspiration regarding numbers. I have never thought of something even remotely related to numbers and wondered why no one had ever thought of that before. There is really no possibility that I will ever think of something like the theory of relativity or observe something and speak something as profound as the law of gravity.

My point is not that I will most likely not discover something profound and life altering as these discoveries. It is at least fairly certain I will not do this in one of these areas. On the other hand, I haven’t totally given up on having one of those discoveries in another area of life. I will admit I have had a few times in my life when I was pretty certain I had a way of thinking about things or doing things that no one was doing at the moment.

While these ideas have exactly changed the world, I would like to believe they have improved if not drastically altered the lives of others for the better. Let me tell you a little secret. If you are going to come up with crazy ideas, have several. More of my crazy ideas have ended up being just that than the ones that have made and difference at all.

Thinking

As we move forward, take time to think of ideas you have had that might have seemed crazy, simply because no one has thought of it before. These can come from your personal experiences. I often ask people,”What would you do if time and money were not a factor?” That can be an exciting way to dream and envision.

As we move forward, I invite you to join me in searching for those new, unique, yet untried ideas. You’ll never know what your “crazy” idea might mean to someone else, or even the world.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jae Bloom.

What is Your Calling?

As We Move Forward: What is Your Calling?

Woman In field

Have you ever written a mission statement? To get ready to write one, you can ask,”What is my calling in life?” “What is the purpose of my life?” Another way to ask that question is, “What inspires me the most?” We all have those moments of clarity and vision when we see vividly what life has in store for us.

Most of us know someone who always wanted to be or to achieve a certain thing in life. Will future generations look back at that moment in your life from which the whole future took off, or will you look at that moment in your past as the time when you saw the possibilities but decided it was simply beyond your reach?

The first can be the moment when history was changed, even if only for you and those around you. The second is simply the dim recollection of what might have been if only….

It is never too late to discover your mission or purpose in life. In the same way, it is never too late to develop your mission statement. A mission statement I have developed is helping people discover and achieve things they want in their lives.

While this may seem very simple, it actually involves several steps that are very complex. First, I have to listen carefully to what people say since at this point, most people don’t yet know what they want. I have a certain ability to hear desires in dreams in what other people are saying. I

Part of the process involves me seeing possibilities that could accomplish what people seem to be saying they want. I see big pictures, not finished details. If an idea I have captures someone’s imagination, I encourage them to develop the idea into what they were wishing for. I work best if I am not involved in all the details of the day to day operation of a particular vision.

My satisfaction comes from presenting the idea. Others get satisfaction from carrying the idea out. I often marvel at how complex some of these ideas have become. Sometimes I ask if the people who make the dream a reality really enjoy what they are doing. I am constantly surprised when they tell me what they get from the thing we have created.

What would a mission statement look like for you? What would represent your calling, your deepest values? What would you like your children and grandchildren to remember you for? Do you have some dream left from an earlier time in your life which you have always wished you had acted on? These could be your calling. This could be the thing the world is waiting for you to do.

As we move forward, let us take some time to consider our calling. What can you add to make the world, at least the world around you a better place? What could you do today to start making that happen? Experience the excitement. Find your calling. Go after your mission.

Decide That Your Life Is Your Own

As We Move Forward: Decide That Your Life Is Your Own

Children
Education, children, happiness

One of our greatest days is the one in which we decide that our life is our own. Things certainly don’t start out that way. We come into the world as the child of a parent or parents. Everything anyone thinks or says about you is based on things they know or at least believe about you based on your family. That can be a real gift in those early years of life. Since people don’t judge a young child on their own merit, you can, and do, tend to lean on and rely on your own family for a lot of what people believe about you.

Your reputation in life starts out being based on who your family is. You rely on them without even realizing it. In a negative way, you can even blame them for things that you actually do, especially if some members of your family have less than stellar reputations.

Of course, it works the other way around. I remember some of the kids from rich families. Among other things, their families all belonged to the yacht club. As someone who occasionally was an invited guest at functions at the yacht club, I shared some of these expectations, based almost entirely on what I believed about these people based on this one indicator of their family’s income. One other thing about these families who belonged to the yacht club-most of them owned boats! One thing that imputed status in a community on Lake Erie was owning a boat—especially for those of us for whom this was something we could never imagine our families being able to do.

I guess I could say the same about people whose families owned businesses in our town. The group I most closely identified with was the group who had a parent who was a teacher. My father was a teacher, and a lot of my friends and acquaintances had parents who were teachers. As I reflect on that period in my life, I have to admit that reality shaped a lot of my view of myself and the world I was a part of.

With these and other factors as a starting place, life becomes more and more about the choices we make regarding the things that are important to us. These choices and the outcomes they lead to become more and more integral to the process of decisions we make to make our life our own.

These decisions can include classes we take in school, extracurricular activities that allow us to discover and refine new interests into skills. Some of the obvious decisions we make include what we do post high school. It might be college or technical school. It could be service in the military. Your choice might be getting a job or becoming an apprentice. There really are infinite choices in the decision to live a life that is our own. These can include who we go through life with, where will live as well as a number of other choices.

Thinking

As we move forward, we can see more and more how the choices we make tend to reflect what is important to us as we act out our ongoing quest to live a life that is our own. As we look back on our early life, it is interesting to reflect on where those decisions have taken us.

As we move forward, how does where we are now compare to where we were? Now that our life is truly our own, how accurately does it reflect what is really important to us? What can we do today to ensure that the life we are living is really our own?

What Comes Next?

As We Move Forward: What Comes Next?

Child Thinking on a Question

One of the most frequent questions we ask throughout life is what comes next. We begin early anticipating the next thing to come along. When, as a small child, I began playing with other kids, it was normal to finish one activity and to be looking ahead to what the next thing would be. Can remember staying with my grandparents when my mother was in the hospital giving birth to my sister. Although I was too young to have abstract thoughts about what it might be like having a sister, I know I was eagerly anticipating what was coming in my life with the birth of a sister.

As any child, I looked forward to Christmas and birthdays. I can recall some of the gifts I received when I was too young to even know what I wanted. I have vivid memories of going to bed on Christmas Eve and waking up in excitement and anticipation of what was coming Christmas morning.

Some of my early memories include our family getting our first television. Some of the programs we watched are a blur to me, but one I remember was the Howdy Doody show. I would wait in front of the TV each day eager to see what was coming in this important aspect of my young life. The characters on this and other shows became real parts of my young life, and I looked forward to the things they would experience each day and could not wait to see what was coming next.

Around the time I was five, we moved to the house my parents lived for the rest of their lives. We got to see the house being built. Every few days we would go out and walk around as construction continued. I remember being excited to pick up discarded bent nails and scraps of wood as we saw our house taking shape. Even at five years old, I have strong memories of anticipating what was coming next. That house was my home until I went to college. A lot of my what comes next events took place in the context of that house.

Looking back, the escalation of events that ended in a what comes next scenario grew in both intensity and rapidity during those intervening years. Career choice, college, the choice of a spouse each had a very strong element of what comes next. Most of the things that have come next in my life have been positive. A few have been very traumatic. Mostly all of these events have resulted in changes I could have anticipated beforehand.

While some of these events leading to what comes next have resulted from decisions we have made, some have come about as the result of events that were beyond our control. This is the context of events such as the current crisis. A lot of what comes next seems to be a real part of our daily lives at this time.

Woman Reviewing Papers and using a Computer

As we move forward, particularly in this time of crisis, it can be helpful to review events in our own lives that have resulted in our wondering what comes next. Realizing the times in life we have already faced this question and come through with flying colors can help us face the question of what comes next today.

As we move forward, we can also use what we have learned to assist others in facing and working through this question. “What comes next?” We don’t know for sure. We do know that we should be confident we can face it together and succeed, together.

What Have You Always Wanted To Do?

As We Move Forward: What Have You Always Wanted To Do?

Baseball Stadium

How would you finish the phrase, “I have always wanted to…”? Throughout the course of our lives, there are experiences we have that make us want to have other, more exciting, extravagant experiences. I have only been to a few Major League Baseball games in my life. I am not a particularly avid sports fan, but I will admit to having imagined what it would be like to sit in the stands for the climactic game of a World Series.

I enjoyed watching both football and basketball in high school. I will admit to having imagined the experience of attending a championship game in either one of these sports. It is more the anticipation of the excitement of being at the moment of victory in an exciting game than the actual desire to see a favorite team achieve the victory that has motivated these desires.

After attending a bullfight during college, I will admit I have wondered what it would be like to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. While I would never have actually attempted that activity, it was exciting to imagine what it would be like. Although I am not a golfer, I have been on the 18th green of a golf course that hosts a Professional Golfers Association tournament every year.

Although my list of exciting things I have experienced might not inspire the passion of very many people, I have a few that are memorable to me. I once attended a concert of the Cleveland Orchestra and got to meet the principal bass player afterward. This was exciting for me because I played bass in the high school orchestra. I have visited some of the exciting wonders of this country, such as the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Carlsbad Caverns as well as a number of less well-known but equally magnificent sights. One significant event in my life was watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. What made it even more special for me was that I was in Mexico at the time and got to see it on Mexican television.

I have had the privilege of seeing and doing most of the things I have dreamed of doing. I have been able to accomplish and even exceed most of the goals I have set for myself. The good thing about a list like this is that I don’t have to measure what I have been able to do against anyone else. As I consider the list of adventures in my life, I recall how exciting, challenging, and overall enjoyable it has been accomplishing each one. Even the few things that have eluded me have been fascinating in the attempt.

Rock Climbing

As we move forward, why not list the adventures you have dreamed of in your life. Are there still things on the list that you would like to accomplish? Make a plan to do at least one of them. Some things just do not translate into seeing them on things like social media. As we emerge from the current time of crisis, make a plan to turn some of these dreams into reality.

As we move forward, how many of our dreamed-of adventures can we turn into pleasant, satisfying memories? What’s stopping you? Go have adventures!

Who Are Your Ancestors?

As We Move Forward: Who Are Your Ancestors?

Books

At some point in our lives, we become aware of the facts of our background. Depending on our family and their attitude toward these facts, there may be a lot or only a little we learn. Depending on the community we live in, these facts may be emphasized. I remember my surprise at learning someone in my class had the same middle name as the name of our local hospital. I remember being very impressed that one of his recent ancestors was the person for whom the hospital was named.

I have known several people over the years who could trace their ancestry to someone who was a significant person in history. My wife’s family numbers Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain as an ancestor. I have known people who could trace lineage to groups like the Daughters of the American Revolution. I think I might also have known someone who could trace their ancestry to the Mayflower.

Tracing ancestry has become easier and more popular in recent years. Organizations that make records readily available, especially as they have become increasingly digitized, opened many more sources of tracing lineage and relationships over hundreds of years. One of the latest breakthroughs, DNA comparison has seemingly made it even easier to discover many additional facts about our ancestry and physical relationships. It will be fascinating to determine where these developments take us in the years to come.

We can broaden the concept of ancestry to encompass educational, vocational, and professional “ancestors” who contributed in some meaningful ways to who we have become. I think this is as significant and meaningful as physical ancestors. I am indebted to many people who have gone before me in many areas of life who have contributed to who I am today as meaningfully and significantly as if we shared DNA.

We seem to be living in a time when the whole concept of ancestry seems at times to be turned around. Sometimes it seems there is moment-to-moment changes in what is good in ancestry and what is not. This can make it confusing if not risky to search out our particular ancestry. I believe that we should be proud of our ancestry, both physical and educational/professional. So many things have gone into making us who we are. Each is significant and important.

Family

As we move forward, we should eagerly look at our ancestry—all the things that have gone into helping us become who we are. We are incredibly complex in so many ways. Ancestry is part of what makes us each unique as individuals. The more we discover about this, the better we can understand and evaluate who we are. This can be extremely valuable in seeing where we are and planning for where we would like to be.

As we move forward, this knowledge can also help us be useful to others in our lives as they examine their own ancestry. May we find this journey exciting and rewarding.

Toward Altruism

As We Move Forward: Toward Altruism

Helping Across

Altruism is when we act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to ourselves. Scientists speculate that altruism has such deep roots in human nature because helping and cooperation promote the survival of our species. Obviously, altruism is not something we are born with. As infants, the only thing that matters is immediate gratification. This total obsession with self represents the other extreme of true altruism. Throughout our lives, we find ourselves at various points on the spectrum between these two opposites.

As we develop relationships in our lives, we discover a lot about ourselves in relation to self-centeredness and altruism. We are drawn to people who behave in a more altruistic manner. We all want to be around someone who places our interests above their own. Ideally, parents and other close relatives demonstrate altruism in their relationships with us. Parents routinely put the needs of their children ahead of their own. We can all recall friends, teachers, and other significant people in our lives who sacrificially offered themselves and their abilities to help us achieve the things we want in our lives.

What is it that sets someone apart as being more on the side of altruism? Is your first thought in a situation what is going to benefit someone else or you? Are you more interested in what is happening in someone else’s life or in yours?

Another way of determining if we have altruistic motives or not is to ask ourselves what outcomes we look for in the things we face in life. Is it more important to win or to create a win/win scenario for you? Is it more important to you to understand someone else or that they understand you?

Helping Hand

Our culture seems to place a high value on being heard and not so much on understanding what other people are saying. There is and always has been a strong need for people who are not only willing to listen to the needs of others but who are willing to put those needs ahead of their own.

As we move forward, it can be helpful to ask ourselves how much we value someone. Are we able and willing to put their wants and needs ahead of our own? When can you remember someone setting aside their own needs and feelings to be sure yours were met? That is true altruism. The world needs that. We can make an incredible difference in someone’s life by putting their needs ahead of our own.

As we move forward, let’s make that our goal whenever possible.