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

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As We Move Forward: Unexpected Events

Waiting

It is one thing to look forward to major events in our lives. We look forward to Christmas, to birthdays, to vacations. Often the anticipation adds to the overall enjoyment once the event occurs. Young people look forward to moving forward in school, then graduation and the things that follow.

There are also unexpected things that happen. Some of these are pleasant, like getting a surprise gift or having someone special visit. We have one way of handling this type of unexpected event. Most of us respond very well in these circumstances.

There are things that come just as suddenly and without warning that are not so pleasant. Some of these unpleasant events have a serious impact on our lives yet are totally beyond our control. It can sometimes see as if no one cares what effect this event has on us.

These events can vary in severity, but the effect is essentially the same. Having someone suddenly act cruelly toward us is not the same as the death of a loved one, but the effect can be the same. We can experience strong emotions ranging from disappointment and fear to hurt and anger. Sometimes we have a delayed reaction to unexpected events. We experience a type of shock, which can delay our reaction to the unexpected event or even trigger a different emotional response. An example of this would be an angry outburst where sadness or disappointment would be the expected response to a particular sudden unexpected event.

Health related events can be especially complex in the emotional responses they trigger. Because these unexpected events may lead to life-altering adjustments, the range of our emotional responses may be broad and at times confusing to ourselves and others. Unexpected events in our lives will happen. Because they tend to disrupt our lives to a greater or lesser degree, their impact seems to be magnified as we view the event in the context of what was going on at the time and what followed. Another way of saying this is that the context of an event has a lot to do with our responses to it.

Anguish

An accident or health related event miles from home can bring about many emotions just because of the difficulty of dealing with all the non-related issues that being far from family surroundings can bring out in us.

As we move forward, it might be useful to review unexpected events in our lives and how the circumstances surrounding the event shaped our responses. This can help us recognize what our various responses indicate and how best to deal with them.

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 Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: First Impressions

Parent & Child

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Think for a moment about the first time you met some of the people who are or have been a part of your life. While you can’t remember the first time you “met” your parents, chances are they have a vivid memory of their first impression of you. This may be one time when the impression others have on first meeting you is not based on how you presented yourself. Chances  are your parents immediately felt unconditional love for you even if you were screaming your head off.

Most of our other first impressions in life have a lot more to with how we present ourselves, how we overcome and nervousness and the responses we get from the people we are meeting. Can you remember the first child you played with? Do you remember how you each greeted the other one? Do you have memories of meeting relatives, aunts, uncles, cousins? How did the first impressions made in these early encounters shape the relationships that followed?

How hard did you work at being the kind of person people enjoy meeting. Did you really try to get others to like you? How successful were you in that? These early experiences, whether positive or negative, probably has a lot to do with how you have handles first impressions throughout your life from that time on.

Think about memorable days, such as your first day of school. What did you do to make a good first impression on other students, your teacher? What do you remember about some of those first-time meetings? Did you form any lasting relationships following those meetings.

Who is the most famous person you have ever met? How do you recall that meeting? What was your first impression of that person? How has the impression from that meeting shaped your thought and feelings about that person? The same questions could be asked about things like first dates, job interviews, first days at work. As you think about some of these days and the first impressions that went along with them, how important have first impressions been in shaping some of your very important, meaningful relationships?

Suits

As we move forward, we can become aware that we are involved in making first impressions every day. While we can not be at our best every hour of every day, we can approach every day with the resolve to treat everyone  we meet as if they are about to become the most important person in our life.

 Enjoy the journey through a life lived making the very best first impressions possible. From these we can and will build some truly amazing relationships.

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 Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Expectations

Children

At every point in our lives, we are faced with expectations. As life begins, our expectations are that every need or desire will be satisfied—instantly. As we grow, our expectations still focus on basic needs such as shelter, food and safety, among others. Expectations become mutual as our lives develop through our various relationships. Our families have certain expectations, which can vary depending on whether the current relationship is with parents, siblings, or members of our extended family.

We develop the expectations we have of others at the same time we are forming our patterns of responding to the various expectations others have of us. While there are many different responses to the ever increasing number of expectations in our growing number of relationships, we do develop certain styles of response to the expectations of others.

It is normal to treat family members with love and respect. It is also normal to respond with emotions like fear when we are not treated well. How we handle these expectations that are other than normal has a lot to do with the personality’s was styles we develop as we grow up. If we have positive initial experiences like family and school, it usually means our expectations for these settings will be positive.

Every relationship we experience carries these mutual expectations. Understanding the various expectations we encounter and developing appropriate responses to the expectations of others goes a long way to determining how we do in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships in all areas of our lives.

As we move forward, it can be helpful to understand the expectations that are part of our various relationships. It can be helpful to look at a few of your more important relationships. What expectations do you have for the people in your personal relationships? What expectations do they have for you? How about work? Asking these questions can be very valuable in experiencing the most productive and rewarding relationships we are  capable of.

Thinking

As we move forward, let’s remember we cannot control the expectations others have of us. With understanding we can modify our expectations when necessary to achieve lasting, positive relationships. As in many things, satisfaction often begins with understanding.

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 Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Unintended Consequences

Vending Machine Photo by Jackson Jost on Unsplash
Jackson Jost

If we put money in a vending machine, and we receive what we anticipated, that would be a totally anticipated consequence. Receiving something different—an item we did not select, would be an unanticipated consequence. As in this example, our responses can range from happiness to disappointment, depending on the outcome.

One area where unintended consequences can be huge involve occasional contacts. I will often engage a server in a restaurant in conversation. Depending on how busy they are, these conversations can be very informative. Who knows when one of these conversations might lead someone to consider something in their lives that makes things better.

I have spoken to many people who can point to one event or even one conversation that changed the course of their lives. These unintended consequences happen Every day. Think of the occasions when teaching someone how to jump rope, throw a ball, sing or play an instrument might result in the unintended consequence of a new hobby. Even a career.

Just think how watching a performance, whether athletic, musical or dramatic might influence the direction of someone’s life. In much the same way, giving encouragement and guidance to someone doing something can help affirm a leading to follow that activity even further in life.

Teachers are obvious sources of these unintended consequences, but so might co-workers, supervisors or customers be.The truth is we never know when our words and actions might trigger positive unintended consequences in someone else.

Friendship

As we move forward, join me in always being on the lookout for doing or saying something to another that might result in a positive unintended consequence in someone’s life. Even though we may seldom if ever know of these consequences, it is exciting to live our lives with the possibility. Just think of the people who have triggered unintended consequences in your life and resolve to follow that pattern.

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 Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Service

Waiter

What do you think of when you hear the term service? Perhaps you think of how you were treated the last time you went to a restaurant. Maybe you  remember the experience of getting maintenance on your car. Perhaps you think of your most recent experience with a salesperson at a store. Just as likely, you might think of your last transaction at a bank. Maybe your memory is the way you were dealt with in buying a movie ticket or concessions.

Today a great deal of our understanding of service may involve something we did online. Maybe it was searching for a phone number only to encounter the seemingly endless “options” none of which may address your specific concern or answer your need for precise information.

Hopefully your experiences of receiving service will also include those times when the individual providing the service seemed to identify with exactly what you were trying to accomplish and acted as if providing the service to you was the most important thing on their agenda.

Some of us have or had jobs which involve providing service. Think about some of your experiences in providing service. What comes to mind? Admittedly, some people do not have a mindset for service. There are those people who see everyone else’s actions only in terms of how these actions affect them. We have all been the victim of someone from whom we were seeking to receive some sort of service only to have the person act as if our very presence was an inconvenience to them. Who has not left such a situation in frustration feeling as if the person providing service thought they were doing us a favor?

What is it, then, that marks someone who is truly good at providing service? First, this person must truly operate from the point of view of wanting to understand the things another person both wants and needs. It goes further, though. That understanding must be followed by a genuine desire to place the wants and needs of someone else ahead of your own. Again, not everyone possesses this ability. A person with the true heart of a servant does. A person truly committed to service is not a doormat or a martyr. They are also not weak. Their genuine commitment to offer the things another person needs and wants is actually a sign of great strength.

Caring

As we move forward, it is important to ask where you fall on this spectrum. Do you genuinely care more about the needs and desires of other people  than you do your own? Then you may have the true servant’s heart. If you do not, that’s ok. Just recognize that is who you are. It is my hope that you will recognize your own servant’s heart and begin to achieve increasing satisfaction from understanding others and helping them achieve their needs, wants and deepest desires. If this is you, you may not always be thanked, but you will be appreciated. Servants are always needed. There are never enough.

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 Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Affirmation

Kid

We each develop a self concept and hopefully a positive self image. One way these important aspects of our personalities develop is through affirmation. We have all affirmed a small child by praising the things they do. These affirmations have the effect of reinforcing the behavior through the reward of praise and attention. It is the fortunate child who is surrounded by people who affirm them at every opportunity.

Sadly, there are some children who grow up without affirmations in some or all of the areas of their lives. It might be something as simple as living far away from significant people who are committed to affirming the young person. In some cases separation through such things as illness, death or adults with overwhelming work or activity deprives the child of needed affirmations.

At some point in life peer groups become an important source of needed affirmations. Here, too, the right individuals and groups can provide the necessary affirmations to lead to development of a well-rounded personality and the practice of skills that lead to a successful, happy life. Since the later childhood and adolescent years are a time for trying new things, affirmation becomes a very important aspect of character development.

Affirmations really require a few simple things. We have to focus on another person, to the exclusion of yourself and your needs. It requires us to listen in depth to another person, to understand what they really feel good about in their lives and then to use language that is encouraging and supportive of them.

Healthy relationships, both personal and professional, tend to be based on this kind of behavior. Affirmations do require a little understanding of the things that make up the life of another person, but this is mostly information they will gladly give us if we only ask and show a little interest in their lives.

Smiling

As we move forward, it might be useful to look at our own lives to see where and from whom we receive and have received affirmation over our  lives. What effect has that had on who we have become? Is there anyone we wish had affirmed us who did not, and how did that affect our lives?

Who are the people in our lives we have affirmed or are currently affirming? As we move forward, I encourage you to seek out opportunities where you can affirm someone else. That helps make life a really enjoyable and productive journey. As a final thought, who not thank someone who has affirmed you. You might make their day!

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 Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Where Is Your Comfort Zone?

Decide

Each of us has a comfort zone. That is the area, both physical and emotional, where we believe ourselves to be safe from harm and even undue stress. The understanding of where our comfort zone is can and often does change radically at different points in our lives.

When we were infants, our comfort zone was everything and everyone in our world. We knew only our immediate needs, such as the need for food and sleep, with the periodic need for a dry diaper. We voiced our discomfort until someone in our ur comfort zone made the discomfort stop. That absolute lining up of our comfort zone with the world around us slowly gave way to the world of relationships.

Certain people made us happy. Maybe one or two had loud voices and made us sad. As our field of relationships grew, we realized more clearly the situations and relationships that worked to support us in our comfort zone and those that tended to put us outside, often against our will.

New situations, even though exciting, tend to take us out of our comfort zone, if only for a short time. The anxious feelings of the first day of school are often “out of comfort zone” experiences. As we gain the familiarity and confidence of these new situations, we return to our comfort zone.

A part of growing up is deliberately moving out of our comfort zone on occasion. The best possible outcome involves learning that trying new situations leads to pleasant outcomes and increases our willingness to try new things and thereby expand our comfort zone. The phrase, “Practice makes perfect” expresses the best outcome of constantly expanding both our experiences and our comfort zone.

Sometimes events in our lives lead us to retreat within ourselves and make our comfort zone smaller. Suffering a tragic experience like a loss, a serious illness or a major disappointment in one of our relationships can make us unable or unwilling to expand our comfort zone. We all know people who seem to get stuck in a comfort zone that appears to limit what they are able to accomplish in their lives. We tend to see people experiencing this as being fearful, nervous, even angry.

Choices

As we move forward, it is good to be aware of where our comfort zone is as well as where those of others are. I believe each of us does the very best we can in every situation. Are there areas of your comfort zone you would like to expand? What might be holding you back? What is one thing you do  today to nudge your comfort zone just a little? Can you think of someone who seems to be struggling with a small comfort zone? Is there some bi of encouragement you can offer that might help them?

As we move forward, let us seek for ourselves comfort zones that allow us the best experiences we can have in life.

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 Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Limits

Speed LimitsWe are confronted with limits every day and in every area of life. Some are so obvious we deal with them automatically. When we get into our car, the first thing we do is observe the speed limit. We know the speed limit around our home or work and follow these without thinking. As we drive into more unfamiliar surroundings, we are constantly alert to the signs that tell us how fast we can go in a particular part of the road. We also deal with speed limits imposed in temporary situations such as construction zones or school zones. Some highways have digital signs that can change with differing traffic conditions.

Some limiting situations are based on universally recognized symbols. Have you ever thought how strange it is to stop simply because a light in front of you is red? Of course, some symbols indicating limits are subject to differing interpretations. While we all know a yellow light means caution, I have seen some people who seem to think it means hit the accelerator to rush through the intersection before the light changes.

Some signs and symbols seek to limit behavior. No smoking signs seek to limit a behavior that seemingly has a strong motivation to its adherents. Smoking is a behavior where the effort to limit the practice has changed drastically over time. Not that many years ago airplanes and restaurants as well as many other public places had designated smoking areas. Smoking areas used to be right next to each other, with no real physical barrier. It seemed ridiculous to think that the signs would do anything to limit the smoke from entering a non-smoking area. New limits require smokers to physically remove themselves and the smoke they create from the non-smoking areas.

Limits on the use of electronic devices such as cell phones have risen in direct proportion to the use of these devices in our society. A common factor in these limits is that they are based on principles on which society seems mainly in agreement. Sometimes we live with limits we struggle with. Sometimes we are in relationships, personal or professional, where another person seeks to put limits in place that seem unreasonable.

Rule BookAs we move forward, we should constantly be examining the limits in our lives, especially the ones that are imposed and enforced by persons who seem to have little if any regard for the person whose behavior is being limited. It is the mature person who can recognize legitimate limits, such as speed limits and who can also understand and recognize limits which seem to only benefit one person or a small group without regard to the rights or feelings of the person whose behavior is being limited.

As we move forward, let us strive in our lives of others to support legitimate limits and to at least help each other understand any unreasonable limits in their lives. This can be very powerful and very freeing.

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 Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Waiting

PregnantIt can seem as if we spend more time waiting than almost anything else in life. Waiting actually begins before our arrival. There is very little to match the anticipation people experience at the birth of a child. The process of waiting is one that is easily and readily shared with many other people. For the most part, the end result of this type of waiting is joy and happiness. To be totally fair, the same things can be said about the process of adoption. While the waiting and the tasks associated can seem interminable, even the moments of disappointment, such as back pain and morning sickness, are eclipsed by the good feelings that accompany the end result.

Staying with the baby metaphor suggests several more instances where waiting is a natural part of life, all with an anticipated happy outcome. Parents wait for things like a baby’s first words, first taste of food, followed by solid food. A huge accomplishment is the first word, the first standing alone, the first step. As exciting and eagerly anticipated as these events are, it has been said that parents can’t wait for the first word and the first step. Later, these same parents wish their child would sit down and be quiet!

Throughout life, we wait for things like birthdays, summer vacation, Christmas. As small children, we wait until we are big enough. Big enough for what changes constantly, but we tend to always be waiting for something.

Sometimes waiting is not fun. It’s just something we have to do. We wait at the doctor’s office or the dentist. Sometimes these times of waiting are filled with anticipation and even anxiety. As we grow older, we wait in lines for many things. At school, we wait in line to come in from recess. We wait in line for lunch. During summer break, we might wait in line at an amusement park to ride a very special attraction.

We wait to finish our education. We wait to find the right job or to meet the person we want to share our life with. We wait for a promotion to come. In some cases, we wait to retire and spend our time in a different way. It is important to be aware of the large amount of waiting that is going to be a part of our lives. The time we wait is that very precious resource of time that we can only spend once. It is never available to us a second time.

TimeAs we move forward, it is useful to look at what we do with the time we spend waiting. Is anyone better off following the time we have spent waiting. Will anyone be glad they shared the time with us while we were waiting? The exciting thing is becoming intentional about doing small things with the time we spend waiting can yield big results. Saying something positive and encouraging can transform waiting time into something positive and productive.

As we move forward, let us decide to use every opportunity of waiting to see what we can turn it into to benefit ourselves or someone else. Enjoy this exciting adventure. Anticipate what a difference your intentional actions will make. Join me in making the most of all the moments of waiting in our lives.

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 Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Symbols

There is virtually no area of our lives where symbols do not play a major role. From the time we are little, we see and hear symbols all around us. The toys we play with are symbols of things in adult life. SymbolsPlaying with things like dolls and cars, to name just a few, uses specific symbols to represent ideas and concepts so we can learn through play how to act out situations in real life.

Games are filled with symbols. The rules and the strategies in games allows us to test out life lessons in structured environments where mistakes have non-serious, short term consequences, and where victories bring lessons and the experience success.

The difficulty comes in finding agreement or common understanding of what symbols mean. Trying to have a conversation without a common understanding of what the symbols used in the conversation would be like two people, who each speak a totally different language from one another trying to have a meaningful conversation.

We might think we have common understanding of symbols, but there have been some very clear divisions over what basic symbols stand for. We have historically used symbols like the flag to symbolize basic understandings about our country. Activities in recent years would suggest the meaning of the symbolism represented by the flag is different to some people than others.

Relationships have symbolism that is important when the relationship is established. An example of what I am saying is the parent/child relationship. This changes as it moves through phases like adolescence and adulthood. ConversationThe relationship can also change when external factors  occur and change the dynamics of the relationship.

As we move forward, it is a good idea to be always looking at the symbols in our lives. Understanding those symbols and our relationship to them. This allows us to be sure they have a clear meaning for everyone involved. Honest dialogue is the best way to be sure that everyone understands the symbolism they are dealing with. I welcome hearing, ”I’m not sure what you mean by that (symbol). Could you clarify for me what it means to you?”

I would rather honestly disagree with someone’s understanding of a symbol than criticize or judge out of a lack of understanding. As we move forward, join me in seeking to understand symbols and what they mean to others.

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 Jonathan Bloom.