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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: Making Choices

Choices

One of the things that sets us apart as humans is the process of making choices. Tiny babies respond to stimuli like hunger and tiredness and the attention of others. Gradually children learn to differentiate in which things and even persons to respond to and what the response will be. Making choices starts with little things like choosing which toy you want to play with. As children get older, they begin to express preferences and gradually have increasing discretion in what foods they eat, what clothes they wear and what activities they engage in. This is all a part of the very complicated process of making choices.

This is where the whole making choices thing starts to take off in some very interesting directions. Choices have consequences. To choose to go in one direction opens up many opportunities, but it also closes some off. Our families make choices for us that

Even though I grew up within a few miles of one of the Great Lakes, I did not have the opportunity to learn to swim as a child. I did take lessons as an adult, but I have never been more than a barely adequate swimmer. I made the choice to seek out summer jobs at an early age. Because I lived in a tourist area, part time seasonal jobs were readily available for young people. I chose to enhance my discretionary income through part time work and found that to be very satisfying. Some of those efforts have led me to be adventurous throughout my adult life.

I can trace many outcomes in my life to simple choices I made in areas like education, vocation, relationships and even things involving travel and recreation. It amazes me how often a single, seemingly isolated event has brought about a choice or even choices that have far reaching consequences in the future.

Thinking

As we move forward, it can be helpful to examine where our lives are at presently and to examine some of the choices that seem to have led us to where we are. At the very least this examination can lead to greater understanding of how we came to be where we find ourselves. This increased understanding might also lead us to greater acceptance of ourselves as products of the choices we have made and other people who have made different choices.

I believe we make the best choices we can given the information we have. As we move forward, let us strive to make the best informed choices possible in every situation.

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: Above and Beyond

Helping

When you are asked to do something for someone else, ask yourself how you tend to respond. Several responses could include ignoring the request. This might be easier to do in certain relationships such as those involving family, friends or acquaintances. The more serious consequences of this type of response would include disappointing people. Continuing to behave this way will almost certainly lead to major tension in these relationships and may ultimately result in some of these relationships being terminated.

Another possible response involves doing just as much as necessary in each instance. An example of this might be a student who figures out what the minimum response is required in each situation and does only that. This could include attending class but participating only when specifically called on and then giving only the minimally acceptable response. This could include doing required assignments, but only to the extent of meeting the basic requirements in each situation.

An employee performing at this level might do all the things specifically required in the job description without ever volunteering for anything extra or contributing and extra effort or energy to any aspect of the job. This behavior is certainly more acceptable from an employee than refusing to comply with requests would be. It seems a large number of employees perform at this level. Employers appreciate people who perform at the acceptable level. The consequences to performing at this level could include lack of opportunities for advancement and little in the way of recognition beyond a basic appreciation for doing the job for which someone was hired.

Another response could be described as going above and beyond. In personal and informal relationships, this behavior would start with a real desire to know the needs and desires of someone else and to constantly think of ways to do things to make someone’s life better and happier. The person behaving in this way is someone sought after and valued as a friend.

In school, this is the person who not only volunteers in class, but who does extra reading and study and who seeks to make the educational experience the best it can be for everyone.

The employee who goes above and beyond is always thinking of how things can be better for follow workers and everyone involved in the organization. This person tends to receive recognition and responsibility for their actions which make things better overall.

Helping

As we move forward, it is helpful to look at how we respond to requests from others. If we sometimes tend to not comply or are only doing the minimal, it might be helpful to ask what in that relationship makes us want to make that response. Why do we go above and beyond when we do? Why do others go above and beyond? Are there things that could make over and above our normal response? The consequences of that discover could make our lives and the lives of others better and happier.

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: Acceptance and Approval

Group

 At first look, these two words may look very similar. On closer examination, there are some significant differences. Acceptance signifies the beginning of a relationship. It is most often based on a set of expectations rather than a mutual interest or shared set of experiences. We can be accepting of someone with whom we have serious disagreements as long as we have enough respect for the person and their ideas to see value and worth in the person and their ideas even if hold a different opinion.

It is possible, for example, to accept and even admire someone with interest and ability in sports, music, drama or any number of other areas in which a person does not share either ability or specific interest. Most of us have expressed the desire to be something when we grow up, even if we have little or no common ability with anyone who does this particular thing.

Approval takes this to the next level. Approval embraces common interests and abilities and adds much more actual involvement or at least the desire to become involved in the activities and beliefs of others.

We can be accepting of someone with differing philosophical, cultural or social beliefs. In fact, I have had some of my most rewarding discussions with people with drastically different points of view than mine. I value the relationships I have developed with these people. After all, I learn very little from people who see everything the same way I do.

Approval is a different matter. I do not necessarily approve of the beliefs of everyone I accept. Far too often, in our current culture, it seems that people demand both our acceptance and our approval of them and their position on everything. The two are not necessarily mutually inclusive. I miss the open dialogue of being able to offer acceptance without necessarily offering approval at the same time.

Group

As we move forward, I believe it is important to understand the distinction  between acceptance and approval. It is polarizing to be told I am prejudiced or insensitive simply because I cannot approve everything I can accept.

As we move forward, I invite you to be as accepting as possible, even if that does not always include offering approval. Both have value, but they are not the same.

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: Give and Take

Mom and Child

These two words—give and take, can be used to describe what takes place in each of our relationships. Whatever relationships we enter into, we give  who we are and what we bring into the relationship. We take what the other person has to offer that meets our needs. One of the reasons the first smiles of a baby are so much appreciated is the very fact that the beginning of the parent child relationship involves almost total giving on the part of the parents, especially in the infancy stage. It seems as if the newborn takes constantly everything he or she needs to be content. That first smile is seen by the parent as this child giving back love and appreciation.

In early life we learn a lot about the process of give and take in our various relationships. An ongoing question of what is from nature and what is nurture comes from watching a child develop their unique personality and their tendencies to be more of a giver or more of a taker in relationships as they develop.

It is tempting to over simplify our conclusions about where people fall on this give and take scale based on what we think we know about someone. It is easy to conclude that a spoiled, pampered indulged child will show signs of being a chronic taker. While this does sometimes seems like the simplest explanation for certain behavior, it is not always an accurate description of what is happening.

There are certainly occasions where someone who has always seemingly received everything they might want turns out to be more of a giver, while someone who was denied many of these things becomes a taker in their relationships.

What are some of the behaviors that seem characteristic of givers and takers in relationships? Takers seem to be focused on themselves and their needs and wants. They tend to view relationships in terms of what is in the relationship for them and how they can get others to do what they want. In defense of takers, it does seem that. Many of them are unaware of this tendency. They tend to believe that their way of looking at things is the best, if not the only way to see things.

People who tend toward giving have a tendency to see every situation in how it will affect others. Givers often tend to abdicate decision making to takers because they can seem unwilling or unable to make decisions.

Friendships

As we move forward, it can be helpful to look at ourselves and others with whom we are in relationships to see where we line up as givers and takers. As in most things, the goal is to achieve a balance in our relationships. At  the very least, having an understanding of where we fall on this scale in our relationships can help us find the best balance to make all our relationships as productive as they can be.

As we move forward, may we achieve this balance in each of our relationships be our goal.

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: Reasonable Expectations

How do you know what you can reasonably expect from a relationship? That may sound like a fairly straightforward question, but in reality the answer may involve more than we might imagine. Relationships, even very basic, simple ones have many dynamics.

Parent & Child

Take a fundamental relationship like the one between parent and child. The parent is assumed to love the child and always place the child’s interests ahead of their own. Most of the time this seems to work pretty well. What complicates things are all the factors taking place in the life of the parent that may seem to have nothing to do with the child, but which actually have a great deal to do with how the parent interacts with the child.

Now, think of the lowest moment in your life, the time when you were ashamed of everything you were thinking and feeling. Maybe it is a time you yelled at other people, were impatient with hem, were rude and insulting. Hopefully, this was one of those times you regretted your action as soon as you had done them.

If the parent is experiencing stress in their own life, whether it is personal or work-related, this can have a direct bearing on the relationship between parent and child. Reasonable expectations for a child to have in a stable, loving home can be far different than reasonable expectations in a home where stressors, such as financial insecurity, abuse of alcohol or other substances or other factors outside the child’s direct experience may have a serious impact on what are reasonable expectations.

This can happen in settings like school and work. Things happening in the personal life of a teacher, supervisor or co-worker can change what are reasonable expectations, sometimes without our even being aware of what is going on. Unfortunately, our culture tends to place more value on critical reactions, than measured, reasonable responses. A sudden change in behavior in one of these relationships may be easier to identify and understand than one that is long term.

Restaurant

This can even affect casual relationships. It is reasonable to expect that a server or a salesperson will provide the product or service in a polity, even friendly manner. The things going on in their life at the moment may turn  things around to the point that it seems they are doing us a favor by doing thing that could be reasonably assumed to be their job.

As we move forward, we should try to always remember the unique opportunity being in relationships with others gives us to have an impact on someone else’s life. Whenever things don’t seem quite right, we can take a step back and try to understand what is going on.

I believe we each do the best we can given what we know. As we move forward, I encourage you to make it your goal to know as much as possible in each of your relationships to do everything you can to insure that each of your relationships are as reasonable and productive as possible. It is a worthy goal. Let us move forward together.

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: Two Natures

Deep Thought

We have two natures in our lives, and they are in a constant state of conflict with one another. If we think about the tensions in our life, this makes sense. Why are there times when we think only positive, noble thoughts and other times when our thoughts are the exact opposite? As an example, imagine the best day you’ve ever had, when everything was going your way. Imagine that time when you were feeling on top of the world, when you could see the best in every person and every situation.

Now, think of the lowest moment in your life, the time when you were ashamed of everything you were thinking and feeling. Maybe it is a time you yelled at other people, were impatient with hem, were rude and insulting. Hopefully, this was one of those times you regretted your action as soon as you had done them.

Contrast this to a time when you were positive, encouraging and complimentary to others, one of those days when you were pleased with yourself and the way you are relating to everyone you meet. Your self esteem is at its highest. You believe this is a moment you can take on the world and win.

Now imagine that these two natures occur almost simultaneously and continuously, day in and day out for the duration of our lives. That is one way to describe these two natures existing side by side within each of us and being in a constant conflict with each other.

You’ve experienced this if you’ve ever gone from happiness to anger in the span of a moment, sometimes without even being aware of what has caused the extreme shift. Many people report a real feeling of losing control at these moments. These clashes between our two nature seem to happen more frequently in some people than others. That may be the case. It could also be that some people have learned better control over these two natures, particularly the one that can lead to negative consequences for us and for others.

Group

As we move forward, it can be very helpful to reflect on these conflicting natures as they occur in us and in those around us. Do people you interact  with tend to demonstrate behavior based mostly on one or the other of these conflicting natures? How do you respond when you are confronted with one of these conflicts in others? How do you respond to sudden outbursts of anger or tears in another person? How do you respond when you sense one of these conflicts happening within yourself?

As we move forward, it is helpful to realize that everyone experiences these conflicting natures. Let us work to learn to respond to these conflicts, either as we experience them in ourselves or 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.

As We Move Forward: Patience

Crying

We come into this world with a total lack of patience. We cry when we are experiencing hunger, wet diapers, tiredness or other unsettling experiences. We demand, and usually get immediate satisfaction in part because those charged with our care want us to stop crying, but also because, out of their love for us, they really want our needs to be met so we will be satisfied and content. They are patient with us, even in the midst of our impatience.

From these beginnings, we gradually learn to be patient. It may be something as simple as waiting tor. Our turn to play with a toy another child has at the moment. We learn to eat at pre-determined meal times, not simply on demand. We learn to be patient until it is our turn. This can be in simple games we play with others. It continues in school, where we learn to raise our hand and wait to be called on before speaking out in class.

We learn patience as we move toward longer term goals. The transitions in the school structure-elementary, junior high and high school, ideally teach us to Ben patient as we progress from one level to another. Even waiting for things like vacation, Spring break and summer time all help to reinforce the benefits to be gained from being patient.

Patience is a vital part of our adult lives as well. We learn patience in waiting for adult relationships to develop. Sometimes patience involves putting up with people who make us uncomfortable. It is clearly an act of maturity to develop patience in these situations.

As we move forward, it might be helpful to assess our own level of patience in various situations. A good way to think about this is to consider how people respond to us in a variety of settings. Are we someone people want to be around and to spend time with, or are we a person others tend to avoid?

Thinking

Careful listening is a way to develop patience. This, coupled with a sincere interest in others, tends to identify a patient person. Most of us would agree patience seems to be in short supply in our world at large. This may be why patient people are valued and sought after in developing and building lasting, meaningful relationships.

As we move forward, it is a worthy goal to seek to develop patience in everything we do. The world certainly needs more patient people. I pledge to be one. How about you?

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: 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.