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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: One Day At A Time

Kid playing guitar at homeWe all know that the only moment we have is the one we are in presently. We may wish to, but we cannot relive the past, and despite hoping and planning and even wishing, the future is still just that—the future. It has not come, and when it does arrive, it is often much different than we thought it would be.

Little children are often told not to try to grow up too fast, to enjoy their childhood. This statement is interesting because much of a child’s time and energy is spent playing at what it is like to be an adult. Conversely, some older adults seem only to want to remember their past. It appears as if we live our lives between the past and the future, trying to find the balance of the present. So many things seem to make that balance challenging to achieve, let alone maintain.

Throughout our lives, we wait eagerly for so many things. We anticipate the start of school, look forward to celebrating things like birthdays and Christmas. We look forward to having someone special visit us. We wait until we are old enough for milestones. For instance, joining a particular organization or team. We look forward to being able to drive. The list goes on and on.

Many things can make it difficult to live in the moment, to take life one day at a time. A sudden loss or the diagnosis of an illness on the part of ourselves or someone close to us can make us anxious for another time. Many people in circumstances of drastic external change express the desire to “get their life back,” to return to a time when things were or at least seemed more straightforward and to make more sense than what was going on in the present moment. It is hard to live one day at a time when we do not like what our life experience at the moment is.

There is a difference between liking the life we have today and being content with our life as it is in the present. Being content may involve accepting some things we cannot change. It can also include being ok with things as they are for the moment. It is a mark of real maturity to be able to focus your energy and attention what is occurring right now. The operative word in living one day at a time is balance. Living in the moment does not mean we can not have fond memories of the past and hopes for the future. Instead, it is the realization that where we are right now is the very best place we can be today.

Time ClocksAs a way of living in the present, look at your life concerning what has gone before and what you think or hope will come after. Start with some easy comparisons, especially if there are some painful memories from your past or some real or imagined fears about what the future might hold for you. Given that today is the reality each of us has, how can we make the most of right now. How can we live the best today possible?

This practice is not easy, and sometimes we will make mistakes. We may at times disappoint ourselves or others. A goal as we move forward is to look back on each day and know we did the best we could do given what we know and what we have to use. That is the day to day secret to a life well lived. I hope you enjoy the journey and become really good at moving forward the only way we can–one day at a time.

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: Signs of a Good Relationship

Friends

We live in all sorts of relationships. These begin at birth, and unless we spend our last days alone on a desert island, they continue for our entire life. We choose several of these relationships, but many are the result of circumstances over which we have little or no control. There has been much study as well as much debate over just what effect these relationships have in forming the person we become, but we know that relationships can have a lifelong influence on each of us. The discussion is ongoing about the role of nature versus nurture in shaping and defining our personality. What is clear is that from the very beginning, the relationships we are part of are vital to who we are.

Some of our earliest relationships, such as family, neighborhood, social groupings such as our neighborhood and our school, although mainly beyond our control, play a significant role in shaping our development and determining the kind of adult we become.

Abuse, neglect, ridicule, and bullying at an early age have been shown to have a lasting effect on people. Care, affirmation, support, and encouragement early in life also have demonstrated  that they leave their positive influence. KidsNone of these explains thoroughly why each of us becomes the person we develop into, but these and other factors present in the early relationships over which we often have little or no control seem to guide and inform the choices we make for the relationships we have some say in forming.

If our early relationships were by fear, mistrust, anger or other harmful or painful factors, we would likely base the relationships we choose to form at least in part on these things. It is difficult to establish relationships based on positive factors if all or most of what we have experienced are not positive. A crisis such as a loss or severe illness in the framework of some of our early relationships can be challenging to overcome as we form relationships on our own.

Even as adults, we often are part of relationships we do not choose. Our work may be a place where we find ourselves in relationships we do not or would not wish. To be successful in some of these relationships, you might find it helpful to think about some of the foundational ingredients that go into making healthy relationships. It would be wonderful if each of our relationships were with people we like and with whom we agree on everything. Unfortunately,  that is not always the case.

CoffeeMutual recognition and acceptance of people we do not agree with can be a challenge. A fundamental willingness to agree to disagree can be the basis for a satisfying relationship with someone whose ideas are different than ours. One of the more difficult aspects of this type of relationship is to keep harsh judgment and the struggle to exert power out of the relationship. It is hard and painful to stay in a relationship built on conflict and the willingness to inflict hurt for the sake of maintaining power over someone.

It can take serious self-examination to determine if it makes sense to enter or remain in that type of relationship. It is fascinating to have relationships with people who differ in their ideas from us. Keeping conflict and hurt out leaves the possibility for learning from someone whose view of the world may be vastly different from yours.

It is sometimes difficult to realize that some relationships are only for a season. This fact can be both painful and comforting. It is occasionally possible to endure a challenging relationship if we know it will not last forever. ThinkingSadly, that can also happen in relationships we thoroughly enjoy. It  might be helpful to think of the impact on our lives that each of our friendships had at this time.

I would invite you to think about three or four relationships in your life. What do/did you enjoy about each of them? What do/did you wish could be/have been different? If the relationship was in your past, what have you learned from it that helps you in current relationships? If the relationship is current, what can you do to make it better?

Barring that isolated desert island, we will be in relationships the rest of our lives. Let’s do all we can to make each one the best it can be from our perspective, and let’s choose relationships that have the most potential to bring fulfillment and satisfaction to us and those with whom we are in 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: We Hold These Truths….

Declaration of IndependenceThe opening words of the Declaration of Independence are among the most powerful words ever written. They speak to the fact that certain truths are fundamental to the basic understandings that both individuals and societies have about themselves. We are learning truth from the moment we are born-some theorize even before that. The nature of the truths we embrace and believe is shaped by those influences, both people and circumstances, that make up the world around us.

As we mature, and as our experience of the world around us expands, the truths we embrace can grow, develop and sometimes even change as we do. Truth can be spoken of as a basic component of who we are. I can be deprived of many things and adjust and survive, but removing or changing truths changes who I am as an individual.

That is why the authors of the Declaration of Independence began by naming and asserting basic truths that are at the core of the historic statement they were making. They did not say their list of truths are the complete list of truths that exist. By listing them as rights and as self evident, they declared these truths as unable to be removed. By naming the source of these rights and stating that they are for everyone, they declared them as absolute truths.

Do you believe there are absolute truths? What would one be? Where and from whom did you first learn it? How far would you go to defend that truth? Do most other people seem to accept this as a truth? How does the response of others make you feel?

PenIf you were writing the Declaration of Independence and had finished the beginning of the phrase, “We hold these truths….”, what would your list include? Can you list any other truths that you think others would agree with you are basic and essential enough to have a revolution over? Do you think most people agree with the three in this original document?

The truths we believe are at the core of who we are and what we do. To be in meaningful relationships we must agree on what are truths. Are you in any relationships where there is basic disagreement on what is truth? How difficult is it for you to keep your part of that relationship going? How much energy do you expend just keeping things civil?

Now, think of relationships where there is basic agreement on what truth is. How much more can be accomplished in these relationships? How much more enjoyable and satisfying is it to be  in this kind of relationship?

PeopleWe will not always agree with everyone in our lives about what truth us. We live in a time when that seems elusive for many people. The most we can hope for in cases of disagreement is honest discussion of our differences, based on mutual respect and a shared desire for understanding.

As we move forward, knowing what we believe and hold as truth and a desire to recognize that same desire in others can help us concentrate on our strengths and allow us to achieve the same goals as those who wrote, “We hold these truths….”

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: Understanding Our Motivation

MorningWhy do you get up each morning and do what you do each day? On the surface, that may seem like an obvious question. Looking a little deeper into what is going on within us as we move through our days can help us gain a deeper understanding of the why behind some of our basic and most routine actions. It is likely your day’s activities are driven by a number of factors. Choices you have made at various times in the past may determine where you live, where you do the thing you have chosen to fill the majority of your time. How you feel about any and all of these factors in your life will play a bit part in your motivation to do the things that you do to occupy your day.

How do you feel about the activities in your day and the people you will be spending your day with? Are simply trading your time for something like money or advancement in knowledge, or  do you see your days spent in meaningful activities that improve the quality of life for people, yourself included? The answers to these questions have a real bearing on your motivation toThinking live each day to its full potential.

Are you able to use your skills, knowledge and abilities during your day to do things that bring you satisfaction? Do you believe others appreciate what you do in your days? One of the reasons the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” continues to be popular year after year is that is shows the impact an ordinary person has on his environment and what a loss his not being there brings to his world. Whose life are you making better by being part of their world?

Sometimes catastrophic events happen in our lives or the lives of those around us. Finding the motivation to adjust to those major events brings us face to face with our motivation as we struggle to adjust to outside forces that bring sweeping changes to us and those around us.

One way to look at your motivation is to determine if you are someone who sees everything in terms of the effect it has on you or something who is always looking at how things affect other people and how you can be of support to them as they live their days. You will understand a lot of your motivation if you discover where you are in that area of life.

Are you basically a happy person? Would others describe you as happy? Even happy people struggle and get discouraged. A lot of understanding about our motivation can be learned by honestly looking at that aspect of life.

The great thing about understanding our motivation is that there are always things we can do to improve things. Even if you discover an overwhelming number of things in your life that seem beyond your control, there are always things you can change. What is one thing in your day you can change that is so simple you cannot fail at it? Take a walk, smile at one person, wish someone a Happy Birthday on Facebook. These and countless other things can give you something to look forward to and brighten someone’s day.

As we move forward, it is my hope that we will each gain a greater understanding of our own motivation so for ourselves and others we can make things just a little better each day. I want each of us to have a positive answer to the question,”Why do you get up each morning and do what you do each day?” Because I can make a difference to myself and 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: Character

It has been said that a way to understand our character is to think about what we would do if we knew no one would ever find out. A person of good character would be someone who does the right thing simply because it is the right thing, and for any personal motive.

Alone How we resolve the things that confront us in our lives is directly related on our response in these situations. Since our responses are determined by our character, it really matters what our character is. It has been observed that certain character traits seem to be identified with positive outcomes while others seem to be present when the outcome is negative. While there is not a hard and fast connection between character traits and outcomes, the tendencies are real. It cannot be said good people are always more successful than bad people, although the trends do exist.

There are various lists of what constitutes good character. The common ingredient in these lists seems to be putting the needs of others ahead of our own. It can be said that a person of good character is selfless while someone of poor character could be call selfish or at least self-centered.

Character develops. A tiny baby is totally self-centered, concerned only with getting its own needs met. While that is perfectly normal and acceptable in a baby, a self-centered adult is very difficult to be around. Sharing is a difficult thing for most children to learn. Sharing is crucial to establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships. The same can be said of character traits like honesty and integrity, dependability.

It is open to discussion whether and to what extent we can determine and develop character traits in ourselves and others. Parents and teachers have done many things in the of instilling character in young people. The whole self-improvement culture has been centered around identifying and developing positive character traits and eliminating negative ones from our lives.

How would you describe your character? What are your positive character traits? Do you have negative character traits? How would other people describe your character? What things do you do when you know no one is watching? Do you do the right thing just because it is the right thing?

CharacterMany people believe character can be developed and that we can train ourselves to be stronger in demonstrating certain behavior characteristics. Benjamin Franklin had a  program in which he identified character traits that he wanted to improve in his own life and a plan for focusing on each of these for a week at a time.

As we move forward, it is important to come to terms with our own character. It might be helpful to think of people we know who are examples either of character we admire or want to avoid. It might be valuable to look at our own character in terms of how others respond to us. You may even have a few trusted people with whom you can discuss your character. Either way, self-understanding is an important starting point.

A goal might be to identify one character trait you would like to develop or build. A second step might be to identify a character trait that seems to be holding you back in some way. See if there is a way you can minimize or even eliminate this. Have fun with becoming more the person you know you are meant to be.

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: Belonging

BelongingIt is essential to every person to have a sense of belonging. The model of the family forms the ideal environment for a person to find love, protection, nurture, education and so much more. For the rest of our lives, we seek ways to belong. The things we do to belong say a lot about who we are and what is really important to us.

Where do you find your sense of belonging? Many people in our complex culture find it increasingly difficult to have the experience of belonging anywhere. A big part of belonging includes shared values.

A big part of belonging is being able to trust others in a relationship where we belong to accept us for who we are. I have maintained for many years that it is more important for someone to respect me than to like me. That is primarily because liking some is basically a feeling based response over which we have little if any control. Respect is something which can be freely offered to another person. I have said many times that when there is no longer mutual respect between me and someone with whom I have a relationship, there needs to be serious discussion about the nature of the relationship.

FriendsHaving a relationship with a sense of belonging includes respect but goes beyond that. The essence of a relationship that brings with it the sense of belonging keeps coming back to essentials like core values and beliefs. I feel safe around people with whom I share core values, like honesty and integrity. I can disagree with people in this type of relationship as long as our mutually held values and beliefs are not violated.

This actually sounds more complicated than it really is. Do you have, or have you ever had, a best friend? What makes this relationship so special? Perhaps you have known this person for a major portion of your life. Many people share that they have others they see more often and interact with more frequently than their best friends. It follows from this that is the quality of the relationship more than the quantity of time spent together that makes this special friendship a place where we feel that sense of belonging.

We experience degrees of bonding in various relationships. Fans of athletic teams can experience a sense of belonging as they cheer for victory or agonize over defeat. The bond may or may not go deeper than the excitement of rooting for the same outcome. Hopefully the place you work gives you a sense of belonging. Much of that will depend on how much the values and culture are shared with you and how closely these mirror your own.

CrowdThe same can be said of a country. Our sense of belonging to our country is directly related to  how we believe these values to be a reflection of our own. When that does not occur or is disrupted, we may experience a sense of isolation and frustration. In a country as diverse as ours, it can sometimes be difficult to experience a sense of belonging. This is even more difficult in a time like this when modern communication sources give us so much information it can at times come across as information overload.

As we move forward, let us remember that our sense of belonging does not require us to agree on everything. We need to be constantly aware of our core values and beliefs so we can gauge all our relationships in terms of how closely they line up with those from whom we seek a sense of belonging. My hope is that each of us will find at least one place, and hopefully, several, where we can not only feel a sense of belonging, but offer that to others 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: Achieving Balance

Balance

One of the most important things we seek in our lives is a balance. There seems to be some confusion about just what that means. An industrial balance is a device with a tray on either side of a pivot point. Whatever substance you want to know the weight for is placed in one of the trays. Weights placed on the other plate. These weights are labeled. They get added until both sides get suspended at the same level on either side of the pivot point. The equality is the balance.

Balance in our lives is about establishing equilibrium between opposing forces in our lives. These can include things like family, work, leisure activities. The common element is that these forces are all part of our relationships. Each of these attempts to achieve balance affects not just our lives but the lives of others. Among the outside forces affecting balance in our lives are things like health, money, loss and many other factors over which we have little or no  control.

Pressure

Pressure

Each of us has a different tolerance for the forces that we can work with and still maintain a balance in our lives. Some people seem to thrive on change. Others become very uncomfortable if anything in their lives is out of line. Extremes in behavior can indicate that a person’s life may be out of balance. If you or someone you know is almost always happy and contented and suddenly become angry or depressed much of the time, this might indicate something may be causing a change in balance. Like the ripples that occur when a rock gets dropped in water, this condition of being out of balance might not be observable in your life, but in the effects, you seem to be having on others.

How do you think the balance in your life is right now? How do you feel about yourself and your actions? If you sense a lack of balance in an area of your life, can you think of when you became aware of it? What was going on in your life and your relationships when you sensed that something was not balanced? How much control do you have over these things?

Do you think there is a change in the way people in your life are responding to you? What do you think those changes mean? Being out of balance can be a positive thing. Changing things in our lives like a job, a positive relationship change like marriage or moving to a new place can all be examples of being off balance during a time of adjustment to something new and exciting.

Sometimes it helps to talk with people we respect and trust about issues of balance in our lives. While each of us must determine how much our lives are balanced, because we live in relationships with others, the input of a few trusted friends and relatives can be helpful.

BalanceMost of us would agree we seem to live in a world so complicated that achieving balance in our lives sometimes appears to be overwhelming. As we move forward, our ability to recognize the factors that affect the balance in our lives and the lives of those around us becomes a vital skill to live our lives to their full capacity for fulfillment, satisfaction, and happiness. The best to each of you as you seek to have and maintain a balanced 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: Dealing With Setbacks

ObstacleI don’t know many people who experience life without setbacks. I do remember a conversation many years ago with someone who expressed concern that her family had not suffered any real hardships. She was afraid of what she would do if anything terrible happened to them. I have reflected on this conversation many times over the years as I have watched people experiencing troubling situations. After going through some difficult times, I can understand her apprehension. The lessons we learn and the maturity we develop while working through difficulties helps us develop strategies and resources for dealing with future setbacks.

Overcoming fear and anxiety are necessary skills in dealing with setbacks. I am sometimes surprised at the things I am no longer afraid of because I have already faced them. Knowing what doesn’t scare you can go a long way toward overcoming setbacks.

The list of things we are not afraid of is different for each of us, and it can and does change over the course of time. It is never easy to deal with loss. Successfully dealing with loss gives us confidence and knowledge to allow us to face future losses without the same fear as when it is an entirely unknown experience. Future losses will in all likelihood still cause us pain and difficulty, but facing these setbacks with less fear will definitely be helpful.

Comfort ZoneFacing challenges, especially with most or all of the fear removed, can make us open to new  possibilities. Being forced out of our comfort zone can lead us in directions we might never have considered without being faced with the setback. Far too many people come to a seemingly insurmountable obstacle and just stop there. They may live out the rest of their lives with that setback being the thing that defines and dominates their life.

What setbacks have you experienced in your life? Have they been due to circumstances you could not control? Have you experienced significant loss? Have you made decisions that led to a setback? Have you learned things that would make it easier to move forward through the setback[s] you might be currently facing?

As we move forward, how can more knowledge and less fear make you more successful in working through and current and future setbacks? May that knowledge be helpful yo you both now and in the future.

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: Always Be Sure You’re Right

Horse

Horse

Many years ago Walt Disney produced a television series, “The Legend of Davey Crockett.” The show was based on the Tennessee-born woodsman who became a hero, a political figure and who ended up fighting and dying at the Battle of the Alamo. One of the lines everyone who watched the show will remember Fess Parker, the actor who portrayed Davey Crockett saying in every episode was, “Be always sure you’re right, and then go ahead.”

On the surface, that may sound like a simple thing. I think in our society, many people tend to respond in anger and haste, rather than to take time to listen, to assess every point of view and every alternative before taking action. I recently spent time in a rapidly growing city where people drive fast, drive aggressively and are either very angry or love showing off the fact that their cars all have horns and that they can activate them at a moment’s notice.

GPS

I admit to being a fairly cautious driver who in an unfamiliar situation tends to rely on either the guidance of a human navigator or the voice of my iPhone’s GPS. These are situations where being sure you are right before going ahead can create tension with others who have apparently already determined that they are right and are going ahead

Instantaneous access to more information than we can possibly absorb and process can lead to our belief that we have been deliberate in making sure we are right before taking action. The fact is we cannot sustain the results of our actions unless we make sure we have taken this process seriously.

We have all acted impulsively and have come to regret our actions. How much better would it be if the first step in every decision was to ask the question, “Am I sure I’m doing the right thing?” Doing the right thing does not always insure that things turn out the way you want them to. Davey Crockett and a number of other patriotic Americans decided the battle at the Alamo was the right thing to do, even though it meant the sacrifice of their lives. There are some things that are worth whatever is required of us. I hope each of you has found at least one of those things.

DecisionThe process of always being right before going ahead can, at times, be painful. It may put you in opposition to people close to you. Are you facing a decision where taking the time to be sure you’re right before you go ahead would help you commit to the course of action the decision calls for?

Good for you. Those are the decisions that lead to lasting results. Even if no one makes a TV show of your life, decisions made this way will make a difference. “Be always sure you’re right, and then go ahead.” Let’s remember this as we move forward.

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: How’s Your Sense of Adventure?

Playful

Remember when you were little and anything could be an adventure? Did you and your friends build forts out of whatever old materials were around? What could you make out of cardboard boxes? We had a woods nearby, trees on a vacant lot and large brush piles on those lots. There was no end to the adventures we had. We were limited only by our imaginations.

What were you sure that you would be when you grew up? How close did you come? (Not even close is perfectly all right!!) Do you remember firsts like first days at school, first time trying out for a team, first day learning to play a musical instrument? Do you remember your first job? Can you remember what an exciting future full of possibilities these experiences opened up for you?

This list of experiences full of adventure can go on and on. How about graduation–when the whole world lay before you! For many of us there was the day we met the love of our life–what a sense of adventure and endless possibilities that presented us! Many equate the birth of children with a tremendous sense of hope and adventure. There are so many more. Take a minute to make a list of some more of the exciting adventure experiences in your life.

ListHow is your sense of adventure today? What are the things you are still excited about accomplishing? Are there places you still haven’t visited? Are there things you have always wanted to try but haven’t yet? Again, take a minute and make a list. Put down anything that excites you when you think about accomplishing it.

Our sense of adventure is what keeps us sharp and focused for the business of living life to its fullest. Never lose the desire to do new things, to experience things you have wanted to do for a long time and have not accomplished yet. Let me tell you a secret. It really doesn’t matter if there are some of things we never get to do. It is the desire and the anticipation that creates the sense of adventure in each of us.

ThoughtAfter working on your lists, make the  decision to do one of the things on your list of adventures. It doesn’t have to be something big and seemingly impossible. After you do this one thing, see how good it makes you feel. Then, with the sense of adventure still fresh in your mind, do something else.

Doing things that keep your sense of adventure fresh and alive is one of the most important things you can do to achieve maximum satisfaction in life. Treasure and nurture your sense of adventure. It can be one of your most precious gifts.

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.