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.

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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.

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As We Move Forward: Seeking Truth

Many SourcesOne of the foundation documents of the United States of America contains the words, ”We hold these truths to be self evident….” The phrase goes on to list the truths, not to define truth. It is evident that to the founders of our country, the concept of truth needs no definition. In the same way, witnesses in legal proceedings are asked to promise, “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth….” Here again, truth and what it is are assumed to be understood. The emphasis in both these instances is to act in accord with the truth.

Much of our education is focused on teaching truth. In most cases family values are formed around and taught on the basis of truth. Thinking back on your childhood, what are some of the first truths you remember learning? Who did you first hear these truths from, and what impact do you remember them having on your life? As certainly as we learn truths, there are instances in life where we have truths challenged.

These challenges may come from friends and acquaintances. They may come from trusted leaders who have influence in our lives. Hearing challenges to truth and figuring out how we will respond is a part of the maturing and growing process for each of us. An important part of becoming an adult is settling on the truths we embrace as an adult as we use these to form the basis for our relationships in life.

The number of people claiming to speak truth today is only exceeded by the number of outlets they have. From sources like traditional media to all the current forms of social media, not a day goes by without someone declaring something to be truth. The problem is there are so many “truths” being declared, it can be very confusing to listen to the many seemingly conflicting proclamations of truth and to make sense of what is truth and what is not.

In the past, we have often looked to history to evaluate truth as something which has stood the test of time. With the revisionist mentality so prevalent today, it can be easy to discount all historical interpretation and rely only on what seems to fit with a present day understanding of both history and truth. This approach can lead to uncertainty and confusion about what is truth. Like all approaches, this one has its limitations.

ReadingAs we move forward, it is important to remember that while truth is not always comfortable, it is always truth. How do you determine what is truth in the midst of so many conflicting ideas? One way is to look to the guidance of those you know and trust. Find someone who seems to you to be living in truth, and study what that person does. Truth is consistent, and it produces positive outcomes.

As we move forward, may we never waiver in our determination to seek after and to live out the truth in everything we do. The more experience we have in living out truth, the easier it becomes to stay on course. As we move forward, join me in making that the ultimate aim of life.

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As We Move Forward: Acceptance

KidsThere are few issues more basic to a person’s overall sense of well-being than the need for acceptance. The widely different outcomes in the lives of people based on the degree to which they either experienced or were denied acceptance has been the subject of numerous studies and much literature on human development and behavior. We don’t need exhaustive studies to explain the plight of the child who was either chosen last or not picked at all for activities involving peers. That is a familiar scene to all of us.

I had the experience early in life of being praised and complimented when I volunteered an answer in school. In the third grade, tryouts were being held for a class musical. During the casting for three clown parts, I shouted,”I can stand on one finger!” I immediately placed an index finger under my shoe and “stood on one finger,” I got the part, and the acceptance I experienced encouraged me to speak up and spontaneously say whatever came to mind. I gained the acceptance of being told I have a way with words.

I am fortunate that my early experiences were largely positive and gained me the acceptance and approval of others. I am aware that many people do not find that kind of acceptance. Like many of us, I have known people who engaged in elaborate behavior only to be rejected by others. In a few cases, I have seen this behavior become so extreme that it led to serious negative consequences. The attention this type of behavior gains is as far from acceptance as it can be.

As we grow up, our behaviors can take on the form of ideas. As we share these ideas, one of the things we are seeking is acceptance. As these ideas deepen and become our core values and beliefs, sharing these ideas with others carries the possibility that our beliefs and our values will either be accepted by others or rejected by them.

To further clarify acceptance, let me say that I have always enjoyed discussing ideas with people who hold opinions different from mine. I learn from people who have deeply held beliefs that reflect a different point of view. This level of acceptance requires us to distinguish between a person and their ideas. It also requires an understanding that acceptance does not necessarily mean agreement.

GroupAs we move forward, it is a good idea to look at our own lives and the areas where we feel accepted. What does that mean? Do people we are in relationship with us have the ability to accept us if we have differences in ideas and or beliefs? Does the respect in these relationships go beyond ideas we may or may not hold in common?

I hope you, like me, accept and respect people with whom you may disagree or whose ideas and beliefs you may not share. Remember, acceptance of another person does not mean you agree with everything they think. As we move forward, let us keep the difference between integrity and ideas clear. That way we can all grow in our understandings of one another and our acceptance of one another.

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As We Move Forward: Complexity

FrustratedI was thinking recently about how complex things seem to have become in so many areas of life. At first I assumed this was a natural conclusion on my part reflecting the fact that I am getting older. On further reflection, and after talking with others, of various ages, I have reached the conclusion that complexity seems to be increasing at a very rapid rate.

One area I have witnessed this increasing complexity is in the rather broad realm of the internet, including social media. I have watched the internet become an increasingly integral part of our personal lives, as well as business and professional applications. While this spread has led to many incredible improvements in our lives, it has led to other things not so positive. I have become amazed at how fragile the internet is for something we depend on for so many things in our lives. “The internet is down,” is a crisis call that can cripple normal activity, personal or business.

I know several IT professionals. I am alarmed at the stress in their lives. People experiencing an IT crisis want it solved–immediately. That is a level of complexity that I am pretty sure did not exist a few years ago. I am not even talking about things like cyber hacking, identity theft and the ever increasing number of security protocols that have become necessary to survive in this environment. The progress has led to some tremendous breakthroughs in our ability to manage information. It just seems no one person has the knowledge to solve the problems that arise, let alone understand the complexities that occur in our connected world.

Social media points out the increasing complexity of relationships that increasingly involved technology brings. Social media has given us the ability to communicate instantly with virtually anyone in the world. This should have resulted in a one hundred percent increase in effective interpersonal communication. Somehow I think complexity has prevailed here as well. We can definitely share more words more quickly than ever before, but are we really communicating with more clarity and understanding?

ThinkingAs we move forward, what do we do in the face of ever increasing complexity? First, we have to accept that this seems to be an inevitable by-product of change and especially progress. We need to accept that we will be facing more and more problems for which we have neither the solution nor a full enough understanding of the situation to begin designing a solution to the problem at hand.

That is OK as long as we remember to think of each new challenge in its simplest form. What is the basic problem that needs to be solved? Then ask what resources are needed to solve the problem and how to gain access to them. This way we can stay focused on the good things that complexity brings us. Hopefully, this approach will keep us moving forward, in a positive frame of mind and moving toward our goal.

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As We Move Forward: Finding the Way Forward

Dealing With Roadblocks

RoadRoad is a symbol for life that nearly everyone is familiar with. The image of a journey from beginning to end, with many twists, turns, changes and terrain and attractions, distractions and sights along the way can provide the description of many adventures and diversions as we make the journey. Even our various modes of transportation can prove fascinating.

We can describe how we begin our journey being carried everywhere at the whim of others. Where we start the journey on this road we begin at a time and place determined by others. Our understanding of what the road is and where it might lead are shaped by those early experiences. We tend in those early years to think that everyone’s experience is the same so we think the road we know is the same for everyone.

Gradually, as we crawl, then walk, we become aware that we have choices as to where the road takes us. We discover new modes of transportation with varying numbers of wheels and different sources of power. Some of these are literal forms of transportation. Some are opportunities which can take us on various journeys on our road. These can include relationships we develop, life experiences and educational opportunities. These can also include things like sports, music, drama and other activities that take us in very specific directions on our journey along the road.

RoadblockFrom time to time our journey on the road will be interrupted by a roadblock. These can be as simple as an adult blocking the movement of a small child when that movement can take the child out of a safe space. They can be a rule such as that an older child cannot cross the street or leave the block, especially without accompaniment. These roadblocks are intended to be temporary. Some roadblocks, like a loss, an illness or a disability may be long term to permanent in terms of blocking the journey down the road.

Some people, when encountering a roadblock, simply stop the journey and stay where they are. They accommodate to where they are on the road when they are stopped by the roadblock and they spend the next part of their journey in the same place. That can mean spending the remainder of their journey exactly where the roadblock stopped their progress on the road.

As we move forward it is helpful to have a good idea where we are on the journey. This can mean examining where we began, how far we have come on the road and what means we have used on our journey. This can take some time and can bring up memories, some pleasant and some painful, of what our journey has been up to this point.

What are the things we have encountered on the road. Have these helped us on our journey? Have we gotten sidetracked by any of them? Have any of these things been roadblocks? How have we handled these?

Now, let’s look at where we are on the road. Are we continuing our journey? Have we gotten sidetracked? Have we possibly encountered a roadblock? This examination is something only we can make. We might ask other people, but it is really our decision to make. If we have stopped in one place, how do we feel about that? How long would you like to stay here? What would it take to get moving again, to overcome the roadblock? Where would you like the road to take you next? Do you  think you will move past the roadblock? When will you start to do that?

Road AheadAs we move forward, let’s remember that much of our journey on the road is up to us. Whatever you decide about this part of your journey, I wish you clarity and peace with your decision. I look forward to our moving forward together on the road.

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As We Move Forward: Your Age is a Two-Edged Sword

InfantOur age defines much of who we are during nearly all of our lives. As infants, we may be described as an ideal age because everyone around us does pretty much whatever we want when we want it. People smile when  they are around us and tell our parents how adorable we are. We are virtually free from expectations, and we receive praise and attention for everything we do.

This state of being the perfect age gives way to the period as young children when we are too young for everything. Who of has not told a young child,”When you’re older….” regarding something they had either expressed a desire to do or witnessed someone else do and tried to imitate the action. Play has been described as the way children imitate adult behavior. Sometimes the instructions to wait until a child is older are the loving words of an adult trying to keep the young child from trying something too difficult and possibly dangerous for the attempt. The desired result involves a desire to keep the child safe or to safeguard young feelings from frustration and disappointment.

Sometimes the warning comes from an older child, such as a sibling, who simply does not want the young child tagging along and getting in the way. Sometimes the message of being too young is conveyed through age restrictions on an activity such as a ride at an amusement park.

How many times has a child been told that they are too young to use the “big” slide or swings or merry-go-round. We even had “little kids” restrooms in school. So many events in the lives of young children seem to focus on “when you are older,” “when you are big enough,” or when you grow up. Young children are frequently asked, ”What do you want to be when you grow up?”

TeenagerA strange thing happens during that transition from being a child to an adult–the teenage years. With the approach of adulthood, the things the child has always been too young for gradually become closer. Hopefully  education and the choice of a career come together in the exciting beginning of a life lived doing, ”what the child wanted to be as a grown-up.” Adult relationships and responsibilities develop during this period. For a period–a short period–there is the possibility of being admired for accomplishing things “at such a young age.” This can be an amazing period, but even at this time there are moments of nostalgia.

Suddenly the memories of what we did as children that now we are too old for may creep into our thoughts. There comes a point when the things people, younger than you, find interesting are strange to you. One day you make a reference to something out of your childhood–a song, a movie, a TV show or a celebrity. All of a sudden, young people around you have no idea what you are talking about. This begins without your even noticing. People who are graduating, getting married or going through some other rite of passage seem to be younger all the time. Suddenly you are not the youngest person at work–soon, not even one of the younger ones.

PersonThe person you see in the mirror seems to have aged while you are still young and vibrant. The idea of aging is constantly shifting, too. What you once considered old no longer seems to be. What does all of this mean to us as we travel this exciting journey of life?

As we move forward, it is helpful to remember that where we are on the continuum of age changes each day of our lives. Whether we are too young or too old for anything is not nearly as important as being exactly the right age for who we are today. If we can learn to be content with exactly we are in life today, we can learn to balance our excitement, knowledge and experience to have the most positive impact on the people and situations that are part of our lives today.

SunriseIt can be challenging to embrace all things that have become a part of the life we have today. This is especially if things have happened either through choices we have made or circumstances that have come into our life that are out of our control. I sometimes use the phrase, ”Age is just a number.” I believe that is true in terms of our age being a reference point. Join me in being grateful for all the experiences that have brought us to today. While we have arrived at today through a progression of being too young for some things at some times and too old for other things at different times, let  us resolve to be precisely the right age for today. Let us bring the best of everything that has made our life what it is today as we live the future to the very best of our ability.

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As We Move Forward: Never Give Up Your Dreams

Dreams have always been an important part of the human experience. Some of our earliest experiences as tiny babies involves responding to bright colors, shiny objects, movement of all kinds. Are these babies having dreams? We don’t know, but the responses to these stimuli seems to evoke pleasant responses. Playing simple games like “peek a boo” appears to elicit dream like responses.

Later, as children play independently and then in groups, the focus of the play takes on the characteristics of acting out dreams. This play simulates real life activities that the children see going on around them. Playing house, school, store and other observed adult activities helps children dream about the possibilities that lie ahead for them.

DreamingThe dreams that start at this point in life further develop dreams about what we will do as we grow up. These dreams not only help shape our goals for the future, they also help solidify our beliefs and values. It is exciting as a child to begin to discover interests and talents and to dream about how these can be woven into the fabric of our lives.

Some extreme examples of this involve children whose abilities are recognized and honed in the hopes of achieving mastery of a physical, mental, musical skill. Every two years, in Olympic competition, we see young people whose dreams have been cultivated in the context of extreme discipline, all focused on a particular goal. It takes a lot to sustain that discipline and focus while holding on to the dream that motivated it.

We will never know how many people have the dream of being an entertainer and go through an equally demand process of seeking fulfillment in living out the dream. Again, there is no way to really know how many people start with those dreams of stardom and realize a somewhat different outcome.

The fact is most of us start life with those childhood dreams that had no boundaries. Sometimes the limits in our lives lead us to live out our dreams in other ways. I have had several dreams about the direction my life would take. At the root of all my dreams has been a desire to help people become the best they can. Several dreams were not possible or at least not practical because of certain abilities I simply do not possess. Pursuing our dreams does not always mean we will be appreciated. I have had people who were part of the reason for acting on a particular dream who have not appreciated the effort and who have even rejected me. None of these things take away from the dreams I have.

Vision and DreamAs we move forward, I ask you to join me in thinking about some of the dreams in your life. What dreams do you recall from earlier in your life, and what dreams are part of your life today? Before you are tempted to say you do have any dreams, answer this question, ”What would you do if time, money or any circumstance didn’t hold you back?” That may be one of your dreams.

Your dreams may find expression in the relationships you have, your hobbies or outside interests. As we move forward, let’s rekindle our forgotten dreams. Whatever we do, let us determine to never give up our dreams. They help make us the best person we can be. Our world needs that. Our world needs our dreams.

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As We Move Forward: Pick Your Battles

StudentsThe college I attended changed the degree requirements of my major during my junior year. One of the changes called for every senior with this major to take an examination in this subject area as a requirement for graduating with this major. I reviewed the degree requirements in place when I began my major and determined that I had completed the requirements for the degree that were in place when I began.

When the chairman of the department announced the time and place of the examination and that all seniors expecting to graduate with this major were required to take it, I informed him that because I had completed the requirements in place when I began, I was respectfully declining to take this examination.

As a result of that I found myself in the academic dean’s office. After I explained to him that I had completed the degree requirements that existed when I had begun my major, I told him I was respectfully declining to take this examination.

He looked at me and said, ”David you’re right. You do not have to sit for this exam.” He paused and continued, ”Some day a request for a recommendation for you will come across my desk. Your decision regarding this examination will have a direct bearing on my recommendation. You need to pick your battles.“

I took the examination. I passed. I decided that the risk of some future recommendation having a negative impact on something I could not even envision at the time was just too big a risk for me to take. His challenge to pick my battles has stuck with me. Picking our battles involves a very complex process of decision making.

It is important to ask if the cause behind the battle is right and if I have the right to what I am fighting for. This calls for diligent soul searching and coming to terms with our core values. People were held to be accountable for atrocities they committed as part of the Third Reich during World War II. Personal accountability and the consequences of our actions comprise a large part of picking our battles.

Asking if we have a reasonable expectation of success and if that expectation is worth the risks goes a long way to inform our decision as to which battles to pick. Some people respond out of anger in nearly every situation in their lives. It is as if they believe everyone in the universe starts every day trying to see what they can do to make this person’s life miserable. As when trying to help a trapped or injured animal, every move toward them takes on the same intensity. The response is attack that comes from pain or fear. Texting in all capital letters is an example of this no filters response. Everything seems to set these people off, and their response is always loud and heated. Panic seems their initial response to every situation.

Many of us know someone who responds with that same high volume of hostility and antagonism in nearly every situation. Picking a battle with someone who responds in this way leads to exhaustion and frustration.

As we move forward, we want to pick battles that will accomplish something useful in our lives and in the lives of others. We might take on a battle because it is the right thing to do, but we will do it with an understanding of what is at stake and what the outcome is likely to be.

Picking our battles rises from maturity. Experience helps guide this maturity. Join me as we pick our battles based on the best information we have so we can feel good both about the battles we pick and the ones we avoid.

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As We Move Forward: Consider Your Legacy

When most people think of a legacy, images of wealth, power and fame come to mind. Some of the most intriguing fairy tales of all time have the prince falling in love with the beautiful girl. They go to the castle where the story ends with them living happily ever after. I grew up in a resort community where wealthy people owned summer homes. As I saw those homes, I imagined the lives of people who could spend their summers in those beautiful homes. Over the years, I had the opportunity to get to know some of the young people from some of those families. I was pleasantly surprised at how much alike we were even though our lives and legacies were different in so many ways.

I have had the privilege of traveling in forty-nine of the fifty states in the USA. I have actually spent some time in a number of states. It has been fascinating to explore the legacies of people from different geographic backgrounds. Obviously, the legacy we have each received is made up of many different pieces. Each is unique, and each is ongoing.

ChildWho we are at any given moment in our lives is influenced by an almost unlimited set of factors. Obviously, at birth we arrive with a genetic legacy, but our entry into the world also presents us with a whole set of environmental, social and physical conditions. There is a lot of evidence to support the theory that what happens in the very early portion of our life has a lasting impact on who we are throughout life. That, too, is a part of the legacy we receive.

An immeasurable number of people and circumstances influence us and become part of our legacy as we go through life. Think back to your earliest childhood memories. Who are the people and what are the events that seem most vivid to you. Hopefully, most of these are positive. This would mean you received a legacy upon which to build a happy, productive life. If most or all of these events and people were not positive, then your legacy might look much different.

Major events, like illness or loss, moving to a new location and so many other factors go into forming the legacy we each receive. Is there someone you can point to as the one who influenced your life in a major way? Have you looked at someone as a role model for the way you would like to live your life? Did you have an experience in life that shaped or helped confirm the direction in your life? All these things are a part of your legacy.

As we move forward, it is important to realize these things are still going on in our lives. Are there still people or events who help shape the direction of your life? Are there still people you view as role models for what you desire your life to be? We never stop being influenced by the people and events around us.

Part of our moving forward is to realize we also have a legacy to pass on to other people. Who are the people who see you as someone important in their lives? In addition to the obvious answer of people we are in a close relationship with, who are others who may see us in a still more casual way and still be influenced by us?

Thinking of the legacy we are leaving others might be an opportunity to objectively look at our lives and ask if we are the person we would want to be seen as a role model to others. Seeing ourselves as others see us can be helpful in evaluating where we are at the moment in the journey of living. As we move forward, let us remember that the legacy we are leaving for others is the special, unique contribution we make in the lives of others. Join with me in creating the best legacy we can and enjoying the experience.

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