As We Move Forward: Trying New Things

New ThingsWhat do you think of when you hear the phrase, “Try New things”? Your response says a lot about how you relate to life. For many people, the chance to try new things signals a chance to begin a fresh, exciting adventure. Some of the things that might come to mind could include moving day, first day of school, new friend moving in next door, and any number of activities that take the participant in new directions.

As we grow and mature, it seems we follow one of two paths. We tend to either find these new activities, adventures and relationships stimulating, exciting and eagerly anticipated or at the extreme can cause someone to withdraw in anxiety and even fear.

It can be surprising to realize how much of our life is affected by how we are conditioned to respond when challenged or encouraged to try new things. Other people can have a tremendous impact on how we treat new things. A child raised in relative isolation, with frequent discipline for acting outside a harsh, rules-oriented environment may be hesitant or even frightened to venture out of the safety and security of a lifestyle where everything can be known. Difficulties like living in the presence of a serious medical condition or the loss of a loved one can foster this fear to venture into the unknown.

In the same way, early life experiences of support and encouragement can bring about patterns of success that make it seem easy, natural and even fun to constantly try new things for the joy of finding out what is available. Fear is replaced with eager anticipation of the joy. That can be found as we constantly seek out and try new things.

Even unsuccessful attempts are colored by how we respond when we try new things. A failed effort might be devastating to one person and make them certain they can never be a success at anything they try. This can lead to a spiral of discouragement of defeat and failure.

An optimistic person views and unsuccessful attempt at an opportunity to move one step closer to things that bring us to successfully achieving our dreams and goals. While some of our responses to trying new things are a result of our nature, some responses can be learned.

LeavesAs we move forward, the decision to try a new thing can begin by trying something so simple and safe we cannot fail at it. Success in this one thing can lead to another and another….Soon we have established a pattern of being successful as we try new things. As we move forward, I invite you join me in making the successful trying new things a goal. Join me in encouraging others to be successful in this as well.

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As We Move Forward: Following All The Rules

Parking ProhibitedWhat comes to mind when you think about following rules? Do you follow any and all rules, regardless of who sets them? Do you follow rules you believe to be right? How do you determine when a rule is right? Do you follow rules out of fear for the consequences of breaking them? When are the consequences serious enough to make you decide to follow a particular rule?

There are a number of intriguing questions surrounding our whole approach to following. The few mentioned here only scratch the surface. I am a person who follows rules because I believe rules are a good guideline for doing what is right. I believe rules help us understand many of our relationships with others. I want the people I come in contact with to have the best life experience possible, and I believe following rules is a good way to help make that happen.

Unfortunately, I have come to realize that not everyone has the same respect for others that makes following rules something they want to do. I cannot remember the first time I met someone who really seemed to dislike following rules. I’m pretty sure there were situations in my childhood where I saw other people deliberately breaking rules. Of course, I broke rules myself, but I did it with regret, and I resolved not to do it again.

The extreme of people who seem to delight in breaking rules are those people we would identify as criminals. Terrorists seem to be another element of people who seem intent on breaking rules—at least rules as most of us understand them. The increasing frequency of senseless violence that seems all too common in today’s world cause us to repeatedly question why following rules seems to be such a disputed thing to so many people.

Terrorism and criminal activity aside, many people seem confused as to what the rules are that we ought to follow. Social media provides a forum from which anyone who wants to can loudly declare what is truth and therefore what the appropriate rules are. Historically we have had public debate when there were differing opinions as to what the appropriate rules are. Some people actually fear raising a voice in debate today for fear of being immediately labeled bigots and hate mongers.

RulesAs we move forward, it is important to think carefully about the place of rules in our lives and in our society. Open, honest discussion about rules and their place in our lives is a vital part of our getting along with one another. As we move forward, we should work hard to understand the rules that are a part of our lives. There are ways to work to change rules we believe should be changed. Let us always try to be part of the discussion. That leads us to live happily within the rules in our lives.

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As We Move Forward: Making Life Better

RoadWhat is your response when you realize life isn’t everything you hoped it would be? The answer to that question speaks volumes about your orientation to life. For much of history, people have very little control over how their lives turned out. In many cultures the circumstances of birth determined almost everything about what was likely to happen for the duration of a person’s life. A reading of history seems to confirm that most people simply accepted their lot in life and did the best they could to just get along.

The birth of the United States was a major factor in changing the dynamic of life’s outcome being inevitable. The founding of the country, coupled with rapid expansion, among other factors, led to a culture where people could easily anticipate that their actions could lead to dramatic, positive improvements in life circumstances. Phrases like the land of opportunity and the American dream made this a place where people from all over the world came to seek a better life. People were sometimes surprised by what was possible simply by developing and following a dream.

People would take their present circumstances as a starting point from which the possibilities for the future seemed bound only by imagination and the willingness to do the work necessary to achieve the goals. Each generation desired a better future for their children. It was a time of optimism and hope. Somewhere along the way, a different system of beliefs about the future began to develop.

Evidence suggests that many people today do not have a sense of anticipation about the future and what is possible for those with a dream and willingness to work. It appears many people have replaced anticipation with envy over what they perceive as not available to them. This seems to lead to alienation and discouragement.

Where do you see yourself in terms of your view of the future and what is available to you? The answer to that question has a lot to do with where we place our efforts and expend our energy. Anticipation tends to lead to hope and optimism. Envy can lead to anger and frustration. Do you spend more time looking toward a hopeful future or resenting others for what you believe is rightfully yours?

JourneyAs we move forward, we should seek to remember the hope that has led so many to overcome obstacles and accomplish great things. Any time envy, anger and other negative emotions threaten to shape our thinking and our resolve, we should remember that these are not the stuff of which dreams have led to great accomplishments.

We can also encourage others to move past these emotional responses and focus our efforts on the positive things and ideas that can form the basis of future success. May we embrace these positive dreams and desires as we move to the best future possible.

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As We Move Forward: When People Leave

GoodbyeThink about someone that has left you. That individual could be any of numerous possibilities. It could be a childhood friend whose family moved away. Maybe it was an older brother or sister who left for college or to get married. Ever more common in our society is a person leaving as the result of separation or divorce. On an even sadder note it could be someone who left due to serious illness or death. Whatever the reason, think about what the loss following the person was like. In the situations mentioned above, it is to be expected that the loss would result in feelings of loss, sadness or even anger and fear.

As we get older, the frequency of people leaving seems to increase. Changing settings like playing with friends in your neighborhood to entering preschool or kindergarten can result in the effect of having many people leave. With the progression through school, changing makeup of classes results in people leaving. This can further be aggravated in the progress from elementary school to junior high and high school. The phenomenon of people leaving in these situations may not be as final or unchangeable as some of the earlier examples, but changing interests due to maturing can make the feeling of being left feel just as real.

From graduation from high school onward, this phenomenon can become more intense and more permanent. While some people live as adults in the place they grew up, not everyone does. Most people can think of people we were once close to who went in different directions at one of these critical junctures in life. Take a moment and think about some of these people and what it once meant to have them as a part of your life.

Possibly one of the most difficult situations occurs when people just leave, for no reason that makes any sense. Think about someone in your life who was once a close friend but is now just a distant memory. If you have ever reconnected with someone from your past, only to discover there is no longer any interest in a current relationship, either on your part or theirs, that can be a really eye-opening revelation.

As we move forward, it is good to realize that relationships are to be treasured and enjoyed for what they represent here and now. While some relationships do stand the test of time, many do not. When people leave, it is obviously a time of change and transition. The important thing to hold on to is what we are moving from and where we are going.

GraduationAs we move forward, our goal should be to retain the best of all our past relationships and seek to use what we have learned to become the best person we can be. When people leave, it is hopefully like a parent who sees their child off to success as an adult, knowing they have made their prior relationship all they could and being confident the child leaving will find satisfaction and fulfillment in the next chapter of their life. When people leave, it should be bittersweet.

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As We Move Forward: Have An Adventure

There are numerous ways to describe our life. One of the most creative is to see it as a ride. At its beginning, we each get our ticket validated from vastly different starting places. It can be mind boggling to consider how many variables could be present in our starting point. There are factors like history, geography and socio-economic differences that can affect where the journey begins.

Roller CoasterAdventure comes naturally and easily to young children. The imagination of a child has few if any limits. Sometimes as we make the transitions in life, the ride can take unexpected twists and turns. One way to look at it is like riding a roller coaster. There can be long, slow trips up a hill. The pace and the anticipation can seem endless. Suddenly, there is a rush as the ride comes over the hill. We either lift our arms up in the air and scream in excitement or hang on in fear. The ride goes on.

The ups and downs can cause us to get caught up in the day to day routine and temporarily lose sight of the adventure and the vision. Patterns, discipline and even routines are important in navigating the journey of life. The danger comes when we get so caught up in our routines we forget the spontaneity and the joy that this ride of life can be.

Do you ever get so caught up in doing what you have to do that you forget that you have the right to do something just because you can? I have travelled in forty-nine of the fifty states. There have been some tremendous adventures in these journeys on the ride of life. I treasure these and countless other adventures I have had in my life, all the fascinating places I have visited and all the interesting people I have met and shared with.

Ride Through The MountainsAs we move forward, I encourage you to look for the chance to have adventures in life. Remember to do the spontaneous, fun things just because you can. Enjoy this ride, your life. You are entitled to the best ride possible.

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As We Move Forward: Red, Yellow and Green

I was sitting on my car the other day when I suddenly realized the incredible power of the color red. I found myself looking at the light with virtually no memory of stopping the car. Suddenly the light before me was green. I realized I was moving again without any conscious awareness of what had happened to cause me to start driving. I spent a few minutes in utter amazement at how effortlessly and without conscious awareness this had all taken place.

I began thinking of how many times I had stopped at a red light, again, most often with out being aware of what was happening. I started thinking about times I was sitting at red lights, trying to recall situations where I actually had some memory of what was going on in front of me. I thought of times when I was stopped a through lane and a green signal appeared in a turn lane. I realized that I often have an involuntary response in those cases to move forward.

I know I am not the only one who has these involuntary responses. I was actually struck from behind while sitting at a red light in a straight through lane. The green turn signal in the left turn lane lighted up, and the driver behind me accelerated, running into me.

This got me to thinking how powerful and how universal the symbols of red, yellow and green have become. All over the world people move ahead on seeing green and instinctively stop on seeing red. There does appear to be some lack of uniformity on the meaning of yellow. Some see it as meaning caution, while a few see it as meaning speed up and barrel through the intersection!

We have a number of very powerful symbols in our lives. These are images that evoke strong emotional responses just by seeing them. These symbols can serve as short cuts to action, allowing us to know what action to take simply by observing the symbol. Some are nearly as universal as red, yellow and green. Some relate to a particular place or event. For many Americans, the flag serves to call forth very strong emotional responses and even action on our part.

There are places and monuments that can have the same effect and call forth immediate responses. It is the goal of advertisers to create brands that have this effect.

Traffic LightAs we move forward, it might be helpful to start with red, yellow and green and examine some of the symbols in our lives that call us to action every time, with the consistency of the traffic light. It can also be helpful for us to develop an understanding of the symbols that seem to have great meaning for others.

Think about these things the next time you suddenly realize you are stopped at a small circle of glowing red. What do your thoughts at that moment tell you about yourself?

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As We Move Forward: Waiting

WaitingAs people, waiting is not something that comes naturally to us. Anyone who has ever provided care for a newborn knows that they do not wait to let others know whatever they want or need. Waiting is clearly a learned activity. Some time in early childhood.

We gradually learn what it means to wait. As young children, most, if not all, of us remember the never ending waiting for Christmas. When we are in school, who of us does not remember waiting for summer and the accompanying end of school? Those times can seem interminable.

In the larger arena, children are always waiting until they are old enough, tall enough or something else out in the future, requiring the person to wait. Most of the time we wait for things we are eager for. While these times of waiting can seem to go forever, the outcome is something to be anticipated and looked forward to.

Some things we wait for do not have the same expectation of a good outcome. At the very least, some periods of waiting can lead to either a positive or negative experience for the person involved. Waiting for the results of medical tests can make waiting terrifying if there is reasonable chance the outcome might be negative.

Waiting is clearly a part of medicine. Hospitals and doctors’ offices all have waiting rooms. It is a given. We could devote a lot of time to consider what to do while we are doing all this waiting. It is time we will never get back. Are we doing something constructive with our waiting time, something that will improve the quality of our lives? In six months, one year, five years we will be that much older. What will we have done with the time? Will our lives and the lives of others be better because of the time we have spent waiting to get where we are?

WaitingAs we move forward, it might be helpful to look at what we have waited for during our lives and what we have accomplished with the time we have spent. Are there better uses we could have made of the time spent waiting? What are we waiting for now, and how can we make maximum use of that time? What is one small thing we can do with time spent waiting to make someone’s life better? What would it take to make us ready to take that one small step? Join me in making the best use of out time spent waiting.

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As We Move Forward: Do Unto Others….

HelpingThis is a phrase that practically everyone has heard. It can be used to encourage the very best behavior. There are some basic presumptions behind this teaching. When we begin life, this is as far from reality as we get. A tiny baby only wants its own needs met immediately. As toddlers, we struggle with putting others first. We learn independent play while others are close by. There is little if any interaction even if there are a number of children in the group. It is still doing what each child wants. The only interaction likely in these situations is likely to happen if one child wants a toy someone else is playing with and makes an effort to take it away.

We do learn to behave better with other people. We learn rules like raising our hand to be given permission to speak, cooperating with others on a group or a team when working on a project or playing a team sport. Even this behavior does not rise to the standard of “Do unto others….” The goal of completing a group project or being successful in a team sport places the goal on completing the task at hand. These efforts may stop at even cooperating with others, using your own particular skill to achieve the overall goal. This may be a worthy goal, but is not the same.

As we mature, hopefully we develop relationships where the needs and desires of other people are important to us. The willingness to treat others in the same way we would want them to treat us requires incredible self awareness. There is a tendency today to react to what others say or do without any real regard to what consequences might occur as a result.

Social media gives us an audience for our instant reaction to almost anything. I have heard many people comment on how easily a text can be misunderstood. Face to face communication, especially with the commitment to listen to what the other person is really saying increases the chances of our treating others with courtesy and respect implied in this advice.

GroupAs we move forward, it serves us well to put ourselves in the other person’s place before we act. Asking how your actions would make you feel can go a long way toward improving all of our relationships. How would anger or other strong emotion that is driving the thing you are about to do make you feel?

We will never be perfect in this, but as we move forward, the progress we make will have some amazing results.

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As We Move Forward: Too Much Information

TalkingWhen you ask questions, do you ever find that the person you are speaking with tells you much more than you wanted in answer to your question? Very likely all of us have had that experience. Turning it around, how many of us find ourselves giving a more elaborate explanation than seems called for in the question we have been asked? Why do you think this is the case?

The answer to that will probably depend as much on how we process information. Some of us simply share everything we know every time we get the chance. Some of us seem to believe that the people we encounter in daily situations are interested in every detail of our lives. Other people act as if every word was worth its wait in gold, and they don’t share any more of them than absolutely necessary. Obviously, some balance between these two extremes in information sharing leads to healthy relationships.

We might find it useful to begin with ourselves and the others with whom we have close relationship to see how the exchange of information is carried out in our lives. Many of us have had someone in our lives who seemed to “love the sound of their own voice.” If this person was an authority figure in our lives, such as a parent, teacher, older sibling or supervisor, we may have had little if any choice in the relationship. In one of these cases, our response may be on the order of listening to the person without really hearing what are saying. This might be described as the equivalent of having a radio or TV on as “background” for an activity like studying. Asking someone in a situation like this what is being said on the background device might produce a response of, “I don’t know. Having it on helps me concentrate on what I’m doing.”

One benefit of using the internet is that it forces us to be specific in framing the question we are asking to be sure of getting the response we are seeking to the search for information.

TalkingAs we move forward it is important to be as aware as possible where our relationships fall on the too much / too little spectrum. If we are receiving too much information from people in our relationships, we might benefit from some basic trading in empathic listening to learn how to help the one speaking get their thoughts out with greater clarity.

The benefits of even modest efforts in this direction can make our relationships more satisfying for everyone involved. Let us strive to move forward together in striving to make each of our relationships the very best it can be.

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As We Move Forward: Honoring Commitments

ChildCommitments are an important part of any relationship. They can go to the most basic human involvements. Each of us is here because at least one person decided to honor the developing relationship between unborn child and mother to see that relationship through to birth. Even here, relationships can become complex very quickly.

Honoring this basic commitment may involve the mother and the father agreeing to accept, and raise the child. Other possibilities for the relationship with the newborn child may involve one or more of the biological parents. The primary relationship with the child might involve one or more other individuals, with or without any biological connection to the child. Commitment to the relationship may be temporary or long term and may be based on a variety of motivating factors.

This look at circumstances surrounding each of our first relationships shows how incredibly complex our relationships can be from the very beginning. From here it is easy to see how involved making and honoring commitments can be from the very beginning.

I dare to suggest that relationships and the making and honoring of commitments only becomes more complicated from this point on. Children can quickly develop preferences among the people in their lives. Choices of who a child will associate with, likes and dislikes are apparent at an early age. Many early relationships are based largely on the like/dislike factors in a relationship. Making and honoring commitments in these early relationships often comes down to who we like and who we do not.

As our understanding of the world around us grows, our basis for making relationships shifts to shared ideas and shared beliefs. We make and honor commitments more and more often based on things we agree on. As these relationships and the commitments that grow from them become more and more based on shared ideas and beliefs, the commitments tend to be of a deeper, more long lasting nature.

This is not always a straight line path. As we grow up, some of us enter relationships and make commitments where we do not share ideas nor beliefs. It may be excitement or a sense of adventure that draws us toward relationships that are outside what has been the norm for us. Honoring commitments in these new relationships may cause conflict with some of our previous relationships.

FriendsAs we move forward, it might be useful to think about relationships we are a part of and the commitments that are part of those relationships. How do we feel about the commitments in these relationships and how they are honored? We live in a world where commitment can easily be called into questioned or even held up to ridicule. It is not uncommon to have long-held beliefs not just challenged, but criticized or ridiculed, often with no real basis other than the fact that someone says we are wrong.

As we move forward, we might find it helpful to have as clear an understanding as possible of our relationships and the commitments that are part of them. In this way, we can be sure that the relationships we are part of and the commitments that are part of them make the most sense. In this way, we can seek to be consistent in how we live our lives and our relationships, and how we honor our commitments.

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