A dear friend of mine likes to say, “it’s hard to see the whole picture when you’re in the frame.” There is a lot of truth and perhaps a gentle “ouch” in that statement. Think about the last time you took a picture with a friend, family member, or other groups of people. What determines the quality of the photo (in your opinion)? It is, of course, how good YOU look in the photo!
Sure other people may have their eyes closed, mouth open, or other unflattering poses, but if the picture of you looks good, it is a “great shot.” From a very early age, all of us are always consciously aware of not only our appearance but also how others perceive us, at almost any moment in any day. This doesn’t make you a bad or vain person; it makes us human beings.
Yes, I recognize that we are already well over a quarter of the way into 2021. As we consider how to move forward into the rest of the year, I have a simple suggestion for you this week that will pay off for you not only for the balance of this year but many years into the future. As with almost anything worth doing, it is simple, but it’s not easy.
Thankfully, as things begin to recover from a year we hope we will never have to endure again, we can begin to gain perspective on all that has taken place in the last year or so. I realize that many have suffered significant losses of freedoms, jobs, and even loved ones. I am not suggesting we forget about those things and those people. I am suggesting we honor them by how we embrace our future.
When we stop to think about it, life is lived between mountain tops and valleys. Sometimes we spend an inordinate amount of time in one or the other places. All of us are still emerging from a valley none of us ever expected or knew existed before the beginning of last year. While many of us may still be physically living in that valley, I hope this week’s post helps you mentally rise to the top of the mountain anyway.
The mountain top can represent many things and is likely somewhat different for each one of us. For many, it may be an annual family vacation. For others, it may be as simple as enjoying a sunrise or sunset. Personally, I experienced a mountain top experience yesterday on multiple fronts. For the first time in over a year, I attended a church service with a full congregation. I celebrated Easter with 4-5,000 other folks. That in itself was a delight after months of quarantine. To put your mind at ease, we were fortunate enough to celebrate outside, socially distanced at SMU’s Ford Field.
Unless this is the first time you have read one of my blog posts or consumed any of my content, chances are you know I am a positive, glass half–full kind of guy. If that has somehow eluded you, let me say that my mission is to inspire you to develop your God-given abilities to become the best version of yourself that you can be.
Last week, I had an interesting conversation with one of the people I am privileged to coach. I am not quoting him verbatim, but essentially what he said was, “We can’t be motivated all the time, so when we don’t feel motivated, we have to have a plan.” When he first said it, I almost dismissed it because it seemed so simple. However, the more I think around it, the more I recognize great wisdom in his message.
This is a personal memoir as well as an encouragement for you this week, dear reader. Whether you are like me, or not, I believe the ensuing thoughts will help you to live more fully filled and fulfilled, beginning with wherever you are and using whatever you have. For, I know, and now I feel, that getting out of my (your) head and into my (your) heart is the best and only way to live.
For far too long, read decades, I have lived inside my head. While I am an emotional guy, many feelings, desires, and sensitivities I kept locked up inside of me for far too long. Both positive and negative. I’ll dive much more deeply into this shortly, but suffice to say, that in my head I felt safe and in my heart, I felt vulnerable. I was right, but I was so wrong.
The more people I talk to and interact with, the more I hear it. Oh, it isn’t necessarily the same words, the same circumstances, or the same reasons but at the core, so many of us are overwrought with fear. There are plenty of sources that we blame for it, and certainly, almost a year into a global pandemic and all of the socioeconomic repercussions and fallout take it to the top of the list.
The truth is, if we didn’t have a pandemic we would create other excuses. Although most everyone knows what they need to do to overcome it, few people actually do it. Why is the pullback to comfortable so, well, comfortable? I don’t have all of the answers but the prevalence of this phenomenon cannot be ignored, and I hope to not only expose it with this post but to give you suggestions for how to overcome it beginning today.
One of the detriments of our distracted, byte-sized addictions to all of the opportunities for distractions that exist in our world today is that I believe we have lost the ability to sit still for even a few seconds. Especially to sit still and think, without being distracted. I confess I struggle greatly with this.
I am neither proud of this, nor am I content to allow it to continue at the ever-increasing rate that it has overtaken my life in the past several years. I am committed to creating more margin in my life to be able to sit quietly and think. Indian-born philosopher and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti said this: “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” Whoa!
My handy dictionary app on my phone (my primary distraction) defines observe: To see, watch, perceive, or notice. To regard with attention, especially so as to see or learn something. Ok, let me see your hands, how many of you in the past week took time to perceive or notice something? How many in the last month regarded something with enough attention to learn something. Yeah, me either.
Let’s take it one step further. My dictionary app says this about evaluating: To determine or set the value or amount of. To judge or determine the significance, worth, or quality of. Now, this is convicting. Again, a show of hands for everyone who has not been conditioned by our world today to look at something quickly and not make a snap judgment. Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Here is the conundrum. Can we observe without evaluating? Of course, we can. But it takes patience, practice, and intentionality. Is there a place where you can go that makes this easier to do? Some room in your house, a coffee shop in town, or even just a favorite chair where you can sit and think with no distractions?
For me, there is no better place than outside in nature. I love being outdoors. Of course, a beautiful day doesn’t hurt, but even if the weather is less than perfect, I find that doing outside allows me to connect with myself and to connect with my Creator. It could be almost anywhere. I prefer the beach or a golf course but since I don’t get to do that every day, an early morning walk with my dog is a good substitute.
No matter where you do it, and how you do it, I believe we need to fight for our intelligence and create some margin to think, to ask ourselves questions, and to listen to the answers that come. I like to do this with God too. I have to admit, I don’t always get the answers I think I am looking for, but I rarely come away from such a session without feeling more relaxed, more clarity, and more purpose as I go through the rest of my day.
I’d love to hear from you. What practices work for you? What do you need to stop doing to create more margin to start thinking? What questions or comments do you have? I’d love you to share them below.
I also invite you to review my coaching page on my website here. I have only a couple of spots left in my Personal Development Coaching Practice. Each week I offer two free strategy sessions on a first-come, first-served basis to people interested in exploring how to become a person who pursues their goals and dreams. These highly valuable hour-long sessions prove again and again to be invaluable to those who participate. You can book these directly on my coaching page – I look forward to serving you.
By now, I certainly hope you have figured out how much I love quotes and sayings. They sometimes may seem contrived or even pithy, but even if they are, we like them, memorize them, and most importantly, remember them. Therefore, I offer for your initial amusement, followed by a knowing acceptance, finished with a nod of gratitude the following:
Yesterday is history and tomorrow is a mystery.
Before you accuse me of being Captain Obvious, allow me to expound slightly. Why do we (which most definitely includes I) spend so much time worrying, wishing, and wasting time thinking about the past? For that matter, ditto for the future. I have some ideas which I hope you will consider and then follow me in directing your focus where it belongs.
As we settle into the new year, I want to encourage you this week to continue to keep at the forefront of your mind those ideas, dreams, and goals you started the year with. Many people who are not reading this article and are not focused on becoming the best versions of themselves have already long forgotten all of the things they said they were going to do this year.
This brings me to my first encouragement for you in this post. Ideas are just dreams until they’re written down. If you haven’t already, it’s never too late to start but wherever you fall here, get your dreams, visions, ideas, goals, and any and everything else you want to accomplish down on paper. Got it? Good.