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Fire for growth

Time for a Flash Fire:

    When we watch the news or have it shared with us, we feel a shiver of fear or sorrow when we hear about a forest fire. We think of the majestic forest ravaged by the flames, the lose that those in its path suffer, but what we don’t see it what a grand and amazing thing that blaze is actually doing. Forest becomes overgrown at time and large, majestic trees die and leave their bones in the way choking out other life that is struggling to thrive. The simple fact is that a forest fire, though devastating, is also a source of massive renewal for the forest. It clears away all the dead trees and choking underbrush so that a new generation of trees and life can grow and thrive, renewing the forest and creating beauty and even more majestic scenes than there used to be.

    Humans are no different from the forest, as our lives keep going we have things in our lives that are there for no other reason than they used to be there. They serve no real purpose in our current lives and are there taking up our resources with our giving back any value for us. We, like the forest, need to start a fire and scorch away those things in our lives that no longer serve us, be they relationships that are one sided or have run their course or projects that are nothing but a drain anymore. These things in our lives served a purpose at one time or another and brought value into our lives at that point. Yet, as we grow and expand life the forest, those things can die and become burdens to us, sapping the resources we need for new life without enriching our lives.

    So we have to start a fire in our lives, we need to find those things that are a drain and no longer of value in our lives and make a change. There can be several ways to revitalize the forest of our lives. Once we have found one of those giant dead trees that is sapping us, we can do a couple things. We can clear it away and get rid of it from our lives, let the fire of our dreams and our journey consume it and free that space and energy for new growth, or we can revitalize it. Find some way to let the fires of change consume it and turn it into something that bring energy and passion back into your life. This could be as simple as falling in love with it again or it can be restructuring that thing to make it more vibrant and effective. For example, I play war games and build and paint the models for them. A year ago, I would have told you that those items were just taking up space on my shelf, but recently, I let the fires of passion transform that aspect of my life into something new and vibrant. I am once again getting great returns on what was an old, dead tree in my life. We don’t have to remove the dead growth in our lives, but it does have to change and start to serve us again or it is just choking off the new live.

    So it is time to start a personal forest fire and feed the withering and dead projects and ideas in our lives to it. It is time to free up that space in our lives to indulge in those things that bring values and passion into our lives.

Is it scary? If so you might be on the right path

Fear Means You Are Doing it Right:

    Plan and simple, striving for our dreams is a terrifying prospect. There is a strange dichotomy that most people seem to grow up with. On one had we are taught that anyone can be anything, that the American dream is real and everyone can go from rags to riches. These are the folktales that we are raised with. On the other hand, the training we get in life tells us that we need to accept our place in life and that our genes, talents or intelligence will only get us so far and we need to be realistic about that in our lives. There is a terrible word “realistic”. It supposedly means that we should see the world for what it is and base our decisions off of that data. Yet reality is what we perceive it, so being realistic is just a convenient way of telling people not to see the possibilities in the world that they can create through their own perception of the world.

    This training that we have been indoctrinated in means that as we learn to step outside of that box, there is going to be fear. Fear is a natural part of human existence and happens in everyone when facing the unknown. Even the bravest people in our stories and movies are afraid of the unknown, yet they push forward anyways, just as we need to learn to do. Bravery is not the absence of fear. In fact the absence of fear is insanity, but rather bravery is feeling that fear and moving forward anyways. We can all be brave, that is a matter of choice and having a Why that drives us harder than the fear can hold us back. What we need to understand is that the fear is natural and is actually a sign that we are on the right track in this road. If we were not afraid, then we would just be living in the box that has been prescribed for us. There would be nothing new or exciting to happen, everything safe and boring. The fear is a sign that we are stepping outside that box and moving along the path to a future that is more amazing than the present we are living in. That fear needs to become an addiction, something we seek out so that we can be certain we are on the right path.

    Today is the day that we need to become brave and seek out those things that we fear. In fact, take a trick my wife uses everyday and try it out for a couple of weeks and see how it changes your life. Every day, xiaoyi does three things that scare her. Maybe it is calling a friend to talk about an opportunity to or contacting an organization she wishes to teach at. Every day, three things that scare her. This drives her to do those things that are our side her box and therefore in that realm of wonder we want to live in. The funny thing I was witnessed in her is that the scary things she does one day become the normal things she does a month down the line, so she is constantly striving to find more scary things to do.

    Fear is the mile marker on our journey. It is time to get a few more miles under our belt on our road to our dreams.

Setting goals and creating value to live a fulfilling life

Values and Goals:

    In the past I have discussed living our lives in tune with our values so that we can be fulfilled when we reach my goals. I have also spoken about creating goals and how to design our lives so that we achieve our goals. These ideas are symbiotic with each other, one helping and supporting the other. Yet there is an aspect of these that we have not discussed. For some people, they do not understand the power of goals or the fundamental steps needed to reach goals, but that isn’t the way that their psyche works. They are the ones that many would call a free spirit, commonly with either a sense of wonder or a sense of derision. Yet these people can be just as successful as the planners. The reason this is simply that they have found and understood their values and live life according to those values.

    This is something that we can all do; we can live our lives according to our values and find happiness in that fact. It will create a form of contentment within us that is strong enough to fulfill our lives. For some, that life needs to be matched with goals and things to strive for. Objectives give some people a sense of purpose and a guide along their journey in this life. It creates comfort in a future that is known. The flip side to this is people who thrive off the unknown and the adventure that the world posses. For these people, they need to remember that as they travel, this life like a leaf on the wind, that it is their values that will keep them in a life that is fulfilling. These people need to come to an understanding in themselves that where they are and what they are doing is the outcome of living those values and derive their fulfillment from that.

    Just as the goals and methods to reach them is the lynchpin in some people to live a fulfilled life, the person that is blown around by events has to embrace that chaos and derive joy and fulfillment from it. If they are living their values, that should not be a difficult thing to do. It does take work though, as our values and joys change from time to time in our lives. We all need to be open to finding our own values again and again and living our life aligned with those values.

    Values and Goals create many roads that we can walk, one no better than the other. The thing that we have to do is find the one that works best for us and the lives that we wish to lead. Additionally, we need to be cognizant of ourselves enough to reexamine that life from time and time and decide if it is truly what we want, if it is truly fulfilling to us. Be we analytical goal setters or free spirits, our values will keep us on the path that we have chosen for ourselves.

-Dominic

What Dominic fails to mention in his above writing is that he is one who enjoys the physical goal setting and he is married to a free spirit.  We have overlapping and shared values tough which bring us delight in each other even when we don’t understand the things that bring joy to the other one.  Do your relationships have shared values?  Can they help bring you closer to people?  Yes they can!!!

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To be a leader, serve!

The Servant Leader:

    Being a leader is the main focus of many lessons we learn as we embark on our own path to our dreams. The idea that we have to step away from everything and be our own person is a powerful thing and concept that I held tightly to for a long time in my life. I didn’t ask advice from those I respected in my early life because I felt that it was sign of leadership and even of adulthood that I should be making my own decisions and following them through on my own. In recent times, I have found that my understanding of what it meant to be a leader was very different than what I had in my head.

    The reality of it is simple; you can’t be a leader if there is nobody there to lead. If we are our own person and doing our own thing and living the life that we want, we can be an icon or an example, but we are not a leader. We have not taken an active part in other people’s lives and helped them to walk a road to their future. We have given them an idea of where they might want to go, but we leave the work to get there, up them. It is time to change this in my life, and I hope it is time in your life as well.

    Now, we need to learn how to actually be a leader. A lot of people have held management positions and other positions of authority in their lives and learned how to direct people. Many will take that as what it means to lead people, but in reality that isn’t leading. The operating system of a computer is the system that controls everything else and defines how that system should work, but it is the person that is using the computer that is actually leading what happens. The leader isn’t there to manage the people around them; the leader is there to inspire those people and to point them at the goals and the steps to get there. The leader then lets those people use those tools to achieve those goals and offers insight and assistance when it can be best utilized.

    This brings me to my thoughts on a Servant Leader. To me, this is the pinnacle of what it means to be a leader. As we step into this leadership role, we can use it a couple ways. The two that stick out most to me are the use of this to further our own ends, or to further the ends of the community that we claim as home. The first can still be a leader and work to create something that achieves their ideal. This is your CEO or business owner and they can be powerful forces in the world as they lead their people towards their goals. The leader that works to achieve the goals of a community is the person that does everything that they can within a community to help it grow and thrive in the world. They adopt the goals of the community as their own and strive to achieve those goals. Needless to say, this works out a lot better if the community that we choose to participate in holds the same values and goals as we do personally. This is the sort of leader we see in Mother Teresa and Gandhi. They use their leadership to help guide the community to growth and learning along its path in this journey.

 Neither the Leader nor the Servant Leader is better or worse than the other, they are just different ways to walk to the path that we have laid out for ourselves to reach our own dreams. What kind of leader are you?

Owning Our Communication

     Everyone I talk to about this subject has the belief that communication is a two way street and that if there is a miscommunication then the fault lies with both parties. This is an ideal outlook on a less than ideal interaction. When it comes right down to it, if there is a miscommunication it is our fault because we did not communicate in a way that it would be accepted for what we were trying to communicate. We need to learn to take responsibility for that situation so that it is still in our sphere of influence to change and overcome.  As soon as we split the responsibility for the situation between ourselves and the other person, we are expecting them to be part of the solution when they may not have any desire or ability to be so. It is better to influence what we can on our side of the situation to improve it.

    The fact of the matter is that the other person’s filters might be what are getting in the way of clear communication, but that doesn’t change how we need to react to it at all. We need to take the reasonability on ourselves to work to improve the situation. This can be as simple as rephrasing what we meant if we think the problem is a conceptual one, or we can go to even further lengths to solve the problem. When it comes down to interactions, not only do our filters define how we communicate the information or concept, but the other person’s filters change how that is received. This is the most likely reason that there is a miscommunication in the first place and there are a couple ways that we can work in our sphere of influence to overcome this challenge.

    The first method is the easy one, but it is less productive in the long run. This option is to just move on without trying to create clarity. This only works if the communication wasn’t overly important to begin with and has no real consequence outside the immediate displeasure of the miscommunication.

    The second option is the one that we should strive for at any point where we can. That method is to learn how the perception filters are affecting the communication in the first place. The first part of this is going to be learning ourselves and how our filters change how we send out communication. This is going to give us a good idea of what we are putting out into the world and how that is might be interpreted by others. The other half of this is to learn about the person you are communicating with and how their filters might change what you are saying in create the miscommunication. It is better to learn how to communicate in a way that will be heard by the other person so that your message is understood than it is to stand on your soap box and communicate in the comfortable way for us that is being misunderstood by the people we are talking to. Just as we have to change how we deal with situations and with different kinds of people, we need to learn how to communicate in many different ways so that we can have real communication instead of a series of botched attempts.

    Internal analysis and actively choosing to take full responsibility for the miscommunication and rephrasing to create understanding are the only ways that we can have productive interactions. It is time to get everyone on the same page and that means getting on their page instead of forcing them onto your page.

Overcoming Obsticles might be important after voting day

Overcoming Obstacles:

    There is one inescapable fact when it comes to our journeys towards our dreams and the life we want in this world and that is that there will be obstacles. Everyone has them and some are big while other are small, but the process to overcoming those obstacles is the same no matter the size or complexity. Today I wanted to share four keys points on how to overcome any obstacle the world throws at us so that we can keep moving along our path to our dream tomorrow, instead of letting that obstacle drive us off our path.

    Step 1, stop the self pity. The obstacle you are facing may seem like something massive, but when it comes right down to it, it isn’t. There are people around you in your life that are battling far weightier things, things that have a much most lasting impact that what we are facing. As such, taking the time and effort to lament our woes and pity ourselves for the obstacles we face is just a waste of energy. That energy can be better spent actually doing something rather than wallowing in our own self imposed woe. The first thing to do when we encounter an obstacle is to realize that it will fade into the past and only has the impact on us that we allow it.

    Step 2, work within your circle of influence. There are going to be all kinds of things in our lives that cause of stress of distress and most of the time they are doing so because we are worrying about things that are not within our circle of influence. Unless we are on the presidential cabinet, we can’t define if our country is at war, so why are we wasting time stressing and worrying about that fact? That fact is not within our sphere of influence. We need to learn to let the weight of all those things that are not within our sphere of influence fall by the road side. Instead, we should focus on what is in our sphere of influence. When we do, we find that we are actually doing something about the stresses and obstacles in our lives rather than letting ourselves feel powerless and impotent. In the above example, we can work with petitions and go out and vote things within our sphere of influence while still working on the greater problem we see. This will eliminate many of those perceived obstacles in our lives as we will act on those within our influence and just let any other fall away.

    Step 3, ask for help. There are people in our lives that can assist us with the obstacles in our lives and they will be happy to help since they care about us. It also makes them feel good when we come to them for help. This is a method to expand our sphere of influence so that take actions in concerns to obstacles that we might not have been able to effect to begin with.

    Step 4, keep moving. The fact is that obstacles will happen, but life goes on and everything fades into the past at some point. Take a minute to think about an obstacle that felt world ending to you 20 years ago. How much does that really affect your date to day life now? Sometime it does, but most of time those dire situations are just a memory in the rearview of our lives. We need to keep moving and not let the obstacles in our lives stop us from living our lives. There are only two ways to truly be defeated by something in our lives, we can give up or we can die. If we don’t give up and it doesn’t kill us, then we keep living and keep moving.

    Everyone will have obstacles in their lives, but keeping these four steps in mind will mean that we keep living our lives and reduce the stress these obstacles can exert on us. Keep walking the road to your dreams and realize that there will be road blocks to overcome and don’t let them stop you in your journey.

Improving Recieving Criticisms

Criticism:

    Criticism is something that everyone will encounter at times in our lives. Generally, we have been raised and taught that this is a bad thing, it is something that happens when we are doing something wrong or bad and, though that is a truth, it carries a stigma of shame for many of us. We do everything that we can in order to avoid criticism in our lives, including avoiding difficult or challenging things in our lives just to avoid criticism in our lives. The real problem here is not in receiving the criticism, but how we internalize and deal with it and that is something that we can change.

    The basis of criticism is a method to point out the faults in our actions and behaviors in order to allow us to realize and have the ability to change them. This is a positive thing when you actually think about it. All the internal work we have been doing has been aimed at finding those perceptions, filters, and mindsets that we have that are getting in the way of us achieving our dreams. Criticism is just an external version of that and can be just as beneficial to our journey as the internal work that we are doing. Seeking out criticism from those that we respect and admire is a wonderful way to learn where we might be wasting effort or going about things in a non-productive way. It allows us to analyze those behaviors and choose if we want to change them. If we don’t know about them, then we don’t have the ability to change them and since we have our own perception filters in place, they might be something that we just don’t see. Therefore an outside perspective is immensely valuable.

    The problem that we have to face is that we have been taught to catatrophize when we hear criticism. Catatrophizing is a behavior that can be seen in people who have PTSD in all its forms and is a state of mind where we take in stimuli and can only think about the absolute worst case scenario that could come out of it. For example, many people catatrophize every time they go to a public bathroom, fear of getting some life threatening disease causing them to use paper towels to open doors and doing whatever they can to not touch anything. This is a massive amount of effort to avoid an outcome that might occur once in a billion or more situation.  Life rarely if ever gives us the worst case results of anything in life. Results can range a spectrum, but we are trained to catatrophize whenever we hear criticism. If we are criticized for our work by our boss, we immediately jump to thoughts indicating we are losing our jobs. If we maintain these thoughts of it being the worst case scenario, we can actually make sure that it happens as we spend our time focusing on that outcome and what we focus on we realize in our lives.

    Instead, we need to learn how to take criticism and make it work for us. We need to change the way that we think about it and use it as the tool for our own betterment that it is intended for. This, as with our other changes to our perception, is going to take active analysis and self critic to accomplish, but it will means that we live in a space of self improvement instead of one in constant fear. This also means that we need to learn how to give criticism is ways that are actually productive and uplifting instead of degrading. More self growth and active self analysis there as well, but well worth is again as we can change the world around us by concentrating on changing those things in our sphere of influence and our behaviors and outlooks are solely within our personal spheres.

    It is time to go to those we respect and trust and ask for criticism in order to effect the self growth that we strive for every day.

What to do when Consistency isn’t enough

Consistency isn’t Enough:

    One of the major keys to achieving our goals is the consistency we apply to doing so. This can be one of the major, defining factors to actually getting to where we want to be, but consistency is not the only thing we need in order to achieve our dreams. There are a couple pieces to the puzzle that we need to add to our consistency to reach where we want to be.

    The first piece of the puzzle is to realize our own inherent strength and play to those. We each have talents and skill sets that we excel at in our lives. Utilizing these strengths as an addition to being consistent in our actions will take us father than one or the other of those will on their own. That means that we need to realize and understand our strengths and how they can benefit us. Are we really good at making that initial connection with someone? Are we really good at closing the sale, or are we better at presenting our dreams to others in a way that will inspire them? Whatever our strength is, we need to realize and understand it. We also need to analyize how we can apply that strength to our plans to reach our dreams and make it an active part of our lives. This is going to take some self analysis, but by now we should be decent at that activity as the changes in our lives are going to start with this step.

    The third piece of the puzzle is to recognixe our weaknesses and work to shore those up. For me, I am a lazy person at heart. I can list out the things that I need to get done to reach where I am going, but when I complete that list each day, I don’t seek to go beyond it even if I have the time and energy. Other people put too much on their plate and end up overwhelmed, stressed, and getting less done. We all have weaknesses that prevent us from doing our best or being our best. On top of our consistency and our strengths, we need to learn how to deal with those weaknesses. There are several ways that we can address our weaknesses and each one will likely take a slightly different approach than the last one did. There are many methods to overcome our weaknesses, but the two that are going to occur the most are dealing with them or gaining assistance with them. The first option is the one where we take the time and effort to actually remove that weakness from our lives. This can be an arduous and painful path, but it makes a profound impact on our future lives. The second method may be easier for some and can be just as effective, we can find people to work with that cover our weakness. For me, this is someone like my wife that keeps pushing me even when I want to be done; she is an external for of motivation that compensated for my weakness. In return, I get her to take breaks and enjoy the life around her sometimes so that she has the energy to dive forward at breakneck speeds. Instead of changing that core weakness in either of us, we found a way to make sure that the weakness doesn’t impact us negatively.  This is going to be another source of self examination on what method is going to be best for that weakness so that we can overcome it and even turn it into a strength that helps us along our path.

    By being consistent in our journey, utilizing our strength and compensating for our weaknesses, we are going to find ourselves farther along the path to our dreams them is we only did one of those pieces. It is time to take some time and put our individual puzzle together so that our dreams become our reality that much faster.

Doing Something

Image courtesy of www.elimoody.com

Image courtesy of www.elimoody.com

Days come and days go, but our goals and our dreams are a constant. So are the steps that we have to take each day to reach those goals. This is where the hard part comes in, because as those days go by, some of them are going to be good and some of them are going to be terrible. Yet we still have to find a way to push through. Generally, this is where your Why power is going to kick in and you will be able to use that as a lever to get yourself out of the bad days and back on the path towards your goals. Sometimes, the Why power is going to feel very far away and the only thing that will work is our commitment to ourselves.

By this time, we should have laid out the minimum steps that we have to do in order to reach our goals, the things that need to be done. When we came up with those daily stepping stones, we made a commitment to ourselves that we would take those steps. The bad days are the reason that we made that commitment in the first place. It is easy to hold to that commitment when things are going well, or even when things are just so-so, but on the bad days when our Why feels very far away, that commitment is going to be the thorn in our paw that gets us to actually take the steps we promised ourselves that we would.

Take today for example. Today I woke up in a foul mood. I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before because of an argument with my wife. I started the day feeling worthless and like a failure. I was not supporting my wife the way that would make her happy, I’m not making enough money to keep the bill collectors at bay, and I go to work every day to talk on the phone (an activity I truly hate) to people that feel that my life should revolve around them. Frankly, I felt like lying down on the highway would be a more enjoyable day today and nothing was making a dent in that feeling. Yet here I am, writing about the steps that I took to still try and move forward. This is me stepping to that next stone and the only reason that I am doing it is because of the commitment to myself that I made to write one of these each day.

So on those days that your Why power isn’t there to push you and life feels like an utter waste of time, remember that commitment you made to yourself and let that be the lever that gets you to take the needed step, even if it is just a small step.