I love a party. A holiday gathering, a celebration. A time set aside to honor or remember a loved one, a friend or event. Good food, libations, conversations, laughter, dancing. A time set apart from the everyday activities and routines to mark a special occasion. We as humans have much to gain from celebrations. Some cultures do this better than others, some do it more often. Whether religious in nature or secular, patriotic or the simple recognition of another passing year celebration is good for the soul.
But not everything is a celebration. Not everything should be made into an event. Before you think that I am getting all scrooge about this let me explain.
With the New Years celebration so recently behind us, decorations from the holidays and Christmas lights still adorning most homes, many of us are preparing to launch upon our New Year’s Resolutions. We’re eyeing that pair of slacks that we’ll fit into once our new diet kicks in, or mentally spending the money that will certainly be there once our new work commitment or family budget is in place. We’ve got the goal and set the beginning date of when our new plans take effect. Next week we begin. As soon as the holidays are over. Right after the relatives leave and the house is in order. The problem is that we’ve done this before, and it didn’t work then, or even the time before that.
All of life is a celebration. A series of events, some happy some joyous some sad some just everyday normal humdrum. We string these together and they become our life story. We seek happiness and opportunities to break out of the normal day to day routines, although routine does provide a foundation and stability. Within routine are the habits that provide mental, emotional and physical security. It is within routine that we perform all the functions that we know and do well. On a routine day we can often slide through our required activities with adroitness and grace. It is within the routines of a regular day that our habits exist.
Our habits, those things we do without even thinking about them. We wake up at a certain hour, do our grooming, get dressed, go off to our work place or other responsibilities and can often flow through these activities without much mental exertion since we’ve done it hundreds of times before. We have eating habits, exercise habits, study habits, good habits and bad habits.
Here is a quick exercise. Grab a sheet of paper and right down all your good habits. Next write down all the things you know you should be doing, dividing both lists into categories. For example under financial you might have that you are price conscience when shopping for groceries as something you already do. Then you add to the list that a good habit (you know this because you have heard it, read it, or been taught) would be to spend from a predetermined budget. Under the category of health you list all the truths you know about good eating. Less sugar, more vegetables, drink water, daily physical activities.
These are the habits of a good life. The truth is we already know them. We’ve heard the messages, read the reports, and probably even practiced them at one time or another. If you feel your list is difficult to complete in a certain area, or are truthfully uncertain about the activities that would produce a desired result in your life then you now have a goal – an obligation – to search out the knowledge. And knowledge is everywhere!
Let me divert to what might seem to be an unrelated topic and then we’ll tie it back in. When a pilot prepares for a flight there are many factors to consider. Wind, weather, distance, altitude, etc. In a larger commercial plane much of this is precalculated with the use of computers and the automatic pilot is engaged (think habit). It is the automatic pilot’s job to make constant small adjustments bringing the plane back on course. I have heard it said that a plane is off course most of the time and it is the job of the pilot to regularly and consistently bring it back on course. Obviously if the plane is allowed to veer off course for too long the adjustments will need to be greater. But the course is programmed and the destination is always in sight.
The list you made of good habits is the journey, the route, the preprogramed course plan. The wind and changing weather are the events of our life, some under our control, some not. These events can take us off course, if we allow them. A family members birthday celebration. To cake or not to cake? An unscheduled meeting at work. Do I allow my goal of completing my daily report to slide? It was a late night out with friends, do I sleep in or stay committed to that daily run?
If we allow everything in life to become a special event then we are also allowing everything in life to disrupt our good habits. ‘Lets look at the desert menu, we haven’t been out with these friends in so long, this is a special night’. ‘I can catch up on these reports tomorrow, that sale deserves to be celebrated’. ‘I can run longer tomorrow, last night was a pretty exciting time’. Nothing is bad or wrong, yet everything is under our control.
While we participate in the events in our life, be they special or ordinary, we also tend to turn our goals into events. A diet becomes a special program. A family budget becomes is a special plan. Reading a book a week is a special goal. And now that they are events we place them into a certain time frame. Right after the holidays I will begin my diet program. Our family spending plan kicks in on January 15th. I plan on getting to the library this weekend. The problem is that good habits don’t have ending points like events do. An event eventually ends. Most of us will always be eating something, spending money and hopefully reading for the rest of our lives. No end to these activities.
By making a goal an event we also can blow it. We get off track by missing a deadline, a workout or eating too much. The event is over and we’ll have to decide when to start again. Until then we just fall back into the bad habit routines anticipating the next starting date.
Not everything is an event! Just like the airplane on it’s flight across country, course corrections are not an event, they are routine and necessary to a safe trip and successful landing. When we accept the list of good habits as our travel plans through life then each day is simply a matter of making small course corrections. Our knowledge of what is good and right in our lives is our standard, the place to which we come back to on a daily basis. “I had a donut from the break-room this morning, the chicken salad looks good for lunch” is a lot better than “that donut I had blew my diet, no reason not to have the burrito plate for lunch”.
By allocating the habits which we know to be good, those that lead us through a life of love, peace, kindness, good health and self control, to be our standard for living, our daily objective is clear. By regularly renewing our minds to keep on course, to return to the standard, our lives become a sacred dance. While not everything is an event, the gift of life itself is a celebration. By focusing our thoughts and actions on the standard of good habits and ignoring our past deviations each day becomes a sacred celebration.
Even if we have wandered far off course, our choice to simply renew our mind and return to the proper course of what is right and good for us is a decision and not an event. This mindset allows us to think and act in terms of who we are now, not who we were or what we did in the past. We are not a participant in an event of a life change, but rather a person living life according to a standard of predetermined healthy habits.
The scripture is the best place to begin building a standard of daily habits. How we treat our bodies, how we go about our work, how we treat others, how to pray and study are all given as examples throughout the bible story. Since God has forgotten our past deviations we need to do the same. Just as God calls us back to Him regardless of the date or time or place or how long it has been since we were last in His presence, we can return to a lifestyle of habits that will edify us and others – any time and all the time.
Do you trust your intuition?
“The leader needs three intellectual abilities that may not be assessed in an academic way: one needs to have a sense for the unknowable, to be prepared for the unexpected, and to be able to foresee the unforeseeable,” so says Robert Greenleaf in his book The Power of Servant Leadership.
Sounds like a tall order, almost like a description of a super hero right out of the comic book pages. But a second reading reveals that at sometime in all of our lives we are that super hero.
Who are you leading? A company department, a small business, your family, yourself? Your ability, and your willingness to step up, trust your intuition and make a decision for you and those who look to you for direction defines your leadership.
Ralph Waldo Emerson talks of a ‘Blessed Impulse’, listening to that inner voice and going with it, all voices to the contrary. Is that the still small voice, the almost silent whisper that we grow to trust to be God whispering in our ear? How often do you ‘go with it, all other voices to the contrary’?
Taking leadership, regardless of the position you hold, requires a certain amount of abandonment. Taking a risk. In so many places people are looking for (someone else) to step up and lead. Scientist Mathilde Krim said “Growth requires curiosity to experience both the difference and the synchrony, to explore and immerse yourself in new surroundings, to be able to contemplate your experiences and get something out of them”. To simplify: doing the same old same old every day, not experiencing new things, not asking questions and not reflecting and learning from your experiences will stunt your growth. It will also block your leadership opportunities.
And leadership is anything but the same old same old. Greenleaf tells us: Every once in a while a leader finds himself needing to think like a scientist, an artist, or a poet. And his thought processes may be just as fanciful as theirs – and as fallible. Leaders are not superheros, they make mistakes, but they are willing to make mistakes, show their humanness and fully express themselves in the process.
Emotional Intelligence – how’s yours?
Walter Bennis in the introduction of his book On Becoming a Leader lists the Four Essential Competencies of a Leader.
- The ability to engage others by creating shared meaning
- Having a distinctive voice
- Having integrity
- The ability of adaptive capacity
Having a Distinctive Voice is further described as a cluster of traits such as Purpose, Self-Confidence, and a Sense of Self. He then adds “the whole gestalt of abilities that we now call Emotional Intelligence. EI is a concept that has been around a relatively short time and one I am still trying to get my arms around. Look up Emotional Intelligence on Google and as expected you get 8.5 million sites.
One site says “ Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand other people and yourself.”
Another site tells us ” In summary, emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection and influence. The following skills belong to the highly developed emotional intelligence: independence from your own feelings and ability to adjust yourself to them, ability to recognize, name and direct your feelings, discern the nuances of feelings and use them in positive way, and, as a consummation, derive actions from it. Emotional intelligence accompanies our daily life and in many cases as important as the “common” intelligence, especially in our modern society.”
The Four Branches of Emotional Intelligence
Perceiving Emotions: The ability to perceive emotions in oneself and others as well as in objects, art, stories, music, and other stimuli
Facilitating Thought: The ability to generate, use, and feel emotion as necessary to communicate feelings or employ them in other cognitive processes
Understanding Emotions: The ability to understand emotional information, to understand how emotions combine and progress through relationship transitions, and to appreciate such emotional meanings
Managing Emotions: The ability to be open to feelings, and to modulate them in oneself and others so as to promote personal understanding and growth
*From “Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), by J. D. Mayer, P. Salovey, and D. R. Caruso, 2002, Toronto, Ontario: Multi-Health Systems, Inc.
Our first lesson from this important book of leadership is that authentic leaders are in touch with both their own emotions and feelings as well as the people they serve and lead. Consider that truth, whether you lead a large organization, a small business, a family or yourself. Your ability to recognize how you feel, why you feel, and what to do with your feelings (positive constructive actions or negative destructive reactions) will play a big part in your leadership efficacy.
We are meeting as a small group of Life Long Learners reading, discussing and teaching one another from this book. Learn more by clicking here: http://livingreal.net/on-becoming-a-leader-book-club/
Words are powerful. They can be used to impress, persuade, seduce, incite and deflate. We’ve all used words to convince others, get what we want and influence the situation.
While I love the power that words have I am not overly impressed when someone uses a ten dollar word when a couple of simpler, more common words would do the job. Let me correct that. When I have to stop my reading to find out the meaning of a word, I realize that the writer stopped their writing to refer to a thesaurus in order to find this word only for me to reverse the process. But a person whose normal mode of speaking includes many multiple syllable words – well, that is impressive.
I’ll take this blog space to offer a couple power words, hoping you might add some of your own and then I’ll plan on adding more later.
characterized by great knowledge; learned or scholarly: an erudite professor; an erudite commentary. Synonyms: educated, knowledgeable; wise, sapient.
Which requires another look up of Sapient to satisfy the curiosity –
having or showing great wisdom or sound judgment.
Would you describe yourself as erudite or sapient?
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Do you trust your intuition?