Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Take the cookies when they are passed

So what life lessons can be found in a cookie (other than too many can add unwanted pounds?) Well, quite a bit actually. I recently heard the saying, "Take the cookies when they are passed." This is a "seize the moment" message. It's easy to fall into procrastination and postpone taking action on things we say are significant to us.

Some cookies only pass by once in a lifetime. If we're honest, all of us usually have some things we'd change if we could. Maybe they are not monumental issues, but generally we can look back and wish we'd done something different. There may have been conversations we wish we'd had with someone who is no longer alive. Or maybe there were educational or career opportunities we would take now that we passed up years ago. It may not be possible to return to that specific opportunity. Those of us who have raised children often look back wishing we would have handled something differently. For that particular moment in time, we cannot go back and change the situation. It's in the past.

Not all cookies are good for you. Be selective about which cookies you take. Some will wreak havoc with your life. It's best to let those go by. In fact, stay away from the plate. Taking risks or making choices that threaten your health or moral integrity can inflict devastation on yourself or others. Things such as substance abuse, cheating on taxes, adultery, or betrayal are best left alone. Though they may be tempting, the payoff isn't worth it. Passing up these cookies may mean you have a seemingly difficult road ahead, but in the end, you'll be very glad you didn't take one of these cookies. They are akin to poison.

Some cookies may come around a second time, but on the other hand, they may not. It's easy for us to have a mindset that says "I can do that later." I find that as I get older, I'm realizing that "later" may be sooner than I envision. Phrases like "Someday let's help build a Habitat for Humanity house" or "Let's go visit Aunt Maria in Italy some year" are plans that are dependent on certain events over which we have little control. What action do you need to take now to move toward the things you intend to do? Losing weight or developing an exercise routine, reviewing for an upcoming exam you know you'll need to eventually take for a promotion, or re-establishing a connection with someone you no longer have contact with, but wish you did, are all things that have a ticking clock alongside them. I'm taking the cookies more these days because I'm not sure they'll be offered to me again.

If you passed up some cookies you wished you'd taken, look for others. Maybe it was best we didn't take them after all. There are valuable lessons in passing up some cookies. If you have regrets, what can you do to create new options for yourself? Opportunities always exist around us. Maybe it won't look quite the same as what you passed up, but it will bring into being something similar or even better than you thought possible. Don't dwell in regret. You may be able to significantly improve a relationship by owning up to imperfection or past mistakes. Your business failure may provide a springboard for you to help someone else or it may lead you to finally researching a new profession you've always been told by others you'd be good at.

So here's to following through on those good intentions today.

"Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great."
Orison Swett Marden

Photo: © Dawn Hudson | Dreamstime.com

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Are you ready for some good news?

I noticed that the celebration and interviews after the "Miracle on the Hudson" went on for over three weeks. We just couldn't get enough of hearing about heros, bravery, humility, kinship, and teamwork.  People are hungry for good news.

In a very dismal economy with so many losing their jobs and homes, is there an upside? I don't know if you've noticed but there is a sense of community emerging. When things get tough, it provides opportunity to reach out to others in new and creative ways.

Having just moved to a small town I am keenly aware that those "in community" take care of each other. There's a family here who just lost a teenage son in an accident and had already been dealing with job loss. People in the town have come together to do what they can to encourage and support this family in some very tangible ways.

Just today I heard about a handful of people who have decided to help a widow with a piece of property she owns. Her husband, Andy, had created a sort of garden and sitting area on the property. It was even used a few times for weddings. His widow couldn't keep it maintained after he died. People began to inquire about it as they saw it begin to deteriorate. Six people are each chipping in $5 monthly so the lawn can be mowed regularly. And others are showing up to trim shrubs, plant flowers, etc. The activity is contagious.  People who didn't know each other before taking on this project are now friends.

As John McCain said, "People long to be part of something bigger than themselves."  There is great satisfaction in joining together with others for a common cause.  

As a coach I get to watch people identify ways they can contribute their time, talents, and treasures to something they are passionate about.  When they take action, good news happens!

Photo:  Ionut Dan Popescu/www.123rf.com

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Alternatives to Chocolate

Are you kidding, you might be thinking? Well, yes....I'm not suggesting you eliminate chocolate from your life. I've just been doing some thinking about Valentine's Day and the expressions of love we give to those around us. It's easy to get in a rut and do the same thing each year when February 14 rolls around. Although moms may relish an evening of fine dining without the children, those of you who enjoy new and creative ways to celebrate, may be wondering what your beloved has in mind for 2009's festivity. This year the 14th falls on a Saturday which gives you a wider range of time to celebrate rather than having to cram your fun into a busy weeknight.

For those who may be stressing over what to do, (you have a few days left!) there are many ideas out there. We've all got talents and hobbies. You'll be surprised what you can come up with. Are you musical? artistic, athletic, even engineering-minded? Don't discount your giftedness....it can lead to the best ideas ever.

Valentines Day isn't just for couples. You can make it a family event. Children are so energized by surprises and creativity when it comes to giving to others. Make use of your child's fun-loving spirit and tap into their ideas if you are wanting to include them in the celebration. You can make valentines, cookies, a special dessert (or take them with you to buy it if you are short on time) and include the kids in that.

Have the kids help you write a poem. With a little inspiration you might be surprised what you can come up with. You can even add music and sing it. If the kids want to dress up, go for it!

Make a list of a few people you know who are alone this year on Valentine's Day. What could you do for them to bring a smile to their faces? The joy of giving is hard to top.

Having been married 38 years, my husband and I are always looking for ways to add some creativity and new ideas to our relationship. Both our children are recently married and live several hours from us, so its just the two of us.

I have to say that I have enjoyed the dinners and the flowers I've received over the years. But this year we are planning something different for our celebration.

Being that we are now living on California's Central Coast, we decided we'd spend Saturday, the 14th, together with an opened-ended day. We're starting out by heading 20 miles north to a restaurant located in a scenic spot for a mid-late morning breakfast. We're dressing casual because there are some great walks in this area. You can hike trails which take you through hillsides or down to the water's edge. Tidepools abound so watersocks will be in order. Because we have a Jeep Wrangler we can explore some new territory in the hills. I'm looking forward to seeing things I haven't seen before. We're skipping the fine dining in a restaurant for this year, but will celebrate in some other unique environments, I think.

What activities are in your area you have never checked out before? You know they exist but have been too busy to stop and experience them. Saturday, the 14th, may be the time.

Whatever you do, enjoy the opportunity to do something nice with those you love. They are your greatest treasure. And you can even include a little chocolate in some ingenius way!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Under the magnifying glass

No doubt the issue of character is before us on a daily basis. Our own, and reports of everyone elses! Some decisions we make are very cut and dried in our mind when it comes to what's right and wrong. Other decisions may be more problematic to sort out.

Most everyone wants to be viewed as having a high level of moral character. Words which claim our high integrity are easily spoken. However, when one digs below the surface they may find our integrity lacking.

Our news reports are full of stories of character-related issues. Today we learned that some of Obama's nominees for cabinet positions withdrew their names due to questions about their honesty in declaring income and taking deductions over the past few years. When the magnifying glass was placed over their tax returns, it was brought to the attention of the world that some things had been omitted, tweaked, minimized, etc. With most Americans wanting to see our government leadership conducting themselves at a higher level of honesty, this is not good news. Each political party wants to point fingers at the other side, but it seems to be indicative of the whole spectrum of public servants no matter what their ideology.

I have to ask....with so many people without adequate healthcare, what kind of person do we want heading the Health and Human Services Department? With multiple natural disasters in our country over the past five years, what kind of person would be most effective leading a department overseeing these misfortunes?

There is something to be said for a leader not only saying they are passionate about an issue, but living in a way that demonstrates it and attracts others to follow their lead. Leaders who connect in a tangible way to the people they serve are usually the most effective in achieving their goals and bringing others on board to serve enthusiastically alongside them. Leadership often involves sacrifice and denial of personal fame and fortune in order to bring advancement to those who need it. Our comfort levels are often challenged. There are no shortcuts to good leadership. Honesty and humility in service energizes people and builds trust for the road ahead.

Given what happened today, I wonder if the nominees feel it was worth it to declare less income and take deductions which were questionable. Did the revelation of their actions build a higher level of trust and connect them to the populace they serve?