Are you a follower?

Do you follow certain people whose opinions you value? Do you take their opinions and beliefs as your own? If so, it’s time to examine your beliefs and opinions. Look at how you formed those opinions and beliefs.

Some of us are told what to think and do it gladly; some of us are told what to think and reactively take the opposite side; but some of us examine those thoughts and formulate our own. I believe that only by examining all sides of an issue can we truly arrive at a belief or opinion. It is too easy to just parrot what someone else has said or written. And it’s too easy in this internet age to read only opinions that agree with our own. That is the best way I know to become narrow-minded.

Try listening to people who disagree with you; really listen. I find that too many people don’t know how to listen. Active listening means hearing what the person is saying, observing their body language, and absorbing what they say. It doesn’t mean sort of listening while you’re thinking about what your response will be.

The art of thoughtful debate has been lost somewhere along the way; we are too quick to dismiss someone else’s opinion if it doesn’t match our own. Only by listening to everyone’s opinion can we learn and grow.

Try it for a while!

Success in Life

I watched a football game yesterday. Not remarkable, really, but it started me thinking.

The game was the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. I have been a Saints fan almost from the beginning; the franchise started in 1967 and had their first winning season in 1987. During some of that first 20 years, Saints fans would attend games with paper bags over their heads and called the team the Aints. Yesterday, the Saints beat the Vikings and are going to the Super Bowl; for the first time; ever.

Life can be like that sometimes; we try and try and just can’t win. Then one day, we win. But it doesn’t just happen; it takes hard work, preparation, persistence, and belief that we can do it. I might have yelled at the TV a few times during a Saints game (OK, a lot of times!) but I never lost faith that some day they would make it to a Super Bowl. I just didn’t think it would take 43 years!

Isn’t that like our lives? Somehow, we pick ourselves up and keep going forward. We might get knocked down a time or two, yet we keep going. Sir Winston Churchill said it best:
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

So have faith, in yourself, in your family members, in your friends, that success will come.

How do you decide?

Do you make decisions out of fear? I think many of us do that. I know I have taken a job because it paid better than the job I really wanted; I have stayed in a job instead of doing something I loved; I have stayed in a marriage because I didn’t realize I could make it on my own. Think about decisions you have made and look at the alternatives. Have you declined to dance because you were afraid you would look stupid? Have you decided against moving somewhere you really want to live because you’re afraid of leaving your friends?

It’s so easy to ignore choices because we’re afraid of choosing.

Do-over

There are no do-overs in this life. What is in the past is done. But it is hard to leave it there. Decisions we have made long ago can still haunt us; and we may still be feeling the repercussions today. We don’t have to live in the past. It can sometimes be useful to remember things that happened; but to dwell on them is counter-productive. So how can we get out of the cycle of living in the past?

Live today as today. We only have one chance to make today count. Once today is gone, it can never be recaptured. To try to hold on to today is futile. We can only live today to the best of our ability and go forward from here. This isn’t to say that we can’t plan for the future. We can. It’s important to be flexible, though. Setting small goals is much more manageable than setting some grandiose goal for some point in the future and than getting frustrated because it isn’t getting here fast enough.

So even though there are no do-overs, we can still live from today forward. Was today a total bust? Start again tomorrow. We can’t go back and change the past, but we can resolve to do better in the future, one day at a time.

Happy New Year

So a new year is officially here. Now what? Many consider New Year’s Day as an opportunity for a new start, a clean slate. I think of every day as a new start. Each morning is a new opportunity to do something great. It can be as simple as greeting someone with a smile, even if he/she doesn’t respond. It can be helping someone without being asked. We may never know how what we do affects others. Think back in your own life; do you remember a time when a smile or a helping hand made you feel better? Then pay it forward; every day.