You Need the Right Focus to Live a Life that Matters

As you may know, the concept of purpose and its practice is key to happiness. Purpose is difficult for many people to grasp because we are encouraged to be constantly on the go, and to fit in, neither of which speak to purpose. It is easy to wander through life and look back at an advanced age and wonder: “What happened? Why am I unsatisfied? What was my purpose?”

What is purpose? The Etymology Dictionary says that “purpose” stems from the 14th century Anglo-French purposer, meaning “to design.” However, purpose did not just appear then, it had already played an essential role in Asia, the Middle East and civilizations going back millenniums. Purpose is a cornerstone to living a life that matters.

Author and co-founding partner of the Australian company, Sonder, Jonathan Hopkins, wrote in a blog wrote: “Successful organizations (like Nike, IKEA, Ben & Jerrys, Lorna Jane, Apple) all have an idealistic purpose which is followed, worshipped and preached by its employees and customers alike. Without a powerful purpose, leaders will struggle to motivate their employees and customers will struggle to find a reason to connect with the organization.”

What is your purpose and how are you expressing that in your community?

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A Profound Quote from 1688 to Mull Over

Back in the day, this day being 1688, the poet, philosopher, and author, Jose DeLa Vega, wrote a book called Confusion de Confusiones: Portions Descriptive of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. It is considered a masterpiece and the oldest book written about the stock exchange, then, the “leading center of the world.” The book is rare with only a half-dozen copies known to be still in existence.

Confusion de Confusiones is centered around the following characters: the philosopher, the merchant, and the shareholder as they bring their questions and share their knowledge, and perspective of the market. There is a passage early in the book which I want to bring to your attention: “Truth is not hurt by being hidden. It is hurt by being altered. “…Truth is not violated by those who hide it, but by those who alter it…” This resonates strongly with me as I try to decipher what is fact, as I try to understand various views and perspectives of the same experienced or witnessed event, as I try to separate what is real from what is illusory.

In the spirit of honoring your journey into meaning and significance, relevance and understanding, I give you DeLa Vega’s words to mull overs as you build your life of significance, searching for that which resonates true for you.

What This Mom Said When Asked Where Squirtle Was

Recently, I went out to a local park which housed a lake, that serves a spot  to heron, beavers, ducks, birds, and turtles. While I was there, the turtle count was 49 on just one log, nestled in the reeds. As I was looking at the turtles from my viewpoint on an extended pier, I head a child ask their parent: “Where is the Squirtle?”

I had to listen to Mom’s response. Her child was sincere in the question and worried that the Squirtle might not at the lake.

There was a slight hesitation as Mom carefully considered her response. She finally replied: “Here, Squirtles are found in their separate characters. Over there is the turtle. See its hard shell. Let’s watch what it does and consider why it does why it does, before we look for the Squirrel, the other part of the Squirtle.”

The child accepted the response and the challenge imbedded in it. Instead of joining the others who knew what was occurring on their phone and tablet screens as they crept through the park, this child began exploring and interacting with the world around her.

It was an incredible contrast in style.

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Wisdom from the Ages Can Be Accessed from this One Tip

I recently read a recommended book. The author, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) wrote an autobiography, which was published posthumously in 1868. I would like to share a point that resonates with me and is as relevant today as it was for him, two hundred plus years ago.

To give you a little background, Franklin believed strongly in the attributes virtues had He went so far as to define the thirteen core virtues which were cornerstones to his life.  He defined what each meant to him, and this is insightful,  because he understood that each person defined virtues, individually. His definition was not necessarily theirs and vice versa.

Rather than focus on all thirteen virtues, he isolated one at a time. He started with temperance which he described as: “eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation” and focused on it for a week. He then moved on to the next, which for him, was silence, defined for him as: “speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation”, the next week he focused on order “let all things have their places; resolution “resolve to perform what you ought, perform without fail what you resolve” and so on.

As he focused on only one virtue per week, he could gain greater understanding of it for himself and its valuable application in his life. As the years went by he became dedicated and pronounced with his virtues, refining them in his daily life.   This contributed to the respect he garnished. He took the time to live from his “virtues”, intimately.

Each day he would begin by asking himself: “What good shall I do this day.” In the evening, he would reflect on his morning question by asking: “What good have I done to-day?” using one of the thirteen virtues he was focusing on.

Now, that is Wisdom from the ages.

Oops, I Made a Mistake

Whether you are 15, 115, or somewhere in between, the life you are building is the life you will leave for others to remember you by.

I thought about this yesterday after I was adamant on making a point instead of understanding another’s point of view. When my perspective was called out, I paused to reflect on my conduct. In this particular situation, I realized that I was focusing on the wrong thing.  I was so focused on the point I wanted to make that I was not listening to the other person’s point.

I was embarrassed because it is important for me to live by the values I hold so dear and understanding is one of my top values.

But the reminder that I was insisting on my point, rather than considering the other’s point, was important to hear. After all, if I do not have the aptitude to give space for someone else’s point of view, I am living in a world of potential isolation, unnecessary conflict and separation.

Allowing someone else’s point of view does not mean I have to give mine up or that I have to agree with theirs. It merely means I am letting them be in their thoughts and feelings as I am in mine.

Listen for It, Listen to It, It’s There to Help

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have witnessed your own behaviors in action?

Here is an example: You are in your car, driving down the highway, it’s twilight, with the sun just about out of sight. But it’s not quite night. Others in their cars, like you, are heading home, perhaps distracted, already thinking about dinner, to dos, tv shows, and home conversations.

You turn your signal in to indicate your intention to move from the left the middle lane. You look to see if anyone from the far-right lane is indicating they are going to turn to the middle lane. All clear.

Then that voice, one you have heard inside your head before, reaches out and tells you not to go into the middle lane, that far-right lane car is going to move into the middle lane.  You stay where you are and sure enough, THAT car moves into the middle lane about which you had signaled your intention. And they moved over without any signal, nothing. But you knew. Good thing you listened to THAT voice. It may have saved you a trip to the hospital.

How do you recognize THAT voice? It’s a protective, sagacious, and valuable voice. Researchers at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, conducted a study where participants repeated a word over and over as they performed a test: push the button when a certain symbol flashes on the screen. As this symbol flashed on the screen frequently, it could set off and did set off impulsive responses. The researchers found that when participants could not listen to their own inner “talk”, they were more likely to act more impulsively.  The researchers said this about the study: “Without being able to verbalize messages to themselves, they were not able to exercise the same amount of self-control as when they could themselves through the process.”

Listen for it, listen to it…your inner voice. It’s there to help.

There is Power in that Talking Stick

 

I was watching a movie the other day, Tanna, set in a remote Pacific Island, and acted by the Yakel Tribe members. In an intense scene between warring parties, I was struck by their communication. Even in the heat of opinions and attacks, they had a natural and respectful ability to let each person speak, fully, before another person got up to speak. They did not interrupt. They did not use escalating threats. They listened to the speaker before making their remarks. It was inspiring to watch.

This view into this tribe’s ability to communicate with an opposing tribe, when stakes and tension were high reminded me of an incident that occurred earlier this year. In a U.S. Senator’s office, during the stopgap spending bill talks were held. Senator Susan Collins used her “talking stick” as a tool to let others in the meeting know that the person holding the stick had the authority to speak. Everyone else had to wait until that person was done speaking and the talking stick was released before one of them could have their turn.

In this scenario, the “Talking Stick” has several key purposes. The first is to allow the speaker the platform to speak sans interruption. Second, the stick reminds others that they are to listen as their time to talk has not yet come. Third, the sticks passed from one speaker to the next. But at this meeting, an interruption did occur. Instead of holding on to the stick, the speaker hurled it towards the interrupter and missed, chipping a glass sculpture instead.

Much can be learned from the power in the “Talking Stick”. It has been used for centuries as a tool in negotiations, mediations, family meetings and sensitive facilitated discussions.  It is a powerful reminder to where the room’s attendees’ attention should be centered as well as a reminder that the person with the stick has control of the message until the stick is relinquished.

If you have not used a talking stick in a meeting, give it a shot. It is amazing how it can keep meetings on track, viewpoints respected, and keep tempers from flaring and accusations from hurling.

I Made a Startling Observation about Leadership

I recently noted something I want to talk about. A little while ago I attended a “town hall” meeting of a group to which I have been a member and one-time leader for well over a decade. At this meeting of about 200 people, I experienced a phenomenon that may have always been there. Let me explain.

There are members who feel comfortable in criticizing the leadership, the direction and other parts of the organization. They are vocal in their criticism, sometimes sparking controversy and sometimes adding fuel to fires already lit. But, often, something changes within them, that they do not see, when they become titled leaders of the overarching organization of the group.

Suddenly, as if a switch has been activated within them, their criticism transforms into a call for peace and understanding, for tolerance and respect. Those who criticized now call for an end to “negativity”, the negativity they had sparked or fueled, themselves, at one time.

Until recently I had not noticed anything askew about this change. But, for some reason, I now focused my attention on a question. I asked myself: “Why, as leaders, do we shut down criticism, when as followers we initiate or support criticism?” As leaders we tend to seek harmony and while as followers we tend to seek a voice. But so often, neither listens to the other. Each merely wants to shut the other down.

I find it interesting that we cannot look at both criticism and the role of “leadership” as being two sides of the same coin. Neither are inherently “better.” Neither are inherently “right.” I believe voices want to convey something even if their expression, or the words themselves, seem divisive. Leaders are not necessarily parents or moral authorities but can think they are, because they have been given implicit responsibilities or titles.

How do you view criticism? Do you try to shut it down? Do you tolerate it? Do you know how to speak to it, so it feels heard, while still maintaining your center? How do you view leadership? Does it have an implicit authority that overrules a “voice?” How do you build a bridge to listening and collaboration when criticism and harmony live together?

 

Finding My Way Back to My Core… I’m Ready

There are unexpected and unwelcomed times when I find that I am “off.” What do I mean by “being off?” It is those times that I feel off balanced, feel like I am reactionary rather than thoughtful and somehow, for some unexplained (to me) reason, cannot get back to my center, my core. I find myself mucking around in emotional states and unable to get out of them.

I try to trick myself by putting myself into another emotional state but that doesn’t bring me back to my center. It merely creates more gunk. It is so weird. Eventually, I remember what I must do. I have to say, when I first discovered this, twenty plus years ago, I was stunned by its power. I return to what is at the center of my being, my values.

Values represent the core of who we are. They represent our essence and when we lose sight of, forget or deny our core, we lose our focus. When we are adrift from our center, we take on different characteristics and find ourselves in the world of emotions with their endless judgments, pushes and pulls a circus-like universe of joy, disappointment, criticism, comparison, etc. None of it forwards the core of who we are.

I have been swimming in my emotions for the past few weeks, and only now, by writing this, am I realizing that I have abandoned the guidance my values provide and the compass they are in my life. Okay, I am ready, wisdom, go ahead, rule!

Share with me how your values lead you in your life, how you recognize when you have deviated from them, and how returning to them brings you back to the center of who you are.

Trust is like a Spider Web

In a book I recently read, trust was defined in one word: predictability. That was powerful. And I began to inquire: “Is that all? Maybe that’s what trust comes down to.”

So, I started looking at trust more carefully, or more specifically, my use of trust, I understood it to be more than predictability. But what more was it? I looked at trust for me and saw that what was missing in this one-word definition were the additional components that give trust its almost mercurial characteristic. I would like to mention them here.

I have found that trust includes a sense of reliance in someone’s character. Where predictability infers expectation, reliability infers consistency. Whether it is a sense of reliance in their sincerity, their competency, or the way they show up, reliance in someone is a major ingredient to trust.

Another component to trust rests in understanding one’s motivations. Motivations reveal intentions, priorities, goals and needs. When I understand someone’s motivation, I can bestow trust.

Yet another component to trust is the feeling of true authority born by experience and not merely by knowledge. When I sense that someone is a student of what they are talking about, rather than a transmitter or information, I can grant trust.

What I find interesting about trust is that we can provide trust quickly, slowly, or not at all. There seems to be a continuum for the application of trust. I have found that this continuum revolves around feelings of safety, feelings of reciprocity, and feelings of being understood. Trust is a mighty bridge to building and sustaining connection. And like a spider web-strand which is ten times stronger than steel at its same weight, trust is a strong bond between people. And again, like the spider strand which can be easily broken and change the nature of the web, trust can be broken or withdrawn suddenly, and like the spider web, changes the nature of the relationship to which it was bound.

Let me know your thoughts on trust. How do you experience trust? How do you dole out trust? What causes you to withdraw trust?