Why is it just one season? Why is it only restricted to one part of the year?
Thoughts are incredibly important. What and how we think create the foundations of how we see and approach the world. Our thoughts shape the way we live. So, positive thoughts are much better than negative thoughts because they have the power to create positive experiences.
Generous thoughts are amazing. Thinking about someone through a framework of generosity is one of the most positive things we can do with our mind.
But only if it leads to action.
Generous thoughts are not generosity. Generosity can only be achieved through actions.
A great theologian once said,
Suppose you see someone who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
A generous person is not generous by their thinking alone, but ultimately by their actions.
How can you tell if you are being generous? Your behaviour will show you.
I am sure it doesn’t just happen to me. Other people must think the same questions that seem to come out of the blue, in idle moments, and shock you.
‘what is the point of all this?’
‘What does it all mean anyway?’
‘Isn’t it just a waste of time, we are all going to die anyway?’
Maybe that last one is just my own darkness, but it drives me to find the purpose in my actions. It drives me to take the things that I do daily and connect with them with a greater purpose outside of myself, otherwise I would just stop doing the little things that I consider important. (Although these questions can help you re-define what is considered ‘important’).
As I have refined my thinking over the last few years, each time these questions come, I add a little more to my philosophical outlook on life and create more of my purpose.
Historically, my purpose is to “speak words that bring life”. It has been for 15 years. But what else, what does that actually mean?
Lately my thinking has been along the lines of “creating a better world through creating better people”.
This isn’t the final edit though. There is more refining to come, but the theme is clear. I find my purpose in bringing life and growth. I find my purpose in giving. I find my purpose in generosity.
I don’t have the language nailed yet, but aren’t we all just a work in progress?
We know that other people see things differently from us. There are many different opinions about food, weather, raising children, pets, politics, movies, clothes, ice cream – everything.
We have no control over someone else’s perspective on life. We are unable to change their perspective, no matter how much we might want to.
What we do have control over is how we respond to their perspective and opinion.
We can do this well by asking one question – where do my own opinions come from?
As we begin to unpack that question and realise that our perspectives and opinions grow out of every single life experience we have ever had, then we can start to understand a little of how someone else can be so different from us. Their life journey has taken them down different paths, they have different values, they see things through different filters.
What is more challenging is when someone we know shares many of the same opinions that we do, except for one or two major issues in life. This can lead to strained relationships because ‘how can someone that is so much like me, think like this?’.
Someone once told me that the best way to approach marriage is to find the most optimistic reason why your spouse does the things that they do. In doing so, you don’t end up creating a mystical, negative narrative about someone you love, and it gives you the opportunity to discover more about them. This philosophy is not just for marriage relationships – it is helpful for all human interaction.
Just because people think or behave (or vote) differently to us, it doesn’t mean that they are evil, it means we don’t understand them yet.
We don’t have to agree with someone’s opinion to understand them.
There is an old saying,
“Do not cast your pearls before swine.”
For the longest time I didn’t understand it, as I tried to imagine what pigs would do with a bunch of pearls. Until one day I opened up to someone about an emotional challenge that I had, and they threw it back in my face.
It was in that moment that I realised I had given someone one of the most precious things that I had, part of myself, and they treated it like scraps. They stomped all over it and eventually consumed it, spat it back out and then consumed it again (that’s what it felt like anyway). As I witnessed this take place, horrified, I realised that this person mistreated my treasure, not because they wanted to but because they couldn’t treat it any other way. They simply didn’t know how to. Just like pigs would treat pearls.
I quickly learned who I could trust with that which was most precious to me, and who I couldn’t.
Honesty and transparency can be gifts of great worth that we give to other people, but not everyone will treat them with the respect and care that they require. So we need to be cautious with who we give these gifts to, or be confident enough in ourselves and our own worth, that it won’t matter how people respond to being presented with this treasure.
Generosity is risky. It is dangerous. But the depth of relationship and intimacy that can be created through honesty and transparency are worth taking the risks and facing the dangers.
I am trying to figure out if I am especially untrusting, or if everyone has trouble believing someone when they say something nice about them. It’s probably just me, but whenever I get a hint that a person is not being honest with me then I struggle to take anything that they say as truthful.
Dishonesty, or a lack of transparency, ruins relationships. Both relationships that already exist and ones that are yet to.
On the flip side, honesty and transparency give relationships depth. When you are open with others around you it creates a foundation of trust. Trust that you are an honest person and therefore wont dupe or rip people off. That you are a safe person that they can be honest with too. That you will do what you say you will do. That you genuinely care.
When you are open and honest, you also let other people into your world so they can see behind the curtain to your inner workings. This is a gift and for those who are capable of treating this gift with respect, it makes them feel special and welcome. This sort of intimacy is rare but incredibly valuable as it builds strong, deep relationships which last.
Honesty it innately generous.
It does come with risks though…
Praise the good. Ignore the bad. – James Clear
When someone encourages you, it has to be one of the best feelings possible. A kind word that uplifts can shift the trajectory of someone’s life. The most significant memories that we have can be a time when someone we respect spoke words that brought life to us.
At the same time, we know that saying something negative to someone can carry much more weight than an encouraging word. The anecdotal reflection of it taking nine encouraging comments to overcome one negative comment certainly rings true. Which makes encouragement all the more important.
So how do we do it?
You can’t just make up stuff that you don’t mean and expect it to land well. People can tell if you are being genuine or not and building someone up only works if what you are saying about them is true. If you are struggling to find something to be encouraging about, that’s on you to figure out. Every person around us has something worthwhile to recognize and are providing value to our lives. It just takes a moment to stop and find it sometimes.
“You look nice today” is nice to hear but that is not encouragement. There is no depth to that. Come up with something that carries meaning to the person.
“I like the way that you think” – is more about who the person is over what they do. This is a fundamental way to encourage people just for being them.
“You have made two really great decisions this week, and this is what they are…” – Recognising great behaviour is an easy way to encourage. The more specific the better.
“I am really grateful for your positive attitude. Knowing that I can rely on you makes my day easier” – Showing how someone’s behaviour or attitude makes a positive impact on you highlights how important they are.
Don’t wait. When someone does something worth noticing, do it in the moment or shortly afterwards. It’s a little difficult to feel encouraged about something that happened 10 years ago. In saying that, it’s never too late, so if that’s all that you have, feel free to encourage someone about something that they did 10 years ago.
Don’t save it up to give it all in a once off overload of encouragement. Plant small seeds of encouragement consistently which will create a culture of encouragement around you.
Encouragement is an amazing act of generosity. It costs you nothing, apart from some brain energy, and the benefits to all involved are significant.
I originally posted this in August 2014 on another blog, about my experience of R U OK Day in September of 2013. For a while I avoided looking back at this time, but it taught me a great deal. 2020 has brought up some similar emotions and I’m grateful that I have had some experience in working through them…
“For some reason it always happens on a Thursday, which is a little odd. You would expect that Monday would be the hardest day to deal with, but for me my worst days occur on Thursday. It hasn’t been that often, especially in 2014, but there have been a couple of pretty scary Thursdays’ over the past year and a half.
The most memorable one was almost a year ago. I look back at that time and I’m not sure what was happening in my life that caused it. It was the week following the Federal Election (many people may have experienced a similar time depending on who they voted for) but that meant very little to me, perhaps it was the fact my two children had been staying with me for a few days in a row and their mum had recently picked them up. Maybe it was loneliness as I woke up without them for the first time in a week. Maybe I was missing family living interstate. Maybe I was tired from a long work year. Maybe it was all of the above. Whatever it was, I awoke on this Thursday at the normal time to get ready for a 10am speaking engagement but I was flat. I felt sad and lonely and in need of a boost. ‘Nothing a coffee and a muffin couldn’t fix’ I told myself. I guess I put too much faith in the ability of caffeine and chocolate to fix my life that day because I still felt the same after I had consumed them. So I decided to reach out – I called Dad. No answer. I called my brother. No answer. I called my mentor, twice. No answer. I called my boss. No answer. As each call went through to message bank I grew more and more exasperated. I was driving on my way to work (using handsfree) and each recorded message made me feel more disconnected and alone. The emotions overtook as I navigated the roads whilst attempting to make sure none of the other drivers could see the tears streaming down my cheeks. I didn’t know where else to turn. So many people had said to me ‘if you ever need anyone to talk to, just give me a call anytime’, but in this moment I couldn’t think of any of them. My brain wouldn’t work and there seemed no way to break out of my isolation to reach another person. The only thing I could think was ‘How can I face today like this?’ which led to ‘What if it is the same tomorrow? And the next day?’. I have since learned that these emotions pass and tomorrow is normally always better, but in the heat of the moment that perspective is elusive and hidden. I reached the end of myself. I was scared.
The importance of this story is more than just ‘a bad day I once had’, you see this day coincided with ‘R U OK?’ day. You can see the irony. I had spent the entire morning reading about it online and witnessed dozen’s of my friends posts about it on social media, some asking the question, others highlighting the importance of asking the question to your friends and loved ones. It was great that so much fuss was being made about this day and the issues around depression and isolation, but there was a small problem. Amongst the generic ‘R U OK?’ posts and the encouragement to ask those around us, no one actually stopped and asked me. Because I wasn’t ok. I wanted to tell people that, but there was no way I was going to put that as a comment underneath someone’s status or initiate a conversation around that. The shame and embarrassment I felt was overwhelming. So I sat in my car doing my best to hide the tears.
My point is this. I love ‘R U OK?’ day and the whole concept. Most of my healing and restoration has happened because I have learned how to connect with people and build quality relationships. But the question, ‘R U OK?’ is so much more than a throw away status or tweet. You can’t just generically suggest to the your faceless friends on the internet that if they are struggling they should talk to someone and think that you have fixed the world. The question needs to be asked to individuals, face to face, and then the question needs to be followed with silence and patience. The hardest words that I have ever had to say have been ‘no, I am not’. They took years to figure out, months to form and weeks to eventually verbalise. But it’s not a conversation to be afraid of – you don’t even need to do anything, just sit there and listen. The ‘R U OK’ website has some great suggestions around this too.
My Dad ended up calling me back before I got to work. He rescued me that day. I cried with him on the phone, he felt helpless being so far away, we talked, we laughed and I felt so much better just because I connected with someone, who cared enough to ask and then to listen. It was through that conversation that I knew that tomorrow would be better.
I now also have a list of people saved in my phone who I know that I can call if I ever found myself in a similar situation – I asked some people and they were honoured to be put on it. Most I have never used and probably never will, but at least I won’t feel so isolated when I know that I need to speak to someone in that very moment.
I have never suffered from depression. The best way to describe my experience with it is that I have skirted around the edges of grief-related depression. I traveled through it with people, and my doctor but my story is an uneventful one. Some of my closest friends have and do suffer from depression and they are some of the bravest people I have met.”
R U OK day is the 10th of September by the way, but you don’t have to wait until then… www.ruok.org.au
I miss my kids.
I miss my youngest when I leave home in the morning. She is only 8 months old and is adorable. She has one tooth starting to come through. I love her smile. I love coming home to her at the end of the day.
I miss my 4 year old when I drop him off at daycare. He loves it there, he is such a social being. He has a large group of ‘best friends’, and the educators love him there too, but I miss him nonetheless. He is so sweet and energetic and curious and persistent. I hope that I can help him keep those traits as he grows, even though they can be frustrating. I love picking him up at the end of the day.
I miss my eldest son. He is on the brink of being a teenager, always growing and developing. He loves to play computer games and sport (the outdoor type), he is caring and thoughtful, and outrageously funny. He is on the brink of becoming a man. I haven’t seen him since January 19 of this year.
I miss my first born. A delightfully funny and gifted 14 year old. She inspires me with her ability to try something new even if it is scary, to take on challenging life situations whilst maintaining a positive attitude. She messages me at night when she has trouble sleeping and regularly makes me laugh with her quirky sense of humour. I haven’t seen her since January 19 of this year.
I’m really thankful that I get to see two of my children every day. I’m really thankful that I get to communicate with my older children regularly and that they seem to be growing up into amazing humans. I have much to be thankful for, but I miss my kids.
But Happy Father’s Day!
Most people who give to a charity will regularly give to a few of their favourites. There are common names that people will list off as they explain to me their giving regime.
But how do they choose which the organisations that make the list? How do you choose a charity?
On occasion someone has mentioned to me that a random charity once “cold called” them, they immediately donated over the phone and have been supporting them ever since. People who do this are few and far between, but generally have a difficult time saying no and will get sick of it after a while. This is more of an ad-hoc selection criteria.
Those that have a strategy behind their giving are more intentional about what they give to and are more thoughtful about who they support. They will take a bit longer to make a decision about donating but will also stay connected to those charities for a longer period of time.
These people look at their giving through a portfolio perspective. Within their charity portfolio, they will normally have a couple of domestic charities they support, an international charity, and maybe one other area. After defining the issues they want to focus on, they research the different charities that work in that space, see how they spend their money, meet with the staff and start giving at a relatively small level. As they grow more confident in how the charity works and the depth of their impact, they will increase their giving over time.
Like any good relationship, it is built at the speed of trust. The deeper the trust built, the longer the relationship will last.
Have you ever thought about what people are missing out on because you are not growing? What impact is it having on those around you when you are stuck doing the same things you have always done, knowing the same things you always knew, being the same person you always were? It may not sound like a big deal and maybe personal growth is not your ‘thing’, but it’s not about you. It’s about the people that you love that are in your life, and then then people that they love that are in their lives. We owe it them to be the best version of ourselves so that we, in turn, can help them be the best versions of themselves…and so on.
Here’s a harsh truth: If you think you are currently the best you can possibly be, you’re not. (Ouch). There is always more. There are things that you don’t know yet that will change the way you turn up when you learn them. There are things that you don’t know how to do yet which will be groundbreaking in your life and in those around you; groundbreaking in the sense that it will break new ground so you can build something new on it.
There is always more to learn. Always more to discover. Always more to understand. Not so that you can get to the finish line of learning, but so you can improve and make everything you touch just that little bit better.
How many people can reap the benefits of your growth?