A Tiny Bit Less Compete-y

I’ve always been a fairly competitive person, sometimes driving people away from me because I turned almost everything into a win / lose situation. I’m almost embarrassed to admit but I treated almost everything in life as a zero-sum game…if you had more, it meant I had to have less. And I always justified it by saying “How else will I know how much I’ve improved? How else will I know where I stand?”

Now, before I go much further, let me be clear. I’m not talking about competitive sports. I enjoy watching and used to enjoy playing competitive sports for the fun of playing the game. Same as when I play games with my kids. There ARE good life lessons to be learned by playing games like Monopoly or something on our game system. What I mean here is the kind of competition that is all too often silent and unacknowledged by the people I’m competing against.

You know what I mean. “I’m thinner than that guy.” “I look better than her.” “She’s so much prettier than I am.” “I’m so much smarter than he is and he still got the promotion.” “I play guitar SO much better than that guy.” Those quiet little competitions we have all the time. Sometimes we call it comparison. But, to my way of thinking, it’s just competition.

Lately, though, I’ve been rethinking that whole proposition. First I started thinking about why it was so important to me to compare myself to others. I mean, from everything I’ve seen, it looks like I’ll always be better that some people at some things and not as good as other people at other things. I’m always going to be thinner than someone, but chubbier than someone else. I’ll always be wealthier than someone but not as wealthy as someone else. I’ll always be a better musician than some people, but not as gifted or skilled as others. So, it seems right off the bat like that type of competition, which I’ve done for as long as I can remember, is nothing short of emotionally suicidal.

I’ve been tossing these ideas around for a few weeks and today I finally came to the conclusion that I just don’t want to compete anymore. At least not with anyone else through these ridiculous comparisons and unacknowledged competitions. Instead, I only want to compete with myself. I only want to compare myself to how I was yesterday. In other words, I want to start asking myself questions like “Am I healthier today than I was yesterday?” and “Am I smarter today than I was yesterday?” and “Am I richer today, in friends, in love, in kindness, in wealth, than I was yesterday?” In that way, I can focus on getting a tiny bit better every day.

And once I stop comparing myself to other people, I’ll actually be able to look at them through the lenses of a love, which I am called to do as a Christian. Seems to me that I’m setting myself up for a win / win situation. I win by not bashing my own self-concept and I win by learning to love other people as they are without worrying anymore if they are better than me.

Will I still enjoy watching sports on TV? Yes. I believe there are many good lessons and some fantastic life drama to be enjoyed by watching athletes compete on level playing fields, testing their skills against others of similar skill and talent level. And competitive sports are not the same type of competition I was talking about before. And I might even begin to enjoy some competitive sports for myself.

A Tiny Bit Too Much

Hi! It’s been a long time since my last post here. I’d love to say it’s been for a good reason, but I’m not entirely sure I can say that without stretching the truth. Sure, work has been crazy. Home has been very busy with 5 kids in the house and all of them doing something different in their extracurricular lives. And we’ve had our own busy busy busy going on between coaching various kids in different church bands or performing as part of the worship teams ourselves. These last few weeks have just been one mad dash after another.

And while that has fulfilling, it has also left me wondering if maybe it’s just too much now. If I look at any one of us as a singular entity, the level of activity seems good. Busy enough to stay out of trouble but not so busy as to be overwhelmed.

BUT…when I look at the 7 of us all together…Whew! It’s actually a bit overwhelming at times. Sometimes we look around us and wonder where the day went…what happened to the world while we were driving this one to here or that one to there.

It’s one of those deals where it’s both good and bad.

On the good side…the kids are flourishing, their talents are being developed, their interests are being acknowledged and tested, their minds are being opened…it’s a great thing.

On the bad side…we are putting nearly 500 miles on the cars each week…we are missing quantity and quality time both with all the kids…we don’t have enough time to pursue our own interests and talents…it’s not such a great thing all the time.

So, if you found yourself in this same situation, what would you do?  I look forward to your suggestions.

A Tiny Bit More Amazed

A few days ago, I had the idea to be amazed. All the time, as much as possible with everything I saw, heard, experienced.

And for the past few days, I’ve been…well, amazed.

In case you wonder what I mean…I had the idea to take an extra second and look deeper, listen harder. To look between and behind the lines. To listen for the message behind the message. You might not do this, but too often I get caught up in the day to day business of my day to day business and too easily miss the amazing things unfolding all around me.

The excitement in my daughter’s eyes when I tell her yes, I’d love to play a game together.

The few moments with my stepson where we kicked around a few ideas for his bass part and a bass solo for his next middle school jazz band concert.

The new-found confidence I hear in my oldest daughter’s voice as she talks with me about symbolism in classic literature.

Last week, I might have missed those special little amazing moments. I might have just enjoyed the experiences, enjoyed and even savored the moments as they unfolded.

But today, I’m ecstatic to say…I’m learning that pausing long enough to experience the utter amazement of each miraculous moment unfolding around me…that is one of my life’s greatest new-found treasures.

A Tiny Bit More Appreciate-y

Today, I learned first-hand how easy it is to overlook your own contribution to the world around you. And how easy it is to forget to tell others about their contributions.

For the last 12 years, I’ve been trying to improve, create, fix, modify, mold, shape and re-work all the technical training material for the military contract I’m on. And for 12 years I’ve heard little or nothing from the remote site people about the quality and effectiveness of the materials I’ve produced.

Today, I was introduced to the remote site management as moving to a new capacity on the contract where I’d have more authority to impact their operations directly. Several of the people expressed their excitement for me since we’ve been colleagues for as much as 20 years in some cases.

BUT…even more gratifying to me, they expressed how disappointed they were that the training material quality was probably going to shoot down the toilet now since I wouldn’t be the one taking care of it.

That few seconds helped me realize it’s pretty easy to overlook the impact I’ve had. And it got me to think…”just how hard would it have been to send me a quick email to say ‘your new book is really good’ or ‘this little movie clip is right on the money’ or even ‘thanks…I know you put a lot of effort into that’ “.

So, for the past 8 hours, since that point of the teleconference, I’ve been thinking of all the people who have a big impact on my life and how seldom I take the time to shoot them a quick note or a quick phone call or text just to tell them I appreciate them.

Starting now, I want to build a habit of telling people how much I appreciate their impact on my life. Thank you. If you are reading this, you’ve probably impacted me in one way or another, for the rest of my life. And I appreciate it very much.

A Tiny Bit Better Prioritized

Today I was enjoying some time with my daughter, the older one who will be leaving for college in just a few months, and I looked over to the side table and noticed a couple books sitting there. Normally seeing two books sitting on the table wouldn’t be a big deal, but today it caused me a HUGE twinge of anxiety around the idea of not completing my planned reading activities because I was sitting there enjoying time with my daughter.

I’ve decided 2013 is all about examining and changing beliefs that don’t work, so I took a moment to notice the anxiety feeling and think about it a little bit.

On the one hand, I do have a daily “checklist” of things I “need” to do in order to make progress this year. On the other hand, I don’t get all the time in the world with my daughter AND she’s about to leave for college in a few months.

So, I thought about it in terms of what’s most important to me. Yes, I actually had to pause and make myself think about this. Why would I share such an embarrassing detail? Because I am totally convinced I’m not the only one who has fallen into the trap of thinking I should be pursuing my “goals” at all costs. I’m positive I’m not the only dad who felt a pull between what he “should” do and what he “could” do. I believe with all my heart that the self-development “industry” has taken great pains to teach us how to accomplish more and more each day, week, month, and year.

BUT…there has been precious little time spent in helping us remember that our relationships trump the accomplishments and achievements – hands down, no doubts. Yes, it’s embarrassing that I would have to pause a few seconds and think of this.

But, it’s also tremendously liberating to be able to learn for myself that it’s OK – even better and more important, in fact – to put first things first.

And so my daughter and I enjoyed her show together and my books just sat there. I’ll read a little later, when there’s no “demand” on my time. And if not…that’s OK too. There is NO reason I should be held hostage to a checklist or plan. Especially when more important opportunities come along.

How about you? Have you ever felt this type of conflict between the “important” and the IMPORTANT? What did you do?

A Tiny Bit Intendy

I know I’m not the first person to toss the “new year resolution” idea into the waste bin. And I’m probably not the first guy to think of “setting Intentions” for the year instead of resolutions. But last night, as we counted down between the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, my family and I talked about some new intentions we have for this year. Some of the things we talked about were:

New things we intend to do – There are some activities we all want to do, or do more of. For example, I’ve got a stack of books and magazines and a DVR full of old-time movies just waiting for me to “make time” for them. Why haven’t I gotten to them yet? I’ve been too busy taking care of things I “should” do. And in the meantime, I’ve missed quite a bit of what would quite simply make me happy. No more of that…2013 carries the intention of doing what lightens my soul. Yes, I will take care of my responsibilities, of course. But I will also make it my responsibility to do things that make my heart light.

New habits we intend to establish – I’ve known for quite some time that habit can be a very powerful force for us or against us. And this year it’s time to put that power into my favor more than I have before. To that end, I intend to form some new habits such as going to bed at the same time (or nearly) every night. And I intend to form the habit of seeing opportunities instead of problems.

“Bad” habits we intend to release – This category could be incredibly long, but I don’t want to focus on negatives. Yes, I want to acknowledge them, which automatically gives me power over them. But I don’t want to focus. One example of a bad habit I want to release is nail-biting. For some reason, I started this as a child and I haven’t ever dropped this habit. But this year, it’s time to let this one go.

New information we intend to gain and apply – This year, I intend to gain my Network+ certification and take some college courses (for credit, preferably, but there are some non-credit courses available online that I can hardly wait to take). Those are just a couple examples. There are also numerous business-related or finance-related concepts I want to learn and apply. Actually, this is a virtually limitless field and one of the hard parts will be learning to control my need to gain more information while I work to apply the information I just learned. Matter of fact, I have a feeling that will become an ongoing topic for this blog. 🙂

Old beliefs we intend to examine and maybe release – We all hold numerous beliefs about practically everything…especially ourselves. And most of the time, those beliefs go unquestioned or unchallenged. But this year, it’s time to expose my beliefs (especially about myself) to the cold light of reason and see if those beliefs are even true. For example, I’ve long held the belief that I’m not a very friendly person and I rarely make friends or establish relationships. But…as it turns out, when I examine that one in light of the facts from 2012…I AM a very friendly person and I DO establish and build relationships with carefully selected people. Excellent!

“New” people we intend to be – Yes, I am already a person and I’ve gone through much self-discovery (and yes…there’s a TON of this yet to do). But there are some new character traits I want to develop. In other words, I’d like to become a different kind of person. For example, I want to become a person who feels free to express his affection and love for people when it’s true. I want to become a person who thinks with compassion more consistently. Those are just some examples. And I suspect this will also be an ongoing topic for discussion on this blog as the year goes on.

How about you? Did you set any intentions or goals or resolutions for this year?

A Tiny Bit of Gratitude – 40

I can hardly believe it, but this is the 40th consecutive post about thankfulness, to end up the year 2012. As I look back on the last 40 days, I have to believe I’ve changed at least a little. I’ve been finding it easier to see the blessings around me and that automatically brings the gratitude.

Along with being thankful for the discipline to do this for the last 40 days, I’d like to express my gratitude for you. You have made this who process worth keeping this site going.

Thank you! And I wish for you a prosperous, exciting, easy, simple, zen new year.