Measuring the Milestones of Life

Have you ever stopped to think what the milestones in your life are telling you? Or do you even keep track of those moments? We all have decisions, outcomes, and experiences that shape and mold the person we become. Some call these defining moments.

Taking a look at the list of the key moments can be very helpful when trying to make new decisions about who we are and where we’re going.

milestones

I confess, this week one of those milestone moments happens for me. It’s my birthday and it’s a big one. I won’t bore you with the details. And, no, this is not a weak plug for attention, but instead an opportunity to share some thoughts with you.

Birthdays can be examples of some classic milestone moments; turning 16 to get a drivers license or 21 to be “legal” for drinking can be big deals. But then we start counting birthdays in fives; 25, 30, 35, etc.

A friend once shuddered at his 35th  birthday. In his mind, thirty-five was a serious pivot point in his life. Somehow everything was going to be downhill. Ironically, my father-in-law always said “no one pays attention to you until you turn 40”, but that’s another story.

There are many other examples of life-changing moments we experience that become milestones for us. Graduating from school, getting married, having children, getting a divorce, being transferred, making a big move, changing jobs, changing careers… all of these serve to set markers in our life from which we can see a picture start to form. There are many more.

Decisions are critical influencers of when, where and how some of these markers get created. Bad decisions send us down paths that either make us learn something, or keep us from learning. Better decisions build experience and wisdom. The older you get, the more you will see a picture unfolding. You see a shape and a pattern come to life.

The Challenge

If you are reading this and feeling stuck where you are, take a moment to recount the milestones in your own life. You might even take a notepad and draw the timeline of your life, placing markers at the various key moments. It doesn’t matter whether they are positive or negative, just draw the map.

From this drawing see what picture you find. Are there common themes that jump out? Is there a hobby or skill that keeps coming up? Is there a body of work that inspires you more than the others?

If you’ve never done an exercise like this, you might just find a new you in there somewhere.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Steve Jobs 

Question: What are your milestones telling you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Memorial Day Observations

This year’s U.S. Memorial Day occurs on Monday, May 29th. Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers.

By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It marks the start of the unofficial summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

This publication never attempts to enter into political debate nor express political views. So the following remarks are not intended to be such commentary. However, having served as a U.S. Army officer myself, I have my own deep and personal beliefs about the significance of this day.

When a country sends young men and women away to fight a battle, one would think there is a true and greater good that is being served. We call them service members, giving service to their country. Seldom do they ask why, they just go because they believe in the country that is sending them; the ideals, the values, the principles, the core.

On one hand, I am encouraged today by the outpouring of heartfelt welcome when troops come home from the current battlefields of the world. They are welcomed in airports and on main street with hearty cheers, hugs, and applause. There was a time when we, as a country, didn’t do that for our soldiers. I am old enough to recall those days, but serve they did anyway. Another generation, long ago, followed orders, deployed, served, and sacrificed. I am glad we are past those days.

As to all service, sadly, some never come home to hear and feel the cheers. They come home silently if at all. There are nondescript receptions on the loading docks of some airport or shipyard. There is honor and solemnity. Those who gave the ultimate sacrifice will never know the honor we express on Memorial Day.

So this Monday, please take a moment to recognize the real truth of why we have this day. There are real families who have endured real loss. We should memorialize that.

Yes, there will be hot dogs and fireworks, sales at the malls, and family picnics. But somewhere nearby there will be a family who is seating one less place at the picnic table. Think for a moment about them. Offer a prayer.

Please focus your political rhetoric on things that have value. Things that cause young people to enlist and go to war to preserve those values, whatever you think they may be. Remember that many of them won’t come back home alive. They will have sacrificed so that you can have your heated debates with family, co—workers, neighbors, and elected representatives. Don’t let the discussion be futile for those who have served. Honor them each day, not just Memorial Day.

Thank you in advance for allowing me this brief departure from my usual content covering management and leadership. In a very small way, this is my service to you.

Question: Let me know your questions or ideas for other articles I can share for you. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Thanksgiving at Thirty Thousand Feet

Here are my thoughts as we move into the celebration of the Thanksgiving season here in the U.S.

At thirty thousand feet, so many things seem so clear. The roads that wind across the landscape seem to make perfect connections with each and every stopping point. What could seem to be insurmountable obstacles in the road, like curves, hills and turns, merely melt away when seen from such an altitude. Though the obstacles remain, it becomes ever so clear what and where the paths might lead.

aerial

Unfortunately, our daily lives aren’t readily witnessed from a vantage point such as this. Only God has that view. We, as the mortal souls we are, slide along through this life, bumping and jogging along the trail that has been laid before us not knowing for sure what will be around each bend.

We strive to anticipate with great effort in planning, protecting and prodding to move along. Some people choose to find a comfortable spot along the way and simply stop their journey. The surroundings seem nice, the climate is good and comfort is found. Yet they stop short of an even better place that might be discovered just around the bend if they had only been willing to move ahead.

Others forge ahead recklessly ignoring warning signs and safety markers along the way. These people careen out of control around curves or dash headlong into gullies and ravines along the way. Crumpled and bruised they crawl from the ditches of life only to resume their haste, and achieve full speed once again.

For all the time and energy, all the hassle and waste, for all the success and all the failures, I believe the most tragic of all adventurers along life’s winding way are those who choose to make the journey never seeking nor experiencing deep, meaningful love and peace.

On the outside, they seem so in control. Certain material success, maybe even fame and fortune mark their journey. Others travel quietly, unassuming, never being noticed by anyone else, making no waves along the path. Yet from deep within their heart is a longing for a connection with just one someone with whom they could share the journey.

At first the desire is very real, but then they are able to push it aside or press it deep within their soul so as not to have to speak to it. A pattern develops which some call denial. It becomes easier to say “I did it my way” than to acknowledge the ache that pounds from within. For to admit means having to deal with it.

Yes, it might be nice to see all the answers and know the final destination, just as it can be seem from 30,000 feet above Earth. But somehow, it seems that would eliminate the surprise, making the living of this life just an exercise in locomotion.

I believe God has not made us for the destination. Rather, He has created us, each uniquely and wonderfully made, for the journey. And I also believe this journey is not meant to be lived alone.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for those loved ones, family and friends who make the journey a joy and a blessing. While not every step is smooth, having those good people along for the ride is a wonderful treat. Hug somebody you love or admire. Let them know their worth in your life.

What Is “Slowly, Rarely or Never”?

That’s the answer to the question “how do people change?”

There are plenty of situations in our lives and in the world around us when people want to talk about change. Whether it has to do with a red state/blue state matter, an economic trend, a market condition, or the price of something, change is all around us.

Leadership, purpose, meaningYet why is it that individually, people don’t really embrace change all that well. I mean it’s great for the other guy, right? However, when you ask me to change, how dare you!!!

Ah, we are creatures of such strange habits. I’ve spent many years encouraging managers and executives to make changes in their own lives, so that the lives of the people around them can be enriched. Highly successful people still need to make certain shifts, hopefully for the greater good.

There is a great principle shared by John Maxwell. Maxwell says:

Success adds value to you, while significance adds values to others.

When he founded the The Halftime Institute, Bob Buford challenged business leaders to think about moving from success to significance. For many people, the early years of their career is about achieving some level of success; bigger bank accounts, better job title, fame, reputation, notoriety, etc. Eventually there is a realization that what is really desired is significance. The higher levels of success do not fulfill a deeper sense of calling and purpose.

The quest to find significance can be summed up in three simple questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • Where am I going?

Leadership, purposeMaking the transition from success to significance may be the toughest change of all for most people. Which, brings me back to the opening statement. How do people change?

Slowly, Rarely, or Never.

If you are a regular reader of my articles, you have embraced the concept of striving for personal change. You are seeking to learn more about being a better manager and business leader. You want to do more for your family, providing them with the right leadership. Or perhaps you want to grow as a leader in your community. Simply, you want to be a better YOU.

Beginning the journey to move from success to significance will be a life changing experience. That I can promise. For every client of mine who has committed to taking the first step in that journey, the rewards have always exceeded the wildest expectations.

I invite you to join me in some upcoming webinars I will be hosting. The sessions will be free. I will introduce you to some irrefutable laws of leadership that will propel you to new heights of inspiration and understanding about becoming that leader with real significance; impacting others in great and wonderful ways.

Be on the watch for more information coming soon.

When Was Your Last Test?

Testing Leads to Graduation

It’s graduation season. Schools at all levels are hosting commencement ceremonies to congratulate the newest grads.

GraduationGraduation comes after passing a series of tests. For each course that is taken, a test is given. The purpose of the test is to determine whether you have mastered the material the instructor gave.

Life gives you tests. My biggest growth experiences have come when I “graduate” to the next level.  Just like school, until I passed the test, I was likely to return to the same place and re-take the test. Once I passed, I could move on to higher levels; levels of performance, satisfaction, and growth.

Read More »

The Relationship Attraction Factors

This Trinity Can Make a Difference

Susan and I are blessed with five amazing young adult children, 4 of whom are married. We had just spent part of the Mother’s Day weekend in and around the relationships our kinds have grown. After the festivities, my wife and I went out for an impromptu date night.

Over dinner we were reflecting on relationships past and present.

As were strolled down memory lane about other relationships we knew, we talked about the reasons some couples were stronger than others or why some failed early. After checking my thoughts, I struck upon three common attractions between man and woman that cannot go without consideration.

These three attractions are:

  • Physical
  • Functional
  • Friendship

Relation-triangle

When couples meet, all three elements get tested and run through some sort of analysis. The presence of each part can add greatly to the success of the relationship. When any part is weak or missing, well…..

Physical attraction is legend. Mass marketing blankets us with information that stimulates and sometimes stymies the significance of the physical part of relationships. Not wanting to delve too deeply in this area right now, I am going to assume everyone understands there is a physical attraction that is in play.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR

Here’s wishing you a HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s hard to believe this is the last day of 2013. But time marches on! I wish you the best for 2014!

Personal Change

Personal change can happen in many ways. The most effective is the change we opt-in to make. These are the changes we agree should be made and more importantly should be made. I am not talking about the simple choices in life like which Starbuck’s flavor to buy, or what clothes to wear today. No, I am talking about personal behavioral changes.

One of my most important changes recently is deciding to hold my tongue. I mean those moments where a choice jab or curt response is right there on the tip of that devil. I realized I do far more harm than good when those little missiles get launched. So, I work hard at holding them back. More importantly I try altering my thought process that leads up to those moments.

In business we all have meetings that consume our day; most of the time we have a good sense of how the meeting will go. This evaluation depends on the topic and the people participating or the leaders holding the meeting. Usually we can adjust our thinking to properly calibrate for that time. If the topic is intense, we can bolster ourselves for heated discussion. If the leader is laid back, maybe the temperature in the room will be mild. So thinking ahead can often posture our minds for the right response when we are called upon or challenged. Oh sure, there are those surprise moments where we feel ambushed. But even then, if we have been practicing a solid mindset about the work situation, our response can be measured and guarded appropriately.

Our personal lives may not be as easy. For one, we get too familiar with those closest to us. We forget to realize they too have feelings and can say or do things that catch us off guard. So practicing the mindset calibration so readily recognized in business, is often much harder to do at home. I argue that the personal realm has an even greater need for this kind of internal change. Jobs come and go. Work load changes constantly. But the immediate family is here to stay.

I encourage you to take this little challenge. Change your mind about the thoughts you like to hold onto; the ones that cause the caustic remarks and hard biting quips. Let it go. Hold them back. Then, over time, see if your whole world starts to look up, be a little calmer and friendlier. I’ll bet it will.

Impact Planning

Priority_Plan

Do you have a personal priority plan? I am not talking about just setting goals. Do you have a way to know that the things for which you are spending time are fitting into a master plan? Look at the graphic above here. This is a classic way to orient your thinking on this topic. High effort and high impact things usually always get classified as “major projects”. Not only do they require that high effort and high impact FROM you, but, more importantly, they represent high value to the world AROUND you.