Breakfast

Everybody talks. 

If you put two people together they will undoubtedly talk about something.

-The latest episodes of whatever shows are trending…

-The superbowl halftime show…

-How the weather needs to ‘make up its mind’…

There is a good chance you have been a part of one of those conversations, but what about these?

-The way your friend treats his/her spouse…

-The way your neighbor spends their money…

-The way your coworker has been dressing…

Unfortunately, if we are honest with ourselves, we have all been a part of these conversations as well.  As innocent as it may seem, gossip has many negative consequences.

Effects of Gossip:

It Destroys Relationships – It’s difficult to trust someone who is always talking about someone else.

It Ravishes Our Integrity – Complimenting someone to their face and then destroying their reputation behind their back traces back to a lack of integrity.

It Provokes Negativity – Cynicism is the hottest relational ‘drug’ on the market.  Don’t be strung out on cynicism and addicted to the negative rush.

Whether you are all about the tabloids or couldn’t care less, we all should take precautions to help us fight the temptation to tell

Here are 10 things that can eliminate gossip:

1.    Check Your Jealousy At The Door…

Gossip stems from many different things, but one of the prime contributors is jealousy.  If you have jealousy issues, I would suggest dealing with that first.

2.    Avoid Gossip…

This one may seem silly considering its simplicity, but don’t count it out.  Chances are, if you surround yourself with people that gossip (reading or watching gossip as well), it will be increasingly difficult for you to avoid doing it.

3.    Tell The Truth…

This is massive.  There are so many relationships that have been ruined because of lies and over exaggerations.  Don’t stretch the truth to make your story seem better or make up a story about someone else. Be careful about what you share to others, because it may not have been true in the first place.

 4.    Stop Comparing Yourself to others…

It’s easy to take someone else’s life and compare it to our own.  Avoid taking someone’s positive thing and making it your negative conversation.  The more you focus on other people, the easier it is to become cynical and condescending.

5.    Think Positive…

This takes work.  It’s much easier to find the negative in something than it is to find something positive.  Protect your thoughts and be very intentional about what thoughts you communicate to others.

6.    Say ‘Never mind’…

Sometimes during a conversation it’s easy to roll into gossip without even realizing it.  If you catch yourself mid-sentence mentioning someone who isn’t there, just say “never mind”.

7.    Do A Detour Around Sensitive Issues…

We all have sensitive issues and hot topics that make us prone to vent.  If you are around someone who has a tendency to talk bad about Julie, then avoid talking about Julie.  Don’t provoke people into their own demise.

8.    Be Content With Not Being ‘In The Know’…

I hate gossip, but occasionally find myself in the middle of it because I want to be in the loop.  Avoiding gossip requires an acceptance of being on the outer ring of the social circles.

9.    Quit The Drama…

“Remember Julie?  Well, she told Peter that Sharon has a thing for Will, but Will ‘doesn’t want to be in a relationship’ and Peter is the one with a thing for Sharon.  Can you believe that?”  

These types of conversations have to stop.  Don’t let this type of drama ruin your relationships.  In the end, it’s not important.

10.   Be The Protector…

If no one else is doing it, then its time for you to step up and be a leader.  Care enough about your relationships (friends, family, coworkers) to take initiative and spread the truth and positivity while stifling jealousy and drama.

Do you think anything should be added to the list?

How do you keep yourself from gossiping? 

The Importance of a Unified Team

Think about it. 

Most of our lives are spent working around people we didn’t choose to be around.

-The boss hires a new employee.

-The leader will organize a team for you to work with.

-The manager decides where to put your desk.

You suddenly are forced into an environment where the only variable you can directly control is yourself.

It’s rare to be put into a situation where the people around you will see things the way you do, or will work in a way that is similar to your work ethic.  Most of the time, it’s a daily crossroads between coworkers, fellow employees and other volunteers.

Setting political, religious and ethical differences aside, the struggle is real when it comes to keeping the peace within a team. 

Here are my words of encouragement:  It’s Ok.

Don’t get discouraged because people don’t think the way you do, because in the long run it will actually benefit your team.  Different viewpoints, ideas, skill sets and passions will help your team stay objective, creative and hopefully successful.

Many times, diversification will help coworkers compliment one another.  It’s good to have a team where others can see your blind spots.  

Although problems will arise and personalities will clash, here are a few ways to keep a team unified and to avoid a hostile environment: 

1.    Speak Clearly and Gently…

Be very careful when communicating, because the content and tone of your conversations are equally important. 

Charisma is the key barometer when judging your relationships within a team. Start critiquing yourself when walking away from a conversation.  Do people leave a conversation with you feeling better, or worse about themselves?

2.    Be Prepared And Organized…

There are few things more frustrating in a team than someone who is frequently unprepared.  One person’s actions and work ethic affect the entire team.

Do your best to make the team better and make your team and leader proud.  Be someone your team respects and appreciates, and avoid being a liability

3.    Pay Attention…

We have all experienced the mid conversation text message.  Right in the middle of you telling a story, someone gets out there phone and starts messing with it.

Whether you are in a meeting, or just holding a simple conversation, make an intentional effort to let others know you are listening.

4.    Smile and Laugh…

You don’t have to be the office jokester or have the most contagious laugh, but you can be someone who others enjoy to be around.  Think about the last time someone smiled at your story or laughed at your joke.  There was probably a little skip in your step or boost to your mood.  It makes a big difference.

Be someone others can look forward to being around and try not to make people walk on eggshells around you.  It’s easy to find faults in others and your job, instead, be a leader and stick to the positive.

 5.    Resist Gossip…

Gossip is like cancer in the workplace and spreads uncontrollably.  Once a culture of gossip is set, it can feel like a wildfire that cant be contained.  No one benefits from talking negatively about others and will only hurt the team in the end.

Even if gossip is regular in your team, stray from being involved in negative conversations.  Reject cynicism, insubordination and gossip on a daily basis.

Conclusion…

You are a part of a bigger picture.  Your team needs you and you need them, so learn how to play nice.  Respect your leader and be a positive force for your team.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.  The more your team can learn to work together, the more you will be able to focus on the road ahead.

What I’ve Learned As A Volunteer: Time Management

The volunteer life is not easy.

Anyone who has been a volunteer long enough knows the difficulty of time management and all the baggage that comes along with it.

For a large portion of my life I worked in a few different volunteer positions that easily brought me to ‘full time status’.

Many times, I was there before the paid employees showed up, and stayed long after they had left.

I would dream about my position and cast a vision to the other volunteers that my position required me to lead.  I loved what I did.

To say that I had a lot of plates spinning would have been an understatement when describing my schedule.  Being a full time student and volunteer, working two part time jobs and sustaining relationships with friends and family was no easy task.

Quite often I encountered a feeling that almost everyone can relate to: I was overwhelmed.

Somehow in an effort to pursue a hobby that we love, or fight for a cause we believe in, we become overwhelmed with life and soon the line between priority and passion becomes blurred.

Volunteers require excellent time management skills in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed.  Here are three important keys to managing your time:

1.    Avoid Procrastination

We all know the late night feeling of finishing a project just moments before it is due.  Not only does the stress build over time and strain other areas of our lives, but it also ravishes our performance.  No one produces a better result by rushing.

Give your future self a break and quit putting things off for tomorrow.

2.    Plan Better

The times in my life when I was most overwhelmed were the times when I was unprepared.  If I approach a busy, relentless week unprepared, I will end up being late to meetings, slow to respond to emails and quick to forget what needs to get done.  Life feels much more chaotic when we fly by the seat of our pants.

Get a calendar, use the ‘Notes’ app, write yourself reminders, leave 5 minutes early and show up prepared.

3.    Say No

There are many reasons we say ‘yes’ when we should say ‘no’.  Either you want to fit in with the guys (or girls), you hate disappointing people, or you just have a hard time knowing when to say which.  Either way, many people struggle with making the right decision.  The best way to begin is with your priorities.

In order to protect your priorities, there are times when saying ‘no’ is the most beneficial thing you can do.

Each day, we have to define our priorities and protect our time.  ‘If you chase two rabbits, both will get away’.  Cast a daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly vision and be sure to protect it, even amongst the most chaotic of times.

Is there anything you would add to the list?  

What are your experiences with volunteering?

 

4 Ways To Enjoy The Christmas Season

It’s safe to say that the majority of households in America have now packed up their ‘Fall’ decorations and busted out the Christmas ornamentation .  Christmas trees, lights, tinsel, mangers, candy canes, stockings and many others now fill our houses and light up our neighborhoods.

Some people love it, and others hate it.

Either way, it comes every year and we are all a part of it.  Regardless of our feelings towards the holidays, I think we all can agree on one thing:  Sometimes, the most difficult part of the Christmas season is enjoying the things that we assume should come naturally.  Rest.  Joy.  Giving.  Relationships.

Here are 4 ways make the Christmas season enjoyable :

Enjoy Rest…

If we aren’t careful, the Christmas passes by before we ever enjoy it.  Whether it is commitments, responsibilities or employment, rest is hard to come by and often not very good when we do find time for it, leaving us emotionally and physically drained.

Plan a date sometime between now and Christmas to simply rest.  Spend time doing something you love, or just not doing anything at all.  Either way, make a date with yourself and don’t be late.

Share Joy…

Unfortunately, not everyone this Christmas will enjoy a bountiful heap of presents to open, or a family to sit around the table with.  There are innumerable amounts of people that will spend Christmas hurting, lonely and afraid.

The key with joy is selflessness.  We all have troubles and trials of different sorts, but even in the midst of those, we can still be joyful, generous and kind.  Whatever your situation, consider the circumstances that many other people are coping with.  Joy is extremely contagious and viral.  It doesn’t take a huge act of kindness or act of generosity to brighten someone’s day or help them find a little peace in their chaos.  

Share Yourself…

During the holidays we intentionally or unintentionally begin to recluse because of our increased exposure to family, friends or groups of people.  The downfall of this is that we begin to become lonely and isolated.  It’s easy to become depressed when your only company is the voices inside your head or the ones on the TV.

Take time and intentionally share yourself with others.  By this, I mean sit down and have a really good conversation with a friend, rekindle and old relationship, small talk with a stranger or spend time with your family.  Embrace relationships and engage with people, even if it doesn’t come naturally.

Give Thoughtfully…

Gift giving is a difficult and touchy subject for most people.  For some reason, society has compelled us to believe the best gifts are the more expensive ones.  We stress over what to buy and then spend more than we can afford on each other.  It is undeniably one of the most stressful parts of the Christmas season.

Although some people will give you a specific gift they saw are would like, many times we are left to find something for the majority of our family and friends.  In these situations, instead of going to our wallets, lets consider what we can offer others with what we have.

There are many websites filled with ‘Do It Yourself’ sections for Christmas gifts.  Whether it is a homemade photo album, sharing a family recipe or using your woodworking skills to build a bench.  Beyond building something, the best gift you can give someone is your time.  Spend time with someone, build them something or make them something to eat, either way, do your best to enjoy the process of giving gifts

What do you think?

 Share this with a friend or family who may enjoy it.

Why Is Being Thankful So Difficult?

Everyone can identify with the awkwardness of reuniting with family and friends during the holiday season.

Not matter how many hands of poker you ‘let’ aunt Charlotte win, you know she still doesn’t approve of your political views.  Your older brother Wilfred wont stop bringing up that  you didn’t call him on his birthday and Grandpa Smith hasn’t spoken to you since you had ‘The Fight’ back in ’08.

It’s hard to even talk to them, let alone be thankful for them.

On top of family and friends, you didn’t get that promotion or job that was expected and your car has a new ‘unidentifiable’ problem that could cost you your left arm.

You want to be thankful, but it is so difficult.  Why?

Here are 3 reasons you may be having a hard time being thankful:

Jealousy…

Jealousy is a powerful motivator that can rob today of it’s joy.  Your car has a few dings, your family is pretty dysfunctional and your house is less than ‘average’.  Most of the time, our first go to when we feel this way is to look at our neighbor’s possessions.

We say to ourselves, “They seem to have it pretty together, what am I doing wrong?  Why don’t I have that yet?”  And just like that, BOOM!  The blessings we have are no longer blessings, but instead, have turned into liabilities.  Don’t underestimate this topic, because jealousy makes thankfulness nearly IMPOSSIBLE.

SPIN:  Eradicating jealousy takes discipline, but there is still time!  Don’t spend this holiday season, (or the rest of your life for that matter) focusing on what you don’t have, but be thankful for those things you DO have.  Set goals, aspire and dream, but while you pursue your dreams, love your family, friends and blessings the whole way.

Expectations…

You wanted that promotion, but all you got was a measly bonus.  You wanted your family to overlook a few bad decisions you made recently, but instead it’s the topic of conversation.  Expectations, almost always, will determine our response.  Typically, we expect the best and nothing less, which leaves us beside ourselves when the results are smaller or different than what we were hoping for.

SPIN:  Don’t lose hope!  Your life does not have to be negatively defined by those things that turned out a little differently than you had planned.  Small victories add up over time.  Take the time to consider all the new opportunities, blessings and relationships you have encountered this past year EVEN IF it was less than you expected.  It’s ok to humble yourself and be thankful for the small things.  The humble live surprised and the arrogant live disappointed.

Grudges And Bitter Relationships…

Welcome to the unknown and seemingly uncontrollable.  Relationships.  “Be thankful for them?  Yeah right.”  You might say.  One of your family members may treat you poorly and make you uncomfortable.  Your closest friend from high school, college or work stabbed you in the back and has left you bitter towards them.   YOU may have done something to a family member or friend.  The very thought may be draining and leave you feeling helpless.

SPIN:  Its’ time to take 3 deep breaths and do the unthinkable:  Forgive those who have wronged you and apologize to those you have wronged.  It may be time to have that hard conversation you’ve been putting off for years, or agreeing to disagree with your family members and deciding to love them anyways.  Either way, this holiday season, do not let grudges and bitterness rob you of your thankfulness.  Instead, make sure your family knows you love them and are thankful for them.

This Holiday season, change your perspective.  Give and expect nothing in return, be thankful for the small victories and begin to mend those relationships that put a pit in your stomach.  You can do it.

Take the time to share this with a friend or family member who may need it.  

Is there anything you would add to the list?  

Leading In The Holiday Season

The holiday season is an opportunity for leaders to strengthen their influence or tarnish their credibility.  We (leaders) are put into the fire and either refined or burned depending on our approach to the 33 days we call the ‘holiday season’.

People in the workplace, friends, family and strangers suddenly become extremely elastic and volatile, which can make leading and maintaining a positive and consistent environment difficult.  Joy, stress, excitement and worry are at an all time high and people need leadership.

Here are 5 quick ways you can strengthen your leadership and refine your influence during the holidays:

1.  Communicate With Clarity…

When environments change or people have a lot on their To-Do-List, the last thing they want to do is guess what you are thinking.  Don’t leave your team/family/friends guessing which direction you are going or what you expect, instead, communicate with extreme clarity and make sure they understand.

2.  Remain Consistent…

When our environment becomes unpredictable, it is imperative that a leaders’ motives, work ethic and emotions remain consistent.  Not to be confused with stubbornness, the ability to remain consistent provides people with a hope and trust that the team/family/relationship is still moving forward.  Cast a strong vision, communicate it well and stick with it through the craziness of the holidays.

3.  Support Those You Lead…

Leadership is not only managing and maintaining our own actions and responsibilities, but in large, is providing support for our team/family/relationships.  A leader not only provides vision, but support as well.  Take the time to evaluate the emotional state of your sphere of influence and provide support to those who need it.

4.  Refine Your Influence…

Everyone has influence on others.  Whether that influence is positive, negative, large, small, conditional or consistent .  You have influence and it is your responsibility to nurture and protect it.  Influence is gained by showing character, integrity, trustworthiness and honesty.  Empower, lead and protect those you lead and listen to their needs. 

5.  Don’t Check Out…

Over the next few weeks you will notice people checking out emotionally and mentally from their responsibilities and relationships.  Typically, the holidays become an easy time for people to fade into the holiday doldrums and fall into a tryptophan and eggnog induced coma.  Don’t fall into the trap and stay on top of things. 

Do yourself a favor and set yourself up for success.  Find a good book, get a good night sleep and stay up on your responsibilities.  Stressed leaders neglect stressed people.  Don’t neglect those you lead, but lead them with confidence and excitement through the holidays.

 

-Which point is hardest to implement in your sphere of influence?

-What are some ways that you help you lead through the holidays?

 

 

3 Reasons We Often Feel Discouraged

“You have a purpose.”  I’m sure you have heard this before.  The classic encouragement we receive from a kind parent or caring friend that we subconsciously allow to go in one ear and out the other.  After a few times of hearing it, we begin to think it’s just a cliché saying that people use to avoid having to awkwardly tell us that they have no idea what to say.

I often find myself questioning how someone else can see a quality that I possess without me knowing about it.  How did it quietly sneak past me and now become so obvious to everyone else?  Are my peripherals failing me?  Am I missing something?

We all view life through lenses that are based on our experiences and beliefs.  (Inevitably, this makes everyone’s lens different)  Many times, it’s not our lenses that make us so unsure about ourselves or discouraged, it is fog that clouds them which impairs our sight.  Unfortunately, the fog alters our view of life and can lead to negativity and ultimately, discouragement.

Here are three huge factors that will fog our lenses.

1.    Our Relational Circle Is Surrounded By A Cloud Of Negativity.

None of us have the convenience to align our relationships in a way that perfectly suits our preference.  (Considering that even our closest friends drive us crazy sometimes).  We often find ourselves around people who bring us down or discourage us.  We all though, have the opportunity to decide who’s opinion we treasure and allow to impact our lives.  The people we are surrounded by can either fog, or clarify our lenses (or view of life), so be careful of the people whose opinion you allow to affect your mood, decisions and life.

Surround yourself with people that encourage you, speak wisdom and positivity into your life, instead of cynicism and gossip.  One leads to growth, the other to discouragement.

2.    Our Environment Is Not Conducive To Growth Or Encouragement.

The environment we spend our time in can affect the way that we view our entire life.  If we spend time in a condescending, cynical environment, it is only a matter of time before that is how we view our life and ourselves.  We quickly begin to feel discouraged, stuck and insecure.

You may not have the convenience of altering your circumstances or environment completely, but you can change your approach.  Prepare yourself, and your attitude, before delving into a negative atmosphere.

3.    We View Ourselves As Inferior.

Chances are, you are your hardest critic.  When was the last time you thought positively about yourself?  How often are you diminishing yourself in front of others, or obviously pointing out your flaws?  It’s amazing how hard it is to pull out an encouraging thought without feeling ‘self-centered’.  We all dream of a better us, but refuse to start in the now.  Instead, we start in some fantasy future when we have different circumstances or a different set of qualities to work with.  I think it is time we appreciated our lives, embraced our circumstances and used them for the better.

Spend a few moments today, no matter how hard it is, and write down 5 positive things about yourself.  Then take some action, compliment a coworker, encourage your spouse, buy someone a coffee, help a friend who’s in a tough spot or smile to a stranger.  Call me crazy, but the encouragement has to start with someone, somewhere.  Be the change you want to see in the world.  Start today.