Saturday, November 29, 2014

Decisions, decisions

Decisions, decisions!

We are the sum total of the decisions we make. Some reverberate through eternity, whereas others affect “the now” part of our life.

We make decisions almost at will, without merely a consideration as to the consequences, yet some of those choices have a powerful impact on oneself and others. One thing is sure; every decision made has a consequence, and every consequence demands further decisions.

According to multiple sources on the Internet, the average amount of remotely conscious decisions an adult makes each day equals about 35,000. Almost 200 of these daily decisions are related to food. In contrast, young children only make about 3,000 decisions each day.

“Decision-making is such a seamless brain process that we’re usually unaware of it — until our choice results in unexpected consequences. Then we may look back and wonder, “Why did I choose that option?” In recent years, neuroscientists have begun to decode the decision-making process. What they’re learning is shedding light not only on how the healthy brain performs complex mental functions, but also on how disorders, such as stroke or drug abuse, affect the process” – Susan Perry
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness as created them” – Albert Einstein
In order to bring inspiration and clarity to a problem solving decision, one must distance one’s self from the immediate effects and take a 360 snapshot. This is a great way of reviewing the pending consequences, without immediately experiencing them. The impact of ordering the wrong cup cake with your latte is insignificantly less than making a decision on entering a relationship, changing country, job, or signing a contract to take out a mega loan. However, once we have truly considered the impact on these decisions, we may do so with an informed perspective.
“A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows the public opinion”. Grantland Rice

So what are the critical factors to take into consideration when making decisions?
Firstly we need to ask ourselves five fundamental questions:
1.       Does the decision compromise or uphold my core values in life?
2.       Will the decision take me closer to my personal vision and lifestyle?
3.       Am I feeling under pressure to make this decision and if so why?
4.       What will be the impact twelve months from now, upon:
·         Self
·         Those close to me
5.       Will I live with regrets for making or not making the decision?
One of the most debilitating forces in not making decisions is fear of failure. Fear can immobilise us for life, if we allow it to. I have always been of the conviction that making a wrong decision is a better option than not making a decision at all for fear it’s the wrong one. HOWEVER, we must use sound reasoning that supports ones core values or the consequences could create a plethora of frustration and circumstances that we will live with us forever. Fundamentally, a 360 review will give all the indicators, if we are blatantly honest with ones self.   
Ironically, years of counselling has taught me one thing. Most people surround themselves with people that “agree” with their decision making process rather than those likely to oppose them. This gives an unbalanced and inaccurate perspective. One must be confident enough to receive opposing information and opinion, yet secure enough in one’s core values to evaluate it through our 360 perspective.  
Here are a few keys to keep you on track.
1.   Always seek advice from those who have to live with the consequences of your decision making. It’s easy to obtain, but difficult to maintain!
2.   People that know you best will always give you an “insiders” opinion. This can be both positive and negative. What will the projected future look like according to your 360?
3.       When a wrong decision is made, never follow it up with a worse one. Be big enough to accept when a decision is moving you away from your core values. Pride is an ugly attribute that is never satisfied.
4.    Learn from your decisions, because there is a wealth of experience that will help you and others in the future.
5.       Wisdom comes from experience and experience comes from exposure to circumstances.
6.       Over analysis can bring paralysis! When you know what you should be doing, it frees one up to say NO, to what you shouldn’t be doing. We may not know what the secret of success is, but one thing is sure, trying to please everyone is not it.  

“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come”. Robert H. Schuller

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Adding Value

Adding Value –

Recognizing that our words, actions (and the priorities we set), can increase or diminish value; how can we take personal responsibility in establishing habit patterns that ensure we are increasing the worth of those around us?

As we have seen in previous blogs, value is something that WE can determine in our daily actions, and that value is not always conditional upon the response of someone else.  I make it a point of distancing myself from people that seek to over inflate their own self-worth or diminish the value of another. Everyone is of equal value as a human being, but not all people are able to live with that confident assurance. 

Those which suffer from a rejection syndrome, have a tendency to get their value from diminishing someone else’s. This is often done by the use of criticism, or behaviour that “belittles” and “pulls down.” Alternatively, the converse applies, when an over-inflated opinion of self holds the value of others as inferior to theirs.

So how do we know which category we fall into? Are we insecure in our own self-image, or over confident to the point that others can’t meet our exacting standards and opinion of self?  

·       Firstly, be vulnerably honest with one’s- self.

That is easier said than done, as the image that we hold of ourselves, is rarely the image that is shared by public opinion. Perhaps the reason why so many people suffer from poor self-image is because of the influencing power that the media and those around us have, and who are we trying to please anyway? Be unique, everyone else is taken! However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because everyone on earth is unique too!

Self-image is really an oxymoron. Self is about oneself, whereas image is perceived by others. What we project is a reflection of our uniqueness, yet so many are preoccupied with presenting an image that society wants to see, and that is neither unique nor truly self.

Our goal is not to impress, but to reflect; but to reflect what?

We were born unique, unlike anyone else on earth, and within that uniqueness, comes a responsibility to add worth to those around us who may not as yet recognise their own uniqueness. There is no greater privilege than being able to impart worth and value to another human being, and we can so easily do that without finances, (although this may also be required in some way). 

Here are some simple and cost effective ways of adding value to those around us:

·         Say thank you and mean it
·         Recognise and reward (with kindness) the work of others
·         Encourage those around you (encouragement is a powerful resource)
·         Learn to smile and make a habit of doing so to strangers
·         Pay it forward
·         Send and encouraging post or email to someone you don’t currently include
·         When the opportunity to devalue someone else comes along, don’t.
·         Make a mental note of your language. Does it build up or pull down?
·         Look for daily opportunities to help those which cannot or will not reward you
·         Invest time into someone who needs it
·         For Christmas, give a gift anonymously to someone that’s come to your attention
·         Pray for someone, a people group, a Nation, a neighbour or the needy. But don’t be surprised if a window of opportunity arises out of your concern, for uniqueness is found in the specialness of others.

I wholeheartedly believe that the key to recognising ones uniqueness and personal value is found when our focus turns away from self. Preoccupation with self, has a way of inflating one’s own value, where serving the needs of another, increases theirs. The intrinsic value of that simple act, is the true distribution of wealth.

·         Secondly, prioritise your focus

We pass this way but once! Every second counts, every hour counts as does each day, week, month, and year. The younger we are, the less aware we are of eternity, which is why so many young people believe they are infallible and take risks without due consideration. As we age, we become more focused on quality than we are with quantity. A job well done and cause worthy of our investment will supersede any ethereal role that merely occupies our time.

Gone are the days when our generation will just mark time with meaningless activity. If there is no long term benefit for our investment, then what is the true outcome of one’s effort. Marketing guru’s, understand this well, which is why advertising, profiles “the effects” of our stake In a product or service and not just the temporal benefits. Adding value to a product, service or individual is primarily determined by the focus we give to it. The stronger the focus, the more value we give.

If you say “my family” is my most important asset, then how do you prioritise them in your daily schedule? Maybe you say, an individual is the most important thing to me right now? Then what value do you give that person based on your time, words, activities and such? Perhaps you have a goal in life to be financially sound and free of debt? Then what priorities and habits are in place to ensure that outcome?

All too often, we verbalise a priority but our activities say different. It’s a contradiction in terms, to say that we value something but the priority we give to it, actually devalues it.

Adding value to a product, service, organisation, activity or relationship, is really about taking the base elements which are of limited value and placing a higher worth upon it. We do this by:

·         The words we use,
·         The activities we invest into it
·         The priority we award to it on a day by day basis

The way we approach life on a day to day basis, defines the value we are giving to it. Action expresses priority!  I can’t ever recall hearing a person’s last words being, “I wish I had given more priority to the hours I worked, rather than those I love”. Sadly, we only really understand the value of something when its no longer in our life. You see, its never about HAVING enough time, its about MAKING enough time. "Priority places added value".

So what are adding value to?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


What defines value?

Interestingly, value is an action that we place upon something. That action can come in the form of a word, a deed or and action. By the same token, we can devalue in a converse response.

Some years ago I was in Africa on a speaking engagement when I was taken into the village to meet people and eat. During this time, I was taken aback by a group of children who were playing with an old discarded motorcycle Tyre. Twenty of so children had gathered with sticks and had devised a game, where two sides were engaged with rolling the tyre from one end of the dusty track to the other, in an attempt to gain points by reaching the oppositions “goal line.” Fascinated by this total engagement by all and sundry, it became clear that the tyre was “public property”, all sharing equal ownership, responsibility and favour towards it. It was a community resource of great value and mutual respect. 

Something that we would consign to the organic rubbish collection was in this context, of immense value and worth tor the community. My first reaction was to improve their game with a soccer ball, only to be advised that it would likely be frowned upon as this tyre had been with the community for generations.

The intrinsic value of an object or person is defined by those around it. We can improve any perceived value by the way we respond to it.

This response is threefold:

1.       By our actions towards it

2.       By our language about it

3.       By the priority given to it

One only needs to visit an auction to see this in motion. Those bidding, determine the perceived value which equates to an increased perception of the object on offer. The highest bidder places a greater value than those who don’t. A person’s action has placed the value, whereas others have diminished it.

The same principle applies towards those we love or hate. One cannot remain neutral, for to not act, places a value just as activity does. We establish the value on relationships daily, and we choose to increase or decrease that person’s worth by acting in a way that places a higher or lesser value. A derogatory word, a demeaning conversation, a slap or a punch, or lowering the priority the individual gets, are all ways of placing value.

Not everyone perceives the same value and in fact, many would see their time as the most precious of all commodities and yet, one of the key ways in which we can show a person we value them is the time we are prepared to give to them. Others will rarely value your needs higher than their own needs and wants. It is imperative therefore that we must first determine ones own value, thus ensuring that others don’t devalue it. I don’t subscribe to the ethos that I am more valuable than anyone else, but I am no less value either.

So how can we ensure that we act in a way that increase the value of another, whilst ensuring that we don’t devalue ourselves in the process? I believe the key is found in the threefold factors mentioned above.

1.       Our actions determine what value we place

     The old saying of “actions speak louder than words” is inaccurate. Our words can devalue someone or something in a heartbeat. To say our children’s school activity is important to us and yet we turn up late or not at all, has already devalued the individual and event in the child’s mind. To say you will look after a loaned object and yet use it in a way that devalues it, speaks volumes. To bully, lush, flick or annoy someone is devaluing the relationship and the person.

2.       Our language and conversation places a value

      He’s rubbish, that team are ****, and comments on social media can do irreparable damage. Bullying with words is the latest craze and it robs people of worth and value. Even if something is true, the way we communicate it can have serious consequences to that person’s value within a community. Language is such a throw away resource. Often the words used have long term consequences and rob an individual of self-worth. We all do it, but we shouldn’t as each word either adds or detracts from the total value.

3.       The priority we give to a person or event determines what value we place.

      I recently sold an item and the buyer arranged a day, time and place in which to pick it up. I confirmed the event with him and it came and went. Days later, I was still trying to communicate with him about his purchase and finally told him I would re-list the item and thanked him. His response to me was a clear indication that he believed my time was worth less than his. He had devalued the transaction. Ironically, his website advertised himself as “Reliable, honest and punctual.” Our priorities determine the value we hold on the event.
      What I hold as great value, other may see as junk. Just as the motorcycle wheel in Africa, it held little actual value, yet to the community it was priceless. 
      Our world may be full of inventions and resources which many place high value upon, yet the greatest value we can ever instill in another is how we act, how we speak and how important we hold the activities of another. 

      You see, it’s within everyone’s capacity to place added value on humanity. And its cost? Very little!

      Value – What defines it?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Meet Me Halfway

“Meet me half way”

Oh how those words have framed my life

Some people seem to have the Midas touch, whereas for me, I have always had to do things one day at a time. It’s said that to attract luck, one needs hard work and preparation. I believe that luck is a luxury that we cannot afford to rely upon, but if she does shine upon us, it will be because we have stowed the anchor and are heading out to sea.
As a child, there was outside my home a “Ginnel” (Two walls about 2 feet apart and three feet high), which created the boundary between my home and that of my neighbours. The older children would leap from one side to the other with ease, but when I stood atop the wall, my legs would freeze and a wave of fear would grip me. “What if I fell, or slipped, or didn't make it, I would surely break a leg or arm or some other disaster would beset me.  
The older children would “egg me on” and call me names, whilst my mother would shout at us all for being so stupid. “Get down of that Ginnel” “Get yourselves off home” “You’ll break your legs”.
At age five, that ginnel, was as wide as the Suez Canal and as deep as the Grand Canyon. It was life and death to all that were swallowed up by it. Each day after school I would clamber onto the wall on my side of the boundary and stand in awe of the task ahead. It wasn’t so much the bit in between, but the landing on the other-side. My mind wasn’t able to picture a safe landing, only a disastrous transition, from one side to the other.
Etched on my memory is the day my father came home from the pit (coalmine). His face riddled with a day’s labour and the telltale signs of coal dust driven into his eyes and skin. I saw him coming down the street, which was our key to get off the wall and occupy ourselves in a less dangerous pursuit. All was fine until the other boys starting teasing me about my inability to “jump the waLl”. Dad never said a word.

After we had eaten, dad called me outside to the ginnel where he lifted me up onto our side of the wall and stood between them. My mother dutifully appeared and began her warnings of pending doom, but dad just looked at me and said jump. I of course began shaking and imagining all sorts of horror, and then came those empowering words. “Just meet me halfway”.
I made that jump. No disaster befell me, and I went on to make that jump a dozen times or more the same night.
It’s hard to imagine the level of fear and consternation that Ginnel held for me as a child. Nearl fifty years on, I re-visited the Ginnel and was able to step up and onto “my side” of that wall without any effort. I took it literally in my stride and could straddle both walls with a simple parting of my legs. It was amusingly ironic, that as I was reliving the events of my childhood, the house owner appeared in his window and began hollering at me, “Get off that ***** wall”, “Are your thick”, “You stupid old fool, you’ll break a ****** leg”. Something’s just don’t change.
Life is all about “meeting me half way”. 
I have a strong faith in God, and like to believe that my natural dad was teaching me a principle of life and faith. Life has a way of beating us up and giving us the test before we have studied the lesson. Faith has a way of “meeting us in the middle”. It’s about leaving the safety of the harbour and heading into high seas. The ship was never meant for dry land, the harbor is a means to provide shelter and preparation prior to setting sail.

“Meet me halfway”