Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Follow-Through Challenge: Caesar and Nine-Year-Old Jahkil

Jahkil Jackson
Caesar, not as in “Caesar’s Palace” in Las Vegas, but Caesar, as in Julius Caesar, the man, was truly an amazing individual. If he were alive today, I sincerely believe he’d be the most successful man on the planet, for one simple reason: the dude had incredible follow-through. Whatever he promised his legions, the people of Rome, or his friends, that he would do, he did. Period. Despite an avalanche of apparently unsurmountable challenges, he always came through.

Why on earth, you ask, should this matter to me, here and now?  After all, Caesar has been dead for over 2000 years, and our world is vastly different from his. True. But I have learned a lot from his example, from his dedicated, passionate, unstoppable follow-through.

Namely, that goal-setting isn’t enough. You see, most of us are great at goal setting. Isn’t that what we do every New Year’s when we put forth those resolutions? They’re really just a set of goals. And don’t we (I!) too often find the same goals making their way onto our New Year’s resolution list year after year? Boring! Wouldn’t it be a whole lot more satisfying to accomplish those goals so you could set new ones in the following year?

I have a friend I dearly love, who has been telling me for the past 5 years that he’s going to write a book. A story near and dear to his heart, one I now know so well I think I could almost write it for him – and yet it never makes its way onto a page. He has his goal! To write his book. What he hasn’t got, is Caesar’s gift for follow-through.

Follow-through isn’t complicated, but it does take two primary characteristics: passion for your goal, and the persistence to see it through. A fantastic example of someone who has demonstrated phenomenal follow-through is a nine-year-old boy in Chicago, Jahkil Jackson, who when he saw the plight of the homeless, decided to do something about it.

What struck Jahkil is that homeless people didn’t even have the wherewithal to start their day, so he created “Blessing Bags,” filled with toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, soap, deodorant, the ordinary self-care things we all need. Jahkil personally distributes the “Blessing Bags” from the back of his godfather’s pick-up truck, a truly hands-on young man. Since February of 2016, when Jahkil started his adventure in giving (at age eight!), he’s distributed over 2000 “Blessing Bags.” His goal is to distribute 5000 by the end of this year.

Now, 2000 “Blessings Bags” didn’t appear by magic. It took a whole lot of planning, thinking, creativity, reaching out to resources, figuring out all the what-how-who-where-when. In a word, follow-through. And yes, Jahkil is the prime mover in this. The goal was/is huge! Most of us, myself included, would be daunted by all that it takes to bring such a project to fruition. It took disciplined, consistent effort – supported and nurtured by Jahkil’s ardent desire to do good where he believed it could make a real difference. Caesar would be proud.

I invite you to a challenge – the follow-through challenge. I invite you to select a goal, any goal, large or small, that you can feel truly passionate about, and then I invite you to invest your heart and soul into it, to persist! To figure out the steps to getting there, to prioritize the steps, to set deadlines for yourself, to find the resources, to make the effort, to keep going when the going gets tough. To surround yourself with people and thoughts which inspire you, to keep your enthusiasm high when it flags – as it will and does for all of us, even the most successful.

In other words, I challenge you to prove to yourself that you can achieve your goals! And oh, what fun you will have when you do!

Friday, February 10, 2017

“Purposeful Aging”—Having a Life Worth Living Means Living Longer

According to the World Health Organization, nearly a billion people around the world are age 60 or older. Having a purpose has a direct impact on their quality of life and longevity.

A 2013 AARP study asked those 40 and older how they feel about aging. Of those surveyed, 83 percent agreed with the statement “that having a purpose in life keeps me young.” A 14-year-study by the Association for Psychological Science indicates, “Having a purpose in life appears to widely buffer against mortality risk across the adult years.”

The critical question as we grow older becomes; “How do you find your purpose?”

Work If work is your purpose, focus on your talents, skills and behaviors that you are proud of. Be grateful for those skills and talents. Take the time to buff them up so your employer continues to see you as a valued employee and a leader in your areas of expertise.

Volunteering Volunteering has wonderful benefits. It gives you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Volunteering is good for your health—even lowering blood pressure according to a Carnegie Mellon University study. And, when you volunteer with your spouse, friends or family you share that sense of purpose and accomplishment together. It brings you closer.

Family An older family member may need your companionship. Your adult kids may now need you to help out with their own kids. Everything you do to connect with family will pay off for generations to come. That even means making the effort to mend fences with estranged family members. You are now the (older) adult in the room so it’s time to make the first move.

Older people generally feel instinctively inclined to give back. A life full of meaning and purpose is what leads to life-satisfaction, which in turn contributes significantly to happy, healthy longevity.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Valentine’s Day Gift That Keeps On Giving: What’s Right With Your World?

 So much of our time is spent fixing problems: problems at work, issues with our loved ones, concerns with our health, our weight, our finances. You name it, 90% of our waking hours (and so many of our sleeping ones as well) are spent in having yet another problem brought to our attention, with its clamoring need; “Fix me, Fix me!”

But what if, just for this Valentine’s Day, you shifted your attention to “What’s right with” – well, everything? What’s right with your work, your loved ones, your body, your finances? And on and on.

There is nothing more loving than aiming a healthy dose of “what’s right” at all those in your life. Think about it. When was the last time you looked at your spouse/significant other with “what’s right” on your mind? Oh sure, you love them, and that’s great, but in the ordinary course of life, how often do you deliberately dwell on what’s right with them? What’s wonderful about them, what thrills you to the very marrow of your bones?

As opposed to noticing the minor irritations we invariably inflict on those we love. You know, the messy bathroom, the forgotten dry-cleaner’s items, the missed dinners/soccer games.

And how about yourself? How often do you stop to appreciate all that is right with you and how you lead your life? Of course there are areas you want to improve, maybe parts of yourself and your life you’d like to radically transform, but there are also lots of parts of you that deserve appreciation, acknowledgment of “rightness.”

For example, the very fact that you want to improve--that you aren’t interested in putting up with those times you fail to be the kind, considerate, understanding human being you know you’re capable of being. That you want to achieve what you know you’re capable of, not the mediocrity you currently wallow in. That’s lots of rightness right there. Not to mention your taken-for-granted abilities, like your sense of humor (yes, that’s an ability), your loyalty to your friends, the skills you’ve learned along the way, and so much more.

Life is meant to be enjoyed, appreciated, and a large part of that is loving those who inhabit our world. This Valentine’s Day, look at your world, your co-workers, your boss, your nears-and-dears, even yourself, with new eyes--eyes that see what’s right with it all, and watch your love-quotient expand exponentially.

Then, be really daring, and see if you can’t, one day at a time, shift your focus to “what’s right” until it becomes a habit, vastly increasing your enjoyment of this fabulous adventure called “Life!”

Happy Valentine’s Day!