How Do People Feel Around You?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about defining what our daily vision is.  The next task was to think about the type of impact we want to have on those around us. When a person has spent time with you, what do they come away with? How do they feel?

The answers to these questions will vary from person-to-person but by consciously thinking about the mark we want to leave on another person’s life, it gets us thinking about the other person, thus moving the focus off of ourselves.

As I pondered this task, I came up with these 3 approaches:

  1. Appreciation: does the person feel genuinely appreciated and cared about when I am with them? This could be through my words, gestures or behavior.
  2. Inspiration: is the person motivated and encouraged in some way by what I say? Positive and exuberant speech can get others excited about life!
  3. Attention: do I give my undivided attention, use eye contact and appropriate body language to ensure the person feels truly listened to?

In addition to daily vision (for example, persevering through difficult tasks, having a positive attitude, doing our work with diligence), the mental act of considering how others feel around us can get us more focused on how we affect other people.

 

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Your Words and Actions Matter

Today, I had a conversation with a stranger that made me smile and reminded me that our words and how we say them can have a powerful impact on others. The stranger was a home insurance agent that I had called to make some updates to my policy. This person was nothing but gracious the entire call and left me in giggles as he joked about me being the age of his children and how people (like us) born in February are amazing.

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Image courtesy of callcentrehelper.com

As he made changes to my policy, his computer system froze up and I could sense a tinge of anxiety in his voice as he tried not to keep me waiting. My mind immediately jumped to my first university job as a help desk technician at a call center where I would help students and faculty to set up their phone and internet services (back when it was dial-up internet!). I still remember the people who were patient on the phone as I tried to navigate my computer system (as well as those who shouted  impatiently “let me speak to your supervisor immediately!”).

As the agent waited for his computer to come back online, he thanked me for my patience and talked about his passion for coaching hockey. He also spoke with great enthusiasm about his career as an insurance agent for the last 30 years. When his computer system finally started working again, he gave me a discount for the delay and again thanked me profusely.

I thought about how this conversation could have gone differently. What if he had sounded bored talking to me? What if I had hung up on him in frustration? We both would have ended the call on a negative note. But instead, I left the conversation reminded that our words and tone of voice really matter. It can make or break someone’s day. It can push someone over the edge or bring them back from the brink. It also reminded me that we can find joy and enthusiasm no matter what we are doing in life.

Tomorrow, take a moment to smile, chat or demonstrate a kind gesture towards those you come across. You never know what that person is going through and what your words and actions may mean to them. Your kindness and enthusiasm will energize those around you!

 

Living a Life of Purpose and Vision

I read an inspiring blog post last week on the importance of the vision we have for our lives. What really motivated me about this post was the challenge to focus on and apply your vision on a daily basis.

Most of us have goals in mind. Some of them may require months if not years of effort to achieve. But what do we do in the mean time? How do we tackle life on a day-to-day basis? Our vision is not just limited to that goal we want to achieve at some point in the future. It is a daily experience that can help us to keep our focus and to live more fulfilled, purposeful lives.

This post asks us to consider three words that describe your vision. I had a hard time narrowing it down to just three words so I decided to come up with 3 concepts that encompass my vision for how I want to live my daily life. Try this exercise for yourself and see what words you come up with, particularly if you are grappling with a lack of direction or purpose at this present moment:

  1. Positive Attitude and Gratitude: On a daily basis, I am aiming to focus on the positive side of my circumstances and to reflect on a few things that I am grateful for. Today, it was simply the beautiful, crisp, fresh snow that I woke up to in the morning. It was breathtaking.  As I folded my children’s laundry, I looked at my son’s bright red Cars T-shirt and my daughter’s favorite rabbit shirt and contemplated the gift of having two beautiful children in my life.
  2. Excellence, Discipline and Perseverance: In my current stage of life, my main focus is child-rearing and family life. Having had a professional career prior to this, there are days when dishes and laundry can seem mundane. Does it really matter if I try to keep the kitchen tidy? Who’s going to notice anyway? I’m realizing though that it’s not so much about the tidiness level as to the heart behind it and the effort put in. If I keep in the habit of giving every task I undertake my very best (no matter how menial it may seem), I am training myself to give my best in all areas of my life, including my future goals. This requires discipline and perseverance. There are days it is difficult and I fall short. But I have to get back up and try my best, no matter what the task is.
  3. God and Faith: I grew up in a Christian environment and culture in Africa so faith is an important part of who I am. I find that daily devotions and quiet time to sing, pray, read and reflect are nourishing to my soul and remind me that I am not facing life on my own strength but with One who is greater than I am.

I found this exercise in defining ‘daily vision’ quite enlightening because it helped me to identify a general approach to life which can be applied to any future goal, be it living a more healthy lifestyle, starting a new project or simply dealing with the daily stresses and hassles of life.

Once you have identified your vision, the next exercise is to think about how people feel when they spend time with you. What impact do you want to have on their lives? I will share what I personally came up with in a subsequent post. Thank you for reading and I hope you are that much closer to thinking about how you want to experience your daily life!

(Thank you to Dax Murphy for his motivational post that inspired me to write this!)

Living a Less Distracted Life…Focusing on What Counts

Today, I was reminded once again what an incredible blessing it is to have children. I cannot think of another experience in my life that has challenged me, refined me and simultaneously made my heart full more than being a mother.

There are days when I am in tears from the frustration and exhaustion of parenting two little ones. But then are those days, when I finish the day feeling elated, needed and vastly important in the eyes of those two little souls who look at me with such hope, dependence and love. It almost takes my breath away.

Today was one of those happy days when I couldn’t take my eyes off my children. Their quirkiness, curiosity and energy had me mesmerized and I decided early in the day, that this was would be a day free of distractions. A day when I would be fully attentive to the needs of my children. The emails, internet, dishes, and other chores were going to take second fiddle.

One of my favorite parts of the day was when my 4.5 year old asked me what the heart was. I felt my nerdy “biology-ness” kicking into gear as I tried to explain what the heart was. Finally, we went on an expedition to our basement to leaf through one of my old biology textbooks. My son’s eyes opened wide as I showed him a schematic of the heart with all its chambers, arteries and veins. He was fascinated! He then proceeded to ask me how the brain works so we perused the biology textbook for a diagram of the brain and I explained the best that I could so that a  4.5 year old would understand.

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Our son Caleb having fun with our microscope

Our science lesson for the day concluded with my son asking if he could take a look at our microscope. At first he was frustrated that he couldn’t see anything through the eye-pieces but with some gentle manipulation of the reflective mirror, he was able to see at least a circle of light (note to self, time to find some slides and cover slips so we can observe some actual specimens). He was ecstatic when he saw the circle of light and I felt so proud of him for persevering. I think we have the makings of a young scientist! Despite my 2-year old daughter being sick and feverish the last two days, she was generally in good spirits today and regularly showered me with hugs and kisses.

As I took pictures and videos of my children doing various activities, I was reminded how precious this time with them is. I cannot take it for granted. I want to make more effort going forward to lead a less distracted life and zoom in on what I consider most important and worthy of my time. How many times has my son tried to get my attention but I’m too busy reading an email on my phone? It’s no wonder he was getting frustrated sometimes. Technology such as the internet is beneficial in many ways but I wonder how much of the outside world we miss when we get caught up in its web (no pun intended).

As I sit and write this, the house is quiet but I still hear in my mind the sound of laughter ringing from earlier in the day. Today reminded me that there can be a different way to live…a simple, less distracted life…a more focused life.

The funny things kids say:

“Mummy, you saved the day! You’re a super-hero!” Caleb said to mummy after she miraculously fixed one of his broken toys.

Mummy, just so you know, we’re going to marry ourselves…I’m going to marry Namz” Caleb informing mummy that he and his sister will be getting married.

“Mummy, why aren’t girls boys?” Caleb looking puzzled about the female ‘species’.

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Life is fun when you’re riding a stuffed monkey
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Our little musician…jamming on the piano!
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Our inseparable munchkins
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Brother-sister love…our darlings Caleb and Naomi

 

Moving on from Rejection

It’s never easy getting past rejection. It can cause us to question ourselves, wonder if we made the wrong decisions or even tempt us to give up. But rejection is not the end of the story. It can be the beginning of a new, exciting path to our destination!

Yesterday, I received my first official rejection letter from the 5 medical schools I applied to. There was something about seeing the words “I regret to inform you…” that was so stark and disappointing. Yet, at the same time, it gave me a sense of closure and peace that this avenue had closed and it was time to turn my mind to other paths.

In the past, I would have viewed this rejection letter as a personal failure and stewed over it for some time.  Now, I am learning more and more to turn to God for His strength in my weak moments and trusting in His grace to see me through life’s disappointments and struggles. And I am reminded that obstacles and closed doors are part of the journey of perseverance and staying the course.

I have confidence in my ability to get into medical school and I am so grateful for my friends, family and readers who continue to support me on my quest to becoming a doctor. No matter how long it takes, I plan to get there one day!

My husband called me from work shortly after I received the letter to check on how I was doing, “We keep going, I’m behind you all the way“.

My brother sent me an email.”We proceed. You will go to the place that sees and places full value on you. There you will be celebrated and thrive. Tuendelee! We’ll get there!”

So as I wait until January 2016 to hear back from the other medical schools I applied to, I take comfort in knowing that God has the perfect plan for me and it will all work out as it should. In the meantime, I have innumerable blessings that I am grateful for and that I plan to enjoy!

If you have a goal, particularly one that is taking a long time to achieve, don’t let rejection or delays stop you from persevering. Keep going! Once we get to our destination, it will be all the more sweeter for the challenges we were able to overcome to get there!

 

Crossing the Bridge of Forgiveness

Today marked the fourth week of our study on the “40 Days of Love“. This week’s topic tackled the challenging issue of demonstrating love through forgiveness. We have all experienced hurt in our lives in some shape or form and it can be so difficult to get past it, to forgive and move on. What does forgiveness entail?

As difficult as this can be to do, especially when we are going through hurt and disappointment, forgiveness means letting go of the desire to get even, responding with kindness and not keeping a record of that wrong. The hardest part about forgiveness is that we are called to keep on forgiving even when the offense is repeated!

Forgiving is NOT minimizing the seriousness of an offense. In choosing to forgive someone of a wrong, we are not saying that what they did was of no consequence or was justified. The pain is real and it’s important that this is acknowledged. Once we have forgiven a person, what’s next? Candid communication, willingness to change negative behaviors and time are needed to rebuild and regain the trust of the person who has been hurt.

I am learning that forgiveness is a decision. We decide to move past the hurt and avoid falling into the trap of resentment and bitterness. In looking through the lens of forgiveness, we actually begin to see the hurt that the other person is going through. When people lash out or hurt us, they are often going through something difficult themselves, which gets taken out on others. Part of the healing between both parties is acknowledging the hurt on both sides, letting it go and moving towards reconciliation. This can be very difficult to do in some situations, but vital to the healing process.

Why forgive? Aside from the release and freedom it gives our souls, it shows a humility that we too are imperfect and need forgiveness.

Week 4 Challenge: Is there someone who needs your forgiveness? Try to work towards letting go of any resentment or bitterness towards that person.

“Love…keeps no record of wrongs” 1 Cor. 13: 5

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…” Luke 6:27-28

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another…” Col. 3:13

 

 

Loving People Enough to Tell Them the Truth

Today began the third week of our study on ‘40 Days of Love‘. Today’s topic was one of the most challenging topics so far! How to have a loving confrontation…to speak the truth in love. I am personally not a confrontational person. I prefer to keep the peace and not rock the boat.  But I have been reminded that love is not just about warm feelings or happy smiles. It is also about facing hard truths and being able to impart that to someone else in a respectful but honest fashion.

How does one approach someone in order to tell them a difficult truth? It is certainly a scary proposition. We may worry how our message will be received, what the other person will think, whether we will be rejected or whether the relationship will end. But the reality is that in looking out for the other person, and in genuinely loving them, it may be a risk we have to take. Yes, the friendship may end…but it may also be a turning point for that person by showing them something in their lives that is negative or destructive. Or it may bring the relationship to a deeper level knowing they can trust you to tell them what’s on your mind.

Speaking the truth in love is one of the hardest things to do because we have no control over the outcome. But we can find ways to direct the conversation in a loving and respectful way through our tone of voice, body language, by recognizing our own inherent weaknesses, and by affirming how much you care for that person regardless of the current situation.

Week 3 Challenge: It can be a challenge to confront someone with a difficult conversation. But it could also be a positive turning point for the relationship if done in a respectful manner without being judgmental. Is there someone you need to speak to about your frustration or about their behavior?

Love…rejoices with the truth” 1 Corinthians 13:6