Living Well

June 3, 2010

Moving Right Along

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“Moving Right Along.”  That is the cheerful song found in the first Muppets’ Movie from some time ago.  My kids were little and I sported a darker hair color.  But times have changed.  My children are now in their late twenties and early thirties.  They have moved along….and so must I.

I am not going far, but I am moving…to a new blog site.  That blog site is connected to my brand new personal web page.  On that site I will be continuing my Living Well blog ideas as I try adding value to those following me on the internet via Twitter and Linked In.  All of this to say I am moving to www.davidlneidert.com 

Moving Right Along…good days are coming still.  I hope you will join me there for expanded resources and all the things that a more mature writer has discovered over the years.  Looking forward talking with you there.

May 29, 2010

Having Fun with our Children and Youth (and Living Well)

I have to confess, I wasn’t a good “player” with my own children as they were growing up.  I was too busy doing what most fathers tend to do in their thirties….focus on earning money, providing for one’s family, and establishing a place in the organization so he can climb the corporate ladder.  It is a time for a lot of men of ongoing justification for not taking time to play…to just remind everyone that they have to earn their way in the world…there is, thus, no time for actually having fun with our children.  The many men who live with this same philosophy as I did are really not helping teach children to live a blessed, balanced, less stressful life…one that has joy in it and helps them learn to live well.    

 Now I am a grandfather and learning how to play.  I am thankful that I have learned it early and not late in my journey.  So I have been thinking about playing and involving myself in my grandchildren’s lives.  In this blog I am simply brainstorming 100 (and more!) ways to be actively involved in the lives of children (and youth) for the purpose of being present with them and helping them to live well while they are young and open to the adventures of life.

The following list is merely my brainstorming some activities that we might enjoy together with children and youth.  Children and youth need adults in their lives as mentors and role models.  This list is not by any means all-inclusive, but you will see with a little imagination, you can add to the activities that will be meaningful to you and a child or youth.  The items cover a range of ages and types of relationships, including mentoring.  Experiencing these together will help them grow into response—able adults because of the potential dialogue and teaching that may come from the shared activities.  I haven’t completed the list myself, but have been playing more and more.  Try them….have fun…and allow them to slow your pace on the corporate ladder as you gain a perspective on what matters in life!

  1. Set mentoring goals together with the child that you are working with.
  2. Undertake career planning or life planning with a young person you mentor.
  3. Converse about what it takes to succeed in life, from character to personal appearance.
  4. Write thank you notes together to people you agree are doing good in your community.
  5. Spend time talking about personal values.
  6. Take time for listening to this young person’s dreams and hopes.
  7. Visit a college, technical school or place of education together to see what the future might provide for the student or just to experience a college campus.
  8. Share about the importance of relationships.
  9. Talk together about the need for balancing all aspects of life.
  10. Talk and learn together about finances.
  11. Discuss the opportunities for networking.  Set a plan for planting and cultivating a network of people.
  12. Take this young person to your workplace.  Share with them what is needed for success in your profession and in life; how to balance them both.
  13. Go to the public library together, just to think about what is available in the learning housed there.
  14. Learn new aspects of computer language and application together.  While the young person may be able to teach you shortcuts or software techniques, you may share about the computer’s relevance to the work world.
  15. Introduce the young person to your friends or be a part of some activity with them.
  16. Talk about living with financial stewardship.
  17. Discuss together the pitfalls of living above personal income level.
  18. Role-play a job interview.
  19. Create or develop a resume.
  20. Visit a museum or historic site and discuss the legacies we have from the individuals honored.
  21. Include the young person in a business luncheon.
  22. Work on a community project together.
  23. Discuss the need for philanthropic attitudes.
  24. Share your personal story of volunteerism in your own community.  Relate why you are actively involved in civic opportunities.
  25. Help this young person find employment that matches their abilities.
  26. Talk about the responsible use of credit cards.
  27. Develop a fitness plan together.
  28. Exercise together.
  29. Talk about healthy life choices.
  30. Help them locate health and life insurance.
  31. Share what you may have learned from a tragedy or difficult time in your life.
  32. Talk about each other’s favorite music and why you like its style, artists and presentation.
  33. Learn a new sport together.
  34. Go to an art museum.
  35. Sip tea or lemonade in a park as you just talk about life.
  36. Design and build something together.
  37. Repair some kind of equipment together.
  38. Take a trip to a new place for both of you.
  39. Go to a movie that appeals to the young person.
  40. Take the young person to a movie that appeals to you.
  41. Together watch a PBS special of some educational value.
  42. Discuss current events, whether locally, nationally, or internationally.  Share together your ideas of why these things occur, how you might solve conflicts or what might be the benefit that comes from these events.
  43. Go camping or hike a wilderness trail.
  44. Make a meal together.
  45. Visit a nursing home several times a year.
  46. Attend church together.
  47. Read a favorite book or new release together and dialogue about it.
  48. Take this young person to a friend’s work site.
  49. Discuss the latest trends in business, fashion, music or culture.
  50. Learn about politics together.
  51. Play on the swing set.
  52. Tumble down a grass-covered hill.
  53. Volunteer to work with a political campaign.
  54. Fund raise for a worthy community agency.  Do a telethon or canvass a neighborhood.
  55. Develop a business plan for a dream company or enterprise.  Share this plan for critique with your local chapter of SCORE (Society of Corporate Officers and Retired Executives).
  56. Visit a friend or family member in the hospital.
  57. Talk about taxes.
  58. Set up an internship in line with the pupil’s abilities.
  59. Lie in the grass and visualize shapes in the clouds as they pass by.
  60. Play blocks together.
  61. Set up an internship that will stretch the young person in new ways.
  62. Attend a community lecture or forum.
  63. Go to the ballet or opera.
  64. Go shopping together for a friend.
  65. Discuss the issues of relationships in marriage.
  66. Talk about the responsibilities of parenting.
  67. Discuss the importance of personal accountability for actions and decisions.
  68. Talk about your own inevitable death and your plans for this event.
  69. Together attend a funeral or wake.
  70. Study a historic figure together.
  71. Talk about building self-esteem and the barriers the pupil encounters in having a healthy picture of themselves.
  72. Talk about prejudice and stereotyping.
  73. Attend a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration together.
  74. Learn together about gender issues.
  75. Volunteer to work with a Hospice Patient.
  76. Discuss sexual responsibility, such as fidelity, integrity and commitment.
  77. Play board games that involve strategy, like Chess.
  78. Play board games just for fun.
  79. Challenge each other with cross word puzzles.
  80. Have the young person write a paper on some topic of leadership or mentoring.  Serve as a teacher in how well the paper communicates an idea, as well as the grammar used.
  81. Color pictures in a coloring book.
  82. Have the young person give a speech.
  83. Get down on the floor and play with the toys the child likes.
  84. Plant a garden together.
  85. Discuss the virtues of patience and persistence.
  86. Visit a farm to talk about planting, tending and the legacy of the earth.
  87. Learn about environmental issues.
  88. Attend an ethnic festival.
  89. Learn a second language together.
  90. Talk about your generation and what their generation expects.
  91. Tell each other clean jokes.
  92. Spend an evening eating popcorn and watching Three Stooges or Little Rascals videos.
  93. Work on building a house with Habitat for Humanity.
  94. Pick up litter in a section of town that needs it.
  95. Let the young person order for everyone at your table while attending a restaurant.
  96. Help someone elderly, disabled or disadvantaged to work around their property.
  97. Take cookies to the neighbors.
  98. Attend a professional sporting event.
  99. Drive around your city, county or region and discuss the heritage and history expressed in its culture.
  100. Purchase, wrap and deliver Christmas presents to a child enrolled in Prison Fellowship’s Project Angel Tree.
  101. Visit a courtroom trial.
  102. Visit a jail or penitentiary to share with inmates (always check with the local authorities in these matters).
  103. Attend an outdoor symphony.
  104. Volunteer time at a children’s home.
  105. Let the young person drive in the driveway of your home.
  106. Go to a carnival or fair.
  107. Pay a young person for chores around the house.
  108. Help the young person open a bank account.
  109. Collect clothing for someone who has lost his or her possessions in a fire.
  110. Work in a soup kitchen on a Holiday.
  111. Try an ethnic food or restaurant in your region.
  112. Wash evening dinner dishes together.
  113. Collaborate on writing an article about leadership or mentoring for possible publication in a newspaper or magazine.
  114. Discuss what it means to be a servant leader and whether it is a real possibility or just a great hope.
  115. Play video games together.
  116. Discuss what real success truly is.
  117. Work on a plan concerning management of time that promotes a balanced lifestyle.
  118. Sing songs together.
  119. Pray together.
  120. Rake leaves in the fall.
  121. Go swimming.
  122. Make S’mores at a campfire in your back yard.
  123. Camp in your backyard in a tent.
  124. Get a pet and make the young person responsible for its care.
  125. Teach the young person to drive.
  126. Play badminton.
  127. Jump rope.
  128. Play basketball together.
  129. Blow bubbles with gum or soap.
  130. Play “I Spy,” a game where one person picks an object and announces, “I see something blue.”  The other person needs to guess what it is until the object is located.
  131. Tell stories with the young person filling in the blanks, such as, “There was a little girl named ______.”  Let the young person put in the name.
  132. Do this until you have a whole story.
  133. Let the young person make up stories to tell you.

Open your mind to all the possibilities of sharing, talking, playing, and living fully together with a child or young person.  Help the next generation to live well by sharing your life now.

Blessings, grace and peace for the days to come.

David Neidert

May 16, 2010

Two Sides of Computer Technology

Really, I am a novice when it comes to computer technology.  I don’t fully understand all the do’s and don’ts and how it all actually works.  I spend time every day with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other avenues of the computer age that are of help to me, but still don’t fully grasp it or all its applications.

I do, however, understand its value as well as how easily we can be swept into its Black Hole of poor use, abuse, addiction and self destructive behavior.  The convenience of computer technology, for me, has allowed me to share with friends worldwide, keep current with news happening in the furtherest reaches of the planet, and find thousands of educational articles and resources that enhance my life, teaching and being fully human.  This marvel of our age has also helped me understand the business environment and how the web is essential for today’s commerce.  Computer technology, no doubt, has helped me to live well, engage colleauges everywhere, and live a more informed life than ever before.

The other side, however, is that the convenience of our computers can become a Black Hole with power to suck us into its more unseemly side.  There are many places on the web that are of the most unsavory and morally degrading places we can go.  These places beckon us to the most inhuman and morally flawed places of human existence.  But this technology can also simply just suck away our time; time from doing good work, advancing relationships, or merely spending energy in quite meditation on the blessings of life.  Technology can make us merely spectators to life, never engaging or really living it.  Computer technology, for all its good, can suck us into passivity and ambivelance to what is happening everywhere.

The two sides of computer technology.  We are forced to make ongoing decisions about it daily.  And that, to me, is where character, mission, and personal choices step in to guide us.  Over many months of blogging, I have tried to lay out the items that help us to live well.  In the end, it all comes down to choices we make based on our character and who we really hope to be over our lifetime.  It all comes down to whether we will be only observers to life or actively engage life with all our energy and passions.

No ranting or raving is embedded in this blog about the evils of computers and technology in general.  My post is simply about choices; choices we have to make every time we click our mouse on the computer.  I encourage you to make choices that help you to live well.  Always know that both choices lay at the end of your index finger.  Blessings, grace and peace as you make that daily conscious decision on the side of living well and engaging the best computer technology has to offer.

David Neidert

April 30, 2010

The Challenge of Moral Courage

I was so struck by the quotation I lost concentration during the meeting at hand.  My attention was arrested by an elegantly refined calligraphy quotation of Dante Alighieri seated in a beautiful frame.  The quotation pierced me in a way not many quotations have in some time.  While many quotes focus my mind on a topic, this bold statement by Dante forced a deeply personal inquiry, “Have I been or am I now morally neutral on issues in this world that truly matter?”  The quote simply stated, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.”

The question that ran across my mind is a frightening introspection among a host of possible beliefs about oneself.  We may believe we are honest, just, respectful, and kind when it comes to others.  These are traits we can exhibit at any moment and in various ways.  I can show kindness by taking a plate of cookies to my neighbor or I can be honest by not cheating on my income taxes.  These acts may cost me time, energy, a bit of inconvenience or money in demonstrating personal character ingredients I believe about myself.

But moral courage is at the highest level of our willingness to demonstrate our character.  Moral courage asks us to pay a price with our reputation, friendships, or even our lives.  A striking aspect of moral courage is that it calls us to be other centered.  While some of the “others” might be friends or family members, it is quite likely they would be strangers, people who are normally just faces in the crowd.  It may also be that these strangers live in another time zone of the globe, whose skin and culture are very different from our own.  It was moral courage displayed when fire fighters, police, emergency personal and ordinary co-workers and selfless airplane passengers gave their lives to save others that fateful 9/11 morning.

So what might be ideals calling for our moral courage?  When we look around our globe, it is easy to find any number of stages for demonstrating moral courage.  The environment, unjust labor markets, war, human rights violations, abortion, racism and genocide are just a few that come to mind, but there are many others that we could name.  In considering these moral and ethical issues, the haunting question remains, “Would I be willing to pay a personal price for the well-being of strangers or future generations by confronting and overcoming these issues?”  It may be one of the most deeply personal and spiritual questions we will ever answer during our existence.

This is not new landscape to navigate.  Across the horizon of moral courage are signposts bearing people’s names that have paid a personal price for standing boldly against the flaming arrows of the issues they confronted.  Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Abraham Lincoln are just a few individuals most recognized for wagering their lives in moral courage.  There are, however, countless others with moral courage, nameless and unheralded by historians, who have sacrificed their lives to become voices for reason and justice.  We may not know them, but we are eternally in their debt for attacking the severest issues that face humankind.  In recent years, filmmaker Steven Spielberg has shaped our concept of moral courage by delivering dramas of unknown heroes; simple women and men who gave their lives for causes set before them.

In reality, we are being summoned to moral courage whether we acknowledge it or not.  It may be our voices of reason are needed for stamping out human rights violations in some remote region of the globe or maybe our courage is needed in “downtown anywhere” where racism and hatred are choking sanity.  We are in reality indelibly connected to each other, no matter what corner of this planet we occupy.  By looking away, we grant permission for oppressions to continue and loud voices to prevail.  Our answers to these human cries must be our willingness to carve our names on the signposts peppered across the landscape along with those that have responded with their sacrifices, even if it was their own life.

It is a choice to live isolated or to “make our business that of humankind.”  I am not naïve in believing this is a decision made lightly or that our actions will stamp out the moral perplexities of our world.  But these decisions and personal choices to act with moral courage may carry eternal significance like no other.

So ask yourself, “Would I be willing to put my reputation, possessions or life ‘one the line’ so that injustices may be made right?  Why or why not?  Would I be willing to join a picket line or demonstration that would require my taking a public stand on some moral issue?  Would I be willing to boycott products or services that perpetuate human rights violations?  Do I value my personal safety and well being above that of others?  Why do I make this stance?

Moral courage.  It may be the highest test of living well.  Blessings, grace and peace for every day of your life.

David Neidert

February 11, 2010

Move Toward Your Goals: Use Your Time Wisely

I regularly hear people talk about not having enough time to do everything they want.  While I listen to this patiently, I also know that time usage is a matter of choices.  We know this intuitively, but we don’t apply what we know to our daily lives.  We delude ourselves into thinking that by some magic we can control time, save a few hours of today for tomorrow, or squeeze 25 hours out of a day for all we want out of life.  Nicolas Hayek, co-founder and CEO of Swatch Watch Group says it like this, “You cannot keep time.  You cannot catch it.  You cannot stop it.  You cannot possess it.  It’s always present, but if you try to hold it, it disappears.  So never try to manage it.  It will beat you at every turn.” 

Hundreds of books on time management can be found with a quick internet search.  In a nutshell, they would all say time management concerns giving priority to what is important in your private life, leisure, and work.  While they all have their variation on the theme, they would agree that one of the issues of time management are time bandits; those areas of life that rob us of productivity.  Time bandits can be classified as those items that keep us from reaping the opportunities for personal growth and living well.  Some time bandits are excessive television viewing, procrastination, moving from project-to-project without purpose, or even those many hours spent on the internet for a variety of reasons (surfing, social network without direction, games, etc., etc.)

A lament I often hear is how “I want to do “so and so” (you can fill in the blank) but never have enough time to actually get this done.”  One of the most wonderful experiences of my life that set the stage for my own future came during a breakfast I had in 1994 with Zig Ziglar.  I asked him, “How do you get the time to write so many books?”  His response, “I write one page a day.  In 365 days, I have a book.”  Now that isn’t rocket science.  That is just making a decision about using time every day for something that is purposeful, a part of your mission.  I have used this discipline myself since that conversation.  I have now written three books, nationally published nearly 50 articles, and researched for other books and projects by spending about 7 to 10 hours every week focused on this craft.  That simple use of time gives me between 300 and 500 hours of writing every year.

My advice, don’t get sucked into believing that time is infinite.  My time—your time—is finite; it has an end on this earth.  If no one has told you or if you are living a fantasy or in denial, let me remind you…you are going to die.  Your time WILL come to an end.  And it may be sooner (or later) than you think or want.  So what is your mission? How will this help you make decisions about your use of time? Will you get control of time bandits or let them use up discretionary moments of your life?  You can manage your time by courageously making some decisions. 

Johann Goethe, the 18th century writer, observed, “One always has time enough, if only one applies it well.”  Make some decisions today.  And one of the first is to read “First Things First,” by Stephen Covey.  I use this book with students to help them wed purpose and mission by how they use of their time.  If you take time to read this book, you will be taking the primary step in managing your finite time for the things what will help you live well.

Blessings as you live well in the time you have available.  Grace and Peace.

David Neidert

January 27, 2010

Writing a Personal Mission Statement

If you have been following my blogs, you may see that I have been working to bring you to this particular blog on writing a personal mission statement.  I am bringing you here because there is too much talk about living well and not enough real action and effort put into it.  I just devoured the Feb. 2010 issue of Success Magazine.  It is filled with articles and shorts expressing the same things over and over.  Without a personal mission and passion for living well, we are only wishful thinkers about our lives and our futures.  I highly recommend the Feb. issue of Success Magazine.  It is worth reading and following some of the activities listed there.

Living well does not happen by chance.  It is a series of choices we make starting with what we believe to be our personal mission.  In this blog, I want to give you a handle on writing a personal mission.  There are many techniques out there, but I have used this particular step-by-step process with thousands of people—so I KNOW it works.  One thing I would state up front.  Your mission will become clearer over time, but you need a place to start.  These exercises will help you begin that process.

I am going to give you these steps a little at a time because you need time to reflect and think about personal mission and living well.  It is not a race to see how quickly you can complete the task.  I teach this process in a leadership class three times a year.  It takes students about five weeks to really work through the process.  I will give you all the steps quickly, but it may honestly take you a number of weeks to fully work through them to write a clear personal mission statement.

So, step one—consider your life from the end.  This is not unique to me.  This is a premise advised by Stephen Covey and others.  Covey calls it, “Beginning with the end in mind.”  We get caught in the moment without at times considering where we are headed.  In working with many senior adults and researching senior adults over the past five years, I have come to understand that many of them do not end life well because they have not considered the end until they are at the end.  By that point, it is too late.  One of the hidden and sad realities of senior adults is the high rate of suicide.  There are many factors for this, but one does relate to the emptiness of life and the conclusion that life has been for no real purpose.  Writing a personal mission statement now can help a person from this moment on through the rest of their lives.

These questions are to begin helping you set a target for living well and writing a mission.  Take time to complete the series of questions.  Get a journal to aid you in the process.  Here goes.

  • When I consider my life from the end, what do I long to achieve or see as a part of my life that I believe will give it meaning?
  • If there were no barriers to what I could do in life, what work or activity would I undertake that would bring me personal fulfillment and satisfaction?  Why do I believe this?
  • If I discovered today that I had just six months to live, what would I focus on?  How would I rank my life agenda by priority so that these priorities would be accomplished before I die?
  • At an old age, when you think back across your life, what will bring a smile to your face?  What will give you a feeling that your life has been lived well—to its fullest, in a whole manner?
  • What do I want said about me by my family, friends, and community at the end of my life?
  • What do I believe God is asking me to undertake or be during my lifetime?  What keeps me from acknowledging and accepting this belief?

These questions are meant to help you consider your life, your legacy, and living well—for setting a target toward which you actually live out daily.  See, you are not guaranteed anything.  I was not guaranteed a cancer free life.  It happened.  But, I can choose to make choices about living well in the midst of these life difficulties.  I can choose to live with purpose and meaning, no matter the circumstances or outcome.

The question in BOLD is a particularly important one. We deceive ourselves when we think people will have legacy words to say about us when we actually do not build that life over time.  What is said about us at the end of life is built OVER a life, not in the final moments of it.  It is as the adage says, “Live in such a way that when you die, the preacher doesn’t have to lie.”

This is step one.  The other steps will follow in the days ahead, but this will get you started.  Blessings to you as you work through these questions.  The reality is that millions of people will never even consider these questions about life.  They will float and hope something better just happens.  Bluntly, it just won’t.  Grace and peace to you in this life changing process.  Live well!

David Neidert

January 23, 2010

Do You Have Enough Pain?

I served as a university risk manager for over 15 years.  While in that assignment, I learned the basic elements of ergonomics.  Simply put, ergonomics helps identify those workplace or furniture designs that create uncomfortable environments or stresses on the body that over time become physical trauma.

One lesson I learned as an ergonomic’s student is being aware of what your body tells you through discomfort or pain.  It is often easy to spot and correct a workplace induced physical stress when we pay attention to what our body verbalizes.

I was complaining one evening to my wife that my shoulder and elbow had been hurting for weeks.  Over the next few days, while working at my computer, it dawned on me that this pain resulted from where I had placed my computer mouse.  I lowered the mouse location by five inches and received pain relief in another ten days.  I could have tried a lot of pain killers or received medical attention and never reduced the discomfort.  But by being self-aware, I eliminated my pain and regained lost productivity.

Honest self-reflection is an essential teacher in our journey to self-identity.  Spanish Jesuit and novelist, Baltasar Gracian, says it this way, “Self-reflection is the school of wisdom.”  Self reflection provides the insights needed for living well, just like being aware of my pain and watching for the remedy.  If we are not living as we want, we must ask the question of why?  If your dreams are not being fulfilled, you have to ask, “What keeps me from enjoying the life I dream about?”  Honest and penetrating self reflection educates us about what matters in our life and what keeps us from truly living with purpose and meaning.

A Stephen Covey insight applies to this statement and jabs enough that it might be what is needed to nudge a person awake.  It is about pain.  In his book, “First Things First,” (which I highly recommend), Covey observes, “Much of our pain in life comes from the sense that we’re succeeding in one role (of life) at the expense of others, possibly even more important roles.”  Dr. Phil McGraw is blunter when he asks, “Is it working for you?”  If we have enough pain from our current situations and life journey so far, acknowledging that pain and finding healthy remedies for it might really change us now and for the future.   Self awareness is fundamental to a purpose driven life and ultimately contentment.

So today’s consideration: If your life is not what you want it to be, why?  What are the external barriers that keep you from living with satisfaction (e.g., finances, location, job skill, education)?  What are the internal barriers that keep you from living with contentment (e.g., fear of risk, fear of failure, procrastination, or lack of accountability)?

In upcoming  blogs, I want to give you some steps in setting goals.  I don’t intend to leave you answering seemingly esoteric questions.  To do that would be irresponsible for me.  I will give you some steps in goal setting that I use and that have been suggested by many experts.  But for now, I hope you are following this process that I know will help you live with purpose.

Blessings as you continue moving forward and become honest with yourself about what will help you live well.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 22, 2010

Contentment has to Come from Inside You

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I taught an introductory course on business at the college level many years ago.  During the class we discussed marketing concepts at length, particularly promotion and advertising.  It was fun sharing the multifaceted stages of promotion and advertising used to capture a consumer’s attention.

One assignment students enjoyed was analyzing various advertising methods.  I asked them to consider only one question as they dissected these enticing ads; “What is this advertisement honestly selling?”  Students often reported that the bulk of advertising sells a better life with little effort required, pleasure as the only purpose for life, or sex.  Visually captivating sound bites often persuade consumers to spend billions of dollars for products they do not need in order to grasp a “better life.”

The French author Francois Duc de la Rochefouchauld wrote, “When we cannot find contentment in ourselves it is useless to seek it elsewhere.”  Goethe’s character, Dr. Faust, is the epitome of seeking contentment outside ourselves.  In Goethe’s story, Dr. Faust makes a pact with Mephistopheles—the devil—to provide contentment through pleasures found in the world around him.  But over time, Faust realizes there is no fulfillment in pleasure seeking.  Faust sadly acknowledges that satisfaction and meaning to life comes when we are content with ourselves, find love, and give compassion.

Seeking fulfillment and wholeness in things—possessions, fame, or power—can never lead to contentment if we are not internally at peace with what we are doing in life or who we are.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.”  Paul could accept whatever externally life provided because he knew internally whom he served and what brought him lasting life.  Paul was so sure of his purpose, calling, message, and the meaning of life that he went to his death in AD 64 rather than give it up for fleeting earthly existence (we believe Paul was beheaded under Nero’s reign during the Roman Empire).

Intimately knowing one’s life purpose and what is truly important does bring contentment.  Failing to know what will lead us to live well may cause us to make choices that will lead us to circumstances we never intended or thought would happen.

So today ponder, If I lost everything I owned materially, would I still be a contented person?  Why?  If I would not be content if I lost all my possessions, why would that be my response?  What does fame, fortune, or prestige give me that are necessary for my feeling of completeness and purpose?  If I discovered I would be dead in six months, what would I focus on?  Why would this draw my attention?

Blessings as you discover what really matters in life….Grace and Peace.

David Neidert

January 21, 2010

Make a Choice to Live, Not Just Endure

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Multitudes of people die a little more each day at 5 pm without even knowing it.  This is the hour when scores of people awake to discover they died a little more that day because they are in jobs they hate, force themselves to endure, or use merely to pay the expenses accumulating in their lives.  This is confirmed by a survey released today showing that 55% of workers, both young and old, are dissatisfied with their work environment.

Some time ago, I read a “Letter to the Editor” in a popular business magazine from a young man toiling in a company that he cannot wait to leave once he has “enough experience.”  This toxic working place is draining the life out of him eight hours at a time.  No wonder he lamented in this letter that the only energy he musters is for enduring rather than contributing to his company.  His letter gives us an image to go with the observation of American poet, Edward Dahberg, “Man pines to live but cannot endure the days of his life.”

In earlier vernacular, it was fashionable to speak of ‘pining’ for something, particularly one’s sweetheart.  The phrase is no longer in vogue, but it legitimately captures the way multitudes of people feel about their work and lives.  People often grow weary with longing for a more fulfilling job, career, or life.  Women and men not only grieve but also ache to possess a more satisfying existence, one that makes them feel complete like having the love of a special someone.

I don’t think it is off base to assert that people feel grief (a loss, brokenness) for a more fulfilling job or daily existence.  As a former HR director and student of leadership for the past 30 years, we see this ‘soul grief’ played out in lost productivity, high turnover, absenteeism, and debilitating stress.  I used to watch the percentages of these in workforce figures.  These numbers often gave me a clue when things were not going well in the heart of those employed.  What is sad for leadership (or should be a concern for leaders) is that this grief and stress secretly harbored may become so profound that is spills over in how a person engages their families, friends, and those closes to them.  What happens in the work environment, I believe, has a direct link to the quality of our well being not only personally, but in our communities.

I hear and read about the longing of employees several times a year in a class I teach.  During a five week course, the final class assignment is developing a personal written mission statement.  The students in this particular class get to present his or her mission statement after they have used many of the questions I am including in my blog posts.  It has NEVER failed that on the night of these student presentations that some of the adult students announce they have resigned from his or her current employment because he or she awoke to the subtle death happening to them eight hours at a time.  I always forewarn them that this might happen during the opening night of class, but most don’t believe it.  I haven’t been wrong yet, even with the most skeptical of students.

Developing and living by a personal written mission statement helps us have a sharper image of what will bring well-being and fullness to our lives.  A personal mission statement will also help us make the choices necessary to live well in all areas of life.

Is spending your life just enduring what happens appealing to you?  Does dying eight hours a day to pay the rent fulfill your dreams and purpose?  Spending time coming to terms with your life and purpose is a worthwhile endeavor, because you have to ultimately answer the two questions above.   So consider:

If no barriers existed to what you could do or be in life, what job, work, or activity would you undertake that would bring you personal fulfillment?  Why would it fulfill you?  What would it provide (honestly) that your current situation does not supply?  What would it take you to start uncovering your dream job, work, or activity?  How would living out this change help you live a life that has meaning and purpose?

Blessings for this day.  Find life, hope, and excitement as you consider this moment and your future.

Grace and Peace.

David Neidert

January 20, 2010

The Prudent Think about Their Lives

Daydreaming can carry a person away to a carefree existence, where tantalizing images of what could be float willy-nilly thorough one’s mind.  The good life unfolds on the movie screen of our eyelids as a panoramic 3-D motion picture moves with pristine houses, effortless romance, or a series of endless vacations.   These fanciful pictures may even elicit our energies for a few days as we attempt to convert these dreams into reality through some work or plan.  Unfortunately, daydreams often remain pleasurable illusions, giving us a few moments of euphoria before we resume our daily chores and attend to our mundane routines.

Henry David Thoreau, however bleak, captures the prevailing resignation for life when he wrote that the masses of people lead lives of quiet desperation.  Even those who may expend energy creating contentment at times find themselves randomly moving through life ending up in places they do not desire nor anticipated.  While it is seemingly fruitless to attempt anything more that our lot in life, there is a millennia old voice beckoning that we can live well and with purpose.

Living well starts with focusing some attention on the reason for being alive.  It is seductive believing that endlessly sipping tea while watching a crystal blue sea from a snow-white beach will bring us ultimate satisfaction.  In reality, it is only by spending time considering our life purpose that a person begins a journey of living wholly and with contentment.

I had just finished graduate school two years earlier.  It was a stressful seven years for me both personally and academically.  The intense work and study demands nearly snapped my family relationships.  I thought that this continued training would give me the identity and sense of purpose I was looking for in life.  But to my dismay, all I found were more questions and more longing to live with meaning.

In the fall of 1989, I read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  As I devoured the pages, I realized that if I wanted to live well in all spheres of my life, I must give some thought to who I was and where I might be going during life.  I began asking questions about my existence, my identity (who I really was), and what I was going to do during the “four score” years promised to me by God.  Covey’s work became a tool in the journey of discovering who I am.

Through that journey I wrote a personal mission statement.  My mission is “to invite people to abundant life by choosing God’s best.” While it is not stunning to most, it does define who I am and how I make choices every day.  When we know our personal mission, we can set in motion the goals and life that will bring us to satisfaction as we express who we believe we are internally (not defined by what we do externally).  That statement allows me to make choices that give me meaning in life.

The book of Proverbs invites people to consider what brings wisdom.  In Proverbs 14:8 it is written, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thoughts to their ways.”  Satisfied, purposeful living begins taking shape when we start giving thoughts to our ways.  So much of what we attain in life becomes lackluster over time unless we have some sense of life meaning and purpose for what we do.

Try writing the answers to these questions: What will bring me satisfaction over my life?  What do I want my life to count for during and after my earthly existence?  Am I satisfied with my current work and where it is leading me—why or why not?   What would I really like to do in life that will help me find purpose and meaning?  Why do I believe I am here?

These are tough questions, but ones that will start a journey toward living well.  There are more questions to ask, more thoughts to consider, but this is a place of beginnings.  TODAY may actually become the first day of the rest of your life.

Blessings for this day for those who begin the journey.   Grace and peace.

David Neidert

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