Sunday, July 27, 2008

Success Through One Man's Eyes - Part V

Peace be with you!

The next part of the success acronym is the second "c", for which I have chosen the word "Challenged. " I'm sure you'll notice that the form is past tense. Oh, by the way the photo attached here is one of the many trestle bridges along the New River Tail near Pulaski, Virginia. The photo was taken, as almost all of those exhibited in my work are, by my wife and life partner, Debbie-Phillips-Noll.

All of us are challenged by something, whether it's by the peers of our youth, or by our kids in their youth, or by personal issues of all kinds at any stage or time in our lives. Some challenges are easily overcome and others test our very souls. It's the latter that I want to discuss briefly here for when we are challenged beyond what we think we can accomplish, we grow. When we face adversity with a positive outlook we have the best chance to conquer that which would conquer us. Whether it is internal or external, how we face life events, planned or unplanned, in essence how we are challenged determines the quality of life we live.

Being challenged can be a "buzz word" in todays American culture. We can be challenged by work, school, sports, family, friends, or in many cases just by daily events. But what helps us succeed most is, I believe, how we are challenged by ourselves. Our successes and failures are not entirely based on what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us. I believe what we are challenged by most is out attitude toward life, no matter what the circumstance is and I believe that our perspective also determines our degree of success or failure.

For most I think, it is not being intellectually or emotionally challenged that causes them to stumble but the spiritual challenge of seeing that which is not yet tangible or seeing that which has not yet occurred in such a way that it is remarkably effective in terms of the eventual outcome. When we choose to see ourselves or the circumstances of our lives in the present and in a positive framework we put ourselves in the greatest possible position for success.

One of the games that I appreciate the most in terms of skill and strategy is billiards. In billiards, it isn't just the ability to make the shot you are currently playing that helps you win, but the ability to see the position of the cue ball for future shots that determines your chances of winning the game. The best billiards players are those who can combine the skill of executing the present shot with the skill of seeing future shots and placing the cue ball in excellent position to make each of the subsequent shots.

The same thing happens with our perspective about life. After the break, so to speak, when the table has been determined - the difference between success and failure - the difference in running the table or leaving the door open for your opponent, is our ability to see the shots that haven't yet been made and our ability to execute the ones that present themselves to us along the way.

There will be the naysayers and skeptics in our path and that's okay. There is also significant research and testimony to support living life positively, with vision, purpose, and perspective. I find myself challenged each day to get up for the game, to put on the type of mindset that will put me in the best possible position to execute what I am presently aiming at and place me in position for the next best available shot.

Personally, I decided several years ago (and that was later than I should have) that despite what is a attributed to Hall of Fame Football and legendary coach Vince Lombardi about "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing," that I would live a challenged life every day. I would make every effort to envision that which cannot be seen and view myself in the best possible position to respond positively and not to react negatively to each circumstance. I would challenge myself to keep focused not so much on winning, but on doing the best I can now, today, and accept the outcome as the beginning of a new challenge.

My prayer for you is that you too, will be challenged to live fully in the present, no matter the circumstance and to decide right now to be challenged to see yourself today, not only winning but, doing that which you were designed to do.

Shalom my friends and peace be with you!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Success Through One Man's Eyes Part IV

Peace be with you!

The third of the seven words in my acronym “SUCCESS” is “Chosen. Being chosen offers numerous opportunities for growth as well as a few rewards. Being the first kid selected in a choose-up game on the basketball court at the neighborhood playground or being elected president of a professional association conjure up great feelings of pride and joy. Each of us can easily identify with being chosen for something meaningful to us. What I’m referring to here is more about why we are where we are and how we got here. (If we can ever really know that!)

The subject is not about being chosen. It’s about taking responsibility for the direction, actions and judgments we have “chosen” that contributed to our present personal circumstances today - good, bad or indifferent! Success is about what we are doing now and/or planning now for the future so why talk about choice in past tense? Well, that’s fairly simple. The old adage still rings true today; if you want something different in the future you must do something different today; you must do something other than what you’ve always done or you will continue to get what you’ve always gotten.

Ever since I heard the definition of insanity – “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” I have tried to apply its underlying message of change to my everyday life. In that, I have found not only a great peace but the reality and interconnection of change and success.

If we want to be successful we must be willing to change. If we want to change we must know ourselves and who we really are and what needs changing in order to reach our goals. We must acknowledge the value of self examination and the acceptance of the accompanying consequences of our choices, decisions, and judgments.

I used “Chosen” as the 3rd key of success to illustrate the dynamic of the one element we as human beings share that differentiates us from any other species on the face of this planet…The Power to Choose. To reflect on the past only to observe our mistakes would be fruitless. That type of reflection only causes one to get stuck in another time period thus losing present opportunities for change.

To examine our past in its context, learning what worked and what didn’t and applying the results; the consequences, good and bad alike, we offer ourselves a greater potential for growth towards success, but more importantly significance.

Recognizing and coming to terms with the error of our ways also allows us to dismiss those moments in time that are no longer of value to our present and consequently our future. Yet, we must use our personal histories to seek out those moments where our chosen paths have either led us astray or victoriously in the direction of our destiny. We can learn from painful and joyful consequences alike, no matter how extreme, if we are willing to be honest with ourselves and forgiving of ourselves.

I am not, by any means, suggesting that one should spend their entire life looking back. Quite the contrary, I am suggesting we spend present moments in reflection in order to determine our actions for today. This is, of course, just one method of forward thinking; sort of back to the future type daydreaming. In the past few years I have spent a significant number of hours reflecting, journaling, and writing about then present day reflections that have produced both fond and tortuously painful memories. However, I will say that each hour I spent earnestly self examining the paths I have chosen revealed many blessings in disguise and contributed to handsome dividends in my present joy and future happiness despite some bitter disappointments along the way. Had I not permitted myself the reflective time, I would have missed many virtuous revelations.

There is, at least in my humble opinion, a significant difference between choices and decisions. Unfortunately there is not enough time to discuss them here in this article except to note that choices are abundant and seemingly infinite in their frequency while decisions, by their very definition, dwindle in frequency when they are executed and therefore finite.

Since 1987, when I first began journaling, I have chosen the direction for my life from many alternatives or choices. From those varied choices I have chosen thoughts, actions and quite often, due to a propensity for procrastination, inaction which has ultimately resulted in arriving at a very different station in life today – at this very moment. Some of the actions I chose were exhilarating, some very self-defeating. What I learned was not unique to me. There is an abundance of literature replete with stories, factual and otherwise, learned by others long before me and by greater men than me.

Simply, to seek the wisdom of God is supreme and if we are to focus ourselves on any one thing, loving God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves is a choice. Keeping that choice in the present and at the forefront of our daily lives creates unlimited possibilities and opens doors that no man can shut. In this case we choose to be chosen because we have been chosen to choose.

Shalom my friends and peace be with you,