Category Archives: Life skills

Do I need an umbrella?

Looking out the window across the cloud-covered sky to the street below I made an assessment that it was not raining heavily enough to impede my lunch time walk.

This assessment remained correct for five minutes, after which the grey clouds decided to dump significantly more moisture. I castigated myself for not bringing my umbrella which I had originally deemed as not being required. How could my assessment have been wrong?

The fact is, my assessment was correct, at that point in time. Circumstances beyond my control then changed the situation.

How often do we make decisions that are relevant to a particular point in time and then become frustrated or disappointed when the situation changes?

What may seem entirely reasonable and attainable with one particular set of circumstances, can quickly become distant and improbable. This shouldn’t prevent us from making decisions, rather it should encourage us to consider what factors are likely to change and then plan accordingly.

This is contingency planning. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just considered. In my case, I should have taken an umbrella – a minor encumbrance that would have meant I was prepared for the situational change. Some things cannot be planned for, but most can! The grey clouds were the indicator that my point-in-time assessment could be short-lived.

For what situation do you need to take an umbrella?

LET HOPE RISE

A beautiful mayhem

A television ad caught my attention recently when it described family life as ‘beautiful mayhem’. Across my 16 years as a parent I have sometimes used ‘organised chaos’ to describe the mundane activity of family but never beautiful mayhem.

Family epitomises something which can be in equal measure beautiful and chaotic. Frustration for parents arises when we expect it to be solely one or the other.

Parents (I’m looking at myself right now!) can set the bar too high, expecting that family life is meant to be some form of beautiful simplicity; smooth-sailing with compliant children, parents managing outcomes as they navigate the parenthood path. The converse is also true – an expectation that family life equals pure mayhem, chaos following disaster with parents resigned to a lack of control and influence. The reality is somewhere in between – this ‘beautiful mayhem’.

A challenge I’m all too aware of is seeing the beauty amidst the mayhem and calling that out. We can routinely allow cherished moments to pass by without bringing them to the surface, archiving them as lost in the mayhem. Our kids then recall only the chaos, the challenge, the confusion.

As parents we need to train our eyes and our hearts to create, identify and reinforce the beauty of each situation. This will equip our kids with an instinct for finding the beauty which then positions them to bring encouragement and life.

In the midst of chaos, we can feel overwhelmed, weighted down by the challenge. As parents we have to decide that we will do things differently, view situations with a fresh set of eyes. This starts with how we view our role as a parent.

Are we there to simply ensure our kids survive until adulthood when they’re on their own? Or are we called to equip our kids with the tools (attitudes, beliefs and practical skills) for them to be life-bringers? By adjusting how we see our critical role as a mum or dad, we will not only impact how we parent but also the destination to where our parenting guides our family.

Amidst the mayhem, what are you doing to call out the whimsical, the fun, the ridiculous, the beauty?

LET HOPE RISE

Inconvenient success

It’s rare to have one’s ducks all in row, leading to a strategically planned and executed successful outcome. It’s more often the case that an unexpected challenge prompts a need for action or a different direction.

Can we still have a successful outcome arising from uncertainty?

The opportunity for success, for growth and development, rarely arrives in a neatly packaged convenient bundle. The intersection of our plans and goals with the unexpected, creates inconvenience. It is how we respond to this inconvenience that shapes our attitude towards success. The ability to regroup, take stock and adjust course is fundamental to continued personal and professional growth and, ultimately, success (however we may measure this).

Success through inconvenience builds our resilience and sharpens our skillsets. Rather than viewing inconvenience as something to be avoided, perhaps we should search within the inconvenience for the opportunity.

LET HOPE RISE

What’s behind the curtain?

Arising somewhat earlier than I anticipated on my first day of a family holiday, I elected to go in search of the breakfast essentials, of which coffee was at the top of the list. Several options presented, most of which seemed to lack the quality I was seeking. After all, coffee is not just coffee!

The establishments I choose to bypass all appeared as the standard cafe with a standard coffee and what I assumed would be standard coffee-making skills. If everything else was standard, then why would I expect anything but… standard?

Having secured freshly baked bread and the local newspaper, coffee was now the priority. Coffee Dominion appeared, a rather nondescript building externally with its entrance unusually covered by a curtain. Curiosity drove me to peek behind the curtain, revealing a coffee treasure without compare locally. Comfy couches, a huge selection of fresh beans and a team of incredibly welcoming baristas. I had found coffee!

Sometimes the best things can be hidden. Not immediately obvious and maybe even requiring a search.

We can be rewarded with pleasure, with enlargement of our world, by simply deciding to have a look behind the curtain.

LET HOPE RISE

Preparing for what can’t be prepared for…

A friend ran his first half-marathon last year. He set himself this goal and duly went about preparing for it. He monitored his diet, built his fitness and began strategically running with them aim of being able to complete a half marathon first in training. When my boys decided that soccer would be their chosen sport, we prepared by kicking the ball in the backyard, learning the basics of trapping and passing.  There are some things, though, for which we cannot prepare.

My dad was diagnosed with a form of leukaemia a few years back. The prognosis for an older patient is somewhat worse than for a younger person. Suffice to say, this was bringing the end of his life nearer. It is one thing to know something, it is another altogether to be ready for it.

People, myself included, have over the years offered the profound advice “at least you know and you can prepare for it”.  This is fine when the event is your first half-marathon, but when it relates to the passing of a friend or family member, it is entirely irrelevant. Some things, we simply cannot adequately prepare for. Some things need to be experienced to understand the emotion.

As much as I am an advocate for planning and preparation, I have come to realise that we cannot prepare ourselves for all things. It is at those times, the love and support of family and friends is key. As too, is faith.

My personal faith journey has held me strong in those situations for which I was not our could not be prepared. Rather than seeking to understand ‘why’ something was happening, my faith continues to enable me to focus more on ‘how’ I can help.

Accept that some events will leave us confused, upset and even angry. And that’s okay. We cannot adequately prepare for all things that will happen in our lives but we do need to accept what has happened and then decide to deal with it.

LET HOPE RISE

“Won’t power”

It’s not the willpower, it’s the ‘won’t power’ that’s important” was regularly recounted by my dad when people spoke about diets and refraining from certain foods. He was, of course, talking about one’s ability to say ‘no’ to those foods rather than simply the desire for change. I’ve found that whilst seasons of saying “yes” to opportunities have enlarged my world and my capacity incredibly, the power of saying NO to behaviours and attitudes is paramount to lasting change.

Change starts with a desire. A wish for things to be different. Whatever this ‘different’ is – be it in the area of health, relationships, finance, career, parenting – will always require a change in both our behaviour and mindset. What we do and how we think is essential for lasting change. This is where my dad’s quip is important – we need to say NO to those old behaviours, those old mindsets and attitudes, replacing them with the new desired behaviour and thinking. Being keen and enthusiastic won’t bring the results – action is always required!

As we step into a new year, some of us tend to resolve that ‘things will be different this year!’ The resolve won’t deliver change. If we’re genuine about change for the sake of ourselves and those around us, then let’s remember the ‘won’t power’.

What do you need to say NO to in 2016?

LET HOPE RISE