Starting With The Right Question

When do children stop wanting to be an astronaut, a ballerina, a baseball player or a puppy?  What happens in life that causes our childhood dreams to disappear?

Sure, it’s tough to become a puppy when you start out as a human, but when did trading in dreams for something more logical and rational become the norm?  Has it always been this way?

These are questions that have been on my mind lately.  I doubt they’ll ever be answered, although I would like some insider knowledge on the human-to-puppy metamorphosis deal, but thankfully they don’t have to be.  You know why?

Because adults can learn to dream again.  And dream big.

I know you’ve heard the statement, “We all want to be part of something bigger.”  It’s true. We do.  Well, I believe being an adult, regardless of age, doesn’t mean you’re no longer allowed to want to blast into space!

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to be part of something bigger than themselves.  If you don’t, then fine.  I just think you need someone to love on you for a while, and then you’ll begin to think differently.  Until then, I’ll assume if you’re reading this, you do.

It’s interesting to me that so often we turn to our jobs to find “something bigger,” especially twenty somethings.  We take our dreams and put them into someone else’s hands to make come true.  In essence, you just outsourced your world.  Now, I don’t mind hiring someone to repair a roof or unclog a pipe, but there are just some things we should manage ourselves, our happiness and hope are two of those.

To be clear, there are lots of great companies out there that are led well, but unless I’m missing something, there seem to be a greater number of unhappy employees working in poorly led organizations.  This is so sad to me.  On Monday, a happy, optimistic, fresh-out-of-college 23 –year old arrives at work and by Friday, the fire is fading.  A year later, you couldn’t light them up again with all the gasoline in the world.

And this is the beginning of independent adulthood for millions of us. No wonder people say college years are the best years in life.  They really are!  We enter the work force and bounce from job to job in search of something that makes us happy. I submit what we’re really looking for is “something bigger.”  Over time, we don’t find it so we settle.  We chalk up our dreams as just that, dreams, and we start to believe that living for a greater purpose is just a fantasy, not “realistic.”

This is wrong.  It doesn’t have to be this way, and you can start taking back your life right now.  All you have to do is start by asking yourself the question – Why am I here?

Question: What are your thoughts about living on purpose?

This post originally appeared on this blog in Oct. 2011.

Friday Video – Mothers and Courage

Before taking a job at the Pentagon in 2010, I had the great fortune to lead the Public Affairs team at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn. The base is home to Arnold Engineering Development Center, the world’s most advanced aerospace ground test center.

Simply put, it’s where military aircraft, rockets, jet engines, and more are tested before they’re ever flown.

Today’s video below is the 2009 Year in Review video we produced to honor all 2000+ team members at Arnold as well as past and present team members we lost that year.  One of those was one of my team member’s sons – Wesley Amacher.

His name appears at 2 minutes, 34 seconds.

As a leader, I’ve faced nothing more difficult.  But any difficulty I faced of course paled in comparison to what my team member, Vickie, felt then and still today over Wesley’s loss.

I remember the funeral service like it was yesterday.  Amidst all the sadness and tears, she displayed one of the most inspiring acts of courage I’ve ever witnessed.

The place was packed with mourners.  People from all streets of Wesley’s life intersecting in a standing room only funeral home. The receiving line was out the door.  And instead of standing at the front of the room, allowing us to come to her, there was Vickie making her way up the line, hugging and comforting all of us who had come to comfort her.

Seeing Vickie’s courage along with all of my emotions was overwhelming.  By the time we met in the center of that room, I couldn’t speak.  I stood there looking at her, she back at me, and I couldn’t muster a single word.  I felt like I was going to explode into a million pieces if I did.

After a couple of seconds of struggle, she just looked into my eyes and said, “I know. I know.”  Then we hugged.

To this day, I don’t know.  I don’t know how she did that.  I don’t know where the strength came from.

Click the video to view it.  If it won’t play, click here.

How To Quickly Improve Your Marriage – The Spouse Goal

My wife and I are in complete agreement that it takes work to become the “cute little old couple” holding hands, walking up the sidewalk.

It doesn’t just happen.  It takes effort.

Compatibility and love won’t get you there either.  But the extent to which you’re willing to grow your compatibility and love each other through service to the other will get you there.

One way to do this is to set goals together.  I wrote about this in “Marriage Benefits of Goal Setting Together.”  I encourage you to read it, and add this post to the mix.

Spouse Goal

This year we did something different with our goals that immediately improved our marriage.

We set one goal for the other person.

After taking some time to think about this, my wife decided her goal for me was – to stop asking her “What did you do today?” and replace it with “How was your day?”

She said the former makes her feel judged while the latter makes her feel cared about.

Until then, she’d never told me that, bringing me to the 3 benefits of the Spouse Goal.

Spouse Goal Benefits

1. Opens up communication

Communication is key to growing your marriage.  Just hanging out silently together does not.  Bonds are strengthened through revelation and that takes communication.  Setting a Spouse Goal does just that.  It causes you communicate about each other to each other.

Who knows how much more time would have passed before my wife said something. But setting a Spouse Goal provided an easy opportunity to communicate and reveal something important to me.

And in the end all I had to do was change a question!  Small thing but huge impact.

2. Shows commitment

Allowing your spouse to set a goal for you communicates commitment.  Let’s face it.  We’re all greedy with our time.  Goal setting, as powerful as it is, can be a downright selfish act, especially if a couple isn’t doing it together and setting shared goals.

The Spouse Goal does the opposite.  It says, “You’re so important to me that I’m willing to spend time doing this simply because you want me to.”

That’s huge.

3. You improve, your marriage improves

Guys, you may be thinking right now, “No way, dude! I’m not letting my spouse set a goal for me.  I won’t watch another game all year!” Or something similar.

Ladies, you may be having similar thoughts. If that’s the case, it should tell you something.

Because a Spouse Goal is just that, the goals very well may be focused on where you can improve in your spouse’s eyes.  What they choose for you may sound a lot like what they were complaining to you about just yesterday.

This is called feedback.  It’s one spouse telling the other they’re unhappy and a need isn’t being met.

In a work setting, it’s a team member telling another team member “they’re unhappy and a need isn’t being met.” Or, it’s a leader telling a team member how they can improve.

Why so often are we amenable to feedback at work and not at home?

The Spouse Goal can help with this, if you come at it with the right mindset.

Question:  Do you see other benefits of the Spouse Goal?  Share below so we can all learn.

It’s Not Too Late To Set 2012 Goals. A 3-Step Plan To Catch You Up.

It’s January 23.  If you haven’t set any goals for the year, chances are you probably won’t.

I hope I’m wrong though.  It’s never too late to start goal setting and living more intentionally.

If, however, you are someone who planned to goal set this year but for whatever reason haven’t, here’s a 3-step action plan to help you catch up before any more of the year gets away.

1. Prioritize

If you had a lot of potential goals swirling around in your head back in December, now’s the time to narrow them down.  Pick 2-3 that are most important. Chances are if you haven’t set any goals by this point, there’s a reason for it.  Don’t overwhelm yourself now.  It’s better to pick a handful and work hard toward on those than set 17 goals and achieve none of them.

2. Answer why

For each goal you set, be sure to include why you set it.  Being clear about why you’re doing something is powerful.  While it seems obvious and simple, it’s not.  Consider this.  How many unexpected events happened to you last year?  How many emergencies?  How many requests did you get from other people you couldn’t turn down?  How many times did you start something and not finish it?

Answering why and documenting it with our goals gives us more of a fighting chance by the time May rolls around and life has happened.  This step is critical, especially for important goals we’re not very passionate about like writing a will, for example, or getting life insurance.

3. Write them down and hang them up

Once you’ve decided on 2-3 goals and answered why for each, write them down and hang them up where you’ll see them daily.  Mine and my wife’s goals are printed out and hanging on the refrigerator.  Considering we both need food to survive, we’re guaranteed to see them every day.

And for you smarty pants readers, yes, there’s also dry food in the pantry for us to subsist on.  But I’m sure you get the point!

So there you go.  A simple, 3-step plan to help you get going with achieving your goals and living well.

Question:  What steps would you add?

Friday Video – Pooh Bear and Communication

I think I’m going to start sharing videos on Fridays. What do you think?

Okay, good!

Here’s a short and hilarious video courtesy of Winnie the Pooh and company.  My wife sent it to me this week in an email that read, “When you have a minute and wanna laugh.”  Just click it and it will play, but if it doesn’t click here.

Have a great weekend, ya’ll!

How To Achieve All Your Goals

For the last few years, I’ve run about 2 half marathons each year.  One year I traded a half for the Marine Corps Marathon, my first full.

My goal for my very first half in Virginia Beach was to finish in less than 2 hours.  I did it.  And I learned a lot in the process.

Six months later I ran my second race and finished 13 minutes faster at 1 hour, 45 minutes on a more challenging course.  I knocked off a full minute per mile because I was better conditioned.

I remember saying to myself during the race, “I feel great.  This is awesome!”

I don’t run with a watch so I didn’t know my time until a friend who’d been tracking me online sent me a text.  I remember exactly where I was when I read it. I was pretty stoked.

The same cannot be said though for some of my later races, those races for which I wasn’t very well-trained.  It’s amazing how much easier it is to maintain an 8-minute mile for 13.1 miles as opposed to a 9-minute mile when not in as good of shape.

In those races, “I feel great” got replaced with “Why am I doing this?”

Goal setting

For many of us, this is what happens with our goals.

In January we’re fired up about them.  We tell ourselves this is the year the weight is coming off.  We’re going to find a better job.  We’re going to start getting out of debt.

By the time May rolls around, we’re 2.1 pounds lighter, in the same job we hate and we’ve only paid off part of one credit card.

Somewhere between January and spring, life happened. We got busy.  All sorts of unexpected events happened.  The roof had to be replaced, and we had to put it on the VISA.

It all seems too hard.  “Why am I doing this?”

Why?

Achieving goals isn’t always easy.  We don’t establish action plans to achieve our goals.  Emergencies occur.  We get lazy.  And so often we forget.

We forget why we set a specific goal in the first place.  But there’s something that can be done to get us back in the game.  Something wonderfully simple.

Writing down the reasons we set a goal.

Some call these “internal motivators.”

When I lost 55 pounds my junior year of high school.  I knew why.  But if I’d written down the reasons, the list would’ve probably looked like this.

I don’t want to be fat anymore.

I want to feel more confident.

I’d like to have a girlfriend.

I want to look more attractive.

Once I decided to lose the weight, I was committed.  When the pounds started coming off, I got even more committed.  Nothing was going to stop me from achieving my goal.  The treadmill was my close friend, where today, it’s my nemesis.

Back then though the treadmill represented something bigger.

But we’re not always hyped up about some of our goals.  Some we set because we know we should, and we know it’s going to be tough to achieve them.

We know ourselves.  We know our flaws and weaknesses.  We’ve all had those conversations with ourselves about feeling afraid or like a failure.  These aren’t usually things we tell others about or share on Facebook.

But when months have passed and we’ve either done nothing to achieve a goal or it’s just been hard, reminding ourselves why we set a goal can save us.

Pulling out the list of goals and reading…

Goal:  To lose 20 pounds this year

Why?

I want to feel better about myself

I want to be healthier

I want to know my grandchildren

…can literally be a life or death situation.

My next half marathon is the Oak Barrel Half Marathon in Lynchburg, Tenn., April 7.  I have a training plan hanging on the refrigerator, and it’s going well.  My goal is to run it in 1 hour, 50 minutes or less.

But more importantly, my goal is to trade in “Why am I doing this?” for “I feel great.”

Question:  Have you written down the reasons for your goals?  Do you see the value?