How Can You Continually Flourish?

Morty Lefoe in his article “What Type of Change Do You Want in Your Organization?” refers to three orders of change:

  • Change that consists of improving what already is
  • Change that consists of creating something totally new
  • Change that operates from questions rather than answers

These same orders of change also apply to personal growth and development.

Improving what already is:

There are two aspects to this. The first is building on your strengths. What do you do well that can be applied in new, additional, or innovative ways for creating greater value, contributing more, and having a greater impact? The second way is deepening and sharpening existing skill sets to take you to new levels of proficiency. In essence, enabling you to progress from “good to great,” as Jim Collins discusses in his book by that title. These forms of personal growth usually occur gradually, step by step.

Creating something totally new:

You can create something new within or about yourself and outside of yourself. Consider these questions for each:

Within or about yourself: What behaviors can you change or refocus? What change have you been resisting that you can try? It may sound counterintuitive, but attitude change usually follows behavior change. So by changing your actions you can change your way of thinking and how you perceive matters. You can grow as a person, refresh your life, and deepen your viewpoint by doing something totally new. Stretch yourself.

ChainsOutside of yourself: What does not exist in your life that you can create? What new arena of achievement can you pursue? What does not exist in the world or in your area that if it did would make a positive difference? How can you rejuvenate yourself and the people or world around you – whether that’s in your home, workplace, school, community, or society? Begin within your sphere of influence. You are at the center of it so start with yourself and then more outward. As you do, you will expand your sphere of influence. By creating something new, you alter what you are and the world around you. These may be medium, long-term or permanent improvements with a lasting impact.

Operating from questions rather than answers:

This form of change may be linked to the second. It revolves around continually asking yourself transformative questions such as:

  • How can I get better? How can I continually grow and improve? How can I have a bigger impact?
  • What is confining my thinking? How can I move beyond outmoded paradigms? Why am I stuck and what can propel me forward? How can I make that happen?
  • What assumptions am I operating under and how can I challenge or test them? What are my assumptions based on? Are they based on facts, complete or partial information, or opinions of others? How can I widen or deepen my understanding? How can I look at things in a more fresh or more systemic way?
  • How can I learn from the success of others? What are new and better ways of achieving goals?

When we continually strive to improve who we are and what we do, challenge ourselves and our assumptions, and seek deeper or more comprehensive knowledge, we grow personally and professionally. The three orders of change can be woven into the fabric of our lives, so we can truly flourish today and over the course of time. All it takes is commitment, a future-oriented perspective, an open mind, and action to propel the process. Now is a great time to start!

One Secret to Greater Contentment

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

~ Philippians 4:8 NIV

How often do your thoughts stray from that Biblical advice? Regardless of your faith, consider the wisdom in such words. Consider how much more content your life might be if you embraced them.

Our thoughts affect so much about our lives. What we believe is important and where we place our priorities. Or moods. Our health. There is something to be said for mind over matter.

What happens when you allow your thoughts to dwell on mistakes and what might have been? What happens when you focus in the negative rather than the positive, or what you don’t have instead of what you do? Do those thoughts inspire you or contribute to feeling discontent? Do they help you move past unfortunate events or choices? Do they motivate you to pursue possibilities or to languish? Do they help you create a better future? Do they help you to do your best or be the best person you can be?

It seems negative thoughts can easily crowd out positive ones. It’s doubtful that they can share the same mind space. In a given day, how much “mind share” does each occupy in your brain?

Our thoughts affect our behavior and our success. So what you think has a significant impact on your future. It also affects how happy and content you feel today, how at peace you are with yourself. As Socrates said “Contentment is natural wealth.”

When you feel negative thoughts seep into your brain, or lodge themselves there, remind yourself of Philippians 4:8. Release those detrimental thoughts as quickly as they enter your consciousness. Keep your mind on that which is good, noble, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, constructive and positive. Your contentment and future depend on it.

Passover’s Universal Message

This week I have been absorbed in a discussion regarding slavery and freedom, one that takes place annually among my family, friends and community. It is the topic that is brought forth each year through the celebration of Passover. And while we tend to think of Passover as a Jewish holiday, for certainly it is, the message of the holiday is universal, so much so that it is celebrated by a fair number of congregations in the Christian and Muslim faiths as well.

chainThe basic story: the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, where they were victims of harsh labor and beatings. God, through the messenger Moses, brought them out from bondage into freedom. This essential kernel of the Jewish narrative has the commandment within it to recount the story each year and to teach it to our children, so that they, too, can continue to recount it as they mature.

Why? For some the answer would be: to remember. We must remember our roots. That’s one important reason. But according to Jewish teaching, while significant, remembering alone falls miserably short. For we are reminded again and again in our sacred texts to extend ourselves to the stranger, the widow, the orphan, the elder, the blind and the deaf– individuals who serve to represent all the needy in our community – because we know how it feels to be the stranger, to be the one who is oppressed. In fact, we are commanded to open our homes and our tables so that all who are hungry may come and eat. The value of Israelite slavery, according to Kabbalistic traditions, is to have us break that chain, for through it we learned to be sensitive to those in need and to have compassion for their pain. Having cultivated sensitivity and compassion, we are commanded then to act to eradicate injustice and alleviate suffering throughout the world.

Seders this year and in years past have included multiple faiths at their table to facilitate dialogues to help overcome the narrow understanding that one faith may have of another. The word for Egypt in Hebrew isMitzrayim, which literally means, “the narrow places.” We go from the narrow place of enslavement to the broad expanse of freedom, not just as a nation, but as individuals, not just historically, but today as well. We must challenge ourselves to examine where we hold narrow, self-limiting beliefs as well as beliefs that minimize or diminish others.

Toward this end, many seders include a fifth question – an addition to the traditional four that explore why the Passover night is different from all other nights. Some fifth questions asked at seders this year include:

  • Why on this night are millions of people going hungry?
  • Why are so many still enslaved and tortured around the world?
  • What steps can we take to ensure greater economic justice in our cities?
  • How can we promote equal rights for people of all races, ethnicities and religions?
  • How can we ensure that our food is produced in an ethical and ecologically sustainable way?
  • What are some things we can do every day to help those around come out of the self-imposed bondage and slavery that they experience in their own lives?
  • How can we continue to honor aiding strangers and family alike with this next year?
  • Why is religion so often a force in politics?
  • How can we make this year different from all other years?

You may find yourself adding your own questions to this list, either from your seder or from your personal commitment to repair our world. Ultimately, the message of Passover is at once simple and complex. Simple: treat all people with justice, kindness and equity; make sure that everyone has enough food, shelter, clothing, health care, love. Treat others the way you’d want them to treat you. The complexity is in the doing. The complexity is in overcoming our fears of people who look or behave differently than we do. It is in addressing the selfishness that impels us to want more even when it means that someone else has less. It is in facing the arrogance that enables us to overindulge use of our earth’s resources without recognizing that we are robbing our own children. It is in overcoming inertia, ambivalence and/or despair that we have regarding taking action to live the lessons that the seder has us pose.

The essence of Passover is that it goes beyond a message to and for the Jewish community. It is a message that can appeal to anyone of any faith or even without a faith tradition. The true essence of this holiday is that no one is truly free until all people are free.