Friday, December 28, 2012

Here's Comes Another Year!

There's no doubt I am thankful to have made it through another year. I began doctoral studies, ran another marathon, watched family members struggle with illness, and tried to encourage and share wisdom with hundreds of college students. In 2012, I watched media reports of natural disasters, school violence, racial discord, and political turmoil. Sometimes the news causes my heart to break for the human condition and the future of America. Yet, I remain hopeful there is more good in the world than we see on the news. The real news starts in my corner of the world. It starts with me. So here comes another year, how will I develop what to write on the now blank pages of 2013?

I don't make New Year's resolutions. I typically take the time after Christmas and before New Year's Day to set three major life goals for the coming year. I try not to focus on more than three things because any more than that decreases my chance for follow-through. Before I set personal life goals, I review my principles of behavior at home, work, and in my community. The Hemingway quote above is one way I evaluate my intentions and past actions. I also reflect on implementing the following practices for the coming year:

1. Avoid toxic people. Be deliberate in avoiding conversations with people who gossip, constantly complain, and always criticize others. It takes courage to refuse to participate in conversations where others criticize those they don't relate to or discourage those who are trying to get things done. Avoid being the person who initiates these conversations. No one wins. I refuse to accept negativity and pettiness in the workplace, at church, or at home. I want to surround myself with positive, growing, intelligent, vibrant people. I will intentionally avoid all others, even if it means being alone. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, "Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people." What's the greatest topic of your conversations? Ideas? events? people?

2. Develop broader circles closer to home.  I see young adults and church groups going on "mission" trips to Africa or even tourist destinations like Dubai and Paris for "mission" work. It all sounds so noble. There are many who adopt foreign babies yet do not have friendships with a person of another nationality within their own church. My heart yearns for society to focus less on external differences such as gender or race. There are many times we don't give others a chance if they simply look different. We may have a negative opinion simply because of past experiences with someone who may have similar external traits. That does not mean you have to like everyone or agree on everything. It takes courage and an expansive mind to initiate conversations or socialize with people outside your circle of comfort. I have healthy, diverse friendships in many places except the town where I currently reside. My mission field is here. My mission trip is all about going to work and church trying to unconditionally love and communicate honestly with those who are right here. Who knows if that local friendship, conversation, or volunteer effort might impact the city, the state, or church community for greater good. 

3. Stop assuming. Many of us have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn accounts. Each of these tools have a place and purpose in today's world. Social media is highly visual and incite strong feelings. But the snapshot of someone's life on Facebook may cause you to think your life is not as perfect as theirs. Social media allows us to share only the positive highlights. Life outside the smartphone and computer screen  may be different. You don't really know anyone from their Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin persona. You might be surprised by what you learn when you spend less time tweeting or Facebook stalking and more time talking to people. It's okay to use social media to a build community and learn more about the world. Just remember, meaningful, lasting relationships are always built in person. If you really want to know about a person, network, or gain true perspective, talk to them. Don't assume you know anything about them because of what you see of their life on Facebook. Stop assuming and return to asking.

4. Practice what is preached. Whatever your faith, denomination or spiritual affiliation, try to intentionally practice some of the loving principles and concepts discussed by your pastor, preacher or spiritual leader. I find this especially important at work and when participating in any type of team or group situation. Perhaps we should all be mindful about practicing basic tenets like: forgiveness, honesty, encouragement, grace, and mercy. Allow your faith principles to be evident in everything you do. How do you consistently apply your beliefs at work, home, school, and especially when nobody's watching?

I hope you'll consider some of these approaches in 2013. I know I will. During the cool winter months, I like to find a quiet place, grab a cup of tea and write out three goals or even three words that guide my intentions to contribute to a better world in 2013. I am always hopeful things will get better and people will be nicer when a new year rolls around. It starts with me...and you. In my little corner.