Coffee—Choices—Congruency, Part 3

My dad loves ice cream. A huge treat for my family was going to Baskin Robbins’ 31 flavors as a child. I was known as the child who wanted a little of everything. My dad, however, would scan through all the luscious, heavenly flavors, and 99.9999999% of the time, choose vanilla. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with vanilla–but for me–when there are so many other choices out there shouldn’t you at least try them? I never asked my dad, but I imagine he just didn’t want to be disappointed in his choice so he relied on his ‘go-to’ flavor.

Ice cream

 

That is one way of navigating your choices for life. (BTW, I’m not saying my dad advocated this as a choice for life!) There is no one way to make every choice that ensures a positive outcome. However, recognizing what is influencing your choices makes a HUGE difference in your response.

One can make the seemingly ‘safe’ choices all the way through and get through life or one can make more adventurous choices and get from life. Put it this way, either life impacts you or you impact life.

  • I believe life was created to be lived.
  • I also believe you were created to live life.
  • I believe you have gifts and talents that your choices unlock or leave locked–significant contributions you have to offer.
  • I also believe this isn’t a burden to bear, but a gift to be celebrated and enjoyed.

How should we make those choices?

Stephen Covey has some pretty good wisdom on the matter: “Begin with the end in mind.”

It’s not really that hard. It takes a little discipline, but ask yourself this question: what’s important for you when you get to the end of your life? Or put it this way, “What do you want written on your tombstone?”

I doubt most of us want “He lived safely” as a final epitaph.

Yet I recognize many don’t want “She lived recklessly” either.

You want to be a great parent? Make your choices based around what you believe to be a great parent.

You want to conquer the business world? Make your choices around what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

You want to be a peacemaker?  You get the idea.

I know, I hear you saying, “But…what if I want to be a great parent AND a conqueror of the business world?”

Now you’re catching on. Unintended consequences of intended choices can alter the trajectory of your life’s direction.

“Can I have both?” I hear you ask.

I believe you can–but it takes congruency in your choices.

You can’t make some decisions about business (i.e., always staying late, taking every business call no matter where you are, stepping on anyone and everyone that gets in your way)…

AND 

…be that great parent who coaches your kid’s little league teams, is present at every recital, takes your child to church, and volunteers at school.

So, to navigate those legions of choices, you need to make intentional choices that are congruent and positively impact your intended outcomes.

To clarify, there’s nothing wrong with vanilla–however–there are thirty other choices out there! 

Here’s the good news: By simply asking the question, “Can I have both?” you open a door. You realize it’s more than just the choices that you make. You’re not captive to your first impulses when conflict arises.

Whether you’re just beginning your life’s journey or even if you’re coming into the autumn years of your life, one of my favorite mentors says:  “you can’t change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction.

You CAN think bigger–and you should! However, even ice cream has an expiration date. You can and you should take action.

It’ll come in the form of three B’s.

Right now, have another cup and I’ll be right back…

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Coffee—Choices—Congruency, Part 2

A pilot was practicing high speed maneuvers in a jet fighter when she decided to change direction and fly straight up. When she pulled back on the stick, she flew directly into the ground. She was unaware that she had been flying upside down.

Choices are curious–they always equal consequences.

They are amoral. It doesn’t matter how sincere one is about their choice, there is such a thing as being sincerely right and sincerely wrong.

100222-N-4774B-019 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 22, 2010) An F/A-18 Super Hornet assigned to the Sunliners of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81 flies upside down past the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during a flight demonstration. Carl Vinson is taking part in Southern Seas 2010 as part of a scheduled homeport shift. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released)

The pilot thought she was upright, but in reality, she was flying upside down and no amount of sincerity in her belief could change the outcome.

Wow! HEAVY stuff!

“Lighten up!” I can hear you say.

Okay, an airline that chooses poor coffee when they originate from a country with excellent coffee is a BAD choice! (Can I get an “Amen”?!?) Especially when served up on some poor sap hoping for the good stuff only to be plunged from the heights of anticipation onto the rocks of reality.

So not every choice is a life-or-death consequence–but every choice sets up a trajectory towards a series of consequences whether intended or unintended. AND just because you’re aimed at a desired consequence, (i.e., good health, a better job, higher pay, a spouse) DOES NOT MEAN you won’t have disappointing unintended consequences along the way!

If you have had some choices blow up in your face–welcome to reality! Even if your intentions are good, your trajectory is on course, not everyone else is onboard with your trajectory!

Honestly, sometimes your trajectory may interfere with mine and we may have conflict. You may be having a leisurely drive to work because you got up on time and prepared for the commute, while I may have overslept and have a flight to catch. Your slow driving could produce an unintended set of poor consequences in my life–even if both of our intentions are good and on target.

So, let’s get one thing clear: conflict is to be expected.

You just had a thought in your head when you read that. Your thought has predicated your next choice most of your life. If you thought:

  • “Awesome! Bring it on!” You generally see life as a game to be played and conflict as a battle to be won. You’ll likely be one of the ones who will give me the finger as I weave in and out of traffic on the way to the airport. You’d dislike the coffee, but you’d drink it and move on.

  • “Wow! This ought to be fun!”You probably see life as a game to enjoy. You don’t hardly see conflict as being aimed at you because you’re busy enjoying the ride–you laughed at my weaving. You stop the flight attendant and ask for a Coke and don’t even see her “I’m SO done with you” look.

  • “What will be my response?” You probably see life as a project to be ordered, classified and categorized. You’d see me coming in traffic and immediately calculate the safest action to take to avoid my erratic driving. You’d have ordered enough sugar and creamer to disguise the awful instant coffee–and have ordered a water as well just in case.

  • “Crap! Conflict! I HATE conflict!” You probably see life as a place that needs peace. You’d pull over for me and make some remark about my behavior but you’d give me the benefit of the doubt: “Maybe he’s late for a flight.” You’d NEVER ask the attendant for something different and would drink the dang, crappy coffee without a complaint.

Okay, so I’ve way oversimplified the responses–I get that. However, I believe you found yourself either in, or in-between a couple of those responses.

The choices you are inclined to make dictate the trajectory you’re on.

That trajectory aims you at a destination in your relationships, your spirituality, your education, your business–your life’s story.

Let me be clear:

  • there are very few choices that lead to immediate successful or destructive consequences.
  • There are thousands, perhaps millions of choices that lead to long-term successful or long-term destructive consequences.

How do you navigate those legions of choices?

Well, drink another cup of coffee and join me tomorrow

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Coffee—Choices—Congruency

Coffee. It is the elixir of life, I’m convinced–a good cup of coffee that is. A bad cup, well, let’s just leave it at the good cup.

I was traveling abroad, 35,000 feet above the continent of Africa. It was a long trip and another long flight that was overnight. When I awoke from my meager attempts at sleep, I heard the flight attendants preparing breakfast. Coffee?!? Could it be?!? I’m on an international airline bearing the name of a country that grows some extraordinary coffee–could it be?!? I sat anxiously waiting my turn as the attendants handed out drinks. It seemed like a lifetime passed before they got to me.

“Coffee?” she asked.

“Certainly!” I replied trying to disguise my anticipation.

Then I saw it–instant coffee!

“Instant coffee?” my mind rattled.

INSTANT COFFEE.

She handed me my cup and moved on in the “I’m SO done with you” sort of air attendants can have.

INSTANT COFFEE?!? BUT, HOW?

How could an airline from a celebrated country known for good coffee profane themselves by serving a second-rate instant coffee?

Then it hit me–that’s what many people do.

People with gifts that are extraordinary, who are afraid to reach deeply within themselves to bring out that giftedness that could change the world around them and possibly the world at large.

How?

Instant coffee.

It’s cheap. It’s easy. It will be criticized but it’s okay. It’s expected and it doesn’t hurt because it isn’t really a criticism of the coffee not the airline or the country. Just their choice–but–it just doesn’t add up. It doesn’t reflect who they are with regards to the airlines’ service reputation, the country’s quality and my disillusioned palate.

And that’s really what it’s about: our choice.

And that’s what I’m exploring: what if I could encourage you to make that next choice? Not the next cache of choices–just the next choice. An ancient Chinese philosopher is credited with the saying, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

What would your next step be?

If your next step could lead you to greatness, what direction would that continuous trajectory take you?

Let’s spend some time and unpack that.

Coffee—Choices—Congruency

No more instant coffee. No more deflecting criticism. No more holding back. Your choices will become congruent with who you have been created to be.

If that sounds inviting, take the next step….have a cup now and join me tomorrow.

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Voices That Matter

I listen to little voices in my head. There. I said it.

In my mind it goes like this:

The music fades. I lower the mic. All four judges have turned around after pressing their glowing red buttons. The crowd erupts in emotional applause.

That is my fantasy appearance on the TV show “The Voice.” I know. Impressing millions with my angelic, Bieber-ish vocals is basically what I already do, but there is a voice in my head that quietly tells me, “Maybe I could win on a TV show.” And that little voice is what took me from fantasizing about being on “The Voice” to actually being on “The Voice.” (Spoiler: I’ve never been a contestant on “The Voice.” Bear with me, guys – it’s just a metaphor.)

That would be the dream, wouldn’t it? Four talents turning their chairs. Each one saying, without words, “Choose me! I can take you all the way!”

That’s the way the show works. The coaches can’t see you while you audition. They can only view their student once they’ve listened and decided if they hear something they can mold and sculpt to go on to the next level. If more than one coach turns their chair around, you, the contestant, gets to choose who you want to be coached by.

After watching American Sniper, it occurred to me that most of our lives is exactly that. A set of chairs turning, us being able to select the coach based on our bias. Except instead of Blake Shelton’s rugged charm sitting in those red seats, we have multiple voices to choose from that would each have powerful effects in our lives.

There is a scene where Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) meets with a psychologist after suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder fairly soon upon ending his military career.

The psychologist asks him if he struggles with what he saw or did during four tours overseas.

“Oh, no sir. That’s not me,” Kyle says. “I was just protecting our guys. I’m willing to meet my maker and answer for every shot I took.”

That little voice in his head is telling him that, “It was no big deal, I did my job.” He was credited for over a hundred and 60 kills as a Navy Seal Sniper. You know, being the most deadly marksman in American Military history isn’t something that would impress anybody. It’s downright average.

While admiring his unreal discipline in refraining from using any bragging rights, my first thought was, “Of course that’s what the voice in his head was telling him.” Because Kyle could’ve chosen to listen to the voice that told him to accept all bragging rights, and he also could’ve chosen to listen the voice that told him to shoot with reckless abandon.

But Kyle chose to listen to the voice that disciplined him, that humbled him, that chalked up his accomplishments to simply doing the job he signed up for.

Is it a testament to Kyle’s strength that he chose to listen to the more admirable voice? Of course. Could you or I, mere peons in comparison to Kyle, choose to listen to our most admirable voices, resist the bad ones, and experience a visible transformation in the quality of our lives and attitudes? I truly believe so.

We all have voices in our heads. It’s how we make decisions. Voices, or temptations, or instincts like little cities in your brain. They could say anything from, “I can sing as good as Adam Levine,” to “it’s nothing. I’m a sniper. I did my job.”

The problem here, is many of us are only able to create or adopt a voice and then, like a cheesy Sci-Fi film, it grows a mind of its own. Just like the American Sniper, we want our voices to be surgeons, not butchers

Now we know what the skeptics are scoffing about while drinking their chai tea, perched on a rooftop balcony in their summer home, overlooking our peasant village. “You can’t just talk to voices in your head and dream your way through life. It’s not realistic.” And trust me, #1, we dreamers learn our limits as we get older and more experienced, (well most of us do) and #2, choosing which voices to listen to is a skill.

But c’mon, look at all the legendary figures who have strode the earth before us! The heroes they make movies about, the stories that get retold over and over until they get turned into a terrible Nicholas Cage film and then they’re still retold. You can’t expect to live an exceptional life while adhering to all of the voices of reason and caution. (Or almost any of them, in Steve Jobs’ case.)

Obviously I’m not advocating abandoning all of your responsibilities and disappearing on adventure. (Although if you did, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous.)

I’m just saying that if being extraordinary requires submitting to the occasional delusion, sign my friends and me up. I’d rather live in our wonderful fantasyland than someone else’s average reality.

I heard Kathryn Schulz speak about “The Art of Being Wrong” and what she said astounded me. She told a crowd, “The miracle of your mind is not that it is capable of perceiving perfect reality of the way everything is, but that it is able to see this world for what it’s not.”\

This world is not forgiving, loving, freeing or empowering, and yet millions of people choose to see it so every day. Why? Because they chose to listen to a different voice than other people do. As you read this, think about what rushes to your brain when the pressure’s on. What voice climbs the highest and yells the loudest? Now ask, is that voice giving you the advice you truly want to live by? If not, change it. Push it into a corner and bury it in a box. Your little voices aren’t cemented in stone. They can be changed.

Above all, accept that the chairs are turning and it’s your turn to choose.