Let’s be morbidly honest, my life is more than half over. I’m okay with that. Save the pity party for someone else, unless you are serving Oreos, then I’m in. Wow, I am ‘so’ able to digress. Focus.
LIFE and I have a wonderful relationship. At times we argue, at times we embrace and laugh, and cry, and simply hold on. But mostly we have a grand time. LIFE has a way of teaching us lessons. Sometime in friendly ways. Sometime in adversarial ways. Sometimes on our side, and other times fleeting from us. During it all, we make choices. We make choices that either strengthen our relationship with LIFE or detract from real-LIFE.
The choices we make lead up to actual experiences. It is one thing to decide to climb a mountain. It is quite another to be on top of it. – Herbert A. Simon
LIFE has taught me a number of lessons along the way. Fortunately for me, there has been a litany of mentors and guidance at my disposal. Here is what I’ve learned…
1. Treat women with respect.
With the onslaught of news and social media regarding the mistreatment of women, it makes me grateful that my father taught his sons the importance of womanhood and respecting women. He did this through the example of how he treated my mother and how he expected us to treat her.
With six boys and one girl, my father taught us not only the importance of how to treat our mother but how he expected us to treat our sister as well. This further resulted in how we learned to treat women as a whole.
The difficulty today can be having this treatment misconstrued as ‘looking down’ on women as somehow ‘lesser’ or ‘unable’ to care for themselves. The opposite is true. This respect is built upon knowing the strength of my mother. She was the traditional figure that ran our home as efficiently as any CEO. She handled the finances. She handed out duties and developed our job descriptions (we even had a job chart!). She mentored us through teaching and example. She sat as a judge and as an advocate.
I’ve had the opportunity to instill the same view on my sons, with the same added bonus of having a daughter as well. To this day, I still open the door for my wife, including opening the car door. I’m not looking for a public pat on the back. If we were the last two people on the planet, I would still open the door for her. Because she is unable to do it herself? Far from, due to the respect for women that my father instilled in me.
2. Prioritize your life.
Not long ago, I had made plans to go on a quick motorcycle ride with a group of friends. We were going to meet up and ride to a little diner a few miles away and have lunch.
The night before the ride I received a text from my eldest son that my five-year-old grandson had a soccer game ‘tomorrow at 10 am.’ Smack dab in the middle of my planned ride.
What matters most in the long-run? How would you go about choosing which to attend?
You committed to riding with your friends. Your grandson may not even realize you aren’t at the game, after all, his parents, grandma, and aunt and uncle were going to attend.
It came down to the fact that “I would know.” In the long-run, my family takes the top spot in my life. Before you put me on the-most-amazing-man-ever pedestal, know that this was a struggle for me. Fortunately, the weather turned a little and the ride was called off that morning after I had committed to go to my grandson’s game. Win-win.
3. Own your mistakes and learn to say you’re sorry.
Admitting to mistakes can be brutally humbling. Admitting that you made a mistake takes courage in the face of being vulnerable. As a young father, this was one lesson that took some time to sink in. Unfortunately for my kids, this learning didn’t take hold of me until my eldest children were reaching high school and just beginning to move out of the house.
Admitting to this vulnerability took confidence. And it simply didn’t just happen one day, it was a process.
I recall being ‘right’ all the time when my kids were younger—even when I wasn’t. This transformed into being right, then going back and admitting I was wrong. The final step was realizing I was wrong, admitting I was wrong, and apologizing for the mistake I made.
This is still a process for me, and not necessarily a smooth one. At least the flaw is recognized…the first step to change is realizing that a change is needed (or something like that).
4. Tell your kids you love them.
Your children should never wonder if you love them. Relying on the premise “they know I love them” is not enough. There is no argument they should know you love them through your actions. But there is no replacement for saying the words. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but trust me, the shards of discomfort fade away with repetition.
It’s not uncommon to hear these words when our family gets together for meals, or in ending phone conversations or appearing in text messages. It’s commonplace, and I like that.
An added bonus is when the grandkids hear these conversations and the words take their place as normative in their lives.
5. Stop and listen.
With so much noise in the world, how do you filter out the constant distractions? This isn’t going to be a trite set of recommendations about going on a social media diet or disconnecting from the digital world for a set period of time. I just want to encourage you to address the here and now, when it’s, well, here and now!
Let me illustrate. I have a friend that can’t ignore any small ding, ping, whiz, or zip sound that comes from her phone. You could be in the middle of a conversation with her about her hair being on fire and if her phone makes any discernible noise, she snaps it up and goes into a several-second to full-minute screen fixated trance. It’s funny. It’s irritating. It’s disrespectful. I’m right here.
Be in the now. Unless you are waiting to hear about a specific life-altering family emergency, attend to the here and now. The here and now is the person in front of you. That person deserves front-and-center attention. They are standing in front of you, a live version of a text, updating their real life-Facebook status for you, audibly tweeting the latest thing they’ve done in person to you, and carrying on a phone call—sans the phone—with you.
Again, be in the now.
Prioritize what’s important in your LIFE. Make your choices based on what’s important, the legacy you envision, and the relationships that matter most. Be in the now with an eye to the future: your LIFE, your children’s LIFE, and your grandchildren’s LIFE.