Category: Relationships

The Dignity of Human Nature

It is good to realize that if love and peace can prevail on earth, and if we can teach our children to honor nature’s gifts, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever.

Jimmy Carter

Earlier this month, Jimmy Carter celebrated his 95th birthday. I was a child when he served as 39th President of the United States, so I don’t remember much about his term in office. What I’ve since learned is how much wisdom he has imparts and what an excellent example of service to country he offers us, even at his advanced age. What I didn’t realize until I found this quote is how insightful he is about the survival of our natural world and the dignity of human nature.

Failure to notice nature

I think I frequently failed to notice the beauty of nature when I lived in a big city. It’s easy to do when you’re surrounded by tall buildings, endless concrete, and people rushing to their next scheduled appointment. Maybe it’s happened to you, too.

But since we moved to Palm Springs, I intentionally stand in awe of Mt. San Jacinto to the west every morning and evening when it’s time to walk the dogs. I make a point of looking up to the mountain to take in the beauty and grandeur of what nature has offered us. And I stop to think how grateful I am that San Jacinto is the protector of the valley I call home.

Imagine the consequences

But what if you never honor the wealth of nature around you? What if you fail to appreciate its beauty, vastness, or seemingly impossible stillness? Would you miss nature if it disappeared from view tomorrow?

What if you spend more than 8 hours each day sitting at your desk, not making time to look out the nearest window to take in the sky? What if your weekends are filled with errands and chores that render your free time void of any appreciation of the world around you? Would you miss nature if it disappeared from view tomorrow?

For a moment, imagine the impact of not teaching your children to honor the gifts of nature around them; the impact of teaching your children hatred and war. What kind of world would we hand the next generation?

The dignity of humans

Now substitute people for nature – what is the impact of failing to teach your children to notice and honor what people offer each other? What is the impact of promoting the idea that others are not important?

I hear people say they don’t want to live in a world where they pay for the mistakes of others. I can understand the sentiment, but the truth is we already live in a world where we pay for the mistakes of others. Likewise, we benefit from the successes of others – although perhaps not always in monetary terms.

Jimmy Carter’s prescient observations about nature are staggering to consider. And if you consider that people are an offering of nature, how much more staggering is the impact of failing to heed his words?

Bradley K. Ward, ACC is a leadership and transformational coach at The Mission Coach, LLC in Palm Springs, CA. Contact Brad to learn how coaching can help you do what you do, better!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you!

I grew up celebrating Christmas with my family. As a kid, I learned that giving is the purpose of the season. But it was as an adult that I came to realize what that means and how much I appreciate giving to and for others.

In the spirit of giving, I offer you this wish for the season and the coming year.

I wish you abundance.
I wish you joy, peace, and prosperity to sustain your soul.
I wish you laughter and good company to lighten your spirit.
I wish you motivation and intent to eat well and stay active.
I wish you disruption and discomfort to urge you into action to change the world for the better.
And mostly, I wish you love and compassion to share with those you encounter.
Merry Christmas to you and those with whom you share the world!

Brad

Bradley K. Ward, ACC is a leadership and transformational coach at The Mission Coach, LLC in Palm Springs, CA. Contact Brad to find out how coaching can help you do what you do, better!

The Resolve to Be Better

The Resolve to Be Better

Steve, Brad, Sanj

My friend Steve stands out in a crowd. Partly because he’s 6’4”, but mostly because he’s gregarious and has an energy that attracts people. For all the years I’ve known him, he’s been a symbol to me of a thriving, healthy person. So it was difficult to read he has cancer. And it was even more difficult to read that it has spread to his lungs.

My initial response to his news was shock. How could this happen to him? He’s vibrant and active, and enjoys the full life he’s earned after retirement.

Then I remembered: life is uncertain.

Steve is clear in his thinking right now. He’s taking steps to ensure his pets have a home to live in, he’s sharing news about his will, and he’s pacing himself so he spares his energy for the things that need his attention. None of this surprises me about him.

Maybe it’s not coincidence that his news came during the Jewish High Holy Days.

According to the Interfaith Family website (www.interfaithfamily.com) the four main activities of the High Holy Days are (1) to perform a moral self-assessment, (2) to seek forgiveness from those we’ve harmed, (3) to make amends as needed, and (4) to resolve to do better in the future. Steve has been to me a living demonstration of the fourth component.

Rosh Hashanah, the first of the ten-day holiday, is the beginning of the new Jewish year. It’s a celebration of what’s to come mixed with a reflection on what has already occurred. The final day of the High Holy Days celebration is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which includes atoning for past mistakes, seeking forgiveness, and starting fresh. Yom Kippur is often celebrated with others as a community experience.

The word “Teshuvah” is used to encompass the activities of the High Holy Days. Because I like to translate things into easy-to-remember ideas, I might call it Reflect, Repair, Resolve, and Reform, the 4 Rs of new beginnings. I can think of no better tradition, regardless of what religious views you may hold, than to take on this challenge each year.

Power to transform

Teshuvah is also a reminder that we have the power to transform ourselves at will. Our lives and affairs are mutable and we hold the power to change the things in our control. I do not suggest transformation is easy. Often it’s quite difficult and time consuming. But I know no one who regrets challenging themselves to become something greater than they once were.

I’ll be spending a few hours each week with Steve. I cherish the times I’ve had with him in the last 12+ years and want to be present with him now. Fortunately, I’ve no reason to atone for any misdeed with Steve, but I certainly can be a better friend to him and to all those I call friends.

I invite you to join me in this tradition. Challenge yourself to be and do better. And while you’re at it, be present with the ones you love. You never know what life has in store for you or them.

Bradley K. Ward, ACC a leadership and transformational coach at The Mission Coach, LLC in Palm Springs, CA. Contact Brad to find out how coaching can help you do what you do, better!

Mothers Day Revisited

A friend of mine shared a video of a sermon she preached in her congregation on Mothers Day. She introduced the video with a brief note stating that she wasn’t sure if her mother would approve of her sharing some of the parts of her life. My friend’s mother was a teacher, so I suspect she would be proud of her daughter’s keen insight and love of laughter as well as her ability to turn everyday situations into real learning opportunities for her congregation.

What struck me most about her words was her closing statement: “Live. And I mean really live because your story is never over.”

I’ve not celebrated Mothers Day with my mom since 2004, the year she died. Instead, I spend time reflecting on all the things she was and is in my life. There are some significant things that come back year after year for me that keep her story going.

She nurtured my independent streak.

This is my favorite story about myself from childhood. As my mother told it, the day I started kindergarten, she drove me to school. When she stopped the car, I opened the door and got out. And when she turned off the car, I looked at her and asked in a very startled tone, “Where are you going?” She told me very calmly that she would walk me to my classroom and I responded by saying, “I know where it is. Bye!” I closed the car door and ran off toward the school doors. She burst into tears as she drove to her office, but then what brought her from sadness to joy was her realization that no matter what life threw my way, I’d be fine. She then made sure I learned how to function in the world.

She taught me the importance of laughter.

Erma Bombeck was my mother’s favorite writer. She read every word Ms. Bombeck ever published and played “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits?” LP every year as we started decorating our house for Christmas. By the time I was 10, I had every line from that record memorized. And what I came to realize quickly was that finding the laughter in life’s foibles was her chief coping mechanism. I use that same coping mechanism almost daily.

She was the original reigning monarch of the list and used lists for everything.

As a kid, I didn’t always appreciate the crushing burden of a list. But as an adult, there is no greater piece of wisdom my mom could have passed on to me than, “use a list so you get it all done.” Whether it’s grocery shopping, weekend projects, or managing my day, I take great joy in crossing items off my list when they are completed. Disclaimer: sometimes I put things on my list that I’ve already completed only for the delight of crossing them off. This is especially effective on days I don’t feel productive.

She never shied away from showing her emotions.

Growing up a gay young man, I hid a lot of things in an attempt to be like the other boys my age. As I grew up and grew into myself, I stopped hiding things from people with one exception: my emotions. I fought the need to express the full range of my emotions until I was well into my 40s. When I finally gave myself permission to experience all the emotions I was actually feeling, my world changed. I became more empathetic with people. I actually felt joy when they shared good news with me and felt piercing pain when they shared something sad. I’ve even cried with clients during coaching sessions when their experience moved me to the point of tears. I didn’t realize what a gift connecting with people at an emotional level could be, but now I cherish that connection daily.

Each time I connect to the things my mom taught me, I re-energize her story in my life. I also use this metaphor in my coaching practice. Almost every person I coach has experienced the loss of someone close and we visit grief, loss, and moving on. When we talk about ways to honor that person, I see the impact and feel the great joy my clients experience. And we then connect on a deep level that makes me appreciate the gifts my mom gave me even more.

How will your story live on beyond your lifetime? Let’s find out together!

Bradley K. Ward, ACC a leadership and transformational coach at The Mission Coach, LLC in Palm Springs, CA. Contact Brad to find out how coaching can help you do what you do, better!

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