Four Steps to a More Rewarding Life

steve coleman photoBy Steve Coleman, Partner

We are entering a new season, a break from our challenging pandemic years... but not so fast: Now there is the omicron variant, and the growing realization that there may continue to be additional variations of COVID coming at us in the years to come.

In the face of non-negotiable realities such as this, I offer up four commitments that are leading many of us to immediate, highly rewarding life actions.

Align your focus.

Never in the history of civilization have we been immersed in such a fractionalized environment, each fraction with its own voice and allure, or repellant fervor. So which ones get your attention? Which causes draw you in, or break your heart?

As I’ve experienced more of life, it becomes evident that my personal span of attention is getting narrower, or harder to maintain in the flood of more and more new ideas. And the inevitable reality is I can’t have it all, I can’t manage the ever-increasing flood of new stuff. Psychologists tell us the 21st century brain can’t maintain awareness of more than ten things. Most people run out of band width at six or eight things. The following helps:

  • Identify your core values, no more than six, even better your top three.
  • Focus your energy and activities on the top three.
  • Start each new day being open to this sharper focus aligned with values that call you.
  • Look out. Look up. Get up and go. Don’t sit and wait.
Prune away distractions.

I grew up on a small vegetable farm that had an apple orchard and grape vines, along with a lot of weeds and vegetables to be grown, harvested and sold. My dad taught us to spend time each winter getting the trees and vines ready for the coming season of new growth. This meant pruning away excessive growth of branches and stalks, pruning every branch back to just past the first bud or new branch, fastening pruned branches securely to capture east-west sun exposure and soil capacity to absorb rain, and ensuring what’s been pruned doesn’t become crowded by another plant’s growing space.

Do the same type of pruning to the weeds of life that can overgrow and block your ability to focus on what matters most.

  • Filter and screen your e-mail.
  • Block phone calls.
  • Eliminate from all sources input that doesn’t align with your core values. I’ve eliminated nearly all news input, most TV shows and all social media. I may be less well-informed, but I’m more calmly focused on people and causes that move me.
Make new friends.

A mentor taught me you need friends in your life that are older, and some that are younger. In this challenging season of divisiveness there have emerged some highly polarized people among my circle of friends. With bittersweet conviction, I’ve decided to stop spending time with those who have deeply embedded and argumentative views and that don’t want to engage in a respectful two-way discussion. Or, they take most every encounter or call/text into a repetitive statement of their views.

I’ve made older friends among the elders that live in nursing homes or with their families in a caring environment. I’m eagerly making new friends with grandchildren—my own as well as friends’ grandkids. New relationships are developing as I walk with other volunteers alongside under-resourced businesses, ministries and community service organization leaders.

  • People you may have thought were adversaries may actually be an opportunity to befriend.
  • Walk alongside someone very different than you are.
  • Listen carefully to new people you meet – it leads to respect and then trust to work together.
Find new abundance.

Look for new abundance that exists right now in your life. See the new time available after giving up commuting, finding a new closer job or retiring. There is greater available cash flow from reduced travel, entertainment, dining out... Emerging opportunities to be a good neighbor are drawing out never-before levels of volunteering and service to those in need. This abundant serving has a multiplier effect that attracts people who may have been watching from the sidelines and are now invited into action.

  • Look each new day for an abundance in your life.
  • Look into the local environment for needs and people that touch your heart.
  • Take some action every day to make tomorrow a little bit better than today.

One personal example of an invitation to find and use abundance has evolved over the past 18 months is a generosity circle I mentioned in an article here months back. A group of eight business partners and colleagues have agreed to provide their skills pro bono in helping a business describe a vision, set goals, develop strategies, design org structures, select operating systems and provide a multi-year forecast of activity with revenues and expenses that is expected to become sustainable and profitable. Our generosity circle has been named Community Ventures. Our intent is to meet and walk alongside deserving Twin Cities businesses that are under-resourced and probably multi-cultural, but not bankable or an attractive business startup. Our work is to help these social entrepreneurs become worthy of a community development grant or low/no interest loan, and continue through their business launch in a mentoring capacity. So far, we are walking and working with 3 or maybe 4 entrepreneurs who are nearing a time of funding eligibility.

My closing chapter in this story comes from a younger friend age 17 who is learning and then teaching me about life focus aligned with core values. This young woman finished her junior year in May 2021 after virtual classes ended saying, “My junior year was a lost year,” with little socialization except for organized sports. This declaration was heard clearly by her parents, grandparents and older family members. Gently persistent conversations arose: “What are you going to do? What seems to be calling to you?” A month later, this entering senior year-young lady had explored the possibilities of a change in schools.

With encouragement from parents and grandparents, she withdrew from her public school with a graduating class of 550 students and enrolled in a private, faith-based K-12 school with a graduating class size of 80. This commitment led immediately into pre-school athletics with an on-boarding process for one-year seniors. She also was selected by a faculty member who serves as a year-long guide. After the first week of class face-to-face there was a three-day retreat for all seniors, where they planned a week-long service project to rebuild hurricane damaged homes in Louisiana. Each senior also told their personal story of what their plan is for the next season of life. To quote the song lyrics, “God only knows,” is appropriate.

There are many admiring adults and family members who are seeing the commitment and risk taking this young woman has shown us. She aligned her focus, pruned distractions, made new friends and found new abundance. People who know the family are admiring what she has initiated, but none more than her parents and grandparents, because this is our granddaughter!