Adventures in Thanks-Living

Living the gift of life one breath at a time

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Good Words for a New Week

Free your heart from hatred — forgive. Free your mind from worries — most never happen. Live simply and appreciate what you have. Give more. Expect less.                   – Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey entered life eternal on July 16, 2012. I’ve been so busy that I just read about it today, two weeks later. I still remember reading his best-selling book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People shortly after it was published in 1989. As a young marketing professional I devoured his words eagerly with desire to be more effective, to advance in my field, and to be successful (as I then defined success).

Today I revisited that book and discovered that even in my eagerness and desire to learn, I really hadn’t understood Covey at all. At age 51, I read his words through a different lens, one tempered by experience and seasoned with a more mature (hopefully) spirituality. Instead of the “must-have” guide to career success I read in my early thirties, I now understand Covey was writing more about how to live life well. He believed that the way one conducted one’s business reflected the way one approached a life of principle, character, and generosity.

In addition to the quote above, here are a few other favorite insights:

How you treat the one reveals how you regard the many, because everyone is ultimately a one.

There’s no better way to inform and expand your mind on a regular basis than to get into the habit of reading good literature.

People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them.

Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.

Covey understood that vocational success is about much more than work and achievement; it is an outgrowth of how one chooses to approach life and serve others. I am grateful to Dr. Stephen Covey for his words, wisdom, and example, and I am thankful to return to his writing with fresh eyes and a deeper sense of purpose and meaning.

Photo by thephotographymuse used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

 

Vacation Time

Last week I took a mini-vacation, and it was wonderful. It was supposed to involve a trip to see my spouse’s family, but conflicting work schedules made it necessary for me to stay behind. Because we could not go to New England with the rest of the family, my two girls and I determined that we would take the single day neither one of them was scheduled to work and go to the beach. Yes, that’s right. We got up very early, drove four and a half hours to spend seven hours at the shore, and then drove right back home. It ended up being a fine adventure and gloriously good time.

Our lovely mini trip cost less than a night’s stay in a budget beach motel, and we enjoyed a full day of fun, quality time together, and relaxation (I took a two hour nap and read while they walked the boardwalk). I am so thankful my youngest daughter insisted we take this whirlwind girl trip getaway. Just a few hours of ocean air, salt water, surf, and sun helped melt away accumulated stress.

Maybe it has something to do with the American work ethic, or perhaps it is my Germanic heritage, but whatever the root cause, I have a difficult time taking vacation. I am lucky; I have a job that provides generous paid time off. Not all Americans have that luxury. In fact, about one in four Americans has no paid vacation time or holidays as a  job benefit. Even so, I still have a hard time breaking away.

And yet, God commanded us to take Sabbath time., designating the first day of every week as time to reorient oneself to a right relationship with God, and to take sufficient time to rest and recharge. If God considers Sabbath time so important, why do I have such a difficult time taking the vacation time I am granted? Why are many Americans working themselves into illness and poor health? Why is paid vacation and holiday time a “benefit” offered to the lucky workers and not all working Americans?

In case you think I’m odd, read this article posted on Salon’s website. You might also wish to review this policy brief, entitled “No-vacation nation USA– a comparison of leave and holiday in OECD countries,” by Rebecca Ray and John Schmitt that is referenced in the article. Produced for the European Trade Union Institute for Research, Education and Health and Safety, the report provides a comparison of paid leave and holiday time for 21 wealthy countries (16 European countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States). After reading the entries for the other countries describing the various governmental policies for how paid leave and vacation time is guaranteed to workers, here is the statement for the United States: “United States law offers no statutory paid leave. The only exceptions are for government contractors and subcontractors covered under the Davis-Bacon Act (18).”

Here’s another telling excerpt from the report’s introduction (p. 2):

In the absence of government standards in the United States, almost one in four workers there has no paid leave and no paid public holidays at all. According to U.S. government survey data, the average worker in the U.S. private sector receives only about nine days of paid leave and about six paid public holidays per year, substantially less than the minimum legal standard set in the rest of world’s rich economies excluding Japan (which guarantees only 10 paid-leave days and requires no paid public holidays).

You can access the entire report here.

We are conditioned to think that vacation and holiday time may lead to lower productivity and sloth, even though credible research says otherwise.  If you do have paid vacation time and holidays as part of your work package, be thankful–and take it. Your body, your mind, your family, and your spirit will thank you.

Choices

We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves. — Thomas Merton

Not a day goes by that we fail to make choices. Our choices can be as simple as whether to eat toast and eggs or cereal for breakfast or whether to wear jeans and a t-shirt or slacks and a dress shirt.

Our choices may also be more profound and have far-reaching effect. We can choose to take our rightful place in the grocery check-out line or make someone’s life easier by letting the harried mother with only a few items go ahead of us. We can choose to be grumpy and hateful or pleasant and courteous. And, we can choose a life of thankfulness and gratitude, or we can choose to be selfish and self-centered.

We can choose a clutched, closed-fist approach to life or an open and sharing posture. The choice is ours to make.

By choosing a life of thanksliving, we open ourselves to fulfill all that we can be. When we recognize, honor, and share the many gifts we have been given, we will never run out of oil. Living with gratitude and thankfulness helps us to construct community and a web of relationships that sustains others, as well as ourselves. Living each moment as gift and blessing is an eye-opening, heart-widening experience.

But don’t just believe me. Choose for yourself and see how amazing a life of thanksliving really can be.

Photo by Per Ola Wiberg used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

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