“Focus on what's important” seems like pretty good advice today.
I published the article below on this topic in the fall of 2013. It seems even more applicable today.
We can't turn on the news anymore without hearing about a ridiculous tweet, natural disasters, mass killings, Congressional dysfunction and the like. We can easily get caught up in these stories. Consequently, it negatively affects us.
Rereading it was a good reminder to me. I hope it is to you as well.
Are You Focusing on What’s Important?
News about the government shutdown (2013) and the policy dysfunction (not much has changed) in Washington seems to be taking its toll on our nation’s psyche. We’ve become a bit cranky.
I read a recent article from well-known blogger Seth Godin titled Our Crystal Palace. He describes how this crankiness often gets expressed.
“We waste our days whining over slight imperfections (the nuts in first class aren't warm, the subway isn't cool enough, the vaccine leaves a bump on our arm for two hours) instead of seeing the modern miracles all around us. That last thing that went horribly wrong, that ruined everything that led to a spat or tears or recriminations–if you put it on a t-shirt and wore it in public, how would it feel? “My iPhone died in the middle of the 8th inning because my wife didn't charge it and I couldn't take a picture of the home run from our box seats!”
Reading Seth’s blog caused me to examine myself. I realized that if I’m not careful, I too get wrapped up in the crisis of the moment and the busyness of life and lose track of what’s important – the relationships with the people I care about. I find two things helpful in those times. One I regularly do; the other, not nearly as much as I should.
Take these simple steps
1. Count Your Blessings
Despite the current problems, we have many blessings in this country. History tells us we have survived much, much worse than what we’re dealing with now – a civil war, a debilitating economic depression, and two world wars come immediately to mind.
Compared to the rest of the world, most of us live in abundance. Most of us have good jobs, families, friends, homes, plenty of food, computers, smartphones, numerous choices for internet, TV and phone services. Often we one car for each driving member of the family. Many of us take vacations every year. We enjoy freedom and opportunity that have people from all over the world lining up to get their piece of the American Dream. Do we take these things for granted? If so, we shouldn’t.
When I lend a hand to those in need, it puts my problems in proper perspective. I receive far more than I give. Francis of Assisi said, “For it is in giving that we receive.” Proverbs 11: 24 says, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” In an article titled The Generosity Paradox: By Giving We Receive, But By Taking We Lose, the author states that “Americans who are more generous live healthier, more fulfilling lives. It is science.”
If you’re not currently volunteering, I encourage you to think about it. Writing checks to organizations is great, but it keeps us distant from the recipients of our generosity. There are plenty of opportunities. Volunteer at a shelter. Help families winterize their homes. Tutor a student who is struggling. Read children’s books to an elementary class. Volunteer at an after-school program. Don’t know where to start? Google volunteer opportunities for your town. You will find numerous options listed.
Problems come and go. Crises come and go. But things are rarely as bad as they seem. Slow down. Count your blessings. Take inventory of the abundance in your life. Volunteer. And most importantly, invest in more quality time with the people you care about the most. The return on investment for you and them will be immeasurable.
I'd love to hear about the things that are important to you. Please let me know in the comments below.
for further reading:
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