The Tie-Dye That Binds !!

If you don’t already know, I’m kind of a hippie. I have been for most of my life since college. I’ve tried to be an open minded person who looks at life from many, many angles. Don’t get me wrong. I have strong beliefs and values of my own, but I’m always keen on observing and hearing the perspectives of others. When I left my small village in Ada, Ohio to attend school at Ohio University, I had my eyes opened to so many different people from an innumerable amount of backgrounds, families, lifestyles and approaches.

It was at OU that I first met people who wore tie-dye clothing. I had seen some in movies from the 60’s and 70’s, but I didn’t know anyone who actually owned some. At college they sold tie-dye clothing of all sorts at stores, in booths on the street corner and at college festivals. I was drawn to the multicolor patterns and the way the clothing seemed to flow and blend together. I was hooked !! I started gathering more and more shirts over the years, and my wife even tie-dyed her garter as a surprise for our wedding. I’m still a big fan and wearer of tie-dye. My love for it has only grown.

What does that have to do with HR? Well . . .

This past week I had the honor of speaking at the Villanova HRD Annual Networking Reception. I had the chance to “meet” many of the students during a Zoom meeting. We hit it off and laughed a ton as we planned their event. I asked what they’d like to have covered and they shared that they wanted to hear what HR was “really like,” and if it matched what they had already learned and experienced. I tried to think of something fresh to present so I developed a presentation entitled “If I Knew Then . . .” I gathered my things and headed to the Villanova campus and I was geeked !!

After I checked into the hotel, I rode the elevator down do the conference room to set up. As the elevator came to rest, the doors opened and then I saw it . . . tie-dye !! The students had blue and white tie-dye shirts made with the hashtag for the event. I laughed and smiled because this was a complete surprise. I thought it was so touching that they chose to do this. We were all very excited to see each other in person, and I told them that their shirts meant so much to me.

Ironically, all of the students wore blazers over the shirts because they wanted to make sure they looked “professional.” That made me laugh even harder because their move is so reflective of the real culture situations we still have in the workplace today MANY years after I entered it. Think about it. In an effort to show support and camaraderie the students felt they still had to do something else to conform in order to be taken seriously by the people from the business community that attended that night.

Geeked to have a new item for my tie-dye wardrobe !!

How long can we continue to let something as simple as a piece of clothing determine whether or not we can “allow” people to express themselves? Seriously. You see, the students made a shirt for me as well, but I didn’t have a chance to get it before the presentation. I’m so glad it was late because the attendees would forgive me as the goofy, extroverted guest to wear tie-dye far more easily because I was visiting. But, they felt compelled to conform in order to be accepted by the outside “professionals.” I wonder how many of the professionals made comments or wondered why these future HR pros chose to be so intentionally non-traditional.

I see tie-dye differently. I think that something as simple as a multicolored shirt can show how much people want to be connected together. We spend so much time seeing people who choose to be different as “wrong.” Why is that? Why can’t we do more to value differences and see how those incredible personal attributes make up a pattern that shows how connected we are? I see people like a tie-dye shirt. The more colorful, swirlier and varied the better.

This week look for the tie (dye) that binds you to others. You’ll be amazed by all others have to offer without covering it up !!

Phone A Friend !!

Do you remember the television game show hosted by Regis Philbin Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? When it first aired my wife and I had two very young kids and we were glued to the set for every episode !! I have always been a trivia buff so this fed into me trying to guess the answers of the questions without any clues. Inevitably during the questions, contestants would get stumped either because they didn’t know the answer, or the stress of being taped while millions of people watched may them stumble.

The show had some “outs” for the contestants where they could either “ask the audience” or “phone a friend.” Those two options didn’t always help, but they were great to get an outsider’s perspective and insight as well as reassure your hunch.

I love phones. Always have. You see I’m old enough that I predate the computers we all carry in our pockets. In fact, I go back to a time where you only had to dial a “4” and the last four numbers of a phone number in my home town – on a rotary phone !! The call went through every time. I also fondly recall that you could talk to a friend (or significant other) on a phone FOR HOURS and it never got old.

Today though, even though we communicate and check in constantly through endless social media platforms, emails, blogs, pictures and texts, we can still be isolated. Don’t get me wrong, I think you can effectively communicate through all variations and forums. I’m actively involved in many myself on a daily basis. In the end though, nothing ever beats a phone call. Nothing.

What we’ve forgotten is that people long for direct, human contact and interaction. We want to hear people’s voices and see their faces. If this is electronic, so be it. The technology today is so incredible that you can sit in front of a screen and see a friend anywhere on the planet !! In person communication tops even phone calls because you can sense the emotion and context of another person face to face.

I’m a caller. A phone caller. I try to call people every day.

I have a long commute where I’m on the road driving at least 45 minutes each way. My job also takes me into the field to visit the great people in our company who work in our various locations. This means more screen (windshield) time. I love filling that time calling friends, peers and compatriots from all over regardless of time zone or time of day. I get geeked to hear their voice and all that is happening in their lives.

A dear friend of mine framed this approach very aptly this week, and I wanted to share it with you. You see . . .

“In your life, you are either spending time or investing time.”

I take time to talk to others because it has immeasurable value to me. I choose to invest my time in others. I truly feel nudges to give people calls because they’re on my heart or mind. If I don’t get them, I leave an encouraging message so they know that they matter and that someone is thinking about them. It doesn’t bother me if you think this is pie eyed optimism because it is !!

Just today as I was returning from a workout at the gym, I felt a nudge to call one of my best friends. When he answered, he started laughing before I even said, “Hello.” I asked him what was so funny and he said, “Of course you’d call right now. I have been so mad about things going on in and around my life and your goofy, smiling face pops up.” Then we chatted for 30 minutes. We didn’t solve one thing. But each moment was worth it.

I didn’t mention the two chats I had with folks thinking about going into HR, the person who wanted to chat about a potential job change and asked me to help her network, or the endless conversations I had at work. Every one of them was marvelous even though many were full of challenges.

This week, carve out some time to phone a friend. Just check in. Let them know that they’re not alone. It’s worth your time !!

Blank Canvas !!

This past Friday my wife and I were invited by a friend to come to the soft opening of her new business. She had once been in a Corporate Wellness role, but recently was affected by a downsizing. This is never easy. To be between jobs is challenging for anyone. She reflected on what her next step should be, and after some time and talking with her husband she decided to open a Pinot’s Palette franchise !! These stores are where you can go and paint your own masterpiece with friends and family or on your own.

That’s a giant step for anyone. To make the move from a role where you’re part of a larger organization where you have co-workers and resources to becoming an entrepreneur takes faith. I wanted to make sure to be a supporter of her new endeavor, so we attended the opening.

Now, we honestly thought we’d come to congratulate her and share a drink and some finger food. We’d take a tour of her new place, meet her husband and wish them the best. However, as we opened the door we were greeted with life, upbeat music and MANY friendly faces. We looked over at the tables and there were 40 small easels all with a blank canvas on them. I thought that was a good representation of what a normal night would look at the business.

One of the new staff said, “Pick out an apron from the wall. We have a space marked out for both of you.” My wife and I looked at each other and then back at the staff member. I said, “I’m sorry. We’re supposed to grab an apron?” She replied, “Well, yes. You’re going to paint tonight !! We’re all doing Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.” We were caught off guard.

We grabbed an apron, moved to our places and stared at a blank canvas in front of us. My wife had never gone to a painting class, and I had only been once. As the room filled up, you could hear most of the people who were associated with the new owners share their same anxiety about what was about to occur.

Before we started, we both shared some food and a drink hoping it would calm our nerves. We also introduced ourselves to our table mates. The instructor asked us to take our places and get ready to paint. My wife leaned over to me and quietly shared, “I’m not sure I can do this.” I reassured her that she’d be fine, and then the painting began . . .

Let me break away for a second.

My wife’s response in facing a blank canvas is very similar to most people I know. We don’t like the unknown. When faced with a task that seems daunting and beyond our capability, we doubt ourselves. It’s how many face work daily and keep their anxiety to themselves.

Are you there to reassure others that they are capable? You have a great opportunity in HR to be an encourager on a daily basis. I wish more HR practitioners would do this. Employees yearn for acknowledgement and someone who believes in them. I hope you willingly step into that role.

Now back to painting . . .

Layer after layer was added to our canvases. What started as several brush strokes of deep blue paint now took form and started to look like a landscape. The conversations that people had ranged from people in awe they could paint to inevitable comparisons. Everyone stated that their painting wasn’t good enough. They didn’t look anything like Van Gogh’s work.

Back to employees and workplaces . . .

Sounds just like work doesn’t it? Instead of being encouraged for the performance people give through their effort, we compare. We have entire systems which measure what people don’t do and how they fall short. How backwards is this? And yet, we do nothing to eliminate this archaic and ineffective approach. We can, and should, change our approach to focus on the work that people do and expect them to be creative and perform. Workplaces would thrive if this became the norm and not the exception.

And now we finish . . .

My final piece of art !! Had a great time doing this.

Everyone ended up with their version of The Starry Night. Not one was the same, and that was perfect. Each person worked from their skill set and their interpretation of the instructions and what they felt and saw. My wife and I had a great time. We made new friends and went home with a shared experience our own “masterpieces.”

You can treat every day as a blank canvas because it is. Instead of doubting your ability, pick up a brush, dab some paint on it and start covering the white space. You can also be someone who adds color, life and vibrancy to other’s and their blank canvas. Do this on purpose and see how much better you enjoy your work, HR in general and the amazing accomplishments of others.

Take Your Shot !!

A few weeks ago my wife and I got to experience something we had been anticipating for over two years. We went to see the musical Hamilton !! We had heard all the hype and hoped it would live up to it. We even did some show prep by listening to the soundtrack on Spotify and looking up the history of Alexander Hamilton’s life.

It. Did. Not. Disappoint !!

From the opening scene to the dropping of the curtain after the second act, every moment was wonderful. We loved the orchestra, the staging, the continuous movement and the story. It was different than anything we had ever seen. The songs weren’t what we were used to. The pace was new as well. The lyrics had life, movement and swagger !! It was wonderful to take it all in.

All of the songs were powerful in their own way and were key in telling the story of his life. I was fascinated by the third song in where Hamilton exclaims that he’s not going to miss his shot. He was very vocal about wanting to be involved with all that was happening in the birth of America as a nation. He didn’t want to miss out. He wanted to be someone who made a lasting impact and legacy. He was overt in making sure he was in the mix of those that were starting the coming revolution.

Do you feel like that as an HR pro? Do you ever have the desire to be someone who makes a lasting impact through your work or in your field? I think you should and I know you can !!

Too often we feel that HR should remain in the shadows or out in the hallway waiting for when, or if, we’re needed. We’ve taken on the mantle of “support” so willingly that we rarely step out of this approach. Please understand that providing support to others is necessary in our roles. Don’t think that I’m stating that we should walk away from this aspect of human resources. However, I don’t think it should be how we’re expected to be defined. It’s far too limiting.

I think we lack the zeal and confidence that Hamilton and his peers seemed to have. Now, they had a big, audacious goal to achieve in fighting for independence and then designing the structure of our first governing body. Hamilton and his peers were far from perfect. They were extremely flawed. Even though that was the case, they pressed on to lead and bring about significant change. I understand that giant shifts and projects come about rarely. It shouldn’t discourage you though.

There are opportunities for you to take your “shot” on a regular basis in your workplace if you choose to see them. You don’t have to be perfect or have a senior level in the company. You can take leadership as well as provide support. You can put yourself in the mix of the people who are looking to change and shape your company. I don’t buy the response that senior leadership won’t “let you” take this on. Companies are always looking for people to step up and lead. Always.

This week take stock of all you do in HR. I’m sure it’s incredible !! Now see where there are opportunities to take your shot. This time though instead of letting it pass you by, step up. Don’t miss taking your shot !!

All the Verts !!

This past week has been an interesting week of interactions. They ranged from conversations in my office to various connections on-line in social media forums. I tend to take in as much as possible on a regular basis because I enjoy all of the contact. Yes, I am an extrovert. In fact, when I’ve taken assessments that measure this, I’m off the chart. That isn’t always a good thing.

I only mention that because my extroversion is only one small facet of who I am. We tend to take our “vert” and use it to lead in describing us as people. This is solid because it’s a fact. However, we often use it as a label to explain what we’re not instead of highlighting who we are. Knowing who we are is essential because self-awareness, in my opinion, is the baseline of healthy relationships, interactions and even leadership !!

One of the unexpected interactions this week was from my friend Paul LaLonde. He just started a new blog called the HR Philosopher and he described how we met each other in person at last year’s SHRM Annual Conference. I love that he described me as “a giant man with a booming voice and a tie-dye shirt” because it makes me smile. He also shared how he stepped out of his comfort zone to be intentional that we met. I love this because I’m the opposite. If I see you in a room, I want to meet you.

The reality of your “vert” is that it drives how you process thought, how you tend to communicate and how you approach meeting others and the relationships you develop. Your vert is your lead in. That is spectacular and not a hindrance. Respecting that people land all across the scale of extroversion and introversion is imperative because we start interactions based on who we are and regardless of who the other person is. I would challenge you to not charge, or creep, into interactions. Feel things out. See if there is receptivity in initiating contact. It’s safer for all the verts to do this.

The other unexpected connection I made this week was listening to a podcast. I love listening to the HR Social Hour 1/2 Hour Podcast because it features fellow HR practitioners. You get to learn about them more as people including how they arrived in the field of HR, their varied experiences and some personal faves in movies, TV and music. This week’s episode featured Natasha Desjardins, an HR pro in the non-profit sector in Washington, D.C. She lit up the microphone with excitement and passion which was an instant draw for me personally.

She shared an incredibly profound statement which she stated is a personal philosophy that she has adopted which is an African proverb – “I am because WE are.” She described it so well stating that who she is as a person is because of all of the great variety of people in her life that are connected to her. She never said, “Because I’m an ______vert . . . We are __________verts.” Her joy about how she is intentionally connected to others was spectacular to hear. Honestly, I clapped in my car when the episode ended.

This week enjoy the interactions with everyone you encounter because of who they are and not because of some label !! We are far more than our “verts”, but we are also who we are because of them. Connect on purpose my friends. Show others how amazing the whole you really is !!

(P.S. – Start by connecting with Paul and subscribing to his blog and listen to Natasha on the podcast. You’ll be glad you did !!)

Be the Bridge !!

When Winter rears it’s ugly head, it often forces you inside. That can either be insufferable, or a chance to get indoor projects done that you haven’t been able to get to. We’re on the projects end of the spectrum. This weekend’s project was to paint our master bedroom. I looked forward to it because I love to paint !! I mean it. I love painting indoors because it turns out to be me and my iPod.

Yes, I said iPod. You see I have an iPod Classic with 12,400+ songs loaded onto it. When I turn it on and hit shuffle, I escape into every song, and it makes any task I take on seem easy. What could easily become mundane because of its difficulty, now becomes lively and time flies. As I dipped the roller into the tray, I heard the beautiful voice of Art Garfunkel of the immortal duo Simon & Garfunkel. His beautiful lilting voice started singing the beautiful ballad “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Every time I hear this song played, I get misty. I really do. It’s a gorgeous melody with haunting lyrics that hit you right from the start. Here’s a snippet . . .

“When you’re weary, feeling small; When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all”

The song talks about someone willing to be present for someone who’s going through something difficult. The imagery is that they are willing to be the bridge for their friend in order for them to reach the other side of whatever they’re facing.

The reason this song resonates so much for me is that this how I view HR. I truly feel that we need to be the bridge for others who need it. I know that this runs contrary to the current trend to keep a clear distance from people. Please note that I agree with, and understand, that there are boundaries that should always be respected. However, people are coming to work every day aching. I feel they don’t share what’s going on either because they don’t feel they’ll genuinely be heard, or they feel that they’ll be blown off because their personal situation isn’t “work.”

How long can we continue this disinterested stance and feel that we’re being effective? I can hear the resistance that is rising even as I type this. If we don’t watch it, HR is going to make itself so disconnected that there won’t be a reason for us to exist. We have to step in, reach out and be the bridge for others. You have to trust me, from personal experience, that whenever I’ve been a bridge builder great results have occurred. It hasn’t always meant that the person’s situation was completely addressed or that they even stayed with the company. However, the personal touch that they yearned for occurred and started something positive in the midst of the “troubled waters” they were facing.

I also think HR people stop being a bridge themselves because they’ve had a bad experience and have been burnt. This never good and is a definite risk. I do think it’s a risk worth taking though because this is more of an exception than the rule. Another factor that makes HR pros hesitate in being bridge builders is that we don’t have someone who will be our bridge when we face difficulties ourselves.

I know that I seem to be shouting a similar message over and over, but HR people need to understand that our peers can be a bridge. I have many very close friends that I can reach out to who also reach out to me. It’s not some hokey, professional camaraderie. They are genuine relationships that have developed over social media and also in person.

If you don’t have HR peers who are bridge builders, you need to find ones. I will also put this out there . . . I’m willing to be the first person to reach out. You don’t have to face what you’re doing alone. I mean it. You reach out and I’ll be there.

It’s time for us to realize that we have an incredible opportunity in front of us. Please join me in reaching out. Be the bridge !!

Image from Successories

Tradition !!

This past week my wife and I went to see Fiddler on the Roof as part of the Broadway Series in Cincinnati. We love seeing live theater, and this is honestly one of my favorite musicals ever !! This version did not disappoint either. It had your attention from the moment the lights went down until the cast was “walking” out of their town of Anetevka to end the musical.

If you’ve never seen this great musical, I would highly recommend it. It has a great story line and the songs are all very memorable. The show starts with the powerful song “Tradition” where the various members of the little town in Russia during the turn of the 20th century all sing about their designated role. The main character, Tevye, is both narrator the one who carries the torch of tradition for himself, the townspeople and especially his five daughters.

During the opening song, Tevye has a line that says, “You may ask, ‘How did this tradition get started?’ I’ll tell you. I don’t know.” That seems to be the case with most traditions whether they be ones you have in your family or those within organizations. Even though we may not know the origin of traditions, we follow them fully just as they do in the show . . . at least for a while.

You see, I think there is value in tradition. Many people get this mixed up with the practice of doing things the same way because that’s “the way things have always been done.” If you come across this type of stagnation, then you have to challenge it and/or change it in some way. There is a natural change that happens in companies just due to the fact of the passing of time and the addition and deletion of people. Any time you get new folks involved on work and projects, change occurs simply because they aren’t the people who were involved in the past.

Traditions have their place in companies because they can give you a picture of what has worked in the past. Remember, you can always learn from the past. You just can’t constantly dwell in it. Traditions are an essential part of a company’s culture. They give flavor, distinction and help shape the fabric of what your company offers. These on-going facets are those that critical components of retention. Traditions can be a very positive aspect if they are healthy, living and inclusive.

The key movement in the musical is also a great lesson for us as HR professionals in organizations. Tevye wants to desperately hold on to the traditions of his past that you assume happened for generations. His daughters challenge him in every way and break with tradition by choosing a spouse when spouses had been traditionally agreed upon by the father and another family. He reluctantly gives in on the three who choose a partner because he sees all sides of what the change will bring. This includes the hope that his daughters would benefit from breaking with tradition.

We should look around within our companies to see what traditions need to be tweaked or altered all together. One reason for this is that making changes will allow for diversity to be present on purpose. You can seek the input of others and make sure the voices of everyone have a chance for input. The goal would be for them to benefit from the changes that happen.

Traditions are all around us and we can benefit from having them personally and in our companies. The key is to make sure they are current and relevant. Know why and how you have the traditions that make you great !!

The Coming Year . . .

I remember gathering at a friend’s house in 1999 for New Year’s Eve. The party was very casual and the crowd was made up of several couples with many little kids running around. The excitement was high because as the ball was going to drop and become the year 2000 we wondered if Y2K was actually going to occur. There was some anxiety mixed with a ton of skepticism.

We counted down, 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 !! And, then the power went out completely in the house. It was pitch black and we thought that Y2K did happen. We all scurried to grab our things and get to our houses when the power returned. Todd, the home owner, came around the corner laughing heartily with his drink in hand. “Just kidding !!” We all pelted him with a barrage of Boo’s and then joined him in uproarious laughter as well.

So, here we are two decades later and we’re on the verge of stepping into yet another New Year. I’d have to say that many are still filled with a mix of anxiety along with skepticism. This may not be unique because every year we are faced with situations of all types. There may be personal challenges, personal opportunities or even larger scale circumstances that stand in front of us.

Many people will make a series of resolutions with the best intentions of keeping them, and they will have limited success. I have never been one to make resolutions because the areas of my life that I need to work on have a longer window than just to get started every January. Also, I know that when I’ve tried to make massive life jumps or switches, I fall back into my regular pattern way too easily.

So, am I going to do anything differently in the coming year? I wouldn’t classify my approach as “different”, but I would say that it’s going to be even more intentional. I want to connect HR pros to each other even more than I have in the past !! I also want to see people interact with each other with respect and grace even in the midst of differing opinions.

I continue to be astonished at the number of HR practitioners who try to conduct their jobs on their own. They may even be part of a larger HR team within an organization. Why do we think isolation will enable us to be effective and viable in HR? We absolutely must break this paradigm !! There is so much value in being connected to others who do what you do. This can happen through social media as well as in person. Please join me in helping others in HR connect with other practitioners. Let’s eliminate this facet of our profession for good.

While making connections, we need to step up as HR pros to facilitate AND participate in dialogue and discussions regarding the challenging issues in the workplace, our industry and the country. These conversations should lead to action which not only addresses issues, but does it in a way to move organizations forward. I would ask that we allow for true dialogue which considers all perspectives that is supported by respect and grace. This is overdue in all areas of our work.

I’m looking forward to 2019. I think it’s a chance for us to be positive and lift each other up. I hope you find the areas in your life that you’d like to continue, and that you’re successful. Happy New Year my friends !!

Convenience or Community ??

This past weekend I ventured out once again to finish my Christmas shopping. The weather was absolutely atrocious because of an endless, soaking rain. I would not be deterred because this was my one completely free day. I didn’t mind the rain, the snail like traffic, or the myriad of people who must have had the same idea I did.

One stop along my day long trek was at a brand name store that was an anchor location at a shopping mall. I was able to find what I was looking for there, and I wanted to stay dry for a bit longer so I decided to walk through the old mall. I was floored by the vast emptiness of the once robust gathering place. It was honestly a bit unnerving. Over 3/4 of the store fronts were blacked out and their logos were nothing but faded outlines that could barely be made out.

Now, I understand that business evolves. People do less and less shopping out in public. Many of us sit in our living room on our couch and place orders online. I’m not against this at all because it is easier to press a button and have something placed outside your front door. What I miss though is seeing people. Seriously. I love the hustle and bustle of people milling among each other. I don’t mind waiting in lines and listening to what people are discussing. I get energized by it !!

You see the empty shopping mall reflects one thing that is occurring that I’m not geeked about. More and more people are choosing convenience over community. This is a pretty broad generalization, but there are countless examples of how we want to have things brought to us so we don’t “waste time.” There is nothing wrong with being efficient. But, in doing this we aren’t coming together in other ways. We’re becoming increasingly isolated intentionally. The major concern about this move towards isolation is that we accept it as the norm. There is little push back against being slowly lulled apart.

I understand that I am an off the chart extrovert, and that weighs into how I feel. However, I see convenience being touted as being so much more attractive in all facets of life. During the holiday season, it’s well known that people struggle. There are many reasons for this and all of them are valid. With that before us, the last thing we need is a move to more isolation.

How does this tie into what we do as HR professionals? I think it’s pretty obvious. Isolation, you see, is occurring in our workplaces as well. We spend more time with our tasks than we do in actual interactions with others. On top of this, most people want to have little time with others that isn’t “work only” because we’re wasting time. (This includes how most HR pros approach employees.)

Well, I for one, don’t want HR and the workplace to go the way of the shopping mall. It’s going to happen if we don’t pivot and change now. I mean it. The call for convenience is hoping that we move farther and farther apart. I understand that you may not feel comfortable connecting with tons and tons of people. Please don’t take this request to the extreme.

You have the opportunity to start/build your community by intentionally reaching out to ONE person. One !! This is true because it takes only one person to step out of isolation and into the midst of another’s life on purpose. I can’t tell you how much I am driven by this feeling to see this change in our profession and in our company cultures.

This week, reach out to one person. You may be the absolute break from the isolation they’re experiencing right at this moment. It’s time for all of us to make a difference in the lives of others. Let’s finish 2018 building our community so that 2019 and the future will evolve as others come together. Always remember . . . we are better together !!

The Best Gift to Give !!

We’re in the midst of the holiday season. You can’t escape the endless string of Christmas music or the many, many television channels completely dedicated to Christmas movies. Every retail location is decorated to the hilt as well. You can’t escape it.

Now, I’m not complaining, and this isn’t a Grinch post railing against the commercialism of the holidays. I enjoy most facets of this season. Most. The one area where I struggle every year is shopping for others. I have never been a list person in any aspect of my life. That isn’t a cry for help and a need for more structure and organization. It’s just a fact. My amazing wife is a list person and it suits her well. So, when she asks for gift ideas for myself or my kids she gets an audible groan.

The whole idea of roaming from store to store and aisle to aisle gives me the shakes !! It’s not the thought of spending too much money on things. It’s because I do so much people watching that I don’t pay attention to the items that could be potential purchases. I’m not “focused” according to my family because they are much more apt to locate, compare and acquire. They can accomplish all of their shopping in a matter of hours. This is true whether they go out to stores or browse various internet sites.

This year I took a new approach. I changed my attitude about shopping and decided to keep an open mind about the experience. Instead of being filled with dread, I was positive because I included a “gift.” The gift was my time. I chose to intentionally be with my wife and enjoy every interaction and encounter. Ironically, this is how I approach most every day outside of the holiday season. Taking a simple shift in MY attitude made an incredible difference !!

For the first time since I can recall, I enjoyed shopping. The lists had beautiful lines running through completed purchases. Debbie and I laughed often and found some surprises outside of the list which filled me with glee. We were even able to get some people watching in. I was patient and kept my wife calm because she doesn’t like large crowds.

You see, giving Debbie my time on purpose meant more to her than anything written down on a list. It was a phenomenal reminder of how powerful giving someone else your time is. As the quote notes, your time is priceless because you can’t get it back !! It goes to the other person and then time moves on.

We all tend to feel that time is fleeting and that we never have enough. That  just isn’t true. We get frustrated because we don’t have enough time for what WE want. Our self-centeredness dominates our daily activities and where we choose to spend our time. I’m not pointing fingers because this affects me as well.

This week, and this holiday season, shift your approach. Give your time to others. This will take more effort than you think it will. It’s not like you can just turn this off and on like a switch. Giving your time to others takes a concerted effort. I’d even recommend that you start looking at how you can give your time to others on a consistent basis throughout the year. Get ahead of the whole New Year’s resolution nonsense that is just around the corner.

Time is something we ALL possess !! Make it your gift.