ARE YOU AN UMBRELLA?

I love this picture. Two innocent children sharing an umbrella in a storm. As an adult we have an opportunity to share an umbrella every day. To take that thought further, we have a chance to be an umbrella. At this point you may be wondering if I know exactly what an umbrella is for or if I even know what an umbrella is. Why would anyone share an umbrella if it wasn’t raining? Even more absurd, how can a human being turn into an umbrella? Fair questions if I were the one reading this post and not the one writing it.

In its simplest terms an umbrella is an instrument for protecting us in a storm. It is the definition not of umbrella that should concern us here, but that of storm. In life there are many storms. Yes, there are thunderstorms when the winds are blowing fierce and the rain can seem unrelenting. It can be scary to be out in it. We may not want to risk driving if we don’t have to. We may want to stay inside our homes where we are safe.

What we may forget is there are many storms we face every day. There are health storms where the thunder of pain is louder than anyone can imagine. There are financial storms where the debt continues to rain down on us no matter how hard we work. There are the painful emotional storms when the winds of struggle and strife blow us off our path. There are many storms my friends. Storms of addiction, storms of loneliness, storms of depression. They say in life you are either on your way into a storm, in the middle of a storm, or coming out of a storm. As Eric Thomas said, “Storms are a part of life, but storms are not life.” All of us face storms each and every day.

As you can imagine, the umbrella for all of these storms can be a little different. It can be an umbrella of compassion for someone who has just been hurt or defeated. It can be the umbrella of encouragement for someone who has lost their way. It can be the umbrella of motivation and inspiration for those lost in a storm of negativity and pessimism. There are some umbrellas like love, friendship and listening that seem to work in every storm.

Just like you can walk with a smile on your face through the most intense storm, so can others. Daily, there are those of us who wake up and put a smile on our faces even when we are in the middle of a storm. Just because someone is smiling does not mean the rain is still not falling. Offer everyone you know an umbrella. When given the chance, be the umbrella they do not have. We are all going through storms and we can all use an umbrella.

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU ACCOMPLISH, BUT WHO YOU BECOME

Goals are very important. Not only do I stress that, but almost every great speaker and self-improvement coach will tell you that as well. Still, goals can leave us feeling unfulfilled once we accomplish them. Have you ever achieved a goal, especially one you have been working a long time on, and then wake up one morning to the question “Now What?” Worse is accomplishing a goal only to find yourself still unsatisfied at the state of your life. That is because when setting a goal, you must focus on the most important aspect.

The most important part of the goal is not what you set out to accomplish. What then is the most important part of setting a goal? The most important thing that can happen when you are achieving a goal is who you become in the process. Notice I said achieving. Even in the process of working on the goal you will learn and therefore grow. This is what makes the difference.

A prime example of people who accomplish goals, but do not learn or grow can be found in lottery winners. A good portion of lottery winners find themselves to have spent all of their money or even worse in debt only a few years after winning the lottery. That is because although they had accomplished their goal of winning a large sum of money they had not learned to be a person who can handle finances.

This is also the reason why after achieving a goal we can still feel empty and unsatisfied. Growth and contribution are what create a positive and rewarding life. If we have not developed in anyway from what we have struggled through the victory is hollow. This holds true not only for goal setting, but for making it through painful periods of our lives. It is only by using that pain and learning and growing from it can we truly heal. Whether that is to understand and treat others with more compassion, or motivate ourselves to be the best version of ourselves, pain becomes the victim if we use it to better ourselves.

Here is the flipside to all of this and the greatest thing about it. Most of us have been going about this backwards. When you set out to achieve a goal ask yourself the very important question, “Who would I have to become to make this goal become a reality?” Set out immediately to begin the journey of becoming that person. What kind of traits would they posses that you may not posses currently? Would they be more patient? Would they be in better physical shape? You can start becoming that person today.

Here is the greatest thing about all of this. As you become that person, you will find this goal becomes easier and less stressful to accomplish. On occasion, you may find the goal changes entirely. The best thing is that when you wake up you will never feel empty or unfulfilled. In fact, as each day goes by and you take steps to become the person you would be if you had accomplished the goal, you will feel better about yourself and more self-confident with each passing day. Ask yourself this important question every time you begin a new goal and you will never be disappointed.

BE THAT PERSON

Be that kind of person. What kind of person am I talking about? The one who always has something good to say about someone. The person who always has a smile to share. It may not seem to make a difference, but it does. As I write this I am sitting at a local coffee shop a few blocks from my day job at the United States Postal Service. I am reflecting on the countless times I have been in this exact situation. The service I receive from the person behind the counter can really help, or maybe distract from my writing. To the person helping me behind the counter I might be just another face in a sea of people wanting some kind of beverage and that is understandable. Even if they knew that their service may add a little extra step to a author doing his best to inspire the world to become the best versions of themselves it may or may not make a difference.

The truth is we all have this power. We do not know what the person we run into in the grocery store is up to. It could be a surgeon worried about performing open-heart surgery on an infant the next day. It could be a person struggling with personal loss that could use a bright spot in their lives. It could be a person struggling with depression and thinking about taking their own life. It could even be someone full of rage and thinking about taking the lives of others. The cases do not have to be this extreme and may not be, but we may never know. It could simply be a former bartender and current postal worker looking to better themselves and the world around them.

This is all about the power of a smile, of a simple ‘hello’. In all of us there lies a great power. It is a generally untapped power for the most part. That is the power of kindness. It makes a difference. It may be a big difference, it may just be that added inspiration the person needs. Chances are we will never know the effect that it has. Trust me when I tell you it has an effect on every single person you use it on. They probably will not even know you are using it. The more you practice this random acts of kindness the bigger effect you will have on the world.

I warn you that there is one side-effect you must be aware of. This kindness will come back to you. It may not come from those you have shared it with, but it will and must come back to you. That is a universal law. As you sow, so shall you reap. Before long you will notice those smiles and ‘hellos’ coming your way. You may find yourself with new friends and connections you never would have met. In addition, some people report a second side-effect. That is an increased sense of well-being. Seeing the positive way you affect others can only serve to put a smile on your face.

I would love to hear ways that you use the power of kindness. It would be great for all of us to learn simple ways that we can positively affect the lives of those around us. Share your ideas in the comments below!