When you say thank you, is it because it is polite to do so, or is it because you appreciate something of benefit that was done to you or for you?
Giving thanks, or showing appreciation, is a universal gesture that ought to follow as response to every act which directly or indirectly benefits someone. We do not need to go out of our way in search of something to be thankful for! Indeed every interaction with someone – including our time spent in prayer – is an opportunity to express our gratitude for something.
When someone gives you food, or money, or clothing or anything tangible, saying thank you indicates your recognition of a current benefit. It is of no less significance when someone teaches you a new skill; or helps you to land that job; or anything that sets you up for a future benefit. Our very life is a gift to us, and being alive is always, in itself, a reason to be thankful!
In some instances, the benefit of someone’s actions to us is not immediately recognized. For example, as a child, we may believe that our parents refusal to give us a desired item is an act of unkindness, or ‘evil’ even! Or if we wish to go and play while our parents insist that we study, that can lead to some very unkind words being uttered, or whispered depending on the response we know we will get from said parents). That would make our parents quite uncool and unpopular, right!?
However, it is often as we get older or when we become parents that we recognize the good that was intended through the act we previously considered mean or unkind!
Now back to my opening thought: to say thanks merely to satisfy a social requirement for politeness is to miss the whole point of expressing that word. It is instead a recognition of the benefit that someone’s action, or inaction, provides for us. It is acknowledging that we are better off because of what someone does to us or for us, or something someone says to us. It is a recognition that someone didn’t have to, but they did anyway.
A feeling of entitlement tends to reduce one’s inclination to express thanks. After all, ‘…why should I say thanks for someone giving me what’s mine anyways!?’ does sound like a reasonable argument. However, even in such situations, an attitude of gratitude goes a long way. Regardless of status, rank, position, title, race, class, or other societal hierarchical demarcations, gratitude is an imperative.
Additionally, it does not matter whether an act of kindness by someone else amounts to a sacrifice on their part; neither does it matter if it was merely a ‘publicity stunt!’ The determining factor is the benefit realized by the recipient. The well-known cliché ’Beggars can’t be choosers’ highlights the fact that motive for giving ought not to be a determinant of the level of gratitude that should result.
I will conclude by noting that there is a potential benefit for expressing thanks – genuine thanks: it might just encourage someone to repeat that act of kindness to us, or to someone else in the future.
Have you ever spent a long time doing something, or watching something on the TV or at the cinema, and at the end you think: “Boy wasn’t that a grand waste of time!!”
You might have heard how amazing a particular movie or tv program is; you decide to check it out and throughout the program you keep wondering “when will the ‘good part’ start?” Or you hear of this ‘big sale’ going on at your favourite department store and you decide to go, only to find that it was nothing special after all!
This scenario can describe so many different things in our lives where we feel our lives have been a never ending ‘one step forward; 2 steps backward’ affair. In those instances you can be excused for wishing that you could ‘reclaim your time’, (and indeed, your money too) the time wasted in doing something that was, in essence, a waste of time and/or money.
Sometime ago I learned a simple yet profound response to what could be deemed a ‘bad experience.’ Basically it says, simply, that there’s no such thing as a bad experience; every experience, good or bad, is actually an EDUCATION!
I typically find myself using this most when I go to a new restaurant, or try a new dish, or go to see a much-hyped movie, and find them actually underwhelming. Of course sometimes my saying that is actually just a euphemism for what I actually feel is a bad experience! After all, who want to waste time and money on something they did not enjoy!
Life is all about living experientially. You cannot fully grasp or understand someone’s situation or their pain, or even their joy, without experiencing them yourself. But that does not say you cannot be really, genuinely, happy for them when they experience situations that bring them joy, or when they experience sadness and pain through loss!
Of course nobody sets out to in search of bad experiences. However, when those moments or situations come around, they can be correctly seen as something beneficial: lesson learned, or, put another way, an education.
Time lost can never be regained. So while life does not necessarily give you the opportunity to ‘reclaim your time,’ it does offer you the opportunity to take lessons from all your experiences and use them as moments of education. The value of this education, when applied appropriately to future endeavours, will far exceed the pain of a disappointment, whether it be a wasted trip to the movies or to your favourite department store.
Life is like a Road-trip; if it is only about the destination for you, it can be a long and painful journey!
Road trip – Such an amazing and fun adventure, right!? Well I would not know because I have not experienced it myself. At least not the type where you set out on some long drive across provinces or States, or both. Or in the case of my home country Jamaica, where ‘road trip’ means driving from Morant Point to Negril Point, a whopping 300km or so distance. I haven’t actually done that one either.
There’s a popular expression that goes “Live fast – die young,” and in my mind it reflects the exact opposite of how life was meant to be lived. Like on a highway, there is an exponential increase in the risk of having an accident, and the law of momentum dictates that the faster you are going, the more severe the impact of a sudden stop.
Rather than like being on a speedway, therefore, going through life should be more like going on a road trip…a road trip to somewhere really far away but somewhere you depart for with great anticipation.
So with that in mind, here are 5 guidelines for tackling the highway of life:
I) It is a long journey – so make sure you pack the right things. This can be hard to do, because we often do not know exactly what we will need for such a journey until we actually need them. We might ‘Google’ suggestions to help us plan for the trip, but this will be just a guide as requirements will vary according to your specific circumstances and needs.
At the same time you want to avoid taking along with you excess baggage. It is easy to hold on to the past. The past hurt; the past failures; the heartbreaks; the disappointments; events that set you back and that threaten your future progress. Forgive those you need to forgive; not because they deserve it, but rather, because YOU do!
Along with everything else ensure you pack a healthy dose of faith. This is critical for those moments when you question your journey; when you question whether or not you have what it takes to succeed; when you face circumstances that would seek to break you. Faith in God helps you to trust in a Power greater than yourself; greater than your circumstances; greater that anyone else you might look up to for support and encouragement.
II) Pace yourself. Of vital importance is observing the speed limit. However, being on a highway that allows 110km per hour speeds does not mean you are obligated to that fast! Take it easy; make sure you are comfortable so that you save your energy and minimize fatigue. Take your mental breaks when you need them, while paying attention to your surroundings.
Burnout is a real risk when you seek to go through life without pacing yourself. As you work to earn and build your life, do not neglect your health. Do not neglect your family. Do not neglect the friends you will very likely need to help you along the way.
Life is meant to be lived in community. That is, with the support of others around you. Do not neglect this important facet of your journey. Having the right people around to support you is a great means of avoiding burnout, because you are then able to share the load.
O. N. Rowe
III) Set Targets. One cannot remain focused after driving for too long non-stop. You cannot afford to become so exhausted that your driving is compromised. This can have a catastrophic impact. Allow yourself time to rest, to stretch, to have your meal.
You might want to set specific distances to travel in between breaks based on where rest stops/motels are located. Get a good night’s sleep and be refreshed for the next phase of the journey.
Milestones are important. They help you keep track of progress, and allow you opportunities to stop and take stock of what is going right, what needs to be changed, and helps to plan for the next steps. When you do your assessment, celebrate your victories. Life is best viewed in little chunks of time, stacked in such a manner that when taken as a whole, lead to a deliberate outcome.
IV) Enjoy the scenery (stop and smell the roses along the way). Sometimes taking the shortest route between two points is not necessarily the best way to go. There are sometimes scenic routes which can make the journey less stressful.
Taking time out to do fun things, to unwind, to rejuvenate and reinvigorate, can add tremendous value to the experience of the journey. Make time for other important people in your life – your family, relatives, friends. Do not neglect the human element of your journey through life.
O. N. Rowe
As you travel along life’s journey, be on the lookout for traffic jams called delays; speed bumps called illness and other disappointments; changes in speed limits which caution you to slow down and rest a while. There will be setbacks, but you can always bounce back. Do not fall into the trap of feeling you are competing with anyone else. This is a journey towards attaining YOUR best self. Do not lose sight of that important fact.
V) Enjoy the destination. Our journey is not over until we have reached our destination. Make sure that the final destination is of such value that it makes the long journey worthwhile. Make sure it is somewhere you would want to stay a while, and enjoy.
Your career is a means to an end. Make sure you give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the ‘fruits of your labour.’ Protect your health. Take time to reflect on the journey and celebrate the completion. Do not neglect to recognize those who helped you along the way – that helping hand; those words of encouragement; or those prayer warriors who were constantly praying for you!
Make your highway experience the best years of your life.
There is room for everyone on the highway of life. Be reasonable; be patient; play by the rules. The highway can be daunting; it can be challenging; it can be intimidating. However, there are some destinations that you can never reach unless you are prepared to muster up the courage, prepare yourself, draw on your faith, and join the traffic on the highway.
You never know who is observing your behaviour on the highway
The highway is a public space, with every legitimate user having a right to access. Some require toll to be paid, while others are free to use. There are unfortunately users who are sometimes not equipped to be there, and that can be problematic for public safety.
We sometimes make the mistake of believing that we are anonymous users of the road and hence feel we can ‘let loose’ on anyone we feel violates our own concept of what responsible driving is.. Someone cuts into our lane causing us to have to brake suddenly to avoid an accident, and we lash out in a manner that might, in hindsight, make us embarrassed. It might just be that our behaviour is being observed by someone who saw us as role models.
Or sometimes we are late for some appointment, and figure we can exceed the speed limit, looking out for the highway patrol, making sure to observe the speed limit while said personnel are visible. I recall doing just that on one occasion and figured that I managed to evade the authorities. Well a few days later I got a speeding ticket in the mail!
Similarly in life we sometimes go about our days not caring what impact our actions have on others. We fail to consider how we respond to situations that we encounter and the possible impact it will have on someone who is observing us even without us being aware.
We take shortcuts, bend the rules, tell lies here and there, all in the name of getting ahead. In other cases rationalizing that our actions are justifiable because ‘nobody is getting hurt’ by our actions.
While we seek to get ahead in life, it is not ok to seek to get ahead at all cost! As members of our various communities, we have a responsibility to adhere to the rules that are put in place to ensure smooth operation of that community.
As we journey through our days, let us be mindful that we will not always know who is watching us, and we should therefore ensure that our actions can stand up to scrutiny.
A year or so after landing in Canada, as we set about finding a more permanent home, we knew a bit more about the layout of our city. However, unfortunately not enough to allow us to travel without some means of guidance.
At first our guide was Google (not Google Maps!). We would look up an address and print off the directions to the address, making sure we also print off the directions to return home! As we traveled along each journey we paid close attention to every turn and every stop. We did miss sometimes, but…well, obviously we got back on track.
Later on we decided to purchase a GPS to assist with real-time guidance, thinking that would have solved our problems. After all, the GPS is always correct! Right!!?? Well not quite so.
I recall one particular time we set out to an address that we wanted to go check out, GPS set and off we went. We traveled along for sometime and as it indicated that we were near to our destination we started to get anxious, and worried! Because we seemed to have been heading into a vast undeveloped piece of Prairie land.
Eventually we heard the words “You have reached your destination l. Your destination is on the left.” We immediately laughed and looked at each other. We knew this could not have been where we ought to be, because where we had stopped was smack in the middle of nowhere! Not a building was in sight! Just white, snow covered grassland!
Needless to say, we returned home with a few anxious thoughts, since that same unreliable GPS was what we would have to rely on to get home! We also learned an important lesson: Not every GPS is reliable, and even the most reliable ones are not necessarily correct all the time!
That job that you lost; that marriage that broke down; that trip to the emergency room. These are all places that one does not set out intending to get to, but that’s where their GPS has taken them. It is then up to us to have a plan to get back on track.
We need to ensure that we do our own homework and not rely on someone else to guide us the whole way. What we need is someone reliable to point us on the right direction, advise us on the tools we need, and then set out.
O. N. Rowe
There will be some wrong turns along the way, but as long as we keep on pressing in the direction we seek to go, we will be advancing with every step…and that is the essence of progress!
Sometimes you set out without any idea where you are going and no idea how to get there, and you have no choice but to rely on GPS.
When we set out on our journey through life, we generally begin with no idea what’s out there, what the pitfalls and dangers are. In our early years we tend to feel that we can afford to make mistakes because we are young and will have time to correct whatever goes wrong with our lives. So we set out taking unnecessary and dangerous risks.
As we grow older and (hopefully) wiser, we begin to think more long term. We start to think beyond the moment; beyond where we are now. We begin to think about where we would like to be 5, 10, or 15 years from now.
Years ago when my wife and I decided to move to Canada, we did so having had no prior visits to Canada. The whole journey therefore was new to us. We relied on knowing where we needed to end up; booking the right flight(s); and finally, we had arranged with someone to meet us and take us to our intended destination – an apartment which would be our home for a while.
Many things that we pursue throughout our lifetime is done with no guarantee of where we will end up. Yes we are most times reasonably sure of where we WANT to end up but one wrong turn can take us somewhere entirely different.
How many times have we heard others speak about being in their current career ‘by accident’? While in most instances they are enjoying their accidental vocation, one should not rely on that approach working out for them always.
Any destination that one seeks to reach should be carefully and deliberately planned, with appropriate guidance from others who know about the destination; persons who have travelled the journey and can caution you around the pitfalls; persons who can legitimately claim to have ‘been there, done that;’ and who can provide wise counsel around how to get there.
Some will choose to just ‘wing it,’ but even when we know where we want to get to, know how to get there and have made the best laid plans to get there, sometimes we fail to notice that the GPS is sending us down the wrong path, giving us the wrong directions, and we ultimately get lost.
Which will be the topic of takes my next Life Lesson: “Sometimes our GPS gets it wrong.”
Every now and then you have to change lane, take a detour, or abort the journey and go back home.
One of the most annoying experiences for me on the road is to be stuck behind someone for whom it seems to be their life’s goal to always be going ‘easy like Sunday morning.’ Especially when in my effort to be efficient and not waste time on the roads, I have not allowed myself any buffer for such eventualities. Ok it might just be that I am tardy but I won’t ever suggest that’s a valid explanation.
The reality is that for some, they have so carefully planned their journey that what seems to be a case of them ‘holding up traffic’ might just be a case of 1) going at the speed at which they are comfortable; 2) have no reason to go faster as they have ample time to get to their destination; 3) are just on the road to try to clear their minds of other stressors; or possibly they have some apprehension about where they are heading, or the purpose for heading there.
Whatever the reason, since I have my own agenda pursuing and know what’s at stake, in order for me to get ahead I need to change lanes.
In life we often set out on our journey towards a career that we feel is exactly what we want, only to find out that we do not qualify. Or perhaps our circumstances change in such a material way that renders pursuit of that preferred career futile in which case we would likely stop and count our losses.
Another situation that we sometimes face is having started out heading to a specified destination and along a specified route. We become aware of something happening along the way such as road construction, an accident, or something significant enough which then forces us to take an entirely different route.
Similarly in life perhaps we have found that our passion is actually in something else, or maybe due to changes in circumstances or in general around us we decide to pursue something else which requires that we change course. As we go along we assess our progress and make adjustments as needed.
For many people their journeys have been dynamic. They have recognized that flexibility is important, and have a willingness to let go of the past in their push towards their future. It is not beneficial to stay committed to a sinking ship. Neither is it smart to seek to rationalize and stick to plans that currently have no bearing on reality, even if they once did.
While it is important to be resilient and determined, we need to continually assess our plans, our circumstances, and the environment around us and know when we should change lanes, or make a detour, or even to turn around and go back to the drawing board in order to determine our next steps.
Everyone you meet is going about their own business; sometimes to the same destination, but for different reasons. For some, their battles are not necessarily displayed on their faces. You can’t tell by looking! For others it is a case of “I do not need a mood ring; I have a face!” A pleasant encounter, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life, often makes for a positive experience all round.
Having positive interactions help make the journey we are on far more pleasant. Sometimes they might even make the difference between someone being overwhelmed and losing the battle to frustration, or being re-energized and motivated to keep on pushing through their battles.
Expending emotional capital on navigating poor human relations distracts someone from the task at hand, and with the responsibilities around living already so challenging, that does not help.
At times someone absentmindedly and unintentionally does something that negatively affects someone else. That can lead to ‘road rage’ which does not usually end well. If our objective is to remain courteous at all times, we avoid the pitfalls of jumping to conclusions about others’ motives, or colouring their actions through the lens of our own biases thereby overreacting and lashing out for no reason.
Courtesy is like a lubricant that helps to remove friction from human interactions thereby creating a more harmonious society. Our responses in those situations are where there’s real potential for conflict, can serve to prevent escalations, and perhaps even winning someone over.
Better yet, take it a bit further and be kind enough to encourage someone else on their journey through their highway experience. After all everyone you meet is perhaps dealing with their own struggles.
Sometimes there are traffic jams, leading to gridlock and a slow burn on the road.
Do you sometimes feel as if you are going nowhere? Like your life is stagnant and nothing you do seems to help? I suspect we have all been there. How do you deal with those situations? In those times it is important that we hunker down and keep on going. It might be the only route to your destination and if yo are going to make it, then you gotta keep at it.
You just gotta keep on pushing through, because it is always darkest before the dawn; the presence of clouds doesn’t mean the sun is not there; and like being stuck in traffic on the highway, sometimes relief is just around the corner!
Sometimes it is slow going for a while and then suddenly and without any apparent explanation for what was keeping you back, things suddenly turn around and you find yourself sailing through.
I get it – Nobody wants to be stuck in a gridlock on the roads, and less so in their life. It is frustrating; yet unfortunately it is one of the realities of life. It might mean pulling over and finding somewhere to wait it out. Go spend some time with relatives; if you have writers block go sit by a lake or on the beach, free your mind and inspiration will eventually come.
While often hard to recognize, significant growth is possible while stuck in traffic. Sometimes that is when you get the chance to observe the beauty, or lack thereof, of the scenery you tend to miss every day. You develop patience. Or you learn to adapt and cope by perhaps putting in your favourite music; or listen to your inspirational podcast; or maybe, just maybe, that becomes your opportunity to slow down and reflect.
Whether in spite of, or because of, your traffic jam, good things CAN happen. Make the most of your traffic jam.