Technology and Personal Relationships

Have you ever noticed the difference in how we communicate compared to 15 years ago? With the advent of mobile devices, our correspondence has undergone a radical shift and it continues to evolve. The intimacy of face-to-face conversation has given way to Facebook, email and texting. Modern technology is not going anywhere but there are ways to make it work for you.

If you want to speak with a loved one, it can be easier to text instead seeing them. Text messages and email afford us the luxury of multitasking on our own time. But when we converse with technology, we lose the essential meaning of our communication. Texting is the best example. If I send a friend a playful or sarcastic text, he may not receive it in the spirit I intended. He may be in a bad mood and feel that my message was rude. It is important to understand how our communication is interpreted depending on the emotional temperature of the individual.

Physical contact and phone calls will always be superior in terms of relationship building. We can read each other’s social cues, such as body language, vocal tone and cadence. These are unconscious methods of relationship building that will stop the desensitization of communication via technology.

Computers and mobile phones are not going anywhere, so we must work with them. On top of opting for phone calls, aim for your correspondence to be authentic and intimate. Try using Skype or Facetime so you can see the person you are talking with. I always say that you should date technology but not marry it.

If you really want to make someone feel special, send a friend or loved one a handwritten letter. Save emails for business. There is nothing more memorable than a note written from the heart.

Technology has its benefits. We can telecommute from the Bahamas if we wanted. Multitasking is the new norm, which means we get double the work done. But there is also a cost. When we are constantly connected, our stress levels are elevated. We are overworked and frustrated. Can you even enjoy the Bahamas if you are chained to your iPhone?

The deep rest of a true vacation no longer consists of traveling abroad. We could get the same effect if we turned our phones off and leave them in a drawer at home.

My hope for the future is that we will start seeing more devices to help us compartmentalize our lives. Smart phones will only get smarter. It would be ideal to have technology that caters to different personality types. A banker and an artist do not need the same type of communication with the outside world. We should only be as connected as necessary.

In order to live a long and full life, we cannot be available 24/7. Put boundaries on your friends and even employers. Your best work will never be done at 2 a.m. Your rest is important. Slowing down is essential.

Turn off your device so you can tune into your life. 


Achieving Excellence in Business

It is a myth that success in business equates only to a fat bottom line. Would you say that a brand new tech startup is not as “successful” as Apple computers? You cannot compare the two. Defining excellence for your own company or position allows your career to grow on your own terms. Whether you run a Fortune 500 or work at a car wash, the following tips will guide you toward excellence in the business world.

Set Goals

When you set clear, achievable goals, success becomes about following through. Setting goals is what will keep you from being a slave to profitability.  It is what allows you to stay true to the vision of your company and avoid looking over your shoulder. For example, say you wanted to create a new product next quarter to fill a hole in the market. Your focus (as an individual, department or business) is just to create that product, which keeps you from being distracted by your day-to-day problems. Become a person on a mission. And if you are skilled, you’ll also become a person that makes money.

Serve Your Market

Another way to define excellence in business is to learn whether you are relevant in your target market. Your product must be something needed at the current moment, which means you cannot rest on your laurels. It is essential to be forward thinking so you can anticipate and serve the needs of your target market. The secret to being at the forefront of your competitors is to always be one step ahead of them. If not, you run the risk of another business capitalizing on your niche. It is also crucial to show commitment toward your consumers and treat them with upmost respect. Serving your market must become your calling; it’s what you were meant to do. Providing the best quality product or service makes you feel good about yourself and keeps your target market loyal.

Provide Impeccable Customer Service

This is the follow-up step to serving your market. Once you provide consumers with your service or product, they must know you are there for them. Customer service should be provided with the spirit and skills of excellence, which does not necessarily equal perfection. It is vital to help customers to the best of your knowledge and ability. Give them all you have.

Be On the Cutting Edge

Do not avoid your competitors. They can be your greatest motivator. By wanting to be on top of your game, your competitors can push you to create new products or offer services you never thought of. It is up to you to research what you are producing. Ask yourself: Is my product the best that it can be? Is there another company that does this better?

You can also use this advice as an individual. If you want to move up in a company, determine whether you are offering more than you are getting paid for. Show others that you are adding value to the business as opposed to just maintaining. Express to others that you want to be a leader. If you are a manager, encourage your employees. Go above-and-beyond your duties.

If you are not operating at a level of excellence, it is easy to be left behind. You will be operating in an analog mindset in a digital age.

Being excellent at your job is not easy; it’s a calling. When you do your best, it gives you ultimate purpose. You become willing to accept challenges, which can take your career or business to the next level. But do not let the job give you value. You bring value to the job.

Achieving excellence in business affects more than just you. It can support the overall well-being of our country. Think about how many people are not going after their dreams. Set an example. If people see you chasing your dreams, they feel that anything is possible. You could be boosting national morale on a micro level.

When you do well, it motivates others. There are people who have the answers to the world’s problems in their heads right now. They are just not motivated to do anything about it. Own your excellence and think about what you have to offer. You might just surprise yourself.

The Family Unit

Although it used to consist of father, mother and two children, the family unit is evolving. Society is moving away from embracing loved ones in favor of texting, video games and television. Since the white picket fence is no longer the norm, our family is what we make it. The family unit is relevant and beneficial today, but we must continue our efforts to nurture it.
The family unit is our support base. It could be our nuclear family, relatives or close friends. They are the people who know us best. Most importantly, they are the people who we consider our core. They are trustworthy, reliable and make us feel better about ourselves.  
We must also take into account negative family units. For example, gangs fall into this category. They have all the same traits as a family: with you through thick and thin. But when you chose your support system, it is important that they raise you up to be the best you can be. Your guardians influence you, so they need to be helpful for you long term.
The role of the family unit is to offer guidance and support. They are your base camp. They feed you positive energy, which is necessary to bring any of your personal goals to fruition. You become empowered by them and you offer the same in return.
Although our support system is still valued, it is something we need to return to. It has been contaminated by technology, which creates a division within the family. People are connecting with their gadgets more than their loved ones.
When I was out to dinner recently, I witnessed a married couple come in for a romantic meal. As soon as they were seated, the husband and wife put their heads down and began texting. They had no eye contact throughout dinner. Relationships need to be nurtured, which is impossible without communication.
Obviously, we need to spend time with the people we love but it doesn’t need to be a big event. Setting aside time to be together is enough. If you don’t make time for something, it never gets done. Simple activities like eating dinner together every night or playing a board game can cement your bond as a family unit. Giving your loved ones undivided attention is important, so no electronic devices should be used at these gatherings.
One scenario to think about is if all the power went out when you were with your family unit, what would you do? Would you get bored and fall asleep or would you engage? This could give you a good idea on whether your relationships need work.
Another element in bringing your loved ones together is to focus on your unity instead of your differences. We all have different opinions but fighting is not way to solve matters. There is a reason you made the appointment to see your friends and family. Remember why you love each other.
The family unit also changes as we age. As we grow from the children into people who have families of their own, our priorities change. Our values shift as we grow our own family unit. But we must remember that our parents and friends made us who we are. Because of them, we have a sense of identity and belonging. Our families, whoever they consist of, make our lives worth living. We must cherish these relationships because our family unit is an extension of us.

How to Achieve Work-Life Balance

When we leave the office for the day, most of us struggle with not bringing work home. We check our cell phones at the dinner table or constantly go over to-do lists in our head. The answer is work-life balance; a concept where individuals equally manage their time between their work and personal life. Although most of us are just focused on getting from one day to the next, balance is possible.  All you need is a plan and good old-fashioned discipline.
In order to achieve balance, we can no longer let our day happen to us. Instead of doing whatever feels right in the moment, we need to compartmentalize our lives. Do not let work and play overlap. Remember that you are in control.  That being said, you need a strategy for the day. I suggest starting with the end in mind. Ask yourself, “When the year is over, what would I like to achieve?” If you start with the big picture and break it down into monthly, weekly and daily goals, you are creating the level of urgency to get your desired results.
Another suggestion to create work-life balance is to keep your emotions in check. We tend to be happy in the environment we are currently in. For example, if you are up against a deadline at work, you can forget your daughter at home waiting for a ride to dance class. And if you are at home, you might not want to finish up that work assignment because you are comfortable on the couch. You may not think emotions can sway you but they are the driving force in your decision-making. Devise your schedule and stick to it.
With the advent of technology, it is easier than ever to take work home. We can check our email anywhere. Text messages are ongoing. We become so addicted to the rush of instant communication that we are no longer present in the moment. Even though your body is present, does not mean that you are engaged. Let’s say you are watching your son’s Little League game and he looks up to see that you are staring at your smartphone screen instead of his home run. He may feel dejected.
Most of us work hard to support our loved ones but we must continually check in with ourselves to see if we are doing what is best for the family. If you are never truly present, your family suffers.
If you decide to bring work home, realize that it changes the dynamic of the house. If you are working in the living room and tell your kids to be quiet, they can no longer jump and play carefree. You have deemed their safe zone “the office.”
I recently started turning my phone off for a few hours each day. I now have more peace in my life. I am not as stressed because constantly having that phone in my hand put my physical chemistry on alert. It is easier to enjoy my life for those few hours because I am not anticipating anything else. I can just be.  
If you are someone who does not know if you are balanced, ask someone. Question your spouse or friend about whether you are preoccupied with work. Allow them to answer freely. Resist the urge to become defensive.
You may think that work-life balance is just for people with families but that is not the case. If you are single or have no kids, it is easy to throw yourself into work and desert friends or hobbies. If you feel that your life is lacking, filling the void with busy work will not solve your problems.
Juggling work and your personal life is difficult but you may have been doing it for years. You wonder, why should I change? But probably already experiencing the consequences of imbalance. Symptoms include depression, fatigue, feeling unaccomplished or unsuccessful.
Work-life balance is in your reach. It just takes mindful focus and a long- term goal. You can do it. Just remember what you are working for.

Motivation: What is it, how to get it and how to keep it

Millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, quit smoking or save money. But as April rolls around, the resolutions you were so excited about have withered into empty promises. Do not give up. Self-improvement is essential to your physical, mental and spiritual growth. You just need the one tool that will allow you to make lasting changes: motivation.

Motivation is a need or desire that causes a person to act. Countless self-help books are devoted to the subject, yet we still have trouble finding and maintaining our motivation. For example, if your jeans are tight, you might be motivated to lose five pounds. But that is probably not enough to keep the weight off long term. Our drive to lose weight, even if it’s as simple as saying no to French fries, wanes because we aren’t passionate about why we want to achieve this goal. The truth is that motivation is not enough. Our goals must inspire and shock us into change. If we have tried and failed in the past, we must look at our goal from a different perspective.

Let me share a personal story. I used to love barbeque pork sandwiches. One day, I ate about six sandwiches in a few hours. I started to feel sick and dizzy – the same symptoms my father had when he was diagnosed with high blood pressure. He also loved those sandwiches but he ultimately passed away due to, among other things, heart problems. I knew that I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps. I needed to change. My urge to eat my favorite sandwich was strong, so I needed an equally powerful motivation. Instead of connecting my sickness to high blood pressure, I connected it to death. That was the last time I ate pork. Your motivation must be strong enough to call you to action.

If not acted upon, a goal is merely a glorified wish. You must be intellectually stimulated by your goal, which can be done by reframing your thinking. Stimulation is information or knowledge that penetrate your core values. Your mind should not be able to get away from it. It must make you want to stand up and say, “I have to do something about this,” because the consequences are so dire. That is how to get motivated.

Maintaining your motivation is another story. Sometimes we overwhelm ourselves by changing too much at once. Start by changing your environment. If your kitchen cabinets are stocked with cookies and refrigerator is full of beer, you are going to have a hard time avoiding those items. Throw them all out if you can’t resist temptation but others prefer moderation as opposed to an all-or-nothing outlook. Try having two beers instead of four, and then work your way down to having none if that is your ultimate goal. The key is to change your routine, even if you start with baby steps. These small changes add up and can last a lifetime.

It is very common to see a loved one lacking motivation but in desperate need of change. I encourage you to challenge their status quo. Let them know that they are treasured and add value to your life. They will be honored to see a positive and hopeful side of themselves in your eyes. When people are in a dark place, they need to see themselves in a new light. They seek new perspective on their situation. In most circumstances, it is not as bad as they think. Energize their souls with the prospect of lasting change.

Most people lose motivation because they are either bored with the self-improvement process or disappointed with the results. Eating carrot sticks is certainly not as fun as eating a burger. Even if you did forgo your favorite food, maybe you are sad to see the weight isn’t coming off as quickly as you’d hoped. Alternatively, you’ve lost a lot of weight and the newfound attention you are getting makes you uncomfortable. Be patient with yourself. Remember that achieving your goals will make you happier in the long run but it takes work. Motivation helps to fuel the fire but it is your day-to-day efforts that will get you to your goal.

Enjoy the ride.

The Evolving Role of the Pope

During the past few weeks, the world has been focused on Vatican City as 155 Cardinals selected Jorge Bergaglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as the next Pope and leader of more than one billion Catholics around the world. There has been much debate and conjecture as to what lies ahead for the Catholic Church and if the organization can redeem its reputation after several years of challenges.

The primary responsibility of the new Pope will be, as it has been for hundreds of years, to run the Catholic Church, oversee the Bishops who are accountable for their respective regions and diocese and to be the spiritual leader for Catholics worldwide. But if Pope Francis is to be successful, and if he desires to lead them into a 21st Century advancement, he will have to redefine his role as well as role of the Catholic Church worldwide.

The Pope may find himself in the position of immediately addressing the concerns of the constituents and faithful followers of the Catholic Church especially if the church is going to advance beyond its immediate concern; restoring the integrity of the church and its leadership from the position of the Pope down to the local priest.  Recently one of the networks polled a group of faithful Catholics and asked them questions.  Their responses were concerns from structure to dated policies and even challenges with trust in certain areas.  For many years now good priests have been affected because of the criminal actions of some.

One of the obstacles the Pope may find is that he has to bridge the language barrier and conviction barrier between traditional minded followers and 21st Century followers in today’s world. The values and the methods of Christ do not change, but the question that may arise in today’s world is: are the methods as sacred as the message? The balance of faith is trust. He has to balance trust in order to balance faith.

In upgrading Pope Francis role because of present challenges, he may find himself to be more than a spiritual leader and administrator of the largest religious organization in the world. Problem solving has become an inherited responsibility. Coming up with plans to restore the Catholics faith and the church and reviving its attendance as well as making the organization innovative and more relevant in a changing world. Make no mistake; the Catholic Church has a lot of power and influence. However, the question is can it use untapped and unused influences to bring her back to the full strength and respect of her power? For example, in looking at the major tragedies and natural disasters over the past several years would it have been helpful if the Catholic Church took a leading role to the world’s challenges n these disasters? In respect to the fact that the Catholic Church is not the problem-solver of the world, it can be a very bright light for mutual parties to see how to get through dark days.

The Pope being the leader of such organization may have to reestablish the church on the world’s political scene in areas of tragedy as an image of goodness structure and direction. He may also have to align the church with other like-minded organizations in order to harness the full strength of the Vatican for the benefit of mankind.

We pray Pope Francis is successful. If he is successful, he will have created a dynamic, relevant and meaningful organization that has the fully restored respect of its constituents and leadership that can sustain and build the church into an affective, efficient and significant entity in today’s world.

An Appetite for Spirituality

It’s no secret that people are obsessed with food. In fact, our lives revolve around food. When we are making plans to see friends, it’s usually for dinner or lunch. We get popcorn at the movies and have a hotdog at the ballpark. Food has become part of our routine and, in many ways, is has become an activity in and of itself as opposed to a source of energy to sustain our bodies.

Of all the issues caused by our overindulgence in food, obesity is probably the most talked-about problem. There are countless articles about how we, as a society, are becoming overweight and all of the health risks that we are subjecting ourselves to because of our inability to control our eating. There are an infinite number of diets and diet programs being marketed to us everyday, aimed at making us feel that losing weight is easy – as long as we are willing to buy the product or pay for the program.

What doesn’t get much attention are the non-physical aspects of eating. Specifically, the high degree with which we intertwine our lives with food and the impact that has on us mentally and spiritually.

How many times have you eaten when you are not hungry? Was it because the clock said it was time for lunch or because you walked by a Starbucks and thought it would be relaxing to have a pastry and cup of coffee? Perhaps you were sitting in front of the television and instinctively picked-up a bag of potato chips and just started eating them? All of us either do this or have done this at some point in our lives. What most people fail to realize is that when we do this, we are letting the body control the mind and the spirit, instead of the reverse.

Even if you are not overweight and you are in good health, making food a central theme in your life has a negative impact on your mental and spiritual wellbeing. It distracts us from what we should be doing and impairs our ability to focus. It disempowers our mind by letting short-term desires dictate our actions.

It has been often said that people are their sharpest when they are hungry. This is because food sidetracks our bodies and our brains. While we obviously have to eat to sustain ourselves, it is crucial to let the mind control the body and not let the body control the mind. And if the mind is in control, one’s spirituality will be able to flourish.

Many experts would argue that the constant attention we give to eating is our way of trying to satisfy an appetite for something other than food – something that is missing in our lives. Food offers us comfort and distracts us from recognizing the void and, as a result, we stop trying to fill that void. By disconnecting from our emotional attachment to food, we can see more clearly what, exactly is missing from our lives and work towards fulfilling that need.

I would encourage you to assess your relationship with food, and your eating habits, both for your physical health as well as your spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Talk with your doctor about undertaking some sort of a “cleansing” that will enable you to reset your body and restore balance and focus in your life.