Life of Meaning

Windows to Your Soul

December 3, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

By trying to handle all suffering through willpower, denial, medication, or even therapy, we have forgotten something that should be so obvious: We do not handle suffering: suffering handles us.Richard Rohr

The deepest and most impactful learnings in life come neither from books nor gurus.

I have discovered that, every now and then, I sense very clear view of my most hidden, secret, sometimes painful, and sometimes embarrassing self. I call these times Windows to the Soul.
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3 Simple Questions for a Good Life

November 27, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

At the end of our life we all ask, “Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter?Brendon Burchard

Do you find the plethora of “life’s axioms” or suggestions for “living a life that matters” becoming just a bit tiring? For me, there comes a point where the last thing I want is advice.

Executive Coach or Partner in Thought

For the last a couple decades I have found my coaching process has become more one of making suggestions for consideration, than a litany of advice regarding next steps. I guess that is one reason I changed my title from Executive Coach to Partner in Thought.

Perhaps that is also why I am so fond of Brendon Burchard’s three questions: Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter? His questions are so simple yet so powerful they really don’t require a lot of writing. But they do demand consideration.
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The Hidden Influence of Biases

November 6, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

There is no such thing as a bias-free or value-free position, we need to be aware of that bias, in ourselves and in others.” Richard Rohr

Let’s admit it: There is no such thing as an unbiased point of view.

Our personal histories contribute to our strongly held beliefs and “positions” on controversial topics. And the most troubling thing is that many of our biases are hidden and/or unknown even to ourselves.

Bias and Cultural Assumptions

Our biases can also be understood as our cultural “assumptions.” While we “assume” certain things to be true, we often don’t realize that those assumptions have been burrowed deep within our psyche based on our personal history and the culture in which we were raised.

For instance, I just recently I read of the American/Western “philosophy of progress.” I have never even thought of the concept of a “philosophy of progress” and yet that concept is absolutely true… but only for those raised in a society in which meritocracy is the norm. In America, most people would agree that you get what you earn; or that “progress” is a natural truth of the common human condition.

But I ask you to consider the cultural beliefs of those not raised in a wealthy/comfortable society like America or even the West in general. Right now I am thinking of Uganda. For the past five years I have traveled to Uganda 2-3 time each year. Much of my time is spent in very rural communities where people live at the edge of extreme poverty, earning less than three dollars per day.

The goal in this society is not about progress. In fact, progress is an almost unknown value. The driving value is survival, not success.

Bias Toward Success or Survival

Just this one single value (or bias) predetermines out entire approach to life: success or survival. These “filters” form the basis of our actions and beliefs on a daily basis. Yes, it is helpful to understand the core beliefs of other cultures in order to better understand your own biases.

So, what do we do: we read; we discuss; we contemplate; we travel. Learning is key to self-understanding and self-understanding contributes to our self-knowledge and therefore our ability to make even better decisions about what we believe.

Understand Your Biases

To Gain Clarity and Understanding

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On Expecting Less from Others

October 29, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

NOTE TO READERS

We have been experiencing website issues in sending Next Chapter blogs and podcasts. So sorry for the inconvenience. I am hoping we have found a solution. Thank you for your patience. Charlie

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The world in which we live and work is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations.” Earl Nightingale

I think it was in 1985 that Pam and I completed our one session of premarital counseling. Yes, one session and yet we both remember a single line of advice offered by our therapist: “One powerful key to a successful marriage is “the ability to withhold judgment.”

Withholding Judgment

However, I think that is one of those “says easy” but “does hard” statements. It makes perfect sense until you realize that you have been seriously judging people your entire life. We are “expectation-oriented” creatures. We secretly (and most often unknowingly) hold expectations of every person we know or meet. And when they inevitably fail to meet our expectations, we quite naturally make some judgment of that person.

In essence, we want life to go the way WE desire. And that just does not work because everybody feels the same, only with differing expectations.

Expect Less from Others

For years Pam and I only paid partial attention to the advice given us in premarital counseling. At times, each of us held nearly impossible expectations of the other. So, we did the common marital thing: we argued, sometimes frequently because we were habitually judging each other’s behaviors and opinions.

But after more than thirty years of marriage Pam and I have finally implemented the sage’s advice. We have learned to live largely in the lands of “acceptance” and “withholding judgment.”

Evaluate Your Expectations

To do so requires that I regularly review whatever expectations I may have of my wife. I have found the most effective method is to harbor very few expectations at all. The only expectations that matter are how we treat each other. Therefore kindness, understanding, open-mindedness, and respect comes to mind.

In other words… be nice! And then watch the results.

When We Withhold Judgment

We Can Expect Little and Accept Much

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Influence or Control: Which is More Productive?

October 9, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” Ken Blanchard

It was scientist/theologian Ilia Delio who first introduced me to what she calls the Newtonian Paradigm and how this has been the model for organizational structure as well as deep personal growth for several centuries.

The Newtonian Paradigm

According to Delio, Newton proposed, quite successfully, a model of “control” in which matters like predictability, certainty, and hierarchy set the stage for human development, both personally and collectively.

And it has worked well for a long time. Predictability and hierarchy are commonly accepted processes for attaining our desired result. But the problem is… in the 21st Century we have seen a rapid demise in all three elements (predictability, certainty, and hierarchy). All three have proven to be questionable because of the rapid rate of invention, new technology, and spiritual and political uncertainties.
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Silence and the Art of Knowing Yourself

October 1, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

Intentional silence serves as a necessary and valuable counterweight to a society filled with thoughtless and excessive words.” Peter Scazzero

It seems like recently I have written a lot about personal reflection and intentionality. I guess that’s because it is on my mind, like every day!
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The Gift of Friendship in Marriage

September 17, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

Friendship in marriage is the spark that lights an everlasting flame.” Fawn Weaver

It was my birthday yesterday. We have a tradition in our family where every year on Birthdays and Christmas, we write letters. In closing this year’s birthday letter to me, my wife wrote, “For my husband and best friend.”
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When Opinions are Mostly Just Unwanted Noise

September 10, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” Steve Jobs

As a child of the 1960s I attended too many rock concerts. The shows were unforgettable. But five decades later I am paying the price. As it turns out the noise was deafening.
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On Being Human

September 3, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

What makes us human is not our mind but our heart, not our ability to think but our ability to love.” Henri Nouwen

In much of my reading for the past few years from the late medieval Christian mystics, love remains the predominant human attribute. But then, after reading the quote above from Henri Nouwen, my mind wandered elsewhere. In addition to love, I wondered, what is it that makes us fully human?

Being Human is Common to All

Perhaps one of the first ideas that comes to mind is “commonality.” Until we realize that the human condition, with frailties included, is clearly common. Yes, each of us is blessed with some measure of love, kindness, compassion, empathy, patience and all the other lovely attributes that might take up the remainder of this post.

But what I am thinking about today is more about our common pitfalls: selfishness, anger, revenge, greed, and unfortunately a good bit of passive meanness. We are afraid of not being accepted, not being loved, not being appreciated, or not being treated as we feel we deserve.

Being Human is Displaying Opposite Traits

When I begin to ponder these fearful aspects of the human condition, I am forced to return to the blessings of what it means to be human. Because of our frailties, love, kindness, compassion, and patience become even more essential. If not for these blessings, how else could we manage life in a world where everyone is only concerned with “what’s in it for them?”

I guess that is why our beloved Henri Nouwen will write, “What makes us human is our hearts and our ability to love.” As humans, in a world composed of self-centered broken people, we will occupy both sides of the good-bad equation.

Being Human is a Choice

I am speaking for myself here and I reckon for you as well. So what does this all mean? It means, yet once again, we have a choice. The first step is to recognize that all our actions toward people and toward the world require some intentionality and some personal reflection. Intentionality and reflection give us time to choose… What does it mean for ME to be human?

Yes. Common to humans is the ability to make conscious choices about what kind of human we want to be? Whether to bow to negative impulses or elect to rise above them to the higher level of… Yes, Love.

Being Human is Merely

Whatever I Choose It to Be

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Curbing Your “Isolated Thoughts of Judgment”

August 27, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

It is a good discipline to wonder in each situation if people wouldn’t be better served by our silence than by our words.” Henri Nouwen (Lifted fr Wm Britton, Wisdom from the Margins)

A few nights ago, as I was sitting in my usual seat in our family room, I became acutely aware that I nearly said something mildly critical to my wife about some very unimportant thing she was doing. However, for some reason it occurred to me, “Why?” “Why not just keep this to yourself” After all, it is only a wandering sense of judgmentalism that will do neither one of us any good.”

Thinking Twice About Being Critical

It was then I thought: Yes, both my wife and I would be much better off if I simply kept silent. Why does she need to know my critical and judgmental thinking? Will it improve our marriage? No. Will it make her a better person? No. Finally, will silence preserve a sense of a happy home? Hell yes!!!

It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer that wrote, “… isolated thoughts of judgment can be curbed and smothered by never allowing them to be uttered.” I really identify with this idea of “isolated thoughts of judgment.” I can, by nature, be judgmental, cynical, and overly critical. But then, these are uncomfortably common traits of the human species.

Our “Judgmentalism Filter”

After 73 years I am finally learning the value of keeping my thoughts to myself. The cool thing is, it is not that difficult to do if… I can maintain some degree of self and social awareness. The brain can provide us with a brand new “judgmentalism filter.” Every time I think I am being critical and judgmental, it is good to run those thoughts through my filter.

When I do that, everyone is better off. When I don’t use my filter, I will inevitably be defensive or arrogant.

Choose Wisely

As usual, it all comes down to “choice.” Sometimes it is very helpful to choose to verbalize criticism. It is necessary. However, it is much less frequently necessary than we think!

Just like my mom always said…

If You Can’t Say Something Nice

Don’t Say Anything at All

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