Wanting To Experience A Better Future

If you assume that everybody wants a better future, you’d be surprised to find out that your assumption is wrong. Of course, we’d have to come to an understanding between us about what the term, ‘better’ implies. Does better mean more money, a better job; maybe ‘just’ a job? Does it imply a home to live in, a loving partner, a pet, travel, having children, etc.? Better to you might not be better for others no matter what you name.

For many, building a better future is going to take work; work they’re ready to put in so that one day they can make what others only hope for. These kind of people believe they are the architects of their own future, that nothing worth having is just going to be handed to them. They plan and then put their plans into action by rolling up their sleeves and getting down to business. How bad they want it and how hard they’re ready to work for it will decide how successful they’ll be and how long it will take to realize what they’re after.

Others  believe a better future is worth a $5.00 investment once a week or more. These folks have pinned their future to a lottery; they dream big and invest little; setting aside some of their disposable income on an extremely small chance that luck will favour them. Soon they’ll stand on a stage with an over-sized cheque and life will dramatically change for them with the calling out of some random numbers. Their philosophy is, “you can’t win if you don’t play”, while others believe, “it’s impossible to lose if you don’t play.”

For others, having a better future has nothing at all to do with money or wealth. Their picture of a brighter and better future has to do with improved health; eradicating a disease, overcoming a health scare, getting stronger, changing their weight, having more stamina etc. It might mean new dentures that bring back their smile, learning to walk again or walking pain-free. Hoping and praying perhaps for a cure that comes in their time for what is slowly robbing them of their body and mind.

Some seemingly have it all together from outward appearances. Still searching and wanting a better future however, they may have hopes for reconciliation, patching up past relationships, strained friendships, They may dogged by an inability to let things go, reluctant to put in the effort to bring about the change needed, to choose forgiveness instead of bitterness.

For you though; you my reader – what does a better future mean for you? What does that look like when you picture life ahead?

Maybe you’re one who wants a better, more fulfilling future but has yet to figure out what that future looks like. Perhaps your wish and hope is actually that; to figure it out. Just being able to decide what career or job you’d most like – that alone would be something! Getting past the indecision, wanting to put a plan in action but not being able to because you figure you must have something to be working toward and the not-knowing has you paralyzed, stressed and downright frustrated.

If you’re after a better future; you can go about it in one of two ways I suppose; change nothing and believe that eventually what you’re doing in the present will bring about the result you’re after. The other alternative is that something; or some things (plural) need to change. Most of the time those who believe something has to change start with a shift in their thinking. The mindset, thoughts, ideas and beliefs sometimes have to shift, being willing to try that which hasn’t been tried before. Do this and you embrace a, “Change begins with me” mentality; “Be the change I want to see” philosophy.

So whether it’s finding yourself, finding God, finding a golden ticket in a chocolate bar or finding yourself signing a new car agreement, the decisions you make going forward from today will bring you closer to your goal or leave you further from it.

Is it as simple as that? Does it come down to better decision-making? All the decisions you’ve made up to now have in large part been responsible for where you find yourself now. The food in your cupboards products of your decisions made in the grocery store. The furniture you sit on a result of the decisions you made on what to buy, borrow or claim. The job you have a product of your decision about your education, your choice of employers, your decision to commute or not.

Decisions are often made by others that affect us though. Employers move, expand and contract, lay off and hire, promote and fire. How we react to these things is ultimately our decision to make. Do we rebel and fight, carry the bitterness with us, shake their hand and move on?

Opting for a brighter and better future might be what you’ve decided on for yourself. Determining what that means – for you personally – is entirely up to you. Talking it out is often a good start. Even when you aren’t sure what you’ll end up deciding on, getting your thoughts out and sharing what’s going on in your mind is helpful.

No sage advice this time around. Just a question; If you want a better future, what does it look like?





Want A Better Life?

Last night while talking with my wife, she shared a comment that someone she knows often makes. The fellow said, “I’ve had a lot happen in my life.” This, apparently is what he says as a way of both explaining why his life isn’t that good and why it won’t get better either. Like people all over the world, this fellow has had his share of challenges, but it’s like he wears his as a badge of honour not choosing to actually make some changes and do things in the here and now that will alter his future for the better.

It struck me then as it does now, that it might be useful to talk about how to go about improving the future; your future. After all, it’s a safe bet you’d like yours to get better whether your past and present have been a series of disasters or quite good. There are some, many I suppose who actually like chaos and disappointment but let’s look to focus on making life a better one in the future for you.

So here’s some ideas to get you started. Share these with anyone you feel might benefit from reading them with my thanks.

  1. Change has to happen. If you want a different future than your past or present change must occur so see making changes as a good thing. This will take some getting use to and it may be uncomfortable at times when you do things differently. However, expecting a better future when you keep doing what you’ve always done hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now. Welcome changes.
  2. Make better decisions. Those changes I spoke of in point 1 can only happen if you make different decisions than you’ve typically made. The key is not only to make different decisions but better decisions. Again, these better decisions won’t always be easy or comfortable but you want a better life right?
  3. Take responsibility. This is your life, and it’s made up of your decisions in the past, the present and the future. Stop blaming your parents, family and friends, former bosses and co-workers for what life has ‘done’ to you. Stop giving them power over you and admit this is your life to live and yours to make. That’s empowering and with that power comes responsibility and accountability.
  4. Get help. If you had the necessary skills to make better decisions, it’s highly likely that you would have done so right? Yet, here you are wanting things better than they are which indicates you need some guidance and advice when it comes to both making those choices and support on the follow through.
  5. Move on. The thing about the past is that it is…well…the past. You can’t go back there, you can’t live there. Move on. Try walking forward down a sidewalk with your head facing backwards and you’ll run into a lot of obstacles. Turn your eyes forward and you can avoid those collisions. Look forward in life and move on.
  6. Learn and not re-live. Making the same mistakes over and over and re-living the errors of your ways isn’t productive. When things go wrong – and they will – learn what you can from the experience with the goal of making better decisions in the future when you find yourself in similar situations.
  7. Eliminate temptations. You might have good intentions but fall to temptations if you don’t remove yourself from what’s caused you problems up to now. So it could mean dropping friends who are bad influences, moving from a bad neighbourhood, clearing the house of the alcohol or the chocolate and fatty foods. You have to want your end goal more than your temporary fix.
  8. Set Goals. Know what you want in this better future you imagine. Picture that job, the ideal partner, a better apartment or condo, a clear complexion, a new set of teeth, no criminal record. Whatever it is, set a goal; maybe several that are meaningful to you personally.
  9. Develop plans. Goals don’t turn into reality without some planning. Again, get some help from someone you trust. Start with one of your long-term goals and come up with a plan that will eventually cut the things getting in your way of having this better future. Big problems will take time and a lot of effort. Small problems are easier addressed. Both big and small need attention.
  10. Commit to yourself. You’re going to have setbacks, make some spur of the moment decisions you regret but don’t pack in the, “I want a better future”, plan. When you have a setback, re-commit to yourself what you’re working towards and focus on what you’ve accomplished so far.
  11. Forgive. A big one. Don’t carry hate, anger and bitterness around with you because it’s not attractive, certainly doesn’t help you and always hinders you. Let it go and forgive those who harmed you, set you back, let you down and disappointed you. This is your life not theirs; you’re forgiving them because YOU’VE moved on.

Look it’s not going to be easy and few things in life that are worth having are. In fact, ‘easy’ hasn’t been your past life has it? Nor your current life? So, ‘easy’ has nothing to do with it. Yep, you’re going to have to work for what you want and all that’s going to do is make you proud of yourself when you get it. It’s your call.

Take Charge

Do you know someone who as an adult, spends much of their time and precious energy pointing fingers and lamenting to anyone who will listen that their present and future circumstances are entirely out of their control? That someone or some other people are to blame for the position they find themselves in?

Yes it’s true that some of us come from impoverished neighbourhoods; not all of us have well-meaning, nurturing parents that treated us with respect and dignity as children. Some of us had every advantage too; good families with solid incomes, connections to people in important places that could and would mentor us and lay the plan before us to the land of milk and honey.

More of us grew up in the middle class. Our parents worked for a living, bought a home, took us on family vacations that they saved for throughout the year, put us in public schools and guided us along with what was right and what was proper. As we transitioned from children into teenagers and then again into young adults, these same parents helped as they could and as we allowed them to do so.

How we were brought up has a lot to do with how we see the world, and yes how the world sees us. People make assumptions about us based on our clothing choices, the neighbourhoods we walk or live in, the cars we drive or indeed the choice we make not to drive a car. Our skin colour, our ethnicity, our language skills, our friendliness or distrust, whether we’re loud, quiet, confident or cautious. We have biases and form opinions of others just as others do about us.

When we apply for a job we might think carefully about whether to include our home address or not in part because we wonder if that address would advance or curtail our chances of an interview. When we believe we’ll meet an employer, we think about our appearance, what we’ll share when they ask us to tell them a bit about us, and we think about the reputation of the company just as they think about the positive or negative factors in hiring us.

But back to the opening premise; I guess you can think of someone you know who blames their present unemployment or underemployment on the prejudices and opinions of others; the community into which they were born, their poor upbringing, their lack of connections, the colour of their skin, the religious beliefs they hold or the country of their birth.

There are a lot of frustrated, angry and bitter people out there; we can find them relatively easily if we go looking for them. Find one such person and they can probably introduce you to several more that they personally know; because like does attract like. And it’s easy isn’t it? I mean it’s easy to accept things the way they are, stop working to move forward, stop struggling for something better and just sit back and point at others as the source of our misery.

Taking responsibility not for the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but for doing something about things to improve our future; now that’s going to take work. Is it easy? Of course not! I’m not the first one by far to say that anything worth having is worth working hard for, but that’s the sum of it. Look, the thing is if you want a future different from your present reality; one that is better and has more opportunities to bring you happiness (however you define it), you’ve got to put in the work to make it happen.

You’re going to experience obstacles and you’re going to be tempted to give it up and believe that the good things in life were never intended for someone like you. Well, don’t believe it. Why not you? The only real limitations in this world are the ones we affix to our dreams and goals and these are the beliefs we hold; beliefs we can choose to keep or replace.

It doesn’t matter if we’re poor, insecure, mousey, shy, aboriginal, black, white or walking around with a grade 10 education. It doesn’t matter if we live in a trailer park or the wrong side of the tracks It doesn’t matter if we don’t have cable, can’t afford the internet, have never had a cell phone and haven’t got a driver’s licence. It also doesn’t matter if we’ve got a criminal record, we’re a single parent, our health is less than ideal or we don’t know the right people.

Here’s what DOES matter; the moment we decide that what could be is far better than what has been, and the decision we make to actually take personal responsibility for making changes that improve our situation. We have to make these decisions ourselves – and maybe we have numerous false starts; where we started to make some small changes but fell back into bad habits and making poor choices. Don’t feel bad and beat yourself up; you’re trying to change some longstanding behaviours here so start again. Start anew everyday if you have to until you see some small changes connecting and become new patterns of behaviour and more positive thoughts greet you in the morning each day.

Want a better life? Great. Make yourself accountable for making the dream of yours a reality. You CAN do this.

Are You Contemplating A Leap?

Something interesting suddenly struck me recently and I wonder if you too have had a similar experience; possibly like me, you weren’t entirely aware of it yourself. Or it could be that I’m just realizing it myself and slow getting to the dance!

What I’ve become aware of is a large number of the conversations I’ve been a part of, and the musings I’ve read of others centers on men and women in their late 40’s and early to mid-50’s who are openly contemplating exactly what to do with the balance of their working lives. Now in retrospect it may not be a new phenomenon.

The difference I suppose is that historically there were fewer types of jobs to choose from in the past. With fewer choices available, most people who hadn’t reached retirement had a choice between the jobs they currently had and doing a similar job for another company or becoming an entrepreneur themselves. Most you understand stayed with companies for decades and it was the norm to retire from these employers.

Fast-forward to 2016 and there are more jobs being created than ever before. Technology alone as a single sector has created job titles that didn’t exist just a few months before. Go back a generation and there are even more jobs that didn’t exist because the environment was different. There were no Information Technology jobs because the technology hadn’t evolved to the state it is today, and home computers didn’t even exist.

The consequence of more types of jobs existing today is that there are more choices than ever from which to choose. Add to this that because we are living longer than in the past on average, we have more time to spend in retirement, and we may want to work longer in life to both pay for a longer retirement with less income, or just keep involved longer in our work lives.

Whatever the reason, my sense is that these conversations people are having about exploring employment or work options into their 50’s and 60’s  when they’re in their late 40’s to mid-50’s is becoming more popular. It’s not that people are always disenchanted with their current jobs and have lost interest; although I know of some who would say that is exactly their issue. For some, it’s a desire to do something different; a last chance perhaps to do something they’ve always wanted to do or they finally feel a now-or-never mentality.

Now when they arrive at this point of their lives where there is an urge to explore options, the options available largely are confined to whatever skills and experience the person has in their life inventory. Those of us who have worked in a single sector all our lives may on the one hand have less choices available than those of us who have worked in positions across several sectors. Those who have continued in their adult lives with upgrading their education may be more attractive than those who haven’t to potential employers.

Let’s also say that there are some people who are just more comfortable taking risks than others as well. If you have a conservative nature you may think the person quitting a stable, well paid position for some new venture is foolish, off their rocker, gambling with their retirement savings. On the other hand the person who leaps may be feeling they’ll die on the inside and live with regret wondering, “what if” throughout their retirement if they don’t find the courage to jump into something new and invigorating, mentally stimulating.

This isn’t where I’ll wade in on what is right or wrong – that’s for those individuals to contemplate and arrive at decisions they literally have to live with moving forward.

I do think as I say that the quiet musings or open discussions are just becoming more prevalent of late with the people in my network. Is it a restlessness of spirit perhaps; normal checks and balances that happen throughout our lives and nothing more? I suppose one might say that generally our teen years are about setting us up for emerging independence from our parents. Our 20’s are for exploring people, the world and ourselves, our 30’s are for establishing our futures, taking on responsibilities, finding roots to hold onto. Our 40’s enrich our lives and we reach our potential. Our 50’s we start looking at our work lives and see for the first time a window that’s just starting to close. In our 60’s we have far less compunction to re-invent ourselves and start anew; less willingness to gamble the nest egg. I don’t necessarily believe this work-related timeline is the absolute way it is for everyone.    

I’d love to have you weigh in and comment on where you are in your life at the moment and what musings – quiet or otherwise you are mulling over. Is there something stirring in your consciousness and if so, what’s driving those thoughts for something else? Are you afraid, excited or confused about the growing state of flux in which you find yourself more often these days? What considerations do you have to take to change?

Change can be liberating, threatening, give you your sanity back, put a smile on your face, fill your retirement with memories or empty your bank account. If you continue the course you’re on, will you be okay with the choice you’ve settled on?

Positioning Yourself For The Future

I suspect at some point we all consider leaving one job for another. Whether with the same employer, achieved through promotion, a lateral move or quitting, it’s safe to say we’ve imagined what it would be like to make a career move. It’s like the lottery; we dream of what we’d do if we won.

So if it’s a safe to say that all of us – you included – are at some point going to make a career move, would you agree that you’d like to be in the best position possible when that time arrives? Let’s work from that basic premise; putting ourselves in a position where we can legitimately compete for the jobs we want in the future.

Whether it’s because we are mistreated and want to quit, ready for a change in environments, wanting more responsibility, burnt out, moving to a new community, or changing fields entirely, we’re going to have our own reason(s) for experiencing change. So the real issue is how to actually get ourselves ready for that change at some point in the future, under circumstances that we don’t know in the here and now.

One thing you can do with great certainty is take stock of your likes and strengths. Write down what you’re good at and what makes you feel good, which may not be the same. For example you may be great at selling, but find no joy in selling items people don’t need. You may be great at counselling others, but you wish you could feel a passion for it like you do when you’re working on your car. Maybe the peace of mind and pride you feel when you’re painting the interior of your home is something you wish you could experience in the workplace.

Notice I’ve omitted recording your dislikes and your weaknesses at this point. While important to know, let’s leave those two for now. Brainstorm your positives; likes and strengths and don’t limit yourself to the paid work environment. Consider leisure and personal time, how you choose to spend your vacations, weekends, time off and your moments of greatest pleasure throughout the day. You might find the best part of your entire day is when you’re cleaning the house, adding to your journal, talking with children at the crosswalk or when you flip the, ‘open’ sign at your cash drawer in the bank. Where are you when you catch yourself smiling and feeling good?

So armed with a list of what you’re good at and what makes you feel good, the next thing to do is give yourself permission to imagine. If you have a clear picture of your desired future employment, look at the functions of that position and compare your likes and strengths lists. How well do you match up? You want a job that will be enjoyable and play to your strengths and likes after all. If it’s a good match all the better for you!

A common mistake people make is only looking at educational requirements and courses they must have to compete for their dream job and then enrolling in those courses. While logical, it’s much more important to identify the personality traits of successful people in that job and seeing how you compare. Would your natural personality be a good fit for the requirements of the job? Can you make tough decisions, exercise patience, empathize with others or remain calm under pressure?

If you aren’t sure what the future holds, you can still take steps to help yourself out in the here and now. Knowing your likes and strengths, you probably are aware of things you’d like to build on and improve. Not necessarily weaknesses in your current job you understand – but areas you’d like to develop, interests you like to fuel. What you’re doing is self-identifying areas you want to explore and skills you want to add, without necessarily going about it from the point of view of picking up skills required for a specific job. As you acquire these skills, qualifications and pursue your interests, opportunities may arise which will only come about because of your developing interests. You meet and network with people sharing your passion.

Looking ahead need not be akin to that dreaded, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” interview question. It may be that you look at the next season on the calendar instead. “What would I like to do in the coming year or this winter?” may be more realistic, tangible and therefore meaningful to you. For example getting yourself in better physical shape and feeling better about your appearance might be your main motivator, but it would also make you more attractive to some employers.

The crux of the matter is to identify and feel good about what likes and strengths you have now, and pursue the things which will build on your happiness. When you do the things that bring you joy it shouldn’t only be on your own time. The happiest people find joy not only in their personal lives but their professional lives as well. When you play to your likes and strengths, you’ll find purpose in your work and your future self will appreciate the actions your present self takes in your immediate future.

Put off this critical process and when opportunities arise, you may neither recognize them for what they are, nor be qualified to seize upon them.

One Way To View Your Career

Okay, so let’s say you are just starting out on your brand new shiny career. Perhaps you are still in high school, wondering and worrying about making life-long career decisions, feeling pressure to choose a University or College, then a program of study because with no direction, you feel you’re doomed.

Maybe you’re already in post secondary education and looking forward to the end of school and looking around for your first full-time permanent job to apply to. Feeling a lot of pressure to choose wisely because you’re going to be there a long time and want to make sure it’s a good fit?

Relax. My experience in talking with people across a number of different employment sectors is that more and more people are changing jobs and careers often. Now that might sound odd because in an economy where jobs are at a premium, you might suspect that once someone gets a job, they decide to sit tight and stabilize their situation by staying in the job for years and years.

Here’s some advice I think is very wise. Rather than looking for a job that has significant earnings, look for employment that provides you with significant learning. When you take a job, look at it as a chance to learn new skills, form working relationships and gain perspective. Ask the people you end up working with what it is that they find rewarding and challenging in their work. As you go about your work, be aware of what you both like and dislike about what you’re doing.

For example, at 54 years old, and I still vividly remember spending a single day in a plastics factory, filling in for an ill friend of mine at the time – something employers would never allow today. I hated that exceedingly oppressive and hot plastics factory. I knew after that single day that I wasn’t cut out for a career in factory work. I also worked in Eaton’s toy department and the tie around my neck and top buttoned shirt drove me insane. I learned that I had a strong preference for a job that would not require a shirt and tie on a daily basis. To this day, they drive me nuts.

However, working at Eaton’s as a Salesman, and Direct Film as a Photography and Print Salesperson, I got exposure to providing customer service excellence. Throughout my career, I’ve built on that, and know now that selling film and photography gear, or toys requires a similar skill set to sell myself to an employer. It’s like this: you have to identify your skills, and research the skills needed by the employer, then compare how you match up. This is like listen to the customer, identifying their needs, and determining how you can serve them best based on your inventory.

In my own situation, which I grant isn’t right for everyone, I had this general philosophy starting out in my career: year one of a job was entirely a learning phase, year two was the year I’d add creativity to improve performance, year three I’d evaluate whether to stay or move on. What I didn’t know is that my working life would be blocks of three-year in length jobs. The work as it turns out was in Retail, Recreation, Social Services, and I worked for our Provincial government, Municipal government, the non-profit and for profit sectors, ran my own business, and worked for others.

This diversified experience is now my key selling point, my unique benefit I offer employers. I come at issues wearing many different hats and bring all those collective experiences to bear in my daily work. In my own time, I’ve volunteered on Boards, acted in community theatre and musicals and I’ve coached youth sports teams. All of these experiences brought me in contact with people I’d otherwise not know. Why even the blog you are reading is bringing me into contact with others around the globe who comment and dialogue with me.

All these people, these experiences…they all add up to an enriched and valued life. Now that’s me personally. What about you? You can’t know where life will take you, what opportunities will present themselves, and what choices you will make. If you did, life would be incredibly predictable and boring. It’s the uncertainty and the windows of change that present themselves throughout life that will make the sum total amazing. You will make errors in judgement and some of those will be hard to stomach at the time but hopefully you will find things to learn and grow from in the experiences. May them not be too catastrophic.

By working in many different jobs, you will find what you like and dislike. Examine the people not the tasks of the job. What kind of people does the work attract? Connect with the people involved and both contribute and take away whatever you can.

It’s a long life…don’t be impatient for it all to be revealed to you. Savour all the experiences you can!