31 Chapters
Medium 9781605098869

26 Love Unconditionally

Muchnick, Mark Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

THE WORD UNCONDITIONAL means “without limitations.” Perhaps a more complete definition of the term, though, is “without limitations and without regrets.” When you love others unconditionally, you acknowledge their shortcomings and do not judge them. They may frustrate you, disappoint you, test your patience, and at times drive you crazy, but you never regret loving them because you’ve made a conscious choice to accept them for who they are and are willing to embrace the heartburn that may come with that decision. This is different from conditional love, where failing to meet certain expectations or provisions in a relationship can be a major source of regret that may ultimately end the relationship.

Someone I love unconditionally is Billy, my Little Brother. When I joined the Big Brothers program back in 1991, he had just turned ten and was living on welfare with his mom and sisters. Growing up as an African-American young male in a neighborhood with primarily people of different ethnicities was difficult for him and often resulted in physical confrontations. Crime was rampant, drive-by shootings were frequent, and pressure to join a gang was persistent. Yet much of that seemed to fade away when Billy and I were together.

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23 Broaden Your Cultural Perspective

Muchnick, Mark Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

MORE THAN EVER before, the saying “It’s a small world” rings true when it comes to being globally connected. Whether in politics, environmental issues, military conflicts, technology, or the economy, there is a growing awareness that what’s going on in other parts of the world can have a very real and immediate impact on our lives. But despite the realization that we are a global community, the lens through which we view other people, their customs, and their ways of life is still rather limited. For instance, many of us proclaim to celebrate cultural diversity with only superficial knowledge of the cultures being celebrated. From this standpoint, our perspective is myopic and may in turn be a reason for regret.

The time is ripe to broaden our perspective on cultural diversity as part of our evolution as world citizens. While this can be done in part by travel or study abroad, it is also as simple as taking the initiative to expand our awareness of the diverse cultural world that is closer to home. For instance, two colleagues of mine, Joe and Susie, have a long-standing ritual with a group of their friends from different cultural backgrounds where they celebrate each other’s traditions and holidays together throughout the year. This includes learning more about their different religious faiths and even visiting each other’s respective places of worship.

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20 Trust Your Inner Strength

Muchnick, Mark Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

WE ARE ALL capable of doing and achieving more than we think is possible. Whether it’s getting through tough times in our personal lives, hitting difficult deadlines and performance goals at work, or increasing the amount of repetitions and intensity in a workout, we can sometimes do what is seemingly impossible by simply putting our minds to it and pushing ourselves beyond our perceived limitations. But if we don’t trust our inner strength, we may start to shy away from challenges, fail to realize our full potential, or give up on our dreams—all of which can be sources of regret. In the end, it comes down to whether or not we are willing to truly believe in ourselves and our abilities.

Case in point: several years ago I got the crazy idea that I was going to run a marathon. First you must understand that I am not a long-distance runner. Actually I’m not much of a runner at all—in a good month I might run one to two miles every couple of weeks. Plus I run really, really slow. So when I signed up on a whim for the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon just a couple of months before the race, it would be fair to assume that I was delusional in setting a personal goal of running 26.2 miles.

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9 Stay in Touch

Muchnick, Mark Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

AT SOME POINT in life we begin to realize that maintaining friendships gets harder and harder. Like it or not, we all get busy and sometimes just don’t have enough time to keep up with everything—and everyone—in our world. Before we know it, we may start to grow distant from people we used to be close to and eventually lose track of their lives. Without frequency of interaction, our friendships can wither and fade, and for that we may wind up having regrets.

To keep your relationships alive, you must take the time to stay in touch. This requires conscious effort and is not always convenient or easy. Essentially, it means either being a good communicator or learning to become one. In other words, we have to take the initiative to find out what’s going on in other people’s lives and be willing to let them in on what’s happening in our world as well. The mere fact that our lives are so overscheduled and fast paced calls for creativity in our quest to stay in touch.

Dan Vishny is someone who knows how to step outside the box when it comes to staying in touch. Vish, as he prefers to be called, is an accountant by training who also has a penchant for vegan cooking and travel. One day Vish, while living in Chicago, was experimenting with a new vegan recipe when he got a call from a friend he used to cook with back in Eugene, Oregon. Although it was great to catch up, Vish was saddened by the fact that many of his closest friends were spread out across the country and that he hardly ever talked to them anymore. In addition, due to his busy work schedule and the pressures of raising a family, it was always either the wrong time to go visit or just too expensive.

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2 Pick a Place to Start

Muchnick, Mark Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

EVERY JANUARY 1 we engage in the long-standing ritual of making our New Year’s resolutions. Some of us actually write them down; others just commit them to memory. In addition, some of us postpone the exercise indefinitely despite our best intentions. But all of us go through the process of at least thinking about what we should put on the list of goals we hope to accomplish in the coming year. Historical favorites include losing weight, earning more money, getting a different job, making new friends, creating greater work-life balance, putting old photos into a scrapbook, eating healthier foods, taking a longer vacation, exercising more, and procrastinating less.

The problem of course with most of our “to do” lists—whether they include our yearly resolutions, tasks at work, or things we need to get done around the house—is that we put too much on them. It’s not too long before the stark realization sets in: we may never get everything done. This can be overwhelming and ultimately lead to feelings of regret if we don’t complete the entire list or if we don’t give it our best effort because we are trying to do too many things at once. Regret may also be the result if we spend so much time overanalyzing how to get it all done that we wind up getting little or nothing done.

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