What are you going to do differently today and beyond?
I “made” my kids sit down and watch the State of the Union address with me. I think I have watched every one of them since at least 1999 and A few of them before that, all the way back to Ronald Reagan. I think it is a great way for them to see how our government works and I think that it underscores how well the democratic process could work. I fielded quite a few questions about the speech and what was going on during it. Questions ranging from who the people were, to what the president was saying, to why some people clapped and some people didn’t. It was honestly a great chance to have conversations about civics and the political process. We talked about why there are only two parties… we talked about why people disagree on political topics. We also talked about how lucky we are to live in a country where we enjoy freedom and can watch and be a part of the political process that governs us.
We also learned about how goals can be set and measured. How it is important to know what you want to accomplish so you can set a path to get there. We also learned that accomplishing your goals isn’t easy and that just because you set them doesn’t mean everyone will support your efforts to achieve them. Like I said I have been watching these speeches every year since Bill Clinton was in office. Whether I agreed with the president or not I have enjoyed being a part of these history defining moments. There was something powerful about this one, beyond the agenda and the scorecard. Beyond the pageantry and the politics there was something that moved me in the final words this president spoke as he concluded this address:
My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and begun again the work of remaking America. We have laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write.
Let’s begin this new chapter together, and let’s start the work right now.
-Barack Obama, State of the Union Address 2015
To improve and grow, we need to make changes. We can’t simply talk about wanting to do it. I had a moment the other day after a soccer practice with my son (I happen to be his coach) in which he was talking about how he wants to be better. So I asked him what he was going to do differently than what he was doing right now. He looked at me a little blankly and so I said to him that everything he has done to this point has led him here… If he wants to be somewhere else he needs to make some sort of change so he can get on the path to where he wants to be. We talked about listening to his coaches, practicing more on his own, working on focus among the possible changes he could make, but I ended our conversation with the advice that if you just continue to do what you always have, you will stay here in the place that you are.
This is wisdom for us all though. Everything we have done to this point has led us here, to this moment, but where do we want to go next? What changes do we need to make to start that journey? What habits do we need to form to sustain us as we move forward? What skills do we need to develop to reach our goals? This time of year we tend to focus on our goals and resolutions as a form of renewal for our soul. In a few months many of those goals and aspirations will be in danger of being forgotten or abandoned unless we make commitments to the changes necessary to see them through.
Where do you want to be, and what will you do different today to get there?