“Without standards, there can be no improvement.” – Taiichi Ohno
Shapes and Colors
During a time of reflection recently, I pondered, “Why are shapes and colors important for children in their formative learning years?” Before I brushed it off and moved on I realized that not only children but also adults have a vested interest in shapes and colors. Shapes and colors inform much of our existence as the human race. The influence of shapes and colors is just as important as letters and numbers. Come to think of it, letters and numbers are based on shapes! Shapes and colors provide the pipeline and framework through which we identify and interpret, describe and differentiate what we see. On the road, the color of the traffic light influences movement. Whether by seeing or feeling we can categorize items by their shapes. A house and a tree are differentiated by shape. Is it possible that the same could be true about us as people? That by becoming aware of our S.H.A.P.E. we can have a framework for assessing our lives at a given point in time to identify areas of gratitude and growth? Growth should always be a priority especially in the uncertain times we are in now. Uncertainty should never be a reason for stagnancy, apathy, or lethargy, instead, it should be a catalyst for progress and growth.
Looking around, the shape of the world has changed significantly. The earth is still round but nothing is familiar with the state of the world right now. Ordinary has taken a back seat to urgency as we all fight an enemy that no one can see. In a landscape surrounded by crisis knowing our S.H.A.P.E will help define where we go from here.
Globally speaking we are in unchartered territory. Nobody knows when things will revert to some level of normalcy. Denial of reality doesn’t make it go away. What’s of benefit besides accepting reality is to believe that things will not only go back to normal but can be better than normal. And improving your S.H.A.P.E is one way to see this happen.
This month, I will use the acronym S.H.A.P.E to highlight five descriptive areas of life and how everyone can use these descriptions to improve their inner quality of life. I have always believed that life only improves externally when we grow internally:
Standards – Today’s Post
Habits – Coming April 9
Attitude – Coming April 16
Personality – Coming April 23
Environment – Coming April 30
Why Standards Matter
As colors and shapes are foundational and formative for learning in children, standards are the foundation on which we shape our lives. Standards are simply what we stand on or for. Lately, standards of cleanliness have not only been emphasized but raised. Like a foundation is not appreciated until a storm comes, standards are not known until a crisis comes. A crisis reveals the strength of our standards. Standards provide stability in uncertainty. Strategies may change, systems of operation can be upheaved, but standards should always be maintained and at critical times raised.
That being said, where do standards come from? I believe that standards are a derivative of truth. Standards, based on anything but the truth, become interchangeable to suit the current trend and culture. Truth is what gives standards strength because the truth never changes.
Without standards, the degradation of life takes place. We rise and fall in direct proportion to the quality of our standards. Everyone who has the right standards should possess these three irrefutable qualities:
1. Integrity: In his classic best-seller, Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, Dr. Henry Cloud uses the examples of a ship’s wake to describe the effect of integrity. You can tell plenty about a ship from its wake as it moves through the water. Its speed and course are two of those aspects. We all leave a wake as we move through life as well. The effect of our lives on the people we interact with can be described as our wake. What does your level of integrity communicate to the people around you? Integrity means wholeness. And this wholeness leads to the effectiveness and courage we need to meet the demands of life when required. Has your wake left people better or worse? A sincere approach to this question is non-negotiable.
2. Sincerity: According to Wikipedia, old folk etymology states that the word sincere was derived from sine cera which meant without wax. In ancient Greece and Rome, unscrupulous sculptors would use wax to cover up defects and cracks in their work. The wax which had no color would conceal the defect and go unnoticeable by the buyer. It was only over time or when exposed to heat that the cover-up was revealed. Living a no-wax life means being transparent even with our flaws and weaknesses. You will be surprised by how far the currency of sincerity goes into deepening relationships. When we show people our authentic selves, free from the wax of duplicity, we develop stronger connections and generosity flows freely.
3. Generosity: As the world faces a global pandemic, one of the ugly sides of humanity has been exposed. Hoarding. Watching people hoard stockpiles of toilet paper (how much toilet paper can you use?) at the expense of the needs of others shows how fear and panic can bring out the worst of us. Fear should never give anyone permission to misbehave or become mean. In times of crisis, generosity can be a mark of civility and kindness in all of us. One such example is two children ages 9 and 6, who on hearing their 78-year-old neighbor was alone and in self-isolation for five days, took their cellos to her front porch and performed a 30-minute impromptu classical music concert for her. Instead of allowing fear to make us hoarders, let’s use hope to make us generous in these tough times. Generosity will always bring out the best of us even in the worst of times.
Final Thought: In one of His parables, Jesus tells of two men who built their houses on two different foundations. One built on a foundation of stone (rock) while the other on sand. Everything was fine and both houses stood until adverse weather came. Can you guess what happened? The one built on the rock stood while the one built on the sand crumbled. On what standards is your life built on? The vicissitudes of life will always reveal the answer.
Keep on Keeping on!