COMMUNICATION: 5 STEPS TO BETTER COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE

5 STEPS TO BETTER COMMUNICATION

STEP 1
TAKE OUT TIME FOR EACH OTHER:
Time must be invested in any relationship that will work.
Time, although a highly expendable resource, is an invaluable one.

We usually exchange our time for what we place value on.

If you are on a 9-5 you exchange those work hours for a salary at the end of the day or month. So, invariably you are paid for your time, and your worth to your organization is determined by how much your time added value to them and the attainment of their objectives.
So in a sense we can say “Time is life”. If this is true then it is true that I cannot claim to commit my life to someone if I cannot commit my time to her, and the truth is that I will never get to know who I do not spend time with. 

If I really want to have a productive relationship with my beloved I will need to have unhindered communication with her, and if I am going to have that sort of unfettered communication I must first know her, I must know her thoughts and be accustomed to the vibes she emits.
There is no way I can know this if I do not spend time with her.
The first step to better communication and a relationship that works is- make out time for each other.

STEP 2
BE RESPONSIBLE FOR COMMUNICATING YOUR THOUGHTS & FEELINGS:

Clearly express your thoughts yourself.

This is a critical point and is not one that can just be wished away. 
Do not say things like “she should have known what I meant” or “we’ve been together long enough for him to know what was on my mind.”
As romantic and appealing as some of that sounds we need to understand that the responsibility for communicating our thoughts, feelings, and emotions is no other’s.

Take responsibility for saying and expressing exactly what you mean.

I cannot underscore this point enough because if I tried to tell you how many times I have seen people trying to shift the responsibility for conveying their message to those that are meant to be recipients of the message I probably would lose count.

STEP 3
REALIZE THE DIFFERENCE IN PERCEPTIONS:

Every human being is different. We all have different mindsets, personalities, and orientations, and in order to have meaningful conversations and communication with others we must put this into consideration.
 Do not condemn the other person for being different; rather put yourself in a position where you can understand and utilize this difference. Most times others see things about us and in us that we ordinarily are unable to see ourselves. So don’t be the sort of person whose attitude always seems to say “It’s either my way or the highway”.

Realize that views are meant to be complimentary as no one person sees everything he/she needs to know at every point in time.

STEP 4
BE AN ATTENTIVE LISTENER: 

There are three different ways to listen while someone is talking to you. 

These ways are attentive listening, passive listening, and selective listening.

* ATTENTIVE LISTENING :- In this sort of listening full and maximum attention is given to the speaker. When you listen attentively you put your whole being into receiving the message the speaker is trying to pass across to you.
This is the most effective type of listening but it is also the one that demands the highest amount of effort.  It takes practice, patience, and respect for the other party to get yourself to the position where you listen attentively to them every time.
A person that listens attentively will always hear.

* PASSIVE LISTENING:- This sort of listening implies listening to what is spoken yet not necessarily tuning in to it. Let me say it this way- looking is to seeing what listening is to hearing. 
So it is not everything you look at that you see, in the same way it isn’t everything you listen to that you hear. Passive listening is listening without hearing; it is a situation where a person listens without paying attention and so ends up missing the message.
An example of passive listening could be when a man’s wife is talking to him during a football game or some other thing that has his full attention; he could be listening to her without hearing anything she would be saying because his full attention would be on his game.

* SELECTIVE LISTENING:- This type of listening is what happens when a person gets to hear only what he/she wants to hear. 
There are those circumstances and situations where some people either listen only to get points to fortify their positions or listen to get ammunition they can use to attack others; now you do not want to be in that position if you genuinely intend to have good communication and a fruitful and productive relationship.

STEP 5
CONFIRM WHAT YOU HEAR:

The final step to better communication is to confirm what you hear.

As much as it is the other party’s responsibility to pass across their thoughts and feelings it is also important that you confirm what you think you have heard.
This is because there are many cases where there is a disconnect between the sender and the receiver of the message and this disconnect is seen in the message being transmitted.

I will explain this by breaking down a typical communication process.

Let us take a look at the 6 steps in a typical communication process-
(a) First of all is what the sender of the message intends to say
(b) Second is what he/she eventually says
(c) Third is what the recipient hears
(d) Fourth is what he/she makes out of what they heard
(e) Fifth is what the recipient decides to say in response
(f) Sixth is what the recipient eventually says

Now when we take a look at the process above it becomes clear why there can be so many potential land mines in what should ordinarily be a simple and straightforward dialogue; but most times it is anything but straightforward and it is for this reason we must confirm everything we hear.

So, before you respond you need to ask- “Excuse me, is this by any chance what you intended to pass across?” or “Is so and so what you meant when you said so and so?”

This makes life much easier for everyone. 

I trust you learnt something through this whole series.
Click on our other articles, read them, comment and ask questions, and share this site with everyone you know.

Cheers and God bless you

COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE: 3 OBSTACLES TO EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

We began this series talking about Communication.

In an earlier episode we defined the term and spoke about the various carriers of communication.
Having identified them, and having resolved that Communication is the lifeblood of a successful relationship we will in this Instalment speak about the hindrances to effective communication.

There are 3 Obstacles to Effective Communication

LACK OF TRUTHFULNESS:- Marriage is built on trust.
Trust is easily one of the most important factors in successful and effective relationships; once there is a breakdown of trust there will be no openness and this will make the communication process strained and laborious.

Now there can be no trust if there is no truthfulness. Trust is the first casualty in duplicity and a lack of honesty.
So each time trust is violated a new impediment to an otherwise fruitful relationship would have been introduced. 

Most people will evaluate others and decide how much to open themselves to them using a mental frame of reference and appraisal that is mostly contingent on either their past experiences with the individual in question or with people the individual reminds them of. 
So Miss A is inclined to relate with Mr. B either on the basis of the outcome of their past interactions or of her interactions with Mr. C who happens to look like Mr. B or come from the same place as he does or sound like him, and so on.
Now if those interactions are anything but memorable a lack of trust would immediately become an inhibition to further communication.

This happens even in already established relationships.

If a spouse is economical with the truth while dealing with the other and it turns out that the other eventually discovers it would be an issue because trust would have been violated, and where trust is violated the free flow of communication will be hindered.

Most of us have either seen or been in a circumstance where trust was violated.
It could be someone who betrayed your trust or possibly someone whose trust you betrayed; it could be someone you are dating who is yet to recover from the hurts of the past relationships and so transfers the aggression to you, or it could be you who has chosen not to move ahead from the trauma of past infidelities.
Whichever way it is the point still remains that a violation of trust hinders free flowing communication.

MISMANAGING CONFLICT:-

Conflicts are inevitable in marriage.

I wish I could say this a million times over until it gets stuck in your head and subconscious.

There is no way two people of different genders with different backgrounds, and in most cases conflicting or divergent interests, will not have friction and disagreements.

The good thing about it is that if the conflict is channelled properly it will end up leading to better relationships. Bad conflicts mess everything up because they end up turning attention to what should not be given attention.

When conflicts are mismanaged they make us focus on the person rather than the problem. When we do not manage conflicts properly we try to fix the person and not the problem.
This sort of thing will inevitably lead to the next obstacle to effective communication.

DEFENSIVENESS:- The first law of nature is Self-Preservation.
Many people give into the law of self-preservation and defend/protect themselves, and they would naturally do so if they felt they were being attacked.

 Most people are prone to not accepting wrongdoing when they are attacked.

So it’s a two way street here; if you want honest and productive communication with your spouse or your intended you need to learn how not to come across as though you are on the attack.

Even if someone has done something wrong you want to put yourself in a position where you can address the issue without making it look like you are on some sort of mission to take the other person out.

And on the other hand if you are the one that seems to have done something untoward you need to swallow your pride, admit your faults, and ask for forgiveness. 
It really will not take anything out of you but will instead boost your relationship and enhance your communication with your loved one.

Okay, so let’s take a look at how we can solve these hindrances. If you read between the lines I am confident you must have gotten some points that will help in sorting the issues out, however,we can glean a little more from what we read and develop a course of action to help take out those hindrances.

HANDLING A LACK OF TRUTHFULNESS
How can we handle a lack of truthfulness in our relationships? We will speak from two dimensions here.

First of all, let’s say you are the one that has violated trust, so how do you handle it?
For starters you need to be truthful about your commitment to the relationship. If you really love the other person then you want to keep them at all costs, and if you do not then there is no need to keep putting the person in a position where you will cause him or her pain.
Kindly note that what I have just said above does not cover you if you are already married. If you are already married to that man or woman then you must keep your commitment, you cannot just get up one day and say you aren’t committed to them anymore. It should never work like that.

And if you are not yet married but decide you are committed to this person and will want to take it to a logical conclusion after you have already violated trust or you are already married and acquiesce to the fact that you must make it work the only way you will be able to do that is swallow your pride and own up to what you did in the past.

Depending on the character and mental strength of your spouse or intended you may have to be eclectic in picking the details of your past discrepancies.
You don’t want to go into unnecessary details if the other person cannot handle it.
You don’t want to tell her the most minute details of your
indiscretions with several other women if she does not have a personality that can handle it.
You don’t want to tell him how your boss held you or what position you took while he had his way with you.

You must take responsibility for what happened and go over how it happened to the extent that you and your spouse can work together to plug the holes in a bid to ensure the occurrence is not repeated.
And after you have done that you will need to make a commitment to ensuring it doesn’t happen again and then take the further step of being accountable to your spouse.

Now if the reverse is the case and the other party has violated your trust you will need to FIRST forgive them. After you have done so you must decide whether both of you are committed to the relationship. If you are and if the other party is repentant for what they did you will need to work on re-establishing that trust.
One way you will not be able to re-establish it is to keep reminding him/her what they did to you at every turn. You will only push them further away.
The way to do it is to make them feel they can trust you enough to tell what their issues are at anytime.
After forgiving you must reassure the other party and make them see you are not going be victimizing anyone.

This is imperative to get everything back on track.

HANDLING A MISMANAGEMENT OF CONFLICTS
If encounters have gone South between both of you and you see that you have allowed your disagreements become crises you can remedy the situation by dialogue.
This dialogue is to find out what stimuli provoke you both and end up making you lose the lessons you should get from the friction.
You want to be sure that it’s not just destructive friction and a toxic environment you generate when you have disagreements, and if that is the case then maybe you are just not compatible (We will be treating “Compatibility” in a later article) and you may need to part ways.
If it just is not working and try as you might you are unable to pass your message across or get the other party’s message objectively then you might just need to call it quits.
If you are already married then I can only tell you that as long as that conflict does not degenerate to any form of abuse you must work on it, and even when it does lead to abuse a separation should only be considered when it becomes physical.

HANDLING DEFENSIVENESS
The first thing to do here is take responsibility. If you are involved in deflecting blame or abdicating responsibility you will only end up causing a festering of problems.
No one will get an award for winning an argument. You might even have noticed that if you are inclined to winning arguments even when you are wrong you have won several of them and afterwards looked at yourself and asked yourself what you have gained.
You might intimidate your spouse/intended through your verbosity or eloquence, or if you are the loquacious type you run them off course by talking nineteen to the dozen, but afterwards you scratch your head and wonder why you have a sense of defeat on the inside even though you were victorious in the argument.

You need to understand the maxim “live and let live”.
You need to always remember that in a marriage relationship it is more important to be in agreement than it is to be right.

We will continue later with the last Instalment of this “Communucation” series.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to use the comments section.
Then go read the other articles on this blog and share the site with your friends and loved ones.

Cheers and God bless

COMMUNICATION: THE MASTER TOOL FOR BUILDING HEALTHY AND STRONG RELATIONSHIPS

The heart of a marriage is its communication system”- Dwight Small
In this article we will be looking at a very essential factor in the building and establishing of fruitful, happy and successful relationships.
This cuts across all forms of inter-personal associations and as you read you can pick very important points to help you in your interactions with your co-workers, boss, clients, Bible Study group, friends, those you do leisure activities with, and practically everyone you interface with.

However I would need to let you know from the off that although you may use some of the points in virtually any type of relationship the focus of this article is exclusively the love relationship at any level through the 7 levels of friendship we had spoken about in an earlier article.

So right here we will be talking about a very crucial issue in building strong marriages- the art of communication.
There will be several things we will talk about so this very exciting and important article will be broken into several installments.

In this first installment we will be looking at the role communication plays in building a good and vibrant marriage.
First of all, I want you to note the following statement-
“Communication is to marriage what blood is to the body.”
When you think of the above statement you begin to realize just how profound it is.
We know the life of the body is in the blood. We know that the blood carries various things around the body including the oxygen and nutrients it requires to be enriched and survive, and so if the blood is let out life will cease to be.
It is very much the same thing with the role communication plays in the marriage relationship, or any other form of intimate relationship at that.
Let us take a look at this- Researchers have discovered that almost 97% of people that rate their communication with their partner as excellent are happily married, compared to only 56% who rate their communication as poor.
The implication is that effective and fluent communication is an essential in happy marriages.

Let’s start this off by defining our technical term. 

What do we mean by communication?

* Communication is the process of sharing oneself verbally and non-verbally with another person in such a way that both understand and accept what one says.
* Communication is the art of sending and receiving a message
* Communication is the ability to transmit thoughts and perceptions from one individual in such a way as to make meaning to another.

Now, let us take a look at the process of communication itself. There are basically “3 carriers of communication.”
They are the actual content, the tone of voice, and the body language.
There are percentages allotted to each of these carriers and the percentage refers to how much of the message that particular carrier constitutes. Invariably a higher percentage would imply the carrier is more weighty while a lower percentage would imply that the carrier has less import. 

It is important to note that with changes in the tone of voice or in the non-verbal component it is possible to express many different messages or meanings using the same words.
Now let’s take a more detailed look at each.

ACTUAL CONTENT:- This refers to the actual words used in the message. They are the sentences, phrases, colloquial expressions, and generally all the words used to convey the message verbally. So, in essence this refers to verbal communication or the verbal component of the message. Now as important as it is verbal communication is just 7% of the message.
This is instructive.

TONE OF VOICE:- The tone of voice refers to the fluctuation of the voice as the message is being communicated and it vocalizes the emotions, feelings and passions in a person’s heart. Usually when the actual content of the message seems to contradict the tone of voice listeners will accept the latter as the real message. 
For instance if someone knocked at your door you could say “Come in”, but that response could be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on the tone of voice used in the communication process. You could say “Come in” and the tone of voice would show you were angry so the person who knocked would anticipate a hostile reception; on the other hand you could say the exact same words in an excited fashion and the person behind the door would realize you were expectant.

Now, the tone of voice far outweighs the actual words in a message and so naturally it has a higher percentage.
The tone of voice makes up 38% of the message.

NONVERBAL/BODY LANGUAGE:- This speaks about the gestures, mannerisms, gesticulations, facial expressions, and every form of nonverbal communication and body language involved in the exchange of a message. 
Because the body language outweighs both the actual content and tone of voice in the message it naturally is what most listeners will be inclined to accept as the real message being passed across.
You might have heard this maxim before- “What you do is so loud I can’t hear what you say.”
Researchers show that when a contradiction or lack of synch between  the carriers of communication in a message ensues most people will receive the nonverbal communication as the true intent of the message.
For instance, if you were having a conversation with someone and she looked disinterested even if she answered in the affirmative after you asked her if she were paying attention you would not need a soothsayer to let you know that regardless of what she said she was most likely either not listening to what you were saying or couldn’t care less.

A person slouching on a chair while another is giving a presentation is passing a message that he would rather be somewhere else, and even a marginally observant person would be able to pick on it.  And it is most likely that nonverbal part that would be picked as the actual message.
Researchers have shown that the nonverbal aspect or the body language constitutes at least 55% of a message.

Now let’s talk a bit about how to use words rightly. As low as the percentage is in passing a message across while using words they are still very critical and so it is imperative in the communication process to learn how to use them. This is really important because if I had $1,000 for every time I have seen wrong words wreck a relationship I would probably be on the Forbes rich list by now.
You see the right words will lead to a wholesome relationship; the wrong words on the other hand will lead to the destruction of even the best relationships. 

Let me share a piece out of the richest piece of wisdom and the biggest bestseller of all time-

“A soft answer turns away wrath:
but harsh words stir up anger.
The tongue of the wise uses knowledge properly:
but the mouth of fools pours out foolishness.”
Proverbs 15:1-2

Now the verse above cautions us against the use of words in anger. Words that leave the mouth are like eggs that leave the hands; anyone that slips out and breaks is irretrievable. You can’t take words back so it is imperative that one be circumspect in their use.
There is a constructive way to use anger and if we all learnt it we would be able to preserve our relationships and make them richer and more fulfilling.

Let us now see 4 things one can do with anger.

EXPRESS IT:- This is the easiest thing to do with anger especially if you have problems restraining yourself when you get irritated or something strikes a nerve. When a person expresses anger he/she lets the emotion get the better of him/her and the consequence almost always includes toxic words, bitterness, and eventually regret. Sometimes in saying something you end up muddling it all up; the message you intend to send out gets screwed up and you just can’t retract it. It goes out and does the damage. This is why it is almost always advised that you say nothing when you are angry. 

Afterall, you do realize that silence cannot be misquoted, right?

REPRESS IT:- This is stifling anger and neither expressing it nor letting it go. When a person represses anger he/she sits on it and lets it fester and bristle. The problem is that this allows it gain steam and simmer like a volcano; the fact that this person does not express the anger as well as not letting it go means it keeps piling until he/she eventually erupts.
It is a very unhealthy thing and what it will likely do will be to cause health complications for the one that harbors these emotions and further relationship contortions between friends as well.
When you see people that are inclined to handling anger this way you notice that their attitudes and behavior tend to be occasionally confusing. This is because the outburst can be preceded by something that might seem negligible and when the person erupts they usually pour out the results of things accrued over time. 
Usually there almost is no way to know what I call their “trigger moment”- that moment they unravel, and you just might not know what final action would cause that dreaded outburst. Ironically it just could be something really minuscule that will cause the explosion. 

SUPPRESS IT:- This is attempting a forcible end to anger. A person who suppresses anger attempts to deny it as an emotion, and regardless of what happens he/she refuses to get angry. 
Well, as noble as it sounds it is unnatural; human beings were designed to feel emotions, including anger, and so a person who deliberately decides to kill and actually succeeds in killing the urge to get angry will very easily eventually begin to kill all other types of emotion. It won’t be long before feelings of happiness, joy, and even fear are suppressed to the point the individual becomes inscrutable and inexpressive.
This will end up killing the person’s ability to empathize and communicate and that will be a complete disaster.

Human beings are not robots, neither were we designed to be.

PROCESS IT:-This is the final thing one can do with anger. In processing anger what one does is pick the positives from the situation; calm down and let the emotions blow over, then with a clear mind articulate the substance of the events that transpired leading up to the anger and also isolate the stimulus that provoked it. 
Sometimes if we assess the issues that culminated in our fit of rage we might just see something constructive to pull out of it; so rather than blow tantrums we need to ask ourselves if there are positives to glean from what has happened and then cool off while we bide our time with a response.

If your spouse or your intended says something that really provokes you rather than blowing your lid you could first see if the criticism was constructive or just destructive, and if there is nothing edifying in it you can just shrug it off and wait for the right time to respond.

The key here is to do your utmost to restrain yourself from speaking while you are angry, especially when it is in a fractious situation with a loved one. You could say something that will really throw in the cat among the pigeons and if the situation isn’t managed properly you will end up with sorrow and regret.

You don’t want outbursts like- “Sandra, you have the nerve to talk to me like that even after I did you the favor of marrying you when nobody wanted anything to do with you”, or “Kelvin, I was warned to have nothing to do with you, my parents warned me to steer clear of irresponsible and lazy beasts like you but I disregarded sound advice because I thought I was in love. I didn’t realize I was making the biggest mistake of my life”

You see, as abrasive as the above statements both sound I have seen lots of people use even worse on people they claim to love in fits of uncontrolled passion.
What you want to do if you are interested in having a beautiful relationship is separate the hay from the sticks and then when you have cooled off you can then register your displeasure in a more diplomatic and measured way without having to remonstrate with your beloved.

“Hey, honey I heard what you said but you really could have put it in a different way” is one way you can say you were unhappy with the presentation after you would have cooled off.

As subtle as it is it can make a world of difference.

Here’s to building more productive relationships as we become masters at the art of communication.

We will continue this series with the next Instalment. Kindly feel free to ask questions, make comments, and make suggestions. Share this blog with all friends and family.

Cheers and God bless

UNDERSTANDING THE 7 LEVELS OF FRIENDSHIP

7 LEVELS OF FRIENDSHIP

Have you ever heard where two people who did not know each other got hooked to get married by a third party/mutual friend?
I know I have. In my line of work I have seen quite a number of these sort of relationships.
Some of them are long-distance relationships and they are so distant they never met before they got hooked.
Some others get intimate on social media without even meeting each other. In some cases these kind of relationships work, but from my experience I have seen that this is the exception and not the rule. 
To build anything on the exception is usually a recipe for disaster.
So the rule of thumb is you pass through a trajectory of different cadres or levels of friendship that will then culminate in marriage.
There are 7 levels of friendship on the curve that leads to marriage.
In this article we look take a detailed look at each of them.

LEVEL 1:- STRANGER
A person at this level is not obviously not a friend, but considering that everything going forward is built on it it is a good place to start.
Considering that everyone you have ever met in your life started off as a stranger we might as well add this as the first.
We meet people at different places; on our first day at school or in the class where we attended a professional course, on the airplane or in a taxi cab, in a shopping mall or at the hair salon, we meet people everyday and most of them are total strangers to us. 
Usually some of these strangers fit into an appraisal system we have coded in our minds that we instinctively deploy when we see people we do not know. 
We tend to unconsciously pass everyone we encounter through this mental appraisal mould and we run them through the parameters of our specifications.
If for instance you are a man (full blooded man that is) or a woman and you saw a lady or guy you did not know you would appraise her/him on the basis of your preferences with regard to her/his  height, build, face, shape, the way she/he sounds, and any other standard you hold. In a matter of seconds she/he  would have been weighed on your mental scale and on the basis of your appraisal (many times on a scale of 1-10) you will decide whether the individual is worth a second look. 
There might be times when the situation does not give you the time nor latitude to properly appraise the person at first glance but  generally everyone starts at this point.
Depending on what the chemistry is like and the terms of engagement you might exchange numbers, addresses, and other personal details

LEVEL 2:- ACQUAINTANCE
This level is the second and although the person is not quite yet your buddy and still has a way to go before he/she can become your chum you can at least identify him/her as an acquaintance. An acquaintance is a person one knows slightly, such a person is a contact but is not qualified to be referred to as a friend. 
They might be people whose personal details you may or may not have, but they are definitely people you will recognize and be familiar with. It could be that lady you always “run into” at the hair salon (we probably need to start asking you what in the world a full grown man like you keeps looking for at a hair salon, she probably wonders too, or doesn’t) or at the shopping mall. It could be that guy you see every now and then when you are hanging with your girls at your favorite place. The thing that is usually a common denominator in all such cases is that you know or at least can recognize them.

LEVEL 3: SPARSE FRIENDSHIP
I call this level a sparse friendship because it is the sort of friendship where you meet up with someone today and after a really long while he/she is out of the picture. This person is never really in the zone and is more like a kind of “now you see me now you don’t” kinda person, if you know what I mean.
You bump into this person when you happen to be in his/her city or area, and this bumping into each other is mostly accidental.
Now sometimes it might not be accidental as one party is really trying to see if something can come out of it but the other party is not as committed to or interested in what the first wants.
So if you are at this level of friendship with someone you both might have gone beyond the acquaintance level but there still is work to do if either party is interested in pushing it.

LEVEL 4: CASUAL FRIENDSHIP
So at this level the ice is thinning but there is no heat just yet. You are at the point where you say- “Who knows? Let’s see how things go”. And so you and your target (some of you probably feel like you are hunters now) are casual friends; you can call ourselves pals at this point and you probably know some stuff about each other that is more than just objective. You know some of the other person’s likes and dislikes, you know their hobbies, favorite sports team, political affiliations and so on; you know at least enough to have a decent conversation.
At this point I will bring in a brief interlude here so I can talk about something that is really important in friendship.
It’s called Disclosure. In every relationship there must be disclosure but this usually happens at different phases that are mostly in consonance with varying levels of friendship.
Let me explain. There are- 3 STAGES OF DISCLOSURE
I call them- the vision stage, the retrospect stage, and the moment stage.
Whoever you are disclosing to would ordinarily have to qualify for each succeeding stage of disclosure. Each stage of disclosure corresponds with some levels of friendship.
The vision stage is usually a disclosure of what a person wants to do in the future. The retrospect stage is the disclosure of certain things that have happened in the past. Then the moment stage speaks entirely about what is presently happening in a person’s life.
**There are requirements for each stage of disclosure (see the end of the page)

LEVEL FIVE: CLOSE FRIENDSHIP
This is where you guys are really chummy with each other. You are close friends and have hit deeper levels of disclosure. You know lots of subjective stuff about each other and might have gotten to the point where you are ready to take the plunge; however you must at this point also ensure no one friend zones you without being ready to make the big commitment. If you are a girl and the guy isn’t ready to pop the question or y’all just have not gotten to that stage where you are both ready to commit then he shouldn’t be taking you around everywhere like a colonial master.
However the truth is if you have a group of people from the opposite sex who fit the profile of close friends then you have a beautiful pool to pick from when it’s time to get settled. It really is a good place to be.

LEVEL SIX: INTIMACY
The etymology of the word “intimacy” points us to the Greek word “intimos” which literally means innermost. At this point the friendship is where people are “naked and not ashamed”.
 Usually when we hear the word “intimacy” most people think of sexual interactions but there are different types of intimacy that would eventually lead to sexual intimacy that will be worthwhile.
There is spiritual intimacy and emotional intimacy, before physical intimacy. At the level of intimacy both individuals bare all to each other and it’s a union of hearts as both beat as one. There is a level of understanding that comes at this level and this understanding is so deep that each party is able to predict the other’s next move.
There is such an amity, a kindred spirit, and affinity between both people at this point that the level of detailed knowledge each has of the other will lead very logically to only one conclusion.

LEVEL 7: MARRIAGE
Marriage can occur before any form of intimacy is built, and more intimacy will definitely be built as the proper building blocks are laid so it isn’t necessarily as though intimacy preceding marriage automatically translates to no intimacy after marriage. If the marriage is properly established intimacy will keep increasing, and it should too because it is expected that the couple will get closer to each other as their love matures.
 Although we have not said that any marriage that does not go through the 7 level sequence will not succeed it goes without saying that those who follow it are more inclined to have a good marriage than those that do not.

I trust this article was helpful. I am looking forward to your questions, comments, and suggestions. Help spread this blog to all your links and friends.
Cheers and God bless.

**When you attend any of our “Life on Target” relationship life class conferences or buy our “Life on Target” relationship life class materials we will help you run these tests and tell you in a much more detailed form exactly what these stages entail and which level of friendship they correspond with.

5 LEVELS OF LEADERSHIP

LEADING FROM THE MIDDLE: 5 LEVELS OF LEADERSHIP 

There are 5 levels of leadership. The level you are on determines the degree of effectiveness of your leadership. 
POSITION: The first and lowest level of leadership is the level of Position.

In reality this is not actually leadership, it is more an opportunity to get leadership. 

If we understand the nature of leadership we will understand why Position is not really leadership. Why it isn’t leadership is that positions are given but leadership is not given, it is earned.
Positions come through a variety of ways, but leadership comes through just one way.
Positions can be given in organizations for instance; if a person has developed his capacity to the extent where he can function consistently at a certain level in his industry he will naturally fit into certain types of posts or positions. 

But leadership cannot be given in and by any organization.

People can be given positions by birth.
For instance the monarch of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth, has her first son Charles, as the Prince of Wales.
He did nothing to attain that.
He will become monarch after her death. 
He did nothing to attain that.
That is the nature of position; but that is not the nature of leadership and as we will see position does not mean leadership.

To illustrate the above point might I ask you a question?
 “Have you had a teacher at school when you were little, or a boss at your workplace who you didn’t like very much but whose instructions you nevertheless carried out because he or she was ahead of you?”
Maybe you have, and if you did obey them it would possibly be because you felt like you had no choice.
Now envision a scenario where you meet that same person again, let’s call her Mrs. Brown; so you meet Mrs. Brown but this time outside of the usual environment, probably after you left your previous workplace where you had her as the obnoxious boss; and let’s say you just managed to bump into her someplace else, in a mall or other public place. 

Now what would you do if she gave you the same sort of instructions and in the same tone as she used to give while you worked under her? 
If you were a polite person you would probably just smile and walk away, and if you aren’t you would give her a piece of your mind; most likely a huge chunk that she wouldn’t forget in a hurry.
The reason for this is quite simple; what she had over you was a position and not leadership. She lost her position and so lost the ability to give you any instructions. 

This is why people who remain on the level of Position find it difficult to work with volunteers; volunteers know they are not duty bound to follow just anyone and so they will only follow those that have influence (more on that soon) over them.
Now if all you have over a person is a position then you don’t have leadership. 

PERMISSION: This is where genuine leadership begins and is the point at which influence is exercised.
If you remember our discussion on “Understanding Leadership” you will recall that we defined leadership very simply as “influence”.
 The level of Permission is that point where people begin to willingly follow you and submit to you of their volition. It is that point where you have started exerting influence over them. 
The level of Permission is based on relationship. At this level people will follow you because they like you and because you have influence over them. 

Most of us are usually influenced by people we either aspire to be like or by people who show care and concern for our welfare. We tend to model ourselves after people that inspire us and trust that those who show concern for us have our interests at heart and so we normally won’t have any reservations following them or listening to their counsel.

A leader on this level works to connect with his people, and he does this by increasing his emotional intelligence; as he builds this he gets to create more positive energy in the environment and people tend to gravitate towards him. Trust usually grows at this point and as it does it leads to respect.
So when a person begins to influence other people he has entered this level of leadership.

This is basically what permission is all about, and this is really where real leadership begins.

PERFORMANCE (PRODUCTION): 
The next level of leadership is production. People will be comfortable with you when they know you have concern for their welfare, and they might attempt to emulate you if you inspire them, but they will only respect you if you are productive. 
Most people do not argue with results; they respect results.
So what this level of leadership speaks of is RESULTS.
People will follow you at this level because of your track record.
How many times have we seen people that call themselves leaders but are all talk and no action? I am sure it is something you have seen a lot of, “leaders” who do not walk their talk. It is quite hard to respect a person who doesn’t produce results in any field he aims to command loyalty in; you realize that when a leader produces results he builds credibility and this is instructive because there are two components of credibility/trust- they are character and competence; if a person has character you can bank on his words, but then we also realize there are times when only character will not suffice; there are times when we must go beyond words. 
If for instance you are trustworthy in character I will have no qualms in handing over to you something precious to me in order for you to keep it safely for me, but if you have character but are not a competent driver it is not likely that I would give you my 2017 Sport Utility Vehicle to take out for a spin.
This applies in practically every endeavor in which we engage and so in politics for instance we can also  understand this if we see that as much as we might like some candidates in a particular election because of their mannerisms and charm,or even because of more serious things like their sense of probity and moral rectitude, when we want to elect leaders that will get the job done we look towards track records. We look for their competence and commit our trust to them on that basis. 

At this level of leadership in organizations work gets done and as a result motivation increases, profits improve, stagnation gets kicked out of the window and everyone gets more committed to the task at hand as they see the commitment and performance of the leader.
Everyone works seamlessly as a team and overall effectiveness goes up at this point.

PEOPLE DEVELOPMENT:-
This is leadership by reproduction. At this level the leader realizes that his successes will be measured not by how much he has personally accomplished but by how much the people that work with him have accomplished, and so he works at this point to raise manpower.

Someone once said “It is called ‘manpower’ because where there are no men there is no power”. 

A real leader knows that in order to expand his followership base, whether in boosting his clientele or subscribers or audience, he must first expand his leadership base. So his goal at this point is to identify and develop as many leaders as he possibly can by investing in them  and helping them through their growth phases.

A good leader knows it is more honorable to be a coach than it is to be a player. 

It is also much more productive. The reason is easy to grasp you see- when there are more leaders more of the overall objectives of the organization will be accomplished. Also where there are more leaders the top dog will be able to grow into other things as he will no longer be restricted with performing the tasks he has now developed people to handle. 
As you invest in people you will command a much higher level of loyalty as people will begin to follow you for what you have done for them. 

PERSONHOOD (PINNACLE): At this level of leadership the leader has become an institution and people will follow him for his reputation. People will follow you at this level because of the legacy you would have set.
This level requires you to stick with your principles at all costs; it will require you to give up a lot and sacrifice very much because this level of leadership focuses on posterity.
So what this means is that at this level a leader thinks generationally. He thinks in terms of what structures and systems to develop for succeeding sets of leaders as well as ways to ensure the organization remains relevant even in his absence and for many more years ahead. 
By the nature of this level of leadership there are many instances where the philosophy of leaders at this point become schools of thought. 
Think of Chairman Mao Zedong of Communist China and his Maoist movement. Maoism is today a political theory derived from the teachings of Mao Zedong and a substantial proportion of the Chinese ruling class are adherents of this philosophy.
There are so many other examples to draw from but I assume the point has been made thus far.

So, what level would you say you operate in?

LEADERSHIP SERIES: UNDERSTANDING LEADERSHIP

UNDERSTANDING LEADERSHIP

One of the most interesting topics for me is the subject of Leadership. Before I took up the appellations of  “Life Coach” and “Leadership Consultant” I had discovered that helping people discover and develop leadership was something I was very passionate about and it was something that was central to my being.

So, we are about to engage in a topic that resonates very greatly with me.

We will start here with a definition of leadership.
Leadership expert John Maxwell has summed it into one word. He has very simply defined it as “influence.” 
That is essentially what leadership is- Influence.
At the risk of sounding a little more technical I will give my definition of Leadership as “the art of influencing people to act out of their volition towards the attainment or accomplishment of a collective objective.”

Read that definition again. Then let’s unpack it. 

The first thing you will notice there is that Leadership is an art; it is first a skill that needs to be developed before it is anything else. 

I do not accept that leaders are born.

While there are people who are born with traits that can be developed to make them effective leaders I believe genuine leaders are made, and this is largely because when exposed to the necessary environment and guided properly ANYONE can become a leader.

The next component you will notice in our definition is the word “Influence.” 
Real leadership is not merely authority or some sort of position anyone has over another person; real leadership is influence. It is the ability to exercise the sort of clout and leverage that precludes constraint and is void of coercion over another person or persons.
The minute compulsion is involved in any process it ceases to be leadership driven or guided. 
Authority evokes images of force and compulsion, but Influence is quite different- it evokes thoughts of willingness.
When Authority is involved people act because they have to, but when Influence is involved people act because they want to. 
When all a person has over someone else is a position you can safely note that what he has is authority, but like we will see in a later article authority is not an end in itself but simply a means. In fact, authority is an opportunity to build influence. Authority is a means to Influence.
So, we need to ask ourselves a pertinent question at this juncture- “How can one build influence?”
There might be very many ways through which we can build influence but through my years of personal study and experience in the art of leadership I have come to see that I can synopsize or encapsulate these into about three major ways- 

(1) Living a life that is exemplary and is a model to others
(2) Being genuinely concerned about people
(3) Getting others to understand they have a future in what you are doing 

The first key to building Influence over people is the power of an example. If others see in you what they want to become it will be very easy for them to follow you. If they see their future in you they will have little hesitation in modeling themselves after what you do and say, and this is where a moral burden comes on the aspiring leader. Trust, once violated, becomes harder to build, and so every leader has the obligation to ensure he does not violate the trust reposed in him by those that aspire to be like him.

The second key to building Influence over people is a compound one. It is a mixture of Empathy- the ability to relate to and associate vicariously with the pains of others, Compassion- understanding and having a desire to ameliorate the pains of others, and Care- feeling concern for and interest in others. 
All these three can be substituted for Emotional Intelligence. 
Emotional Intelligence can be defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express ones emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships resourcefully and empathetically. It is the capability of individuals to recognize the interplay of emotions both in themselves and in others, to label them appropriately, and to use the information to guide thinking and behavior in a bid to adapt to different environments and achieve ones goals.
 It takes emotional intelligence to build influence, and anyone who cannot empathize with others and then act in a compassionate way towards them cannot build influence.

Even the corporate world has started making a distinction.
We now hear about two types of ethics people are taught to distinguish between; Character Ethics, and Personality Ethics.
Character Ethics refers to teaching people and helping them imbibe inner values when dealing with others; for instance there are now modules that attempt to show employees the benefits of loving clients and being genuinely pleasant to them, and these training methods attempt to inculcate and imbue in them these values.
Personality Ethics on the other hand are all about teaching people to develop cosmetic/aesthetic values when dealing with others; so some employees in several organizations are taught to smile even when they might dislike a person. It’s a bit like a “fake it if you can’t make it” type of thing.
But beyond the workplace and in life generally if you will learn to really care for people it will be easy to build influence over them and to get their allegiance.
It is not how much you know as much as it is how much you care that helps you develop influence over others.
People are more prone to following you if they are convinced you have their interests at heart. 

The third key to building Influence is what I’ll just call Vision Ownership. When a person can get others to own his vision he will be able to very effortlessly build influence over them. If people will follow you without let, hindrance or reservations they will do so because they see their future in where you are going. If they see you are headed in the same direction as they are it will be very easy to have influence over them, and the average person will be more inclined to contribute his quota to the actualizing of anything he will benefit directly from.

This brings us to the next component of our definition. Leadership is the art of influencing people to act of their “volition”.
To act of their volition is for their actions to be voluntary. If a person feels compelled to do whatever he is doing at anytime then you could be exercising any number of things over him from intimidation, blackmail, and threats; any of all the aforementioned, but anything other than leadership.
Once people are not acting willingly anymore it is manipulation and not leadership that is being implemented.
If in your workplace, church, school, or any point of social activity where you have subordinates people under you feel like they are being compelled or manipulated then what you have over them is not leadership. 
If you had it once but have now resorted to such underhand tactics to keep it then you have lost it without even knowing.

The final component in the definition of Leadership I have given above is “collective”. Leadership is the art of influencing people to act of their own volition towards the attainment or accomplishment of a common goal or collective objective. 
This sort of brings us back to what we had earlier spoken about concerning how to build Influence. People will not follow you when they do not own your vision, and until they own your vision they will not see what you are trying to accomplish as theirs; they will not consider it a corporate or collective objective.
Leadership is not seen in a bid to attain an individual’s objective, it is seen in an attempt to accomplish a collective goal. So if you cannot sell your vision to others and get them to see their part in it, as well as what they stand to benefit from it, you cannot be an effective leader. 

Having defined Leadership we will now move to another important juncture in understanding it. 

There are 2 Dynamics in Leadership- The Visionary Dynamic, and the Responsive Dynamic in Leadership. These two are required in effective leadership but unfortunately most people tend to incline towards one or the other.
 Any person who learns to strike a balance and draw an equivalence between the two of them will be a very successful leader. 
The Visionary Dynamic is that part of leadership that is interested in attaining the objective.
Those who are more inclined towards this are usually fixated on the task and pay very little mind to the people who are critical in its accomplishment. What happens more often than not in this case is they accomplish the task but leave a litany of broken people who feel used. Usually the visionary oriented people damage others wittingly or unwittingly, and so when they have another task to accomplish they do not find those that previously worked with them willing to do so anymore as they would have lost all the goodwill they might once have held.
The Responsive Dynamic is that part of leadership that is focused on managing relationships. 
Those who are more inclined towards this are fixated on people and how they feel. The challenge here is that such people do not accomplish very much eventually; you probably are not going to get things done and deadlines met if you are a responsive oriented person or you commit to a responsive oriented person time bound objectives that will require team work. 
Such a person will spend all his time mothering and smothering people until the deadline passes; he is the regular Mr. Nice Guy who cares for people but the problem is he cares too much about people’s feelings to be of much use to them or the organization.

A good leader knows the right balance between the two and knows how to put the squeeze just enough on his people as well as the right moment to let it go.

If we place the two in a way in which they are inextricably intertwined we will have the right formula for effective leadership- Building bridges while accomplishing tasks.
The visionary oriented person builds walls and the responsive oriented person accomplishes very little tasks. But the good leader builds bridges while accomplishing tasks.

In the next article we will be looking at the 5 levels of leadership.
See you then.

SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE: HOW SOCIETY DETERMINES OUR BEHAVIOR, AND HOW TO BUCK THE TREND (Part II)

We began this series by speaking about the effects of culture on behavior and how to buck the trend if the behavior isn’t favorable.

We spoke about Geert Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory and began to use it as a framework for analysis. We explored the 6 Dimensions and looked at 4 of them with some depth while I promised we would settle on the Power Distance Index, at least a little more than we did the others.

So we will begin this second Instalment by looking at the next Dimension before we settle on the PDI.

Indulgence vs. Restraint Index (IND) is the dimension that measures happiness and whether or not simple joys are fulfilled. It is the extent to which people try to control their appetites, desires and impulses. Indulgence is defined as “a society that allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun,” while Restraint is defined as “a society that controls gratification of needs and regulates it by means of strict social norms.” 
Indulgence scores are highest in Latin America, parts of Africa, the Anglo world and Nordic Europe; restraint is mostly found in East Asia, Eastern Europe and the Muslim world.
Nigeria’s score here of 84 is really high. 
People in societies classified by a high level of Indulgence generally exhibit a high level of willingness to satisfy their impulses and appetites with regard to their enjoyment of life. They are usually more optimistic about life and put premium on leisure and pleasure and as a result are not restrained from spending money as they please.
This is obviously the basis on which Nigerians were once called the happiest people on earth, but there is a big downside to the score on this dimension. Any society or individual that places gratification ahead of production or leisure ahead of work will stagnate at best and will in all likelihood retrogress in almost unquantifiable proportions.
The fixation on pleasure is what is responsible for the expending of large sums on frivolities and the constant frittering away of the collective patrimony on private and temporary interests rather than capital projects that will benefit the generality of people it is meant for.
In societies and countries like Nigeria that score high on this dimension consumerism and not production is the economic culture that is pervasive. This is very unfortunate because nobody gets rich by spending more than he produces.
So if you are an indigene of or resident in such a society you need to be deliberate in your resolve not to give in to the mentality of indulgence if you want to do anything meaningful with your life.
Temperance (the ability to delay gratification) is a discipline that becomes all the more important for an achiever who lives in any culture high in this dimension.

As we don’t have all the time to do a critical assessment of all 6 dimensions we will select one and use it in an exhaustive analysis of societal behavior, see how it affects us, and how to stop the tide from keeping us at a disadvantage.

Let’s analyze the Power Distance Index-
This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal and expresses/evaluates the attitudes of the various cultures in different societies towards these inequalities.
A higher degree of the Power Distance Index indicates that hierarchy is clearly established, social classifications on the basis of all indices of power (political power, economic power, religious power etc) are set and these standards are enforced in society, without doubt or reason. 
A lower degree of the Index signifies that the majority questions authority and attempts to distribute power to attain equality.
Such societies are generally more rebellious to authority.
In this dimension, inequality and power are both perceived from and measured by the followers, or the lower level. 

West Africa has an average score of 77, Nigeria in particular has a score of 80, and the Arab world has a score of 80, which means that in all the aforementioned places people accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. Hierarchy in an organization is seen as reflecting inherent qualities, centralization is popular, and subordinates expect to be told what to do. In this environment the ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat. 

While the Power Distance Index shows very high scores for Latin and Asian countries, African areas and the Arab world, the Anglo and Germanic countries, on the other hand, have a lower power distance (only 11 for Austria and 18 for Denmark).
The  United States has a 40 which is low compared to Guatemala (where the power distance is very high at 95) but still much higher than Israel where it is very low (13), so the United States is closer to the middle.
In Europe, power distance tends to be lower in northern countries and higher in southern and eastern parts: for example, 68 in Poland and 57 for Spain vs. 31 for Sweden and 35 for the United Kingdom.

America’s Power Distance Index is what causes it to want to unseat every “dictator” in the Middle East. By viewing the world through their lens they assume they are doing Iraq and all the other Islamic countries there a favor by 
 removing their leaders and instituting a form of government where accountability is given premium.
On the flip side, it becomes clearer why autocracy and tyranny seem to thrive in places like Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. The Power Distance Index is much higher in places like the aforementioned because the culture is such that a hierarchical structure is very clearly defined.

Note the following statements very carefully:-
This is why the level of respect shown to elders and parents by western youth is inappropriate and even completely unthinkable to others. 
This is why, as far as many others are concerned, western women have very little understanding of and respect for the place and role of their husbands as the heads of their families.
It happens all the time; a young lady addressing people thirty years older than she is, people probably older than her parents, by their first names.
A young man challenging the authority of those that have been placed above him and even getting to the point of fighting them.

Israel has a Power Distance Index of 13. That is very low.
Most analysts and commentators speak favorably of something very common with Israeli culture- the concept of “chutzpah.” 
Chutzpah is audacity, temerity and flagrant boldness. Overriding confidence that does or says things in such a way that is shocking to others. 
Reading a very good book like the “Start Up Nation”, a lot of emphasis is placed on the concept and on how integral it is to the progress Israel has made as a modern state.
Every instruction is questioned to the letter, not for the sake of merely being rebellious but with the understanding that instructions that have no explanations do not help in building systems and processes that can be replicated.
The downside of the authoritarian manner children are raised in Africa to obey without questioning is that morale and initiative are likely to be low, the good thing though is that a measure of discipline and respect for authority is inevitable. However it would be much more productive if people understood how to strike a balance between both.
We must learn not to view all cases of subordinates questioning instructions as attempts to undermine our authority as superiors; no doubt there will always be rebellious people but the demigod status many leaders (political, institutional/organizational, religious, traditional etc) adopt in Africa leads to more rather than less rebellion, and the reason is quite simple really- human nature is such that repression only drives dissent underground where it foments and gains more steam.
But if leaders can engage their subordinates more often in a climate that is devoid of fear and any acrimony it will create the potential for a greater buy-in and thus multiply the loyalty of the subordinates as it increases their commitment to the cause. Good leaders know this, and the great ones have developed consummate skill in applying it.

Take a look again at all the 6 Dimensions and see where you will need to buck the trend.

THE LAW OF TIME PERSPECTIVE AND THE PERSPECTIVE OF TIME

THE LAW OF TIME PERSPECTIVE AND THE PERSPECTIVE OF TIME

“To find the real value of anything divide it by eternity”- Dr. Ferdinand Nweke

There is a law I have a certain fondness for, it is called the “Law of Time Perspective”. 
The reasoning behind it is a very simple one. It very plainly states that the longer one spends in planning for an event or occurrence the higher the chances that one will be successful in that venture.
The explanation of this is quite simple; if for instance two people are going for a job interview in two weeks it stands to reason that the person who starts preparing for it a week ahead would have a higher chance of success than the one who starts preparing on the day of the interview. 
This law is one of the most profound principles of success operated on a regular basis by many who might not even know the technical definition of what they are doing.
As we progress in this article we will see how this has a direct bearing on our lives and efforts.

Now let us talk a bit about the perspective of time.
We know that there are things that serve as equalizers in life and these to some extent create an equal playing ground and even field for all human beings; for instance there is nobody who has a different type of oxygen to inhale from what others have, nor is there anyone who will die with any part of his wealth regardless of how affluent he might have been in life.
In the same way there is neither a person allocated 23 hours each day nor is there any given 25 hours of a day. The President of the United States has 24 hours each day, so does the most impoverished pauper in the Third World of the Third World. 
Every single person has the same amount of empty golden boxes delivered on a daily basis to him or her, and it is only that person that has the choice to decide what they are filled with.

One of the greatest resources available to humanity is Time, and one major thing that distinguishes success stories from failures is what they do with their time. 
The successful person spends time with greater economy than he would spend money because he realizes that although time is free it is still one of the most perishable commodities available on earth. 
Once it’s lost there’s no getting it back. 
Time is an ephemeral resource- more so than we actually know.

Life expectancy in North America is between 79 and 81 years of age.
Nigeria on the other hand is lower- much lower.
With a current life expectancy of 54.07 years, Nigeria is ranked  216 in the world, and 16th in Africa. Thirty seven years ago,  average life expectancy in Nigeria was 44.74 years, ranking 58th in the world and 21st in Africa.

(Read more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/02/average-life-expectancy-increasing-slowly-nigeria/)

So let’s say you are American or Canadian and you are reading this article at the age of 30, and let’s take for granted that you will live until you are 80 years of age, this would mean you have only 50 years ahead of you. Now though 50 years might look like a long time it is nowhere near as long as you would think.
And if you are a 30 year old Nigerian reading this and the statistics we have above are anything to go by then many other Nigerians your age have just over 24 years left on earth. 
Now, let’s see if we can strike some sort of balance between the two ranges and pick a random figure like 70.
If you are 25 years old now and we take for granted you will live till you are 70 then you have just 45 years left to do anything with your life. 

Ask yourself what you did with the last 25; did you invest those years or waste them?
Let’s assume you spend 7 hours sleeping each day, 1 hour in the bathroom, 2 hours in buying condiments, making your food, eating it, and doing the dishes afterwards, 3 hours in your closest relationships (family in particular), 8 hours on the job, 1 hour on social media and the internet and 1 hour in unforeseen circumstances; a breakdown should be something like the following-

(1) Sleep……………………………………………07 hours
(2) Personal Hygiene……………………….01 hour
(3) Eating…………………………………………02 hours
(4) Relationships……………………………..03 hours
(5) Vocation……………………………………..08 hours
(6) Social Media………………………………..01 hour
(7) Unforeseen…………………………………..01 hour
                                                                          ________
                                                                              23 hours

The implication of the above is if you diligently use the rest of your time you will have just 1 hour left to use your time to gain eternal value.
Remember we started this by speaking about the law of Time Perspective; the longer you spend preparing for a significant objective the higher your chances at being successful in that task. 
If we understand that time was given to us to make something of eternal consequence then we will develop a different mindset.

Following our example above-
 If you are 25 and you will live till you are 70 you have (1/24 x 45 years=) 1.8 years actually available to prepare for and accomplish this objective of your life. 
If you are 30 you have (1/24 x 40 years=) 1.6 years available; 
If you are 40 years of age right now you have (1/24 x 30 years=) 1.2 years
And if you are  50 years today you have (1/24 x 20 years=) 0.8 years to do what you have to do.

A cursory look at the nature of time immediately reveals one major characteristic-  it is a means and not an end.

Time was given for a higher purpose, and its worth will only be measured by how much of it was used for that purpose. 
Now when we overlay this with the principle of time perspective we spoke about earlier the point at issue then becomes whether we have started preparing for the reason we were given time.
So what is the reason for time?

ETERNITY: THE REASON FOR TIME
Eternity speaks of Permanence. There is no change of status in eternity. Choices can only be made in the realm of time, not the realm of eternity, so choice ends when time does.
Time will end just like it began. Once upon a time there was no time. As difficult as it may seem to believe and understand this there was actually a time when there was no time.
Time is a creation and an invention of Divinity and it had a beginning-

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus BEFORE THE BEGINNING OF TIME”
2 Timothy 1:9

So Time is a creation like all others…it had a first day and it will have a last.
Some day time will end in the same way that it began
 The reason why we have mentioned this is because there is potentially an eternal value for everything that was created, including Time. There is a purpose for everything that was created, including Time. 
But the challenge is that where purpose is not known abuse is inevitable. 
So, what is the purpose of Time?

God dwells in eternity and not in time; time is a punctuation of eternity and it was created for one purpose- God has a program and Time exists for God to run His program with the rest of creation.
Let’s “evaluate Time against the backdrop of Eternity.”
The phrase you have just read is actually a misstatement and misrepresentation because one can never actually evaluate time against the backdrop of eternity.
But for the purpose of this article let us just assume Eternity is one quadrillion  (1,000,000,000,000,000) years.
No reasonable person who understands this would spend only 1 hour everyday of the rest of his life preparing for one quadrillion years.

If the time spent on this side of life will affect and determine what happens on the other very significantly and if we use our frame of reference to imagine that we have just 70 years to prepare for one quadrillion then we must realize the import of every wasted second.
If we call the estimated 70 years we will spend on earth “finite years” and the one quadrillion we have carved out as our sample size “infinite years” we will be able to have an idea what each unit of finite time is worth when compared with its infinite counterpart.
(i) We have 1 finite year to prepare for 1,428,571,000,000,000 infinite years
(ii) We have 1 day to prepare for 39,139,000,000,000 infinite years
(iii) We have 1 hour to prepare for 1,631,000,000,000 infinite years
(iv) We have 1 minute to prepare for 27,183,333,333 infinite years
(v) We have 1 second to prepare for 453,055,555 infinite years

Think about the numbers you have above. 

Imagine that for every second I do not make profitable use of here on earth it amounts to the loss of an opportunity to contribute to that which will cover at the very least 453,055,555 infinite years.
Imagine that anyone who has wasted a second of your time has literally robbed you of a minimum of the above stated vast amount of time. 

With respect to the foregoing I then suggest that one of the resources we must be most ruthless in apportioning is Time.
This resource is imperative, it is so critical that the management of it is a major sign of wisdom-

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise making the most of the time, because the days are evil.”
(Ephesians 5:15-16)

‘So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”
(Psalm 90:12)

So I would like to ask this question- “What are you doing with your time?”

THE MONASTIC CYCLE (Part II)

THE MONASTIC CYCLE (Part II)

I had finished writing and had a few days earlier posted the first installment of the Monastic Cycle before I got into an interesting conversation that led to the writing of the second. 
I was speaking with a friend of mine, an economist and senior lecturer in a private university of repute, and we were discussing the article when the terms “economy of salvation” came up. I had never thought of such a construct before; so I sat back to listen to him as he told me how the concept of the Monastic Cycle I had brought up fit into the science of economics.
Among several other things he said, he said to me- “Suffering is what scarcity is in economics.  Scarcity determines value and it is for this reason that need is essential in seeking God.”

I immediately understood what he meant as I had done some research previously on human nature and why it was that we only turned to God in our times of need. That was the basis for the article on the Monastic Cycle in the first place. 
The need makes us seek God and along with the material benefits that seeking Him brings there is order, meaning, and some sort of structure that is added to our lives. 
However, for most humans there is a tendency to turn away from Him the moment we assume we have achieved or attained the comfort, convenience, or relief that made us turn to Him from the onset.

That turning away brings considerable tragedy, disadvantages and pain for the whole community and society that does so. It has implications for the lives of those who do.

I once heard a person recount a story he heard from someone many years ago. Many decades ago in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas, that “someone”, a missionary was preaching in a village marketplace; he held up a Book and said to the people- “This is God’s Book!” Then he explained to the people how it would affect every area of their lives. After he spoke, and the crowd dispersed, a man walked up to him and told him the story of his tribe. His ancestors had had a Book they lived by and it produced unprecedented prosperity in their land far west of the great mountains; but one thing led to another and complacency entered. His forebears were then driven from their lands and in a perilous crossing over the mountains to the east they lost the Book.
Generations later the tribe did not know how to live anymore as they had lost the Book that was a compass for every area of their lives.
The man then told the missionary that two weeks prior to their meeting an old lady from his tribe had a dream of a foreigner standing in a village marketplace and holding up the Book. She saw in her dream that if the elders sent someone on that particular day he would meet the foreigner. So the man looked at the missionary and asked a simple question- “Will you bring God’s Book to my tribe so that we will know how to live again?”

In this second part of the “Monastic Cycle” we will take a historical journey through the annals of time and see that there is a common tragedy among different people groups throughout the various epochs in history; the tragedy of losing God’s Book and forgetting how to live. We will see records that clearly reveal that when a critical mass of people have this Book and apply what it teaches in their lives, a nation is transformed; in like manner whenever a critical number of people abandon this Book and stop applying it in their personal lives, that nation begins to destroy itself. 

According to Americans for Divorce Reform the divorce rate in the U.S is one of the highest in the world with 43 % of first marriages ending in separation or divorce within fifteen years. America is said to have more than two million inmates incarcerated in prison- the highest per capita in the world. I will not speak much of its alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, and pornography epidemics.
Interestingly, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia, more than 84 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian. 
The apparent contradiction in this is resolved when we consider the results of a 2002 poll by the Barna Group of Ventura, California which shows that only 7 percent of adults aged eighteen to thirty-five make moral choices based on the Bible.
In Western Europe the situation is worse; according to the European Values Study only 21 percent of Europeans say religion is “very important” to them and just 15 percent attend a place of worship once a week. I would wager that a great number of these people that attend a place of worship are likely to be from both Sub-Saharan and North Africa. Europeans increasingly view a belief in God and the concept of religion as an irritant and an impediment to progress. 

But it was not always like this. We saw in the first part of this series (Monastic Cycle part I) that Gordon Cosby, the founding pastor of Church of the Savior in Washington D.C, noted a pattern as he studied the evolution of religious orders. Like we said in the first part-
“First, an idealist attracts people with a strong sense of devotion. The devotees then form a community. Usually there are certain behavioral traits  that become prevalent in most of such communities. One of such traits is discipline- hence the strict rules of founders of orders like Benedict and Ignatius.
 Disciplined groups tend to prosper, this is because discipline creates industry and industry produces wealth, but that very success ultimately undermines the group’s commitment and leads to self-indulgence, and at this point the movement begins to fall apart. 
All these happen and then someone comes along to revive the spirit of idealism. After this happens the cycle starts over again.”

In England in the time of John Wesley (1703-1791), the Monastic Cycle was at the bottom phase and English society desperately needed that idealist who would lead the upsurge. The wealthy elite who were products of the revivals that ensued out of the practice of the principles enunciated by the Bible from pulpits of yore had grown complacent and over time had become impervious to the needs of the less privileged. There was no advocate for the poor and the oppressed. There was terrible hunger in the land. The weak and the young succumbed to epidemics of tuberculosis, diphtheria, and cholera. Children of the poor, from as early as the ages of four and five, went working in factories and mines, often working for more than twelve hours a day in hazardous conditions. In textile factories little children were scalped while crawling under big machines to pick up loose cotton; several fell into the machinery and died.
In the mines, children hauled large baskets of coal on their backs. Because animals cost too much to replace owners used small children to work the coal mines. Businessmen took advantage of the poor to build their empires and the Church of England did nothing.

It was against this backdrop that John Wesley emerged.

While studying at Oxford he became disenchanted with what he saw. The disconnect between the Church and society, the low morals and the unbridled cruelty, and the complacency of the clergy. Being a clergyman himself he felt a need to reform those practices and aspects of Church culture that were not in consonance with what he read in the Bible. He felt the need to help make the adjustments that would see to it that the Book produced the transformation in society he knew it could.
Having been rejected by members of the Establishment he began to reach out to thousands of people. As he was not given the opportunity to share in church buildings he went out in open squares and fields, preaching and making converts by the thousands. From them he trained over ten thousand small group leaders and with them discipled the larger body of new believers; they were taught accountability, honesty, leadership, godliness, the value of hard work, and love and respect for one another among other things.
His work led to the emergence of a middle class that moved the economy of England and also produced new innovations and products that led to the transformation of society. 
An example of John Wesley’s work was a businessman named Samuel Plimsoll who constantly witnessed the sinking of merchant ships and the subsequent drowning of hundreds of sailors and employees as a consequence of the overloading of the vessels. Most of these merchants were fond of this because they made huge insurance claims and maximized their “losses” in order to make humongous recoveries. 
To combat this Plimsoll created a device, since called the “Plimsoll Mark”, which marked a line on the ship to indicate a safe loading level. 
Other examples of the Wesleyan Reformation include Florence Nightingale who developed the modern nursing profession, and Elizabeth Fry, who led the reformation of the prison system.
William and Catherine Booth picked up Wesley’s legacy, and having been directly influenced by his writings and teachings they went on to found the Salvation Army, an organization that has done arguably the most work for the poor. 
As the reforms that John Wesley produced from the Bible worked in England many of the nation’s elite watched in trepidation as the French Revolution (1789-1799) saw the massive uprising that led to the killings of members of the upper class constituted by members of the French monarchy, it’s nobles, and the corrupt priests who had used religion as a tool of subversion. The movements led by the Wesleys prevented the same outcome from occurring in England. 

Earlier, it was a similar position Martin Luther found Germany in. Things had gotten to the bottom, there was a massive wave of corruption and the rot that was a characteristic of the Dark Ages saw to it that there was complete spiritual and academic illiteracy among the masses. The nobles and priests had exclusive authority and the people were kept under perpetual servitude by keeping them ignorant and separating them from truth. 
Luther was a young man in 16th Century Saxony who entered a monastery of Augustinian hermits while hoping to find salvation for his soul. After trying everything he could he felt all the more lost as he soon found that no amount of works would soothe the guilt he bore. As he heeded the advice of the leader of the Order of hermits in the monastery he began to search the Scriptures himself. While on a trip to Rome after being sent on an errand by his abbot he came to the “very gates of heaven” as Rome was then called; while there he opted to do more penance by walking on his knees up the stairs as he was instructed; the tradition was that a person could receive a fifteen year reprieve from “purgatory” if he did this. It was as he did this he heard a voice that said to him “The just shall live by faith”, he realized this was a portion of scripture he had seen in the Book of Romans, this scripture made such a deep impression on him after he heard this voice speak it to his heart that he got up from there and walked away.

While in Rome he was further burdened by the licentiousness and greed that was a normal occurrence in the behavior of the priests who supposedly stayed at the “very gates of heaven.” He was completely appalled by what he saw and this first led him to seek personal reformation. Six years after his ordination into the priesthood of the Catholic Church and being a professor at the University in Wittenberg he had a personal conversion experience; he felt the power of God’s Word and His Spirit in such a profound way that he immediately went out to start preaching that salvation was a gift from God and was to be received by faith, it was nothing to be earned.
In 1517, Martin Luther went out to write his famous “ninety nine theses” that addressed issues of repentance, forgiveness of sin, and the greed and worldliness of the church hierarchy. What followed was a storm that took the world apart and caused total transformation as the Monastic Cycle took its course. 

As Luther translated the Bible into common language and spread it in the hands of the masses there was mass education as people learned to read and write. They soon found that as they could read the Bible they could also decipher Arithmetics, read Architecture and write Poetry. It is not coincidental that the Reformation practically coincided with that period in history called the Enlightenment.
The Reformers launched reading programs across Germany and other parts of Europe. People were taught to read the Bible and could thus read other things like political pamphlets, news, and books on everything from Geography to Geometry. All kinds of information was then deployed, and this led to the spread of innovations and the release of creative energies. 

As Loren Cunningham noted about the renaissance in Germany at this time, “This changed all of history. Before this, there was no generally rich country on earth. Kings and tyrants were individually wealthy. A few aristocrats were wealthy. But not the common people. Individual potential exploded after the people were empowered by the concept of the priesthood of all believers. And as people learned to read, unprecedented numbers began to use their minds ever more broadly, coming up with ideas that created wealth and changed the lives of many. A middle class blossomed, and whole nations became wealthy after a significant number of people applied the Word of God in their lives. The gaining of new knowledge began to pick up speed. For centuries Europe had actually lagged behind the Middle East and Far East in creative development. They forgot much of their inheritance from Greece and Rome, while the Islamic world happily absorbed it and built on it. The Arabs invented the numbers we all use and the concept of zero; the Chinese had many inventions before the West, including paper and gunpowder. But these innovations soon paled in comparison to bright, new discoveries coming out of Europe. ”

Mariano Grondona, a professor of government at the Law Faculty of the National University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, made a remarkable statement in an article “A Cultural Typology of Economic Development” in the book “Culture Matters” after many years of painstaking research.
In listing his discoveries he said no country was a developed nation before the 1600s, neither in the East nor in the West: “It was the Protestant Reformation that first produced economic development in northern Europe and North America.” He then added that today the rate of economic growth in Protestant countries had declined in part because of the cooling of religious fervor.

We find that the effects of the Protestant Reformation and the Bible as a whole in society are not limited to the economy or educational sector.
In the United States Common Law there are Bible verses certain things are premised on, according to David Burton, constitutional expert, political historian, and author of “The Jefferson Lies” and “God in the Constitution”, John 8:10 was the basis for which a person became constitutionally empowered to stand before his accusers, while Proverbs 18:17 was the basis for the concept of cross-examination in Common Law. 

We find that the Monastic Cycle played a role through the history of practically all developed nations, and we can also trace the dire straits most of such countries found themselves in to the last few phases of the same Cycle, the point at which they turned their backs on the very factors that paved the foundations of their greatness. 

LEADERSHIP SERIES- THE UNDERDOGS: THE REAL STANDARD FOR MEASURING THE STRONG AND THE POWERFUL (Part II)

Leadership

LEADERSHIP SERIES
(THE UNDERDOGS: THE REAL STANDARD FOR MEASURING THE STRONG AND THE POWERFUL- PART II)

When we take a look at the disciples of Jesus we notice that He didn’t go in search of those with the most impressive CVs. In fact it would seem that He deliberately went for those who had very obvious defects. There was something that attracted Him to deficient and weak people, He would rather be involved in the making of others than celebrate finished products. 
This is quite different from the kind of “leadership” many chief executives and socio-political leaders are involved in giving. If you have ever been involved in human resource development in any capacity whatsoever, whether as the pastor of a church, as the team leader in a unit at your workplace, or as a teacher who is genuinely interested in the lives of the students you teach you  would have had first hand knowledge of how arduous it is to train or develop people.
The easier things to do would be to avoid “raw material” and go for the “finished products.” 

Jesus did neither.

He knew that the most profound treasures were hidden under huge volumes of dross and dirt. He knew that the treasure in the human resource was no different and as long as there was a longing for change in the heart of man and a predilection to work towards it there would be nothing that could hinder transformation from manifesting.
So He picked His twelve and did not pick men who had no reason or desire to be helped. 

It would seem to the untrained eye that He had a bunch of very unpromising recruits; men who would ordinarily not be considered by most of us for such a sensitive task even though most of us are very much like the same men. 

Consider Matthew (also known as Levi) the tax collector. Matthew essentially had a franchise to collect taxes, some of which he most likely kept for himself, while remitting the remainder to the Roman authorities to help support their pagan system. Tax collectors were so hated by the populace that calling a person a tax collector (or publican) by way of insult was considered one of the most derogatory and demeaning invectives.
By rabbinic custom Matthew could never enter the temple, never give testimony in court, and never be forgiven for his sins. No God-fearing Jews would have anything to do with him. That was how much of a traitor he was considered to be.
Yet Jesus picked this outcast among Jews as one of His twelve disciples, and Matthew had the privilege of writing one of the four gospels. 

We could easily imagine why Jesus could be tagged a renegade and trouble maker by some people when we see how He recruited insurgents like James and John the sons of Zebedee to fit into His core circle of twelve apostles. These were people that were known as “the Boanerges”, and the “sons of thunder.”
A little glimpse into the background to all these would explain the mindset and prevailing orthodoxy under which these men operated. 
The Roman Empire ruled over much of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.
One of the farthest corners of the Roman Empire, Judaea was a land of ancient traditions and religious fervor and decades of Roman rule were causing ever more resentment among the indigenous people. 
During the first century, Rome had dominion over Israel.  In 63 BC, after the Romans invaded and conquered Jerusalem, in order to keep control over the Galilean and Judean peoples, Julius Caesar and the Senate installed Herod as king. He became one of Caesar Augustus’ favorite military leaders, and was admired by the new emperor because of his immense development program. He undertook several projects successfully and had administrative acumen that endeared him to the Roman authorities.  
Not only did Herod expand the Temple in Jerusalem to be more grandiose and Hellenistic-Roman in style, but he also imposed a sacrifice that the priests would give on behalf of Rome and the emperor.  

Additionally, Herod had whole cities named to give reverence to Caesar as well as imperial temples and fortresses to reinforce Roman control.  The great building campaigns were not possible without taxing the peoples of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea greatly; leaving the majority in poverty.  Not only were they required to pay taxes to the Empire, but they continued to function as a “temple-state” and were also required to pay the customary tithes and sacrifices of the Jewish religion.  There was an intense offense against the Romans that was the product of being forced into idolatry along with the difficult economic reality they imposed on them.
As one writer stated:
“The demand for tribute to Rome and taxes to Herod imposed on them in addition to the willful tithes and offerings to the Temple and priesthood dramatically escalated the economic pressures on peasant producers, whose livelihood was perennially marginal at best.  After decades of multiple demands from multiple layers of rulers many village families fell increasingly into debt and were faced with loss of their family inheritance of land.  The impoverishment of families led to the disintegration of village communities, the fundamental social form of such an agrarian society…”

 The Jews responded in various ways to the rule of Rome and the appointed governors and client-kings.
 The first response saw some Jews, as in the case of the Sadducean priestly order and the Herodian dynasty, live in compromise and subservience to the Empire, implementing the Romans’ wishes and playing the classic Uncle Tom role; this was deliberately designed to secure their place in the scheme of things and maintain the status quo. These people effectively sabotaged all efforts of their kith and kin to attain redemption from the Romans and in return they were rewarded with positions and the perks of office that came with them. 
The second kind of response from another group of Jews was a basic acceptance of Roman rule, with an implied readiness to challenge the Empire when Roman injustice became too much to bear. This “challenge”  was usually carried out as nonviolent subversion and protests.  
The third response was a total and complete rejection, though nonviolent, of Roman rule.  
The fourth way that Jews responded to this circumstance was embodied by the Zealots in violent rejection of Rome, this would lead to the eventual destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
 It is in this fourth category you would find James and John “the sons of thunder.”

To think that even after their three years of close proximity to Jesus while He walked on the earth they would still be asking if the aim of His death and resurrection was to lead the final insurrection against Rome that would overthrow it and put Israel in its place was astounding.
He was patient and simply told them it was not in their place to know what times and seasons God had set in His power.

Of course we realize He did not leave them the same way He met them. He was patient to guide them through their misguided notions and obstinacy. He had spent three years teaching them and pointing them towards a superior ideology that was extra-natural, the ideology of the Kingdom of God. Even after all these they were still asking at His resurrection “Will you now restore the Kingdom (authority) to Israel?” (Acts :6)

These were examples of the human raw material He had to work with.

It is completely superfluous to speak about the likes of Judas Iscariot whose penchant for avarice Jesus already knew sufficient about before selecting him to be part of the twelve.
There was Thomas who is the poster boy for incertitude and skepticism. 
There was of course Peter who was noted for his impetuousness, instability, and garrulousness.
These were just some of the other members of the group of twelve whose individual dispositions were equally dismal.

I cannot but imagine the dreary outlook a person who took a cursory glance at this bunch would feel, especially when one considers that it was these same men that would be the custodians of divine secrets. 
It was on these men that all hope for the advancement of the Kingdom of God would lie. 
Jesus did not just take a casual glance at them, He took a long look and saw potential that many of us would not see.
This is the way God sees- He sees the possibility in every “impossibility.” He sees the finished product in the primal matter of the human resource.

It is this same perspective that sets the genuinely strong apart from those that have some indices of power and thus think they are strong.
True strength is measured by how the “strong” treat the weak. 
There are human beings who imbibed this same mindset through history, and it was this mentality that made them strong in the eyes of God.
The one who is genuinely strong is the one that protects the weak. 
The one who is genuinely strong is not the one who is willing to trample on others in order to look like something he is not, he is the one who wants to make men.
He is the one who is committed to making heroes out of zeroes.

This is the kind of leadership we must all aspire to give, and the sort of leader we must all strive to be.