“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blocking out the scenery, breakin’ my mind, do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” So sang Five Man Electric Band in 1963. They saw signs as intrusive, obstructive and constrictive.
But signs play another purpose.
They indicate directions, give options and choices, inform or protect.
They make us smile, such as this sign with my name on it!
Sometimes signs are more organic, with the changing colours of the trees are sign that summer is past and winter is coming.
If you’ve ever watched children grow and develop, whether your own, in your extended family or with friends, you will know that adults watch carefully for, and celebrate, the milestones that their children reach – first word, first steps, first day of school. Parents celebrate their children’s academic, creative and sporting achievements. But, somewhere along the line, once the ‘growing up’ is done, we tend to stop celebrating milestones (after perhaps 21st birthdays and weddings) and we just get on with life.
It’s then only as we look back that we can ‘see’ the milestones and signposts that we missed when we were in the thick of doing, because these milestones and signposts have more to do with the person we are becoming than with physical achievements.
Take a moment and look back at your life and see if these signposts, these milestones of maturity, have been part of your journey.
Signpost #1 – We can say ‘no’
Most us have real difficulty refusing a request from a friend, family member or work colleague, even when that request will stress us or make life difficult for us. Perhaps it is part of the human need to be liked and accepted. However, most of us come to a point in our lives (some sooner, some later) when we realise that saying ‘yes’ to everything is not only impossible but is detrimental to our health – physically, mentally and emotionally.
We learn that saying ‘no’ is a healthy adult thing to do and that people will not like us less for refusing their requests. Moreover, we learn to value our time and talents – because if we don’t, no-one else will!
Signpost #2 – We know being is as important as doing
In a world that values achievement, learning to just ‘be’ is a lifelong task. So often, we determine our value, and that of others, by what we have achieved, by how many things we’ve ticked off the ‘to-do’ list, or by how busy we are.
But it is this ‘who’ that we take with us wherever we go, and which can be neglected in the drive to achieve our goals. It is this ‘who’ that interacts with people, that makes decisions, that makes plans, and that can be our own worst enemy if we have not spent time developing, making and growing this ‘who’ by allowing ourselves to just be….human.
Signpost #3 – We value the small things
Life is made up of so very few ‘big’ moments but is filled with what we deem to be small, inconsequential and insignificant.
Anyone who has loved another person outside their own family knows that the grand gestures of romance are wonderful, but it is the small things – the touches, the kindnesses, the consideration, the listening, the responding – that build and maintain a relationship through all manner of struggles and challenges.
Human beings are not designed to live in state of heightened emotion – bliss and excitement are wonderful, but we cannot live there. We thrive on a certain measure of sameness, stability and certainty.
Signpost #4 – Change no longer threatens us
Helen Keller wrote that, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” She knew that change – and the insecurity it brought – was the one constant in our lives and was not to be feared.
Signpost #5 – We know that offence is the other person’s issue
You recognise that if someone is offended by you, your life, or your words and actions (assuming you’re not being deliberately offensive!) then it is more about them than you.
What you have said or done, or how you live, may challenge others or trigger an unconscious issue in their lives. But rather than looking at themselves – which is a scary and difficult, but incredibly healthy and worthwhile task – they would much rather say you are the problem.
We learn that someone else’s opinion of you is just that – their opinion. It is only one value-judgement among many and it is what we think of ourselves that is of prime importance.
Signs, signs, signs
What are the signs you can see in your life?
Do you take the time to stop and look back at your life signs and understand what they mean for the future?
If you would like some direction in identifying the signs from your life, and how they are impacting you, then leave your details below and I’ll be in touch. Together, we can use the keys of the past to power your future.