Leadership Made-In-Africa: What are you looking at?

the fuel crisis

The first time I saw my wife, she was in a nightie. I was immediately struck by her sexy figure, 36 – 28 – 36…

When we started dating I marvelled at her beautiful smile, her smooth face, her tender skin, and yes, the way she turned heads in a red dress that screamed to be ripped off her flawless body. She was shy, demure, always pleasant, and unassertive. I fell in love!

On the day we got married, at the wedding reception, my uncle gave us this piece of advice: “Buy a big jar and lots of marbles. During your first year of marriage, every time you have sex, put a marble in the jar. After your first anniversary, every time you have sex, take a marble out of the jar. The jar will never become empty!”

Twenty years after our wedding day, my wife and I are still married. She no longer is a 36 – 28 – 36. Her beautiful smile is slightly wrinkled and her smooth tender skin has been hardened by age, three pregnancies, and a couple of surgeries. In a red dress she does not turn as many heads as before.

The trials and tribulations of raising three children has made her far more assertive and not always pleasant around the house as she enforces discipline in our children. Her transiting from a student when we married to a business owner has resulted in her being bold, assertive, and no longer demurring. The jar is not yet empty….

In short, the woman I married 20 years ago is not the same woman I am married to today.  Yes, she has the same first name, but that’s about it. She does not possess many of the same attributes that she had 20 years ago. She has developed different characteristics, and is a different person.

Logic says that I should no longer love her.

Think about it: I fell in love with her due to certain key attributes that were very desirable. Today, they are gone. Gone is 36 28 36, gone is the shy, unassertive, always pleasant person, gone is the perfect skin and head-turning body. In addition to changing on me over the course of 20 years, after we got married I got to see some of her imperfections that sometimes surprised me.

I should not be judged unfairly if I were to declare that I do not love my wife.

Yet I do. I do. I Do. I DO. I DO. I DO.

Why do I love my wife?

I love my wife because every day for the past 23 years when I wake up and as I go to bed, I made a choice to love her. I love my wife because I made a choice to focus on her assets and not her liabilities. I love her because I made a choice to be patient with her, kind to her, to not keep a record of her wrongs. I love her because I made a daily choice that regardless of whether I believed or perceived that she did or did not reciprocate, on days when her actions and behaviors made it easy for me to love her and on days when her actions and behaviors made it hard for me to love her, I made a choice to love her.  I looked out for her best interest, and focused on what was good about her and refused to dwell on what was bad about her.

The human mind is a wonderfully programmable organism, and it comes pre-programmed with some amazing features. The mind is naturally programmed to remember the best of the past and delete or dilute the bad aspects of the past. This is why we often refer to the “good old days”, because in our memory we naturally blot out the painful or unpleasant scenes and memories from our past, and maintain the pleasant or happy ones.

An illustration of this is the ability of a mother to forget the pain of childbirth once the baby is born, and to fondly remember the joys of pregnancy and raising of the child instead of the aches of not being able to find a comfortable sleeping position and the discomfort of having to nurture a baby that does not sleep through the night.

In contrast, the mind is naturally programmed to blot out the wonderful possibilities and emotions of the future and to focus on the potentially unpleasant aspects of the future. This is why fear and worry are ever-present emotions when we think about the future unless we reprogram ourselves with tools like positive visioning. For the present, the mind is programmed to accept and not blot out either positive or negative emotions or thoughts.  All are welcome!

Our thoughts influence our emotions, actions and decisions. So, what if we could train our thoughts to focus on positive things? We would be more positive. Similarly, if we focus on negative things, we become negative in our actions, emotions and decisions. Having observed many leaders and many relationships. I have come to learn that everybody has assets and liabilities, strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has warts and areas of excellence; so does every company or organization…glows and grows.

What we choose to focus on becomes larger in our minds, occupies our thoughts and perspectives; our perspectives influence our words and associations; our words and associations influence our actions and decisions, and our actions and decisions influence outcomes. For leaders of organizations – big and small – this lesson is important to learn. When we focus on the problems in our organizations, they become larger and more problematic; when we focus on the vision for our organizations, the vision becomes clearer, more exciting, and more inspiring.

When we focus on the challenges and the obstacles standing in the way of our vision, the obstacles get bigger, the vision appears harder, and the passion to achieve them starts to wane. And when we focus on the strengths and assets that we have to propel us to our vision, we are inspired to take positive action and drive towards it. There is a reason why we are instructed in the oldest leadership book on earth to “give thanks” and “count blessings”.

This is not a clarion call for ignoring problems; rather this is a reminder that a leader’s time is better spent focusing on strengths and inspiring towards the vision than it is spent dwelling on the problems, the weaknesses, and the obstacles. Whether your organization has a hundred thousand employees or one employee, this principle remains; positive, focused thinking is a choice and it leads to positive outcomes. Even in your home, in your marriage, this principle is true.

It is common for one to be tempted in marriage. There will always be someone with a better figure than your partner, or with fairer skin, a brighter smile, a heartier laugh, quicker brain, better culinary skills, more bulging muscles. It is human to periodically wonder: “Did I make the right choice?” Or “Am I married to the right person? ” There is no such thing as the perfect husband or perfect wife. I know that I am far from the perfect man or the perfect husband. I never was, and I never will be. I will, from time to time, upset my wife, disappoint her, not live up to all her expectations, fail to satisfy her, and even make her shed tears.

This is why, in order to stay in love, we must choose to love. Love is a choice. When we look at someone, when we think of someone, we can choose to focus on their assets, or we can choose to focus on their liabilities. When we focus on what is good about them, we find ourselves liking them more because those positive thoughts lead to positive emotions and positive actions on our part towards them.

When we display positive actions and behavior to them they are more likely to reciprocate with positive actions and emotions back to us. As our marriage partners change from year to year, we must make a choice. Will we focus on what is good about them or what is bad? Will we focus on the positive attributes and characteristics that they are losing or the positive attributes attributed characteristics that they have gained? Will we choose to love?

The question of whether we made the right choice in marriage partner is decided by each of us. If you decide today that you made the right choice of marriage partner 10, 20, or 30 years after you made the original choice, then your thoughts, emotions and behaviors will reflect this and you will continue to love your wife and enjoy the fruits of that love. You will focus much more on what is good about your partner and less on what is bad about him/her. You will make yourself happy and you will make your partner happy and secure in your marriage. You will make the right choice.

Love is not an emotion. Love is a choice. We choose whom to love based on what we focus our minds on. Love is not blind. It is not unconscious. It is a choice to be patient and kind; it is a choice to be vulnerable and humble; it is a choice to not keep a score of wrongs or slights or negatives; it is a choice to see the good, to believe that the best is yet to come, and to enjoy the positives of today.

I choose to love my wife. And I am grateful, thankful, and very happy that she chooses, every day, to love me.



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