What does it actually take to be a more caring person?

Developing care and compassion for others is not necessarily something that comes naturally. It cannot be easily taught in a classroom or from lectures. However, being a caring person is an essential life skill for our own character development and to grow into maturity.

This 5 minute video from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, United States powerfully shows what it actually takes to develop a truly caring and compassionate mindset. As you watch it you will see an unexpected and surprising twist in the lives of the subjects portrayed:

The video was first brought to my attention by John Geater who is International Director of PRIME (an international network of professional healthcare educators, committed to integrating rigorous science and compassionate care for the whole person).

Below are John’s observations on the video. While he writes as a doctor, he makes some important universal insights about getting along side others in their suffering and pain. It is also a good reminder to me about my own attitude when I sit with a patient and/or their family or carer.

“So maybe we could make a more conscious effort to look into the eyes of our patients and see something of their journey. We must of course be careful not to jump to conclusions too quickly, and in some cultures we have to be careful of too direct a gaze, but it is remarkable just how much our inner being can relate to another human being. Some people avoid such relationships under the guise of “professional distance” . When I trained 50 years ago I was told we must become hardened to our patients pain otherwise we would burn out. However, the privilege afforded to us in the caring professions of deep relationship with other human beings, even if only for a few minutes, is something that I treasured during my years of practice.” 

The video ends with the following summary of what it takes to grow into true maturity and sober judgement

To have felt insensitivity….. is to be more kind.

To have faced fear ….. is to recognise it in the eyes before you.

And to have fought to live …… is to know how fragile life can be.

If you found the video and this post helpful you may also appreciate the following posts and videos:

What If You Could Read Other People’s Minds?

Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering Part 1 and Part 2

Why Does A Loving God Allow Pain and Suffering?

What questions, thoughts and reflections does the video raise for you?

What can the Olympics teach you about your life?

It’s great fun to watch the Olympics. Seeing the athletes and sports men and women perform to such a high standard is often incredibly inspiring and exciting. Their dedication and commitment to excellence and achieving that elusive gold medal is quite remarkable. The vast majority do not reach that level of acclaim and greatness. Their lives can seem so far removed from ours. Yet there are principles on life we can glean from such champions.

olympic-ringsAnson Dorrance, who started the University of North Carolina Women’s Soccer Program in 1979 and has been described as possibly the greatest college soccer coach ever and one of the most successful coaches in any sport has said:

The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat at the point of exhaustion, when no one else is watching.”

We watch the athletes in the stadium with millions of people around the world. They can make their expertise and skill appear almost effortless. What we forget is the huge amount of sacrifice, commitment and dedication that has taken place behind the scenes. It is all that work and dedication when no one else was watching that made the difference.

The Olympics is a reminder of how in leadership to rise and succeed it is necessary to give up in order to go up. John Maxwell explains this in his 18th law of Leadership – the Law of Sacrifice.

When we make a sacrifice we have to believe that the outcome in the long run will be far better than the short term pain or discomfort. Olympic athletes certainly believe that when they get up incredibly early to practice and train and make countless daily sacrifices to perform at their very best with no guarantee of eventual success. They often do that silently and when no one is watching or even caring.

But you and I are not (as far as I know) training to be Olympic athletes. However, if you are hungry to become the best you can be, then you are going to need to be willing to make sacrifices in order to reach your potential.

Here are 4 truths about leading oneself to success, according to John Maxwell. They apply to Olympic athletes and they likely apply to you in the challenges you may be facing in your life:

Midlife – Crisis or Chrysalis?

A guest post by Chris Goswami

“Is this all I am ever going to do?”

iStock_2709202_MEDIUMHave you ever had this thought? If so, you might be approaching midlife, or maybe you already got there. Where is that exactly? Well it keeps moving because people live longer and healthier, but for most of us it starts anywhere from your forties through to sixty-something.

Of course the idea that there might be something new to do isn’t limited to middle-age but it is often a feature of middle-age. Some people call this time of re-thinking and longing a crisis. But good things come from a crisis.

Gerald Marzorati is one example of a man who did something new. Late to the Ball is his story of how, aged 60, and complete with arthritis, tendonitis, and flat feet, he decided to become a national tennis player. Before this, he had played amateur tennis for a few years only. I haven’t read his book, and I’m rubbish at tennis, but I think I know the midlife feeling.

Crisis or Chrysalis?

I am in my early fifties but when I was approaching the five-oh I had that “is this all I am ever going to do?” moment – in fact lots of them, over many months. I was struck by all the ideas I had put off as a young man till later, all the things I was “too busy” to do, and even things I felt God calling me to do but … not just now please. They all appeared at once, as did the realisation that doing them all “later” suddenly didn’t seem very practical.

Not all mid-lifers go through this unsettled phase but many do. Mid-lifers are not “old” (…of course not!) but we can see old strolling down the road smiling amiably and waving at us … And we don’t want to greet him just yet. For many, especially in their 50s and 60s, careers are settled maybe tailing-off, mortgages being paid off, children on the verge of independence –they will always cause us worry but there seems less we can do for them – and bodies are often healthy if not youthful. So …

Podcast #020: Being a voice to the voiceless

Baroness Caroline Cox founded Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) in 2004. In the video and podcast below we find out about the inspiration behind the charity and its work in making a difference. HART seeks to reach those who are off the radar screen of the mainstream media and cannot be supported by major aid agencies.

Do join us on the podcast as we discuss with Baroness Caroline Cox how HART was founded to fill a need to support and encourage those in desperate need and without a voice.

On the podcast we find out about:

  • How and why Caroline was initially inspired in the 1980s to travel by truck to Poland when it was under martial law and control by the Soviet Union.
  • The power of ideas and the dangers of taking blank computer paper into a totalitarian state.
  • Caroline’s calling to “share the darkness”
  • A 12 year old Polish boy’s words, “I believe in the sun even when I cannot see it. I believe in love even when I cannot feel it.”
  • The literal translation of enthusiasm as ‘God in us’.
  • Making a difference with the freedom and plenty that many of us have.
  • The sacrament of the present moment.
  • Why Caroline has visited Nagorno Karabakh 83 times so far – a place that in 1991 was subject to ruthless ethnic cleansing by Azerbaijan
  • Caroline feeling overwhelmed after walking through destroyed churches in India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Sudan, and saying “I’ve done this too often.”
  • The incompleteness of the Western view of Christmas that ignores the suffering after Jesus’ birth
  • Having a world view and theology that can deal with modern Herods and contemporary evil.

Baroness Cox writes:

“During my work with the persecuted church I have met many people who are suffering for their faith and I always return from my travels humbled and inspired by their courage, faith, dignity and miracles of grace. Many stories of those living on the front lines of faith illustrate spiritual blessings such as joy, peace and love in ways which are far from depressing.”

If you haven’t listened to the life story of Baroness Cox do also go to Podcast #019 and find out about this extraordinary grandmother. In both these podcasts she talks openly of her own battle with depressive thinking and what she insightfully calls ‘faithless fearful dread.’

You can find out more about the work of HART at their website which is linked here.

We also refer to Baroness Cox’s work in challenging religiously sanctioned gender discrimination in the UK via the Equal and Free website that can be accessed here.

In summary she reminds us, “I cannot do everything, but I must not do nothing.”

What thoughts and reflections does this raise for you?

What if you could read other people’s minds?

The power of empathy

I know for myself how easy it is to assume things about other people with little or no evidence. They don’t say anything or they say something we don’t like and we make assumptions about who they are and what their faults and failings are. Psychologists call this the fundamental attribution error, which basically means we judge ourselves by our motives, but others by their actions. So, for example, I see a father getting angry with his child and make a judgement that he must be a bad parent. However, when I do the same thing, I am just showing appropriate discipline to child who deserves what they are getting!

But what if you and I could actually read someone else’s mind and really know the challenges and problems they are battling with?

The 4 minute video above is from the Cleveland Clinic, a leading US clinic in Cleveland Ohio. There is no dialogue apart from the unspoken words of the different characters. It is simple, but powerful to watch.

The video was first brought to my attention by John Geater who is International Director of PRIME (an international network of professional healthcare educators, committed to integrating rigorous science and compassionate care for the whole person).

Below are John’s observations on the video. While he writes as a doctor, he makes some important universal insights about empathy and getting along side others in their suffering and pain. It is also a good reminder to me about my own attitude when I sit with a patient and/or their family or carer…..

What should you actually be doing next?

Apart from reading this!

While I’m afraid I can’t give you a specific answer to that question, you don’t need me to tell you that life can get incredibly busy. There has been an exponential increase in technology and so there are an almost infinite number of priorities pressing for our attention every moment of the day. thinking web pic It can be practically anything from emails to instant messaging and social media to the person who comes to you saying “Do you have a spare minute?” And you know its going to be a lot more than a minute!

Effective leaders understand that activity does not necessarily lead to accomplishment. It is not enough to be busy – the question is what are you being busy about? There are basically only three kinds of work that need to be done:

  • The work that was planned in advance.
  • The work that shows up with no warning in the moment.
  • The work involved in defining the work that needs to be done in the first place.


While the first two are fairly obvious, it is the third one that we tend to overlook. John Maxwell talks about this in terms of his 17th law of leadership, which is the law of priorities: Leaders understand activity is not necessarily accomplishment. Just because I planned to do something at 10am on Tuesday or something landed on my desk at that time, does not guarantee that is the best use of my time. But it can mean I appear very busy. When I say yes to something, at the same time there are a whole load of other things that I am then saying no to.

The danger is that when we are busy we tend to think that because we are busy then we are somehow achieving. However, as someone once said, if we haven’t thought about where we are going, then being busy just means we get to the wrong place faster! Prioritising means we are continually scanning to think ahead about what is important, what is coming up soon and how everything relates to our overall vision of what we want to become and where we want to go.

What I should actually be doing next is in fact a hugely complex and multi-faceted question. And I haven’t even added in other variables such as how much energy do I have in the moment and what kind of context am I in? For example can I handle the emotions involved with that phone call or  do I even have time for that call (having access to a phone is  less of an issue for most of us)?

Here are 3 questions to help you decide what you are going to do next:

Finding momentum in your life

A train when it is going fast enough and has sufficient momentum can knock down a concrete wall. That same train if it is stationary and has a one inch block in front of the driving wheel on the track will not be able to even start.

Thomas_the_tank_engineIn life with no momentum a one inch size problem can stop you. But with momentum you can make incredible progress and hardly notice that there was a problem there in the first place. Such is the power of momentum. John Maxwell’s 16th law of leadership says that momentum is a leader’s best friend. Why? Because many times it is the only thing that makes a difference between losing and winning. In other words, winning and momentum go together like losing and loss of momentum go together.

But what is momentum? Put most simply momentum is forward motion fuelled by a series of wins. When you have momentum on your side then , the future looks bright, obstacles appear small and troubles seem of little significance. But with no momentum even the simplest tasks can appear impossible.

In a strange way negative circumstances handled the right way can become the fertile soil for a burst of positive momentum. The reason? It is because the apparent problem so often is not the real problem. The problem is that you think the problem is a problem so the problem that isn’t really a problem becomes a problem! (You may have to read that a few times to get the meaning!) However, when there is clarity about the real issue then the energy and emotion that the negative experience produced can be harnessed to move forward. Or as Dan Sullivan puts it, “All those things that seem to oppose our goals are actually the raw material for achieving them.” It is rather like how a rocket needs to overcome the negative pull of the earth’s gravity to launch into space. More energy is spent in the first few minutes of lift-off, in the first few miles of travel, than is used over several days to travel the half of million miles to get to the moon.

Here are 4 truths about momentum:

Podcast #019: Baroness Caroline Cox

Not your average grandmother

Caroline Cox is a remarkable lady. 6 July 2016 is her 79th Birthday. She is mother to 2 sons and a daughter as well as grandmother to 10 children. But she is no ordinary grandmother who likes to sit at home knitting, baking cakes and watching television.

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 11.58.29She has been accused by some of being a secret agent because of her ability to enter countries whose oppressive governments are intent on keeping her out. Her work in protecting the rights of Muslim women from oppression through Sharia courts in the UK has bizarrely also led to her being called Islamophobic.

She was created a Life Peer in 1982 for her contributions to education and has served as a Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords from 1985 to 2005. Lady Cox now sits in the Lords as a crossbencher and is a frequent contributor to Lords debates on Sudan, India, Nigeria, Uganda, and Burma.

In 2003 she founded the relief organisation HART. Her humanitarian aid work has taken her on many missions to conflict zones, allowing her to obtain first hand evidence of the human rights violations and humanitarian needs. Areas travelled include the Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh (where she has been so far  83 times); Sudan; Nigeria; Uganda; the Karen; Karenni; Shan and Chin peoples in the jungles of Burma; and communities suffering from conflict in Indonesia. She has also visited North Korea helping to promote Parliamentary initiatives and medical programmes. Additionally Caroline has been instrumental in helping to change the former Soviet Union policies for orphaned and abandoned children from institutional to foster family care.

In recognition of her work in the international humanitarian and human rights arenas she has received a huge number of awards. She had been awarded the Commander Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland; the prestigious Wilberforce Award; the International Mother Teresa Award from the All India Christian Council; the Mkhitar Gosh Medal conferred by the President of the Republic of Armenia; and the anniversary medal presented by Lech Walesa, the former President of Poland, at the 25th anniversary of the Polish Solidarity Movement. Lady Cox has also been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Honorary Doctorates by universities in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Russian Federation and Armenia.

Do join us on this podcast as we discuss with Baroness Cox her fascinating life:

  • The influence of her father , Robert McNeill Love, an internationally renown surgeon.
  • Her life long battle with shyness, depression and what she calls ‘faithless fearful dread’.
  • Her  40 year marriage to Dr Murray Newall Cox until his death in 1997. He was a renown psychiatrist who applied insights from Shakespeare to his forensic patients.
  • Her unexpected transition from nursing to sociology.
  • A 5 year crucible of fire in becoming a lecturer at the Polytechnic of North London in 1972 when it was infiltrated by Marxists and Communists.
  • The serialisation in 1975 of these experiences in ‘The Times’ newspaper by the journalist Bernard Levin of a book she co-authored called  ‘The Rape of Reason’. His description of the Polytechnic of North London at the time as “In All It’s Brutality, The Making Of An Intellectual Concentration Camp.”
  • Coming to the attention of the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1982 to become a life peer in the House of Lords.
  • The important work she is currently doing in the UK to ensure that Muslim women are not discriminated against by Sharia courts.
  • Her remarkable journey of being a nurse and social scientist by intention and a baroness by astonishment.
  • Where she finds the courage and passion to show grit as well as be so determined and resilient.
  • Her message to those who look ahead to what to do in the second half of their lives.
  • How God looks no so much to our ability, but our availability.

For more on work with the suffering of vulnerable women in the UK who experience religiously-sanctioned gender discrimination do see the Equal and Free website here.

We will be discussing the work of HART in more detail in a future podcast, but you can find out more information here.

What reflections, comments and thoughts does Baroness Cox’s life raise for you?

7 simple ways you can develop grit

Finding the perseverance, passion and pluck to go from ordinary to extraordinary

Do you want to do something meaningful and make a significant difference with your life? If the answer is no then you can stop reading now.


If yes then whatever you want to do, you are going to need grit. You don’t need me to tell you that life can be incredibly tough and challenging at times. (For more on that see here).

The difference between those who find a way to not just survive, but actually go on to thrive and flourish has to do with grit. We have previously looked at what grit is and the need to have more grit.

We’ve also attempted to explain the difference grit can make. That’s all well and good. But how do you actually develop girt?

Here are 7 simple ways that the research in psychology says leads to grit. They are simple, but they are not simplistic :

The difference grit can make to you

Why do some people have the ability to persevere and reach their goals, while others flounder and just give up at the first hurdle? Or why is it that success in school so often correlates poorly with success and achievement in the world of work?

Popular opinion tends to say that such people who go on to achieve are just amazingly talented or even just ‘lucky’.

We tend to assume that people succeed in life because of their natural giftedness or talent, their social intelligence or qualifications. But it is no way near as straight forward as that. I can think of a number of people who are talented and can do well academically in school, but then when the challenges in life became greater or more varied have struggled enormously. I have to confess that I too am one of those people.

It would be more accurate to talk about those who do achieve as having ‘grit’. Here are some examples: