Do you remember the film Sudden Impact? If not, I bet you remember the quote made famous by the gravelly voice of Clint Eastwood, “Go ahead, make my day.” Two years after the film debuted, Time Magazine quoted President Ronald Reagan, who couldn’t resist the sudden impact of his opinion on higher taxes when he said, “I have my veto pen drawn and ready for any tax increase that Congress might even think of sending up. And I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers. Go ahead–make my day.”
I’m not going to discuss the conflicting views of tax increases and I have no experience with roughing up some barroom thug, but here’s another angle. What if we could make someone else’s day? What if they could make ours? I think this is something we can all relate to because opportunity is all around us.
Whether you are navigating priorities at home, negotiating little earthquakes with your teenagers, mediating conflicts with your co-workers, or trying to create harmony among others, doing life together is tough. It’s hard work, and hard work requires a strategy, a plan for how you envision your best days. Think of it like creating a treasure map to good relationships, which are only possible when we help each other out. Let’s do this … together. Unroll our treasure map and follow the steps to positive relationships.
Step Back – Have you ever been so close to an object that it’s unrecognizable? Try this. Put your coffee mug an inch from your face and notice how distorted and blurry it looks. When we step back, we temporarily remove ourselves from a situation so we can assess where we are now compared to what we expected. Stepping back allows us to reflect on what has brought us to this place and objectively evaluate current conditions. Let’s not limit our thoughts though. Stepping back is not just for negative circumstances. Stepping back is a reprieve from the journey, a gift of time, to think things through. We might step back to observe how blessed we are or what has created this season of success in our lives. When we step back, we are able to identify things we enjoy, behaviors to change, activities we want to hold tightly because they serve us well, and those we must let go. To move forward in the right direction, first step back.
Step In – What do you do when someone you care about is struggling? Right. You want to help, but the thought of the commitment of helping grows heavy – and the more you think about that commitment, the more everything inside you feels like a tug of war. The strong nudging to get involved battles with the voice that tells you to leave it alone. Stepping in will cost you something and you might not be ready to “make someone’s day.” You may need to first step back before you step in. Consider what it means to be an ally, someone to come alongside and be a supporter and friend. The experiences we’ve endured in our own lives can be used to help someone else through similar experiences in theirs. Just for a time, could you listen at heart level and provide consolation? What if you step in to be an ally but instead turn into an anchor? What if you do nothing? To step in you must be brave. The day may come when you, too, need an ally.
Step Away – Remember when you were a kid? We learned a lot back there, most of it sealed into memory one way or another. I’m guessing I don’t have to say much to bring back total recall. Do any of these sound familiar? Pick your battles. Count to 10. Cool your jets. Agree to disagree agreeably. Building relationships requires more than patience (although a long fuse can help to avert a shouting match). Building relationships is tricky. We, as individuals, are only tenuously connected through shared commonalities, but we vary greatly in personality and lifestyle. Disagreements are guaranteed and in those moments we must ask ourselves, “Do I want to be right, or do I want this relationship to be rewarding?” This does not debate the need to research facts and be sure choices and solutions are based on truth. Operating with half-truths or without substance is another topic altogether. In this context, “step away” invites you to take a moment and consider the outcomes before making assumptions, before deciding, before blaming, before reacting. How do you want to remember this moment? Step away.
Step Up – There is too much work to do to fill the time allotted. This is in direct contrast to Parkinson’s Law circa 1950 which says, “Work expands to fill the time allotted.” We will never have the luxury of expanding the hours in a day to more than 24. Whether 1950 or 2050 there will always be more to do than we can complete in a day. “Step up” is for those opportunities when you are called upon to help with work that is not your own. These are times when relationships can be built up or torn down. It could be a project at work that nobody wants to take on, or a co-worker who is chronically late with assignments who needs an assist … again. Maybe child tending or respite care isn’t the way you want to spend your Saturday, but there is a need and you’re faced with a decision. Here’s an opportunity to make this family’s day. There may be a financial need and your ten or twenty dollar donation would help with forward momentum. “Step up” asks if you could you step up and carry the burden of another, just for a little while. When the chips are down, step up and bring someone up with you.
There are other steps to take in building relationships. Step aside, step down, step over. And infinite ways to preserve relationships just by the steps we take. Here’s a final thought to ponder. Your relationships are places on your treasure map of life. Every time you encounter one of those places there is an experience. How do you want to remember it? Do you want to remember the cutting argument or the agreement? Do you want to remember walking away from the potential burden or would you rather remember walking alongside someone to a treasure?
The steps we take bring us to experience unforgettable moments. Mind your moments because they become your memories.
The next time you hear, “Go ahead – make my day” remember that it’s possible and your steps make it possible.