The New Year is a time of reflection and renewal. The dichotomy of looking at the past while simultaneously looking at the future. For many it is a way to look back at what we have done and make changes to improve our lives. For others it is a time to look inside and make changes within to improve ourselves. When we do this, it is imperative that we look at ourselves in a reflective, yet self-accountable manner. We cannot change last year’s outcome, it is past, but we can learn from it. The future depends on what we do right now, in this very moment. We can only change ourselves to improve our daily performance right here, right now.
As evidenced by New Year’s resolutions in the past, people are creatures of habit and change does not happen easily. Most resolutions only last a month or so. I have witnessed this in the classes I teach and in the relationships I have had. I failed marriage twice, because I did the same thing I always did. I was comfortable where I was. After the second marriage I took a self-accountable look, deep inside and finally could see my flaws. Only then could I change me.
While taking this look, I was able to see the many hats I have worn, as a police officer and, as a person over the years. Many of those hats were worn simultaneously. This helped me realize what a balancing act we perform in our daily lives. Being creatures of habit makes this balancing act even harder as we attempt to change roles. As a person I have been an athlete, scholar, cowboy, scuba diver, wrestler, baseball player, coach, instructor and trainer, cop, rookie, retiree, Harley enthusiast, martial artist, real estate appraiser, mortgage lender, sports fan, service provider, missionary, marketer, amateur historian, and even more recently adding author to this list. This doesn’t even include the most important hats of husband and father. Many times, these were put on the back burner, until I took that look inside and realized what I had neglected. What was the cost of this choice? I have been lucky to repair and restore the relationships with my kids, and to build a new, great relationship with my wife. How many chances do we get? How many hats do we wear?
For so many years I felt like a juggler, with different hats spinning in the air and no direction. I didn’t know which hat fit me. Which hat I wanted to wear, until I became a police officer. That was the hat I wanted the most, even though I still wore many others. As public safety professionals we all have been the keepers of the peace and enforcers of the law, warriors and counselors, mentors, therapists and survivors, officers, detectives, betrayed and jaded, yet excited, hopeful, and positive. But at what expense? How many hats do we wear?
Each group has different expectations. Each group has similar but different rules. Each group has and fulfils different needs. Do we sway with the wind and adapt to each group as we move from one to another? If we do, we become ungrounded. We become like a chameleon, forever changing shades and tones. We easily lose ourselves. It is time to decide, which hats we want to wear, and which hats are most important to us and our lives. It is time to remember who we are and just be us, no matter which hat we have on.
This was brought home when I was going through my second divorce, I found that the only ones who reached out to check on me were family. Wow, I lived 50 miles away and no one checked on me. Only my family from out of state. I discovered that my friend list needed some adjustments. Since that time, I have thinned that friend list, yet even today, if I don’t arrange it, nothing happens. I’m actually okay with that. It is something I have gotten used to and now I get to look at what I am doing to create that situation.
My challenge to you today is, get back to who you really are and want to be. Put emphasis on the hats that make you a better person. To `put your family first. Put them above work, put them above the daily grind and above the habits we create for ourselves. Put them above everything. Most likely, they will be the only ones there for you. It is a conscious, self-accountable choice. Even a focused few minutes of uninterrupted time with a child, spouse, sibling, or parent can make a significant difference. I share a few of those moments that made a difference with my kids in my book and to me, they are the most important moments out of a twenty-six-year career and of my life. At the time I had no idea how important they were. Have open honest communication with not just your families but with everyone.
My second challenge for you is make accountable choices when picking friends. Pick friends who are like what you want to become. Don’t judge, look outside the box. Find friends who will lift you up as they allow you to lift them up. It is a two-way street.
The third challenge is to focus on the moment, right here, right now. Your future depends on what you choose, now. The past doesn’t matter except as a lesson learned. Don’t be distracted. Don’t be thinking of the past, future, work, or anything else. Be present and focused each minute. Take the day and world minute by minute. It is a choice, so choose wisely.
The most important hats I wear now are husband, father, author, and trainer as they all allow me to still make a difference in this world. A difference for me, my family, and the officers, and families who read my book or attend my training. Thank you to my growing list of friends who have assisted me in this endeavor. Friends like Randy Sutton and Bob Bemis:The Wounded Blue, Chris Gregorio; Seattle PD Peer Support, Chris Hoyer; When That Day Comes, Ken Frownfelter; What’s a Hero, Darren Burch and Jason Schechterle; Badge Boys, Jason Harney; Lightning Digital Entertainment, Bob Bemis,; Forged in Scars and Stripes, Ken Bator;,Police Officers Credit Union Podcast and so many more with visions similar to mine. Each in their own way has affected me positively and are making and helping me make a difference in the lives of Law Enforcement officers and families throughout the country. Many like me were ahead of our time when we began. The world is slowly catching up. Now we get to continue as the movement grows and we assist more and more in the officer wellness arena. One step at a time. One moment at a time. One conversation at a time. One hat at a time.
For more insight on officer wellness and the importance of communication after experiencing trauma, order my book, Bridging the Gap: An Inside Look at Communications and Relationships After Traumatic Events, available on Barnes and Noble or Amazon.