A Picture Of Determination

Last week my wife and I were at the Sol Duc River in Olympic National Park.  This park is filled with striking natural beauty, from alpine vistas and glaciers, to rain forests, to remote beaches.  However, what captured my attention (and respect) most in the park were the returning runs Coho salmon.

We happened to be in the park when these magnificent fish were making their way upstream to reach their home waters to spawn.  There is a section on the Sol Duc called “Salmon Cascades” where you could watch the salmon move from the deep pool below and being ascending this swift current between them and their destination.  It was a mesmerizing site to see.  On one stop, we spent 90 minutes watching, yet it only felt like we were there for just a few moments. 

What impressed me most about these salmon was their determination in the face of such a formidable challenge (a swift rapid in this case).  They’d make an attempt at ascending a rapid and either bounce off a rock or not quite make it, yet you never saw a salmon give up and head back down stream to the calmer water.  Instead, they’d reposition and try again, and again, and again, as often as was necessary.

For the salmon, I think that determination is hard-wired into them.  (I’m not a fish biologist, so I’m not certain, but I have a feeling that’ show God made them.)  However, for us, when we face significant challenges, we can set our minds to be determined to reach our goals, or we can just to figuratively drift back downstream.

I was once again inspired in the presence nature.

Inspired By Discipline

In last week’s post, I mentioned someone we know who had lost 70 pounds over the last 8 months.  While most people are inspired by the results, I am inspired by the discipline required to achieve such a feat.

Everyone wants the positive results of a significant accomplishment.  However, it seems that the discipline required to achieve the accomplishment is often a price that many people are unwilling to pay.  And without the discipline, the results will never show up.

That’s what inspires me about disciplined people.  They decide that they’re going to make the tough choices and necessary sacrifices (which is what discipline actually is) that will put them on a collision course with the results they desire. 

Their discipline inspires me to be disciplined in areas in my life where I’m seeking positive change.

You’re Right

My wife recently told me about a Facebook post someone we know made where they talked about how they lost 70lbs since January of this year.  That’s amazing to me!  I’m always impressed by people who decide how they want their life to look, and then take the steps to cause it to happen.  Their behavior says a lot about what they think they’re capable of, and their results confirm that their thinking is accurate.    

What we think about ourselves is important, because it drives our behavior.  If you think you are unable to do something, and continually tell yourself that you can’t, it’s unlikely that you’ll behave in a way that will cause you to be successful.  And why would you be successful?  You’re thinking has determined that success is not in the cards for you.  And you know what?  You’re right!

Consider these common thoughts:

  • “I’m too old”     
  • “I could never achieve that goal”
  • “I’m not smart enough”
  • “People like me don’t have that kind of success”
  • “I’m not technical enough”
  • “I don’t deserve…”
  • “I’ll never be…”

If these thoughts represent the way you think about yourself, then the response to each of these statements about yourself would be, “You’re right!”

Now consider of the implications that kind of thinking will have on your life over months, years, and decades.  Think of all the opportunities, growth, potential, and joy that you’ll sideline yourself from, simply because you’re thinking is keeping you from them.

It’s time to examine our thinking, and make adjustments when we find that it is keeping us from where we are and where we want to be.  An abundant life awaits!  The first step is thinking that we can achieve it.

Listening And Thinking

There are so many things to be divided about lately.  From political ideology, to social justice issues, to how to handle a pandemic, we are at no lack of things to be divided by.  Yet, while it’s easy to become hardened in our thinking, based on our own beliefs and experience, I think all this division also provides an excellent opportunity to understand how others view these things.  If we’re willing to listen to them and think about what they say.

It’s easy to reject someone who’s thoughts are different from ours, without even considering how their experiences might have shaped the way they see things.  I’m not saying you have to embrace thinking that is totally untethered from reality.  (That’s a discussion for someone else’s blog.)  However, if we can actually listen to another person, without feeling we have to defend our position, we gain great insight into WHY they think the way they do.  We still may not agree with their thinking, but at least we have a greater understanding of how they came to think what they do.  Who knows, what we learn through listening to them might even cause our own thinking to be changed.

A lot of folks broadcast their opinion, solicited or not, under the guise that, “I just want to get other people to think.”  That’s nice, but the question that always comes to mind when I hear that statement (or find myself saying it) is, “That’s great, but are you willing to think as well?”

We need to take a look at ourselves in the figurative mirror.  If we’re not willing to consider a different perspective, or to see an issue from someone else’s point of view, then we should stop expecting others to consider our perspective and point of view.  How can we tell others that they need to think about what we have to say, when we ourselves are unwilling to extend that same courtesy to them?

Checking The Mirror

I’m sure you’re familiar with this routine.  As you’re getting ready in the morning you look at yourself in the mirror and compare that image with the image you have in your mind of what you should look like before your start your day.  You see disheveled hair, so you fix it.  You see toothpaste on your face, so you wipe it off.  You take one last look on your way out the door to make sure the image of how you’d like to look and how you actually look align.  The mirror does an excellent job of telling us when our appearance is falling short what we expect for ourselves.  It’s great feedback!

While it’s important to have mirrors to ensure we look presentable before we leave the house, I think it’s even more important to have mirrors that reflect back to us how well we’re living up to the standard we’ve set for ourselves.

As a Christian, I’ve decided that the standard I’ve chosen to live by are the teachings of Jesus, as found in the Bible.  So, in order to know whether my life is a reflection of what Jesus teaches, I need compare how I’m living my life to Jesus’s teaching in the Bible and see if my reflection matches.  If my life aligns with Jesus’s teaching, then I’m on track.  If not, I’ve got work to do.  Either way, the mirror of the Bible when compared to my life gives me feedback and informs me where I can make changes.

So what standard are you trying to live your life in accordance with?  What mirror do you need to check your reflection against?  Whatever it is, just be sure to check your reflection regularly, receive the feedback it’s giving you, and make corrections as needed. 

Done over a long period of time, this habit will move your life in the direction you want it to go.

Staying Sharp

I saw a job posting for a similar position to what I currently hold.  No, I’m not looking for a change!  I love what I do and where I do it, so I’m staying put.  However, the required skills section of the posting did capture my attention. 

As I looked at the requirements, I noticed there were a couple of topics that I would benefit from learning more about.  In addition, I got a glimpse into what skills other organizations deem valuable in my chosen career field.  It also caused me to add a couple more items to add to my “skills to learn” list.

I think it’s good to sharpen our knowledge of the techniques and technologies in our chosen careers…

so that our skills don’t become stale or dated …

so that we can skillfully apply our skills to the work that we do…

so that we can help our organizations fulfill their missions.

Staying sharp in our careers isn’t just good for us, it’s also good for those we serve.  Plus, it’s more rewarding when we’ve got an intellectual toolbox full of well-sharpened skills that we can draw from in order to solve the problems we encounter.

Different Backgrounds Different Outlook

Here’s something we all know, but that I often forget… we don’t all have the same background and experiences shaping how we view ourselves and the world.

I can too easily assume that others have similar backgrounds and experiences as me.  That assumption is an easy connection to another equally false assumption; that what I would do or how I would think in a situation is how others should think.  That’s simply not true. 

Our experiences and backgrounds shape how we interpret what we see in the world, so it’s obvious that those with differing experiences would see things different that I would, and vice versa.

I like to frequently remind myself about this so that I don’t look up one day and realize that I’ve turned into a cranky old man, simply because I assume that the problem with everyone is that they don’t see the world the same way I do.

Thoroughbreds

I’m blown away of the power of our brains and all the good use we can put them to.  What’s even more impressive (aside from the fact that each one of us owns one of these wonderful things free and clear!) is how our brains are constantly running.  I liken our brains to a race horse that wants to run.  Similarly, our brains need to be trained to run where we want them to run, versus just letting them run wild in any they’d like.

Can you imagine the owner of a highly valued thoroughbred race horse allowing the magnificent creature to run through any rocky pasture, hillside, or street it wanted?  That would be a horrific use of such a valuable investment.  Instead, such a horse’s diet, training, facilities, and environment are all conducive top performance, because that is how you treat a thoroughbred.

I think our brains should also be treated as the thoroughbreds that they are, or that they can become.  We should give them the proper care and training that they are worthy of, in order for them to perform for us at the high level they are capable of. 

So, how do we train our minds so they perform like thoroughbreds?  The following items are good places to start: 

  • Monitor the content we’re allowing into our minds to ensure its productive and positive. 
  • Take our negative thoughts (toward ourselves or others) and quickly redirect them toward a more productive line of thinking.
  • Expose our brains to new ideas through books, classes, podcasts, computer-based training, or conversations with others.
  • Continue to apply our brains toward learning new skills we’d like to acquire.
  • Use them to solve problems and come up with solutions and idea.
  • Engage your brain daily.

What a blessing to be in possession of such a creation!  May we treat them (and train them) like the valuable thoroughbreds that they are.

Struggling To Start A Habit

I love journaling.  When I journal, I feel more observant, reflective, grateful, and focused.  Yet with all the positive benefits, I’ve had a hard time getting into the consistent regular habit of journaling.

There will be seasons where I journal a lot, but then I’ll stop and go for long stretches without an entry.  What makes this even more frustrating is that I have done a good job of forming other positive habits that I do daily.  However, regular journaling remains elusive.

That said, I still work to create the habit.  I haven’t totally thrown in the towel, because I think it is a habit worthy of pursuing.  Just because that habit isn’t forming right away, doesn’t mean I should give up on it.  It it’s important to me, which it is, I should continue to strive to form that habit.

Striving is progress, and that progress ceases the moment we stop striving.

How Do You Do It

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”  ~Unknown

This saying causes me to pause and think about how I do things.  Specifically, how do I handle the small day to day things in my life.  Do I give my best effort or am I half-hearted in my efforts?

Now I’m not saying that we have to give 100% focused, top of our game effort on every little thing we do.  That would be not only exhausting, but also unnecessary!  The bigger question here, is what is our dominant mindset when we do things?  Do we regularly mail it in, or are we in the regular habit of giving our best effort?  Do we offer the minimum effort to get by, or do we regularly give a little beyond what’s needed?

It’s a good question to ask, and one we can pretty easily answer when we look at the results we’re getting in life.