Cause It To Happen

Here in the Pacific Northwest spring has been doing its best to send winter to an early retirement. Daffodils have started blooming and I even mowed my lawn last week!  This false start to spring is getting me excited for the upcoming spring (for real), summer, and fall months. It reminds me that if I have any activities or things I’d like to accomplish this year, I need to take actions to cause them to happen.

I love traveling, hiking, and just getting out and doing things, but I realize that if I don’t put these types of activities on the calendar and cause them to happen, they often won’t. I think it’s like that for most of us.  We have intentions to do X, Y, and Z, but get busy with day-to-day stuff and put off planning those activities that are important to us.  If left unchecked for days, weeks, months, or even years, we realize that we haven’t done any of those activities and all we have to show are unfulfilled intentions.

Last year was a year where I actually committed to getting my intentions on the calendar and making them happen. It was a wonderful year of learning, travel, new experiences, and great memories.  I’m eager to make 2018, and the years ahead, more like 2017.  Years not only filled with great intentions, but years where my intentions are validated with commitments to making them happen.

What intentions do you have for 2018 and the years ahead? Now the really important question:  What are you going to do to cause them to happen?

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Bringing Clarity

The best way to increase our clarity in a topic is to commit to teaching it to others.”

I currently serve on our church board, and part of that responsibility is to read and interpret our financial statements.  While I have been pretty good at doing this, I’ve noticed that several of our other board members struggle in this area.  So in an effort to bring clarity, I began creating an instruction sheet to help them learn to read the financials.

The process of creating these instructions brought additional clarity to me in a couple of areas where I didn’t understand our financials as well as I thought.  That’s one of the great things about committing to teach:  you have to have a clear understanding of the topic before you can clearly communicate it to others.

Whether it’s creating instructions or verbally explaining a concept, teaching others is a great way to bring clarity to others, as well as ourselves.

Studying Ourselves

I love the fact that there are so many interesting topics to learn about!  While the list of topics we can take an interested in could easily fill multiple blog posts, I think the most important topic each of us should spend time studying… is ourselves.

If we’re interested in living a fulfilling and satisfying life, we need to regularly spend time understanding how we’re uniquely wired.  This can come through reading about behaviors and habits we’d like to embody, taking (and reflecting on) self-assessments, and journaling.  While this is not a comprehensive list to self-discovery, it is a good starting point.

As you begin learning about yourselves, you start to discover things like:

  • When are you at your best?
  • When are you at your worst?
  • What captures your heart?
  • What were you uniquely created to do?
  • How do your respond to stress?
  • What do you do better than most other people?
  • What should you avoid doing?
  • What are some areas of your character that you need to improve?
  • When do you feel most alive?
  • What drains you?
  • Where in your life are you living below your ability??

The more we understand how we’re created and what makes us tick, the better we can decide how to invest our lives during the years we’re blessed with.  Because it’s challenging to know what to do with something when we don’t understand how it works.

Being First

Being first doesn’t always mean you’re the fastest.  In fact, I’d argue that sometimes being first means you’re the slowest.

Have you ever been on the leading edge of change?  Whether that’s adopting a new process or perhaps integrating new and unfamiliar tools or software to improve your work, being the one to go first usually results in slower performance as we adopt to the newness before us.  We also have the added challenge that, if we’ve gone first, there usually aren’t experts on our team that we can ask questions of.  When we go first, we are the expert.  Albeit the expert in in training.

I’ve often discovered that while slow-going, being first affords us a unique opportunity to shape how the change we’re embracing will be used and adopted by others.  Being first also puts us in a position assist those who come behind us and offer them a smoother transition than we had.

Personally, I’d rather be involved in shaping change and guiding others who come behind rather than sitting around and waiting until the path is clearly spelled out.  That’s why I like being first.

Change

Our church is currently in the middle of a couple of significant changes.  We’re looking for a lead pastor and a youth pastor as well.  Fortunately, it’s a good thing.  Both of them left on excellent terms to pursue the next step in their careers.  Even so, the congregation is sad to see them go and interested in seeing what this change will bring.

I’m again reminded how constant change is in our lives.  As a result, I want to make sure I’m not defaulting to being afraid of change, but instead deciding how I want to view change as I live my life.  For me, there are 3 thoughts about change that I try to keep in mind:

  1. If there’s something I’m currently enjoying in my life, don’t take it for granted. Be thankful for it and enjoy it while you have it, because you never know when things may change.
  2. All the things I currently enjoy usually entered my life as the result of a change of some sort. Therefore, with regard to change, I’m always asking, “What does this make possible?”
  3. As a Christian, I know that God never changes, and He is with me no matter what changes I experience.

These thoughts give me the mindset to see change not as tragic event or something to be avoided, but as fertile ground for new opportunities.  If you’re looking for something different or new in your life, the only way it will happen is through some sort of change.

The next time you’re facing a change, whether you chose it or not, consider one or all of the thoughts mentioned above.  You just might be on the cusp of something exciting… and you won’t want to miss it.

Pieces of a Puzzle

I’ve been learning to play the bass guitar for just under a year, and although I’m not very good right now, I’m really enjoying the process.  It’s like putting a puzzle together.

Each new concept I learn about the bass guitar is like an individual piece of a puzzle.  There are so many “pieces” of knowledge needed to successfully make music with a bass guitar.  For several months, I felt like I’ve just been collecting pieces of this bass guitar puzzle.

Lately, the learning process has become much more exciting, because I’m now seeing how some of the pieces of the puzzle I’ve been learning are starting to fit together.   Scales make more sense now because I understand how they are used regarding keys and triads.  Those pieces fit together with the concepts I’ve learned regarding improvising and composing.  It’s fun to see my understanding grow as the picture gets clearer with each piece I acquire.

I think it’s like that with any new experience we undertake.  The process seems to be:

  1. Collect pieces of the puzzle in the form of knowledge and understanding
  2. See how these pieces fit together
  3. The picture becomes more clear
  4. We go back to step 1 and repeat the process

If you’re trying to learn something new and are getting frustrated with the progress, perhaps you should change what you’re looking at.  Instead of looking at the completed picture of what you’re trying to accomplish, why not look at how the pieces of what you have learned fit together to give you a glimpse of where you’re going.  And keep in mind, with every new piece, the picture becomes a little clearer.

Seek Someone Who Has Been There

Have you ever started a new undertaking and quickly realized, “I’m really not sure what to do first… next… at all”?

I’m glad I’m not the only one!

Whenever we feel like this, I think the best thing we can do is to seek out someone who has already been where we currently want to go, and ask them questions about their experience.

The unknown can be a scary place that keeps us from new experiences or reaching new heights.  However, when we hear someone tell us about how they navigated a path that is currently before us, somehow it seems less mysterious.  We begin to see our own journey take shape.  We’re able to see the steps required, as well as potential pitfalls to be avoided.

If you’re starting down a new and uncertain path, and you’re not sure what the journey looks like, find someone who has already traveled down that road and task them to tell you about their journey.  Not only will you gain valuable insight from their experience; they’ll very likely be eager to share with you what they’ve learned.