What Are You Doing

FACT: You are what you repeatedly do.

This statement is both sobering and encouraging to me.

It’s sobering because it reminds me that we can easily fool ourselves (and perhaps others, to a degree) into thinking we are something we’re not. We can think we’re health conscious, but in reality, we continually make poor health choices. Maybe we think we’re an attentive friend, spouse, or parent, yet when we’re with those around us, our faces are buried in our smartphones. Do you think you’re smart with money? Would your decisions with money confirm that?

We can easily fool ourselves with our words or thoughts regarding our self-perception, but our repeated behavior is the most vivid indication of who we really are.

The encouraging part of this fact is that if we don’t like who or what we are, we can change it by simply changing out behavior.

Would you like to be more health conscious? Simple! Just start making health conscious decisions. Do you desire to be a better friend, spouse, or parent? That’s easy! Start putting down the smartphone and engaging with those close to you. Ready to be someone who is smart with money? Ask some people who ARE smart with their money (based on what they repeatedly do, not what they say) how they got that way an begin doing those things… repeatedly.

Aren’t you grateful that if we’re not pleased with who or what we are, we can change simply by beginning and repeatedly doing those things that will cause us to become what we want to be? I am!!

So, what are you repeatedly doing?

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Planning In Smaller Pieces

My wife and I are taking a trip to New England this year. We love traveling and exploring new places, but we both realize that a nice trip doesn’t just happen. There are so many details that go into a successful trip such as determining a rough itinerary, scheduling transportation, finding places to stay (especially if you’ll be staying at multiple locations), and figuring out what attractions you’d like to see and activities you’d like to do. A successful trip requires planning, but it can be overwhelming to get all the details nailed down, especially if you’re life has a lot of other things going on as well. This is why it’s so important to break down the planning process into manageable bites.

For example, once we have decided where we want to go and a high-level idea of what we want to see, we begin setting aside blocks of focused time to plan the trip. Since the weather has been nicer lately, we like to go to the park for about an hour on Sunday afternoons for our planning sessions. On our way to the park we decide what we want to accomplish during this specific session.

For our first session we determined what in New England we wanted to see. During session number 2 we laid out a route we wanted to take in order to see everything we wanted to see. Our last session included figuring out where we wanted to stay each night. Once we’ve accomplished what we set out to do for that session, we’re done! It’s been amazing how much of the trip we’ve been able to plan within a few short yet focused sessions.

Without some clear objectives I feel like I’m “shotgun planning”; jumping from one aspect of the trip to another without ever making significant progress. I also find that shotgun sessions usually take longer and require more of them to achieve significant results than a few focused sessions would. Focused planning sessions seem to have the added benefit of building excitement and anticipation for the trip versus frustration. I can’t imagine that a trip planned in frustration wouldn’t also bring some of that frustration on the trip as well.

If you have something to plan, whether it’s a trip, an event, or anything else, start the planning process early and try breaking it down into small, focused sessions. This will keep you from waiting until the last minute and being forced into a situation where you have to get everything planned in one session. It will also give you time to adjust and hone your plan, which will likely help you create the successful experience you’re after.

Bringing Joy

Bandon3

In Bandon Oregon there is a guy named Denny Dyke. Several times throughout the year, he and his team hit the beach at low tide and draw these beautiful labyrinths in the sand. They are indeed pieces of art! After the labyrinth has been drawn, Denny will say a few words to the gathered spectators and then he opens the labyrinth up for everyone to walk through and enjoy.

My wife and I happened to be in Bandon a couple of weeks ago when Denny was creating one of his works of art early in morning. Not only was it fun to see it take shape, it was impressive to see how many people assembled to enjoy Denny’s work, simply because he was willing to share it with others.

So many people were watching the design come to life and eagerly waiting to walk through it when it was completed. It was fun to see! There were no shortage of smiles, laughter, and comments like, “This is so cool!” Denny was even gracious enough to involve others by having interested bystanders rake sand within the design. (I got to rake a section by the exit! So much fun!) It was a fantastic morning and a fun experience I will never forget.

As with all his labyrinths, the tide eventually comes back in and reclaims the beach, erasing the team’s work, but certainly not the joy and memoires it brought. The good news is that Denny will be back out during another low tide, ready to create joy and memories for others with another one of his pieces of art.

Be encouraged and motivated by Denny’s example. While we don’t all have Denny’s talent for making artistic sand trails, we all have the capacity to bring joy to the people around us.

Move Ahead Regardless

Every week, a handful of folks from our church get together on Wednesday night to discuss the sermon the pastor preached on Sunday morning. It’s a fin time discussing what we got from the message and bringing up questions we have. At the beginning of our time together this last Wednesday, we realized that none of us had been to church on Sunday! It’s kind of hard to have a discussion about something none of us had heard. Regardless, we had some sermon notes, so we pressed on undaunted.

That turned out to be one of the best discussions time our group has had! We explored the section of scripture, discussed the questions it raised, which lead us to other sections in scripture. I was pleasantly surprised, because I wasn’t expecting it to go that well, since we were all seemingly inadequately prepared.

The thing that made our discussion go so well was that everyone “showed up” and contributed to the conversation with their questions, observations, and experience. What, at the beginning, looked like it could have been a flop, became an encouraging and engaging conversation; all because people contributed what they had to offer, regardless of how ill-prepared we might have felt.

Are there any areas you fill ill-prepared or inadequate? If so, I encourage you to acknowledge that, and offer up what you do have; to move forward regardless, instead of quitting canceling, or giving up.

Who knows, you might be surprised to realize a better outcome that you expect.

Paying Attention

What would you say was the cause of a person falling off a cliff while trying to take a selfie? Bad luck? Bad timing? Lack of a proper barrier? Maybe. However, I think the cause is more likely something we’ve all been guilty of doing… not paying attention.

While our lack of attention may not cause us to fall off a cliff, it can have unintended consequence that that negatively impact our life. Think about something in your life where you’re not doing as well as you ‘d like. Now consider whether or not you’re paying attention in that area.

For example,

If you’re falling short in your… You might not be paying attention to…
Marriage How you’re communicating with your spouse or to the signals they are sending you.
Career Changes or trends in your career field or to what you should be learning to stay current.
Health The types of food you’re eating or amount of physical activity you should be doing.
Finances Where your money is going.

 

If we want to do well in an area of life, it requires our attention. Checking out and going on “mental autopilot” will not lead us anywhere great or significant.

Is there any area of your life where you’d like to make a positive change? If so, the good news is the change can begin as soon as you start paying attention.

What Do I Have Control Over

Later this month my wife and I are going to take a long week to get away for a couple of day. I’ve been looking forward to this trip because it’s finally been sunny and warm in the Pacific Northwest, so I’ve been spending the last several days thinking how nice it will be to enjoy some sun while we’re gone. However, I just looked at the long range weather report and realize that it is forecast to be cool and rainy at our destination during the time we’ll be there. What a bummer!!

I have to admit that the weather report got me down a little. My expectations of warm sunny weather appear to be in jeopardy of colliding with the reality of several rainy days. I’m currently being reminded that there are things we control and others we don’t, and that I shouldn’t spend too much time concerned about the things I can’t control.

Ultimately I have a couple of choices:

  • I can go on the trip as planed and adjust some of the things we were going to do toward more weather appropriate activities.
  • I can pick a different destination that has more rain-friendly activities.
  • I can decide to go at a different time when there is a greater likelihood of sun.
  • I can go as planned and complain about the lack of sun.

I don’t see any value in that 4th bullet point, so I’ll scratch that option off my list.

The biggest thing I have control of in this situation is my attitude. Therefore, I’m choosing to focus on the positives, of which there are many:

  • I still get to take some time away with my wife, which is fun no matter the weather!
  • I’ve got plenty of options to come up with a good Plan B.
  • Even with the rain, Plan A wouldn’t be all that bad.

In the process of writing this post, I’ve decided I’m not going to get frustrated by the potential weather that I can’t control. Instead, I’m going to focus on the things I can control in this situation; the biggest being my attitude. Over which I have complete control.

Beyond Complaining

One of the easiest things to do is complain. We complain about what we have or don’t have. WE complain about how things aren’t fair, or how we are being taken advantage of, how forces are conspiring against us, or a zillion other things. As easy as complaining is, on its own, it produces little to nothings as far as results.

There’s nothing wrong with having a valid complaint.   In fact, a valid complaint can be the starting point for significant change… if that complaint is follow up with action.

Think of some of the things you have complained about recently. Now ask yourself, “What did I do about it?” Di you just complain or did you cause something to happen (aka, take action) to bring about a better outcome? Did you:

  • Register a formal complaint
  • Make changes to your habits and behavior
  • Offer your time, talent, or treasure toward a change

When we limit ourselves to complaining, we’re rendering ourselves helpless victims of forces happening to us. We have no power and we have no hope. However, when we follow up our complaints with actions toward positive change, we take control. We steer our lives where we want them to go versus just letting things happen to them.

Do you have any complaints that require action? If so, it’s time to decide what action you need to take in order to chart a course for your life that will lead you to a destination you want to go.