We Get to Choose

Some things are so small that we don’t even recognize them in our daily lives.  Take the untold number of cells that make up our physical being.  So tiny, yet they have a huge impact on our very existence.  The time it takes to blink our eyes is also tiny, yet each blink is necessary for our eyes to function properly.

Another thing that is tiny is the amount of time between a stimulus and a response.  Think about how many times each day we are presented with a stimulus that we then respond to.  In most cases, the time between the stimulus and our response is extremely small.  Sometimes it feels instantaneous, but no matter how small this time is, it is always present.  For example, you hit your thumb with a hammer (stimulus) and then scream out in pain (response).  The response happens almost instantly, however, there is still a measure of time between these 2 events.

Here’s the part that I think is empowering:  in that sliver of time between stimulus and response we get to choose how we respond.  We can’t always control the stimulus, but we can control our response.

Take the scenario of being cut off in traffic.  When this occurs, we have a choice of how to respond.  We can lay on the horn, blurt out some expletive, or offer any number of obscene hand gestures.  Sometimes these responses feel automatic, but we always have a choice.  Instead, we could choose not to become angry and lash out, or we could also choose not to get worked up by it and overlook it all together.  We can choose a better response.

This is one of a number of scenarios we face daily where we can choose to respond in a positive manner instead of defaulting to a negative response.  We can choose to be offended by an inconsiderate comment, or we can choose to overlook it.  We can choose to respond harshly to a spouse or loved one, or we can choose to extend grace, compassion, and understanding.

Be mindful of these moments where we can decide how to respond to a stimulus.  Use them as opportunities to cause something to happen that is positive, instead of automatically responding negatively and see if it doesn’t begin to have a positive effect on your outlook and attitude.

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Quiet Courage

I’m currently reading a great book titled, “Work the System” by Sam Carpenter.  Today I read a section where he talks about quiet courage.  Sam defines quiet courage as, “…unadorned action and it is the opposite of procrastination.  Quiet courage resides deep inside and causes one to buck up and do what needs to be done whether one wants to or not.”

As I read that today it made me think that as we’re out causing something to happen, there are often days where we may not feel like doing what needs to be done.  For example, in the pursuit of good health, there may be days where we just don’t feel like going to the gym.  While striving for a strong healthy marriage, we may not feel like engaging in tough conversations that we need to have.  The list is endless, but the truth is that during the pursuit of whatever we are striving for, we will face times when we just don’t want to do what we know we need to.

I’m curious as to how we can develop quiet courage in our own lives.  What can we do to develop the persistence to push through feelings of “not wanting to”, instead of seeing them as insurmountable obstacles that thwart all efforts at forward progress?  I think one of the best things we can do to build quiet courage in our own lives is to recognize when the feelings of procrastination and lack of motivation are beginning to take hold.  At this point we have a crucial decision.  We can give in to the “I don’t want to” feelings or we can do what needs to be done, in spite of how we feel.

Regardless of the choice we make, we reinforce or build a habit.  If we procrastinate every time these feelings arise, we reinforce the response of procrastination.  On the contrary, if we do what we need to, even when we don’t feel like it, we begin building the muscle of quiet courage.  The more we choose to take positive action regardless of feelings, the stronger this muscle grows.

Commit today to being mindful of the “I-don’t-feel-like-it” feelings when they crop up in life.  When they arise, attack them with the positive, forward-moving action.  Responding in this fashion long term will rapidly build a quiet courage within you.  And when that happens, the “I-don’t-feel-like-it” feelings you encounter will be short lived.

Unwilling to Settle

Expectations, motivation, excitement, and confidence are high.  You have a plan and are ready to cause something to happen.  Don’t you just love the beginning stages of a new undertaking?

But what happens when the planning stage is over and it’s time to start executing he plan?  This is where challenges start to arise and where the excitement and confidence can begin to wane, as we face uncertainty, doubt, fear, and our own negative self-talk.  Left unchecked, these feelings can begin to cause us to re-evaluate the goals and dreams we have for ourselves, and adjust them down to a level that doesn’t seem as scary and challenging.  The worst case would be that we abandon our dreams completely, and return to our lives as they were, being ever-haunted by regret and the thoughts of…”what if…” or “I wonder if I could have done it”.  Personally, those are thoughts I don’t want to saddle my future self with the burden of carrying.

I’m currently in the process of learning how to do voice overs and will soon begin doing that professionally.  As I look at some of the things I need to do, I can easily get overwhelmed.  Along with that come the familiar feelings of fear, doubt, and the negative self-talk saying that perhaps I should consider backing down, and just go back to doing what I’ve been doing.  When these thoughts come, I immediately remind myself what I don’t want to just settle for what comes along in life, but I choose to chart the course that I want for myself.  I also remind myself that everything I need to do does not have to be completed that day, or even that week.  The goal I’ve set for myself is steady progress on a daily and weekly basis.

The main thing I’ve been doing is visualizing what success looks like.  Doing so causes me to get a feeling of what it would be like to achieve this goal, making it more difficult for me to decide to give up before I even get started.

I’m convinced that the biggest barrier to greatness people face is their willingness to settle for the easy route versus persevering through initial struggles on the road to achieving personal success.  We’re too unwilling to endure struggle, too unwilling to stretch out of our comfort zones for an extended period of time.  I want to flip that thinking around.  Instead of being too unwilling to stretch out of my comfort zone, I choose instead to be unwilling to settle for taking the easy route and whatever happens to come along.

Where have you been settling?  What are you unwilling to settle for any longer?

You’ll See More

So you’re ready to cause something to happen, but you don’t know if you’ve all the obstacles you’ll face along the way?  Let me assure you… you haven’t.

I recently heard an illustration on John Dumas’s Entrepreneur on Fire podcast where the guest stated that waiting to identify all obstacles before starting a new venture would be like planning a trip from New York City to Los Angeles , but waiting for all lights along you route to be green before you started.  That scenario will never happen, and as a result the trip will never begin.

Sometimes in life, although not very often, we know all the steps and obstacles before we begin a new venture.  For example, an educational pursuit where we know before we start all the courses and cost required before we earn a certificate, degree, or professional credential.  Everything has been laid out.  We must simply follow it.

There will always be objection and challenges in anything we pursue that is worthwhile.  Before beginning a new challenge the goal is not to determine and solve every objective before starting.  That will NEVER happen.  If you attempt to do this, you’ll never begin.  Earlier this week I received a “Tip of the Day” email from Matt “the Do Over Guy” Theriault of the “Your Do Over” podcast that contained a though on this topic that really resonated with me.  It said,

“Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome. Travel as far as you can see, and when you get there… you’ll see more.”

This is so encouraging, and so TRUE!  What the message screams to me is that if you know the direction you want to go, with your destination fully in mind, then take the first step!  Begin with the knowledge you have.  As you advance further in the direction of your goal, you’ll learn more.  You’ll see more of what you need to do as you simply begin “doing”.

Be encouraged!  Instead of being immobilized by fear and worry over what you don’t know, begin advancing with what you do know.  After you’ve been doing this for a while, be sure to take a moment to look back and reflect on what you started with, where you are currently, and the knowledge you’ve gained along the way.  Then set your gaze ahead and let the journey continue.

Be excited by what more you’re about to see!

 

Your Word of the Year

We all have our favorite quotes, phrases, and sayings that we recall when situations warrant.  These can range from words our parents used to utter when we were growing up, to familiar quotes from famous people, or even words of Scripture.  They offer comfort, encouragement, and familiarity in our busy, ever-changing lives.

Instead of a quote, have you ever considered being motivated by a single word?  At the end of 2011 I was looking back on the passing year, as well as subsequent years, in order to gain perspective as I considered how I wanted 2012 to take shape.  My reflections on 2011 revealed that I was often going through my days on auto pilot.  The majority of my responses to events and people were automatic and required little thought on my part.  That’s no way to live an exciting, fulfilling life.  I knew I wanted to do better in 2012.  I wanted to live more intentional than automatic.

As I was thinking about this, the word “mindful” sprang into my thoughts.  I my decision making, planning, and interactions with people I want to be mindful of my actions and responses.  Being on autopilot was no longer good enough.  I needed to mindfully decide how I would live my life in 2012.  That meant giving thought out answers to questions for others instead of knee-jerk, cliché responses.  It also means taking an active role in building existing relationships with family and friends, instead of waiting for others to take the initiative to do so.

Being mindful also reminded me to “be there” no matter what I was involved in.  Be present in the current situation whether it’s a meeting at work, a conversation with a friend, reading the Bible or praying, or just doing life with my wife Mickey.  Value the present moment, and be there.

I enjoyed the focus and positive attitude the word “mindful” created in my life in 2012 that I decided to make it my word for 2013 too.

So what’s your word for the year?  What’s that one word that will remind you how you want to live life as you continually cause something to happen this year?  Spend some time thinking about what your word will be and then apply that word to all facets of your life as you live out this year.