Be Curious

A couple of weeks ago I went to listen to a lecture by Brent McGregor, a photographer and ice cave explorer who has done significant work on Oregon’s Mt. Hood.  I expected to learn a lot about ice caves on Mt. Hood, which I did, but I was surprised by what, for me, was the biggest take-away from his talk.

His lecture was extremely interesting, and the pictures and video he presented were breathtaking.  What was most interesting to me however was that Brent came to ice-caving later in life, and has been able to have significant impact on ice cave research and exploration in such relatively short time.

This encourages me, because I’m reminded that no matter our age, we still have the capacity to be curious and interested in new things.  We also have the ability, and privilege, to pursue those things that interest us.

Fortunately, there is no age where we are no longer allowed to be curious or interested.  The only limits to our curiosity are the ones we place upon ourselves.

Go out and be curious.

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The Clairity from Writing it Down

I’ve recently got back into the habit of daily journaling and have been amazed at the positive impact this discipline has on me.

When I journal, I often write about improvements I want to make in my life and what I’m’ currently struggling with or working toward.  The exercise of giving thought to a topic and spending several minutes putting these thoughts on paper give me the following:

  • Clarity of direction
  • New ideas
  • A way to process and organize my unformed thoughts

When I don’t journal, I find I only spend a few brief minutes each day thinking about what I’m working on, pursuing, or struggling with.  This brief, unfocused thinking always leaves me void of any real plan or direction I can take to make progress in that day.  However, when I journal, especially in the morning before the day gets started, I gain a clarity about whatever issue I’ve written about, but more important, I feel energized and eager to jump in and get the day started.

If you’re considering the practice of daily journaling, here are 3 suggestions that I find helpful:

  • Pick a consistent time every day. Do mornings work best for you or evenings before bed?  Perhaps around lunch time works best.  It doesn’t matter at all what time you journal.  What does matter is that you find a time that you can commit to as much time as you need to journal, whether it’s 5 minutes or an hour.  Find what works for you.
  • Find a journal that you like the feel of. This may seem like a funny thing, but the journal you right on must “feel” right.  Does it fit well in your hand or on your lap?  Do you like pages with lines or blank pages?  Do you prefer a spiral binding, a yellow note pad, or leather bound journal?  I prefer a smaller size page (because it feels like I write more) and I also prefer a journal that lays open nicely.  It doesn’t matter what your preference is, as long as your journal feels right for you.  It should be something you want to spend time with.
  • Write about topics that interest you. I mentioned above how I like to write about what I’m working on our struggling with, but that doesn’t have to be what you write about.  Maybe you want to write about what you did that day, or keep a list of ideas, or record significant events.  Perhaps you just want to write about whatever is on your mind.  Those are all great topics! As long as you’re writing about something that is interesting to you, you’ve got the right topic.

Of these suggestions, I think that finding a consistent time to write is the most important to maintaining consistency.

If you want to increase the clarity of thinking,  make significant progress toward achieving your goals, or just be more mindful of what direction you’re leading your life, I suggest giving journaling a try.  Your writing doesn’t have to be eloquent, flowery or even grammatically correct.  It just has to be a written expression of whatever is on your mind.

Getting from Here to There

From the perspective of achieving your goals, getting from where you are to where you want to be can often feel overwhelming.  Especially if we’re unsure about the steps we need to take to get there.  The following visual exercise can be very helpful in gaining clarity on what we need to do to start moving forward.

First, make a write in where you are, and where you want to be, as shown below.

Step 1

Second, on the left side of the page, fill in what you currently have in the way of resources and things to work with and overcome.  This gives you a starting point.  On the right side of the page, note what you will have once you achieve your goal.  This will help provide motivation, clarity, and direction.

Step 2

Next, think of all the major tasks you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to be.  The list doesn’t even have to be in order, or 100% complete.  Just start thinking of all the tasks that you need to do and list them in the gap on the page between where you are and where you want to be.

Step 3

At this point we know where we are, where we want to be, and a bunch of tasks that need to be done to get there.  The next step is to number the tasks in the order we need to complete them.  This is where our action plan gets created.  When you’re done with this step, you should have a plan to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Step 4

Now, we come to the most important step in the process:  TAKE ACTION!  The best plan is useless until we take action toward implementing it.

Step5

If you’ve got a goal you’d like to achieve, but need a plan on how to achieve, try this simple exercise.  It will give you clarity on what needs to be done, and motivation to see what you’re moving toward.

Just remember that the most important thing you can do, once you’ve completed the plan, is take action.  Your goals are waiting.  Start today.

Why it’s not Always Good to Have All the Answers

It’s nice to have the answer to a question or problem.  But what happens when we think we have all the answers to every question, and that our answers are better than everyone else’s?

Here are 5 dangers of thinking we have all the answers:

  1. We won’t gain new skills and experience. When we think we have all the answers, we aren’t open to trying new approaches to solving problems.  This keeps us from gaining new skills that come from new experiences.
  2. Our problem solving skills will not improve. If we already know the answer to every question, we won’t have opportunity to exercise our problem solving skills.  Instead, we’ll continue to simply rely on our own limited knowledge and miss the challenge of considering new methods to solve a problem.
  3. We won’t be able to collaborate with or leverage the knowledge of others. If think we know everything, we won’t seek assistance from others, or avail ourselves to the knowledge and experience they have.  This limits our exposure to new thoughts and ideas that we may have never heard or considered.
  4. We are not likely to attract or keep good thinkers on our teams. Good thinkers don’t want to be around people that have all the answers, because good thinkers like to think and share ideas. If we have all the answers, the good thinkers around us will go elsewhere; and take their good thinking with them.
  5. We’ll never create anything bigger than ourselves. If we rely only on what we know and our limited answers, we waste opportunities to collaborate with others in order to create something that is much bigger than ourselves.  How can we possibly create something bigger than ourselves if we only rely on our own limited knowledge?

Don’t get me wrong, its’ good to have answers to questions and problems, and when we have answers, we should share them with others.  However, I think it’s foolish to assume that we are possible of having ALL the answers to EVERY problem or question.

If, in the very rare case, we do indeed have all the answers to every question or problem we encounter, that is probably a good indication we need to step out of our comfort zone and do something else.

Does it Really Matter

Does it really matter if today you:

  • Exercise or go to the gym
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Zone out in front of the TV all night instead of doing something more productive
  • Hold a grudge
  • Spend time improving yourself through reading and study
  • Neglect the most important relationships in your life
  • Complain about things that aren’t going well in your life

My response is, no.  In the big scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter if you did one or all of those things today.  In fact, I would even argue that it likely wouldn’t matter much if you did or didn’t do all of those things for a whole week.

But eventually, it will matter.

Suppose you want lose a few pounds and be healthier, so today to start eating better and exercising.  At the end of today, after you’ve eaten well and exercised, are you going to notice a significant difference?  Will you be healthier and at your desired weight?  No, you won’t.   You’ll look the same as you did the day before.  It’s likely you won’t even notice much of a difference after a week.  This is a point where people become frustrated, and often give up on a long term goal; when significant results don’t immediately follow effort.

However, if you stick with your plan to eat well and exercise every day, after 365 days, you’re going to notice a big difference.  At the end of the year you will undoubtedly look and feel much different, and better, than you did 365 days ago.

Now suppose at the end of 365 days of sticking with your plan I was to ask you, “So which day out of the last 365 days caused you to achieve the results you’re enjoying today?”  You might say it was the day you decided to take action, to which I would absolutely agree.  But if I pressed, to know which specific day’s effort made all the difference, your answer would be:  they all did.

Likewise, suppose you’re in good shape and living a healthy lifestyle, but you decide to skip working out today and also to eat foods that aren’t the healthiest.  Will this day totally ruin your health?  No.  If you return to your healthy lifestyle tomorrow, will this one day’s activity even make a dent in the big picture of your health?  No, it won’t.  But, if you continue this habit for 365 days, you’ll also see significant results in the deterioration of your health.

It’s the compounding effect of our consistent actions that yield results in our life, both positive and negative.  This compounding is at play shaping all areas of our lives:  health, relationships, career, personal development, finances, and attitude.

Is there any area in your life where you’d like the compounding effect to work for your benefit to achieve results you’re looking for?  If so, begin by following this simple checklist:

  1. Think about the change you’d like to make, and what your life looks like as a result of this change.
  2. Determine the actions you need to take today to achieve your desired result.
  3. Take those actions.
  4. Go through all 4 steps in this checklist again tomorrow.

We’re all building something with our lives, and the compounding effect is a significant principle that will yield powerful results, both positive and negative.

So decide today to put the compounding effect to work for you by providing consistent actions that will yield the results you’re after.  And if you mess up or miss a day, don’t be too hard on yourself, and certainly don’t give up as a result.  Just recommit the next day, and get back to providing the consistent effort that will be rewarded by the compounding effect; because it really does matter.