“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” Warren Buffett
Habits are fascinating, because despite the fact that they are small, they can be extremely powerful. Their power comes from the compounding effect they have when done over long periods of time.
Some habits taken conscious effort to do, like deciding to get up every morning and go to the gym. Yet other habits are so easy to fall into, that they almost become an automatic part of our daily life. Things like drinking several sodas or going out for fast food on a daily basis. (There are a zillion others, but those are the first 2 that came to mind.) These habits are rewarding in the moment, and thus easy to form. And while an occasional soda or trip to McDonald’s isn’t terrible, the impact of these habits done continuously over years, if not decades, can have severe negative consequences.
For this reason, I think it’s important to regularly determine whether we’ve developed any habits that have the potential to plant land mines for our future selves. We should ask ourselves:
- Are the habits we’re engaged in healthy or destructive?
- Are they leading to a good outcome or a potentially dangerous one?
- Are there habits we should stop doing?
- Are there habits we need to cultivate?
We all want good outcomes in our lives, but as we know, they don’t just happen. They require action from us, as well as reflection, to determine if our habits will take us where we want to go.
With 2021 approaching, now would be a good time to take an inventory of the habits we’ve acquired. It might be time to say, “Good-bye” to some potentially destructive ones we’ve been heretofore traveling with. It may also be time to say, “Hello” to some new productive habits and invite them to join us on our journey forward.
When you see a natural disaster on TV or hear about people dealing with life challenges, it’s easy to think that those kinds of things only happen to other people. Until they happen to you.
In the past 2 years I’ve had some life events happen that, in the past, I would have seen as things that happen to other people, but not to me. One was some health news and another is the current wildfires burning in Oregon that is directly impacting friends and family.
Its’ quite different when these things are happening to you versus happening to others. When it happens to others we think, “That’s too bad” and then go about our business. It’s different when it’s happening to us, because we can’t just turn it off or change the channel like we do when we’re watching a disaster on the TV. When it’s happening to us, we’re living it, and there is no off switch.
I’m reminded of the importance of empathy toward others in the struggles they face. While that doesn’t mean I have to take on, and be responsible for, everyone’s burdens, it does remind me that others don’t have an off switch in the troubles they face either. With that in mind, I should offer what I can to help others in their struggles, because I know I appreciate it when others do that for me.
This week a good friend from church told me that they’ll be moving to another state to restore an old house they’ll be living in. This friend has a real knack for restoration, interior design, and overall leaving the world better than they found it, so I’m super excited for this adventure of theirs.
I’ve been thinking of the years we’ve spent together in the same Sunday school class, the fun we’ve had playing in the worship band, and the great conversations we’ve had over the years. I also remember the often-spoken kind and encouraging words from this friend that have been a source of joy and comfort as we’ve traveled life together for several years.
There’s a song I’ve heard recently by country singer Brad Paisley titled, “Last Time for Everything”. It’s about how good things transition away, and as they go, you experience them for the last time. This song, and my friend’s move, again remind me that we’re to enjoy the people, places, things, and even the time of life we’re currently in, while we have it, because things transition.
I’m certain my friend and I will continue to stay in touch and will no doubt see each other again in the future. And I’m also reminded that while good things transition out of our life, just as often, equally good things transition in.
Earlier this week I had a video visit with my primary care provider. Nothing major, just a follow up from a previous annual visit. I really like my doctor and as he was talking to me, I was extremely grateful to have him to help me navigate the healthcare world when I need it. I am grateful to have him on my team.
We all have a team. Our team are those people we seek out when we need advice or guidance in an area where we are not very skilled or familiar with, or they’re those people we regularly visit to make sure we’re on the right path. A team can consist of such things as a:
- Doctor or dentist
- Financial planner
- Trusted mechanic
- Personal trainer
One thing that is nice about our team is that we get the privilege of picking who is on them. As such, we should be looking for specific attributes when we’re looking for someone to join our team. For example, what I especially appreciate about my doctor is that he takes the time to teach me about the concepts he’s talking to me about in a way that I can understand. He doesn’t dump a bunch of jargon on me that I’m not familiar with, and then get frustrated that I don’t understand what he’s trying to tell me. He actually teaches me. I come away from my visits with him knowing more than I did when I arrived.
I also appreciate that he asks me if I have any questions. He’s not an information dump truck that quickly dumps a pile of information on me and drives off. He wants to make sure that I leave with my questions answered, versus making sure that I just leave.
The next time you’re seeking to add someone to your team, do your homework. Make sure they have the attributes you’re looking from someone who will influence your decision making in a certain area of your life. And if you have someone on your team that doesn’t have the attributes you’re looking for, perhaps it’s time to consider replacing them. It’s your team. Fill it accordingly.
When you hear a discouraging word or someone says something false or unkind about you, remember this: those words only have the meaning you give them.
Unkind thoughts, words, or opinions of others are not an indictment or sentence someone else gets to place on you. You are the one who decides what meaning, if any at all you give to those words. If someone says that you’re, say, selfish, and you’re clearly not, you don’t have to be negatively impacted by theirs words or opinion. You can decide that those words don’t ring true about you, and therefore have no meaning for you. You are then free to let those words go and not carry them around with you.
If perhaps, in this scenario, you realize that you are indeed selfish, the meaning you give those words may be along the lines of agreement and that this is an area you’re going to seek to better yourself. A rebuke of who you are is not the meaning you give them, but rather it’s a picture of something you’d like (you decide) to change about yourself.
We can also give positive meaning to words of encouragement or affirmation. We can take these words to mean that we’re on track to being the person we’d like to become.
We are the ones who get to decide the meaning we give something. It is not placed on us by others but determined by us alone. What a privilege!
“Make every minute two: one to experience it, one to savor it.” ~Neal Peart
“Your gonna miss this. You’re gonna want this back. You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.” ~Trace Atkins – You’re Gonna Miss This
I’ve been thinking about the passing of time lately. Isn’t it amazing how quickly it goes by? Consider the following scenarios:
You plan a vacation and eagerly look forward to it. Before you know it, you’re actually experiencing it. Then, almost overnight, it seems, the trip is a 5-year-old memory.
You and your new spouse are just starting your lives together. You’ve got nothing but dreams for the future that you’re excitedly anticipating. You can hardly wait to move from your current situation to the life you envision. Before you know it, you’ve realized some of your dreams and you’re looking back at where you started with 2 thoughts:
- That went fast!
- Those were some good times!
Time’s march, at a 24-hour cadence, is steady and brisk. When I was in basic training for the Army National Guard (several decades ago! Like it was yesterday.) I was amazed at how slow each single day went, yet how fast the weeks and months seemed to fly by.
This steady cadence reminds me to take time to enjoy the experiences I’m having as I’m having them because they’ll be memories (and soon old memories) before I know it.
Let’s make sure to makes sure to not only experience our moments, but to savor them as well. They go so fast that it would be worth stretching them out as much as we can.
Over the past year I’ve had several people I know, including me, experience an unexpected medical event. I also work at a hospital, so I’m constantly reminded of the infections, injuries, and illnesses that can plague our health. While this may all sound gloomy, I think there’s’ a bright point to keep in mind:
While there are enough bad things that can happen to us that are beyond our control, there are significant actions we can take to increase the likelihood of a healthy life.
It’s amazing how so much of what we do, over a long period of time, has an impact on our health. Consider the following healthy habits:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Exercising regularly
- Drinking lots of water
- Enjoying food in moderation
- Visiting the doctor for any health abnormalities
- Getting preventative checkups
While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, these healthy habits, when done together, over years and decades lead to good health. And here’s the cool part… we get to choose whether or not we do them! No one gets to decide whether or not we live a healthy life. That decision is totally up to us!
We also get to decide, consciously or not, if we want to observe unhealthy lifestyle choices. By not deciding to take care of our health, we are essentially deciding to neglect it and choose poor health as an alternative.
Why would we voluntarily choose to surrender our good health to sloppy decision making. There are enough outside forces at work against our health. Let’s not allow our own apathy toward our good health to become one of them.
“The older I get, the younger my teachers become.” ~Unknown
As a life-long learner, I’m grateful for the people who have been (and currently are) willing to teach me. Whether they’ve written a book I’ve read, created a podcast, or sat down next to me to explain something, their willingness to teach me has enriched my live. I’m especially grateful that these teachers are often younger than I am.
As someone who’s been around for over half a century, I couldn’t imagine how adversely impacted my learning would be if I only listened to people who were older than me. If I carried the belief that there’s nothing I can learn from anyone who’s younger than me, I’d be willingly disconnecting myself from the wisdom and knowledge of a significant portion of the world population. What an awful way to move through life!
If sense a negative attitude bubbling up when you have the opportunity to learn from someone younger, check yourself. You may be on the cusp of throwing away a perfectly good learning experience.
How foolish it would be to miss an opportunity to learn something valuable, simply because pride and ego deafen your ears to voices younger than your own.
Several years ago I got a birthday card from my co-workers. It was a nice card filled with kind words of birthday cheer. Of all the notes written, there was one encouraging message that really stood out. It simply read, “Make the most of the next 12 months, for you will never be this age again!”
I’d never thought of birthdays like that. Sure, I know how the calendar works, but I‘d never really considered that we get the privilege of being a certain age for only 12 months. This encouraging note reminded me that I get to decide how I want to spend the next 12 months of my lives.
It’s easy to think of birthdays as a reminder that we’re getting older, but my co-worker’s wise words continue to remind me that we have a role to play in what we do with the days between our birthdays. We can choose to become “old” by complaining that we’re getting old, or we can choose to be grateful for the days we have and get about the business of living them well. It’s absolutely up to us.