There are plenty of things in life that we have no control over. For example, the weather, the economy, genetics, and most every other person on the planet, just to name a few. However, there are a number of variables in life that we do have control over.
Of those variables, the lever of control we have is choice. We can choose our responses, our behavior, our outlook, the words we use, the course we chart for our life.
This knowledge should be a constant reminder to us to make wise choices. The choices we make today impacts the quality of our tomorrows.
Last week was the first week since January 2013 that I haven’t made a blog post. I’d like to say it was because we were busy traveling last weekend, but I’ve traveled many times since 2013 and have still created a weekly blog post. The simple excuse is, I just forgot.
Beyond just forgetting, the real reason it didn’t get posted was because I didn’t write, “Post blog” on my list of To-Do items.
I find that when I have a lot of things going on, I need a list to help me keep track of the tasks I need to complete. Much like a grocery list, a task list helps me ensure that I don’t forget anything important I’m supposed to do. More importantly, a task list frees up my mental capacity from having to remember to do something. Once it’s on my list, I don’t have to spend any energy remembering to do it, because the list will remember for me.
I heard a quote once that said, “Our mind are great places for having ideas, but they’re a horrible place for storing them.” I totally agree! Whether paper or digital, lists are great places for remembering things like:
- Groceries to buy at the store
- Chores you need to complete
- Things you need to pack for a trip
- Books you want to read
- Destinations you like to visit
- People you need to contact
- Appointments and meetings you have during the day
The next time you have a number of things to remember, instead of keeping them in your head, consider making a list. Not only will a list help you remember what you need to do, it’s fun to cross completed items off the list!
I currently serve on our church board, where our pastor has us reading “Emotionally Healthy Discipleship”, in order to help us develop as a team as we lead our church. I’m thankful we have a pastor that is intentional about growing the church’s staff and leadership.
One item that really stood out as I was reading this week was a section about how our experiences impact our mindset and how that influences how we make decisions. Nothing new there, right? We all know our experiences influence our decisions, but for some reason, this reality landed on me with an eye-opening air of newness this time.
As I was reading a case study of a church board making a decision, and how each member was making their decisions based on their past experience, I immediately thought of this scenario in the context of our own church board.
We, as a board, have been through the decision-making process many times. However, now I have a new perspective on how others’ decisions might be influenced by a completely different set of experiences than I have had, and vice versa. Every person on our board (or any team for that matter) will filter their decisions through their own experience, just like me.
This reminds me that when someone comes to a different conclusion or decision than me, it’s not because they’re necessarily opposed to my view, but rather they are deciding based on their experience. It also reminds me to ask questions to help understand why they came to that decision.
I’m thankful for the broader perspective this simple reminder offers.
“There is no shortcut. There is no hack. There’s only one way, so get after it.”
~ Jocko Willink – “Discipline Equals Freedom”
Within the context of our goals, there is a gap between where we are currently and where we want to go. And usually, the bigger the outcome we’re striving for, the bigger the gap that exists. While there is no shortcut to bridging that gap, there is a simple remedy to get us to the other side. That is to take the first step today.
We’d never sit in our car on one side of a bridge with the transmission in park, hoping that we could somehow make it to the other side. In order to cross the bridge, we put the car in gear, step on the accelerator and start moving across the bridge to the other side.
It’s no different with our goals. Sure, we can sit on our current side of the gap we need to cross and talk about how much we want to be on the other side, but unless we take steps to move toward our goal, we’ll never make progress at bridging the gap and reaching the other side. At some point we have to take the actions that will cause us to bridge that gap.
Is there anything you’d like to achieve that you’ve been hesitating on starting, or have even just been lazy about starting? If so, determine what that first step you need to take is and do it today. Then tomorrow, repeat the process and take the next step. Repeat this process daily, until you find yourself on the other side of the gap.
Although the steps might not be easy, the process is, and it involves taking the first step and doing the work.
It’s time to go! The other side awaits.
Disciplined behavior in the moment can be challenging when we’re trying to achieve a goal. Whether it’s fitness, good health, financial, relational, or any other long-term goal, it’s easy to get knocked off track in the moment. What I’ve found helpful for staying disciplined toward the pursuit of a goal is to play the long game.
By that, I mean to look way into the future to what achieving this goal looks like. For example, I want to live a healthy life. That goal is way too vague to withstand the temptations (like ice cream!) that that present themselves on a daily basis that are perpendicular to my goal. Instead, I frame my goal with a bent toward that future. Rather than having a goal to “live a healthy lifestyle”, I have a goal to be an active, engaged, curious, ninety-year-old who is in excellent physical condition.
I’m playing the long game by focusing on the person I want to become when I turn 90. This focus helps me consider my choice on a daily, monthly, weekly, and yearly basis. The question I present myself with is, “are the choices I’m making (in relation to diet, finances, relationships, intellectual development, and spiritual growth) or have been making, leading me closer to or further from the person I want to be in my 90s”? If the answer is, “Yes”, I move keep making those choices. If my answer is “No”, then I consider modifying my behavior.
Playing the long game helps give my life daily direction. I know where I want to go, so all I need to do now is make sure my choices are taking there.
There are 2 things I especially enjoy about the month of January. I love the fact that January means that Spring is only a couple of months away! January is also a great time to look back on your life and take stock of how you’ve been doing, and to also look ahead and make adjustments. I love that process! This year especially, because I’ve identified a few old habits that I’d like to make a more-regular part of my life in 2022 and in the years ahead.
First, I’d like to get back into the habit of consuming personal development material. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of books and listening to podcasts about biographies and historic events, which have been very interesting and enjoyable. However, this month I started listening to personal development podcasts and reading books on the same topic. I have been reminded what a boost this kind of content is to my attitude and outlook. This is something I want more of.
I’ve also started exploring options for regional travel. I live in the Pacific Northwest and there are all sorts of cool places to get out and see and explore. A lot of our travel over the past few years (not counting COVID years) has been out of the region. While we still want to do plenty of other travel, we’re also focusing on seeing what’s to us in the PNW. I’m finding there’s plenty of adventure out there just waiting for us to discover it.
Finally, I’ve started journaling again. This is one habit that I’ve had a hard time sticking to long term. I seem to have seasons where I’m journaling more, but I’d really like to make this a regular daily habit. The reason is because I’m just better personally when I’m journaling regularly. My thinking feels clearer, I feel more observant and engaged in life, and I like the ability to go review what I’ve read in years past. It chronicles my own personal growth journey.
What habits to you have (or have had) that you’d like to make a more regular part of your life? Give it some thought, and when you come up with something, put systems in place to ensure the behavior does, indeed, become a habit. Your future self is rooting for you!
Are you thinking of making a New Year’s resolution? Are you also thinking that whatever resolution you make, will likely be forgotten before the first month of the new year is over? If so, perhaps consider this; instead of a lofty goal to achieve, consider what kind of person you’d like to become over the next 12 months.
The reason I like this approach so much is because over the next 12 months (and for the rest of our lives, actually!) we’re going to become something. Why not choose what type of person we want to become, and take small daily steps toward becoming that person?
For example, if we want to be a someone that lives a healthy lifestyle, we can daily ask ourselves if what we eat or our level of activity is consistent with the healthy person we decided we want to become. Our answers will confirm that we’re on track or that we might need a course correction.
We’re fortunate, that even though there are plenty of things that are out of our control, we still have the ability to chose what we become. And that change comes through small steps made daily, over the scope of months, years, and decades. As mentioned earlier, we’ll become something. Let’s be intentional with what that “something” is.
What do you want more of in your life? Maybe it’s peace or joy. Perhaps you’d like better health or more close relationships. Whatever it is that you want more of, get a picture of what that looks like, because you’re going to need that picture for the next paragraph.
Do you have that picture of what more of whatever you decided you want in your life looks like? Good! Now, today, take the first step, no matter how small, that causes that picture to become more of a reality in your life. Then tomorrow, take the next step, and likewise the day after that and beyond.
Without a change, we’ll continue getting more of the same, which can be good if you’re actively moving toward something you want. If, however, there’s something more you want, you’re only a few small steps away from heading in that direction.
One reason I think life is so interesting is that there is so much to learn and improve at. From our skills in the workplace, to hobbies and interests, to character improvements, to relational skills and even spiritual growth, we have a neve-ending source of areas where we can improve. And while I am energized by this thought, at times, I also find it rather frustrating.
The source of this frustration, for me, comes when the improvement happens slower than I would like. Yes, I know improvement takes time, but still, I often wish it came a little (or a lot!) quicker.
That’s why the following comment I read last week resonated so much with me. It said,
“We change not in giant leaps, but one small step at a time. Your have the rest of your life, so be patient with yourself.”
I love this statement because it reminds me that my real goal in life is continuous improvement versus being an unachievable form of perfect right now. It also reminds me that progress adds up over time. Therefore, if I’m a life-long learner, which I am, I’ve got a lifetime to get better.
That thought is a good antidote for alleviating my frustration at a perceived slow rate of progress. All I really need to do is continue making small steps forward.
I was talking with some folks this week that mentioned they occasionally have doubt whether they belong in the career position they’re currently in, which they both enjoy. It’s interesting to me how often we doubt our own abilities. Especially when we’re actually doing, and enjoy, the very thing we doubt we can do. Seems kind of funny when you think about that way.
Usually, it’s our own thoughts that cause us to doubt our abilities. Thought like:
- I’m not smart enough
- I haven’t been doing this very long
- I feel like an imposter
- Other people could do a much better job than I can
- And a zillion other self-defeating thoughts.
Here’s a bit of encouragement for all of us when we begin to doubt our abilities in what we’re doing.
- You are currently doing it
- You enjoy doing it
- You are actively learning and applying yourself to get better…
Then you’re just the right person to be doing what you’re doing.
It’s as simple as that. Sure, you need a basic level of competence. However, there is nowhere that states we’re required to be the smartest person, or to have all the answers before we can hold a position or offer our skills to the world. If you hold a position that you enjoy, and are learning and growing in it, then you belong there.
Now that that’s settled, ditch the doubt and move forward, offering your best to what you do. The world needs what you have to offer.