Reminder To Enjoy It

On Wednesday, my wife informed me that the place we board our cats when we travel will be closing down.  This is a bummer for us, because we really enjoyed this place.  Whenever we dropped our cats off, we never worried about them because they received excellent care, and were always in great shape when we returned.  We will miss this place.

Again, I’m reminded of the importance of appreciating those things (and people) we enjoy while we have them, because so often things change, and they’re gone.

Be on the look out for those things you currently enjoy and look upon them with gratitude and thanksgiving, while you still have them.  And remember, while change can be sad or frustrating, it is also the vehicle by which exciting new things come into our lives.

Introductions From Others

I’m currently listening to the audio book “Music is History” by Questlove.  One thing I’m really enjoying about this book so far is the introductions Questlove has indirectly given me to artists and songs I might not have encountered on my own.  I’m just a few chapters in, and already, I’ve been listening to a handful of new songs and “favorited” a couple of artists in Spotify.  I’m grateful he took the time to write this book and share some of his favorites with the rest of us.

Be on the lookout for these indirect introductions throughout your day.  They could be recommendations from friends, suggestions of things to do this weekend from the evening news, or suggestion on a website.  It’s a great way to experience something new, and maybe even discover a new favorite.

Small Steps Forward

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.

The Value Of Instructors

Four years ago, I began taking lessons to learn the electric bass guitar.  I’m sure I could have learned to play the bass by watching youtube videos, but I prefer being able to ask specific questions I’m struggling with to a real person versus a search engine.  I also prefer lessons, because the instructor often know things that will be useful that I’m not yet aware of.

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been learning about now to write melodies.  When we first started, I was wondering to myself, “how is this going to help be become a better bass player?”  I was really having a hard time connecting the dots between being able to write melodies and being a more skilled bass player.

As we’ve been working on it, I’m seeing how this skill will increase my understanding of music and also help me learn how I can apply this knowledge directly in some of the songs we play on the worship team at church.  It’s a skill I likely wouldn’t have pursued, had I not been taking lessons from someone who knows more about music than me.

While youtube and online search results can be useful in helping you learn a new skill, I think the best way to learn, at least for me, is to enlist the help of a good instructor.  Someone who has been on the same journey, only much longer than I have, and someone who knows what skills would be valuable, that I may not even be considering.

The next time you’re trying to go beyond the basics of learning a new skill, consider enlisting the help of an instructor.  It’s highly probable that you’ll benefit from the knowledge they have that you’re not yet aware of.

It’s Not Just Physical

We’ve all heard how exercise and diet are key components of maintaining good physical health as we age.  You’ll certainly get no argument from me about this!  However, I do think there’s more than just our physical health that we should consider as part of a healthy lifestyle.  We should also keep our minds healthy as well.

Two of the best ways I can think of to develop a healthy mind is to use it, and to be aware of what you’re putting into it.

This is just my opinion, but I think our minds were created to be used.  Just like a car is meant to be driven, and a piano is meant to be played, so too our minds were meant to be used rather than to sit idle.  By “using our minds”, I mean we should continuously be sharpening them by:

  • Exposing them to new and interesting (to us) content
  • Learning new skills
  • Listening to new, and even opposing ideas
  • Talking to people who are different from us
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Connecting with others

In addition to using them, we should also be aware of the content we’re allowing into our minds.  If you put gas in your car that is full of debris, it won’t run well.  Filling our minds with negative content will have the same effect over time.  The content we put into our minds is how we train our think, respond, and form our worldview.  I want to put content in my mind that will yield positive thinking, not only now, but well into the future.

So the next time you’re taking a walk, exercising, or doing any other activity that benefits your physical health, take a moment to make sure that you’re also developing a healthy mind as well.  Because if you’re like me, you want to age with a heathy body AND mind. 

What’s Forming You

Consider all the things that influence the way you think.  The number of inputs is more than we might think, and includes everything from social media, to the books we read, the people we hang out with, the TV shows and movies we watch and books we read.  Now consider that each one of these things has influence on how our thinking is formed.

How does that make you feel?  Do you like the forming effect these inputs are having on you?  If you answered, “Yes”, great!  Keep availing yourself to the same kinds of inputs you’ve been receiving.

If you answered, “No”, there’s good news!  You can change your inputs, and thereby change how you’re thinking is being formed.  What a blessing, and a responsibility.  A blessing, because we can decide how were being formed, and a responsibility, because we should take action to ensure that we’re being formed in a way that leads to a positive, abundant life.

The question isn’t whether our thinking be formed, but rather how it will be formed.  Let’s decide how we want our thinking to be formed and ensure that we’re consuming the right inputs to get us there.

You’re Right

My wife recently told me about a Facebook post someone we know made where they talked about how they lost 70lbs since January of this year.  That’s amazing to me!  I’m always impressed by people who decide how they want their life to look, and then take the steps to cause it to happen.  Their behavior says a lot about what they think they’re capable of, and their results confirm that their thinking is accurate.    

What we think about ourselves is important, because it drives our behavior.  If you think you are unable to do something, and continually tell yourself that you can’t, it’s unlikely that you’ll behave in a way that will cause you to be successful.  And why would you be successful?  You’re thinking has determined that success is not in the cards for you.  And you know what?  You’re right!

Consider these common thoughts:

  • “I’m too old”     
  • “I could never achieve that goal”
  • “I’m not smart enough”
  • “People like me don’t have that kind of success”
  • “I’m not technical enough”
  • “I don’t deserve…”
  • “I’ll never be…”

If these thoughts represent the way you think about yourself, then the response to each of these statements about yourself would be, “You’re right!”

Now consider of the implications that kind of thinking will have on your life over months, years, and decades.  Think of all the opportunities, growth, potential, and joy that you’ll sideline yourself from, simply because you’re thinking is keeping you from them.

It’s time to examine our thinking, and make adjustments when we find that it is keeping us from where we are and where we want to be.  An abundant life awaits!  The first step is thinking that we can achieve it.

Different Backgrounds Different Outlook

Here’s something we all know, but that I often forget… we don’t all have the same background and experiences shaping how we view ourselves and the world.

I can too easily assume that others have similar backgrounds and experiences as me.  That assumption is an easy connection to another equally false assumption; that what I would do or how I would think in a situation is how others should think.  That’s simply not true. 

Our experiences and backgrounds shape how we interpret what we see in the world, so it’s obvious that those with differing experiences would see things different that I would, and vice versa.

I like to frequently remind myself about this so that I don’t look up one day and realize that I’ve turned into a cranky old man, simply because I assume that the problem with everyone is that they don’t see the world the same way I do.

Struggling To Start A Habit

I love journaling.  When I journal, I feel more observant, reflective, grateful, and focused.  Yet with all the positive benefits, I’ve had a hard time getting into the consistent regular habit of journaling.

There will be seasons where I journal a lot, but then I’ll stop and go for long stretches without an entry.  What makes this even more frustrating is that I have done a good job of forming other positive habits that I do daily.  However, regular journaling remains elusive.

That said, I still work to create the habit.  I haven’t totally thrown in the towel, because I think it is a habit worthy of pursuing.  Just because that habit isn’t forming right away, doesn’t mean I should give up on it.  It it’s important to me, which it is, I should continue to strive to form that habit.

Striving is progress, and that progress ceases the moment we stop striving.

On The Other Side

“What’s it like on the other side of me?”  ~ Pastor Amy

During the sermon at church last week, one of our pastors referenced this question that she often asks herself in relation to what it’s like for others to interact with her.  I though it was a great question I should start asking myself!

We all know what it’s like to be us.  We’re aware of our opinions, our values, and what we think.  However, are we aware of how those opinions come across when we’re talking to others?  Are we aware of possible no verbal signals, attitudes, tones of voice, judgement, or perceptions we may not mean to send, that others experience when communicating with us?

Pastor Amy’s question causes me to think about how I treat others (intentionally or unintentionally) when communicating with them.  It reminds me that communication is so much more than just words.