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.

Slowing Down

I’ve been working on learning to play the electric bass part of the song Far Cry from the band Rush recently.  It’s a quick tempo song with some cool rhythmic elements that I think sound really cool.  One thing that became painfully obvious when I started learning to play the song was that I would have to slow the tempo way down, if I have any hopes of mastering it.

When I stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense.  I can’t look at a challenging song and play it perfectly at the same tempo on my first attempt.  There are note progressions, fingering, and rhythms that all need to be discerned and practiced at a slower pace in order to gain an understanding of how they all fit together within the song.  Once those elements are understood individually, I can then integrate them together as I begin to play parts of the song.  Albeit still at a slower tempo.

This slowness feels clunky and awkward.  What I really want to do is pick up the bass and play the tune like a pro on the first or second attempt.  However, that’s not the way mastery of a topic works.  Mastery requires that we start out slow as we begin the work of obtaining knowledge and understanding.  From there we can begin to apply this knowledge and steadily increase our pace. 

Here is where I think most people give up pursing a goal.  They see the talent in a musician, athlete, or some other person that has slowed down and put in the time to achieve mastery and think that this person must have been “born with it” or is “gifted”.  In fact, what they are seeing is this person’s reward for having slowed down and spent the time in that slow and clunky stage. 

What’s lost on many of us is that we too can be considered “talented” or “gifted” if we’re willing to put in the required time in the slow and clunky stage.

What Does Action Look Like

In a recent team meeting at work, we were discussing an initiative our organization is undertaking to create an even stronger culture of inclusion, diversity, equity, and learning.  During the discussion someone asked the question, “What does action look like?”

I thought this was a good question because without specific actions to take to get where we want to go, as an organization or as individuals, all we really have are ideals or lofty aspirations.  It’s the intentional actions we take that will move us toward our aspirations becoming our reality.  Without action our aspirations remain just that… aspirations.

I was pleased to learn that our organization is currently in the process of defining what those specific actions look like.  With regard to our own personal goals and aspirations, we should all be asking ourselves what action looks like.

On Your Timeline

Gyms in Oregon have been closed due to COVID-19 restrictions since sometime in November.  This has been disappointing because for years, I’ve been in the habit of going to the gym to exercise first thing every morning.  It’s a nice way to start my mornings and stets a positive tone for the rest of the day. 

Unfortunately, I hadn’t found a substitute for my morning gym routine, other than walking a few times a day.  However, with all the emotionally heavy events that occurred in the US in December and January, I knew that I had to come up with a solution.

Since I don’t have a bunch of weights and exercise equipment at home, I started looking for options that use your body weight as resistance.  Fortunately, there are plenty of possibilities, so I created an exercise plan and, starting this week, have been back in the habit of exercising first thing in the morning!  I’ve enjoyed being back in the habit, and know it will be a good alternative until the gyms finally reopen.

Although it took me long enough, I’m thankful I finally caused something to happen to get me back in an exercise routine, instead of sitting around waiting for someone ese to decide it’s time to reopen the gyms in Oregon.

If there’s something you want or need, don’t sit and wait for someone else to make it happen for you.  Decide what action YOU need to take to bring it about, and then take that action!

Why should we wait on someone else’s timeline when we can decide to create our own?

Learning With Others

I’ve been teaching an adult Sunday school class at our church for about 12 years.  Actually, I’m more of a discussion facilitator than an actual teacher or instructor.  I prefer this role as facilitator, because I’ve noticed that the best learning in class occurs when the participants share their knowledge and we seek answers and explore the Bible together.  As a facilitator, I simply bring interesting information about the topic we’re studying and encourage others to ask question and share any insight they might have.

If I approach a Sunday school class as the teacher, it feels like I need to have all the answers and have a lesson plan figured out that details everything we’ll discuss during the class.  I don’t like that approach because it doesn’t leave room for questions an exploration.  If I’m seen as the teacher, the class feels more like a lecture, where I’m imparting knowledge to the rest of the class while they sit quietly and listen.  This approach would be boring to me!  While I’ve got some knowledge on the topic, I also have lots of questions that I’d like to ask.  If I’m the teacher, there’s a lid on the class that only goes as far as my knowledge and understanding.

I much prefer to leverage the collective intelligence of the class.  The people who attend regularly spend time in the Bible, so they are very familiar with it.  They’re also eager to learn more, which causes them to read it with the purpose of gaining a greater understanding of what it says. 

Having a forum where we can learn together, ask questions and share our knowledge has sparked numerous conversations (as well as opportunities to learn) that would not have occurred if I were the teacher, simply giving a one-way lecture.  Our class works much better when we all have the opportunity to share the role as teacher.

I think it’s exciting to approach life as a facilitator as well.  It’s fun to encourage others to share what they know about a topic and to hear, and learn from, experiences they’ve have had.  Most people are willing to share what they know; they often just need someone to invite them to do so.