Let A List Remember For You

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!

A Different Look At Resolutions

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.

Choose How You Age

Most of the weakness and frailty we blame on aging is not due to getting older but to inactivity.”

~Dottie Billington

When I read the quote above earlier this week in Dottie’s book titled, “Life is an Attitude: How to Grow Forever Better”, it leapt off the page at me, because I’ve also heard complaints from people recently about the negative impacts of aging.  These complaints have come in the form of a frustrated resignation that this deterioration is an inevitable part of aging.  I disagree.

Every day we get to choose to either be sedentary or to carve out time in the day to move our bodies.  If we choose one day not to move about or exercise, that single day really won’t have an impact on us.  However, if we decide day after day not to move or exercise, the compounding of those days over month, years, and decades, will certainly have negative impacts on our physical ability as we age. 

Likewise, if we choose to exercise and move every day, the compounding effects of those decisions over months, years, and decades, will have a positive impact on our physical ability in the years to come.

By exercising our bodies (and our minds!) we’re telling ourselves that we need our bodies and minds to be in peak shape, because we plan on using them.  Here’s the cool think, when we train our minds and bodies to be ready for use… they respond!

What encourages me most to reject the assumption that we deteriorate as we get older, is that I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary in the lives of folks that have been around a lot longer than I have.

I encourage you to reject the false assumption that aging is a downward spiral and that after a certain age, you’re washed.  That statement is only true if you choose to believe it.

So how have you decided that you’re going to age?

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.

I’ll Do It Later…Whenever That Is

I have a lot of positive intentions pop into my head throughout the day.  One that I often get is that I should send a hand-written card to someone I happen to be thinking of.  (In the middle of all the technology around us, I still like sending hand-written cards.  Who’d have thought that going “old school” would make you stand out in the Internet age!)  My problem is that I often tell myself I’ll do that later.  All too often, however, “later” never comes.

This week I had the same thought pop into my head regrading someone I though could use an encouraging note.  Only this time, instead of saying I’ll do it later, I took a different approach.

I went to the closet and got out a card and envelop and put it on my desk where I work every day.  Then, I determined that I would get the card written during lunch and placed in the mail that same day.  And you know what?   IT WORKED!  I got the card written and sent!  Who’d have thought!

Sometimes our biggest barrier to following through on our intentions, is that we lack a plan, no matter how simple, to make it happen.  For me, the simple act of getting the card out and naming a time to write in it was all I needed to ensure I followed through on my intention.

The next time your mind offers up a good intention that will bless someone else, don’t just assume you’ll do it later.  Put together a quick, simple plan that will ensure you turn that intention into completed action.

The person you’re blessing will be grateful you had a plan.

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.

A Quick Thought On Answered Prayers

I’m amazed at how often answers to prayers come through other people.  From kind words, to words of encouragement, to generous acts, to numerous other things, other people are often the chosen vehicle God uses to answer prayer. 

What’s particularly interesting about this, is that we not only receive God’s blessings through others, but WE can be a vehicle that God uses to answer the prayers of others!  How cool is that!

The next time you feel like you should say something kind to someone, or take an action that benefits someone else, not matter how small or insignificant it may seem,  don’t hesitate.  Do it right away.  You just may be the vehicle that God wants to use to answer someone’s prayer.

A Picture Of Determination

Last week my wife and I were at the Sol Duc River in Olympic National Park.  This park is filled with striking natural beauty, from alpine vistas and glaciers, to rain forests, to remote beaches.  However, what captured my attention (and respect) most in the park were the returning runs Coho salmon.

We happened to be in the park when these magnificent fish were making their way upstream to reach their home waters to spawn.  There is a section on the Sol Duc called “Salmon Cascades” where you could watch the salmon move from the deep pool below and being ascending this swift current between them and their destination.  It was a mesmerizing site to see.  On one stop, we spent 90 minutes watching, yet it only felt like we were there for just a few moments. 

What impressed me most about these salmon was their determination in the face of such a formidable challenge (a swift rapid in this case).  They’d make an attempt at ascending a rapid and either bounce off a rock or not quite make it, yet you never saw a salmon give up and head back down stream to the calmer water.  Instead, they’d reposition and try again, and again, and again, as often as was necessary.

For the salmon, I think that determination is hard-wired into them.  (I’m not a fish biologist, so I’m not certain, but I have a feeling that’ show God made them.)  However, for us, when we face significant challenges, we can set our minds to be determined to reach our goals, or we can just to figuratively drift back downstream.

I was once again inspired in the presence nature.

Checking The Mirror

I’m sure you’re familiar with this routine.  As you’re getting ready in the morning you look at yourself in the mirror and compare that image with the image you have in your mind of what you should look like before your start your day.  You see disheveled hair, so you fix it.  You see toothpaste on your face, so you wipe it off.  You take one last look on your way out the door to make sure the image of how you’d like to look and how you actually look align.  The mirror does an excellent job of telling us when our appearance is falling short what we expect for ourselves.  It’s great feedback!

While it’s important to have mirrors to ensure we look presentable before we leave the house, I think it’s even more important to have mirrors that reflect back to us how well we’re living up to the standard we’ve set for ourselves.

As a Christian, I’ve decided that the standard I’ve chosen to live by are the teachings of Jesus, as found in the Bible.  So, in order to know whether my life is a reflection of what Jesus teaches, I need compare how I’m living my life to Jesus’s teaching in the Bible and see if my reflection matches.  If my life aligns with Jesus’s teaching, then I’m on track.  If not, I’ve got work to do.  Either way, the mirror of the Bible when compared to my life gives me feedback and informs me where I can make changes.

So what standard are you trying to live your life in accordance with?  What mirror do you need to check your reflection against?  Whatever it is, just be sure to check your reflection regularly, receive the feedback it’s giving you, and make corrections as needed. 

Done over a long period of time, this habit will move your life in the direction you want it to go.

Staying Sharp

I saw a job posting for a similar position to what I currently hold.  No, I’m not looking for a change!  I love what I do and where I do it, so I’m staying put.  However, the required skills section of the posting did capture my attention. 

As I looked at the requirements, I noticed there were a couple of topics that I would benefit from learning more about.  In addition, I got a glimpse into what skills other organizations deem valuable in my chosen career field.  It also caused me to add a couple more items to add to my “skills to learn” list.

I think it’s good to sharpen our knowledge of the techniques and technologies in our chosen careers…

so that our skills don’t become stale or dated …

so that we can skillfully apply our skills to the work that we do…

so that we can help our organizations fulfill their missions.

Staying sharp in our careers isn’t just good for us, it’s also good for those we serve.  Plus, it’s more rewarding when we’ve got an intellectual toolbox full of well-sharpened skills that we can draw from in order to solve the problems we encounter.