Make Time Your Ally

“Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.”  ~James Clear

While I was listening James Clear’s book Atomic Habits last week, I heard him mention the quote above about time magnifying whatever you feed it.  We all know this is true, but this quote really resonated with me with the realization that those habit we continuously do over time, no matter how small, will have an impact. 

Think of things like saving a percentage of every paycheck for retirement, smoking a pack of cigarettes every day, or exercising 30 minutes a day.  While theses habits may seem small and inconsequential in the moment, the compounding effect they have over time can be significant.  And based on what the habit is, those effects can be positive or negative. 

I’ve been thinking about the habits I have lately, and those I’d like to start, and where they can take me.  Some of the habits I have are intentional, and I’m excited about the impact they’ve had on my life.  If I’m being honest, I have other habits that are unintentional, meaning I didn’t set out to put them in place, but rather I’ve just allowed them to develop.  Most of these habits are borne out of mental laziness and don’t really yield the type of results I’d like to get. 

Being aware of our habits (the good as well as the not so good) is a great way to make sure what we do over a large arch of time is actually leading us somewhere we want to go.  Whether we’re aware or not, as James Clear stated, time will multiply whatever we feed it.  Let’s make sure we’re making time our ally.

Just Pick A Day

My sister and I were texting earlier this week about the nice sunny weather we were having.  I suggested we get together for a nice walk one of these upcoming sunny mornings.  She agreed.  Not only that, her following text showed me her level of commitment, “Let’s just pick a day, or it won’t happen!!”

I couldn’t have agreed more.

When there is something we want to do, the best way to ensure that it actually happens is to just pick a day and get it on the calendar.  It’s not difficult.  Once you decided you’re committed to making it happen, open up the calendar and select a date and time that works.  It really is that simple.  A specific date and time equals commitment.  “Someday” does not.

I’m looking forward to our scheduled walk with my sister this Saturday morning!  We just picked a day.

I Don’t Even Miss It

Our house has been feeling rather full, in a cluttered since lately, so a couple of weekends ago, my wife and I went through several closets and rooms and got rid of stuff we no longer use.  It was amazing how much stuff we had that fell into that category! What’s even more interesting is that I don’t even miss a single thing I got rid of.

What I do enjoy, much more than the exiled stuff, is the free space I have in rooms, closets, bookshelves, and cabinets.  There’s such a calming feeling when every inch of a bookshelf isn’t stuffed full of books I’ll likely never read again.  Likewise, a closet with much available space is much more fun to interact with than one that’s jammed full of unused clothing that obscures the clothes I actually do wear.

It’s hard to believe that a carload full of stuff taken to Goodwill can have such a positive impact on my surroundings.

Are there any items you know you’ll no longer use that you need to get rid of or give to someone else who can use them?  If so, I encourage you to do it as soon as possible.  Not only will you enjoy interacting with your newly uncluttered space, you will most likely not even miss the times you get rid of.

The More We Love

The more you love in life, the more life has to offer.”  ~ Lee (my bass instructor)

During a bass lesson this week with my instructor Lee, he mentioned how limiting your exposure to only one specific type of music holds you back from new perspectives and ideas that can be applied to your own music style.  His example made a lot of sense.  If I only listen to say, country music (which I happen to like) then I will only experience music through that lens.  My playing will come to only sound like what I hear in country songs, and I won’t have the opportunity to learn and apply ideas from other music genres.  Lee’s comment resonated with me, not only in the musical context, but in the larger context of a life well lived.

Imagine for a minute that the only food you absolutely loved was pizza.  Now imagine that you ate pizza as often as you could because you loved it so much, but when you couldn’t have pizza, you were disappointed in the alternative.  Yes, I know there are a lot of different varieties of pizza toppings to keep interesting for a long time, but how limiting to think that of all the food choices available to you, that you would be disappointed with anything that wasn’t the single food you loved.   

I think we can also be narrow in our love for a number of things beyond food and music, such as

  • Places
  • Geographies
  • Areas of interest
  • Types of books
  • Topics of conversation
  • Cultures
  • People
  • How we use our gifts and talents
  • How we spend our time
  • Seasons of the calendar
  • Seasons of life

Consider your capacity to love broadly in the topics listed above or others you’re thinking of that weren’t on the list.  The more that we love, be it people places or things, the more opportunities we have for our lives to intersect with those things we love.  I for one, am eager to live a life full of intersections with the things I love.

A Quick Thought On Your 2021 Calendar

2021 looks promising, although it did start off a little bumpy.  Since we’ll soon be getting back to life that includes more events and interactions with others, it’s important to remember that we are the ones who decide what events we allow on our calendars.

When you’re considering scheduling an event, make sure you’re not doing it out of a false sense of obligation, or because you feel you can’t say, “No” to something you really have no interest in doing. 

I would argue that our time is more valuable than money, because we can always get more money.  That’s is something we can’t do with time.  The limit on a day is 24 hours, we can’t get more.  The only choice we have is how we’ll spend the finite amount of time we’ve been given.  Therefore, we need to make sure that it is our priorities that fill our calendars in 2021, not someone elses.

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.

Cast Your Gaze Beyond Today

With COIVD-related restrictions and choices an omnipresent reality of the 2020 holiday season, it’s easy to become frustrated by how abnormal everything is this year.  While it’s true that things look different this year, I want to encourage you that this is not how Christmas, or any other holiday, will look forever more.  Remember that this current state is indeed temporary.  Before we know it, we will be celebrating holidays with family and friends again.

My pastor signs all his emails with a phrase that I think is especially fitting for this year, “Believing the best is yet to come”.    I think that true.  We only have to be willing to cast our gaze beyond what’s happening today.

Looking Beyond Today

I like Thanksgiving.  It’s a fun time of year, the sights and smells of the holiday are great, plus it’s a fun time to get together with people we’re thankful for.  This year’s holidays will likely be very different than holidays past for many people. 

While that may be frustrating, I think it’s important not to spend too much time lamenting what we don’t have this year, but rather focus on what we still do have.  In addition, it would help us to begin to eager look ahead to the holidays yet to come that won’t be impacted by a global pandemic. 

Those days are coming.  We just need to look past today to see them.

Taking Inventory Our Habits

“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.

I See That

Before work Monday morning, I took a sunny yet cool Autumn walk through the neighborhood.  At one point I heard what sounded like rain.  However, a clear sky quickly ruled rain out as a source of the sound.  As I kept walking, the noise grew louder until I realized the sound was being created by a flood of leaves continuously falling from several reddish-orange trees lining the street.

I stood under one of the trees for several minutes and just watched and listened.  It was such a unique experience.  Sure, I’ve often heard wind blowing through Autumn leaves that were still in the trees, but I’ve never seen falling leaves that sound so much like steady rain.  It was a beautiful scene.  I’m glad I noticed it.

I like to be on the lookout for things like that.  To be curious about and eager to notice something so unexpectedly beautiful.  When I do encounter such a scene, I like to say out loud, “I see that!” It’s my way of letting God know that I see His creativity and how much I appreciate it.