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.

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.

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.

Thoroughbreds

I’m blown away of the power of our brains and all the good use we can put them to.  What’s even more impressive (aside from the fact that each one of us owns one of these wonderful things free and clear!) is how our brains are constantly running.  I liken our brains to a race horse that wants to run.  Similarly, our brains need to be trained to run where we want them to run, versus just letting them run wild in any they’d like.

Can you imagine the owner of a highly valued thoroughbred race horse allowing the magnificent creature to run through any rocky pasture, hillside, or street it wanted?  That would be a horrific use of such a valuable investment.  Instead, such a horse’s diet, training, facilities, and environment are all conducive top performance, because that is how you treat a thoroughbred.

I think our brains should also be treated as the thoroughbreds that they are, or that they can become.  We should give them the proper care and training that they are worthy of, in order for them to perform for us at the high level they are capable of. 

So, how do we train our minds so they perform like thoroughbreds?  The following items are good places to start: 

  • Monitor the content we’re allowing into our minds to ensure its productive and positive. 
  • Take our negative thoughts (toward ourselves or others) and quickly redirect them toward a more productive line of thinking.
  • Expose our brains to new ideas through books, classes, podcasts, computer-based training, or conversations with others.
  • Continue to apply our brains toward learning new skills we’d like to acquire.
  • Use them to solve problems and come up with solutions and idea.
  • Engage your brain daily.

What a blessing to be in possession of such a creation!  May we treat them (and train them) like the valuable thoroughbreds that they are.

How Do You Do It

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”  ~Unknown

This saying causes me to pause and think about how I do things.  Specifically, how do I handle the small day to day things in my life.  Do I give my best effort or am I half-hearted in my efforts?

Now I’m not saying that we have to give 100% focused, top of our game effort on every little thing we do.  That would be not only exhausting, but also unnecessary!  The bigger question here, is what is our dominant mindset when we do things?  Do we regularly mail it in, or are we in the regular habit of giving our best effort?  Do we offer the minimum effort to get by, or do we regularly give a little beyond what’s needed?

It’s a good question to ask, and one we can pretty easily answer when we look at the results we’re getting in life.

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.

Maintaining What’s Important

We just finished a 6 week house renovation project this week that included some painting, carpeting, and hardwood floors.  Our house is 23 years old, so it was time to spruce everything up and give it a fresh new look.  I think it’s important to keep my house in a good working order and condition, not only because it’s such a big investment, but because it’s more enjoyable for me to live in when it’s in this state.

I also think it’s important to maintain the other big things in our lives that are important to us like our:

  • Finances
  • Closest Relationships
  • Health
  • Spiritual well being
  • Intellect and thinking
  • Attitude

Maintenance, whether it be for a friendship, a home, or our health, involves a commitment of our time and resources, because things that are neglected usually aren’t maintained well.

Spend some time thinking about the things that are important to you and determine whether they could use a little maintenance from you.  If so, take action to get them the attention they need.  You’ll enjoy what you have even more when it’s properly maintained.

Ask For Help

“If you need help, ask.”  Whether at school, at home, or on the job, we’ve all been told this as some point.  If we need help, assistance is just a request away.  Yet why is it that we seem to wait so long for before we actually avail ourselves of the assistance others are willing to offer?

I get it, we like to be self-sufficient and figure things out for ourselves, or perhaps we don’t want to be a burden to others.  I recognize myself in both of those statements.  And while I agree that we need to make an effort at whatever we’re attempting, at some point we need to enlist the help of others to move forward.  When we find ourselves spinning our wheels or overwhelmed, that’s a significant clue that we should be asking for help.

Keep the following thought in mind the next time you need to ask someone for help, especially if you feel like your asking is a bother to others.  While you’ve undoubted have been told, “If you need help, ask”, have you ever told that to someone else?  (I’ll bet you have!)  And when you told them, did you mean it?  (I’ll bet you did!)  It therefore seems reasonable to believe that most people would be glad to help, if you simply asked. 

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.