For the last several years I’ve been in the habit of exercising first thing every morning. This is a much easier habit in the summer when it’s already light out when I wake up. In the winter, however, the mornings are dark and rainy, which causes my mind to think of all sorts of reasons to skip the gym and stay in bed.
I never realized how good I am at presenting a compelling argument when I’m half asleep!
Fortunately, I’m even better at looking at all the good reasons to get out of bed and hit the gym, regardless of the conditions outside or how I may be feeling on the inside.
Isn’t it easy to come up with all sorts of seemingly good reasons (let’s call them excuses) to avoid doing what we know would be good for us to do? It’s almost automatic. The excuses leap from our minds with little effort. And, if we listen too closely to them, we find ourselves likewise giving little to no effort toward those activities that could yield significant positive impacts in our lives.
So what can we do to combat the rapidly accumulating list of excuses that we use to hold ourselves back? There must be a better way, right? Fortunately, for us, the answer is, “Yes”!
Here’s how I fight excuses, but be warned, it takes work.
When the excuses tart flowing in your mind, realize the excuses for what they are, take control of your thinking, and come up with some good reasons to engage in the activity.
Here are some examples:
|Activity that’s good for you that you’d like to do…
||Excuse not to…
||Good reason to engage…
||It’s too dark, cold, and rainy.
||If I skip working out today I won’t feel as energetic as I will if I go to the gym.
||I’m too tired and I’d rather just watch TV.
||If I spend 30 minutes a day reading that’s 3.5 hours of reading per week! I can get a lot of books read by doing that.
||I’m too tired to cook. I’ll just wing by <insert name of fast food restaurant>.
||If I eat healthy I likely won’t be so tired. Plus I’ll be improving my health in the weeks, months years ahead!
The trajectory of our life and our personal development all starts with our thinking. So what will you fuel your thinking with: excuses to hold back or good reasons to engage?
It seems like much of the world is divided, distrustful, and fearful of one another. It’s evident on the evening news, in social media, and out in public. But does it have to be like this? Is this really the type of world we have to live in? I don’t think so.
So how do we start to change the culture of our communities, our countries, and our world?
I was at a black history month event on Tuesday evening when I heard someone give their answer to this question. Simply put, they said, “Get to know someone who is different from you.” I love this response because it is so simple, yet so significant.
When we earnestly get to know someone different from us, with the motivation to understand them better, we become less fearful and distrustful of them, because we now have a frame of reference. It’s easy to fear and distrust what we don’t know or have never come in contact with.
Here’s an interesting thought to ponder: There is probably someone who is fearful of you, because you are different from them. Wouldn’t it be great if we could alleviate the fear in others simply by being open, welcoming ambassadors of whatever group we represent?
Here’s some life-long homework for all of us:
- Get in the habit of regularly interacting with someone who is different from you.
- Become a welcoming ambassador for whatever group you represent.
We can either increase fear or distrust in ourselves and others, or we can do our best to decrease these feelings by doing our homework.
The world could use a lot less fear and distrust among its inhabitants. Let’s all make sure to get our homework done.
Here in the Pacific Northwest spring has been doing its best to send winter to an early retirement. Daffodils have started blooming and I even mowed my lawn last week! This false start to spring is getting me excited for the upcoming spring (for real), summer, and fall months. It reminds me that if I have any activities or things I’d like to accomplish this year, I need to take actions to cause them to happen.
I love traveling, hiking, and just getting out and doing things, but I realize that if I don’t put these types of activities on the calendar and cause them to happen, they often won’t. I think it’s like that for most of us. We have intentions to do X, Y, and Z, but get busy with day-to-day stuff and put off planning those activities that are important to us. If left unchecked for days, weeks, months, or even years, we realize that we haven’t done any of those activities and all we have to show are unfulfilled intentions.
Last year was a year where I actually committed to getting my intentions on the calendar and making them happen. It was a wonderful year of learning, travel, new experiences, and great memories. I’m eager to make 2018, and the years ahead, more like 2017. Years not only filled with great intentions, but years where my intentions are validated with commitments to making them happen.
What intentions do you have for 2018 and the years ahead? Now the really important question: What are you going to do to cause them to happen?
“The best way to increase our clarity in a topic is to commit to teaching it to others.”
I currently serve on our church board, and part of that responsibility is to read and interpret our financial statements. While I have been pretty good at doing this, I’ve noticed that several of our other board members struggle in this area. So in an effort to bring clarity, I began creating an instruction sheet to help them learn to read the financials.
The process of creating these instructions brought additional clarity to me in a couple of areas where I didn’t understand our financials as well as I thought. That’s one of the great things about committing to teach: you have to have a clear understanding of the topic before you can clearly communicate it to others.
Whether it’s creating instructions or verbally explaining a concept, teaching others is a great way to bring clarity to others, as well as ourselves.
I love the fact that there are so many interesting topics to learn about! While the list of topics we can take an interested in could easily fill multiple blog posts, I think the most important topic each of us should spend time studying… is ourselves.
If we’re interested in living a fulfilling and satisfying life, we need to regularly spend time understanding how we’re uniquely wired. This can come through reading about behaviors and habits we’d like to embody, taking (and reflecting on) self-assessments, and journaling. While this is not a comprehensive list to self-discovery, it is a good starting point.
As you begin learning about yourselves, you start to discover things like:
- When are you at your best?
- When are you at your worst?
- What captures your heart?
- What were you uniquely created to do?
- How do your respond to stress?
- What do you do better than most other people?
- What should you avoid doing?
- What are some areas of your character that you need to improve?
- When do you feel most alive?
- What drains you?
- Where in your life are you living below your ability??
The more we understand how we’re created and what makes us tick, the better we can decide how to invest our lives during the years we’re blessed with. Because it’s challenging to know what to do with something when we don’t understand how it works.
Being first doesn’t always mean you’re the fastest. In fact, I’d argue that sometimes being first means you’re the slowest.
Have you ever been on the leading edge of change? Whether that’s adopting a new process or perhaps integrating new and unfamiliar tools or software to improve your work, being the one to go first usually results in slower performance as we adopt to the newness before us. We also have the added challenge that, if we’ve gone first, there usually aren’t experts on our team that we can ask questions of. When we go first, we are the expert. Albeit the expert in in training.
I’ve often discovered that while slow-going, being first affords us a unique opportunity to shape how the change we’re embracing will be used and adopted by others. Being first also puts us in a position assist those who come behind us and offer them a smoother transition than we had.
Personally, I’d rather be involved in shaping change and guiding others who come behind rather than sitting around and waiting until the path is clearly spelled out. That’s why I like being first.
Our church is currently in the middle of a couple of significant changes. We’re looking for a lead pastor and a youth pastor as well. Fortunately, it’s a good thing. Both of them left on excellent terms to pursue the next step in their careers. Even so, the congregation is sad to see them go and interested in seeing what this change will bring.
I’m again reminded how constant change is in our lives. As a result, I want to make sure I’m not defaulting to being afraid of change, but instead deciding how I want to view change as I live my life. For me, there are 3 thoughts about change that I try to keep in mind:
- If there’s something I’m currently enjoying in my life, don’t take it for granted. Be thankful for it and enjoy it while you have it, because you never know when things may change.
- All the things I currently enjoy usually entered my life as the result of a change of some sort. Therefore, with regard to change, I’m always asking, “What does this make possible?”
- As a Christian, I know that God never changes, and He is with me no matter what changes I experience.
These thoughts give me the mindset to see change not as tragic event or something to be avoided, but as fertile ground for new opportunities. If you’re looking for something different or new in your life, the only way it will happen is through some sort of change.
The next time you’re facing a change, whether you chose it or not, consider one or all of the thoughts mentioned above. You just might be on the cusp of something exciting… and you won’t want to miss it.