A couple of weeks ago in the adult Sunday school class I lead, I made a comment about a section of Scripture. To preface my comment I stated, “We all know this […]”. After some discussion, one of the newer people in the class spoke up and said, “You mentioned that ‘we all know this’, but I DON’T know this.” The comment got my attention.
It’s so easy to assume that just because we know something, everyone else must obviously know it as well. I was reminded that this is usually not the case. For me, it’s important to be aware of this reality, so that I don’t inadvertently exclude people from classroom discussions, dialog in a meeting, or even a simple conversation by assuming they know what is being discussed.
I like to include people versus excluding them. What I learned from the Sunday school class exchange is to stop assuming that folks know something and actually give space to check that assumption. If my assumption is correct, great! We can move forward. If, however, my assumption is incorrect, then that presents a great opportunity for discussion to help bring others along, and event to learn something new myself.
There’s enough division and exclusion going on in the world, that I don’t need to add to it in my conversations and interactions. How much better it is to test and assumption and gain clarification, than to move forward with the assumption, only to find out that it was incorrect.
“There is no shortcut. There is no hack. There’s only one way, so get after it.”
~ Jocko Willink – “Discipline Equals Freedom”
Within the context of our goals, there is a gap between where we are currently and where we want to go. And usually, the bigger the outcome we’re striving for, the bigger the gap that exists. While there is no shortcut to bridging that gap, there is a simple remedy to get us to the other side. That is to take the first step today.
We’d never sit in our car on one side of a bridge with the transmission in park, hoping that we could somehow make it to the other side. In order to cross the bridge, we put the car in gear, step on the accelerator and start moving across the bridge to the other side.
It’s no different with our goals. Sure, we can sit on our current side of the gap we need to cross and talk about how much we want to be on the other side, but unless we take steps to move toward our goal, we’ll never make progress at bridging the gap and reaching the other side. At some point we have to take the actions that will cause us to bridge that gap.
Is there anything you’d like to achieve that you’ve been hesitating on starting, or have even just been lazy about starting? If so, determine what that first step you need to take is and do it today. Then tomorrow, repeat the process and take the next step. Repeat this process daily, until you find yourself on the other side of the gap.
Although the steps might not be easy, the process is, and it involves taking the first step and doing the work.
It’s time to go! The other side awaits.
Disciplined behavior in the moment can be challenging when we’re trying to achieve a goal. Whether it’s fitness, good health, financial, relational, or any other long-term goal, it’s easy to get knocked off track in the moment. What I’ve found helpful for staying disciplined toward the pursuit of a goal is to play the long game.
By that, I mean to look way into the future to what achieving this goal looks like. For example, I want to live a healthy life. That goal is way too vague to withstand the temptations (like ice cream!) that that present themselves on a daily basis that are perpendicular to my goal. Instead, I frame my goal with a bent toward that future. Rather than having a goal to “live a healthy lifestyle”, I have a goal to be an active, engaged, curious, ninety-year-old who is in excellent physical condition.
I’m playing the long game by focusing on the person I want to become when I turn 90. This focus helps me consider my choice on a daily, monthly, weekly, and yearly basis. The question I present myself with is, “are the choices I’m making (in relation to diet, finances, relationships, intellectual development, and spiritual growth) or have been making, leading me closer to or further from the person I want to be in my 90s”? If the answer is, “Yes”, I move keep making those choices. If my answer is “No”, then I consider modifying my behavior.
Playing the long game helps give my life daily direction. I know where I want to go, so all I need to do now is make sure my choices are taking there.
On Wednesday afternoon, I heard from a friend that her husband’s surgery that we’ve been praying about went great, with “no surprises”. I love that kind of news! I was so grateful to hear it and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude to God. As I was praying, and enjoying the moment, I was reminded that I don’t have time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got time to give God praise all day long, but in that moment, what struck me was that I don’t have time for things like:
- Things that cause division between people
- Holding grudges
- Judging others
- Needless worry (which most worry is)
- Spending time with consistently negative people
- Harboring negative thoughts
- Listening to the endless stream of outrage, hate, and anger
- Consuming content that leads to any of the bullet points above
I’m so grateful to God, not just because of my friend’s good surgery report, but because of who He is and what He’s done for me.
Out of that gratitude, I realize that I don’t have time to waste like that.
It’s been a gray rainy winter in the Pacific Northwest where I live. Long nights and gray days are pretty normal this time of year. While I actually like the end of fall and beginning of winter, after the Christmas and New Year holidays are over, I’m ready for some sunnier days. Fortunately, sunny days are also something that is not uncommon in the PNW either.
About every winter, we get these beautiful days where, while the weather is still cold, the sun is out and the sky is this clear brilliant blue. Couple that with some frost in the morning, and you have a wonderful start to your day! There’s something about a sunny break in the winter, no matter what the temperature is, that gets me excited for the day ahead, as well as the Spring season that is not too far away.
I anticipate these sunny days every winter. Days like that cause me to thank God and make me grateful to be alive.
So, what are you anticipating? A change in the weather, an upcoming event? I think it’s important to have something we’re looking forward to, no matter how big or small. It gives us an excitement about the days ahead. And personally, like my pastor says, I believe the best is yet to come!
I had a good laugh with the pastor of my church a couple weeks ago when a few of us were working on something in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. As he was navigating the spreadsheet on his laptop, a couple of us were telling him what buttons to press to make something happen. As we were all laughing at the process, he stated, “They didn’t teach us how to do this stuff in seminary.”
His comment reminded me how we need the skills and talents of others. There’s no way any one of us can know everything. I don’t know anyone who can do all of the following:
- Use a spreadsheet
- Perform dentistry
- Make gasoline
- Build a cell phone tower
- Build a cell phone
- Fly a passenger aircraft
- Perform surgery
- Build a car
- Make steel
- Grow vegetable on a commercial scale
- Operate a railroad
- Build or operate a hydro-electric power plant
- Professionally counsel someone through personal difficulties
- Run a city sewer system
- Build a skyscraper
- Compose music
- Play a musical instrument
- And on and on and on…
I’m fortunate that we can rely on others to help where our knowledge falls short. Often times, we don’t even think about all the people that we’ll never meet that are behind some of the technology, infrastructure, and entertainment we use every day. However, we daily benefit from their contributions.
What I’m also grateful for is that we can contribute our skills and talents to improve the lives of others too! To me it seems like the best way that we can say, “Thank you” to those whose efforts benefit us, is to give our effort to improve the lives of others.
There are 2 things I especially enjoy about the month of January. I love the fact that January means that Spring is only a couple of months away! January is also a great time to look back on your life and take stock of how you’ve been doing, and to also look ahead and make adjustments. I love that process! This year especially, because I’ve identified a few old habits that I’d like to make a more-regular part of my life in 2022 and in the years ahead.
First, I’d like to get back into the habit of consuming personal development material. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of books and listening to podcasts about biographies and historic events, which have been very interesting and enjoyable. However, this month I started listening to personal development podcasts and reading books on the same topic. I have been reminded what a boost this kind of content is to my attitude and outlook. This is something I want more of.
I’ve also started exploring options for regional travel. I live in the Pacific Northwest and there are all sorts of cool places to get out and see and explore. A lot of our travel over the past few years (not counting COVID years) has been out of the region. While we still want to do plenty of other travel, we’re also focusing on seeing what’s to us in the PNW. I’m finding there’s plenty of adventure out there just waiting for us to discover it.
Finally, I’ve started journaling again. This is one habit that I’ve had a hard time sticking to long term. I seem to have seasons where I’m journaling more, but I’d really like to make this a regular daily habit. The reason is because I’m just better personally when I’m journaling regularly. My thinking feels clearer, I feel more observant and engaged in life, and I like the ability to go review what I’ve read in years past. It chronicles my own personal growth journey.
What habits to you have (or have had) that you’d like to make a more regular part of your life? Give it some thought, and when you come up with something, put systems in place to ensure the behavior does, indeed, become a habit. Your future self is rooting for you!
“Look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now!” ~Hamilton
If I could choose to live during any time in history, I’d choose now. Yes, there are a lot of things that are crazy and concerning right now, but I’m amazed at the technology that’s currently available to us.
Just this week my wife and I were discussing a topic we needed to make a decsion on that neither one of is knew much about. After about 30 minutes of online research, we were able to gather accurate information that helped us focus our thinking and make a decision. How great is it that we can be completely clueless one minute, and after a few mintes of due dilligenc, we can be informed to the point of being able to make an informed decision?
And it’s not just internet research I’m grateful for. In addtion, my list includes things from music platforms like Spotify (gone are the days of creating a mix tape on cassettes!), to being able to work from home, or any other location with a broadband connection, to opportunites to connect with people all over the world.
I am amazed and grateful. We are indeed lucky to be alive right now.
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.
I’ve been playing the electric bass guitar on the worship team at my church for about 3 years. One of the many things I enjoy about being on the worship team is the view I get from being on stage. It’s fun to look out and see the people in the audience and even the others on stage. And sometimes, I’m fortunate to see things other people don’t.
For example, last week during the service, we had a young family come up and read some Scripture as part of the fourth Sunday of Advent. The family consisted of mom, dad, and two young boys, who had to be about 4 and 7. They stood in front of me and to the right, not more than about 10 feet away.
Mom and dad each read a section of scripture before handing the microphone to the 7-year-old, who began reading his lines in a nervous young voice. As I was watching from behind, I noticed the dad place his hand on his oldest son’s shoulder in a gesture of support. As the boy began to read, the dad moved his hand and began gently scratching the boys back, to provide comfort and reassure him that he was doing just fine. It was a beautiful picture of a father being present. I’m grateful that I had a front row seat to this event… and I’m glad I noticed.
From an elderly husband holding a door open for his wife, to a reassuring touch to a child from a loving parent, to a heart-felt slap on the back from a good friend, these types of touching scenes are happening all around us, and they often go unnoticed.
I encourage you to keep your eyes open for these occurrences around you. Not only will it make you feel good, but may it also encourage us to go and do likewise to those we care about.