Change

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?”
  3. 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.

Know What It Costs

I’ve been doing some research on mutual fund fees lately (I know, really exciting!) to determine what some investments actually cost. It’s pretty easy to go along for several years without even knowing what an investment is costing you, unless you dig in and find out.  Knowing the cost of an investment is important, because without this piece of information, you may not be able to tell if the investment is worth making.

The same is true for how we’re investing our time.  Have you ever thought about the cost of a habit done over an extended period of time?  Take the habit of eating fast food for lunch every day.  There’s obviously the monetary cost, but consider the health cost you’ll pay as a result of prolonged poor nutrition and the impact that will have on your lifestyle.  A very real cost, indeed!

On the other hand, there is also a cost to exercising and engaging in physical activity every day.  There’s the cost of getting out of bed early, giving up your lunch hour, or getting home later after work, so you can have time to go to the gym or do some exercise at home.  However, this cost over time yields a very significant and positive return!  The cost of this habit seems worth it when compared to the return.

Are there any activities you’re currently doing where the cost is bringing about the positive results you desire, or at least getting you closer to a goal you’ve set, or the life you desire to live?  If so, I encourage you to stick with it.  However, if there are activities you’re currently doing that have a significant cost, but yield poor or negative results, perhaps it’s time to revisit your objectives and maybe even change course.

The important thing for us is to know the cost of the activities we devote our resources toward, and determine if that cost is worth it.

Independence Day

This Monday July 4th the United States will celebrate Independence Day, when this country’s founders declared their independence from British rule.  Independence Day was a significant event for this country, as it marked a change in direction from the way things had been toward a new direction the world had never seen.

As I think about this holiday, I can’t help think about the things in our own life that we can declare independence from.  These may include:

  • Unhealthy habits
  • Negative environments
  • Limiting beliefs
  • Toxic relationships
  • Societal pressures
  • The status quo

The founders of the United States could have decided that things were really “not that bad” or “good enough as they were” and gone with the flow.  Instead, they had a vision of something better and chose to declare their independence from British rule.

What’s encouraging is that we have the same capacity to choose independence for ourselves.

Where in your life would you benefit from declaring independence?  Determine what that area is and take action to become independent and begin changing the course of your life for the better.

Taking a Different Path

OpenRoad

Exploring new paths

My wife and I were recently in Southeastern Arizona around Tucson and Bisbee visiting new sites and exploring the area.  Neither of us had been there, so it was energizing to experience new sites and surroundings every day and travel down paths that we had never experienced.  It got me thinking:  Why aren’t I making a greater effort to break out of my daily routine and experience new things during my non-vacation days?

It is incredibly easy to develop routines in the midst of our everyday lives.  Deciding where we go and what we do can become automatic to the point that we actually don’t decide on these things, but rather succumb to the routines we’ve already established.    While there are some benefits to a well-established routine, I think we could also benefit from shaking up elements of our routines that are keeping us from new and potentially enjoyable experiences.

Here are a few small examples of how we might go about changing up our daily routine:

  • Do you always eat at the same restaurant or go to the same coffee shop every day?  Instead of going to the same national chains, why not trying something different and visit a locally owned establishment.  Maybe even get in the habit of not eating at or getting coffee from at the same place within the same month.
  • Instead of driving the same route to work, school, or while running errands, consider taking a new route, or even a new mode of transportation like a bike, walking, or public transit.
  • Are you always watching the same types of shows or movies? Why not instead attend a play or go to the symphony or a concert in a genre that is different from what you usually listen to.
  • Get to know people beyond your current comfortable group of friends.
  • Read books or listen to podcasts from people or on topics you wouldn’t normally consider, or whose views might be a little different from your own.

Why can’t every week be filled with excitement and new experiences that stretch and grow us?  Why can’t we travel down new and interesting paths during the course of our everyday lives?  The good news is we can, if we choose to do so.

Look for opportunities every week to experience something new and different that will expand your understanding, increase your knowledge or just make you a more interesting person.  They’re out there.  We just have to break out of our routines to find them.

Does it Really Matter

Does it really matter if today you:

  • Exercise or go to the gym
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Zone out in front of the TV all night instead of doing something more productive
  • Hold a grudge
  • Spend time improving yourself through reading and study
  • Neglect the most important relationships in your life
  • Complain about things that aren’t going well in your life

My response is, no.  In the big scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter if you did one or all of those things today.  In fact, I would even argue that it likely wouldn’t matter much if you did or didn’t do all of those things for a whole week.

But eventually, it will matter.

Suppose you want lose a few pounds and be healthier, so today to start eating better and exercising.  At the end of today, after you’ve eaten well and exercised, are you going to notice a significant difference?  Will you be healthier and at your desired weight?  No, you won’t.   You’ll look the same as you did the day before.  It’s likely you won’t even notice much of a difference after a week.  This is a point where people become frustrated, and often give up on a long term goal; when significant results don’t immediately follow effort.

However, if you stick with your plan to eat well and exercise every day, after 365 days, you’re going to notice a big difference.  At the end of the year you will undoubtedly look and feel much different, and better, than you did 365 days ago.

Now suppose at the end of 365 days of sticking with your plan I was to ask you, “So which day out of the last 365 days caused you to achieve the results you’re enjoying today?”  You might say it was the day you decided to take action, to which I would absolutely agree.  But if I pressed, to know which specific day’s effort made all the difference, your answer would be:  they all did.

Likewise, suppose you’re in good shape and living a healthy lifestyle, but you decide to skip working out today and also to eat foods that aren’t the healthiest.  Will this day totally ruin your health?  No.  If you return to your healthy lifestyle tomorrow, will this one day’s activity even make a dent in the big picture of your health?  No, it won’t.  But, if you continue this habit for 365 days, you’ll also see significant results in the deterioration of your health.

It’s the compounding effect of our consistent actions that yield results in our life, both positive and negative.  This compounding is at play shaping all areas of our lives:  health, relationships, career, personal development, finances, and attitude.

Is there any area in your life where you’d like the compounding effect to work for your benefit to achieve results you’re looking for?  If so, begin by following this simple checklist:

  1. Think about the change you’d like to make, and what your life looks like as a result of this change.
  2. Determine the actions you need to take today to achieve your desired result.
  3. Take those actions.
  4. Go through all 4 steps in this checklist again tomorrow.

We’re all building something with our lives, and the compounding effect is a significant principle that will yield powerful results, both positive and negative.

So decide today to put the compounding effect to work for you by providing consistent actions that will yield the results you’re after.  And if you mess up or miss a day, don’t be too hard on yourself, and certainly don’t give up as a result.  Just recommit the next day, and get back to providing the consistent effort that will be rewarded by the compounding effect; because it really does matter.

Put Yourself on Airplane Mode

One of my favorite features on my smart phone is Airplane Mode.  Yes, seriously, Airplane Mode.  You know that function which keeps your phone from connecting to networks, the internet or cell phone communication.  I love that feature!

I know that may sound rather stupid.  Why would my favorite feature on an amazing communication and information gathering device be to disable its ability to do all those amazing things?  While I’m a huge fan of smart phone technology and the benefits they provide, I also appreciate the ability to hold that technology at bay when it starts to become a hindrance to what I should be currently focusing on.

For example, I don’t need internet access, text messaging, email, or social media updates when I’m:

  • Focusing on a task or project that requires my full concentration.
  • Enjoying a non-technical event or outing.
  • Spending face-to-face time with other people.

In these instances, rarely, if ever, does the intrusion of a smart phone add to the occasion.

In addition to putting our phones on Airplane Mode, I think we can do likewise with ourselves and our environment.  We can remove distractions and external intrusions that hinder our ability to be fully engaged in the events and the people in our lives by taking simple steps like:

  • Engage in activities that are active and require participation and interaction from everyone involved.
  • Spending time with people in a non-technical environment, like the outdoors or a space without computers, televisions and other devices that vie for your attention.
  • Declare the next outing or event with friends or family an “Airplane Mode event” where all participants place their phones on Airplane Mode, during the event.

Sure, these ideas may seem awkward at first, but taking steps to better connect with those close to you is always worth pursuing.  Who knows, you might be amazed at how much actually learn about others.

The Secret Ingredient

I believe there is a not-so-secret ingredient to achieving results in any area of your life.  Before I share this not-so-secret ingredient, let’s first review the other necessary ingredients in the proven formula for achieving results:

Vision + Knowledge + ? = Results

The first 2 components of the formula make sense, right?  Without a vision of the result you want, it would be challenging to even know where to begin.  We must first know where we’re going (know the result we seek) before we can move toward its achievement.

Likewise, we must also possess the knowledge required to achieve the results we want.  A vision will only prove frustrating if we lack the requisite knowledge for its attainment.

So, you’re probably wondering, “What is the secret ingredient you say I need in order to achieve results?”  The complete formula for achieving results is:

Vision + Knowledge + ACTION = Results

Does that secret ingredient leave you feeling dissatisfied?  Were you perhaps expecting something more exciting and grand?  The truth is, any results or success we seek only come through the disciplined and consistent application of action.  We’re not talking about action that fills our time and causes us to appear busy, but rather specific actions that move us closer to our desired results.

Very often, this is the step that trips people up.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we usually know the necessary action we should be taking to achieve the results we want.  We simply need to be courageous enough to take the action we already know we should.  We need to cause something to happen.

What results are you trying to achieve that could use a healthy dose of necessary action?  You probably already know what action you need to take.  So… when will you take it?  Today would be a good day to start.

Don’t delay.  Results await!

Swing for the Fence

Imagine you’re on a baseball team and it’s your turn to bat.  You’ve been practicing at the batting cage, and you’ve become quite good; not to mention, you enjoy batting.  Could you imagine saying to your coach, “You know what, Coach?  I don’t know if I’m ready for this.  What if I strike out?  I think I’ll skip my turn and go back to the comfort and security of the batting cage and let someone else bat instead.”

That would be ridiculous, right?  Who would do that?!

I would argue that we may be guilty of doing something similar when we doubt or play down our abilities in the face of opportunities that would grow and stretch us out of our comfort zone.

It’s easy to wish for opportunity, or even seek it out, in the comfort of the daily routine.  However, when an opportunity actually presents itself, we often begin doubting our abilities and whether we’re really capable of being successful.  We wonder if we are capable of rising to the challenge, or if maybe we’re really not as good as we, or others, might think.

It’s totally normal to have some doubts or be nervous about taking on a new and challenging opportunity.  However, what’s tragic is when we decide not to pursue an opportunity we’re capable of either out of fear of failing or because we doubt our own proven skills and ability.

I heard a quote recently that stated:

“In 20 years we won’t be disappointed by the things we did to; we’ll be most disappointed by the things we didn’t do.”

The next time you’re presented with an opportunity that will stretch you and your abilities, grab your bat, step up to the plate, and swing for the fence!  Take the risk.  Step out of your comfort zone and into the challenge, and give it your best shot.  And if you happen to fail, which you most likely will NOT, at least you’ll go down swinging.

Always remember: No Grand Slam home runs have ever been hit from the safety and security of the batting cage.

Comfort and Order

“Humans are designed to seek comfort an order, and if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn’t all that comfortable.  And even if they secretly want something better”

Donald Miller

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

 

I was half way through Donald Miller’s book (pg. 100) when I read those words above.  I found them to be both haunting and eye-opening.  They’re haunting, because I’ve been in this exact scenario for many years, and eye-opening, because it finally feels like the root cause to one of my primary struggles has been revealed.

I find it extremely easy to put off making a change when I’m comfortable or complacent in my current situation.  I’ve been struggling with making a career change for many years.  I currently work in Information Technology, but my preference is to work with people, rather than with hardware, software, and systems.  I’ve wanted to make a change for several years, but I’ve made minimal progress.  Often, weeks or months go by without me having done one thing to move closer to a new career.  I know what I’d like to be doing, but I find it easy to put off taking action, primarily because my current situation isn’t all that bad.  It’s comfortable enough to keep me from taking decisive action toward bringing about the career change I desire.

I knew this, to a certain degree, about myself, and could observe this scenario in my own life.  However, reading Miller’s words, that so clearly articulate this concept, it felt like a harsh slap or glass of cold water thrown in my face.  As if my mind was screaming, “He’s describing you!”

After reading those words, I’ve been keenly aware when I’m letting comfort and complacency chart my course.  It gets me fired up, because I can’t think of a single time in my life when I was driven by comfort and complacency, that it ever led me anywhere significant.

How about you?  Are there any areas in your life where you’re actions, or lack of actions, are being driven by the desire to maintain comfort and order?  Is the desire for comfort and order taking you where you really want to go in life?  If you’re struggling in this area, join me in taking the following actions:

  1. When you feel yourself being motivated by the desire to maintain comfort, acknowledge it. Call it out right there on the spot and say, “I’m not letting comfort chart my course any longer!”
  2. Think about the next step you need to take toward a goal or path you’ve set.
  3. Take that next step. It doesn’t matter how small a step it is; take it!
  4. Repeat the process as often as necessary

I don’t think we were designed to live lives that were above all, comfortable.  I think we’re at our best when we’re growing, improving, and pursuing the goals we’ve set for ourselves.

Decide today to stop letting comfort keep you from pursuing a remarkable, fulfilling life.  All you have to lose is the discomfort of being comfortably stuck.

The Intersection

On Monday evening January 12th Ohio State played the University of Oregon for the College Football National Championship in Dallas Texas.  What struck me most about the game was not the score or the collective ability of each team, but the very clear life lesson that was on display during the game.  The lesson was that great things happen at the intersection of preparation and opportunity.

Although I was rooting for the University of Oregon, myself being from Oregon, I was really impressed with the performance of the Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones.

Consider this:

  • The National Championship game was only his the 3rd college start as quarterback
  • At the beginning of the season, he was the 3rd string quarterback on his team

I was amazed by these facts while watching the game.  While on the biggest stage in college football, Jones showed the command and poise of a seasoned quarterback.  He didn’t look like a 3rd string quarterback, or someone who had only started 3 games.  He looked like he belonged there.  Was he perfect?  No.  Did he make mistakes?  For sure!  However, he was able to step in for his team when his number was called late in the season and perform extremely well.  Well enough to help win a National Championship.

It is obvious from his performance that he had been practicing and preparing for the opportunity.  His preparation intersected with his opportunity, and great things happened.

If Jones hadn’t been diligent in practice while he was still the 3rd string quarterback, he never would have done so well when he got the nod to lead the offense.  Imagine what a different outcome Jones would have had if he had said, “Once I’m the starting quarterback, then I’ll really start practicing!  However, since I’m only the 3rd string, there’s really no point in doing my best at practice.”  Jones had great performances during his 3 starts because he put in the effort to prepare himself in practice; to be ready for the opportunity, even when he didn’t see one or know that one was coming.

What about you?  Are there areas where you need to begin preparing for a future opportunity?  Is there a class you need to take, a habit or discipline you need to develop or stop?  Is there a reading, networking, exercise, or eating plan you need to get on?  If so, begin today.  Don’t’ delay and think, “I’ll start preparing when I see an opportunity.”  That kind of thinking leaves out half of the intersection equation:  There can be no greatness-causing intersection between preparation and opportunity if opportunity shows up alone.

So begin preparing today for the opportunities you seek in the future.  My guess is that, if you’re preparing, the opportunities are closer than you think.