How Are You Growing?

What do you look for when you set goals for your life?  What are their attributes?  Are they:

  • Easy to attain?
  • Within your comfort zone?
  • Not too challenging, so as to be assured of success?

If these were the types of goals I had set, or if I hadn’t set any goals at all, the question I’d be asking myself is, “If I’m not challenged, how am I growing?”

Part of growing and getting better at something, or getting better at life in general, is to do things that challenge us.  When we’re challenged by a new thought, goal, or idea, it causes us to do things differently than we have in the past.  That difference often causes discomfort, and that’s good.  While this discomfort is not always enjoyable, many times it is what leads us to the greatest growth and positive change we experience in our lives.

Take getting into shape, for example.  You can go to the gym and keep lifting the same light weights you started with and do the same light-level cardiovascular workout you’ve always done, because it is easy and you know you can do it, but how are does that help you grow in your strength and endurance and cause you to become the healthy individual you desire to be?  Where’s the challenge?  Where’s the growth?

Knowing that when we are challenged, growth occurs, where in your life could you stand to be challenged?  What challenging goals can you set for yourself today that will cause you to grow into the person or life you seek?   Once you’ve set those goals, decide in advance that you’ll persist through the discomfort that will occur when you are challenged, and know that doing so will result in rapid growth toward the person you’re striving to become.

Slowly Coming into Focus

Our lives should be moving toward something.  That “something” should be the life we envision for ourselves that consists of using our talents and skills applied in service to others, doing something we’re excited about.

Although this sounds good, what if you’re currently not living this life?  What if there’s discouragement caused by the gap between your envisioned life and the reality of your life today?  If that’s the case for you, I have encouraging news.

Here come some obvious truths about achieving our desired life that often get lost:

  1. We need to apply specific and consistent action that incrementally moves us toward our objectives.
  2. It takes time.

I heard the process of creating your desired life described recently as seeing a Polaroid picture coming into focus.  Remember those?  You take a photograph and wait several minutes as the picture comes into focus, revealing the image you just took a picture of.

It’s like that with achieving your desired life.  Most likely, the change from your current situation to where you want to be isn’t going to occur over night.  However, if you’re persistent, your life, like the Polaroid photo, will begin to come into focus and take shape, until it matches the vision you have been persistently pursing.

If you feel like you’re not where you want to be in life at this point take the following steps to cause progress:

  1. Have a vision in your mind of what you want your life to look like.
  2. Take action every day, no matter how small, which moves your life closer toward how you envision it.
  3. Remember that it takes time, so be persistent and stick with it.

Following these steps will not only cause the picture of your desired life to come into greater focus, it will cause the picture to become a reality as well.

Continue to Dream

What do you dream about?  A better question might be, “Are you still dreaming?”  When you envision your future, do you think of your dreams and all the possibilities that lie before you, or do you have thoughts about opportunities lost, time squandered, or the feeling that it’s too late to pursue your dreams?

 

Here some really great news:  there’s’ no such thing as being too old to dream!  We’re not required to jettison all our unrealized dreams when we reach a certain age.  Nor are we restricted from picking up new dreams after a certain birthday has passed.  We are free to dream and pursue those dreams as long as we have a pulse.  That is so encouraging and inspiring to me!  It’s encouraging because it reminds me that life is an adventure to be lived until our very last days, and inspiring because it causes me to realize that each of us should, at all times, have at least one dream that we are actively pursuing.

Dreams give purpose, excitement, and direction to our lives when we are actively thinking about and pursuing them.  The mere acts of having and pursuing our dreams make us interesting as people both to others and to ourselves.  How boring it would be to just drift along without any dreams or ambitions to help guide and direct our lives?

Perhaps you’ve had dreams at one time that you’ve neglected, or maybe you’ve never really given much thought to a dream you have buried inside of you.  If you’ve been distracted from your dreams, reconnect with them today.  If you don’t have any specific dreams, spend the next several days, or even weeks thinking about what you’d like to accomplish with your life.

Once you’ve reconnected with, or defined your dreams, think about them every day.  See yourself working toward your dream and ultimately achieving them.  Then, with this vision in mind, begin making progress every day toward the pursuit and fulfillment of those dreams.

Begin living an interesting life by identifying, visualizing, and finally pursing your dreams.  Today is the perfect time to start.

Cultivating Fallow Ground

Every day I read the chapter of Proverbs from the Bible that corresponds to the day of the current month.  I do this because Proverbs is filled with such practical wisdom and guidance that I can apply in my life the same day I read it.  On February 13th this proverb struck me like it never has before:

“The follow ground of the poor would yield much food…”   ~ Proverbs 13:23 (ESB)

Fallow refers to something that is resting, inactive, or used.  As I read this Proverb, I though not about a fallow or inactive plot of land, but rather about how our thinking, talents, and abilities can also become fallow.  I also thought about how, if I changed my thinking or utilized my talents more, I could be producing greater riches in my life, and not simply from a monetary standpoint but from a productivity and fulfillment standpoint as well.

So why do we allow our thinking and talents to become fallow?  I think it comes down to 3 basic reasons:

  • Fear of rejection.
  • Fear of breaking out of our comfort zone.
  • We try to avoid the struggle and unpleasant feelings and experience that can come from stretching our thinking and offering our talents.

Fallow thinking holds us back, and keeps a lid on our potential and the contribution we can make to our careers, families, and communities.  If your thinking has gone fallow, even if only in a certain area of your life, be encouraged.  Just like a fallow plot of land only needs to be cultivated and tended to begin producing a rich harvest, our thinking and talents can also become productive by simply deciding to begin cultivating them.

Here are 3 steps you can take today to cause something to happen to cultivate your fallow thinking or talents:

  • Identify your talents and offer them in service to others, either paid or unpaid.
  • Change your thinking toward a positive bent.  Instead of initially focusing on the negative or allowing your thoughts to park on what is negative, be mindful of cultivating thoughts that are positive and action oriented.
  • Think of the simple things you need to do that day to move you in the direction you want to go, and then do them, no matter how small.  Do at least one small action per day.

Don’t let your mind or talents lay fallow a moment longer.  Put them to use today and set yourself up for a fruitful harvest in the future.

Commitment: The Choice is Ours

2014 has arrived!  If you’re like most people you’d probably like this year to be better than the previous year.  Not that 2013 was a bad year.  On the contrary, 2013 may have been a very good year.  It was for me.  Most people I know, however, would like to get better or improve this year from where they were the previous year.  I usually don’t meet people that say, “I want to gain 30lbs in 12 months” or “I really need to take on more debt and neglect my most important relationships this year.”  We usually envision a new year where we make improvements in our lives and get better from where we currently are, no matter where that is.  I think that’ a healthy thing to do, as it provides direction and focus for the next 12 months.

The important question is, “What do I need in order to achieve the goals and dreams I’ve laid out for myself this year?”  Hoping they come about is not enough.  Hope, by itself, is a bad plan because it requires nothing on our part.  By itself, hope is a “wait-and-see” event that usually has disappointing results.  What is needed to reach the goals we’ve set for ourselves in the New Year is commitment.

Commitment is the price that is paid to achieve the goals we’ve set.  It’s what we’re willing to start doing, or stop doing, to cause something to happen that will move us closer to the achievement of our goals.  Commitment is the willingness to say, “Yes” to the events, habits, and behaviors that will cause us to be successful and “No” to the ones that won’t.

Here’s the cool thing about commitment…we get to choose it.  We don’t need “commitment approval” from anyone, but rather we get to choose for ourselves whether or not we are going to commit to paying the price required to reach our goals.  That’s encouraging and empowering to me.  If we know what we want, we need only commit to paying the price required.  The other side of the commitment coin is that we can also decide that either the price is too high or we really aren’t committed to paying the price required.  Either way, the choice is ours.

So what goal or dream do you have that requires commitment?  Do you know the price that needs to be paid to attain it?  Have you committed to paying the price with actions rather than just words?  (That last question is where real movement occurs.  Answer “Yes” to that one, and you’ll soon realize significant progress.)  Once your goal or dream has been identified, commit to it with decisive action and then be on the lookout for the positive results that will surely follow.

Sample a New Surrounding

I just returned from my first trip to New York City.  WOW!  What a great city!   There was so much to see and experience.  Although we were there for a whole week, we still didn’t have time to do everything on our list.  Regardless, I had a fantastic time and made some great memories.

What I enjoyed most about this trip was showing up as a New York newbie and being able to quickly adapt to life in the city and move about with confidence.  It was fun to experience that transformation.  Prior to this trip, I had no experience in a city of this size, other than what I had heard from the experience of others.  However, within a couple of days of putting myself in the middle of the action, I gained valuable experience on navigating the city and became very comfortable in my new surroundings.  It’s interesting how New York City was a big mystery to me when I first arrived, but after a day it felt very familiar, exciting and exhilarating.

Going to a new place like this can be intimidating.  Fear of the unknown can easily cripple the enthusiasm to travel to new places, or even to try new things and live a life that is full and made interesting by continually stretching and growing.  Yielding to our fear and comfort zone is easy, but it comes with a high price of limited life experience and regret.

This trip also reminded me that we can also gain experience and confidence in other areas of our lives by putting ourselves out there and causing something to happen that is new to us, which has great potential to boost our confidence, as well as our knowledge of the world around us.  It’s simply a matter of getting comfortable stretching your comfort zone.

What areas would you like (or need) to stretch your comfort zone?  Is there a skill you’d like to learn or a class you’d like to take?  Get started today!  Is there a place you’ve always wanted to visit?  Begin making plans to go.  And once you’ve made your plans, put them into action!  Don’t let the fear of the unknown, or the boundaries of your comfort zone keep you from the exciting new experiences and confidence that awaits.

It’s your life, and it’s calling.  How will you answer?

It Feels Good When You’re Done

Some activities that are good for us are a real drag to actually do.  You know what I’m talking about.  Like working in the yard, exercising, making sales calls for your business, cleaning out the garage, studying for a test, and several other just-as-exciting activities.  Getting started on tasks like these can be extremely difficult.  Since we don’t really want to do them, it becomes very easy to procrastinate.  We may be able to get started, only to punch out well before these tasks are completed.  Regardless, we are eager to put off doing these tasks as long as possible, or avoid doing them altogether.

What’s interesting though, is that all of these tasks have something in common.  They make us feel good… when we’re done with them.

Take exercising, for example.  We all know it’s good for us and we should be doing it.  However, I’m sure we can all think of several other things we’d rather be doing than exercising, and come up with several reasons why we should skip exercising today and do it “another day”.

But here’s the thing, when we do decide to exercise and actually see it through to completion, don’t we usually feel better having completed our workout?  Don’t we feel good knowing that we’ve put in the effort to cause something to happen that is good for us?  We may even feel proud of our accomplishment and think, “That wasn’t so bad”.

Just this morning I needed to make some sales calls, but I didn’t feel like doing it.  It’s certainly not my favorite thing to do, so I had to work really hard to keep from talking myself out of making them.  I did, in fact make my calls, and when I was done, I felt GREAT!  It was nice to have that big task checked off my list so early.  In fact, those calls didn’t take nearly as long as I thought they would and there is possibility that they will bear fruit in the future.  I’m glad I made those calls.

So what activity, that you know is beneficial, are you struggling to complete because it isn’t fun to do?  Once you have this activity in mind, think about how good it would feel to actually complete it.  Then, use the anticipation of that feeling to get started on that activity.  Remind yourself how good it will feel when you’re finished.  My guess is that, once you’re finished, you’ll feel better than you thought you would.

On Quitting

“Winners never quit and quitters never win!”  Really?  We’ve all been taught not to quit, and that quitting is failure, but I don’t think that necessarily true.

What if you are in a job, career, business endeavor, or educational pursuit that you realize isn’t going to take you where you want to go in life?  Should you continue on, knowing it’s not what you’re excited or passionate about, or should you quit and pursue something that’s a better fit for you?  I don’t think there is anything noble about sticking with something that you know isn’t working or that you know won’t lead to success.  If that’s the case, I say quit.  Immediately!

However, I don’t want to make a blanket statement that says we should always quit.  If for example, we’re pursuing an endeavor that we’re passionate about and that will take us toward the goals we’ve set for ourselves, we should stick with it.  Often when we start something new, the beginning stages are fun and exciting.  But soon the excitement wears off and it’s time to start doing the hard work to cause something to happen in order to be successful.  At this point we shouldn’t quit, but rather apply our efforts to get through the challenging work to get started.  This NOT the time to quit.

When considering whether or not to quit, we should ask ourselves some questions like:

  • Is this path I’m considering quitting going to take me where I want to go in life and help me achieve the goals I’ve laid out for myself?
  • Am I quitting just because it’s getting hard?
  • Could I be more effective/fulfilled/successful doing something else?
  • Will my increased or continued efforts cause me to be successful?

Give yourself honest answers to these questions, as they will help you determine your course of action.

Is there anything currently in your life that you need to consider quitting or stop giving thought to quitting?  If so, ask yourself the tough questions, make your decision, and take action.  You’ll either be freed up to pursue something more fulfilling, or you’ll put yourself in a position to refocus your efforts to move ahead.

Don’t delay.  Your future awaits!

Do the Things That Are Easy to Do

We tend to think greatness and big achievements come from huge effort and doing things that are hard to do.  Actually, the effort and degree of difficulty it takes to achieve something significant is usually quite small… and easy.  More important than the degree of effort, is the consistency of the small effort that’s put forth doing the things that are easy to do.

Suppose we have a goal of losing 20lbs.  There is not Herculean effort you can make in one day that would enable you to lose those pounds.  Instead, what’s required is doing things that are easy to do, and then doing them on a consistent basis over a period of time, like eating smaller portions, drinking fewer sugary beverages, and getting your heart rate up every day.  These aren’t difficult things to do. In fact, they are rather easy!  What we need is to do them every day and we are practically guaranteed to see results, as long as we are consistent.

The results may not come not come right away.  In the beginning, it may not feel like your efforts are even making a difference.  However, if we consistently do these easy things, we will begin to see results.  Probably sooner than we think!

The problem is that these small things that are easy to do are also easy NOT to do.  It’s easy not to exercise.  It’s also easy not to have a glass of water, but to have a soda instead.  The truth is that you won’t really notice if you exercise or not… at least today.  However, after several months or years of drinking soda instead of water and failing to exercise, you will notice.

The point is that the things we need to do to cause something to happen that we desire in our lives, like lose weight, build wealth, start a business, or improve our relationships, are actually quite easy.  They just need to be done consistently over a period of time.

What easy things do you need to begin doing consistently over time in order to take your life in the direction you want to go?  What would you be able to achieve by doing so?

For more on this topic, I’d recommend reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.  The concept and principles are so simple and so effective.  We need only apply them to see significant results.

Pick Yourself

Remember picking teams back in grade school gym class or on the playground?  All the best players got picked first and the least talented got picked last.  I remember the feeling, hoping to be picked and then feeling relieved when I was finally selected.

It’s not much different as adults.  We wait for a potential employer, a significant other, a business partner, or some other person or group, to give us their “seal of approval, by picking us to join their team.  Perhaps we feel being picked by them validates us, our talents, our ideas and goals, and maybe even our individual value.

Instead of waiting for others to pick you, why not pick yourself?  Why not realize the value, talent and ability that you possess and pick yourself to pursue the goals you’ve put forth for yourself, instead of waiting for someone else to do it?  Validate the skills, worth, and ability you have and take the first step toward your goals by picking yourself to be the one that gets things started.

Don’t wait for others to pick you?  Cause something to happen.  Decide today to pick yourself.