On the Calendar

“If you don’t put it on the calendar, it won’t happen.”  ~ People who know how to make things happen.

We all have things we’d like to do, learn, or experience. In fact, think of something you’d like to do, a place you really want to visit, or something you’d really like to learn.  Now answer this question:  Is it on your calendar?

The answer to that question will be the greatest indicator as to whether or not that desire will be achieved.

Now go check your calendar. Is it lacking some of the achievements and experiences you’d like to accomplish this year?  If so, make a commitment those items by putting them on your calendar.

The days on our calendar will come and go this year. When I get to the end of the year, I’ll be asking myself if I spent enough of those days perusing the goals and desires I had at the beginning of the year.  I’m expecting to answer with, “I sure did!”

I hope you are too!

Calm in the Midst of Chaos

When I sat down to write this week’s blog, I looked out the office window and I noticed, across the busy 4 lane highway, a Canadian goose lying down in the grass on the other side of the road.  I didn’t see any evidence of a nest or eggs, as this goose had gotten up to move to a new position a couple of times, so it was a rather strange site.

As the busy traffic, only a couple of short feet away, whisked by, this goose seemed totally calm, content, and even relaxed.  He (or she) is the picture of calm in the midst of a chaotic environment.

Goose

The more I watched this silly goose, the more impressed I was with his calm demeanor in his chosen environment.  Ultimately, I thought about how I’d like to show the same unshakable calm whenever I find myself in a chaotic or stressful scenario.

I certainly don’t know what my feathered-friend’s secret is, but I do think there are some behaviors we can practice to help us stay calm and in control when things or people around us are not.

  • Don’t over-react when the stakes are low.  When we’re under pressure, I think we tend to react rather than respond.  Reacting is more automatic.  Responding involves deciding how we are going answer the situation before us.  When we respond we are intentional.  If we can train ourselves to respond calmly to small scale events, we will be training ourselves to do likewise when the stakes are higher.
  • Maintain the proper perspective. When you’re feeling stressed out or like things are getting chaotic, ask yourself if wigging out is really warranted.  With few small exceptions, it’s usually not.
  • Practice being calm. Make it a point to spend time every day engaging in calming activities.  This could include things like:
    • Reading
    • Praying or reading the Bible
    • Meditating
    • Yoga
    • Going for a walk
    • Listening to relaxing music
    • Having a good conversation with someone you care about

While the list is endless, the point is to make sure we’re doing something calming every day.

This goose’s appearance is very timely, as I’ve been focusing on integrating more calming activities into my own life recently.  I’m grateful I got to witness this example.

Stop and Ask

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”  ~Socrates

An unexamined life can certainly be worth living.  Actually, it can probably be quite fun and, to a degree, free of the stress that comes from examining one’s own life.  If you’re not examining your life, you’re not worried about whether you’re making progress toward your potential or cultivating and using your gifts and talents wisely.

However, the problem with an unexamined life is that when it is drawing to an end, we may realize, only too late, that the body of work we’ve created with our life is not what we had hoped for, or what we would like to have done with it.  At this point, we may determine that if we had it to do over again, we would have paid more attention to where we were going.

I think it’s important to regularly stop and examine our lives. How else do we know if we’re making progress toward the things that are important to us if we don’t stop long enough to assess whether or not we’re on course?

One of the best ways we can do this is to determine where it is we’re trying to go in life, and whether the path we’re on is taking us there.  If it is, great!  Stay on course and keep checking in with yourself to make sure you’re not straying off course.  If you find that you are off course, or have never been on a specific course and are lacking direction, spend some time with paper and pencil (or any medium you prefer to capture thoughts) and ask the following:

  1. Where do I want to go?
  2. What do I need to do to get there?
  3. What’s the next step I can take to start moving in that direction?

Then take that step today!

We could have fun on a journey but be disappointed with the destination if it’s not some place we’d like to be.  Examining one’s life is much like consulting a map, or stopping and asking for directions as we travel.  It’s how we ensure that we’re on a journey toward a destination we’d like to reach.

You Already Know

My wife has been traveling for work a lot lately, so she’s interesting in looking for tips to help her pack lighter or more efficient.  After she had looked up some tips on-line I asked her, “So what did you learn that you can start applying?”  Her response was, “Nothing I didn’t already know.”

That response got me thinking.  How many things do we already know we should be doing, that we aren’t?  My guess is that in the gap between where we are and where we want to be, we already know the steps we need to take to get there.  At a minimum, we usually know the specific step we should take right now.

The real question then becomes; what’s keeping us from doing what we already know we should be doing?  There are several potential reasons, such as:

  • Fear – of all sorts
  • Indecision
  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of focus
  • Laziness
  • Maybe we just don’t feel like putting forth the effort

So there we sit, where we’ve always been because we know what we need to do, but don’t do it.

Think about that.  When we already know what we need to be doing to achieve a desired outcome, and fail to act, the only thing standing between us and our goal… is us!

What do you already know you should be doing, that you currently aren’t?  Do you already know what you need to be doing in order to:

  • Improve a relationship
  • Get in better health/shape
  • Manage your finances better
  • Advance your career
  • Improve yourself intellectually or spiritually
  • Live the life you desire

If you answered, “Yes”, then starting today, get out of your own way and do what you already know you need to be doing.  You are not only the biggest obstacle to overcome in achieving your dreams; you are also the greatest force to bring them about.

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.

We All Respond Different

My wife’s dad just passed away today (13-Mar-15) after just short of 7 years on dialysis.  Her father wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so it’s been fascinating to see how people are responding, based on their experiences and perspectives.

It reminds me that we don’t all see the world the same way.  Our views are shaped by our unique experiences and perceptions.  Since no 2 people have the exact same experiences in life, it makes sense that people often have differing views.

I think we can get into trouble when we believe that our view, based on our own personal experience, is the only way to view a person or situation.  If we’re not careful, we can do great damage to our relationships by trying to convince others that their perspective is wrong, and that we know, better than they do, how they should think and feel.   We clearly don’t, and it would be arrogant of us to think otherwise.

The next time you’re in a situation where people have perspectives that differ from yours, realize that that’s ok.  Not everyone will feel the same way you do about a topic or person, so allow people respond or have their own opinion, even if it’s different from your own.  Who knows, you might gain a whole new perspective that changes your thinking.

Seeing Beyond

Several years ago I was a co-teacher for one of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University  classes.  I love Dave’s concepts for handling money, and his presentation style is funny, engaging, and informative.  One moment during the class on debt reduction really stood out for me.

Our group was having a discussion about the debt reduction principles Dave had just explained in the lesson.  One concept that is crucial for couples getting out of debt is that they communicate about their finances and work together.  Toward the end of this class I made a suggestion to the couples in class.  I suggested that as they were working on getting out of debt, they dream together about what life will be like when they are finally debt free.

The response to this comment was interesting.  Some of the people in class got it.  However, I specifically remember hearing a couple of defeated groans, as if they were saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me!  We’ll NEVER get out of debt!”  I was haunted by those groans.  It seemed that some of the couples were defeated before they even started.  Instead of being able to comprehend a new and better future, their vision was squarely locked on their present circumstance, keeping them from even believing that a debt free existence was possible.

It is easy to become frustrated or discouraged by current circumstances, especially when we don’t know how to change them or even believe that it’s possible to change them.  I know.  I’ve been there.

Whenever we find ourselves frustrated or discouraged, we have 2 choices:

  1. Continue to push ahead to change our circumstance for the better
  2. Give up

I don’t like the second option, because that equates to throwing in the towel and accepting as final the your current circumstance.  If you’re still reading this post, I doubt you like that option either.

So what can we do during those times of frustration and discouragement?  Here are some suggestions that might help:

  • Envision where you want to be and what you want your life to look like in 1, 3, or 5 years. Press through the discouragement or disbelief and develop a detailed picture in your mind of what that life looks like.
  • Keep that picture firmly in your mind and review it often. Especially when the frustration and discouragement are at their height.
  • Take action every day, no matter how small, to move yourself closer to the vision you’ve created for yourself.

We will get discouraged and frustrated throughout life.  It’s guaranteed.  However, I think those feelings are caused by the gap between where we are and where we want to be.  If we’re pursuing worthy goals and seeking to grow and become better, those feelings can actually prompt us to continue (or begin) bridging that gap.

Just remember, it’s ok to be frustrated or discouraged in life, as long as we don’t park there permanently and squander our opportunities to take action, improve, and grow.  The choice is ours.  Let’s choose wisely.

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.

What Football Can Teach Us About Goal Setting – Part 2

There was some good college bowl games played on New Year’s Day 2015!  Ohio State and Alabama played a close game in the Sugar Bowl that went down to the last play, and Oregon dismantled Florida State in the Rose Bowl, breaking a Florida State 29 game winning streak in the process.  Despite the differences in each game, there was one aspect that was exactly the same:  Each team knew the significance of the goal line.

I love the name:  “goal line”.  It very clearly states the objective of the entire game for each team, no matter what side of the ball they’re on.  For the offense, the objective is to cross the goal line and score points for your team.  For the defense, the objective is to keep your opponent from crossing the goal line and scoring.

The goal line is a very clearly defined critical reference point that each team is striving to cross or protect.  There is no question from anyone, on either team, as to the objective of the game and the goal they’re working toward.

Imagine if there was no goal line in football.  The game would be confusing and chaotic, with no one really knowing what they were supposed to be doing or what the objective of the game was.  It can be like that in our own lives without clearly defined goals.  If we don’t know what goal lines we want to cross for our lives in 2015, we will be unclear and confused as to our daily direction.  In addition, unless we’re content just drifting through the year like a leaf in a stream, going wherever the current takes us, we’re going to be disappointed on December 31st 2015 when we realize we haven’t made any progress or significant changes in our life.

What goal lines have you defined for yourself for 2015?  Do you know what you’re moving toward achieving throughout 2015?   If so, great!  Begin taking steps every day to move ever closer to crossing your goal line.  If you haven’t determined what your goal lines for 2015 are, it’s not too late.  Spend some time deciding what you’d like to accomplish this year and clearly define what success in those areas looks like for you.  The definitions you create will be your goal lines.  Your objective for the year will be to make incremental progress toward crossing them.