Start and Stop

“I’d like to …

  • Live a healthy and active lifestyle
  • Have control of my finances
  • Improve my attitude
  • Become a better leader
  • Be a better spouse/partner
  • Parent my children well
  • Be well read
  • Improve the quality of my relationships
  • Learn to play a musical instrument well
  • Make a bigger contribution with my life”

 

Have you ever heard someone make a statement like this?  Perhaps you’ve even made a similar statement yourself.  I have.

Whenever I hear statements like these, either from others or from myself, the first thought that pops into my head is, “Then start doing what that type of person does”.

If you’d like to: Then START doing what:
Live a healthy and active lifestyle Healthy people do
Become a better leader Good leaders do
Improve your attitude People with good attitudes do
Be a better spouse/partner People in solid committed relationships do
Have control of your finances Financially stable people do
Parent your children well Good parents do
Improve the quality of your relationships People with deep friendships do
Make a bigger contribution with your life People who are making a difference with their lives do

 

The second thought that comes to mind when I think about something I’d like to be doing, is to stop doing things that would take me in the opposite direction.

If you’d like to: Then STOP doing what:
Live a healthy and active lifestyle Couch potatoes do
Become a better leader Bad leaders do
Improve your attitude People with bad attitudes do
Be a better spouse/partner People who devalue committed relationships do
Have control of your finances Broke people do
Parent your children well Bad parents do
Improve the quality of your relationships People with poor relationships do
Make a bigger contribution with your life Apathetic or indifferent people do

 

No matter what it is we want to achieve, there are healthy patterns of behavior that will get us there.  Likewise, there are other behavior patterns that will lead us in the opposite direction from where we want to be.  We are fortunate to be able to observe both types of patters in others, so that we can adjust our own behaviors to help us get the results we want.

Is there a goal or positive trait you’d like to develop in your life?  If so, look at others who exemplify that trait, find out what behaviors they routinely follow that brings that trait about in their life, and then put those behaviors into practice in your own life.  Also be on the lookout for examples of the behaviors that are contrary to where you want to go.  Avoid those.

Examples abound.  We only have to look for them; and learn from them as well.

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.

Daily Behavioral Goals

I’ve been thinking about my goal setting for 2016 and have decided to try something a little different this year.  While I will still have goals in the 7 areas of Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life, I think I’m going to also adopt some daily behavioral goals that I can focus on every day.  Here’s what I’m talking about.

Usually my goals consist of targets that I’m trying to achieve in a month, quarter, or year.  That’s good, but I also want to have goals that will help me daily to become more like the person I want to be.  For these areas of my life I am putting together behavioral goals that I plan on demonstrating every day.

For example, a behavioral goal I have for the year is to be a more engaging husband.  The behaviors for achieving this goal look like one or more of the following:

  • I will make sure I’m giving my wife at least 15 uninterrupted minutes every day where I am communicating and giving her my full attention.
  • My attitude toward her will be positive and liberally sprinkled with words and actions that show love and acceptance versus judgement and frustration.
  • My thoughts toward her will also be positive and I will not expect that her thinking or actions should be the same as mine. See last week’s blog.

When I lay my pillow down at the end of each day, I will easily be able to tell whether or not I achieved my goal of being a more engaged husband.  All I have to do is ask whether or not I did one or more of these behaviors today.  If the answer is, “Yes”, nice work!  I achieved my behavioral goal that day.  If the answer is, “No”, then I have an opportunity to do better at it the next day.  What’s cool is that even if my answer is, “Yes”, I still have an opportunity to do better the next day!

Daily behavioral goals give you immediate feedback.  They can also pave the way for stringing several days of success together, which will ultimately lead to the formation of a good habit.  With each good habit we work toward and form, we become more like the person we want to be.  We become an even better version of our self.

Are there any behavioral goals you’d like to start working on that will help you form some good habits?  I’d suggest starting with just one and focusing on it for several weeks until you start having several days of success, then focus on another behavioral goal.  Repeat this process until December 31, 2016, and then on January 1, 2017, begin the process anew.

Use the power of daily behavioral goals to get immediate feedback as you journey toward being the best version of yourself.  There’s no need to wait for 1 year to see if you’ll hit your goal.  You’ll be able to tell as soon as you go to bed this evening.

 

 

The Clairity from Writing it Down

I’ve recently got back into the habit of daily journaling and have been amazed at the positive impact this discipline has on me.

When I journal, I often write about improvements I want to make in my life and what I’m’ currently struggling with or working toward.  The exercise of giving thought to a topic and spending several minutes putting these thoughts on paper give me the following:

  • Clarity of direction
  • New ideas
  • A way to process and organize my unformed thoughts

When I don’t journal, I find I only spend a few brief minutes each day thinking about what I’m working on, pursuing, or struggling with.  This brief, unfocused thinking always leaves me void of any real plan or direction I can take to make progress in that day.  However, when I journal, especially in the morning before the day gets started, I gain a clarity about whatever issue I’ve written about, but more important, I feel energized and eager to jump in and get the day started.

If you’re considering the practice of daily journaling, here are 3 suggestions that I find helpful:

  • Pick a consistent time every day. Do mornings work best for you or evenings before bed?  Perhaps around lunch time works best.  It doesn’t matter at all what time you journal.  What does matter is that you find a time that you can commit to as much time as you need to journal, whether it’s 5 minutes or an hour.  Find what works for you.
  • Find a journal that you like the feel of. This may seem like a funny thing, but the journal you right on must “feel” right.  Does it fit well in your hand or on your lap?  Do you like pages with lines or blank pages?  Do you prefer a spiral binding, a yellow note pad, or leather bound journal?  I prefer a smaller size page (because it feels like I write more) and I also prefer a journal that lays open nicely.  It doesn’t matter what your preference is, as long as your journal feels right for you.  It should be something you want to spend time with.
  • Write about topics that interest you. I mentioned above how I like to write about what I’m working on our struggling with, but that doesn’t have to be what you write about.  Maybe you want to write about what you did that day, or keep a list of ideas, or record significant events.  Perhaps you just want to write about whatever is on your mind.  Those are all great topics! As long as you’re writing about something that is interesting to you, you’ve got the right topic.

Of these suggestions, I think that finding a consistent time to write is the most important to maintaining consistency.

If you want to increase the clarity of thinking,  make significant progress toward achieving your goals, or just be more mindful of what direction you’re leading your life, I suggest giving journaling a try.  Your writing doesn’t have to be eloquent, flowery or even grammatically correct.  It just has to be a written expression of whatever is on your mind.

Pushing Through Confusion

I love starting something new, whether it’s a hobby, learning a new skill, or any other new endeavor in an area of interest.  There’s so much anticipation, motivation, and momentum at the beginning.  It really is an exciting time.

One of the reasons I think there is so much motivation and excitement at the beginning is because shortly after starting, things get confusing, and we’ll need that motivation to help carry us through the confusion until we start seeing results.

Start Confusion Results

It makes sense that we would become confused soon after we get started, because we are attempting something brand new to us.  Naturally, we don’t have a whole lot of experience in the area, so therefore, we’re going to have a lot of questions and get confused.

This is the point where most people give up on their worthy pursuit, because they can’t see past the confusion of what to do next, or how to do it.  They lose sight of the potential results and give up way too soon.  I know.  I’ve done this.

Perhaps it’s time to change our perception of the confusion phase of this process, and look at what the confusion also holds for us, like:

  • Opportunities to stretch our boundaries and comfort zone
  • New experiences that increase our knowledge and capacity to move ahead
  • The chance to meet new people who are doing what we want to be doing, and who can teach and encourage us along the way
  • The sense of accomplishment we’ll experience when we make a breakthrough and overcome an obstacle that the confusion initially presented

Here’s the cool thing about confusion: it only remains until we take decisive action to move past it.  If we want to remove the confusion, we simply need to seek guidance from people who have already done what we’re attempting.  This can take the form of reading books, watching a YouTube video, or reaching out to someone and asking for assistance.

Where are you struggling with the confusion that occurs between beginning and seeing results?  If you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused, that’s ok.  Take a minute.  Understand what you’re confused about that’s keeping you from moving ahead, and then take specific action to remove that confusion, like seeking guidance through reading, observation, or conversation with someone who can help.

Whatever that next action is, take it today.  You’ll feel great about making progress, and be armed with a new-found confidence to help you tackle the next confusing obstacle you face.  You’ll probably also be amazed at how much you’re learning and experiencing as you become more skilled at pushing through confusion.

The Unexpected Gift

This week my wife and I received and unexpected gift.  The gift was rather small, it didn’t cost much, and wasn’t terribly difficult to create.  However, it made my day and brightened my entire week.  The unexpected gift we received was a hand written note from a friend.

Our friend Kathy had taken the time to write a note to express her gratitude and thanks for our friendship and continued assistance with an annual project she coordinates.  As a fellow letter-writer, I could really appreciate her effort which included:

  • Selecting a card
  • Writing her thoughts out by hand
  • Addressing the envelope and putting a stamp on it
  • Remembering drop it in the mailbox

There is no doubt it would have been much easier, faster, and cost next to nothing for Kathy to send her thoughts to us in an email instead.  I would have appreciated the email as well, but there was something special about finding the note amidst the denizens that usually haunt our mailbox, namely advertisements and bills.  In the midst of all the noise and messages that was competing for my attention that day, Kathy’s hand written note really stood out.

It’s interesting to me that with all the technology we have to communicate quicker and with more people, something as “retro” and “old school” as a hand written note, can really cause the sender to stand out.  The reason, I believe, is because not many people take the time to send hand written notes anymore.

The next time you have an opportunity to express thanks or appreciation to someone, try dropping them a hand written note in the mailbox.  Not only will you brighten the other person’s day with an unexpected gift, you’ll stand out as well.

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.