The Investment of Time

Tuesday afternoon I went to visit a good friend that I hadn’t seen in a few years.  We spent several hours talking about what we are currently doing, what we had been doing recently, and reminiscing about shared history.  My friend’s son also joined us, and the 3 of us had a very enjoyable (and sunny) spring evening shooting the breeze on the front porch.  It was a great time!

That experience again reminded me how valuable time is and how similar it is to money.  Both can be wasted on things of little to no value or they can be invested in something that yields a great return.  The big difference between time and money is that we can always get more money.  Time squandered cannot be made up or recaptured at a later date.

This thought is sobering, and causes me to be intentional about making sure I’m investing significant portions of my time in things that yield a good return in my life and the lives of others.  So what does investing our time look like?  It can take the form of:

  • Consuming good books, spiritual text (the Bible for me), blog posts, podcasts, or any other content that improves your thinking, expands and enhances worldview, or develops your character.
  • Connecting with people who build you up, encourage you, and cause you to strive to live a better life.
  • Learning a new skill.
  • Being active on a daily basis in order to ensure a healthy body that will function properly for many years to come.
  • Connecting with people who could use your encouragement, support, skills, and experiences.
  • Supporting causes and people you believe in.

The options for investing our time are numerous!

Just like with money, we are not required to invest our time in things that will yield a lasting return.  Our time is ours to do with as we please.

I think it’s important to make sure that we are indeed making significant investments of our time over the course of our lives.  How sad it would be to look back at the end and see a life defined by the mishandling of our time.

Spending Your Time

My wife and I both had this last week off from work together.  Although we usually use time off as an opportunity to do some traveling, this week we decided to stay in town and do some work around the house and enjoy spending time together.  We have had a relaxing week and a great time being together.

While it was fun to wake up each day with nothing specific planned, I though how boring life would be if I woke up EVERY day without having a plan or purpose for the day.  I think we’re at our best when we have a purpose or a contribution we want to make in the world.  At some point, a focus only on our own needs begins to feel hollow, leaving us bored and disconnected with the rest of the world.  At least it does for me.

Just to be clear, I think it is extremely important to regularly step back from our busy schedules and take time to slow down, relax, and recharge.  This is a great way to get reconnected with those around us and to examine how we’re spending our days, to ensure we’re still in alignment with our goals and passions.  It is also a great way to ensure that we’re being intentional with our days; and with our lives.

We’ve all been blessed with time, skills and talents.  It’s important to make sure we’re not just using them, along with our time, strictly for our own benefit, but to share them with others.  This not only helps those we share them with, it also gives us a feeling of purpose and contribution.

Five Questions to Help Maintain a Positive Attitude

Let’s face it, sometimes unpleasant unexpected things just happen through no fault of our own.  This could be anything from a job loss, to a bad diagnosis from a doctor, to the unexpected death of a loved one.  As challenging as these things may be, we still have the luxury to choose our attitude as we navigate scenarios like these.  Here are 5 questions we can ask to help maintain a positive attitude through a difficult situation:

  1. What were the positive aspects of this scenario before I received the bad news?

It is so easy to let your mind think of all the negative aspects when we receive bad news.  In fact, our minds seem to go there automatically, unless we decide to focus them elsewhere.  With this in mind, choose to look back with an eye on the positive.  Think about experiences gained or relationships formed.  The positives are there, we just have to look for them.

  1. What can I learn from this?

This may sound cliché, but there is something to be learned from every situation.  Think about what you have learned or what you can learn from this situation.  At first, it may seem like there isn’t anything, but if we’re paying attention, we can learn some valuable lessons we might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn.

  1. What does this make possible?

This is my favorite question!  There is something about an unexpected situation that alters what has been normal for us, be it temporary or permanent.  In that alteration, that “new normal”, there are opportunities for us that didn’t exist before.  Identify what they are and how you can take advantage of them to improve your future and your definition of “normal” moving forward.

  1. What am I thankful for?

Even in light of a bad situation, we have much to be thankful for.  Don’t lose focus on what those things are.

  1. How can I use this experience to help others?

Life is more fun when we share the journey with others.  No matter what you’re going through, someone else has gone through it before, or will be going through it after you.  That’s cool on 2 different levels!  First you can find others who have gone through a similar circumstance and seek guidance from them.  Second, after you’ve gone through it, you will be poised to help someone else in the future who is going through a situation you’ve already been through.  What a blessing to be a source of encouragement to someone during what is a dark hour for them.

 

Yes, unexpected and unpleasant situations really stink.  We could go as far to say they really suck.  But how we come through them, and how our future is impacted by them, is largely due to the attitude we have while were in them.

 

Let’s be mindful of this powerful choice we have and decide today, and every day, to keep an attitude that is positive instead of letting a negative attitude take root.  The choice is ours.  Let’s choose wisely.

How to Control Your Emotions

Wouldn’t you like to know how to control your emotions?  The bad news is… you can’t.  Emotions are going to occur.  They’re part of being human.  But there is good news:  we get to decide how we respond to them.

I recently listened to a podcast interview with B.A.S.E. jumper Jeb Corliss.  During the interview, he talked about how emotions are our body’s way of trying to get us to do something.  Knowing this, we then have to ask ourselves, in the midst of a strong emotion, “Do I want to respond the way my body is telling me to respond?”  That question is powerful, because it correctly implies that we have a choice whether we’ll act the way our emotions are prompting us, or to choose a different response.

I think this is a game-changing realization for anyone with a pulse!  Just because we’re experiencing an emotion doesn’t mean we have react the way the emotion would guide us.  We get to choose our response, not our emotions.  I love that!

Armed with this common-sense awareness has allowed me to recognize situations this week where an emotion was demanding a specific response.  In those moments, that awareness has helped me to turn off the emotion autopilot and choose a different (and usually more appropriate) response.

For example, my wife and I got a new cat last weekend.  As a result of being stressed out and in an unfamiliar environment, our new family member decided our living room sofa would be a better place to relieve himself than the multiple litter boxes we placed around the house.  Upon realizing he was doing this, I felt several emotions, primarily anger and frustration, which both wanted me to do something, namely wring the cat’s neck and put him on Craig’s List respectively.

What I really wanted to do was yell and complain.  In truth, I actually started down the complaining path.  Then I thought of Jeb’s comment about emotions prompting your body to do something.  I realized pretty quickly that the way I was reacting was NOT the way I wanted to respond.

I then focused my thought on what was causing the cat to do this (being stressed out) and what could I do to begin to relieve some of that stress.  The response after these thoughts were more in line with how I wanted to respond and made me feel much better than I did when I was on autopilot spewing complaints.  I feel like I learned a new life-hack this week that will help me make better decisions in my future years.

Things will go wrong and we’ll have emotional reactions, but that doesn’t mean we’re obligated to move in the directions our emotions prompt us.  Fortunately, we can choose different.

Pay attention to your emotions this week.  If they’re prompting you to react in a negative way, first pause, then decide what your best response would be, and then act accordingly.

What’s Guiding You?

Trains are a powerful, efficient way to move large amounts of goods and people from one place to another.  The economies of many countries rely heavily on them to do just that, and those economies would be severely impacted if trains were all of a sudden not available.

As important as trains are, what enables them to be so effective are the tracks they run on.

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Think about that.  A big, powerful train requires the guidance a track provides, in order to travel swiftly and safely from Point A to Point B.  Without the guidance of a track, a train is rendered useless.

Although we don’t require the guidance of a physical track as a train does, I would suggest that we could all use a “track” of sorts, to help guide us as we travel through life.  However, the guidance I’m suggesting is less tangible than a physical track, and would take the form of something like:

  • Sound principles
  • Sacred writings
  • Wise teaching
  • Examples from people who have lived well

For me, I choose to be guided by the teachings and principles in Bible.  Its wisdom and instruction, much like a track for a train, provide me with the direction I need for any situation I may face.

What are you using to guide you as you travel through life?  We are all guided by something, even if we haven’t chosen what that “something” is.  In the absence of a specific choice, we’re likely to be guided by things like:

  • Convenience
  • Peer pressure
  • Popular opinion
  • Expectations of others

Decide today what will guide your life.  Once you do, you’ll be on track to better navigate the ups, downs, and day-to-day occurrences of your life’s journey.

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.

 

 

Great Idea! Now What?

In a previous post I wrote how your head was a great place for having ideas, but a lousy place for keeping them.  This is because it’s so easy to lose ideas in the constant clutter of thoughts going on in our heads.  This week, I’d like share some actions we can take when we come up with a good idea, to ensure they are not forgotten.

First, create a system for capturing ideas.  With the digital revolution in full swing, there are several electronic options to quickly capture the idea written down.  These can include:

  • An audio recording
  • An email or text to yourself
  • An electronic list
  • A smartphone app designed for taking notes
  • Pictures taken with smartphone

Since most folks have a smartphone on or near them at all times, it makes sense that this would be a good tool to use to capture ideas.  However, we shouldn’t discount “old-school” mediums such:

  • Notebooks
  • Whiteboards
  • Sticky notes
  • Journals

What I have found is that I usually rely on a couple different methods for capturing ideas.  I think it’s important to settle on 2-3 preferred methods that work for you, because having too many ways of capturing ideas can lead to clutter and cause ideas that get lost.

Next, after you’ve developed a system for capturing your ideas, create a system to consolidate all your ideas.  By this, I mean taking all the ideas you had and placing them in a consistent location so they are easy to locate in the future.  Again, this collection could be a digital or an old-school method.  Just pick a one that works for you and make sure consolidating the ideas you’ve captured becomes part of your daily routine.

Finally, the most important step you can take after capturing and consolidating your ideas is to develop a plan to take action on your highest priority ideas.  If you’re like me, most of your ideas won’t be any good.  However, when you do have an idea that is good and you want to implement, do something that reminds you to put your idea into action.  For me, that often looks like setting a reminder in my smart phone to alert me at a certain date and time when I will be in a position to take action on my idea.

There are several methods that can be used to capture, consolidate, and act on your ideas.  The important point is to have specific methods at each step so you’ll be able to put your ideas into actions.  Actions that could potentially change your life.

Without a plan to do something with the ideas we have, they are often relegated to being just ghosts of ideas that disappear soon after we have them.  It’s time to start collecting and acting on the treasure of ideas our minds so often provide