What a Difference A Week Makes

My wife and I got a new cat 2 weeks ago.  We named him Chewy.  The 1st week was rough!  Chewy had a traumatic introduction to our house and also destroyed a piece of furniture via bodily functions.  I was extremely frustrated.  All I could see was a future of destroyed furniture and a cat that didn’t like being in our home.

In an effort to start over, we moved Chewy into the spare bathroom with his food, water, litter box, bedding, and toys.  We also spent time in there with him every day and re-started the slow process of building trust.

Since being in his own space, and coupled with our consistent effort, Chewy has become very comfortable and affectionate with us.  He is adapting well and is a totally different cat than he was a week ago.

This experience reminded me of other times when I have been in frustrating situations, or ones that were not what I was expecting.  In those moments, it can be hard to see past the present situation and into a brighter future.  However, I think being able to have a long-term perspective while in the middle of a bad situation is crucial.  Keeping a longer-term perspective helps us stay motivated to take the necessary actions today that will lead us to the brighter future we envision.

As we all know, not every difficult situation is rectified with a week.  Some situations require a longer timeframe.  Others require much longer timeframe.  But nothing happens, nothing changes our situation, when we fail to take the necessary action to move us forward.

Today’s frustration can be distracting and, if we lack a long-term perspective, that frustration can keep us from doing the work required to pave the path to our better future.  That’s why it’s so important to see beyond our current situation.  For it is multiple days of consistent effort in the right direction that will one day cause us to look back and say, “Wow!  What a difference a <insert timeframe> makes!”

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.

How Will You Live Them?

According to the World Health Organization, the overall life expectancy in the United States is 79 years.  That’s a long time!  What’s encouraging to me is no matter what our life expectancy, we get to choose how we live our years.

Think about that for a moment.  We get to choose:

  • How we will spend our time
  • What areas of interest we will pursue
  • What we will study and learn
  • The skills we will develop
  • The attitude and world view we will adopt
  • How we will treat others
  • Our level of intellectual development and learning
  • Who we will spend time with
  • What contribution we will make in the world
  • The experiences we’ll have
  • Whether or not we will stretch out of our comfort zone

What a significant and exciting responsibility!  We get to choose what we do with our years and how they will shape us, now and in the future.

Last Sunday, my pastor was preaching on a similar topic regarding life expectancy and what we do with the years we’re given.  During his sermon, he made the following statement:

Don’t live one year 79 times.”

That got my attention.

The statement reminds me that as we get older, we are not required to grow, develop, discover, learn, and get better with each passing year.  That’s optional.  It is something we get to decide to do, or not.  I am also reminded that growth is not automatic.  Getting better as we age doesn’t just happen; rather it takes intentional action from us.

What is automatic is being exactly the same at the end of a year as you were at the beginning.  Unless we decide, and take action on how we will spend our years, we can be assured we will be exactly the same this year as we were last year.  And so on, for as long as we choose not to be intentional with how we spend them.  Without intentional effort, the current year will look just like the previous one.

What are you looking forward to in 2016?  Is there anything you’d like to attain, learn, experience, or become this year that you didn’t in 2015?  If so, start planning specific actions you can take throughout the year to become better this year than you were last year.

Seventy nine years is a long time, but it sure feels like they go quick; and even more so the older we get!  Let’s decide today to learn, grow, and become better as we get older.   Aging and getting better doesn’t always go hand in hand.  If we’re not intentional about getting better, then age comes alone.

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.

 

 

Slow Down

The day after Thanksgiving my wife and I went for a hike to Cascade Head on the Oregon Coast.  The weather was sunny and in the low 50s with a very light breeze.  We hiked up to a favorite spot where we had unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean and the town of Lincoln City.  For an hour we sat there observing the view, watching some whales spouting nearby, and just taking in the peaceful scene before us.  It was one of those experiences that left me feeling refreshed and recharged.  Neither one of us wanted to leave.   We could have sat there all day.

CascadeHeadNov2015

That experience reminded me of the importance of slowing down and enjoying moments like that when they present themselves.  Unfortunately with busy schedules, constantly beeping electronic devices, and any number of life’s other distractions, these moments are easy to miss, unless we slow down, and actively look for them.

Begin looking for opportunities during your day to slow down and do something that may not be considered productive, but leaves you feeling recharged, refreshed, connected, thankful, or just content.  The opportunities are numerous and can range from enjoying a beautiful scene outside to spending time with a good friend.

These opportunities are out there.  We need only slow down and look for them.

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.

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.