It’s Happening Now

This week I saw the following statement on someone’s T-shirt:  “Enjoy it because it’s happening now”.

I love this timely reminder!

With the beginning of a new year, it’s common to focus on goals and what we plan on doing in the upcoming weeks and months of 2017.  While looking ahead and planning are indeed both important endeavors, it’s equally important that they not occur at the expense of enjoying the good things we’re experiencing in the present moment.

It seems to me that we create our history, our memories, our relationships, and even cement our legacies by how we choose handle what’s happening to us in each moment.

What kind of memories are we creating when we’re overly focused on the future?  What kind of relationships are we creating when we’re too distracted slow down and connect with the people we love and care about?  How will we be remembered by the people with whom we have the pleasure of crossing paths with?  Will they feel like we were looking over their shoulders to see what was next, or will they feel like we actually cared about and were interested in them?

Once gone, a present moment cannot be recaptured.  We can’t go back and extract enjoyment we left on the table from a moment that has already passed.  We must be mindful to enjoy what’s happening right now.

 

Impose a Deadline

I recently took a position with a new organization that requires a specific professional certification within 6 month of my hire date as a condition of employment.  Failure to obtain this certification within the designated time will result in termination.  Period.

Roger that!

I’ve been in this new position for 4 weeks and have been studying a little every day for the certification exam, and making good progress.  However, in an effort to make sure I’m focused in my study, I imposed a deadline by registering to take the exam on August 18, 2016.

For me, having a deadline causes me to be more focused and purposeful in my study, because I know the test is only a couple of weeks away, and I need to take steps today so I can be ready when August 18th arrives.

It is easy to slack off or lose focus during the pursuit of a goal if we don’t have a very specific target in mind.  Consider the following goals many people have:

  • To get out of debt
  • To lose weight
  • To start a business
  • To write a book

My question to people that state these and other goals to me is, “By when?”

Without a deadline in mind, it’s just a desire or a wish that may or may not ever be started, let alone completed.  If I ask someone the “By when” question and they instantly give me a date, the probability of them being successful is quite high.  They have a hard deadline they are working toward, rather than just a lofty dream.  A deadline provides the motivation, the game clock on the scoreboard, to let you know if you’re on the track toward reaching your goal.

Do you have a goal or objective you’re working on that could use the boost of a deadline?  If so, set yourself a deadline and use it to help you make consistent daily progress in the direction of your goal.

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.

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.

 

 

Do Not Disturb

A “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging on the door of a hotel room sends a very clear message.  It states to all passing by that the occupant is focused on something else (like getting some sleep) and would see interaction from you or anyone else as an unwanted intrusion; and rightfully so.  Do Not Disturb signs are like communication stop signs in that their intention is to thwart off any communication before it starts.  They are very useful when we need to focus on a task for a specific period.  In such a case, a Do Not Disturb sign sends the appropriate message at the appropriate time.

Have you ever considered that we may be unintentionally displaying Do Not Disturb messages to those closest to us?  I’m not saying we’re walking around with hotel-style Do Not Disturb  signs around our necks; that would be silly.  However, what message might we be sending to a spouse, a child, family members, or a friend who is with us when we choose to bury our faces in a smartphone, tablet, or some other object that has captured our attention?

Sure, there are occasions where an implied Do Not Disturb is necessary, but the concern is when this type of behavior becomes such a habit that we are not even aware how often we’re sending a message, through our actions, that we would rather not be disturbed or inconvenienced by the interactions of another.

In the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy, “you might have your Do Not Disturb Sign out” if:

  • You are with someone significant to you and you’re more concerned about responding to smartphone alerts than you are about the person you’re with.
  • You arrange an evening out with a friend or a group and find yourself more interested in “capturing the moment” for your Facebook friends than you are about building relationships with the people you invited out.
  • People often ask you if you heard what they said or if they make comments that you seem too distracted to be interested in what they’re saying.

Granted, not all Do Not Disturb signs come in the form of smartphones and social media, but that seems to be a significant culprit in light of today’s technology.

This is not a cry to eliminate social media and smartphone technology from our lives.  Far from it!  Rather, it is a reminder that our actions can often send unintended messages that we may not even be aware we’re sending.   As such, we should be mindful of what we’re doing when we interact with those closest to us.  If we need to put our focus somewhere other than the person we’re with, let’s kindly tell them that our focus is currently somewhere else and arrange to connect with them at a time when we can give them our attention.  Better yet, unless it’s an emergency or something critical, give them your attention in that moment.

Don’t Pursue Happiness

We should never pursue happiness.  That sounds weird to read, and write, but I believe it’s true.  I don’t think we should pursue being happy as our primary goal.

I’ve heard people say that they just “want to be happy”, but when questioned, they often lack a plan or any idea how to achieve the happiness they seek.

I think our efforts would be better spent focusing on doing the things that bring happiness.  “But wait!” you might be saying.  “Isn’t that the same thing as pursuing happiness?”  Not really.  Here’s why.

Being happy is a byproduct of doing something else.  The feeling of being happy follows an action.  You don’t just “be happy”.  Something comes first; some initial action sparks happiness.  The action is the cause, happiness is the effect.

Here’s what this looks like in the real world.  If you want to be happy, determine the things that make you happy, and do those things.  (The premise I’m working from is that the things that make you happy are good, moral, legal, and will build you up and those around you.)  Perhaps being in good physical condition or serving others makes you happy.  Maybe something in your career or spending time with family friends or a community you belong to.  It might even be using a gift or talent you possess.  Most likely there are multiple things you can do that make you happy.  Whatever those things are, do them.  Don’t avoid them or diminish their importance.

Instead of continuing pursue happiness alone, begin stoking the fire of happiness by taking the actions that cause happiness to follow.  When you do, you’ll find that happiness is waiting on the other side.