You Are the Force

Let’s start this week’s post with a quick test:

  1. Who is ultimately responsible for the success of your relationships?
    1. Your friends
    2. Your parents
    3. Other people
    4. <Insert your name here>

 

  1. Who is ultimately responsible for your success at work or in your career?
    1. Your employer
    2. The customers
    3. Shareholders
    4. <Insert your name here>

 

  1. Who is/was ultimately responsible for your success in school?
    1. Your teachers
    2. The school administration
    3. The financial aid office
    4. <Insert your name here>

 

  1. What is the strongest force that will shape the quality of your life?
    1. Circumstances
    2. Fate
    3. Santa Clause
    4. <Insert your name here>

Now check your answers:

  1. 4
  2. 4
  3. 4
  4. 4

How’d you do?  Hopefully your test score revealed a strong understanding that you are the driving force behind any success in life you want to achieve.

Success will rarely come our way if we are of the mindset that other people should, or will, take the initiative for our success.  Success requires effort and a self-starting mindset on our part.  Does that mean we shouldn’t ask for help from others?  By all means, seek the assistance of people who can help! (And depending on your belief, don’t forget to ask for assistance through prayer too!)

What we shouldn’t do is sit back and wait for anyone other than yourselves to make something happen for you.  No one should be more motivated for your own success than you.

 

Light Your Own Fire

Imagine you’re camping and, in an effort to take the chill off and warm yourself up, you decide to build a fire.  You crumple up some paper, collect and arrange wood in the fire pit and then… you never put flame to paper and light the fire.  You’re still cold, and you’d still like to get warm, but you never light your fire.

Sounds silly, right?  Yet how often do we do the same thing when we have a goal or a dream we want to pursue, we know the first (or next) step we should take, yet lack the motivation to get started?  In a sense, we fail to light our own fire.

Motivation is the fire that moves us to get started and stay committed to our goal.  This “fire” can look like, but is not limited to, a desire to:

  • Life a healthy lifestyle
  • Achieve an educational goal
  • Start a business
  • Be debt free
  • Travel

What’s important about the fire of motivation is that it has to come from us, not others.  We are the ones who must light our own fires and motivate ourselves to take action.  If we’re relying on others to motivate us before we take action, I would have to wonder if we really want the goal or dream we’ve laid out for ourselves as much as we may say we do.

If you’ve got a goal, but have been waiting for motivation to come from somewhere other than yourself before you get started, decide today to light your own fire.  Determine why achieving this goal is important to you, focus on that, and move boldly toward the goal before you.

On Becoming Wise

How do you become good at a sport, a musical instrument, a craft, or anything else you’d like to excel at?  That path to achievement in any endeavor involves:

  1. Learning about your chosen area.
  2. Applying what you’ve learned.
  3. Evaluating the outcome.
  4. Making adjustments and reapplying what you’ve learned.
  5. Proceeding back to Step 1.

Not only is this a good process for learning new skills, it’s also a great process for becoming a wise person.

Much like learning a new skill, wisdom comes from learning new principles, applying them in real-life situations, evaluating the results, and making the necessary adjustments to achieve a better outcome.   It is through this repeated process that a person becomes wise.

If you’d like to work on becoming a wiser person, I’d suggest reading the book of Proverbs in the Bible.  Regardless of where you are from a religious or spiritual standpoint, Provers is LOADED with valuable knowledge and insights for successfully navigating through life.

I’d suggest picking a couple of proverbs that resonate with you and begin applying, evaluating, and reapplying them in your own life.  Then, get in the habit of picking 1 or 2 new proverbs to focus on every week.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly your wisdom will increase.

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.

Filling Up Your Mind

Have you ever considered how what we allow into your mind directly impacts our thinking and outlook on life?  Similar to how the types of food we allow into our bodies directly impacts our physical health, the material we watch, read, and listen to have a direct impact on our thinking and how we view our current situations and overall view of life.  Therefore, it is imperative that we are not only aware of what we are filling up our minds with, but that we are also taking an active role to ensure the content we consume is positive, useful, and improves our thinking, rather than polluting it.

For example, I’m currently conducting a job search to find work closer to where I live.  This can be a challenging process with no shortage of opportunities to engage in negative thinking.

In Scripture we’re told…

“[…] whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  — Phil 4:8

Therefore, before I started the job search process, I found some positive words to use daily to keep me focused and to thwart of negative thinking when it would begin to show itself.  Some of those positive words I use include:

  • The greatest cure for anxiety is action.
  • Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. – Psalms 25:4
  • Do what others aren’t willing to do.
  • Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. – Phil 4:6-7
  • Take action every day.

These words are certainly not the only positive choices and may not be for everyone, but they work very well for me in my situation.  The important point is for each of us to find our own encouraging words that we can use to positively influence our thinking.

What about you?  What are you filling your mind with?  Could you benefit some renewed and positive thinking?  If so, begin collecting quotes, phrases, gems from religious text, or just kind words from others and put them in a place that will cause you it intersect with them several times a day.  As you see them, spend a moment to read them, think about them, and apply into your daily life.  This habit will not only cause your thinking to change for the positive, but your life will follow as well.

There’s a System for That

Do you suffer from any of the following:

  • A cluttered house
  • Forgetting important dates or events
  • An out of control email in box
  • Not knowing what you need when you’re at the grocery store until AFTER you get home
  • A car full of junk
  • Not knowing where you put your keys
  • Forgetting the login and password you picked for a specific website

If so, it may be the result of not having systems in place for certain areas of your life.  What I mean by a system is simply a set of behaviors you regularly perform for a specific situation.  Here’s what a system might look like in a real-life scenario.

Let’s say my house is always cluttered and messy, which causes me to feel frustrated.  A system for keeping my house from being cluttered would involve adopting and maintaining behaviors like:

  • Assigning a specific place for each of my items
  • When I’m done using something, instead of laying it on the first convenient place I can think of, I will put it where it belongs (e.g. Dishwasher, laundry bin, closed, garbage, recycle, closet, etc.)
  • I will regularly go through my things and get rid of anything that I no longer use so that my house stays free from unneeded items.

A system like this identifies clear behaviors that will yield the outcome you desire.

When I don’t have systems in place, or don’t follow the systems I do have, I tend to do what’s most convenient at the time.  Operating by convenience rather than by established systems tends to cause parts of my life to feel out of control and chaotic.  Without specific systems in place, anything goes!  Clothes go on the floor, dishes stay in the sink, and important things become forgotten or left undone.

Do you have areas in your life that would benefit from some new systems?  If so, start with just one area you’d like to improve and do the following:

  • Envision the outcome you want
  • Create a system of behavior that will achieve that outcome
  • Work the system

Chaos and disorder are almost always the result of a system that needs to be put into place or a bad system that needs to be revamped.  Start adding systems to your life to remove chaos and disorder and begin enjoying a less stressful existence.