Running on Decaf?

DecafI thought maybe it was just the morning: it was overcast and a little foggy after a night of thunderstorms. I got up, went to the kitchen and flipped the switch on the coffee maker, took my vitamins and made some breakfast. The new coffee I hurriedly grabbed the previous evening tasted so-so at best. Shouldn’t have bought such a large bag of beans, I thought to myself.

I sat, reviewed, listened, read, the usual routine. After a second cup, I went out to walk. Even after the longer course, I was still not feeling quite READY. I returned, grabbed a third cup of coffee, showered and dressed. Coming back into the kitchen before working, I thought, “I feel like I need another cup!” Three is all there was, because that’s what I drink. Then it hit me… I reached for the bag from the upper cabinet and saw the two words which should never occur alongside each other: Decaffeinated Coffee!

As I stirred up a strong cup of Starbucks instant (the only kind of instant one should ever even consider) it occurred to me how often we function with a half-speed, mundane approach, moving to and through our day and our work with a low-octane attitude and at an unmotivated level. And the sad thing: in a generation plagued by mediocrity, hardly anyone notices!

But what if you want to flip the switch every day on motivation, encouragement and focus? What might you do to inject a triple shot of caffeine into your heart and mind? I’d strongly suggest (beyond real coffee!) the following:

1. Encouraging and challenging inputs

Every one of us needs to be exposed to truth, ideas and inspiration which will light fires within us. For me that includes Scripture and challenges from what others have written and said. Why would I want to approach life, business or relationships alone when I can carry into each area the truth and wisdom which have demonstrated their value for millennia?

2. Intentional physical activity

Every system and part of the body seems to benefit from movement. Recent studies confirm that the brain and cognitive functions benefit tremendously when a fresh supply of oxygen gets pumped through due to activity. Other recent studies declare the inactive lifestyle to be the “new smoking.” What’s the overflow of regular bursts of activity during the waking hours? You will pursue healthy thoughts, feelings and choices!

 3. Invigorating interactions

We will always have people in our lives that need something. We offer, provide and give much during a given day. The “outflows” of life often align with our purpose and passions. Giving away what we’ve been given is a powerful part of why we’re on earth! But…continuous giving, always “monitoring” the well-being of others, directing and leading will leave us at the end of days, weeks and years simply and fully spent!

We need people who regularly challenge us, speak truth to us and offer us what we offer to others. We need full fledged partnerships with a few individuals, partnerships wherein we are committed to one another’s best – in our being as well as our doing!

 Which of the three have helped you refocus and regain motivation? How?

Today’s Comfort Zone…

There’s a powerful truth that should push us forward to grow in all of life’s dimensions: Today’s comfort zone becomes tomorrow’s confinement zone. The atrophy of all our “muscles” — physical, mental, relational, spiritual — even the creative “muscles” of growing in business or influence — that atrophy always results from disuse. Ever hear of “The Wild Duck of Denmark” — a story told by Soren Kierkegaard, Danish theologian and philosopher.

It seems a wild duck was flying northward with his mates across Europe during the springtime. En route, he landed in a barnyard in Denmark, where he made friends with the tame ducks that lived there. The wild duck enjoyed the corn and fresh water. He decided to stay for an hour, then for a day, then for a week , and finally, for a month.

At the end of that time, he contemplated flying to join his friends in the vast North, but he had begun to enjoy the safety of the barnyard, and the tame ducks had made him feel so welcome. So he stayed for the summer.

One autumn day, when his wild mates were flying south, he heard their quacking. It stirred him with delight, and he enthusiastically flapped his wings and rose into the air to join them. Much to his dismay, he found that he could rise no higher than the eaves of the barn. As he waddled back to the safety of the barnyard, he muttered to himself, “I’m satisfied here, I have plenty of food, and the area is good. Why should I leave.?” So, he spent the winter on the farm.

In the spring, when the wild ducks flew overhead again, he felt a strange stirring within his breast, but he did not even try to fly up to meet them. When they returned in the fall, they again called to invite him to join them, but this time, the duck did not even notice them. There was no stirring within his breast. He simply kept on eating corn which made him fat.

In which dimension do you most need the challenge to fly?

 

Turning Down Time into Wow Time

It’s the time of year when we’re preparing to hit the road, the beach or the mountains and recharge our batteries so we will be able to hit things hard for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, in our “down” time, we often don’t benefit, mostly for a couple of reasons.

   1. We’re still too “wired” to gain much from the experience. Stress isn’t resident at our desks, it lives in us! We take it along–rather than maximizing time off to learn skills to deal with stress in healthy ways.

   2. We don’t plan the time away, so the vacation adds stress (by doing too much, adding to our debt load, or traveling too far for instance).

 I’d suggest 3 goals to make sure your down time is really that.

Reconnect with people (spouse, children, extended family, close friends). Relationships often are sacrificed for work; this is a great time to reestablish bonds.

Refocus on your purpose and passion. This isn’t just about work. It’s some concrete time when you’ll strategize for the long haul, praying and thinking deeply about where life ought to be headed and where it in reality is.

Refine your direction. Midcourse correction think time might just be one of the greatest benefits of down time. No one is aiming precisely at long term vision and goals. In your down time you will discover courage to make necessary changes—courage that’s hard to summon in the whirlwind of everyday.

If those are my goals, what facilitates reaching them while enjoying time away? I’d suggest:   

Unplug with intention. Consider going digital free for a major part of your down time! Studies say that despite the great convenience of connectedness, technology raises stress levels! So, consider going somewhere (a cruise or remote cabin for instance) that offers no or very expensive cell coverage. Make a decision ahead of time that you’re unplugging except for emergency situations.

If you can’t completely get away from your devices, agree with the office (or family members) on how much you’ll be available or at what hours of the day. Set your email with a vacation auto response. Include the contact info of who can help during your absence). Commit with the individuals with whom you’re traveling that you won’t check email more than a certain number of times during the days you’re “unplugged.”

Discuss a “no TV” plan (or other limits on your digital drugs) and discover how much you can enjoy being unplugged.

Unwind with recharging in mind. Figure out how to include some rich times with the people you love and who love you. Ask yourself: what would deepen conversation, add fun experiences and memory-building? Think and plan ahead for both fun and serious times which will build unity in relationships.

Instead of planning to just relax, add some activity or exercise which will charge you physically and mentally. Studies reveal that exercise increases cognition. It stands to reason that no movement and lots of rich food won’t refresh you, nor prepare you for the challenges when you return to responsibilities.

Spend time with activities you deeply enjoy. Example: read something you normally don’t read, but know you’d enjoy. Novels that challenge and free your thinking can be good; “fresh approach” or motivational books will invite reflection. Nonfiction that’s outside your area of expertise or experience will stretch your brain. Plan time reflecting on how things are really going in all the areas of your life. Early mornings alone might be a perfect time for some reflection and reorientation time.

Do some re-capping, listing, journaling. The idea isn’t to fixate on “what’s back home” and what you’re trying to get away from–it’s to download your mind and heart in some kind of orderly fashion, so as your mind won’t be occupied with random thoughts, feelings and ideas. Our minds get satisfied that “things will be handled” when things are on paper. Random thoughts won’t pop up nearly so much then, while you’re on a break.

 Plan for your down time and it will provide amazing benefits.

How could you gain the widest variety of benefit from your down time this summer?

Extra credit question: How can you take some of the above and apply them to some down time every week and every month?