Category Archives: Balance

A Simple Way to Grow

Tom Ziglar says, “What you feed your mind determines your appetite.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m a great collector of books. They are mentioned in blogs or social media, by someone I trust, or they catch my eye on Amazon. I buy, add to my Kindle or bookshelf. And I begin most of them…

I can’t tell you how many books I’ve begun! All good stuff. Usually my inclinations were correct; they’re good, informative, idea-generating, challenging in some area in which I need to grow. But then life happens and schedules press them off the top of my to do list.


What if — for the rest of January, I would chose just 2 key books on which to slowly and intentionally “feed” — the content of which would then challenge thinking, encourage the heart, mold attitudes and increase the appetite — for more good stuff? What difference would a few weeks’ worth of good feeding make in the coming year?

I’m game! Are you?

If you’d take inventory of what goes into your mind, what would be the primary sources?

What 2 books would be at the top of your list for the rest of the month?

Making other things the “main thing”

focus picC.S. Lewis, of “Narnia” fame authored the great classic: The Screwtape Letters. This masterful and imaginary work records the correspondence between a senior devil (Screwtape) and a young protégé called Wormwood.

In one letter, Screwtape instructs Wormwood in the art of gaining souls for the Devil by diverting people’s energies into a great variety and multitude of directions. He tells him, entice people to exaggerate their everyday interests and worries, thereby making all those diverse concerns into the “main thing.” Thus would people be prevented from anything of significance ever being accomplished!

We label it “the tyranny of the urgent” or sometimes the hyperactivity of “the whirlwind”. But somehow we seem to return to the place where we just don’t have time for what is central and crucial to life or business or relationships. It appears that the enticement still works well.

And our main thing gets left in the dust, due to inherent lack of focus.

How do you keep the main thing your focus despite other enticements?

Lessons from a Dickens of a Tale

Recently, I read of a website with 500+ classic books on audio available at no cost. I’ve listened to books on my Kindle; at best it’s a bit robotic. But when I heard my first download read by a professional I was hooked! I listened while walking, exercising, driving, even mowing the lawn! The one I chose first was Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Having not read this story since junior high, I was looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with it. It turned out the movie based on it, like many films, had taken many liberties. What intrigued me most was the character development, through which Dickens’ reveals his view of truth, life and human nature. I also realized he was teaching valuable life and business lessons like:

Appearances are just that. However impressive the image, when there’s no substance to the image or brand, system failure is inevitable-likely it will happen at the most critical time. A memorable line from the book goes something like: “If you apply varnish to wood, it does not hide the grain, but shows it. The more coats you apply, the more the gain is highlighted.” Does what I display reflect reality?

Integrity is often found where you least expect it. Dickens’ characters include more than one quiet hero who lives in humble circumstances, yet displays goodness and faithfulness, forgiveness and love even when they’re undeserved. Do I value personal integrity enough? Am I growing in character? What are some ways to do that?

There is astounding value in the right kind of friends. The Proverb says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Dickens’ main character learns that in desperate times, the bonds of friendship offer him what money and possessions never would. What determines the kind of friendship I offer or the sort of friends I pursue?

Are you reading from (or listening to) good sources? What are some ways that you’ve learned to mine valuable truth and lessons from what you read or hear?


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?

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?

Time Away

Carisa Bianchi said, “When people don’t take time out, they stop being productive.” Do you find the tyranny of the urgent driving you forward, even when you know you need some time out? When that’s the case, creativity, effectiveness and productivity get lost in the shuffle.

What would “time away” look like? And to what ends? 

How could you use some physical “time away”? A friend of mine has the habit 0f, every day, leaving his office and walking to a covered bench outdoors. In the walk and the “bench time” he simply sits, breathes fresh air and gets in 10 or 15 minutes of relaxation. We need physical rest and relaxation as well as exertion and exercise to counteract the tendancy to sit all day. Working out positively impacts the brain as well as the heart; we get de-stressed and a shot of oxygen which we don’t get by sitting. How could you add some physical time out to every hour, to each segment of the day (morning, afternoon, evening) and to your week (month, year)?

How could you use some mental “time away”? Most of us so engage with the “mental” in business and work that we’d rather escape it when we’re “away”. The need here is breadth and variation. So how could you stretch your mind by something different than what occupies it day by day? How about a documentary you’d normally not choose? How about tackling a project outside your expertise? What value would there be in reading and discussing a serious book with your spouse?

How could you use some spiritual “time away”? The spiritual area of life often occupies the bottom of our priority lists because we don’t recognize: we are spiritual creatures. Because that’s true, it stands to reason that ignoring this vital area creates deficits in how we function, relate and live. In what areas of the spiritual life could you get stretched? Are there disciplines you’ve always wanted to pursue (prayer, meditation, reading Scripture daily)? Is there someone with whom you could interact or who might mentor you?

How could you use some relational “time away”? When I think of significant friendships I used to enjoy (ones separated by long distance and time) I realize again the power and value of real friendships. For me (and most men?) they are rare — but all the more necessary. Relationships bring balance into our lives; they are the source of much “added value” to each person. Relationships help us avoid pitfalls and do well in life. So what would time away look like? A long lunch in the middle of a busy week to bounce ideas off a friend? Date time each week with your spouse to communicate, dream and make plans? An annual vacation with close friends you don’t regularly get to see?

How would you benefit if you’d choose one or more of the above and carve out even a bit of time for them? Here’s hoping you get some serious time away this week in one or all of the above categories!

My Final Weight Loss (part 3)

Incorporate a program that supports real life!

I’ve talked about what got me moving toward health and healthy weight – then about my vision and different kinds of goals.

Then I had to think about the approach or program to use. We live a food culture of extremes. At one extreme is our obsessed with food; at the other, an obsessed with losing weight. The time of the year often finds us drifting from one to the other! It’s as if we lope from the latest fad restaurant (or our favorite fast food fixes) to the newest kind of gym, or supplements or shakes and cleanses, or best-selling diet book, hoping “this one” will finally do it for us!

A few times a year, over the decades, I experienced the desire to lose weight. Every infomercial sang to me its enchanting tune that goes something like, “We guarantee that in 30 days….” The variations are endless. Come here. Inject this. Buy this equipment. Drink these 800 calories. Order your frozen dinners here.

I had my own versions. Nothing from this food group. No sweets for a month. Fiber capsules before every meal! The vast majority of programs function on some level of deprivation. I knew deprivation! Deprivation by nature and definition always left me wanting — for more! I’m 6’1” – sometimes I was actually active. I needed fuel! And without exception, deprivation diets over the years had the same impact on me. Depleted, hungry, sometimes irritable, even light-headed. I’m convinced that my body physically and mentally rebels at deprivation – and cravings then begin. It certainly seemed that way after a few dozen failed experiments!

We chose Weight Watchers. We’d been before (just hadn’t continued after some initial progress). Why Weight Watchers? One fundamental: they encourage you to learn to make good choices about real food in a real world everyday. They know you have work, play, kids, busyness, buffets, break room treats, meetings and travel. As a pastor I had breakfasts and lunches with people, meetings and potlucks to sort through. We had people in our home for meals and went to others’ homes.

A “real life” program is one that doesn’t just “work” for the first month or two. It leads you to engage in new choices and habits for a lifetime. I learned the power of healthy choices. I tracked what I ate. I fueled up and stayed fueled up with healthy snacks during the day and evening. We learned again how good whole foods taste. My wife and I cooked healthy food for adult children and many others and watched them eat it without reservation. I learned to navigate the minefield of restaurants and menus on the American food front. I learned that health is a long-term (lifetime) of daily choices. I’d been making some good, some not so good choices, for 5-plus decades. It was time to get real; Weight Watchers helped us at the beginning and still does (my wife Patty now leads WW meetings!). Inputs from a variety of sources propelled us forward toward a lifetime of better health. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s going to support real life!  

The final installment next: Pursue health in the context of encouragement, support and accountability.

“…something else is more important.”

Ambrose Redmoon said it — “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important.”

Progress invariably demands some form of courage. It may not be courage as we’ve thought of it before, but consider how often we stop short of what we really want —

  • To start the business long envisioned
  • To step up in the relationship where there has been passivity
  • To get serious about God and spiritual life
  • To get off the couch and pursue a lifetime of health
  • To get freedom in finances 
  • To pursue leadership opportunities

We stop short because the “something else” of Redmoon’s statement is not in view. What I don’t envision clearly, I will not value greatly. 

The need, as January begins to wind down, is a “vision” inventory. It’s taking some time, perhaps on a weekend to begin to list, qualify and describe what’s of greatest importance, to rehearse for myself, why these people and values are important — then of course, to set out the courageous stands or acts or habits which now will begin to support those values. 

As coaches, we go through the same process ourselves, regularly! And we’d be honored to spend some time with you (at no cost) to ask some of the questions which will help you get to what’s of supreme importance to you, in this year and for the sake of planning. Call us jot us a note today.

Recharged and refocused

Someone said failure comes as a result of two approaches: thinking without doing.  And — doing without thinking.

A friend and client just returned from vacation and he declared himself to be a new man. “Highly impactful” were the words he used to describe the time away he had with his wife. When I probed for detail (coaches love to probe!) he described a wonderful time! Sleeping 10 hours a night for the first 3… thereby discovering how exhausted both of them had been. Getting up and enjoying coffee, mountain scenery on the deck, starting days slowly. Maybe driving off to a nearby town at 10 AM or so. Enjoying lunch or dinner somewhere, returning late to watch the moon rise above the mountains and feel the chill of the night overtake them before having to retreat inside again.

They spent days reading — he devoured 9 books, at the rate of one every day! To say he was recharged and invigorated would be an understatement of major proportions. He took 350 pictures — and they were good!

They’ve decided to go again, about every 6 months, likely for 2 weeks from now on.

What impressed me was — he had not only gotten away for a greatly relaxing and recharging time, he brought key elements of their time back with him! He’s ready now to stop work a little earlier every day; to recharge daily and weekly; to rethink goals to allow for real time with his wife on a regular basis — to simply say “no” to items which now just don’t make as much sense.

It excited me to hear the powerful lessons he’d learned.

How about you? How do you recharge and get clear on what’s crucial for your life?