Category Archives: Focus

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.

But…

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?

Who in Your Life…?

Who do you have in your life who does the following?

  •  They listen to you well. They hear what others don’t, hear what even you likely haven’t put together. They listen to what your heart and gut are saying.
  •  They identify — verbally and often — your skills, gifts, passions, values, interests and desires. And when they do, they help you grasp how you’re put together.
  •  They believe in you. Not like your 7th grade English teacher who took everyone aside and said “you have great potential!” This is the man or woman who discerns your unique design. They assist you with seeing your purpose,  related to your unique design and life experiences…therefore equipping you to know where you will make your greatest impact.
  •  Finally, they aren’t content to let you just know these things. The press you — not just to do your best, but to be your best.

Who is there who fills that role in your life?

Those practices paint a picture of the privileged role that we as coaches get to fill every day — and also helps you understand why we’re so passionate about doing it well!

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?

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?

My Final Weight Loss (part 1)

When my wife talks about motivation (some have it, some don’t) she says, “The light bulb has to go on”. That means, without the right combination of motivational factors, in areas like weight loss, things may start well, but all too often there’s no follow through. It had been that way for me most of our married lives, when it came to my weight. Over the years, I had gone up and down, but in the last decade, the trend was decidedly upward! At 6’1” I finally topped out at somewhere north of 270 pounds.

I managed to hide some of it on my tall frame, but certainly not all of it (not that hiding it is a good thing). But one day, the light bulb burned! Looking back, there were multiple factors. Like many people my age, there were the common growing health concerns (borderline high blood pressure, heart “flutters” and other symptoms related to stress).

I was in my late 50’s. Suddenly one day, I realized that within a decade of the age I was right then, my mother had confined herself to a wheelchair, largely due to weight. Other family medical history was not good. So I took a look back and gained motivation.

I also took a look in the mirror. That was a reality check. I was a pastor – I stood in front of people every week as a teacher – and an illustration of…of what? I was certainly not an illustration of self-control, nor of being a good steward of the body and health God had granted me to that point. I also took a look at the future. Healthcare was the topic on the national scene and it became clear to me that whatever the future of healthcare in the United States, we had one choice: as we faced our senior years we should aim at being as healthy as we could be!

I picked up the phone and dialed my wife. When she answered, I said, “We need to go back to Weight Watchers.” She told me later, “I rolled my eyes when you said that.” Nevertheless, we went. We started the journey, not simply to lose weight but toward being “as healthy as possible for our lifetimes”. We’ve never looked back.

Having lost and kept off about 57 pounds what would I recommend to anyone wanting to pursue a healthy weight loss “for the last time” — getting rid of excess pounds and keeping them off? I will offer you four fundamentals over the next few posts – I’d love to get your feedback on your own journey.

“…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.

Questions for ’13

It’s not uncommon to stand on the edge of a New Year with either too much in view or with so much on your plate that you have a tough time knowing which concrete goals to set for the year ahead.

If you’re not sure,  try answering the following questions:

1. How do I want to be remembered (as a spouse, parent, leader, follower, etc)?

If this year were to determine your legacy, what would you like it to reflect?

2. At what level of “fitness” (physical, relational, spiritual, financial etc) would I like to end 2013?

Take one or more of the areas and start putting numbers or key words beside them. That becomes the framework onto which you can then begin to build some healthy goals.

And, if you need help asking yourself some of life’s hard questions, or you need someone to bring support, encouragement and accountability into the process, call us. We love looking ahead at the transformation that a New Year’s goals can bring!

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?