Category Archives: Life’s Challenges

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?

Passivity Paralyzes

With eight months of the year behind us, how would you say you’re growing? In what areas are you really satisfied about your progress — and in which ones would you, in all honesty say, there’s been real blockage — even passivity?

Why should we beware of passivity? Because passivity is a usually a sign that we’ve been entertaining thoughts like:

  • I’ve arrrived. Although most of us would never actually say such a thing, it’s suggested when we sit, cemented in place.
  • I’m comfortable. Comfort says, “I know my marriage could be better, my relationships are few and weak, my fathering is part-time at best, my job performance could be great instead of average…but the discomfort I have now might be preferable to the discomfort I might experience from going on in those areas.”
  • I can’t. At my age…with my background…as busy as I am….(insert favorite phrase here) no one could expect me to make big changes in my __________ (fitness, marriage,  attitude toward work, spiritual life).

The key to breaking free from passivity is intentionality. It’s a clear and workable plan to get around growing people, to find and incorporate some new resources, maybe to add some accountability.

What kinds of passivity can you identify? What would be the first, best steps out of it for the rest of the year?

Habits of Growing People

For most of my life, I’ve witnessed it: some people are content to remain at their current level of understanding, education, development and maturity. It’s true in any facet of life where growth is possible. At some point, for them, growth became optional. So there they sit, seemingly in a recliner, on a plateau. It might be on the job, in their marriage, in the spiritual life and the like.

Others though, seem to always have a book at hand or they’re telling you about something they’ve just learned. They might be the person who always seems ready for another sharpening relationship, more input or an app they can download and put to use.

What can you observe in the attitudes and practices of people who grow and keep growing?

1. Growing people have a plan to grow.

Oh, it may not be complicated. Their plan might be as simple as a bucket list, a book club or a gym membership. Streaming entertainment excites them less than personal interaction. They prefer face time to Facebook and thought-provoking discussion to quoting sound bite.

2. Growing people have growing friends.

They associate with others who aren’t content with the status quo in their own lives. They attract the kind of people who also engage in thought and learn new skills. They might together pursue weight loss or health goals or DIY projects. They practice mutual challenge and encouragement.

3. Growing people take advantage of growth resources.

Invariably, growing people are readers. They’ll often have a book or device at hand, so when they’re waiting, they’re reading. They go to conferences, engage a mentor or take a class. They study areas not associated with their profession. They read select tweets and blogs. They listen deeply, learn intuitively and pass on what they’re learning!

4. Growing people practice growth habits even when they’re not motivated.

Motivation slows, even for growth-oriented people. But they know that growth isn’t an option. They’ve experienced that when growth ceases, the downward slide begins. People committed to growth understand that daily habits and small steps will both keep them moving forward and kick-start their motivation again.

You likely wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t committed to your own growth.

What attitudes or practices have helped keep you moving forward?

Why I Need a Coach (and you probably do too)

A few years ago, I began a coaching relationship. It wasn’t a simple decision. There were issues that held me back.

Fear held me back. I knew if I launched out and actually discussed goals, dreams and plans that I’d actually have to do something about my goals, dreams and plans! And of course, like most people, I so often prefer the comfort of “what I know” (even though it’s not very comfortable) to the discomfort of decision-making…choices which mean change…and communicating my goals to others. In all of it, I of course, also feared failure. But I began to realize that the road I was on was a slow track to a more ultimate failure: the failure to actually be what I knew I could be!

The idea of accountability held me back. Like a lot of people, I was hiding under the radar of glib statements like: “I’m busy” or “I’m doing the best I can with the (time/money/resources/relationships) I’ve got. But then I realized, accountability isn’t about just exposing excuses, it is about ownership and intentionality – things which move me forward – past excuses, out of my comfort and into the kind of effective and fruitful life about which I had only dreamt!

So what’s coaching done for me?

Just given me an honest environment where I can speak freely, dream greatly and choose repeatedly to do what I know I really want! It offers me a confidential “sounding board” environment. My coach provides absolute confidentiality. We can discuss and analyze fear and hesitations. I can talk through dreams – even the ones I’ve never spoken aloud to myself before. Coaching also provides me support and encouragement like I’ve had in just a couple of other relationships. And my coach’s encouragement isn’t the “pat on the back”/“you can do it” kind. He challenges me relentlessly; questions me progressively; gives me the freedom to admit it when I’m making excuses. And the best part: he reminds me of the astounding value and purpose that are part of how I’m created!

His encouragement literally consists of “pouring courage into me” when my human nature would rather excuse, be lazy or fall back to my lack of confidence.

So, if you’re in need of challenge, clarity, insight…and support, encouragement and accountability, I urge you to get in touch! It’s the first in a long series of good choices you’ll make!

A Word from the General

Ever “feel” like doing something you’ve planned to do, but somehow, other parts of you (body, will, emotions) just don’t cooperate? General George S. Patton said,

Now if you are going to win any battle, you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.

 

Whatever you decide

Ralph Waldo Emerson described what happens when we decide on a course of action or goal.

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”

You’ve likely experienced the “fruit” of critics in your life. From family members at an early age to co-workers and “friends” later in life, we often have a ready supply of those who tell us how unlikely it is that our goal or plan will come to fruition. Summoning courage at those junctures means putting ourselves “out there” and it means operating without the encouragement of people who ought to believe in us.

What an appropriate time that is to:

  • Get with someone who’s been there, who’s been experienced a similar journey. Examples might be a business owner who’s taken signficant risk or one who’s worked through huge financial hurdles. A key individual might provide the need of the moment: mentor, counsel, encouragement, prayer or challenge. Be ready for the response that’s right!
  • Write out a clear and compelling vision. Answer for yourself the “why am I doing this?” question. Spend time yourself in meditation and prayer. Ascertain that you’re not doing the wrong thing your critics asserted.
  • Keep the vision connected to reality. Great visions rarely come together in the time and manner we’d prefer. Put realistic and measureable goals together, get them into your plan and work your plan.
  • Get some coaching. Coaches specialize in listening and we believe in our clients. I believe what God has put into people — by way of vision, purpose and passions — is what needs to “come out”. In nearly every session, I hear a clients discuss things they are hestitant to share even with spouses, best friends or co-workers.

 

 

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?

 

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?