Category Archives: Life’s Challenges

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.

Why Do I Wait?

Samuel Johnson said, “He who waits to do a great deal of good at once, will never do anything.”
What’s going on behind my hesitation, what fuels my unwillingness to pull the trigger on what appears to be the best course of action to achieve a goal? I’d suggest the following, all of which I’ve experienced:

1. Fear — fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of people, fear of leaving my warm blanket — the blanket of what I know and am comfortable with — right now. The problem with warm blankets? Security is mostly a myth. And — what I fear often precisely describes the area in which I need to grow! But fears are real and must be addressed, one by one. Write them down. Talk them through with a friend, mentor or coach. Pray about them! Then — lay them to rest! You’ll find that most fears begin to lose their grip in the light of truth, analysis and conversation.

2. Adding something else to a jammed schedule. The task ahead might be massive. Very likely, if it’s a good goal, it will be large! And my calendar is packed. I like the feel of a few holes in the schedule which “I can call my own.” The issue here is one of value. I’m comparing the value of wanting “my time” or “maintaining current commitments” to something less real. To determine value, I need to ask, “what’s the preferred future (the vision, the goal) worth?”

Every decision I will make involves a trade-off! It’s the principle of “always doing what I always did…” and expecting more/better/different. A trade-off requires that I must give up in order to move out. I must “lighten the load” (time/commitments/activities, all of which might be very enjoyable) in order to pursue the best. With what might be large goals, have someone help you think through appropriate bite-sized pieces you can add to a schedule while you begin removing items of less value.

3. I don’t see the road clearly ahead. I don’t have a plan. I don’t know about you, but hesitation is often, there’s no clear way to go, so I stop right where I am. And wait for…well, just wait! The need, of course is a plan. But plans rarely fall from the heavens; good plans develop out of process, they accompany movement, they are the product of an engaged heart and mind! So engage! Read. Listen. Think, pray — and get with people who are growing! Your coach can help you step by step with plan development, as you move in the direction in which you want to move.

Your coach will also remind you regularly that what you really want won’t arrive if you wait where you are.


Ready for a Look Back?

If you’re ready to do a review of 2012, here are some questions to help you take an effective look back.

1. What were the highlights of this past year — people, achievements, effective changes carried through?

2. How do I gauge the following areas for 2012: vocation/business, spiritual life, marriage/family, other key relationships, finances, health and wellness, balance/recreation.

3. Have “first things” really first? Is my spiritual life developing? Is my marriage better? Is there growth in other key relationships?

3. As I measure the investment of time and finances, which areas have received too little, too much, or “just right” investment?

4. What has drained me? What has energized me?

6. How am I preparing for 5 years from now? 10 years?

7. What have I been putting off that I need to address in January? What other planning or goal areas come to mind?

Now what? How will I move ahead in 2013?

Experts agree that an “outside” look — like from a coach — can help us make strides foward which we simply can’t make on our own.

We’re experts at asking questions; you’re the expert on your dreams and desires. We can help; call us, and let’s begin asking the right questions to get you started in 2013!

What do you think about on the treadmill?

What do you think about on the treadmill (or your bike, walk, run, swim?) The treadmill (and stationary bike) are a little like the shower for me. I get some great thoughts – and can’t text myself or jot good notes on the treadmill. But sometimes, they stay with me long enough to jot them down!

I realized last week there are a couple of good lessons I’ve learned, as I “walk to nowhere” at my gym.

First, what I did a few months ago won’t suffice for today. This goes right to the heart of growth and being stretched and sharpened. It also slices into the excuses that used to flow out of me whenever I even thought about exercise. All of it started about three years ago, when I innocently told my wife: “We need to go back to Weight Watchers!” That was the beginning of the end for me – the end of some excuses I’d practiced for decades and uttered as often as needed, in response to an invitation to go, do, participate, hike, etc, etc.

See, I had sciatica, knee pain, hip pain – I mean, exercise was – well, “impossible” for me – at least most kinds! At Weight Watchers I learned that activity has to be part of the mix! And not only that, a year or so in, I learned that a little is good, but doing the same “little” after a month or two or three, is kind of like doing what I used to: nothing.

Activity needs to increase – because my stamina increases and my heart rate and respiration won’t get worked over the longer term unless the speed and resistance are increased! What works for today won’t work for a month from now. The same is true in a marriage – or with business growth – or your mental or spiritual “diet and exercise” for that matter. We need stretching and development of all kinds! It feels good. It is good. But it needs to increase, incrementally, sometimes gradually, but always steadily!

A second lesson: what I do today is great for today – but I still need to come back tomorrow or the day after and so on… I’ve figured it out! Exercise is just like shaving (or showering or cleaning up after your kids or pets). It doesn’t really matter if you get tired of it, it’s still a need. It doesn’t matter if boredom sets in – you still need to get after it! (And boredom can be dealt with — change things up, exercise with friends, etc). But, “tired or bored” or my plain old lazy nature just don’t give me sufficient reason to stop doing what is a great and heathy habit in life.

Again – marriage and the rest of life come into play. How often you hear men or women say, “I’m bored in this marriage” or “this ___________ (job/assignment/company, etc) just doesn’t excite me anymore.” Lots of bad decisions get made out of boredom which, seen in another light, would be made quite differently. It could be what I need at the moment isn’t a major change, it’s a major change of attitude or some new perspective; I may need to marshal some resources to re-inspire me or some new accountability to reinvigorate the original goal I had when I began.

Are you also on a journey away from your excuses and out of your former comfort zone? We’d love to hear about it!

Can You Motivate Others?

I read recently: “You can’t push another person up a ladder.”

The scenario regarding motivation often goes like this: one person gets charged up about health, spiritual life, physical fitness, a new commitment to career or business venture – and the husband, wife or co-worker just doesn’t share that motivation. Motivation is not easily transferred, even to people close to us.

And, it helps us to remember, that even in us, motivation is a fickle, illusive and temporary companion. So, even for us, we don’t  always persevere and stay “at” what we “really wanted” a few days or weeks or months earlier.

So, when it comes to getting others charged about something that we’re charged about, whether a spouse, child, employee or business partner, we’d do well to remember that motivation mostly comes from within (perhaps based on observing something or someone) and then it works itself to the outside.

Anda, a boss, spouse or parent can usually, at best, just motivate on a short-term or a negative basis. (Wife says to husband, “We’ve got to do something about how we’re eating….” – Or boss says, “Your raise is dependent on getting your sales figures up within the next 3 months.”) In short-term cases (and this is the problem with the short-term goal like losing 20# before a wedding) motivation lasts only for the duration of the term, or less! And with negative motivations, when the pressure reduces, the behavior reverts.

So can I help others get or stay motivated? There are some principles we can employ, like:

1. Share testimonials – without implicating the other person. When you’re ready, when the “light bulb” has gone on in your heart and mind – go for it, for your own long-term good, and then share the results. You can say things like, “Man, I feel so much better since….” Or I really enjoyed that last book I read on….” Or “You would not believe how much energy I’ve had lately…”

2. Make certain you persevere in your own motivation, despite the fact that motivation for you might wane at times. Commit and stay committed, get some accountability, assemble some cheerleaders around you who are committed to the same kind of goals. There’s nothing quite so de-motivating to a spouse, friend or child as to see you move quickly from excited, to frenzied activity, to quitting when your motivation fades.

3. Then, when and if the conversation comes (and let it be initiated by the other person) – when the conversation you’ve been wanting to have about their need to do something in the area in which you’re motivated comes: begin by assuring them of how much you love or care about them; and that that is the reason you’d love to see some transformation in them as well. Knowing someone cares deeply is one of the strongest of motivational factors.

Do You Need Encouragement?

May 24, 1965.

A 13 and 1/2 foot boat slipped out of the marina at Falmouth, Massachusetts.  Destination: England! If it made it, it would be the smallest boat to ever cross the Atlantic.  Its name was Tinkerbelle.  The pilot was Robert Manry.  He’d been a copy editor for 10 years and he was bored; he took a leave of absence to fulfill a secret dream.

He was afraid — but not of the ocean.  His fear was all the people who’d try to talk him out of the trip.  So he didn’t tell many, just a few relatives and his wife, Virginia, his greatest supporter and encourager.

The trip was anything but pleasant.  He spent sleepless nights trying to cross the shipping lanes without getting run over by large ships.  Weeks at sea made his food tasteless.  Loneliness gave him hallucinations.  His rudder broke three times.  Storms swept him overboard; if he hadn’t had a rope tied around his waist, he never would have made it back aboard.  After 78 days alone at sea, he sailed into Falmouth, England.

During the long trip, he thought about what he’d do when he arrived.  He figured he’d check into a hotel, eat dinner alone; then the next morning see if the Associated Press might be interested in his story.  But word of his trip spread.  To his amazement, three hundred boats, horns blaring, escorted the Tinkerbelle into port.  And 40,000 people stood on the docks screaming and cheering him to shore.

Robert Manry was a hero.  His story went around the world.  But he knew, he couldn’t have done it alone! Standing on the dock was his hero, his wife Virginia.  She refused to be critical and negative about her husband’s trip.  She gave him constant encouragement which gave him to courage to pursue and complete his dream.

Coaches are encouragment specialists. We believe in people because we recognize that they are the experts in their own lives. God made them unique and our greatest task is helping them discover their unique purpose and passion.

Finishing Well

This one is for anyone who gets started in a project, a relationship or a massive responsiblity and discovers how hard things can get…

It happened in the Olympics in Mexico City back in 1968:

At the Olympic stadium, the sounds of police sirens captured the attention of the few remaining spectators in the Olympic stadium late that particular evening. 

Out of the cold darkness he came. John Stephen Akhwari, the final runner in the 26-mile marathon, a young man from Tanzania, entered at the far end of the stadium.  His country was in the Olympics for the first time, since being established in 1964.  As he came, pain hobbled every step he took; his leg was bloody and bandaged from a bad fall very early in the race — he had run and walked most of the marathon that day in great pain. 

The winner of the Olympic marathon had been declared over an hour earlier.  But still this final runner had pressed on.  When he crossed the finish line, the small crowd roared its appreciation.

Afterward, a sportscaster asked him why he had not simply retired from the race, after being injured and knowing he had no chance of winning.  He seemed confused by the question.  Finally he answered: “My country did not send me to 9,000 miles to start the race, they sent me to finish”.

Finishing — and finishing well. The challenge to you and me very often is precisely the one faced by Akhwari that day. It’s not the challenge to win. His competition, he knew, was not with others when he took the last legs of his race. It was with the dogged temptation to settle, to give in, to declare himself a loser and act like one! Have you made the powerful discovery that your challenges are intended, not to get you out of the race, but to steel your determination to finish your race.

The temptation to quit a job, a marriage, a business might be beyond anything you anticipated when you began. You’ve maybe heard the voices of other early quitters telling you what a waste it is to continue. But something tells you, there’s more to this that a line at the end of the track. You ready to join the company of finishers?

8 Questions That Challenge Me

Some questions that challenge me in the direction of growth…

1. What sources of input (entertainment, books, music, websites) get the bulk of my attention, thereby molding my thinking, attitude and behavior?

2. Who are my closest associates and friends and how does their influence shape me?

3. Who regularly challenges my thinking and assumptions — who asks me the hard questions?

4. Am I lying to myself about the realities of success, significance and integrity?

5. Is there appropriate focus and balance between the dimensions of my life? (work, relational, physical, spiritual, emotional)

6. Am I growing in the real people skills: vulnerability, commitment, loyalty, honesty, truth, authenticity, love?

7. What impact and influence flows from my relationships and involvement with people and organizations?

8. Who and what am I becoming?