Category Archives: Motivation

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?

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?

 

My Final Weight Loss (part 4)

In earlier posts, I discussed my motivations to get started, pairing vision with goals and incorporating a program which supports real life. Here’s the final fundamental for me:

 Pursue health with support, encouragement and accountability.

 I knew I couldn’t do it alone. There are plenty of people who are highly disciplined – who can take a book or program and work it, all by themselves. I had to admit, that wasn’t me! Even today, after years of success under my belt, I need reminders, ideas and renewed motivation. I very rarely miss a weekly meeting (led by my wife, an added bonus!)

 When my wife and I restarted Weight Watchers, we were signing up for an atmosphere of learning, challenge, encouragement – and not a small dose of accountability. There’s something about stepping on a scale with someone on the other side of the desk that gives enough of a dose to make me want to do well! Their statistics actually say that there is a great difference in weight loss when people actually come every week to face the scale. A favorite phrase from our first leader was, “the scale is not about failure, it’s just feedback.” It’s that small dose of accountability that sort of sums up my choices for the last 7 days. It’s a gentle reminder that weight and health aren’t about hoping and dreaming that I’ll “get there” – it’s about measuring how well I’m doing with new habits.

 Weekly meetings offered us insights from fellow travelers. Some had been “at goal” for months or years and continue to come to be encouraged and encourage others. They’re great teachers and idea generators. The meetings offer insights into the program, into food, into navigating the minefield of a food-obsessed culture. They also provides the encouragement of “good job!” at the scale and in the “celebration time” in the meeting (applause for losing another 5 pounds, getting to 10% goal and the like).

 The other huge part of the final fundamental – my wife and I worked the program together. Two people agreed on and pursuing the same goal is powerful. We started together, continued going week in, week out, when there were “ups” and when there were “downs”. We stayed on the pursuit of health at home; cooking better, agreeing on which restaurants we’d no longer frequent or which foods (French fries for instance) we’d never order in a restaurant.

 Support, encouragement and accountability made the difference when I was motivated; they were more critical when I wasn’t. We challenged either other saying: “we can do this” or even “remember what we decided.” (see the post from 7/7/12: Can you motivate others?)

 So, if you’re ready to embark on a healthy weight loss journey, I’d tell you: get the support, encouragement and accountability you’ll need. Get it before you begin. It could be a spouse, friend, sibling, parent/child team. It can come from a coach as well. We get excited everyday to offer just those elements to our clients. Call us and we can discuss your vision and goals.  

 Thanks for reading my account. I’d love to get your comments!

My Final Weight Loss (part 2)

As I said in the first post, I was motivated; my “light bulb was on”.

But then what? How could I (and how can you) keep motivation going in a tough area like weight loss? Four fundamentals began working for me. The first one today.

Think through, and write down, a mix of goals (short-, mid-, long-range) alongside your long term vision.

Many people approach weight loss with just one goal in mind. “To lose the weight.”  There’s another version that’s even less effective. It’s some version of “I want to lose 20 pounds before the wedding/reunion/vacation, etc.”  The first goal is too fuzzy; it just won’t take you very far toward a healthy weight. The second revolves around an event — an event which, as it fades in your rearview mirror, will likely take your goal with it! A key problem with the second kind of goal is, we’re just wanting to “look good” (for others, or for the pictures). Once that “limited vision” goal is achieved, the desire well may be to go celebrate!! In my case, celebrating would have meant plunging into the old food habits!

Habits aren’t sustained if clear vision and appropriate goals don’t support the habits!

My vision was that my wife and I attain the best state of health we could reach for the rest of our lives. A fundamental commitment we made to each other with regard to Weight Watchers was “we will not quit.” We agreed this time we’d stick, even after we had early good results (or even if we didn’t some weeks!) We were on this journey toward health for all of life. We wanted to feel better, sleep better,  move better and enjoy physical activities. So we studied and read about the benefits of appropriate weight and good food. We read about the liabilities of some of the things we’d been eating! Our vision became more and more compelling. We watched shows like “Biggest Loser” to stir motivation. Those activities buttressed the vision and kept us wanting it!

As the vision developed, I had appropriate goals. Weight Watchers encourages steady — not steep — weight loss. Most “diets” revolve around some version of deprivation. A couple of problems with deprivation: one is the rubber band effect. We “bounce back” toward consuming what we missed during the deprivation phase. And two, healthy habits are never developed. You can’t live “real life” with “real food” with that approach (more about that in the next post). What I experienced was not deprivation! I quickly discovered that whole foods not only tasted good, they satisfied much longer and did not leave me hungry like “diets” do.

My weight loss goal was a half pound to 2 pounds per week! The philosophy I heard was, “you put the weight on over many years. The body is unlikely to allow you to suddenly reverse those decades in a few weeks or even a few months.” Eating is a highly complex human behavior. So my goals were often simple short-term ones, like “the next 5 pounds in _____ weeks” or “20 down by the end of the year” and so on. It was slow but steady. Many weeks I made it; sometimes not. There were plateaus; but again, there was no magic date looming in the future. (Once, after a cruise and an “up” day at the scale, I reminded my wife, “That’s just a snap shot, not the whole movie!”)

And there were sweet mileposts all along the way. The pants I had to donate; going from XL shirts (or bigger) to L’s; a lady at church asking my wife, “Is Dean sick? He’s really losing weight!”

At one point I even had a goal for someone else (something we coaches don’t recommend!). Mine was, I wanted to hear my doctor say something good without me fishing for his comment. This was the physician who earlier prescribed for me a blood pressure med for my borderline hypertension. Then came the day when he took me off of the drug! And he said, “This is really good; it’s so rare for people your age ­­– with most, I’m adding drugs, and here I’m taking you off of your only one!”

So, your vision will move you and excite you about a long term objective. But you need to remind yourself of it often — I certainly did, in restaurants and at people’s homes  for lunches or dinners; when we traveled; when I was faced with a plate of cookies or brownies at a meeting. You simply have to have the vision in front of you often: so…picture yourself fit, trim, moving, exercising well, feeling great, fitting into new clothes…whatever it takes to keep you going. Think of the powerful health benefits you gain for yourself. Weight Watchers leaders often say, “nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.” I love that!

So, if you’re at the starting line, think long-term with a powerful vision, and rehearse it often to yourself.

Then, add short-, medium-, and long-range goals; as you reach them they will propel you forward!

The next installment: Use a program that supports real life

 

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.

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!

Keeping on keeping on

The great runner Jim Ryun said, “Motivation is what gets you going, habit is what keeps you going.”And of course, habit is, as they say, “where the rub is.”

The desire to make a change involves one or more motivations — those might flow out of the social, spiritual, physical or emotional areas of our lives.

 But to change a habit will often engage us at levels of decisionmaking we have resisted stubbornly, sometimes for a lifetime.We tend to drift into bad habits over long periods of time without realizing it; we conform, we “fit in”, we get comfortable in the mode of doing the easy thing. Our friends, family and business associates have grown accustomed to us at that “level”. And, “life happens” — and suddenly long term habits, well entrenched, become what mark us and in reality hold us in their tight grip.

As coaches, we often see clients who are willing to begin, perhaps simply, in one or two areas. Some motivation has moved them to think about change and with us, begin to envision and plan for change. The encouragement and support of well crafted goals and regular interaction with a coach then begin to help a client view old habits in new light and then: new habits begin to overtake old ones.

If you’re at a place where you’re motivated in one or more of life’s dimensions, don’t let things stop there! At a minimum, put something specific on paper. And if you’re ready, call us so we can assist you to form new habits which will keep you going.