In need of some new motivation?

Goals are highly motivational the first few days or weeks after they’re written. Then come the “lag times” – when we’d rather do just about anything than what the goals require of us daily or weekly, to see the goals achieved. Here are some good ways to find some new motivation.

1. Review how far you’ve come since you laid out the goal. Looking forward at a goal can be daunting – but observing the climb you’ve got behind you will often encourage you to stay the course!

2. Re-write your goal in new terms and read it aloud several times a day. If the goal doesn’t excite you, recast it in terms that do. Then remind yourself of it verbally again and again; let it become part of your thinking.

3. Revisit your vision statement. The goal might be for something 6 months away, but keep asking yourself, “What will life look like 5, 10, or 20 years from now if I keep to this course and keep improving it?” My immediate goal might be lowering my blood pressure through working out 6 days a week; my vision might be running a “senior’s marathon” when I’m 75!

4. Recruit 2 friends or colleagues to provide you with weekly check-ups. Find people who are also pursuing some goal – you need challengers and encouragers!

5. Record you progress on a graph or chart and post it where your family or co-workers can see it. A public record on the refrigerator or bulletin board or blog might be just the thing to kick your motivation into high gear again.

And, if you need help, not just with vision and goals, but with the elements which will get you moving toward them (support, encouragement and motivation) call me!

I’d love to help.

The Uncommon Attitude

John Henry Jowett said it: “Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic.” When I read his words for the first time, I immediately thought of some of the negative attitudes and thought patterns to which I gravitate when gratitude isn’t a regular part of how I think and communicate.

I also thought of a man my wife encountered at a warehouse club. He was distributing food samples. He was very popular! When my wife reached his table, took a sample and said, “Thank you!” he told her, she was the 1 of 7 or 8 who expressed those simple words. He was experiencing first hand what many spouses, employees, and friends experience: no response at all.

Expressions of gratitude are simple acts which cost nothing yet enrich the hearer. They enhance the relationship. They remind both recipient and “giver” that life works so much better when generosity oils relationships — and when receivers express their thanks!

Who will do good for you today — who would benefit powerfully from some word of gratitude? In 10 minutes today, how could you express gratitude to 3 or 4 people in your life who bring value to your life?

 

Any Incentive?

A few years ago, a Michigan State University study centered on 2 groups of faculty and staff. In both groups, individuals had committed to a 6-month exercise program. The difference in the 2 groups was simple. In one, individuals willingly bet $40 that they would stay with the program. Members of the other group declined to place bets on their own success.

97% of the faculty members and staff who had placed personal bets were successful. With the non-betting group, only 19% completed the program!

What incentives do you put alongside your goals to insure changes in your thoughts, decisions and actions?

As coaches, we assist clients not only in setting great goals, but in understanding the reasons they want to reach them: most often those reasons flow from their purpose, passion and core values.

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?

 

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?

A Leader’s Face

The story might have no historical basis; its point is potent.

Apparently, George Washington, then a general and a company of his men came riding to a river which could not be crossed except by horseback. A walking traveler stood one one bank. As Washington and his men rode up, the traveler surveyed the party (apparently without uniforms), looked at Washington and asked if the general would take him across the river on his horse. The general quickly said he would. The man rode behind him across the river then alighted. One of Washington’s men asked the hitchhiker, “Tell me, why’d you ask the general for a ride?” The traveler replied, “I did not know he was the general, I only looked for someone with a ‘yes’ face.”

Do you regularly wear a “yes” face? Why does it matter?

A “yes” face invites approach. Approachability is critical for any leader; it’s certainly indispensible for servant leadership. The face one wears should never communicate self-absorption or unconcern about individuals we lead.

A “yes” face tells family members, employees and teammates that you’re open (to ideas, suggestions, even correction). Openness is critical in any setting where communication is a must.

A “yes” face demonstrates the value placed on people, even ones who don’t “contribute” to our success, mission or cause (at least in our view). Inherent in any leader’s influence is valuing the individuals one leads.

Obviously, our faces are mostly a reflection of what’s going on inside of us. So, do I demonstrate that I’m approachable? Am I open to what I need to hear? How much value do I place on the individuals around me and within my leadership sphere?

What “mirrors” (people you trust whom you could ask, positive/negative responses you get, etc) would help you determine how much “yes” is in your face?

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!