Seasons: What are they for?

It is winter. It is cold. I don’t know very many people who are stoked about it being so cold that water left in your car overnight will freeze, or the feeling you get when you can’t breathe because of the wind taking your breath away at 15 degrees. Most of us are ready for spring. But why are we really ready for spring? After all, when it gets here, everyone starts counting down to summer vacation. When summer rolls around everyone complains about the 95 degree weather and the no rain for weeks on end. Now everyone is ready for fall and football and cooler days. Then during fall we start counting down until Halloween, Thanksgiving, and finally Christmas (winter). Once Christmas is over we use New Year’s as the antidote to our post Christmas depression and then comes the long rest of the winter. So why do we fall into this circle every year, and how does it apply to life and success? Good question.

There is a saying that most problems can be solved with a little perspective. I would tend to agree with this to a large extent. In the situation of the winter being long, grey, and dismal, and spring being the golden ticket out, you may be missing some opportunities. Opportunities like, learning to appreciate the fact that life is constantly changing, and if it were always spring, Christmas would never come around again. It sounds a little weird, but being okay with where you are at times means that you realize how quickly things change from their current state, and it is important to soak up what you can about life right where you are before you lose that opportunity because you were too focused on something else like what came next. And maybe you aren’t ready for what is next, until you can learn about right now. In your emotional or spiritual winter. What are you learning about you? About God and how you view Him?  Next, when spring comes after a long winter, how much more do you appreciate the spring. How much better does it feel to be warm instead of shivering and all your muscles tight and cramped and your heating bill out of control. Without winter, you could not truly appreciate the blessings of spring!

This may sound a little to poetic and abstract, but to put it into more practical terms, when you are in a bad spot at work, at home, at church, are you just wanting everything to be hunky dory, or are you thinking to yourself, what can I learn about where I am to build my character and make others better? Or help them avoid some pitfall? Am I asking God to take away the pain before I have learned the lesson? If you are having trouble knowing how to handle money, will simply having more solve your problem? Now you may be thinking “but what about when I don’t have enough to eat or pay my bills? Am I supposed to learn from that and be happy?” Yes. I did not say that you can’t work toward something better. What I am saying is that if we cannot ever learn to be content, or to learn from right where we are, and build our character in the place you you are in right now, changing your circumstances will only leave you wanting more.

There is one answer to this question of how to use the winter, love the spring and enjoy a healthy anticipation of summer (sorry, metaphors again). You have to be willing to accept that who you are is not determined by your income, house, job, clothes, parents, spouse, kids, sports, social status, or anything else you can name. It is determined by God. When you accept that God made a crowning creation (you) and in order to redeem that creation He sent His only child to get you back, you can let go of the need to have more, to get to the next place, or be done with winter. Because wherever you are, it will be a season worth living. It may seem a little confusing. Learn to be content, but want more. It can look something like this: You don’t feel the need to impress others, because you are too busy serving God. But you also continuously strive to be even more of what God has already made you!

 

 

To begin your journey of learning how to use your seasons of life, click here for a FREE subscription to my course 14 Days to Stress Less and Achieve Your Dreams. Or if you would rather stay stressed out, and discontent you can dismiss this article, and not take the course and move on. After all it is your choice!

Stress: Is it a Choice or a Circumstance?

Why do we stress? What is it that makes a person happy, or not? This is something I have been pondering over the last few weeks. Building off of observation from years of working with young people, middle aged people, people in careers, and adding in my own experience and studies, I’ve put together a few thoughts that have helped me with this issue.

I think at times the answer can seem complicated, but usually, it’s a simple, but difficult to admit answer: You are only a victim of circumstances you create. Let me explain. As I think back to something that happened to me a couple of years ago, being able to see things differently would not have changed the circumstance at the moment, but it would have had a great effect on how I viewed the world for the next few days, AND how easy I was to live with. What happened was that on my way to work at 6:00 a.m. I pulled to an empty three-way stop intersection, came to an almost complete stop, and then continued through the intersection. The instant I went through the intersection a police officer that had been hiding pulled me over, wrote me a ticket, and had no response when I asked if pulling me over was a matter of safety, or law. The next few days I was stressed, mad, unhappy and frustrated that I was the “victim” of a force being used to hide and catch people to generate revenue. I came up with all sorts of things in my head that I wished I could say to the officer, and stressed about how big the ticket would be, or how it would affect my insurance. Another area of stress was that I also worked for a company that pulled driving records annually, and had been hired by them only a few short months prior to this. I was not any fun to deal with for awhile.

The reality was that if I had been able to see out three months from that event, I would have been able to see that I still had a job, my insurance had not been affected, and even if it had, it was my responsibility since I made the decision to roll the stop sign, and life continued on. It did not end that early November morning when I got my first ticket.

The first key to being happier and less stressed is to take responsibility for your circumstances. By realizing that the things that happened to me were a result of my own actions, then I could make a choice to change things. I could have chosen not to roll the stop sign to start with. I could have chosen not to drive that road. After I got pulled over, I could have chosen simply to learn from the situation rather than get mad. At first, I tried to say that what happened to me was the policeman’s fault for pulling me over, the city for having those laws, or that I wished I could change things I couldn’t change. I ended up mad, stressed, and had a very negative effect on those around me until I saw what stressing over things I couldn’t change was doing.

This brings me to the second key. Change what you can. Let go of what you can’t. This is preached by hundreds of people; it’s not new news. It is hard to practice, though. If you aren’t willing to let go of the things you cannot control, you are affirming your commitment to being unhappy, and blaming your circumstances for your attitude. You are actually choosing to be stressed and unhappy. You are making the choice to allow others and their opinions, or your surroundings control you. Again, this is your choice. You may not be able to control if someone close to you passes away, or if your house gets flooded, or if someone thinks you will always be a failure.  What you can control is how you respond. You can choose to see yourself differently, the way God sees you! You can choose to look down the road to where you could be and make the choice to head there, and not stay where you are.

That is the third key: You have to see beyond. When you’re caught dealing with the bad day, the terrible boss, the speeding ticket, the broken down car, I would challenge you to look back and see how many tough things you have gone through that you thought in the moment that your life was at its worst, and you couldn’t figure out a solution for the life of you. And yet here you are on the other side of that situation! You have eaten, had a place to live, maybe even have had a friend or two along the way. If you look at things this way, it’s easier to think more clearly, and not be overwhelmed by the moment, day, or even week you are in right now. Life will always happen. What are you going to choose to do with it?

So you see, being happy is not about others treating you a certain way, or the job you are currently in. Lowering stress is not about your current circumstances suddenly vanishing and everything seeming to be fixed magically before your eyes. It is about you choosing to see life differently. Making choices that take you from where you don’t want to be, to where you do want to be. And remember, you have to be thankful for the people and things you experience. It is essential. It allows you to learn when it’s hard, to grow when there is a challenge, and to rest when you have achieved a goal. You have to be thankful. Which, interestingly enough, is also a choice you must make.

Be responsible. Change what you can. See beyond right now. It’s easier to see growth looking backwards than forwards. May God bless you as you seek to be more joyful and happy as one of His amazing creatures!

 

Do you want to be in charge of your circumstances? Do you want to stop being controlled by those around you? Do you want to learn how to change your own situation? Then click here to lower stress levels and gain control in simple daily steps!

Busy, or Purpose-Driven?

Is there a difference in being purpose-driven and being busy? How do we stay purpose-driven in all of the busyness of life? How do you manage the urgent so meaningless tasks don’t run your life?

Let me ask you a few questions. At the end of each day when you crash into your pillow, how do you remember your day? Do the words hectic, long, stressful or unfulfilling come to mind? Or do you look back with satisfaction and have feelings of accomplishment, purpose, achievement and (yes, even for you tough guys out there) love and joy as you drift off to sleep?

No one has a perfect day every day, but if we look back over the last few days, weeks, or even years, we see a pattern. When we wake up in the morning, is it another day to survive? Or is it another day to bring us closer to a goal we have and see what we can accomplish today?

Focusing your thoughts in the right direction isn’t always easy. There seems to be so many thought groups out there that they get mixed together like so many berries in a blender. But there are three general schools of thought that tend to drive us each day.

First is the survival mode, and that comes down to “What do I have to do today to cause myself the least amount of pain until the day is over?”

Second is the mindset that life is comprised of achieved goals. “I am not happy until I get there.” Usually this involves the “Once I reach this goal I will be happy” idea which almost anyone could argue will never be true. It’s an age-old concept that getting somewhere only makes you want to go somewhere else.

Third, that life is more about the journey than the destination. The best version of the third school of thought is “I am driven to be more, but am be content with the growth and blessings I have been experiencing.” Be careful, though! This group of thought can have its drawbacks if not properly used. It can become a twisted version of thought group one, except that now there is no drive to survive. Instead, it looks like “I don’t care if I survive today because life’s one big journey that won’t ever have an end.”

When I asked the questions at the beginning I wanted you to take a deep look into your motivations and decide for yourself how they are, or are not, helping you. You need to have a purpose for getting up in the morning, a reason for rolling out of bed when others are still in bed staring at the backs of their eyelids. At the same time though, if your goals consume you, then your driver will always be achieving something you don’t have, and that will lead to a great sense of dissatisfaction and resentment, even when you pursue your goals with the best of intentions. That will rob you of joy in your life. Life has to be a steady pace, a marathon of growth. You should be able to ask yourself every day “How did I make myself or someone else better today” and be content with the answer to that question. Being busy for its own sake, or feeling discontent at the end of each day because you survived without living is a quick way to spend a lifetime you can’t reclaim on things you will regret. Find a purpose. Enjoy the journey. Be someone’s good today.

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:10-13

I don’t think anyone could argue that Paul was not purpose-driven, or even that he did not stay busy. But what you also saw in him was an ability to be content and simultaneously make people better, while shooting for the goal of heaven and bringing people to Christ with the efforts of his life!

We should all seek to be driven by purpose, content to grow.

 

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How Not to be a Stick in the Mud: 5 Ways to Restart Your Motivation

How do you stay motivated when things get tough? How do you get re-motivated when things seem to slow down and stop? Where do you find drive when you lose yours?

 

These are all great questions, and if we had the answers down perfectly no one would have any issues at all with successfully achieving dreams and goals in life. If you are looking for a magic pill, then you should stop reading here and spend your time on something that will fit your fantasy. I can, however, give you some tips that I have found helpful. Let’s face it, the hardest thing to do is to get started on something. Especially if we are afraid we might fail. Or, if we have spent a long time working on a project without reaching our goal, and the end seems so close, yet so far away. How many of us have reached a point in a project where we stagnate? We either run out of energy, resources, inspiration, motivation, or perspective/vision.

 

So what are the keys to keep us going? Well, let’s dive in. I warn you, though, that it will require a good deal of mental work and commitment. Those are the first two keys, but they play themselves out in several ways.

 

Why? This is the top of the list. You have to ask yourself this question a lot. Why does it matter if I complete this project? Why does it matter if I get up early, or complete this paper, or any number of other things? This should be used to help you gain perspective and get a big picture view. If your why for writing a paper and turning it in on time is to get a good grade, it may not be a big enough reason to push you into getting it done. Go bigger. Why are you in school in the first place? Why do you work for this company? If you are here just to exist, then you will have little to no motivation of any kind. If you can’t remember why you are doing something, take some time to rediscover your why, or to find one! Always know your why.

 

How far have you come? This is hard for a lot of people. It’s hard for me. If you look ahead at what you have left to do to achieve your why, your goal, your end result, it can be discouraging. Seeing things you have never done before can be scary or intimidating. On the other hand, if you look back at how far you have come, at all the things you did for the first time and either succeeded at or learned from, you will realize that, in fact, you are AWESOME!! If you are discouraged about where you are, you have already made progress. At the very least, you have recognized the need for change. And this is the first step toward achieving success in whatever version it comes for you!

 

Who are you accountable to? Do you have someone who will help you when you need it, who will encourage you when you’re down, who will kick you in the seat of your pants when you’re lazy? We all have those times when we need someone outside of our situation who can help us regain our perspective. This person is the kind of person who is there because it matters to them what happens to us. They are vested in our success. This person can come in many forms; it can be a spouse, a good friend, a paid coach or mentor. It must, however, be someone who will be able to objectively encourage you, teach you, push you, and celebrate success with you. It is very hard to do everything by yourself. It’s so important to have someone who will be there when you are worn out and all the people around you, or your “friends” are not supporting your growth toward something better. In the coaching and professional world this role is typically referred to as an accountability partner. Call it what you like, but find one. This is probably one of the most important parts of success when trying to complete anything significant.

 

What is holding you back? Figure this out. What is getting you down? Are you making a big deal out of something in your head because it’s a new experience? Are you not sure what your next steps are? Are you afraid of what people will think if you complete your project or don’t meet someone else’s expectations of your life? I can say from experience that most roadblocks are mental. I am not in any way saying that they are not real to you. I have had many mental roadblocks. I refer to them as “mental monsters.” My mental monsters usually involve something I am not sure how to do, so I put it off, and then it grows. It goes from something that I don’t know how to do to something I now feel guilty about how I’m letting it hold me back. It literally becomes bigger in my mind than it actually is. It becomes a mental MONSTER! The obvious thing for me to say here is that the best ammo against these monsters is to do just do the thing that is stopping you. If that were easy, though, we wouldn’t have this paragraph in this article. So what do you do with those monsters? You eradicate them from your life by just doing it. But let me help you cheat a little. It doesn’t mean you failed if you have to get help. I get help to complete things all the time! Between my coach and my wife, who works as my right hand, I get a lot of help for things that are difficult, or that are not in my skillset. Henry Ford didn’t become the success he was by building every car himself. The Wright brothers used a lot of ideas and research from others while trying to solve the problem of flight. Presidents of companies have boards of advisors. That should tell you something about success. It is okay to get help and to use the resources around you. Give yourself a break, and kill your monsters. Last but not least, ignore what others think. If you have already determined that what you are doing is your path, and that it aligns with your values and what you want to achieve, you can’t help what others will think. There will always be people who will tell you you’re wrong. Always. If you are a failure, people will tell you. If you’re a success, people will be jealous. So ignore the naysayers and be successful. The only time you should listen is if they have something truly helpful,  caring, or constructive to say.

 

Where is all this getting you? This is kind of tied into your why. Why are you doing what you’re doing? But in addition you need to ask yourself what you are gaining. If you are looking to have “made it,” you may never arrive. Success is a very subjective term and only in rare cases is it a destination. Usually it’s a journey. Think about it; how many wealthy people stop working the moment that are financially set? How many actors stop acting once they have been in one big movie? How many authors stop writing as soon as they get a bestseller? Most of us would consider people like this successful. But did they arrive, or have they created a lifestyle? Stop and consider if what you are doing right now is going to get you something better in the future. Are the hours you are putting into school, work, a relationship going to benefit you or anyone else eventually? Or is the stress, overtime, hard classes, tough issues in a relationship, indefinite, in the hopes that if you do it long enough you will somehow arrive at the city of “Made It.” You shouldn’t be afraid to make huge investments in things that mean something, but only if there is an end in mind. If you spend all your time not loving your life, then there is no point. Ask yourself what will change for you in the future. This is really just a smaller picture of your why. That good grade on your paper may help you get a scholarship to help pay for school. Your why is the reason you’re going to school, but things that you do may gain you benefit or advantage as you go.

 

These concepts can be a lot to put into practice, but remember this. If you are having trouble getting up in the morning, seeing the point in giving life everything you have, or finding the motivation to finish what you have started, you are not the only, nor the first person. The fact that it matters to you whether or not you are stuck or moving forward puts you way ahead of the crowd, and if you ask yourself these questions, chances are that you will find some answers to help you. What is critical is that you don’t stay stuck. You are capable of much more than you realize. Own your progress! Do something! Be better!

 

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Contentment or Complacency?

Is it possible to be content and want more? Does it make you greedy to be driven and desire to gain more out of life? Too often we think that contentment excludes drive, or we mistake complacency for contentment, and being driven for being greedy. We think that somehow if we want to be more than we are, or have more than we do, that we are selfish, greedy, materialistic, or arrogant. Often we use the excuse of not wanting to think too much of ourselves to get out of growing and to remain complacent, stagnant, and just generally lazy and drifting.

It is easier to criticize someone who has accomplished something and label them than it is to actually challenge ourselves to achieve something better.

Here is something to consider. It is generally thought that if you are driven you are greedy. And if you are greedy, you can’t be humble and are therefore a snob labeled as only out for themselves. Greed is greed. Drive is drive. Someone who is driven but not greedy can actually show great humility. Here is how: If they are always striving to be more, they have recognized that they have more to offer people, more to give, more to be, and they are dedicated to the pursuit of being that better person. They realize that they have been given a greatness that they are responsible for developing. Some people look at this idea of having greatness as being stuck up, but I feel that if someone can understand that they are made for more than they are right now, and that life is not about them keeping everything for themselves, but rather to be more so they can be more for others, that sounds like a very not stuck up person to me.

I try every day to be content. That is, to know and be comfortable with who I am. It is being comfortable with who I am that allows me to be more. You see, if I am not comfortable in my own skin, I will spend my life trying to make others happy. The problem with this? I will never be good at being them and achieving the things they think are the most important. And vice versa. I shouldn’t try to achieve all their goals. They shouldn’t try to achieve my goals. So I should be content being me, and that will allow me to be comfortable making myself a better version of who I am. So you see, being content isn’t mutually exclusive to wanting more, and wanting more does not make you a self-centered arrogant person with no regard for others. Quite the opposite may be true.

We should all want to be more, and when we see others who have achieved greatness, instead of ridiculing them out of jealousy, why not be inspired by them? Usually when we find fault with someone who is successful, it can be traced to wanting what they have, but not wanting to work for it. It’s easy to shrug off what you want and don’t have and label the person who has it as too ambitious or greedy. Wouldn’t it be better if we spent time trying to find our own greatness? You can have things that other people have, but you have to be willing to work for it. This starts with knowing that you don’t have to try to be them, or to be someone else that you’re not. Next, you need to be okay with saying “I have awesome in me, and I want to bring it out.” That statement is neither selfish nor arrogant. Then, you have to recognize that who you are is good (contentment), and being okay with that, you can work at making your talent a skill, a habit, or a tool (drive).

There is a vicious cycle that happens that tends to kill the whole ‘being better’ thing. It starts with our fictional character Marvin. Marvin grows up in a house being told he can have or be anything he puts his mind to. As Marvin gets older he works hard and sometimes gets the things he wants, and sometimes doesn’t. When he sees his friend down the street get a new car from his parents, he decides that he wants one too, but knowing his parents can’t afford it, he gets a summer job saving every penny he earns. For awhile. Then it begins to get hard. There are other smaller items to buy that he has money for. His motivation begins to fade, and not many people are around to help motivate him. His friend is already driving the dream car. Marvin’s parents tell him it is good for him to value what he gets so he should keep working. But no one helps him set up a timeline, game plan, or any other milestone for that matter. Then the point is reached where he is either inspired by something to finish, or he gives up. If he doesn’t reach his goal, he is left if not properly encouraged or coached to reach one of two conclusions: 1) he failed and is a failure, which doesn’t help his self worth at all, or 2) he reasons in his head that somehow he was cheated, and that it isn’t fair that the other kid got the car with apparently no effort. Rarely would someone at this point say to themselves “Cheerio, better luck next time.” On the other hand, in the scenario where he gets the car, he becomes the target of criticism from people jealous or insecure. Often in the first circumstance the idea of resentment begins to form, and out of seemingly nowhere, the idea begins that those with things that we have not been able to achieve either cheated, rode on the backs of others, or brown-nosed their way to the top. The reality is that most of the time this isn’t even close to being true. It takes hard work to achieve success, and even if you inherit success in the form of a family business, or fortune of some sort, it still takes work to maintain it. In the second circumstance, the path of success can become hard and lonely and may make young people who have succeeded in an area belittle their own achievements in an attempt to regain the approval of less successful peers.

To have more you have to expand your thinking to include more. You have to be open to contentment going hand in hand with improvement and drive. You have to know the difference between greed and motivation. And you have to understand that sharing success is not arrogance. It is inspiration. To be humble is not to resign yourself to mediocrity, but rather to recognize your potential for more, and be prepared to grow where needed.

With all of this out there, do yourself a favor. Be okay with being you. Be okay with becoming awesome. Share your success. Encourage and be inspired! Don’t be jealous, or hold grudges against success. Find someone who has become what you want to become, and do what they did. You can’t control what people think of you. It’s up to them if they choose to be inspired by your achievements, or choose to be jealous of what you have accomplished. Continue to share so that those needing a beacon of hope can see that light, and swim out of the ocean of mediocrity. Own it! Do it! Be Better!

Do you want to be more comfortable in your own skin? Do you want to have tools to be more? Do you want to learn more about yourself to better prepare for your future? Then subscribe here to take my FREE course 14 Days to Stress Less and Achieve Your Dreams.