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!

Do You Know Why You Get up in the Morning?

Why do you live life? What drives you? Do you live just trying to make it to tomorrow? Do you live only thinking that if you make it to tomorrow maybe life will be better? Do you live in the past thinking that best has already come and gone and now life is misery until it ends?

These are questions that I think we have to ask ourselves if we ever intend to make real change in our lives, or have any real joy. Think about it. When someone becomes a Christian their focus changes to living a life of obedience to Christ and a hope of eternal life. When a great athlete such as Lou Gehrig, or recently Tom Brady, plays, they are playing from passion, either for the game, or for someone they care about. It drives them. When someone starts a new small business they put in a lot of effort and really pour their energy into it. If you were to talk to these people right after change took place, or while they were getting started, or while they were working hard at being the best, I would bet that you would see someone who gets up in the morning learning from the past to shape the future.

I have worked with hundreds of young people over the last few years, and want to share two examples. There is a young man I know of 28 who does not have plans for the future. When he comes to work, his life consists of trying to make enough money to pay bills. He is working for tips. This leads to stress and a great deal of job dissatisfaction that comes out almost daily. He gets upset about how much people underneath him make. He gets upset about how much other positions in his workplace make. He complains about the hours. And yet, he is not actively looking to change his position by leaving his current job and getting a different one that is a better fit, pays more, or just “appreciates him more,” like he claims to want. Why? Because he has trapped himself. He has a four year degree, workplace experience, and a great mind. But he won’t think bigger picture.

On the other end of the spectrum is a young man working at the same place, same pay, same workplace responsibilities. But he wants more out of life. He hasn’t even fully formulated what that looks like, but he knows that for anything to be different he has to want it first. To look for it. To seek what his different and better looks like. In the time I have known him he has gained control of his money, begun to resolve some relationship issues with his parents, and gained leadership experience that will help him for the rest of his life.

The difference between these two young men? Perspective. Purpose. Wanting something more. And, interestingly enough, you have to not be so self-centered that you don’t take care of yourself. The first young man is so focused on how he feels he is being wronged at work, that he is letting time and opportunity pass him by. The second young man is more focused on being his best self and helping others in a way that he will have unlimited opportunities open to him.

If you want a different life you need to think beyond the problems of today. You need to put something in front of you that you’re passionate about and meant to live for. When you do that, it’s a whole lot easier to get up early, to work hard, to stay focused, to say ‘no’ to distractions. You can be a lot more fulfilled and happy when you know that each day you get up is a day that matters. A day to help someone, a day to make yourself the best version of you yet, or a day to inch closer to a realized dream. When you’re just living to get through the day, it’s a sign of insecurity, dare I say selfishness, and an unwillingness to let go of your problems long enough to grasp something better. It may sound harsh, but often misery is self inflicted. Living for something that gives you purpose, looking to be better, makes the here and now matter more. It’s easier to be content when you know that life isn’t about surviving another moment. It’s about making your moments count. What are YOU living for?

 

If you want to begin the journey towards discovering your purpose, click here to take my FREE course, 14 Days to Stress Less and Achieve Your Dreams.

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!

Do You Really Want to be Disciplined?

Discipline. It’s one of those things we all claim to want, but at the end of the day, we end up reverting to our old habits. We end up falling short of our goals. What is the key to staying on task? Thinking bigger picture!

How do people get up at 5 or 6 every morning? Is it because they are just “morning people?” How does someone say no to sugar when they decide to eat better? Is it because they just no longer like sugar? How does someone stay with a project for months, or even years, continuing to work on it before they see results? Is it because they just have nothing else to do?

It can be easy to see someone succeeding at something and to simply say “Oh, they must have a special power, or something.” The truth is that they don’t have anything more than you do, except practice and a long-term picture.

So, how do you get from where you are today to that person who is disciplined, dedicated, and motivated? I will warn you that there is a fairly simple answer, but not an easy one, or one that is a magic pill where suddenly your brain never wants anything but success. It is a conscious effort that you have to make daily.

Becoming disciplined starts with recognizing that you always do what you want. If you sleep late, then what you really want to do is sleep more than getting up early. If you eat donuts instead of just nuts, then you really want the donut more than you want to be healthy. Unless you are willing to admit that you don’t do anything you don’t want to do, you won’t take responsibility and you will see yourself as a helpless victim. You will sabotage your own success because you will tell yourself “I really want to be healthy, but I just CAN’T resist this donut.” When you admit that you wanted the donut most, you can decide that you have control over what you want, and you can change it if you don’t like it. When you take responsibility, you give yourself power to be in charge. Now you can use that power. This is probably the hardest part of change which leads to success.

Discipline is simply a result of taking charge of your choices, and making the choices that give you what you really want. As I was working at building my morning routine and getting up early every day, I saw that if I didn’t have something specific that I was going to do when I got up, I struggled to get out of bed when I thought I wanted to, and some days I slept in. I had to decide the night before when I went to bed what specifically I was going to do when I got up the next morning. That way when I woke up I would tell myself, “If I get up and do this task, then I can go back to bed,” knowing that if I could get myself out of bed, and open my computer to write, or to read, that I would be winning the hardest part of the battle: getting out of bed. Not getting out of getting up by reasoning with myself why I needed more sleep. Then once I was up, I would rarely go back to bed. It wasn’t that hard to stay up, because I had already committed to an action and didn’t want to lose my progress.

The key to this equation is reminding yourself of what you are gaining by following through on the choice you have already made. Remind yourself of what you’re trying to do, and how that will make you feel versus how you feel when you fail. If you are trying to lose weight and find yourself tempted by ice cream, remind yourself of how you will feel tonight if you give in, even though you want to in that moment. How will you feel tomorrow, or next week, when you haven’t been able to meet your weight loss goal? Is having an ice cream cone now really worth the feeling of failure you’ll have when you look back on today? Think about the difference in cost; it’s just not worth it. It would be like taking $100 bribe from someone to lose a game so you can buy an Xbox, and not caring that it could ruin your career in sports.

Think beyond your current moment. That is what discipline is. It isn’t  some magical power that a chosen few have obtained. Discipline is making it through this moment by reminding yourself of what your actions will add up to if you do them for a week, a month, or a year, and basing your choices on that. If the choices you make today produce the only results you are allowed to experience for the next year, what choices would you make today? Would you work harder at your job? Would you make it a priority to work out today? Would you skip the burger and soda and instead save your money and eat at home? That’s discipline.

You have the power to choose. You are not a victim of your circumstances. What you do today creates your tomorrow. No one can tell you what kind of success your discipline can create. It’s up to you! Now what are you going to do about it?

 

Have you done some self-examination and found your discipline to be sorely lacking? Don’t beat yourself up about it – we all need help sometimes! But you can make tomorrow better than today. My FREE COURSE 14 Days to Stress Less and Achieve Your Dreams can help you plan your day to accomplish those things you really want to be doing. Click here to start today!

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.

 

If you’re interested in how to find balance in life and how to live purposeful days, click here to sign up for my FREE course 14 Days to Stress Less and Achieve Your Dreams! Here you will learn how to be honest with yourself, how to manage your time, to set and achieve goals and more!