Archives For life

Blur

January 12, 2017 — 4 Comments

“My life has been such a blur since I was 18, 19 years old. I haven’t even had time to contemplate my own life. By forcing yourself to write your life story you learn a great deal about yourself.”

Grant Achatz

Is it just me, or does life seem to be a blur for you at times?

Life goes by so quickly.  And technology isn’t helping things.  Within a fraction of a second, I can be virtually anywhere via the internet.  News spreads quickly across the screens of our cell phones, tablets, laptops, and televisions.  Within seconds of a major world catastrophe, terrorist event, or celebrity death, the whole world knows about it.

And people expect instant replies to their emails, text messages, and social media attempts to reach out.

We are growing up in a world where people are developing additions to their cell phones.  They can’t go more than a few minutes or even a few seconds without looking at their “smart” phones.

As a parent, it seems like life has passed me by in the matter of a few moments.  Yesterday, my daughter was born, and today she’s a freshman in college.  My son was born yesterday, and now he is driving his own car.

And the day before yesterday, I married the woman of my dreams, and now we’ve been married for over twenty years.  (She looks the same, but I’m sure I’ve added some gray hairs, some wrinkles, and some pounds around my waistline.

It all can become depressing is we let these thoughts consume us.

For that reason, we must fight against the blur.

  • We must learn to stop and smell the roses.
  • We must learn to slow down and enjoy the beautiful moments of life.
  • We must learn to give thanks for the blessings of each moment, each day, and each relationship.
  • We must learn to prune our schedules, so we can spend our time on the things and with the people who matter most.
  • We must learn that in the frailty and brevity of life that we must be intentional in all things – in the words we share with others, in the actions we take, in the thoughts that run through our heads, and in the moments between the milestones of life.

Are you going to let life be a blur?  Or are you going to do something about it?

Make the most of every opportunity.

Let your words be seasoned with salt.

Embrace the ups, the downs, and the in-betweens of life.

In fact, suck the very marrow out of life with each breath you breathe, each step you take, and each move you make.

Don’t let your life be a blur.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.  Isaiah 40:8 ESV

What’s the speedometer of your life say right now?  Are you going 100+ miles per hour?  Or are you going slowly these days?  Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.


“Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Forest Gump

Life has been full of twists, turns, and surprises lately.

I’m grateful for what I’ve been experiencing (for the most part), but I’m also a bit overwhelmed.  I think life has a way of doing this to us sometimes.  We have all kinds of brilliant ideas.  We somehow think we can do it all.  We make plans, and God laughs.

I’ve been going 100 mph (miles per hour), and it feels as thought I need to find time to take a breath.  

Not just a quick breath, but a deep breath.  One of those breaths you take when you walk outside on a crisp, sunny morning and you just want to take it all into your lungs and into your very being.  That’s the kind of breath I need.

We’re eleven days into the new year.  I refuse to give up on my goals for 2017, but I must remember to pace myself.  I must remember to stop and smell the roses – to stop and enjoy the moment – to pause and breathe.

I don’t know what you are experiencing right now, but I want to encourage you to take a few moments in your day to join me.

My word for 2017 is PRESENT.

In order for me to be truly present, I must learn to be still – to listen – to breathe.

“Be still and know that I am God…”

Psalm 46:10

By the way, I can’t eat chocolate.  Oh well.

How is life treating you these days?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Where I’m At Right Now

October 20, 2016 — 4 Comments

I read an article by Ben Read today – Running on empty?

Take a look at the article.  The title alone resonated with me.  Honestly, I’m exhausted, and I’m feeling depleted.

I’ve been working hard at my job.  We’re in the middle of the annual performance management process.  I have ten direct reports requiring my evaluation, but I’m also involved in lending input on others in my department and in my office.  I care deeply about my team members, and I want this process to be meaningful for them and for their careers.  This is happening while I’m still handling the normal activities and interruptions of my job.

I’ve five weeks into a twelve week strength training program, and I’ve worked out nearly every day for the past 33 days.  The workouts have been beneficial.  I can see the results.  I’ve been working on my legs and abs, my back and biceps, and my chest, shoulders, and triceps.  And I’ve been taking a different approach to my cardio.  Most mornings I’m up at 4AM and out the door by 4:30AM on the way to the gym.  Sometimes I work out at lunch if I have a shorter workout scheduled. 

My son, Isaac, started a job a few weeks ago at Chick-Fil-A.  He works until closing three days a week, and he doesn’t have his driver’s license yet.  This means I’m out three nights a week to pick him up.  I’m so thankful for my son and his job.  And I’m thankful for the quiet moments in the car on the way home as we quietly talk about a few things as we travel the dark, windy roads back to our house.

I’m in the middle of another challenge I can’t mention here.  But I can tell you that it sucks a fair amount of emotional and mental energy out of me.

I’m half-way through my three month Stretch Man Mastermind group, and I’m happy to say that it has been going amazingly well.  The interactions with the members of the group have been thought-provoking and truly stretching.  Every two weeks, we get together, and I teach on a relevant topic for 10-15 minutes before we dive into an issue one of us is facing.  Last night, I prepared the teaching time for our next call.

I’m involved in Toastmasters.  I’m the Area Director for five clubs, and I’m trying to keep pace with my club.  I signed up to give my next speech at our next club meeting which takes place next Wednesday.  For those of you familiar with Toastmasters, I’m two speeches away from earning my ACB (Advanced Communicator Bronze) milestone.  I had to say “No” last weekend when one of the District Officers asked me to help out with an upcoming conference.  I stink at saying “No.”

I’ve been on the go every weekend for the past few months.  There is always something on my calendar on Saturday.  I haven’t been home for more than a few hours on the weekend for a while.

I could go on.

I’m over-involved.  I’m worn out.  And it’s easy to see why just looking at my thoughts above.

Maybe it’s time for a break.

Ben Reed’s article was a reminder that I need to make time to fill my tank.  I need to take time to rest, relax, and recharge.  And I need to learn to say “No.”  I can’t do everything.  And I want to do it well.  But I can’t do anything well when my tank is empty, and I can’t do many things well when I try to do everything.

My wife, Leanne, is a wise woman.  She asked me tonight, “What recharges you?”

I’m still thinking about the response to her question.

I know my annual Memorial Day Weekend Camping trip with a few of my buddies recharges me, but this is 8 months away.  I think it’s time for me to ponder this question and to take time to follow through on my response.

This is where I’m at right now.  Just thought I’d share.

What’s the condition of your “gas tank”?  What recharges you?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

ten-keys-to-achieving-excellence

Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.

Pat Riley

Are you content with mediocre?  Or do you want to live a life that matters?

I chose the second option.

Living a life that matters requires intentional striving for excellence.

Yesterday, we talked about the nine things holding you back from excellence.  Today, let’s look at the keys to making excellence a reality in our lives.

10 Keys to Achieving Excellence

  1. Determine your priorities.  Take time to figure out your priorities.  List them in order from one to ten (or twenty).  For example, here’s an example of what your priorities might look like:  1) God, 2) Me, 3) Spouse, 4) Kids, 5) Health, 6) Job, 7) Family, 8) Friends, 9) Side Hustle, 10) Neighbors.  It’s important to know our priorities to help refine our focus.  If God is really my number one priority, my calendar should reflect this importance.  Making the first things first is part of becoming excellent.
  2. Get sleep.  Exercise.  Take a break.  Excellence requires the best of us.  We prevent ourselves from achieving greatness when we are worn out, exhausted, and out of shape.  Sleep, exercise, and rest will give you the energy to make excellence a reality in your life.
  3. Just say “No.”  Saying no to things that distract us from our ultimate goal is crucial to achieving excellence.  We must create margin in our schedules to pursue the things that really matter most to us.
  4. Get a coach.  A coach will help bring clarity to your life and will push you to excellence.  The wisdom and encouragement of a coach can take you to a whole new level.
  5. Find accountability.  Plug into someone who will ask you the hard questions and will keep you on track to achieve the goals you are pursuing.  Make sure you find someone who is dependable.  Accountability only works when you find someone who will be consistent in asking the tough questions.
  6. Plug into experts.  Who is already doing excellent things in the area(s) you are pursuing.  Talk to them.  Read their material.  Watch their videos.  Find out how they made it to the top of their fields.
  7. Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  If you want to be excellent, you have to put in the practice time.  If you want to be an excellent piano player, practice the piano every day.  If you want to be an excellent writer, write every day.
  8. Create a road map to success.  “If you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.”  I don’t know who said this, but it’s true.  If you want to achieve excellence, you have to put in the time, energy, and effort up front to map out your journey.
  9. Get off the couch and get moving.  Excellence will not come to you.  You have to go get it.  Stop being lazy.  Make your excellent dreams a reality by taking action TODAY!
  10. Keep going.  Don’t get discouraged.  Don’t lose momentum.  Get rid of the obstacles in your life, and press on to the goal for which you are aiming.

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.

Steve Jobs

If you want to live a life of excellence, it’s time to get going – NOW!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to achieve excellence?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

the-nine-things-holding-you-back-from-excellence

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

Aristotle

One of my favorite movies as a teenager was Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  It’s a teenage boy movie full of teenage boy humor.  I think that’s why I liked it so much.  I remember seeing the movie with a few of my friends, and the rest of the year we repeated lines from the movie to each other as we went about our activities.

In the movie, “excellent” was a word thrown around by Bill and Ted to describe anything they thought was cool, interesting, or fun.  If the movie had been made a few years ago, it might be called Bill & Ted’s Phat Adventure or Bill & Ted’s YOLO Adventure or something similar.

I like the word excellent or excellence.  Here’s how Wikipedia defines excellence:

Excellence is a talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards. It is also used as a standard of performance as measured e.g. through economic indicators.

Excellence is a continuously moving target that can be pursued through actions of integrity, being front-runner in terms of products / services provided that are reliable and safe for the intended users, meeting all obligations and continually learning and improving in all spheres to pursue the moving target.

Excellence doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes planning.  It requires repeated action.  And excellence means constant analysis and adjustment along the way.

I want to be known for going about life with excellence.  Despite this desire, there are several things preventing me from achieving excellence.

9 Things Holding You Back from Excellence

  1. Lack of focus – Excellence is impossible when our mind is concentrating on too many things at the same time.  I want to be an excellent husband, an excellent father, an excellent son, an excellent brother, an excellent grandson, an excellent friend, an excellent employee, an excellent boss, an excellent writer, an excellent speaker, an excellent coach, an excellent runner, an excellent driver, an excellent brewer, an excellent landscaper, an excellent reader, an excellent conference attendee, an excellent mastermind member, an excellent mastermind facilitator, an excellent Toastmaster, an excellent Toastmaster Area Director, an excellent missionary to Guatemala, an excellent leader, an excellent saxophonist, an excellent small group leader, an excellent youth volunteer, an excellent community volunteer, an excellent Eagles and Bears fan, an excellent Phillies and Cubs fan, an excellent Survivor fan, an excellent Amazing Race fan, and the list goes on and on and on.  Things things are great, but it’s hard to be excellent when I’m not focused.
  2. Lack of energy – Excellence is challenging when we lack energy.  I mistakenly believe excellence can be achieved by getting up at 4AM and going to bed at 11PM every day.  I mistakenly believe excellence can be achieved by working every day without rest.  In reality, my ability to successfully pursue excellence declines as I fail to recharge my battery by getting enough sleep and taking a break from time to time.
  3. Lack of time – Excellence won’t happen if we don’t have time for it.  I fill my calendar with activities, meetings, and “commitments” leaving little time for actions which will lead to excellence.
  4. Lack of clarity – Many fail to achieve true excellence in their lives, because they lack purpose, passion, direction, and overall clarity.  If you don’t know where you’re going, you will get their every time.  Too many of us go through life doing what others tell us to do instead of figuring out what we were meant to do.  We chase after things that don’t matter, because we don’t know the difference between “doing good things” and “doing the right things.”
  5. Lack of appropriate input – Excellence may never happen if we don’t get the right input in our lives.  If I want to become an excellent saxophone player, it won’t happen without the right instruction.  I won’t become excellent at playing the saxophone by taking lessons from a beginner drummer who has never even seen a saxophone.  And listening to podcasts about leadership will do little to help me improve when it comes to playing the saxophone.
  6. Lack of appropriate skill development – Excellence doesn’t happen with practice and intentional skill development.  Chances of becoming an excellent public speaker can be improved by listening to polished, professional public speakers, but I won’t become excellent at public speaking unless I work on my speaking skills by practicing, getting feedback, correcting my mistakes, and doing it again and again.
  7. Lack of planning – Excellence doesn’t happen by accident.  I will fail to become an excellent marathon runner without a plan.  I’ll fail to write an excellent book without an idea, an outline, and a plan to get to the final product.  It’s nearly impossible to achieve excellence without intention.
  8. Lack of action – Excellence won’t happen by sitting on the couch.  If I want to run a 5K, I have to get off the couch and run.  If I want to write a book, I have to open my laptop and write.  If I want to dunk a basketball, I have to jump.  Excellence won’t come to us.  We have to go get it!
  9. Lack of repetition – Excellence isn’t a one time event.  Excellence requires repetition.  If I want to write a book, I have to write every day.  If I want to become an excellent husband, I have to work on it every year, every week, and every day.  Too many people miss out on excellence, because they give up after the first attempt.

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.

Vince Lombardi

Come back tomorrow for thoughts on how you and I can make excellence a reality in our lives.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

What’s holding you back from achieving excellence?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

the-parable-of-the-broken-glasses

I wrote ‘Soul Keeping‘ because we are taught more about how to care for our cars than how to steward our souls. But you cannot have an impactful life with an impoverished soul.

John Ortberg

When I was in first grade, my parents took me to the eye doctor where the optometrist determined I needed to wear corrective lenses (the fancy name for glasses) to correct a problem with my eyes.

For four or five years, I wore brown, plastic-framed glasses.  I looked like Ralphie from A Christmas Story (if you need an image).

Like Ralphie, I often broke my glasses horsing around with my friends.  The eye doctor was used to fixing my glasses on a monthly basis.

Eventually, the glasses did their job, and I was able to stop wearing them.  In fact, my vision was better than 20/20 for the longest time.

I stopped visiting the eye doctor for several years, because my vision was excellent.

Then I turned 40.

A long overdue visit to the eye doctor indicated my need for reading glasses.

I picked up my first pair of reading glasses, and I’ve been able to get a new pair each year as my reading vision has changed slightly along the way.  I use the new pair as my primary reading glasses, and I use the older pairs as backup glasses.  I have two pairs on my nightstand, and I put one pair in the car.  It’s nice to have the coverage in case I need to read something with small print.

This brings me to my story – my parable.

According to Wikipedia,

A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature as characters, whereas parables have human characters. A parable is a type of analogy.

This week, events transpired in my life that caused me to take pause.  I broke one of my pairs of backup glasses.

Tuesday night, I was responsible for facilitating a Toastmasters Table Topics and Humorous Speech Contest for my Area.  I arrived early at the location of the contest, so I could set up and greet contestants and attendees.  As I was getting out of my car, I grabbed my spare set of glasses, and I must have put them on the roof of my car as I was getting other contest material out of my car.  Once I was in the contest location, I forgot about the glasses.

The contest went well.  The speakers did a fantastic job presenting to the contest audience.  The judging team selected winners wisely.  And the audience enjoyed the experience (from what I could tell).  After the contest, I cleaned up the room and packed up my contest materials.  I said goodbye to the last few lingering attendees, and I climbed in my car to begin the journey home.

100 yards after pulling out of the parking lot, I heard a loud thumping noise on the roof of my car, and I immediately realized the source of the sound.  My glasses had flown off the top of my car.  It was dark, but I decided to make several passes on the busy road to see if I might find my glasses.  Disappointingly, I could find the glasses, so I drove home with the thought of trying to find them in the morning on my way to work.

The next morning, I made a few more passes in the busy morning traffic, but I could see the glasses from my car.  Bummer!

At lunch time, I decided to make one last effort to find the glasses thinking they may have landed in the longer grass along the road.  I parked my car in a parking lot, and walked down the side of the road looking back and forth as I went.  Just when I was about to give up and head back to my car, I caught a glimpse of a familiar sight – the inside cover of my glasses case.  Half of it was laying on the side of the road blending into the grey of the road surface.  I walked a few more feet and found the other half of the case.  But where were my glasses?

As I began the journey back to my parked car, I found my glasses on the side of the road!  My excitement was soon replaced by sadness as I quickly discovered the lenses were missing, and the frames were smashed to smithereens.  It looked like my glasses took a ride in my garbage disposal.

I picked up the pieces and headed back to my car.  (A blog post was surely on the way.)

I’ve had a lot of thoughts since the incident with my glasses.

First, I’m a little frustrated with my carelessness.  I wish I had gone back out to my car when I realized I needed them for the contest.

Second, I’m a little disappointed in my opulence.  Where I serve in Guatemala, glasses like these are a treasured possession for those with failing eyes.  I could have brought the glasses with me on a trip to Guatemala to give to someone who really needs them.  Instead, I decided to have backups for my backups.  I want to be a good steward of my resources, and this means saving and spending appropriately.  And it means giving appropriately too.  I don’t want to be a hoarder of the resources God gives me.  I want to use the resources God gives me to help others and to honor Him.

My broken glasses remind me to hang on tightly to the things that matter, and they remind me to let go of the things that would be better served in the hands of others.

Are you hanging on too tightly to something?  What can you do TODAY to let go?  What does it mean to be a good steward?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

10 ESSENTIALS FOR OVERCOMING THE STRESS IN YOUR LIFE

Stress happens.

How you handle stress matters.

My post today initially started as an explanation for a recent reduction in my weekly blog posts, and it turned into an all-out focus on handling the stress we face in life.  I’m not going to change the initial part of the post as I think it helps provide a window into the stress I’ve been experiencing recently.  I don’t know what stress you are dealing with lately, but I’m hoping today’s post will help you as you face life’s challenges.

What is on your goal list?

Are you giving attention to the goals you really want to accomplish?

You may have noticed a recent drop off in the number of posts I am releasing each week.  There’s a reason (actually, there are a few reasons):

  1. I’m working on my next book project.  A good percentage of my normal writing time is currently focused on this project.  With a busy work and family schedule, I have to be intentional with my time.  And in some cases, this means I have to give up something to get something else.  Once I get through this book project, I hope to post more frequently.  Until then, I’m learning to be content with a post or two per week.
  2. I’ve had a few “distractions” in my life lately.  Without going into too much detail, these distractions have been related to my job, my home, my family, and our upcoming missions trip to Guatemala.  Most of these things are great, but they have required a significant portion of my regular bandwidth.  For my job, I’m preparing to visit Chicago at the end of the month for an exclusive leadership development workshop.  The pre-work for this workshop will ensure I get the most out of the experience which will team me up with leaders from Mexico, Brazil, Canada, and the United States.  For my family, we are navigating the college selection process for the first time with our oldest child.  We are supporting our son as he works on his Eagle Scout project.  And we’re running between various activities at the track, the concert hall, and elsewhere.  My parents are also going through some health challenges and life transitions.  And our family is trying to put the finishing touches on our plans to go back to Guatemala this summer.  (You can support us here or here.)

Life is about choices.

If you are a “Go Getter” like me, you have to come to terms with this fact:  You can’t do everything.

Sometimes you have to let go of the good, so you can focus on the great.  And sometimes you have to sacrifice some of the things on your personal agenda, so you can focus on the things that come your way in the course of life.

As I’ve faced some of the recent challenges (and “distractions”), I’ve dealt with some anxiety, some sleepless nights, and some emotion.  To put it simply, I’ve experienced stress.  Stress is a normal part of life in today’s world.  Unfortunately, many of us don’t know handle ourselves when the stress levels climb.  As I work through my the stress in my life, I’ve developed a list to help me deal with the stress.  I’m hoping this will help you when you deal with stress.

10 Essentials For Overcoming the Stress in Your Life

  1. Eat right.  Eating junk only drags you down.  When stress happens, our eating habits are the first things to be compromised.  Junk in equals junk out.  Put the good stuff in to help you overcome the stresses you are juggling.  Eat regularly.  Balance your intake with proteins and plant-based carbohydrates.  Drink plenty of water.  Avoid excess sugar and caffeine.  Limit the amount of alcohol you consume.
  2. Exercise.  When we get too busy, we often forget to take care of ourselves physically.  Regular exercise is paramount to dealing with an abundance of stress, and it’s essential for building you up for the future challenges you will face.  Regular cardio and strength training gives you more energy and helps build your immune system.
  3. Get sleep.  I struggle with this one.  We all need different amounts of sleep, but most of us need far more sleep that we actually get.  The past few months, I have returned to taking a nap or two on the weekend.  These short siestas help restore my energy levels to better handle the challenges of the upcoming week.  Try going to bed earlier (I’m preaching to myself now).  Turn off the electronics and the television.  Read a book.  Drink a warm glass of milk.  And head to bed early.
  4. Get fresh air.  Too often, we get stuck in the office all day.  Our only fresh air intake happens when we walk into the office at the beginning of the day and when we walk to our car at the end of the day.  Use your lunch time to take a quick walk or to visit a local park.  Breathe in the fresh air.
  5. Practice gratitude.  When stress levels begin to elevate, we tend to become more negative.  We forget to appreciate what is going on around us.  Find a way to practice gratitude.  Start a gratitude journal, and write in it every day.  Write down two or three things you appreciated about your day.  You’ll be surprised to see the impact of this discipline on your stress levels.
  6. Plug into a support system.  You may need a little help from your friends.  I’m in three or four groups that encourage me through tough times.  We all need a this kind of support system.  I meet with 13 other men on a weekly basis.  I meet with a small group of entrepreneurs every other week.  I meet with a group of families twice a month.  And I meet with a group of fellow managers every week at my office.  These meetings are essential to balancing the stresses of life.  These groups have been a place for me to let out some of the emotion I am dealing with and to calibrate my responses to whatever is happening in my life.  If the stress levels continue to rise, I’d highly recommend professional counseling.  Several years ago when I was going through a very stressful time in my life, I met with a counselor for several weeks.  These sessions helped.
  7. Stay connected with those who are closest to you.  Stress impacts our relationships with those we love.  In order to counterbalance this natural tendency, it’s imperative that we find ways to spend time together so we can connect.  My wife and I practice a weekly date night which helps.  Plan ahead for time away from the normal routines and pressures of life.  My wife and I are planning a trip to Vermont in June to celebrate our 20th anniversary and to simply connect away from home.  If you have children, date them too.  Take your son or daughter out for ice cream or for a bike ride.  Time together with those we love builds better relationships and builds a foundation for dealing with the stresses of life.
  8. Stay grounded in God’s word.  Don’t underestimate the power of God’s word in overcoming the challenges of life.  God’s word encourages, teaches, and reminds us of truths we must remember when life gets challenging.  One of the verses that came back to me recently is Philippians 4:6-7:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  9. Pray.  My prayer life has increased recently.  Pray for God’s intervention in the challenges you are facing.  Pray for wisdom, peace, and joy.  Pray for those who seem to be coming against you.  Pray that God would use the challenges you are facing now to help others later.  Stress often leads to bitterness, so we must pray that God would change our hearts.
  10. Don’t give up.  Don’t quit.  Keep going.  Don’t let the stress stop you from moving ahead.  Learn.  Take one step at a time.  And keep stretching!

I feel better already.

How about you?

How do you handle stress?  What do you do to overcome stress in your life?  Why do you think it’s important to address our response to stress?

If you are looking for additional help in handling stress, I think the 7 Week Stretch Challenge could help.  Sign up below:

6 ESSENTIALS FOR FINDING MEANING IN YOUR LIFE

What is the meaning of life?  This is a question people have been asking themselves for ages.

Meaningless.  Meaningless.  Chasing after the wind.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.  “Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.”  Ecclesiastes 1:2

Too many of us go after things in life that really are meaningless.  When we step back and look at it from a different perspective, we realize that we had our ladder leaned up against the wrong wall, and we’ve been climbing to the top only to realize that we were climbing against the wrong wall.

This week I received some tough news that reminded me that this life is fleeting – it’s short.  And we will endure problems, trials, and illnesses, and we will eventually come to a realization that a lot of the things we are pursuing in life really don’t matter when it comes down to it.

I don’t know about you, but I want my life to mean something.  I want to pursue things that matter.  I don’t want to waste my time doing things that won’t add up to a hill of beans.  I want to be intentional with how I live my life – on a day by day basis and on a moment by moment basis.

Our perspective changes as we go through life.  We see things through different lenses along the way, and sometimes I think that we go through trials in life to re-calibrate us – to reset our vision.  I think this might be happening through my experience this week – in the tough circumstances that I’m wrestling with in my own mind.

What are your priorities and what are you doing about them?  Do you know them?  Have you stopped long enough to pay attention – to really process the priorities that you have in your life? 

Is it work?  Is it achievement?  Is it notoriety?  Is it fame?  Is it your family?  Is it your faith?  Is it financial freedom?

All these things are okay, but are they really your priorities?  Have you stopped long enough to really analyze what matters most in life?

Once you know your priorities, it’s important to map out how you’re going to get there.

What are you going to do?  How are you going to change your life to live in light of those priorities?

I cannot answer that question for you.  This is a question you need to answer for yourself.

I just finished listening to a new book, Living Forward, by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, and they challenge readers to consider writing their own eulogy.

What would you want people to stay at your funeral?  If this is what you want people to say, how are you living your life to prepare for this?

I don’t know how everything is going to work out with the situation I’m facing, but I do know I have the opportunity to really analyze my priorities and shift some of my perspectives.  And just maybe I will come down from the ladder that I was climbing on to make sure I have it positioned against the correct wall.

This is the challenge I leave you with today:  Is your ladder leaning against the correct wall, or are you chasing things that are meaningless?

Live a life that matters.

Pursue your priorities.  Carefully consider your priorities.  Gain new perspective, and live your life with intention. 

More importantly, what I’m learning through this experience is the importance of relationships.  You can pursue all kinds of achievement and accolades and everything, but the reality is the relationships that you have with others matters so much more than those career positions and promotions, those super-large portfolios, and those trophies.  Take time today to connect with those who matter most in your life.  And then repeat every day for the rest of your life.

If you want to find meaning in your life:

6 Essentials for Finding Meaning in Your Life

  1. Look in the mirror.
  2. Determine your priorities.
  3. Live intentionally in light of your priorities.
  4. Plug into key relationships.
  5. Above all else, seek God first.
  6. Repeat for the rest of your life.

What is the meaning of your life?  Knowing this, how are you living your life?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

 

balanced life

What is a “Balanced Life?”

People talk about wanting to live a balanced life.

There used to be a podcast called Pursuing A Balanced Life by my friend, Cliff Ravenscraft.

We all want balance in our lives, but is that really the right goal or are we really even defining a balanced life correctly?  This is something I’ve been thinking about lately.  I know for a fact that I am very busy.  I’m on the go all the time.  My calendar is full of things to do, and I’m always busy.

Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m living a balanced life.

I’m pretty sure we often get the whole definition of balance wrong.

When I think of balance I think of chemistry class in college.  In the lab portion of the class, we used to measure chemicals with a balance.  We put a desired weight on one side of the balance.  This weight was measured against a standard.  Then we put the chemical we were measuring on the other side of the balance.  We would add a little more chemical or remove a little of the chemical until we got the right amount of chemical.  We knew that we were right – that we had the right amount of chemical, because the balance was balanced.  One side wasn’t higher than the other.  One side wasn’t lower than the other.

This seems to be what people want to do with their schedules.  They want to put so many things into their life that they are well-rounded in every area, but sometimes I wonder if that’s really the correct approach.  My guess is that we are measuring the balance of our lives against an incorrect standard.

We all have different priorities, and we all have things that should be higher on our priority list.  If you make a list of how you spend your time and you compare it with your list of life priorities, I wonder if they would match.

I know that my work is one of my priorities.  I know that my fitness is one of my priorities.  I know my family is one of my priorities.  I know my friends are one of my priorities.  I know my writing and speaking are one of my priorities, and I know that serving others is one of my priorities.  I have a lot of priorities.  The question is which ones are the top ones and are they getting the attention – the time and energy – they deserve

My top priority is God and my faith, but the reality is I’m not sure I give Him the balance of time and energy that I should.   If God really is a priority in my life, you would think I would spend a lot of time working on this priority.  The reality is I get distracted, I get confused, and I get misdirected towards other things that are much lower on my priority list.  And I’m guessing I’m not alone.

How do I go about reshaping and re-evaluating my calendar and my life in light of my desired priorities, so I really can live a balanced life?  Here are some ideas:

6 Essential Steps To Live A More Balanced Life

  1. Determine the top 5-10 priorities in your life.  I think it starts by figuring out your priorities.  Spend time listing what really matters in your life.  Put them in order from highest priority to lowest priority.
  2. Look at your calendar as it exists today.  Take note of how you are spending your time right now.  Where do we spend the most time?  Where do you spend the least time?  What occupies your time?  We need to know how we’re spending our time and energy in order to determine what changes we might need to make.
  3. Compare your priorities to your calendar.  Do they match?  Where do they match?  Where are they missing the mark?
  4. Adjust your calendar to match your priority list.  What needs to stay?  What needs to go?  What needs more time and attention?  Do the work of adjusting your calendar to match your priority list.  If your family is one of your top priorities, schedule time in your calendar to be with your family.  If your marriage is one of your priorities, schedule a regular, weekly date night.  Cut of the things on your calendar that are unnecessary and don’t line up with your priority list.  Do the work if you’re serious about pursuing a balanced life.
  5. Get accountability to make sure these changes stick.  Share your priorities and calendar adjustments with somebody.  You don’t need to share them with everybody, but find one or two people who can hold you accountable to making the changes a reality.
  6. Take action.  Don’t be afraid to reevaluate from time to time.  Plan regular check-ins, and figure out what is working well, what is not working well, and what additional changes you need to make.  This is an ongoing process.  You are not going to fix it all at once, but I’m convinced that through diligent, intentional thought and action we can take steps to live a more balanced life.

Are you living a balanced life?  What action do you need to take to live a more balanced life?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you want additional help in this are, be sure to check out the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  Sign up below.

WHEN THE WAVES GROW FIERCE AROUND ME

I had the best of intentions.

I had every thought of writing a nice, new “STRETCHY” post last night for you today, and then my plans kind of got derailed.

There have been a few things going on in my world the past few days that have caused a little higher amplitude to the normally steady, manageable waves I’m used to experiences.  Sometimes, life causes us to experience fear, anger, anxiety, disappointment, and fatigue.  I think I’ve felt a little bit of each of these things over the past few days.

Instead of writing a nice, new “STRETCHY” post, I’m left writing something with more rawness.  I hope you don’t mind.

I wish I could fix things.

I wish I could mend relationships.

I wish I could tear down walls.

I wish I could heal wounds.

I wish I could make scars vanish.

I wish I could snap click my heals together three times and be home.

I wish I could sleep soundly.

I wish I could just make it all better.

But I can’t.  I can’t do any of these things.  I wish it wasn’t so, but there are times when I need these reminders.  I need to be reminded that I can’t do it all.

But I know the One who can.

I know the One who can fix things (even if I don’t understand the remedy).

I know the One who can repair relationships.

I know the One who can tear down walls.

I know the One who can heal all wounds.

I know the One who provides the security of home we are all looking for.

I know the One who provides perfect rest.

I know the One who can make it all better.

And it’s this knowledge – it’s this One – that keeps me from being swallowed up by the giant waves of life.  And this is right where I need to be right now.

The nice, new “STRETCHY” post will have to wait for another day, because this is all I have for now.

In my distress I called upon the Lordto my God I cried for help.  From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.  Psalm 18:6

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.