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    6 Essential Steps To Live A More Balanced Life

    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.

    5 Keys To Overcoming Your Mistakes


    If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.

    John Wooden

    If you were paying attention last week, you may have noticed that I made a mistake.

    Yes.  I am not perfect.

    Last Sunday morning, I was working on my Monday morning post (How to Respond When You Feel Buried).  After working on the post for nearly an hour, I put the final touches on the post by working the a graphic to go with what I had written.  I picked my background using (a site offering beautiful, free graphics).  I found a house buried in snow.  Perfect.  I downloaded the file, and moved over to where I do my final graphic editing.  I cropped the photo.  I added my text elements.  I saved the graphic, and I pasted it into my post.

    As I was inspecting my post, I noticed I spelled a key word on the graphic incorrectly.  Instead of writing FEEL on my graphic, I wrote FELL.  I quickly made the changes, and I thought for sure I saved everything correctly as I scheduled the post for the next day.

    Monday morning came, and my post went live at 5AM EST.  I was mortified a couple of hours later when I received a Facebook message from one of my friends pointing out the spelling error on my graphic.








    I quickly went back into the post.  I made the necessary correction, and I updated the post.  Then I responded to my friend to thank her and to let her know of the fix.

    I tried to let the mistake go, but I continued to be haunted by my error as people promoted the post on Twitter.  For some reason, the uncorrected graphic showed up on my Tweets.

    Mistakes happen.

    How we respond to mistakes is what really matters.

    Here are five keys to responding when mistakes happen:

    1. Acknowledge your mistake.  We all make mistakes.  Accept it.  Admit your mistakes.  This is the first critical step in overcoming your blunder.
    2. Correct your mistake (if possible).  Do everything you possibly can to fix your mistake.  This requires humility and a resolve to make things better.
    3. Give yourself some grace.  We are our own worst critics.  We give others grace when they mess up, and we must learn to give ourselves a break from time to time.
    4. Learn from your mistake.  What can you learn from your mistake?  This is the question you should be asking yourself.  Mistakes and failures help us learn how not to do things.
    5. Move on.  You have a choice.  You can live in the past as you dwell on your errors, or you can move ahead making forward progress towards your goals.  What’s your choice?  I’m sure you can guess the better choice.

    When was the last time you made a mistake?  How did you respond to your mistake?  What did you learn from your mistake?

    Don’t forget to sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  You can sign up right here:

    What Are You Pursuing?


    It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.

    Denis Waitley

    What is pursuit?

    When I looked it up on Google, this is what I found:

    Pursuit is “the action of following or pursuing someone or something.”

    Synonyms include:  striving toward, quest after/for, search for

    What are you pursuing?

    Better yet, are you pursuing anything?

    People pursue happiness, success, and wealth.  They pursue the American Dream.  Or they pursue inner peace.  Are these the right things to pursue?  I suppose you could argue either way.

    A few weeks ago, I wrote a note to myself in my journal:

    “Am I pursuing safety, or am I willing to take risks and to be dangerous to live a life that matters?”

    If I’m honest, I pursue safety, and this has been my pursuit most of my life.

    When I was a little kid, I was the cautious one.  My brother and my best friend (both named David) were the adventurous ones.  They were willing to go off the high dive.  They were willing to swim to the bottom of the pool.  They weren’t afraid to do anything.  Me on the other hand, I was chicken.  I remember crying when my swim teacher tried to get me to go off the low diving board.  I was absolutely terrified I would drown in the deep end of the swimming pool.

    Sometimes I wonder if my childhood tendencies to avoid danger traveled with me down the road into adulthood.

    I still seek the safe choice more often than I take a chance on doing something that might be dangerous.

    I pick the safe choice when it comes to my investments, my career steps, and in other areas of my life.

    Am I missing out because of this tendency – this desire – to stay safe?

    I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life that matters.  I want to make a difference, and I want to bring glory to God by the choices I make and the actions I take each and every day.

    On this day when we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., I thinks it’s safe to say that MLK did not pursue safety, and he lived a life that matters.

    The only place we will really find safety is when we are in the arms of God and when we are following Him.

    Chuck Swindoll said it well, “The world has changed and it’s going to keep changing, but God never changes; so we are safe when we cling to Him.”

    Finding safety in God doesn’t mean we were meant to avoid taking risks.  In fact, I think there is a certain aspect to risk taking that gives us the opportunity to fulfill our purpose.  I’ve mentioned it here before, and it’s worth mentioning again.  Several years ago, sociologist Tony Campolo responded to a survey taken by people in their nineties.  Campolo concluded that the survey respondents which they had taken time to reflect more, to risk more, and to take actions that would leave a legacy.

    I’m not in my nineties yet.  There is still time for me to live differently.  I want to make a difference even if it means doing something a little dangerous.

    In his commencement speech to the class of 2014 at Maharishi University of Management, Jim Carrey challenged graduates to take a risk:

    “Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.

    So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it — please! (applause) And if it doesn’t happen for you right away, it’s only because the universe is so busy fulfilling my order. It’s party size! (laughter)

    My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.

    I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

    I love these words.  If you’re like me, your fear of failure is keeping you on the safe path.  Perhaps, it’s time to take a leap of faith so you can do something that matters.

    (One thing worth noting, pursuit implies going after something or someone with all you have.  Whatever you are pursuing won’t just be handed to you.  You have to go get it!)

    Are you missing out on something because your pursuit is too safe?  What can you do about it today?

    7 WEEKSTRETCHCHALLENGEDon’t forget to sign-up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  You can sign up right here:






    Who Wants to Make a Difference? #YourLifeMatters


    Winston Churchill said, late in his life, that he had always “wanted to make a difference” in the world. Any student of history would have to say that Winston Churchill made a difference. He kept the free world from folding as England resisted the determined aggression of Germany in World War II. He buoyed the spirits of the English people at a time when rational thought would have concluded it was time to give up. He became, as much as anyone, the symbol of our refusal to let freedom be traded for fascism.

    The interesting thing is, almost everyone has a desire to make a difference in the world. Even when it has not surfaced in that formulation, no one wants to see their life as “meaningless.” On the one hand, it seems so futile to live and die without impact. One the other hand, it changes the very nature of our life to be involved in something of transcendent value.

    There are nearly as many ways to make a difference as there are people in the world. We certainly don’t have to make a difference in the same way our neighbor does, or our brother, or our best friend from high school. How we choose to make a difference has a great deal to do with where our most important priorities lie.

    There is a couple living in my home town who discovered they would not be able to have children. But they wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. There were a lot of things they could have done to achieve that goal. They chose to adopt an orphan from Viet Nam, left homeless at the end of that tragic war. Then they adopted a child from Korea. Then one from Brazil. And so on. At this point, they are past retirement age, and still have teenagers in their home. They have adopted 21 children, many from desperate situations in foreign countries.   Their choices have brought them great pain and great joy. However, no matter how you view the situation, it is clear that they have made a huge difference in the world, especially to those 21 children.

    Your efforts don’t have to be heroic to bring you happiness. Sometime simply helping the elderly in your area have companionship they would otherwise lack will do the trick. Or you may find satisfaction in the Big Brother program, or in helping bring cultural experiences to youth who would otherwise never experience them. Or you may make a difference by helping your neighborhood come together in friendship and uplifting association.

    How do you know you are making a difference? Other than the obvious fruits of your efforts, you know because you are happier when it happens. You spend less time dwelling on what you lack, and more time enjoying what you do. There is no single secret to happiness in this life. But I am assured that whatever formula you suggest will have “making a difference” as an integral part. It changes an existence into a life.


    Hyrum Smith is a distinguished author, speaker, and businessman. He is the co-founder and former CEO of FranklinCovey®. For three decades, he has empowered people to effectively govern their personal and professional lives. Hyrum’s books and presentations have been acclaimed by American and international audiences. He combines wit and enthusiasm with a gift for communicating compelling principles that incite lasting personal change. You can visit him on the web at


    You can read my review of Hyrum’s new book by clicking here.

    Do you want to make a difference?  What are you doing about this desire?

    Staying On Track In Between The Check-In Points


    Accountability breeds response-ability.

    Stephen Covey

    How do you stay on track with the goals and healthy habits in your life?

    Is there someone in your life who holds you accountable to stay on track?

    Do you have regular check-ins which keep you focused on your goal?

    Two of my appointments this week reminded me of the importance of regular accountability.

    First on Monday night, I had an appointment with my nutritionist.  I visited her back in September for the first time, and I haven’t been back since.  She gave me great advice in September.  She explained how to change my eating and my exercise to achieve some goals I have to live a healthier life.  She recommended I use MyFitnessPal to track my eating and exercise.  I did great with tracking all of this for about four weeks.  I lost several pounds.  I started converting fat to muscle.  And I was starting to feel a lot more energy throughout the day.

    And then my second appointment kept getting postponed for one reason or another.  Over time, I stopped tracking my eating.  I thought I was eating fairly well still, and I still tracked my exercise.  But I stopped dropping weight.  I was a little discouraged, but I didn’t have enough accountability going to keep me on track.

    Late last week, my wife reminded me of my appointment with my nutritionist this week.  Friday, I started tracking my food intake again.  After all, I didn’t want to show up at my appointment without some information.  On Monday night, my results indicated I was doing okay, but I probably missed out on the opportunity to make larger strides towards my goals because I stopped tracking.  My times of accountability were not close enough to each other to keep me focused (this coming from Mr. Discipline).

    I got another reminder on Tuesday morning when I arrived at my dentist appointment.  Just like I had fallen off track with tracking my eating, I had fallen off track with my flossing.  I initially do well for the first couple of weeks after my dentist appointment, and I do well right before my next dentist appointment, but I am terrible in the flossing department the rest of the time.  Tuesday, I had the “privilege” of having a deep-cleaning because I hadn’t flossed and I was growing plaque barnacles on the bottoms of my teeth.  To prevent bone loss and gum deterioration, my dental hygienist numbed my mouth a scraped my teeth for an hour.

    We need regular accountability in our lives.

    This is why I meet with a mastermind group every other week.  This is why I meet with my men’s group every Friday morning at 6AM.  This is why I go to church every week.  I need these check-ins to keep me on track.

    What area of your life requires more of your attention?  Who can you ask to hold you accountable to stay on track with this area of your life?  What works for you when it comes to accountability?  What hasn’t work for you when it comes to accountability?

    Share your thoughts in the comments.  Let’s learn from each other!

    The Number One Way To Do What God Says

    What God Says

    We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.
    John R.W. Stott

    I want to do the right thing.  Don’t you?

    I spend my “free time” in the car or on the treadmill listening to podcasts, so I can learn more.  On my nightstand, I have a few leadership books.  I listen to 150 podcasts every week, and I read through (or skim through) over 330 blogs whenever there is a new post.

    I stand by the saying “Leaders are readers.”

    But I think I sometimes take it too far.

    When I say I want to do the right thing, I mean this:

    • I want to be a great husband.
    • I want to be a great father.
    • I want to be a great employee.
    • I want to be a great boss.
    • I want to be a great leader.
    • I want to be a great friend.
    • I want to be a great teammate.
    • I want to be a great giver.
    • I want to be a great person.

    I don’t want to mess up when it comes to these areas of my life (and other areas).  I’m a perfectionist.  Unfortunately, I get it wrong if these are my pursuits.

    I want to be a great Christ-follower.  If I can get this right, the other things should take care of themselves.  If I’m serious about this proclamation – if I’m serious about wanting to be a great Christ-follower, I should do what God says.

    What is the number one way to do what God says?

    If you want to do what God says, you have to know what God says.

    Tweet: If you want to do what God says, you have to know what God says. #Stretched via @jonstolpe

    “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.”  James 1:25

    “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?  By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  Psalm 119:9-11

    If I want to follow Christ, I have to start by digesting God’s Word.  Spending time in God’s Word does not happen with a closed, dust-covered Bible on the coffee table.  It happens when I open it up, when I study it, and when I take time to chew on it.  Only then can I truly do what God says.

    If you want to do the right thing, start with God’s Word.

    When was the last time you spent time studying God’s Word?  How do you make the most of time reading The Bible?  What has God recently been teaching you through His Word?


    Ice Breaker – Excited For Life

    excited for life

    In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

    Abraham Lincoln

    Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

    (I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

    Too often, we lose our zeal for life as we allow the pulls and pressures of life to weigh us down.  This week’s Stretched Ice Breaker is meant to re-inject some energy back into your life.

    Question:  What gets you excited about life?

    My Answer:  The best way for me to answer this question is to create a list.  Here are some of the things that get me excited about life:

    • Spending time with my wife
    • Watching my kids use their talents and discover their passions
    • Helping others succeed
    • Writing a killer blog post
    • Serving in Guatemala
    • Speaking to people
    • Running
    • Reading an inspiring book
    • Watching playoff baseball (especially when the Cubs or the Phillies are on the field)
    • Checking things off my to-do-list
    • Connecting with my mastermind group
    • Being in community with people who positively stretch me
    • Watching a good movie
    • Going on vacation
    • Going to work
    • Going to church
    • Going to the dentist
    • Learning something new

    Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!

    The Blessing Of Friendship


    Dear George,

    Remember no man is a failure who has friends.

    Thanks for the wings.


    (From one of my favorite movies – It’s A Wonderful Life)

    Thursday night, I once again experienced the blessing of friendship after I received a call from my wife as I was leaving work:

    “You’re not going to like this news, but the basement is full of water.”

    While I was driving home, I quickly called a friend who drove over with a Shop Vac, a flash light, and his son.  When I arrived home, my friend was already running the Shop Vac, and I sent out a text message to the men I meet with on Friday mornings. Soon two other friends arrived with more Shop Vacs and more helping hands. Then another friend dropped off several fans. Several other guys from my group offered to come over late Thursday night to help out as well.

    I missed out on Meet the Teacher Night at the high school (which was scheduled for Thursday night), but I had the blessing of experiencing the unbelievable sacrifice of friends.

    I am blessed. Stuff is temporary, but friendship is forever. (Meanwhile, my basement is drying out.)

    How have you experienced the blessing of friendship?  Tell me about it in the comments.


    How To Live A Meaningful Life

    meaningful life

    “Grapple with finding ways to serve God’s children.”

    Quote from a recent unknown podcast

    Do you want to live a meaningful life?

    Do you want to do things that matter?

    Do you want to make a difference in this world?

    Do you really want to know the answer to these questions?

    I think I may have the answer, and it’s actually pretty simple.

    Are you ready?

    Here it is:



    If you want to live a meaningful life, serve others.

    If you want to do something that really matters, serve others.

    If you want to really make a difference in this world, serve others.

    Be like my friend, Camela, who decided to serve her husband by giving him one of her kidney’s last week.

    Be like my co-worker, Bob, who stopped to serve me by holding open the door as I was coming into the office the other day with my hands full.

    Be like my friend, Mark, who is giving up his day off this Saturday to serve a family in our area as they move from one house to another.

    Be like my friend, James, who is serving the poor and broken in Guatemala by providing medical care for the poor and powerless.

    Be like my friend, Dave, who is intentionally serving widows and orphans in the village of Santo Domingo Xenacoj.

    Be like my friends, German and Susie, who despite having little find ways to serve by opening up their home to feed the hungry in and around Xenacoj.

    Be like my brother, David, who serves the inner-city youth of Milwaukee by providing discipline, guidance, and a caring shoulder to lean on at Frank Lloyd Wright Middle School.

    Be like my friend, Sean, who serves my church week in and week out by setting out our signs early in the morning and picking them up at the end of our Sunday services.

    Serving others can take a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, or the rest of your life.  Serving others doesn’t require special training, a certificate, a specific formula, or an invitation.  It simply requires a willingness on your part to focus on others instead of yourself.  Along with the willingness, it takes a little action.  Serving others can happen through a phone call, an email, a walk across the street, a drive across town, and a plane ride to a far away land.

    If you want to change the world, serve others.

    Who do you know who is serving others?  How has serving others made a difference in your life?