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This morning, I decided to write while sitting at the “bar” (or counter) of the Starbucks where I usually write on Sunday mornings before church. I typically write while sitting at one of the tables against the wall. For some reason, it felt like it was a good day for a different perspective.
From my current vantage point, I watch three Starbucks team members behind the counter busily serving their customers. One young man is the barista. Another is emptying the trash, warming up pastries, and loading the refrigerator with milk. A young lady is at the register taking orders. They seem to be working well together to meet the expectations of their customers.
I’m thankful for the new perspective this morning.
A couple of weeks ago, we held a meeting in our office for our field specialists. They are the team members who make sure our products work correctly in the buildings where we are contracted to provide our products and services. During the meeting, one of the specialists indicated he wanted a chance to do my job for the day – kind of a reverse Undercover Boss scenario.
I’ve been mulling over this request for a few days. What would it look like to have someone shadow me for a day? How could I give them an appropriate perspective on my job without compromising my performance or the confidentiality that I must keep with some of the information that comes my way? What is a reasonable outcome of such an experiment? Would a “Boss for the Day” experiment be beneficial in the long-run?
Honestly, I had never thought of such an idea before I heard it two weeks ago. It’s a reminder to keep my eyes and ears open to the ideas, perspectives, and opportunities presented by others.
Are you a person of routine like me?
One of my Daily Stretch Affirmations is: I take time to try new things.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
Daily Stretch Affirmation No. 1
We live in a world of non-stop motion. During the day, fingers are moving across keyboards creating and sending messages around the world. Cars, buses, trucks, and motorcycles are moving over the countless miles of concrete, asphalt, dirt, and stone that make the roads we travel. People are moving from one meeting to the next. At night, families and individuals are moving from one activity to the next - soccer practice, scouts, grocery shopping, dinner, homework, and the list goes on and on and on. We don't stop until we collapse in bed at the end of the day hoping to catch a few hours of sleep before we do it all over again the next day.
Wake up. Move. Move. Move. Move. Move. Collapse in bed.
We struggle to be still.
This is not good!
Statistics show that anxiety and anxiety disorders are on the rise. For example, a recent Stastista survey finds that 39% of adults surveyed are more anxious in 2018 than in 2017. Obviously, there could be a number of reasons for these findings, but I would argue that our culture of busyness and constant motion contributes to the anxiety we feel.
If there's any question that these results are short-sighted, I'd encourage you to think about your own experience. How do you spend your days? How often to you stop? How much time are you moving around (physically or mentally)?
I've written about it here before. I struggle with this. I typically get up at 4AM every day. I turn off the light around 10PM every night. And I'm in constant motion between 4AM and 10PM.
It's not healthy to live this way.
It's not the way we were meant to live.
There's a better, more healthy way.
Taking time to still yourself has three benefits that are sure to make your life better.
1. Being still gives you the opportunity for rest, restoration, and relaxation. We need these things. I've heard people say they can rest and relax when they die. This may (or may not) be true. I would argue that we need rest and relaxation so we can be more effective and productive now. "It's better to be busy than bored" isn't completely true. We need times of stillness to be the best we can be.
2. Being still gives you the opportunity to deepen your relationships with others. In our busyness, we typically spend little time going deep with the people in our pathways. We ask people how they are doing, and we become satisfied with their "Good" answer. We're okay with this answer, because we're trying to get to the next thing or our brains are occupied with other thoughts.
3. Being still gives you a proper perspective on God. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:10)." When we are in constant motion, we leave little opportunity to connect with God, to contemplate God's impact on our lives, and to develop an appropriate understanding of God.
Jon, I get it. I understand that constant motion and busyness are not the best for me, for my relationships, and for my faith. But I can't help it. The world is moving, and I have to keep up with it. My job requires constant motion, and my family requires constant and complete attention. What to I do to create time for stillness in my life?
I'm glad you asked! Here are three ways you can be still today.
1. Say "No" to something on your calendar. Bob Goff quits something every Thursday. If you are struggling to find time to be still, it might be time for you to quit one of the things on your activity list. If you want to intentionally make time to be still, you have to intentionally prioritize your calendar to make it work.
2. Start your day with time to be still. We all have morning routines. We wake up and do things to get ready for our day. Try adding five or ten minutes of stillness at the beginning of your day (you can always increase this time later). Put away distractions (like your phone or tablet), and simply be still. When you start your day with stillness, the rest of your day will be transformed.
3. Practice hourly, daily, and weekly sabbaths. I've written about this before. Take a minute of Sabbath every hour (set a reminder alarm on your phone or watch). Take an hour of Sabbath every day. Take a day of Sabbath every week. The concept of Sabbath was created for you an me. Sabbaths give us the opportunity to be still - to get away from the crippling busyness of our lives. Sabbaths help you re-calibrate, and they will change your life forever.
I take time to Still myself.
You can do it!
The discipline of daily affirmations took a major hit in the early 1990's when Saturday Night Live aired several episodes of "Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley" starring former SNL regular, Al Franken. In each episode, Stuart Smalley offered self-talk in a way that came across as weird and even delusional. Since then, many have shunned the practice of daily affirmations as unnecessary and crazy.
Recently, the discipline of daily affirmations has gained traction as authors, speakers, and leaders have shared their affirmation success stories. For example, Cliff Ravenscraft, the Podcast Answerman (now Mindset Answerman), has spoken quite a bit about his own practice of daily affirmations on his weekly podcast, The Cliff Ravenscraft Show. Episode 521 provides a small glimpse into his daily affirmations specifically related to money and wealth. On his blog, leadership mentor, Michael Hyatt, alludes to his use of daily affirmations to help train his brain in an article titled "How to Beat Your Brain and Succeed."
A couple of weeks ago at my Friday morning men's group, the topic of daily affirmations came up. Actually, the topic came up through a YouVersion study plan we were working through together (Crash the Chatterbox). I had been thinking about incorporating daily affirmations into my morning routine, so I asked the group if any of them practice daily affirmations. One of the guys in the group shared his daily affirmations with the group. I promptly "stole" them and added my own to the list.
I printed them out and taped them into the front cover of my daily planner. I'm still working on making this a regular discipline in my life, but I can already tell the positive self-talk is actually a real good thing for crushing my doubts and encouraging me to use my gifts.
Today, I'm sharing seven of these affirmations. These are affirmations specifically written to remind me to Stretch on a daily basis. Here they are:
My daily affirmation list will continue to grow and transform as I live my life and encounter new challenges and opportunities. I'm thankful for this new discipline in my life.
Affirmation without discipline is the beginning of delusion.
Jim Rohn brings up a great point about daily affirmations. Words are meaningless unless they cause real action and change in our lives. I would encourage you to share your daily affirmations with someone, and ask them to hold you accountable to taking action on the words you say to yourself everyday. Also, ask them to observe you and give you honest feedback on what's working, what's not working, and what needs to change when it comes to your daily affirmations.
OK! Now it's your turn. Stretch yourself today by creating your own list of daily affirmations. When you're creating this list, think about the things you want to keep doing, and think about the things you want to change or implement in your life. You can do it!
At lunch time today, I walked across the street from my office to head to my Toastmasters International regular club meeting. Due to scheduling conflicts, I haven’t been to the club for a couple of months. Prior to my relatively brief absence, I was a regular member of the club for the past three or four years. I even served as the President of the club for one year.
I pride myself on making sure everyone feels welcome. I try to introduce myself to guests and new members as they check out the club for the first few times, and I try to learn a little bit about each person. I also try to remember the names of the people who come to the meetings. Our club has added several new members the past few months which has made this a bigger challenge.
Today as members were gathering for the meeting, I mistakenly referred to one of the newer members by the wrong name. I had the best of intentions, but I completely botched his name. I tried to laugh it off and even joked about it, but I really felt bad about my blunder.
Last month, Isaac (my son) and I read through How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. (We’ve been intentionally reading through a book together each month as he prepares to make the transition from high school to college. That’s another topic for another time.) One of Carnegie’s principles for winning friends and influencing people is to remember people’s names. People like to hear their name. When you remember someone’s name it shows them you care and they matter. When you use someone’s name you establish and strengthen a human connection with the other person.
There’s a person at my church who is amazing at this. Her name is Terri Stone. Our church’s typical Sunday morning attendance is 1700-1800 which means there are probably around 2300-2500 who call our church home. I would bet that Terri knows 75% or more of the names of these attendees. Terri makes it a point to find out a person’s name when she meets them. She uses their name at least a few times during their initial conversation. The next time she sees the person, she goes out of her way to talk to the person she met a week (or longer) ago, and she uses their name every time. Many people I know at our church would tell you that Terri Stone made them feel welcome, and they would comment on how she remembered their names.
If you want to make a difference in someone’s life, take time to get to know them and to know their name. As Dale Carnegie says, you will provide the sweetest sound to their ears.
Maybe I’m being a little hard on myself, but you can bet I’ll get that guys name right the next time I see him at Toastmasters.
If you want to take it a little deeper for fun, what’s your middle name?
How are you doing?
Unfortunately, busyness has become the badge the many people chose to wear. We think people will think we are important when they hear we are busy. Perhaps, we are too afraid to face the things we really need to face, so we get busy doing things that don’t really matter in the end.
Tonight, I had a fantastic conversation with a group of men who are serious about becoming better husbands, better fathers, better leaders, and better men. We talked a lot about busyness.
I shared with them the experience I had last week when I realized I was overwhelmed. (If you read my blog posts over the past two weeks, you’ll get a feel for what I shared.)
I thrive on being busy. That’s what I keep telling myself.
In reality, I need a break from time to time, and I must learn to slow things down.
I was perusing an article on Lifehack in preparation for my conversation with these men tonight, and the article said “When you’re busy, your aren’t present.”
And one of the men said, “Busyness is the enemy of intimacy.”
Last week along with tonight’s conversation confirmed that I’m not alone.
I don’t want to be known as the guy who was always busy.
I want to be known as the man who was there – for my wife, for my family, for my friends.
If you’re interested in jumping into conversations like this one with other men, consider signing up for the Stretched Men Group. You can learn more at www.stretchedmengroup.com. Once you’re on the website, signup to schedule a free (no obligation) phone call with me. I’d love to talk with you!
Are you too busy? What do you do to slow down? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
We’ve all had conversations with our mothers that go something like this:
Me: “Mom, I shaved my head.”
Mom: “Why did you do that?”
Me: “They made me do it!”
This is peer pressure, and it’s not always the best thing in the world. In fact, I’m sure peer pressure has led us all to do some pretty stupid things – like the time I smoked my first cigarette – or like the time I gave the substitute teacher a hard time in junior high school – or like the time I ordered a bunch of food at the McDonald’s drive through and then drove away. All these events were influenced by peers, and they aren’t the kinds of things that make me proud.
But what if peer pressure was actually a good thing?
What if our peers could actually get us to do things that we really should do?
One of the reasons I seek out accountability in my life (like from our GSAB – Guatemala Strategic Advisory Board) is because I know these people will actually have a positive impact on my life. They will make me do it – the things I need to do.
Without accountability I may be able to accomplish a few things, but I know I’ll accomplish more of the things I should be accomplishing when I surround myself with people who will spur me on.
“It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a partner suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18 my paraphrase) From the very beginning of time, God placed people together to encourage and uplift each other. Adam was not complete without his accountability partner, Eve.
“A chord of three strands is not easily broken.” In Ecclesiastes (4:12 my paraphrase), Solomon recognizes the power of doing things with others.
“Don’t give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. But spur each other on all the more as you see the day approaching.” In Hebrews (10:24-25 my paraphrase), we’re reminded again of the power of community, the power of accountability that comes from hanging out with other people.
You and I need this kind of peer pressure in our lives.
We need people who will spur us on. We need people in our lives who will make us stronger. We need people who will partner with us and make us better.
I hope you have this kind of peer pressure in your life. If not, what are you doing about it?
“The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.
Researchers in Canada surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs). Microsoft found that since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.” May 14, 2015 Time article (You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish) by Kevin McSpadden
Seriously, according to this study nearly three years ago, we suck at staying focused for very long.
I wonder what would happen if they did this study again today. My guess is that the average attention span would now be even shorter than 8 seconds.
This year, a group of entrepreneurs I hang with every other week has committed to becoming more focused in our entrepreneurial pursuits. Each of us has ordered Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner, and we are using it (along with the accountability in our group) to push forward with focus on the things we set out to accomplish in 2018.
I’ve always been a list driven person. And people generally know me as a disciplined person, so I was a little skeptical about the need for someone else’s system to keep me on track. I’ve been using Full Focus Planner for three weeks so far, and it’s been amazing to see my effectiveness increase.
In three weeks, I’ve made significant strides in my business pursuits, my entrepreneurial pursuits, and my personal pursuits. I’ve made significant steps forward in developing a mentor program at work. I’ve taken a big leap forward related to my book, Rooftop Reflections, and our family’s passion for Guatemala. I’ve kicked off a “Year of Discipleship” with my son. I’ve lost eleven pounds so far in 2018. And I’ve already read six books in 2018 (way ahead of my 2017 total). And these things just scratch the surface on what I’ve been able to accomplish so far in 2018.
In the midst of being focused, I’ve let a few things go. Some of these things are temporarily on the back burner, and some things may be permanently removed from my normal activity. You may have noticed, I’ve been absent from the blog world. I’m hoping this is temporary as I love the community here, but my time away was important in getting me focused on the things I really want to accomplish this year, this quarter, this week, and even this day. Generally, I’ve been getting to bed earlier this year. This has provided more opportunity for reading and for the rest I need to really be effective.
John Lee Dumas defines focus as “Focusing on One Course Until Success.” I get what he’s saying, but the reality is we have multiple things going on in our lives at the same time. The Full Focus Planner has helped me narrow my focus to a few things, and it’s helped me successfully progress towards success in multiple areas of my life.
Overall, I believe the Full Focus Planner has actually helped to increase my attention span.
As a result of an increasing attention span, I have more focus on getting things accomplished, I have more focus on cultivating relationships that really matter, and I have “jumped the goldfish”.
(To get 15% of your own Full Focus Planner, click here.)
It’s New Year’s Day, and it’s a time when many are considering how they want to start the new year. What targets will we set for the new year? What resolutions will we make? Will they last, or will they fade away as the days and weeks unveil themselves in 2018?
If you’re like me, your Facebook feed is filled with advertisements promoting planners, guides, books, and webinars that are “guaranteed to make you a new person in the new year.” I’m not opposed to all of these things as I’m a very goal oriented person; however, it can be a real challenge to pick the “right” just for you.
As I’ve been thinking about my goals for 2018, I’ve been thinking about dreams and goals in the following areas:
As you consider your goals for 2018, I don’t want you to feel lost. I’d also hate to see you let apathy set in as you enter the new year. It’s important to have a target at which we can aim.
I’d love to help you sort out your goals for 2018. In fact, I have a framework that will help you STRETCH in the new year. Because I believe you aren’t really living if you aren’t stretching and growing.
To help you get off on the right foot in 2018, I’ve created a 7 Week Stretch Challenge. When you sign up for the Challenge, you’ll get a weekly email from me that will teach you some important concepts to help you STRETCH into the new year. Each week, you’ll have one simple concept to work on that will help lay the groundwork for a better you in 2018.
You can proceed as usual. When you make this choice, you should expect a usual outcome.
Or you can take the challenge and STRETCH yourself. You can be a new you at the end of the year.
This week, I had the honor of being a guest on Amy Robles’ podcast – Think Enriched with Amy Robles.
Do me a favor, and give the episode a listen. (Then consider subscribing to Amy’s podcast.)
“The focus of Lesson 1 is Newton’s first law of motion – sometimes referred to as the law of inertia. Newton’s first law of motion is often stated as: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
Even when you lie down to sleep your brain keeps going.
We’ve conditioned ourselves to go, go, go, and the more I experience life it seems like inertia might just be our enemy sometimes.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a person of action. I want to be busy getting things done – things that matter.
Here’s the problem: We are also directed to “be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
The discipline of stillness takes intentionality. It takes purpose. It takes an all out resistance to our natural tendency to move.
According to Newton’s 1st Law of Motion, we actually need an unbalanced force to stop us or to change our direction.
I’ve experienced these kinds of unbalanced forces before. Like the time my wife was hospitalized leaving me with two young kids to care for while running around between home, the hospital, and work. Or like the time when I received a call from my Dad telling me my Mom had been diagnosed with “Early Onset Alzheimer’s Progression.”
Sometimes these unbalanced forces can seem catastrophic at the time. When we step back, these might actually be the things we need to re-calibrate us – to cause us to stop, to think, to be still.
Recently, I have felt inertia taking over in my life. Some of it is fantastic. But some things in my life require that unbalanced force to force me into a better pattern or position.
I’m not waiting for something catastrophic; I want to take the right next to step starting now. I want to slow down and even stop to take in life, to connect with my Creator, and to make sure I’m on the right path.