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      6 Essentials for Finding Meaning in Your Life

      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.

       

      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.

      I Have A Confession

      I HAVE A CONFESSION

      I have a confession to make.

      I suck!

      Before you tell me to put an end to my self-limiting beliefs, give me an opportunity to explain.

      I want to come across as having it all together.  I try to be positive.  I try to be confident.  I try to come across as the expert.  I’m a perfectionist, and I want everything just right.

      Here’s the problem:  I don’t have it all together.  I’m not always positive.  There are times when my confidence is lacking.  I don’t know everything.  And I’m a perfectionist with more imperfections that I care to admit.

      Several weeks ago, I announced the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  (You can sign up for it today by clicking here or by filling out the short form below.)

      7 WEEKSTRETCHCHALLENGEIn each of the weeks of the challenge, I focus on various topics designed to help you grow (STRETCH), help you move forward with more intentionally, and help you make a bigger difference.  Here are the topics for each week:

      • Week 1 – Still yourself.
      • Week 2 – Take note.
      • Week 3 – Reflect.
      • Week 4 – Engage in key relationships.
      • Week 5 – Try something new.
      • Week 6 – Community (plug-in).
      • Week 7 – Help others.

      If you sign up for the challenge, I send you an email each week focusing on these things.  I picked these topics, because I know you need to work on these things.

      Do you know how I know this?

      I know you need to work on these things, because I need to work on these things.

      I suck at taking time to be still.  I suck at taking note of the things going on in my life.  I suck at taking time to reflect.  I suck at engaging in key relationships.  I suck at getting out of my comfort zone to try new things.  I suck at putting aside my own wants and desires to plug into community and to help others.

      I need to work on these things, and you do to.

      The 7 Week Stretch Challenge is for you, but it’s also for me.  If you haven’t jumped on board yet, sign up below.

      What’s your confession?  What area of your life needs some attention?

      The 7 Week STRETCH Challenge

      7 WEEKSTRETCHCHALLENGE

      Thanks for being part of the Stretched Community, and for reading the regular posts at Jon Stolpe Stretched.

      You may have noticed a few less posts here last week.  I’ve been busy working on something special, and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

      Today, I’m excited to announce something special – The 7 Week STRETCH Challenge!

      The 7 Week STRETCH Challenge is designed to help you STRETCH to the next level.  By signing up for the challenge today, you will get:

      • An exclusive email in your in-box once a week.  The email will give you practical advice to help you stretch and will give you an important action step for the week.
      • An invitation to join a closed Facebook group only for those going through the Challenge.
      • A special opportunity to help me with a special project (more on that to follow at the end of the Challenge).

      To sign-up for this Challenge, you simply need to sign up below.

      What are you waiting for?

      Sign-up for the 7 Week STRETCH Challenge today!

      7 Week STRETCH Challenge Sign-up Form

      (Can I ask you to do me a big favor?  I know you have friends, family, and co-workers who would benefit from the 7 Week STRETCH Challenge.  Tell them to sign-up at http://www.jonstolpe.com/7weekstretch/.  Thanks!)

      Book Review: The 3 Gaps – Are You Making a Difference? by @HyrumWSmith

      BOOK REVIEW_THE 3 GAPSARE YOU MAKINGA DIFFERENCE_BY Hyrum W. Smith

      Gaps in our lives drain the power needed to make a positive difference in the world.

      Hyrum W. Smith

      The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference? by Hyrum W. Smith officially releases today (January 11, 2016).  I received a preview copy of this book courtesy of Becky Robinson at Weaving Influence.

      I took time to read this book between Christmas and New Years, and it provided a few great insights and ideas for me to pursue as I seek to clarify my beliefs, values, and priorities.

      While I’m still wrestling with Smith’s assertion that the pursuit of personal inner peace is the ultimate goal of man.  I deeply agree with the thought that we can make a big difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us by clarifying our beliefs, by confirming our governing values, and by intentionally managing our time.

      The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference?is a quick read that will challenge readers to fill the gaps they may have in their beliefs, values, and time.  Personally, I was challenged after reading The 3 Gaps to write my own personal constitution, to define my governing values, and to practice the discipline of daily planning.  If you are looking for a book with practical advice to help you stretch, you should consider picking up a copy of this book.

      What are the biggest challenges you are currently facing when it comes to your beliefs, your values, and your time?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

      (Please note:  I received a copy of The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference? for free as a gift from Becky Robinson at Weaving Influence.  I was not required to provide a favorable review.  I believe this book can be a helpful tool for being more intentional with your life.

      Also to note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference? by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

      Stretch Quote – A Look In The Mirror (Luther Allison)

      STRETCH QUOTE A Look In The Mirror

      But let’s face it, I still have to look at my self and look at the things I’ve done down the STRETCH.

      Luther Allison

      We are coming down the final stretch for 2015.

      Take time to look in the mirror – to reflect on the past year.

      What went well in 2015?  What were your big wins in 2015?

      What didn’t go so well in 2015?  What do you want to change as you head into the new year?

      What help do you need as you head into 2016?

      Use this last week of 2015 well.

      How would you answer the questions above?  Leave your answer in the comments.

      Stretch Quote – Reach Out Your Hand (@M_Heseltine)

      STRETCH QUOTE Reach Out Your Hand

      There are those who never STRETCH out the hand in fear it will be bitten.  But those who never STRETCH out the hand will never feel it clasped in friendship.

      Michael Heseltine

      Are you willing to take the risk?

      Are you willing to STRETCH out your hand to a neighbor, a co-worker, or someone else?

      It can be scary to reach out into the unknown, but it is almost always well worth the risk.  What are you waiting for?

       

      8 Things You Need To Know About A Positive Attitude

      8 THINGSYOU NEEDTO KNOWABOUT APOSITIVE ATTITUDE

      Virtually nothing is impossible in this world if you just put your mind to it and maintain a positive attitude.

      Lou Holtz

      When you think of someone with a positive attitude, who comes to your mind?

      The first person to come to my mind is my Grandma Miller.  Grandma passed away several years ago, but her positive attitude still impacts me.  Grandma struggled with multiple sclerosis for most of her life.  Her knees failed her.  She suffered from seizures.  And towards the end of her life, she could barely hold her head up.  Despite her physical ailments, she remained positive.  She often had a song on her lips, and she was friendly with every single person who crossed her path.  If there was someone I know who had a positive attitude, it was my Grandma Miller.

      A positive attitude amazing benefits for creating a better life for you and the people around you.  Yesterday, we learned about the impact of having a negative attitude.  Today, we look at the impact of having a positive attitude.  Here are some things you need to know about the power of a positive attitude:

      8 Things You Need To Know About A Positive Attitude

      1. A positive attitude lifts others up.  Ask anyone who knew my Grandma.  They will tell you what an encouragement Roma Miller (that was her name) was to them.  People often came to visit my Grandma, and I bet they left her feeling more enthusiastic and thankful for the day.  If you want to make a difference for others, practice having a positive attitude.
      2. A positive attitude helps you see the good things of life.  Grandma often looked out the back window in her kitchen while she ate her breakfast, and she talked to the squirrels in the back yard.  When the snow came in the winter (which it always did in Minneapolis), Grandma saw the beauty of God’s creation instead of the freezing cold of the blizzard conditions.  When you take off the blinders of negativity, you begin to see all the great things happening around you.
      3. A positive attitude restores your energy.  Especially in the last years of Grandma’s life, she had to sleep more.  And the seizures she suffered from time to time knocked the wind out of Grandma’s sail.  Despite this, I can remember sitting with my Grandma while she was awake.  She seemed to discover a hidden supply of energy, and I’m certain it flowed as a result of her positive attitude.  I am more energetic when I allow a positive attitude to stick with me throughout the day.
      4. A positive attitude improves your health.  Maybe this isn’t fair when it comes to my Grandma.  After all, she suffered physically for a good portion of her life.  I could argue that her positive attitude kept her pushing on well past the expectations of the doctors.  If you want to live a happier, healthier life, you have to find a way to be positive.
      5. A positive attitude opens the doors to new opportunities.  Grandma had friends everywhere she went – in the neighborhood, at church, at the hospital, and even in the hospice center where she spent her final days.  Grandma also wasn’t afraid to try new things.  I remember her going for a lengthy swim against my Grandpa’s wishes when our family vacationed together in New Hampshire.  Grandma took off from the shore line and slowly paddles out several hundred yards to an island in the middle of Baptist Pond.  When you have a positive attitude, you will see doors opening for you.
      6. A positive attitude multiplies hope.  Hope is a key ingredient for life.  Hope provides a reason for living.  Grandma always held onto hope.
      7. A positive attitude is contagious.  If you want to positively impact the culture around you, put on a smile and learn to say thank you.  Before you know it, you will witness the rapid spread of positivity across the landscape of your life.
      8. A positive attitude fosters positive relationships.  No one could stay angry at my Grandma for very long.  Her positive attitude was the catalyst for positive relationships through her community, church, and family.  If you desire friendship, restoration, and unity, put on a positive attitude and see what happens next!

      When was the last time you had a positive attitude?  How did it impact you and others around you?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

      Stretch Quote – Expand Your Heart (@Daphne_Kingma)

      STRETCH QUOTE Expand Your Heart

      Today, see if you can STRETCH your heart and expand your love so that it touches not only those to whom you can give it easily, but also those who need it so much.

      Daphne Rose Kingma

      It’s easy to love the lovable.

      Who do you find it hard to love?

      What can you do to show them love today?