From Feeling Stuck to Freedom

Feeling stuck? Yes, we all get there at different points in time during our lives. Summer is a great time to work through being stuck because we’ve typically got some extra downtime to work with, and long drives or hours on the beach with which to do the thinking. So if you’re feeling stuck here are some things to consider:

First, start with honesty. If you’re really serious about moving past being stuck, it starts with being honest about why you’re stuck and what’s making you feel stuck. Part of that honesty is knowing whether or not you’re willing to take the necessary actions to get over being stuck, or if you’re just in need of some venting time (and there’s nothing wrong with that).

Once you’ve decided that you are ready to make changes in your life and you’re done with being stuck it may help if you journal out your feelings and situations and examples, that way you can just dump and consider each issue after you’ve gotten it all out. You may have an idea of what’s frustrating you and holding you back, but writing it out can help reveal things you didn’t even know were an issue.

Then it’s time to talk about getting free. Freedom from being stuck will include new actions you’ll include and things you’ll remove from your life. It’s not likely that you’ll just add some things to your life (like eating more fruits and vegetables), it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be removing, decreasing or stopping some things as well (like the number of times you stop for ice cream each week).

Moving forward it may be right for you to go cold turkey and make some really big changes all at once, but for other people they’re just as successful taking it one smaller step at a time. Regardless of how you do it, make sure you’ve got the support you need to do it and you’ve told the important people in your life about the change you’re making so that they can try to be considerate of the life change you’re working on. Who knows, they may want to join you in making those changes as well!

So what’s got you feeling stuck this week and what are you going to do about it?

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Dealing with Difficult People

I’ve had conversations lately with some people about interpersonal relationships, especially with regards to dealing with difficult people. Sometimes you have to deal with these people because they’re coworkers or people in leadership at your job, others you can avoid or mostly avoid by not going to the same parties or events or just not being with them at the events. But before we get into dealing with these people I thought it would be important to talk about the ‘what if’ of what if you’re that difficult person?

For some people accepting or understanding that they’re the problem is difficult. Maybe they don’t realize how their words and behaviors affect others (which is usually easier to talk through) or maybe they believe they’re entitled and should be given special treatment and can treat people however they want (which means they may not care that you’re unhappy). It’s also never an easy conversation to have with someone, to tell them that they’re mean or disrespectful or inconsiderate. These types of conversations can go really poorly, they can go well and things can improve, and the conversation can go well but not lead to any real results or make any difference.

While I think everyone has room for improvement in their life, I don’t think we always have to point out to someone that there’s an issue. If it’s an issue that you can just vent to friends or family and you can just deal with it or you don’t really plan to stick around for long, you don’t really need to address it unless you really feel strongly about it.

Most people who deal with a difficult person can’t really lay down the law and be bluntly honest.  If you do it that way it’s a great way to get yourself in a lot of trouble or ruin a lot of relationships, unless that’s something you’re allowed to do, like a tough-love coach or consultant (think of Bar Rescue or some of the other TV shows with hosts who do company renovations).  In those cases they don’t have to be delicate about telling the difficult person how difficult they are. Sometimes they are completely aggressive about it, but typically they have the experience to be able to have a constructive but eye opening conversation with the difficult person about exactly how their behaviors are negatively impacting the people in their lives.

So for the rest of us, you want to address it, you’ve got a couple of options. If you think they’re receptive or they give you the opening (“I can’t understand why no one sticks around at this job?!”), you can start to bring it up and see how it goes. If you can’t wait for the potential opening and really feel that you have to say something, I would start with why you’re bothering to bring it up (for example that you’re really committed to the relationship you have with them or to the company you’re working for), tell them you’re not sure if they’re aware of it or not and politely explain how you feel, and then share some specific situations which have impacted you negatively, and what would be helpful to improving the situation.

In all honesty everyone has their difficult moments, but some people choose to make a lifestyle out of them, and some people fall into the bad habit of being difficult frequently.  I encourage you to take a moment this weekend and apologize to some people who you’re hurt recently when you were difficult, or consider if you’re one of those frequently difficult people who needs to make some changes.

Reality Reflection: Right and Wrong

Let’s be honest, no one really likes to be wrong. We sometimes find a little too much joy in others being wrong, but it’s not so much fun when we’re the issue or we did wrong. I’m secure enough in my relationship with my partner, as well as in my relationship with myself, to almost always be able to admit when I’m wrong. I’m not perfect in that if I don’t have to admit I’m wrong I may not, but when the situation calls for it I can admit I was wrong.

When it comes to being wrong, we’re not usually completely wrong, typically we’re at least partially right or moving in the right direction. Which brings me to the questions that I wanted to talk about today: “what if you were right?” and “what if you were wrong?”

The reason I want to spend time talking about these questions is because they can really open up your perspective and get you to think more creatively about what is possible. What if you were right about how perfect you and your partner are for each other? What if you were right that the weather won’t be too bad tomorrow? What if you were right that you’re worth more as an employee? What if you were right that dogs are the best animal on the planet? What if you were right that you’ve got a dream worth pursuing? What if you were right about your boss being a sexist jerk? What if you were right about the bad direction one of your kids was going in? What if you were right about your partner never changing into the person you thought they were? If you were right what would you do or what would be different in your life?

But what if you were wrong? Would your life fall apart? Would you be able to repair a relationship? Would you spiral into a depression? Would you be able to keep your head high? Would you be able to move away? Would you be able to start over? Would you be able to make new friends? Would you be able to try something new? Would you be able to pay the fine? Would you be able to admit you’re wrong and move on to making changes so you can be right?

What would change in your attitude, your perspective or your hope if you were right or wrong? I encourage you to take time considering these questions as we begin this new week, and seeing how they can open your mind to a different, hopefully better, future.

A Fruitful Year

With the beginning of a new year there’s a lot of talk about what we all want to do differently or how we want to have a better year than previous years. Those are great things to think about, but more than just the things you’re going to do, what about who you’re going to be this year? What changes are you going to make in your heart, mind and soul this year? What changes and experiences will God bring you through to help you grow and bring you closer to becoming the person He’s created you to be? I think a great starting point for who we’re going to be this year is Galatians 5:22-23a:

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

One of the best changes you can make in your life and goals to have is to become a more loving, joyful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and/or self-controlled person because this will overflow into other areas of your life improving them as well. You’ll have better relationships, improved self-esteem, a better attitude and deeper connection with God when you make the Fruit of the Spirit an active part of your life. Yes, it’s great to work on improving your finances, getting a better job/career, having a healthier relationship, losing weight or spending more time doing the things you love, which is what many people choose as their resolutions, but they’re all directly impacted by other people and the world around us. While the Fruit of the Spirit are things that you work on in your life, without needing any agreement, support, allowance or input from anyone else.

You can choose to work on them all at the same time, pick one to focus on all year, work on one each month, or pick one out of a hat or box each day to work on that day. Plus, there are lots of great devotionals that you can read throughout the year as well to support you in learning about and growing in these Fruit. Will you join me in incorporating the Fruit of the Spirit into your life this year?

Faith for the New Year

When I look back over the past year, I can’t help but be thankful.  There were a lot of struggles and there were several not-so-good moments.  But there were so many lessons that I learned that have made me a better person, and have definitely encouraged me as I look forward to 2018.  I may not have all the answers yet, but I do know that changes and improvements are coming.  John Wooden eloquently states it:

“Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books – especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.”

A new year is an opportunity for change, but in truth any change can be made at any time.  You can choose today to read your Bible again, you can choose today to fix your relationship with your partner or your kids, you can choose today to make better food choices, or you can choose today to let it all go and step into the plan that God has for your life. As Jeremiah 29:10a-13 says:

“”I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.””

I encourage you to listen to the plans God has for your life in this new year.  What changes or additions will you make to your life this year, especially in regards to the spiritual aspects?

Stay The Course

As we finish up our look at success today I want to share one more thought on it, one last challenge and encouragement with you. One of the things that is awesome about the world we live in as well as challenging is how fast things happen, change, grow and evolve. I think one of the reasons we struggle so much with the changes that happen is because most of us haven’t developed the ability to change this fast physically or mentally. Some of us have gotten good at adapting to the constant changes, and even thrive with them, and others of us have worked really hard at backing off the fast path and are enjoying life in the slow lane.

But for most of us we’re in between these two extremes, we’re dealing with all the changes, but not as well as we could or should and thus we get frustrated and overwhelmed. Then when we add success aspirations to the mix we sometimes have to make the choice to deal with the changes in our life or the changes in the success journey because we can’t manage both. I get it, I’ve been there. It’s not easy to make the choice of which to deal with. But what if you didn’t have to choose between life or success?

The first thing you do is choose that you don’t have to be involved or check out or do every change. You don’t need to upgrade with every new phone on the market, you don’t need to join every social network, you don’t need to sell to everyone, you don’t need to try every product, you don’t need to do everything others want to do. You have to choose how much time you’re going to spend doing things, which people you’re going to spend your time with and what matters most to you. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but don’t feel that you have to try everything new.

The second thing you need to do is be persistent and stay the course. Sometimes the solution is to just keep working on things. Yes, some days you’ll give a little more attention and effort to your success efforts, but other days you’ll put the extra effort and attention to the life things. But countless leaders and successful individuals will tell you that they’re successful because they put one foot in front of the other and kept going. Day after day, story after story, action after action, effort after effort, you keep going.

Don’t give up on your success or the challenges you’ve had because you’re overwhelmed with changes, make the changes work for you, and take your time to work through the changes.

“We try to flee what troubles us, whether literally or figuratively, and God invites staying present… remain and find God here.” Br. Luke Ditewig

Looking Beyond the Ruins

My heart hurts with the people of Vegas as they struggle to navigate the aftermath of the shooting. As much as we may try to do the right thing and encourage others to do the right thing as well, there will continue to be people who are evil and don’t have good in their hearts. With the tragedy in mind, I thought we’d take a look at the words of Isaiah 51:3:

“The Lord will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.”

No where in the Bible does God or any of the writers make light of the challenges that we face on earth. Look at Job; no matter what way you look at his situation, he experienced some really tough stuff, Elisha and Elijah were both treated to some natural and supernatural situations and disasters, Abraham didn’t doubt that God could destroy a city, and Saul/Paul accepted being shipwrecked and bitten by a snake, and those are just a few examples of the people in the Bible. Today it’s no different, whether we’re looking at attacks, genocides, money issues, economic troubles, bad leaders or natural disasters, you can’t honestly expect that you’ll “escape” this life without incident. But the good news is that God promises that even with the bad days, good days will follow.

I don’t think God sits up in heaven and shakes His finger at us and says “that’s what you deserve!!”, I think He feels our pain and knows that we’re struggling. Jesus certainly, after spending days in the desert, knows what it’s like to feel desolate and deserted by life, as many of us have seen with neighborhoods completely dark and cold after this hurricane.

What Isaiah says towards the end is what captures my attention: he says that the joy will be found in the barren, now reborn, wilderness. Where there wasn’t much promise, now there is. Where there wasn’t anything worth living for, now there is. What only brought sadness and anger, now brings joy and gladness.

The choice that Israel had to make, and we have to make today, is the choice of how we react to the wilderness. Are we going to react with frustration and anger that we’re in ruins? Are we going to go beyond the reality and see the potential in the future and reach for it with hope and thanksgiving? It’s not about ignoring the bad, or bypassing it. In truth it’s important to see the ruins and come to terms with the tragedy. Not only does that give you perspective for the future, it’s also healthy to grieve for what you’ve lost. But just like the story of Jesus doesn’t end at the sealed tomb, our stories can’t end with us grieving for what we’ve lost. We have to choose to be grateful for what and who we have in our lives.

This week I hope you’ll join me in looking for ways to turn wildernesses into gardens and bringing life back into an area, and a country, that used to be vibrant and full of hope. What are you thankful for?