New Year’s Analysis

I don’t do new year’s resolutions. I don’t find the new year to always be the most effective time to start something new or make such a big change. It works well for some people, but unfortunately too often the idea of new year’s resolutions doesn’t live up to the potential. Most of us do better with more concrete motivation than just a ‘new year.’ For example, people get in shape when faced with the upcoming summer outdoor season, they work on relationships when faced with a holiday or big life event, and they clean the house when they know company’s coming. That said, even if you do make a new year’s resolution, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it all year long, you may make the change in the next few weeks and not have to working on fixing it for the next 11 months.

So if you’re not into resolutions, or even if you are, the new year is a great time to evaluate where your life is at and what does need to change, whether the time is right to change things now or it’s coming up in the future. We don’t always take the time to do a serious evaluation of our lives, habits, relationships and plans, but a new year with a fresh and empty calendar, can be a great time to do so. A big part of dealing with dissatisfaction and making improvements in our lives has to do with taking the time to really evaluate where we’re at and exactly what the issue or cause is.

So this week I would encourage you to take some time to really think about what’s frustrating you or what you would like to improve or how you want to grow or ways that you’re hindering yourself. Take the time to write down each of these things and explore a little around the feelings, actions, reactions, frequency and situations of each and how they’re impacting your life. Maybe this list will motivate you to make changes or at least plan for changes in the near future, but even if it doesn’t I bet it will reveal some interesting things to you. What will you learn from a little introspection analysis?

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An Easter Refresh

One of the things I love about Easter is it’s a reminder of the fresh start that we get with our relationship with God. Sometimes it’s important to be persistent and really see things through, but there’s something almost magical about new things. I’m not a huge fan of having 4 seasons, personally I prefer it to be a bit warmer all year long, but where I live there are 4 seasons, and we get all 4 every year. But as much as I sometimes find the change of seasons to be challenging, there’s something magical about the season of spring. There’s just no way to truly describe the feeling of wonder and excitement that you feel when you see those cherry blossoms begin to appear and little yellow forsythia blossoms appear practically everywhere after months of living in shades of primarily gray, brown and white.

On the first Easter morning all those years ago people woke up feeling disappointed and hurt, until they found the grave empty and learned that Jesus actually did what He said and rose again. His rising means that not only are we given the opportunity of eternal life, but we’ve also got the ability to be forgiven of our past and have a fresh start. Easter is like that big fresh start that appears each spring, but sometimes what you need isn’t that big refresh, but rather a smaller one. One of the things I’ve always been amazed by are morning glories. They flower for a few hours at the beginning of each day in the summer and then they close up. Yes, all the greenery in the summer is amazing, but there’s nothing like waking to find an explosion of color waiting for you on your deck or fence or wherever you have them.

But Easter isn’t the only fresh start we get, it’s not a one-and-done thing. We can have a fresh start any day, at any time. We can choose to sing a new song, have a new conversation, make a new friend, think a new thought or have a new attitude whenever we want or need. But we only get that start if we’re willing to let go of the past and move into the future. That takes a measure of trust in God as well as ourselves, in knowing that He’s got something better for us in the future, and that we can ride out the changes and be strong enough to resist whatever lures our past, recent or distant, may have. What will you do with your fresh start?

“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

Reality Reflection: What’s Enough?

This week I’ve been contemplating a difficult topic in our world of consumerism and extreme focus on success and wealth. If you’ve been in the self-help industry for a while, especially the success and career related portions, you’ve probably run across people who say they can help you grow exponentially, and they talk about the people they’ve helped earn multi-six figures and millions (or more) each year. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making good money and with being financially well-off. Having financial resources can make many things in your life easier, and you’ve got lots of opportunities to invest in others and in our world. So here’s the question: is it OK if I don’t really want to make millions each year?

I know it may sound like a silly question, but really, there are people who would be very happy with a fraction of the money some of us make (even if we’re only making 30k per year). Yet I also understand how valuable (and powerful) someone can become when they have all those resources at their disposal. And some people find the thought of having that much wealth intimidating or even fear-inducing. Yet I understand that for some of us that by really living our life purpose we’re going to make lots of money. So is it wrong to want to (or actually) make lots of money, and/or is it wrong to not want to make lots of money?

I think it’s OK to be comfortable where you are as long as you’re covering your basic needs (and the needs of your kids or others under your direct care), and have at least a little plan for the future. It’s also OK to want to earn more and to put in the effort that will get you there. I think it comes down to two questions: are you at peace with where you are financially in your life and are you fulfilled? If you’re not at peace and not fulfilled then it’s time to make some changes to your life and start making more money. That doesn’t mean you have to make millions, just more, and while you may not be ready for millions today, there may be a day down the road that you will be. What are your thoughts on how much is “enough”?

Learning to Listen

In our lives we have lots of questions and issues that pop up.  We don’t have all the answers, nor will we ever get all the answers.  But I believe there’s a lot of good advice out there, should we only take the time to look for it or listen to it.

There are tons of people around the world who can give us advice.  That advice isn’t always right for us, the same thing doesn’t work for everyone.  But if we’re not able to see the real issue or think we’ve exhausted all possibilities and we’re stuck, getting advice from someone else is the best course of action, rather than choosing to stay stuck.  I’m a big believer in the power of education and learning, and getting outside opinions is one of the best ways to work through an issue you may have or discover what the real issue is that you weren’t even aware of.

Listening to advice is one of the hardest things to do.  It’s not easy to hear someone else’s opinions or judgments on something we worked really hard on or something we really like, but their advice may give you the motivation and freedom to do something you’ve been debating or try a course of action rather than stay stuck.  If we can get over ourselves, our pride and our self-reliance and open up to the possibility that someone else may have some good ideas and may be able to offer some good insights, there are tons of people willing to give their opinions (educated or not) about your challenges.

No, not everything is relevant to everyone.  It’s important that when you’re given advice you take time to think about it before acting on it or dismissing it.  Don’t reject it because it’s too simple or too hard or because it doesn’t sound like something you want to do or would work for your situation.  Instead ask them to clarify and give you some more insights on the aspects that particularly challenge you.  Ask them to address the specific concerns you have.  And if after you’ve really talked it through it still doesn’t seem like a good fit, then maybe you should ask for some other advice or advice from someone else.

No one knows everything, so no one can give perfect advice all of the time.  Take all the advice you receive with a grain of salt, but always be open to learning new things and seeing things from a new perspective.

Passion: Present and Future

As we finish out last month’s talk on health, I want to talk about something that is sometimes necessary: starting over.  I was thinking about finishing September and getting one step closer to the end of this year and the start of a new one and I was reminded that sometimes you have to keep trying things to see where you fit in throughout your life.  What worked for you as a younger person may not work for you as an adult at this stage of your life, and what works now may not work for you in a few years.

As I was thinking about this I heard more about the phenom that is Tim Tebow.  If you’re not familiar with him, he was a college football star. He won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore and continued his record setting career through the rest of his college years.  He spent a few years playing Pro football, having a few very successful (some would say lucky) plays and games, but ultimately retired in 2012.  He went on to do some broadcasting, but decided it wasn’t the right fit for him and moved to pro baseball in 2016 to quite a few heckles and jeers, but managed to hit a home run on his first at bat.

What interests me about the transitions he’s done in his life is that he keeps trying.  He was a fantastic college football player, but as it sometimes happens he wasn’t built for pro football.  Many people after they finish their pro career go to broadcasting or some related sports non-activity, which he tried.  But for some just being near something isn’t enough, they have to be truly immersed in it, as seems to be true for Tebow.

I would say the message here is two-fold.  First, that you should never give up on your passions.  Second, that you may have to keep trying and reinventing to get to your best.  Don’t give up because past success isn’t working in the present, instead, pick yourself up and try something else.

Reality Reflection: What’s the Rush?

I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately and it’s one of the things that reminds me the most of what a rush so many people are in around the world. We rush while driving, eating, buying, working, relating and planning, not to mention the ways we depend on the internet and travel related technologies to connect us all. I can’t imagine what people from Titanic’s day when SOS was new “technology” would have thought about our big inter-connected world, and the speed at which we do things normally now.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the internet very much, and the ability to travel by car or plane rather than foot or horse, and to not have to grow all my own food. But the need to go 100 mph, turn at the last second on yellow/red, walk anywhere (not just crosswalks), have instant replies to our emails and calls, and expect gourmet food in 10 minutes or less is getting to be a bit much for me. It almost makes me reconsider living in such a busy area.

The irony of this discussion is that the places that remind me most of how busy the world is and what a rush so many of us are in, are places like highways that are on the side of a mountain so miles can be seen beyond, jobs where people just want to finish the day and not change the world, or restaurants where people are so busy trying to stuff their faces with their partners or families, rather than taking time to build their relationships with the people they’re with.

The increasing presence of violence in the news has been a reminder to me, and many others, of how uncertain life really is. You don’t know if you’ll get to see another sunset, hold another worm, have another lazy Sunday afternoon, watch another hummingbird fly from flower to flower, meet someone from a career you’ve always been curious about, try that exotic cuisine, be in a relationship that thrills you or watch your kids do their sports (or other activities) again. Stop saying you’ll do it “tomorrow” and step up today.

Reality Reflection: The Setting Sun

This week I’ve been thinking about changes and happened to see a beautiful setting sun.  We all have seasons where the sun sets on parts of our lives.  Sometimes it’s the death of a family member or close friend, sometimes it’s a job or career change, sometimes it’s a new place to live and other times it’s smaller like the end of a brand or product we loved.  The transition time isn’t something we do well with or enjoy all the time.  Endings and partings aren’t things we always enjoy either, and they can be difficult and painful, and sometimes confusing especially if you weren’t expecting it.

Some of us get stuck in the change and transition process, others of us can’t let go of the past, and some of us are so busy moving forward that we don’t grieve and let go of the past.  I think in most cases it’s important to take time to remember the past, work through the transition and move forward.  I don’t think we should skip any of these steps, whether our past was bad or good.  Learning from a bad past is helpful, but it’s also important to take time to cement the memories of the good things you have had or experienced.  Yes, life is about moving forward and living to the fullest, but part of that fullness is the past that has brought you to this point.

This weekend, this summer, I encourage you to take time to enjoy the setting sun as well as the rising sun.  With the late summer nights and early summer mornings there are lots of opportunities to see the sun and remember it as part of your life.  I remember lots of trips as a child where we would watch the rising or setting sun while driving and a few thunderstorms too.  Those are treasured memories from my childhood and I am thankful for them.  Choose to find the beauty in the endings in your life this summer, not just the joy in the future or relief of leaving the past.