The informed opinion…

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

Harlan Ellison

Why do you believe what you believe? Do you believe something because you know it through experience and learning or simply because you want to believe it? More importantly, do you spend your time learning things that reinforce the opinion you already have or do you try and understand both sides of an issue before forming an opinion? It is my experience that many seek to learn and reinforce that which they want to believe. This is just ignorance by another name. To truly be informed one must be well-rounded and invest the time to really understand. Otherwise you are just a heretic with an opinion…

Can do…

“A lot of times people look at the negative side of what they feel they can’t do. I always look on the positive side of what I can do.”

Chuck Norris

What is your natural bias? Do you often find yourself on the negative side of the continuum or on the positive side? Depending on the situation it is completely normal to find yourself on both sides at times but what is your natural tendency?

I almost always default to a perspective that is action oriented and focused on change. I want to understand what I can do to impact a situation. In the absence of action and change, my default mode is to look for something I can do. This isn’t always positive, sometimes I can spend a lot of energy on things that I should be ignoring, but with time I am getting better at choosing when to “do” and when to ignore. How about you?

Faster?

“It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.”

Rollo May

If we just run faster, we can make up for poor planning, lack of preparation, laziness, etc. Or we can do the work ahead of time so we don’t have to scramble at the last minute. One choice is wise, the other is inefficient and unsustainable over time. Which one do you need to make? Will making the right one make you faster over the long run?

Help yourself…

“The gods help them that help themselves.” 

Aesop

What are you waiting on to get started? Good fortune? Favor from the gods? A sign that it is time for you to embrace your dreams? Waiting to get started never helped anyone move forward towards their dreams. What help do you need to get going? Write down the one thing you can do right now, this morning, this minute. Go get it…

Greater love…

“I believe our flag is more than just cloth and ink. It is a universally recognized symbol that stands for liberty, and freedom. It is the history of our nation, and it’s marked by the blood of those who died defending it.”

John Thune

Thank you. Thank you to all those who have protected our freedom and defended it with their lives. Today is not about a day off, a three day weekend, hamburgers or barbecue. Today is about Father’s who have lost sons and sons who have lost Fathers. Today is about Mother’s with an open wound that lasts forever and daughters that will forever miss their Mother’s voice. Today is a day of solemn gratitude for those that have given their lives so that we may be free. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 NIV.

Today, please pause to take a moment and express your gratitude for those who laid down their lives for us all.

Dwell on the right things…

“You must not under any pretense allow your mind to dwell on any thought that is not positive, constructive, optimistic, kind.”

Emmet Fox

Nothing good comes from dwelling on something that is negative, destructive, pessimistic or cruel. Those thoughts infect your behaviors and create actions that you will regret. On the other side finding a way to dwell on thoughts that are positive, constructive, optimistic and kind will have a remarkably positive impact on your actions. Dwell on the right things…

Casual is causal…

“Don’t take the casual approach to life. Casualness leads to casualties.”

Jim Rohn

Being casual is easy. It doesn’t take a lot of effort or energy. You just show up and life happens. But what happens when you simply change the placement of one letter in the word? If you take “cas’U‘al” and change it to “ca’U“sal” you can see the impact of “YOU.” Yes, that is cheesy and cliche but “U” have a choice and your choices have impact. Make them wisely and choose what you want the outcome to be.

Self-Righteousness…

“Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.”

Ezra Taft Benson

Doing the right thing is bigger than oneself. It is deeper than what you want to see or believe. You have to check your ego at the door because the minute the ego gets in the drivers seat, pride takes over and the definition of what is “right” can be altered. Which of the below is the person you want to be?

Self-Righteous – “confident of one’s own righteousness, especially when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others.”

Righteous – “characterized by uprightness or morality, acting in an upright, moral way; virtuous:”

Plan your work, work your plan…

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.”

Archilochus

If you want to run a marathon you don’t wake up on a Thursday morning and decide to go do run the race on Saturday. If you do you will not have a very good day! You have to set a goal, create a training plan, put in the effort day in and day out, and then you are ready to run the race. The same applies to anything else in life. If you aspire to something, you have to do the work to be ready for it. You have to do the training, whether that is mental, physical, or spiritual. You will then perform to the level of your training. If you don’t do the work, you can’t be disappointed if the results aren’t what you expected.

What are your expectations? What are things that you want to do or achieve? Have you created the training plan to make it happen? Are you doing the work?

Doer vs. thinker…

“We generate fears while we sit. We overcome them by action.”

Dr. Henry Link

What are you afraid of? What fears cloud your mind when you are sitting back thinking? How do you turn this into action and put those fears to rest?

Taking action always makes a challenge a little less formidable. Just the sheer act of expending energy towards a solution makes the thing, however daunting it might be, something that isn’t as scary and out of reach. All the planning and thinking in the world doesn’t give me the same relief as the first action towards something. Being a great “doer” is far more rewarding than being a great “thinker.”

Push versus pull…

“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.”

Booker T. Washington

The amount of effort and energy expended pushing people down in this world seems to outweigh that which is spent helping others. It’s hard to read or watch the news anymore because everything seems to have a political or negative bent. Being exposed to a continually negative environment can certainly influence how you leverage your own strengths and talents and we have to guard against that influence.

If you were to think of your daily energy spend how much of it would be spent on “pushing down” versus “pulling up?” Hopefully more is spent on the latter than the former. Thinking about this another way. What are your unique gifts and talents? How much time do you use leveraging these to help others versus pushing others down? What is one additional thing you can do today to pull someone up?

Celebrate these virtues…

“Modesty and unselfishness: These are the virtues which men praise, and pass by.”

Andre Maurois

How often do we ask for modesty and unselfishness in others, but not display it ourselves? I know that I am guilty of this far too often. When you think of why this happens think about what we recognize and reward in our culture. Do we celebrate these traits publicly or do we celebrate a culture of “me” and “mine?”

Which list do you use?

“The problem or situation I am in may not get better, but I can.”

Johnathan Scott

This morning at church I heard the quote above during the sermon and it reminded me of this picture that a friend of mine shared with me on Friday.

The top list will never help anyone improve a situation or a problem. The bottom list might not solve the problem, but doing these things will make oneself better. And that is truly what matters…

Ask the right question…

“Your strength doesn’t come from winning. It comes from struggles and hardship. Everything that you go through prepares you for the next level.”

Germany Kent

I am extremely competitive and I love to win. But I know that my losses and struggles have helped me grow and improve far more than any win or success in life. Overcoming obstacles is the key to growth and resilience. Though when you are in the midst of the struggle it can be hard to keep this in mind. I have found that asking myself this simple question can help me reframe and refocus for the future.

“What is God teaching me right now so that I can better serve and represent His Kingdom in the future?”

Pausing to answer this, and take my focus off of me and put it back on God, is how I recenter during a struggle. What works for you?

To break or build start small…

“They say the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.  The chains you put around yourself now have enormous consequences as you go through life.”

Warren Buffett

There are good habits and bad habits. The good habits take time and effort to build and the bad ones seems to be effortless, until they come back to haunt you… Trying to change bad habits, or instill good ones, can seem like a ton of effort if you take on too much. Starting small and building up is a great way to make or break a habit.

For example, a couple months I started seriously working on building a practice of daily meditation. I tried a 15-minute session out the gate but I wasn’t ready for that type of time yet commitment yet. Instead, I switched to starting with a 3-5 minute daily routine and built it up over a several month period. Now a 15-minute meditation session seems easy and I look forward to that time and absolutely won’t miss it. Building the new habit took time to for me to learn and ingrain the necessary skills. The same approach works for breaking a bad habit. Start small and build from there.

I think the key is to continually assess your life and review your habits both good and bad and see where you need to change. It certainly won’t happen by accident!

To achieve courage, start with discipline…

“Self-control is the chief element in self-respect and self-respect is the chief element in courage.”

Thucydides

This quote took some time for me to think through and meditate on the deep meaning behind the words. Clarity came for me when I started at the end and worked my way backwards through the quote. (Begin with the end in mind…) Below is my interpretation of each of these components and then the dictionary definition.

Courage = The ability to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of personal implications. The dictionary definition is: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

Self-Respect = The awareness one has for who you are, what you believe in and why you believe what you do. The dictionary definition is: “a proper respect for oneself as a human being.”

Self-Control = That ability and discipline to make decisions that limit the control the outside world and your emotions have over your actions. The dictionary definition is: “restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.”

Working my way backwards through these gave me these thoughts. If I want to demonstrate courage in my thinking and actions (which I do) then I must know who I am and what I believe in, i.e., self-respect. To have this degree of self-respect I must have (self)control over my emotions and impulses so that my behaviors are a product of choice, not a reflection of others or the outside world.

So, when thinking through it this way it brings these questions to mind. What are the areas of my life and decision making that need greater discipline and control? How do poor decisions, or lack of decision, lead to lessened self-respect? What is the courage I wish to have and how can I change myself through discipline and self-control? What changes can I make that will reflect outwardly who I am and what I believe?

Heavy stuff for early in the morning but something I found to be both clarifying and thought provoking.

Will over skill…

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

Zig Ziglar

There are some incredibly smart people in the world that unfortunately just can’t get out of their own way. It is always frustrating to see someone with tons of talent and ability have an attitude that is an anchor that just holds them back and ends up sinking them. How does this happen? Do they not get the feedback they need along the way? Do they not listen? How do we ensure that we never become one of “those people” with the bad attitude?

Self-discipline starts with why…

“Self-discipline is the ability to get yourself to take action regardless of your emotional state.”

Steve Pavlina

We all have bad days. Days where we don’t have energy, are upset, tired or frustrated. Heck, if we only did things when we wanted to do them then how much would ever get done in life?!

I would argue that the most impactful people aren’t those that do the best job when they are motivated and energized but instead are those that do the best job despite their motivation or energy level.

How do you do this? How do you ensure that your ability to deliver isn’t based on your current emotional state? I can only speak for myself in this regard and for me it is all about elevating my thinking to stay connected with the “why.” With a strong enough awareness of the “why” we are doing something then any emotional or other distraction can be dealt with and put aside. Without a strong connection to the why, any little molehill can become a mountain.

No whining!

“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.”

Denis Waitley

It is amazing how much time and energy is spent talking about (whining about) a problem as opposed to what needs to be done to address it. Either focus on the solution or let it go. Whining is a waste of time…

Gifts for your children…

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”

Denis Waitley 

I had a conversation with a friend the other day and we were discussing the things that we desire to instill in our children. The ‘gifts’ as it were that they will carry forward into life and will become part of their unique and special selves.

As I have reflected on this, and observed behaviors from other parents and children, it occurred to me that much like your own personal growth and development where you make choices on what is most important to focus on at a given time, the same is true with your children’s growth & development. At certain ages and stages you must instill certain gifts and beliefs or they will miss the importance of these lessons and will likely struggle to gain them later in life as they will be much harder lessons to learn as they grow older. It is our responsibility as parents to teach them and guide them so that as they grow up that they have a strong foundation to build upon.

I really like this quote because at foundational level these gifts of ‘responsibility’ and ‘independenc’e can serve them well throughout life. To that list I would add humility, service, respect, curiosity and a love of God. It’s not a complete list yet, but one that I am definitely going to be thinking more about. What would you put on your list?

Seek first to understand…

“Don’t judge someone’s choices without first knowing their reason.”

Robert Tew

One of my favorite of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is “seek first to understand, and then be understood.” I fully admit that I don’t always do a great job of following this principle but when it is done well, it is amazing how powerful it is. Gaining understanding and perspective is a powerful way to create alignment, respect and trust.

Today’s quote reminds me of the classic “Monday morning quarterback” syndrome. Oh how easy it is to look at decisions others have made and think how you might have done it better. We all do it, it is part of our human nature. But until we spend time reaching a hand out to learn, to understand, to help, then we are never going to be as impactful as we could be…

Anchor your change in your “why…”

“There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”

Aldous Huxley

When you are focused on improving are you doing it to serve yourself in order to get or achieve something? Or are you improving yourself with the perspective that through personal growth you can better serve others?

If you have read any of my posts in the past you know that I fervently believe that the essence of why we are here is to serve others. This can take many forms and styles and manifest in different ways throughout our lives. To serve more effectively we must grow and change ourselves or we cannot be all that God created us to become and thereby honor his purpose for our lives.

How does this relate to today’s quote? Change is hard, and personal growth is hard, and when you are embracing internal change, the kind that is done by pointing the finger at yourself and calling BS on your own shortcomings you have to have a deeply seated understanding of why the change is needed and who you are serving by taking on the change. If you lose sight of your why, then the change won’t stick or you’ll find yourself having walked down a path that isn’t aligned with who you are, and who you want to become…

Change others by changing yourself…

“Once you change, change happens. This is a big lesson. Expecting someone else to change is like pleading with a manufacturer to turn Twinkies into a green smoothie.”

Sadiqua Hamdan

Do you spend more of your time thinking about how others should change or how you could change your behaviors and actions that could help you both grow towards your goals? It is easy to point fingers and find fault with others but it is a little harder to level the same degree of criticism against yourself. Instead of focusing on someone else instead think of how much of your effort and action should be focused on where you need to change instead.

No one is going to change simply because you want them too, except for yourself. If you want it bad enough you’ll do the hard work. If you don’t, you won’t. Can you accept less than you are capable of simply because you don’t want to do the work?

Get up and go…

“The only person holding you back is you.  No more excuses.  It’s time to change.”

Tony Robbins

What do you want to accomplish? Who do you want to become? Where do you want to go? How do you want to live? Who do you want to serve?

Answer these questions, plan your work and then work your plan. We can always come up with a long list of reasons “why this or that won’t work” or “why this happened to me.” I am a firm believer that the only difference between ‘reasons’ and an ‘excuse’ is an action plan and the will to do something about it. Otherwise we will just wallow in our own self pity and our dreams will turn to dust. Get up and go. If you don’t you have no one to blame but yourself so make it happen.

Commit to caring…

“Show your contempt for the problem and your concern for the person.”

Jim Rohn

It’s so easy to get this backwards isn’t it? When something goes wrong or when there is a problem people can focus their efforts on the person and not on the problem itself. Statements like “it’s their fault,” or “they need to do it differently” are pervasive and occupy all the bandwidth. It seems like it is far easier to offer criticism and blame than it is to wrestle with the problem that is actually at hand.

Perhaps this happens because when you address the problem you are making the commitment to become part of the solution and when you are focused on the person you are removing yourself from the solution equation. So if you show that you care, you commit yourself to serving and helping another person. There is no room in life for blaming, condemning or criticizing others with no energy expended towards solving the problem.

Watch your thoughts today and see what your natural response is. If you don’t like it, change it…

Quiet success…

“Work hard in silence. Let success be your noise.”

Frank Ocean

Do you do the work for the glory, or for the joy of the work itself? If you make it all about the celebration it says that it is all about you. Is that the message you want to send and the life you want to live?

Define how you win or lose…

“It is your response to winning and losing that makes you a winner or a loser.”

Harry Sheehy

This is so true in all aspects of life. It is how we respond to anything that truly defines our character and puts it on display for the world to see.

When you win what is the list of characteristics that you would want others to see displayed in your words and actions? How about when you lose? Write that list down, sort them by importance, and then gut check yourself against that list when you have one of the wins or losses that we are all going to experience in life. Hold yourself accountable to responding in an intentional manner. That is what truly creates a winner…

Your personal board of directors…

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Proverbs 15:22

Who is on the “board of directors” for your life? The people that you trust to give you wisdom and perspective when you need guidance? Who are the people that will give you perspective and counsel when you don’t even know that you need it?

These are invaluable advisors because they will help you see the gaps in your plans and thinking and help you find ways to overcome them. The key is to make sure that you are fostering these relationships and ASKING for the input. If you have great plans, but don’t seek counsel, and then LISTEN to it, you are missing the entire point.

Do you have a list of people in your head as trusted advisors and councilors? If you don’t, make the list and foster those relationships.

Critical help…

“Let the improvement of yourself keep you so busy that you have no time to criticize others.”

Roy T. Bennett

Human natures seems to have a strong predisposition towards talking about, and criticizing, others. I know that I am certainly guilty of this. I wonder what would happen if we flipped the paradigm on its head and instead spent the time and energy on growing ourselves with the intent to help others? How powerful would it be if instead of asking ‘what’s wrong with them’ or ‘why can’t they do a better job at this or that?’ we instead asked the question, ‘how can I grow and develop myself with a goal to help them?’ Or, even more simply, ‘how can I help and serve them?’

If instead of criticizing someone today, challenge yourself to find a way to help them grow. Ask how can you make a difference and not just be a someone that is good at finding fault with others.

Attention stealers…

 “One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is the gift of attention.”

Jim Rohn

I fully admit that I love technology, gadgets and gizmos. I always have, I am a bit of a geek in this way. iPhone = Check – iWatch = check – iPad = check

In today’s world our technology can really be a distraction when trying to have a conversation with someone. The constant buzzes, beeps, dings and notifications serve to pull your attention away from whomever it is that you are talking with at any given time. It is hard to be fully focused and present when your attention is constantly being pulled in another direction.

Recently I started turning off all notifications on my watch and phone when sitting down with anyone because I realized the message I was unintentionally sending them was that I was too busy or interested in other things when I would get an alert and look at my phone or watch. It’s hard to do at first but then it becomes very liberating. It is still a work in progress for me, but something I am committed to improving each and every day.

What is getting in the way of your giving your full attention to someone? How do you take steps to change it so that when you are present you are fully present and engaged?

Find joy in the game…

“Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”

Mike Singletary

Surely we all play to win, but do we play for the win or for the sheer joy of the game itself? I think this applies to all aspects of life. How much of our lives are spent trying to get to the end result without truly appreciating the game we are playing at the moment? Instead life can be focused on skipping over the work, the fun, the real moments, just to achieve some goal that might not matter 10 years from now.

Today take a deep breath, pause, and ask yourself “Am I embracing the opportunities I have today to find the joy in whatever game I am in?”

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