Give the gift…

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

William Arthur Ward

For some reason this reminds me of the age old philosophical question of, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?”  If you feel grateful to another person, but don’t share it, does it have the impact it could? I am HUGE proponent of daily journaling and specifically of keeping a gratitude journal.  Writing down the 3-5 things each day that I am grateful for, and why, has really been impactful in my life over the past 3-4 years.  To learn more check out this article on The Transformative Power of Gratitude.

As I read this quote it makes me think that perhaps I have been stuck in first gear regarding my gratitude habit. I journal daily about what I am grateful for, but I haven’t made sharing that gratitude a daily priority.  There are so many incredible gifts that we receive in life, isn’t the best and most appropriate response to simply say thank you?

Take it to the next level…

“Whenever you see a successful person, you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them.”

Vaibhav Shah

10 years ago Guy Ritchie teamed up with Nike to make an ad for the 2008 World Cup that shows a local league soccer player making it to the big dance.  What I love about this ad is that it doesn’t show only the glitz and glamour, though it does show plenty, but it also shows the hard work, the effort, the sacrifices, the puking…  All the effort that went into making it to the “next level” is never seen by the fans in the stadium.

In today’s world everyone seems to covet the trappings and glories of those who are successful but very few understand or embrace the thousands of sacrifices it took someone to to get there.  

Ultimately I believe real success isn’t measured in public glories and in the spoils of victory.  Success is defined by the person you become, and who you impact by how you live your life.  For me achieving “success” and getting to the “next level” means digging deep and focusing on who I want to become and making that a priority over having comfort and ease in the here and now.  Those might never become “public glories” and I am perfectly fine with that. 

 

Plan your work, work your plan…

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

Stephen Covey

Why is this easier said than done?  I know all too often I look at my calendar to see what I have coming for the week instead of starting with my goals and then scheduling time to work on those things that are most important.  It is a case of reacting versus being proactive with my time.  

There aren’t enough hours in the day, so how you choose to invest them is critical.  What is the one thing that you want to get done this coming week to ensure that you can meet your goals?  Have you intentionally set aside the time to get it done?  The time will pass, how to spend the time is up to you.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”

Paulo Coelho

I love Paulo Coelho’s book “The Alchemist.”  It is one of my favorite reads and another book that I try to read at least once a year.  If you haven’t read it is the story of a young shepherd boy who is on a desperate search for a worldly treasure.  He keeps his eyes open along the way and pays attention to the many omens that he finds to bring him to the treasure he truly seeks.  It is an easy book to read and carries much deeper meaning than what is available at first glance.  

What does it mean for you to “concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want?”  For me it means clearly answering, with great detail, these questions:

What does success look like?  What is it we are trying to achieve?  What will it feel like when we get there?  How will we know we have achieved our goal?  What would prevent us from getting there?  These are key questions and ones that cannot afford to be overlooked when planning out our goals.  Far too often I find that we have good ideas but don’t put in the effort to clearly define what exactly it is that we are trying to achieve.  

For me “keeping your eyes open” is doing the hard work up front to paint a crystal clear vision for yourself of what it is that you want to accomplish.  Without this it is just muddy and subject to many detours and deviations along the way.  It reminds me of Yogi Berra’s quote, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”  

 

 

Start today!

“You will never win if you never begin.”

Helen Rowland

Starting something new can often be the hardest part.  The work can appear to be  overwhelming when you look at the goal and how much needs to be done to make it a reality.  The key is to break whatever it is into the smallest tasks and just start today.  

I signed up for my first Ironman race having only done one sprint triathlon and one half marathon. I was in way over my head and had no business trying to take on that extreme of an endurance race.  But when the race morning arrived one year later I was very relaxed and I knew, barring any unforeseen accidents, I had already won the day and finished the race.  It wasn’t because I had discovered some unknown physical gifts, it was simply because one year earlier I had committed to my goal and then planned my work out to achieve that goal. The Ironman race itself ended up being a reward for all the work that happened in the year it took to prepare.  Finishing the race was the easy part once I had a plan and committed to the daily effort.  Just starting every single day with the task for the day was the key.

Whatever it is that you want to achieve find the one small thing that you can do to start today and do it.  Even if it is simply writing the goal down and capturing why it is important.  It starts today.

Who is in your circle of trust?

“Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.”

W. Clement Stone

I recently read that not only are we shaped by our five closest friends but in reality we are also shaped but their five closest friends.  Think about that for a minute.  You are not only a product of the people you spend time with but those they spend time with as well.

I love the wisdom outlined in this quote but when I first read it I did so through the lens of it being cautionary and therefore negative.  I prefer to think of this through a positive lens of being intentionally purposeful about who you spend time with and therefore who you let be an influence on your life.  It also makes me pause and think about the responsibility we have to those who are closest to us in our friend network.  Heavy stuff.

Who are you intentionally inviting into your life and in essence asking them to be part of the environment that forms who you are as a person?  Is it accidental or intentional?

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

What your problem isn’t, and what it is…

“Let me take some pressure off. Your problem is not discipline. Your problem is not organization. Your problem is not that you have yet to stumble upon the perfect schedule. And your problem is not that the folks at home demand too much of your time. The problem is this: there’s not enough time to get everything done that you’re convinced—or others have convinced you—needs to get done.”

Andy Stanley

Sometimes I read a quote and it just hits me between the eyes.  This is one of those.  Let me start by saying that Andy Stanley is one of my absolute favorites.  He has a special gift and if you ever get a chance to hear him speak please take full advantage of it.  He is exceptional.

There’s not enough time.  Period.  End of story.  It just can’t all be done.  When you come to terms with this fact it is liberating.  Give up the feeling of failure and insufficiency and and instead embrace the feeling of control, define what is most important and say yes to only those things.  Easy to say but oh so hard to do.  

I know that the challenge for me is figuring out just how close to the edge I can walk without falling over. I need to be uncomfortably close to the limit in order to feel challenged and inspired.  I must be stretched in order to grow.  The question that I am really pondering right now is whether or not I am choosing the right things to stretch for  Not only do we need to say “no,” we need to choose the right “yes’s.”  

 

Step over the edge…

“I have not always chosen the safest path. I’ve made my mistakes, plenty of them. I sometimes jump too soon and fail to appreciate the consequences. But I’ve learned something important along the way: I’ve learned to heed the call of my heart. I’ve learned that the safest path is not always the best path and I’ve learned that the voice of fear is not always to be trusted.”

Steve Goodier

Life is meant to be lived leaning forward. We are built to push, stretch our abilities, and go beyond what we think we can do.  God created us to serve others and He doesn’t limit our ability to do this, but instead gives us the capacity to choose how to serve, how to grow, how to push.  He gives us both the ability and the choice.  

But we can’t grow if we aren’t all the way at the edge of our comfort zone, peering past what is “safe” and into what could be.  We can’t and won’t grow if we aren’t at the edge of fear.  I am reading an absolutely fascinating book titled “Willpower Doesn’t Work” that highlights how much more we can grow when we are uncomfortable, when we intentionally create an environment that forces us to grow and change.  I can’t put it down and while I haven’t finished it yet I can already tell this is going to be one of those books that joins my annual reading list to help push me forward and jumpstart growth whenever I become comfortable and complacent.  

I love this quote today because it reminds me that if I want to grow, I must be willing push beyond safety and into the unknown.  My heart can guide me, but only if I am willing to listen and then take the step towards becoming the person God created me to be.  

This magic moment…

“Be present. I would encourage you with all my heart just to be present. Be present and open to the moment that is unfolding before you. Because, ultimately, your life is made up of moments. So, don’t miss them by being lost in the past or anticipating the future.”

Jessica Lange

Full disclosure.  I really struggle with being able to follow the wisdom provided in this quote.  I don’t disagree with it at all, I just have a harding time actually following it.  As a person that is deeply wired to be goal driven and future oriented I miss being in the current moment far too often.  Being present is hard.  It is easier to live in the future or get lost while revisiting the past. 

20 years ago someone told me that if I “spent all my effort focused on the goal I would miss out on the learning and joy that comes from the journey itself.”  This is so very true, and yet still so hard to do.  But to be present is where the future is created.  The moments we are in today are creating the future we want to have.  The moments can be magic…

 

Making a living isn’t enough…

“Don’t just aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference.”

Denzel Washington

What is our purpose here on this world, beyond making a living?  I know many people who have chased the “make a living” dream only to end up bitter and unhappy.  On the flip side, I also know, and greatly admire, many people who have made it their life’s mission to make a difference on and in the lives of others.  Those are the people that I have great admiration fore because they clearly aspire to, and know how, to make a difference.    

When I think of this quote it reminds me of one of the most convicting sermons I’ve ever heard. In it the pastor asked a very simple but very powerful question.  “Who is going to be in the Kingdom of Heaven because of how you have lived your life?” It stopped me and made me think about how I live my life on a daily basis and that all of those actions matter.  Every part of life is an act of prayer and worship and I had to be intentional with my actions and not just aspire to be in church on Sunday.  

I will say that I think what is missing from this quote is the conversion of aspiration into action.  Don’t just aspire, find a way to do.  Start small, but start immediately.  Make a difference in your world today through your intentional choices & actions.

Nothing Else Matters…

“Without a deadline, baby, I wouldn’t do nothing.”

Duke Ellington

One of the reasons that I started this blog was to enhance my writing skills and to create progress towards my goal of writing a book.  What do I want that book to be about?  I have no idea yet, but I know that I want to write one.  Reading books has been one of the greatest joys and key differentiators in my life and I have a desire to create something that will serve others and perhaps bring joy or value to them.  But, without a deadline, it will never happen.  

Why not?  All the same excuses and reasons that everyone has for not doing things they say they want to do.  “I’m too busy, life gets in the way, I don’t have time, it isn’t a priority, etc.”    (This is fodder for a separate post but what is the difference between a reason and an excuse?  An action plan with a deadline…)  

By starting this blog I now have a daily deadline to write something.  Progress towards my goal will only happen when I impose a deadline and hold myself accountable for meeting it. 

By the way, the framework of problem solving that I often use is the classic, “Why, How, What, Who, When.”

  • Why – Why do I want to do it?
  • How – How am I going to get it done?
  • What – What am I going to do?
  • Who – Who’s help do I need or Who will I impact?
  • When – When will I have it done.  

Without when, nothing else matters.  It’s all just noise and wishful thinking.  

Deadlines are worthless without accountability.  Change is a choice.  Growth is a choice.  Starting a new habit is a choice.  Stopping a bad habit or behavior is a choice.  The most critical component to these choices?  Establishing the when, and holding yourself accountable to meeting that deadline.  

“Without a deadline, baby, I wouldn’t do nothing.”  This might be one of the most brutally self-aware statements I’ve ever read.  Just remember, without a deadline, nothing else matters…    

What’s your deadline to do something different and achieve one of your goals? 

 

 

Kill the can’t…

Nothing limits achievement like small thinking; nothing expands possibilities like unleashed imagination.”

William Arthur Ward

Can’t” is such a powerful word. It is the creator of small thinking and I believe it’s usage is the key indicator of our own limiting beliefs. How often do you use “can’t” in your day to day thinking and speaking? How are you governing your potential?

Here’s a challenge.  Actively keep track today of how many times you use “can’t” today in your thoughts, your conversations, your leadership.  Where and when are you using it and what is being limited because of a “can’t” belief?  

If you want to unleash imagination, you have to kill “can’t.”  

There are just two types of people…

“We can choose to be affected by the world or we can choose to affect the world. ”

Heidi Wills

For as long as I can remember one of the driving principles of my life has been the belief that there are just two types of people in the world.  Those who the world happens to, and those who happen to the world.  I have always focused on being in the latter category.

Today’s quote says basically the same thing but with a  slight different perspective. Is it overly simplistic and generalizing?  Probably.  But just maybe it isn’t.  Happiness is a choice. Determination is a choice. Focus is a choice. Everything we do is a choice we have the freedom to make.  

I think many people, myself most certainly included, get lost in the “big picture.” Because we can’t control what happens at the macro level we choose not to manage ourselves at the micro level. But we have to choose to affect the world at the micro level, taking ownership of our decisions and behaviors daily.  When we do this we have much more influence on the world around us.

When you wake up in the morning are you going to define your day, or be defined by the day that happens to you? Ask yourself tonight which person you were today.  Did you affect your world?

The ripple effect…

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Nelson Mandela

close up water drop photography

Life (and leadership) is like tossing a pebble into a pond.  A big splash and then nothing remains on the surface.  

Except that’s not really true is it?  There are always ripples leading away from where your toss landed.  

It’s interesting that when you toss a pebble the ripples have to move away from the point of impact.  No matter how much we want to make life about ourselves, or try to focus on our own wants and needs, our behaviors and actions send waves out that intersect with others and impact their lives, for positive or negative effect.  

What is the impact that you want to happen today based on the pebbles you toss?  Are you tossing pebbles without thinking of the effect beyond yourself?  Are you living a life that will impact others and that they will say was significant?  

 

 

Walking a path of purpose…

“I truly believe that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we’re all teachers – if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door.”

Marla Gibbs

One of the most profound exercises I have ever done in my life was the creation of a  “Faith Map”  timeline.  In this exercise I created a map of the people that God has put into my life to further my journey.  I call it a faith map because I literally drew it out on large paper so I could visualize the impact that people have had on my life and understand the broader picture.  Taking the time to think through all the  people that I have been blessed to know is truly astounding. I can say with absolute certitude that I wouldn’t have nearly the blessings I have today I certain people hadn’t been placed on my path. If you are interested in digging deep and doing a similar exercise sit down and ask yourself these questions:

  • How did I get here?  Who specifically influenced my journey? (I find it easier to start with more recent relationships)
  • What did I learn from them?  How did they influence my journey?
  • Where would I be without that intentional nudge?  What would my life be like?

I know it sounds corny, and it probably is, but for me it gave me a much greater sense of how intentionally God has worked in my life.  It gives rise to an interesting question.  Because God was so intentional with our creation that he knows every hair on our head and we were created in God’s image, doesn’t that mean are supposed to be intentional with how we spend our lives?  

 

 

 

Start. Stop. Continue.

“The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.”

Oswald Chambers

This might be the biggest challenge a leader faces. For that matter it might be the biggest challenge any person faces.  Saying “yes” to something means that you are saying “no” to something else.  

Do you have a crystal clear understanding of your priorities?  I’d like to think that I do, but honestly I struggle at times to say “no.” There is always more than can be done than should be done. For me it helps to break the question into two parts.  

  1. Should I do this?  Does it align with my priorities and goals?
  2. If yes, then can I do it?  If I say yes will I be able to complete it at an acceptable level without impacting my previous commitments?  

Sounds easy right.  If only that were the case.  

Time keeps on slipping into the future…

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

Earl Nightingale

The first thing that I thought of when I read this quote was the great Steve Miller Band song “Fly Like an Eagle” Not sure it had a direct correlation of meaning but the opening lyric really says it all for me, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future.”  That’s what time does right?  Next year becomes next month, becomes tomorrow, becomes today, and then it is just a memory.  Unless we DO more.  Unless we make the time today count.  Then it has the chance to not just be our memory anymore but might even become THE MEMORY for someone else. What on earth am I talking about?  Listen further into the song.  

“I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I’m free
Oh, Lord, through the revolution”

Eagles inspire.  People see them flying and they are so majestic and grand.  I think that people who work hard to achieve their dreams do the same thing.  They inspire, they motivate, they plant within others the spark they might need to follow their own dream(s).  So think of this.  What if you by NOT chasing your dream you aren’t only stealing from only yourself?  What if you are also impacting someone else’s ability to make their dreams come true because they won’t have you their “fly like an eagle” and show them the way?  The time is going to pass, what are you going to do with it both for you AND for others?

What if you impact others the most by chasing your dreams in a way that inspires them?

“Feed the babies
Who don’t have enough to eat
Shoe the children
With no shoes on their feet
House the people
Livin’ in the street
Oh, oh, there’s a solution”

One step forward…

“You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.”

Abraham Maslow

Growth is uncomfortable if you are stretching yourself.  It’s fun right?!  It’s exciting and it’s scary.  But in a good scary kind of way.  The kind of scary that makes your heart beat fast and your palms sweat.  Like the first day you drove a car by yourself.  Or the first time you had the courage to pick up the phone and call your crush and ask her out.  But what if we never did?  What if we were always safe? Safety scares me more than growth.  Because “safe” means stagnant, or complacent or perhaps death. I mean, what if we still thought the world was flat?  That would have been the “safe” choice back in the day…

What do you think?

 

Plan your work, work your plan…

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”

Tony Robbins

I saw this posted on the wall at the gym today and had to take a picture.  What a great reminder.  Though I am pretty sure I need it on the mirror in my bathroom…

IMG_4221

Know your goals, break them into chunks, start today…  I personally use the Full Focus Planner from Michael Hyatt and the Productive App on the iPhone. Love them both.  There is just something satisfying about having a plan and working it.

 

Our choices define us…

“This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live.”

Omar Bradley

I loved this quote this morning.  It puts a very fine point on the importance of daily choices, of making decisions that matter to you, your life, your goals, your priorities.  We are all going to die.  Yes, that is harsh to think about, but it is the truth.  We all have one life to live.  One life to make a difference and have an impact on this world and the lives of others.  I have long believed that there are two types of people in this world.  Those that happen to the world and those that the world happens to…

This quote resonates for me because it speaks to how much we as humans lets our circumstances define us, to define our decisions on action, as opposed to taking an active step in the outcome we want to create.  I’ve recently read and put into practice a phenomenal book by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy on this topic.  The books title is “Living Forward” and if you haven’t read it then I highly recommend it.  The life we live is either accidental or intentional, either way it is your choice…

On being intentional…

On being intentional…

“You don’t climb mountains without a team, you don’t climb mountains without being fit, you don’t climb mountains without being prepared and you don’t climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards. And you never climb a mountain on accident – it has to be intentional.”

Mark Udall

This quote really resonated with me today as I reflect on the power of a great team, and on the power of a great mountain to climb.  It isn’t the small hills that stir my soul, nor is just the sheer challenge of the mountain.  It is the impact of what the climb means.  How the lives of others can be bettered because someone chose to climb, to show the way, to build a better world.  It is the risk of the fall.  It is being bettered by something bigger than me.  Yes, I am speaking in metaphors but it works for me today.

When I look up at the mountain in front of me there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the only way to conquer it is to be intentional, to create a plan, build a team, know the risks, anticipate the rewards, and doing everything in my power to be ready for any challenge that mountain throws at me.  Happen to the world or the world will happen to you.  Be intentional.

 

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