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?

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?

Weakness into strength…

“My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.”

Michael Jordan

Most of the greats have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. There is an edge to them that you just can’t quite put your finger on. They have something to prove and no one can push them harder than they will push themselves, especially if they are challenged in some way. I am sure that we have all known people like this, or perhaps even been this person from time to time.

When should you push hard and turn another person’s perceived weakness into a strength and when should ignore that criticism and focus on leveraging the strengths that you already have? Being able to discern this is critical otherwise you could spend all of your energy trying to fix the perceptions of others and that could in itself become a great weakness…

Silence is a gift to yourself…

“Silence is a source of great strength.”

Lao Tzu

I don’t know about you but the world very rarely seems to be quiet anymore. Finding stillness and time to think and reflect seems to be so challenging with the constant availability of distractions and ways to “spend” your time. It isn’t just physical noise or busyness that gets in the way of quiet reflection. It can be the pervasive and ever-growing “digital noise” that clouds our minds and stops us from finding time to just sit alone with our thoughts.

I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately as I reflect on what I need to do to grow and improve. My favorite time of the day is the first hour when I take time to read my devotionals, pray, write this blog post, and enjoy a completely quiet and calm house. I love this quiet time yet I have not been good at all at finding ways to bake this into a normal routine beyond the first 45-60 minutes of each day. Once my day starts it is constant and complete engagement with the world until I crawl into bed night to rest and prepare to do it all again the next day.

I am very guilty of trying to add more into every single moment. It is finally (maybe I am just a slow learner) sinking in that I need to be much more intentional about being very purposeful with my time and build in space to think. To make this happen I have to be much more intentional about finding silence and not try to cram as much as possible into every second of the day. Silence is truly a gift to oneself, to give it you must design it into your life…

Fear not…

“Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

Corrie Ten Boom

Thinking things through is a great skill and one that will pay dividends when things don’t go exactly as you planned (and that will happen to all of us sooner or later). But worrying, obsessing, getting lost in the fear of “what if” or “why me” doesn’t help improve our chances of success.

There is a big difference between preparing and worrying. How we handle this difference makes such an impact on our lives and the lives of those around us. Planning is proactive and positive. Worry is negative and emotionally draining.

There are so many good bible verses on worry but here are two of my absolute favorites that I go to whenever I cross the chasm between planning and worry.

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” Luke 12:25-26

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Struggle builds strength…

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Given the author of this quote the first thing that I thought of of course was the physical process of working out and strengthening your body through exercise.  In order for the muscles to be stronger they must be used and strained; only then will they grow back stronger.  Think of the ‘day after’ feeling when you have had a great workout and your body is sore.  That soreness is the body rebuilding after “hardship” and an indication that strength is building.  What a great feeling.

Why don’t we approach life the same way?  We want everything to be easy.  As a rule people desire no hardships, no challenges, no struggles.  In today’s Instagram world everything has to be staged and we envy those with “perfect” lives.  We never see the private struggles and when those struggles happen to us far too often there is a victim mentality vs. leaning in and embracing the suck knowing that you will emerge on the other side far far better.

You have to tear down the entrenched positions of the moment so you can be prepared for the future.  If you are struggling today with anything think of this reframing question.  Instead of “why me?”  Think, “what am I being prepared for?” Struggle builds the muscle of life.

 

A gift for yourself…

“Solitude is where I place my chaos to rest and awaken my inner peace.”

Nikki Rowe

I find that it is harder and harder to find a place of quiet and peace in today’s world.  We are digitally connected almost 100% of the time.  To achieve real quiet outside of the chaos requires making a conscious decision to give yourself the gift of solitude and peace. For me it means quiet time with a good book or perhaps a long bike ride or a run.  

I am reminded of the verse in Matthew that frames what I look for when taking some time of solitude: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

How often do you actively seek to give yourself this gift?

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