Goals!

This is one of those topics that I could write about all day.  Goal setting, goal achieving, goals goals goals!

We all have goals.  Each and every one of us. Some of us think we gave up a long time ago and don’t have any but we do.  Every day we wake up with the goal to live another day.  Ok, maybe that is a stretch but don’t we all have goals to some extent?  And why is it so important to have goals?

The most successful people on this planet didn’t wake up one day with an idea and a few minutes later after they got dressed became successful… No way.  They had an idea and they developed a plan.  Within that plan there were goals – some big, some little – some attainable, some way out there.

And each day, they worked at it – chipping away, having triumphs and failures along the way but tweaking and re-evaluating and working toward goals. Goals!

We have had goals from the day we were born.  Sit up. Crawl. Walk. Talk. Feed ourselves. Dress ourselves. Express ourselves. Make friends. Learn. Communicate. Develop relationships. Learn a skill.  Get a job. Get married.  Have a family. Buy a car. Buy a house. Take a vacation…. Many of these things are milestones that we can only achieve with a plan of action and goal setting.

Goals are objectives that you intend to achieve.  Going through life without goals is like getting in your car and driving aimlessly expecting to arrive at your destination without a clue how to get there.  When I was younger, I would jump in the car and start driving to wherever I was going. After I started driving I would start thinking about how to get there. I didn’t want to waste time so I start driving RIGHT NOW! And therefore, I wasted more time.

The longest distance between two points is a shortcut. Well… if it is anything that matters, that’s true. You cannot short cut growth or success or relationships. You have do what it takes. You have to plant seeds if you want to have a harvest.

Moving through life without a roadmap and expecting to reach certain milestones haphazardly is certainly one way to go but if you want to get somewhere quickly and with less energy and time, then set goals, work towards them and you will find yourself exactly where you wanted to be.

Decisions

Decisions are a mental activity every one of us engages in on a daily basis.  From deciding when to wake up, to what to eat, to how to spend our day, to where to spend our money, to whom to spend our time with… decisions are part of our daily life.

That doesn’t mean we are good at making decisions.  Many of us make very bad decisions every day and only a few of us make good decisions consistently.  Why is there such disparity in this?  What keeps us from making sound decisions?

Did you know that you could virtually eliminate your internal conflict and confusion by becoming proficient at making decisions?  Once you make a decision, you will find all the people, resources, and ideas you need every time.

Indecisiveness is a decision to not make a decision.  This is typically fueled by the fear of failure.  Low self esteem and succumbing to circumstances is why so many people make poor decisions.

If you have an idea, a desire, a wish, a worthy ideal, make the decision to achieve whatever it is you want.  Once you set your intention you will be pleasantly surprised how everything you need just seems to be attracted to you. You will notice someone mentioning a struggle with their team – and you mention that you have a solution. When people ask what you are up to you, you have an answer that you are passionate about.

Your belief starts a momentum. Your belief will be the catalyst that changes your behaviors, your actions, and ultimately your results.

The world gets out of the way of the person who knows where he’s going.

Keep your focus on your vision, your worthy ideal.  Refuse to worry about how it will happen – know that you are capable of fulfilling anything that God is calling you to accomplish.  Everything seems impossible before it’s done.

Today make a decision to do something that will move you in the direction of your purpose, vision and goals. Then do what it takes to follow through on that decision. Each time you do that you confidence grows and your ability to accomplish expands. David did not start with Goliath. He started watching sheep and doing what he had to do to protect them.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is utilizing our higher faculties to understand and evaluate subject matter; or to put it simply “knowing how to think.”  When we were in elementary and secondary school, we were taught what to think. We were subjected to a lot of information and now, the trend is to teach to pass a test. We memorize what is needed, take the test, and then forget what we remembered.  If we pursued higher education, most of us college graduates continued down the same path of learning what to think again for that anticipated test at the end of each semester. It isn’t until we pursue advanced degrees that we are then required to know how to think.

Consider this conclusion from the National Commission on Excellence in Education in its landmark report, A Nation at Risk, 1983:

“Many 17-year olds do not possess the “higher-order” intellectual skills we should expect of them.  Nearly 40 percent cannot draw inferences from written material; only one-fifth can write a persuasive essay, and only one-third can solve a mathematics problem requiring several steps.”

 This trend in education has taught us to mind dump everything we know when sharing information. When presenting our principles and ideas to people, take a moment and evaluate your approach. Are you unconsciously mind dumping everything you know in your allotted time or are you taking the time to help others develop conclusions and their own thoughts?

Critical thinking is a higher-order level of thinking. It is the ability to think for one’s self and responsibly make those decisions that affect one’s life.  In addition, critical thinking is also critical inquiry: investigating problems, asking questions, and posing new challenging answers.

Consider the benefits of helping develop others’ critical thinking skills.  They will be able to better understand your ideas and better accept your methodologies if they are able to understand, evaluate and conclude in a critical way. In addition, by developing your own critical thinking skills, you will be better equipped to share this your life changing information with your clients, co-workers, friends, and family.

Critical thinking requires advanced listening skills. Lecturing to others is a passive activity that does not encourage audience participation. To critically evaluate needs, it is necessary to present ideas and then allow the listener to develop conclusions – openly discuss and debate these new ideas.  Allow them to think deeply about your ideas and in turn, value what they think and feel. Share these ideas in an environment that allows them to think their ideas matter. Ask them to make connections and recognize patterns in the new ideas you are presenting. These techniques allow those you influence to begin to develop thinking skills, which in turn develop their critical skills.

If you are speaking to a group, at the conclusion of your discussion, to further develop critical thought, ask your participants to write out the most significant thing they learned AND what single thing they would like to learn more about. This is immediate feedback about what they are learning and what they still need to understand. When presenting – encourage questions and praise the questioner with these examples: “Good question” or “I am sure others want to know that as well”. When your audience asks questions, this is a great indicator that they are thinking critically.

Compassion

Compassion is the result of having empathy for others’ suffering.  It is one of the most essential components to living a peaceful and significant life and it brings immediate and long-term happiness when practiced.

When there is a desire to develop compassion in your life, the key is to make it a daily practice.  Start each day with meditation, when interacting with people practice compassion and when preparing for sleep, reflect on compassion.  By incorporating this practice into our daily lives, it becomes a part of us.

I have noticed in close relationships practicing compassion maintains closeness. It also restores that closeness when we drift apart. Think of someone that you want to feel closer to right now. Then begin to practice compassion. What are they going through? What challenges might they be facing? How can you pray for them?

Compassion also carries positive physical benefits.  Practicing compassion has shown to increase DHEA by 100%. DHEA is an anti-aging hormone.  Practicing compassion also reduces cortisol by 23%, which is the stress hormone.  Anything that reduces stress and slows aging is a must in my life.

Compassion feeds spiritual and emotional being as well.  It allows us to be happier and to share our happiness with those around us.  Most of us desire peace and happiness and to share with others so it is logical to practice compassion to achieve that which we can have as quickly as right now.

Jesus said that the first rule for living well was Love God with all your heart and the 2nd is like it – love your neighbor as yourself.  Practicing compassion is a perfect beginning point.

 

Commitment

A commitment should be treated as a binding contract with yourself. However, many of us break our commitments. We commit to people, banks, work, pets, ourselves… A commitment is something that you have no doubts about. Something you give 100% of your whole self to.

Commitment is a fulfilling endeavor that when followed through gives an immense sense of accomplishment. Think about something you have committed to, followed through with to the end, and how you felt at the end knowing you didn’t break it along the way. Weight loss, getting a formal education, going for the big contract and landing it…

Sometimes commitment can be confused with staying with something long after you should. Like a dead-end job or an abusive spouse. If you have any of this in your life, let’s look at it for a moment. Ask yourself why you are still in something that you have doubts about or don’t believe in or worse yet, that you give less than all of you to. People pick up on this subtle behavior. To stay committed to something, you have to put effort in and periodically change up what you are doing to keep it alive and fresh.

I was close to my grandparents and I loved them dearly. I also, remember that for many years their relationship was tense and they were not modeling the sort of marriage I had set as ideal and certainly not grandparent-worthy. But they stayed together out of commitment and they continued growing. In the later years, they were especially affectionate of one another. I was moved by Gran’daddy’s tender words and desire to be with Grandmother.

Commitments are what ground you and keep you active and engaged in life. Being free and having few commitments sounds so refreshing to many who have spouses, children, pets, jobs, mortgages… but for only a fleeting moment when life feels heavy and burdensome. We are social creatures who desire connections and relationships with others; a sense of accomplishment and pride in our contributions to making life better for everyone in our lives including ourselves.

Sometimes we need help with our commitments and we seek out this help through our friends, co-workers, spouses, coaches, mentors… By asking for help, we are strengthening our commitment to ourselves and others; we are fulfilling our obligations contractually with ourselves to follow through to the end, no matter what it takes.

Comfort

On Wikipedia, comfort is defined as a sense of physical or psychological ease and a lack of hardship while uncomfortable are people lacking in comfort.  I disagree!  I am hung up in the word “lacking”.  I think people who are comfortable are lacking.  Let me explain.

When you go along in life and stay within the lines, always on the safe side of the street, not taking risks and staying under the radar, you think you are comfortable.  You don’t ruffle feathers, you don’t cause problems, you avoid drama… Ha!

That is not the life I want to live. Not that I desire to ruffle feathers and be that obnoxious guy no one wants around. Far from it.  I want to be the person that takes the risks, that lives in that uncomfortable zone because that is where I am growing – taking life by the horns.  Experiencing new things.  Having new adventures. Dreaming big dreams and better yet, living the life I desire.

Comfort is a place where boredom sets in.  I define comfort as eating TV dinners in front of the television night after night with nothing worthwhile to say to my spouse while my kids are glued to their video games because our life is BORING! And Comfort is where I think those people live that are afraid of going for the big promotion because they live in fear that they aren’t good enough.  Or the people who have an idea for a great business, but they just aren’t ready to leave the paycheck.

I had once settled into a job outside my calling.  I had great reasons not to leave the boring job and get into my calling. FEAR! I was scared to death! OK. So, I was called into ministry and I had watched my parents financially struggle for years and worry about paying the bills.  I worried that I would face the same struggle… the same worry.

But inside that comfort, there were times that I was so miserable it hurt. I would talk to my sister back home who still lived at home – not like me with the new house and fast car. And though I had what I thought was success – did I mention she lived at home? I was the one making it and yet I was miserable! I had an encounter with God and I just say, “Yes. I’ll go home and into ministry.” I sold the house. I sold the car. I moved back home, but I said yes to a life with passion.

Of course, I didn’t stay in their house long, but I stayed in my calling and I came alive again. I think a comfortable life is dangerous – dreams die and then your soul dies a little every day.  I’ll take uncomfortable any day!

Change

If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts. ~ Albert Einstein

I love that quote!  Change is that scary word that most people shy away from.  I don’t want to change.  Why should I change?  Why doesn’t everyone else change to accommodate me?  If I change, then I will be out of my comfort zone.  Why change something that isn’t broken?

Change.  Asking someone to change is like expecting the sun to not rise.  Isn’t it a pointless request?  Change comes from within.  Change is something we do with ourselves.  Only we can control us, no one else.  So why ask, expect, anticipate, anything from someone else?

Let’s focus on how to change us.  First why would anyone want to change themselves?  Is it because they don’t like the outcome?  Have you ever had a conversation with someone and you really want to change their mind about something?  You try so hard to convince them that your point of view is right and theirs is wrong!  Can’t they see that?  I mean do they realize just how foolish their ideas are?  Ha!

Cause and Effect.  Facts and Theory.  If you don’t like the end result, then you need to change the actions.  If the facts don’t fit the theory, in other words, the end result of the facts is not the theory then the facts must change.  Your actions (cause) create an end result (effect).  If you don’t like the effect, change the cause.  If you want a particular effect, but aren’t getting it, then change the cause.

It is really simple but we complicate it because we think it is everyone else that needs to change and not us.  Stop.  Take a breath.  Read that again.  It is really simple.  We want a different end result.  We need to make a change.

If you want to convince someone you are right and they are looking at you like you have three eyes… stop.  Look within.  Why do you want to convince anyone of anything?  If someone cannot see your point of view for whatever reason, if someone is doing something that you do not like, if someone or something is not what you expected… then look within.  Look at what you are doing, thinking, saying… resign from the need to assign blame and look at your actions and make the necessary changes and adjustments to achieve the end result you so desire.

Let go of having to be right and prioritize the relationship. Value the person above whatever it is about them that you desire to change. Appreciate that they are on their own journey and simply support them. Take all that energy that was directed at changing them and point it towards yours truly.

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Challenges

So many people wish life was easier, with fewer challenges and obstacles but without challenges, life becomes stagnant and we stop growing.  Challenges help us uncover who we are and it allows us to become better people.

Let’s examine a very simple 4-step method to overcoming challenges.

First, state the problem clearly.  When we are faced with challenges, we tend to avoid the issue and run the other way burying our heads in the sand hoping it goes away.  Or we may say – ok, there is an obstacle, instead of heading right to it and plowing through, I am going to look for another path and even though that is not the way I want to go – it looks easier… less headache… but rarely does that work out.  When we avoid or go out of our way, we cause more headache in the end.  It takes more of our time, it takes more of our energy and we don’t get the end result we are looking for.  So, take this time to understand what the challenge is.  Ask yourself what is the question, what is asked of me, what is the main goal? Write this down on paper.

Second, identify what you have at your disposal – what resources are available to you to work through this challenge? List all of these resources out.  These should include things such as tangible assets – money, computer, books, etc.  And then what skills you have, what are your strengths to work through this?  Don’t forget others – what access do you have to others that can help?

Third, design the strategy to overcome this challenge.  Utilize all your assets to create a plan of action.  You may find this plan will need to be tweaked as you execute and that is ok.  Keep at it.

Lastly, execute the strategy with effort and determination.  Do your very best with all you have to overcome your challenge.

If you find that you still cannot overcome a challenge, then re-evaluate.  If your strategy just won’t work because it isn’t viable or effective, then change it. If your strategy doesn’t work because you didn’t execute it well enough, be persistent and tweak your efforts, giving it more.

Practice this method on small challenges and see how easy it is to overcome.  Then try it on the big challenges!

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Behavior

Behavior defined can be a physical thing one does such as a morning routine and it can be non-physical such as replaying negative thoughts all day long.   A few behaviors are instinctual and built in while the rest are learned through meeting needs.  What this means is that our behaviors are motivated by our needs and therefore we can be manipulated as well as manipulate to have our needs met.

So, when we have negative behaviors and we want to change them, we find it isn’t always so easy because these learned behaviors that we exhibit are actually rather complex.

There are two types of motivation – the motivation to approach something and the motivation to avoid something.  When we desire something, we are motivated to approach it, therefore, receiving positive reinforcement or feedback.  When we avoid something, we are motivated to move away from it or we will receive negative reinforcement or feedback.  This is pretty simple.  We understand that when we eat something sweet, most of us have a pleasant experience and when we eat something sour, our faces pucker and we try to avoid that experience again.

But let’s look at those things we approach or avoid because the thing doesn’t create that behavior, we do.  Some people desire the adrenaline rush of jumping out of an airplane. It is exhilarating – it is something they repeat again and again as it has a positive affect on them and they desire that and are motivated to seek that experience.  Some people avoid even the thought of getting on an airplane due to their learned fears that it will absolutely crash and they will die no matter what statisticians say – forget purposefully jumping out of a perfectly good airplane!  Did the airplane create these behaviors?  No!  We learned them.  And each of us reacts differently to different things, experiences, tastes, smells, thoughts, etc.  All because of our own personal thoughts and behaviors.

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So how do you change your behaviors?  Your thoughts?  Let’s say you want to become a public speaker but you are terrified of speaking in front of people.  How can you overcome this fear, build confidence, perform and knock it out of the park?  You have to change your behavior so that you are motivated to approach public speaking effortlessly without turning into a nervous mess.

Practice.  Anything you try for the first time will be clumsy and awkward, maybe even difficult.  By practicing your speech – over and over again until it is so ingrained in you and flows off your tongue as if it is just another story you are telling a friend, you build your confidence to speak to several friends or a small group… until you are ready to speak to a large audience.  Practice.

Shaping.  Practice your speech and ask your audience (family members, friends, mentor, coach) for feedback.  Try giving it several different ways.  Break down the speech into parts and mix it up.  Continuously correcting your approach and delivery until you shape your presentation and performance. Before I practice on people I record and listen to myself… eye-opening.

Chaining.  Very good and effective speeches, keynote talks, sales pitches… are complex.  They are made up of many components within the speech to get you to the end result you desire – sell a product or service, teach a thought or program, build rapport with your audience, create new clients, whatever your end result is, your speech has to be built on a frame and chaining is how you piece it together so there is a natural flow, a rhythm that mesmerizes the audience. Think about a really good comedian who gets up on stage and tells little stories for the whole set and the last story wraps up and circles back to the first story – bringing the evening to a close so naturally and you give a standing ovation because you were mesmerized by how good he was – he practiced, shaped each story or joke, chained them all together and brought it to a close.

By using these techniques, you can change an old behavior that you don’t want for a new one that you do want.  Whatever you want to change, practice your new desired behavior, shape the new behavior by approaching it in different ways and ask for feedback all the while tweaking it, chain all the components of the new skills you are now mastering together and now you have successfully changed your behavior.

Attitude

Attitude is the one thing all human beings have complete control of and yet many unknowingly choose a negative attitude.  If we understood the power of our own attitude in our lives, most of us would change it immediately.  How many times have you been told to change your attitude?  That is a common order from most parents and teachers!

Attitude is created by your thoughts, feelings, and actions.  Your mind controls feelings and decides whether these feelings will be positive or negative through your thoughts.  Your body then follows these thoughts through actions and behaviors.  It sounds simplistic because it is.

You can direct your thoughts, change your thoughts or reject your thoughts. You can think about the way you think and you can change the way you think. Your thinking impacts your feelings which change your actions. What is the last thought you had about yourself or your abilities? Now choose to embrace, change or reject that thought. Replace it with a thought that you truly believe.

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My daughter was home from school one break and she said, being home is hard. I want to go back to school.” I was crushed that my daughter found being around me to be hard. She was kind when I asked her why, but it was just my attitude. I was looking at my situation through a very negative perspective. I was ignoring where God was at work and instead I was focusing on how I did not appreciate where I was in life. I became aware of my attitude affecting my daughter and I chose to change the way I was thinking about my situation.

Through our thoughts, we create an attitude.  This attitude is expressed based on how we internalize ideas.  Our mind and body move into a new state of conscious awareness known as feelings.  These feelings effect the actions and behaviors that produce the results in our lives.

Attitude [Thoughts + Feelings + Actions] = Results

Imagine feeding our minds with positive thoughts and flow through the process.  We will end with positive results.  Now imagine feeding our minds with negative thoughts and flow through the process.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?

By changing our thoughts, we can change our attitude, which will ultimately change our results.  Attitude is the creative cycle that allows us to feel a certain way and then take the necessary action to a specific result.

Start with the end in mind and make the decision that today is the day to change your attitude!