Where Are You Headed?

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What is the one thing you would like to change most in your life?

One of my favorite pastors to listen to/read is Andy Stanley. He does a great job of taking a concept and putting it in simple terms. And, he speaks a lot about wisdom, which is something I hold in high regard.

One of his books is called Principle of the Path. The main idea is that “direction, not intention, determines destination.” This seems obvious, especially if you are referring to a car. You can’t get where you want to go if you aren’t on the right road.

Somehow this concept breaks down for many people when they apply it to their lives. They have all kinds of grand hopes and dreams, but they haven’t put things in place to help them achieve those goals.

How many times do you hear someone say they want to exercise, eat healthier, read more, start a business, etc., but then they take no actual steps to reach that desired destination? It’s easy to talk about wanting to do something. It’s the doing that’s the hard part.

I’ve been reading a book called Change Anything (Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, Switzler). The whole premise is that we can indeed change anything we want with more than willpower. Yes, some people naturally seem to have more willpower than others, but there are skills that can be learned to help us successfully change aspects of our lives we are unhappy with.

Here are some sobering statistics:

1) Less than 20% of people feel they are managing their finances well.

2) Most relationships don’t fail because of chemistry, they fail because of behavior.

3) You are more likely to be killed by your own poor health choices than any other reason on the planet.

4) Fewer than 20% of individuals are able to kick an alcohol/drug addiction and stay sober.

Those facts seem so hopeless, don’t they? Yet, they should motivate us because these all involve a choice. Our lives are not merely left to fate. We can be in charge of our own destiny in many ways. If we give ourselves the proper tools, we can make significant changes. In the research done in this book, people improved their chances of success 1000% by using the following principles:

1) Personal motivation: connect to your goals (imagine, envision, inspire yourself)

2) Personal Ability: learn a new skill related to your goal

3) Social motivation: Surround yourself with people who will properly encourage you

4) Social ability: Get a coach or accountability partner

5) Structural motivation: Give yourself short-term rewards or punishments

6) Structural ability: Make positive changes in your environment

Now, I’ve just taken an entire book and made it a short blog post. There is obviously a lot more to the process. However, using these key ideas might get you going in the right direction toward making improvements in your life.

I have started a 30-day goal group with the moms I work with on Friday mornings. I’m anxious to let you know how it all pans out. Collective motivation can be quite inspiring! I’m already feeling more driven and we don’t officially start until February 1st.

Want to make a change? Use these six principles and see if you can set yourself up to be the most successful you’ve ever been at creating growth in your personal life.

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Walls Not Tents

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Have you ever been privy to a conversation you weren’t supposed to hear?

As a young twenty-something I went on a mission trip to Mexico to help build homes for people in dire circumstances. We stayed in tents at a camp available through Amor Ministries in Tijuana.

I had only camped once before on a youth group trip at a state park in Indiana. The threat of scorpions and tarantulas added a whole new dimension to the experience. What would I have done if I had ever found one of those critters when I checked my shoes? I may have run barefoot back across the border. On the last day one of the campers found a tarantula under where her tent had been. Ugh! I’m so glad we were on our way home at that point.

My best friend and I were in one tent and there was a group of young men in the tent next to us. One afternoon as we lay resting before dinner after working all day, we overheard a conversation start between these young men. As it was 20 years ago, I don’t remember any of the details, except that one of the young men was sharing his heart quite openly and honestly. It was really a very private conversation, but we couldn’t help but overhear.

You see, that tent lining gave a false sense of privacy. Fabric doesn’t prevent the travel of sound like actual walls. I know you know that, but it is interesting how humans can be “tricked” into a false sense of safety.

As the digital age continues to progress, I see people struggle with boundaries in regard to criticism. Without face to face interaction, we are so much more likely to point out the negative. The keyboard lends a false sense of security and we say things we might never say in person. I have probably been guilty of this myself at times.

Years ago I had a “bright” idea to do an online Bible study over the summer. I thought it would be an amazing opportunity. The idea tanked. Although that kind of thing is common now, it wasn’t then. People were afraid to interact in print for fear of having their spelling and grammar scrutinized and their ideas made public.

The upcoming generations have gotten over that to a considerably greater degree, but the comfort with social media has also led to another extreme of sharing negative opinions in harsh ways with anywhere from friends to perfect strangers. I read a lot of blogs and I feel for those poor bloggers at times when I read some of the comments they receive. You have to have thick skin to put yourself out there. So far my audience has been quite kind. Thank you!

Use care when expressing political and religious opinions. You can disagree and state your ideas without being ugly to people who think otherwise. There is a way to respectfully disagree.

Don’t condemn someone for poor mechanics in their writing. As the former teacher of students with learning disabilities, I know the courage it takes for some people to share their thoughts in writing when it is a struggle. Patricia Polacco is a children’s author I follow on Facebook. She wrote this the other day on her page: “I would like to thank you, my gracious readers, for following my daily Facebook comments. I am aware at times, there are misspellings and errors in grammar. Please remember, I am a severely learning disabled person who has over come a great deal to even be able to write, that alone, do it perfectly. In an effort to keep you close to my heart, I simply write, what I am feeling without regard to flawless prose. So I am so grateful for your understanding and I am also grateful that you are even interested in anything I have to say.” Her posts are beautiful, thoughtful, funny, and inspiring. The content is so good I’m willing to look over the mistakes.

The bottom line is, remember you are not in a tent. Anonymity may buffer you, but it could very well wound someone else if you don’t use care with your words. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security behind the screen. Common courtesy should still apply.

May we all seek more ways to build up, instead of tear down.

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The Pain and Ease of Generosity

 

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My heart broke just a little bit today.

My sweet Austin was invited to a birthday party at Wonderlab for one of his classmates. This particular boy shared with Austin one time that his mom was unable to take care of him, so he lives with a new family. Austin has a great deal of compassion for him. He insisted on getting a Lego set for the present, because he knows this boy loves Legos. He wanted to spend a little more than I would normally care to spend, so I asked if he would be willing to contribute some of his own money. He heartily agreed. His priority was to get his friend exactly what he knew he would enjoy.

To top it off, after signing the card, he asked if he could put an extra dollar from his wallet in the card. He eagerly stuck it in, slid the card in the envelope, and sealed it shut.

As he was putting on his shoes he proclaimed, “Mom, it feels good to be generous to my friends.”

At that point my heart swelled to nearly bursting. We talk about generosity a lot in our house and it’s comforting to know our boys are absorbing some of that.

My story takes a sad spiral downward, however. I dropped Austin off at his party and as he handed his present to his friend, I realized the card was gone. Retracing our steps didn’t recover it. I have no idea where it could have gone. The card had even been taped to the package. Austin was so disappointed. When I picked him up I gave him another dollar to pass along to his friend, but it just wasn’t the same.

This year, my chosen word to guide my year is generous. I started focusing on it about the middle of December, and I am already learning so many lessons.

First of all, regular generosity is easier than I thought. Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of making some tasks in life out to be harder than they actually are. Being generous can be as simple as passing on something you already have that someone can use more. Yesterday, I took some dress up costumes my boys had outgrown to some ladies in the mama’s group I work with. Knowing their kids will get enjoyment out of them makes me feel great. Or, like Austin, just be intentional with your giving. When someone takes notice of my likes and dislikes, it means a lot. Passing on clothing or toys to our local Crisis Pregnancy Center is another way I’ve found to share with those in need and with those who will greatly appreciate the gesture.

Making others happy.

                                      A friend’s son enjoying his “new” costume.

Secondly, generosity doesn’t always turn out like you had hoped. Like Austin, you might find yourself anxious to give something only to meet with an obstacle you didn’t expect. One time we tried to gift a clerk at Walmart with a candy bar just because, and he informed us company policy didn’t allow him to accept it. Major bummer! Random acts of kindness can indeed be foiled. Another time my husband bought food at a McDonald’s for a man asking for money outside, only to later see him toss the breakfast sandwich, uneaten, in the trash.

The third lesson I have learned is to be generous anyway. Generosity may not always be so much about what we do for the other person, as what it does for our character and shaping our hearts. This makes me think of the Martina McBride song, Anyway: “God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good, and when I pray it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should. But I do it anyway … I do it anyway.” The return usually trumps the risk.

Finally, generosity is tricky. Both yesterday and today I have been approached by men who look down and out asking for bus money “for a friend.” One reeked of cigarettes and the other of alcohol. My heart didn’t feel very generous in that moment, knowing the money was likely not going to be used for the said purpose. I passed on those opportunities. My money can be used to help the homeless in more constructive ways. I think there is a wisdom that needs to come alongside generosity.

How have you found it easiest to be the most generous? What kind of generosity has cost you something? I’d love to hear your stories!

“Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won’t have to hunt for happiness.” ~William Gladstone~

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