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Entries in action (3)

Friday
Apr262013

startitude

Some days are easier than others. And some days, it's like trying to drag a toddler out of a toy store. You still feel the love, but you'd rather be anywhere else. 

Days like that, it would be easy to roll your shoulders and say, "That's OK. I give it a good effort every other day. I can slack off this time." Maybe you're blocked. Maybe you're tired. Maybe you just have  nothing to offer.

Days like that come around more often than I'd like. This is one of them—a day when I've started this post three times, and even with a pretty good chunk of stuff written I've scrapped it because it wasn't honest or it wasn't my best work or it wasn't moving me forward. But then I think about why I do it, and that does tend to push me forward. 

My first and highest rule is to do what I do to glorify God. That ain't easy, especially in an age where friends and family may roll their eyes or condescend or flat out tell you that you're a nut for believing in this "God stuff." 

My second rule is to do what I do to help you. Yeah, you specifically. I pray about you, did you know that? I pray, before starting every one of these posts, that God will give me the words to glorify Him and to reach you. I want you to get something meaningful out of these posts, to take something away with you that makes your life better (even if just a smidge) and that you can spread around to the people you love, to help make their lives better, too. 

So if what I'm writing doesn't do both of those things, in my estimate, I scrap it and start over. And if I can't think of something that will meet both of those criteria, it can put me at a stand still. 

What I've discovered, though, is that if I start the work in honesty and earnestness and with those goals in mind, it tends to form itself despite me. Yeah, I may scrap the work a few times. I may have to shift and go in a different direction. But the work is still there. It still makes its entrance.

One of the most important things you can do to be successful and accomplish your goals is to start. To try, to push through when it's hard. This isn't new advice, right? You've heard this before. I have, God knows. Every day, practically. Start. Try. Push. 

You have to actually have a goal, of course. You have to have a direction. But if you don't take a step, even if it's the wrong step in the wrong direction, goals tend to be dreams more than reality. Moving from dream to reality takes action.

You may go backwards for a while. That happens, and it can be frustrating. But when you know where you're trying to go you can more easily judge whether an action is a step in the right direction or just a wrong turn. You can correct course easier and faster. And sometimes, going in the wrong direction for a bit gives you a chance to see things from a new perspective, to appreciate the journey more, to learn something knew you can bring to the game.

This morning started off as a tough one for me, just because I didn't know what I should actually write about. But once I started, and restarted, I found that I had a message after all. I had part of the story to tell. I could move forward.

Know where you want to go. Know when you need to be there. Know why you want to make the journey. Map out a route. And then take a step. Start moving, and even if your destination changes along the way you'll have a whole lot of new experiences and accomplishments under your belt, teaching you new ways of thinking and giving you new tools for dealing with the next challenge you encounter.

Like "What should I blog about today?"

Monday
Apr222013

succesification

I read a lot of books about leadership and success. I also read a lot of "self help" books, geared mostly toward changing the way you think and behave. I read tons of biographies and case studies. I may or may not read more of these things that you, but I like my odds. 

The thing is, it's not like I started reading these over the weekend. I've spent years reading about ways to improve myself, in every avenue of life. And yet, for the longest time, even though I knew a lot about how to reshape my life into what I wanted it to be, I spent a great deal of my time doing and being the opposite of what I wanted.

Why?

There's a pretty simple answer to that, and it's one that makes me want to *head desk.* The fact is, reading tons of books about leadership and success and personal growth is a wonderful tool for getting your brain in gear and learning how to better yourself. But nothing you read is going to matter one bit until you DO SOMETHING.

The secret ingredient for success is action.

It took me a long time to get to that idea, even though I can specifically remember saying it, even as far back as my early 20s. I knew, even then, that knowing something wasn't enough. Acting on what you know is what gets you past ho-hum and into ho-boy!

Goal setting is another area where I've always fallen short. Every single book you read about leadership or sucess of personal growth tells you to write down your goals and revisit them often. I've written down goals over the years, but never really focused on them. I never revisited them. So what good were they? Until I'm ready to review those goals and take action on them, the answer is "not a lot."

As part of goal setting, I've read a lot about creating a "vision board." This is sort of a visual cue for your goals. You create a space where you can hang magazine clippings and photographs and small visual things that remind you of what you're trying to achieve in all areas of your life. Pictures of cars or houses you'd like to own, the physical fitness you'd like to achieve, careers you'd like to get into into. It seems strange, and the idea has been co-opted by some from the "new age" set, but the truth is vision boards are simple marketing in action.

I work in marketing. I know from experience that if you can get someone to identify with your product or service on a personal level, to connect to it through as many senses as possible, they are going to be far more likely to buy it. Ad campaigns use photos and video of happy people doing fun things, whether or not those have anything to do with the product itself, so that you can start to associate the product with "the good life." How often have you seen a commercial for a medication that never actually shows the medication? Instead you see happy, healthy people surfing and mountain climbing and playing in a park with friends and family. Message: "If you use this medication, your life will be as good as this one is." 

So having a vision board is like creating a marketing campaign for your own "product," your life. Set your goals, and then reinforce those goals by creating a vision board—your own "marketing campaign"—so that you are constantly giving yourself the message, "If I work toward my goals, I'll have the life I want."

The other side of this is adjusting as you go

Sometimes you think an action will lead to achieving your goal, but discover that things don't quite work the way you intended. Because life is inherently unpredictable, you have to be open to trying a new tactic when you don't get the result you want. Study what someone else is doing, through books and films, to get a result you'd like to have, and try it their way. If it doesn't work out the way you intended, study someone else, take what you learn, and try again. Measure what works and what doesn't, and adjust course until you get the result you want

The final bit is a piece of advice for getting where you want to go is something I actually fight with folks over. Seriouslythey see this as so profound, so revolutionary, so insane, they can't believe it would ever work in millions years. I hesitate even to give you this secret, for fear you'll scoff and never believe me again. But here goes. Deep breath ...

If you want something, ask for it.

See? Told you it was radical. Some people have been known to hear this advice and run, screaming "heretic!" all the way. 

But the truth is, most of the time we could easily have exactly what we want in our lives if we'd just take a chance and ask for it. I have seriously put this into effect in my own life. I ask for a better deal in stores. I ask if I can have something for free. I ask for a better position or a pay raise. 

The biggest barrier? Overcoming the sense that I'm somehow being offensive by asking for what I want. We are so accustomed to just taking what we get, accepting every price, accepting every offer as "the price, the offer," it actually offends our sensibilities when someone asks, out plain, for what they want! If you can get over that irrational fear, you'll find yourself getting more and more of what you want out of life. 

Sometimes, all it takes is to ask and you'll get it. Other times, you'll get a counter offer, which is equally as good. The guy at the store says, "You can't have it for the price you want, but if you bring in a coupon from online or come in next week you can get it on sale." Your boss says, "You can't have a raise, but if you give me a sales goal and meet or beat it in three months I'll raise your salary." Counter offers let you know the "rules" for getting what you want, and knowing those rules lets you map out the steps to acheiving your goal. See how that worked out? 

There's actually a Biblical grounding for asking for what you want:

Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you.Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? 10 Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? 11 As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.

Matthew 7:7-11

Ask, search, knock. Sounds like action steps to me. Success in any part of your life requires you to take action and go out and find it.

Everyone wants a formula for success. Turns out the Bible has had one all along. But it helps to have things broken down for us into easy, step-by-step chunks. So I've worked up a formula that may be helpful:

Goal setting + Education + Reinforcement + Ask For What You Want + Taking Action + Adjusting Course  = Get the outcome you want

I think this is pretty simple. And I'm seeing results from applying this formula in my own life. But here's a little extra bit, a multiplier, that will accelerate and even exponentially increase the results you get from the formula:

Get the outcome you want X Glorfiy God in all you do = Get more than you ever dreamt possible!

Success isn't really that hard to achieve. Yes, it can be hard work to get the exact result you want, but the process is simple and straight forward. God wants more for you than just success, though. He wants to multiply your success, and give you a life above and beyond your own intentions. God has an intended life for you that is levels and levels above what you intend for yourself. So take action, but take action that glorfies Him. You'll find your success multiplying daily. 

That's math even I like. 

Tuesday
Apr092013

anxietation

There are plenty of things in my life that make me feel afraid or worried or anxious. Anxiety has been a growing issue over the past few years. Something I always dealt with by ignoring it, or hiding from it, or flat out running from it. The thing about worry and anxietythey may not run as fast as you, but they are tireless in their pursuit.

Lately I've taken a new approach to anxiety. I face it head on. And I pray. I pray without adding my anxiety to the formula God has laid out for me.

I have always prayed when things started getting tough, and that's a normal response, isn't it? I also prayed when things were going right, but when they went wrong it's like I would reach a whole new level of prayer. I'd start sweating it. And that isn't how God intended us to pray. 

Christ gave us the formula for prayer in what we now call "the Lord's Prayer," which goes exactly like  this

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’

Matthew 6:9-13

No panic there, right? No feverish begging that things will be alright. No anxious wringing of hands, "Please God, PLEASE!" Just a pretty calm and orderly request of God, tempered by obedience on our part.

This prayer is the model we should use for our own prayer. We don't have to memorize it and use it word for word, but instead use it as a formula and a guide for how we approach God. We acknowledge Him first, as well as His kingdom and His dominance. We acknowledge his will for all of creation, heaven and Earth. We ask that our needs be fulfilled each day. We ask that our debts (and our sins) be forgiven, and we promise to forgive anyone who is in our debt (or has sinned against us). And we ask for guidance, away from evil, delivered from the evil in this world (and into God's kingdom). Pretty basic, isn't it?

Where's the worry? Where's the anxiety? Where's the fear?

There's no room for it in the formula. You'd have to insert it between the lines. But really, why would you? It doesn't make sense. It's a contradiction. It'll mess stuff up.

Think about other formulas in your life. Think of a recipe. If you're trying to make a casserole just like grandma used to make, you use the recipe your grandma gave you. You could add to the recipe, if you want, but the result you get isn't grandma's casseroleit's your own. Fine, if that's your goal. But if the goal is to stay true to the recipe, to the formula, to get the results intended by the recipe's creator, then adding your own ingredients is just going to spoil the mix.

This analogy falls apart, of course, because in life we sometimes want and even need to change the recipe. But God's recipe is perfect. It meets all of our needs perfectly. It offers us the full protection of God perfectly. It tells us exactly how to live according to His will, perfectly. Adding an extra ingredient, like worry or anxiety, is just going to make us stray from the recipe, and get results that are unpredictable and maybe even undesirable.

God doesn't want us to worry. He doesn't want us to feel anxiety. Of course, it's easier to say these things than to live them, and God's aware of that, too. 

As I write this, I'm experiencing my own anxiety and worry. I'm anxious because something is outside of my control. I can't fix it. I can't resolve the problem, not right away, and the consequences of it could have a big impact on me and my family for quite a while. It's uncomfortable and undesirable, but it is what it is.

Except I know the truth. God is right here with me, watching as I watch, listening as I listen, feeling as I feel. He knows. And because He knows, I can let go of the anxiety and worry. I don't have to let that rule my life, because that position is already filled.

So instead I tell God He is holy.

I ask that His perfect will be done in my life.

I ask that He meet my needs (even those I may not be aware of).

I ask that He forgive me for when I fail, and I promise to forgive others when they fail.

I ask that He lead me away from evil, and protect me from it, and deliver me into his Kingdom. 

Worry has no place in my life. Anxiety isn't something I'm meant to feel. It's the thing I choose over God, moment by moment, and I have to die to that choice. I have to live for Christ.

The best cure for worry and anxiety is to face them head on. Pray to God for strength and guidance, for a clear view of the road to take, and then take action. Make the call you're dreading. Go through the door and into the meeting that scares you. Start the conversation that you don't think you're ready for. Endings have to have beginnings, and until you've faced the challenges in your life you are standing still, and you'll have nothing but anticipation as your companion. God walks with us when we are actually walking. 

Fear is stationary. It stands in place. It lives in the places we used to be, or in the places we haven't yet been. We only feel fear when we're standing in place. Action moves us forward, away from the past, away from what was and what used to be, and toward the new future, with new opportunities and choices that can change our lives faster than we could ever anticipate.

God designed us to move. He will take care of the path, but it's up to use to take it.

So anxiety, worry, fear? Those have no place in my prayers or in my life. I come to God with them, I hand them over, I surrender, and I take action. I walk. God will be my guide, my strength, the light at my feet. But my feet have to keep moving, or I'll end up standing in darkness.