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Entries in choice (4)

Friday
Mar152013

the DNA of your every day

Choices are the DNA of our every day. 

Every minute represents one. We make them sometimes without thinking, and then we sometimes fall into a routine of just dealing with the results instead of thinking of what the next choice should be. And before you know it, you're standing in a doctor's office with 60 extra pounds of bad choices bulging over the waistline of your jeans. Or you're staring at a bank slip with a negative balance of several years of financial choices. Or you're pulling off your wedding band as you sign the final paperwork on a relationship-ending choice you never thought you'd make.

If we want to shape the direction of our lives, every choice has to be a conscious choice. The trouble is, that's not just hard ... it's impossible. 

We aren't built to make good choices automatically. It's not in us. Instead, we're programmed to make all the wrong choices. We want the cookie we shouldn't eat. We want to watch the movie we shouldn't watch. We want to take the thing that doesn't belong to us, or be with the person we shouldn't be with, or think the thoughts we shouldn't think. 

We're hard wired for making bad choices, and then improvising around the results.

But that doesn't mean we can't change. It just means we need a higher source of power than what we carry with us by default.

My source is God. For some people, that sounds nuts. They'd rather turn to almost anything else. Government, family, community, friends. Or maybe something more destructive, like drugs and booze. Which, on the whole, I think we can agree aren't going to help you make better choices.

The point is, if you're going to make real, positive change in your life, you can't rely on your own batteries. You have your routines and your tricks and your methods, and they've gotten you exactly here. Want real change? Choose better. Turn yourself off and turn on something that can give you the strength you need.

For me, that's God. What is it for you? Whatever it is, make sure you're stepping back every now and then, examining your trajectory and your choices, and determine if your source of power is getting you where you want and need to go. If not, it just means it's time to choose again.

Tuesday
Mar122013

choosification 

It's not always easy to keep your mouth shut. Or to keep yourself in check, say, when you're in heavy traffic or waiting behind "the Coupon Lady" at the grocery store. And when a bunch of that kind of stuff stacks up ... well, it ain't easy bein' easy.

What IS easy is complaining about it, even if you're just complaining to yourself. I do this a lot. I'm behind the only slow driver in three lanes of traffic, with cars zipping by on either side, too fast for me to scootch over and pass. The whole time I'm grumbling, "Great. Perfect. Typical!" And a few more choice, non-family-friendly terms.

I start getting that clenched feeling in my chest, the tightening in my neck and shoulders, the sizzle of my blood pressure going up. That tension only serves to make me more agressive, less reasonable, more of a buttocks chapeau. 

It's easy in those moments to react the wrong way, and it's even easier to look back at it and think, "It wasn't my fault ... Circumstances dictated ... it all just happened so fast ... I didn't have a choice!"

That's what's easy. What's hard is admitting to yourself (admit it!), "I could have handled that better. I made a bad choice." It's all about the choices.

Yesterday I was peeved at traffic, and I was peeved at being tired and hungry, and I was peeved at having to run an errand for my wife when all I wanted was to get home, and I was peeved at having to fight traffic AGAIN, after waiting fifteen minutes for my "fast" food to be made, and I was peeved that I was eating fast food after finally getting myself to hit the trails for some exercise after a long, fat hiatusall so I could get home in time for me to watch a few minutes of TV before I had to turn in for the evening. I managed to keep from taking things out on anyone directly, but the stuff going on in my head? The things I said aloud, in the privacy of my car, where only I ... OK, and God ... could hear me?

Oops. 

Those last two listeners are more important in this scenario than I gave credit at the time. God hears all, sees all, knows all ... he's better than the Great and Powerful OZ when it comes to that. And let's not discount the other listener in the car, who hears and feels and sees all of it too, and makes all the choices based on how he's communicating with himself. He's the one choosing to react to everything the way he does, so the way he chooses to communicate with himself is important. 

I didn't have to react the way I did, because I had a choice. Things happen fast? So does choosing. Actually, choosing happens faster, because you can choose ahead of time. "When I'm in traffic and it's slow and I'm getting angry, I'll take a deep breath, thank God for this quiet time, and chat with Him or listen to music or listen to a book or think about the book I'm writing."

See? I choosed. And I did it faster than I could possibly react to what's happening in front of me at any given moment, because I chose before I even got out of bed that morning. Of course, the thing to keep in mind is that these choices happen EVERY DAY. You have to make the choice, every day, about how you react to the things that you know will trigger you bein' the you that you don't like bein'.

It's all about the choices.

I choose wrong all the time. And that stinks. And then I feel guilty for those choices. I pray for forgiveness, and then I have to choose again. Choose to accept God's grace and forgiveness and grow from the experience, making better choices later, or choose to keep feeling that guilt and shame, so that the only message I ever communicate to myself is, "You aren't good enough. You failed. You always fail." 

It's all about the choices. 

Keeping my mouth shut is a chronic problem, as is keeping my attitude in check. But God honors us when we choose to do just that, despite the temptation to do otherwise. Trusting God, believing and having faith, that's a choice, too. You'll know when you've chosen well, if what you do brings you joy instead of dread, if it glorifies and honors God instead of tearing someone down (including yourself). 

Choose. But choose wisely.*

 

*I totally stole that from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." 

 

Friday
Mar082013

expectationism

Things don't always turn out the way you blue bird in that tree outside my window.

But that's the point, isn't it? Life ... it's like it was meant to be unpredictable and unknowable. Yeah, we can predict and know a lot of the bits that are a granular part of this nutritious existence, but we can never see the whole. We don't have the perspective. Ain't no mountain high enough.

We set ourselves on a path, with every intention of just keeping one foot in front of the other, only to discover that the path itself is moving. We thought we were walking in one direction, when all along the path was taking us in another. In fact, we weren't walking at all. We were being carried, the whole time. We were essentially marching in place.

I believe in choice, and purpose, and goals. I believe that you can't have success without those. But God is teaching me that I can only choose and plan so far ahead. I can choose the next step. I can pick the next direction, the next distant goal. But I can't determine the journey as a whole with my "planning." Life happens way too often for that.

Recently I've watched my amazing wife deal with changes to her plans. And, just as she (and me, too) was thinking, "OK ... that didn't work out, so I'll pick this direction instead," it all changed again. And then, quicker than we could blink, it all changed AGAIN, and even the small bit of planning she'd committed to was shot, worth nothing. Ferriss Bueller was right, life does move pretty fast some times. It's like a slight of hand trick, and in the end your wristwatch ends up in someone's bag of Doritos, and you're asking, "How'd that HAPPEN?!?"

The most important thing about expectations is how you deal with them when they aren't met. 

Right now, I have a vision for myself—for my career, for my marriage, for my physical fitness. I'm making plans, and I'm acting on them. I'm praying that all these plans will glorify God, because that's the rule of my life now. And even as I'm planning, I have this awareness, tickling at the confident bits of my soul, that these plans, too, shall pass. Tomorrow I might have to improvise, because everything I thought was anything is anything but everything now. 

That's the point, though. When God says "have faith," it's not just a command to "shut off all your thinking and let me drive." It's about choices, really. It's about choosing to stand back from the plans you had, the expectations you were cultivating, and say, "OK. I planned, God. You laughed. So what's next? How do I serve you with the next choice I make and the next action I take?" And then you shut up and listen.

Advice even I should consider taking.

 

 

Tuesday
Mar052013

changeocity

I'm thinking about change a lot this morning.

It happens. Sometimes we don't get much of a choice in the matter. And at that those times we have a tendency to push back. We like forward trajectory, after all. We like to continue momentum. Change means discomfort, effort, anxiety.

Even good change can bring on a little bit of a panic attack. Having a baby? Getting a new job? Having corrective surgery? 

How we deal with change is the very definition of our character. If you want to test who you really are, who it is that lurks deep within the folds of your brain, what the color of your soul may be, change is your chance. Nothing will tell you more about you than you during times of change.

I like deliberate change. Those changes you've planned, plotted, strategized, chosen. You don't get many of those ... well, you get as many as you want, but most people tend to avoid deliberate change.

I'm like that. Or I have been, most of my life. I flow with whatever's happening around me, adjust to itbellyache about it, but mostly just go with it. I've spent a considerable amount of my time on Earth just waiting things out. You could almost call it patience, if I weren't so busy complaining about it.

The thing, the idea, that I've come to, though, in my daily thinking, in my new perspective on the world, is that change is meant to be deliberate. We are meant to choose and grow. God built us to be choosing, changing machines. 

I picked up an adage somewhere along the way: "See a task, do a task." See a job that needs to be done? Do that job. See some trash on the floor? Pick it up. See someone who needs help? Help them. 

I don't always get that right, but I try to at least tip the balance into upper 50% territory. 

That's one way, on a moment-by-moment basis, that we can effect deliberate change in our lives, and in the lives of others. I think that comes from the highest command we've been given, which is to love each other like we love ourselves. 

How good at it are were going to be? Not so good. We're going to fail. You probably know that, instinctively. See, that's the point though, isn't it? You know, without doubt, that you aren't always going to do the right thing, make the right choice, take the right path. But you make the effort anyway. You make the choice anyway. And then, things REALLY start to change. 

There's another adage: "Be the change you want to see in the world." I like it. It's nice and positive. It's not a bad way to live. It's, again, the choice you make every moment of every day. 

Change is going to happen. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad. It's almost always anxiety-inducing. But how we deal with change is the test of our character that we need to set a few benchmarks and goals, to find the leaks in our character, to start making choices and start making change a more deliberate part of our lives. 

Choosing would be nice for a change.