Monday, January 15, 2018

Setting Goals: Taking Stock and Focusing

            How did you do with last week’s writing of a composite sketch of yourself? Learn anything new about you, or did you have difficulty being that introspective? Did you get a good start on seeing yourself in the mirror? Or is the vision a little fuzzy?

            Now that you’ve got that sketch or outline of who you are as a person, it’s time to start making lists. Not lists that will soon be lost in a paper pile, but lists that will help you lay the groundwork for setting goals that will result in real change.
            But instead of goals, I’d like you to think of them in terms of focus points. And the first focus points I’d like you to hone in on is what went wrong and what went right for you last year? And why?

Taking Stock and Rehashing
            Years ago my family and I started a tradition whereby we ring in the New Year by watching the ball drop in New York on television, or by going out for a simple dinner. (Chinese food, in honor of the movie A Christmas Story, is often the choice.) Then we get a roaring fire going in the fireplace and sit around discussing what the outgoing year was like for each of us and what we’d like to see change or occur in the New Year.
            The discussions have been introspective, fun and lively and have sometimes stretched to 2:30 or beyond in the morning. We learn a lot about one another. Sometimes what we learn is uncomfortable. (Like when your son tells you what type of person you are and you cringe because you realize he’s right and you can’t stand that part of your personality either.)
            On those years where we’ve been out of town (like the year we celebrated New Years at Disneyland) we just take the first weekend back home to go through the little ritual. And that’s what happened this year.

A Proper Focus
            We’d been out of town on a ski trip, and all of us ended up acquiring the horrendous influenza making its way around the world—and dropping like dominoes. So we didn’t feel much like going through the ritual, until a week ago. Even then the engineer, my younger son and I felt lackluster. (My older son had returned to his home in Washington.) Even depressed in some ways. 2017 hadn’t ended quite as we’d hoped, or planned.
            I started out by saying 2017 had been a rough year for me, and I was pretty happy to see it go. The engineer asked me to elaborate, so I did. Repeating all of the negatives left me exhausted and frustrated. But then something prompted me to start from the beginning again, and I went through all of the good things that happened. After I was done, the engineer chuckled and said, “Well, it sounded like a pretty good year to me!”
            I chuckled back and said, “Yeah, I guess it was wasn’t it?”
            Instead of focusing on the good stuff, I’d started out with the “bad.” I’m not sure why I did that. Aside from occasional bouts of melancholy (which, I admit, can be rather severe), I’m usually a positive, glass-half-full type of person.
            One reason, which our family is prone to, is that it may be that I zoomed through so many activities in a horrendously overloaded 2017 schedule that I didn’t have—or take—the time to really savor the good things. Once they got checked off the list, I just roared into the next one. Check, check, check! I walked through plenty of rose gardens—so to speak—but I didn’t take the time to examine the intricacies, beauty, and aroma of each one.

Goal Setting Snags 
            And that leads me to exploring the problems with goal setting.
            How often do you focus on the negatives and failures rather than what went right and what you should keep doing?
            We concentrate so much on where we’re going and where we want to be that we forget where we’ve been. How much of last year was a good foundation for what you can do this year?
            Did you learn more about health and good nutrition last year that you can put into practice this year? Did you take a Bible study class that really opened your eyes and set the stage for more intentional, simple and peaceful living? (Rather than rush into another Bible study, maybe you should really focus on the last one and practicing those things to make them perfect!)

Look Behind You
            Honestly, you don’t really know where you’re going until you see where you’ve been, AND you know why you went that route. So that’s what we want to concentrate on this week—focusing on where we’ve been this last year. Taking a bird’s eye view of your path, what transpired, and how it ended. Not where someone else has been; but where you have been. And maybe how you got there. (Yes, if you’re married and have children, it is likely that someone has been on your path with you. That’s okay. Explore how they affected your path, too. Maybe you had to put a marker down on your path, take a trip down their path with them for a while and then return to your path to pick up where you left off. That’s often an unavoidable part of life.)
            Then—after taking a bird’s eye snapshot of your year—use the following questions to dig deeper. The sources for these questions are writer K.M. Weiland’s “4 Life-Changing New Year’s Lessons for Writers” (the questions I’ve selected are relevant for everyone); and Career and Life Coach Marla Beck’s “Fire in the Belly.” I’ve also included my own in the list. Spend some time thinking about and answering them.
            1.  How are you—emotionally, physically, spiritually—different now than you were 
                 last January?
            2.  How is your life different?
            3.  What have you lost?
            4.  What have you gained?
            5.  What would you never want to trade from this past year’s experience, whether 
                  it’s something beautiful or painful, or both?
            6.  What beliefs have served you particularly well this year?
            7.  What beliefs failed you? (I think more than anything else, the answers to this
                 question the last two years have affected and changed me the most.)
            8.  What answers do you feel you have found that you didn’t have last year?
            9.  What questions are you still left with?
            10. Have you let others’ goals and dreams crowd your own out or push them aside? 
                 (Write down what, specifically, those might be.)
            11. How did working on others’ goals and dreams (helping them pursue them) 
                  benefit or detract from your life?
            12. Did you constantly let life sidetrack you last year?
            13. Did you say “yes” to too many things and not say “no” enough to others?
            14. Do you constantly let life sidetrack you emotionally, physically, and 
            15. If you could pick out just one word to focus on for this year, what would that 
                  word be? Faith? Trust? Perseverance? Love?
            16. How is your spiritual life? Lukewarm? Weak? On fire? Holding pattern? 
                  Getting there?

No Shortcuts!
            It’s a lot of questions, but it’s a good place to start. A place on which to build a strong foundation for your future. And as I said last week, foundations are everything. You want yours to be hefty and strong!
            I remember an adorable gymnast named Annabelle that my dad and I were coaching. She oozed personality, talent and focus. She knew what she wanted. But she wanted to “skip the basics and get to the nitty gritty.” She wanted to bypass the essentials. She didn’t want to take the time to build a foundation. After my dad snickered a little, he told her she needed the basics in order to learn the tougher, more exciting moves. She didn’t like it, but she understood and worked even harder on her basics so she could move on and improve. Faster.
            And not only is foundation everything, it’s something you always need to return to. Like a concert pianist that always warms up with her scales and spends daily practice time on them, you need to keep returning to and referring to your basics. Those questions and insights that uncover the real you. The more you do that the easier and more natural they become. The more you do that the more neural connections your brain and body make to build upon. The better you’ll get at being you—the person God wants and intended you to be!

            As we move forward this year, we’re going to be focusing on balanced living—the emotional, the physical and the spiritual aspects of life that make it rich and complete. I hope you’ll join me as we continue this journey together!



May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos by Google Images

For further study go to:

K.M. Weiland’s blog post:

Monday, January 8, 2018

Resolution #1: Discover the Mystery of You

            Did you manage to make it through New Year’s Day without writing a resolution list?

            Resolution lists usually consist of goals like losing weight, getting in shape, being kinder, volunteering more, being more generous, etc. They’re usually honorable goals. Why are they so often broken and discarded before the end of the month, though?

Establishing a firm foundation

            In order to be successful in writing and succeeding in those resolutions, you need to set a firm foundation to build those resolutions upon. Just as a building contractor needs to level the building site, measure the layout of a home, stake the perimeter of its footprint, prepare and pour a strong foundation upon which to construct that home, you need to take the same approach to life.
            You can’t just lay out some sticks on the ground, nail vertical rails to the horizontal ones and then slap up some walls and expect it to stand. Life is the same way. It takes forethought and planning and careful building to achieve success.
            So where can you start?

ü  You need to be realistic in your goals.
ü  You need to write down your goals. (Studies show that people who write down their goals are far more likely to successfully attain them.)
ü  You need to know why you want to achieve those goals. Know what will they do for you or for others. When people ask me to develop a physical fitness/training program for them, the first question I ask them is: “What do you want to achieve?        
            Surprisingly enough, most of them can’t answer that question. Instead they look at me for several seconds and then say, “Well, that’s a good question. I really don’t know.” They simply know they “want to lose” and “get in shape.” But they don’t know what that means for them personally.

            Now, I might be able to tell them what I think they should do, (I can usually tell by looking at them, asking them a few questions and doing a few simple tests what they need), but that wouldn’t be their goal—the one they’re sold on—so it’s less likely they’ll stick with the program or be happy and consistent doing it. I’d have to beg and cajole them into sticking with it. And that’s no fun for anyone.

            And I really can’t instill the mental toughness into someone that needs to be there to guarantee success. That’s a personality issue you need to work on and develop yourself. (Studies also show that most successful competitive athletes don’t workout more than the average person because they like working out. They workout because they know they need to do it to get better. When their athletic competition days are over, they usually stop working out and end up gaining weight like the average population. The goal has ended so the means to get there can be discarded.)

            But there is a very critical first step that needs to be taken before you get on the resolution train.

Know thyself
            There’s a great statement the North African Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo made and it bears repeating and spending some serious time meditating on before rushing off to write down resolutions or goals.
            “And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves
            of the seas, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the
            circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without
            a thought.”

            When was the last time you really spent some serious time discovering the mystery of you? How you’re wired? What your gifts and talents are? What your likes and dislikes revolve around? What your weaknesses and strengths are?
            Not what you wish they were. (You can explore that later.) But what makes you unique. Because God makes everyone unique. But instead of valuing our uniqueness, we often spend more time comparing ourselves to others and expending energy trying to be like them—acquiring their talents and dreams and gifts. It might be because their gifts are the ones that seem to get all of the attention, or they may be the ones you admire the most (or someone close to you does, in which case you’ve convinced yourself, incorrectly, that you need to be more like that other person).

            But that’s the challenge I want to present to you this week. (Although it may take longer than a week for real introspection.) Explore the mystery of you! The good, the not-so-good, the strengths, the weaknesses. The likes and the dislikes.
            If you’re really feeling motivated, write a one-page composite sketch of you. Not how you’d like to be, but how you are. Right now. Before any resolutions. Pray about it.
Meditate over it. Go for a walk and explore the mountains and beaches while you’re asking God to reveal you to you.

Meet me here next week and we’ll explore what to do with that personal composite sketch!



Monday, January 1, 2018

Read This BEFORE You Make That New Year Resolution!

New Year is always a great time to feel as though you can start fresh, make a resolution (or many of them) that will change your life for the better. Something that will help you become a new you!

The only problem? Those resolutions usually don't make it through January. So I want you to wait until you read next week's post to set any resolutions or make any changes. You'll be glad you did!

So enjoy the day with family friends, cheer on your football team to victory in whatever bowl game you're watching, and look forward to embarking on some personal changes that will really affect you and change your life for the better!

May you prosper in all ways this year!



Photo by Google images

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christ is Born Means God is With Us!


           MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
            May you feel Christ’s birth in a new way this day—a way that renews your heart, gives you a new purpose, and blankets your soul in happiness and peace.

            Enjoy your special day and week with family and friends. I’ll see you in the New Year!

Until next week.

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos courtesy of Google Images