Happy New Year – Setting Goals for 2014

Goal.We’ve been following the five step, five day process for goal setting from Michael Hyatt’s blog on intentional leadership.  In one of of Michael’s video clips leading up to the course, Five Days to Your Best Year Ever, he discusses how detailed action plans are often a fancy way to procrastinate.  Bingo – I shared how that is one of my problems, along with too much research.  Another pitfall to watch out for is too many passions and desires, too many goals or projects.  Once again I tend to have too many irons in the fire at once.

But one of the things that convinced me to make the leap forward and take the course to develop my goals was another observation by Michael: ‘That’s the thing at the end of the day that we all want.  We want a life where we get to the end of our days, we look back, and we say, ‘We left nothing on the field.  We gave it all.  We really achieved what mattered most to us.'”

The thought process started when I needed to develop goals for work, then grew to a more global view.  Getting to the end of life and being able to say I gave it all brought back some memories of the high school cross county team.  I have never run track or cross country, but a group of friends were all on the cross country team, so I signed up.  I never got any instruction on running or pacing myself, but always found myself what seemed hopelessly behind those who were in shape and had experience running cross country through the woods.

One meet with another school, I ended up near the rear of all team members, with one other runner from the other school.  We exited the woods, and started our last lap around the track to finish the race.  Obviously neither one of us wanted to be the dead last, so we went faster and faster till we were sprinting the last lap, with spectators cheering.  But later in the locker room, the coach made an observation to the team that in cross country you should be giving your all throughout the course, and never have saved enough energy at the end to sprint a lap.

That advice fits with Michael Hyatt’s observations on looking back on life and being able to say we gave it our all.  We don’t want to be at the end and think that we were holding back and now there’s no time or there’s no health.  I don’t want regrets for not doing or attempting all those things I’d like to do before the end of the race.  How about you?  If you want to set some goals that will stick and lead to positive action and progress, check out the course on the Five Days to Your Best Year Ever.

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Christmas – the Gift of Best Love

GiftTomorrow we celebrate the birth of Christ. He came as a small gift, but in reality God gave us the greatest gift of all, the gift of eternal love, the gift of Best Love. It is so simple, yet we like to make it complicated.

We tend to think of religion when we discuss faith and spiritual matters. But for many, religion can be summed up with lists of things not to do and lists of other things to do. Maybe even comparisons or judgements are made about others who may have done more of the things on the bad list, or not as many on the good list.

Then there are those that in the name of religion speak of hate and condemnation as though that is the only way to convince others to change their path, to think and act like the haters.

The greatest gift was made to provide salvation and eternal life for all. But even then it is easy to miss just how great the gift of God’s best love is. When we concentrate on lists, we often also have a list of what we have to do to show and demonstrate our love for God. That is just another worthless list. What we need to do is focus on how great God’s love is for us, that he truly accepts us as we are, and forgives us for all we have done on the bad list.

Only then can we accept, forgive, and love ourselves. And this is necessary to be able to love, forgive, and accept others. Then through faith and a vibrant relationship with Christ, we can be open to change and transformation, and yield to the process. The last couple years I have discovered this working in the Celebrate Recovery program I have mentioned a couple times. Doing a personal inventory and examining hurts and wrongs leads to identifying root causes and character defects. Yielding to His power to change helps to recover from the past and have hope for the future.

A couple thousand years ago the world received the greatest gift, and its equally available to all. Tomorrow, with family, great food, many gifts, remember the best gift.

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cautionsI’ve talked about the importance of attitude and being optimistic. Yesterday I heard an old song by Herman’s Hermits, This Door Swings Both Ways. The lyrics caught my attention and I didn’t recall hearing it back in the ‘60’s. It says that every man’s life is a door and you’re not complete until you’ve seen it from both sides. Every day you make a choice – right or wrong, live in happiness or dwell in pain.

We choose every day what we let in and what we take out, which impacts our overall attitude. And that in turn sets the stage for everything going on in our lives. If we dwell on the negative and let it stay in our thoughts, we are in trouble. If we let the emotional vampires suck a disproportionate amount of our good thoughts and feelings out, once again we are in trouble.

There is an American Indian story a grandfather told his grandson. Every man has a battle going on inside between two wolves. The evil wolf is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The good wolf is is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

When the grandson asks which wolf wins the battle, the grandfather replies that the wolf that you feed wins.

The song I discussed above ends with the thought that we need to make the most of living if we are not prepared to die (full lyrics here). I would go further and say that if I am not making the most of my living, I am accepting mediocrity and a coasting into death.

I continue to battle with procrastination. I spend too much time researching and planning my many various projects to make this decade my best, and to really live. I need to spend more time focusing on a specific project all the way to completion so that the next project can be attacked and seen through to completion as well. It’s easy to get busy and feel busy, but I want to concentrate on accomplishing my goals and objectives.

After all, I don’t want to be like the man who was going to build a tower – “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.‘” (Luke 14:28-30)

How about you? Which wolf have you fed today? – will you feed tomorrow? We make choices and decisions everyday. Do you think about the end results while considering a choice?

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Thanksgiving and Contentment

ID-100236304I started this blog at Thanksgiving 2010 and wrote about gratitude in Real Thanksgiving – Better Love.  At Thanksgiving 2011, actually the week before Thanksgiving, I wrote more about gratitude, chapter two. Little did I know that the next week I would experience what I refer to as my Black Thanksgiving. I wrote some about that at Thanksgiving 2012, in Changes in the Year Following Black Thanksgiving. But this year I want to examine the role of contentment in thanksgiving.

I think that contentment is at the heart of being able to give thanks, and is equally at the heart of being able to be happy. Now I don’t mean that you must be content or satisfied with whatever you have right now, or where you are. Nor do I mean that you have to set your expectations so low that they are always met. Rather, what I mean is that we can be content with what we have and still want to improve and still set goals for that improvement. We have to be content and appreciate what and who we have, where we are, to be able to really feel and express gratitude. And gratitude is necessary to give thanks.

So what is it that most hinders our ability to be content? Of course there is materialism and wanting more than we really need, beyond a reasonable and logical improvement. But there is a bigger factor, one that materialism comes from – that is comparing and contrasting ourselves with others. I don’t think we can help but compare ourselves to others to some degree, but the problem comes in when we pick out one aspect of someone else’s condition and see that as a standard to define where we wish we were, financially, professionally, or in our relationships.

A by-product of comparisons is complaining. I have talked in the past of emotional vampires that literally suck your emotional blood from you with their issues and problems, yet never have an interest in what is going on in your life. They are takers and not givers. But the constant complainers are more subtle and therefore more insidious. I think I will call these folks contentment leeches. The contentment leeches can always find something wrong with the job, their spouse, etc., but would rather share their discontentment than look for ways to make it better.

Allow me to share some more Spanish Medieval wisdom, from an 11th century Jewish poet-philosopher: He who seeks more than he needs, hinders himself from enjoying what he has. Seek what you need and give up what you need not. For in giving up what you don’t need, you’ll learn what you really do need.

He warns of seeking more than you need, not of seeking a reasonable improvement.  It can be difficult for me to put aside what I don’t really need, and it often starts with coming to an agreement with my wife what is a need, or a reasonable want, versus something that is really not needed. The next step is to agree on the priorities of the different needs and wants, and finally, we both have to apply it to the relationship.

What about you – can’t you think of some things you really should be content with, and in turn be grateful for? The health of you and important others, the friendships and relationships you share? This is the perfect time of the year to express it.

image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

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More Thoughts on Procrastination

dbab9056608a040ca7857e6672fb0ac0I have recently shared about the museum of art work that Picasso gave to his barber.  I recently found an interesting quote of Picasso’s:  “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”  Although I have shared it several times before, I have to share again what a Spanish coworker said to me the first week at work in Spain.  He asked if I was trying to learn Spanish, then asked if I knew what the word mañana meant.  I said yes, it meant tomorrow.  He said, “No, it could be tomorrow or it could be the day after tomorrow, but mañana is ‘not today’.”  And that expresses my procrastination exactly.  

When I put something off, I’m not usually thinking that I will actually do it tomorrow, the next day.  Instead, what I am thinking is I don’t want to do it right now, I don’t want to do it today, I’d rather do something else right now.  Unfortunately, what I put off is usually something important, something related to long term goals, and what I do instead could be considered a waste of time – such as watching TV.  Once I’ve delayed action until “tomorrow,” when tomorrow arrives, its that much easier to delay further.  Even when I sat down to write this article, I wanted to check if Picasso really said that quote, and ended up doing a bunch more “research” before I really got to the task of writing.  

Perhaps it would be more honest to say “some day” or “one day” rather than “not today” since those carry more of the flavor of an indefinite delay.  When I tell my wife I will accomplish something, but “not today,” she asks “if not now, when?”  If I actually say “mañana” when she asks when I’m going to do a chore, she warns me that “mañana” better come way before eternity.

Paul Grahm (see here) suggests that procrastination is not something that can really be cured.  He further suggests that there is actually good procrastination, that is when you put off working on one thing to work on something more important.  In other words, that’s where you put off working on the small stuff so that you can accomplish the big stuff.  He gives a good example of bad procrastination with the person who wants to write a novel, but doesn’t spend time sitting in front of a blank screen or blank page doing nothing.  No, the bad procrastinator spends times doing errands around the house or surfing the web rather than sitting and writing.

But what Paul Grahm said that really caught my attention was that the procrastinators that put off working on small stuff to accomplish the big things are the most impressive people he knows.  His definition of the small stuff is anything with no chance of being mentioned in your obituary.   Which goes back to the quote from Picasso, saying the same thing in a different way.

What about you?  Isn’t there at least one important thing you would like to accomplish while you still have the time to do so?  Why not set some small stuff aside and work on something important, today.

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Making Mistakes

more-people-would-learn-from-their-mistake-if-they-werent-so-busy-denying-themWhy is it we can always see our own faults more clearly when they are portrayed by others?  I think of how important it is with our kids to correct mistakes with kindness and understanding, and how I failed in that department at times.  What brought this to mind was learning that a coworker belittled and berated those under him for making a mistake, then failed to own up to a similar mistake he had made.

But my most vivid memory of someone failing to own up to his own mistakes comes from a radar class almost 40 years ago.  The teacher was making a presentation, and writing equations on the board as he talked.  But something he wrote didn’t match what he was saying, and I questioned him about it.  Rather than admit he had made an error, and correcting it quickly, he began the explanation from the beginning.  As he did so, he erased parts of the board and rewrote them as he talked about that part of the analysis.  As he did so, when he arrived at the error, he simply erased it and wrote it correctly with that part of the verbal explanation.  He ended by looking at me and saying, “see, it is exactly as I had explained it.”

It wasn’t sad that he proved me wrong, as everyone in the class saw what he did and knew who was in error.  What was truly sad was that he demonstrated that his ego was so large that he could not admit a simple unimportant error and move on.

I catch myself more often than not when I want to be right more than I want to be kind and understanding.  For instance, does it really matter when someone says that now we’ve gone off daylight savings time, its going to be darker when I go to work?  I know its lighter now, but I don’t need to tell the other person that they’re wrong.

Those thoughts mesh well with a lot of what I have said being positive, and the fact that I have decided to make my decade of sixties my best decade yet (here and here), and with a quote I recently read about recovery:  No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow your progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who quits trying.

When I make a mistake, I try to admit it and own up to it quickly and make amends.  When someone else makes a mistake, I try to address it with kindness and understanding.  And I try to reinforce the good others do and praise them for it, even if they have made mistakes.  But the most important is to keep trying – as I have said, stop procrastinating and just do it.

What about you?  Could you be kinder with others’ mistakes?  Could you give others more praise and recognition?  Just do it.

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End To This Year’s Visit To Spain

Here is another picture from the Picaso museum in Buitrago.  In my last post there is a picture of a book dedicated by Picaso to his friend and barber, Eugenio Arias.  This was from a visit to the museum of artwork Picaso gave Arias during their lifelong friendship, which Arias left to his hometown of Buitrago upon his death, and was then turned into a museum in Buitrago.  It is interesting that only Arias was allowed to cut the hair and fingernails of Picaso and his wives.  You see, Picaso believed that his creative forces were contained in his hair and nail clippings and someone else who possessed these clippings could come to have power over him – much as Delilah over Samson.

IMG_0073I’m back from Spain and missed some of my scheduled publish dates, but wanted to share some more from my trip this year.  Below are some photos of my first adventure sailplaning, with my friend Pedro.  There’s a picture of the two of us preparing to be towed up into the sky, as the tow plane lands behind us.  Then there is a picture of the tow process, a picture back at Pedro flying, and a picture by Pedro when I was at the controls up front.
20131005_155040IMG_0442IMG_0468IMG_0466Below is a picture of a gargoyle from a monastery near Buitrago, where Maria Victoria was married some decades ago.  The gargoyle could very well be saying, “Oh no, what have I’ve done?”

It’s back to work, and back to my schedule of publishing weekly to my blog – so, until next week.


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