21 Day Challenge, Day 17

The big “D” … Derailed. It happens. Life is full of distractions. (dis – i.e. opposite of) Don’t get down when you get off track. We all encounter detours, which, if we’re not careful will discourage and disappoint us. It’s all part of the journey. Goals are necessary, yes. But a goal is like a golf hole flag. It’s a pin that marks the hole – but there are a lot of missed putts. Sure, you want the best score possible, but if you miss the hole you line it up and putt again; period. Golfers miss putts all the time and still win matches.

If you miss a goal (marker), realign your target and play on through. If you let falling a little short of the target goal get to you you’ll miss the reality of just how close you got – especially compared to where you where when you started. So your goal was losing ten pounds, and you lost eight – congratulations. That’s eight less than when you started. Celebrated the ground covered and continue on. Remember, while we do hope to achieve our goals on time, the bigger picture is really about creating new disciplines that will continue on way past the end of our current goal.

I have this belief that life is really about our own personal evolution. And out of that evolution come the fruits of our core self. As we grow and mature emotionally and spiritually, our contribution to the world around us grows along with it. Unfortunately, when we get caught up in the distractions, disappointments, detours, and derailments our personal evolution is stifled. I like what author Bob Gass said; “Even if you miss the right path from time to time, you can still enjoy the scenery along the detour.”

Stay focused on the bigger picture; you becoming more you. What happens along the way happens. If you miss a target, line it up and putt again.

21 Day Challenge, Day 16

Are you in touch with your personal values? Whether you realize it our not, your life is governed by your value base. Some people might place a higher value on family than anything else; others money, fame, religion, or even self. Often we have several core values that form the foundation from which much of our life flows. When you operate from your value base you find you have more energy and zest for life. And when you feel forced to function out of a set of values that aren’t high on your list, you feel a sense of low energy, frustration, or possibly even anxiety. This happens a lot if we work in a job we don’t particularly like. Or we may have conflicting values with the employer, or another person we are in a relationship with.

Your values make up the structure of your personality. Someone who values a particular political party will have different values than someone from the other side. The same goes with religious affiliations. Look at your own political and religious affiliation and ponder for a moment the causes that stir you. Those are part of your value base.

So, when you are considering changes you wish to make in your life, it’s also important to factor in your personal values. If you are trying to find a new job it would serve you well to investigate the value base of a potential new employer to see if you are closely aligned. If you have a heart for the green earth movement, going to work for a big factory with emission issues will challenge you – even if it’s the only job available. Do you compromise your values, or hold out for a different situation?

If you’ve never considered what your values are, make a list. Just start writing down everything that’s important to you. (As an example, rather than saying my car you would say efficient/quality transportation.) Then survey your list and pick the top five. This is a pretty fair representation of your core values. And from here you can begin to better understand the things that motivate you in life.

21 Day Challenge, Day 15

Change requires risk. It will likely require you to step into unknowns, and it will challenge your perceived sense of safety. Helen Keller wrote, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

We think we’ve settled into a place of comfort and security, all the while our inner being is longing for more, better, different … our heart and soul cry out for more of life, and our mind keeps telling us don’t do that; you can’t, think about what could happen

But here’s the reality – everywhere in history, it’s the people who chose to risk that are the ones who really succeeded at life. And it doesn’t have to be about fame and fortune. Your longing might be to serve a third world country as a missionary. That requires risk. But the rewards, albeit spiritual and emotional, are tremendous.

We were created for life. We were created with a purpose. We were made to count. But I’ve learned in life that we always have a choice. In today’s world we can take the easy road; settle into an existence that doesn’t require much from us and coast through without much discomfort. We have been taught that there is a life that doesn’t require much risk. And sadly, many choose that life. But you are different. You can feel the pull of a greater life available. The key is; are you willing to risk what it takes to have that life?

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin

21 Day Challenge, Day 14

Faith is a key element in life; period. Without it, I’m not sure how anyone really makes it. Without making it religious, or political, here a few key thoughts about faith.

Just as, what you think becomes a driving force in your life, so does what you believe. If I believe (have faith in) that my car is going to start in the morning when I head out to work, then it’s not on my mind all morning as I get ready for work. I know it’s going to happen. Because I have faith that it’s going to work properly, I don’t worry about it. [I used to have an older vehicle that instilled in me less faith, so I know how that feels.]

From a larger perspective, faith in a superior being that somehow is the driving force behind life is comforting. Regardless of your religious or denominational background, it’s generally accepted that roughly 88% of the world’s population believes in God. It’s a fairly safe bet that you fall somewhere in that 88%. So why do we not look more to that source for divine guidance when we attempt a life change of some sort.

As far as I can tell, nearly all religions have the central message of God as being love. And if you love someone, you want the best for them. Therefore my conclusion is that God wants the best for us. So our faith can start there. And when we attempt to change something about our life, the next natural conclusion is to ask for help from our divine creator, and trust that he will. From a practical perspective, faith is a positive. And positive faith, trusting the loving desire from God for us, alters our outlook on the journey to change. The mere act of believing changes the physiological makeup of our brain. And a positive faith (thought life) is the key to producing productive action steps.

21 Day Challenge, Day 13

Fear. Just looking at the word can make you uneasy. Much of our lives is dictated by fear of some kind. Sure, there’s healthy fear; like fear of a Grizzly Bear when you’re alone in the woods, or fear of being burned by a hot stove burner if your hand gets too close. But that’s different than the kind of fear that grips you if you have to speak in front of a crowded room, or prepare to receive some potentially bad news. That’s a crippling kind of fear.

But consider this. Here’s an acronym for the word fear; Future Events Appearing Real. We often imagine the worst thing happening. And what it boils down to, in many cases, is fear of someone else’s reaction, or worse, judgment. We think thoughts like, “what if I make a mistake,” “what if they laugh at me,” or “what if I don’t do it right?” As long as you let questions like these dominate your thought process you can forget about change. It won’t happen. When you ask those questions, you’ve perceived the answer already, and it’s not good.

Coach Tess Marshall says this about fear, “Fear is a habit, so is self-pity, defeat, anxiety, despair, hopelessness and resignation. You can eliminate all of these negative habits with two simple resolves, I can! and I will.” Tom Hopkins said,Do what you fear most and you control fear.”

Fear is an emotion. Emotions originate in the brain. When you begin to teach your mind a new way of perceiving circumstances, you can realize that fears don’t dominating your thoughts anymore. When a fearful emotion begins to surface, don’t give into it. Ask yourself; “what is really the worst thing that can happen?” What is the likelihood that it will? When you realize that rarely do you experience your worst case scenario, you can begin to relax and focus on reality. And that is, you can do it. And you can trust yourself.

21 Day Challenge, Day 12

A lot of what makes change possible is your attitude. How are you handling the ups and downs of this process? There’s an ancient proverb that shows up all over history; it goes something like this – as you think, so you become. On any given day I can fall into adverse thinking about myself, my life circumstances, or my ability to succeed. It’s a slippery slope from there. Sound familiar? Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

What you choose to think/believe/agree within yourself will generally drive the momentum, or lack thereof, in your life. Dale Carnegie said, “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” I like what Mahatma Gandhi said about attitude; “Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”

I don’t think we realize just how much power we have over our circumstances. Yes, there’s always the human element – the unknown – the other person – but in general, you are the captain of your fate. And what you have planted in your mind about a particular situation will become the fruit of your labor. Your ability to change rests in the cradle of your skull. What’s your attitude about you current ability to change? Might you be in need of an attitude adjustment?

21 Day Challenge, Day 11

Momentum is a key element in maintaining an environment of change, especially in the early stages of a new mission. At the halfway point of the 21 day challenge I semi-intentionally took a break on one of my goals. I had a double motive. Firstly, I had a short trip planned and I knew it would be a little tough to keep up. (Honestly, that is generally not a really good excuse.) And my second reason was as an experiment. I wanted to intentionally experience the effects of sloughing off and then trying to regain my momentum.

The results were as I expected. Initially I was grateful for the little mini-vacation while I remained certain that I would pick back up in a day or so. Quickly a day became three. And feelings of disappointment began to filter in as I contemplated just hanging it up all together; thus the danger of breaking the momentum of your mission. And that is often why people set goals and don’t reach them. I’m sure you’ve experienced that at some point in your life.

When you break your routine you get out of the habit. You begin to coast, and eventually come to a standstill. You then make room for the old patterns and agreements to resurface, and before you know it, you’ve lost all resolve to continue. It’s the yo-yo syndrome.

The best advice I can offer is, don’t stop. Don’t break your cycle of forward progress. Make a commitment to see it through all the way to the end, no matter what. And if you find a break unavoidable, keep reminding yourself that the pause is temporary and make a sincere commitment to resume as soon as possible. There’s always time for intermissions in life’s projects, but completing each stage all the way through is vital to reaching any lasting personal life goal.

21 Day Challenge, Day 10

I was setting around in a group chatting last night about random topics when the subject of weight loss came up. I guess we were all feeling a little insecure as we each boasted about the various plans and routines we were investigating. As we compared notes each of us probably felt a bit guarded about ours being the better choice. One of the guys finally commented on how difficult it is to stay committed to any plan. That line of conversation continued for a while when another chimed in; “why don’t we just all agree to encourage each other in this common pursuit.”

Good plan! “And the word we’re looking for,” I suggested, “is accountability.” Of course that word can evoke both negative and positive emotions – but for the sake of our conversation it was an appropriate term. In this case, we’re not accountable to, but accountable with; as a means of positive encouragement with a buddy or group of people who are simultaneously pursuing a similar goal.

Let’s face it, alone is tough. Sure, smaller goals like fix-it-ups, or balancing your checkbook are easily completed by yourself. But when you set out to tackle something that requires significant physical effort or inner strength, it’s always helpful to team up with someone, (or a group) who will help you stay focused and positive minded during the process. You can encourage each other when you get down, and praise each other when you reach certain milestones. The likelihood of giving up is reduced as well when there is someone committed to helping you succeed.

Are you going it alone? Consider inviting someone to be your partner on this journey. Even if they aren’t pursuing a particular goal, ask if they will allow you to report to them, and invite them to help you stay focused.

21 Day Challenge, Day 9

In 1952 Norman Vincent Peale wrote a book that would become the foundation of what we know as the positive thinking movement. The principals in The Power Of Positive Thinking are so counter intuitive to the way most of our culture lives and thinks today. Peale vehemently challenged that often negative, pessimistic attitude so prevalent in society.

His principals are just as viable today, and probably more needed than ever. Below I have paraphrased some ideas from the first few pages of the book. Peale says there are “simple, workable rules for overcoming inadequacy attitudes …” Here’s my spin on them.

1)     Visualize yourself succeeding at your goals – burn that image in your mind, make it as real (as if) to your subconscious mind.

2)     When negative thoughts or images come to mind, don’t let them linger. Replace them with the opposite (positive) picture or thought immediately.

3)     See obstacles for what they are; just obstacles. Don’t give them any power beyond that.

4)     Don’t be overly impressed or intimidated by other people. You’re just as capable. And they struggle too.

5)     Don’t be afraid to ask for help – either from a trusted friend or a trusted professional.

6)     Honestly evaluate your ability to succeed, then up it 10%. Push yourself to get out of your comfort zone.

7)     Don’t be afraid to trust your creator. We often miss the key ingredient of faith. You were designed to succeed at being you – and God wants to participate in that success.

8)     Do the thing you fear. Emerson wrote, “They conquer who believe they can.” After you’ve done it once, you defeat the fear of the unknown.

9)     Remind yourself often, daily, that you can and will achieve your goals. Peale said, “Feelings of confidence depend upon the type of thoughts that habitually occupy your mind.”

10)  Change requires effort, but it’s better to have changed than to live with regret.

I hope these tidbits from the master positive thinker give you a boost today. Treat your mind like a close friend and it will take you where you want to go in life.

21 Day Challenge, Day 8

Perspective is an amazing thing. I’m sure you’ve heard some variation of this statement; “you don’t have to look too hard to find someone with more difficult circumstances than you.” And it’s true. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of self pity. Thoughts like, “I just can’t do this,” “it’s too hard,” “it doesn’t matter anyway,” “I’ll never change,” can flood our conscious mind and stall or even halt the process.

I watched a video clip on YouTube recently about a guy named Nick Vujicic – his mission statement is “no arms, no legs, no problem.” If you haven’t seen him, you should – his story will inspire you. He literally was born with no arms and no legs, but what he has accomplished in life is amazing. I felt convicted of my edgy attitude some mornings after watching Nick’s story. And if that wasn’t enough – I have one friend facing cancer, and another facing possible jail time. What do I have to complain about? I think you get the picture.

So, give yourself the opportunity to gain some new insight into your surroundings. Take a moment to look at your life from some different perspectives. Invite an outside opinion. Read the obituaries. Ride a public bus. Stand on a chair and look around the room. What are you missing? It’s so easy to get caught up in our own little world and think it’s all about me. Maybe the result of the things you are trying to change about yourself will actually benefit others too.