Better than a Resolution

Over time I’ve grown skeptical of people’s New Years Resolutions. Don’t get me wrong. The New Year is a great time to hit reset. There is no better time to hit the refresh button than at at the start of the new year, especially after a year like 2020!

But most tout their New Years Resolution as if major change will happen compared to the previous year simply by stating it. It is a nice start, but unfortunately it isn’t enough. It is why we only see the head lines and hash tags in January. By mid February, most have already forgotten what their New Years Resolution was and the gyms begin to clear out to their normal spacious capacity allowing easy access to the treadmill and weight machines of your choosing.

Resolutions can work, but only when we make the small changes in our daily routine to make them work. That may seem obvious but it seems to be the steps that most skip. It feels better to state our resolution giving us a temporary feeling of hope that things are going to change even if we know deep down that our future habits will probably produce pretty similar results to our habits from the previous year.

For this reason, I like to approach the New Year with establishing something better than a resolution. It can be small but can be more powerful than any stated resolution. A new habit.

The new year is a perfect time to start a new habit. We may be tempted to start many, but if we aren’t careful our ambition may lead to all our habit seeds burning out with none taking root.

What if we only planted one? What if we committed to one new habit this year? Even if it is tiny. What if we planted that seed and then paid close attention to it and watered it each and every day? What could that little habit turn in to by this time next year?

Resolutions are good. Habits are better.

Happy New Year!

Science & God

Is there a God? This question has been asked throughout history in every language. It is an important question that every man and woman eventually asks.

When we look at the stars or all the nature around us, it is hard to imagine it without a creator. Every work of art must have an artist. Has modern science proved otherwise?

There have been many significant scientific discoveries over the last century. Many point to these discoveries as an argument against God saying that everything is random acts that came together perfectly to create the world around us and all the life within it. While much of the science seems credible, it is difficult to take it that far.

At first science and faith seem to be on opposing ends pulling against each other. I wrestled with this as I heard scientific discoveries that seemed to oppose that of a Creator. One of the best books that I read on the subject is called The Language of God. Francis Collins explains from his scientific perspective how science and faith go hand in hand.

Ultimately, what became clear to me is that either path requires faith. We have faith when we lean in to the unknown. Faith is acting on something even when we don’t have all the answers. If someone says there is no God that is an act of faith. Even if all the scientific theories were accurate, it still leads us to an unknown in the very beginning. It is an act of faith to live by this belief. Faith in what?

What if there is a Creator who set it all in motion? This requires faith, but we know what or Who we are placing are faith in. This leads us to ask the other question. Perhaps it is the question some are avoiding if they choose to place their faith in science.

If there is a God, what does He require of me?

Where Our Attention Goes

We must pay attention to what we are paying attention to. Our focus and attention directs our energy. It is easy for us to end up in a place where our attention and focus is aimed at the wrong thing.

Whatever we focus on gets bigger. If we want to magnify something, all we must do is focus on it and it will become bigger. Our focus directs our energy and has enormous power much like a magnifying glass can do with the sun.

This power needs to be aimed correctly. Often it is not. We may think it is, but often times we are aiming this power, our attention, at the wrong thing. We can end up magnifying the wrong thing, making the problem even worse.

If someone needs to lose weight and take their health more seriously, this is important and worthy of their attention. But they must aim their attention carefully. If they constantly aim their focus and attention on their weight problem, they may find their problem increases in size. This is the total opposite of what they want.

The same can be said of all problems we face. We can easily become so focused on a problem that without even realizing it, we feed the problem and make it worse. This is why we must pay attention to what we are paying attention to.

Where should we focus? What should we pay attention to? We should give our attention to the solutions to our problems. We should focus on the desired outcomes that we want. Our attention guides our energy. We need to direct it correctly.

Like everything this can be easier to observe in others and more difficult to observe in ourselves. I often observe people who know the desired outcome they want, yet they direct so little of their energy to it. Instead, their attention stays on the problems all around them making them even bigger.

It is tricky. The correct targets are small so aim carefully.

Repeatedly Do This

Actions we take once or even occasionally have little impact for the most part. The actions we take repeatedly have significant impact, either good or bad.

What do we do? What are the actions worth repeating? Jordan Peterson says to repeatedly do things that are worthy and noble. This isn’t a new idea. It has been taught throughout the centuries by wisest teachers and philosophers.

The things we repeatedly do put us on a path. The path leads us somewhere. We should pay attention to the things we do, but we should especially pay attention to the things we do repeatedly. If we are repeatedly doing things that are not noble or worthy that path may be leading us to a bad place. It may seem OK at first. The path may provide some immediate and short term gratification, but it leads to a place none of us want to be. Maybe we know someone who took this path. They never had intentions of ending up at this bad place, but the path of repeatedly doing things that were not noble and worthy lead them there. It led them to a place of desperation.

All of our actions will never be noble and worthy, but we can pursue it. We can repeatedly do more of them. The more noble and worthy things we do can crowd out the less worthy. This puts us on another path. Most of us want to know our destination. What is the title or even occupation? What is the purpose or meaning? We may not know those answers, at least not at first. All we know is the path of pursuing what is noble and worthy leads us there. We will discover the full meaning some where along the way.

We do not need to know exactly where it leads. All we need to know is that the place it ends up is good. We all may stumble off this path at times, but we can get back on by pursuing and repeatedly doing the things that are worthy and noble.

What are you repeatedly doing?

Stand Up Straight

When I was growing up my grandmother would always tell me to stand up straight and hold my should back. Of course, I immediately acted on it when she told me, but only to satisfy her so we could move on. I didn’t understand the significance of it so it wasn’t something I paid attention to all the time.

Understanding why to do something is important. We are more likely to adjust our behavior when we clearly understand why we should. My grandmother was right when she told me to stand up straight, but let me explain why.

There is a reason that our military are trained to stand at attention. A man may enter the military with poor posture, but he leaves much different. Why? Because standing up straight changes us and not just physically.

When we stand up straight we send a message to the world around us. It demands respect from those around us, but perhaps the most powerful thing is what it does to us on the inside. The simple physical action of holding our shoulders back causes us to respect ourselves more. It increases our on confidence which can change our behavior which then increases our confidence even more.

Holding our shoulders back and standing up straight can begin a positive cycle because of how it makes us feel and how the people around us treat us differently.

Next time you are feeling a little unsure, pay attention to your posture. Try standing up straight even if you don’t feel like it. Watch how it changes how you feel.

Stand straight. Hold your shoulders back. My grandmother was right.

The Power of a Label

What does label mean?

1 : a slip (as of paper or cloth) attached to something to identify or describe it. 2 : a word or phrase that describes or names something or someone a part-of-speech label. label. verb. labeled or labelled; labeling or labelling.

We mostly think of labels on items. Labels help us identify what an item is or what is inside. If we see a can with no label, we have no idea what it contains inside. When we see the label we know exactly what it holds. We make our judgments on the item based on the label on the outside of it.

The same is true with people, but these labels have the potential to be very dangerous or very powerful depending on the label. Unfortunately, we are often unaware of the power these labels hold.

Little Johnny may have been given a negative label in school. It could have started as fun with little truth behind it, but it stuck. At first, people may have known their wasn’t much truth behind it, but over time the label came to identify Johnny. This is bad, but the worst part is how Johnny views the label.

At first, Johnny may have brushed the label off, but over time he started to identify with it. Johnny started to believe that the label correctly identified who he was. Johnny began to think and act in accordance with the label. The label become an accurate description of who Johnny was. The contents on the inside changed in order to match the label on the outside.

Imagine if you put a Sprite label on a Dr. Pepper can and over time the Dr. Pepper turned in to Sprite. This is the power labels can have on people.

When we are given a false label, we will do one of two things. We will reject it as false because we know it doesn’t accurately describe what is on the inside or we will accept it and change what is on the inside to match the label.

The labels can come from others and even come from ourselves. Maybe a negative experience causes us to give ourselves a label with little meaning, but then we repeat it. And then we repeat it again. Before we know it, we have accepted it.

Labels are both dangerous and powerful. What labels do you need to change?

Don’t Be A Quitter

Yesterday, I wrote that winners quit. It is what is required to be the best. Today, I’m going to contradict what I said. Not really contradict but tell the other side.

Quitting is a terrible habit. It is necessary and required of us to pursue excellence at something but it should be done intentionally to make room for something better. Unfortunately, too many people quit because something is hard. That is not a reason to quit something.

EVERYTHING without exception that is worthwhile is hard at some point. Marriage, raising kids, a job, starting a business or even a ministry will be hard at times. Winners don’t quit. They push through. Yes, they may quit the unimportant to make room for the important but that is a very deliberate decision.

Quiting can become a habit. It can become easier the more we do it so we need to be careful about quitting something simply because it is hard or we don’t like it. Find someone who has lived their life on the pattern of quitting. Look at the results. It may have started small, but quitting became so easy that they simply quit everything when it got hard. This is a dangerous pattern.

Developing perseverance is foundational to success in life. Learning how to quit the good things to make room for the great requires wisdom, but first we must develop perseverance.

Winners Quit

There is an old saying, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” I love it. It encourages perseverance and never giving up. These qualities are important to our success. We all want our team to keep pushing to the end. A come back is always possible so we should never quit.

The saying is true, but in my opinion it doesn’t tell the whole story. Winners do quit. In fact, maybe quiting is what they do best. They quit better than anyone else and they do it with great intention.

To be number one at something means quiting a lot of other things that we can’t be number one at in order to give our best. This is hard. Afterwall, winners never quit.

The young athlete who is number one at every sport he plays eventually has to make a tough decision. Early on it is great to play them all, but as the competition increases as he gets older he has to decide what he is going to quit to make room for his best. If he rises to the professional levels he will quit everything, but the one sport.

The world rewards being the best. To be the best at anything involves a lot of quiting. But it also involves a lot of not quiting. Knowing what to quit and what not to quit is the key. Seth Godin wrote an entire book on quiting called The Dip. Perseverance is a quality of the most successful, but so is quiting.

Is there anything you need to quit in order to help you be the best at something else?

The Dangers of Mo

Momentum is a beautiful thing. It is hard to always describe it or even pinpoint when it begins or ends, but we know it when we have it. It could be an individual or an organization that is hitting the Big Mo. Everything is better with momentum.

There are a couple dangers with momentum to be aware of. I have experienced both of these in my life, but I must give credit to John Maxwell for giving me clarity on it in one of his many great books.

We would all love to live in momentum all the time. Who wouldn’t want to ride the bike continuously downhill where all we have to do is coast and ride the momentum? While there are many things we can do to create momentum and try to hold on to it, it is unrealistic to think we will have it all the time. So let’s remember these dangers of momentum.

When we don’t have it, we look a lot worse than we really are. This is important to understand and remember when we are trying to create some momentum in our life or organization. When we are working hard doing the right things to create the momentum, we may not look that great yet. The results may not be showing to the outside world yet. The momentum hasn’t kicked in yet. This is when it is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to beat ourselves up and quit, but’s try to remember that without momentum we are really better than we appear to be. Hopefully, this can encourage us to keep pushing up the hill until we hit that momentum and can coast with it.

The second danger may not seem as dangerous, but perhaps it is the most dangerous of all. It is especially dangerous because most of us won’t be able to recognize it when the time comes.

With momentum we look a lot better than we really are! That’s it. May not sound too dangerous at first, but we should be aware of it. When a person or an organization has momentum, almost everything works. Afterall, we are flying downhill and with enough momentum almost nothing can stop us. Again, it is a beautiful thing and we want to ride that momentum and take it as far as we can. But we must be cautious. This is when we get sloppy because we can afford to be. This is also when we can become arrogant and loose our empathy for others who don’t have the momentum. So it is worth remembering that when we have the Big Mo on our side that we may not be as good as we think we are. Let’s try to remember what it was like when we didn’t have it. Maybe that will help us keep it longer and be better humans at the same time.

Is It Really a Disadvantage?

All of us have challenges and things that seem to be a disadvantage. If I asked you to share your disadvantages, I bet you could come up with a pretty long list!

Arnold Schwarzenegger is no exception. His early life was filled with what most would consider huge disadvantages especially for the goals and the career path that he had set for himself. One example was his extremely strong accent and massive build. He had decided that he would go from being a body builder to an actor, but he was told by all the experts that he was crazy. They told him he would never be a huge star in America because of his accent and his incredibly massive size. They told him he was too big for the screen.

How did he respond? What did he do with this disadvantages? He embraced them. He decided to make them his greatest assets. He identified roles that only he could pull off like The Terminator. It was a movie that needed a man built like a machine and someone who didn’t speak fluidly. He literally turned what was said to be his greatest disadvantages and made them advantages. He went on to become the number one highest paid actor in the world.

It doesn’t matter if you love The Terminator. It is a great lesson that we can all learn from.

How can you turn your disadvantages into advantages?