I'll be 40 next year...and I'll say that in all of my near-40 years of living, I rarely (if ever) went into a scary situation that was as bad as I'd thought it would be. What made these scary situations REALLY scary was my own mind. My imagination didn't match reality, and my imagination scared me much more than reality did.
Whatever you are scared of probably doesn't compare to reality. The worst case scenario in your mind may never come your way, and even if it did, the experience would most likely not be as bad as you think.
The worst nightmare of every Prius owner is to have the hybrid battery go bad. Those batteries could range from $3,000 to $5,000 brand new. When those batteries go dead, you CANNOT drive that car. So once you buy a Prius, especially a used one, you simply have to pray that your battery would last for a very, very long time. Of course, if you're rich, buying a new hybrid battery would be nothing more than going into a dollar store.
So, about six months of buying my used Prius, my hybrid battery goes bad. Now we were faced with either selling it or paying a hefty fee for somebody to fix it -- which you could do instead of buying a whole new battery. But I opted for Option C: fix the thing myself. The actual experience of fixing that battery was more pleasant than dreadful, and I felt so empowered after I accomplished the task! My worst fear about the Prius came true, but the experience of dealing with this situation was nowhere as bad as I thought it would be.
Whatever it is that you're scared of, just imagine that the REALITY would be more manageable than you thought it would be. Or just imagine that whatever you're scared of may NEVER happen.
Count on just ONE hand how many times your worst fears came true. You can't THINK about it. You have to do it quickly and smoothly. Losing a very important job, losing a loved one, getting a disease, etc., are among people's worst fears. If any of these have actually happened to you, then you would quickly remember them. But if you really had to think about it, then most likely you never had any of your worst fears come true.
Now, count on just ONE hand how many of your worst fears that DID come true that you were able to handle better than you thought you would. Again, you can't think about it.
Fear is powerful enough to stop you in your tracks. It's strong enough to keep you from reaching your full potential. For many of us, we will never in our life time do what we dream about because of fear. Just imagine knowing that you're entering the final days of your life and realizing that everything you were scared of never happened.
I think about a parable that Jesus told about the talents. A man gave three of his servants a certain amount of talents (or money) so that they could invest them and make more money. The first person doubled his investments and was greatly rewarded. The second person doubled his investments and was greatly rewarded. The third person, however, did NOTHING with his investments because...well...he was scared. He was scared that his master would take all of his profits that he made with his hard work. So, he just gave his master back his money.
How did the master responded? He called his servant a "wicked and lazy" servant. Then the master told his servant that if he was that scared, he should have AT LEAST put the money in a bank to collect interest. Nope, the servant didn't even do that. But had the servant disregarded his fears and invested the money, he would have been greatly rewarded along with his fellow co-workers.
See, fear will keep you from better things. Whatever it is that you're scared of, acknowledge it and go forward with your plan. The worst that could happen is that if things don't go your way, you'd at least know. The best that could happen is that things would go MUCH BETTER than you thought.
Right now, you're held captive by fear, which is how fear works. It holds you down and keeps you from doing anything. What if...just what if you get greatly rewarded by doing the thing you fear? What if you've opened many doors because you disregarded your fear? What if only good things happened because you ignored your fears? You could spend your time asking how many things could go wrong, but you could spend that same amount of energy asking how many things could go right.
Every year is a new year. Before we enter the new year, we make these lofty plans (aka "resolutions") concerning how we're going to change our lives. Of course, these plans never go exactly as...well...planned. In fact, these plans never get past March. Before we know it, we failed yet again at keeping our resolutions. So...now we have to wait until next year to try again.
We get so caught up in making plans for an entire year that we forget that each year is made up of 365 individual days. What we do on each of those days would determine the overall outcome for the entire year. So instead of focusing on one year at a time, wouldn't it make more sense to just focus on how you're going to change your life for each day?
See, an entire year is made up of failures and successes that occur EACH DAY. Instead of focusing on how the year is going, you ought to focus on how your DAY is going. Did you start the day off right? If not, did you end the day on a good note? If yes, then you had a successful day. If not, then you had a failed day. But guess what? You have tomorrow to start over again. If you fail tomorrow, then you could start afresh on the day after. Each day brings new beginnings, new chances to get things right, new opportunities to finish the year on a good note.
So, if an entire year goes by and you felt that it wasn't a good year, it's because you had too many failed days. Instead of using each day to your advantage, you let the day use YOU. Instead of starting anew with the beginning of each day, you thought that all of your sins and failures just rolled over to the next day. Instead of thinking of how to make the new day better, you just went with the flow and let the day take you anywhere it wanted to.
When the new year comes, you will start off strong and determined! You would have lots of successful days. Then once February hits, you would get tired and have more failed days. But when March comes, you'll be just about done with your resolutions because you are too far behind. Once again, you failed to keep your New Year's resolutions.
But it shouldn't be like that. When March comes and you see that you failed more times than you succeeded, guess what you should do? Redeem yourself on the next day! When you go to bed and wake up, treat the new day as a day of second chances.
Whether or not you're big into sports, there is one general thing you know about sports: the game isn't over because one team scored a point. Each round is a new beginning for each team. The team that scored the first point might lose in the next round. The team that lost the first round might score a point in the second round. The game isn't over until it's over. Even if the losing team is very far behind, they could still catch up because every new round is another chance to win.
If you find yourself very far behind in your goals, don't despair. Tomorrow is a new day, bringing new opportunities to make things right. And if you messed up that day, then the following day would offer another chance to catch up. One of the worst things you could do in any year is to simply stop trying. Yes, you've failed over and over and over again. But the year is done when it's done, and as long as the year is still going, you have available days to make things right.
At the end of the year, did you have a bad year because life was completely against you...or because you just gave up on your goals? Did you really have a year of "bad luck" or did you have so many failed days that you didn't think your goals were worth the pursuit?
Everyday is a new day, bringing new opportunities, new chances. If you failed today, try again tomorrow. If you succeed today, don't lose the momentum, because you could easily fail tomorrow. If you started the day good, keep it going good. If you started on a bad note, then end it on a good note. If you completely destroyed the day, guess what? Tomorrow offers you another chance to make things right.
As you enter the new year, don't look at the year as a whole. Break down the year into individual days. How well you perform on each day would determine the overall outcome for the year. If you simply focus on the year, then don't be surprised if you have a bad year. But once you focus on conquering each day, then you could end the year on a good note.
Emotions are wonderful servants. They help us learn how to be compassionate toward others. They teach us how to be angry about injustice, and how to be happy in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. However, emotions are TERRIBLE masters. If you let emotions lead your life, then they could easily fill your head full of lies and make you do plenty of irrational things.
Distinguishing FEELINGS from TRUTH is all about discipline. You could feel fat all you'd like, but what you see in the mirror would tell the truth. You could feel that you're not doing enough, but if you keep a log of your activities, that would tell the truth. You could feel that you're not being a good parent, but your child's behavior and overall well-being would tell the truth.
If we have no feelings, we would simply be robots. If we were all feelings and no logic, we would simply be fools. We humans are the greatest creations in the world because while we have emotions, we also have the ability to override our emotions with logic. We could initially be frightened of a situation, but after using our abilities to be logical, we could override our fears.
Think about this. If you see a big water bug running across your kitchen and you run out the house screaming and hollering, were your actions logical or emotional? They were emotional, because there is absolutely NO logical reason for you to be scared of something that you could easily step on. What can that water bug do to you? It's more scared of you than you are of it -- which is why it's running away from you.
Now, before you run out the house as if it were on fire, you should ask yourself, "What can this bug do to me??" After pondering on that question, you should be empowered to walk in that kitchen and go after that bug.
While growing up, I would run away if any flying insect was chasing after me. After growing up and realizing that I had much more power than a mere insect, the tables turned. Now, I would be more than willing to run after a wasp if I feel threatened. But since gardening, I let the wasps make their home among my family because they eat the destructive insects. And since I know more about wasps than I ever did before, I have enough guts to get up and personal with a wasp to take photos. This is what happens when you override your emotions with TRUTH.
People who lose their tempers and pull off irrational actions are acting solely on emotions. Children are prime examples of people who act solely on emotions. They act out in anger, say hurtful things "because she said it first," want to hit someone because "he said something mean," etc., etc. They act out in their emotions because they haven't learned to override their emotions with logic. Instead of saying something hurtful out of an emotional response, they should ask themselves how much damage their words would do to a person.
So many of us adults haven't learned how to override our emotions. We let our feelings dictate our actions. If we "don't feel like it," well, we just won't do it. And if we did something simply because "we felt like it," then we would get into trouble. Marital affairs happen because someone couldn't control their emotions. People get thrown in jail because they acted out on their emotions. We lose our jobs, get into fist fights, and get banned from stores because we couldn't keep our emotions under control.
Remember: our emotions are wonderful servants, but TERRIBLE masters.
I think about a scripture that says, "Fools die for lack of sense" (Proverbs 10:21). "Sense" denotes logic, reason, being rational. Fools don't have these things, but instead, they run purely on emotions. I think about pranksters, how they love to pull jokes on unsuspecting people just to get some laughs. I think about one particular prankster who was dressed as a clown and painted a guy's car. The car's owner saw it and started beating up on the clown. Even after the clown told the man that it was a prank, that the paint was washable, and that he was on camera, the guy continued beating up on the clown.
Now, tell me, did that prankster use any sense? Of course not. He just thought about the laughs. He acted purely on emotions without considering that his actions could get him killed.
I think about people who are quick to run off at the mouth at a complete stranger. Does that person not consider that she could get hurt or killed? I think about people who decide to get mouthy with the police. Do they not consider that their actions could lead them in jail? I think about a guy who is a black belt in his field of martial arts going to a store late at night, thinking that his fighting skills would keep him safe. Did he not consider that he might be fighting against 5 people? Did he not consider that even if he wins the fight, he might walk away permanently injured? Again, when we have no senses and act solely out of emotions, we become fools -- and all fools would eventually get hurt one way or another.
Don't be that fool! Don't allow your emotions to ruin your entire life. We are not animals -- we don't operate entirely on instinct. We could control our actions with our senses, and prevent ourselves from acting out in emotions.
Moving forward in life depends on how well you could control your emotions. Being a better person, improving your situation and overall quality of life is about mastering your emotions. If you allow your emotions to control you, don't expect any good to come into your life. But if you DISCIPLINE yourself to rule your emotions and to make decisions based on the truth, then expect wonderful changes to happen in your life.
One thing I've noticed about children is that they are more motivated by consequences than by rewards. Tell a child that if he reads 10 books he will get his favorite video game, he may or may not read those books. Most likely, he won't read those books. But tell him that if he doesn't read those books that something valuable will be taken away, then he'll be asking when he could go to the library.
As adults, we are no different from children. We are more motivated by consequences than by rewards. Instead of getting our act together while everything is going well, we wait until something bad happens before we shape up. Instead of exercising to maintain good health, we exercise when the doctor tells us that we'll get diabetes if we don't. Instead of eating our greens so that we could have more energy, we eat our greens when we get the news that something showed up on the MRI.
See, when things are going well, we get comfortable. We just don't care to do anything to further improve ourselves. When things start going bad, then we start talking change. The time to seek better things is when life is going good, not when life is falling apart. When life is good, you could improve yourself. When life is bad, then you're in crisis mode and you have little time to make improvements.
You know why companies go out of business? It's not because of competition. It's because those companies got comfortable. Instead of finding ways to better serve their customers WHILE business was still going good, they just assumed that business would always go well for them. So, they just stop trying. Ever went to a mom-and-pop shop that looked raggedy, outdated, with their cats running around, having over-priced items, and nobody has greeted you? They don't have a website or e-mail, and their cash register looks like it came from 1971. Yep, those folks got comfortable. Once their competition comes to town, they would start losing business...and then would they start talking of change. Sorry, guys, you should have been talking about change before competition came in.
When you have a good thing going for you, keep it going good and make it better. Think about the rewards you'll get for making the right adjustments in your life. When life starts taking a turn for the worst, that should NOT be the only time to talk about adjustments.
The end of the year is just around the corner, and no doubt many of you have made your New Year's resolutions. Why must they be New Year's resolutions? Why can't you start on your resolutions NOW while things are still going well for you? If you have a good job now, look for a better one WHILE you still have that job. Better yet, start working on your personal business while you still have income coming in. Don't wait until you lose that job to start talking about opening your restaurant.
We waste so much time in idleness, don't we? We could easily spend hours and hours vegging out on mindless activities, thinking that life is good. But once the rug gets pulled from under us, then we're scrambling to find what we could do with ourselves. We could have been using our free time to work on our art, our writing, our languages, or any skills that we have yet to master. No, instead, we used our free time on idleness thinking that life will always go well for us.
If you're in a good position now, let this be the time to pursue your heart's desires. Don't wait until the kids grow up and leave the house -- that may never happen. Don't wait until you get that job promotion -- that may never happen. Don't wait until next year or next month (or even next week) -- you may not be around. The best time to start anything is when everything is in your favor. The worst time is when everything seems to be against you. Whatever you want to do, do it NOW while the sun is still shining. When the night comes, you won't be able to see what you're doing.
If you told me that you hated your job, how true would that be? Is it that you really hate your job, or is it that you're afraid to enjoy it because it's not your "dream career"? Is it really because you can't stand the environment, or is it because you're afraid to be super successful in a career that you never wanted to do?
When I enjoy something, I tend to do MORE with it. If I hate something, I do as little as possible with it. But, why do I actually hate something? Why does one particular thing make me miserable? Is it not because I'm afraid to actually enjoy it?
On Wednesday nights at church, I somewhat dread going to church because I teach the elementary school children physical activity -- and sometimes, I give a personal development talk with them. Now, I'm very, VERY good at teaching kids. I'm able to discipline them with no issues. And for some of them, I'm their best teacher. One little girl even gave me a hug because she loves coming to my classes. So, why on earth do I dread teaching them??? Well...it's because I never wanted to teach children. Also, it's because I'm afraid to actually enjoy teaching them. If I enjoy it, then I'll naturally do more with it, and I'll keep being asked to teach them. I'm afraid of being too successful in this field because it was never something I wanted to do.
Sometimes, I feel like a child. There are things I really want to do, and there are things that I'm doing right now that I could be very successful in. But, the things I do now aren't the things I want to do, so instead of enjoying these activities and being more successful in them, I hold myself back. I keep myself from doing more than I could. I simply do enough to MAINTAIN, but not enough to GAIN (yep, that rhymes). Children are the same way. They have all these things they want to do, but neglect the things that are presented to them now. They would do the bare minimal of the tasks given to them, but while putting all their energy into dreaming about that one thing they want to do in the future.
You know, I could somewhat blame our society for inspiring people to chase dreams. Yes, yes, I know, that sounded bad. It's like I'm against people dreaming. I assure you that I'm not. But for a moment, just think of what you could accomplish with what you have NOW if you would only allow yourself to enjoy it. Instead of putting so much energy into dreaming about the unknown, would it not be more effective to put that same amount of energy into enjoying what you have before you? The more you enjoy it, the more effort you would put into it.
Just recently during Wednesday night church, we separated the kids into groups and did 15-minute rotations with them. So, they traveled to different classes, the same as they would do in regular school. One particular kid was put into a group of kids that were just slightly younger than him. He wanted to be with the kids that were his age or slightly older. So this kid spent his energy being miserable nearly the entire hour of these rotations. But it's not just him who does this. Kids in general would spend their energy simply being miserable for not having what they want instead of allowing themselves to enjoy what's presented to them. When this kid came to my class, he started to perk up after a while. He started to enjoy himself instead of being miserable for not being with his friends.
Not all of us have grown up. So many of us are still like kids, investing much of our energy being miserable instead of investing that energy into enjoying our present tasks. I've been very guilty of this (when I write these articles, I'm writing them basically for ME).
No, you don't like eating salads for breakfast (yes, I asked the participants of the Holistic Health Challenge to do this for 5 days). You'd much rather eat eggs, bacon, and grits -- or cereal in almond milk if you're vegan. But ALLOW yourself to actually enjoy it and see what happens. You might completely transform your health for the better!
No, you don't like coming to my core fitness classes. The entire class is just hard. It's like all I want to do is torture you. Yes, you know it's good for you, but really, you're just simply forcing yourself to come. But why not ALLOW yourself to actually enjoy it -- not so much the pain, but to enjoy knowing what you're doing for your body?
No, you don't want to volunteer for this, that, and the other. But if you do, spend your time allowing yourself to enjoy it. And listen, there is always something to enjoy in everything. We just don't see it because we don't want to see it.
Whatever position you find yourself in, don't be afraid to enjoy it. If you're on public assistance, hey, enjoy it! No, don't settle in it, but enjoy the fact that your basic needs are taken care of until you find something better. If you're not in college, enjoy the fact that you won't have any loans to pay back! If you're working as an auto mechanic, enjoy that you're learning skills that would save you from spending thousands of dollars on auto repairs.
Ask yourself this question: what if your situation NEVER changes? If that's the case, what would you do, be miserable the entire time? You'd have a happier life if you spent your energy allowing yourself to enjoy where you are now. Instead of having your head out the car window with your tongue out like a dog, admiring what everybody else has, you could sit back and relax in the beat-up car that you have.
When you spend time enjoying what you have, you'll do more with it and find yourself becoming some sort of success in it. When you're successful in something, you tend to enjoy it more and DO MORE with it. But you won't ever know what you could be successful in if you don't allow yourself to enjoy what is presented to you.
Many of us are familiar with the phrase, "Judge not," which is based on a verse in the Bible (Matthew 7:1). We usually love to use that phrase because we get tired of people telling us how to live our lives. When someone makes a comment about any lifestyle choices, we're quick to throw at them, "Judge not!"
But really, that phrase has NOTHING to do with how we like to use it. No, it has nothing to do with people making unfair judgments, telling us how to live life, or making some other sorts of judgmental assumptions. Actually, that phrase puts the burden on the person making the judgment. If you read further, you'll read the following (in the King James language): "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (verse 2)." Then as you read further, Jesus talks about pointing out a speck or "mote" in your brother's eye when there's a plank in yours. Then he finally ends this subject by saying that if you want to help your brother, first help yourself. "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye" (verse 5).
If you want to help others get better, you FIRST need to help YOURSELF get better. In other words, lead by EXAMPLE, not by words.
So, I don't have a smoking issue. Cigarettes were never a temptation, so it's easy for me to tell someone that cigarettes are bad. But while I never had a smoking problem, does this mean that I don't have any addictions that I'm struggling with? Addiction in any form is addiction and it all works the same way. "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." So before I try to help someone get rid of their smoking addiction, perhaps I need to work on ridding my own person addiction.
No, I never had a temper problem. I don't have an issue blowing up at someone. But does this mean that I don't have any issues with the lack of self-control? Losing self-control in any form is still losing self-control. "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." So before I talk to you about your hot head, perhaps I need to work on my own self-control issues first.
While I was a fat kid, I didn't suffer with obesity for most of my life. I never had any period where my weight went up and down. I never lost 15 lbs, then gained it back, then lost it, then gained it, etc., etc. So it's easy for me to judge those who can't seem to stay consistent on a weight-loss program. But, does this mean that I don't have my own issues with inconsistency? It doesn't matter what you're being consistent in, because inconsistency in any form is still inconsistency. "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." So before I try to motivate you to "stick with it," perhaps I need to find out what I need to stick with.
If you want to save someone, first save yourself -- if for anything, so that you could tell someone else how to do it. You got one person who struggles with pornography and another who struggles with alcohol. Both people have an addiction problem, but if the one struggling with pornography could beat that addiction, then this person could tell the alcoholic how to beat the bottle. When one person fixes himself, he could help fix somebody else. When one person finds the answer to her problems, she could share that answer with another. "First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
One question you have to ask yourself is, "Can my lifestyle in itself change another person?" Can my example convict someone else without ever saying a word? One time, I was walking by the Trader Joe's in Cary, NC, with my two kids. Just walking. My wife wasn't with me. Some random stranger came up to me being so impressed that I, a father, was walking around with my kids. She came up to me and said, "I just prayed for you." Wow! What did I do to deserve that?? It's not very often to see a father walk around with his children, because the fathers are always working...or somewhere being deadbeats. My actions in themselves convicted someone...and I wasn't even trying to impress.
People are always convicting others without even knowing it. Think about the elderly guy going for a jog. Think about the elderly woman who decided not to park in the handicap spot. Think about the young cashier showing respect to the customer. Think about a man and a woman holding hands out in the street. Think about a jogger who picks up a piece of trash on the sidewalk and throws it away. All of these actions are convicting. These people didn't have to say one word. Their lifestyles in themselves did all the talking.
I live in an apartment that's close to a main road. In fact, if you're driving to the east, you would clearly see my back porch. What's on that back porch? A garden. If you drive past my apartment and see that garden, you'd be inspired to have a garden yourself. There is NO need for me to TELL you to have a garden. My example in itself should be enough to convict. And you know what? THOUSANDS of people drive past my apartment daily and see that garden. How many people am I convicting by displaying that garden? In the same way, people are ALWAYS watching you to see what you're all about. Your actions would either convict or repulse. If they convict, no words are needed. If they repulse, there aren't enough words to justify you.
I NEVER nag my kids. NEVER. I rarely ever raise my voice at them. Instead, I become an EXAMPLE to them. My son likes to do pull ups because he sees his daddy doing them. My daughter wants to do art because she saw her daddy's art work. Whatever I want my kids to become had BETTER be something that I'm doing myself. If I want them to learn a language, they better see me learning languages. If I want them to be healthy, they better see me make my protein salads and drink my teas. If I want them to love education, they better see me read books. And if I want them to be concerned about doing house work, they better see me doing house work instead of playing on my phone.
"Judge not" is not for others. It's for YOU. It's for ME. It's for anybody who has any thought about saying something negative to or about another person. Before those condemning words come from your mouth, remember that whatever standard you use for someone else would also be used for you. "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." If someone decides to judge me, well, that's actually their problem, because now they have the burden of evaluating their own life to see if they're living up to their own standards. Trust me, it's embarrassing to have someone point out in you the same flaw that you're pointing out in someone else.
Before I judge someone, I need to evaluate my own life. Am I living up to my own standards? Is there anything in my life that would negate my words? When I point a finger, I have three pointing back at me. When I offer a hand, however, I have no fingers pointing at me because I have already fixed my issues and I want to bring you along with me. But, if my issues are still unresolved, then I need to focus on getting myself right before I could help anybody else.
I have to make a heart-breaking decision. I have to...ahem...excuse me [*wipes tears from eyes*]. Okay. As I was saying...I have to...get rid of my house plants. After collecting all these house plants from Lowe's from the clearance section and bringing them [close to] back to life, I now have to part with my babies.
Okay, so maybe the decision isn't too heart-breaking. While I don't like having to get rid of this collection of house plants, I know that I have to. Why? Because I realized that I've sent so much energy on house plants that I spent almost NO energy on growing food. I could have had a back deck full of edible plants. Instead, I have a back deck that's littered with plants that nobody could eat. Besides, these once-dying plants are so slow to rejuvenate that I'm wondering if it's even worth having them around.
This is what happened: I got caught up in the noise for house plants. Before, I had no interest in them. Then I started getting interested in succulents...which led to being interested in general house plants...which led to being impulsive with buying dollar plants from the clearance section...which led to totally neglecting my original vision of growing food for my family and for others. I consider myself an "expert" gardener with all the gardening answers, and instead of using that expertise in growing food, I used it to rejuvenate plants that no one could eat.
So now that I realized that I have spent my energy on the wrong things, I'm going to gladly correct it. And it actually feels good to make the corrections, to re-focus my energy to what's truly important to me. No, I don't like the idea of throwing away stuff that I spent money on, but sometimes you have to accept losses in your life so that you could move on. I could do my best to save these plants, but doing so would still require my energy, the energy that could be spent on growing food.
Right now, you're spending your energy on the wrong things. How did that happen? Because of all the noise you hear. There's another cool thing to buy. There's another job opening. There's another business opportunity. There's another place to visit. There's another conference to attend. There's another class to enroll in. All of these "anothers" are all noise that distract you from what's truly important to you. When you get caught up in the noise, then new things become important. The more caught up in the noise you are, the more "important" things you'll get into -- and eventually, you'd be taken away from what was originally important to you.
In a previous article, I talked about saying "No" more often. When you keep saying "Yes," then you'll keep making commitments. The more commitments you make, the less time you have for things that are really important. Remember that there would always be "another" thing to get involved in, but that "another thing" is simply noise. There is noise all around us and we can't allow ourselves to get caught up in it.
Imagine going to Costco (or Sam's Club, BJ's, or some other warehouse store) for one item (bulk item, that is) and walking out with several items, several subscriptions, and an appointment for a new HVAC system to be installed in your house. What happened? Your biggest mistake was letting sales reps get your attention. You should have stayed focused on that one item, but instead, you allowed yourself to get caught up in the noise. Now you have severe buyer's regret -- and you didn't even get the item that you came for! And how are you going to explain to your spouse that you're having a perfectly good HVAC system replaced for no good reason?
Be aware that there is noise all around you, and you don't have to listen to everything. Do you know that right now, there are thousands of different noises around you, even the ones that you can't hear. Just imagine if you could hear every single thing, everything from a roach running on the floor to a high-frequency sound coming somewhere from space. You would lose your mind! So, your brain is designed to not process every sound that's around so that you won't go insane. In the same way, you have to learn to not pay attention to every opportunity that's thrown at you, because believe me, you will ALWAYS see a new opportunity for something until the day you leave this earth.
Are you familiar with the term "know your role"? What it means is to know your position, and all positions come with ONLY a few specific tasks. On the job, your role may be a cashier: your main task is to make purchase transactions, not to unload trucks and re-stock shelves. In sports, your role may be a goalie: your main job is to keep the ball from going into the goal, not to run out in the field kicking the ball like your other teammates. In life, you were designated a particular role to play. Don't get caught up in doing everything that you could think of. Just focus on your role, and you will get more stuff accomplished.
I think about a Bible passage that says, "Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don't get sidetracked" (Proverbs 4:25-27 NLT). The passage was more focused on avoiding corruption than on anything else, but the idea is that in this life, evil is more prevalent than good. It's easy to be influenced to do wrong because it is all over the place, but the good things are harder to find, so hard that you need to FOCUS so much on wanting to do good that it would be like walking on a narrow pathway. In the same way, the worthy things in this life are harder to see and harder to listen to, which means you need to be extra FOCUSED on those worthy things so that you won't get sidetracked.
Wanting to get healthy is a worthy thing. Being lazy is not, but it's more prevalent than healthy living. Wanting to raise your kids right is a worthy thing. Letting other people raise them is not, but it's more prevalent than being your own kids' leader. Staying faithful to one spouse is a worthy thing. "Messing around" is not, but it's more prevalent than a faithful marriage. There are few things in this life that are worthy of your attention, and these are the things to focus on and not get caught up in everything else.
Listen past all the noise that you hear so you could stay on the path that was given to you.
"Time" is a human concept. It's not a thing that you could touch. It's a concept that's based on the rising and setting of the sun. In early "times" (that is, during many sunrises and sunsets ago), people based their time on how much available daylight they had to work. Since there was no electricity, your main source of light came from the sun, so you only had a certain amount of time to do everything that you could before the sun sets.
Now, I want you to imagine that we still have no electricity. You only have a certain number of hours to do your activity before the sun sets. How do you plan to spend that time? If you have several things that need to be done, how much time do you really need to spend on each activity? When you know that your time is very limited, you'd tend to be extremely productive.
Nobody has unlimited time (I think everybody could agree with that), but everybody has some supply of time. The question is how well are you using that time? Are you being extremely productive with that time? Are you making that time count?
I truly believe that working 8 to 12 hours a day on a job is a HUGE waste of personal time, and those hours don't even include the time it takes to get ready for work, traveling to work, and traveling home from work. You could easily put in 16 hours a day just for work alone. No wonder it's so hard for people who have the 9-to-5 to pursue anything else: they're exhausted! I could never hold down a full-time job, because I have almost little endurance for it. I would come home and want to do nothing else, not even be with family! The ol' 9-to-5 truly sucks time away from your life.
Nevertheless, I understand we all need to make a living, and somehow, life just works out so that you became a slave to the 9-to-5. Believe me, I understand. So, since much of your personal time is devoted to a career, leaving you with so little personal time, ask yourself how wisely are you using the little time that you have available.
I think about a Bible passage in the Book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, which talks about time. In that passage, King Solomon says that there is a time for everything -- EVERYTHING. There is no such thing as "there ain't no time for nothing." In that passage, not only does he state that there is time for everything, but that there is no one thing that should get ALL of your time. See, we devote almost ALL of our time to one or two things, when we should really limit the amount of time we spend on any one thing. In order words, there is nothing in the world that should get all of our attention -- especially a J.O.B.
But, self-employed individuals fall into the same trap as an employed person. In the quest to be "financially free," this person would work tons of hours every week to avoid working in a 9-to-5. Is that person any better than an employee? Of course not, because this self-employed individual is devoting almost all of his or her personal time to avoid working on a "real job."
Being self-employed myself, I fell into that trap of over-working myself. I have gigs that allow me to work any time I want AS MUCH as I want. I loved the fact that I didn't have to be at a job anymore, but I wasn't truly free because of all the hours I was working. I devoted too much time on these gigs to the point where I made myself sick. As important as paying your bills are, they aren't so important that you need to devote your entire day to paying them.
Nothing in this world needs 100 percent of your time, or even 80 percent of your time. I'd dare say that we usually spend more time on the wrong things, and spend so little time on the right things.
As a fitness instructor, I don't spend four hours everyday working out. That's not productive. As a person who loves to write, I don't spend three hours a day on one article. As a gardener, I don't spend all day in my garden. If I'm planting a seed, well, there is only so much I could do to make the seed sprout. Spending too much time trying to make a seed sprout is ridiculous.
Remember that everything that you're involved in deserves time. There is a time for all activities in this world. How much time you spend on any one thing is what you need to adjust.
I am a parent: I have kids. I am a husband: I have a wife. I am a fitness instructor: I have clients. I am a gardener: I have plants. There are several roles that I play, which means I have several different responsibilities, and ALL of them are important. All of them need my time, but NONE of them need ALL of my time. There is a time for everything, and if there is something that doesn't need your time, then you need to get rid of it and make room for something that does need your time.
You don't need to spend all day reading books. You don't need to spend all day writing your novel. You don't need to spend all day cooking in the kitchen. You don't need to spend all day finding a job. You don't need to spend all day cleaning your house. Nothing in this life deserves all of your attention. Even working on YOURSELF doesn't require that much time. Some things in life deserves more attention than other things, but nothing in life deserves almost all of our attention.
Re-evaluate how much time you spend on any one activity and ask yourself if you're spending too little time on it, too much time on it, or just enough time on it. If you want to pursue other things in life, then first start off by adjusting how much time you're spending on your current activities. Once you properly adjust your time, you'd find that you do have time for something else. Adjusting your time is not to be used to make yourself busier, but to make your life much, much, MUCH more productive than it is now.
When I say "Now," I don't mean right at this second. Actually, I hate it whenever I'm expected to make a decision right away. I even hate answering phone calls because it requires me to take immediate action (so if you call me and I don't answer, don't take any offense).
When I say "Now," I do mean in the near future -- like sometime this week. Instead of waiting until your kids leave for college, why not pursue your dream now? Instead of waiting until you get a better job, why not chase your dream now? Instead of waiting for the perfect moment, why not make the present moment the perfect moment?
The best time to do anything is NOW, and the worst time is LATER -- mostly because LATER isn't guaranteed to anybody. If you want to open up your restaurant, you don't have to wait until you're approved for a business loan so that you could rent out commercial space. Just start at your own home and see where it takes you. If you want to travel more, you don't have to save up money to travel the world. Start by driving to another state. And if you want to lose weight, don't sit on your couch until your doctor clears you for physical activity. Do something NOW.
When I broke my toe a few years ago, I had to cancel my ZUMBA classes. It simply hurt to put pressure on my foot. However, I didn't sit around waiting for the doctor to clear me for physical activity -- if the doctor said "no," I would have simply ignored it anyway. Instead, I constructed a home-made "boot" for my foot, because the medical-issued boot (that costs $200) was useless. My DIY boot was made from a sweater that I wrapped around the arch of my foot, and man, I was able to walk around with very minimal pain. When I should have been resting, I was cleaning the house! Then when I felt confident enough to put my shoe on, I started driving again. After busting my toe, I returned to doing ZUMBA again within, perhaps, 4 weeks -- but I had to do low impact.
Other folks would have waited until that perfect moment when the doctor gives the O.K. But what if that O.K. doesn't come soon enough? What would you do? Sit and be miserable or do something NOW that would quicken up the healing process?
See, there is ALWAYS something that you could do NOW. Maybe it won't be exactly what you wanted to do, but it could be something that would at least prepare you for what you ultimately want to do.
My ultimate dream is to have my own land where I'm teaching huge fitness classes, growing food, and selling plants. I want my land to be like a "garden of Eden," a wellness center where people could come for food, fitness, and healing. Well, I don't have that now. But, I am teaching fitness classes at my church, and I am growing plants in my apartment. These things are preparing me for my ultimate dream. I don't have what I want now, but I could ALWAYS do something NOW that would prepare me for my dream.
Think about this. If you're waiting for your kids to move out the house, well, what if they never do? What if something happens that would require you to take care of your children forever? I know, it's not something any parent wants to think about, but some parents are in those positions where they can't get rid of their kids. Should they just simply give up on their dreams because their kids are still living with them? Of course not. Prepare for your dream as if your kids would always be living with you, not as if you're expecting them to leave one day.
Think about this. What if your kids moved out the house, but they have kids themselves that they can't take care of. You have grandparents who have taken on parental roles of their grandchildren. These grandparents thought they were done with parenting, just to find themselves taking care of toddlers. If you find yourself in that position, should you just stop dreaming? Of course not. Prepare for your dream as if you might be taking care of your grandchildren, not as if your kids would take care of their own kids.
Think about this. What if that "perfect moment" never happens? You would never get out of your bad neighborhood. You would be stuck on your job for a while. You won't get a reliable car any time soon. All the perfect situations you're waiting for may never happen, and if they don't, then what? Prepare for your dream as if your situation will never improve, not as if you expect things to get better for you.
I think about a Bible passage that talks about this very subject. The King James version has a poetic rendering of the Hebrew translation of this passage: "He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap" (Ecclesiastes 11:4). Or in other words, a farmer who waits for perfect whether conditions would neither plant any seeds nor reap any harvest. If all you're doing is watching the clock for the perfect time, you won't get anything done because there won't ever be a perfect time -- except NOW.
If you catch yourself saying, "Man, I wish I could," then counter that statement with the following question: "Why can't I do something about it now?" Again, you don't have to open up a restaurant today. You don't have to lose 50 pounds by today. You don't have to become a morning person by today. You don't have to have your dream career by today. But you can do something TODAY to prepare for that dream. If not today, then tomorrow. Your dream could happen quicker than you imagined, so prepare for it NOW just in case the dream happens quickly.
If you grew up in a church, you may have heard of the Bible story about a young, rich guy who came up to Jesus and asked, "What must I do to have eternal life?" Jesus simply told the man to keep the Ten Commandments. That's it, huh?
Perhaps relieved, and maybe a bit proud, the rich guy told Jesus, "I have kept all the commandments since my youth. What else do I need to do?"
Then Jesus said something that no rich person (or any person who has lots of possessions) wants to hear. "If you want to be perfect, sell all of your possessions and give them to the poor, then follow me." After hearing that, the rich guy turned away.
In this story, we see Jesus giving this guy a challenge. It wasn't about not having money, or giving away money. It was about taking that extra step. It was about addressing that one thing that is keeping you back. It was about going beyond doing what's easy to doing what's difficult so that you could reach for higher things. It was about being better by doing what you don't want to do.
With all of us, we have that ONE THING that's holding us back. Just one. You're at Point A and you have all the tools to reach Point B -- but there's something in your way. Going back to the rich guy, the one thing that kept him back was his money. He couldn't let go of all his summer homes, his luxury cars, and his mutual fund investments, even though he wouldn't take all those materials with him after death. It's not that wealth is bad, but for this guy, wealth stood in the way of reaching full potential in life.
One hindrance for me is sleep. I love sleep. If I wake up absolutely refreshed, I would still want to go back to sleep. I would literally waste 3 or 4 hours a day by sleeping in. How many things could I accomplish within 3 to 4 hours? I wish I could tell you that I wake up every morning at 4 pm and finish several projects before the entire family wakes up. Nope, I'm not there yet. Some of you might be in that same position: you could do a whole lot more, but you just love sleep too much. It's not that you need all that sleep. You just love sleep.
I think about people who want to lose weight. They have all the resources they need to lose that weight. Why is it that they're always struggling with their weight? They lose 10 lbs, then gain 10 lbs, then lose 30 lbs, then gain 30 lbs. Whenever you see them, they are always different shapes! One day they're chubby, another day they're skinny, then on another day, they look like they're gaining weight again. Why are they struggling? It's because there is something that they can't seem to let go of.
We all have something that is keeping us from going to Point B. We all have something that we can't let go of, and it's this thing that would keep us where we are.
I think about hoarders. Some of you probably seen television shows about extreme hoarders, people who keep everything they have, even if it's their own excrement (which I still don't understand why people would want to keep that). Their homes are so cluttered that they don't do much in their houses. What is the one thing they could let go of so that they could get their home back? They need to let go of their need for possessions. They need to be willing to throw stuff away. While I'm against needless waste, I believe keeping everything is limiting YOU from better things in life.
Here's the thing about holding onto stuff: you will sink. If your house catches on fire and you try to save everything that you own, you'll burn with the house. If you can't shake off your need to hold onto every memory you have (because each item a hoarder possesses has memories), then eventually YOU will become a memory.
It doesn't take much to keep you back. One time when I was in elementary school, this older kid told me that I needed to stay in the stairwell at school. Why? Who knows! He told me that if I leave the stairwell, he'll call my mother and tell her. I guess my mother told this boy that I needed to remain in the stairwell. So like a fool, I remained in the stairwell until I decided to smarten up and leave the stairwell. Now, what was keeping me in that place? I wasn't handcuffed to any handrails. Nothing physically kept me there except for fear. Once the fear left, I was able to move forward.
The one thing that you're holding on to could be control...or wealth...or sense of security...or need for comfort...or need for love. When we feel that we NEED something, we would hold onto it, even if it causes us to sink. So, let's identify what it is that's keeping us back and seek to remove it from our lives.
All information in this blog are for inspirational purposes only. Unless otherwise stated, all content is written and copyrighted by Aiyo A. Jones.