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 Ever went to a mom-and-pop shop that looked raggedy, outdated, with their cats running around, having over-priced items, and nobody has greeted you?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.
I have a Toyota Prius, which is a hybrid car that runs on a gas engine and an "electric engine" called the inverter. There are three things that make this car work: a regular, 12-volt battery that all cars have, a big hybrid battery that powers the inverter, and a regular gas engine that all cars have.
Here's how this car works. The small, 12-volt battery simply starts the car up. After that, its job is done. From that point, both the gas engine and the inverter make the car move. However, the gas engine does most of the work after the car goes over a certain speed limit. In my case, the inverter operates the car until I hit around 15 miles per hour, then the gas engine turns on. The gas engine would turn off if I either take my foot off the gas pedal, or if I'm at a stop light. But while I'm driving, the gas engine does most of the work, and the inverter would assist the gas engine if I need more acceleration power (for example, if going up a steep hill).
Think of the 12-volt battery representing motivation. The effects of motivation is short-lived, and it is just to get you to started. But motivation, just like the 12-volt battery, is short-lived. The motivation you get simply gets you to make that initial movement, but then that motivation is gone. Once motivation leaves, then something else takes over: faith.
Whenever you're working at something, you know that there is NO guarantee that you would be able to accomplish it. For example, if you're working on starting a business, there is no guarantee that your business would be successful. You can't see into the future. So, why chase after a dream that you don't even know would come true? Because you have FAITH that your dream would come true. So, if you want to keep moving forward, you need to work on building your FAITH, not getting more motivation.
Let's go back to the inverter. The inverter would move the car until the car hits a certain speed limit. With my old model, after I hit around 15 mph, the gas engine comes on. After that, the inverter would simply assist the gas engine if more power is needed. The inverter is like motivation that finds you already working. If the gas engine runs out of fuel, the car would lose acceleration power so that the car may only go (in my case) 15 miles per hour. The inverter may have enough juice to allow me to drive MAYBE one mile until the hybrid battery (that powers the inverter) drains out. At this point, I'm stranded on the street!
See, motivation works two ways. One, it gets you started. Two, it gives you assistance. So when you're working on that dream and you start getting discouraged, faith would allow you to keep going. But along the way, something encouraging happens to you -- this is the ASSISTANCE that motivation gives you. First, motivation gets you started. Second, motivation gives you encouragement WHILE you're working. But for the most part, FAITH, like the gas engine, does most of the work.
If you want to reach a goal, work on building your FAITH, not on getting more motivation.
See, our problem is that we LOVE motivation -- we love it too much. In fact, we could make ourselves completely dependent on motivation, which is downright foolish. You know well that motivation never lasts. So, why make your activities dependent on the amount of motivation you have?
However, while faith is the most important thing to work on, if you're only running on faith with absolutely NO motivation, then you'll ultimately crash. So, let's go back to the Prius. While the gas engine does most of the work, it STILL needs the inverter to work -- and the inverter is powered by the hybrid battery. If the hybrid battery goes bad, then it cannot fully charge the inverter. The hybrid battery would overheat and the gas engine would actually shut off, so you'll lose acceleration and run only on the inverter. But when the hybrid battery is bad, the inverter may get you a few feet down the road before it shuts off, too.
Motivation is important when working on your goals. While motivation is short-lived, it does come every now and then to assure you that you're heading in the right direction. If you're working hard on a goal and you NEVER get any kind of assurance along the way, then maybe that goal isn't for you. If you keep at it, you'll eventually break down and give up altogether.
Some people think that faith is completely blind. I disagree. Faith is ALWAYS based on something that you've seen. If you see someone jogging every morning and losing weight, that's something you've seen. Once you start jogging every morning so that you could lose weight, you're running on faith. There is no guarantee that you'll get the same results as the other person. But once you start jogging and see some pounds coming off, then that motivation helps assure you that you're heading in the right direction. If you're jogging everyday for months and still see no weight-loss, that should be a sign that you ought to do something differently -- you know, like cut down on drinking 40 ounces of beer every night.
Life is very much like a Prius. You have motivation to get you started, faith that keeps you going, and more motivation to assure you that you're going the right way. If you're ALL about faith with no concern for encouragement, you'll eventually burn. If you're ALL about motivation, you'll go hard like a sprinter but burn out very quickly. If you see both motivation and faith as important, then you'll reach whatever goal that you're going for. Remember that it's FAITH that does most of the work, but FAITH also needs some assistance from motivation so that you could keep on moving.
Be careful not to love on motivation. While it's nice when it comes, we could easily depend too much on motivation so that our FAITH loses power. Faith would be the FIRST to get you through the tough moments. If my Prius is stuck in the mud, the gas engine (faith) is what would get me out, not the inverter (motivation). But when the gas engine can't produce enough power to get me out of a situation, then the inverter comes in to help out.
When a situation gets so tough that your faith starts to weaken, that is when motivation comes in to give you a little assistance. So on your journey, be sure to seek opportunities for encouragement, because your faith will eventually weaken. This might mean not going after your dreams alone. This might mean seeking support from others who are like-minded. This might mean reading books, or attending conferences, or watching YouTube videos. However you seek encouragement, do so while being careful not to make encouragement your main source of power.
If you've been exercising for a while, you would have probably heard of the term "plateau." Whenever you've "hit a plateau," it means that you no longer get any results. The weight-loss slows down or completely stops. You get no more muscle gain. You've entered the zone where nothing happens anymore, and this is usually when we get discouraged and turn back.
But instead of quitting your journey, what if you took things just one step further? To break a plateau, you generally have to make things a little harder.
Whenever people attend my ZUMBA fitness classes or join my Body Challenge program (soon to be called the Holistic Health Challenge), they would report breaking a plateau. They have been so used to doing the same exercises at the same intensity so that they no longer got results from their efforts. Once they join my classes, the weight-loss starts happening again. I have two particular individuals who were already eating healthy and exercising, but they hit that plateau stage. Once they've joined my Body Challenge program, they started losing weight and toning up. Why does this happen? Because the program forces them to take things one step further.
No matter what you do in your life, if you ALWAYS want to experience results, you need to go one step further. You need to walk the extra step, walk the extra mile, walk the extra hour. As long as you keep "upping your game," you will see better results.
If you usually start something new, get to a certain level, and then stop, it's because you're not willing to take another step further. You have gotten to the point where you're comfortable, and even bored, and decided to do something else with your life. If you have lots of unfinished projects in your life, then you know that it's because you've hit a plateau, the point where you stop trying hard and start losing interest.
Start asking yourself, "What if I took things a little further? What would happen if I decided to be a little more serious about this?"
Back in 2015, I started a job with a company called Plant Partners, which serves as a vendor for different garden centers such as Walmart, Lowe's, and Home Depot. I was at Lowe's. Plant Partners provide people like me called merchandisers to unload plant carts and put the plants in their proper places and remove distressed plants from the display tables. Merchandisers were not required NOR expected to know anything about plants -- even though having some plant knowledge would be useful. I was even told to not spend time answering a customer's plant question, but to refer that customer to a Lowe's employee.
Not surprisingly, I've found that Lowe's employees in the garden center barely knew anything about plants. In fact, if customers went to them for plant questions, the Lowe's employees would look for the Plant Partners merchandisers. But since I enjoyed working with plants, I decided to do some research about the plants that Lowe's sold. It didn't take long for me to become an "expert," and pretty soon, I was "the plant guy." Other Plant Partners merchandisers did not know much about plants, so they would refer customers to ME.
But I still took things one step further. I started experimenting with different plants, doing more research on how to regenerate plants, how fertilizers work, how to harvest seeds, and learned the biology of plants. I continued to take things one step further so that now I am working on starting my own plant nursery business. I went from knowing very little about plants to building a plant nursery business. And I'm still taking things "one step further."
All you need to do is to take one extra step if you want to accomplish more. It could be waking up just ONE hour earlier or going to bed ONE hour earlier, or lifting ONE extra pound of weight, or finishing your jog just ONE minute earlier, or getting to work ONE minute earlier, or eliminating ONE cigarette a day. Just take ONE extra step, not fifteen extra steps.
It's very tempting to live life with the "enough" mentality: I've worked enough, I've exercised enough, I said "thank you" enough, I've spent enough time with the kids, I've studied enough for my class. We work until we FEEL that nothing more could be done, so we would say that we've done "enough." But instead of asking, "Did I do enough," ask, "Could I have done more?" or, "What would happen if I did a little extra work?"
Can't lose weight? Don't ask, "Am I doing enough," but ask, "What else could I do?"
Not making the amount of money that you want? Don't ask, "Am I working enough," but ask, "What else could I do?"
Working on a project that's not going according to plan? Don't ask, "Am I doing enough," but ask, "What else could I do?"
If you really open your eyes, you will ALWAYS see that something needs to be done. If anybody claims, "I've done EVERYTHING to lose weight," I'll be thinking, "No you haven't -- you haven't tried fasting for forty days and forty nights." There is no such thing as a person who can't lose weight, but there is a such thing as someone who stops short of their goal. There IS a such thing as someone who hasn't stepped up his or her game. There IS a such thing as someone who gives up when he or she was extremely close to the prize.
If all you do is microwave your meals, take it a step further and start using the stove. Who knows, taking that extra step might lead you to running a restaurant business.
If all you do is check the air pressure in your tires, take it a step further and start changing your tires. Who knows, taking that extra step might prevent you from ever having to go to a car mechanic again.
If the only French that you know is "Bonjour" and "Oui," take it a step further and start learning your French alphabets. Who knows, taking that extra step might lead you to starting your own French immersion school.
Before you move on to something else, ask what would happen if you take another step. If you want to climb a mountain and see the horizon of the world, you need to keep taking those extra steps. While each step seems to get harder and harder, just imagine the view that you'll see on the top.
I am growing several tomato plants, two of which are big and producing lots of fruit. But there is one thing that I noticed about each of those tomato plants: most of the plant is useless to me. While there are lots of tomatoes, there are even MORE stems that have nothing but leaves, and these stems would most likely not give me any tomatoes. Instead, these stems are simply using up precious energy from the plant, energy that could go to producing bigger, healthier tomatoes.
A big MUST for gardeners is to know how to prune a plant. Pruning is done for several reasons, but there are two main reasons: 1) to train the way a plant grows and 2) to direct more energy to producing bigger fruit by cutting away useless stems. With a plant, you have the main stem (or "trunk") that comes up from the ground, and you have several smaller stems (or "branches") that come from the main stem. Nutrients enter the plant through the roots and travel up the main stem, from which the nutrients are dispersed throughout the many smaller stems. So, the more of the smaller stems you have, the harder the plant has to work to support all those stems. But once you start cutting off non-fruit-bearing stems, then the plant could re-direct more nutrients to fruit-bearing stems.
The most productive plant is the one with the least useless stems. When you let a plant grow big and wild, then fruit production could be impacted. In the same way, if you want to be truly productive, you need to cut away anything in your life that is needlessly taking energy from you.
See, we in developed nations like to be busy -- busy, busy, busy. We add so much activity in our lives that we barely have any time for ourselves. But many of those activities are really useless. They barely serve a purpose, but they take up a significant amount of energy from you.
The less you have going in your life, the more energy you could direct to those few things. Instead, we direct little energy to the many activities that we do. Just like a plant distributing precious nutrients to hundreds of useless stems, you are distributing precious energy to many useless activities. You cannot be fruitful if you have too much going on in your life.
Now when I say "useless," I don't mean that these activities in themselves are useless. Let's go back to the tomato plants. Yes, even though both of those plants have many non-fruit-bearing stems, it doesn't mean that the stems have no importance. In fact, if any of those stems touch the ground, they would produce roots and these stems could produce fruit-bearing stems. But since I'm growing these tomato plants in containers, well, I just don't have the space to allow the tomato plants to spread and root all over the place. I need to keep the plant contained, which means I have to cut away many stems that would serve me no purpose -- thus, "useless."
You're doing plenty of activities that are not bad in themselves. But right now, you just don't have a place for them. The bigger your house, the more stuff you could put in it. When your house is small, then you need to toss some things. The smaller the house, the more you need to prioritize your things. Sorry, but you can't fit a 2,500-square-foot home in your small, 600-square-foot apartment. Right now, you're trying to squeeze a mansion into your rinky-dinky apartment and getting stressed out the entire time. It's time to downsize all these life activities until you have a manageable size.
Cut away at everything you consider excess and see what it is you REALLY need to focus on. All the other stuff that you're doing isn't necessarily wrong, but you don't need to spend much energy on them. There are things you need to spend HOURS on, there are things you just need to spend a few minutes on, and there are things you just need to cut out completely. Our problem is that we try to spend 10 minutes on 100 different things and we just get burned out.
Feeling overwhelmed? Cut stuff out of your life. Feeling stressed and overworked? You're doing too much useless activity. Want to run in the woods and scream? It's time to look at what you really need in your life and what you could do without.
If you want to be busy, then be busy being an expect in one area of your life. Be busy at being exceptional in one thing. Spend most of your time perfecting ONE skill instead of perfecting 50 skills. Redirect your energy to the most important things in your life and get rid of the other stuff.
All information in this blog are for inspirational purposes only. Unless otherwise stated, all content is written and copyrighted by Aiyo A. Jones.