What’s Your WHY? (January 1, 2018)

You’ve Got to Know Your “WHY” to do your “WHAT”.

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Welcome to 2018!  I’m moving a tad bit slowly this morning after having a busy day and late night last night.  You might be feeling the same way. 

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So, here we are, Day 1 of this brand new New Year! 

How are you this morning?  Excited, tired, purposeful, determined, unimpressed, thoughtful, or meh…

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People feel a lot of different emotions on this 1st day of a new year.

Many of us have made some resolutions, or challenges, or goals for the New Year.  Call them what you will, but many of us like to look at the New Year as a time to refocus, re-balance, and recommit our thoughts and actions to specific efforts that take us closer to where we want to be at this point a year from now.

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People have been making goals and resolutions for a very long time, but we are notoriously terrible at actually accomplishing those goals!

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We usually have our “WHAT” firmly in mind – WHAT it is that we want to do. 

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Some common examples:  lose weight, eat healthy, stop smoking, learn something new, travel more – the WHATs are as diverse and creative as the people who commit to them.

But in order to accomplish your WHAT, you also have to know your WHY: 

WHY you are committing to this WHAT. 

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Because if you don’t have a clear view of your WHY, it will be much harder to stay the course when actually trying to accomplish your WHAT gets challenging. 

And the WHAT always gets challenging. 

Unless your WHAT is to “sit around and do nothing more often in 2018”.  That one is pretty easy to do without a WHY!

IT'S HARD

Shout-out here to Audrey Russell, my fitness coach, whose first question to me was, “OK, what is your WHY?”  At that point, my answer was mostly, “I don’t know… just BECAUSE!”   Audrey is awesome and friendly and never once said, “That’s a stupid non-answer, Rebecca!  You have to have a WHY!”  She just encouraged me to think about it and then went on her way being awesome and stuff.

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But, dang it, I did think about it, and found that knowing my WHY made a huge difference in setting goals and being committed to accomplishing them. 

I discovered that I do a lot of WHATs, and love taking on challenges.  So many interests, so little time!  But I have been less successful in completing them because I didn’t focus enough on my WHYs.

So, “what’s a WHY”, you ask

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Let’s start out really basic and ask, why are you setting a goal (any goal) in the first place? 

Is it because that’s what people do on New Year’s Day?  Is it because you are a “goal setter”, and you HAVE to have goals or you feel weird?  Or is it to accomplish something specific?

Let’s use a specific example.  One common resolution is “I want to lose weight”.  It’s a lovely goal – we Americans are becoming more obese as a nation with each passing day.  So, good on you for wanting to do this! 

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So, if losing weight is one of your goals, ask yourself WHY you want to do that.

  • To look “good” at your high school reunion this summer?
  • To get your A1C levels down and get off the diabetes meds or the insulin shots or the threat of those being part of your life very soon unless you make some changes NOW?
  • Because you’re feeling and seeing the “middle aged spread” that is so hard to get rid of?
  • To feel better, stronger, less sluggish?
  • Because everyone tells you you need to lose weight?
  • Because society says you need to be a certain size to be ok?
  • Because you think Gal Gadot is awesome and you want to be a warrior like Wonder Woman?

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What is your WHY? 

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I’ll make it personal now. 

I would like to make healthier lifestyle choices this year, which will, in turn, include weight loss as a result of the healthier choices.  I would love to weigh less, but more than that, I’d like to just be healthier, more fit, stronger.

I’ve had that goal since Jr. High school, when that whole self-image thing really gets out of control.  I have always been athletic and active.  But my German heritage also came through strongly in my physique and body type (“short and stout”).  Back then, I wanted to be skinny because the skinny girls were more popular.  Because then the boys would like me more. 

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Very 12 year old sorts of reasons.

The problem is, we carry many of those deep feelings of insecurity into our ADULT WHYs, and those aren’t reasons that will encourage you to stay the course in meeting your goals.  Being popular isn’t something you can control.  Having the right boy like you takes cooperation from another human. 

A successful goal has to be something you can control.  Otherwise, the likelihood of failure goes up, because you can’t control anyone but yourself.  And sometimes you can’t even control yourself. 

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I’ve mostly moved past those types of WHYs (I hope anyway). 

But I needed to figure out my adult-version WHYs.

And the good news is, there ARE adult WHYs!

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My WHY now is not just one thing.  Mostly because I like words and analysis and can’t say anything without taking it deeper and using lots of words.  But that’s just me.

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My WHYs for making healthier choices which will lead to a leaner, thinner, stronger me:

  1. I FEEL better – physically, mentally, and emotionally – when I eat healthy, clean food and exercise most days. When I feel better, I DO better. When I feel better, I am kinder to myself and those around me.
  2. I am less tired, less sluggish, feel less heavy on the INSIDE when I make healthy choices
  3. I want to do what I can to ward off the negative health effects of unhealthy lifestyle choices that are at epidemic proportions in our country during this generation. The life expectancy in the US has been going DOWN for years now, which is an alarming new trend after years of our life expectancy averages increasing.  And most of the reasons are lifestyle choice related.  I can’t prevent every illness and disease, or accidents, and I know that someday my body will get old and wear out, but there are ways I CAN make my odds better.  And feel better more of the time for as long as I live.
  4. I want to set a good example for family and friends.
  5. I want to be a good steward of this body and the things I can do and experience in this life if I take care of it.

this is why

These WHYs are important to me.  They matter a whole lot more than being skinny so that I’ll be popular.  These WHYs get to the core of who I am and what is important to me.

Do you get the idea of a WHY now?

You can accomplish a WHAT without a WHY, sure.  But the WHY takes it deeper, makes it more meaningful and personal. 

remember why you started

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So on those days when I’d rather do anything other than exercise, when I would rather have a bowl full of hot, buttered, cheesy rice instead of a (delicious) and healthy salad – I need to remind myself of WHY I choose to exercise and eat clean and healthy.  If that doesn’t work to get me motivated, then I need to switch over to the FIGHT THRU I was talking about in my post a few days ago, and just DO THE THING that I need to do in my quest for good health.

Some people will tell you that once you know your WHY, the HOW is easy.  That sounds good, doesn’t it?  I want to do it THAT WAY, because they are telling me it’ll be easy once I figure out why I’m doing it.

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But the HOW is NOT easy – or you would have done it already. 

And we already KNOW THIS…

life is not easy

The WHAT and HOW will be challenging, and having your WHY clear doesn’t make those things easy peasy. 

It just makes them MORE POSSIBLE because you found a real reason, a deep reason, a meaningful reason, to do those things.

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But easy?  Nah, not easy.  Just worth it.

Your WHY is just as important as, and maybe MORE important than, your WHAT. 

if you haven't found it yet keep looking

So today, as you watch some bowl games, and eat those black eyed peas (I’m a Southern gal; one MUST consume black eyed peas on New Year’s Day!), give some thought to your WHY.

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I guarantee you’ll be glad you did!

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21 DAYS

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This may come as a shock to many of you, but the guy who first said, “It takes 21 Days to form a new habit” didn’t really say that.  Not exactly, anyway.

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I’ll share some thoughts on what it takes to form a new habit in a sec.  But first, as Paul Harvey would say, “and now, the rest of the story”.

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The whole 21-days-to-a-new-habit myth was based on self-image work by plastic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz back in the 1950s.   

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Dr. Maltz noticed that it took a patient about 21 days to get used to their cosmetic changes (say, a nose job or face lift) after surgery.  In a similar way, it would take an amputee about 21 days to stop feeling that phantom limb all the time and become more used to their new situation.

Maltz thought that was interesting, and it happened routinely enough that it made him curious.  He took a look at his own period of adjustment to change and formation of new habits and behaviors,  and he discovered that it also took him about 21 days to form a new habit.  So he documented his findings, and in 1960, published the results in a book called Psycho-Cybernetics

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Maltz wrote, “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”  

Read that quote carefully.

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The book sold more than 30 million copies, and that one sentence led to a myth being born!  Lots of self-help gurus (Zig Zigler, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, to name a few) grabbed onto his findings, and eventually shortened Maltz’s “a MINIMUM of ABOUT 21 Days” to “21 days!”

People could get their minds around 21 days.  It was a short enough time frame that it was encouraging and inspiring – I can DO that!  People responded to 21 days, and many DID find good results (and still do, I might add).

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But people also got discouraged when, after 21 days, the new habit hadn’t jelled enough to become second nature. 

As with most things, the total story and a reasonable expectation provide better perspective AND a better chance at a good result.

So how long DOES it take to form a new habit? 

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Let’s take a sec and look at the work of Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College in London.  She published a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology where she and her researchers focused on figuring this out for themselves.  

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They took 96 people, and for 12 weeks studied how they fared in creating new habits.  Each person chose 1 new habit and would report daily as to how it was going and how natural (or not) the new habit felt.  The new behaviors were fairly straightforward – drink a glass of water before dinner, exercise for 15 minutes daily, and the like. 

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Then after 12 weeks, each participant was evaluated on the process of introducing a new habit into their daily routines.

Lally found that, on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic. 

That’s 66 days. 

Which is not 21 days.

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The length of time will, naturally, vary widely depending on the behavior that is changing, the person, and the circumstances.

In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for the people in her study to form their new habits.  I’d really like to be one of the 18-day people…

So, if you want to set your expectations realistically, it will most likely take you anywhere from 2 to 8 months for that new habit to really jell. 

You might be tempted to say “Well, that’s discouraging.  That’s bad news!”

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But hold up!

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That is NOT bad news!  It’s good news for a couple of reasons.

 1.  You now have REALISTIC expectations

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One of the requirements for getting a new habit to take root is for it to be reasonable, doable, realistic. 

21 days MAY be realistic for you – it is for some folks. 

But if it’s not, then you set yourself up for discouragement and, ultimately, failure if your expectation is 21 days.

If you expand your time expectation and are wrong BECAUSE IT TOOK LESS TIME FOR YOU – that’s awesome!  Very motivating and encouraging. 

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Unrealistic expectations are not your friend.  

2.  New Habits are meant to be for a lifetime, so…..

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If you want your new habit to last a lifetime – and any new behavior we choose to introduce is generally something that we want to do from now on – you have to practice it every day. 

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Every. Day.

The longer you do something, the more entrenched it becomes in your life.  So what if you can’t “get it down” in 21 days? You’re gonna do it the rest of your life, right?  So don’t get all flustered by this news about the 21 day thing!  Just take it a day at a time, and keep doing it.  Which is what you have to tell yourself at the end of 21 days anyway.

3.  21 DAYS of a new habit is an awesome start and great benchmark

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There are some fabulous 21 Day exercise, positive thinking, healthy eating, and lifestyle change programs out there.  They provide fantastic results and are worth the time, effort, and personal investment to follow. 

I’ll be sharing some of them with you soon.

After 21 days, you’ll also have a better feel for how serious you are about making this change in your life.  If it’s working for you and you believe it’s worth the effort, then keep on with it.  If it isn’t what you expected or you aren’t ready for this yet, then you can make that decision at that point. 

You can use 21 Days as your initial goal.  Commit to that, and after you’ve completed those 21 days, make yourself another goal to achieve.  Breaking lifelong goals down into smaller, manageable chunks is the way to go.

4.  You don’t have to be perfect (HOORAY!!)

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Another thing that Lally discovered was that you don’t have to be PERFECT in your quest to form a new habit.  When the people in her study messed up a time or two in their dedication to practicing the new behaviors, it didn’t really change the overall result.

We tend to get discoursed when we skip a day or two of exercise or healthy eating.  Just remember that life – and developing healthy habits – is a process, not a final destination. 

80 20 rule

Maybe you’ve heard of the 80/20 Rule.  Most often, in fitness circles, that refers to the fact that 80% of good health and fitness is about proper nutrition, and only 20% is related to exercise.  (I wish those were reversed…) 

But you can also use the 80/20 Rule for any goal.   80% of the time, put all your efforts into staying true to that goal, but cut yourself some slack on the other 20%. 

Why? 

Because LIFE, that’s why!  We can’t be perfect, but we can get our minds (and our determination) around doing something hard 80% of the time.

Except for marriage.  You need to be committed to your marriage 100% of the time.  But I digress…

Focus on progress rather than perfection. 

And when you do mess up, act like a scientist. 

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Figure out WHY you didn’t exercise or why you ate the plate of cookies or why you smoked the cigarette, and then focus on fixing the problem that got in the way. 

Your goal wasn’t the problem. 

The thing that interfered with your goal is the problem.  So troubleshoot THAT rather than quit.

It’s a process.

Dr. Jason Selk offered some fantastic information and advice about what it DOES take to form a new habit:

(Dr. Jason Selk is one of the premier performance coaches in the United States, with dozens of professional athletes and Fortune 500 executives as his clients.)

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Selk says there are 3 PHASES of new habit formation:

  1. THE HONEYMOON

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We like the honeymoon phase.  It’s easy and it feels fabulous.  It’s when you are excited and everything feels easy and fun and full of possibilities.  Nothing will get in your way! 

The honeymoon phase is usually the result of something inspiring happening – attending a highly motivational conference, reading a book that you really connect with, seeing something on the internet or TV that fuels your optimism and makes you want to do that thing. 

However, we all know that that level of excitement and enthusiasm can’t last forever…  

So at some point we’ll hit Phase 2.

  1. THE FIGHT-THRU

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Reality sets in during the fight-thru phase.  You start to struggle with your follow-through. 

Even your “want to” may take a hit. 

It gets HARD.

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We are not fans of “hard”.   Those old (easy) habits seem so attractive.   We’re tired of making the effort and find excuses not to.

The secret, according to Dr. Selk, is to win 2 or 3 “fight thrus” as you push through the struggle.  This is crucial to succeeding. 

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To successfully fight thru, use the following techniques:

    a) RECOGNIZE

Acknowledge that you are in the FIGHT THRU stage, and tell yourself that you need to win a few of these moments in order to move past it.  When you push thru and get past it this time, it will make it easier to do it the next time (there will be a next time.  Sorry…)  If you give in this time, it makes it easier to give in the next time.  

No Bueno.

So, recognize that you are in a phase of this new habit formation thing, that it is normal to feel this way, and that you aren’t a failure!

    b)  ASK 2 QUESTIONS of yourself

“How will I feel if I do this?” and  “How will I feel if I don’t do this?”      

Yes, I’m telling you to bring your emotions into this fight! 

Let yourself feel that positive sense of accomplishment you’ll experience if you push through, and also the negative feelings and discouragement of NOT fighting through. 

Feel it.

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    c)  LIFE PROJECTION

If steps a) and b) didn’t get you over the hump, then imagine in great detail what your life will look like in 5 years if you do NOT make this change.  Be honest with yourself and allow yourself to envision where you’ll be in 5 years if you continue to give in and give up when it gets hard.

  1. SECOND NATURE

So to recap, Phase 1 is the Honeymoon Phase, Phase 2 is the Push Thru Phase, and this brings us to Phase 3 – Second Nature. 

This is where we wish we’d all be after 21 days of effort… 

We want it to stop being so hard to keep the new habit going.  We really want the new behavior to feel like, well, SECOND NATURE.  

Second nature phase is when you feel you’re “in the groove” with this new behavior. 

It feels pretty good!  You did it! 

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But, hang on a sec.

As life tends to do, there are a few monsters that try to come in and ruin things. 

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Once you are in “second nature”, the following interruptions will try to come in and toss you back into FIGHT THRU:

  1. The DISCOURAGEMENT Monster

The Discouragement Monster has you thinking, “This isn’t working, and there’s nothing I can do…  I might as well not even try… “ 

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We’ve all been there.  Don’t let this Monster fool you with his lies!

  1. The DISRUPTION OF SUCCESS Monster

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We get out of our routine and that makes staying the course more difficult.  Things like vacation, illness, weekends, visitors.  Life will happen and we can fall off the track (so to speak).  Just get back on.  Don’t quit. 

    3.  The SEDUCTION OF SUCCESS Monster

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“Look at me and my success!” 

“I did this awesome thing!” 

“Look at the results of my awesomeness!” 

We did the thing!  But then we get overconfident and lazy…  Plus people think you brag a bit too much.  We think we’re all that, so we don’t focus as much attention on staying the course. 

After all, we’ve got this, right?? 

If one of these monsters grabs you and tosses you back to the FIGHT THRU stage, don’t panic. 

There’s a way back to Second Nature.  And I think you know what it is. 

You’re in the Fight Thru stage again, so – FIGHT THRU!

Winning 2 or 3 FIGHT THRUs will bring you back to SECOND NATURE. 

So, when you get knocked back to Fight Thru by one of the Interruption Monsters, DON’T GIVE UP! 

Bring your focus back to one day at a time, at least until you get past the rough patch.

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You and I and everyone else really wishes that new, positive habits would be as simple for us as breathing.  But we know they aren’t.  We KNOW they take effort, consistent effort, for as long as you want to reap their benefits. 

Achieving great things involves sacrifice.  It involves doing things that others can’t or won’t do.  Over and over again.  Because it’s worth it to reach those goals and enjoy the benefits those new actions bring to your life.  

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GREAT HABITS ARE FORMED DAILY, one decision at a time, compounded over days, weeks, months, years. 

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Good habits require consistent commitment and effort. 

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I wish I could tell you it was easy or that you’d have it down pat after 21 days. 

But I want you to succeed, and so I can’t say those things and just stop there.  You need the rest of the story, for when it gets hard and you feel like quitting.

What I can say is that doing something for 21 days is an awesome start to a new, better way of living.   21 Days of practicing a new behavior will put you well on the road to making it a permanent part of your life.

What I can also say is that if you stick to it, and work through the hard days, show up even when you don’t want to, and pick yourself up and get back on track when you fall off – you will accomplish those goals! 

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Whether it took you 21 days or 66 days or 365 days or maybe you’re still working on it.   

You can do hard things.

wow you did it

 

WHAT IF…

WHAT IF when we come together as a church, we put all the other messy, icky “stuff” aside and just focused on our two main reasons for being there:
1. Worshiping God
2. Encouraging each other
WHAT IF WE…
… put our focus on edifying God the entire time, through our attitudes and actions?
… made an effort to say something nice – something positive – to those around us, instead of complaining?
… thanked those in leadership?
… focused on the message of the song being led, whether we “liked” the song or not?
… decided to not find fault with everything anybody else did or said?
… participated more and complained less?
… actually made church about Jesus?
… focused on OUR own attitude and behavior instead of everyone else’s?
… got more upset about the lost people in our communities than our worship style?
What if we DECIDED to stop being unhappy?
EVEN IF…
… the sermon went “too long”?
… the song leader led old songs, too slowly?
… we sang new songs that I didn’t know?
… the powerpoint operator made some mistakes?
… the announcements (“family news”) went on for “too long”?
… I didn’t get my way?
… the topic is “boring”?
… the leaders made decisions I disagreed with (not unscriptural decisions; I just wanted something different)?
… somebody said something that offended me?
… the service just didn’t seem to “meet my needs”?
… all the people there are “too old” and set in their ways?
… all the people there are “too young” and want to change everything?
What if we stopped complaining so much and started BEING Jesus to each other and to the world? No matter what everybody else did or said?
What if we blocked Satan’s best attempts to destroy us from within and instead chose to reflect Jesus in our behaviors and attitudes towards each other?
If your church isn’t being what you think it should be, then step up and BE the church that God intended us to be. Not through a militant demand that everyone do it your way (whether it should be done that way or not) – but by our attitudes towards each other – even the brothers and sisters you don’t especially like?
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
                   John 13:35
Because, WHAT IF?
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It’s OK to Have a Happy Mothers’ Day

mom and becca and cailtin and allieI don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve found it increasingly uncomfortable over the past few years to admit that I enjoy Mother’s Day. Just to be clear: I DO enjoy Mother’s Day – as I think about my own Mother, who has been gone for almost 16 years now, and also about being a mother to my own two daughters.
But being able to ADMIT that I enjoy Mother’s Day is what has become an uncomfortable challenge.
Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, or maybe it is just my perspective, but it has come to feel just a little bit shameful to celebrate Mothers’ Day in light of all those whose mothers have passed on, or those who have lost children (both pre-birth and post-birth), or those who have chosen not to become mothers, or those who have been unable to conceive, or those who had abusive mothers.
It feels as if we must tiptoe around the joy involved in Mother’s Day out of deference to those who have suffered painful losses or experiences with regard to having or being mothers.
When I think of Mother’s Day, I focus on celebrating my mother, not me as a mother.
Even though I have 2 wonderful daughters who are obviously part of the joy of my Mother’s Day, my focus is on remembering and celebrating my mother, and my role as her daughter. Even though she is no longer with us on this earth, I can still fondly remember her, and be thankful for her, and think about her role as my mother.
I absolutely grieve with those who have lost children, whether they were adult children, grade schoolers, infants, or still-born angels. Several people close to me have suffered those types of losses, and their pain and grief and longing are immeasurable.
That type of loss changes you; it is not something you simply “get over”.
I have friends who have chosen not to have children, and other friends who would dearly love to have children, but who have not yet been successful in conceiving or carrying a baby to term. I have friends and clients whose mothers were anything but kind and loving. It is hard for them to celebrate their mothers because there is much pain attached. And I know many, like me, whose mothers have passed from this world. We miss them terribly, wish they were here to ask them important questions, share our joys and our lives with them, and know them as adults, now.
Anyone who lives long enough will suffer enormous, gut wrenching loss related to the idea of “mother”, in some form or fashion.
I’ll admit that I am jealous of those my age who still have their mothers.
BUT – But, it is not my right to steal the joy of Mothers Day away from those whose mothers are still very much alive, simply because mine is not.
AND – even if you have lost a mother, lost a child, been unable to conceive, been unable to carry a child to term, had a bad relationship with an abusive mother, or had any other painful experience related to motherhood – EVEN IF that is true – we can still celebrate Mothers’ Day, and honor mothers.
We can and should take joy in being mothers and having mothers. And every single one of us, even those who are estranged from their mothers, have HAD a mother.
Mothers’ Day is all about honoring not just your own personal experience with mothers and motherhood. It’s about honoring mothers and motherhood in general. “It takes a village” to raise a child – and mothers are an integral part of that village.
At least that’s how I have always viewed it.
This year, while I hurt with and for those who have lost their mothers or lost their children, and while thinking about my own mother brings both joy and painful loss, I have decided to honor my mother and my role and the concept and goodness of motherhood anyway.
In spite of pain.
In spite of lack of perfection.
In spite of sadness as well as joy.
Both pain and joy can and must live in the same picture, because that’s how life is. They both teach and enrich.
I am sorry that some of you struggle and hurt on Mothers’ Day. I sincerely wish I could listen to each of your stories and offer comfort and understanding.
At the risk of hurting some folks’ feelings, I would like to wish all of you who are mothers a Happy Mothers Day. I will have to wish my mother a Happy Mothers Day in my memories and in my heart, but you can bet I will do that. Maybe look at some old photos and shed a few tears. Look through the mementos I have of her. Perhaps I’ll wear her wedding ring to church tomorrow. But I will remember and honor her, especially on that day set aside for just that.
And I’d like to say “thank you” to my daughters for being my amazing children.
I love you all.

The Importance of Facing Your Fears

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Fear can paralyze you.

Coming home from the YMCA last evening, after a much needed workout, I heard something on the radio that really made me think.  The station was running an advertisement for some seminar or speaking engagement or book signing or something, and the ad guy made a statement that kind of shocked me.  He said,

“Fear is selfish.  Fear is really all about focusing on yourself.”

That caught my attention.  My first reaction was “that’s ridiculous!”  I thought that this guy was just trying to find something else to make us feel guilty about – as if we didn’t have enough of that already.

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But the thought intrigued me.  I wanted to unpack that statement just a bit and see if he had a point.

IS fear really a selfish thing?  How could it be?  Fear is just a feeling, right?

I don’t think fear in and of itself is selfish. Fear is an emotion just like any other emotion – it is what it is.  But what we do with that fear – THAT can certainly be selfish.

Bear with me while I flesh this out a bit more.

When something scares you, what is it, exactly, that you are afraid OF?  Sure, you might be afraid of snakes or tornadoes or other things that could actually physically harm you.  Or you might be afraid of a person who has been abusive to you, or of getting run over by a car if you jump out into the street with your eyes closed.  Those types of fears don’t seem particularly “selfish” to me, other than in a way that keeps us away from dangerous situations.

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I’m pretty sure that’s not the kind of fear the guy was talking about.

The kind of fear we deal with the most, on a day to day basis, is very different than the spider, snake, tornado, serial killer kind of fear.  We are afraid of things like telling our friend that her behavior towards us isn’t ok, apologizing when we’ve hurt someone’s feelings, trying something we’ve never done before, talking to a new person at church, speaking in public – those kinds of things.

And those fears – or the lack of action that accompanies being afraid of those things – ARE selfish.  The uncomfortable feelings that are attached to these types of fears lead us to avoid action that needs taking because we, selfishly, don’t want to feel the discomfort that goes along with taking action.

overcome fear

This radio ad guy’s comments really got me thinking.

Fear is paralyzing.  It is one of Satan’s strongest tools to use to keep us stuck, keep us defeated, keep us from reaching our potential, keep us from repairing relationships.  Fear is all about “what if”, even though the “what if” probably won’t happen, and even if it does, it (usually) won’t kill us.

fear is a prison (2)

fear is a liar

Fear keeps us stuck, and prevents us from doing things like:

  • Asking for that raise that we actually really deserve – because we’re afraid the boss will be mad at us for even asking, and we’ll be embarrassed if he turns us down. We’ve afraid that the boss won’t think as highly of our efforts and abilities as we do.
  • Not going to the doctor to find out what that lump is, because we are afraid of what it MIGHT be. Somehow, fear convinces us that pretending that it’s nothing at all will cause it to BE nothing at all.  I don’t think science works that way…
  • Not making things right in a relationship because we are afraid: of rejection, ridicule, having to admit we were wrong, being embarrassed, stirring up old hurts, feeling humiliated, being ignored, wanting to hold tightly to a grudge.
  • Going back to school to get that degree – because we’re afraid we’ll fail, or it’ll be too much work, or we won’t be able to afford it, or we won’t find a job after all that effort.
  • Using the talents that God has given us, because we don’t feel confident, or aren’t sure if that’s REALLY what God wants us to do, or we compare ourselves with others who have been doing that task for years and we think we’ll look foolish in comparison.
  • Bringing up topics that need discussing, because we are afraid of conflict, or afraid of being wrong, or afraid of being asked a question that we don’t know the answer to, or afraid of being left behind.
  • Talking to visitors at church – because we might not know what to say, or sound stupid, or they might not like us.

Every time we say “But I’m afraid”, and let it paralyze us, we are totally focusing on SELF, and absolutely letting fear control us.  How will this make ME feel?  What will happen to ME?  To a degree, we can’t avoid that, because, well, you are YOU and you know what you feel.

me

This way of looking at fear is certainly not an absolute – on the flip side, fear can sometimes protect us from real danger.  I think it’s perfectly fine for you to be afraid of playing with rattlesnakes, and decide not to play with them.

rattlesnake

That’s not the kind of fear I’m talking about.

The fear we deal with on a day to day basis is different.  We are so focused on how we feel and how scared we are of looking foolish (or wrong) that we let that fear win.

We become a prisoner of fear.

That type of paralyzing, controlling fear makes us feel weak and victimized; we feel we have no choice, when actually, you ALWAYS have a choice.

So we don’t ask for the raise.  Or go back to school. Or bring up the elephant in the middle of the room.

elephant in the room pink

Hearing that guy on the radio say “Fear is really selfish”, was sort of an epiphany for me.  Because I don’t WANT to be paralyzed by nonproductive fear, fear that hurts rather than propels me to action.  And realizing that fear is often selfish, and that I don’t want to be selfish, kind of gave me a wave of courage.

If I need to make something right with another person but am afraid to bring it up with them, I can choose to focus on doing what I know is the right thing to do, whether it scares me or not.  That gives me a purpose, and a sense of control and choice in the matter.  It’s something to pin my courage on.

courage parting the sea

It shifts the focus from what I do or don’t want to do, and onto who I want to BE.

It’s kind of a subtle mind shift sort of thing, but it was huge for me.

For me, thinking about fear as something that I not only CAN overcome, but SHOULD overcome, helps me find the courage to do the thing.

fear fdr

I’ve counseled many people over the years that the only way to overcome fear is to face it and walk through it.  Depression, anxiety, OCD, and the like center around paralyzing fear of some sort.

Your goal should not be to avoid the thing you fear, but to overcome the fear with action.

isaiah 41 10

Acknowledge the feelings of fear, realize that those feelings won’t kill you, acknowledge that you can survive uncomfortable feelings, and then do the thing (if it is reasonable to do so).

cat do not want

As humans, we want the feeling of fear to go away BEFORE we do the scary thing.   We want to feel courageous before we act.

But that’s not courage.

Courage is being afraid, but choosing to do the thing anyway.

COURAGE isn’t the absence of fear; it’s feeling the fear and taking action anyway.

feel the fear

I wish I could tell you that if you just wait awhile, you won’t be afraid and then you can move forward. But you and I both know that’s not the way it works.  The more you actually do the thing you are afraid to do, while you are still afraid, the less fearful you feel over time.

Did you catch the last two words of that last sentence?

OVER TIME. 

It’s not a “one and done” sort of process.  You can’t do the scary thing a time or two and then complain that you still feel fear, so the process doesn’t work.  Keep after it.  It will take as long as it takes.  And I don’t know how long that will be for you and your particular fear and circumstances.  But I guarantee that if will take more than a handful of tries.

fear 365

So, after tossing this idea around in my head for a bit, I do see the connection between FEAR and SELFISHNESS.

What is selfish, in my mind, is when we feel fear and choose not to do the thing that needs doing.  That is absolutely putting my comfort over everything else.  As Christians, we know that we are to think of others – their needs, their feelings – and also remember who we are as Christians.  I need to be who God has called me to be, regardless of how I feel at the time.  And that means often being called on to do the hard things that scare me to death.

It’s been said that if you aren’t  scared half to death most of the time in ministry, then you aren’t doing it right.  I kind of believe that.

courage cs lewis

Maybe what I’ve shared here isn’tparadigm shift chicken and egg color quite the paradigm shift for you as it was for me.  But hopefully, I’ve at least gotten you to think about those fears in your life that have left you paralyzed and unsettled.  Maybe you can relook at those hard, scary things and decide that you will unstick yourself and move forward, straight through the fear, so that you can be who you are meant to be, rather than who your fears tell you to be.

I had to ask myself why it took me so long to figure this out.

Well, I don’t have an answer for that.

fear kills dreams

I just know for me, I don’t want to be paralyzed by fear, and thinking about it as a selfish choice gives me something solid to work on.  In a weird way, this idea was pretty exciting and motivating, because not only does it make sense, it also gives me courage, purpose, and hope to face down the things that I’m afraid of.

god has not given us a spirit of fear

Until next time, be purposeful, and keep your eyes looking forward.     Rebeccawhat would you do

 

Three (4) Things About… PATIENCE

THREE (4) THINGS ABOUT… PATIENCE

speed waiting

Earlier today, a friend of mine was telling me about the preparations she was making for some upcoming daycare evaluations by the state licensing board.  The conversation was going along pretty much as you’d expect.

But then she started talking about coloring.  And soup.   

She was concerned about the negative impact many of the newer regulations have on children’s abilities to learn important “soft” skills, like patience and perseverance.  In an effort to prevent abuse (which we certainly want to prevent), child care providers are told not to force the kids to do things they don’t want to do.  If they are coloring and they become frustrated and want to do something else, you are to calmly redirect them to something they feel like doing. 

That’s all well and good, but we are talking about TWO and THREE YEAR OLDS here.  People who have reaaaallllly short attention spans and a lot of potential for – but as yet unrealized – patience.  How many 2 year olds do you know who make mature decisions on a consistent basis about how to use their time and efforts? 

Even mature 2 year olds are still TWO.YEARS.OLD.

scan0017 (5) 

Coloring teaches a child patience, perseverance, self-control, self-confidence, and seeing a task through to the end, in addition to many other things.  My friend has some kids who don’t like to color, and she isn’t supposed to require that they keep coloring when they tire of that task.  So she has to look for other kid-friendly ways to teach important life skills, like patience. 

patience child coloring

Enter soup.

patience child eating soup


Her kids like soup.  And eating soup can teach a kid (or an adult) patience.  If you eat soup too quickly, and you’re not used to moving liquid in a shallow, metal device toward your mouth, you’ll make a big mess and not get as much down your throat as you’d like.  So you have to slow down, learn to hold that spoon steady, and move that liquid-filled spoon to your mouth. 

Soup makes you take your time. 

So, this conversation got me started thinking about patience:  How important it is, how much we WANT patience but don’t want to do the work it takes to develop patience, and how our impatience adds so much stress to our lives (and the lives of those around us). 

So grab a bowl of soup and some crayons, and think about these

THREE (4) THINGS ABOUT… PATIENCE:

 1.  Patience is something you have to develop (that means WORK ON…)

Here’s a great definition of patience:  to endure discomfort without complaint.

dog ice creamIf I’m taking too long to eat my delicious chocolate ice cream on a hot summer day – I am not being patient  I am having a great time. I have neither discomfort nor complaint.  It tastes GOOD, and I’ll make it last just as long as I can.

However, if I am late for work, and need to fill my car with gas on the way, and all the pumps are being used right now, I have an opportunity to be patient.  Waiting for a pump to open up when I know I need to hurry it up and get to work involves DISCOMFORT.  If I endure this without complaint, I am being patient.  If I wait for a pump, but am fussing and fuming the whole time – not patient.

GasStationWaitingLine

To endure discomfort without complaint doesn’t mean that you get all Pollyanna-ish and pretend that everything is just peachy.  You simply choose not to focus on the discomfort.  You are running late and you need gas.  That is true whether you fume about it or not.  So why not, instead, occupy your thoughts with other things until the discomfort passes. 

patience 2

In the gas station example, your (loudly) mumbled complaints and those glaring looks you give the  drivers who are ever so slowwwwlllllyyyyy filling up their tanks won’t make them move any faster.  If anything, it will make them go SLOWER. 

So why get all bent out of shape? 

It is what it is.  Try occupying your thoughts with something that isn’t stressful.  You’ll pump the gas when you pump the gas.  Call your boss and tell him/her you are running late.  Being impatient does nothing good, and brings stress and angst instead.  The situation is what it is; deal with it.

Got it?

Every time you are faced with a situation where you feel IMpatient, you have an opportunity to work on becoming more patient. 

Over time, the act of being patient will take less effort and cause less distress.  One day you will realize, “Hey!  I’m pretty much a patient person now!”  But the change is slow and methodical, like a moth changing into a butterfly. 

When you first decide to do something about your impatience, it will take a ton of work.  Just like anything else that’s worth doing, learning patience takes time and effort.  And there will be times when you blow it.  When that happens, just deal with the damage and begin again.  It really is worth the effort.

2.  If you pray for more patience, you will be given opportunities to DEVELOP patience, not receive an immediate transformation into a patient person. Sorry…

praying for patience 2God has a great sense of humor.  When you pray for patience, He will make sure you have ample opportunities to develop that character trait.  I think patience is a great thing to pray for – and it’s one of the Fruits of the Spirit, so patience is certainly something we as Christians should be striving for.  Just be ready for God to answer that prayer with lots of practice drills.

3.  You have to CHOOSE to be more patient.

grocery line

You know the feeling.  When you need to buy just one thing at the grocery store and the lines (even the express checkout) are ridiculously long.  You feel your dissatisfaction start to rise. 

Basically, we Americans simply hate to wait.  For anything.

do not like to waitBut there are times when waiting is the only option.  And each time you are faced with that feeling of impatience starting to rise in your chest (or wherever you feel it – I feel mine in my chest), you get to decide what to do with it.

I take a deep breath, tell myself what’s up (“The lines are long.  I’m gonna have to wait.  It’s ok.”), and settle in for the wait.  Sometimes I people watch.  Sometimes I check my email.  Sometimes I just space out.  But I choose to NOT keep reminding myself how much I wish the line would just move along, or that lady would get the credit card chip process right, or the checker would stop talking to that person WHO IS ALREADY DONE.  And you know what?  I hardly ever feel that surge of impatience anymore.  

Why is it so hard to be patient? 

There are a few reasons.  First, I believe it’s because we are so painfully and forcefully aware of our own feelings, needs, and perceptions.  I can UNDERSTAND your struggles, frustrations, and your efforts.  But I can only FEEL my own.  So my needs feel more real, more urgent than I can imagine yours do.  And so we want what we want, when we want it.  And become uncomfortable when we have to wait. 

belly rub

 

Also, we seem to be able to convince ourselves that other people are trying to make life harder for us on purpose.  That they aren’t really trying their best, we believe.  When in reality, most folks ARE doing the best they can – we simply have unreasonable or unrealistic expectations of them.  So we get angry and impatient when we think they should be doing things better, faster, “my way”.   

Ever try to teach a kid long division who isn’t quite ready for long division yet?  It’s hard not to get frustrated – impatient – with him, because we believe that if he would just TRY HARDER, he’d get it.  Instead of getting irritated, why not make a choice to look at the situation differently: maybe that kid IS trying their best and we are just being unrealistic and impatient.  Your patience may even bring the stress level down enough that the child can focus better and WILL finally get it.

And third, we have unrealistic expectations about life in general.  We assume that life is supposed to be smooth sailing, that things SHOULD go our way, that others should cooperate with our needs and wants.  And life really isn’t that way much of the time.  So we get angry and impatient.

john 16 33

4.  BONUS:  Patience brings you (and everyone around you) more peace

Have you ever had to spend much time with a person who always complains?  People who complain tend to be really impatient.  Being around a person who is continually griping at the traffic, at the speed with which people do things, with the service at restaurants:  it gets old fast.  Being around an impatient complainer is stressful, discouraging, and crazy-making.  I don’t think anyone says, “Hey!  I think I’ll hang out with an impatient complainer today.  It’ll be fun!”

When you feel impatient, what should you do?

You choose to calm down.    Calm your thoughts, calm your breathing, calm your expectations.

calm down

Practice patience in ways both large and small:

  • Read that book to your 3 year old – for the 10th time – without being frustrated
  • Give the slow person the benefit of the doubt
  • Always have something with you (phone, book, Sudoku, etc), so that when you have to wait you will have something to other than fume
  • Find some humor in what’s happening
  • Talk to God while you wait

Or you could practice coloring or eating soup. 

rodinIf you consistently practice being patient, you will one day find yourself not really being bothered by the frustration of impatience much anymore.

Prayer and meditating on Scripture require you to develop patience, too.  You can’t adequately do either one, quickly.  You have to take your time, make it purposeful.  And in the process, you develop more purposeful patience.

philippians 4 6

Here’s something to think about:  Jesus most likely totally understood the concept of patience.  This is just speculation on my part, but think about it:  he pounded nails into boards as a carpenter for, what, at least 10 years before beginning his ministry as SAVIOR OF THE WORLD.  When you feel overqualified for your job, think about that for a minute… 

Jesus had to be patient, waiting for the right time to do what he came to do.  I would think that, as a human who felt all our emotions, there were times when he just wanted to get on with it.  And then he had to deal with his disciples, who were forever NOT GETTING IT.  Did Jesus exhibit patience with them?  He did. Even when He occasionally scolded them for being so thick-headed, he was patient with them.

love is patient

Love is patient.  Loving others is one of only 2 commandments in the New Testament (the first is to love God).  So patience is kind of important as a Christian.  But just like anything else of value, patience doesn’t come easily.  It is a discipline.  We have to work at it, and WANT to work at it.  We have to stop feeling so entitled to having everything go our way and at the speed we want it to go.  We basically have to get over ourselves in order to be patient.

You have to be purposeful to be patient. 

live-on-purpose-large

Patience is a choice.  But to not make that choice? 

Choosing impatience leads to a life of frustration, stress, and poor relationships, and is a miserable way to live, especially if you profess to represent Jesus.

How do I know?  Because I had to learn to be patient.  I was a classic type A personality in my younger years.  Hated waiting in lines, in traffic. Hated being “slowed down” by those who weren’t as quick as I was.  Edgy, not always very kind, especially if I was inconvenienced.  My impatience with others made me miserable, it made everyone else miserable, and it didn’t help anything go any faster.  So at some point, I decided to stop complaining and find something else to occupy my thoughts when I was inconvenienced.  I practiced not caring that I couldn’t move as quickly as I wanted to.  And, after putting some focused effort into calming myself down over time, I got to where I really didn’t mind if I ended up in the slowest line at the grocery store anymore.  Or if I was in a hurry and traffic was snarled.  Or if it was time to go home and someone stepped in the office who needed to talk.  I learned to communicate my needs verbally, kindly, and not passive-aggressively, if I did indeed need to be on my way.  But usually, I wasn’t really so rushed (and self-important) that I HAD to leave right then.

If I can do it, if I can become more patient, then you can too.

When you decide to stop being so impatient with your family, coworkers, friends, and the world at large, a huge cloud of stress will fade away.  You’ll feel less stressed, and so will everyone in your world. 

dandelion

Until next time, be purposeful, and keep your eyes looking forward.

Rebecca

Three (4) Things About… Feeling Overwhelmed

overwhelmed 2Feeling overwhelmed?  If so, you aren’t alone.  Even though many of us have just had some vacation time during the holidays, and only 11 days ago started a New Year full of optimism and commitment, a bunch of us are feeling anything but encouraged and rested.  It’s common – and really frustrating – to find yourself feeling tired, discouraged, and overwhelmed this time of the year, when you really thought you’d be feeling energized and hopeful. 

Today we’ll take a look at Three (4) Things you can do when you feel overwhelmed:

 1.  Take a Breath and Slow Down

Remember, you don’t have to figure everything out today (usually), so hold up a minute. 

And even if you DO have to figure it out today, you need to calm down a little bit first.  So sit down, close your eyes, take some deep cleansing breaths, and clear your mind. 

Maybe say a prayer while you sit there relaxing. 

breathe be still and knowDo your best to stop thinking about all the things you are worried about and just BE.  You need to calm your body and mind down so that you can think clearly and productively. 

If your first thought is, “I don’t have time to sit down and relax,” then you really need to sit down and relax…

2.  Break It Down

We often get overwhelmed when we have so many things demanding our time and attention that we feel the weight of everything all at once, and we panic.  We become paralyzed with the sheer mass of all the things on our plate. 

do all the things 2And of course, everything needs to be done RIGHT NOW! 

So we feel the pressure of time in addition to the seemingly unreasonable number of items on our to-do list. 

Maybe you only have one task in front of you, but it is so big and confusing and seemingly impossible to do that it might as well be 1000 tasks.

elephantYou know the joke that says, “How do you eat an elephant”?  The answer is, “One bite at a time!”  I’m not suggesting that you eat an elephant to help you not feel overwhelmed, but the concept and process is the same.

When you have a BIG TASK (or tasks) facing you, and you are overwhelmed and too paralyzed to even know where to start, you have to break the big thing down into smaller and smaller chunks until you have a “to do” list that doesn’t freak you out. 

For example, let’s say your task is to “take over the world”.  Pretty big, no matter who you are, right?  So here’s the process I would go through to break that down into manageable chunks:

take over the world pinky and brain 2Task:  Take over the World

Preliminary Steps

  1. Define “world”
  2. Come up with a “take over plan”
  3. Put the plan into action
  4. Celebrate

Detailed Steps:

1.  Define “world”

a.  Look “world” up in dictionary

b.  Run the definition by people I trust

2.  Come up with a “take over” plan

a.  Pick a date to do this thing

b.  Appoint a team of helpers

– Make a list

– Ask them to help

– Have a “take over the world” meeting

c.  Decide how to take over the world with my team

– List all our options

– Pick one

– Make sure everyone knows what the plan is

d.  Get Supplies

– Pay with my credit card

– Give everybody their supplies

e.  Make sure we’ve thought of everything

f.  Have one more meeting to make sure we’re all on the same page

3.  Put the plan into action

a.  Set a meeting place and time for “before” and “after”

b.  Do the thing

c.  Meet back at the meeting place

d.  Set up new office

4.  Celebrate

a.  Invite the whole world

b.  Send thank you notes

This was kind of a silly (or maybe not…) scenario, but you get the idea.  Keep breaking down each step until you can read the “to dos” without feeling panicked.  Then start there.

bite sized tasksWhen you’re feeling overwhelmed, the idea is to find a way to get you unstuck and get started.  Once you’re started and less panicked, everything will start to go better.

3.  Make Sure the Tasks Are Reasonable

If you’ve got too much on your plate, it may be that you are taking on tasks that don’t belong to you.  Those of us who are doers seem to collect tasks that others should actually be tending to themselves.  So take a good look at your list and make sure the tasks belong to you. 

overwhelmed 3Also, make sure the tasks that do belong to you are reasonable.  My “take over the world” task?  Not really reasonable.  And if I keep trying to do that task, one of several things will happen, none of them good.  Even if I managed to take over the world, THAT in itself would not be good!

4. BONUS: Stay in the Present

You will have to fight against the tendency to become overwhelmed again and again, even after you’ve followed these steps and settled yourself down.  It’s so easy to look at THE WHOLE THING ALL AT ONCE again and get terrified, paralyzed, and shut down.  So if you find that happening, go back to step one above. you are her

Take a breath, stop worrying, and just start on one of your low level tasks.

Keep bringing yourself back to the present:

  • Don’t allow yourself to dwell on past mistakes/hurts.
  • Plan for the future, but don’t park there and worry about it constantly.
  • What is your focus for TODAY? What do you need to pay attention to RIGHT NOW?

don't worry about tomorrow

Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  NIV

Until next time, be purposeful, and keep your eyes looking forward.

Rebecca