Category Archives: mentoring

My #1’s for 2016

I find these few days just before and after New Year’s Eve slightly stressful.  So much internal self imposed pressure to get my goals nailed down.  I actually dread the process.

Don’t get me wrong. Setting goals you want to pursue and attain is a great exercise, but, ‘should’ing’ on yourself to do goals because you SHOULD is killing to one’s psyche.  I do enjoy getting a cup of tea, sitting on my couch with my friend called Moleskin and writing away as I did today.

The feeling of ‘should’ing’ was alleviated by enlisting Brian Tracy’s “identify your #1 thing exercise’ exercise.  This is something I enjoy.  For me it’s always about the journey not just the result.  I need to ‘enjoy’ goal setting, or ‘start and stop’ process. I can’t dread it or my creativity shuts down.

So here goes…..

  1. What’s the #1 thing I could start doing today, that if I did it consistently, would have the most positive impact in my life? (Then do it.)
  2. What’s the #1 thing I could stop doing right now, that, if I stopped doing would have the greatest positive impact on my life? (Then quit doing it.)

My # 1’s to start doing:

  • Minimum 15 minute ‘chair time’ alone with God, reflecting, meditating, journaling, praying.
  • Daily check in time with my best friend Rosetta, my wife.
  • Be a positive influence on my adult kids and their kids on their terms.
  • Keep sharpening my coaching capacity and competence with my mentor coach and joining CAM.
  • Coach men to be life givers in their relational and work world’s.
  • Keep focused on being an above average encourager and people builder.
  • Keep growing margin financially, emotionally, and physically.
  • Be ruthless with managing my weight and getting to 192Ibs

My # 1’s to stop doing include:

  • Stop complaining and stop speaking critically of others when they aren’t around.
  • Stop eating ‘fatty, crappy’ food and avoid starch like the plaque.
  • Stop focusing on what I can’t do and focus on what I CAN do in regards to advancing my coaching practice.

And that’s it for now.

I plan to take football coach Jim Harbaugh to heart–to attack each day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

God helping me, I will!!

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Missing Ingredient for Personal and Professional Growth

Over the years I have wondered why some people’s growth accelerates while others either plateau or drift into mediocrity.  Although there are a good number of things that could be listed, I think one stands out above all–a lack of teachability.  In fact, author/pastor Matt Keller wrote a whole book on the subject called The Key to Everything: Unlocking the Secret to Why Some People Succeed and Others Don’t.  I am not sure if this is absolutely true but it does resonate with me.

I am on my way to improving my coaching ability and I attribute that to a couple of things–one is my own hunger and drive to want to be an effective and useful coach, but the other is my growing teachability, especially towards my own mentor coach.

My own coach doesn’t hold back in his feedback. I think I’ve demonstrated over the last couple of years that I want to learn so he gets right in there and isn’t afraid to use phrases like,

“Luch, slow down. One thought at a time.”

“Stop stacking questions.”

“Don’t run away from me.”

“Luch, you need to wallow but eventually you need to swallow because frankly, nobody cares” 

“Let me finish before you interrupt me.” (Ouch)

I think over the years teachability has served me well, whether as a competitive runner, a school teacher in training, a pastor/ mentor in the making. In all these roles and more, whenever I have chosen to set aside my ego and not give into my ‘china doll feelings’ I have benefited from the one giving me the correction or instruction.

I am the first to admit that being teachable as a way of life is not easy.  The older you get it seems the harder it is to receive any kind of feedback from anyone, especially your spouse or kids, or even friends who care about you.

A piece of Jewish wisdom says, “If you accept correction,  you will be honoured.” Proverbs 13:18

When someone makes a suggestion to your or a critique of something you’ve done, what’s your response?

Do you resist and ‘ya but’ yourself out of getting the correction? Or do you receive it humbly and say, “Thanks for that. Anything else?”

One way to begin to move into the arena of being teachable is to actually ask people you trust and who you perceive have your best interest at heart to point out anything in your life that may concern them.  I know that sounds heavy but if you are serious about character growth, that’s a good place to start.

A couple of years ago I asked each of my adult children to provide me constructive feedback. I started by saying, “Over the years I know I have been ‘large and in charge’ in your lives, and that at times I may have overstepped my self in my overzealousness to be a good dad. Is there anything you remember that I did or said that left any bad effect on you? Please let me know.  I am all ears. Really. ”

And you know what, they have each had something to say to me that has been extremely useful and had a positive effect on our relationships into their 30s.

i have to admit that receiving feedback  is not always easy. In fact, C. S. Lewis says it well,

“Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain.”

A final question…..

A very old school house chalk board

Amy Morin’s 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

Grateful to the insight of Amy Morin for this strong list of attitudes and actions to get rid of if we are tipo be mentally tough and effective at life and work.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

~by Amy Morin, LCSW

MEntally  strong people have healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life. Check out these things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become more mentally strong.

1. They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves

Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair.

2. They Don’t Give Away Their Power

They don’t allow others to control them, and they don’t give someone else power over them. They don’t say things like, “My boss makes me feel bad,” because they understand that they are in control over their own emotions and they have a choice in how they respond.

3. They Don’t Shy Away from Change

Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change. Instead, they welcome positive change and are willing to be flexible. They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to adapt.

4. They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control

You won’t hear a mentally strong person complaining over lost luggage or traffic jams. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.

5. They Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone
Mentally strong people recognize that they don’t need to please everyone all the time. They’re not afraid to say no or speak up when necessary. They strive to be kind and fair, but can handle other people being upset if they didn’t make them happy.

6. They Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks

They don’t take reckless or foolish risks, but don’t mind taking calculated risks. Mentally strong people spend time weighing the risks and benefits before making a big decision, and they’re fully informed of the potential downsides before they take action.

7. They Don’t Dwell on the Past

Mentally strong people don’t waste time dwelling on the past and wishing things could be different. They acknowledge their past and can say what they’ve learned from it. However, they don’t constantly relive bad experiences or fantasize about the glory days. Instead, they live for the present and plan for the future.

8. They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over

They accept responsibility for their behavior and learn from their past mistakes. As a result, they don’t keep repeating those mistakes over and over. Instead, they move on and make better decisions in the future.

9. They Don’t Resent Other People’s Success

Mentally strong people can appreciate and celebrate other people’s success in life. They don’t grow jealous or feel cheated when others surpass them. Instead, they recognize that success comes with hard work, and they are willing to work hard for their own chance at success.

10. They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure

They don’t view failure as a reason to give up. Instead, they use failure as an opportunity to grow and improve. They are willing to keep trying until they get it right.

11. They Don’t Fear Alone Time

Mentally strong people can tolerate being alone and they don’t fear silence. They aren’t afraid to be alone with their thoughts and they can use downtime to be productive. They enjoy their own company and aren’t dependent on others for companionship and entertainment all the time but instead can be happy alone.

12. They Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything

They don’t feel entitled to things in life. They weren’t born with a mentality that others would take care of them or that the world must give them something. Instead, they look for opportunities based on their own merits.

13. They Don’t Expect Immediate Results

Whether they are working on improving their health or getting a new business off the ground, mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results. Instead, they apply their skills and time to the best of their ability and understand that real change takes time.

The Lost Secret of Leadership

Editor’s note–this article first appeared in Early to Rise. http://www.earlytorise.com/the-lost-secret-of-leadership/

You are a leader. You’re a leader in your home, at work, in your community, and most important of all, the leader of your own life.

But are you the best leader you can be?

There are many attributes to great leadership. I believe the most important one by far is the lost art of ‘modeling’. It’s a lost art because so many of the good models have disappeared.

Author and prolific TED talker, Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, and his most recent, Leaders Eat Last, says the following about ‘modeling’ without ever using the word, but illustrating it lavishly.

Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown.

They rush toward danger.

They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future.

Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours.

And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs.

And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly, to see their visions come to life, and proudly call ourselves their followers.

Have you ever had a leader like that?

I think it’s time to raise the battle cry and call out to a new generation of men and women to strive to be models of exemplary conduct.

The problem in our industries and communities is that many supervisors and leaders are not living out the very things they are asking others to do. There is no congruence between what the boss says and what they do. This causes untold pain in a work atmosphere. It does the same in a home.

We can do better.

If you were blessed to grow up in an environment of encouragement, start counting your blessings. Unfortunately, the reality is that many of you began life under less than ideal circumstances. Perhaps broken homes, absentee parents, crumbling ethical world, all of these and more, factor into the making of a human being, for better or worse. You didn’t have leaders—parents, teachers, employers—like Sinek describes. You didn’t have a ‘model’ to trace your life on.

So if this was your lot, how do you go about changing? You can sit around and do what my coach calls ‘wallow’ about your lot in life, but eventually you have to ‘swallow’, because nobody really cares. Really. Sad to say, but unless you care enough about your situation to improve it, it’s going to be a miserable life.

But if you want to move on, one of the best places to start moving is to find a model.

The late Albert Bandura who pioneered social learning theory in the 60s and 70s said,

“Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” – Albert Bandura, Social Learning Theory, 1977

In case you rushed through that last paragraph, read it again slowly, especially this sentence, “Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for actions.” Wow. ETR readers, there is hope if you lacked good modeling.

This seems to concur with Albert Schweitzer’s adage, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing”.

Perhaps an overstatement but not too far from the truth.

If you have a purpose or dream or mission in life, it goes without saying that you will not get anywhere without a ‘role model’, someone who has gone ahead of you.

Can we agree that ‘models’ have gone missing and that you are willing to rise up to the challenge of becoming one of ‘those’ for someone, and also committing to finding a model of someone you can follow to improve your life radically?

Another word for ‘model’ is ‘pattern’. Have you noticed that when someone sews up clothes, they use a ‘pattern’? Why? Because using a pattern shortens the process. It saves time. It prevents mistakes. It makes the task look easier. There are some amazing things that happen in your life when you choose the right pattern or model.

I would suggest that one of the best ways to achieve your goals is to find a model whose already achieved what you want– financially, spiritually, and relationally. Find someone who is where you want to be and then set about figuring out how they got there. That is the quickest way to learn. Study. Go on active search mode.

Have you noticed how babies learn most things? They learn by copying. I go work in my garden, and water my plants, and without me providing any instruction, pretty soon, my grandson is walking along, stumbling with his little pail of water, to water my tomato plants. Does he drip water? Does he miss the plant by a country mile? Yes, but who cares, he’s getting the right idea.

If it’s true that we learn the most by copying and modeling, then the challenge is choosing your models.

If you were blessed to have someone who had great habits and was success oriented in your life, then you probably grew up to be a high achiever. On the other hand, if you saw negative behavior modeled you may have innocently become a negative, fault finding person.

As a child you didn’t know what was right or wrong. You just had these people in your life, and in many cases, they said, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.”

If you grew up as I did watching people ‘explode’ with their anger, you may have grown up with a temper. This happened to me. All through my young adult years and into the early part of my marriage, I struggled with managing my outbursts of anger. It took some coaching to discover that I had come by this innocently. What was encouraging was that just as I learned this by copying, I could relearn new patterns. I am a work in progress but surrounding myself with healthy models of anger expression has fueled my desire to manage and express my anger in constructive ways.

If you grew up being shamed and being a fault finder, it shouldn’t surprise you that you walk around in your daily life shaming the people you love the most and work with. There is hope. Find a new model.

How do we find a model? There’s two ways: The indirect method; and direct method.

The indirect is through the plethora of self help resources available to us today in all kinds of ways—audio programs, books, and reading biographies of people who overcame their ‘issues’ to achieve greatness. For example, as I move on in life one of my goals is to become a more teachable and coachable person. I suffer from having ‘china doll feelings. ‘ At the sound of the slightest criticism I used to get my back up and I would ultimately be the loser. My own coach has helped me overcome my fear of feedback by having me read the book Thanks for the Feedback, as well as exploring some of the reasons why I get my back up. I am growing.

There’s also the direct method of having a specific person in your life. I have had a few of these in my life. First as a teacher, then as a pastor, and now as a life and leadership coach. I am always looking for healthy models in areas I am aspiring to be great in.

One of the greatest benefits of having models is that they inspire us to crash through self imposed limitations. For years it was known that no human being could break the 4 minute mile running record. But in 1954, Roger Bannister broke that barrier, and right after him 1000s of people started to break it. That’s what a model can do for you. Help you crash through self imposed barriers.

You and I need models. Who are your models today? Who are the people who inspire you? Who could you get close enough to, to learn from?

Don’t let your ego get in the way of transforming your life. A lack of humility and over-exaggerated sense of self importance is the only reason to not make others our models.

When my kids were young, I was obsessed with being the best dad I could be. I am still obsessed with this value although now they are in their 30s, and my hope is that they will make being great role models their ambition, and that they will never stop seeking out models that will inspire them to achieve greatness in the areas of life that matter to them.

I memorized the following poem 30 plus years ago. It still resonates with me today. It’s a daily reminder that your attitudes and actions set an example for everyone around us.

Little Eyes Upon You

There are little eyes upon you

and they’re watching night and day.

There are little ears that quickly

take in every word you say.

There are little hands all eager

to do anything you do;

And a little boy who’s dreaming

of the day he’ll be like you.

You’re the little fellow’s idol,

you’re the wisest of the wise.

In his little mind about you

no suspicions ever rise.

He believes in you devoutly,

holds all you say and do;

He will say and do, in your way

when he’s grown up just like you.

There’s a wide-eyed little fellow

who believes you’re always right;

and his eyes are always opened,

and he watches day and night.

You are setting an example

every day in all you do;

For the little boy who’s waiting

to grow up to be just like you.

– Author Unknown

4 Steps to Living Your Leadership Legacy

Excellent article on what leaving a leadership legacy can look like. The author nails four big ideas to get traction for a strong leadership legacy.g

Leading with Trust

Rainbow Over Country Road

Honor. Courage. Humility. Integrity. Loving. Fun. Hero.

Those were the words used to describe Dan Hines at his memorial service last Tuesday. I didn’t know Dan that well, having met him just once, but those who knew him well, really knew him. By the stories told, the laughs shared, and the tears shed, it was evident that Dan’s legacy was clear to those who knew him best.

Are you intentionally living your legacy, or are you leaving it to chance? As a leader, what is it you want to pass on to others? What kind of lasting impact do you want to make? Have you even thought about it? If not, you should.

You will leave a legacy. Your leadership will have an impact on others no matter what you do. The question is, what kind of legacy will it be? Here are four steps you can take to identify the…

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The Ten Commandments of Mentoring

 

THE 10 COMMANDMENTS OF MENTORING by John C. Crosby

(1) Thou shalt not play God.

(2) Thou shalt not play Teacher.

(3) Thou shalt not play Mother or Father.

(4) Thou shalt not lie with your body.

(5) Active listening is the holy time and thou shalt practice it every session.

(6) Thou shalt not be judgmental.

(7) Thou shalt not lose heart because of repeated disappointments.

(8) Thou shalt practice empathy, not sympathy.

(9) Thou shalt not believe that thou can move mountains.

(10) Thou shalt not envy thy neighbor’s protégé, nor thy neighbor’s success.

The Six “F”s for a ‘Sort of’ Balanced Life

The other day I was speaking with a coaching partner about how to ‘balance’ our lives. Is that ever an elusive pursuit, but one pursuing nevertheless.  I shared with him the 6 F’s for a balanced life.   Years ago I was introduced to the Six  F’s, a great framework for thinking about various categories in our lives.  And a great way to juggle one’s life.

The Six are in no particular order Faith, Family, Friends, Finance, Fitness and Fun and any other F you want to add.

Faith.

Today it’s popular to talk about ‘spirituality’. That’s great.  My preference is to think about my faith, the part of me called my soul that connects with ultimate reality, and for me that ultimate reality is “God”.  A personal God at that, and a Father, with a mother’s heart. I nurture my faith as a priority because everyday I need to be reminded that my soul matters to Someone, and that I am that Someone’s beloved, cherished child.  So I make time every day in my schedule to nourish my faith.

Family.

This part is all about my marriage and now adult children and grandchildren.  I could say so much about this but suffice it to say that i believe the quality of my life rises and falls on the quality of my family relationships.  So I make sure to invest in my marriage with regular check in’s with my bride of 36 plus years, plus special scheduled weekends away, and annual vacations alone.

With my adult ‘kids’, I make sure to ask them where dad can connect with them and their kids, and how dad can best be part of their lives without imposing my passion for them on them.

Finances.

So much of our lives is consumed with making money.   Over the years my wife and I have worked hard to have margin financially as with other areas of our lives.  We continue to practice the fundamentals of saving as much as we can, giving as much as we can, and spending as little as we can.  We also make sure that we put enough away so that we are not presumptuous about the future, thinking there will be someone out there to take care of us. Good luck with that.

Friends.

As the years go by this is an area I pay close attention to.  Who are my real friends? Who are the people who I can count on and who can count on me?  In a pinch, who would be my ‘go to’ buds? I’m glad my wife and I have a few of these that we know we can depend on, and I trust they know they can count on us too.

Proverbs 18:24 says, Friends come and friends go,
    but a true friend sticks by you like family.

How true is that piece of ancient scripture!

Fitness

There is so much written on this today, and so many opportunities to get ‘fit’ and stay fit.  I have no trouble working out. This is the easiest for me to schedule although I still find it challenging to do consistently with age. My fitness regime is one of swimming twice a week by doing 60-70 lengths in olympic size pool, plus running/walking twice a week for 50-60 minutes, and two days in the gym on weights and machines.  My wife says I am a ‘bull’.  Not really but I love having this routine and it provides a strong physical foundation for the many life and work related tasks I take on.

Fun.

This one I have to work on. I enjoy reading and watching movies and films, but am ‘light’ on hobbies.  I don’t know if I ever will have a hobby but I continue to include fun in my life because I know I need it.

I have found the following rendition of the Lord’s prayer a wonderful ‘soul’ tonic for days when I am feeling out of balance.  I call this psalm or prayer the psalm for ‘out of balance’ people.

Psalm 23 for Busy People

Toki Miyashina

The Lord is my Pace Setter, I shall not rush,
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals,
He provides me with images of stillness,
Which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency,
through calmness of mind; and his guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for his presence is here.
His timelessness, his all-importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity,
by anointing my head with his oils of tranquility,
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruit of my hours,
For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord,

dwell in His house forever.
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Measuring Your Life on a 24 Hour Clock

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Measuring Your Life on a 24 Hour Clock

The brevity of life is one of the harshest realities of life.  During the summers my wife and I vacation in Southampton, Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron.  In the winters we like to vacation on the Gulf coast in Venice, Florida.  Both locations have many things in common but one that hits me every time is the benches along the boardwalks.  They usually have the birth date and death date of some person.  And I often find my self pausing and wondering what that person’s life amounted to.

What happened in the ‘dash’ the ‘in between’ the birth date and death date?

There’s a fitting line from the movie Gladiator where Maximus the Roman general says just before a climatic battle, “What we do in this life, echoes in eternity.”

Who hasn’t taken inspiration to live a greater life from that one line?

Australian minister Mark Conner uses a thought-provoking illustration to demonstrate the brevity of our lives with the 24-hour clock.

If life were a 24-hour clock, what time is it for you? When we were born the clock began to run. When we die, the clock stops running. What if we get only 24 hours on our clock of life? Under these rules, what time is it in your life? Is it 10:00 am, noon, 5:00 pm or is it nearly midnight?

According to the World Bank, life expectancy for an average human being is currently numbered at 78.4 years.  If 78.4 years represents our average life span, we can assume our clock will hit 24 hours when we reach that age. We have 24 hours of time to live and it will take us 78.4 years to live that 24 hours.  Therefore, each hour will be represented by 3.267 years of life lived (78.4 years divided by 24 hours of our life clock).

  • When your 24-hour clock reaches 3 A.M. you will have lived almost 10 years of life.
  • When you reach the age of 20 years old your 24-hour clock reads 6:24 in the morning.
  • At 30 years of age, it’s just after 9:00 am in the morning
  • At 40 years of age, it’s past noon for you.
  • A person 50 years old is looking at the clock and it shows a time of 3:18 pm. That person is approaching dinner time in their life. They have less than 9 hours remaining in life on their 24-hour clock.
  • A person 60 years old is looking at the clock and it shows a time of 6:22 pm in the evening. That person has less than 6 hours remaining on their 24-hour life clock

The point is, whatever you’re going to do with your life you’d better get on it because time is running out.  The other point is, if you’re not doing something with your life it really doesn’t matter how many days you’ve got left anyway.

So what are you going to do with 2014?   How will this year be any different?  How many of you would like 2014 to be better than 2013?

Last year may have been a tough year.  Perhaps for some of our readers it was  a year of challenges, a year of choices.  It was a year of changes.  It was a year of some crises.  The fact is for some of you 2013 was a disappointment.  For some, you experienced a loss, maybe you lost a loved one.  Maybe for some of you 2013 was a year of a failure.

The good news is this: With a new year we get to start over.  In my view of the world, the good Creator brings us life in bite sized pieces, in hours and days and months. Every year we get to wipe the slate clean and start with a brand new year.  It’s like starting over.  And that’s good news.

How will 2014 be better than 2013?  The key is this, you’ve got to have a plan.  You don’t just enter 2014 and say, “I hope it’s going to be better.”  You’ve got to have a plan to make it better.

The great biblical sage Solomon wrote in our vernacular, “An intelligent person aims at wise actions, but a fool starts off in many directions.” Ouch.

For many of us that may describe 2013.  We were headed off in many directions.  The key word above is “aims”.  That means they have a goal, an objective, an aim, a target.  Have you set any goals for 2014?  Or are you just going to walk into this year and hope it’s better?  You’ve got to have a plan.

A few days or weeks from the start of the new year I would like to offer an oversimplified plan to get you jump started in the direction of some ‘wise aims’ or goals for 2014.  But before we do that let me quickly give you four steps and call them the “A, B, C, D’s for maximizing the coming year. These may seem oversimplified but they may be what you need to ‘jumpstart’ you.

And if you’re really keen you might even want to enlist a life development coach to get you moving from ‘here to there’.

A – Accept responsibility for my life.

This is something that is hard for many people to do. Some people would rather blame someone else for the problems and difficulty in their lives. These are people that go around looking for someone who will accept responsibility for them. Someone who will accept responsibility for the way they live their lives and the choices they make. When things don’t turn out the way they hope, they have someone they can blame.

Accepting responsibility for one’s life is not a popular concept in our society, because we live in a culture that embraces a concept called “political correctness”. This basically says, “None of your problems are your fault. Everything bad in your life is somebody else’s fault. Blame the environment. Blame the educator. Blame your parents. Blame anybody else, but it’s not your fault.” If you get in an accident, it’s never your fault. If you spill some hot coffee on yourself, sue McDonalds; it’s their fault. It’s always somebody else’s fault. We will never be a success in life and we will never make our lives count if we have the attitude that it’s someone else’s fault. We must accept responsibility for our own lives.

An ancient scripture says,  “Each person must be responsible for himself.””

The timeless truth is this: I am responsible for my own life, if I like it or not.

All of us reading this face two kinds of circumstances.

· Those circumstances which we have no control over. None of us knows what we will face throughout this coming year. There are certain things that are going to happen regardless of what you do and how you plan your year. That is no excuse for not being prepared or having a plan. (Example of some things that we have no control over: We have no control over the weather, the economy, the companies that we work for, or the words and action of others.)
· There are some circumstances that we face as a result of my own choices, actions or lack of actions. (Example: I’ve known people that have had financial problems because they quit their job and didn’t have another job to go to. The reason they quit their job is because they didn’t like it or someone made them mad. Then when things got tight, money and food was low, these people blamed their family, the church or someone in the church because their family, the church or someone in the church refused to accept the responsibility for the decisions and actions of those people. What they really wanted was someone to accept responsibility for their lives and bail them out of trouble. There are people like that in the world. I am not talking about someone who through no fault of his or her own fell on hard times. I’m talking about someone that did something without considering the consequences of his or her actions and how these actions would affect others around them.
· While we may not be in control of all the circumstances that we will face this coming year, we do have control of how we will act and respond to them.

Rick Warren, author of best selling Purpose Driven Life says there are three kinds of people in the world. I’m sure there’s more but this is a good list.

· There are accusers.
· There are excusers.
· There are choosers.

There are accusers. They always blame everybody else for their problems. Their favorite phrase is, “It’s all your fault.” It’s never my fault. It’s someone else’s fault.

There are the excusers.
Excusers are people that always have an excuse for not making a decision or doing something. There’s always a reason why they can’t make the most or get the most out of their year. In the long run they end up being the losers. I’ve discovered that whenever I want to procrastinate on something, any excuse will do. The good book says, “A lazy person is full of excuses.”

There are the choosers,
they say, “I choose to accept responsibility for my own life, goals and happiness. I’m not dependent upon somebody else. I choose the direction of my life.” I’m not depending upon the crowd. If we do this, we will already be a jump ahead in 2014.

B – Believe I can change

Stop saying, “I can’t” and start saying, “I can”. The person that believes that they can change with the help of God will change.  Although I love the little story of the engine that could, I do believe we all need divine help if we are going to truly change.

We all get that ‘divine help’ through a variety of places. I recommend everyone explore this part of their life.  Once one gets clear on what is their foundation, what is their center it gives a whole new momentum for optimizing one’s life.

Maybe you were raised in a religion of some kind and found it useless and you moved on. Unfortunately, you didn’t replace it with anything.  I would recommend one of your goals might be to go back and see what you left, and if it’s still wanting, then go on and explore some other ‘place’ for meaning and significance.

We are remarkable human beings. There’s nothing I can’t master! That means there’s nothing you and I are going to hit in the next 365 days, no problem, no situation, no circumstance, no hassle that we can’t handle, that we can’t manage, that we’re not competent to handle with the help and strength our Creator gives us

Many people never succeed in life because they believe they can’t change. They never enjoy life because life to them is just one big failure after another. They face a new year with regret rather than the joy of knowing that the good Lord wants to help them.

I have a theory about New Year parties.  This is a bit tongue in cheek, but see what you think.  I believe I have discovered why there are so many New Year parties were people get so drunk they can’t see straight. They get drunk to forget the past year and because they are afraid to face the New Year.

Generation X prophet Douglas Coupland wrote these words over 20 years ago but I think they are still so true for people today—

My secret is that I need God—that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”

I don’t know what your values are around belief in a Creator, but I think Coupland speaks to a sense that many people have.
With the help and grace of God I can overcome the past and face the future. I have a new handle on life for this coming year. I believe and know I can change.

C – Clarify what I really want

You must decide what’s important and what’s not important. We have been given each of us an incredible gift called the freedom to choose, the freedom of choice. This is one of the ways that we are different from animals, we have the freedom to choose between good and evil. We have the freedom to choose what we want in life.

The only way can clarify what we really want is to make a list and decide what is important and what is not.

It’s amazing most people never do this. They never stop and think through and write down on paper what’s really important to them. Maybe some of you have never done this. You’ve never written down the things that are important to you. You must ask yourself,
What’s important to me? ” What really counts? We can’t do what’s important until we clarify what’s important. Otherwise you’re going to be pushed around by the pressures of life doing this and that then all of a sudden the year is over and you’re saying, “ Where did the year go?”
Your values determine your vision. Your desires determine your direction. Your roles determine your goals.

Most people have never made up their mind what they want out of life and if you aim at nothing, you’re going to hit it. Most people have this vague feeling of, “I just want to be happy.” But they’ve never really sat down and figured out what is it that’s going to make me happy? What does the Creator want me to do with my life? Why am I here? They’ve never written out their values.

I want to challenge each of you to, make a list of things that are important to you, a list of things that you want to accomplish. What do I value? What do I want to change? Put it down. Then make this your reflection list. Pin it up on a wall and review it everyday and reflect on it. Then make a plan of action that will help you accomplish your goals for this year. Then do what ever you have to, to make and get the most of this coming year. Then see if any  miracles occur in your life. Clarify what you really want.

There are some things in life that we will do that are permissible but may not be necessarily to our advantage. There will be some things that all of us will do this year that will not benefit us at all.

We are going to have to make a decision between what is good and what is better. Between what is better and what is best. There are many that we can do, but not all of them will be beneficial. Some things aren’t necessarily wrong; they’re just not necessary. We don’t have time for everything. We need to clarify the two or three things that we’ve got to get done this year. What are the things that are really important?

May I suggest two or three things that need to be at the top of your list?

· Your spirituality or what I call my relationship with God. What are you going to do this year to strengthen and improve your relationship with God? What are you going to do to become more intimate with this Being?
· Your relationships with family and friends and colleagues.

What are you going to do to build a stronger and better relationship with your family? What are you going to change about yourself that will help you to accomplish this?
· Your relationship with a faith community if that’s important to you—a church, a synagogue, a temple, a self help support group. What are you willing to do to improve the quality of your community?
These are the three things that I have heard people on their deathbed, wish they had given greater priority to. I have never heard anyone say, “ I wish I had spent more time at the office, at work or building my career.

So, Clarify what’s important.

D – Don’t wait to begin.

Do it now! These three words can change your life. Do it now. If you and I wait for the right situation or the right kind of circumstances we will miss out on life all together. There will never be an ideal set of circumstance to start out on. To make the most of 2014 and to accomplish the things you want to accomplish, start now. Don’t wait to begin.

An ancient proverb says,  “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”

We always say, “ When things settle down.” Or “When things get better.” The problem is things may never settle down or get any better. That’s called life! If you’re out there using that as an excuse, “ When things settle down or get better, I’m going to start having a daily quiet time to reflect on my life, you’re never going to do it.

You learn to reflect  and pray when things are unsettled and not so good. “When things settle down, I’m going to spend more time with my kids.” They’ll be grown and gone!

There are a lot of people that have missed out on life waiting for the ideal set of circumstance or waiting for things to get better. While they were waiting, time just kept right on going and passed them by.

We must learn to enjoy life under circumstances that are less than perfect. Whatever you’re going to do, that which you want to do, start now! Because things may not settle down or get better until you’re in the coffin.

Some of you are saying to yourself, “ I’m going to make the most of this New Year. I am going to set some goals and accomplish them. Right now you are being motivated, you are pumped up to make the most of this year. However when you turn this program off, there will be no one to motivate you or to encourage you. You have to determine right now that it doesn’t matter what happens or what comes your way, this is going to be the best year yet. What kind of person will you be this year?

So as you discover what time your life is at on the 24 hour clock, don’t just sit there and sulk about it. Do something about it.  Get a jumpstart on the new year by considering some of these ideas.

One of the best examples of a perfectly balanced human being was Jesus of Nazareth. Whether you are religious or not, Jesus is a pattern for many of us in basic human relationships.  Below is a view of his life from infancy and an expression of how he grew through the various stages and areas of life.  Perhaps this brief model could be a way of you formulating some initial goals for 2014.

MY PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT GOALS

“Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature, and in

favor with God and favor with men.”  Lk. 2:52

  • INTELLECTUAL:  What do I want to learn in 2014?

Timeless Wisdom: “Do yourself a favor and learn all you can; then remember what you learn and you will prosper.”

  • PHYSICAL:  What will improve my health in 2014?

Timeless Wisdom: “Being cheerful keeps you healthy.  It is a slow death to be gloomy all the time.”

  • SPIRITUAL:  What will deepen my relationship to God in 2014?

Timeless Wisdom: “Grow in spiritual strength.”

  • SOCIAL:  What will be my service to others in 2014?

Timeless Wisdom: “God has given you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other…”

Who will I be close friends with in 2014?

Timeless Wisdom: Friends love through all kinds of weather,
and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.

A Winning Game Plan for Life

woman-winning2

 There are so many opinions of what makes a ‘winner’ in life and work.

In my experience, lasting success is never an accident. It is the result of one’s personal character.

As I write this, the city of my birth, Toronto, Ontario, is being besieged by the outrageous behavior of our Mayor Rob Ford, whose personal life of drunkenness, cocaine drug use has made Toronto the Good, sound more like Toronto the Stupid.

Mayor Ford is trying to base his credibility on the fact that he has cut taxes for the taxpayers and he has, but he has been successful in only one area of his life—his work life, but the rest of his life is a shambles.

This whole fiasco has caused me to wonder who is a winner.  The word ‘loser’ has been used a lot these last few weeks as they have thought about Mayor Ford.  To be thought of as a ‘loser’  is no way flattering.

Which causes one to ask, what are the traits of a winner, one who has a winning game plan for their whole life.

What  makes a successful life?  In short, lasting success is the result of personal character.  I have observed six qualities in winners I have worked with as a teacher, as a pastor, and presently as a life and leadership development coach.

Here’s a list of traits based on the ‘winner’ acronym:

  • Trait #1  Winners Work with a purpose.  They are ‘on purpose’.  They have a sense of mission.  They know where they are headed and have figured out how to get there. They are focused. They plan their work and work their plan.  As an ancient scripture says, “An intelligent person aims at wise actions, but a fool starts off in many directions.”

How would you express your ‘purpose in life’ at this season of your life?

  • Trait #2  Winners Insist on Integrity.  It’s a fact that nothing lasts without integrity. Integrity comes from the word ‘integer which means a ‘whole number’.  The opposite of integers is ‘fractions’. When someone isn’t living with integrity, they are not ‘whole’, they are in ‘fractions’.  Winners tell the truth.  They don’t have to worry about being caught in a lie.  Unlike the good mayor, his life is being unraveled because he has not been able to contain his persistent lying.

Where in your life do you need to experience more integrity or wholeness?

  • Trait #3  Winners Never make excuses.  Winners never play the blame game.  They accept responsibility for their mistakes.  People who are good at making excuses are rarely good at much else.

In what area of your life do you need to stop blaming someone or some circumstance for your lack of success?

  • Trait #4 Winners Never stop learning.  All leaders are learners. The moment one stops learning, one stops leading.  One reason dinosaurs became extinct was that they couldn’t adapt to a changing environment.  A ancient piece of wisdom says, ‘the intelligent person is always open to new ideas, in fact, he looks for them.’

What have you been postponing learning that you need to address in your life to move forward?

  • Trait #5 Winners Economize their time and energy. We all have the same amount of time, but winners manage it better.  They realize that time is always more valuable than money.  They work smarter, not harder.   They believe and live by the maxim that there is a right time and right way to do everything.

Where in your life do you need to ‘plug’ the time leaks?

  • Trait #6 Winners Resolve to stick with it.  Winners don’t know how to quit.  They keep on ‘keeping on.’  They learn from their failures.  Winners realize that discouragement is choice.  You can get up and start over.  Winners don’t count the score at half time. They always have another round in them.  As King Solomon said, “For a good person falls seven times but then rises again..

Where have you felt like giving up?

These six qualities of a winning game plan are sound.  Just posting them up somewhere and reviewing them day in and day out can move us towards a winning way of life.  These traits can ‘raise our game’. Go for it!!

Graduation, Holy Determination and Spiritual Direction

imagephoto-4This  last weekend my beloved wife of 37 years—-Rosetta— walked across the platform to receive her Masters of Theological studies degree, after a four year journey of focused study, tenacity to finish, and to do it with excellence.  What’s most impressive is that 8 years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her rigorous radiation and chemo treatments, she decided to invest in her future by committing to an academic graduate degree. Her focus of study is in being a certified director, and she has already initiated her practice. Her clients speak well of her gentle and insightful approach to how she assists them in aligning their lives with God’s purpose for them.

I loved talking to one of Rosetta’s ‘clients’ who came to see her mentor graduate. She told me, ‘Rosetta is very wise and good at directing me’.

Rosetta has begun her practice of spiritual direction and if you are interested in exploring what a spiritual director could do for you, see her website at http://www.seterjourneys.com