Category: Personal Development

To Stop or Roll Through? Thoughts on Diligence

Lately, a friend and I have been studying the concept of diligence. It started when he read a book written by Steven K. Scott called “The Richest Man Who Ever…

Lately, a friend and I have been studying the concept of diligence. It started when he read a book written by Steven K. Scott called “The Richest Man Who Ever Lived.” It’s a book about King Solomon from the Bible, who is widely regarded as one of the wisest men who ever lived. Among other related topics, Steven focuses on how diligence plays a huge roll in Solomon’s teachings. He argues that if we would truly understand and apply diligence to our affairs, that we would increase our effectiveness exponentially.

At my friends suggestion, I read the book. I agreed with the concept and was intrigued by it, but I felt that my search to understand diligence was still incomplete. While diligence has it’s own definition, it requires discernment to see how to apply it to different situations. Consider the following analogy to get a basic understanding.

You are driving in your vehicle, and you come upon a stop sign. You slow the vehicle as you approach the intersection, you look both ways, and you proceed through the intersection in the direction you need to go. The law requires you to bring the vehicle to a halt before proceeding through the intersection, but it is more common to bring the speed of the vehicle to a crawl and roll through the stop sign instead.

More often than not, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. As long as you almost stop you are not likely to get pulled over, or put anyone in danger. But what if our roll-though became a little quicker, and a little quicker yet the next time? Where is the point at which our roll-through is no longer safe? It would be impossible to apply a judgement call to every situation. It would depend on the visibility of the intersection, amount of traffic, etc.  There is no practical way to enforce a judgement call such as this from one situation to the next, so the law says to stop.

Whether or not we choose to stop completely is a good example of understanding diligence. The diligent choice would be to stop the vehicle completely, even if there was no traffic, and even if there were no police watching. This would keep us off of the slippery-slope, and in total compliance with the law.

When we apply this line of thinking to other areas of our lives, we can see where diligence becomes extremely relevant. Think for a moment about a positive change that you desire in your life. This could be for better health, solid finances, or more meaningful relationships. If we want to see these desires come to fruition, then we need to change something about our lifestyle in order to get a different outcome. For example, to improve our health, we might decide to pack a lunch rather than eating out for lunch. This is a good choice, but what happens when a coworker invites you out to lunch? Do you stick to your plan and decline the invite? If you go to the restaurant, can you trust yourself to make a healthy choice?

In this example, similar to the stop sign analogy, we may not be able to trust our judgement in each new situation. When we don’t have a plan for a given situation, we default to our habits. Deviating from the plan is like rolling through the stop sign; one violation isn’t likely to derail the plan.  However, if we are willing to deviate once, we are likely to deviate repeatedly. If we repeatedly deviate from the plan, then we aren’t really executing our plan at all.

I thought of the stop sign analogy while I was driving one day.  After I first had the thought, I practiced diligence by coming to a complete stop at each stop sign or stop light I encountered.  My mind eventually drifted away from diligence, and I went back into my normal driving habits.  Apparently my new action didn’t stay top-of-mind long enough to become my new habit!

Those who are diligent know what needs to happen to get to a certain outcome, and they strictly adhere to it…everywhere, every time.  Reflect on your successes and see if a high level of diligence was part of the recipe.  Reflect on your struggles and see if a lack of diligence was part of the problem.  If we are able to keep the concept diligence top-of-mind, we are more likely to recognize when it’s needed.  If we apply diligence when we recognize that we need it, we will increase our effectiveness exponentially.

 

To your well-being,

Brian

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Is it Real?

My family and I were recently invited to go sailing with some friends of ours. This was only the second time I’ve been on a sailboat. The first time was…

My family and I were recently invited to go sailing with some friends of ours. This was only the second time I’ve been on a sailboat. The first time was on a fairly good-sized catamaran, and this time we were on a much smaller, and for lack of a better term, “conventional” boat. When we left the marina, the wind was fairly calm, and largely at our back as we headed out on the river. We enjoyed a leisurely cruise, and the wind picked up speed as we headed up river. “The ride might be a little more exciting on the way back,” said Bob, our friend who owned the boat.

At some point we decided to turn the boat around and head back to the marina. The wind had gained strength, and heading into the wind provided a new experience that we hadn’t encountered on the way out. We learned lots of sailing terms that day, one of which was the word “heel.” Heel refers to how the boat leans because of the wind pushing on the sails. Bob had let me take the helm (in charge of steering the boat), and I was quite surprised to experience the leaning of the boat. Now I knew what he meant by “more exciting”.

When the boat leaned, it felt like we were starting to tip over. After talking about it with Bob, I learned that the amount of lean we were experiencing was very normal, and nowhere near dangerous. For the inexperienced sailor, it feels much more severe than it actually is. Bob recalled that when he first started sailing, he would get nervous when the boat would lean that way. Now that he’s an experienced sailor, the boat could be leaning twice as much as we experienced and he would be unshaken. I’m not sure I would have handled that well my first time out!

It was fun to experience things about sailing that I didn’t know about before. It was also interesting to experience something that felt dangerous, but actually wasn’t at all. That experience reminded me that the way we experience things isn’t always real. Sometimes we are afraid of things that are not dangerous at all, even things that are good for us. Other times we are comfortable with things that are harmful to us.

How often do we avoid trying new things, or testing the limits of our capabilities? We might experience great things on the other side of our fear if we were willing to take these risks, but many of us will never find out. If we take a shot on something big, the outcome is unknown. The comfort of mediocrity can seem better than risking failure if our efforts don’t pan out.

Our current existence is often comfortable to us, but that doesn’t mean it is what’s best. How much of our time is spent increasing our own comfort rather than doing something that leads to our growth? Often times, the choices we make about how we spend our time, how we eat, and what we put in our mind, are based on things that we enjoy. It’s ok to indulge in your own comfort or entertainment, but these things rarely lead to growth.

The way we experience things isn’t always real. Fear can prevent us from experiencing the things we really want, and our desire for comfort can keep us in a state that doesn’t benefit us. To overcome this mindset, we could become intentional about disrupting these tendencies. When was the last time you took a cool shower instead of a warm one? Do your food choices reflect what you like to eat, or what your body should have for fuel? When you feel some exhaustion, is the answer really to “veg out”, or is our body in need of physical fitness so we can have more energy?

Think about the comforts and fears in your world. Are they real? Are your comforts leading you to the life you want? Are your fears actually harming you, or are they preventing you from pursuing something great? How could you disrupt your world to practice experiencing things outside your comfort zone?

To your well-being,

Brian

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Prepared

Recently, I’ve been invited to be part of a series of leadership development classes through the company where I work. There will be a lot of public speaking as part…

Recently, I’ve been invited to be part of a series of leadership development classes through the company where I work. There will be a lot of public speaking as part of our leadership development, something that I haven’t exposed myself to in the past. There are many speaking roles in the class; everything from impromptu short speeches to a 15-20 minute keynote address in each class. When I saw the various roles, I couldn’t help but feel my pulse quicken at the thought of having to give a keynote address. “I wonder if I’ll have to do that” I thought. When the agenda came out for the first class, I saw that I was assigned the first keynote speech.

My initial reaction to this event was fear. Because I haven’t been equipped to do this in the past, I played that forward in my mind to think that I will be ill equipped to give such a talk. Fortunately, I didn’t stay at my pity-party very long. “Wait a second, what am I thinking? I’m taking these classes to improve my leadership skills…how will I do that if I don’t practice them? Isn’t this exactly why I am doing this?”

Now that I had altered my mindset, I started to wonder how much I could improve my skills before I was to give my speech. “Winging” a speech of this length is not an option; I needed to prepare if I wanted to do this well. Because I started from a place where I lacked the skills to do this well, I’ve had to put in a good effort to be well-prepared for our first class. This experience has brought about an awareness in me that we don’t often leave space in our world to be well-prepared for the roles we take on. We all want to be great at work, great at parenting, have great relationships, and so on. But how many of our daily activities support growth in these areas, or growth anywhere for that matter?

Many people chase things that they are not prepared to receive. In order to be part of great things, you need to be capable of handling great responsibilities. Rather than thinking about incredible outcomes, better yourself to have incredible capabilities. Rather than dreaming of new heights, start designing and building a foundation that can support these things.

What is required of the outcomes you wish for? Is there a certain skill? Then work toward acquiring the skill, not the outcome. Is self-control needed? If so, practice denying yourself in some way on a daily basis. Does your dream require money? Place limits on your spending, and save part of your income every time you get paid.

I believe good fortune, or good “luck”, is being prepared when opportunities arrive that can benefit you. We usually can’t anticipate these events, but they can be a game-changer for us if we are prepared to take advantage of them when they show up.

I will give my keynote in a few weeks, and I’m sure I will be nervous that day in spite of my preparation. But I’m hopeful that the nerves will quickly subside as I execute the thing that I have prepared myself to do. Beyond this one speech, I’ve acquired a great perspective on what it means to be well-prepared for many different things in life. We all have things we want to accomplish or become. Spend some time reflecting on how much effort you are giving to become well-prepared for these things. Take action to become well-prepared so you can take advantage of the opportunities that will come your way.

To your well-being,

Brian

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New Year’s in November

Within a couple months, we will be celebrating New Year’s Day. As we enter the new year, many of us will use the turning of the calendar page as an…

Within a couple months, we will be celebrating New Year’s Day. As we enter the new year, many of us will use the turning of the calendar page as an opportunity to reflect on our life. We will see the things in our life that we would like to improve, and we will start the year with a new ambition to be thinner, healthier, more disciplined, etc.

Over the years, I’ve become skeptical of New Year’s Resolutions, because most people who declare a resolution are merely engaging in wishful thinking. I’m including myself in that statement; I’ve used New Years to chart a new path more than once without avail. But the act of self-reflection, and wanting to better yourself, is a good thing. The dawning of a new year is as good of a reason to make positive change in your life as any other. So rather than being a New Year’s naysayer, let’s talk about some ways to improve the odds of sticking to our resolutions.

I’ve become very focused on using business planning to drive results in my business, and I’ve shared my process with those around me. The concepts of business planning translate well into personal goals, so they can help us here too. The first and most important realization is this:

A goal without a plan is merely wishful thinking.

A goal is an important first step because it defines what you are going to work towards. The problem is that the goal doesn’t contain everything you need get to your desired results. There are three other critical components that will greatly increase the likelihood of achieving your goal.

Metrics

In every pursuit, we can find smaller “mini-goals” that I’ll refer to as metrics. These metrics are the proof along the way that you are doing the work needed to get to your goal. Using the most common New Year’s goal of weight loss as an example, the most important metrics to track are nutrition and exercise. Ask yourself the following question, “what results do I need to see in these metrics to achieve my goal?” Examples of this might be limiting calorie intake to 1800 calories/day, or burning 500 calories through exercise four days/week.

Tracking specific results on your metrics helps you see the difference between doing some work, and doing the work that’s necessary to accomplish the goal. Going to the gym may look like doing the work, but if you are not burning enough calories while you are there you are only deceiving yourself about your effort. The metrics you choose need to be specific and measurable so you can verify that you’ve done the necessary work.

Strategies

If metrics answer what needs to be done, strategies answer where, when, and how. Strategies work best if you make them as specific as you possibly can. Rather than just saying, “go to the gym four days/week”, list the specific days and specific times you will be there, and what exercise you will do when you’re at the gym. If we fail to do the work needed to reach our goal, it is often because we allow for too much variability. When life throws us a curveball, (which will happen) we allow other things to derail our efforts. Taking as much variability out of the equation increases the likelihood of sticking to the plan.

Accountability

The last component is accountability. If we were disciplined enough to accomplish our goals on our own, we probably would have done so already. Enlisting one or more accountability partners greatly increases the likelihood of staying on plan. Choose people who are genuinely interested in your well-being, and who are tough enough to hold your feet to the fire. When you fail to execute a strategy, you want people to respond firmly and get you back on track.  Have a routine check-in with your accountability partners to update them on how well you are executing your strategies.

It can be tempting to skip this step, but don’t do it. Deep down, we can be concerned about how others will view us if we will fail. If we surround ourselves with people who genuinely care about our well-being, they will not abandon us when we fall short. But they will help redirect us and keep us moving towards our goals.

How good would it feel to be well on your way to reaching your goal when New Year’s Day comes around? There is no time like the present to begin working towards your goals. Start planning today, and use New Year’s Day to celebrate the progress you have made instead!

To your well-being,

Brian

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Rest

Recently, I’ve been thinking about rest. Spending time resting is not natural to me. When the rare moment arrives where I am not engaged in work, family, or some other…

Recently, I’ve been thinking about rest. Spending time resting is not natural to me. When the rare moment arrives where I am not engaged in work, family, or some other activity, my mind will drift towards the next thing I should get done. This can be mentally draining; any feeling of accomplishment is quickly replaced by, “What’s next?” Rest is something that I need to be intentional about, or it doesn’t happen.

I’ve always found it fascinating that when the creation of the world is explained in the book of Genesis, God rested on the 7th day. Does an all-powerful God need rest? Probably not, but the fact that He chose to rest should speak to the importance of rest.  

If we are not able to rest, it may mean that we have become consumed by our pursuits. Solomon wrote about this in the book of Proverbs, “Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit,” (Proverbs 23:4). Solomon was extremely rich, and also wrote many Proverbs about the value of hard work. But in this verse, I think he’s talking about rest. The ability to rest seems to be proof of a balanced life, where hard work and accomplishment are given the appropriate energy, but not too much. Too much rest comes with problems too, so more rest isn’t always better.

One practical thing that I’ve found that helps me rest is to plan out time for when I am going to get things done that are on my to-do list. As simple as this sounds, knowing that there is time allocated for these things frees my mind from feeling like I should be working on them when I have down time.  

Another thing that helps me rest not having my phone near me at all times. It’s easy to get pulled into social media when there is downtime. I spend some time on social media every day, but for me, too much time on social media takes my energy away. Having some boundaries around when to use social media can be helpful. 

For me, being in a state of rest is when I am truly present in the current moment, and not engaged in an activity that requires mental focus. Have you ever taken time to think intentionally about rest? What does it look like in your world? Are you lacking rest, enjoying too much slumber, or have you found a good balance? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, feel free to comment below.

To your well-being,

Brian

Photo Credit, no changes made

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The 5 O’clock Club

This summer my wife and I found renewed motivation to work on our health. Most people do this at New Years, so depending on how you look at it, we…

This summer my wife and I found renewed motivation to work on our health. Most people do this at New Years, so depending on how you look at it, we are either really ahead of the game this year, or really far behind! New Years resolutions don’t work anyway, so maybe the mid-year commitment is the way to go after all.

We have made some changes to our food intake, and also got a membership to the YMCA. This gym was our best option based on the availability of on-site child care. We live in a rural community, so the YMCA we joined is about 25 minutes away.
I initially resisted this idea. Why would I drive 25 minutes to work out when I could go for a run, or do body resistance exercises in our house? The reality is, while I could have been doing these things for years, I haven’t been doing them consistently. If I haven’t found the motivation to do them yet, what makes me think I could magically be motivated now?

After thinking about it, I decided that the financial commitment would likely be enough to get me to the gym. As frugal as I am, I couldn’t imagine paying to work out, but not benefiting from it. I agreed to join the gym with Emily, in spite of what seemed to be the most inefficient way I could possibly work out.

Sure enough, when the money was on the line, I was able to get up early and head to the gym. An unexpected benefit of this decision was that I was able to listen to podcasts on the way to the gym and back. Although working out is not intrinsically motivating in my world, I do love to listen to podcasts. Having time like this by myself is how I re-energize.

After getting a couple of workouts under my belt, I did enjoy the feeling of doing something good for my body. The discipline summoned to get to the gym early made me feel good as well. But these good feelings only came after the workout, and were not motivating enough to get me out of bed early in the morning. I kept going, and I realized my motivation was coming from an unexpected source…the drive to and from the workout.

Having time for myself in the morning has been the motivating factor to get me out of bed. Working out was the original goal, but it is now just one part of the morning experience. After realizing this, I thought it might be worth while to pass this story on. Most of us probably have something in our life we would like to accomplish, but can’t seem to find the discipline to get it done. In addition to unaccomplished fitness goals, there are books to be read, books to be written, hobbies to be pursued, art to be made, relationships to be invested in. For some of us, the trick to making forward progress is to combine the thing that takes work with a something more motivating.

If you go to coffee shops consistently because you love good coffee, why not make it the place for the reading or writing you want to do? Or you could make it the reward for a working out instead of the having it be the destination.

Today I hit a milestone in my fitness journey; I made it to the gym at 5am when they opened. In the past, I struggled to find the motivation to wake up that early. For me, reframing the workout as part of a greater experience that I enjoy has brought a consistency to my workouts that I haven’t achieved before.

If you have an experience like this to share, or an idea of how you would like to put this into practice in your life, I’d like to hear it. Please share in the comments.

To your well-being,

Brian

Photo credit above.

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