How Bold Should My Resolutions Be?

Setting New Year’s resolutions is a nice tradition, but for the futuristic optimist like myself…it’s critical.  A quick, sad reflection of the past gets swept under the rug, and then it’s all about the rainbows and unicorns of New Year’s possibilities.  In fact there’s so much investment, I have the compulsion each new year to be a little kind to myself and throw in some softballs.  Example: anytime I use the word ‘continue’ in a resolution.

2015 New Year’s Resolution: Continue being nice to my wife. 🙂

Why not?  I like what I’m doing, it’s proven I can do it, and it eases the pressure a bit.

Resolutions’ bad rep isn’t exactly undeserving.  They fail…a lot.  Researchers have had a lot of fun trying to figure out why, and here seems to be one of the favorites:

Another reason, says Dr. Avya Sharma of the Canadian Obsesity Network, is that people set unrealistic goals and expectations in their resolutions. —Phychology Today

This makes total sense to me, but eliminating a goal because it seems unrealistic feels like coping out.  When it comes to dreams, goals, and resolutions, it’s go big or go home…right?  il_fullxfull.629026288_fnmhWhy would I dream small?  And doesn’t this approach feel like walking on egg shells?  We don’t want to upset our fragile little dreams because failure never helps us, but only makes us depressed and less secure.  But on the other hand, the whole “dream big” mantra IS a bit kitschy.  Any spokes person for taking big risks also seems to have pretty sizable safety nets.

Still, I’m just not comfortable with my life running on fear.  And failure?  Well everybody does it.  In fact most of my personal growth, knowledge, wisdom, etc. has come as a direct result of failure.  That’s not so bad I guess.

So yes, my head may be in the clouds at times and my resolutions a bit out of my league, but I think I’ll be better as a result.  Don’t you?

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Why So Negative?

“It’ll take 10 ‘attaboy’s’ to make up for one demeaning comment,” Dr. Phil used to say.  Yes, I used to watch Dr. Phil…whatevs.  Our words, to say the least, can be powerfully damaging.

And I have found that sometimes (ok, oftentimes) harping on the negative comes much more naturally than celebrating the positive.  You know what I’m talking about.  How many times have you been able to identify a problem with no clue as to how to solve it?  Or how many times have you allowed that one biting remark cloud out the admiration of many?  Why does the News make more money on the Bad and not the Good?  Why does it seem so easy to focus on the negative?

Perhaps we’re more fragile than we think.  Or maybe the ways the world are deceivingly strong?  Or maybe both.  Either way, it’s only my perception.  I know the positive is there.  The beautiful is there.  Love is there.  God is there.  It’s all there…but will I see it?

How Do We Deal With Our Pace-of-Life?

After returning from a week long in Haiti, I got mad.  No, not mad at my family…mad at my life.  Mad at this whirlwind-crazy life.  I returned Friday night around midnight and was met with a slew of to-do’s on Saturday.  The day went by with little consideration, little impact, little meaning.

In Haiti it was different.  Meals took longer, so we had to wait around for them to be finished.  Rain shut a whole city down and built in considerable downtime.  Because of the lack of electricity, everything closed at dark.  The pace of life was slower…and wonderful.

One of our interpreters had recently been in the US.  “What was your first reaction?” we asked him.  The answer?  “Everyone in the US is soooo busy,” he told us.  He said it with a smile, but it was an indictment for sure.

How do we escape the rushing rapids of this society?  I really have little answers, but feel its affects.

But What About Today?

A co-worker’s childcare falls through and is forced to stay home with her kids.  This seems harmless to you at first, but when you begin to look at times to reschedule you realize that the best time to meet was the time that just passed.  So you compromise and squeeze the meeting into your schedule, which in turn effects your family’s schedule, leaving your spouse to readjust.  And the dominoes keep falling.  Your spouse’s readjustment prevents him/her from carpooling the kids back from soccer practice, and so they beg one of the other parents.  That parent reluctantly agrees, but repines the new adjustments they are forced to make.

This is a normal, every day occurrence for so many of us.  Our lives are entangled, it seems, like a ball of fishing line.  Secretly, resentment builds up when this happens because I constantly feel controlled, with my goals and purposes held hostage by the tyranny of the urgent.  For me, this is a big deal.  So when it happens, there are two important practices to remember:

  1. I am in a season of natural busyness.  If I’m given a cushion of time, I need to grab a pillow and enjoy the very temporary rest.  I can’t trick myself into thinking I have extra time.  Saying yes for tomorrow when you have time today spells disaster.
  2. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” –Matthew 6:34  Yes, today!  What about today?!

For me, taking one day at a time is not simply a self-help tool…it’s an act of faith.  Focusing only on today means that I’m placing tomorrow into God’s hands.  That turns my prayers from “Lord, make time grow” or “Lord, change those people” or “Lord, smite mine schedule” to simply: “Lord, give me faith.”

What’s Better, People or Programs?

I’ve seen some seemingly flawless programs.  Their ability to make money, or reach people, or whatever they’re set out to do can bring in some impressive results.  What makes a good program tick?  Well you may give the Senior Leader or the person out front all the credit, but in my experience every successful program has some pretty amazing people making it happen.

In Mark 3 Jesus appoints a ragtag group of no-names to preach his Good News and cast out demons.  You know, your basic assembly line work.  Jesus seems to care less about the very real potential of these guys messing it all up, and I think I know why.  These apostles would have plenty of time to preach, reach, and heal.  Jesus was growing his leaders.

Programs aren’t bad, but they’re nothing without people.  You might fight like mad to fit your people into a program; but it’s more life-giving to fit a program to your people.

Being Passive Helps, Right?

If you sweep something under the rug, someone else will just have to have to clean up the mess.

At first glance, it seems as though your passivity is doing nothing. But actually it is doing quite a lot. You say a lot when you say nothing. And you do a lot when you do nothing.

So the next time when you choose to be passive, think about who you are dismissing, who you are casting aside. And most importantly, think about what problem you’re leaving for someone else to deal with.

What’s Up With Dad’s These Days?

I’m not able to confirm it with facts and figures, but pure observation has told me that there is a growing, positive trend in fatherhood.  Fathers are more active and involved in the nurturing of their children now more than ever.

Just check out these photos and see for yourself.

To wonder what could be pulling our culture in a such a way in incredibly fascinating to me.

Is it women’s empowerment?  Is it the decline of machismo culture?  Whatever the case, its awesome to see.  I love being a dad…and while its super challenging sometimes, it’s such a gift.

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Are You A Do-er?

“If you want a job done right, do it yourself.”

Ever heard that phrase?  Ever said it?

Beware of the Do-ers.  They lure you to be impressed with their abilities, but while they’re reliable and accomplish sometimes insurmountable goals, they struggle to include team members.  Others can be easily left in the cold with menial tasks, feeling like they’ve missed out on fulfilling their purpose. 

Draw the circle wider, Doer.  It may not be perfect or just how you like it, but you won’t be alone when it’s all said and done.

What’s the Balance Between Authenticity and Professionalism?

The dynamic is almost cliche.  A super hero just wants to be normal and struggles with the loneliness of being one-of-a-kind, while the public loves and fears the super hero at the same time.  All the fans want to be near; but they don’t want to be close.  

Any person with an ounce of public image at stake deals with this dynamic –maybe not to the level of a super hero, but on some level.  People want their leaders to be authentic and transparent, but not so much that would reveal they’re just a person.  As a pastor I was once told that I seem less-than-professional with my more down-to-earth and conversational style.  In my vocation I need to be relate-able, but people don’t seem to like it when they can relate too much.

How does one deal with these conflicting ideals?  

I suppose one way would be to compartmentalize.  You can keep up appearances on one end and be the real you on the other.  But in truth, hiding the real you and resorting to secrecy will never succeed.  Ever heard of ‘fake it till you make it’?  Yeah, I don’t think that works.  And even if it does on the outside, something within will likely die on the inside.

Another way would be to just expose yourself (not literally…please, not literally).  Just let it all hang out; and hey, if people have a problem with the real you then that’s their problem…right?  But let’s be honest, you’re always going to care a little bit how people think of you.  And this approach works against you if you’re working with people.

Sometimes well, and sometimes not so well, I try to live within a range.  Not a point on the continuum, but within an acceptable range.  Some occasions require that I reveal a little vulnerability, taking the risk that people will handle it with grace.  This can be scary sometimes, but also pretty moving.  Other times it’s better to keep air of distance to exercise authority, get things done, or confront some challenges.  Personally, I veer towards the vulnerable side of the range…and I admit sometimes too far.  I’ve been stung and have lost trust…which really hurts.  But I still think it’s worth the risk.  And while I’ll seek to live within that healthy range and, yes, make some mistakes along the way, at least I’ll be me.

How Do Dreams Become Reality?

When I was in late elementary school my dad let me help him and others help to build a deck on the back of the house.  Hammering nails seemed like a manageable task, so after a quick tutorial I was ready to whack away.  Strength was more important than precision for a boy looking to impress his dad, so it wasn’t until the nail-head was almost down before I would realize that the nail wasn’t straight.  No big deal, I thought.  So with a few side swings and a final blow to bury the nail-head the mistake was covered well enough.  Five rows of lumber in, someone finally noticed; and back I went to uproot each nail and start fresh to do it the right way.

You might have the future in your sights, but your big plans aren’t built all at once.  You begin with, and continue each day with, a conversation, a meeting, one question, one nail.  Without focus on these details, you may never see yourself heading in the trajectory of your goals.

Dreaming is fine.  No, it’s a great thing.  But we just can’t kick and scream until we get them fulfilled.  We need to do the work to get things moving in that direction; bit by bit, nail by nail, one conversation at a time.