Six Guideposts for an Emotionally Healthy Life

wholehearted

Living an emotionally healthy life is incredibly freeing.  Yet it is very difficult to do because we all grow up learning unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy emotions.  Think of it like pieces of armor that we put on growing up, defense mechanisms, ways of handling conflict, how to treat other people, what we think about ourselves, others and God.

In order to get healthy here are a six guideposts that can help us all get healthier emotionally and live with freedom and joy.  Many of these guideposts come from researcher, author and speaker Brene’ Brown.

  1. Cultivate authenticity and let go of what other people think –   Authenticity is a choice and must be practiced every day.  It’s letting ourselves been seen for who we really are and also setting healthy boundaries in our lives.  It’s being able to say no in a kind way yet stay firm when pressured.  It’s choosing to have a hard conversation instead of stuffing it and letting resentment fill us up.  It’s paying attention to what we are feeling and why and dealing with the truth.  It’s speaking up instead of holding it in.  It’s taking our mask off and being our true self, imperfections and all.
  2. Cultivate self-compassion and let go of perfectionism – Perfectionism leads to frustration, anger and a host of other unhealthy emotions.  It also leads to negative self-talk and keeps you from moving forward in relationships and projects.  It can feed fear and keep us paralyzed.  To let go of perfectionism we need to be able to practice self-compassion or being kind to ourselves.  It’s allowing ourselves to deeply feel what we are currently going through and understanding that we are not alone in our struggles.  Others have gone through similar things and survived.  We must be able to love ourselves before we can love others.  It’s giving ourselves a break from having to be perfect and always doing the right thing.
  3. Cultivate a resilient spirit and let go of numbing behaviors – This involves knowing who we are and how we are wired.  It is the self-awareness to know what our numbing behaviors are and a willingness to get help to avoid going there.  It’s understanding our purpose in life and God’s plan for our lives.  When we grow spiritually it strengthens our spirit and allows us to bounce back much faster when troubles come.  It’s having a healthy outlet for venting frustrations and pain.  Allowing people close to us to know us and be vulnerable with them about what is happening.  numbing behaviors include things like spending hours on Facebook or social media, watching TV, video games, working.  It can be drinking alcohol, taking drugs, smoking or watching porn.  It can also be focusing on our phone and not being fully present with the people around us.
  4. Cultivate gratitude & joy and let go of scarcity & fear – It’s not just having an attitude of gratitude, but actually practicing gratitude.  Keeping a gratitude journal and actually telling others how grateful we are for them and the things we are grateful for.  It’s living with an eternal perspective and knowing we have a higher purpose in life.  It’s noticing the little things in life and being able to live in the moment and just be.  It is being comfortable in our own skin and not trying to be somebody we are not.  It’s having an abundance mentality, and not a scarcity mentality.  It’s being generous with our time, our money and possessions and our abilities by helping and serving others.
  5. Cultivate intuition and trusting faith and let go of the need for certainty – Certainty is not real but uncertainty is.  Our intuition comes from the experiences we have had in life.  To cultivate intuition we need to think about and learn from our experiences.  It’s also important to grow in our faith and keep searching for answers to life’s questions.  Yet it’s also being OK with not having all the answers.  Many people would rather be miserable and certain than emotionally healthy and uncertain.  One way to cultivate intuition and trusting faith to create time for silence and solitude.  Building time into our schedules to connect with God, feed our soul and nourish our minds.
  6. Cultivate creativity and let go of comparison – Every human being is creative, some people practice using it more than others.  Unused creativity turns into unhealthy emotions like anger, judgement, rage and depression.  When we start comparing ourselves to others our creativity goes down because of fear.  Often because of something someone said or did to us as a child we avoid being creative because we fear not being good enough.  When children get to be in the 4th and 5th grade their level of creativity goes way down because that is when their art begins to get graded and compared to others.  To cultivate creativity we need to start doing something we gave up or thought we were no good at.  Start drawing, painting, sculpting, writing, taking pictures, making videos.  Finding our creative side and exercising it will bring joy, freedom and energy into our lives.  Do something creative today.

Start pursuing an emotionally healthy life by cultivating the good and letting go of the bad.

Top Ten Proverbs

stock-footage-man-reading-bible-with-only-hands-and-bible-showing

Recently I challenged a group of guys I meet with to read through the book of Proverbs and identify their top ten.  We all found that very challenging as there are so many great Proverbs.  So here are my top ten:

  1. Proverbs 3:5,6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”
  2. Proverbs 4:23  “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
  3. Proverbs 11:2  “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
  4. Proverbs 11:25  “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
  5. Proverbs 12:18  “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
  6. Proverbs 19:11  “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
  7. Proverbs 19:21  “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
  8. Proverbs 27:1  “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.
  9. Proverbs 28:13  “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
  10. Proverbs 27:17  “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

If you can’t read through all the Proverbs take some time over the next several days and read these 10 and ask God to help you understand how they apply to you personally.

 

 

Summer 2015 Reading List

coffee-1600-1200-wallpaper

coffee-1600-1200-wallpaper

Reading is one of the most important things you can do to learn, grow and improve yourself.  I love to read and I try to read one or two books a month.  I also listen to pod casts, and audio books to keep feeding my mind good stuff.  As a leader this is vital to keep stretching and pushing yourself to get better.

So over the next several months I plan on doing a lot of reading.  I have carved out some extra time to allow for this by taking some vacation time and incorporating it into my regular work schedule.

Here are the books I am currently reading and several I plan on reading later:

Business Books:

Spiritual and Personal Growth:

Audio Books:

Just for Fun:

A Key to Stronger Relationships

compassion

I’ve been studying the idea of vulnerability and how that plays out in our relationships.   Brene Brown has some incredible insights on this tough topic.  Much of this post is based on her research.

One of the things that keeps us from being vulnerable is shame.  Shame thrives in secrecy, silence and judgement.  However when we introduce empathy, shame cannot grow.  So in order to be open and vulnerable we need to be around people that are great at empathizing and we need to learn how to be empathetic with others.  Learning how to be empathetic is one of the most powerful ways to improve your relationships.

In order to be empathetic we need to be able to see the world as others see it.  This is all about perspective, being able to take the perspective of another person and not our own.  It’s being able to listen to someone and not interject our own experience but to really what to hear it from them.  It’s not one upping the person by sharing what you did or how you messed up.  It’s being able to realize that our lens of life and our experiences are different than others and being OK with that.

Empathy also requires that we are nonjudgmental.   Most of us are  judgmental and we are usually judgmental in areas where we are vulnerable to shame.  We tend to judge people that are worse than we are so that we feel better about ourselves.  We do that because we are looking for validation that at least I’m not as bad as so and so.

Empathy is not our default or natural mode, it’s a skill that must be worked on and developed in order for this to happen naturally.  Empathy is usually very subtle, it can be just a knowing look or going to be with someone in a time of crisis instead of calling to express sympathy.

When we empathize with someone, we go to that dark place with them, we don’t flip on the lights and try to cheer them up and fix the problem or make light of the situation.  It’s like walking up to your friend that is in a hole and going down into the hole with them, but knowing how to get back out of the hole because it’s not your hole.  Sympathy is walking up to the hole and asking what happened.  When they tell you, you express that your sorry to hear that, that’s a terrible thing.  Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.  There is a big difference.

When we empathize with someone, we are creating a safe environment for people to be vulnerable.  Being vulnerable is one of the most accurate measures of a persons courage.  To be vulnerable takes bravery, because it is walking into uncertainty, it’s taking a risk and it’s exposing your emotions.  It takes courage because the reality is you can get hurt when you do this with someone that is not able to empathize or keep things confidential.

However if you live in secrecy, and silence you might feel safe, but are most likely miserable.  When we are vulnerable we are our true self.  We are showing that we are imperfect, messed up, awkward and goofy.  The greatest relationships are the ones where you can be all  of that and the person loves you even more.

So if your looking to improve your relationships, first learn how to empathize better with the people around you. Work on those skills of listening and trying to understand their perspective.  Don’t try to fix them or the situation, but let them know we can do this together.  Then work at being vulnerable with the people in your life.  Expose yourself emotionally by being honest about your struggles and your shame.  When we do that there is incredible freedom and life when we push past our fear.

 

Good Enough

Never-Good-Enough2

One of the questions that runs through our minds is; am I good enough? Am I good enough feeds our need to perform, please and pretend.  Am I good enough pushes us to prove ourselves and show people that we matter. This can be very dangerous to our emotional and mental health.  It also damages our spiritual lives.

We all grow up with dysfunction.  There are certain values that you grew up observing and statements that were made to you that have affected your life. If you only got attention or approval if you did something good or achieved something then you will continue to think your only worthy if you perform and are productive.

When we experience conditional love it feeds this question of am I good enough?

The truth is in God’s eyes we are good enough.  There is nothing we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.  His love for us in truly unconditional. We are good enough. When we can step away from this question and say yes I am good enough our focus can be on the right things.  We know we can improve, but that does not make us more worthy or valuable as human beings.  Our worth is not found in our achievements, its found in our character.

Being good enough is the wrong question because it causes us to question our value and worth. We all have stories that are undesirable, painful and shameful or embarrassing. When we can walk into those stories and accept them as part of us, we can experience the power of our worthiness.  Those stories don’t define us but we can use them for good.  That’s what God does every day, brings good out of the bad.  When we can love ourselves despite those stories and see our worth as a human being then we can love others and encourage others along the way.

God says that we are good enough just as we are, dysfunction and all. He loves us unconditionally and desires for us to grow and connect with Him every day.  So stop asking yourself if your good enough, God created you and planned for you to be a part of this world at this particular time in history.  You are enough simply because you are you.

15 Leadership Tips

I found this in my leadership files and wanted to share this.  Not sure where I got it, but some great reminders for everyone that has influence and is leading other people.

15 Leadership Tips:

  1. In other words, for people to embrace and follow compassionate, honest, ethical, peaceful, and fair principles, they must see these qualities demonstrated by their leadership.
  2. A given type of leadership inevitably attracts the same type of followers. Put another way, a leadership cannot behave in any way that it asks its people not to.
  3. Prior to expecting anyone to follow, a leader first needs to demonstrate a vision and values worthy of a following.
  4. The suggestion that loyalty and a following can be built by simply asking or forcing people to be loyal is not any basis for effective leadership.
  5. That is to say – loyalty to leadership relies on the leader having a connection with and understanding of people’s needs and wishes and possibilities. Solutions to leadership challenges do not lie in the leader’s needs and wishes. Leadership solutions lie in the needs and wishes of the followers.
  6. It is not possible for a leader to understand and lead people when the leader’s head is high in the clouds or stuck firmly up his backside.
  7. Incidentally, leading is helping people achieve a shared vision, not telling people what to do.
  8. Leaders get lost because of isolation, delusion, arrogance, plain stupidity, etc., but above all because they become obsessed with imposing their authority, instead of truly leading.
  9. Always, when leaders say that the people are not following, it’s the leaders who are lost, not the people.
  10. People are a lot more clever than most leaders think.
  11. People have a much keener sense of truth than most leaders think.
  12. People quickly lose faith in a leader who behaves as if points 10 and 11 do not exist.
  13. People generally have the answers which elude the leaders – they just have better things to do than help the leader to lead – like getting on with their own lives.
  14. A leadership which screws up in a big way should come clean and admit their errors. People will generally forgive mistakes but they do not tolerate being treated like idiots by leaders.
  15. And on the question of mistakes, a mistake is an opportunity to be better, and to show remorse and a lesson learned.

Lead On

 

5 Elements of a Great Team

Great-Team-2

There has been a lot written about teams and team work.  Yet many companies struggle to have healthy, high functioning teams.  Most often that is the result of an unhealthy culture or misguided leadership.  There are some fundamental elements of great teams that allow organizations to get things done quickly with excellence.

  1. A Sense of Purpose – The great teams I’ve observed and served on have had a sense of purpose, they all knew where they were headed.  That sense of purpose allowed the team to want to be great not just average.  The first step in building a great team is to make sure everyone knows the big picture purpose of what they are trying to accomplish.  Does everyone know what a win looks like and are they celebrating the right things and changing the wrong things?
  2. Empowered – Great teams are given the ability to do their jobs and the decision making power to get things done.  They don’t have to check with the boss before every decision, because the boss trusts them and has given them their purpose and goals.  When a team is empowered and trusted great things can happen very quickly.  When they are told what to do and how to do it they tend to move slow and become average and apprehensive.
  3. Humble – Great teams might have superstars on the team but everyone knows the team is more important than any individual.  People are willing to defer to others if they have more experience and knowledge.  They also learn how to push back on ideas without attacking individuals.  The team is always trying to find the best and so everyone is open to feedback and evaluate everything together.
  4. Transparent & Honest – Great teams talk to each other and are honest with each other.  If they are on the same page as far as purpose and are clear on the objectives they can push each other and hold each other accountable.  This can only happen if they are also humble and trust each other.
  5. Cross functional and diverse – The great teams have different personalities, skills and strengths.  Team members know what each others strengths and skills are and allow people to work in their area of strength.  Great teams communicate about who should be involved in certain projects based on their skill and strengths and not on politics.  Team members understand what others are doing on the team and therefore can help each other if needed.

Teams are only as great as the leader.  Leaders that try to control and direct instead of casting vision and empowering tend to have average teams.  As a leader don’t get caught up in telling your team what to do.  Instead make sure they know their purpose and what the wins are.  Establish clear goals or outcomes and then allow your team to figure out how to get there.  If you can’t trust your team then you have the wrong team and need to find people you can trust.

As the leader you are there to coach along the way and not get involved in the how.  This means encouraging people, redirecting people, refocusing people and backing your team up even if they make some mistakes.  Building a great team takes great leadership.  If you have a very new team or inexperienced team you may have to spend more time with them and give them some of the how.  Getting your teams to great is a process, there is an ideal yet you need to work with reality.  Start with yourself as the leader and then your team members.  The better you lead the better your team becomes.

Lead On

Seven Servant Leadership Principles

 

Leadership_ToLeadIsToServe

The greatest leaders in history are the ones that had a mindset to serve others.  There has been a lot written about servant leadership and many today try to practice being a servant leader.  But just how practical is that in the real world.  When you have to get things done, ship your product or close the sale, how can you serve?

It can be hard when the heat is on to be thinking about serving others.  Yet if you want to be great you must learn the fine art of serving others as a leader.  Here are just a few things I believe are important in having a servant leader mindset.

  1. Keep Growing – If you want to serve the people you lead and the business or organization you work at, then grow.  If you become a lid for the organization then you are not serving anyone well.  To me this means that you are reading and studying your area of business.  It means that you are talking to others that are doing it better than you and learning as much as possible about how to improve yourself as a leader and whatever product or service you offer.  The bottom line is that servant leaders are constantly growing and changing and improving.  The more you grow the more you can pour into the people around you.
  2. Have a Vision – You have to know where you are going and be able to articulate that to your team on a regular basis.  A servant leader is constantly reminding everyone about why we are doing what we are doing.  Where we are heading and what the win is every day.  Casting vision is vital to being a servant leader.
  3. Think Strategically – A servant leader must be thinking ahead and planning.  One of the best ways you can serve people is by being well prepared and by thinking of things that could wrong before they go wrong.  This involves analyzing what is working well, what is not working well, what is missing and what is confusing.  Going through that process with your team will help bring clarity to the work being done.
  4. Collaborate – Servant leaders realize they don’t have all the answers, so they will involve the people around them in the decision making process.  They will ask what other people think and be open to new ideas and suggestions.  They allow other people that know more about the situation to make decisions and then back them up.  Servant leaders are also very open about what is happening and what is coming, they don’t keep secrets from their team.
  5. Empower People – This is one of the most powerful principles of servant leadership.  It’s developing people and then allowing them to do their jobs.  Servant leaders do not micro manage unless a person needs that extra attention.  Empowering a person is trusting them to make decisions, without having to always check with you first.  This can feel risky at times, but it builds your team and develops leaders.  People learn from mistakes and it allows you to coach your team along the way.
  6. Hold People Accountable – This is another important servant leadership principle.  When you are leading someone it’s important to be clear about what the expectations are and what results you want.  It needs to be in writing and you need to talk about it on a regular basis.  Setting goals and objectives with your team and then asking for regular updates on the progress is a great way to serve your people.  When someone is not hitting the goals or meeting expectations you serve them by having honest conversations with them and telling them the truth and coaching them on how to get back on track.
  7. Care About Others – Finally the people you lead need to know that you actually care about them.  That they are more than just an employee that is getting results.  This means you have to get to know your team.  Find out about their family and personal lives and ask them how they are doing.  It means taking time to have conversations with them and carve out time to have fun together as a team.  If your all business all the time you won’t connect with your team and your not serving them well.  When you take time for people especially when they are going through a crisis it’s a game changer – People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Lead On

Three Life Lessons

Israel, Jerusalem, holy city, former wall around the old town near Jaffa

One of my favorite books is found in the Bible in the Old Testament.  It’s the book of Nehemiah.  It’s a story about a man that led a movement to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, a city that had been destroyed and in ruins for many years.

The reason I like this story so much is because it demonstrates how much can be done when a person works hard and involves God.

Here are three simple life lessons from the story of Nehemiah, I hope you will take the time to read his story:

  1. The first step in any venture is to pray – The first thing Nehemiah did when he heard how terrible things were back home was to pray.  He talked to God and pleaded with God to help.  He also confessed sin for himself and his people, and he asked for specific help in having favor with his boss.  Prayer was his first response, Nehemiah knew that on his own he could not accomplish what God and he could do together.  When we face a challenge in life the first thing we need to do is talk to God, confess our sin, ask for his help and be specific in our requests.
  2. People under God’s direction can accomplish impossible tasks – Nehemiah was a talented leader but he knew he could not accomplish this huge task without the help of God and other people.  He put a plan together and asked for help from many different people.  He was able to keep the people focused on the most important things and not get distracted or paralyzed by fear.  He kept encouraging the people and praying for help, wisdom, protection and courage.  When you have a big vision and you include God on everything and you stay focused, amazing things can happen.  They rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem in just 52 days.
  3. There are two parts to real service for God: talking with Him and walking with Him – Serving God means including Him in every area of our lives.  It starts by talking with Him through prayer, this builds intimacy with God, a closeness that can only come from spending time together.  It also means walking our everyday lives with God.  Walking with God is simply including Him on the good and the bad in your life.  It’s continually acknowledging that He is in control and that we are seeking to do His will and not our own.  Walking with God is also asking for help when tempted, confessing when we mess up and getting back up and continuing on after we fail.

Nehemiah’s story is amazing and well worth reading.  Read it here – Nehemiah

Meditation

Young man reading small Bible

 

Meditation has a different meaning to different people.  For some it’s emptying your mind and focusing on yourself, for others it is focusing on a higher power or something they think is good.  I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and so what I meditate on is God’s Word or the Bible.  For me this is one of the most powerful and helpful things I have ever done.    There is now a lot of scientific proof that meditating on good things like Scripture actually renews and changes our brains.  Brain science shows us the benefits of this focused thinking. The Bible talks about renewing your mind and taking your thoughts captive.  God designed our brains to be able to be changed depending on what it takes in.  The mind controls the brain and can make positive or negative changes.

To me meditation is considering and pondering a part of Scripture, a story in the Bible or a chapter or even sometimes a few words or one word.  What I try to do is pick something to focus on and then read through it 10-15 times in different ways.  I’ll read it silently several times, then out loud, then with a different emphasis on certain words and sometimes even adding my name.  Then I think about or ponder what I read.  I will then bring it back up a different times of the day for just a few moments.

The Bible talks about the power of meditation in Psalm 1:1-3 it says this: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither-whatever they do prospers.”

Did you catch that?  Biblical meditation is so powerful that God promises that everything you do will prosper if you meditate on His Word day and night.  That may sound a bit intimidating or too hard to do.  For me meditating day and night does not mean 24/7 it means that in those times where I’m idle, waiting, resting, driving or by myself I need to meditate on God’s Word.  Those are the times that I am most tempted or that my thoughts are most likely to be negative or sinful.  So in those moments if I’m able to chew on a Biblical idea or a story from the Bible I can renew my mind and gain incredible strength, encouragement and hope.

Meditation is similar to a cow chewing the cud or rumination, which means to chew, swallow then regurgitate and chew again.  A cow does this several times to get all the nutrition out of the food and to digest it in a healthy way.  Biblical meditation is similar, in that we take it into our minds ponder it and then keep bringing it back up and chewing some more.

I have started on a 21 day journey leading up to Christmas Eve of meditating daily on a Scripture and reading through a document of Biblical Truth Statements.  It will only be about 7-10 minutes a day, but I believe God will use that time to strengthen my mind and nourish my soul in a powerful life-changing way.  The Scripture I have chosen is one I memorized 15 years ago.  It’s 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and the earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and Yours it is to be exalted as Head over all.  Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all.  In your hands are power and might; in Your hands it is to make great and to give strength to all.”

I want to encourage you to pick a Scripture or two and meditate on it over the next 21 days.  Chew on it over and over again and pull out all the nourishment you can get.  Then pick another Scripture and do it again for another 21 days and then do it one more time.  If you can do that for 63 days in a row, it will be habit and you will be able to continue to meditate on God’s Word day and night for the rest of your life.