Six Ways to Handle Stress

We all experience stress every day. Some days are much worse than others. I’ve recently experienced some stress related to travel that made me think about how to handle and manage the stress we face every day. First our flight got cancelled, then our new flight was delayed 3 hours, which caused us to miss our connecting flight. You probably got stressed out just reading that.

When stress builds up over time it can wear us down, and take a toll on us physically, emotionally and spiritually. When we are worn down we often will do and say things that we can regret later.

Stress is often relatively short-term, and is often caused by feeling that work or home life is out of control. When both of those are out of control the stress feels extra heavy.

Maybe you have a heavy work week with several big projects, causing you to work extra hours, and maybe pushing to meet a tight deadline. You may also be experiencing tension at home with a close relationship, or have some financial pressure that has been building.

Most of the time we have high stress days or weeks, and then days or weeks of lower stress. It’s when those stress days move into months and years that it can take a toll on us to the breaking point.

Prolonged stress can lead to burnout. When you start reaching the point of burnout, your work starts to not seem as meaningful, and there is often a disconnect between what you are doing and what you want to do. You start to feel like you’re just going through the motions, and you can become cynical, critical and adversarial. You are probably experiencing regular mental and physical exhaustion, and you’re finding it hard to rest.

So what can we do to manage stress. First it’s important to recognize the unhealthy ways that we are dealing with stress. Many people will self medicate by drinking, smoking, eating, shopping, binging on something. I’ve been binging on Law & Order SVU, Criminal Minds and Chicago PD.

Next you can start working on healthy ways to deal with stress. Here are just a few that help me:

  1. Exercise/Eat Healthy/Sleep – I put those together because those are all physical things we can do to help with our stress. Those three things, when done in a healthy way, can reduce stress and make you stronger physically and emotionally. You become more resilient and can bounce back faster.
  2. Prayer/Meditation/Worship – I put those three together because those are spiritual things you can do to reduce stress in a big way. I believe in and follow Jesus, and when I spend more time with Him, I feel so much better and less stressed. I also include reading my Bible and doing daily devotions to help prepare me everyday for the stress that is coming. Block off extra time when stress is high for Quiet time with God. Listen to worship music, and sing along. Write in a journal and list everything you’re grateful for. Caring for yourself spiritually builds internal strength, and allows God to make changes in you and through you.
  3. Plan for and take breaks during the day, during the week, and during the month. – Every day take short refreshment breaks. It could be a 10 minute walk around the office, going and getting a drink of water, standing in the sunshine for a few minutes or taking 5 minutes to pray. Each week you should have a day of rest, where you are not working, but resting, reading, exercising, sleeping, spending time with loved ones. Every month you should plan a little extra time for self care, spiritual care or relational care. Plan those and put them on your calendar.
  4. Have honest conversations – Talk to your leader if you’re able to, about the stress you are feeling. Ask for clear expectations, and help in prioritizing your work. Also ask your leader if you have the right goals, and if they should be adjusted. If you don’t have any goals for work or home, work on setting a few and then talk with your boss or spouse. If you’re in a toxic environment have the courage to talk about that, and offer ways that you can help make it better.
  5. Learn the art of saying no, and asking for help – This can be hard, but is a great way to reduce stress. You can say no and still be kind and helpful. It’s also wise to ask for help. If you are unsure about something, or don’t know how to do it, ask for help or clarity. Good leaders appreciate when you ask questions, and you can avoid a lot of stress and miscommunication when you ask good questions. This works at home as well.
  6. Finally talk to a counselor, mentor or pastor – This can help to dig a little deeper and find out if there are things that are causing stress that are under the surface, or buried inside you. This doesn’t mean you are weak, it actually takes courage and strength to go get help, and it will reduce your stress in the long run.

Philippians 4:6-7 is very helpful when it comes to stress. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 55:22 says “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you”

Jesus also told his disciples to “come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” When they had been overworked and overwhelmed Jesus encouraged them to get away and rest. That’s great advice for us today.

A Leaders First Priority – Vision

Leadership can be difficult, challenging and yet very rewarding. So much goes into leadership, and a leader never arrives or is perfect. Leading people is a privilege, a responsibility, and it takes continuous work to improve and grow.

One of the most important things any leader can bring to the people they lead is vision. So much has been written about vision, but I want to try to simplify what it means.

A leader has to figure out what needs to be done. Leaders get things done through other people. What needs to get done in the business, organization or family that will get them going in the direction you are heading? A vision is a clear picture of what could be, and why that’s important.

I believe every person should have a vision for their own lives. A leader must have a clear vision for their own life, and that often overlaps with the organization, department or group they are leading.

A vision must also be repeated over and over again. A leaders job is to keep people focused on the vision and reminding them how what they are doing is contributing to that vision. Every sale, every phone call, every email, every product, every delivery, every conversation, every meeting, every goal is contributing to the vision.

I work at a church and our vision is to be a healing place for a hurting world. We want every person that comes into contact with our church to Know God, Find Freedom, Discover Purpose, and Make a Difference.

With that in mind, the decisions we make and the plans we make are done through that filter. A vision needs to be simple, but compelling. Easy to understand, yet inspiring to the people.

We really believe that the world we live in is broken, and a lot of people are hurting and struggling. The church should be a place of healing and hope. A place where no matter what your background or experiences you can come and feel welcomed and safe. We also believe that God can transform any life and every person has a soul that will live forever somewhere, that’s why we do what we do.

If you are leading a family, a business, a department, a team, or a group, think about what the vision is. What needs to be done in order to get there. These are such important conversations to have with your team, or family, but before you can do that it has to be clear in your own mind. So write it down, find someone to work with you to ask the right questions and draw out of you what the vision is for yourself and your organization or family.

Every day the leader has to think about the vision and keep it front and center to the people they lead. Vision is the first priority in leadership. Vision lifts, expands and brings oxygen to the organization, the family, the group. So start with vision and dream big.

Four Tips on Dealing with Change

There is one thing you can be sure of, and that is things will change. We are all facing changes, some big and some small. Our bodies are changing because of the aging process, our eating and exercising habits. Our finances are changing based on choices and decisions we make.

The world around us is also changing. People are pushing for their agenda, their beliefs, their values, their convictions. The way we communicate is changing and the way we interact is changing. Technology is changing rapidly. Even what is viewed as right and wrong is changing.

With all this change happening, how do we cope with or manage the changes in our lives? Here are some thoughts I hope will help.

  1. Seek Wise Counsel – This is a biblical principle that helps a lot. For me the first place I go for wise counsel is God. If I’m facing a change, or have to make a decision because of change, I start by praying and talking to God about it. I also read God’s Word. I will also talk to trusted friends and family about the change, ask them questions and even ideas on what to do. For big changes that are causing stress, seeking out a counselor, pastor or mentor can be a big help. The key here is to humble yourself and talk to God and wise people to help you navigate some of life’s biggest changes.
  2. Focus on what you can control – There are so many things that are out of our control. When we start to think about the things we can control it really comes back to us. We can control the words that we speak, the emails or social media posts we write. We can control the way we respond to change and conflict. We can control what read, who we listen to, and the choices we make. Emotions can be hard to control, but we can be aware of what emotions we are feeling. When we do respond in a bad way, we do have control of what we do after that. We can ask for forgiveness, we can bring clarity and ask questions to try to better understand.
  3. Remember what you’re grateful for – Grateful people are much better at handling change. It helps to think about the good things in our lives instead of focusing on the negative and whats out of our control. It’s very helpful to actually write down things you are grateful for on a regular basis. We all need to keep the right perspective when it comes to change. Change can be hard, but it can also be helpful and good in the long run. Remembering what we are grateful for is vital to working through changes.
  4. Get back up – When change hits us and knocks us down, don’t stay down there. Get back up and keep moving forward. Maybe you go talk to someone about what just happened. Maybe you go spend some time with God. Maybe you go on a walk or a run or exercise. Maybe you list out 10 things you’re grateful for. Maybe you go do some research on what happened to better understand what is going on. This is about being resilient, it’s the quality that keeps us going, growing and making a difference.

Change is going to happen, but it doesn’t have to make your life miserable unless you choose to let it. You don’t have to embrace change, but you do need to deal with it, and choose to get better as a result of whatever happens to you.

4 Things I learned in 2020

I love this time of the year, not because it’s winter, I could do without the cold. I love it because we are starting a new year. In my mind it’s like turning a new chapter in a book. I love to read and it’s always satisfying to finish a chapter and move on to the next one.

The year 2020 was unexpectedly difficult, and unusual in many ways. Life is often that way, but it’s important to keep going, turning the pages and eventually a whole new chapter.

As I reflect on this past year, I thought I would share a few things I learned and then some things I’m looking forward too in the next chapter.

  • Life can be unfair – When it comes to struggles, problems, tragedy, loss or heartbreak, no one is immune. Bad things happen to all kinds of people, just like good things happen to all kinds of people. Some of those things are out of our control, so we need to focus only on what we can control. We also need to be careful not to judge or envy others, instead we are called by Jesus to love one another, care for one another, serve one another. When life seems unfair, I try to be grateful for what is right and good and a blessing in my life. God promises to walk with us in those Valley’s of life. This is a hurting broken world, it’s not heaven. That helps me to understand why this life is unfair, heaven will be much different, until then we have to keep going forward as best we can.
  • Make plans but be flexible – Every year I make plans at work, at home and for all areas of my life. I set goals and dream about what could be better and improved. This last year reminded me that plans can change quickly, because of things that are out of our control. The ability to be flexible and adjust is vital, especially when there is turmoil around us. At the church where I work we had to adjust our plans when we stopped meeting in person for a couple of months because of the virus. We had to make adjustments to the way we did ministry, had meetings, met with and cared for people. We also had to make new plans for when we started gathering together again, and continued to improve our online presence. When things don’t go as planned, learn from that experience and keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to change direction, stop doing something or improvise. It can cause us to be more creative, and think differently, which can be a good thing.
  • My faith in Jesus is more important than ever – My faith is what keeps me going and the reason I get up in the morning. When life is hard, unfair, in turmoil or just plain dark, I can lean on Jesus and draw from his strength and power to keep going. As I’ve grown older my faith has become more important to me. That faith and belief is what allows me to be calm in a storm, to remain steadfast, and not be shaken when things fall apart. It gives me a Peace that’s hard to explain.
  • Everyone is at different place in life, faith and maturity – This past year has shown me again that everyone is different. People process information and circumstance much differently. Understanding this helps me to be less judgmental and more compassionate. My desire is to help people grow in faith, character and leadership. So I approach each day with that mindset of trying to encourage or inspire someone to make a change in their life or take a positive step forward in their life.

As I look forward to this new year I want to continue to connect with people in a way that leads to life change. I have things I need to work on in my own life that cause me to struggle, but that always helps me to be empathetic to the people around me. Life is hard, but I am convinced that God can help. 2021 is a new chapter with much of it not yet written. I love the fact that God knows already what this next year holds, and I can’t wait to see it revealed.

Let’s turn the page, and play our part in writing the next chapter and be open to what God has to say.

Leading During a Crisis

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

Our world is in the midst of a crisis know at the Coronavirus of COVID-19. It is spreading all over the world and things are changing rapidly. Leaders at all level of government, medical, education, business, non-profits and churches are making important decisions everyday.

During a crisis like this, how can we lead well? Many decisions that leaders make are questioned, scrutinized and criticized. However, thats what it means to be a leader. Leaders make decisions and get things done. Here are a few things we can all do in order to lead well during a crisis.

PRAY AND SEEK WISE COUNSEL: Go to God first in any crisis. Talk to God and read His Word. It’s also important to know who you can go too for counsel and support. Surrounding yourself with the right team is vital in a crisis. You must trust each other and believe the best about each other.

PLAN TO COMMUNICATE: During a crisis, communication is critical. Even if you do not have new information it is important to communicate as much as possible and allow a space for people to ask questions. People tend to panic more if they feel like they are in the dark or that their leaders are not sharing all the information. It is better to over communicate.

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY: Blaming others or pointing fingers does not help. Leaders should take responsibility for the current reality and focus on solving problems and finding solutions. It’s also important to quickly admit when you or your team got something wrong or made a bad decision. Admit it and move forward.

MAKE NECESSARY SACRIFICES: A leader must be willing to make sacrifices for the betterment and protection of their people. There may be personal sacrifices or organizational sacrifices in order to do what is right and responsible. Short term sacrifices can lead to long term success.

ACT DECISIVELY: It’s important to make decisions as quickly as you can. There is a tension between getting information and making a decision. You can’t always wait until all the facts are known. You have to do the best you can with what you have. Keep the big picture in mind and do what’s best for the people and your organization.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: When stress is running high it is so important that leaders take care of themselves. Plan for down time, rest and eating properly. Get some exercise and take some time for you family. When you do that, you will be sharper and better able to function in the crisis.

SEE THE OPPORTUNITIES: There is always an opportunity in every crisis. Look for the positive, look for things that can be improved, streamlined or eliminated. What lessons can be learned as you go through the crisis that will make you stronger and better in the future.

Thank you to all the people that are out there leading well. Keep going, don’t give up, you are making a difference.

Success and Humility Go Hand in Hand

Many years ago, a rider came across some soldiers who were trying to move a heavy log without success. The corporal was standing by as the men struggled. The rider asked the corporal why he wasn’t helping. The corporal replied, “I am the corporal; I give orders.” The rider dismounted, went up and stood by the soldiers and as they were lifting the log, he helped them. With his help, the log got moved. The rider quietly mounted his horse and went to the corporal and said, “The next time your men need help, send for the Commander-in-Chief.” After he left, the corporal and his men found out that the rider was George Washington.

The message is pretty clear. Success and humility go hand in hand. The most successful leaders have a blend of humility and a drive to achieve the vision.

When it comes to leadership there are so many important qualities. However, I believe that humility is the foundation for all the other qualities.

People want to follow leaders who are confident in their direction and capabilities, and can make a decision. People also want to follow leaders who know who they are, and are comfortable in their own skin. But there’s a point at which confidence can slip into overconfidence. The Greek word, hubris, means “dangerous overconfidence” and “exaggerated pride.” Confidence without humility leads to hubris. There is a line that any leader can cross if they don’t embrace humility.

I believe humility is all about mindsets. Here are some key mindsets that drive the actions of a humble leader:

  1. Serve others – When we have the mindset that we are here to serve other people it keeps us humble. True humility is thinking about other people more than you think about yourself. That is a difficult thing to do, because we all think about ourselves all the time. But a mindset of serving others keeps us more aware of the needs of the people around us. It helps us to think about how we can lift others up, and help them in meaningful ways. It’s a desire to improve the lives of the people around us.
  2. Listening – The listening mindset goes along with serving others. If we are not listening to the people around us it is impossible to be humble. It’s also difficult to serve others if we don’t listen with the intent of understanding them better and how we can best serve that person. Listening shows that we care and really want know the best way we can help or serve that person.
  3. Self Awareness – This mindset helps us to be aware of our strengths and our weaknesses. A humble self-aware leader will ask for help and honest feedback. When we ask for help in areas we are weak or struggling in, it shows that we are aware that we cannot do everything on our own. When we ask for feedback it shows that we are aware that we can get better and learn from others. A self-aware mindset also allows us to admit when we are wrong and to ask for forgiveness.
  4. Adding value to others – a mindset of adding value to others goes to the heart of investing in other people to help them get better, heal from past hurts, and draw out the best in them. Humble leaders are always thinking about ways they can add value into the lives of the people around them.
  5. Grateful – A grateful mindset helps us to be aware of the many blessings in our lives, and to be thankful for everything that God and others have done to improve our own lives. Humble leaders are grateful for what has been entrusted to them, and therefore are good stewards of what they are given.

I could keep going with other mindsets that humble leaders have, but this lays a good foundation for anyone that wants to be a better leader at work, home, school or community. Think about what your mindset is like when it comes to leadership and humility. Non of us have arrived and are perfect in this area of humility. We are all a work in process, and when we can learn from our failures, ask questions and listen well, it helps us to add value to others and to be grateful for what we have.


Deciding to Grow in 2020

It’s 2020 and if you are like me, you have plans for this year. Maybe you have been thinking about improvements you would like to make in your life. Things like getting healthier, improving your financial situation, improving your marriage, reading a book or maybe growing in your faith.

Most people never get from thinking to actually doing, or we start but it does not last. We get caught up in the whirlwind of life, and end up doing the same things we did last year with little or no change. Make the decision today to grow in some area of your life.

For this year to be different try narrowing your focus to one or two things that you can improve or change in your life. The next step is to actually write this down. When you take the time to think about the area you want to grow in and then write it down you are much closer to actually doing it. Another important step is to think about some small steps you can take to start making that happen.

For example, if you want to grow in your faith some simple steps you can take could include the following:

  • Start attending church on a regular basis
  • Start a daily devotional on your smart phone
  • Spend 5 minutes praying in the morning before you start your day
  • Read a book of the Bible. I recommend John and Proverbs.

Those simple steps can help you move forward in building some new habits and growing in your faith. Even doing just one of those things if you are not currently doing any of them is a win.

To change anything in your life, it starts with a decision. Then you need a plan, and many times you need some help. If you are really serious about growing in some area of your life, getting a coach or a mentor to help you can be a game changer. Find someone you trust and share your plans with them. Then give them permission to ask you how you are doing. You might even find a few other people that want to do it with you. It’s much easier to work out, read a book or go to church when you are doing it with some other people you know.

Don’t procrastinate, or just think about a better you. It can happen! Start taking those steps today. Break out of whatever is holding you back, ask for help, and see what happens. Remember that the decisions you make today will be the stories you tell tomorrow.

Are You Facing Adversity?

I have been thinking about this topic for awhile now. I am passionate about growing in faith, character and leadership. That has been my personal mission statement for many years. Often times we forget that to grow, we must face adversity. If we do not have adversity we don’t fully develop. The Christian life is intended to be one of continuous growth. We all want to grow, but we often resist the process.

So how can we learn and grow through adversity? The first thing is to accept the fact that we will have adversity in life. We need to submit to the fact that life will have difficulties and we need to look for the lessons involved with each adversity. We also need to apply God’s word when we face adversity. There are many Biblical principles that we can put into action in times of adversity. Can you show Christian love when someone offends you or treats you unjustly? Lastly we must remember the lessons learned in times of adversity

Adversity does several things in our lives. It prunes us of the the unfruitful stuff in our lives. An unpruned vine will produce a great deal of unproductive growth but little fruit. I was talking with my Amish neighbor that runs an orchard. I asked about the peach trees they had been working on. He said that they had to knock off three fourths of the budding peaches in order to get the best crop of peaches. If they would not do that they would get a bunch of peaches that are small and not very tasty.

Adversity also helps us to become more like Christ. This is called holiness. God uses adversity to enlighten our minds about our own needs as well as the teachings of Scripture. He uses adversity to shape and mold us into the men and women He desires us to be.

Adversity causes us to be more dependant on Christ. God teaches us through adversity to rely on Him instead of ourselves. Adversity forces us to look to God for strength, wisdom and courage.

Adversity also develops perseverance. Hebrews 10:36 says “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised,” and in 12:1 it says “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” To persevere means to press forward. To keep pushing on despite hardships and roadblocks. To stay on track with God’s will for your life no matter what gets in the way. This can sometimes be a long drawn out process that can take years. That process will develop your character and prepare you for what God has in store for your life.

God also uses adversity to equip us to serve more effectively in ministry to others. Adversity allows us to identify with others that are suffering or hurting. It allows us to help them through similar times.

A great example of what I have been talking about is the cecropia moth. This moth is a beautiful creature, but it must go through a great struggle to get out of it’s cocoon. I read the story about someone that was watching this moth go through this struggle. In an effort to help, the viewer snipped the shell of the cocoon. Soon the moth came out, with its wings all crimped and shriveled. But as the person watched, the wings remained weak. The moth, which in a few minutes would have stretched those wings to fly, was now doomed to crawling out its brief life in frustration of ever being the beautiful creature God created it to be. What the person that “helped out” the moth did not realize, was that the struggle to emerge from the cocoon was an essential part of developing the muscle system of the moth’s body and pushing the body fluids out into the wings to expand them. By unwisely seeking to cut short the moth’s struggle, the watcher had actually crippled the moth and doomed its existence.

The adversities in our lives are much like that moth in the cocoon. God uses them to develop our spiritual, emotional and relational muscles. Many people go undeveloped and never realize their full potential because they sidestepped adversity or did not learn from it. Sometimes we can do the same in others peoples lives by “helping them out” and not allowing God to develop their character. We need to be careful how we face adversity and how we help others face adversity.

James 1:2-4 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

5 Principles For Dealing With Change

Things around us are always changing.  Think about your job and the number of changes that have happened in the last 3 months.  How about the stores that you like to shop at or the restaurants that you enjoy eating at.  Even the roads that we drive on are changing.  I’ve hit a few huge potholes lately!  In all these areas, things are either changing for the better or the worse.  Things are either deteriorating or being improved.

One area that is in constant change is the people around us and relationships we have.  People are constantly changing, lets face it we are emotional beings and so there are lots of ups and downs for all of us.  People are complicated and difficult, and yet we need people and relationships in our lives in order to thrive.

So when it comes to all this change around us how do you not get totally stressed out and just give up.

I’d like to give you five simple principles that can help you navigate the changes going on in your life or to help create positive changes in your life.

  1. Control the Controllable – Most of things around us, and all of the people around us are out of our control.  If we do try to control the things or people around us we add additional stress to everyone’s lives.  This principle brings the focus back to us and what we need to do, and what we can control.  We can control what we say; what we do; what we focus on; who we listen to; what we study; what we learn; what boundaries we set; what we spend and where we spend it.  We control what and when we eat, how much sleep we get and the amount of exercise we get.  The choices and decisions we make are within our control.  What other people say or do is out of our control, but we are in control of how we respond.
  2. Monitor the Conversations in Your Head – We talk to ourselves more than anyone else.  Those conversations are what I like to call narratives or stories that get replayed over and over again.  Our internal conversations come from past experiences, things we have learned or picked up along the the way.  For many people those conversations or stories are not as positive as they should be.  Those conversations with ourselves lead to decisions, choices, words spoken and outward behavior whether good or bad.  So start being more aware of what you are telling yourself.  Start to question if it’s really true, maybe you are believing a lie or deceiving yourself.  Maybe you need to start a new story.
  3. Ask Questions & Ask for Help – If you don’t understand something or someone it’s always a good practice to ask questions with the intent of wanting to understand.  What goes right along with this is to listen well.  When you ask good questions and then listen intently you can avoid a lot of misunderstandings and mistakes.  A great practice is to repeat back to the person what you heard them say.  Ask clarifying questions if you need to.  Fear keeps us from asking questions or asking for help.  When you are struggling in any area of life it is wise to ask for help.  There are other people that have gone through what you are going through or have helped others with similar things.  So ask honest, sincere questions to help you fully understand what the other person is saying or asking you to do.  Also ask for help if you don’t know how to do something or you are stuck in an area of your life.
  4. Keep Growing – The books you read and the people you meet will determine the kind of life you will have.  The people that are constantly growing, learning and interacting with other people have the most influence in this world.  Put a plan together of what books you want to read and the people you want to meet or reconnect with.  Make sure you are growing intellectually, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually.
  5. Make Your Faith a Priority – The one thing that I believes helps us the most when it comes to handling change is faith.  The Christian faith has been what has guided me for most of my life.  Learning from Jesus Christ has been the biggest help in making good decisions, handling stress and change, and dealing with all the relationships in my life.  Make growing in your faith a high priority and many of these other things will fall into place.

Doing these five things will bring your stress level down, improve your work and relationships and bring more contentment and joy to your life.  Life will never be perfect, but it can be better.

Why Most People Don’t Have What They Want

 

Cardiovascular problems cause thousands of deaths every day.  The main problem is neglect.  Every day there are thousands of divorces, often because of neglecting problems, and each other.  The relationships and things we neglect are damaged and deteriorate faster than the relationships and things we care for and pay attention to.

Think about your car.  If you never wash it and never get it serviced it won’t last very long.  It will start to break down and soon will quit running.  Or think about a garden that is neglected.  All kinds of weeds start to take over and they can choke out everything you planted.  Our bodies and our relationships are the same way.  If we neglect them they will stop working or weeds start to take over.

So what or who are you neglecting in your life?

The longer you neglect your health, your teeth, your weight, your finances, your marriage, your spouse, your character or your faith the worse it will get.

Why do we neglect things that are important in our lives?  That’s a big question, because most people want to be healthy, most people want a great marriage, most people want financial freedom, most people want a good reputation, most people want a closer relationship with God.  The problem is most people are not willing to do the basic principles that lead to health, growth and success in those areas of their lives.

It takes discipline to lose weight and get healthy, it takes discipline to work on your marriage and become a better person, it takes discipline to get out of debt and be generous, it takes discipline to grow in your faith and trust in God.

Our natural tendency is to do what’s comfortable and easy.  We avoid conflict, we avoid the scales and going to the doctor.  We eat our favorite foods and only think about exercising.  We avoid having that conversation or going to a trusted advisor for counsel.  In other words we neglect some of the things that are most important in our lives and stay busy with things that don’t improve those parts of our lives.  Many people simply hope it will get better or that the problem will just magically go away.

So what should a person do if they have areas of their lives that have been neglected and damaged?  Here are a few simple steps that can help get you back on track:

  1. Set some goals – We all have two choices, making a living or designing a life.  When you write down goals and review them often you are paying attention to parts of your life that you want to improve.  The first step in improving an area of your life is to pay attention to it.  The ultimate reason for setting goals is to keep us focused on the things that will bring out the person God created you to be.  To be a better man or woman, husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter.  Setting goals is the first step toward being a better person.
  2. Ask for help – Trying to accomplish major changes in your life is very difficult without the help of others.  Whether it’s losing weight, reconciling a marriage, improving a relationship, transforming your financial condition or deepening your faith, find trustworthy people that can walk with you.  Find people that want something for you not something from you.  Look for people of integrity, honesty and character.  Remember that God created you and has a purpose for your life.  Talking to God and reading His words in Scripture can be a huge help in making changes in your life.
  3. Think long-term – Short-term fixes don’t work.  Cutting out carbs might help you lose some weight but long-term weight loss only happens if you change the way you eat and exercise for life.  The same in relationships, you can learn to do some nice things for each other but if you don’t address your core issues your right back in the same place a year later.  Address why you eat too much, address why you get so angry, address why you spend so much money.  That is the hard part of change, not just putting a bandage on the wound but cleaning it out and stitching it up.
  4. Don’t give up – The hard work is always worth it.  When you exercise on a regular basis you get sore and hurt for a while, but as your muscles and lungs and heart get stronger you feel so much better.  When you learn what your hot buttons are and how you defend yourself, then you can start working on changing your responses, which will improve your relationships.  Put in the hard work, face your fears, keep pushing to get better and don’t give up.

So if you’ve been neglecting areas of your life start making plans to change that today.  A year from now you will be glad you did.