As we approach the end of another year I can’t help but reflect on this past year. It was filled with good times, bad times, positive emotions and negative emotions. I cried and I laughed. I opened up and I shut down. I made some good decisions and I made some bad decisions. I got angry and had a negative attitude and I was filled with joy and had a positive attitude. I also learned a lot this past year about leadership, my relationship with God and the baggage that I still tend to carry.
If you’re like me this can describe almost every year. However every year I like to ask myself if I have grown in my faith, character and leadership in this past year. For me it’s a big yes this year. Probably more than many other years because of the amount of change I experienced at work. Here are some of the lessons I learned or went deeper in understanding.
Keep growing in Faith, Character and Leadership.
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.
Start pursuing an emotionally healthy life by cultivating the good and letting go of the bad.
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.
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.
Recently I ran races on back to back weekends. First it was a race called Rough & Rugged which was a 5k cross country, trail, mud kind of race. I finished but was exhausted and struggled along the way. Then the next weekend I ran a 10k on a flat course. Again I finished but struggled and had to reach deep to keep pushing myself. After I finished that second race I made the comment that these races are much harder when you don’t train properly.
You see I had been running once a twice a week in preparation for both of these races. I also did nothing between the two races and I felt it on race day. I know this because at one time I did train hard and went into similar races in much better physical condition. I ran better times and felt better after the races. The preparation I put in made a difference on race day. I was both mentally and physically ready. That was not the case with these last two races.
It is similar in our spiritual lives, when we are staying connected to God and feeding our minds the truth, it is much easier to recognize lies and deal with the difficulties of life. It’s the things we do day in and day out that prepare us for those big moments in life and those small moments that make a big difference. Those crucial conversations, the big decisions, the temptation that comes out of no where or the unexpected tragedy. When we are not training spiritually those things can knock us down and take us out.
So here are some spiritual exercises we can all do to keep fit both spiritually and emotionally.
I encourage you to pick one or two of the areas I mentioned and start incorporating it into your everyday life. If you do all of those on a regular basis you will grow and become more fit spiritually.
This week I taught a class entitled “The Top Ten Relational Needs”. It is based on a workbook by that title from Great Commandment Network.
God made us with needs, and God promised to meet those needs.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
Paul is telling us that God is willing and able to meet all of our needs. It also acknowledges that we all have needs as human beings
Neediness is a characteristic of our God-given identities.
Here are the Top Ten Relational Needs:
These needs are the same for anyone, no matter where your from, no matter how young or old you are.
It’s OK to have needs, it doesn’t mean your weak. When we understand our needs, it humbles us and builds our character.
Only God and other people can meet our needs. Why did God create us this way?
My question for you is this. Of the top ten relational needs listed above, which three are most important to you and which three are most important to your spouse or significant person in your life? If you can figure that out and then communicate clearly to each other about it, your relationship will begin to improve. You can control whether or not you are meeting these needs with others, you cannot control whether others will meet your needs. However, if you are loving and serving the other person the likelihood of them meeting your needs goes way up. If your too needy, that pushes everyone away from you. You have to first meet the needs of others and show that you can do it in a healthy way.
A Balanced Life
Are You Courting Burnout?
What do you do to keep your life balanced?
THREE STEPS TO BALANCE:
When you know your purpose it brings better focus to your life. It determines the patterns in your life and the disciplines you pursue. Finding your life purpose is a process that everyone should go through. It will take some time and effort but it’s worth the time and energy. A great place to start is to answer this question: What would I want my family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to say about me at my funeral? Not what would they say now, but what would you want them to say. Think about that and start writing down some things.
When we understand our purpose better, it helps to simplify our lives. It allows us to eliminate the things that distract us and say yes to the things that further that purpose. I my own life I’ve developed a purpose statement of Leading myself and others to grow in Faith, Character & Leadership. That statement drives what I do at work, at home and in my spare time. It’s what I write about in my posts, it’s what I talk about with the people around me.
Balance in life is possible if we practice life according to a single priority, and that single priority is our purpose.
FOUR DIMENSIONS IN LIFE
Balance is achieved when we establish, build, and maintain capacity in each of the four dimensions of life. How much time and energy do we give to each of those areas of our lives? That will only happen if we are intentional about focusing on each of those areas of our lives.
Reflect and rate yourself on the four dimensions in your life:
Couch Potato ………………………………………………………………………………………………..Cross Fit Freak
Take this quiz to gauge whether or not you’re headed for burnout. (Pay attention not only to your answers, but also the way you react to the statements.)
1) Despite getting adequate sleep each night, I wake up tired.
2) Lately, I’d define myself as moody.
3) Increasingly, I see the negative, or what needs to be fixed, with my work and others’. Positive comments and thoughts are rare.
4) My vision or purpose is becoming blurry, or harder to focus on, despite being clear in the past.
5) If I were totally honest with myself, I’d say I’m going through the motions at work or home, rather than contributing everything I can.
6) I shorten (or wish I could do so) my workday just to leave work or get away.
7) I lengthen many workdays to get the job done, instead of delegating or managing my time or mindset more effectively.
8) I cut down or stop other activities (such as hobbies or other rejuvenating activities) in order to keep up with work responsibilities.
9) I don’t have time to reach out to connect with colleagues,mentors or friends on a regular basis.
10) Relationships within and outside of my work are not as strong as they were.
1-4 “True” answers: You should be in the normal ebb and flow of business ownership, or work. Continue to find ways to improve.
5-7 “True” answers: Burnout is rearing its ugly head. Within the next week, schedule two days away from work to reconnect and clarify your vision or purpose, and identify at least 5 action items that you can do to change the course and refuel your engines.
8-10 “True” answers: Stop, your in trouble. Stop everything and take a deep breath. In the next week get away for awhile to revisit your vision and purpose. Reconnect with colleagues and mentors. Write out your vision and an action agenda to get you back on track in doing what is important.
TEN TIPS FOR AVOIDING BURNOUT AND INVITING BALANCE:
Where do you need to focus more and be more balanced?
NewPointe Community Church is currently in a series called “Life Verse”. A life verse is a Scripture that someone keeps coming back to over and over again and that guides them in their life. As I thought about that several passages of Scripture came to my mind. As I thought about which one I should write about I realized that this Scripture is the one that I often quote and talk about. I’ve used it at weddings and funerals and in mentoring sessions with individuals and couples. This Scripture is challenging to me and a constant reminder of how I should live my life.
It’s often called the Love chapter because it gives us a very clear description of what love is. It’s not just one verse, it’s actually 4 verses. So here it is:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.”
I’ve often put my name in place of love, which makes it personal and very humbling, because I realize that I have a ways to go in understanding and living out this idea of love. So here are some points about this powerful passage of Scripture.
So here is the challenge. We can all grow in this area of love because non of us are Jesus. Love is the key to life because when everything else is stripped away love remains. Whether it’s loving other people or loving God, that is what changes lives. When we allow God’s love to penetrate and take over our hearts, our behavior starts to change, our thoughts start to change and our perspective starts to change.
If your relationships are not working ask yourself how much love you have in your heart. If there is not much there, then turn to God and ask Him to fill it up with that kind of love.
Verse 8 starts off with this – “Love never fails.” God never fails, he never gives up on us and always believes the best about us even when he knows the worst about us. Love Well!
Being healthy emotionally is hard work. It’s easy to fall into a victim mentality and feel like everyone is against you. In their book The Oz Principle, Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman give some clues on when we are stuck in the victim cycle or living below the line.
So how do we avoid this victim mentality? How do we get unstuck from these destructive patterns and habits. The keys are taking responsibility for your own actions and bringing accountability into your life.
According to the authors you can improve your own ability to remain “above-the-line” by watching for the following clues that indicate accountable attitudes and behavior.
Whether at work or at home staying above the the line of accountability is vital to emotional and relational health. When we are below the line we ignore or deny reality, we say it’s not my fault or my job, we point fingers, we say we are confused, we cover our tails and we wait & see. When we are above the line we see the issue, we own our part, we work on a solution and we take action on what we can control.
Make a commitment today to be more accountable and responsible in all your relationships. Work at staying above the line and don’t focus on things that are out of your control. Focus on your own thoughts and behaviors and own your part of the problem. Get help and counsel from others to help keep you above the line. If you do that you will grow in character and leadership and be much healthier all the way around.
In 2 Chronicles chapter 7 God appears to Solomon. Solomon has just finished building this magnificent temple of the Lord. He has had tremendous success all along the way. His father David had prepared the way for this to happen and now Solomon has accomplished this huge project for God. They have been celebrating for 7 days and people are coming form all over the world to see this amazing temple and to worship God. Solomon and others have been praying and preparing and then Solomon hears from God.
In verse 12 it says “The Lord appeared to him at night and said: I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.” God goes on to say “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people.” This is interesting because God is saying that hardship has and will come our way. He says when things go badly, when sickness strikes, when hard times come, I am going to tell you what to do. This is verse 14: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
So no matter what happens to us, if we are in God’s family, whether success, failure, sickness, heart break, tragedy or loss. If we humble ourselves, pray and seek God and turn from our wicked ways, God will hear us and forgive us and heal us.
So how does that translate for today. Jesus came and was the final sacrifice for our sins, so we don’t need a temple to make sacrifices anymore. Jesus paid for all our sins and gave us a clear path to heaven. If we believe in Jesus Christ and follow him, we are now the temple that God can live in. This verse in 2 Chronicles still applies today though for God’s people. I believe this is about God being more concerned about our spiritual & emotional health than our happiness or even our physical well being.
So here is the principle: If our daily focus is to remain humble and not be filled with pride and ego. Thinking less about ourselves and more about God and others. If our tendency or habit is to pray and seek God in any and every situation. If we routinely repent or turn away from our sins, bad attitudes, negative thinking and the things that pollute our minds and hearts. God promises to forgive us continually and immediately and take our burdens and worries from us. And this leads to healing and wholeness.
The bottom line is that God wants us to trust him and depend on him for everything. He wants us to turn away from the things that pull us down and turn to him who lifts us up. It’s about becoming more like Jesus Christ who trusted God fully and completely and turned to him throughout his life here on earth.
So God is still in the healing business. He wants us to be healthy and whole in every way and he wants to be the main focus in our lives, he wants us to worship him alone. No matter what comes our way he is with us, for us and in us and he wants to forgive us and heal us. God wants to free us from the hurts and damaging emotions that fill us up and tear us down. He wants to free us from the lies and deception and fears that keep us locked up and in bondage. He wants to heal our land, which is every part of us, not just our bodies.