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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I recently met with a group of men in their workplace. I’m part of a leadership development and culture building process with this organization. The topic for the day was self-control. A good definition of self-control is disciplining your thoughts, words, actions, and attitude.
The conversation we had was one of the best I’ve been a part of, because most of these guys struggle with self-control. We talked about both work and home and when it came to self-control at home with their wives and children it got real interesting.
You see these guys are like you and me. They have relationships at work and at home. Both are important to them and both take work and effort. However most of us struggle more at home than at work, because at work we could get fired if we get too out of control. Of course when we are out of control at home for long enough it leads to getting fired as well.
Why is self-control so important? There was a study done back in the early 70’s with children. They put a kid in a room and gave them one marshmallow. They told them that if they can wait until we return we will give you another marshmallow. If you eat it before we come back that’s all you get. They left the room for 15 minutes. Only a minority of children ate the marshmallow right away, most at least tried to delay. Of those who attempted to delay, one third deferred gratification long enough to get a second marshmallow.
They followed up with these children several times later in life. The children that delayed gratification longer were described by parents 10 years later as significantly more competent, the children also scored higher on their SAT scores in high school. They also went further in education beyond high school and even had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI).
So self-control is an important attribute for people to develop in order to do better in all areas of life. Jan Mckingley Hilado said “Self-control is a key factor in achieving success. We can’t control everything in life, but we can definitely control ourselves.”
To have healthy thriving relationships it’s important to have self-control in these 3 key areas:
- Words – Our words are incredibly powerful and they can help our hurt. Words cannot be taken back once spoken so having self-control with our words is vital to healthy relationships. Don’t allow emotions to drive your words. Wait until you have calmed down before making a decision or having the difficult conversation. If you already said hurtful things, humble yourself and go ask for forgiveness.
- Thought Life – The things we think about tend to become the most import in our lives. Our thoughts lead to actions and words so it matters what you think about and what you believe. If you are believing things that are not true it can lead to negative hurtful words or actions. If your focused on the wrong things it can lead to wrong actions and words. Feed your mind things that are true, good and helpful. Get wise counsel from others for a better perspective.
- Attitude – Every day you get to choose your attitude. You can choose to smile, believe the best and be positive or you can frown, believe the worst and be negative. Having self-control in our attitude is one of the hardest, but most important things we can do to have a healthy relationship with anyone. If your attitude toward a person is negative it will adversely affect that relationship.
People that have good self-control with words, thoughts and attitude are much more likely to have healthy thriving relationships and also be more effective and productive at work and home.
My faith in Jesus Christ helps me to have better self-control. It’s one of the results of my relationship with Jesus, I get help from Him in those moments I need self-control. I get strength and power in those critical moments when conflict arises or life happens.
So where do you need to have more self-control?
How healthy are you? Most people would answer that question by talking about their physical health. We start talking about aches and pains and our weight. We talk about needing to exercise more and eat better and maybe go see the doctor.
But we don’t often think about our emotional health or our spiritual health or our relational health. When I think about being healthy I think about mind, body and soul. If those three are not healthy we are in trouble. When one is not healthy it can affect the others.
I believe the most important part of us is our spiritual side, our souls. That is our true self. Taking care of our souls should be a high priority.
Our spiritual health is critical. Too often we try to get well after we are sick spiritually instead of avoiding getting sick in the first place.
One soul renewal discipline is to set SOUL GOALS.
You need to have a plan for spiritual growth to avoid doing life in a dull spiritual trance. Not many people take the time to write out goals for their lives let alone goals for their souls. To me our soul goals should come before any other goals. Being a Christian is not an academic exercise, it is a relationship. In any relationship we must put the hard work in if we want it to be successful. A good marriage doesn’t just happen, great friendships take work and being intentional about getting to know each other. Isaiah 55:8 says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”
We need to get to know God better, and setting soul goals can help you do just that. If you are not intentional about growing closer to God you will plateau and not experience all that He has for you.
Here are a few examples of soul goals:
- I want to practice Heaven by enjoying now – celebrate the little things in life by starting a grateful journal.
- I want to have a part in advancing God’s Kingdom – not hinder it. Where can I serve?
- I want to grow in grace in my relationships – a soft heart, compassion and love for people. What are two things I can do to improve my relationships?
- I want to laugh more – my life is in His hands. Find ways to have fun and enjoy life. Schedule fun.
- I want to remain open to God’s changes in my life – His way, not my way. This is surrendering to Him and trusting Him with every part of your life. What do I need to surrender to God?
- I want to live less like a victim and more like a victor – A broken bone will heal stronger than before. Am I using the trials of life to shape my ministry? God often used the most painful experiences in our life to shape us for ministry and use that pain to help others. How can I use my painful experiences to help others? Look for opportunities to do that.
- I want to excel in prayer. I need to plan a time of prayer and then have a prayer mindset throughout each day.
- I want to be a more giving person – time, money, talent. I need to start tithing and serving. When will I start?
Another spiritual renewal discipline is PRAYER.
To have healthy souls, we must pour out our souls in prayer, both secretly, and in public. Prayer connects us with God; it is a gift we are given because of Jesus. We are each priests, working for God and able to communicate directly with Him. Therefore we need to take advantage of this great gift.
Prayer should be a part of our everyday activities, throughout the day we should be in constant connection to God. Just as if He was right beside you each and every moment of each day. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2
Prayer is an opportunity to Praise God – to express your love for Him
Also to find your purpose in life – what He has for you.
It also is a way to ask for our needs to be met and for confession of sin.
Prayer is a time to intercede for other people and to ask for protection.
John Wesley was a man of prayer, the busier his life became the more time he spent in prayer. Today many of us are exactly the opposite. The busier we get the less we pray. No wonder our lives are filled with stress and anxiety. Prayer is vital to a healthy soul. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
A few closing thoughts on prayer:
We need a time and a place to pray. A regular time is essential. We still need to pray throughout the day, but we need a special time each day to really connect with God. Give Him your best time each day, whether that is in the morning, afternoon or evening. Prayer requires a certain level of preparation. The pace of our lives causes our minds to race at fast levels. We have noise all around us that distracts us from our communication with God. Our thoughts are sort of like a bunch of monkeys jumping around on a banana tree. So when you begin your prayer time you need to be at your best and let the monkeys settle down. Take a few deep breathes and allow your mind to slow down and focus on God.
We also need to keep our prayers simple. There is a gap between what I am supposed to pray for and what is really on my mind. Simple prayer means praying about what is on your heart, not what you think God wants to hear. In the movie Bruce Almighty, God asks Bruce to pray and he prays for God to feed the hungry and for world peace. Too often that is the extent of our prayers and it never comes from our hearts.
Tell God about how frustrated you are at work, or how your neighbor made you mad. Be real with God. Nothing kills prayer faster than when we pretend before God. Prayer like any relationship has to begin in honesty and grow.
Another thing that has helped me tremendously in my prayer life is to be fully present. I don’t know about you, but my mind wonders when I pray. I thought this would stop as I grew spiritually, but it did not. I used to feel guilty about this until I learned what it means to be fully present.
If your mind keeps returning to a particular topic or person, it is probably an indication that this is the topic or person of most concern to you, and you need stop and talk to God about it.
Sometimes my agenda for the day keeps coming to my mind, so I stop and pray for the things on my calendar, meetings, projects and people. Or maybe I keep thinking about a person or persons, so I stop and pray for that person and what is going on in their lives.
If you approach these thoughts as stepping stones rather than barriers to prayer you will be fully present with God. There are times that thoughts can be a distraction though and that may mean you need to keep a notebook close by to write down the thought or the thing you need to do, so you can get back with God and really connect with Him.
So set some soul goals and make sure prayer is a regular part of your life.
Everyone that’s still breathing is thinking about something. We think about what to eat, when to eat, what we should wear, what we will watch on TV tonight. We think about what other people think about us, we think about and make judgements about other people. We think about losing weight, starting to exercise or eating ice cream.
We all have this dialog going on in our heads. We have conversations about all kinds of things going on in our lives. That’s pretty normal, but leaders think about a lot of other things. Leader’s don’t get stuck in the web of our day to thinking. Leader’s think about what could be, what should be and how to get there.
So here are four things that most leaders are thinking about:
- Leaders think about the future. Leaders are custodians of the future. They are thinking about what’s next? What could be our next big challenge? What needs to change to get us there? Why is this the direction we need to go? How can we keep moving in that direction? What steps do we need to take to get there? They think beyond what is directly in front of them. Leaders are always thinking about a better future. Great leaders are optimistic about the future not pessimistic.
- Leaders think about their team. If your a good leader you know you can’t do it alone. Leaders are always thinking about the people on their team or in their organization. They think about if they are in the right seat, they think about how to help them get better at what they are doing. Leaders are constantly thinking about who can help them get to that preferred future.
- Leader’s think about goals. Leaders set goals because they know it will keep them focused. In order to set good goals you have to know where you want to go and the goals you set help get your there. So leaders are thinking strategically about what behaviors, actions and initiatives will get us closer to that vision for a better future. Great leaders not only think about goals but they write them down and require their team to do the same and then holds the team including themselves accountable to achieving those goals.
- Leaders think about learning and improving. The best leaders know they have a lot more to learn and look for opportunities to learn from others. That’s why most leaders are readers. They devour books, listen to podcasts, read articles and posts from other leaders and organizations. All that reading and listening helps the leader to stretch their thinking about the future and discover changes that need to be made in their personal lives and professional lives and in the life of their organization in order to move toward that preferred future.
Of course leaders think about a lot of other things but these four are near the top. Leaders also set aside time to think. Leaders that are so busy they can’t sit down and think deeply tend to be pulled to the urgent and can miss great opportunities and make bad decisions. Schedule time into your calendar to think, read, listen and write. That time will sharpen you and your organization.