Daily Creed

A couple of weeks ago I did a funeral for a 95 year old woman.  The family gave me her Bible to look through as I prepared for the service.  I’d like to share one of the things that I found.

She wrote this on a piece of paper:

My Daily Creed:

  1. I believe God’s promises are true
  2. I believe heaven is real
  3. I believe nothing can separate me from God’s love
  4. I believe God has work for me to do
  5. I believe God will see me through and carry me when I cannot walk

I love that I and I now have that hanging in my office.  So what do you believe?

Lessons Learned This Past Year

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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.

  1. God opposed the proud but supports the humble – Every time I allow pride to creep into my life I get knocked down a few notches.  This often happens to me when things are going well and I start comparing myself to others.  It can happen when I’m meeting with someone that is going through a hardship and I think I can fix it with three simple steps.  Or when I don’t think a certain strategy or decision is the best and my way is better.  Or if I don’t pay attention to my wife and just do what I want.  I keep learning and understanding more deeply to humble myself and in due time the Lord will lift me up, but it’s his decision not mine.  I need to remain faithful, work hard and focus on doing what is right and good and submit to God and other people.
  2. Value your relationships because life can change in an instant – I was reminded through several tragic events that life is precious and things can change very quickly.  I was reminded to spend time with the people I love and to work on those relationship by practicing forgiveness, communicating clearly and often and by loving well.  The Bible says to love extravagantly and that we are bankrupt without love.  Learning to love or how to express love is one of the best things we can do to improve our lives and value the people around us.
  3. Having the hard conversations is a game changer – Conflict is not fun and many people tend to avoid it.  However if you want to grow, make progress, change for the better or have less stress, then you must deal directly with conflict.  Learning to admit when your wrong and confronting issues quickly when they come up does not allow things to fester and get infected.  I had many hard conversations this past year and most of them ended well and improved the relationship or the situation.  Resolving conflict is hard but it leads to relational, emotional and physical health.
  4. Vulnerability and openness are strengths not weakness – I studied and read a lot about vulnerability, shame and courage this past year.  It takes great courage to be vulnerable and be honest, but when you do it, you experience great freedom, creativity and strength.  I became more vulnerable in some of my relationships and took some risks by sharing more of me with others.  I grew in confidence and courage by facing the junk in my life head on and sharing that with some trusted people in my life.  Everyone knows your not perfect so stop trying to be, take off the mask and be real, that’s when things start to change.
  5. Emotional health is one of the most import things a leader can have – Being healthy emotionally allows you to lead at a high level and take on enormous responsibility.  However staying healthy emotionally takes constant work just like staying physically healthy takes constant work.  Caring for your soul and understanding your emotions is a sign of maturity and leadership.  Sometimes you have to go to a professional counselor in order to break through some of the emotional walls that come up in your life.  It’s always worth the time and energy and money to get healthy emotionally.
  6. When you keep God first and submit to Him other things fall into place – My relationship with God has grown and deepened over the years, but this did not just happen, I had to be intentional.  I have found that the more time I spend with God the more I can accomplish, the healthier I am and and the lower my stress tends to be.  Having a spiritual rhythm in life is vital.  What I mean by rhythm is having a thriving prayer life, feeding on God’s word regularly, being silent and being with God and living a life of worship.  That is staying focused on the most important thing in life, your relationship with Jesus Christ.  When that is growing the rest of life tends to be healthier as well.

Keep growing in Faith, Character and Leadership.

A Key to Stronger Relationships

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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.

 

Leadership Development

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Today I spoke at a workshop about leadership development and mentoring.  It was a great experience because I was talking about something that I am passionate about.  about 15 years ago I went through a time of searching for meaning in my life.  I turned to God and went deeper in my faith.  At the time I started asking myself what kind of person do I want to be remembered for.  I started praying and questioning myself.  After a long process I came up with a personal mission statement for my life:  Growing myself and others in Faith, Character and Leadership.  Those three areas of my life have been the main focus for me over the last 15 years.  It has helped to keep me focused on the right things and to say no to the things that distract me from those three areas of my life.

Here are the things I shared with the group today at the Equip2Serve conference in Canton Ohio at Malone University.

Leading yourself is always the hardest thing to do.  We spend more time with ourselves than anyone else, yet most of us don’t take the time to be intentional about our own development.  Here are some practical things you can do to work on yourself.

  1. Develop a Personal Growth Plan or Life Plan This is a powerful exercise that can transform your life.  To think about the highest priority areas of your life like, Faith, Family, Marriage, Finances, Health, Work.  Then to go beyond just thinking to actually developing a vision for each of those areas and then setting specific goals to help you get closer to that vision.  The last step is to put those goals on your calendar and actually do the things you wrote down.
  2. Get Accountable – It’s good to do a life plan and set goals for your life, it’s another to share those goals with trusted people in your life and ask them to hold you accountable.  It’s also important for your character to have some accountability in your life.  Confessing to God and talking to him about our issues is one thing, but it’s a whole new level if you can confess to a trusted friend and ask them to ask you about it every week.  Accountability only is effective if you are completely honest and trustworthy.  Start praying right now for a few people that you can trust enough to share every area of your life, and talk about the dark things in your life.
  3. Ease up on Yourself – Don’t take yourself so seriously.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.  We can be our own worst enemy sometimes by thinking negatively about ourselves and putting ourselves down.  It’s OK to put pressure on yourself, but not to the point where you feel defeated or depressed.  It’s important to remember that God made you, He loves you and He believes in you.
  4. Plan some Solitude Time –  This won’t happen on it’s own so you need to get it on your calendar.  Block off some time and take a personal retreat.  You might need to take a vacation day to do this but it will be worth it.  Solitude means getting away from the people and things that distract us from connecting with God.  This is necessary mainly for your emotional and spiritual health.  Solitude allows you to have God moments where you connect with Him in ways you could never experience when your running your normal life pace.
  5. Take a Risk – This is huge in leading yourself.  When you take a risk and push through the fear that holds you back there is great freedom on the other side of that.  The danger in self-leadership is that we become content with who we are and don’t push beyond what we think is possible.  IN what area of your life do you need to take a risk?

Leading yourself is not easy and will be something you have to do the rest of your life.  We never arrive and get it all figured out.  Once we make one break through in life there is always another obstacle and other opportunities that will come up.  Make sure your carving out time to lead and develop yourself.  The more time you spend on yourself, the more you can pour into others.

Hard Leadership

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Leadership is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.  It is also one of the most rewarding things you can do.  Whether your leading your children, your family, your department, your company or your team, leadership can be challenging.

Leadership is hard because if you want to lead well it takes time, energy, intentionality and confidence.  To lead well a person has to constantly be thinking ahead and also dealing with the present reality.  The ability to influence others in a positive way starts with the way a person leads themselves.

Leading yourself is probably the most challenging part of leadership.  You know yourself better than anyone and so you tend to be harder on yourself than on others.  You can also talk yourself into things that are not good for you and justify bad behavior.  Unless you have some accountability in your life leading yourself can be a loosing battle.

So here are some tips on how to lead yourself better, so that you can lead others better:

  1. Develop a Personal Growth Plan or Life Plan – This is a powerful exercise that should be done once a year and then followed throughout the year.  Pick the important large areas of your life like; Faith, Family, Marriage, Finances, Work, Health.  Once you’ve settled on 3-5 main areas then write a one paragraph description of what you want that area of your life to be like.  Once you’ve done that, set 3-5 specific goals that can help you move closer to that ideal that you just described.  Once you have that done then transfer those goals to your to-do list or calendar so that you start working on it.
  2. Get Accountable – It’s on thing to set some goals and work on achieving those things, it’s another to share those goals with someone else and ask them to hold you accountable.  Accountability only works if you are honest and completely open.  It also takes a person that cares about you and that can be trusted to hold you accountable and ask the tough questions.  If you have that kind of relationship or relationships in your life it can accelerate your growth and development.  If you don’t have that start working on developing that kind of a relationship with someone.
  3. Ease up – What I mean by that is it’s important to ease up on yourself and not be too negative about yourself.  We can be our own worst enemy when it comes to change or personal growth.  Cut yourself some slack and look for the positive things that your doing and don’t always focus on the negative.  It’s OK to put pressure on yourself, but be careful it’s not too much.
  4. Take a Risk – This is huge when leading yourself.  When you take a risk and try something new or push yourself to do something in spite of your fears, real growth happens.  The danger in self-leadership is to get comfortable and not push yourself to get better.  When that happens your influence with others will start to go down.  If your not stretching and growing you can’t ask others to stretch and grow.

Leadership is hard and rewarding.  It’s either increasing or decreasing and you decide which direction it’s going.