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.

My Life Focus

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At some point in everyone’s life they ask themselves the question “Why am I here?  What’s the purpose for my life?”  Those are great questions and we should all wrestle with those to discover the answers.  As I’ve worked through those very questions I keep coming back to these three things:  Faith – Character – Leadership

My Life Focus: Sincere Faith, Humble Character & Servant Leadership

The first area of focus or purpose in my life is my faith.  We all have faith in something.  I have chosen to put my faith in Jesus Christ.  He is the most important relationship that I have in my life.  Because of my faith, my perspective on life, the world around me and the people around me is much different.  I believe that everyone is more spiritual that physical.  Our spirit is who we really are and it lives in a temporary body.  I also believe that our spirit will live forever, so even after our body stops working our spirit goes on.  We will live forever somewhere, either in the presence of God or separated from him.  That is why I put my faith in Jesus Christ, because he paid my debt, forgave all my sins and stands in my place before God.  Because I have a relationship with Christ I know where I am going to spend forever.

The second area of focus for my life is humble character.  To me character is about the qualities that a person is known for.  When someone says your name what are the things that come to their mind?  These qualities can be both good and bad.  When you think about what people will talk about at your funeral, that is a good indication of what kind of character you have.  For me, I want those things to reflect these qualities: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.  Our character is always under construction because no one is perfect.  In my life I make mistakes, fail, sin, have bad thoughts and do or say things I regret.  I sometimes have a bad attitude or respond to stressful situations in inappropriate ways.  What I try to do though is learn from those setbacks and bad moments.  Developing our character takes work, pain and struggle but it is totally worth it in the long run.

The last area of focus in my life is servant leadership.  Leadership has been a hot topic for a long time, yet servant leadership is not nearly as popular.  Most leaders would agree with the idea of serving the people around them, yet most people prefer to be served instead of serve others.  As a leader my main focus needs to be on setting the people around me up to win.  Creating space for them to learn and grow by allowing them to do what they are good at and coaching them on what they are not good at.  Servant leadership is about doing what is best for the organization, family or church rather than what is best for me.  Again this is easy to say and hard to do because we all have selfishness in us.  Our tendency is to look out for ourselves, make sure our needs and wants are met before we think about meeting the needs and wants of other people.  Changing that mindset takes work, focus and failure.  The question I try to ask myself is what would the people around me say if they were asked is Chad a servant leader?

My hope is that these three things will inspire you to pursue your life purpose and focus.  Never stop growing.

Lead On

Do You Have A Life Purpose Statement?

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For the last 15 years I’ve been working on living out my life purpose statement of “Growing myself and others in Faith, Character and Leadership.”  This has been the driving force for me getting into full time ministry and the reason I get up every morning.  I’ve studied, written about and spoken about those three topics a lot over those 15 years.  Today I want to share why this is so important to me.

I grew up in a religious, conservative community.  We went to church, prayed and talked about the Bible.  I got a good dose of that as I grew up and it influenced me greatly.  I remember praying together as a family, kneeling at our couch praying for people in our extended family.  I remember coming home from High School or seeing my girlfriend and kneeling by my bed and praying before I went to bed.

I remember making a personal commitment to Christ with a friend at his church and then going through a discipleship class with my pastor before being baptized.  I remember having to give my testimony in front of the entire church before my baptism, talk about nervous.

As I got older I continued to follow and believe in God, but I also did a lot of my own thing and many things I should not have been doing.  I drifted away from God, but never gave up on God.  Church became more of an obligation and a social thing for me and I stopped growing spiritually in my mid to late 20’s.  I remember being involved in leadership at the church my wife and I attended, trying to lead change, search for a new pastor and then renovate a house for the new pastor.  I remember being confused about some of the teaching I was hearing and frustrated with the lack of leadership within the church.  I remember having conflict with the pastor and his wife and wondering why do I even try?  So when my term was up as Deacon, we stopped going to church.

For over a year we did not go to church and just did whatever we wanted without thinking much about church or religious stuff.  The church was not relevant to me, but I still believed in God and had a relationship with Jesus even though it was weak.  I was growing as  leader in the business community and was getting recognition for that.  So that is where I was getting my purpose and meaning and not my identity as a Christian.

Then things changed, God never gave up on me and kept slowly drawing me back to him.  It started with people that had a relationship with me inviting me to church.  We finally gave in and went and it really jolted us.  I remember saying to my wife, are they allowed to do that in church?  The music was upbeat and louder than I was used to.  They had fun and the message really made sense.  We weren’t sure about everything but we decided to come back again.

Then the pastor contacted me and we met for lunch.  That led to more lunches and breakfast meetings and then to one-on-one discipleship.  I remember meeting with the pastor early before I went to work at the bank.  I started volunteering and we got into a group.  My wife and I started growing spiritually again and I quickly got involved in leadership.  I ended up on the leadership team and was leading a group and involved in other ministry activities.

As I grew in my faith, my character also started growing and I got better as a leader.  Then God rocked my world by calling me to be in ministry.  I remember the moment at a leadership conference at Willow Creek Church in Chicago.  I surrendered every part of my life and clearly heard God telling me to pursue full time ministry.

That pursuit took over two years, lots of prayer, journaling, studying and conversations with mentors and friends.  It was during that time of self-discovering, searching and seeking God with my whole heart that I found my purpose statement and wrote a description of the man I want to be.  This is what I wrote and this is what drives me to help other people experience what I have experienced in faith, character and leadership.  This is why I love to develop, coach, encourage and challenge other people in those areas as well. I believe a lot of people are on a similar journey, looking for purpose and meaning and wanting to make a difference in the world.  I want to help people avoid some of the mistakes I made and starting growing.

Purpose Statement:

Growing myself & others in Faith, Character & Leadership:

A man devoted to improving his personal relationship with God through consistent prayer and study. A faithful, loving husband. A leader in the community, the church and the workplace. A man of good character and integrity. A life long learner. A servant to God and others. A loyal, caring friend and confidant. A positive proactive person that is willing to learn and grow. A man concerned about having a heart more like Jesus. A life that reflects the fruits of the spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.   A man above reproach, who is respectable, hospitable, sincere and honest. A good steward of what God has entrusted him. A mentor and a protege. A teacher and a student. An encourager and a builder. A speaker and a writer. Dependent on God Inspired to serve Devoted to glorifying Jesus Christ.

I am not perfect and I still am working on areas of my life that are not good.  I still have bad days, make mistakes and bad decisions.  But even with all those blemishes in my life I know that I am a child of God that is deeply loved and accepted.  It allows me to lead with my heart, love others, forgive people and press on.

 

Six Guideposts for an Emotionally Healthy Life

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Proverbs

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

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

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