Wig On? Let's Dance.

I don't know about you, but I don't always feel comfortable being myself. 

I'll be honest, I do have some "fear of rejection" in me that I'm constantly trying to work out and overcome. I want to be liked and appreciated for who I am! I'm sure you do too. 

We've either had experiences ourselves or, at the very least, KNOW someone who has been rejected just for being themselves. It's sad really.

But how often do we keep our guard up to self-protect, only to regret it later?

I once almost did a lip sync/air guitar cover of "We Built This City" by Starship at my church (long story...cool church). We all wore wigs and sunglasses while we rehearsed. I lip sang and danced all over the stage...so much so that I was panting and out of breath. And it was fun! The whole band seemed to be loving it. 

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have danced that way in front of anybody, anywhere, at ANY time. But for some reason, with a wig and sunglasses on, I felt protected. I felt liberated. I felt like myself.

Why did I need to put a wig on to feel like myself?

Deep down, I think we're all a little afraid to show who we really are. That shame goes all the way back to the beginning...in the garden with Adam and Eve. They covered themselves out of shame.  They were created "naked and unashamed," but became "covered and ashamed." (Whether you believe that story or not, there's still a principle to be extracted).

That principle still holds true today. That's why teenagers tend to act and behave like the people they think are cool. Heck, that's why adults tend to act and behave like the people they think are cool. Because we want to be accepted, liked, and appreciated.

But we're afraid people won't like or accept the real us.

I don't want to dance in front of just anybody. I'm afraid they'll think I'm a dweeb! Or some crazy person who should learn how to dance!

 

But should I let what other people might think of me

keep me from being who I really am?

 

Of course not! But there's two intentional changes that have to be made in order to feel more free:

 

1. Stop surrounding yourself with people who judge you

 

This might seem obvious, but how often are we trying to impress people that don't even really like us? Stop it. Just stop it. It's not worth your time or energy. 

The difficult part here is deciphering who's actually judging you and who you think is judging you. So many of us are insecure in relationships that we project our thoughts and feelings onto others. We assume people are judging us when, in fact, many times we're just being insecure. Learn to know the difference.

 

2. Start surrounding yourself with people you love and trust.

 

Again, this is obvious, but sometimes we try so hard to get people to like us, and we forget about those that already do! Most of us have at least one person in our life who loves us just the way we are. If we spent more time with those closest to us, I think we'd find that our lives would be more enriching and fulfilling.

When we invest in good relationships, our entire lives become healthier and more enjoyable.

Do NOT underestimate the power of those you surround yourself with. We need that love and trust. 

You may not ever be able to, or even want to, dance like a fool in front of total strangers. But you should have at least one person (hopefully a group of people) that you can take the wig off and be totally unashamed with. I have no shame dancing in front of my wife. She loves me and accepts me just the way I am...and she loves my quirky dancing. 

And that's enough for me. 

Question: Why should you surround yourself with people you love and trust? Why do you think self-protecting is so harmful? Leave a comment below!

Posted on September 25, 2016 and filed under relationship.

How To Change When Change is Hard

In my last post, we talked about taking ownership for your own change. Being your own change agent. If you haven't read it, go give it a read before continuing on.

This week, we're going to look at a little bit of the science behind HOW to change.

Many of us love to make large, lofty goals. We wake up one Monday morning and emphatically decide, "I'm going to workout for an hour every day this week!"

And maybe you make it two days before finding an excuse not to continue...

It's okay. We've all been there. You're not alone.

And there's a reason behind your lack of consistency and seemingly inability to overcome challenges and obstacles.

In the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, author Travis Bradberry talks about two important parts of our brain: the emotional brain and the rational brain. The way the flow of information works in our nervous system is quite remarkable. For everything we sense, the information travels first through our emotional brain before it reaches our rational brain.

In other words: We feel before we think.

Interesting.

It's almost like we're starting from a disadvantage. We have to overcome our emotions before we can correctly analyze what's actually happened.

And emotions are POWERFUL.

Ever witness someone blow up at something? Heck, maybe that was YOU that blew up emotionally. Then after the fact you think, "Why the heck did I explode like that? It wasn't even a big deal!"

It's because you allowed your emotions to get the best of you. And you didn't allow yourself the time to rationalize the situation before responding.

It's a common occurrence. You're not alone.

The Heath brothers (Chip and Dan, that is) wrote a book called Switch, with the subtitle: How to change things when change is hard. They dive into this topic of change by addressing two factors that influence how to make effective changes: our emotional and rational brains...and how they can work together.

Chip and Dan paint the picture this way: Your emotional brain is like an Elephant. It's big, powerful, and when it heads in a direction it wants...there's no stopping its momentum.

Your rational brain is like a Rider that sits atop the Elephant. It tries to steer the Elephant with sheer will power and determination but, that's incredibly difficult. It might work in the very short-term, but it's definitely not sustainable. The Elephant is just too big and strong.

So what the heck do we do about it?

In Switch, the Heath brothers give a TON of insight and clarity as to how to make the Elephant and Rider work together. Honestly, you should just go buy the book and give it a read. It's worth your time. But I'm going to try and distil the high-level points here today.

Here's the strategy for effective change: Motivate the Elephant and Direct the Rider. (There is a third part, but we won't get into it today.)

Too many times we only appeal to the Rider. The Rider loves information. He analyzes, strategizes, and takes in as much information as possible in hopes that that information will move the Elephant in the right direction. But the Elephant doesn't work that way. The Elephant needs a more compelling picture.


Motivate the Elephant

The Elephant isn't motivated by information. We certainly wish it was, that'd make life easy. Simply saying something like, "I should lose weight so I can be healthier," -- is NOT motivating. The Elephant needs a picture like this:
"You should lose weight because your kids want you to be active with them! If you're overweight and can't get around, you're missing out on creating fun memories with them because you're not able to get down on your hands and knees. You'll have back problems and other health issues that could take your life early. And what will your kids do without their mother?"

Now we've created a bit more of an emotional response. The Elephant is ready to move. But how? And where?


Direct the Rider

This is where you have to create easy next steps...by directing the Rider. Some easy next steps for this scenario could be:

  • Switch out one of your unhealthy side dishes for a healthy one like broccoli or zucchini during dinners this week.
  • Cut out sugar and bread and replace those cravings with nuts and fruit.

And those are just a few examples. You really should get a lot more detailed and specific in order to win at this.
 

And winning is exactly what we want to feel.
 

Chris McChesney, author of The 4 Disciples of Execution, says we have to create a high-stakes winnable game. If we don't ever feel like we're winning, why in the world would we continue?

This is why Dave Ramsey advocates paying off your debts from smallest to largest when working to get out of debt. Why? Because small wins create momentum and turn into a "snowball". Even though other debts may have higher interest rates, it is psychologically and emotionally more powerful to pay off several smaller debts first in order to capitalize on the momentum you've created.


We have to engineer small wins in our quest to enact change in our lives.


SO. Given all that information, what can you do TODAY to begin implementing and engineering small wins? Whether it's losing weight, working out, starting a business, or speaking up more...what can you do immediately to begin building momentum towards the ultimate change you want to see? Leave a comment below to discuss!
 

Posted on September 19, 2016 and filed under productivity.

What You Allow Is What Will Continue

Ever been irritated with the way things are?

Of course.

All I have to do is say the words “Presidential election” and a fury of flaming opinions and comments will come my way. And they burn fast. High and bright. 

But when we talk about change we usually avoid the kind that we can actually influence on a daily basis. Heck, a second-by-second basis.

That kind of change has to do with ourselves.

With topics like this year’s election, we want to point to other people or organizations as responsible parties for change. 

“We should vote for [INSERT NAME HERE] because they will do X, Y, Z!”

or my favorite...

“Vote for [INSERT NAME HERE] so that the other party doesn’t win! It’ll be the end of America as we know it if we don’t!”

Forgive me if that sounds melodramatic. But it is. And it’s a common argument. 

Now, I really don’t want to talk politics today (or hardly ever, actually)...I’m merely using it as an example to point out the common attitudes we carry.

When we think about change, we normally want other people to change.

We rarely point the finger at ourselves and ask, “How can I change?”

Change is hard, people. REAL hard. I know that...you know that...we all know that. 

But it’s not impossible.

Here’s a phrase I try to live by:

What you allow is what will continue.

If there’s something you don’t like in your own life, then make steps to change. Because whatever you allow is what will continue.

Maybe you have kids and you're not a fan of the public school system. You don’t have to merely accept that as the only option. There’s homeschooling, Montessori schools, private schools, charter schools...the list goes on. (You might be limited where you live, I understand...but you can continue to search for other alternatives.)

Or maybe you have a tendency to stay up late and you’d really like to be a morning person. It is completely in your power and ability to make that change (difficult, but still possible).

What you allow is what will continue. 

Maybe you want to read more books but you can’t stop binge-watching Stranger Things on Netflix. (My wife and I just watched that series...and I can empathize with you if that’s you. That show is incredible!)

What you allow is what will continue.

What I’m trying to do here is show you that YOU have the power to enact change in your life.

Stop making excuses.

Stop pointing the finger.

Stop shifting blame.

Take responsibility for your life. Don’t let others run your life for you. Don’t let others make decisions for you. Don’t let politicians influence your decisions for you.

You are your own person. Act like it. Think like it.

Change like it.

Posted on September 4, 2016 .

In Pursuit of Clarity

Clarity.

What is clarity?

We all crave it. We all desire it. But why is it so elusive?

We all want to know what the futures holds. We want to know that one day all our finances will be in order. That one day we’ll have all our ducks in a row (whatever that means). 

The clarity I’m speaking of has to do with predicting the future. We all want to know what happens next. It’s why we keep watching movies and reading novels. 

We’re always asking ourselves: “What happens next?”

I heard an interview recently with Science Mike that said almost a third of our waking hours are spent daydreaming. But this daydreaming didn’t simply consist of unicorns, rainbows and fairies. Our dayreaming is spent trying to predict the future.

Our brains are powerful. Far more powerful than we can understand. It’s constantly trying to make sense of the world around us...processing what’s important and what’s not important. It’s the reason my toddler runs into coffee tables and couches in pursuit of a nearby toy: her brain hasn’t quite developed to the point that she’s able to easily see the obstacle and avoid it...that’s my theory anyway.

But back to predicting the future -- our brains are constantly trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. So much so that a third of our waking hours are spent working on dozens of potential outcomes. 

Given that we all have a rich history of experiences and knowledge, our minds take that information and try to project it into the future.

Why does this matter?

From my perspective, I think it’s incredibly important to understand that this is happening. Why? Because oftentimes, I believe that the future we’re predicting is a scary one. And if a scary future is what’s being predicted, then our current reality is spent in fear...NOT in clarity.

What an interesting dichotomy. 

Stuck between clarity and fear

As Donald Miller points out, our brains crave clarity and avoid confusion. So why is it that our future-predicting brains can create so much confusion if clarity is what it desires?

To be honest, I don’t know. But I have some ideas.

For me, much of my daydreaming ends up focusing on all the ways in which I could die, fail or be rejected. Pretty morbid, but true. 

When there’s someone I’d like to meet to network with, my mind automatically goes to all the ways that meeting could backfire on me. 

When there’s a hike I want to go on with my family, my mind automatically thinks of all the ways we could die in the wilderness. Bear attack. Mudslide. Avalanche. Falling off a cliff. You name it and I’ve probably thought about it.

I’ve realized that my brain is just trying to protect me. But in trying to protect me, it amplifies my fears. And living in fear is no way to live at all. 

This might be a stretch, but what I’m saying is:

In pursuit of clarity for your future, don’t let your future-predicting, fear-inducing brain keep you from taking the risks necessary to achieve your dreams and live a rich, full life. 

Maybe your mind doesn’t bring up as much fear as mine. If so, that’s awesome. Kudos to you! Still, don’t let a lack of clarity in your life paralyze you, as it does so many. 

Many of us have grand goals and dreams, but because we can’t predict the end we don’t take a single step. We stay stuck. And unhappy. Paralyzed. 

Take a step!

Clarity comes with movement. I can map my way to the grocery store, but I can’t predict all the obstacles that might be in the way. And I’ll never know until I get in the car and drive.

So, get in the car and begin your journey. It might take you where you expect. Or it might take you in a completely different direction. And that could be a good thing.

What sorts of fear keep you from taking a step in the right direction? In what ways have you quieted the fears and overcome the obstacles to clarity? Leave a comment below!

Posted on July 26, 2016 .

What are we free for?

What does it mean to be free?

On this 4th of July in 2016, here in the United States we are celebrating the day we declared independence from the tyrannical oligarchy that was Britain in 1776. 

As Americans we love to talk about our freedom and what we’re free from.

But I’d like to pose a different perspective...

What if instead of talking about what we’re free from, we starting asking the question:

What are we free for?

To focus on what we’re free from is to stare into the rearview mirror of history, constantly pointing backwards. And don’t get me wrong, I believe there is merit in that...

...BUT...

I believe that focusing on what we’re free for has much more merit.

I believe that our freedom has more to do with loving our neighbor than free speech or the right to bear arms.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m Texan through and through. I believe in the values of free speech and I am absolutely for the right to bear arms. PLEASE don’t misunderstand me.

But those values and rights shouldn’t be held above loving our neighbor.

As a follower of Jesus, I have a certain perspective on this. If you don’t follow Jesus, know that I’m not trying to force anything down your throat...I simply want to share my beliefs and stance on why I believe that our freedom as Americans should compel us to love our neighbors well. 

In the scriptures, when Jesus is asked what the greatest commandement is, he says, (from Mark 12:31) “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Jesus is actually quoting the Old Testament with this response. The ‘Love your neighbor” bit is from Leviticus 19:18. It was a Levitical law to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ 

But there’s a flaw with this law. (ha...that rhymes)

Loving your neighbor as yourself means you first have to actually love yourself. And let’s be honest, some of us have a hard time doing that.

Some of us have self-esteem issues. Body image issues. Social issues. The list goes on. There are things we don’t like/appreciate/understand about ourselves. And that can make it hard to love ourselves.

So if we have a hard time loving ourselves, how in the world can we love others well?

Thankfully, Jesus changed the precedent. 

In John 13:34, Jesus says: 

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

Jesus repeats it again in John 15:12: "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”

No longer do we look to ourselves as the example of how to love, but now we have a perfect example of how to love others. 

And the source is not ourselves. It’s Jesus himself.

So when I think about loving others, I don’t look to my own standard (wherever that might come from), but I look to the standard that Jesus set.

How did Jesus love others? Unconditionally and sacrificially

So, as Americans, how does that relate to our freedom? I’m not going to answer that for you. I merely want to challenge the tendency to always look back at what we’re free from. Instead, let’s focus on more on the present and think about what we’re free for...or rather, who we're free for. 

For clarity’s sake: this wasn’t written to be political or even religious. I believe in our freedoms. But sometimes we can focus too much on ‘being right’ instead of loving well. 

 

What do you think we are free for? I'd love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below to discuss!

 

Posted on July 4, 2016 .