A Long Day Has Ended

Coaching, Disciple, Spiritual No Comments

OK, not much to add today. It was a long one. This morning started out with a cranky review of some software. After that the rest of the day was just recovering from that.

Then after work I had some phone calls to take in the car and then a meeting with some high school buddies about some web endeavors we are trying to start up.

And after getting home around 9pm – I have some things I wanted to start in December. I’m trying to develop some plans and habits for 2012. So the month of December will be a test case. I’m starting a Bible study online. People can follow along as we go if they want through the year. So even though 2012 is a whole month away. I’m trying to set out a line in the sand to make sure that I’m well into the habit by the time the new year comes around.

What do you think? You want to get involved? Leave me a comment or find me on Facebook or somewhere and tell me you want to participate.

A Will-Do List

Coaching, Disciple, Will Do No Comments

I was sure I’ve talked about this before – – some things are just worth repeating.

One of the things I’m considering using this blog for is my “Will Do” list. Now why a WillDo and not a ToDo? Maybe you can think of it as a MustDo list. These concepts and lists have different purposes.

For example, in the time management system called “Getting Things Done” (GTD by devoted fans, and the rest of us…) the idea is to put everything on your list to get it out of your head and on to paper. Then you spend your time prioritizing and deciding whether that was hair brained, an errant dream, or a vital task that must be accomplished.

I’m not looking for something like that. That is an all encompassing tool. I would like a comprehensive system. But there is no system that works if you don’t run it. And for me, consistency is lacking so any system will fail when you don’t crank the handle.

However, I do still have things that need to be accomplished in my life. Hmm, authorizing my newly issued debit card is on the list since the gas station doesn’t believe me when I say I have the new one while I’m trying to convince them to “just use the old, expired one for now.” There’s also that little issue with one of the taxing authorities, they’re looking for about a hundred bucks and some form from 3rd quarter of 2010. And they probably won’t wait forever… Things still need to get done.

Enter the “will do” list. It is a list that contains items that must be done today for the day to be considered a success. So how would this list work?

  • It would have to be a short list.  You couldn’t put everything that pops into your head on this list, there are only so many hours in a day.
  • It would have to be specific.  “Work on my book” doesn’t fly,  “write 200 words” would, or “review chapter structure” would if even just a cursory glance is enough.  (Helpful tip, sometimes even just saying “open and review outline” sounds simple and an easy throw away task.  But once you’ve gone to the trouble of opening it, you might as well work on it for a little while.  It’s a great way to trick yourself out of procrastination.  Or, as I like to call it, overcoming static friction.  Inertia works both ways, staying at rest AND remaining in motion.  I know that’s hard to believe with our friend friction around, but it’s true!
  • It has to be a closed list.  This means you have to predetermine what’s on there.  You have the list laid out and you say “Go!”
  • It has to be reviewed.  Now there is an amazing phenomenon that just putting the list down and never reviewing it will get at least 60 – 70% of it completed – that’s been my experience at least!  Could this be the “Law of Attraction” at work?  Don’t get me started… another time.  But “testin’ and trackin'” is the only way to incremental improvement.  If you don’t review, that percentage will remain at it’s 2/3 success rate (not bad, but lots of room to improve.

It’s that last point that this blog might come in handy for.  It would be the accountability that pushes for a review.  Of course this may mean that there has to be two posts – one for the list and one for it’s review.  Is that really true?  Could I just post that the last WillDo list has been reviewed and that be enough?  I’m still thinking about this one.  How can a blog be used as an accountability partner or tool?  Have you got ideas on this?

What Makes A Habit

Disciple, Learning, Observations No Comments

So now the weekend is here. I have family visiting, this is a busy, packed day ahead. All good reasons to take a break – or set a standard for a periodic Sabbatical.

The rules are – there are no rules. Hmm, that seems scary or intimidating to me.

In trying to develop foundational habits, when do you make an exception? I can think of two times. 1) When you must and 2)When you decide it’s OK to.

1) Don’t get so wound up in trying to start something that it becomes an obsession. For some an obsession is good – they might call it a passion, or even a hobby. But I have a compulsive nature, obsessions can steal away from essentials in life and also create an imbalance. Gaining a balance in life is important to me and so I temper my desire to “get up and going” with something with the desire not to destroy current initiatives or even relationships.

On the other hand, there needs to be a big enough desire, a big enough push to overcome the inertia of doing nothing that there should be no, er, few exceptions to the rule. The question has to be asked, “Are these circumstances that cause me to miss doing what, when I step back and think it through, I really want to be doing? Or, it this life’s surf crashing against my plans and I need to decide if my plans are valuable enough to build up a resistance?”

Well right now, I have a wee bit of momentum – for today, my Scriptures are read, oh – I still have some writing to do… I did leave that undone, but my lesson for latter this morning is prepared, and I’m blogging now. So this will be one wave resisted.

2) There are some habits that must be done to avoid physical ramifications (like eating and good breathing, and believe it or not regular vigorous exercise… we’ll tackle that one soon enough), and there are others that have embarrassment as a result – like deciding it’s not worth it to get dressed before heading out for the day. This might not only be embarrassing, but it might end up with civil penalties on most parts of the world.

While all that is true, there are some habits that it may never matter if you take them up or not. Writing is a great example. Many people don’t write. In fact many people give up reading anything longer than the first couple paragraphs of a news story or even street signs once they get away from any formal education. So taking up writing as a habit is definitely not necessary. You won’t physically suffer, you won’t even be embarrassed (unless, of course you’ve gone and told everybody that your novel is coming out soon and they start asking probing questions about the plot, the character, and how your spending that big advance from the publisher – making up fanciful stories to impress your friends is a habit you should get rid of. I’m talking about building habits, not removing them. Some other time).

These “non-essential” habits can make huge differences in your life though. They can break up monotony, they can be a foundation for new achievements and enable you to reach places you couldn’t otherwise (these are the kinds of habits I’m looking to build up here).

These are the habits that might go unnoticed if you don’t start them, but that people will surely notice once they’re established. So can you decide to take a break from them? At your peril! Well, let me back off from that a bit. It’s good to know you can take a break and get back to it. That’s a sign that the habit is engrained and you have developed a patter of behavior or skill. But the danger is the ease at which a building habit can be abandoned.

I guess I’m talking in theory here, but you should be able to hold your plans loosely enough that you aren’t reduced to a pile of tears and disappointment if you miss a day or an opportunity to continue your habit. I’m not there yet. So I will soldier on with today’s entry.

Hmm, can you till it was later in the morning and I was trying to hold two conversations while composing this? I can. See you tomorrow.

Tomorrow I want to talk about “To Do’s” vs. “Will Do’s”

A Devotional Life Sets the Tone

Disciple, Learning, Spiritual 2 Comments

A few questions for myself. If asked:

Do you pray? Answer: Yes, I pray often.
Do you study the Bible? Answer: Yes, yes I do.

Oh, that sounds wonderful. But let’s go a little deeper…

Do you pray and study the Bible consistently??  Oh, well, uh, er.  Easier said than done.

I mean, I go on weekend retreats where I’m expending tons of mental energy.  I have visits with family that make a normal routine impossible.  With meetings and activities that I’ve signed up to participate in, life gets very busy.  And I have a personality that tends to be easily distracted.

What does that sound like to you?  Reasoning?  Rationalization?  Excuses?  Maybe a few more questions would be helpful.  Do you clothe yourself regularly?  Yes, definitely, without exception.  Do you brush your teeth each day?  Sometimes more than once!  Do you shower daily?  With a few exceptions, but I would say for the vast majority, yes, regularly.  And do you regularly have a meal?  Um, check my waistline, I am not deprived – I make it to the table … regularly.

So the question isn’t whether a devotional life can be done, or if the busyness of life can be accounted for.  The question is on which list do these activities rest?  So reasoning aside.  Let’s get to taking action!

I have been using Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading Method since January of 2011.  I liked the nerdiness of it.  For me it required a spreadsheet to keep track.  You read 10 chapters a day from 10 different lists.  The goal isn’t to deeply meditate on the word, but to read it through and soak it in.  Let familiarity grow and gain insight from the ever changing combination of the chapters as they juxtapose themselves in the daily readings.

This method can take 45 minutes.  The goal is to get through, not to stop and think.  That is what made it difficult.  Not to mention my sporadic participation.  So I fell behind, and what seemed like a good system – and one that has worked better for me than any I’ve yet encountered (or so I thought)… Became a drudgery.

Then I had another epiphany.  A cousin of mine (once removed, technically) started posting on Facebook that he was reading a daily reading from YouVersion.com I went and checked it out.  It’s pretty nice.  It has online Bibles and reading plans and it encourages you to share what your doing through Facebook or Twitter.  It’s not quite there yet, it takes about 5 clicks on their site to get to where I’m ready to read.  But it’s worth supporting (I gave them a link, as you see).

I found old Prof. Horner’s reading plan there.  So I signed up and got started.  I  didn’t make it too far, maybe a week?  Before seeing that a new tool doesn’t make a habit happen – the activity does.  A new pen, or a new laptop, doesn’t make you a writer – writing does.  That sage advice aside, I wanted a plan that was not fighting against me.  I wanted to study God’s word, not just read it.  So I started looking at other plans.

And that’s how I got to this post this morning.  I came across a devotional plan that I was introduced to back in 2003, or was it 2005?  I’m not sure (I should probably research that for my future biographers…).  But I remember Pastor Dean sharing his discovery with the elders.  It is the Life Journal Reading Plan from Pastor Wayne Cordeiro (he’s in Hawaii, how can you not praise God when you pastor there??).  But I’m on the plan and I want to share it with you – or at least share what I like about it:

  1. It is a plan for study, there is a daily reading assignment.  From the reading you focus in on a verse or passage – called a Scripture.  Then you write out an Observation and an Application of that scripture.  And finally you have a Prayer regarding what you’ve studied (and you write those four segments in a “Life Journal” S.O.A.P. << cleaning up an ungodly life 😉 ).  So you end up having a commentary in the Bible written by you!  That’s handy.
  2. There are only 4-5, or so chapters each day.  Much smaller and manageable.
  3. The plan completes the Bible in a year, so you don’t get the variety.  An a given date you will always be reading the same grouping of chapters.  But that gives an advantage too…
  4. It’s something you can share!  You can do together!  If, for some reason, you decided to join me – we would be reading the same verses each day.  If you saw me today you could say, “Ah Paul really polished it off there at the end of 2nd Corinthians, didn’t he?”  We’d smile, we’d wink, and maybe we’d talk about what impressed us today.  We could even share our journal entries and have a little impromptu study… I really like that possibility.

So with those reasons, I’m chugging ahead.  Join me if you like.  Who knows, I may even get a paper Journal and write with ink or something.  Now I’d have to be pretty inspired to try some kind of craziness like that!

What do you think?  Join me?  Not joining me?  Skeptical that I’ll keep up?  Tell me so in the comments – I love being motivated to create life changing habits … and when I’ve made it we can look back and comment that “I did it all … just to spite you!”  << that’ll be a post for another time.

Reviving an Abandoned Outpost

Disciple, Learning, Will Do No Comments

This site has been left to it’s own devices since I was in the hospital a year and a half ago. I’m thinking about re-branding this place, adding some curtains and changing the direction.

I need a place on the web to just splatter random thoughts. A public-private partnership (that just sounds so good… I think every endeavor should have a public-private partnership. It just would be so integrated) between hopes and dreams and actions and plans. The name is snappy, the URL is short. It definitely doesn’t roll off the tongue. It’s also not something you could give a shout out to on radio or in a podcast (hint, hint). But that’s not the intention. This is a place that you either “run into” by searching for all kinds of weirdness – or I let it slip to you that it even exists.

It’s an illusion hiding right in front of your face. It’s there in your browser, just one click away. Well, that’s the big idea.

So what kind of things am I expecting to go here?

I know that it’s always easier to have someone else hold you accountable, in fact that the way it should be. I just don’t have anyone who’s applied for that job at the moment. So this would be the place. I will make statements here, I will lay down markers here. And as they are reviewed – either commenters will hold me to account, or I’ll do it myself in some sort of review process. << oh, a review process... very needed by me. And if I can figure out a way to do it systematically I could share it with others to generally improve the world. Journaling
I continue to struggle with this. I thought that SetOfSail would be the place for this, but there’s a definite theme over there. I might cross post that way, but this would be where the sloppy 1st draft would go and then the polish thought would be shared there. So that wasn’t the place to put a mess like this.

Forbidden Topics
This is the one that will get me in all the trouble, and I know it. I am passionate about things that make people mad – specifically religion and politics. These are the things that people seem the most opinionated about and if you find that a person is on the other side of your cherished opinion, you have a tendency (a compulsion? hmm…) to judge and ridicule someone with a different viewpoint. I’ve been told, by a few, that I do better than most at seeing perspectives other than my own (maybe it’s because I’m a Libra << naw, that's worse than hogwash (what is hogwash, it’s surely got to have some serious stick associated with it…)).

So that being said, I will on occasion explore religious topics from my peculiar, and some would say fanatical, point of view. I will also be talking some political and economic trash. So, this is your warning. If you don’t like that sort of thing or you are afraid that you will think less of me after reading along, then don’t. But I would leave you with this thought on that. If you read an opinionated post on a taboo subject and you think differently of me because of it. Did I change, or did you? I had that opinion before when you liked me, so by reading it you have changed. Is that good or bad? I don’t know if it’s either. But I can say that you have more control over your thoughts and opinions than you think you do. So I would urge you to bring those thoughts front and center and be more self-aware. And if you wouldn’t mind, you could keep on thinking I’m more than the wildly random thoughts I produce. I still think you’re worth hearing from and by your choice the feeling can continue to be mutual.

Yeah, I can get a little down in the dumps sometimes. I am told I can be hard on people close to me. I am often harder on myself. That may show through, but this might just be how I wrestle through and come to grips with myself. So cut me some slack here. Hey, were you invited in the first place? OK, I probably did do that – but if I choose not to respond to every piece of advice understand that I’m not saying don’t bring it, I’m just saying I don’t have to buy it. Are we cool?

If I were organized…
I’ll end with a couple of things that I’d like to conquer daily (yeah, this is heavily influenced by my unfogettable five. Actually, that’s pretty much the list. If I could do that, or use this blog to hold myself to that – things’d be swell.

Let’s just see. (Am I doubting myself already?? )

The Week of Blogging

Disciple, Learning, Will Do No Comments
Time to try something new. Time to see about making things stick. Time to inaugurate a new ritual. Time to make the power of habits work for me instead of against me. Time to get going.

It would seem that 2009 was a bad year for writing to this blog. I stopped at the end of ’08 and now it’s late February in 2010! I haven’t decided if it matters much that I have older posts on here from my attempts at getting started as an Internet marketer. I think it’s quaint and if you see the history there – then you know I haven’t decided to nuke them.

Those old posts will stay for now mainly because I want this site to be a bit messy. I don’t want to get all up tight because it isn’t perfect, because I’m not perfect and I don’t want any of my internally voiced excuses to pull me down. It is what it is and I’m going to make incremental changes and improvements instead of trying to “unveil a masterpiece.”

I have created a blogging schedule and we’ll see how it maps out. Basically I’ll be writing something to publish on Thurs – Sun. So Mon – Wed is idea generation time and preparation time. It may be too big of a bite to handle. Maybe I should start small and master just one post a week for a while. Maybe I should get some momentum going.

Or maybe it’s just time to take action, to get started, maybe it is time to try something new.

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The Unforgettable Five

Disciple 1 Comment

I have been thinking about the idea of daily disciplines for some time. And I’ve even thought up a little handy todo list you can always take with you.  Take the fingers on your hand.  You always have them around as a reminder.  So I thought about using my fingers as a way of reminding myself of things that I really wanted to accomplish each day.  And you can use them as a guide to accomplishing these little tasks that need to be done to push you from the rut you find yourself in, to the path you want to be on.

Maybe an example would be helpful. I’ll take myself. For my unforgettable five I start with my little finger and move across to my thumb. Your “pinky” finger and your “ring” finger. The two furthest from your thumb form the foundation of your hand. They are the two weakest fingers, but they are stabilizers. These are my foundational things I want to accomplish daily. For me, a spiritual foundation is key. So these represent prayer time and time studying the Bible. These are mine, they might not be something you would want to do. Feel free to apply the idea and not get all freaked out because the guy reads his Bible. Call me old fashioned. Do I seem defensive, or overly sensitive? I’m just so used to putting out disclaimer in our politically correct world because we have become such a tolerant people. Ok, I’m getting off the topic.

Next is my middle finger. It’s the longest finger. So I think about longevity. I’m not getting any younger, and I hate to tell you neither are you. Birthdays are a sure fire antidote to mortality. The more you have, the longer you live. It’s a proven fact. So I want to not only live longer, I also want to reduce the ‘aching’ and the ‘paining’ as much as I can. This means I need to do something active every day.

Ok, two more to go. The next finger, which I would call my “index” finger, is the one used in my country to point with. In sports arenas it is often used to indicate primacy. You know, as in “We’re number one!” So this is the number one activity that I do that isn’t necessary today, but will give me leverage. If you are a Steven Covey fan, this could be considered the “first things first” activity. For me right now, almost everything I want to achieve in my life includes some element of writing. But I suffer from writer’s block, the inability to put a thought down in an orderly way (I ramble. Now how’s that work with writer’s block? Frankly I don’t know.), and nearly fatal procrastination. So with this reminding finger I remind myself to write something down somewhere each day. Whether it’s an e-mail, a blog… something.

And finally I come to the thumb. This is the strongest finger and this is the one that makes the whole thing work. This represents to me the one task I need to get done today. Most days have something on the agenda that I need to accomplish before the day’s over. What is that one thing? It may be simple, or it may be accomplishing a piece of a larger project. Unlike all the others that remain constant, this item commonly changes from day to day.

There you have it. That is my unforgettable five that I carry with me every day. And completing these daily tasks, I believe, will change the balance of my life in incredible ways. I’ll expand more on that another time. But for now, I just wanted to share that and see if it’s helpful to anybody else. Would having that little list with you throughout the day be helpful? Or would it just be a constant nag on your brain? Speak up about it.

Being faithful in a few things

Disciple No Comments

I’ve been preparing the outline of my book.  I have given myself the deadline of 3/31 to complete it.  As I have been looking at topics I want to include and that I want to exclude, I keep coming back to these small daily disciplines, or habits, or rituals.  They seem to be the key in my thinking.

I was thinking the other day that I would like to be in such a place that no one could ever come to me and ask, “So, Jonah, what’s the word?” (Sorry, an allusion to VeggieTales Jonah…)  In other words, I would like to always be ready to tell something I’ve been learning from God’s word lately.  To do this I must regularly be in the word of God.

I have also wanted to gather the pieces of wisdom from Jim Rohn’s book “Leading an Inspired Life.”  There is a point in there that the difference between success and failure is small disciplines faithfully repeated or small errors in judgment allowed to accumulate.

And then yesterday I was reading Og Mandino’s “The Greatest Salesman in the World” and the first scroll talks about how we are slave to our habits.  But we get to determine those very habits that are our masters.  So if we establish good habits (or disciplines – I need to settle on a term I that is meaningful to me…) then we will begin to see a change in the course or trajectory of our lives.

I have come up with my basic habits.  I use my fingers to illustrate for me 5 foundational daily disciplines.  I’m a lefty so on my left hand I start with my pinky and ring finger as Bible study and prayer.  These fingers form the foundation of the hand.  They are the least active, but they offer stability to the others.  Next is my longest finger, and for longevity physical fitness is the key.  Next is my pointing finger and right now every direction I want to turn in life (coaching, counseling, authoring, web development) all involve writing of some kind.

Then there is the opposable thumb.  This is where the focus of balance is, this would be my daily focus of activity.  Mark Forster calls it the “current initiative.”  This will always be changing, but the point is to get to it every day.  Knock it out; make progress until it’s done.  This takes focus and it give the grip to taking hold in life.

There are my thoughts, as scattered as they are.  So today I have already accomplished my Bible reading, my prayer, and my writing.  I will now move on to exercise before I get ready for work.  I just have to decide on my current initiative.  Here are some possibilities:

  • Getting organized, desk, schedule, finances, book, life coaching business, ministry, family relationships, and so on (pretty big one)
  • Peacemaker Certification (probably could fall under getting organized)
  • Getting ready for the next Peacemaker seminar we will do (this too could be consider getting organized!)

Hmm so maybe getting organized should be my first current initiative – I just need to organize how, exactly, I’m going to get organized!

Any ideas?

Turning Fork: A decision point in the road where a change can be made.

Disciple No Comments

I have had two months now…

August was when I pushed everything off my desk and focused on learning about Internet Marketing.  I made it through and learned enough to know that I could turn the rudder of my life and head in that direction, but also that it isn’t quite me.  However, the lessons and friends I picked up are highly valuable.  These are resources for moving forward in my journey.

September was recovery month.  I had a conference to attend, family coming in from out of town, and a pile of responsibilities that I had shirked.  In comparison to this, turning 40 was practically overlooked.

So now it’s October.  This month is all about commitments.  I have major commitments I’ve made for each weekend for the rest of the month (and for the first weekend of November, but since it fits in with the theme – we’ll pull that one in with October – do you mind?).  And I have a big milestone looming at work – so it’s not like I can slack there to prepare for the weekend events.

All that just to say that I am really looking at the nooks and crannies of my day to find time to “get things done.”  The typical solution to this problem is to let go of things, get rid of the excess baggage to make room.  But in this situation that doesn’t seem to be an option – each day is filled with important things.  So what do you do when this happens to you.  It doesn’t happen to me often, and maybe I should try it more, but my choice, my turning point / fork in the road, is to turn up the heat.  If you’re following along (which no one is at the moment, so I feel pretty safe in trying…), then this will be the place where I’m holding accountability court.

I’ll start with some other posts and we’ll see how it turns out.

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The discipline of focus

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I just got back from a conference last night.  I’ve been gone for a week.  This is the first time my wife and I have been able to get away, just the two of us, for years – yes, years.  Maybe I’ll talk more about that another time.

Right now I want to say a few things about what I’m facing now.  I have e-mails, voice mails, things on my calendar that I put off until “after the conference,” and all the projects that I need to pick back up.  Where do I start?  This morning I read a chapter in a book about this very idea of focus.

The basic tenant is to be where you are when you’re there.  If you are playing with your children, don’t be thinking about your appointments or what you are going to do regarding projects you have going.  Don’t plan your work day at home, plan it at work.  When you sit down to work deal with it then.  This was a big one for me: don’t plan your day while commuting.  While you are commuting, you should be concentrating on commuting!  It’s a concrete jungle out there, and that intentional focus will actually increase your chances for arriving at work or at home.  Be intentional and train your brain to focus on the task or the person at hand.

The biggest focus killer for many is worry.  I’m not much of a worrier.  I have my moments, but usually I’m to ignorant of the future to let it get to me.  But I know for many people this is a constant boat anchor on their ability to focus.  You can’t think about two things at once.  If this were true we would not say, “My mind was wandering” when we are trying to focus on a task and our thoughts are elsewhere.  Worry is a form of mind wandering.  You cannot worry and practice mental focus at the same time.  So try to increase your ability to focus.  I’ve heard people say, “I don’t have time to worry.”
  You can make this true for you as well.  Learn the discipline of focus.

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