How to… Rediscover Enthusiasm, Step 2

Last week, we began to Rediscover Enthusiasm (Review and Revise) with Step 1, and now we’re on to Step 2, Do What Works. Hopefully, you were able to do an honest assessment of your current goals as well as to make any necessary adjustments. Chances are, just completing Step 1 brought back at least some enthusiasm. But if you’re in need of a little more spark to get the fire of enthusiasm going and growing, keep reading.

Step Two: Do What Works

As I thought back through successes I’ve had with achieving goals, I realized there were some tried and true methods that kept me enthused and helped keep me moving forward. I figure that if they worked before, they can work again, and they can work for others too. To that end, the following are 5 tried and true methods for rediscovering enthusiasm.

  1. Go through the motions. Sometimes, often actually, getting started is the most difficult part. But if you can force yourself to just start, you’ll most likely get into what you’re doing very quickly. By the end, you’ll be glad you decided to do it, and the next time starting won’t be quite as difficult. Each time you force yourself to go through the motions, you may find that you are having to force yourself less and less.
  2. Try something new. You’ve probably heard the definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” This certainly holds true when your enthusiasm has decided to stick its head in the sand. So, maybe it’s time to try something new. But what? Read a book or watch a movie that is different than what you usually choose. Try a new recipe or restaurant. Go to a store you’ve never been in. Hang out with someone you don’t usually spend time with. Find some new way to mix up your routine. Trying something new usually refreshes the spirit and often leads to a perspective change.
  3. Surround yourself with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is contagious. Find an enthusiastic person and hang out with him/her. We all know people who seem to always be excited. Even on bad days, they seem to tackle life with enthusiasm. These are the people to get around. Another way is to watch a movie that always inspires and encourages you. My husband’s favorite movie is Facing the Giants. He likes to watch it the night before a race (half marathon, 15k or marathon), and he’s known for quoting it during his running group’s Saturday morning training runs. Not only does the movie inspire him, but his yelling “Don’t quit! Don’t quit! Don’t quit!” when others are finishing a long run in freezing temperatures (we live in Michigan) passes enthusiasm on. Look for and remember the sources of enthusiasm in your life and get around them when you need a boost.
  4. Minimize the negative input. Just like we all know enthusiastic people who get us excited about life, we also all know people who gravitate toward the negative. While I’m not saying that we completely dessert the negative influences in our life (although, sometimes we should), I am saying that when an individual struggles with enthusiasm and possibly with figuring out how to Beat the Blahs, minimizing negative input is probably wise. A person cannot be strong and positive for others when his enthusiasm is weak. Get strong again, so you can be enthusiastic for others.
  5. Laugh. Nothing erases negative feelings and helps you refocus like a good laugh. Even a little chuckle can make a big difference. Get around people who make you laugh. Read funny stories or comics. Watch a funny movie or television show. Learn to Laugh Often and work to Develop Your Sense of Humor if it seems to have died off. Laughter seems to bring a new perspective almost immediately.

Enthusiasm is an essential element of motivation and is often driven by our goals as well as by our perspective. When enthusiasm wanes, as it is prone to do, our choices lie with simply pushing forward in the mud of “should” and “need to” and rediscovering enthusiasm. While we won’t always feel enthusiasm and will sometimes have to just keep moving forward no matter how flat we feel, we don’t have to let enthusiasm stay deflated. We can Review and Revise our current state and then use go to habits that reliably help us rediscover enthusiasm.

DISCUSSION: What tried and true methods do you have for rediscovering your enthusiasm? Please share them, so we can learn from each other.

How to… Rediscover Enthusiasm, Step 1

With two months of 2012 just about gone, I’m sure everyone is still as excited about their New Year’s resolutions as they were when they set them at the beginning of the year, right? Wrong! Maybe you’re still as enthused, but I definitely am not. In fact, my enthusiasm has seriously waned, and I find myself feeling a bit sluggish. So, I decided to take steps to help rediscover enthusiasm. This week we will cover step one, Review and Revise, and next Wednesday we will cover step two, Do What Works.

Step One: Review and Revise

Take a look at the goals you set at the beginning of the year. Do you need to adjust any of them based on what you’ve done or haven’t done? Have you gotten off track with the purpose behind any of the goals? Maybe the goal doesn’t really mean that much to you after all, and it’s time to admit it and nix it altogether. Maybe just some tweaking is necessary.

For example, I recently found myself avoiding reading. For a person who loves to read, this was troubling. When I thought about my reading goals (I have several) and about why I choose to read as much as I do, I discovered the cause of my absent enthusiasm. Somehow, I had gotten myself wrapped up in reading what I thought I should read and reading just to get through the books. I wasn’t enjoying the books I was reading, and I had to force myself to complete them. So, I did something I rarely do. I stopped reading a book halfway through and picked up one I was enthused about. I’ve decided to read only what I want to read, which allows me to read for the joy of it and not out of some self-imposed obligation. This may mean resetting some of the goals I have for this year, but at least my enthusiasm is returning.

Taking time to deliberately and intentionally analyze your goals and objectives can help you decide whether or not you are truly working toward that which is meant for you to accomplish. Take the time this week to review and revise your goals. (Treat yourself to a latte while you’re at it!)

DISCUSSION: What did you discover when you took the time to review and revise your goals? What adjustments did you decide to make?

Memory Loss… What if…

What if the last 5 years were erased from your memory? They still happened and exist in the memories of others, but you don’t remember them. What would be gone? For sure, there would be good and bad memories that are lost, and at first maybe the thought of redoing the last 5 years is somewhat appealing. But when considering all that is really lost, the idea becomes an exercise in appreciation for life, struggles and all.

If the last 5 years of my life were erased from my memory, I would not remember the pain of several surgeries and sports injuries. But I would also not remember the healing process through those circumstances and all that I learned about myself as a result. I would also have to relearn how to change habits such as the way I eat and how I exercise. If I lost the last 5 years of memories, I would not remember the struggle of bringing our youngest son into our home at age 9 and having to discipline and fight with getting him to unlearn bad habits and learn positive ones. I would not remember crying with him as he realizes the consequences he is living as the result of others choices. But, I would also not remember the joy of his silly remarks, the fact that his laughter is so infectious, and the progress he’s made as a person. I would not see the contrast in his life over the past two years that gives me hope to know that God rescues the hurting. Come to think of it, I would have no memory of my son at all.

If my memory of the last 5 years was suddenly gone, I would not remember the struggle of teaching my oldest son to write better or to be a good big brother after being an only child for 11 years or to understand that people are often selfish and that life hurts sometimes. I would also not remember him developing a love of running and of reading as well as what it was like to see him become a terrific older brother. Losing 5 years of memories would erase depression caused by poor nutrition as well as the feelings of distance from my husband because of that depression. But the feelings of reawakening as I came out of that darkness and then fell in love again would also be gone.

Would I think I was five years younger? Would I feel like the memories beyond the five years were current, or would there just be an empty space in my memory? Even though I wouldn’t remember the events that happened in those 5 years, I still would be the person they created, right? Or, would I revert to being the person I was before those 5 years? Would I know God the way I do today if I didn’t have the memories of Him working in my life the way He has during the last 5 years? After all, isn’t my current spiritual maturity the result of the victories He’s brought out of the struggles in my life?

We are a sum total of all the events in our lives, the good as well as the bad. The events over the past 5 years have shaped me into who I am today. The bad memories provide the contrast needed to enjoy the good. The struggles caused me to grow and to become closer to the people in my life. I love my husband and kids the way I do today because of the memories we’ve had together over the past 5 years.

As you go about your day today, think of everything you do in the context of whether or not you would know how to do it if you lost the memory of the past 5 years. Would you understand what a blog is? Would you know how to cook a certain recipe? Would you know how to get to your place of work or to your kids’ school? Would you know your child’s eating habits or favorite toys? Think about the struggles you’ve gone through over the past 5 years and the victories that came out of them. What life lessons that were so hard fought for would simply be lost?

Yes, we are the sum total of all of the events, both good and bad, in our lives. While we certainly sometimes wish that some of the bad would not have happened, we can’t deny that when we have embraced the lessons learned in those events that they become infinitely valuable and not something we want to lose.

Note: This blog was inspired by seeing the movie “The Vow.” While it is certainly a love story, there’s more to it than that. I recommend it for anyone wanting a perspective check.

Harmony In Submission

The Bible sometimes uses marriage to describe what our relationship with Christ will look like in Heaven (Revelation 19:7, for example). In making this connection, God creates a framework for earthly marriages that foreshadows our future relationship with Him.

This framework is detailed further in Ephesians.

“…and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22)

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25)

Out of respect for Christ and His submission to the will of the Father, we submit ourselves to our spouses within marriage. Unfortunately, our flesh often bucks up when we hear the word submission because we think it dictates a domineering relationships in some way. But that’s not what God intended.

For Wives

Submission means following a husband’s leadership in Christ. This includes complete commitment to your husband and the relationship. It involves cheering him on instead of trying to fix and change him (that’s God’s job anyway). It means deciding to build him up whenever possible.

On an individual level, a godly wife focuses on developing her inner beauty.

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:3-4)

Note that the scripture doesn’t say to NOT pay attention to your appearance; it just says to not give that a greater focus.

For Husbands

Submission means laying aside your own interests to care for your wife. In doing so, you seek to understand and protect her and to also strive for gentleness and tenderness.

In addition, your leadership should reflect godliness and not demand servitude.

“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)

In addition to honoring his wife, a good marriage also benefits a husband’s spiritual life. Logically, the opposite is also true.

Harmony In Submission

As husbands and wives submit to one another “in the fear of Christ,” they show their trust in God. They let go of self, the enemy to submission. They deliberately and intentionally choose to prefer one another.

In marriage, separate wholes come together to make one new whole.

“And the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Mark 10:8)

Through submission as Scripture indicates, spouses learn how to harmonize with one another. In doing so, they become a beautiful tune pleasing to the ear not only of people around them, but most significantly of God in Heaven.

More importantly, spouses within a Godly marriage learn how their relationship with Christ will be in Heaven. Realizing this is life-changing as we understand that not only are we building up our spouses as we strive for harmonious submission, but we are also preparing ourselves for eternity.

Stain Free

While doing laundry one day, I pulled some clothes out of the washer and along with them, an ink pen. For some stupid reason, I pulled the cap off the pen, and some ink dripped on to my jeans… my favorite pair of jeans.

I would love to say one of my kids or my husband was the culprit, but I can’t. It was a Sharpie pen, and I’m the only one who uses them. In fact, no one else is allowed to use them because they are my writing pens.

With 10 minutes before needing to leave, I take off my jeans and work to get the ink stain out. I put a towel inside the jeans behind the stain, take a wet cloth with some dish soap and start scrubbing. I prayed too. Seriously… my favorite pair.

Thankfully, the stain came out. The ink actually soaked into the towel. If I hadn’t put the towel inside, the back of the jeans would have absorbed the stain.

This potentially devastating incident reminded me of salvation for several reasons.

First, my mistakes caused the stain.

I couldn’t blame anyone else. So often, we want to look for somewhere else to place blame. We try to avoid admitting we did anything wrong. This is pride. The stain on my jeans was my fault, just like I cannot blame anyone else for the sin in my life.

Second, without Jesus absorbing my stains, I would just experience them in another part of my life.

Had I not put the towel in the pant leg, I would either have had to scrub the other side of my jeans or given them up as lost. But the towel took on the stain and removed it from my jeans. Jesus does the same for us. He did it on the cross at Calvary. When we admit our sins and ask for forgiveness, he absorbs those sins, and we no longer have to bear their stain on our lives. Sure, there are consequences, but we certainly do not become useless. He washes us clean and makes us presentable again.

Third, acting quickly made all the difference.

If I hadn’t taken the time to get the stain out right away, the ink would have dried, and my favorite jeans would have become my work-around-the-house jeans. This equates to keeping short accounts in my spiritual life.

When we allow sin to remain in our lives, it becomes a permanent stain. Sure, Jesus removes it whenever we ask him to, but a stain’s imprint (the consequences) becomes more prominent the longer we allow it to remain in our lives.

The sooner we ask for forgiveness, the longer we get to live without that stain. That’s also less time for consequences to wreak havoc. Doesn’t mean we won’t have to live with any consequences, but certainly the impact lessens the sooner we repent.

Looking Back Lessons

Looking back on the inky jeans incident, I realize the stain resulted from my failure to think first. I just pulled off the cap. So often, sin happens because we don’t stop and think before acting. The incident also happened because I failed to take care of the pen in the first place. When we intentionally avoid situations that can lead to sin, more of our lives will remain stain-free.

Also, I am thankful that the pen fell out of the washer onto the floor and didn’t make its way into the dryer. Otherwise, a whole load of clothing may have gotten permanently stained. With temptation, God either gives us a way to bear it or a “way out.” (I Corinthians 10:13) It’s a matter of whether or not we take that way out and if we rely on Him when it’s presented to us. If we don’t, sin often results.

Everyday situations present us with opportunities to hear from God. Even an ink stain teaches us His truths. When we are open to hearing from Him at any time, we find that He works in the smallest details in some very powerful ways. And the small changes that He makes in our lives always add up to make a huge difference. In this case, victory over sin!

Go Against the Flow

Moneyball tells the story of a general manager who decides to build a baseball team based on statistics rather than individual talent. Everyone, except the economist working for him, thought he was making a huge mistake. Everyone was wrong. His counterintuitive decision was right on the money. Billy Beane went against the flow of conventional baseball wisdom, and it changed the game of baseball forever.

Ever had an idea or wanted to make a change that went against what everybody around you was doing? Or, maybe you felt the need to resist going in a direction everyone else was taking. Going against the flow is difficult simply because it sets us apart from everyone else.

4 Principles for Going Against the Flow

Scripture says that while we may plot our course, the Lord directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9). Choosing to follow the steps He indicates often means going against the flow of our culture.

These 4 principles for going against the flow can help you better see the steps he wants you to take.

#1 Acknowledge Limits

Our culture is one of pushing limits. The world of sports is a perfect example. How fast can the mile actually be run? How many touchdowns can one person make in a season? Who can jump the highest or farthest? No matter what records are broken, the new record always becomes the goal. But the truth of the matter is that we do have – and need – limits. Limits allow us to avoid significant negative consequences (think weight control and traffic signs). Intentionally setting limits on desires and pleasures allows us to stay balanced and healthy in body, mind and spirit.  Setting limits is also counter-cultural because we’re told daily we can have what we want when we want it… no limits. Embracing the blessings of limits can protect us from thinking outside of the will of God.

Acknowledging limits goes against the flow of mainstream thinking.

#2 Raise Expectations

There is always someone who isn’t doing as well as you in some way, and it’s easy to get a false sense of superiority. Comparisons are dangerous, yet our culture promotes them like crazy. Comparisons create a false reality, and they can lead to pride in feeling like improvement is unnecessary. When we realize that Jesus is the bull’s-eye, though, we understand the need for progressive improvement. He is the standard by which we should measure our lives. In doing so, our expectations are raised, and we can set goals that don’t pit us constantly against one another.

Forgetting comparisons is certainly not mainstream thinking.

#3 Be Separate

Holiness is a Bible word that many think means perfection. But holiness is not about being perfect; it’s about being separate. When you separate yourself, you avoid conforming to the world. You avoid walking the path of destruction. You become an example of one aiming for the bull’s-eye. Others may consider you odd, but their approval isn’t what matters. The question you must ask is, “Does God approve of my life?” if the answer is yes, then you are living a life of separation and not conformity.

Seeking God’s approval over man’s approval goes against the flow.

#4 Make Relationship a Priority

Limits and rules exist for our safety, but they mean little more than restriction and confinement without relationship. Parents can discipline kids, but kids won’t truly aim for obedience if the relationship is weak. The book of Leviticus is all about establishing rules for the safety of the Israelites. While they focused on God, the rules weren’t a big deal to follow. They followed them because they loved Him. But as soon as they took their eyes off of Him, the rules were broken and rebellion reigned. Relationship makes following the rules a desire rather than a requirement.

Focusing on relationship over self does not support the thinking of our “me first” society.

Directed Steps

As John Carty noted in Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life,

“It’s not easy to overcome the training and traditions of a lifetime.”

Often, though, this is exactly what Christ leads us to do. He sometimes directs us to go against the flow of the training and traditions of our comfort zones.

Are you willing to take the steps He directs?

You Are One-of-a-Kind Special

In 2012, Dr. Pepper came out with a commercial that has individuals proudly proclaiming how they are “one-of-a-kind.”

Being one-of-a-kind gives an impression of high value. A one-of-a-kind painting. A one-of-a-kind car. A one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry. These items are unusual, unusual makes them special and special indicates value.

How are you one of a kind?

If you were to wear a t-shirt like the ones in the new Dr. Pepper commercial, what would your t-shirt read? What would you like to declare about yourself?

I like the idea of making a declaration about what makes a person one-of-a-kind. After all, there’s something unique about everyone. Well, not so much one specific thing necessarily, but rather a combination of qualities and skills that make each person one-of-a-kind.

God’s Treasured Handiwork

Long before Dr. Pepper, long before we were even born, God had a one-of-a-kind design in mind for each of us.

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” (Exodus 19:5)

 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

That isn’t all either! Check out Romans 8:15-17 and Psalm 139:13-16 for more.

What Makes You Special

In a world where individuals constantly aim to stand out in unique and special ways, and increasingly is some very odd and often frightening ways, we all too often overlook that what we do has nothing to do with why we are special. What makes us one-of-a-kind special is whose we are.

All of creation shares the imprint of God, but no one imprint looks exactly the same. As individuals, we each represent our Creator in unique ways. And that representation is the key to a victorious life.

Do you embrace your uniqueness because of WHOSE you are?