5 Principles for Focusing on the Now

Having a Balanced Focus

Many people live in the past. Some long for the glory days while others staunchly resist any change. Others live planning for the future and focusing on “what ifs.”

Remembering the past and learning its lessons is healthy, just like planning for the future is wise. Yet, dwelling in the past causes stagnation, and being obsessed with the future leads to missed opportunities, usually those involving relationships.

Balance must exist.

Instead, the past too often fades into the future with barely a glimpse at the present. At the same time, living only for the moment can become a dangerous thought pattern. When learning from the past and planning for the future are ignored, a dangerous self-centered pattern of behavior tends to grow.

But when living in the now involves applying lessons learned from the past along with using possible future destinations as tools for guidance, the present becomes an exciting time filled with ministry. It allows you to live what Paul writes about in Ephesians 5:15-16.

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Focusing on the now allows for creating memories that enhance the past and create excitement for the future. We become motivated by the goal and guided by the past while at the same time remaining focused on the moment.

Principles for Living in the Now

We can choose to let the past consume us with fear of change. Or, we can let the future cloud our vision of the present as we constantly gaze into the distance.

A better option? Choose to live in the now, being guided by the past and motivated by the future.

The following 5 principles encourage that balance to happen in a way that helps us seize opportunities presented every day without letting our free will constantly put up obstacles from our past or our imaginations.

  1. Give relationships priority. We shouldn’t push people away because they don’t fit into our schedule. We need to love as Jesus loved, and he made time for the people placed in his daily activity. Living in the now allows us to see and to act on the opportunities presented to us.
  2. Determine not to give up too quickly. Jesus tells us that we can do “greater things” than He did (John 14:12). So why aren’t we? Perhaps it’s because we often give up too quickly. Determine to push through even if that means simply persevering for the day in front of you.
  3. Discipline your free will. God never permits sin. Deliberate sin always hurts His heart. And while he does not give us permission to sin, He does allow for our free will to make our own choices. Using the past as a guide and the future as motivation, disciplined free-will creates a productive now that is pleasing to God.
  4. Understand that people are afraid. As opportunities to minister arise, we must understand that how fear drives people. Rejection is often a person giving in to all-consuming fears rather than a rejection of us. For this reason, be ready to minister over the long haul. Take the opportunities in the now knowing the road is paved with perseverance.
  5. Pursue simplicity. Distractions abound to draw our attention from the present. Frustrations and over-commitment steal our focus causing us to fail to enjoy living in the now, and life quickly becomes complicated. Focus on simplifying life and discover an unencumbered life able to take the opportunities God presents.

As we learn to focus on the now and not just on what we plan to do or what will be, we begin to realize that compassion and ministry are very tangible. We realize we can always do more with the gifts God gave us.

Living in the now allows us to show Christ in us more through actions instead of just with words. When we live in the now, we see more of the opportunities he gives us for ministry, and we begin to fulfill His will for us as disciples.

“And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

Creating a Phyiscally Healthy Foundation

waterThe goal of a physically healthy foundation needs a consistent focus all year long, but especially during the holiday season. The extra food and the neglect of exercise, the choices affecting us physically, significantly contribute to the demise of our joy after the holidays.

After years of struggling with depression and having the holidays be the lowest point of the year, I finally realized this startling truth and began to understand how diet and exercise played a huge role in my mood & energy.

Physical & Mental Connections

We simply cannot escape the fact that the choices we make regarding our physical bodies directly and significantly impact us physically. What we do — or don’t do — physically directly connects to how we feel mentally and physically.

  • Our guts produce 95% of our serotonin. (Note: The human body creates Serotonin, which works as a neurotransmitter. Some researchers regard it as a main chemical responsible for maintaining mood balance. Many believe a deficit of serotonin leads to depression.)

If your digestion isn’t healthy, what impact might this have on your mental health?

Is it possible that there are dietary changes you can make to achieve a more consistent mood?

What could 20-30 minutes, 3 days a week do to improve your energy levels?

Lack of sleep can hinder you from thinking clearly and keeping your emotions at an even keel.

Is there a way to establish a more consistent level of sleep for the benefit of improving your ability to think clearly?

Can you add just a glass or two more of water a day to improve your mood and energy?

These basic principles operate uniquely within every person. The more and longer we neglect this impact, the increased likelihood of ill physical and mental health.

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A Physically Healthy Foundation

Of course, the goal is a consistently healthy lifestyle all year long, but maintaining is certainly more difficult during the holidays regardless of individual levels of diligence and self-control. Incorporate the following tips to help maintain physical and mental health during the holidays and beyond.

  1. Eat healthy food first. Choose fruit and veggies before heading to the dips, sauces and sweets. You’re sure to eat less of the unhealthy stuff when you eat the good stuff first.
  2. Find creative ways to be active. Park in the farthest spot from the entrance. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Commit to a certain number of push-ups or sit-ups a day. These small steps produce an immediate impact simply by choosing to implement them.
  3. Be diligent about rest & sleep. As much as possible, stick to a normal sleep schedule and have regular down time to rest. Don’t be afraid to take short power naps either.
  4. Drink more water. Comparable only to the impact of adequate sleep, staying hydrated significantly benefits mental and physical health. If you incorporate no other tips, drink more water and get enough rest.
  5. Take basic supplements. A good multi-vitamin and a probiotic are likely to benefit everyone. The mental and physical changes even after a couple of weeks will surprise you.

These tips provide the small steps needed for a physically healthy foundation. Having this core base of health allows for flexibility in your diet and schedule from time to time, something that can be helpful during the holidays. It also provides the ability to rebound more quickly after the busy season abates.

Small Steps Add Up

You may not be able to completely control what is available to eat at parties or the busyness of the season, but you can do a lot to find more balance during the holidays. This involves taking small steps that add up over time to make a big difference.

Determine to control what you can by taking small steps toward a healthier you. Consider immediately incorporating one or more of the above tips even before the new year arrives.

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How to… Stay Determined

When first starting any new endeavor – weight loss, training for a marathon, getting straight A’s, keeping the house picked up, a new job, etc. – determination to stick with the task and finish strong is usually quite high. The determination to stay with it, train consistently, not procrastinate, dust weekly and stay enthused seems like a constantly flowing spring, and you’re completely certain you won’t fail or even let up in your determination.

But not too long after starting, determination often tends to wane. The fact that most people begin giving up on goals within 10 days after starting them speaks to this fact. And we haven’t even mentioned the really big commitments in life – marriage, parenting and friendship, for example.

Fortunately, planning for this inevitable dip in determination can make all the difference in keeping it revved up. A lot of information already exists on how to set and achieve goals, so this post won’t cover that. What it will cover is what the Bible tells us about staying determined.

Let’s look at three individuals in scripture from whom we can learn a lot about how to stay determined regardless of our feelings or surrounding circumstances.

Ezra’s determination teaches us that we must be hearers, doers and teachers of God’s Word and shows us that God blesses that type of determination. (Ezra 7:9-10)

Daniel’s determination shows us that resisting the surrounding culture is not only possible but necessary. (Daniel 1:8)

Paul’s determination illustrates the need for complete focus on the finish line, for knowing our why. (1 Corinthians 9:26)

These men teach us a great deal about staying determined. Above all, their examples show us that we should determine to:

  1. Obey God: Simply make up your mind to do it. (1 Samuel 7:3)
  2. Not Sin: Know your convictions before you are tested. (Job 31:1)
  3. Stand Firm: Stand in faith, and you will be protected. (Isaiah 7:9)
  4. Follow Christ: Let Him lead you in every area of life. (Mark 8:34-38)

Through Ezra’s, Daniel’s and Paul’s examples, we see that staying determined is possible. And scripture clearly indicates where our determination should be focused.

But how do we obtain the type of determination that endures and allows us to finish strong? Let’s again look to Ezra, Daniel & Paul for the answer.

Ezra praised God for giving him favor. Later, he went to the Lord over concerns about the people. (Ezra 7:27-28; Ezra 9)

Daniel had a habit of prayer that he stuck with even in the face of death. (Daniel 6:10)

Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, often included prayers filled with thanksgiving, prayers for others, as well as prayer requests for his ministry. (See a list of Paul’s prayers on Scripture Zealot.)

So we see that a habit of prayer, praise and thanksgiving were keys to their constant determination. Still today, these habits keep a person centered on God, who promises to help us stay determined.

Isaiah 50:7 says, “For the Lord God helps Me, therefore, I am not disgraced; therefore, I have set my face like flint (a stone), and I know that I will not be ashamed.”

The key, then, to staying determined is twofold. First, know your why. Know for what reason you want to stay determined in order to finish strong. Second, stay connected to God. He promises give you the confidence needed to stay determined.

DISCUSSION: What do you need to do differently to be able to stay determined in all areas of your life?

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