5 Keys to Lasting Change

Change Managementchange quote

Change happens in everyone’s life. Sometimes our first reaction to change is fear. Sometimes our first reaction is to buckle down and resist. Sometimes we dive completely into change and sometimes run from it.

How we ultimately decide to handle change determines our success or failure in life. Fortunately, we can decide to change how we handle change.

The best way I’ve personally found to handle change — both the change that comes whether I want it to or not and the change I take initiative to make — is to lean on that which does not change.

When Nehemiah was presented with an opportunity to bring about change, he could have simply ignored the internal tug. He could have continued as cup bearer to the king and lived a comfortable, safe life. He chose instead to lead change. Before he took any action, though, he anchored himself on the eternal God who never changes.

Nehemiah’s Example

Nehemiah is often studied for his obvious leadership characteristics such as integrity, humbleness, courage, compassion and focus. Nehemiah also provides a tremendous example of how to institute lasting change that endures through struggles.

Nehemiah traveled over 500 miles to lead change with a group of people who were stuck in brokenness for over a decade. He then motivates the people of Jerusalem to work toward significant and lasting change. Nehemiah’s example during this transformation gives several points to consider regarding how to institute lasting change in our own lives.

5 Keys to Lasting Change

Far more than just a city, Jerusalem represented an identity for the Jewish nation. The city and its wall told of the Jews connection (or lack of it) to God. When Nehemiah heard that the city walls and the people’s connection to God were in shambles, he chose to take action. God then used Nehemiah to transform His people.

Nehemiah’s approach to change, as directed by God through prayer, can teach us a tremendous amount about how to make change in our own lives.

  1. Stay organized. Nehemiah always had a plan in place, but he was also flexible as needed. Staying organized allows progress to continue even when chaos surrounds. In fact, reorganizing even when chaos seems in control can be extremely helpful.
  2. Be resourceful. Nehemiah asked the king for help, he asked the people and leaders of Jerusalem for help, and he found creative ways to continue the work even while opposition threatened. You’ll find resourcefulness present in the lives of all great leaders and heroes because change rarely happens in its absence.
  3. Persevere. Nehemiah had a plan, a specific purpose, and a steady persistence through difficulties, obstacles and discouragement. He kept moving forward regardless of what the opposition said or did. He persevered because he was centered on God’s will.
  4. Be consistent. Nehemiah consistently prayed, stayed organized and remained resourceful. Consistency shows reliable character, a necessary element for lasting change, and that’s the type of person others will follow through change.
  5. Be reliant. Above all, Nehemiah’s example shows the importance of relying on God. Nehemiah prayed regularly, even spending months praying and fasting before taking action. Because he relied on God, his approach to lasting change took hold in a powerful way.

Whether we are in need of complete rebuilding like the walls and people of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s time or we recognize the call of God in our hearts to institute change in some way, these key provide a solid approach for managing that change. Most importantly, Nehemiah’s example of anchoring himself in an unchanging God provides the single most important key for change to truly endure.

DISCUSSION: What other keys do you find essential for lasting change, either by way of experience or through another’s example?

5 Crucial Principles for Managing Stress

Manage stressAn interesting progression took place while blogging about stress this past month – I became more stressed. No, writing didn’t negatively stress me. Stress, yes, but the good kind resulting in stretching and growing, the therapy kind.

Do you have any good stress in your life right now?

Maybe the increased awareness of stress in general played a role. For sure, a large part came from an increase in stressors, most through others and out of my control.

My first reaction, my automatic response, is to eliminate stress as much as possible. That’s not always the best option, though. Sometimes my focus must be on recharging and then continuing, letting stress be and not trying to control it. With that, I realize that I must…

Persistently pursue time to recharge and refocus.

Relieve stressIf Jesus needed to do this (Matthew 14:13-34), I definitely need this habit. So, instead of trying to fix everything (which is impossible and only adds to stress), maybe letting it ride, living within it is best. In other words…

Acknowledge the stress, then keep commitments and fulfill responsibilities by simply doing what’s next.

As I’ve learn to keep moving through the stress, I’ve also gotten better at not letting stress constantly eat away at me, at not worrying about what I can’t control. I’ve learned to counteract stress with healthy outlet activities (exercise, reading, talking, etc.), and I’ve learned to pray… a lot… about everything (Philippians 4:6). Do you have healthy outlets for stress relief?

In that, I begin to focus on controlling my attitude and responses during stress. Out of that comes a realization that I need to apply a principle I’ve told my boys many times, namely…

Understand what you can and can’t control, and refuse to dwell in the wrong place.

Prepare for StressWhen I realize what I can and can’t control, I must then focus my energy and effort on that which I can control, even if only slightly. One of the most difficult areas to realize control involves the volume of what we take on, what we commit to and assume responsibility for.

And what I see happening is a lot of people drowning in a perfectly floatable boat simply because they’ve weighed it down by taking on too much. They’re sitting in a sinking boat because they’ve put too much in it, and the only way to keep from drowning is to get rid of some of the stuff. Really, it’s best to never take it on in the first place, but at some point, we must…

Learn to say “no” – even to good – so we can say “yes” to better and best.

As stress ebbs and flows, and as I realize my inability to truly control its existence, I increasingly understand the importance of a habit of consistency regarding stress management. I realize that stress exists mostly as a mental battle, that it’s the atmosphere of my inner self that truly determines whether or not I sink or float. Do you have any consistent habits to help manage your stress?

Psychcentral says “most negative symptoms [of stress] can be corrected if you take action.” My experience with stress – and a crash and burn resulting from not managing it well – supports this fact. With that comes the final principle for managing stress…

Find ways to manage your stress on your own terms before your body forces you to on its terms.

Dealing with stress really isn’t an option. You WILL deal with it one way or another. The question is, will you deal with it by choice or by force?

DISCUSSION: What can you do today to better manage stress? What advice do you have for others?

Additional posts about stress:

How to… Take Action

Throughout my healing journey, which has really been taking place my whole adult life, there were days when my persistence was rock solid, and knowledge and wisdom seemed like ever-flowing springs. On these days, growth seemed to happen before my very eyes, and I felt like I was finally on my way to victory.

But most days weren’t like that. Most days, I felt like Elijah when he “sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die.” On most days, I also often did what Elijah did next. He “lay down and slept under the broom tree.”

Following this, God takes Elijah through a long process (found in 1 Kings 19) that eventually leads to action. This is a process with which I definitely can relate.

Let’s look this process and how it prepares us for taking action.

  1. Have quiet time. Elijah may have left because he was afraid and felt like the world was against him, but getting quiet time with God was what he needed. So many times, I just needed quiet. Sometimes, I ran away like Elijah did. But always, God used quiet times to heal me and prepare me for action.
  2. Get some nourishment. When we have too much stress, our bodies need more nourishment. Unfortunately, we tend to either eat less or eat the wrong foods instead. But getting the proper nourishment is necessary for us to start moving again, just like it was for Elijah.
  3. Start moving. God eventually got Elijah going again. Notice that He didn’t have him go anywhere in particular. We know this because when Elijah was ready to go back into civilization, God told him to “go back the way you came.” Sometimes, we just need to put one foot in front of the other and start moving. Doing this led Elijah to a place where he was ready and able to deal with the problem. My times of rest and nourishment always do the same for me too.
  4. Identify the problem. Elijah was then finally ready to talk, so he vented to God. So often, our first reaction is to vent to someone who will agree with us. But God didn’t do that. He just listened and then moved on to the next step. One of the greatest lessons God has taught me through this process is to talk to Him before going to anyone else and sometimes only to Him. I learned that doing so gets me ready to take action more quickly anyway.
  5. Make a list. After Elijah vented, God gave him a list of action items that basically addressed Elijah’s needs. On my toughest days, having a “to do” list helped me at least accomplish something and feel productive. Having a list gives me focus. I don’t have to figure out over and over again what to do. I just move through the list.
  6. Take action. Elijah didn’t question God; he just got to work on the list. After having the time he needed to rest & recuperate, Elijah was ready to get back into action with God.

One more significant point to note is illustrated by the fact that this particular time away for Elijah came after his overwhelming victory on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). Isn’t it interesting how our biggest struggles come after some of our biggest successes?

Chris Patton talked about this in Don’t Relax After Victory!, and his suggestions there compliment our discussion here quite well. We need to remain vigilant and come up with ways to protect ourselves from the enemy’s attacks, which often come right after a victory. This happened both with Joshua and with Elijah, but their reactions were quite different.

I find great comfort in knowing that the God who led Elijah through his struggle with fear and loneliness is the same God who today will do the same for each of us. I know this because he did it during one of the toughest times in my life, and he continues to do so whenever I need it still today.

DISCUSSION: What suggestions do you have for taking action?

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