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Archive for December, 2012

Being Proactive

This past week I started a book called Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Its a book written by Steven Covey about motivating people to live to their full potential in life and achieving success.  In his introduction, Covey makes the argument that the way we think affects our lifestyle choices and behaviors.  He states that the paradigms that we have form the lens that view our world.  He gave the example of how people used to think that the earth was the center of the universe and when the idea arose that the earth revolved around the sun, people mocked it and dismissed it.  But when it was proven, a paradigm shift occurred and people were able to see their world in its proper perspective.  

The same is true with our lives.  Perspective is everything.  There is a story in the Gospel of Luke that illustrates this point very well.  Two disciples of Jesus are walking towards Emmaus and they are discussing the death of Jesus and the strange reports that Jesus had risen from the dead.  They were confused and did not seem to believe that he rose cause their hearts were heavy.  As they are talking, Jesus comes to their side and begins to walk with them.  Their eyes are veiled and don’t recognize him.  Jesus begins clarity to the situation as he shares the scriptures concerning himself.  And there is a critical point in the story where Jesus breaks bread with his disciples and suddenly their eyes are opened to who he truly is.  They have an “Aha” moment and their once veiled eyes are opened.  Their perspective has changed and instead of being discouraged they are now filled with hope and joy.  That is the power of perspective.  

In relation to perspective, Covey encourages people to start to practice the first habit, which is to be proactive.  Many times when people face problems and difficulty in their lives, they blame their circumstances for their inability to find solutions.  Yes there are some things that are outside of our control like the weather, how people react to us, etc.  But Covey argues that instead of focusing on things outside our control, we need to focus on what we can control.  

He states that there are many people who have a victim mentality and relegate their sorry state on others.  They makes statements like “I can’t do this”  “I have to do this project because I’m supposed to.”  “This person makes me feel angry and sad.”  All these statements refer to something outside of a person that keeps them immobilized and paralyzed.  However, instead of focusing on what we can’t do or on things we can’t control, it is important to take steps to finding a solution.  Instead of being part of the problem, why not try and find a solution.  Other people do not have control over our attitudes and how we feel. We are in charge of our ability to make decisions and take action.  

So take a step towards what you thought couldn’t be done.  Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, why not take little steps forward and focus on what is in your immediate sphere of influence.  Like the serenity prayer says, “Give me the courage to change the things that I can, and to accept the things I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

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One of the greatest difficulties that humans worldwide face is the propensity to quit.  But it doesn’t always start this way.  For example, someone decides that their New Year’s resolution is to lose weight and for the first few weeks of January it is exciting and the person is extremely motivated.  But then one month becomes two and suddenly the resolution to lose weight has just become wishful thinking.  This happens not just with losing weight, but almost every goal that people seek to attain.

With each failed attempt to reach a goal that was set, the person gets more and more discouraged to the point where they give up and don’t set goals or expectations on themselves any longer.  Many people face this predicament where they have just accepted the fact that everyone else has the ability to accomplish amazing things, but they themselves can’t and are the only individual on the earth that wasn’t given the ability to achieve their goals.  But the reality is, everyone at some point in the journey called life has this problem, namely, the desire to quit.

So what is the solution?  First, you need to acknowledge that there is a problem.  A couple questions to ask yourself are do I feel successful right now?  Why not?  Is there a particular area(s) in my life where I wish I was doing better?  Am I giving life my best effort?  If the answer to these questions is yes, then you are on the right track and are setting yourself up for success.  However, if you answered no to these questions, then now is the time to start making some changes.

After acknowledging that you have a problem, the next step is to make a life vision.  This sounds really grandiose and even presumptuous, but if you do not make a life vision for yourself someone else will make it for you and time which is your most important commodity will be taken from you, many times without knowing it.  Many people hit a mid-life crisis and even pre-mortum crisis when they realize that they didn’t accomplish the things that they wanted to in life.  They are filled with regret because they cannot get back the time that they lost.  You do not want to come to your deathbed filled with regret.  And making a life vision is the first step to having a successful life.  This life vision does not change over the course of your life because it is the overarching goal and desire of your life.  Some examples of life vision statements are “I want to be a passionate lover of God and a deliverer of people.”  “I want to be holy as Jesus was holy.”  “I want to be a servant of all.”  My own personal life vision is “I want to be a deep man by loving God wholeheartedly and being a blessing to people.”  These are some examples of life visions.  No one vision statement is better than the other.  But it has to be something that has significance to you and you understand it.

But you cannot stop at just making your life vision.  Once again that would just be a great idea without any action and you are left with just wishful thinking.  The next step after making a life vision is to make some long term and short term goals that help line up with your vision.  For example for me one of my long term goals to be able to teach the bible in Korean within 10 years. In order for that long term goal to become reality I need to make short term goals like I will study Korean for 2-4 hrs. per week.

Before I continue let me give you three basic guidelines to setting up your goals.  First, they have to be specific.  It can’t be a general goal like I want to be nice to people or I want to bring world peace.  That is too broad.  They have to be specific because we only have a limited amount of time and being specific helps you focus your time better.  Second, the goals have to be measurable.  This is connected with being specific, but in order for you to see if you are on the right track in terms of following your life vision, the goals need to be measurable.  Therefore, my goal of learning Korean 2-4 hrs. a week is measurable.  I can access at the end of each week whether I spent that time studying or not.  Lastly, it has to be realistic.  If you are a mother of 10 young children it is impossible to pray in solitude for 10 hrs. a day.  A more realistic goal would be to pray 10-15 min. a day in solitude.  Make goals that are realistic to your life circumstances and your abilities.  And remember that once you set your goals and write them down (this is important.  writing your life vision and goals down gives wings to your dreams and helps you to actually accomplish them) you can change them and tweak them as you go.

I’ve been an advocate and a traveler on this journey of living life with focus and with vision for the past 10 years.  And there are times when I forget about my vision and times when I have set unrealistic goals for myself.  But over the years I have done about 30-50% of my schedule.  And doing that much is much better than doing 100% of no schedule.  By just going with the flow, you end up being a slave to the current of other people’s expectations and even to your own laziness.  That ‘s not to say that you have to keep your schedule perfect or not allow for interruptions and life to happen.  But it does mean that you live with focus and if you keep your schedule 75-80% of the time you are doing awesome.  So live with vision.  Make specific, measurable, and realistic goals.  And 10-20 years from now you will see much fruit and that your life was well spent.

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