Overcoming the Fear of Going After Goals

The little, red-haired guy stood there looking straight into my eyes, taunting me to do it.

So I did.  He quickly spun around, chased it down and brought it back to me.

Oscar’s a good dog.

Every time I tossed the toy across the living room, no matter where it went, he retrieved it.  I had to initiate the end of the game because the little guy would have kept at it for hours despite the dark hallways and air vents near the toy landing zone.

For the first year or so of Oscar’s life, he was abused.  We don’t exactly how he was abused, but from the way he behaves, it impacted him deeply.  Something about those dark hallways and the big, white air vent clearly frighten him.  I can only imagine what he’s been through, but he was luckily saved and is now with my parents.

The extent of his abuse nowadays is limited to not having a blanket at times to sleep under, and he may…I repeat….may be a little squeezed when he nestles between my dad’s leg and the side of the lounge chair…under a blanket of course.

Last week while visiting my parents, Oscar and I got in a lot of quality time, mostly involving a squeaky toy.  I tossed it.  He retrieved it and made me fight him to get it back.  It was great fun and quite amusing.  I’ve never seen a dog literally hop on something with its front paws to secure it. Hilarious!

It also reminded me of a conversation I had with a coworker recently about living your why and goal setting to activate it.  It was a short chat, but she said two words that hung with me. “It’s scary.”

For some us, it sure is.  We’ve cruised through life with bruises to show for it in the form of sub-par relationships, mounting debt, low confidence, a job we hate and waning faith.  And all of a sudden, we decide we’re tired of life happening to us.  We seek help, get energized and educated, form a plan of attack and then it happens.  Fear.  Paralyzing fear.  We begin to question ourselves.

What if I can’t change?  What if what I’m doing is wrong?  Maybe what they said all those years ago about me was right. What if this is all I’m capable of?  What if I fail?

The simple and honest answer is this.  You may fail.  The thing is no business owner ever earned that position by shunning decisions.  No alcoholic ever beat the addiction by continuing to drink.  No married couple struggling to stay that way ever saved their marriage without changing something.  No person ever changed their position in life by remaining in the same position.

Fear is a natural human characteristic.  But so is resolve.  And tenacity.  And the ability to overcome fear to achieve.

Life is full of dark hallways and air vents.  Unlike Oscar though, we can save ourselves and we have our God.

The Bible says, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalms 18:2

Fear is just fear.  Fear has no rock or fortress or deliverer.  It has no ever-faithful God.  It is only fear.

Be strong.  Take the next step.  You have a refuge, a shield, a horn, a stronghold.

Question: Has fear kept you from achieving a goal?

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I’m thankful for homeless people

Our God is so very mysterious.

Recently my wife told me about some hateful things people wrote on a neighborhood online forum about homeless people living nearby.  In short, the commenters view the homeless as something to get rid of.  They might as well have been complaining about a pile of trash up wind from their homes.

MaryBeth and I walk nearly every day.  Most days we pass a homeless women who is either singing, sleeping, reading or just sitting quietly.  This past Saturday morning we saw her sleeping in a covered bus stop to keep a heavy wind off of her.  She was completely covered by a blue blanket, and as usual, she was flanked by all of her belongings.  The bus stop is directly in front of our neighborhood Farmers’ Market, which, as always, was buzzing.  It was the intersection of completely different worlds.

A cousin in-law I very much hope to meet one day asked on Facebook recently, “What do you do when you see a homeless person?”

I commented.  “Not enough,” I said.

I don’t want to ever answer that question that way again.

I believe God uses each and every one of us to advance the kingdom.  He places us where He needs us.  He only gives us what He knows we can handle.  He brings people in and out of our lives.  And He gave us a book of teachings, principles and examples to live by.

This book and His son tell me this.

1.  Do not persecute, judge and ridicule those less fortunate, regardless of the circumstances.  Instead, help them.  Jesus did not caveat this command with “…if you think they’re worthy.”

2. Stop walking by and try doing something helpful with your wealth.  Exemplify the Bible.  Helping is not a spectator sport.

3. If you don’t like the way you have to truthfully answer a question, change your behavior so you can answer it in a way you’re proud of.

On this day before Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the homeless.  This may sound harsh to you, and to be clear, I absolutely wish and pray not a single person was homeless.  But I’m thankful for the homeless because they illuminate one of the many areas in life where I’m failing God, failing them and failing you.  I’m thankful for every person God brings into my life, regardless of status, regardless of where they sleep.

Today, I’m thankful for the woman under the blue blanket.  In the near future, I pray that if someone asks me her name.  I won’t have to say, “I don’t know.”

I’m tired of being a spectator.  I’m tired of just walking by.  How about you?

Swap ‘I’ll Start Tomorrow’ with ‘I Did That Yesterday’

Pretend with me for a minute.

It’s Dec. 31.  Your annual goals (Family, Social, Financial, Spiritual, Career, Intellectual and Physical) are written, printed and hanging on the refrigerator so you’ll see them every day.

Just having gone through the process of writing them has energized you.  2012 is going to be the year you start happening to life and life stops happening to you.  You’re on fire and ready to take on the world!  You’re ready to put 2012 in a choke hold and little does it know, you’ve been watching choke hold how-to DVDs.

It’s now Sunday, Jan. 1.  Last night was a late one.  You wake up at 10 a.m. “Shoot, it’s too late to make it to church service,” you say to yourself.  One of your Spiritual goals is to start going to worship service again. “Well, I’ll start next Sunday. No big deal.”

Strike one.

You pull yourself out of bed and stumble into the kitchen.  Your head is pounding from one too many glasses of champagne.  Okay, maybe three.  After church today, you planned to go for a run.  “I just can’t do it.  I feel terrible.”

One of your Physical goals is to run an April half marathon, requiring you to start training immediately. “I’ll start tomorrow.  No big deal.” Strike two.

You then pick up your phone.  “Look forward to brunch today!  Gonna be great to see you again!” you read on the screen.  “Oh, no!”  You planned to go to brunch with friends from church today.  You feel weird about going now since you’re skipping church.  You start tapping out a reply.  “I’m so sorry.  Something came up, and I can’t make it.  Next Sunday perhaps.”

One of your Social goals was to spend more time with particular friends you rarely see.  Strike three.  And, by the way, you lied.

So now that you’re not going to church, training for a half marathon, spending quality time with friends and your head hurts too much to start that book on getting out debt (Financial/Intellectual goal), which will ultimately allow you the financial freedom to leave your job (Career goal), which you hate, your choke hold on 2012 has become a pinch a butterfly could escape from.

You’re now standing in front of the refrigerator, staring at the list of goals.  “Ah ha!  I can call my parents!”  (Family goal)  All is not lost, you think.

You peck out their number and place the phone to your ear.  It begins to ring.  It rings again.  And again.  And again.  And then someone picks up.  Score!  “Hi.  We can’t come to the phone right now but leave a message and…”  You hang up.

Strike six. You’re out.

Setting goals is a must for activating your purpose or just achieving more.  But if you’ve never goal set before, you’ve probably lived for years with flat spots all around your wheel of life.  It’s going to take time to shed habits and introduce new behaviors.  You must not get discouraged though.

Living intentionally isn’t always easy, especially in the beginning.  It takes looking long-term, planning and at times, forcing yourself to go for that training run.  But, as someone who is doing it, I promise it gets easier the longer you do it.

When you start crossing off goals and realizing the fruits of your labor, you’re going to want to accomplish more and more quickly.  There’s something powerful about documenting it all.  This is when you really start happening to life and building momentum that you can ride for years to come.

When you reach this point, “I’ll start tomorrow” exits your vocabulary and gets replaced with “I did that yesterday.”

Question:  How do you overcome the “I’ll start tomorrow” trap?

Questions to Ask Yourself to Discover Your Calling

This post was written by Eric Speir, and first appeared on his blog, Life and Leadership by the Book

Have you ever been asked, “What do you feel called to do?” I used to cringe when I heard this question because I wasn’t always exactly sure. It took me over 30 years to start to figure it out and at times I still think I’m trying to figure it out!

If you’re unsure of what you feel called to do then don’t worry about it because you’re in good company. The Bible is full of examples of people who took a while to figure it out. Keep reading to learn about a few of them. Jesus was thirty years old before he was in full-time ministry.

I think he learned it by praying and seeking the Lord! Moses spent 40 years in the desert chasing sheep before he delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. King David was 30 years old before he became king. Noah was an old man when he built the ark. Abraham was too old to have children when he was called to be a father. By now, I hope you get the point that it’s never too late!

Before we go any further I want to clear something up. Calling is not just for pastors! I believe that everyone is “called” to do something. In the church world we often assume that only ministry leaders are called to do something. This is certainly not true and it surely wouldn’t be an effective ministry model. There are more business/marketplace leaders in the world than church leaders. If this is the case, we can assume everyone’s called to do something.

I know many people who are called to work in the business world. One of my best friends is a senior loan officer at a local bank and it is obvious to me that he is called to work there. He feels like he is helping people and being a contributing member to society. (Sounds a lot like ministry doesn’t it?) He has told me on more than one occasion that he is called to work at the bank. He is good with money and he’s one of the smartest business people I know!

My wife feels called to be a stay at home mom. (She would call it a domestic engineer!) She homeschools our children and pours into their lives. She can tell you just about anything about homeschooling and has reviewed just about every curriculum on the market. She has invested herself into knowing as much as she can about it. When you mention the word “homeschool” her face lights up!

Once you realize that you are called to do something, then you can start to ask yourself some important questions. For some people this is hard to do, but as a life coach I ask a lot of questions. In fact, as an inquisitive person this comes easy for me. You can learn a lot about someone (or yourself) by asking personal and directed questions.

Questions make us uncomfortable because they force us to examine our lives. The key to answering the questions is to be honest with yourself and to take the time to answer them. It’s hard for most people to slow down long enough to reflect on their lives.

Here are some questions to start your journey with:

  • What am I passionate about? (Hint: If you talk about it a lot then you’re probably passionate about it!)
  • What am I good at?
  • What am I not good at?
  • What comes natural for me?
  • What would I do for free even if I was not being paid? (I’m doing it now and you’re reading it!)
  • What are my spiritual gifts?
  • What do I day-dream about?
  • What do I spend my money on? (Hint: If you spend money on something then it’s probably important to you!)
  • What are my hobbies?
  • What do I love to do in my spare time? (I love to write and encourage people!)
  • What do you read a lot about?
  • What do you search the most for on the internet?

This is not an exhaustive list, but I believe it is a good place to start. The best thing to do is to get a pen, a journal and good cup of coffee and start answering them in your quiet time.

What other questions could you add to the list? Please leave a comment below!

Activating Your Why With Goal Setting

At every hour of the day, the sun breaks the horizon somewhere on the planet.  People awaken and life there gets more colorful and productive.  The same can be said for a flower you’ve probably seen or at least heard of – the morning glory.

Most morning glories unravel and fully bloom soon after sun light hits them.  As dusk approaches, they begin to curl up again, taking their vivid color with them until the next day.

In other words, they’re at their brightest in the light and retreat during the night.

When we live out our why, our purpose, and activate it with goals we are living like a morning glory at 10 a.m.  We’re bright.  Vivid. Full of life.

But unlike the sun-triggered flower, we have the option to remain that way even after the sun goes down.  Or think of it this way. We have a greater ability to live out our God-commanded purpose, leave a lasting, meaningful impact on this world, inspire others to do the same, and bounce back when life happens to us.

As I said in my last post, goals are active.  They’re moving and exciting!  And they help you strike the target, especially when they’re connected to your why.  Goals are like a cup of coffee, a run, or fun night out with friends; they activate you.  They are the key to achieving your purpose.  While I believe purpose is God-commanded, that does NOT mean God will just take care of it for us. We have to do the work.

Goal setting should encompass these categories:  Family, Social, Financial, Intellectual, Career, Physical and Spiritual.

As Zig Ziglar put it, this is the wheel of life.  Setting and accomplishing goals in all of these categories leads to a well-rounded, complete life, not one that, as author and radio show host Dave Ramsey says, has flat spots, because flat spots don’t make for a very smooth ride, do they?

The vast majority of people do not set goals.  My wife and I didn’t start doing it until 2010.  Chances are you don’t either.  As 2012 nears, now is the time to start because it’s not something you knock out in 30 minutes before you head out to party on New Year’s Eve, especially if you’re married and you’re setting shared goals. It takes time.

If you’re in fact new to goal setting, I recommend starting with annual goals and save setting longer term goals, such as the amount money you want to retire with, for a little later once you get the hang of it.

So what is a goal?  Well, what it’s not is an idea you have one day that you secure by saying, “That’s really smart.  I should do that some time.”  And that’s the end of it.  But how many times have you said something similar to that?  I sure have!

What goals are is achievable, measurable, written and viewable things you want to achieve in family, social, financial, intellectual, career, physical and spiritual categories.  Ideally, they directly feed your purpose.

For instance, for “social,” one of our annual goals is monthly dinners or brunches with friends.  Achievable?  Yes.  Measurable?  Yes.  Written?  Yes.  Viewable?  I’m looking at it right now.  And as you can see, goal setting can be simple.  Having set goals for two years now, I can tell you we wouldn’t have furthered relationships with as many friends as we have if we hadn’t made it a goal.

Sure, we may have intended to do this, but going through the process of setting the goal, writing it down and hanging it on the refrigerator where it’s visible every day was key to achieving it.  So how did it feed my why?

My personal mission statement is “to advance others through personal-growth education.”  This isn’t what I do to make money, it’s how I live my life, and there’s no other group of people I’d rather help more than friends.  That’s why personal-growth topics regularly come up in conversation.

Every time we hang out, I’m given the possibility to share even more in hopes of advancing my friend’s life.  Also, the more quality time I spend with friends, the closer we all become, opening up even more possibilities to share personal-growth education.

Goals also show you where your “wheel” is flat.  For MaryBeth and I, we set seven financial-related goals this year.  We knocked them out by spring!  On the other hand, we’ve only achieved one out of six family-related goals.

Now, granted, we’ve furthered our marriage in numerous ways this year, but the point is we procrastinate when it comes to getting a will done and taking care of some insurance matters, all very important things to do.  We’re currently surging to knock out these goals and a few others by year’s end.

This way we enter 2012 with a sense of accomplishment, forward momentum and purpose.  While quite beautiful, we have no intention of ever living like a morning glory.  We’d prefer to stay unraveled until God calls us home.

Question:  What’s keeping you from goal setting?

Set Goals Like Soccer Announcers Call Them

Picture yourself in the clothes you wear when you need that extra bit of confidence. Take a few seconds to think about.  Is it a suit? A dress?  Something more casual?  A uniform of some sort?  Whatever, just picture yourself in it.

If you’re married, your spouse is with you, also wearing their best.

Have you ever heard someone say goals are a dream with work clothes on?

Well, today, you’re the goal.  And you’re now dressed and ready to start happening to life.

Living your why, or purposefully, means just that – you’re living on purpose, not accidentally.  Now, if you’ve read my previous posts, you’ve read about dreaming again, discovering your God-commanded purpose, and writing it down as a personal mission statement. If you’re already there, congratulations.  If you’re not, I seriously encourage you to work on discovering your why.  Why are you here?

The reason I encourage this is it gives your life meaning and direction.  Now does that mean your life isn’t meaningful without it? Absolutely not.  But I believe you increase your chances of being happier, feeling like you’re a part of something bigger, living a fuller life and contributing more to God’s kingdom when you do.

Also, it just makes sense.  Your why is your life strategy.  It’s the big picture.  And once you understand it, it’s time to go to work putting your life into action.

Enter goal setting.

Goals are all about accomplishing stuff.  They’re active.  Alive.  Purposeful.  I’m sure you have some.  Most of us do, I believe.

But are your goals connected to your why?  Do they complete, as Zig Ziglar said, your wheel of life, meaning all of you?  Are they measurable?  Are they written down and hanging somewhere you’ll see them every day?

If not, you don’t have goals, you have dreams.  Ideas.  Good intentions.  While a good start, all of these are neither measurable, hangable or viewable, and as a result your odds at just remembering them, let alone accomplishing them, are extraordinarily small.

Again, goals are active.  They’re exciting!  Have you ever heard one those professional soccer game announcers who nearly explodes when a goal is scored?  A team works the ball down the field.  One player passes to the next.  He kicks the ball toward the goal and out of nowhere another player puts in the net with his head past a diving goalie.  And then it happens.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL…..(30 seconds later)…….LLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!

That’s how you need to view scoring goals for your life.  This the level of intensity that makes stuff happen.

The soccer announcer doesn’t say, “The player just headed the ball into the net past the goalie, resulting in a goal.  Hooray.”

This is like the good intention of “spending less money and saving this year.”  That idea of “having friends over to the house more.” The dream of “exercising five days a week.”

At the end of the year, you’ll look back and you’ll most likely be deeper in debt with less fulfilling friendships and 5 pounds heavier.

And hanging in your closet is that outfit, again, waiting for you to come put it on and get moving.

If you really want to feel more accomplished, purposeful and complete, start goal setting because goals are your car’s wheels, the river’s water, the rifle’s bullet.  Goals make you roll, flow and strike your target.

In my next post, I’ll write about how to goal set to activate your purpose.

Question: How has goal setting improved your life?  How do you think it could?

The 7 Parts of Writing a Personal Mission Statement

As I wrote last week, my personal mission statement defines my God-commanded purpose and gives me direction.  And when life happens, and I get pulled away from my purpose, “it will always be there to remind me of what God has asked me to do in the kingdom.”

I was thrilled the post inspired a few of you to “dust off” your mission statements, re-read them and in one person’s case, even refine it.  That was awesome.  But what about those of you who don’t have a mission statement and don’t know where to begin?

Well, this post is especially for you!  For the experienced, perhaps you’ll pick up a tip or two to better define your own.  Here we go! Are you ready?

1. Start with why

Step away from the computer.  Put your pen down.  The most important step in writing a personal mission statement has nothing to do with writing it.  You must first determine your why. Your what?  Yes, your why.  Why are you here?  We all have a God-commanded purpose for living.  Until you figure that out, you’re not ready to write a mission statement.  Start with why.  Parts 2 – 6 will help you with this.

2. Pray

Prayer is essential to determining your why.  Ask God to provide you clarity of thought and help.  There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, God wants you to achieve this.  Ask Him for help. The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:6-7, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

3. Reflect

By the time we’re adults, we’ve sinned so much, experienced so much heartache and have filled our minds with so many distractions, we’re a million miles away from where God wants us to be.  That’s because life has happened to us too much, and it’s time to reverse course.  Seek out quiet time each day to reflect on the best moments of your life and contemplate why those were the best.  This will put you in a positive, future-focused frame of mind that will lead you to creating even better moments.  And don’t forget to write down your thoughts and ideas.

4. Dream

If money was not a factor, I’d commit my life to ________?  Notice I didn’t say “If money was not a factor, I would be….”  Being or doing something implies work, and I think we do enough of that.  This is about leading your life the way God wants you to, not working some more. In a future post, I’ll give you my take on using your job to further your why.

5. Nerd it up

It’s time to analyze.  Go find that quiet spot because it’s time to think long and hard.  Ask yourself these questions.

What are my passions?  What are my natural strengths?  What have I always loved doing?  What type of people am I drawn to?  What type of activities have I always enjoyed?  Re-ask yourself, “If money was not a factor, I’d commit my life to _________?” Write the answers down.

6. Look and listen

A key part of writing my mission statement was listening for God.  There was one week along the way I’d never felt God’s presence more.  It was powerful, and I made sure to document all of my thoughts and observations.

7. Start writing your mission statement

At this point, it may be days or months since you started this process.  There is no template.  You’re unique and so is your why. When you feel ready to start writing your mission statement, start.  It may come quickly, it may be a struggle.  If so, pray, reflect, dream, analyze and listen.  Read what you wrote when you were reflecting and analyzing.  This is exactly what I did, and one day, it all became clear.

To advance others through personal-growth education

And here I am today, passing on personal-growth education to you, feeling fulfilled, peaceful and alive.

Question: What’s keeping you from starting this process?