The Curse of Won’t

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I cannot imagine that anyone wants to be a flop in life. Instead, most of us would like to achieve some level of success. Maybe not climbing the highest peaks, but it is definitely not falling into the lowest depths. Yet the moment we set out to do something big with our lives, we are met face to face with challenges. These obstacles are often due to external forces that are at work against us. We must then figure out a way to get around or over them.

How much resistance comes from within though? If you are anything like me, you have lived with the curse of won’t. The smallest things can prevent us from accomplishing worthy endeavors, not because we cannot, but because we will not. Circumstances may work tirelessly to derail us, but that is no guarantee that they actually will stop us. Most of what happens next depends on us.

I remember playing flag football in grade school. As small of a memory as it is, it has remained all these years later because of its powerful message. A guy in my gym class was a force to be reckoned with. Although shorter than others on the field, he did not let that affect his performance in the game. He was the only one on the field who ran straight toward his opponents. Even when he had the ball, rather than maneuver around people, he simply charged straight at them. It did not take long to realize, that guy took the game to a whole other level.

Fortunately, there are a select few people who are the trailblazers of life. They do things most others will not do. They will not be stopped by circumstances, nor the enemy of self. They demonstrate the possibility of what we could achieve if only we stepped out in faith. However, it cannot be an occasional event. We must be consistent in our daily routine, fighting the curse of won’t. That is the only way we can ever overcome it.

When we choose to act, it breaks loose the chains of this curse. There are many things that we could do today, if only we stopped right now and did them. If we made the choice each day to continue, remarkable things could happen. Instead of shrugging our shoulders, passively dismissing any form of action, we could awaken from our slumber and declare something new for a change. I will!

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Good Riddance!

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Yesterday I reflected over the year 2020. It’s amazing how the year started off so well. I made many goals and for the first few months, I was able to achieve them daily. I was crushing it and it felt awesome. But then an unwelcome guest came onto the world stage and life as we knew it completely changed. It is a broken record that everyone is tired of hearing about. We just want our life back.

For me, the second half of the year had something great that happened, for which I am grateful to say the least. However, as the year went on, with the amount of bad news I felt incredibly weighed down. On top of that, disappointment in the remaining months of the year continued to pile on. Some people I thought I could be counted on, could not. Some things did not go my way. The list goes on.

In my time of reflection, I wondered what I was thinking the year before around the same time. I pulled up the draft of a post I wrote December 30, 2019 and published on my blog a week later. I read through it and thought about how much it pertained to me, as if it were specifically written just for me at this stage of my life. If you would like to read it, here is a link, Without realizing it, I lost sight of my strategy last year. When that happened, other things crept in, one specifically.

There is something that I’ve wanted for a long time now. The more that time passes without it, I find myself growing increasingly uncomfortable with not getting it. I felt like I could not be genuinely happy unless I got it, abandoning thought of everything else that I had. It was the one area I struggled with in my walk of faith. I’ve been able to believe God for nearly everything, all but this one thing. I thought I had it but, in the end, it was lost. My faith in this area felt like the stack of wooden blocks, with each one being removed by a bad experience as I waited for it all to come crashing down.

So, what happened? I finally realized that this one area had a major impact on me emotionally. As with so many things, I found myself being troubled by it on a regular basis, which affected every area of my life. Why would I allow such a thing to control me so? Great question. It took over without me even realizing it. Fortunately, I got a glimpse of it for what it is and now I have a chance to do something about it. The year ended last night, and now the new year brought a chance to say goodbye. That’s the amazing thing about a fresh start. It gives us a chance to take what is good with us into the new year. At the same time, it gives us a chance to get rid of that which we choose to leave behind. As for me, I am tired of living the way I was in the latter part of 2020. I am tired of being afraid, worried, sad, and at times broken. It’s time to say good riddance to that garbage and welcome something far better in its place. I hope you will join in. I pray the best for you all in 2021. Let’s do our part to make it happen!

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Detour of Thought

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No matter how precisely you plan a route in your mind to a specific destination, there are tons of obstacles that will take your mind off course. If you are going to be forced to take a detour, make sure it is one of your choosing. Positive thinking takes a lot of work to continually redirect one’s thoughts to find the positive side of things or people. But what about negative thinking? For most of us, it takes zero effort to participate in, which may be why so many choose the latter way.

An interesting thing occurred the other morning when I awoke earlier than usual after having a dream. It was particularly memorable upon awakening, which isn’t typical for most of my dreams. The reason I remembered it was because of how angry I was after waking up. It is frustrating to be extremely upset over events never actually happened. What is more upsetting is when someone gets upset with me over something I did in their dream. I feel like shouting, don’t you understand, it’s completely out of my control!

That demonstrates the power a thought can have over us. Events or situations that never happened can ensnare us in a trap, unable to free ourselves from the prison of a false reality. The day went on, but I remained upset and could not seem to get over it. Thoughts as powerful as ones like this grip tightly and don’t want to let go. My destination did not change, but the path to get there did. If the negative thought becomes too overwhelming, we might decide to abandon our plans for heading toward the destination altogether. The great news is that this is not the only path available to take.

Each person has creativity and imagination with which to make their own positive detours of thought. This involves forging a path in the mind where one did not previously exist. When you choose that type of detour, it allows your brain to make new connections. If we choose a negative thought pattern, it will likely end with us routinely stuck in the same ruts, day in, day out. But you can change it all by giving thought to something new. This will allow your brain to create new roadways that will get you to the destination. Positive thinking is not always easy, but well worth it. Recondition yourself to think on a higher level, above the negative detours and on to better living!

Goals Really Work, part 3

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Numerous times in the past there have been speeches given and books written on the effectiveness of setting goals. Countless successful people have come before us and shown us how powerful they can be. I personally observed how effective the exercise of goal setting has been and witnessed the results from disciplined effort. After so much evidence in support of goal setting, one would think, this is an easy decision. Do it! But so many still won’t do it. There are plenty of reasons not to, but a person just needs a strong enough reason to set goals.

Necessity has caused people to do many things they may not have been able to accomplish otherwise. There is an enormous difference between “wanting to” versus “having to” do something. Need has a way of motivating in stronger ways than want does. Don’t get me wrong, both want and need have their place. But when you need, for instance something to eat, you’ll put away pride or ego to go out and do something you may not have done otherwise if the need weren’t so strong. Once you have basic needs met, there is a tendency to slack off. But that is the point where we should really be just getting started.

When setting goals, here is something to keep in mind. Good is the enemy of best. If you lower your standards one time, the tendency is to keep them there because we accept it from that point on. It could be argued that it was set low to be realistic, which is a valid point. For this reason, some goals must be revisited regularly to see if anything could be improved upon. Anything we do consistently we get better at. The degree to which we get better is heavily influenced by our abilities. But even the gifted need practice in order to remain on top of their game.

Part of me knows I can do more, which is the part that gets frustrated. The thought grew so strong during a recent time of reflection, that another thought jumped out at me. “You are failing because you think you have a choice!” I wasn’t thrilled with the idea because it obviously pointed out my shortcomings. But it was true, whether I liked it or not. It all boiled down to one of my favorite words. Discipline, or the lack thereof! I continually think I have a choice; therefore it shifts things from needs to wants. It is easier to sacrifice a want than it is a need.

Also in this time reflection, I’ve seen the importance of goal setting in accomplishing objectives. Having goals clearly defined was the first part. Writing them down helped me acknowledge them throughout the day. Tracking progress helped me stay motivated. Reflecting on my failure taught me to remember the reason I set goals in the first place. I have so many plans that I’d like to do with my life. Beyond myself, I want to do more for other people. Yet, there is a part of me that always lags behind. At times it feels like I am hauling dead weight. At the same time, I know change is always out there, not just for me, but for everyone.

Sometimes I talk to myself the way a drill sergeant would, loudly if necessary. If anyone hears me, it may sound a bit strange, and they may even think I am crazy. The crazy part isn’t that though. What is crazy, is not making the most of the life we’ve been given!

Goals Really Work, part 1

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Set goals! All our lives we’ve been told to set goals, yet no one bothers! Does anyone else wonder why that is? I know why I have not in the past. It takes discipline and effort to plan your life in a diligent manner. There were more compelling reasons not to set goals. Personally speaking, it is easier to set on the couch after a long day of hard work. We deserve a break, right? Most of us can come up with any number of excuses that fit our lives perfectly; reasons not to strategize how to make our lives better.

If you are like I was, you find yourself at a crossroads numerous times. There are indicators that help you know when you are at one. For me, I found myself repeatedly saying how I should do something. It got to the point where I drove people around me crazy talking about all that things I was going to do. Although I received encouragement, I could feel a storm brewing. One day I realized, maybe I should shut up and do something, rather than always talking about what I should do. That’s when I realized I needed to turn my mental “should-do list” into written goals.

If you’ve never set goals, I recommend looking up SMART goals before you begin. This method creates an excellent framework to build your goals in a way in which they will benefit you the most. I was previously exposed to these types of goals in the business world, so I already had experience setting goals like these for years. For whatever reason, I chose to ignore applying this same practice to my personal life.

During the last week of the year, I make it a point to reflect over the entire year. That part has never been a struggle for me. Like most people, I would get motivated and start thinking about setting new goals. It’s easy to get fired up when a new year is coming. We convince ourselves that we will do it right this time. If we already screwed up this year, we are tempted to wait to start until the new year. The whole idea of waiting is totally illogical and irrational! Start now!

The whole reason for setting goals is because our lives are not where we want them to be. After some deep reflection, all it takes is some strategizing and then putting a new plan into action. There have been so many times in my history when I did not set any goals at all. When this happened, I never did anything consistently to bring about a better life. Through the years, I’ve set numerous goals that soon drifted off in a matter of time and never amounted to anything worthwhile. At the end of 2019, I began my deep reflection again. This time, I came up with a better plan. For the past four months, I found out an exciting fact. Goals make me a doer! I’ll tell you more about my experience in part 2.

A Life of Excellence, part 11

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Many people would agree that spirituality has a valuable place in our lives. For me, living a life of excellence spiritually means that I must continue to grow in relationship and communion with God because that is whom I place my faith in. As I’ve already said in other blog posts, this has become the most important thing to me in this life. This priority is aimed above myself, my family, and any relationship with a close partner. The word aimed was used because we fall short so often, but it is something that is strived for.

At first glance, it may seem selfish that God would want first place in my life. So, I’ve tried to make sense of it by thinking of it in another way, a day in the life of. Let’s say I was married and had children and was the sole provider for my household. During the day, my family has no idea, or can even mentally process what I’ve been tirelessly working on. How do you think I would feel if my children then spent all their time with others, instead of me? What if my wife spent all her time with friends or watching television while tuning me out completely? Can I not get five minutes of alone time with them? If I genuinely loved them, I would keep doing all the things even though they paid no attention to me. But when you look at it, how selfish would they be, always accepting something from me but never showing love and appreciation in return?

Through the years I’ve come to believe the best version of me I’ve been able to give my family, partners, and even me, has been made greater as a result of putting God first place in my life. My life has been transformed in so many ways, I cannot help but share my faith because it has worked for me on such a deep level that I want others to share. I continue to place an emphasis on growing spiritually every day, not just to obtain a deeper knowledge of life but a deeper relationship.

It is true many children follow the faith of their parents. For this reason, faith is often criticized. Some would argue that the child needs to think and make up their minds for themselves. While part of that statement is true, it is full of holes. If you allow children the full freedom to follow out their own decisions, rather than those of an adult, it will probably end up really bad. They think it’s okay to play in the streets. Imagine given the free choice to eat ice cream every night for dinner. Things like eating vegetables… are you kidding me, never again! Brush my teeth, who has time for that? Children are instructed to follow orders all the time, but it is for good reason.

Children haven’t lived long enough to know the consequences of their actions and decisions. They must be given guidance. If left to their own devices, they might become tyrannical rulers over other children. They do not fully develop the ability to reason until their mid-twenties. Until they have done so, many parents try to guide them as best as they can until then. Part of that includes teaching what has worked for the parents. We must learn early on how to live among others or risk ending up at war with them.

When children get older, they learn how to think and reason for themselves. As a result, some have challenged the religious views they were taught at an early age. If they go to college, they will be exposed to alternative ways of thinking that contradict what they’ve been taught. Highly intelligent people will be coming at them with new material. Chances are that many students aren’t prepared for such questions. All of a sudden, they are told what they believed in was wrong and given other ideas to believe in. I’m not a parent, so my opinion really doesn’t matter but I will share it anyway, coming at it from the perspective of a child. While my parents did not cover all the topics I would eventually face as an adult, I knew where they stood on certain things. I witnessed firsthand how their decisions impacted their lives, which was a testament to their faith. With all the new ideas I heard, I did not witness the same amount of years and see where that way of thinking led.

Even when it seemed like my faith wasn’t working, I knew that God was. The plan always unfolded before me. The delays were usually the result of me not taking the next step, not the other way around. I may not have liked the timing or agreed with the methods but looking back it makes a lot of sense. Out of all the posts on living a life of excellence, none would mean the same for me if I had not chosen to live a life of spiritual excellence. Each area of our lives influences the others, and by far, spirituality has influenced me more than any other area.

A Life of Excellence, part 6

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The first job that I received a paycheck for was at a local family restaurant. At fifteen years of age with a work permit in hand, I was ready to go. As a minor, they had to restrict my hours, but I worked as often as they’d let me. My boss was the owner of the restaurant and was a businessman for sure. Being a dishwasher had its drawbacks. The kitchen was hot with all the cooking going on. In addition, the commercial dishwasher added more heat than anything else. First, we had to scrap the plates clean. Nothing like picking up a huge trash can filled with leftovers and pouring it into a dumpster. A long flexible hose with a spray nozzle was used to clean most of the dishes clean before shoving the tray into the dishwasher. The next trays were cups. Last, the silverware was sent through.

Every once in a while, our boss would stop by and do a spot check. Anytime he found something, he made sure we knew about it, not always in a pleasant manner. Years later I finally understood why he was hard on us. I’ve eaten in numerous restaurants and received dirty silverware, cups, and dishes. It’s downright disgusting and makes you not want to eat there anymore! Rather than always verbally explaining himself, any time we were caught not doing something right, he would jump in and show us the right way to do the job.

There were times when we were understaffed that he helped out wherever the need was, including doing dishes. I admired him for doing that. I will say he had a knack for being rough around the edges at times. He gave orders and expected them to be followed. There was one time I stood up to him. He was telling me loudly what he wanted me to do. I said, “Ask me and I will do it.” Let me tell you, the look in his eyes. “Excuse me,” he said in unbelief. I repeated myself. I thought he was going to slap me. But he swallowed whatever it was, and through his teeth, rephrased it into a question directed at me.

I immediately jumped on the task he asked me to do. I was not trying to be clever or a wise crack but simply wanted to be treated like a human being, with respect. I don’t think he ever intended to come across as a barking madman. He had a business to run and lots of people working for him in a stressful environment. We bumped heads in the beginning, but I ended up working hard for him. He taught me about excellence, not only in the kitchen, but in business too!

A Life of Excellence, part 5

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Has anyone else thought about a positive aspect of shutting everything down the way it has been over the last few weeks? For me, I can’t help but think of relationships, family, and friends. A life of excellence is surrounded by great relationships. For families that live together in this age of busyness, they pass by each other so often on the way from doing one task to the next. This especially becomes prevalent when children are brought into the picture. Marriages can resemble business partnerships with only agreements and scheduling instead of being vibrant and healthy. All of a sudden, things have slowed down now. The pace of life is vastly different now than it was at the start of this year. People have an unprecedented chance to work on their relationships, both in the home and elsewhere.

Many people I’ve heard are staying confined in their homes, isolated from everyone else. Lately, all the restaurants have been takeout orders only. The stores that were overrun and emptied of groceries are slowly being replenished. Many people are choosing not to visit anyone, preferring to minimize risk by not being around others. For the average household, this means that whoever lives inside has an opportunity. People are craving the personal attention that comes from being around others. Right now, families can take advantage of this time to talk with each other and interact. Many are playing games or watching movies together. So much time has been made available to everyone by being cooped up together.

But the borders of a home do not have to limit our ability to reach out to family and friends who do not live with us. Technology has given us a means of communicating with each other like never before. Pick a platform, there are so many. With an internet connection or data from a phone network, we are able to call all over the country. Video chats are already hugely popular due to the apps made available on phones. We can easily get in touch with a substantial percentage of people that we know. One thing I’ve started doing during this is scrolling through my contacts and picking one person every day to call. I have been pleasantly surprised by the reactions that I’ve gotten in return.

The real question is, are we making use of this time? Are we using it to strengthen our relationships, both inside the home and outside? Are we building each other up with encouragement? What is said is just as important as reaching out. If all you are doing is spreading more panic and fear, people do not need that. Let people know you are thinking about them and that you love them. Be the voice they hear that stands out from the rest, the one that assures them they will get through this.

A Life of Excellence, part 3

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I’ve been writing off and on for most of my life, although most written works were short. In college, I had to take an English literature class, which further ignited my sense of wonder in writing. I started to toy around with the idea, but nothing ever amounted to it. Several more years passed when I got word from the community college that I started out in. It was summer then and they were having a Writers Conference. The event listed a famous author that was known worldwide.

Although it was not my genre of reading or writing, I decided to attend the three-day conference. When I looked over the Itinerary, there were several genres represented by different authors who were speaking at the event. In some sessions we all sat together in the auditorium, listening to the main guest speaker. Afterward, we broke up into smaller groups, focusing on select topics. Some of the topics I had already learned about in school. However, the speakers focused specifically on how to make our work better. They were definitely crunch sessions where we crammed as much information into our brains as possible. In between the sessions, while on break, I started writing some small pieces of fiction.

By this time in my life I was in university, but also working full time. I left the event feeling overly excited, but soon found my way back to what I considered my present reality. During the next year, I found myself writing small works of fiction. The conference returned the following year and I went again and learned about new topics. The excitement was reignited once more, but history repeated itself. It wasn’t long before I found myself back into a busy lifestyle. Life has a way of piling things on us to make sure we never experience liftoff.

Finally, a few years ago, I decided to write my first book. It was the first time I ever seriously considered it. I had started many different stories, I just wanted to finish one of them. I finally focused on one particular story and wrote it out it as a short story. I asked my friend to look it over and give an opinion. What came next, I did not expect, constructive criticism. After a thorough review, in the best way possible, thoughts were shared. What was said and what I heard, were orders of magnitude apart from one another. They might as well tell me that the whole thing was trash. We even got into a bit of an argument. It turns out I did not like criticism. I was terribly angry and crumpled up the pages. These words are still stuck in my head to this day, “I will never write another story.”

After I came down from this “personal attack,” I began to listen to the wisdom being shared. Eventually this stubborn hater of criticism went back to work on the story. We worked through the plot, worldbuilding, and a great deal of character development. After the holes were filled in, the story was transformed something altogether better. They knew me long enough to know that the story was not my best effort and they told me so. Deep down inside, I knew they were right. I think this is partly why I went on to fix the story. The truth was I just wanted to finish a story so bad that I was willing to turn in anything. That became the starting point at which my excellence in writing began. I better understood that writing conveys a message and words are used to communicate. Living a life of excellence means you have to continually improve upon your best. Before long, I realized a reader deserves the absolute best an author has to give. Anything less is unacceptable.

Carry All That?

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When I was a teenager, my father regularly took my brother and I hunting in the fall. My brother was really into it. I, on the other hand, was in it for the trip. We even had a best friend that tagged along with us on occasion. One time when we were all together, my dad took a picture to capture the memory. In the picture, the most noticeable thing was the large blue tarp tied between several trees to keep rain from falling on us. Underneath the tarp, he had a small setup in which he made himself coffee. The flame came from one of those small cans with flammable contents. A plus for us, was that he also brought something to cook chicken noodle soup in. Later in the day, we also had sandwiches and snacks. Add to all that, I asked him to bring a gallon of water to make sure we never ran out.

So there my dad was, weighed down like a pack mule on a distant voyage. After “base camp” was painstakingly set up, it looked like a sporting goods store in the middle of the forest. I know he did it out of love for his boys though. I remember when another friend of the family joined us. At the time, he was the youth pastor at my church. When our friend saw the backpack my dad had packed, he asked my dad a question. Are you really going to carry all that?

It was a funny memory I’ve held on to ever since. It can also be a fascinating question when reflected upon. When visually seeing someone carry a large backpack filled to the brim, we see it as a tremendous burden to carry on their back. But what about some of the burdens carried around that no one sees? Since they are not seen, most often these loads are ignored. Before realizing it, they can be carried for years.

Think about the types of burdens carried. Parents make sure their children have enough food to eat and other basic necessities. These are a burden of duty, fulfilling an obligation for bringing life into this world. However, there are other burdens, not born out of duty but of our own making. Some things we choose to carry on our backs that we have no business carrying. Rather than letting go, we hold tightly to these burdens as if they brought us a reward.

The past, for example, is one of the biggest burdens held on to. For some, they can’t get past what someone did to them and are unable to forgive them. For others, it is something they did to themselves, and they are unwilling to forgive themselves. The point of fascination lies in what we make ourselves carry around, even without realizing it. Others tell us to let go. We may know the right thing to do is let go, yet we cling to the wrong stuff anyway. Think hard about the unnecessary burdens you may be carrying around in life and answer a question. Are you really going to carry all that?