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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When Pillars Fall

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Part of my enjoyment in visiting cities is observing the massive architectural structures found in them. People get used to seeing pillars in their lives every day and take them for granted. These giants in our lives stand tall, bearing the weight of untold forces, never folding under the pressure. They withstand everything that works against them, yet do not move from their position. They represent stability with grace and fortitude.

Hopefully you are not thinking about giant structures though while reading this but people in your life who represent these pillars by the way they live. For many it is a father or mother, who work tirelessly to care for their loved ones. Perhaps it is a spouse who gives devotion. However, pillars are not bound only by family ties. Leaders stand among us in the communities, jobs, and other organizations. An older man or woman could set the highest example for the younger generation. These pillars embody the much-needed support system we need in our lives.

Yet a day comes when pillars fall. They stood the test of time for so long. For years they supported the weight of a load so that others would not have to. Despite feeling vast amounts of pressure, they stood strong. Eventually the pressure gave way to cracks, yet they remained, sometimes for years. Unwilling to give up, they held out for as long as they could until they could bear no more.

When pillars fall, they create a monstrous thud, the magnitude of their strength revealed most the moment the ground shakes. Everyone around becomes unstable. Never before could it be understood how much these pillars held. The surrounding structures shifted under the weight of a new load, having to adjust and provide enough support to keep all from collapsing around them.

Surprisingly, another pillar steps into the gap, continuing the legacy of the former, holding up everyone and everything surrounding it. With a newfound sense of duty, the new pillar adjusts into an unfamiliar role. In times of unbearable pressure, it would do well to remember how the former pillar remained strong and steadfast. A sense of duty kept it firmly planted at its base, never losing ground, never giving in. No one asks to become a pillar in life. In fact, many are not; however, some could be.

Goals Really Work, part 2

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On December 29, 2019, I decided it was time to change. A new decade was days away and so was another chance to make my life better. I carefully created new daily goals that were to start on January 1, 2020. Yes, I had that 20/20 vision! Rather than rely on memory, I downloaded an app to track these goals. It turned out to be easy to use. I typed in all my goals and made them either a pass or fail. When the first day came, I checked off the goals periodically throughout the day as I completed them. Before the night ended, I checked to make sure everything was finished on my list.

I continued like this for a few weeks, still burning through the excitement of a new decade. By the end of week three, at the end of a long day, I forgot to check if all my goals were completed. I awoke in the morning refreshed, but when I marked off the goals completed that morning, I saw my first miss. A terrible feeling rushed over me. My first thought was to mark it so I could keep my perfect score. It was the exercise goal that was missed. I started looking for ways I could get out of it. The first justification that came to mind was that I walked around a little bit that day, rather than lie in bed all day. Of course, it wasn’t a purposefully planned, lengthy walk. But it was something, right? Excuses were abandoned when integrity won that first battle and I left it unchecked for the day before. My percentage dropped from 100 to 97%. Anger and resentment boiled inside after ruining my perfect record.

Although I was discouraged, I decided to move past it. Toward the end of the second month, my newfound excitement started to dissipate. However, by that time, I had developed habits that made it easier for me take the necessary actions. Some were so strong, that I no longer needed a reminder. I began to check my goal app less often during the days. It got to the point that I almost never forgot to do an activity. Trouble arose though because I had a vacation scheduled the last week of the month. I tried to work ahead to prepare myself, but there were two days that I missed a particular goal. Nearly all the work was done, and it was only a matter of transitioning it to the final stages. However, since I did not do enough ahead of time, I found it impossible to complete that goal for those two days. I was tempted again to mark them both completed. It was a pass or fail, and indeed I had failed, regardless of what I thought. I chose to leave both days as incomplete. I watched in horror as my score dropped again.

I ended up missing another goal again this month, due to a minor clerical error on my part. I had done everything right to complete the goal but made one mistake. Again, integrity won, and I left it blank. It’s almost comical how we justify to ourselves to make things more favorable for us. I am competitive, especially when it comes to accomplishment. Just like in school after receiving a grade, I had become critical over the score I received from my goals app. It isn’t really a score but a percentage completion rate. Either way, I take it seriously.

It’s only been a brief time, but so far there has been no desire to taper off on goals. I’ve found that writing them down and regularly checking them a couple times a day goes a long way. The checklist in my app has served as motivation numerous times when I did not have the desire to complete a task for the day. When I saw the pattern of success, it pushed me forward. I also found out life doesn’t always meet my schedule. I’ve had to adjust to accommodate life’s changing demands but it’s definitely working. I’ve not been nearly as hard on myself if I miss a task on a given day. Some people pride themselves on their daily completion, without ever missing a day. I did my best to do the same, but I fell short. It hurt so much that I almost cheated myself. But a gentle reminder told me to take the high road and I feel better about that than I ever would have simply by checking another box.

The important thing is to move forward toward a better life. Eighteen weeks in, I am more convinced than ever there is power in setting goals. While I occasionally look, I became less critical about the percentages and focused more on what I was achieving. After months of doing it, I had a proven track record. When I recently looked back over what I had accomplished, I was suddenly amazed. I see results and like what I see. My efforts have been paying off. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to share my personal experience with you. If you’ve had an experience with setting goals that you’d like to share, I’d like to hear about it. I know a better life is out there for you too!

Trail of Hope

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Hope is a funny thing. That’s not to say it makes you laugh but it does have an interesting way of popping up now and then. Life is cyclical. For the people who understand math, it’s like a sine wave with continuous peaks and valleys. It tends to be crushing at times and acts as though it is trying to steal what little hope is left.

We look for hope as if it will be strung out across a billboard in big bold letters. So much time is spent searching for this grand expression of hope that we fail to see the hope that is hidden in plain sight. In my personal experience, it often comes in small ways; easily missed when we are not looking for it. Of course, we want things immediately but mostly things happen over time.

In the world of dating, it comes in what I like to call crumbs; little morsels of hope. When working through the many challenges that come with dating, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the downsides. Hours, days, and even weeks of talking to someone can disappear instantly over a seemingly minor thing. It isn’t always the sting of rejection that is hard to deal with, but the way in which people reject, such as disappearing without saying a word.

I doubt this ghosting is always intentional. Without realizing it until I typed these words did I acknowledge that I have done it to others. The last thing I wanted was for someone to be hurt by my words or actions. But I think the entire process can be so frustrating that a person temporarily gives up. I’ve done it myself numerous times when it felt hopeless. Why else would we give up if it were not hopeless?

While bumping along in a hopeless way, I would catch a glimpse of something, a sparkle, a crumb. In dating, it could be an interaction with someone in a store or an unexpected message from someone new. For those experiencing sickness or pain, it could be the trials of a new medicine. For the person hoping to see a change in their partner, family member, or friend, it’s the minor change that person exhibited in their behavior.

Is this the hope I was looking for? Could this really be it this time? We’re scared to follow the trail of hope for fear it may lead us back to where we are now in our current state of hopelessness. Here’s what I want you to consider. What if it is the thing you’ve hoped for all along? All the hoping, waiting, and rejection would be over. If the choice is made to follow the trail, you will surely risk losing hope again. But what will you risk by not following the trail hope leaves behind? Possibly everything you once hoped for. The truth of the matter is that it might not be what you hoped for. But if you choose to follow the trail of hope, even if it is not the thing, it could be the thing that leads to the thing that leads to the thing you always hoped for. Don’t lose faith. Follow the trail of hope!

Developed in the Struggle

Have you ever wanted a masterfully crafted body? The commercials make these physically fit people look incredible. Just look at them exercising; they look and feel great! Maybe you believed in it so much that you too joined a gym, literally thrilled with yourself about the results headed your way. Once I was. The local gym screamed at me to get committed. Well, screamed is probably not the right word. They mailed me an advertisement introducing me to a new, low rate. Plus, they offered me a risk-free trial. Basically, for a guy like me, it was a chance to flop without paying for it. Sure, they totally believed in me… But just in case I nosedived into failure in the first month, the gym added some fine print and hit me with a yearlong contract. That’s commitment alright. I was appalled. I thought, what is all this rhetoric! Look bro, I just want to lift weights and get buff, understand?

They conveniently deducted payments from my checking account for the following twelve months. The clause stated if I should happen to quit at any point in the contract, they still would take my money, even after the contract was fulfilled. They informed me the only way my membership would terminate was if I delivered them a personal letter stating that I was leaving after the initial contract period expired. Do people even teach how to write letters anymore? Come on! As part of my membership, they added in some free training sessions. In these sessions, a trainer was assigned to me. It seemed their intent was on seeing how close to the point of death they could take me, without me dying. I thought, this sort of thing should be illegal. Luckily, there is a filter on my mouth that keeps me from saying what I am actually thinking. Without a mirror to see myself exercise, I wondered if I casted a glassy stare that saw deep into their twisted soul. I wondered… do they enjoy watching me suffer? What kind of sick person is this?

Eventually I got through those torture sessions orchestrated by evil; pardon me, by the athletic trainer. They provoked me and pushed me onward to do more. I remember during a set of ten repetitions, on the last one they shouted, “give me two more!” Are you kidding me? Greedy sucker, I already gave you ten; now you want more! Unbelievable! After the training sessions ended, the success of my workout depended entirely on me from that point on. Without a push from the trainer, I had to push myself. But the trainer set the path from the beginning. On a serious note, it takes a special person to be a trainer who always pushes someone to become better. In all honesty, they deserve our utmost respect, admiration, and gratitude.

Along the way, I received a new form of inspiration, called results. When you see results, it becomes fuel to push you forward, through all the hard labor. When you achieve some of your goals, like inches or pounds lost and muscle definition, you realize something important. Lots of forces pushed against you. But when you fight to push back more than they do on you, you are developed in the struggle. Through continuous effort and training, you grow stronger.

Pain racked my body in those early days, but I got used to the punishment. Struggles develop you. Don’t just think of a physical struggle though. It can also be a mental or emotional struggle that conditions you, challenging you to do and become more. Had you not struggled through; you would simply be back at where you started. It is certainly the easier way, but it is usually less satisfying than pushing through the harder path. When challenged in some way, don’t think about it in terms of the price you pay to get there. Think about who you will become in the process to overcome the challenges. A great satisfaction lies just beyond your struggle. Something deep within us all yearns to be victorious in life. Choose to fight back and you too, will be developed in the struggle.

Goodbye 2018 (Christian)

Another day and another year that has come to an end. This year was undoubtedly filled with surprises for each of us. For some it was a terrific year filled with great success, family, career, and health. This is likely a smaller number but we are happy for them. For most though, it has been a mixed year filled with ups and downs. There are even some that consistently struggled this year with failing finances, relationships, health, career – you name it. Each barrier stood out as an obstacle blocking the way in our pursuit of happiness.

If you are Christian, you may find yourself reflecting on how good everything went according to plan. Be grateful to God for the work He has done in your life. If all your plans for the year fell into a pit and you are left wondering what is next, be grateful to God for the work He has done in your life. While it seems to be contrary to be grateful for when things didn’t go our way, the Bible instructs us to give thanks in all things.

One of the things that sets Christians apart from others is our faith. We can look like literal fools to the rest of the world. From an outside perspective, we may have every reason to believe that things will not work out. The odds may be against us. The decks may not be stacked in our favor. Failure, even death, may be knocking at our door. The pressure to quit might be higher than ever in times past. Yet we choose to believe. We choose to believe because that is exactly what it is, a choice.

We are called to press forward. Pressing is an action that takes effort to overcome the opposing forces that are at work against us. The greater the opposing force, the greater the strength that will be needed to overcome it. Despite how things appear and how we feel, we press on! Hidden just beneath our weakness is the strength of God, ready to enable us with the power to overcome.

God has promised us so many things. It’s up to each of us to search for what they are. It is on us to choose to believe Him in spite of dismal circumstances. The world is faced with the same challenges, as no group of people are exempt from the troubles of life.

However, others should watch us and stumble in thought as to why…

Why do these people get up when they should stay down? Why do they lift their weary heads high with hope? Why do they refuse to quit? What makes them get up time and time again?

If only we could show them, it is not what, but Who! It is the One in John 14:6 that declared to be the way, the truth and the life. It is the One who promised us an abundant life in John 10:10. It is in Christ that we live. We spend our Christian lives getting to know God through His Son Jesus and His Spirit that dwells in us.

So if you find your end to this year challenging, remember the old saying, carry on Christian solider. A soldier was likely referenced because it is a soldier’s duty to follow orders. A good soldier exhibits courage in the face of fear. They fight bravely through adversity. They rise to whatever challenge awaits them. When obstacles block them, they find a way over, a way around, or by God’s good grace, a way straight through. They look death in the face and say, not today.

I don’t know what came your way this year, how it came, or why. But I believe and trust in my God who is infinitely greater than the sum of all things that work against us. I choose to look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, and acknowledge that God is not finished with your story. By the inner working of His Holy Spirit, I choose to believe that He who began a good work in you, shall complete it in the day of Christ Jesus.

To my fellow Christian Believers, keep the faith! Let’s show the world in this new year why we are different!

Happy New Year and may God bless you in the year to come!

Inspired To Change

Change. It’s one word that is easy to say but hard to do. No matter how you go about it, knowing why you need to change is extremely important. Otherwise in the process, when the struggle grips tightly on to you, squeezing without mercy, it may feel as though it’s just not worth it. If the change doesn’t occur, those undergoing it will be pressured to let go. The moment change is let go, a person will slip back into the comfort of how things used to be. The shame is that unless one let’s go of how things used to be they cannot grab hold of all that could be.

So you are ready to change, but where should you start? It may not be glaringly obvious and in fact it may be overwhelming depending on how big a change that needs to occur. It is important to remember it doesn’t happen overnight. But get started! Start somewhere, it doesn’t always matter where. Newton’s law says you will stay where you are unless acted upon by another force. Instead of waiting for that force to come from the outside, let it come from within. Take action now. When you approach change a little at a time, they will add up to a major change in your life.

Sometimes change will be thrust upon us and we have no choice in the matter. However, we do have the choice of how we respond. It’s a good idea to manage our emotions during these transitional moments. When our emotions run high, we can make decisions that will not benefit others or ourselves. We say or do things that break trust and create emotional wounds that are difficult to heal. Sometimes we just need a little time alone to calm down and gather ourselves. As humans, we’ve been given an amazing ability to adapt to nearly anything, but the transition period can be very stressful.

With change comes intimidation. What was once normal, no longer is. Fear will try to arrest you in an effort to paralyze you. If you are going to move, it would rather you reach back and grab what once was. But just up ahead is something new, uncertain. What keeps us from stepping out is fear that what is ahead will not be as good as what lies behind. How can I let go? It’s been this way for so long. Understand that it takes courage to change. The fear may not leave, but it also doesn’t have to retain power over you. Fear is not capable of holding you back, it’s not strong enough. I never found much courage until I found Jesus. Change after change has come and gone. Through all the uncertainty of what lies ahead, I trust wholly that I will not face it alone. And that my friend, gives me power to change.

Has change been too difficult? It may seem that way, but realize if a single person before you has changed in a similar way, then you too can change. Many of us are given the same things to work with. Although there are variations, others with far less have done a lot more than we have. Don’t give up. Up until this moment, we have survived everything we have been through! The best news is, our story isn’t over. There is still time to create a better life. But we have to reach for it. Stretching is quite uncomfortable at times, but the more you do it, the more flexible you will become. Flexibility allows us to adapt to the changing circumstances life sends our way.

What are you waiting for, change!