Don’t lose what you’ve gained

Last night I was reading the little letter that St. John wrote to a friend of his. He said something really important in this letter:

Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. (2 John verse 8)

You work hard to gain: spiritual vitality, physical strength, intellectual capacity, vibrant relationships, etc.

The crazy thing is that if you stop working… you start losing.

Most things of value are not “once secured always secured.” They must be nurtured and protected.

A huge mistake lots of people make is to work really hard to achieve a goal… and then once they achieve it they stop doing what got them there in the first place!

Some examples:

  • People compete in a bodybuilding show… after the show they gain a ton of weight… and often stop eating and lifting.
  • People go to church because their life is falling apart… it starts to get better… they quit going to church.
  • People pay attention to their marriage because divorce is imminent… it gets better… they decrease their intensity.

If you want to get it… you’ve got to work hard for it.

If you want to keep it… you’ve got to continue to nurture and protect it!

I urge you to look around you. Who/what do you love? Who/what have you worked hard to achieve? Then ask yourself, “If I keep doing what I’m doing will I keep/grow this thing I love so much?”

#dothework

Get uncomfortable

comfort-magicI’m 41 years old.

I like to be comfortable. Everyone does.

What I have realized though is that what is comfortable for me is rarely good for me in the long run.

What is comfortable is a box of Little Debbies and a Netflix binge. What is comfortable is sleeping in… spending as much money as I want whenever I want… saying everything that comes to mind… skipping the gym… not studying my Bible or reading good books… etc.

Yes, when I read that list of things I realize that my tendency is to be a sluggard. I work. I like to work; but if I only did what was comfortable I would work much less on things that are much less meaningful. I’m guessing you would too.

I realize something else…

As I get older there are fewer things that make me comfortable AND I love those fewer things more!

The problem here is that if I allow myself to only do those things atrophy will set in: physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, and relational atrophy. I’m not okay with that.

What makes me (and you) stronger is resistance… discomfort! The truth is that if you are not regularly uncomfortable then you are not growing… and if you are not growing then you are diminishing (because nothing is static).

So here’s the question: What are you currently doing that is making you uncomfortable?

  • What books are you reading that are stretching your mental capacity?
  • What are you doing with your exercise and eating that are making you uncomfortable… but better?
  • What risks have you taken lately that have pushed the envelope?
  • Have you had a difficult conversation lately? One that you started with a lump in your throat, sweaty hands, and a dry mouth? Tim Ferris said that “the level of success in our lives is directly proportional the number of difficult conversations we are willing to have.” Are you having them?

Look… you can play it safe and choose comfort for the rest of your life. That will result in a weaker, smaller life that is impoverished and boring.

OR, you can move into the discomfort zone. This is where growth happens!

Right now I’m working on an experiment in my life that is moving me into the discomfort zone. I’m calling it “Six Weeks of Awesomeness.”

I have identified a total of six actions I want to execute and/or six habits I want to establish by the end of six weeks. Some things require daily attention (habits), and some things require a block of time on the calendar (actions). The truth is that all of these things are a little out of my comfort zone… none of them makes me extremely comfortable… but all of them will make me a better man when they are completed and/or established as routines in my life.

Does that sound like something you know you should do? How about joining me?

If you decide not to do”Six Weeks of Awesomeness”, then at least consider this question:

What are YOU going to do to move out of your comfort zone and into a place of discomfort and growth?

 

3 ways to develop spiritual strength

photodune-7653254-muscular-man-praying-s-1024x1024Strength is something that I want in every area of my life: physical, emotional, financial, mental… and spiritual.

Mark Bell, a powerlifting coach, always says that, “Strength is never a weakness.” I’m sure that some might argue that… but I think that fundamentally he is correct. Strength is the antidote to so much pain and so many problems!

This morning I was building strength in my spiritual life by spending some time reading and reflecting on some words written by St. Paul in the Bible.

Let me show you what he wrote, and then I want to ask you three questions:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9 NLT)

So here are the three questions:

  1. What are you praying about?
  2. What are you thinking about?
  3. Who are your models?

The answers to these three questions will tell you everything you need to know about your spiritual strength. Your weakness or your strength is directly proportional to your answers.

If you pray about nothing, think about negative things, and model your life after weak people… then you’re going to be spiritually weak (and probably weak in other areas too)!

If you want to change your spiritual weakness into strength then listen to what St. Paul teaches us…

Spiritual strength is developed and sustained when we:

  • Pray about the things that worry us.
  • Think about the things that encourage and inspire us.
  • Model our lives after people who are spiritually strong.

So with this information in mind, let me ask you again:

  1. What are you praying about?
  2. What are you thinking about?
  3. Who are your models?

Learn… or be normal.

A while ago I ran across a quote from Henry Doherty…

“It is the studying you do after your school days that really counts. Otherwise, you know only that which everyone else knows.”

Geeze… I don’t want to be normal. Normal assumes that things will get worse unless they are intentionally made better. I want to get better… so I expect to keep learning!

For me books are my go to source of information. I also find helpful coaches and teachers on YouTube.

Where do you go to keep learning? Take a minute to let me know on this poll!

Three ways to change yourself

Every month I write an article for the Brutal Iron Gym newsletter.

For now this is a free newsletter packed with good information and inspiration. If you want to receive it send an e-mail to brutalirongym@gmail.com!

This is the article I wrote for the June edition of the newsletter!


 

3 waysI’m a huge fan of getting better! In fact, one of my goals is to get better as I get older. Part of my plan for making that happen is by reading… constantly acquiring new ideas. One of the ideas that I ran across recently was something that I can’t wait to share with you! It has to do with how to change yourself!

First things first though… I am of the opinion that YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU! You are where you are because of the decisions you have made up to this point! You made food choices, relational choices, recreational choices, etc. that have created the man/woman you see in the mirror today.

The good news about this is that if your decisions have led you to the place you are currently, they can also take you to another place! Decisions followed by action are powerful tools!

Having said that, there are powerful forces that influence our decisions on a regular basis. Let me share the three most powerful (I owe this line of thought to Darren Hardy’s book “The Compound Effect”).

  1. Input
  2. Associations
  3. Environment

Let’s look at each one for a minute…

Input

This is the “stuff” that goes into your mind.

Think about it… what does your mental diet consist of? Facebook? Netflix? TV? And there’s always the silly nonsense we can gorge on via Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. (BTW, I have all of these and from time to time I actually learn some stuff from them!)

You know, if you drop a blob of mud into a perfectly clean pool that little bit of dirt will dilute the water! BUT, if you drop ten 5-gallon buckets into that pool… you’re going to have a mud puddle! That’s what we do to our mind when we fill it trash that does not inspire and motivate!

I’d encourage you to start filling your mind with positive inputs by reading good books, listening to inspiring podcasts, and talking with people who are already doing what you want to do, because at the end of the day… if you want to change you, the first thing you should consider is your mental diet!

Associations

Oh, this is a biggie!

The people you hang out with will, according to one study, “determine as much as 95% of your success or failure in life.”

Think about it, if you hang out with powerlifters, you’re probably going to end up lifting heavy stuff! If you hang out with bodybuilders, you’re likely to end up eating lots of chicken and blowing out your shirt sleeves! If you hang out with people who binge on Moon Pies and Chocolate Milk… well… you’re going to blow out some clothes too… just not the sleeves.

Seriously, I don’t need to spend a lot more time teaching this point because you know it… the people you hang with will help you or hurt you.

If you want to change you then you might just need to get some new friends.

WARNING, shameless plug forthcoming…

I recently wrote an entire blog post about this subject titled “Who’s In Your Circle of Five?” I encourage you to go read that… when you’re done with this post!

The third influence in our lives is…

Environment

Your environment is the sum of all the things around you: people, art, furnishings, words, etc.

Think about it like this… how do you feel when you walk into Brutal Iron Gym? Got it? Now think about this, how do you feel when you walk into your doctor’s office? You feel completely different because the environment is completely different.

Your environment is a huge influence on the person you are!

Some things that I like to include in my environment are: positive music, encouraging words, sunshine, hugs, high fives (BTW, I prefer high fives in the gym), good books, etc.

Let me ask you this, if I were to walk into your environment (e.g. your house, office, car, etc.) would I be inspired or feel like taking an entire bottle of Xanax?

The point here is this…

If you want to change you, you can hasten that process by changing your environment!

So there you go!

Three factors that will help you change the person that you are and become the person you want to be:

#1 Input

#2 Associations

#3 Environment

Oh, and now that you’ve finished this post, go read this one about building your Circle of Five!

The two most important parts of your day

 

 

The two most important parts of your day are… the beginning and the end!
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Here’s why I say that…

Because, for most of us, these are the two parts that are under our control!

Our morning and nighttime routines are typically not impacted by the unexpected (e.g. unexpected visitor, a phone call that takes too long, etc.). Think about it… we usually follow the same routine every morning (e.g. brush teeth, shower, coffee, etc.) and the same routine every night (e.g. tuck the kids in bed, e-mail, prayer, etc.).

What happens between the beginning and the end of your day is often filled with the unexpected… but the bookends, the beginning and the end, there’s a lot of predictability there.

Because there is so much predictability, why not take advantage of these two points in your day?

I’ve found a couple of practices that are tremendously helpful during these two times.

In the morning I preview my day.

I sit down and write out the things I will do during the day. These things include the daily disciplines of prayer, exercise, loving my kids, etc. as well as the matters of business to which I must attend: meetings, study, training, etc.

Then at night I review my day.

I sit down, look at what I wrote that morning and ask, “Did I do what I said I was going to do?” I make notes of things I learned, attitudes that need to be adjusted, etc.

Reviewing my day helps me learn from my day and sets me up to have a better day tomorrow!

Now here’s the crazy thing…

So many people miss the two best parts of the day!

Here’s how…

They miss the morning because they sleep in until the last minute!

They miss the evening because they sit in front of a screen until they fall asleep!

If you are doing either or both of these… you are giving away the best and most controllable parts of your life!

Let me give you a couple of ideas that are working for me:

  • Get up 30 minutes earlier.
  • Don’t turn on a screen after 9 p.m.

It’s really that simple!

When you get up in the morning… write down what you will do that day. Taking time to ask God for wisdom, discipline, courage, and love is a pretty good way to start your day too.

When you sit down at night… look at that list and check off the things you accomplished. Take a few minutes to review your attitudes and experiences. Ask forgiveness, write down a lesson you learned, take a minute to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.

Sure, doing this means a little less sleep and a little less Reality TV… but as Jeff Olson in his book, The Slight Edge, says…

“What is uncomfortable now will be comfortable later, and what is comfortable now will be uncomfortable later.”

I’d rather be uncomfortable with personal discipline today than uncomfortable with the results of a lack of discipline ten years from now.

Get up early and turn off the screens at night… and see what happens as you begin taking control of your life! It works for me… and I can’t wait to hear how it works for you!

Time is your friend…

One of the books I’m reading now is The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

Yesterday I snapped a picture of one of the pages and shared it on my Instagram page. I thought I should share it here too… and make a comment or two.

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For a long time I saw time as my enemy. It was TIME that was keeping me from the things I wanted.

Now I see how wrong that was.

Now I see that what was keeping me from the things I wanted was ME refusing to do what Jeff Olson says is necessary for success, “a few simple disciplines, repeated every day.”

Seriously! Since I’ve been embracing this idea that time is my ally I have:

  • Become a better dad
  • Completed more projects around the house
  • Become more organized in my work environments
  • Gained weight (I’m trying to do this)
  • Written more

Olson’s line that keeps bouncing around on the court of my heart is this…

“Time will be your friend or your enemy; it will promote or expose you.”

Question time…

Do you see time as an asset? An ally? Or do you see it as your chief enemy?