Desire – Discipline – Delight


HabitsGood habits are difficult to form.  (The bad ones just seem to leap into existence!)  When we are working on incorporating a new habit, we often struggle mightily to get started.  We do well for a few days, and then our inspiration leaves us.  Guilt ensues.  We begin again.  We fail again.  More guilt.  We wrestle with our own best intentions, but so often, Newton’s first law of motion wins out – things at rest really do stay at rest.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Understand the universal process for implementing good habits, and you will recognize that victory is simply a matter of time and persistent effort.  According to Dr. Larry Lea in his book, Could You Not Tarry One Hour, the process involves three stages – Desire, Discipline and Delight.

Stage 1 – Desire

The essential first ingredient in a habit is desire.  You can have all the knowledge, skills and resources you need to get started (remember that treadmill that’s gathering dust in your living room?), but if you don’t have desire, it ain’t happening.  Sure, other people can coerce you into starting a habit through authority, nagging or guilting you into it, but without your own personal desire to make a change, you’ll dump the habit as soon as they take the pressure off.  Desire is the gas in your engine.  Use it to help you push through Stage 2.

 

Stage 2 – Discipline

Once you have the desire (yours – not someone else’s) to make a change, you have to discipline yourself to follow through.  Yes, it’s hard.  Yes, it’s painful.  Yes, it takes you out of your comfort zone, but it’s also temporary.  Studies have shown that it takes twenty-one consecutive days to form a habit.  There have been no studies that say you have to enjoy the process.  You just have to stick with it.  Keep your eyes on the larger goal that fuels your desire, and keep plugging.

 

Stage 3 – Delight

Here’s the secret.  If you push your way through the wall of discomfort during the discipline stage, you make it to the third stage.  This is where the habit that was such a chore before becomes a delight.  You long to accomplish it each day.  You can’t wait to get started, and if you neglect the habit for some reason, you feel a tangible gap in your day – like something is missing.  When you get to the Delight Stage, benefits of the habit that you never knew existed suddenly materialize.  You’ve developed momentum that makes the habit easy to continue.

So many times, we give up too soon.  We allow our feelings to dictate our actions.  If we’re tired, we make excuses for not practicing our habit.  If we feel unmotivated, we let ourselves off the hook.  If someone dangles an option before us that is even slightly more appealing, we give in to temptation.  That’s backward thinking.  Feelings follow actions, not the other way around.  When you discipline yourself to take action, you push through to delight.

It’s just a matter of time and persistent effort.  Do it even when you don’t feel like it.  Fake it until you make it.  Resist the temptation to do nothing, and you can take advantage of the second half of Newton’s first law: things in motion tend to stay in motion.  Be a thing in motion!

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Filed under Change, character, development, discipline, growth, habits

The Lincoln Memorial and the 5 Why’s


Lincoln Memorial at NightIf you ever get a chance to visit Washington D.C., take the time to visit the Lincoln Memorial.  Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States and led the country through the Civil War and the emancipation of the African-American people from slavery.  The memorial erected in his honor is over 63 meters wide and over 33 meters high.  It has a statue of Lincoln at it’s center that is over 6 meters high and weighs 175,000 kg.  Millions of people visit the memorial each year to remember the strong, Christian leader, who preserved the American nation and had the courage to do what was right.

Several years ago, the National Parks Service executives wrestled with a problem.  The stone exterior of the memorial was deteriorating and showing significant signs of wear.  They considered replacing the stone or painting over it on a frequent basis, but this solution was too expensive.  So instead, they called the maintenance crew and asked, “Why?”

“Why?” is a powerful question in problem solving.  The “Five Why’s” is a simple root cause analysis technique that involves asking “Why?” until you get to the deepest root of a problem.

“Why was the stone deteriorating?” the executives asked.

The maintenance crew responded, “Because of the high-power sprayers we use to wash the memorial every two weeks.”
Now, the executives could have solved the problem at this level by canceling the washings, but they realized this would bring complaints from the tourists, who enjoyed the beauty of a clean and shining memorial.

So, they asked, “Why are we doing high-powered washings every two weeks?”

The maintenance crew said, “Because of the bird droppings.”

It was pretty obvious that if you got rid of the birds, the bird droppings would stop, so the executives sent away the maintenance crew with instructions to put nets up in strategic places.  Unfortunately, the nets weren’t very effective, and the tourists complained that they were unsightly.

So, the maintenance crew was called again, and the executives asked, “Why are there so many birds?”

They pointed out what seemed quite obvious to them: “The reason the birds come is to feed on the spiders,” they said.

“Spiders? Why are there so many spiders?” asked the executives.

“Have you ever been to the memorial at night?,” they asked.  “There are billions of insects.  The spiders come for the buffet.”

Armed with this information, the executives ordered regular treatments of insecticides.  But this solution also proved ineffective and created more complaints from the tourists.  So, the executives called for the maintenance crew again.

Executives: “Why are there so many insects?”

Maintenance crew: “The insects are attracted by the high-powered spotlights we shine on the memorial.”

Executives: “Why didn’t you just tell us that before we ordered the insecticides?”

Maintenance crew: “Sorry, boss.  You didn’t ask.”

The executives could answer their last few questions on their own.

“Why do we shine the lights?”

“So the tourists will come to see the memorial.”

“Why do we want the tourists to come?”

“Because they bring their money and spend it in our city.”

This was a problem they weren’t willing to solve.  They decided that they needed to call in their subject-matter experts one last time.

Executives: “Is there anything we can do about the lights so that there won’t be so many bugs.”

Maintenance crew: “Sure, turn the lights on later in the evenings and off earlier in the mornings.”

This, as it turned out, was a brilliant idea!  The lights were typically turned on two hours before sunset and turned off two hours after sunrise.

By waiting until 30 minutes after sunset to turn them on and turning them off 30 minutes before sunrise, they were able to both save significant money on electricity and also reduce the amount of bugs by 90%.

The insects, assuming that the Lincoln Memorial was closed for business, decided to relocate and spent their evenings with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, whose memorials turned on their lights earlier in the evening.

Less bugs meant less spiders.

Less spiders meant less birds.

Less birds meant less droppings.

Less droppings meant less washings.

Less washings meant less deterioration of the stone on the outside of the memorial.

The executives were happy.  The maintenance crew was happy, and most importantly, the tourists were happy.  On the downside, Washington and Jefferson still aren’t speaking to Lincoln.

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The Naked Lobster for Leaders


Naked LobsterEver thought about how a lobster grows?  Because of its rigid shell, the larger it gets, the more uncomfortable the lobster becomes.  Eventually, it has to shed its old shell in order to grow a new, roomier model.  This process is repeated multiple times (as many as 25 times over the first 5-7 years of its life) until it reaches its maximum size.

During the 48 hours or so that the lobster is shell-less, it’s in grave danger.  (You could walk up at any time with a cup of melted butter, and it would be all over!)  For the lobster, there is no growth without risk.

I see two lessons for us in the example of the naked lobster:

  • You won’t grow without taking some risks.
  • You won’t grow without leaving something familiar behind.

God is calling us to walk with Him, but He doesn’t guarantee that the journey will be “safe.”  The Christian walk can be incredibly scary…if you are doing it right.  That is, if you are taking risks that God asks you to take so that you have to put your faith in Him.  These risks will require that you get out of our comfort zone.  That “comfort zone,” that “familiar thing” you are leaving behind is often something related to your old sin nature.  Like the lobster’s old shell, it should be more and more uncomfortable to you as you grow in your relationship with Christ.  When you realize that it’s dead, it’s time to shuck it off.

As a leader, your “comfort zone” or “familiar thing” could be your leadership position.  How long have you been in your current role?  Long enough to grow a shell?  Are you still growing in your role, or has your shell begun to define your limits?  If you are holding onto your position because it’s comfortable and safe, because you’re afraid of challenging yourself and taking some risk, because you are trying to save face or hold on tightly to something you “earned” years ago through your hard work, you are stuck in an old, rigid shell.  It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for your organization.

The lobster operates on instinct to shed his shell, but unless someone with authority forces you out of your shell, you have to have courage to get rid of it.  You don’t have to take the risk if you really don’t want to.  If you are too afraid to leave the familiar for something better, you can continue to stay in your cramped, little shell convincing yourself that it isn’t so uncomfortable after all.

But let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment….it is starting to pinch, isn’t it?  Do the things that used to motivate you seem boring and burdensome now? Do you find yourself spending more energy holding onto what you have than investing in yourself to grow?  Accept my testimony as someone who has left his shell multiple times (a few times by choice and several times against my will as I tried desperately to hold onto what I had).  God is waiting outside your shell.  He’s calling to you from just outside your comfort zone, and He’ll lead you through the next stage of your growth as you faithfully and courageously walk with Him.

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Filed under Change, comfort zone, Courage, faith, Fear, growth, leadership, trust

Getting Out of the Boat


Walk on Water 2

“Failure is not an event; it’s a judgment about an event.”

~ John Ortberg

One of the most amazing stories of faith and courage occurs in Matthew 14:22-33.  Recognizing Jesus walking across the Sea of Galilee, Peter asked to join Him.  Jesus gave the invitation, and Peter got out of the boat and walked on water….and then he sank.

Peter remembered the wind and the waves, took his eyes off of Jesus and sank into the sea.  Fortunately, the Lord reached out his hand and caught Peter before he drowned.  “You of little faith,” Jesus said, “why did you doubt?”

You might think Peter was a failure.  True enough, he had such little faith that he doubted Jesus’ ability to overcome the wind and the waves.  But let’s not forget that he did walk on water!  Who else has ever done that? And remember, there were eleven other witnesses to the event.  What were they doing?  They were hugging the boat.

I’m sure they were afraid of the risks of getting out of the boat.  They might drown.  Even if they didn’t, they might lose face in front of all their friends by trying to do something impossible.  Their friends might have been offended that they acted like they were better than the rest. Their friends might have thought they were showing off for Jesus.  Jesus might have scolded them for asking to do something that was His job.  There were probably one hundred reasons for staying in the boat, but Peter didn’t.  So, let’s give him some credit.

On your team, which would you prefer – Boat Huggers or Water Walkers?  If you want Water Walkers who take risks, who innovate, who get out of their comfort zone and find new ways to solve problems, you are going to have to redefine the meaning of the word failure.  Making a mistake while trying something new is not failure.  Missing the target while challenging yourself to try a new skill is not failure.  Offering an idea that no one likes is not failure.  Getting bad feedback about a new way of doing things is not failure.

Failure is hugging the boat.  It’s playing it safe.  It’s staying in your comfort zone and refusing to take risks.  It’s sticking with old, ineffective methods.  It’s waiting for someone else to be the first to step out of the boat.

Getting out of the boat means your team members are going to get wet sometimes when they sink.  Your role is to catch them when they fall and celebrate with them when they walk on water.

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Filed under comfort zone, Courage, growth, innovation, Jesus, Peter, Risk

Improving Your Swing


Major James Nesmeth was a golfer.  Not a very good one, mind you.  He shot in the high 90s, which would categorize him as “a hacker” in clubhouse terms.  He stopped playing for seven years, but even without picking up a club, his game somehow improved.  In fact, it didn’t improve just a little.  It improved by an incredible 20 strokes!  During his first game after the seven-year break, he shot a 74!

What makes the story even more remarkable is that Major Nesmeth spent that seven-year break as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.  Shot down over the China Sea on February 3, 1966, he was captured and imprisoned in a 6 ft x 9 ft cement cell.  To prevent himself from losing his mind, he imagined each day that he was playing golf at his favorite course.  In intricate detail, he mentally replayed the familiar scenes hundreds of times – going to the closet to get out his golf bag and shoes, cleaning his shoes in preparation for the day, paying the greens fees, smelling the clean-cut grass, choosing his club, setting his stance, checking his grip, swinging his club, watching the ball as if sailed through the air, walking the course, making the putt…over and over again.

In his mind, Major Nesmeth played every hole perfectly.  He never shot worse than par for seven years.  He imagined every detail, every smell, every sound, every sight.  When he was finally released seven years later, his body responded to the memorized routine.  His body achieved what his mind had rehearsed.

The technique Major Nesmeth used is called visualization, and it’s a powerful tool for reaching your goals.  Visualizing yourself being successful helps to rewrite the scripts in your brain that dictate your self-image.  Your self-image is a powerful force that creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in many areas of your life.  When people who have a low self-image experience success, they find it hard to believe.  It doesn’t match their mental scripts.  As a result, they often sabotage their success to retreat back to the comfort of what they believe to be true.

Even if you have a positive self-image overall, there are areas in your life where your confidence is low.  By visualizing yourself doing well in these areas, you can start to redefine your self-limiting beliefs.  The more detailed your visualization, the more powerful it is to your subconscious mind.  It takes practice, but it pays big dividends.

Give it a try in any area where you are experiencing performance that’s, let’s say…..sub par.

(Story Sources – Unknown author, “18 Holes in His Mind.”  Published by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen in A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul.  Also – Excellence in Leadership by Richard Tosti)

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Filed under Goals, success

Wanted: Crocodile Hunters


Thailand, where I live, is suffering from the worst flooding in over 50 years.  My home in Chiang Mai flooded a few weeks ago, but now the floods are in Bangkok, and most of the city is under water.

An unfortunate side effect of the flooding is the escape of man-eating reptiles.  This from the New York Times World a few days ago:

Thailand is one of the world’s chief exporters of crocodile products, and farms some 200,000 of the animals at 30 farms and 900 small breeding operations, according to the Fishery Department. About 100 were reported to be on the loose in Ayuttthaya, to the north of Bangkok…authorities have put out a call for crocodile hunters offering a reported bounty of 3,000 baht, or about $100 dollars each. (Seth Mydans – New York Times World http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/26/world/asia/flood-waters-in-bangkok-shut-domestic-airport.html?_r=1)

“Don’t worry,” they say later in the article, “these are friendly crocodiles who move slowly and willingly submit themselves to capture.” (…or something to that effect.)

The three men in this photo apparently believed it, and maybe it was true.  The crocodile might have willingly slipped into their restraining system.  But I doubt it.  He looks really uncomfortable.  And he was free!  Surely the gastronomic choices outside the breeding farm were much better than the slop he was fed inside.

So, assuming that he put up a bit of a fight, do you think the approximately $33 apiece that each of these men earned for risking life and limb was sufficient compensation?  Not for this crocodile hunter.

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Filed under Challenges, culture, funny, humor, motivation, overcoming obstacles, Rewards, Thailand

An Accidental Meeting?


I’m at a meeting in Bangkok this week, and today was our first day.  When I walked into the conference room, there was an elderly English man talking with one of my team members.

Turns out (stay with me while I connect the dots), he just relocated to Bangkok with his wife for some work she does.  They haven’t found a church yet, so when he was walking past the Bangkok Christian Guesthouse and saw that a church met there on Sundays, he went in to inquire about it at the front desk.

As he was about to leave, he asked if by chance they had ever heard of an organization called Compassion.  (Compassion is the Christian ministry that I work with, and we help poor children in developing nations around the world by working through the local church.)  The man had sponsored a child in Thailand for many years through us and wanted to get in touch with us to see if we knew any recent information about her.

The person at the desk thought he was part of our meeting and said, “Compassion is tomorrow, not today.”  Surprised and a little confused, he asked some questions and found out we were having a meeting at the guesthouse, so he returned this morning to talk with us, tell us stories about his sponsored child and show us her picture.

He doesn’t sponsor her anymore, because she is now 27 years old, but we took his information and are going to see if the Thai office can get the former sponsored child and her sponsors connected.

Some people believe in coincidences.  I don’t.  It was no accident that this man wandered past our hotel the day before we got here.  God was planning a reunion!

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Filed under God's Will