Category Archives: character

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!

Advertisements

1 Comment

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

Inside-Out


My youngest son often puts his shirts on inside-out. Not a big deal. I’ve done it when I was in a rush to get somewhere. But even when I tell him he is inside-out, he doesn’t care. He’s content to go around all day with his shirt tag announcing that he can’t dress himself.

I was thinking about my son as I read Matthew 23 this morning, because Jesus also liked to turn things inside-out. In the passage, He is dealing out the “seven woes” to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, and He criticizes them for “cleaning the outside of the cup or dish” while the inside is full of nastiness. To drive home His point, He compares them to freshly painted tombs filled with dead men’s bones. They look good on the outside, but they reek of death inside.

He challenges them to clean up their insides first, because when the inside is clean, the outside will become clean, too. Jesus is saying that if they will change their character, their behavior will follow. If they change their WHO, their DO will soon match.

I’m guilty of making the same mistakes as the Pharisees sometimes. I clean up my behaviors, because I want to be seen as a godly Christian. I want people to think highly of me for the way I follow God. But the problem is that it’s difficult to keep the act going when I’m not on stage. Behind the curtains with my family and even more in private moments or times of stress, I step out of character, and I find myself leading two lives. A “hypocrite” (the Greek word for “actor” that Jesus used to label false spiritual leaders) like the Pharisees.

I’ve tried outside-in for years, and it doesn’t work. Who I am has to change first, and this means changing my heart. It’s got to happen from the inside-out.

I find this clean-up project to be exhausting, but the great news is that I don’t have to do it alone. Jesus is ready to roll-up His sleeves if I invite Him to join me. And honestly, I can’t do it without Him. Jesus is the Project Manager. He plans the work and works the plan. I’m just the assistant, and I have two main roles: invite Him onto the worksite each day and follow His directions.

Inside-out work is exceedingly slow and exceedingly difficult. It never goes as fast as I want it to, and it always requires lots of challenging situations that Jesus uses as a tool to shape my character and a test to reveal the quality of my heart. It’s a project that won’t be done until I join the Project Manager in heaven, but I’m encouraged by this Scripture:

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Maybe my son is the one who has got it right. Pay less attention to how you look on the outside and more attention to being the right person on the inside. Wear your shirt inside-out every once in awhile, and you will find that life is a lot more fun when you don’t pretend to be someone you are not.

Leave a comment

Filed under Attitude, Authenticity, Change, character, Christ, christianity, comfort zone, comparison, deception, discipleship, discipline, growth, heart, Jesus, modeling, obedience, performance, Religion, righteousness, rules, sanctification, spiritual disciplines, Spiritual Growth

Lay Down Your Burden


Two monks walked along a muddy, rain-drenched road, they came upon a lovely woman attempting to cross a large mud puddle.  The elder monk stopped beside the woman, lifted her in his arms and carried her across the puddle.  He set her gently down on the dry ridge of the road as the younger monk discreetly admired her charms.

After bowing politely to the woman, the two monks continued down the muddy road.  The younger monk was sullen and silent as they walked along.  They traveled over the hills, down around the valleys, through a town and under forest trees.  At last, after many hours had passed, the younger monk scolded the elder, “You are aware that we monks do not touch women!  Why did you carry that girl?”

The elder monk slowly turned and smiled.  He said, “My dear young brother, you have such heavy thoughts!  I left the woman alongside the road hours ago.  Why are you still carrying her?”

The story reminds me that sometimes we continue to carry burdens that others have already put down and walked away from.  If you are holding a grudge or resentment against someone else, consider what it is costing you.  Consider the mental and emotional energy you expend holding someone accountable for a wrong they did you some time in the past.  And then ask yourself, “How much mental and emotional energy is the other person spending on this issue?”  (Do they even remember it?)

Think of it this way… “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”  (Cindy Clabough)

It’s time to lay down your burden.

(Story Source – Forest, Heather, Wisdom Tales from Around the World, August House)

2 Comments

Filed under blame, character, forgiveness, guilt, Interpersonal, mercy, mistakes

Why They Are On Top


I ran across some research (Performance Intervention, Sugrue and Fuller) that has been done on top performers across industries and what separates them from the pack.   Take a look at the list of things they typically do, and I bet you’ll see some of your own success tactics listed.

Top performers often do the following:

  • They do away with unnecessary steps.  (Top performers innovate.)
  • They perform an extra step that is needed but not documented.  (More innovation.)
  • They use available information and documentation that others do not.  (Simple, but smart.)
  • They possess a self-created job aid that others do not.  (Hint: Look for sticky notes around their cubical.)
  • They possess information or data that others do not.  (Because they take initiative and search it out.)
  • They possess better tools than others.  (“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”)
  • They possess different motives for performing.  (An internal drive; a goal they are working toward…)
  • They receive different guidance and feedback.  (Uh-oh, this is one you have control over.)
  • They obtain different incentives.  (We don’t have much control over this, unless you consider intrinsic rewards.)
  • They rarely succeed solely as a result of training.  (This one takes me down a notch or two.)

So, if this is what puts top performers on top, why can’t we teach it to our other team members?  Try this experiment… take this list of characteristics and ask your top performers if they use each one.  Document what you learn, and share it with the rest of your team.

If you want more leaders, multiply the ones you’ve got.

Leave a comment

Filed under character, coaching, commitment, expertise, feedback, leadership, management, Productivity, success

Your Right-Hand Man


Everyone wants to have a right-hand man (or woman), right?  Someone you trust implicitly.  Someone who will cover for you in a pinch and make decisions just as you would have made them.  Someone you can groom to be your successor when the inevitable promotion opportunities come rolling in.

The expression “right-hand man” (as well as the tradition of seating the guest of honor at the right hand of the host) originated from times when leaders had to worry about assassination on a daily basis.  Before the days of explosives and automatic weapons, the easiest way to assassinate a leader was to have the person sitting to his right grab his sword arm and hang on, rendering him relatively helpless so that others in the room could then kill him.  If you were a leader, it was in your best interest to put the person you most trusted next to your sword arm. Since most people are right-handed, the “right-hand man” came to be synonymous for someone you could trust with your life.

Leadership can be a lonely role.  Having a right-hand man (person) will encourage you when things get rough.  A trusted “second-in-command” can keep an eye on your blind spots and warn you when you’re stepping into dangerous territory.  If you don’t have one, it’s never too late to develop that person (or to look for someone with the right qualities to fill your next open position.)

(Interestingly enough, the word “sinister” originally meant “on the left.”  Maybe that’s where we get the idea of “hold your friends close but your enemies closer.”)

Leave a comment

Filed under character, conflict, deception, delegation, leadership, management, Protection, Relationships, trust

Arrive Alive


Three men led expeditions to be the first to reach the South Pole in the early 1900’s: Robert Falcon Scott (1902-1903 and 1911-1912), Ernest Shackleton (1908-1909) and Roald Amundsen (1911-1912).  Shackleton was actually part of Scott’s three-man party in the first failed attempt, and during the long, exhausting and disappointing march back, the two grew into rivals. Shackleton returned five years later with his own team and bested Scott’s first attempt by leading his men 366 miles closer to the South Pole.  Although Scott was the one who ultimately achieved the Pole, Shackleton proved to be the better leader precisely because he did not.

Shackleton’s journey toward the Pole was costly.  All four in his party were slowly starving to death.   Each time severe weather conditions (temperatures reaching lows of -57 degrees Fahrenheit with blizzard winds over 90 mph) and dangerous terrain slowed their progress, Shackleton had to reduce their rations to ensure that they had enough food to last.  The party originally had four horses to pull the heavy sledges full of supplies, but three horses succumbed to the elements and one fell into a deep chasm that almost claimed one of Shackleton’s men, as well.  The men were forced to man-haul the sledges, and the few handfuls of food a day were just not enough.

Shackleton got within just 97 miles of the Pole before he turned his team back.  It was a huge disappointment for all the men, but it was the right decision.  While they were only a few days’ journey away from being the first explorers to reach either of the planet’s poles, they would certainly have lost their lives in the attempt.  Courageously leading his men back to the shore, Shackleton kept them all alive through expert leadership, tenacity and skillful rationing of their remaining food supplies.

Shackleton never made it to the Pole, but Scott would not accept a second failure when he returned a few years later.  He was determined to do what his rival could not.  Like Shackleton’s party, Scott lost all his horses along the way.  Dog sled teams and their leaders were forced to turn back in December, and only five men were left to make a final assault on the pole.  He and his men marched a total of 1,842 miles before they finally reached the Pole on January 17, 1912.  But to their utter disappointment, they found that Amundsen’s team had already been there five weeks earlier.

Dejected and exhausted, Scott’s men began the long trek back to the shore, but they would never make it.  In February, one of the men died after a fall caused him to have a swift physical and mental breakdown.  In mid-March, the weakest member of the team realized he was slowing the others down (he had lost the use of a foot to frostbite and gangrene) and sacrificed his life for them by leaving the tent and marching out into the snow, never to be seen again.  A severe blizzard trapped the three remaining men in their tent a few weeks later, and there they all starved to death.  Conquest of the Pole had cost them their lives.  Ironically, they were within eleven miles of the next food and supply depot.  Their bodies were discovered eight months later by a search party.

When Scott’s diary made it back to England, he was celebrated as a hero and even knighted posthumously.  In the eyes of his countrymen, his failure was a success in terms of its boldness and daring.  Shackleton’s accomplishments just two years before were all but forgotten.  But Shackleton was not surprised.  He had counted the cost when the Pole was in reach, and he chose the health and safety of his men over the glory of accomplishment.

Leaders who are only interested in their own achievements see their team members as a means to an end.  They are willing to sacrifice their followers if their loss will bring them closer to their goals.  But the best leaders are not in it for themselves.  They can’t conceive of success at the expense of their teams, and the goals aren’t worth achieving if the team can’t celebrate the accomplishment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Challenges, character, delayed gratification, determination, failure, Goals, Instant Gratification, leadership, management, parenting, priorities, Priority, sacrifice, Service, Serving Others

You Can’t Hide What’s Inside


After World War II, Germany was divided into East and West.  The eastern side was under the communist control of the USSR.  The western side was occupied by British, French and American forces.  The capitol city of Berlin was divided in a similar fashion.

Between the years of 1949 and 1961, at least 2.7 million people fled East Germany, more half of them through West Berlin.  In an attempt to stop the depletion of its labor force, East German officials ordered the building of a barrier that would one day become known as the infamous “Berlin Wall.”

As the initial barricades were going up, East Berliners were feeling powerless and resentful of West Berlin’s freedom.  In an act of antagonism, they filled a garbage truck and drove it into West Berlin late one night.  They dumped the trash all over the streets and then retreated back to East Berlin on foot.  A few days later, the truck returned under cover of darkness.  But instead of the filthy garbage that the East Berliners expected to see in it, it was full of canned goods and non-perishable food items.  On the food was a sign that read “Each gives what he has to give.”

Times of great pressure and stress tend to have a polarizing effect on people.  They bring out both the very best and the very worst of human nature.  In the same difficult circumstance, some will focus on helping others and some will focus only on themselves.  Both are responding to what is hidden deep in their character.  The trial simply brings what is hidden to the surface, to where it can be seen in our words and our actions.

Jesus once said, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”  (Luke 6:34-45)

The Apostle Paul later tells us that Christians have a war going on in their hearts and minds.  The Holy Spirit fights on our behalf against our sinful nature.  If we submit to the Spirit and deny our sinful nature, our “tree” (our life) will bear good fruit, fruit that will last – the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5)

It was this fruit that enabled the West Berliners to send love instead of hate back across that border.  It was this fruit that kept them from retaliating or escalating the conflict.  It was this fruit that made them understand the hurt and the fear behind what the East Berliners did.

If you get an opportunity to swap fruit this week, remember the good fruit of the West Berliners, and do you best to bless even when you are cursed.

(S – original story from Ron Hutchcraft Ministries)

5 Comments

Filed under Abundance, agape love, character, christianity, forgiveness, heart, Scarcity, unconditional love