Category Archives: growth

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 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

Don’t Miss the Meaning


Many of us go through life having experiences but missing their meaning.  If you believe Romans 8:28, then you know that God uses ALL things for the good of those who love Him.  He uses good experiences and bad.  They are a tool to shape us more like Christ and a test to reveal the quality of our heart.

But we are so busy!  Most of us don’t take the time to stop and reflect.  We have the experience but miss the meaning because we moved on to the next stimulating activity or responsibility in our lives.  It’s like going on an incredible trip to a distant country, having fantastic experiences pregnant with significance for our lives and then packing them into our suitcase for the trip home.  When we arrive, we leave the suitcase in a corner unopened and grab a new, empty suitcase, where we will pack in all the potentially meaningful experiences of today.

But when will we ever find the time to unpack?  Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…

It’s very optimistic of us to think that things will slow down tomorrow so that we can pull out all the great experiences of the past to reminisce and learn their deep truths, but it probably won’t happen.  And who knows?  Yesterday’s experiences might have an expiration date.  God may have given them to us right before we needed them.  By the time we stop to examine them, they might taste very bitter to us as we realize how much we needed them when we had an opportunity or were put to the test.

The key responsibility of parents, mentors and supervisors is to help their children, their mentees or their staff unpack the lessons that experience is meant to teach them.  By creating space in busy schedules, these leaders help their followers learn the importance of fully receiving each experience that God gives them.  They contextualize by adding their insights and their own lessons learned; they ask questions to reveal the hidden value of seemingly meaningless circumstances; they challenge their followers to ask “why” until God’s purpose is revealed.

If you are in a leadership role, stop working so much and start coaching more.  Most of us in leadership roles are too busy with our own responsibilities to unpack lessons with our followers.  It’s great if you are shoulder-to-shoulder with them, having the experience together, but even more important is being face-to-face, examining what’s in their suitcase.

The question is, do you care about them enough to want them to grow and learn and develop as God intends?  If so, don’t waste anymore of the teachable moments He sends you.

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Filed under coaching, discipleship, Fathering, Gleaning, growth, leadership, learning, management, mentoring, parenting

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.

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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

Keeping Up with the Joneses


Roberto Goizueta, the former Chairman of Coca-Cola, asked a question of his senior managers:

“What is our market share?”

“45%,” came the confident reply.

“How many ounces of liquid does a human being need to drink a day?”  Goizueta asked.

“64 ounces a day,” someone offered.

“On average, how many ounces of all our products does a person drink per day?” Goizueta asked.

“2 ounces,” said one of the executives.

“What’s our market share?” came his final question.

While I don’t think we should allow Coca-Cola to convince us to replace water in our diet with their products, I do think Goizueta’s question was visionary!  He saw that his leaders were operating under a limiting belief – that we only have to be better than our biggest competitor (in Coca-Cola’s case, it was PepsiCo).  He gave the executives a larger playing field.  In effect, he said, Pepsi is irrelevant.  Stop measuring our success by how we compare to our competition.  Start measuring our success by how we compare to our potential.

What a paradigm shift!  The problem with comparing yourself with others is that you only have to stay one step ahead to feel good about yourself.  If the one to whom you are comparing yourself starts to slide, you can slide, too, and still feel good about where you are in relation to your competition.  (See graphic below.)

You might say, “At least we’re not as bad as them!”  Or, “Yes, we’re slipping, but so is everyone else.”  That may numb the pain, but the truth is, you’ve lost your edge.  The sooner you admit it, the sooner you can get back into the game.

On a personal level, comparing yourself to your friends, coworkers or neighbors can become an excuse for not living according to God’s standard and calling on your life.  While you’ve got your eyes fixed on everyone around you, you will almost invariably start to drift away from where God wants you to be.  Where they are is irrelevant to your walk with the Lord.

It’s true that if you focus on those that are ahead of you in the areas you want to grow, it can motivate you to higher levels of performance, but be careful even about these types of comparisons.  They are dangerous for a few reasons:

  • If your competition slips or lets up for any reason, you might be tempted to, as well.
  • If a change takes them out of your life, you might lose your motivation for growth.
  • If they get too far ahead of you, you might get discouraged and give up.
  • And even if they motivate you to higher levels, ask yourself if you are really doing it for the right reasons.  Is it to look good to others, to feel like you are better than others, to “win”….or is it to live by a high standard or to please God?

Keeping up with the Joneses is a losing battle and only serves to distract you from the fulfillment of your greatness.  Let the Smiths or the Petersons take on the Joneses.  Compete with yourself until you reach your full potential.

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Filed under blame, Change, comparison, competition, Compromise, Daily walk, growth, Incentives, leadership, management, paradigm, paradigm shift, performance, Relationships, self-image, self-worth, Spiritual Growth, success, team, teambuilding

Achilles and His Heel


You may have seen the movie, “Troy,” with Brad Pitt as Achilles, greatest of the Greek warriors in the Trojan War.  What the movie didn’t cover was how Achilles got to be so great.  In Greek mythology, Achilles was the son of the sea nymph Thetis and Peleus, king of the Myrmidons.  The Fates prophesied that Achilles would die in the Trojan War, but Thetis sought to secure a different destiny for her son.  She took him to the River Styx (the entrance to the underworld), held him by his ankle and dipped him into the water.  As a result, Achilles became invulnerable everywhere on his body except for the heel with which his mother held him over the river.

Years later, Paris, prince of Troy, abducted the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta.  The Greeks rallied behind the offense and set off with 1,000 ships for Troy.  Despite Thetis’ attempts to prevent Achilles from going to Troy, her son was persuaded by Odysseus to join the effort.  The Greeks lay a long siege to the city.  During the tenth and final year, Achilles was mortally wounded by a well-aimed shot from Paris’ bow.  The arrow struck him in the heel, his only vulnerable spot.

The term “Achilles Heel” has come to mean a weakness that seems small but is in fact potentially fatal.  Many leaders have an Achilles Heel.  Sometimes they know that it exists, and sometimes they are blind to it.  It can go undiscovered for years until they are given a challenge that exposes their shortcoming, but once it is revealed, it is almost always fatal to their forward motion.

Some managers have an Achilles Heel in their ability to deal with people.  Like Achilles, they are tactically superb, receive accolades from high levels, move up through the organization with dexterity and speed, but they leave dead bodies everywhere they go.  As long as they move quickly enough, no one traces the destruction back to them.  But once they reach a spot on the battlefield that will not yield (i.e. get stalled out in a position), those around them begin to make the connections.  And once their Achilles Heel has been located, it’s not long before their enemies use it for advantage.

The best managers identify their Achilles Heel by seeking frequent feedback from all levels and all directions (e.g. through a 360 degree evaluation).  In this way, their enemies become their allies, helping them to identify their weaknesses.  Once they have identified their Achilles Heel, they take steps to strengthen or eliminate their weakness through training, coaching, difficult assignments and other means.  They never allow success to be an excuse for not growing.

 

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Filed under Challenges, coaching, Denial, failure, growth, leadership, management, mentoring, mistakes, overcoming obstacles, parenting, performance, temptation