Tag Archives: challenge

You Get Out What You Put In

There are a few simple rules in life.  One of those is you get out of life what you put into it.If you look back throughout your life history you will come to the same conclusion.

Take stock of your life today.  Are you reaping the benefits of years of work put towards a goal? Or have you been coasting, putting off the work?  Are you letting your circumstances dictate your schedule, or are you making your goals a priority with your time?

So you want to write a book?  I hear this a lot.  What is stopping you from writing?  Common answers: no time, no money, I don’t know how or I do not have the education.

You want to write?  Then you must write.  Everyday you write so you get better. Writing is like a muscle and you have to use it in order for it to work properly.  You have to become a wordsmith, a person who is constantly working on their writing so that they become more proficient.

Writing has got to be one of the cheapest hobbies around, because all you need is some blank paper and a writing instrument. I have a friend, Matthew, who has written six books – good books – in eight years.  Three have been published and the others are in various stages.  He has written screenplays and edited other people’s work, all while holding down a full-time job.

He is married with a child, is active politically and he never went to school to be a writer. He just does it, day after day, until it becomes second nature.

I train a number people in all shapes and sizes in the art of boxing. One group really stands out –  the fighters in Rock Steady Boxing Minooka.  They all have Parkinson’s disease.  It has been over a year since I first watched Leslie Stahl from 60 Minutes do a story on Rock Steady Boxing.  Leslie’s husband has Parkinson’s and he started training at Rock Steady Boxing.  The difference in his life has been huge.  Before the video segment was even over I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.  I went to the Rock Steady Boxing headquarters and took a weekend seminar on working with Parkinson’s patients. It change my life. I realized that everything I had learned and trained over the years could actually be used to help others fight back against a debilitating disease.

My first Parkinson’s fighter has been training with me for almost one year, three times each week.  His wife is his “Cornerman” and she trains with him every workout too.  They have stuck with it and pushed themselves.  They have missed very few workouts in the entire year. All of their progress has been amazing.  It has improved their strength, balance, coordination, footwork, speed, form, posture, health and cardio. Why?  They show up even when they do not feel like it.  They show up when they are tired or have other things to do.  It is important to them.  This is the same for all of us, no matter what age or fitness level. If you put in the time, you will see results.

If you wish to improve your body, you have to do the work.  Any magic plan that promises fitness with no work is a lie.

Have you ever noticed that when you really wanted to do something, you found the time?  When you really do not want to do something, or it is not a priority, something will always come up. If you are just doing something for money or just doing enough to get it over with – it shows.  Quality in = quality out.  Mediocre in leads to the predictable outcome.

The ability to get good at anything takes a lot of work, but to do so as a full grown adult is rare. It is not because we can’t, but because we are not willing to invest the time or go through the hardship of change. We have, to be honest, harsh and merciless with ourselves and most people are too sensitive get a lot better at anything.  If you never intend to work hard, then anything you wish to do well – will be impossible.

This extends to living a Christian life.  If all you ever do is go to church once a week and sit through a sermon, do you really feel you are giving God his worth?  We are all sinners and not one of us is perfect.  It is a constant battle to live a life that honors God.  If you work on every day, you will see change. If you continue to just show up weekly at a service what can you really expect?

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

Proverbs 13:4

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Challenges to Change

What is holding you back? What is preventing change, in your life? In my life, the biggest hurdle to change was myself.  If you look back at your life up to this point, what are some of the things that have caused you a lot of grief?  Could they have been of your own making?

My life was full of what I like to call now, ‘ill-advised short cuts.’ I was always looking for a way around the rules.  I never took the time to build the proper foundation.  That meant everything I did to be a house built on sand.

When it came crashing down, I would just walk away and jump into something new. I did not care, because I thought I knew what I was doing.

Nobody cared what I did because I brought in money enough for everyone.  As a result, not one person ever instilled in me the way to do things right.  I never made long-term plans, because in my words, “Who knows what tomorrow will bring.” I was always one step away from being locked up.

I was in love with my lifestyle, because as long as I kept producing more and more cash, I never had to think about what I was not doing with my life.  The life I chose gave me an excuse not to live like everyone else.  In my mind, the rules of the world did not apply to me. I didn’t have to have normal relationships because, “Hey, my life isn’t normal.”  I could lie, I reasoned, because it was part of my job.  If I didn’t like something, for whatever reason, I could just make it go away.  People wanted to be around me even if I was not a good person, because they felt they could get something from me. This kept me from facing the truth.

It has taken me many years and a lot of mistakes to write this today.  I had to really examine my life and be honest with myself.  I would work on one small problem area and then begin on another.

I kept thinking the life I chose was what caused me problems.  Then one day I knew what caused them.  It was me: I made the choices, I took it on myself to live the way I did.  I was the one who would not listen to normal rational people.  I always felt I knew better than everyone and I knew what was right.

I left what we referred to as “the life” in 2005, but that was just the beginning of my journey.

I had removed the work part of the equation from my life and yet I would still find myself having similar problems.  I had heard often that life was not about making money.  I was still doing things I did not like (legally this time) for money.  My reasoning was simple, I would use the money I made to do what I really wanted to do.  It never worked out that way, because I became involved in producing more and more so I could keep up with something that was only in my mind.

I was not happy and therefore I never felt any success.

I speak to people on regular basis that wish to obtain certain goals.  Most of these goals have to do with fitness and health.  Sometimes they feel they need to lose some extra pounds.  It could be they wish to be stronger or more coordinated. They might want to win a fight.  They need to figure out what their challenges are in order to change.  Whether or not they succeed comes down to one thing, and that is mindset.  In the end no matter what they decide, I can only bring out what they already have inside.

The formula for getting in shape and losing weight is simple.  The diet industry in the world hopes that people will never figure it out.  You have to workout and eat right, that is all. There is no magic formula or easy way.

Just like people are in search of a magic pill that will allow them to lose weight without a change in diet or exercise, I was in constant search for the magical off-road course that would take me where I wanted to go in life.

The whole time the map was in front of me and I ignored it.

I had to admit to myself that I was not as smart as I thought. I had to work hard and even when there was no visible change I had to keep moving forward doing my best.

Once I let God into my life, things became much more clear.  When I started living in faith and stopped believing I was the captain of my soul, I began to really live.

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Matthew 19:26

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

 

Self-Discipline

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Every dream, goal and plan comes down to being self-disciplined enough to get through the rough parts and the ability to stay committed until completion.

Self-discipline is our unique ability to control our urges, wants, desires and our emotions in order to reach our goals. It is a mindset that must be built upon so that we make the right choices daily to guide our lives in the direction that is best.  It means we must give up small momentary pleasure in order to gain lasting happiness.

I was thinking about where I learned self-discipline.  One place I am sure I learned it was when I was at Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad, California.  The morning wake-up bugle call reveille would sound at 6:15am.  Your bed had to be made, you had to dress with shined shoes, brass for inspection.  I used to get up at 5:30am so I could shower with plenty of hot water and take my time.

I was never in a rush to get ready and out to the quad for formation.  There really is something special about being awake while the world around you slumbers.  I committed to waking up early at a young age, and it has followed me through my whole life.

When I lived in New York I used to walk two miles every morning at 5am, then get two newspapers and a coffee before I came home.  This would set the pace for my day. I felt like it let me get in front of the day before others were awake.  I also feel like I have been able to get more finished in my life with this “extra” time.

People always talk about how they do not have any extra time.  Why not find that time before the day starts?

Many people feel that being self-disciplined will mean that they will have to give up much of what they feel is good about their lives.  There is no doubt that when shifting towards a more disciplined lifestyle your life will change.  It does not have to be bad or painful.  Examine your life and decide what is important to you.  If eating and drinking whatever you wish with no limits is what is important then look at the inevitable outcome.  You get to live with obesity, heart disease, and a host of other ailments.  How about staying up late to surf the internet or binge watch your favorite show? You must accept being tired at work or school the next day, and not performing well.

What if instead, you choose to eat food that is filled full of nutritional value.  Drink more water, keeping yourself hydrated. How would those choices harm you? Eating healthy foods does not mean a diet, it just means choosing the right tasty things to fuel your body. How about choosing to read a chapter of a book each night before bed and get to sleep at a reasonable hour?

Everyone has heard the phrase, “You just have to do it.”  It is much easier said than done for the average person with years of bad habits ingrained in their life.

So start small with something that you can do very easily.  If you need extra time in your day, how about waking up an hour earlier?  If you would like to lose weight, how about starting with a walk every morning before breakfast without fail.

If you make a commitment and stick with it, no matter what, it will translate into other areas of your life.  That means you must throw out all the excuses of the past… the  “I’m too tired,” “I have no time,” “My alarm did not go off,” or “I’m not feeling well.”

Once you make a habit of the first small change for a month, it’s time to commit to another small change. After a few months of these small victories under your belt, you can clearly see the changes that have come from your new found self-discipline.

This is something that you cannot buy.  There is no magic pill.  You have to be committed and work on it a little bit every day.  Think about this for a minute: why does the diet and self-help industry bring in billions a year?  They know that people do not want to put in the hard work necessary for lasting change.  A lot of people are looking for the easy way because we all hope there is a way.

The bottom line is that every journey begins with that first step and then continuing to step even when you don’t feel like it.

You must decide what it is you want in the long term. Once you have the goal in mind it will help you push aside the many distractions that will inevitably arise. You may feel discomfort along the way, but knowing that is part of the process makes it bearable. It is time to make decisions that benefit you for the long term.  Surround yourself with other people who are self-disciplined and cheer each other on.

Hebrews 12:11

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Proverbs 5:21-23

21 For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths. 22 The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. 23 For lack of discipline they will die,  led astray by their own great folly.

 

The Main Character

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Maybe you got the right grades in high school and attended a good college.  You came out ready to set the world on fire, but settled instead for a steady paycheck. Or, maybe like me, you went against the norm and caused some trouble earlier in life.  The unconventional life is what I lived. I always felt that there was so much more to life than playing it safe.

What makes you tick? If you were writing down your story, how would you describe your character?  Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and jot down a few things.  It’s not what we do for a living that defines us, it’s who we are as a person and what we live for.

Why does your character make the choices they do?

How does their life affect those closest to them?

What has your character learned that they can pass on to others?

How would others describe your character?

These are just answers for you to think about, not for anyone else to see, so answer them truthfully.  Now that you have a description of your character,  let it sit for a bit.  Come back to it later and read it again.

Do you like the character that you see forming on the page?  If yes – great!

If you are not happy in anyway, get busy.

All of us benefit by thinking about the people we look up to, and qualities they possess.  By working to incorporate those qualities into our day-to-day life, they can become part of our character too.

As long as you are still living, the story isn’t over.  The character is not written in stone.

No matter who you are or what you are doing now, you have within yourself the ability to change your story, improve your character.

Investing time in improving your character is time well spent. We all have time.  How we spend it comes down to what is most important to us.

Part of the character building process is realizing we can not go at it alone.  Ask for advice, ask for help, and when you do you may be surprised at the outcome.

Looking back at the main character of my story, there were a lot of qualities I’m not proud of in the younger me.  The good news is, I wasn’t doomed to stay that way forever.  With commitment, time, hard work, help from others and a lot of help from God, I’ve changed.  I’m still a work in progress, and my story isn’t over, but I’m here to let you know, you can change too if your character isn’t what you want it to be.

If you had a hard time coming up with a list of qualities that you have, the Bible is a great place to look.  It has a whole lot to say about character traits.  For every good character quality, there is a bad counterpart.  Take a few minutes to glance through the list below.  Pick a quality listed and see which side of the coin your character currently sits on.

CHARACTER TRAITS

Alertness vs.  Unawareness

Being aware of that which is taking place around me so I  can have the right response to it (Mark 14:38)

Attentiveness vs.  Unconcern

Showing the worth of a person by giving undivided  attention to his words and emotions (Hebrews 2:1)

Availability vs.  Self-centeredness

Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the  wishes of those I am serving (Philippians 2:20–21

Contentment vs.  Covetousness

Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my  present happiness (I Timothy 6:8)

Creativity vs.  Underachievement

Approaching a need, a task, an idea from a new perspective  (Romans 12:2)

Decisiveness vs.  Double-mindedness

The ability to finalize difficult decisions based on the  will and ways of God (James 1:5)

Deference vs.  Rudeness

Limiting my freedom in order not offend the tastes of  those whom God has called me to serve (Romans 14:21)

Dependability vs.  Inconsistency

Fulfilling what I consented to do even if it means  unexpected sacrifice (Psalm 15:4)

Determination vs.  Faintheartedness

Purposing to accomplish God’s goals in God’s time  regardless of the opposition (II Timothy 4:7–8)

Diligence vs.  Slothfulness

Visualizing each task as a special assignment from the  Lord and using all my energies to accomplish it (Colossians 3:23)

Discretion vs.  Simplemindedness

The ability to avoid words, actions, and attitudes which  could result in undesirable consequences (Proverbs 22:3)

Endurance vs.  Giving up

The inward strength to withstand stress to accomplish  God’s best (Galatians 6:9)

Flexibility vs.  Resistance

Not setting my affections on ideas or plans which could be  changed by God or others (Colossians 3:2)

Forgiveness vs.  Rejection

Clearing the record of those who have wronged me and  allowing God to love them through me (Ephesians 4:32)

Generosity vs.  Stinginess

Realizing that all I have belongs to God and using it for  His purposes (II Corinthians 9:6)

Gentleness vs.  Harshness

Showing personal care and concern in meeting the need of  others (I Thessalonians 2:7)

Gratefulness vs.  Unthankfulness

Making known to God and others in what ways they have  benefited my life (I Corinthians 4:7)

Hospitality vs.  Loneliness

Cheerfully sharing food, shelter, and spiritual  refreshment with those whom God brings into my life (Hebrews 13:2)

Humility vs.  Pride

Recognizing that it is actually God who is responsible for the achievements in my life (James 4:6)

Initiative vs.  Unresponsiveness

Recognizing and doing what needs to be done before I am asked to do it (Romans 12:21)

Joyfulness vs.  Self-pity

The spontaneous enthusiasm of my spirit when my soul is in  fellowship with the Lord (Psalm 16:11)

Love vs.  Selfishness

Giving to others’ basic needs without having as my motive  personal reward (I Corinthians 13:3)

Loyalty vs.  Unfaithfulness

Using difficult times to demonstrate my commitment to God  and to those whom He has called me to serve (John 15:13)

Meekness vs.  Anger

Yielding my personal rights and expectations to God (Psalm 62:5)

Orderliness vs.  Disorganization

Preparing myself and my surroundings so I will achieve the  greatest efficiency (I Corinthians 14:40)

Patience vs.  Restlessness

Accepting a difficult situation from God without giving  Him a deadline to remove it (Romans 5:3–4)

Punctuality vs. Tardiness

Showing high esteem for other people and their time (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Resourcefulness vs.  Wastefulness

Wise use of that which others would normally overlook or  discard (Luke 16:10)

Responsibility vs.  Unreliability

Knowing and doing what both God and others are expecting  from me (Romans 14:12)

Security vs.  Anxiety

Structuring my life around that which is eternal and cannot be destroyed or taken away (John 6:27)

Self-Control vs.  Self-indulgence

Obedience to the promptings of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:24–25)

Sensitivity vs.  Callousness

Exercising my senses so I can perceive the true spirit and  emotions of those around me (Romans 12:15)

Sincerity vs.  Hypocrisy

Eagerness to do what is right with transparent motives (I Peter 1:22)

Thoroughness vs.  Incompleteness

Knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of my  work or words if neglected (Proverbs 18:15)

Thriftiness vs.  Extravagance

Not letting myself or others spend that which is not  necessary (Luke 16:11)

Tolerance vs.  Prejudice

Acceptance of others as unique expressions of specific character qualities in varying degrees of maturity (Philippians 2:2)

Truthfulness vs.  Deception

Earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts (Ephesians 4:25)

Virtue vs.  Impurity

The moral excellence and purity of spirit that radiate  from my life as I obey God’s Word (II Peter 1:3)

 

List taken and edited from the one found at: http://graceonlinelibrary.org/home-family/christian-parenting/49-godly-character-qualities

 

Small Steps in the Right Direction

 

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Beekeeper Kenji

If you watch the news or log onto Facebook, you have probably heard it said by now that nothing is your fault.  Anything negative was brought upon you by an outside influence. Once you start the blame game, it’s easy to forget that we all have free will.  

Personal responsibility has the potential to turn our nation around. We live with more freedoms than any citizens in the history of the world, which gives us more responsibility in determining our own futures.  We have no nobility, no ruling class – each one of us has the potential to become whatever we wish in life.

As free people in a free society, our lives are the sum of the decisions we make.  I know many people will disagree with me on that.  Most will insist on pointing to one bad thing that happened to them, which they blame for changing their life.  In reality, life is the culmination of many small decisions made over a long period of time that shape our lives.  When we don’t like who we are, it can be very hard to accept that we are to blame.

Think about where you are at this moment in life and trace it backwards. If you are honest with yourself you will see that your past actions determine where you are today.

The great news is that nothing is permanent.  You can change your life by changing the decisions you make on a daily basis.

It is up to you, and only you, to change the behaviors that have caused you to be where you are. When changes are made, the outcome will reflect those changes.

If you try to change everything at the same time you are less likely to change anything in the long run.  Zero in on one thing you want to change, and start with that.  Take baby steps, all aimed toward the same goal.  Successful people know where they want to go, and what it takes to get there.

I see this concept of the importance of the small things in nature.  This year I started to learn beekeeping as a beekeeper’s apprentice. We began in the spring with two hives.  After a couple of months we got a phone call about some bees swarming at a nearby home, so we went and picked up a third swarm and put it in a hive.  One of the three hives flourished and grew strong, but the other two were just getting by.  We combined the two weak hives to make one bigger hive.

After the bees worked through the spring, summer and early fall, we checked on their progress.  They need to have enough honey to last through the cold Illinois winter, so it would not be unusual if there was not enough extra honey to harvest any the first year of keeping bees.

Each hive is made of wooden boxes called supers and each super has eight frames hung in it.  The bees make honeycomb on each frame and fill the honeycombs with honey. When we checked the hives, they had each produced and stored enough honey that there was enough extra to remove one super from each hive.

From the two supers, we ended up extracting 27 pounds of honey, which ended up being over two gallons. Each teaspoon of honey represents a dozen bee’s life of work. That means 18,432 bees devoted their lives to make the 1536 teaspoons of honey we harvested. That is a lot of small steps that add up to a big accomplishment.

My own life began to change when I stopped and thought about my long-term goals.  What would be the honey harvest of my life?  I used to make snap decisions without thinking.  I would go off and do what looked exciting or fun.  Once I directed my energy towards a long-term outcome and forgot about the short-term distractions, I began to see real change.

Change is hard.  That’s why it’s so important to keep your eyes on your goal, not on how you’re feeling at the moment.  As Christians, we often quote the verse “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).” This can be taken out of context to give the impression that life is not hard with God is on our side.  The truth is far from that. Paul, when he was writing that, was in prison.

God doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that he won’t give you anything you can’t handle (as Pastor Arol preached so clearly this past Sunday at Minooka Bible in his sermon about Jonah).  Life is tough.  God promises he will be with us, but he never promises it won’t be hard.

This is not limited to changing yourself, although that is where it all begins. In order to transform the world, you have to transform yourself first.

Ephesians 4:22-24

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self,which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness..

Tips from a Self Help Pro

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Everyone has goals and dreams, so why is it that some people reach them and others do not?

Our goals will depend entirely on what you deem to be important in life.  Money and possessions are top of the list for the many Americans, but goals can include spending more time doing the things that bring you joy – maybe taking a daily walk while the sun sets – or,  improving relationships with those you love.

The problem with most goals that aren’t achieved is that they are not specific enough.  Maybe you’re tired of your car breaking down and you want a new car.  What type of car, what does it cost, how long will it take you to save for it?  Maybe you want to spend more time reading or get more sleep.  What books do you want to read? What time do you need to go to bed to get enough sleep? Instead of just losing weight, what size pants do you want to wear, what weight do you want to reach?

Clarify your goals, make them specific.  Write them down.

Hopefully. you have multiple goals, and you take the time to define them all clearly.  It’s also helpful to identify and write down any possible pitfalls you might encounter on the way.

The second step is to come up with a plan on how you will start moving toward your goal.  Let’s say you chose weight loss. Do you want to just take a pill and lose it or maybe have an operation? A more realistic plan for long-term success would be to schedule 45 minutes at least three times each week exercising.  Find a trainer or a workout buddy to help keep you accountable.

Whether you reach your goal or not is entirely in your hands.

Now that you have those first two out of the way it is time for number three: putting your plan into action. Every person who ever began a new path in life began with nerves.  We like to be comfortable, and we feel secure when things stay the same, but there can be no change if you avoid unfamiliar ground.   Doubt will come to mind, but don’t let your mind hold you back.

The fourth part is putting in the work. You are building the foundation of your goal.  You may not notice anything for days or weeks at first, but if you work at it continually, you will.  I like setting small goals that I can hit along they way to my ultimate goal.  If your goal is a new car, set a goal to save $400.  Once you reach that, make a new goal of $1000.  Keep setting a new one after you reach the old.  Progress is all most of us need to keep moving forward.

Start picturing yourself accomplishing what was once only a goal.

 

 

 

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Rock Steady Boxing for Parkinson’s

 

What else could there be?  What else is important?  The fifth step is to keep going!  There are times you will feel discouraged, and there are times you will want to quit.   That is when you must dig deep – go back to the paper where you wrote down your goals and remember the reasons they are important to you.  Re-evaluate your methods and adjust, but keep moving forward.  If a door closes, you open another or go around.  Stick with it!

If this sounds like a chapter out of a self-help book, it’s because over the years I have read a LOT of them.  They all had something to offer – encouragement, a plan.  By following their suggestions I strengthened my resolve and accomplished a lot of goals.  Whether the goals were financial or physical, they brought short-term happiness and feelings of success, but none of them brought me lasting inner peace or joy.

My values changed when I started living my life to serve God instead myself.  The reasons behind my goals in the past were always self-serving.  Now, when I set goals and accomplish them, I do it to glorify Him, instead of myself.

1 Corinthians 10:31(NIV)

 

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.