Tag Archives: chicago

Ready or Not, It’s Time for Change

When change comes into our lives it is rarely welcomed.  It can turn our lives upside down and take us outside of our comfort zone. It is usually only looked at favorably in hindsight.

So when is the best time to make changes to our lives?  Most of us only change when we are forced into it by a circumstance of life.  There are seldom times when we decide that the way things are now is no longer acceptable so we truly commit to change.  I’m not talking about a three day cleanse or a week without sugar, I’m talking about a permanent lifestyle change.

I’m here to encourage you to stop waiting until you have hit rock bottom or you have a crisis to change.  

There will never be a perfect time in our lives for voluntary change, so right now is as good a time as any.  The world around us is changing every day and there is nothing we can do to slow it down or stop it.

Even if life is going along perfectly and we are content, there is always room for self-improvement.  There is nothing wrong with wanting something better in life. Goals are a great part of living. We should never stop learning or moving forward.

Changing because of what others think is not the answer.  Forget about other people’s opinions.  You are given one chance at your life, and you should stop letting others dictate your life, just like you should stop blaming others for the things in your life that have gone wrong.  

Take responsibility, step up and make positive changes.   If you take ownership of your life and take steps toward your goals, you will arrive where you set out.

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

James 1:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

 

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Gratitude

Life is hard.  We all face periods when it feels like our world is collapsing in on us.  During those tough times, we can either face the hard times and deal with them, or let ourselves become prisoner to our circumstances.

The holiday season is here and it tends to bring many feelings to the forefront – many good, some bad.  One of the most important is gratitude.  

I am coming up on my third holiday season in the Midwest.  Being away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, I have truly learned to enjoy a slower pace of life.  I have learned to treasure the small things that come up on a daily basis and enjoy the beauty of the country around me.

I had it in my mind, for a very long time, that the only things I should be thankful for are cash money and freedom. The funny part about that, is that the money never made me happy and freedom is something I never really had.  I held on to that warped sense of “what life should be” for far longer than I should have.

It took me many years to reach a place where gratitude became an important part of my daily life.

It is easy to let life distract us with what we don’t have, but the reality is that here in the U.S. we live very blessed lives. No matter what our economic level is, we have clean water, electricity and there is always food available.  

It is time for me to not only be thankful for my many blessings, but to also step it up and do what I can for others because I have been so blessed.  I always talk about my “goals” and this is a big one:  I will pay it forward.  I will help others just as people along the way have helped me.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Matthew 6:21

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

Live The Dream

What are your dreams and goals? A lot of us use the phrase someday when we talk about them.  We often put off taking that first step until it is too late.  I wonder how many works of art died before they were ever realized? How many great stories were never told?

Kids dream big.  Astronaut? President? Racecar driver?  Sure!

Could it be that we were never taught how to reach our goals?  When I had something I wanted to accomplish in the past I would often get caught up in my own thoughts, holding myself back. I would basically talk myself out of it.  I would think, “I can never actually do that,” or, “I don’t have the education or the training.”  Worse yet, “I don’t have the connections I would need to succeed with that.”  

Do you see how I never even took the first step?

Today when I think about my goals, I investigate them.  I learn everything I can about them and then I begin to chip away.  I put one foot in front of the other.  Each day I make progress in the direction I wish to go.  I keep that mental picture of myself doing or succeeding at what I am dreaming about.

This is when I have learned to be patient.  Let’s say I did arrive at the end without all the hard work in the middle.  If that happened, I would not be ready for the success.  Most likely I would fail.  I wouldn’t have all lessons that I would need to fall back on that I should have learned on the way to reaching my goals.  

God knows what I can handle – success and failure – and where I need to be. I have to trust in him on my journey to accomplish the dreams he has put inside me.

Ambitious dreams are great! Working towards them is part of life.  Letting them die is a waste. I am sure that any cemetery is full of wasted possibilities and unfulfilled potential.

I do not know what legacy I will leave behind when I die, but I do know that I do not want to be remembered as the “Someday I’ll accomplish that,” guy.

There is no better time than right now to take that first step towards your goals.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Thrive

Here in the United States, we have access to so many things that can enrich our lives, yet many of us never take advantage of any of it.  We all have free time, we all have resources around us – libraries, museums, job opportunities, educational opportunities.  Yet most of us would rather spend our time complaining about all of the things we don’t have and the opportunities that are not handed to us, than to go out and create opportunities for ourselves.  Why?

Did we lose the art of believing that anything is possible with hard work and determination?  It can be easy to forget that we are all truly blessed to live in a place where there is an abundance of food and medical care is always available in emergencies. Instead, we all want more, we feel we deserve more without putting in the effort to earn it.

If we spend any amount of time watching TV or poking around on social media, we will be quickly reminded of the things we are lacking.  The truth is, those things are not necessary to achieve our goals.

Life is always better when we spend our time believing that we already have the things we need to enjoy life and pursue our dreams.  Don’t wait until you achieve your goals to believe in yourself.  Believing you can’t thrive until you have reached your goal is a mistake, we need to thrive during the journey. To think otherwise only fills our days with negativity.  

I am healthy and alive and thriving, even though I have so many goals left to achieve.

The fault in my old system of belief was that I thought everything – both good and bad – happened because of me or to me.  I gave myself too much credit – I believed the world revolved around me.  It is hard not to laugh at myself now looking back.  

I believe that if everyday I put in my best effort, it will pay off in the future.  That doesn’t mean life won’t hold struggles, but it means that I can still thrive during life’s struggles.  I know life as it is at this moment is just temporary and will change sometimes for the better or worse. I believe that no matter which way life may go, I am well equipped to handle it and will continue to thrive.

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

 

Destination or Journey

Often we focus on the destination with so much intensity that we completely forget about the journey. Each of us has a unique story that goes along with our journey in life.  We are exactly where we are today because of the roads we have chosen.

In 2005 I could have never imagined that I would end up in the Midwest.  I became adapted to living the big city life during my time in New York, and the minute I left, I missed it.

I spent a lot of time in a mountain state after that, but I never enjoyed it or even considered living there.  I spent all of my time training, writing, reading and on Fridays, watching movies.  That was probably the longest time I spent living away from a coastline, until now.  Los Angeles began as my home in my early years, and became my home again.  It was the place I thought I would live the rest of my life.

Looking back, the funny thing is that I do not miss it at all.  I was going over all of the choices big and small that brought me to where I am in Illinois today.  I do not regret my past because it shaped who I am today.  I regret certain choices and actions I chose.  I never dwell on my past in a negative way, because it shaped the person I am today.  I am thankful for my journey and most of all, that I survived.  

I learned a lot of things the hard way. The lessons of my life come from experiences both good and bad.  Now, I hope to pass on my experiences to anyone who cares to listen, and save them the trouble of learning the hard way.

I lived in a state of constant dread.  A life of,  “What if?” or, “How long?”  Even after I began the change process, I still felt uneasy all the time. Looking back, I will sometimes catch myself wondering why did I not seek change sooner.  I know now that it is because I was not ready and God’s timing is perfect.

My journey taught me that we can all accomplish what seems impossible as long as we are dedicated to improving and staying the course.  We may not get exactly what we set out for, but what we do receive will be more than we could have dreamed.

Destination or journey? The real prize is what we learn along the way.
Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

 

Habits Are they Helpful?

Habits.  Good, bad or slightly annoying, it is our habits that will ultimately determine where we end up: success or failure.  

I was recently sent this article about a man who had studied a group of rich people and outlined the common habits he found they had.  While that article, in particular, was only about a group of people with a high monetary net worth, I’ll go beyond that, and say that good habits can help you succeed in life, not just determine who becomes wealthy.  Money and things are temporary.  Success is also about what we do with our time while we are here on earth.

I really like this definition of a habit: a routine or behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. That pretty much encompasses all that needs to be said about habits.

It has also been said that it takes twenty-one days to form a habit.  I have been working on creating better habits for myself.  

I will give you two examples from my life.  First, I committed to writing this blog with a new post every Wednesday.  I did it for a full year. Even when I felt nobody was reading or following my posts, or I felt I could better use my time doing something else, I still sat down and wrote.   I enjoy writing and it keeps me sharp while I finish up my book. The point is that I made it a habit to sit down in front of the computer to write every single day, so that I could make sure I produce enough content.

My birthday was June 1st and I made a commitment to myself that I was really going to push myself in the fitness department. I wanted to increase my strength, so I started an intense training program with kettlebells.  I gathered all of the information that I could, buying books on kettlebells and watching training videos by the pros.   I then planned a kettlebell program four times a week to add to my regular training.  I have not missed a day and progress is moving forward at a pace better than I expected. I have made heavy kettlebell training a habit and I can feel the results.

Success in anything new does not come from luck, and it is not free.  

The time I took to examine my life and create new habits has paid off.  It was not easy to admit to myself that I had some really worthless habits.  It was hard to ditch some life long patterns I had, but I have and I will continue to work on replacing them with good ones. I can change my life. If you want to, you can change yours too.

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

 

Baggage

Many of us carry around way too much weight. I am not talking about those extra pounds on the midsection. I’m talking about the dead weight of emotional baggage we drag through life.

Most people do not want to face or hear the truth. That is the way society has trained us. It is not our fault…. all of our problems are because of…  Insert a cause here. If only I had this thing or went to these places or I had a better family or a better job, or a better spouse. If all that fails, blame it on the government of the only truly free nation in the history of the world.

When our problems surface, others may tell us that we should go see a professional who will give you a prescription for whatever the newest drug is today. Yet, despite the blame and the drugs, at the end of the day, we still have the same baggage.

What we carry around could be very visible, or it could be very well hidden inside of us.  

Have you ever watched someone explode in anger? Do you believe that it is a one-time occurrence? On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are others who try way too hard to be a good person or overly helpful. Their emotional baggage is always there, just below the surface.

 We have to address what causes anxiety inside us.  No matter how far we run from it, it will still be there.

In my old life, I used to live in Newport Beach, California. When things got hot from law enforcement, I would take off to my condo in Palm Springs, California. While there I would relax, head out into the desert, sometimes hang out with other bad guys. Then I would come back to Newport Beach where the problems still existed, but were no longer in my face.

I did this for most of my adult life. I would shuttle between South Florida, Southern California, New York and many other destinations.  All I did was stay a step away from my problems.  What I needed to do was stay in one place, face my problems and deal with them.  

The number one task at this point if we wish to free ourselves from the dead weight that drags us down is to identify it. Make a list. Think of your life like a trip into outer space where you can only take the essentials with you. Your life is the suitcase. You must choose each item carefully, deciding if you can live without it or not.

Once this is finished we must decide what we will do about the baggage you no longer need to carry.  Our emotional well being is our own responsibility. There is never a time to place blame elsewhere or ask someone else to do it for us. There will be few things in life we have control over, but the good news is we can control our own emotions.

I have a friend that grew up in the life.  He came from a family that I will call Mafia royalty.  He had all the perks when he was young and more when he came into adulthood.  He never gave life a second thought because he was able to live well.

It all came to an end well over a decade ago and today he is paralyzed by his former life.  He never developed the skills to live, to be a normal human.  No matter when I speak with him, it is always the same issues. He will remain stuck in emotional quicksand until he steps up and takes responsibility for his own life.

I understand why my friend and others cannot climb out of their pits of despair. I have been there.  Admitting to ourselves that our baggage is holding us back gives us power to let it go.  It is a constant battle for me. I constantly find old habits creeping up on me.

My blessing was the day I realized that I could let go of my burden by not living for myself, but by God’s will. That was the day my eyes were opened and the emptiness left my soul. The best part of all my soul searching is that I know where my problems stem from and I no longer let them affect my life. It is not easy for me at all, so through trial and error, I have eliminated triggers in my life.  I have learned to live in the now, yesterday has passed and tomorrow has not come.

It is time for all of us to live a more fulfilling happy life, by letting go of the extra baggage we carry with us.

Ephesians 4:31-32

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Proverbs 28:13

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.