Tag Archives: Life Choices

Self-Made Prison

Life is either a marathon or a sprint.  Regardless of the length, we do not know when the race will be over.  Yesterday is the past. Whether it was good or bad, today is another chance to get it right.   Our attitude, beliefs, actions, and fears have brought us where we are. Many of us have built up walls in our lives. We see the world in a certain way, and we tell ourselves that they are barriers to keep out the unwanted, but in reality they are prisons.   

Some of us think of a water glass as half empty while others see the glass is half full.  Neither is wrong.  A positive outlook, regardless of what we face, will help us as we move forward.  Nothing in our lives is permanent, change will always come. Bad attitudes magnify the negative and destroy hope.

Have you ever felt, that something may work for others, but not for you?  I have on more than a few occasions.  The problem with my thinking was that I was not willing to open up to new methods or ideas.  I was stuck in the mindset that my long held beliefs and preconceived notions were always right because I had been there before.  What I really had to learn was that the old way life played out that way because of the way I went about it. It was time for me to stop passing the blame and stop the never ending cycle I was on. It is never easy, but you must retrain your mind to stop with the negative thoughts and keep working to get out of your cell.

Every morning there is a new problem.  Leaving the house brings a new set of challenges. Do we stay home? Feel sorry for ourselves and cry? Turn to a vice to ease the suffering momentarily?

Evaluate everything and start with the things that you can fix now.  Come up with a game plan.  No journey is complete without a map – a route and a destination. Accept the facts and no matter how uncomfortable it is, face them, because each of holds the key to set us free from the walls that are holding us back.

The biggest and most formidable wall in life is fear. The fear of failure always looms.  The fear that we will go too far and be left alone.  The fear that we are just not good enough.  The fear that we do not have what it takes.  The fear that we will not be accepted by our peers.  All of these seem real, but the truth is we have built them up in our minds. The more we dwell on them, the more powerful they become.

At one time, I lived in a constant state of fear.  I had a fear that a normal life was for everybody except me. The fear paralyzed me and kept me from growing or reaching for my goals.  We can either become prisoners bound by our own outlook, or we can change our thinking.  It will be hard, breaking habits by retraining your mind, building new habits and learning all take time.

Saul of Tarsus is a man I have brought up before.  He grew up Jewish and by all accounts, he was set to be one of the great ones. He had a prejudice against Christians, and believed that they were wrong about Jesus and his way of thinking was right.  He went after the early Christians with a vengeance, even sending some to their death. It was not until he was blinded by Jesus himself and later regained his sight that he was freed from his self-made prison. He went on to accomplish great things that we still benefit from today.  He wrote fourteen of the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament of the Bible.

It’s time to let go of the preconceived notions in your life that are keeping you locked up, and move on to accomplish the great things set out for you.

Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:13

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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 Choices We Make

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I am not defined by my past, yet it has shaped my future.  My experiences, both good and bad, have shaped my life.  I would never be who I am today without all that has become part of my history.

I was on the phone the other night speaking with a friend I have known for over three decades.  At one point in the conversation he said, “I’ve never had any major problems in my life that I did not bring on myself.”  I have believed this to be true in my own life for many years, but I had not heard anyone say it out loud before.

It is a simple answer to the question that many of us have asked. Why is this happening to me?

In my case, I knew deep down that I was the cause of all my problems, but I didn’t want to vocalize them at the time.

It was only when I decided to start writing down my life that I could trace every single situation in my life that had taken place back to previous actions I had taken.

In my early years when I was alone facing the repercussions of my choices, it was easy for me to dismiss my predicament. It went something like this, “If only I had not trusted…” or “If I had just left when I knew trouble was coming..”

The pattern is simple to decipher with the luxury of time.  I alone was responsible for the situation that I found myself involved in.  The first step was to be honest with myself, admit it and accept it.

The silver lining in all of this revelation was that I could use the lesson I had learned to help guide my life today.  I began to think more about the longterm effects of my choices.

My friend and I went over our past for a few minutes and then he said, “I am very happy now.”

I agreed with him, referring to myself.   Part of growing up for us was realizing that happiness is not our circumstances – it is a decision to remain in a positive mindset regardless of the things that have happened to you or are happening around you.  Often I hear people say, “I want a job that makes me happy,” or maybe it’s a relationship, or more money, or a better family that you think would make you happy.  Happiness has nothing to do with your circumstances and everything to do with your mindset and your decision to be happy.

Together my friend and I chose not to go to school unlike most of the people we were around.  I felt that my career path was laid out in front of me in the criminal world. He was not interested in what I was pursuing because he was on his own path. We stayed close over the years, but he had a couple of lost years before every action he took left him with only one option: joining the US Army.  He joined, and it changed his life.  It gave him structure and purpose – things he had been missing.

This was how he ended up in a blown up Humvee on the road between Iraq and Kuwait.  It is how he ended up in the mountains of Afghanistan getting hit by shrapnel from an RPG. It was also how he was blown off a building in Afghanistan by yet another RPG.  Those were his tragedies, but not only negative results came from his choices.

Two decades ago, when he was on leave from boot camp he came to visit me in Orange County, California.  We had a great time and he stayed longer than he should have.  He ended up missing a number of busses and I could not book him a plane flight out of Orange County in time.  He found a way to take a bus down to San Diego and then another long bus ride across the country to his base.  He met his future wife on a bus on that cross-country journey.  They have two wonderful daughters and have been married for 18 years.

Life could have been much easier for both of us, much less pain, if we had chosen different paths.  Yet, God gave each of us free will.  The ability to make our own choices and live with the consequences.  In his sovereignty, he can use any of our life choices, good or bad, for the ultimate good of his people and for his plan.

God wants to be close to each of us, but our sin separates us from him. He does not force us to ask for forgiveness, but he did give us his son as a sacrifice, so that we have a way to him through forgiveness.

We cannot tell people how to act, can not make them change.  We cannot force them to believe that God has a plan for good in their lives.  What we can do is show them with our actions. They will have to recognize God’s hand in our lives and seek him out on their own.  The choice to be Christian is mine, just as that choice is yours. This is one choice that I look back on now and ask myself, why did I wait so long?

Matthew 7:13-14

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Romans 8:28

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.