All posts by Joel Wiggins

5 Research-Based Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination

Chances are that at this very moment you’re procrastinating on something. Maybe you’re even reading this article to do so.

A while back, I took a year to experiment with every piece of personal productivity advice I could find. In becoming hyperaware of how I spent my time, I noticed something: I procrastinated a lot more often than I had originally thought. In one time log I kept, I found that over the course of one week, I spent six hours putting off tasks — and that’s just the procrastination that was apparent from my time log.

This got me thinking: why do we procrastinate, even though we know it’s against our best interests? How can we overcome it, preferably without hating ourselves or the techniques we use in the process?

To answer these questions, I spoke to researchers, and spent time digging through dozens of academic journal articles. The advice I gathered became the foundation for part of my book and, fortunately, I discovered that a lot of it works.

Why we procrastinate
One of the first things I learned was that procrastination is a human condition. About 95% of people admit to putting off work, according to Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation. And I’d argue the remaining 5% are lying.

As for the phenomenon of putting stuff off, it’s “a purely visceral, emotional reaction to something we don’t want to do,” says Tim Pychyl, author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle. The more averse you find a task, the more likely you are to procrastinate.

In his research, Pychyl identifies a set of seven triggers that make a task seem more averse. Bring to mind something you’re putting off right now — you’ll probably find that task has many, if not all, of the characteristics that Pychyl discovered makes a task procrastination-worthy:

Not intrinsically rewarding (i.e., you don’t find the process fun)
Lacking in personal meaning

On a neurological level, procrastination is not the slightest bit logical — it’s the result of the emotional part of your brain, your limbic system, strong-arming the reasonable, rational part of your brain, your prefrontal cortex. The logical part of your brain surrenders the moment you choose Facebook over work, or decide to binge another episode of House of Cards when you get home.

But there’s a way you can give the logical side of your brain the upper hand. When you notice an approaching showdown between logic and emotion, resist the impulse to procrastinate. Here are the best ways I’ve discovered in my research to do that.

Reverse the procrastination triggers. Consider which of Pychyl’s seven procrastination triggers are set off by an activity you’re dreading. Then try to think differently about the task, making the idea of completing it more attractive.

Take writing a quarterly report. If you find this boring, you can turn it into a game: see how many words you can crank out in a 20-minute time period. Or if you find a work task ambiguous and unstructured, create a workflow that lays out the exact steps you and your team should follow each month to get it done.

Work within your resistance level. When a task sets off procrastination triggers, we resist doing it. But just how resistant are we?

Let’s say you have to wade through a dense piece of research for an upcoming project. To find your resistance level, consider the effort you commit to that task along a sliding scale. For example, could you focus on reading for an hour? No, that period of time still seems unpleasant. What about 30 minutes? Shorten the amount of time until you find a period with which you’re no longer resistant to the task — and then do it.

Do something — anything — to get started. It’s easier to keep going with a task after you’ve overcome the initial hump of starting it in the first place. That’s because the tasks that induce procrastination are rarely as bad as we think. Getting started on something forces a subconscious reappraisal of that work, where we might find that the actual task sets off fewer triggers than we originally anticipated.

Research suggests that we remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than projects we’ve finished. It’s like listening to a catchy song, only to have it unexpectedly cut off in the middle and then have it stuck in your head the rest of the day. Starting a task means you’ll continue to process it — and this makes you more likely to resume the work later on.

List the costs of procrastination. This tactic works best when you’re putting off larger tasks. While it’s not worth spending 20 minutes listing the costs of not going for your evening run, listing the costs will significantly help for a task such as saving for retirement. Add to your list all the ways procrastinating on retirement saving could affect your social life, finances, stress, happiness, health, and so on.

It’s also worth making a list of the things you put off personally and professionally, large and small, while calculating the costs of procrastination for each.

Disconnect. Our devices offer a cornucopia of distractions, whether it’s email, social media, or texting with friends and family. This is especially difficult as our work becomes more ambiguous and unstructured (two triggers of procrastination).

When you notice yourself using your device to procrastinate, disconnect. Sometimes when I’m writing, I go as far as to put my phone in another room, and shut off the WiFi on my computer. Other times, I turn to an app like Freedom or Self Control, which blocks access to distracting sites, and require me to physically restart my computer to restore access.

This may sound drastic, and it is. Disabling digital distractions ahead of time gives you no choice but to work on what’s really important.

There are proven ways to combat procrastination so that it doesn’t get in the way of accomplishing your most important tasks. The next time you resist a task, consider whether it sets off any of the procrastination triggers, work within your resistance level, force yourself to get started on it, list the costs of putting the task off, or disconnect from the internet.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself procrastinating a lot less often.

Chris Bailey is a productivity expert, and the international bestselling author of The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, which has been translated into eight languages. He writes about productivity at A Life of Productivity, and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive, without hating the process.

How to Make Mindfulness Part of Your Daily Routine

How to Make Mindfulness Part of Your Daily Routine
Four simple, straightforward steps to develop the essential skill of self-awareness
Matt Tenney May 23, 2016

Have you ever taken a moment to calculate how much time you spend each day engaged in simple, mundane activities like washing your hands, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, commuting to work, standing in lines, preparing food, washing dishes, taking a shower… ?

If you haven’t, don’t worry. I’ve done it for you. The estimate that I’ve come up with—which I consider pretty conservative—is 85 minutes per day.

This means that over a 30-year career, you’ll spend 646 days (roughly 21 months) engaged in activities that are non-productive at best (from a professional perspective) and often thought of as obstacles to being productive. In some cases, these activities cause frustration and anxiety, such as when you’re running late for work, an appointment, and stuck in traffic or standing in a line that isn’t moving.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could transform all of the simple, mundane daily activities from time-sucks to highly productive time? A growing body of neuroscience research suggests you can do just that. By making a subtle inner shift during those activities, and operating from the perspective of mindfulness, you can actually change both the function and structure of your brain in ways that improve your performance in the workplace, especially as a leader.

The Simple Shift That Trains the Brain
Being mindful means that instead of running on autopilot, caught up in our thinking or our emotional state, we have an objective awareness of the thoughts that are running through our mind and of the emotional state of the body. More simply, we are self-aware.

Self-awareness might be the most important leadership skill we can develop. In 2013, when 75 members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council were surveyed regarding the most important competency leaders should develop, the answer was almost unanimous: self-awareness. Although self-awareness influences nearly every aspect of our lives, it impacts our careers in the following three ways:

Self-awareness is the key to understanding our strengths and weaknesses, which is essential for deciding where to focus our energy and which team members we need to have around us to be most successful.
Self-awareness is the key to making sound decisions. It is what allows us to know what types of biases we have, know how those biases affect our decisions and see how those biases creep into decision-making.
Self-awareness is the foundational competency of emotional intelligence. The well-known research of Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis suggests that emotional intelligence accounts for as much as 90 percent of what sets stellar leaders apart from average leaders.
By making the effort to practice mindfulness during daily activities, we are able to systematically improve our self-awareness. In fact, research suggests that mindfulness training changes both the function and the structure of the brain in ways related to improved self-awareness. One of the first studies to show this was conducted by Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard University in 2005. The team discovered that in practitioners of mindfulness regions of the brain associated with self-awareness are measurably thicker. Other studies, like this one conducted at the University of California at Berkley, suggest that mindfulness training results in highly refined levels of self-awareness, which allows us to detect subtle aspects of ourselves that untrained people can’t.

Although it’s certainly not easy, transforming all the mundane moments of the day into opportunities to develop the essential skill of self-awareness is a simple, straightforward process, outlined below in four steps.

Make a list of all the activities that you engage in every day that don’t require you to be actively planning, analyzing or otherwise thinking.
Commit to practicing mindfulness (described below) during one—just one—of those mundane activities for a week.
At the start of week two, continue practicing during the activity from week one, but add a second activity.
Continue adding one activity each week until you’re making the effort to practice mindfulness during every activity on your list.
Practicing mindfulness during daily activities can become a simple habit. Before beginning an activity—such as brushing your teeth—it can be helpful to pause for a moment, take a breath and remind yourself that you’re going to practice being mindful during that activity. Then, simply let go of intentionally thinking and make the effort to be curious about what you’re feeling and experiencing in that moment.

Think, What’s happening now? Notice whatever sensations arise. This is your foundation. Thoughts will surely arise during those few minutes and that’s OK. This is an important part of the training. By making the effort to notice those thoughts and not be pulled into them, you are gradually rewiring your brain for better self-awareness.

8 Reasons Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

8 Reasons Self-Care Isn’t Selfish
Tammy Danan May 18, 2017

I’ve spent 10 long years telling myself I cannot afford to slow down. To have even 10 minutes of me time, I have to hustle and work and hustle some more.

Do that for too long and you will find yourself incredibly exhausted. It’s time for things to change.

Self-care can be as simple as spending a few minutes each day doing nothing. No thinking, no social media, nothing. Just you, sitting and breathing, being in touch with your body and your inner self. It starts from there.

Here are eight reasons you shouldn’t feel selfish for taking care of yourself.

Related: 13 Ways to Take Care of Yourself Every Day

1. It molds authenticity.
The moment you decide to give yourself a few minutes of the day, you’re also allowing yourself to be more authentic. It’s a way to get to know yourself better. If you think you already do, think again. There is so much more in us than what we see on the surface.

Try it for a month. Don’t wait for the weekends; put in a little extra effort and commit to doing something every day for yourself. It won’t take long before you see some parts of yourself you never thought existed. It allows you to determine which parts are authentically yours and which aren’t—we all have aspects in us that are copied from someone else: a celebrity idol, someone from the internet or a reality TV show, a friend we look up to.

2. It’s the only way we can take care of others.
Keep in mind that you can only help others if you’re helping yourself first, physically, mentally and spiritually. As much as we want to think desire and passion are enough, they’re not. You need a healthy body and an open mind to function, which aren’t present if you’re filled with self-doubt. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s definitely worth it.

Acknowledge that the road to self-care is a winding one. But it’s also necessary. Pretending to be strong 24/7 doesn’t last long. That strength must come from within.

3. It helps you move from existing to living.
Existing is simply being on this tiny blue dot called Earth. Living is experiencing everything this tiny blue dot has to offer. Which are you doing? Many people are OK with just existing. They wake up, go to work, go home, eat dinner and sleep. Tomorrow they’ll do it all over again.

Are you going to wait for your retirement before you decide to enjoy life? Before you decide to allot time for yourself? Although we have responsibilities—paying bills, raising children, etc.—we’re also responsible for taking care of ourselves.

4. It helps you find your purpose.
What is your purpose? You’ve probably asked that question countless times. You might have days, weeks or months where you feel down, unsatisfied, feeling like there should be something more. It’s your body signaling you to take a leap into the unknown, because your purpose is out there, waiting.

How do you know when you find it? You just do. Self-care means trusting yourself. It means being willing to go out in the wild or dig deep. It might be scary, but there’s really no other way to figure out what you’re supposed to do in this world. Practicing self-care and building trust between you and your inner self will help you find purpose in life.

5. Self-care is as empowering as it can be.
It takes a lot of courage to actually show up to me time every day. Clearly, it’s easier to fall into the traps of emails and notifications. But when you start getting used to setting those things aside and to just focus on you, it becomes easier to connect with your inner self.

Listen to your guts… because we all know what happens when one knows how to listen to his guts—he does wonders. And you will, too. Stop chasing work-life balance and start empowering yourself to achieve your greatest desires.

6. Motivation roots from it.
How does one stay motivated? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that. No one can stay motivated forever, and we all have different needs and desires. But some people know how to bounce back from a slump, and others struggle to get unstuck.

The key is self-care. Accepting that you’ll never be perfect makes a huge difference. If you acknowledge that you’re not perfect, you’re allowing mistakes to be your friend. You become motivated to try again or to experience something new because you’re not pressuring yourself. You’re not expecting perfection.

7. It’s the best road to a physically healthier you.
Self-care is not just about your guts, nerves and inner self. It’s also about your physical self, meaning healthy diet, exercise and sleep.

One misconception about achieving good physical health is that it’s hard. Well, it can be. But not always. You eat, sleep, drink and walk around. Those are enough. You just have to tweak it a little, one day at a time. Start by adding one new serving of fruit every day. Then add a 15-minute brisk walk. These might seem small, but they’re enough to get you going.

8. It is the perfect reminder that you are worthy.
Acknowledging that you are allowed to be sad, to be happy, to be uncomfortable, can change your outlook on life. The world isn’t going to stop if you get fired. But it’s also not going to laugh at you for crying about it.

Many people don’t think validation matters much. Being acquainted with your emotions and giving them space in this world is as important as earning a big paycheck and having good credit. By taking care of yourself, you’re building a safer space for these emotions. You’re reminding yourself that you are worthy of respect, and most certainly, you (including your strength and weaknesses) are worthy of a spot in this world.

Mental Toughness Characteristics

For all the time executives spend concerned about physical strength and health, when it comes down to it, mental strength can mean even more. Particularly for entrepreneurs, numerous articles talk about critical characteristics of mental strength—tenacity, “grit,” optimism, and an unfailing ability as Forbes contributor David Williams says, to “fail up.”

Amy Morin is a licensed clinical social worker and writer

However, we can also define mental strength by identifying the things mentally strong individuals don’t do. Over the weekend, I was impressed by this list compiled by Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, that she shared in LifeHack. It impressed me enough I’d also like to share her list here along with my thoughts on how each of these items is particularly applicable to entrepreneurs.

1. Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. You don’t see mentally strong people feeling sorry for their circumstances or dwelling on the way they’ve been mistreated. They have learned to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, and they have an inherent understanding of the fact that frequently life is not fair. They are able to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness and gratitude for the lessons learned. When a situation turns out badly, they respond with phrases such as “Oh, well.” Or perhaps simply, “Next!”

2. Give Away Their Power. Mentally strong people avoid giving others the power to make them feel inferior or bad. They understand they are in control of their actions and emotions. They know their strength is in their ability to manage the way they respond.

3. Shy Away from Change. Mentally strong people embrace change and they welcome challenge. Their biggest “fear,” if they have one, is not of the unknown, but of becoming complacent and stagnant. An environment of change and even uncertainty can energize a mentally strong person and bring out their best.

4. Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control. Mentally strong people don’t complain (much) about bad traffic, lost luggage, or especially about other people, as they recognize that all of these factors are generally beyond their control. In a bad situation, they recognize that the one thing they can always control is their own response and attitude, and they use these attributes well.

5. Worry About Pleasing Others. Know any people pleasers? Or, conversely, people who go out of their way to dis-please others as a way of reinforcing an image of strength? Neither position is a good one. A mentally strong person strives to be kind and fair and to please others where appropriate, but is unafraid to speak up. They are able to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset and will navigate the situation, wherever possible, with grace.

6. Fear Taking Calculated Risks. A mentally strong person is willing to take calculated risks. This is a different thing entirely than jumping headlong into foolish risks. But with mental strength, an individual can weigh the risks and benefits thoroughly, and will fully assess the potential downsides and even the worst-case scenarios before they take action.

7. Dwell on the Past. There is strength in acknowledging the past and especially in acknowledging the things learned from past experiences—but a mentally strong person is able to avoid miring their mental energy in past disappointments or in fantasies of the “glory days” gone by. They invest the majority of their energy in creating an optimal present and future.

8. Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over. We all know the definition of insanity, right? It’s when we take the same actions again and again while hoping for a different and better outcome than we’ve gotten before. A mentally strong person accepts full responsibility for past behavior and is willing to learn from mistakes. Research shows that the ability to be self-reflective in an accurate and productive way is one of the greatest strengths of spectacularly successful executives and entrepreneurs.

9. Resent Other People’s Success. It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Mentally strong people have this ability. They don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed (although they may take close notes on what the individual did well). They are willing to work hard for their own chances at success, without relying on shortcuts.

10. Give Up After Failure. Every failure is a chance to improve. Even the greatest entrepreneurs are willing to admit that their early efforts invariably brought many failures. Mentally strong people are willing to fail again and again, if necessary, as long as the learning experience from every “failure” can bring them closer to their ultimate goals.

11. Fear Alone Time. Mentally strong people enjoy and even treasure the time they spend alone. They use their downtime to reflect, to plan, and to be productive. Most importantly, they don’t depend on others to shore up their happiness and moods. They can be happy with others, and they can also be happy alone.

12. Feel the World Owes Them Anything. Particularly in the current economy, executives and employees at every level are gaining the realization that the world does not owe them a salary, a benefits package and a comfortable life, regardless of their preparation and schooling. Mentally strong people enter the world prepared to work and succeed on their merits, at every stage of the game.

13. Expect Immediate Results. Whether it’s a workout plan, a nutritional regimen, or starting a business, mentally strong people are “in it for the long haul”. They know better than to expect immediate results. They apply their energy and time in measured doses and they celebrate each milestone and increment of success on the way. They have “staying power.” And they understand that genuine changes take time. Do you have mental strength? Are there elements on this list you need more of?

Who’s Running Things Around Here?

The undeniable fact is that God expects parents to lead the family.
By Chris and Michelle Groff

Aaron and Jennie wanted the best for their daughter Claire. They knew a good high school resume was important to get into a prestigious college. They also knew this didn’t just happen; it required years of preparatory work.

Over the years, they pushed Claire to excel in school and extracurricular activities—the ones she would need in order to be a “success.” Aaron and Jennie sacrificed a lot of time and energy to help Claire lay the groundwork for her future.

Early in her life, Claire sensed how important her achievements were to her parents. She wanted to make them proud of her. Whether it was her grades, sports, cheerleading, or clubs, she did it all and excelled at most. But sometimes she neglected more mundane responsibilities because she knew she could count on her parents to bend over backward to make sure she overachieved on the “important stuff.”

For example, when Claire rushed off to school and left her room in a mess, her mother would clean it up because she knew Claire would be exhausted when she came home. Claire’s back-to-back activities were often on different sides of town, so her parents took turns leaving work early to drive her from one to the other. When Claire remembered before a club meeting that she’d signed up to bring brownies, her mother would drop everything, go to the store, and make the brownies so Claire could work on her homework instead.

So who really was running Aaron and Jenny’s household? It was Claire.

Her needs came first, and her parents formed their schedule around hers. Her parents’ desire for success led them to sacrifice their time, money, and energy for the goals they had for Claire.

That may sound noble at first, but a closer look at the role of the central authority will show you how turning the hierarchy in the home upside down actually results in less growth and maturity, less preparedness for the world, and the possibility of a serious case of entitlement on the part of the children.

So what is a proper biblical authority structure for parents and children?

A hierarchy for healthy families

The undeniable fact is that God expects parents to lead the family. In fact, He spelled out a hierarchy designed for healthy family functioning: The husband is to be the loving, self-sacrificing head of the wife and kids. With this authority comes the most challenging task of all: to love his wife the way Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:23). Talk about a high calling!

Next, the wife is to be intimately involved in and consulted on family decisions. (See Ephesians 5:21 and 1 Peter 3:7.) Just because she is subject to the husband’s headship doesn’t mean she has no authority. In reality, lots of child-raising responsibilities are delegated to Mom, and Dad must support her in those tasks.

Finally, children are to obey their parents and learn from the loving, empathetic relationship that develops with them. (See Ephesians 6:1-4.) God designed the family in such a way that parents are to function as a team of true, loving, central authorities. This lays the foundation for everyone to fulfill his or her responsibilities to the family with love rather than selfishness or pride. (See Ephesians 5:21-6:4.)

Parents must learn the dynamics of exercising authority together. Intuitively, kids will learn to master the divide-and-conquer approach to dealing with authority. They will quickly recognize the weaknesses in the parental team and learn how to pit Mom against Dad when it works to their advantage.

For example, if Mom has a particular way of dealing with problems and Dad has another, the children will learn to choose which one is better for them as each individual situation crops up.  They can run to the rescuer to avoid consequences and to the dictator when they need a problem solved.

Kids are much more likely to learn how to solve problems and face consequences when their parents are united in their approach and fully supportive of each other.  These parents are able to provide clearer boundaries and a greater sense of security to their kids.

This may require parents to have team meetings from time to time in order to work together.  Ideally, you’ll discuss these difficult parenting issues in private so you can agree on boundaries and deliver effective consequences as a unit.  Even if you don’t have time to consult one another before each issue, you’ve got to be supportive of the other parent and keep your disagreements private and behind closed doors.

Fear of discipline

An even more subtle way children indirectly acquire the role of central authority is when parenting decisions are shaped by a fear of discipline or causing pain.  When parents fail to exercise their authority because they can’t stand to see their kids suffer consequences or because they are afraid their kids will be mad at them, the kids have become the authorities in the home.  These fearful parents resort to pleading, bargaining, or whining to get their kids to do what they want, but these approaches undermine their authority and rarely get the responses they are seeking.

Some parents are so afraid of being disliked by their kids that they fail to establish reasonable boundaries for the kids’ behavior.  These parents rationalize with comments like “Well, they were going to do it anyway, so I thought they might as well do it where I can keep an eye on them.”  What’s sad is that the effort to convince their children to like them usually results in disrespect and entitlement instead.

Still other parents are afraid to exercise their authority because they think that enforcing boundaries with consequences will damage their child’s self-esteem.  They believe every experience must be a positive one or their child will become discouraged and lose heart.  But one of the reasons God gives people trials is to build perseverance, maturity, and confidence.  Parents who believe in their children and support them in their struggles without rescuing will find that godly self-esteem is a natural by-product of the process of struggling through discipline.  (See James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-5.)

In contrast to the parents who are afraid to exercise authority, other parents exercise it too harshly.  These parents run the family like a drill sergeant, barking out orders and expecting everyone to jump at their commands.  They often insist on “first-time obedience,” expecting their kids to obey every command without challenge, excuse, or delay.

While we all want our kids to obey the first time we ask, the dictatorial approach sends a message that we aren’t willing to listen to our kids.  It emphasizes our power and authority over the value of having an authentic relationship with our kids.  This makes obedience difficult for rebellious kids and mechanical for compliant kids.  In neither case is the child learning from his or her experiences because the parents are forcing their will on the child rather than walking beside them and using the experiences to shape their character.

Far from having the positive influence they desire, an overbearing parenting style can cause kids to become preoccupied with the power disparity.  As a result, many kids can’t wait to get out from underneath this power structure as soon as possible.  In the meantime, they will look for passive/aggressive ways to exert their own power.

As parents, it is time to reevaluate what it truly means to exercise godly authority.  This is not being permissive or domineering but rather being balanced as God is balanced.  He will help us learn to exercise our authority well and how to maintain a careful balance between truth and love.  God expects and equips us to exercise our power empathetically and judiciously, with the overarching goal of encouraging each member of the family to grow into the person He designed them to be.  Pray for the wisdom to be that kind of parent.

Bringing it home

God created families with a particular hierarchy in mind, and parents are at the top of that hierarchy.  For dictators, this is a comfortable position.  For rescuers afraid of disciplining their kids, it can be more difficult.  But a balance of bonding and boundaries is essential to being a godly authority that earns respect by treating his or her kids with respect.  A balanced parent sets boundaries, gives age-appropriate choices within those boundaries, and delivers consequences when kids stray.

Kids will sometimes assume the position of authority in a family when the parents cede power to them, either by making the children’s activities the most important events of each day or by failing to deliver consequences when they are deserved.  Take some time to reflect and pray about your responsibilities and priorities for your family.  Is family time sacred, or does it get sacrificed in order to get to the next practice, game, meeting, or event?  Do you eat dinner together often, or is life too hectic for that?

Do you lovingly discipline your children when they make poor choices, or are you afraid of their reaction?  What about the reaction of other parents?  Do you worry that you might be seen as a bad parent if your kids are not doing all the things the other kids are doing?  Or do you insist on first-time obedience and fail to consider that it’s important for your kids to know the reasons for asking them to do something?  Is your attitude “my way or the highway” where your kids’ thoughts, opinions, or reactions are ignored just to get things done?

Take heart!  God knows your struggles and your tendencies.  Ask for help, and wait to hear.  Spend some time with your Bible and look for God’s wisdom.  He will speak through the words on those pages.  Be empathetic and earn the respect of your kids through clear boundaries, consistent consequences, and a willingness to walk with them through the struggles of life.


Taken from Parenting by Design, copyright © 2014 by Chris and Michelle Groff, with Lee Long. Used with permission of Westbow Press, a division of Zondervan publishing. All rights reserved.


Create Identity Reminders

One should place high value on creating a work environment that speaks to your identity. Five stones are sitting on my desk as a reminder of what David used to fight Goliath. You will never have all the weapons you want, but God will use the ones you have.
“Building kings submitted to the King of Kings.”

Your mind responds to cues in the physical world with thoughts that become feelings that create physical sensations that motivate behavior. Committing to a location that expresses your desired internal feeling puts your interior experience in alignment with your exterior surroundings.

4 Ways to Make Sure Your Environment Reflects Your Identity

4 Ways to Make Sure Your Environment Reflects Your Identity


Environment Reflects Your IdentityEvery six months Franny rearranges the furniture in her home. “Just moving the couch from one wall to another can change the whole feel of a room!” she exclaims. “The change in energy makes me more creative, invigorated, and ready to face any challenge.” Franny’s is just one example of how your environment reflects your identity.

A business major in college, Jeremy has trouble settling down to study. To help find focus he dresses in a suit and tie, places a copy of Investor’s Business Daily on his desk, and lights a cigar before opening a textbook. He says, “The smell of the smoke reminds me of my father working in his home office.”

]Look around your environment today. What does it say about how you see, feel, and think about yourself? Does it match who you are and announce that self with a sense of pride? Every week Justine adds some new, beautiful object to her home: an exotic flowering plant, a set of multicolored handblown iced tea glasses, a Swarovski crystal picture frame. She explains, “The world outside can be so harsh and ugly. By having things of beauty around my home, I create a world in which the presence of beauty, love, and joy dominates. Inside that space I know who I am, no matter what happens outside.”

What Franny, Jeremy, and Justine have intuitively activated is the tremendous impact of environment on sense of self. How you express who you are affects and can be affected by your experience of the world around you. On a cold and rainy day, for example, you feel different than you do on a warm and sunny one. In a tiny, cramped office with no windows, you feel different than in a large and spacious room with breathtaking views. Simply altering temperature, space, and light can change the way you feel, think, and behave. Long-lasting changes in these areas alter your identity, as they change not only your self-perception but also how you present and are defined by actions in the world at large.

While you live in the context of a global environment over which you don’t have complete control, your personal world offers abundant opportunities to assess—and choose to change—how your environment reflects and affects your personality. Consciously collaborating between yourself and your world further manifests the person you most wish to be. Four major factors have an impact on your identity-environment relationship:

Location. Your mind responds to cues in the physical world with thoughts that become feelings that create physical sensations that motivate behavior. Committing to a location that expresses your desired internal feeling puts your interior experience in alignment with your exterior surroundings.

Decoration. Personal spaces both define and can be defined by you. Identifying colors, designs, and spatial organizations that feel good allows you to express and respond in the physical world with things that resonate with and exemplify the nonvisible parts of yourself.

Energy. How you feel dramatically affects who you are. The better you feel—the more you inhabit your real, authentic self—the more you make choices and take actions in alignment with your inner vision. A creatively invigorating and rejuvenating environment increases your ability to achieve that self and its desires.

Expression. The more you behave in ways wholly aligned with the type of person you want to be, the more you become your ideal self. Choosing an environment that allows and inspires you to act and engage in ways congruent with who you are can be critical in accessing and unleashing the real you.

Look around your environment today. What does it say about how you see, feel, and think about yourself? Does it match who you are and announce that self with a sense of pride? Fully inhabiting your identity means purposely living according to individual values, plus expressing beliefs with confidence. Your environment can support this process by aligning internal and external experiences.

A simple place to begin practicing this is in your home. What actions need to be taken so that your home more precisely expresses who you wish to be?

No More Grudges for Joel: Move on!

No More Grudges for Joel:
Are you holding a grudge against anyone? If you had asked me this question last week, my answer would have been, NO. I’ve always considered myself to be one that quickly moves on once someone offends or tries to push my button. You see, my thoughts were it is easy to let stuff roll off your shoulder from people who are not in your inner circle. My wife and I were talking last night at the Dallas Stars game about the Dallas hockey fans holding a two-year grudge against a player for Anaheim. The fan explained the reason they booed this player, Mr. Corey Perry, was because of an incident two years ago in the playoffs. I laughed at how funny it is for fans to hold a grudge for so long. I’m reminded of an Andy Griffith episode about two families who were fighting so long that no one remembered why. They families were taught from birth to hold a grudge against the other family.

I realized that I’ve carried a grudge since 1998 against Reggie Miller. Who is Reggie Miller? Reggie Miller played professional basketball for the Indiana Pacers for nearly fifteen years. So, why would I have an issue with Reggie Miller? Did he steal my girlfriend? Did I lose a bet and cost me some money? No. I realize the reason I have not liked Reggie Miller is because of something he did in 1999. Reggie pushed off Michael Jordan to hit this last second shot and because I am a Michael Jordan fan, I have not liked Reggie since. Here is a link to the play that upset me, As you can see, Reggie pushed off which should have been a foul. I know it sounds crazy, but it is true. I’m not proud to admit it.

What about you? Are you holding a grudge against someone? A parent, ex-girlfriend, classmate, family member, neighbor, co-worker or spouse? Is it time to move on? Yes, I’ve learned that grudges prevent one from moving into their purpose. A grudge is like a 50lb bag on your back, you adjust to the weight, but it still causes damage to the body.

I challenge you to do what I have to do….move on. Forgive your Reggie Miller and move forward. I’m not saying Reggie didn’t push off, I’m saying- Michael moved on and so should I. When the dust settled, Michael and the Bulls won another championship. I guess it is time for me to let the offense go and live my life. When I think about it, my grudge only affected me since Reggie Miller did not do anything against me. I’ve held a little grudge for too many years and I must say, it is over.

Please join me in saying, “It is Over.”

Here is a quote regarding this topic.

“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”
– Steve Maraboli


The Kingmaker

How a Man Learns to Pray

How a Man Learns to Pray

The first step in becoming complete is to stop relying on our own resourcefulness and recognize our great need of a powerful God.
By John Yates

Most of us have not had models for what an authentic, manly prayer life looks like. Religious people—especially ministers—pray at church, and the prayers prayed in church are beautiful. But most of us find that sort of prayer does not come easily. Women seem to pray more easily than we do. They’re good at organizing prayer groups. They talk about prayer more easily. In fact, your wife may be the “initiator” in your home, the one who prays with the kids because it just seems to come more naturally to her. But who do we look to?

Not long ago my sons and I had the opportunity to spend a vacation together alone in the Rocky Mountains, After several days in a rustic cabin at 10,000 feet, where we had few modern conveniences, we moved to a friend’s condominium in one of the ski villages in central Colorado, where we actually had hot water and a television. During the few days we spent in these luxurious quarters, we watched some videos. We saw Apollo 13, Tombstone, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Shootist with John Wayne. Great men’s movies! But not once did I see a man praying in any of these films. Every once in a while, we see football players go down on one knee in the end zone and it looks like they’re praying, but this is not particularly inspirational for the rest of us.

Why Prayer is Foreign to Men

The truth is, as men, we’re given a double message. We hear sermons about it, and we hear stories about it. We read the Bible and see that all the great men and women were clearly people of prayer. History is full of examples of great men and women who prayed. But most of us haven’t known many men of prayer—and my personal opinion is, from years in seminary and in the ministry, that most professional Christian leaders truly struggle with prayer, too.

The bottom line: prayer is confusing, and foreign to the way many of us think and live. Why is that?

First, prayer isn’t objective. It’s hard to get your hands around prayer. It’s hard to know if you’re really praying or just thinking or if you’re getting it right.

Second, prayer can be frustrating. A friend of mine says that prayer is like trying to run a road race after a hurricane—everywhere you go, something seems to block your way! There are so many demands on our time, so many activities that seem important. When it comes to prayer, we have good intentions and may even start out all right. But then we get interrupted—the phone rings, or we remember something that we have to do right away. We say we’ll pray later. After enough of these put-offs we can feel guilty, or think that trying to pray is useless. Sooner or later, we wonder if we’re really cut out for prayer after all.

Third, it can be so hard to focus. For years I tried to pray in my car. I’d drive down the road, shut off the radio, and start trying to concentrate on praying. As often as not, I’d decide I needed a cup of coffee … or start thinking about something my wife, Susan, had said. Then I’d catch myself and begin to pray again . . . only to find myself thinking about a particular problem I was having with someone at church. After many years, I finally gave up trying to pray in the car.

Fourth, prayer is, in part, admitting our need for help—and here we step into a bind. Few men I know like to admit that they need help—even though we’re confronted every day with our inadequacies (which is particularly true if you have a family)! There’s so much we need to know that we don’t know. I saw a book the other day entitled What Men Understand About Women, and when I opened it up, every page was blank! I don’t know about you, but I have often felt that way—that I really don’t knowvery much about raising my children, relating to my wife, or exercising my responsibility as a husband and father. We want to be the best fathers we can be. We want to provide for our children. We want them to have good health, to get a good education, and to mature as men and women of faith, integrity, courage, compassion, and discipline. In the face of all these needs—if we stop to face them at all—we can begin to feel overwhelmed, if we’re not careful, by our inability to make a difference.

Realizing We Need God’s Help

Life is wonderfully complex—and challenging. Frankly, as your kids get older, you realize more and more how much you need God’s help to raise them and to guide them toward maturity. We don’t know nearly as much as we think we know. Perhaps your daughter is spending time with the wrong kind of friends. A young son may be sullen and refuse to respond. Another child is not studying—or not learning, anyway. In the meantime, you’re thinking about the importance of SAT scores, or about all the lessons your kids have to learn before they can make a good marriage. You can tell your child what’s right and how they have to live and even share with them the hard lessons you’ve learned. But a wise man realizes how very much he needs God’s help in the whole process of being a parent.

Many men I know are quietly despairing about their families. His relationship with his wife may be in trouble. A child may have a serious illness or disability, or may be in open rebellion. His parents may be getting older and struggling with bad health. He may be looking at years of college tuition or years of nursing home bills. He may have a sibling whom he has to bail out of trouble time and again. The point is that most of us have large challenges in our families.

Ironically, it is this sense of failure and great need—our sense of being overwhelmed by so much responsibility—that can actually be the starting point of a genuine intimacy with God in prayer.

One of the most encouraging things Jesus said comes from the only long sermon recorded in the Gospels, the one we call the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus begins with a radical statement: “How blest are those who know their need of God; the kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (Matthew 5:3, NEB). When I first read that, it gave me a great sense of relief—because if there is one thing I’m sure of, it’s my need of God. Jesus was saying, that is the starting place to becoming the man God wants me to become.

He talks in this sermon about the “blessed” man. He says there is a kind of relationship with God that, if we have it, we will be blessed, trusting God to give us what we need.

The word Jesus used that is translated “blessed” has several meanings. It meanshappy, good, satisfied, or approved by God. In other words, we men who have such a heavy sense of responsibility weighing upon us can find release from the internal pressure of holding on to the ultimate pressure to “make it all happen.” We can begin, instead, to relax and trust God for all that we and our families need.

No, the secret to peace, power, and security in life is not to become omnicompetent, or simply to study and work harder, or to be more and more responsible. Neither is it to be better organized, brighter, stronger, wealthier. Actually, the first step described by the Son of God in becoming complete and competent for the responsibilities we have is to stop relying on our own resourcefulness and recognize our great need of a powerful God! Literally, what Jesus said is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” In other words, those men who realize how small their personal resources are, and who turn to God out of this great sense of need, have taken the first step toward gaining all that they need to fulfill their responsibilities in life.

Learning to Pray Genuinely

A man who is going to grow in relationship to God, and meet his responsibilities, first needs to learn how to have genuine, intimate communion with God. This communion is the heart and soul of prayer. Power in prayer does not come from “getting it right”—that is, using the right technique, words, or system. It begins with the realization of just how inadequate we really are and that God is the only adequate One.

So if you think you’re not “cut out” for prayer, you’re in good company with the rest of us. All that is needed is you and your need!

My favorite story of prayer in the New Testament comes in the account of Peter trying to walk on water to meet the Lord. His prayer wasn’t eloquent or long or theologically deep. It was just real. When he started to sink, he yelled, “Lord, help me!”—and the Lord answered his cry. Peter knew his need.

On the one hand, prayer is based on a deep mystery. That mystery is how an eternal God can desire friendship and intimacy with willful men—like me. But on the other hand, prayer is simple: It is lifting up to God those areas of life where we are inadequate to do the job, seeking His help from the heart.

Taken from How a Man Prays for His Family by John Yates. Published by FamilyLife Publishing, a subsidiary of Campus Crusade for Christ. Copyright © 2004 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.

Balancing Work and Family

Somewhere between the deadlines and the to-do list, I’d forgotten the most important ministry God had entrusted to me: my family.

by Greg Leith

I slipped into his room late one evening as I arrived home from work so that I could give him a goodnight snuggle and a kiss, only to find him wide awake. “Hey Dad, it’s Wednesday!” my 12-year-old said. “Tonight was our date night, Dad! You forgot!”

Somewhere between the deadlines and the meetings and the to-do list, I’d forgotten the most important ministry God had entrusted to me: my family. It had also been weeks since my wife and I had a date together, and I knew things needed to change – and fast. Instead of focusing on work, I needed to focus on my family and let them know they were just as important as my work and my ministry.

We set out to meet our work goals and somehow in the midst of it all, we forget that waiting at home is that young boy wanting to play catch, that teenage girl who needs to talk about boys, or that spouse that needs to be treated with all the attention we used to give when we were dating. Why does it happen? How does it happen? How can you prevent it from happening to you?

Let me ask you this: if you and I were sitting at that Tim Hortons near your house discussing the state of our lives, could I ask you a pretty personal question? What is the real goal that you are striving for? Is it possible that the prize you’re pursuing for has edged out your precious family, or that spouse you were madly in love with during your courtship days? They need some of your best time, not just your leftover time.

Well, before the coffee gets cold and we both need to run, here are ten ideas to help you as you strive to balance your work and your family. Got a pen? Jot ’em down on your napkin.

1. Get your family together and craft a family mission statement. It’s just as important to be intentional as a family as it is in the workplace. We wanted our family to all be on the same page in terms of our life purposes and the principles that would govern our time together. Need a head start? Here’s our family mission statement:

Our family is going through life’s journey together, growing roots in Christ and wings for our mission, becoming equipped to make a difference in our world by learning to live like Jesus, for Jesus and in Jesus.

We’ve designed other elements of this mission statement into the shape of a house, with walls of laughter, doors of prayer and windows of other important character qualities.

2. Carve out time for your family each week…in advance. Put it on your calendar. Stop saying you have to get one more thing done before you leave for home. Plan your week with specific ending times and stick to them.

3. Jettison things from your schedule that aren’t important. March to the mission that Jesus called you to, not the mission that others want you to do for them. Be ruthless here!

4. If your work situation requires constant excessive hours to get the job done, it’s time to evaluate other ways to accomplish the task. You can’t accomplish the mission of the organization single-handedly, so stop trying! Pray for the Lord to send workers into your harvest field and then sit back and watch Him go to work. Pray for supernatural results from the time you do put into your day, then go home and be a minister in the other mission field God gave you…your family.

5. If you’re a leader of others, have them actually write into their job descriptions the need to be committed to their family and specific ways in which they will make this a priority.

6. Develop an activity together with your family as a whole, and/or with individual family members. Maybe it’s hiking, a date at Denny’s for breakfast on Saturday, or coffee and prayer with your spouse each day. As you do this, remember that teachable moments are almost like ‘intentional accidents’: they happen, but not always because you planned them. So be sure to plan large quantities of time with your family throughout the year so they’ll have a chance to occur.

7. Create a ‘spiritual life development plan’ for each of your kids, outlining their strengths, their areas for improvement and your plans to shape their character as they grow up under your care. Our children are arrows that are being released into a world that we will never fully see. It’s our job to shape them into arrows that will fly straight and travel the distance to the kingdom target that God has intended for them.

8. Schedule a date night of at least an hour once a week with each child and your spouse, where you focus solely on them. It doesn’t have to be expensive; time is the critical ingredient here. When our budget has been tight, I’ve had this time in my backyard with my son.

9. When you’re traveling, send an email or a postcard back to your family. Call them on the phone and pray with them, in addition to chatting.

10. At the end of a day, ask your kids and spouse these three questions: ‘What happened today that you’re proud of?’ ‘What happened today that you wish you could do over?’ ‘Where did you see God in your day today?’

If your spouse or children were to describe how your performance as a spouse and parent, what would they say? If you’re not happy with the words that are echoing around in your head, it’s time to make some changes. I love how Eugene Petersen puts it: “Exploit or abuse your family, and end up with a fistful of air” (Proverbs 11:29, The Message). When my work years have come to an end, I want to be holding more than air, don’t you?

“Hey Dad! I passed!” exclaimed my 15-year-old girl. You see, I’m writing this morning from the Department of Motor Vehicles waiting room, where I came with my daughter to get her driving permit. Some days you just can’t achieve balance, so lately I’ve been working on integration – aren’t laptops wonderful? As my daughter and I celebrated her passing the test with a big hug in the lobby, I was glad I’d decided the to-do list at work could wait. The memory of this morning with her will last forever.

Used by permission of FamilyLife Canada. Copyright 2003.