The Habits Series

You become your habits.How much of your life is ruled by habits?  10%?  25%?  50%?  100%

Well, according to researchers, somewhere between 40 and 95% of life is attributable to habit.  Lots of times, we think we are making a choice… but we are repeating our prior choice, over and over again.  That would be a habit.

Our lives are ruled by habit, from the time we get up until the time we go to bed… especially when we get up and go to bed!

Which means that if we want to change our lives, we have to change our habits.  Either breaking a habit or making a habit.  Something has to shift for there to be a change.

Which is why I created the series on habits.  You can access each of the 6 episodes below.

Habit Series:
You Become Your Habits

Habit Sticking

Habiting Your Goals

LinchPin Habits

Thought Habits

Evolutionary Habits, Revolutionary Habits

Find Freedom From Forgiving

Rules For Living Series

The Rules of Living Series:  Forgive to Move Forward.Have you ever noticed how many times, we get dragged into the past and the pain, even when those hurtful times are over?  Those remnants of the events can keep us stuck, frozen in the hurt and pain.

Unless we forgive.

That’s a big word, I know.  One that is packed with meaning… and not always helpful meanings.

In another podcast, I highlight my process for actually forgiving.  It is important enough that I have a book coming out on the Forgive Process (actually, the name of the book) in October.

In this episode, we discuss why it is so hard to forgive, why you should do it anyway, and why this is so important as a rule for living.  If you struggle with forgiving, please take a listen.  It might just change your mind!

RULES OF LIVING SERIES
#1 Let Fear Point, Not Direct
#2 Be Present In The  Present
#3 Accept the Past and Revise the Future
#4 Grieve Losses and Celebrate Gains

MORE Lessons Learned As A Chaplain

MoreLessonsLearnedChaplainLast week, I shared some lessons I learned while I was a hospital chaplain at the beginning of my career.

In this episode of the podcast, I share another six. That makes a total of ten lessons. But they only scratch the surface.  My hope is to share some of the bigger lessons that emerged during that time.

Few people spend the kind of time a chaplain gets to spend with people on the edges of life.  Medical staff don’t have the time to spend, as much as they would like to.  Most others are only in those settings in the days of a crisis.

My evening hours gave me time with patients, after the doctors and families had gone home, while the nurses were giving medical care.  I had the chance to sit with people, while they sat with the big questions of life.  I didn’t always have the answers (often didn’t), but I had the time to walk with them as they explored their journeys.

Walking with them taught me the lessons I share today.

RELATED RESOURCES:
Lessons Learned, Part 1
Meaning & Purpose
Impact
Make It Count

Thrive Principles
Immutable Laws

How To Start Fresh (in the New Year)

A fresh start to your new year.If you haven’t heard it yet, let me be the first to say, “Happy New Year!”  I doubt I made the cut, but just in case….

One of my favorite things about school, way back when, was that the semester ended.  Each semester stood by itself.  No matter how poorly the semester had gone (and there were several), it was over.  Classes ended, assignments were in, tests were over.  Nothing I could do would change it. So, I might as well turn my attention to the next semester.

It was nice to have a fresh start.

Which, by the way, is available to any of us at any time.  We can always choose a fresh start.

It won’t wipe the past away.  But we do have the option of starting where we are and moving forward.

In the moment, we have that option.

Each day, we have that option.  We get up to a new day, and can start fresh.

Every month, we can do the same, closing out the month and moving into something new.

But the new year… that is when we really feel it!

So, how do we make the New Year a Fresh Start? Let’s talk about how to do it in this episode of my podcast.  Listen below.

RELATED RESOURCES:
Resolutions
Forgiving
Apologizing
Letting It Go
Thrive Principles

Take A Leap!

Take a leap!I thought we were doing well.  The conference was going well.  I thought the participants were happy.

But sometimes, you can tell by the expression. . . .

I saw her headed toward me, red-faced and determined.  I turned to face her, and with a big grin, asked, “How can I help you?”

She stuck her finger in my face and proclaimed, “YOU CAN GO TAKE A LEAP!”

With that, she turned and stormed out.

For a few moments, I was in shock, not quite sure what to do with that.

Then, I decided that maybe it was good advice.  I should take some leaps!  We should ALL take some leaps!  Take some risks,  push our comfort zones, grow, stretch.

Fear.

We think fear is our friend.  We listen to fear.  Whenever we feel fear, we are tempted to believe we should stop, retreat, and be safe.

Too often, we believe fear is an Avoidance Detector.  I believe it is an Importance Detector.

Fear points out when something is important.  Maybe we need to be careful and avoid it.  But maybe we need to pursue it, because it is important.

Whenever we feel fear, it is telling us something is important.  What we do with that is up to us.

Today, I explore how to make fear your Importance Detector.

 

Missing Sunny

A few years back, I was talking to a friend of mine.  A windstorm had swept through town, knocking down lots of trees.  I decided to take a trail run to see how the storm impacted the trail in a local park.  Little did I know that the storm downed an old tree housing a substantial hornets’ nest.  Those hornets were none too happy about their abode.

That tree was just off the path.  In a rather slow moment of reaction, I failed to notice the buzzing.  By the time I did, it was too late.  The first hit was on top of my head, followed by the back of my neck.  From there, I lost count.  I told my friend, “It happened so fast, all I could do was shove Sunny down the path and keep running.”

I finished my dramatic retelling, and my friend asked, “Is Sunny your running buddy?”

I laughed.

He was, indeed, my running buddy.  And our family dog.  Sunny was a 100 pound, all-muscle, yellow lab.  He was full of energy, filled a room (with his body and his personality), and a fairly constant companion for me.

Sunny came into our lives a short eight years ago.  We should have noticed his big paws and large tongue.  He did, indeed, grow into them.

In the early days, he could crawl under my front seat and into the back seat.  One day, he found himself lodged under the seat, just a little too big to pass.  And we discovered this when I was driving down the highway with nowhere to pull over.

From then on, the very back of my SUV was his travel spot.  And except for when the car would heat up in the summertime, Sunny generally went everywhere I went.  He waited while I was in the store, waited for the kids at the bus stop, and generally bound into the car at any opportunity for a ride.

Sunny’s life ended too early today.  He fell victim to cancer.

Not an hour after he died, I found myself making a peanut butter sandwich for my wife.  I instinctively held the knife down to give Sunny a quick lick of peanut butter.  He was not there.

I had a little more water in a cup, and went to put it into his bowl.  There was no bowl.

It has been a day of discovering all the places where Sunny lived in my life. . . and I thought I was already aware.  No more walks in the mornings and evenings.  No more last looks at the sky before bedtime.  No more quiet snoring at my feet while I write and create podcasts.  Life is just a bit more empty now.

Life is like that, isn’t it?  Lots of hellos and goodbyes.

A year and a half ago, I left my clinical office, spending my time working at home.  So, for that year and a half, Sunny has been my constant shadow, 24 hours a day, for the most part.  I will deeply miss him, as will we all.

At the beginning of the summer, we discovered Sunny had cancer and knew we were on borrowed time with him.  Someone asked, “would you do it again, if you knew he was going to get sick?”  My answer?  Absolutely.Sunny at the beach.

Living a life while trying to avoid loss, is really not about living.  If I lived a life with no loss, I would have not been really living.  I would have been avoiding life — and the consequences of life!

I am sad.  And I will be for some time.

But I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have such a loving, devoted companion of a dog.

Dogs like Sunny teach us about loyalty and love.  He never held grudges, and was always ready to play or chill.

In Marley & Me, John Grogan writes:

“Never slow down, never look back, live each day with adolescent verve and spunk and curiosity and playfulness. If you think you’re still a young pup, then maybe you are, no matter what the calendar says.”

Sunny taught me about having abounding energy, followed by an earned nap, followed by more activity.  Not a bad way to stack the day!

Over the past few years, I have really begun to notice those “lasts:”  the last time you do something.  They sneak up on you.  The first time is obvious:  the first time your child takes a step or says a word, the first day of school, the first date, and all those other firsts.  They seem so obvious.

But the “lasts” sometimes sneak up on you.  You notice them in the rear-view mirror of life.  Hindsight.  The last time you speak with someone.  The last time you drive a child to school.  The last time you are at some stage of life.

My kids are growing up.  We are never sure if a vacation is the “last family vacation” or not.  Was it the last chance we will have to do that?  Jobs and other commitments can easily take that away. . . but you usually don’t know it until it happened.

So, in these last weeks, I have been very aware of my “lasts” with Sunny.  The day before he died, we took a last drive, a last walk, and a last pause on that front step before bedtime.

Sunny didn’t know it was a last — and he had a great time!  In my anticipatory grief, I dwelt on the “last-ness” of the moment.  Perhaps I gave up too much of that moment.  Perhaps Sunny had it right, to fully enjoy that moment, as if there was no moment before, nor worrying about the moment after.  This instant — perhaps that is where to live it.  And a dog can teach us that.

Have you ever seen that bumper sticker, “My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am”?  I am not quite sure I can live up to that, but I can keep on trying.

And I will always be grateful of having Sunny in my life, even if it was too short.

How Will YOU Impact The World?: #19 Thriveology Podcast

How will YOU impact the world?I believe that we are designed to make an impact in the world.  When we don’t, the world suffers and we suffer.

When we do, the world benefits, and we benefit.

So what keeps us from making an impact?  Why should we make an impact?  What difference does it really make?

We explore the power of being a person of impact, of making a difference, and how small impacts reverberate through space and time.

How will YOU impact the world?

Rule 3: Memories Are Just Thoughts

OK, this one can be controversial, so hear me out.  A memory is merely a thought.  It is a thought about something that happened in the past, which we then pull into the present.  Some of those thoughts are helpful, but others are not.

I am NOT saying that you should ignore painful events from the past and pretend they did not happen.  That is denial.  I AM saying that we all can acknowledge that our memories are not entirely accurate.  That is what I mean in this rule.  Thoughts are always our perceptions and interpretations of reality.  And memories are those perceptions and interpretations brought into the present.

We never have an accurate portrayal of an event.  If you understand what I mean in the last paragraph, you may find my first sentence to be a rather strong assertion.

Here is why some people have a strong reaction to this rule:  people often define themselves by what has happened to them. Some people view the most tragic events as self-defining.  I often hear people say “I am a survivor of sexual abuse.”  Or “my family was dysfunctional when I was growing up.”  Or “we were broke when I was a child.”

Again, I am not saying that these events did not happen, that there is not truth in the events.  It is just that we tend to believe that we:  1) accurately remember those events (we do not), and 2) we cannot let those events go (we can).

So, let’s take those in order.  First, we do not remember events as they happened, but how we interpreted them.  We missed some facts, created other facts, and misinterpreted many facts.  That is just the nature of our memories.  It is neither good nor bad, just how our minds and our brains encode information.

More than that, plenty of research shows that memories are actually quite malleable. In other words, memories themselves change over time.  We interpret memories based on what is going on now.  In other words, we may find ourselves using memories to fit what we want to believe, not with what happened.

A friend of mine in graduate school, in his dissertation, said this:  “we create the past and remember the future.”  I love that!  It gets to the essence of what I am saying.  We would so love to be creating the future and remembering the past, but that is not the case.  We live out our future course partially based on what we believe has happened to us.  And our memories are created in ways that facilitate our current beliefs.

Which leads to the second point:  we hold onto those events.  This is where the real power of this rule comes in.  If we let go of the illusion that we remember events with historical accuracy, then we can accept that we cannot define ourselves merely based on events in our past.  When we act assured of our accuracy of memory, we get to pretend we are the victim or victor in a particular situation.  Not very helpful.

When we can acknowledge that a memory is flawed, we are less tempted to keep pulling it out as proof of who we say we are.

How often do you define yourself by your memories?  How often do you pull out your memories of events as a way to remind yourself of what you believe about both yourself and the world?  This is an invitation to hold those memories a little more lightly.

Rule 1: Watch Your Mind

Your mind is one amazing “thing.”  In fact, I don’t even know the word to refer to it.  Your mind is not a “thing,” yet it is there.  You can think, you can even observe yourself thinking!  And while many have reduced your mind to some aspect of your brain’s function, science still struggles with this question.

In Paradise Lost, John Milton says The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven. Our minds can be used to create great achievements.  Every invention, every moment of progress begins with a thought.  Yet that same mind can be used to drive ourselves crazy.

Have you ever found yourself moving from a good mood to a bad one merely because you got caught up in your thoughts?  That is the power of your mind, and illustrates Milton’s words perfectly.

In seminars, I often try to make the point that our thoughs, our mind, rules our emotions — it is NOT the other way around.  And I can prove it to you in 30 seconds.  Here is how:  I want you to make yourself angry.  Not just a little, but a lot!  Make yourself furious.  Take 30 seconds to get there.

[30 second pause]

How did you do it?  Did you just “emote” yourself there. . . or did you sit and think about something that really made you angry?  It was likely some past event.  You may have not even thought about it for some time, but some writer just stirred up that thought, making you angry!

That is the power of our mind.  It rules our emotional lives, and we don’t even realize it.  Sure, when I remind you of that fact, it is a “no-brainer.”  But how often during the day are you aware of how your mind is running your life?

I truly believe that one of the great issues of our day is the fact that we have very poor control of our minds.  Call it “mind hygiene.”  Whatever you want to call it, it is poor maintenance of our greatest strength as humans (and our greatest weakness).

So, rule 1, and really step 1 in thriving, is to become aware of how much your mind is ruling your life, and how much latitude we give our minds for tossing us around emotionally.

As we continue, we will talk about how to deal with our unruly minds.