Are Your Standards of Comparison Unrealistic?

Most people I talk to have unreasonable and unrealistic standards of comparison for their life. I find this to be especially true about twenty-somethings. This happens when you find a model of “perfection”, and then measure yourself in comparison to this model. If you’re an athlete, maybe your standard is Usain Bolt, Katie Ledecky, or Russell Westbrook (Sidenote: Russ is doing such ridiculous things on the court this season that if you’re within 3 hours 8 hours of OKC, go watch him this season.)  If you’re measuring yourself in business, you could find a model standard like Buffett or Zuckerburg. If you’re aspiring in fashion or modeling, maybe you’re standard is a Kardashian or Tom Ford. When you begin to compare, you can think that perfection is a level to attain. One of the reasons why measuring yourself based off your perception of perfection is that perfection is a moving target. (Photo from Daily Mail.)

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When do you ever arrive? The answer is, “You don’t.” Your standards aren’t static. Who you compare yourself to will change with time. Standards are meant to be broken, and perfection is something we don’t reach. This is how we are wired. And it’s not just you. (Do you think the Kardashians don’t have someone they wish they looked more like? Do you think Russell doesn’t wish he had a few traits of someone else in the NBA, past or present?)

The question is what do we do with our standards of comparison? Even if you don’t refer to the standard as “perfect”, you can make yourself miserable trying to measure up to the success you perceive that they have. When you fail at reaching a standard, you will probably do one of two things.

  1. You will keep trying to reach that standard. You will keep aiming for the moving target, and find yourself frustrated that you never hit it. That’s the nature of comparison.
  2. You will pretend like you don’t care about the standard anymore. Instead of making progress in the areas you once made progress, you’ll probably make excuses based off your perception of your own failings. Internally, you’ll likely make comparisons, but it will just be a reminder that you’re not as far along as you wish you were.

If these are the likely outcomes of comparison, then how do you keep yourself from always missing, or being cynical about life? I would like to propose a third way of going about the comparison game.

First though, I want to give a bit of background on my thoughts about most people. Here is what I believe. You are probably doing better than you think you’re doing. Sure, there are some areas where you’re not bringing your A game. You’re not perfect after all. It’s hard to remember that when you measure yourself based off of others. So here is the third way.

“Create realistic standards of comparisons with yourself.”

Many people create standards of comparison for themselves. I am saying to compete and compare with yourself. You know your default mode better than anyone else does, and better than anyone else ever can. You know when you are likely to quit. You can continue to challenge yourself, and create genuine growth in your life. I know it may sound a little bit crazy to turn the comparison inward, but you can actually begin to see how much you’ve grown over a long period of time when you compete with yourself. Compare with yourself. Compete with yourself.

This past Monday, I used 65 lbs dumbbells on . When I finished my first set, a guy sat down on the bench next to mine, and started pushing up 90 lbs dumbbells. Instantly, I felt like I was weak. Then, I remembered the story of this year. On January 1st, 2016 my sister, Tricia took me to the weight room She was five months pregnant at the time, and she put me through a workout. In this workout, I used 15 pound weights for bench press, curls, lunges, and anything else we did. I was in such bad shape that 20 minutes into the workout, I threw up. It was embarrassing, and I felt discouraged. But I stayed with it. I did a Beachbody workout at home. The first three weeks, I only used resistance bands. Then, I started using a gym, and went to 35 lbs dumbbells for my bench press. Now, I’m up to 65 lbs. I plan on continuing to grow in this, and reach some of my weightlifting goals as I go forward. A year ago, I would have struggled to even pick up 65 lbs dumbbells. I was telling myself a story that I was failing, because I was comparing to someone else. I needed to be reminded of who I am actually competing with, and that is myself.

You probably have some areas in your life where you have grown a lot over the past one, two, or five years. You’re probably doing better than you think you are, but it’s hard to accept your growth, and lean into future growth when you hold on to unrealistic standards of comparison. Create realistic standards of comparisons with yourself. What are you capable of doing in work? How would you approach your spirituality if you were challenging yourself to go beyond what you normally do? How would you go about giving in your relationships if you competed with your past efforts? How much better of a listener could you become if you were to set a realistic standard of comparison that would help you become better than you were in the past? You are probably doing better than you think you are. If not, it is simple enough. Create a realistic standard of comparison with yourself, and then go to work competing with your past efforts.

Question: What is one specific area you want to improve in that you can compete with yourself to become a better version of yourself?

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5 Ways To Navigate Change Successfully

Transitioning well is one of the hardest things you can do. Many people find themselves thrown off the tracks by transition, and have a hard time moving forward again. One of my friends is a coach for men in transition because the transitions he went through were so difficult they almost decimated him. Change is a big deal in life. God set change into the fabric of the universe. You can choose how you will go through change, but you can’t change that change is going to happen. How do you want to go about change? Here are five ways I’ve learned to navigate the changes and transitions of life successfully.

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1. Transition with Honesty. When you’re in transition, it is paramount that you are honest about where you are in transition. While this is important in all areas of life, if you gloss over the realities you are currently facing during a transition, you will most likely suffer the consequences of this later.Navigating change effectively requires difficult work. If you don’t do the difficult work now, you will have to face a lot more of it later. When you’re in a transition, the change stirs up things inside of you. Take time to admit what is being stirred up inside of you.  Some things in your heart you might rather not acknowledge we’ll be pressed on. Some of these may be wonderful moments you cherish, or they could be emotional wounds that haven’t been redeemed and are infected. It may be sad memories, fearful tendencies, or bitter feelings. Go ahead and recognize those. You cannot change or heal what you do not acknowledge. Transition is an excellent time to work things out with a journal, and a counselor can help you navigate these areas as well.

2. Transition with Thanksgiving. Gratitude changes the climate of your own life. When you are thankful, it reminds you of the good things in your life. Transitioning with thanksgiving reminds you of what you have come through, and even acknowledges that good things come about in time from change. Does this mean that everything is something you’re thankful for? No. You don’t have to be thankful for all things, but there is something sweet about being thankful in all things. Throughout the challenges, may gratitude lead you forward. A grateful heart is a heart that can both give and receive, which is crucial during transition.

3. Transition with Prayer. I can’t overstate the importance of praying through transition. Prayer is wonderful. Prayer is often abrupt, and it doesn’t need to be planned. However, writing your prayers down during a transition can be very powerful, because you can look back and see how God worked through your transition. When you face a big change in the future, you can remind yourself of how God has been faithful in the past. It is also important to remember that the Holy Spirit guides us into the goodness of God, and when we pray, we are inviting God to guide us. One of the things my Grandma says about prayer is this. “God will change the situation, God will change the other person, or God will change me.” I often find that the one being changed most through prayer is me, and I believe that is because prayer is connection with God. The more time we intentionally connecting with the Lord, the more time that God will shape us through and in our prayers.

4. Transition with Guidance. Don’t try to walk through transition alone. It is important to have some friends around you who will encourage you, and some mentors who can guide you through these times. I remember some very special conversations with six of my mentors in Tulsa when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. They were both a comfort, and an encouragement to me. I see so many people trying to walk through their difficult alone. I hope you transition with some people who you can trust. By the way, if you’re not in a difficult transition, go ahead and find some mentors now. Their voices will be a blessing to you now, and when the days of change come, they can help you navigate through those moments better than you would on your own.

5. Transition with Hope. When you are in transition, it is crucial to make the change with a big picture of hope in the future. When we go through difficult changes without a sense of hope, we will often do everything we can to avoid, numb, and pretend the transition isn’t happening. Real hope is one of the most powerful agents for moving through transition well. The sun will rise again, and good will come again. You are not alone, and your best days are not behind you. The best is yet to come. Don’t give up in the transition because you can’t see what’s before you. There is hope.

What would it look like if you went into transition with honesty, thanksgiving, prayer, guidance, and hope? How would you respond if you saw these as paramount to making changes in a healthy way. Imagine what you might gain from making these decisions in your transition.

Questions:  Which one of these five choices is most difficult for you to do in transition? What is one specific way you could choose to incorporate that choice in the changes of life?

Three Things Not To Do During Big Transitions

Do you ever wonder how this year went by so quickly? It is amazing how much change can happen in one year. Life moves at an unbelievable pace. This year, I have lived in three different cities (Tulsa, Boise, and Oklahoma City.) I ended a contract with a non-profit/church fusion in Tulsa, and left to help take care of my Mom in Boise for 6 months. There, I was able to experience seeing her transition from this life into the life to come with the Lord. After Mom passed away, I began another transition. This changing season included learning a new normal of life without my Mom’s presence involved in the day to day. I also moved from Boise to Oklahoma City, and began to work in Oklahoma City as a consultant. I ended my pursuit of a master’s degree, and enter a leadership training experience for young leaders. Oh yeah, I also sold my 3 bedroom house in Tulsa, and then moved my 3 bedrooms of possessions into one bedroom, changed lifestyle habits, and began to find a new church home. That is a lot of change in one year.

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When I was a freshmen in college, I took a Psychology class. They said that people who dealt with enormous changes as listed above would be overwhelmed with stress, and that seemed to lead towards nervous breakdowns or like responses. Don’t worry, I haven’t had a nervous breakdown. In fact, this year has been an incredible year of growth, relationship, and opportunity. Endings are hard. Beginnings can be hard. Yet, change provides opportunity for growth. A friend reminded me today, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” Change is one of the greatest gifts God has given us.

What do you do when everything changed? Sometimes, this happens with relationships as you grow distant from some, and closer to others. You may have a changed worldview. Maybe the things that were once important to you changed, and you have a different outlook according to your values.

Here are three things not to do during big transitions.

  1. Don’t Pretend The Change Didn’t Happen. This isn’t helpful. Accepting the changes is one of the more important shifts you have to make. Burying our heads in the sand pretending everything is how it was will keep us from growing, and keep the thoughts of what was spinning in our minds. When we hold on so dearly to what was, we cannot fully embrace what is, and what can be. Yes, there are moments, people, and memories to cherish.
  2. Don’t Predict Your Emotional Responses In Advance. Brené Brown talks about this in The Gifts of Imperfection. When we plan out our emotional responses, we are numbing from the reality of the experience. When you numb the sorrow, you also numb the joy. One of the most important resources for you in a difficult time is joy over the good things, but it is hard to find the joy when you have numbed yourself to what is gone. We all have our own ways of medicating or numbing what  hurts. The important thing is to recognize your medicating habit, move away from it, and in the meantime drop the guard of predicting your emotional behavior. Instead, allow yourself to feel the depths of sorrow, and the heights of joy. This will help you move through the changes you experience so that you can metabolize them, and then move forward.
  3. Don’t Let Fear Control Your Decisions. We’re all afraid. When you have gone through significant changes, it is easy to let fear dictate your next step. In an effort to make sure you don’t disrupt the good relationships you have had, you might try to be the person you were before the change happened. You aren’t the same person you were, and you don’t have to live in fear that people won’t accept you. If they cannot accept the person you are growing into, there may be an ending to the nature of the present relationship. You may not be as close as you once were with someone, but it is better for them to reject the real you than to love a lesser form of who you are. In my experience, the ones who love you for who you are will be thrilled about positive changes in your life, and will be excited to grow into a new season with you. I encourage you to be strong and courageous. Maybe you’ll feel weak and fearful. It’s okay to feel afraid. After all, that’s when courage counts most. You can act with courage.

Question: What have you found to be helpful in facing big changes?

Two Reasons I Failed At Achieving My Goals

How often do you find yourself looking back on a day and feeling frustrated that you didn’t do the things you really wanted to do? Instead of doing what is important, you got distracted with other “highly urgent” things to do. We can find a million reasons to defend why we didn’t reach our goals, but at the end of the day, we do what we value. If you value the “urgent distractions”, and must give yourself to them, then you won’t accomplish many goals. Today, I’m going to share two mistakes I’ve made that caused me fail at achieving my goals.

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As we talk today about the gap between making goals and achieving these goals, I think it is worth sharing this is where people often quit. As previously stated, your values determine your goals. If something is of great value to us, then we will guard what we have. This is why we don’t give our bank account info away. It is important, so we protect it.

1. I Didn’t Schedule What Was Important

In the past, I let my calendar “just happen.” If you’re life is “just happening”, then the important things will be overrun with the weeds of the many unimportant, urgent things drawing your attention. Simply put, you won’t accomplish your goals if you do that. Now, I take time at the end of each week to schedule out my next week. The most important things go on the calendar first. When something is important, it goes on the calendar. If not, it does not make it on to the calendar. Years ago, I was challenged to create margin in my calendar to think and plan. Thinking and planning before this event was generally a haphazard experience. This time, I created a space of 3 hours one Friday afternoon in the month to think and plan. I had my notebook ready, and my phone was turned off. Those 3 hours were 3 of the most productive hours I had ever experienced in actually making a plan.

2. I Said “Yes” Too Much

Have you ever noticed how nice it feels to be needed? You can draw a lot of meaning out of the well of other people’s never ending problems. Especially when you’re the one they ask to fix their problem. Just because somebody has a problem doesn’t mean it needs to become your problem. Yes, they say they need something right now. No, you don’t have to be the one to do everything for them. You have a limited amount of time, and you are not able to help everyone do everything. Every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. Every time you say yes to someone, you are also saying no to someone else. Just because somebody needs something done doesn’t mean you’re the person who needs to do it. When you say yes to doing less, you’re able to do fewer things with excellence instead of many things at a subpar level.

Questions

  1. Do you schedule your values and goals? If not, can you give yourself 1 hour this week to schedule what is important to you next week?
  2. Are you saying “yes” to too many people and things? If so, what are a few urgent, yet unimportant things you can say “no” to so that you can do what is important?

How To Set Goals You Can Control

Have you ever found life slipping out of your control? This happens to anyone who believes their expectations of the outcome will align with reality. They often find their expectations falling short. When this happens, a lot of people become stressed, and many throw in the towel. If they can’t have the outcome they want, then what is the point in putting in so much work? They have that look about them that they have had enough.

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A business leader declares the business will increase 8% in revenue this year. Instead, the economy dips, people stop buying, and the business only increases revenue by 2.5% this year.

A teacher prepares the lesson plans for the week thinking of the 2nd graders smiling as they learn. Instead, the 2nd graders decide this is the week to declare mutiny, and try to end the teacher’s career.

An aspiring author determines their book will be accepted by a publisher, and that self-publishing isn’t an option. Every copy they send is rejected, and they dismiss the idea of self-publishing.

A lot of disappointment in life comes from unmet expectations. Some people say, “Don’t go into life with great expectations, because you’ll only be let down.” Life without expectations doesn’t connect with my soul. I like to have great expectations, but I’m learning to shift these great expectations.

For the longest time, my great expectations have been centered on the outcome. Yesterday, we briefly examined an outcome goal — losing 15 pounds over 6 weeks.) Outcome goals do produce results at times, but sometimes a person doesn’t lose 15 pounds over 6 weeks. Instead, they tone up, and begin to add muscle. Their muscle weighs more than they anticipated. They became much healthier in 6 weeks, but instead of losing 15 pounds, they only lost 5 pounds. However, they are much more fit and toned than they were at the beginning.

“We cannot control the outcomes in life.”

At this point, some people will say, “What is the point of making goals then?” If goals are short term extensions of your values, then what is the point if you don’t reach them. And this is where I learned to set a different kind of goal. I heard Craig Groeschel talk about this first. Make Input Goals instead of Outcome Goals.

“We can control our input.”

Below are examples of Outcome Goals vs Input Goals followed by Results.

Outcome Goal: I want to have 20 new clients in the next 60 days.

Input Goal: I will ask 400 people to meet with me in the next 60 days. I cannot control if they will become clients, but I can do my part to meet with them.

Result: If I ask 400 people to meet with me, 200 of them might meet with me. If I can meet with 200, then 10% of them might become clients. (Or maybe way more than that.)

Outcome Goal: I will write a music album that sells over 1000 copies.

Input Goal: I will write 10 songs, record a music album, connect with 500 venue owners about playing shows, and run an excellent social media campaign for my new album.

Result: Will the album sell 1000 copies? Not necessarily. But I can have great expectations for myself, and the work I do in meeting with others. I will do my part, and position myself for

Outcome Goal: I will have a lot of new friends this year.

Input Goal: I will ask 25 people that I don’t know very well to have coffee, go to a movie, come over for dinner, or hike a mountain. I will choose to be a friend to them, and care about their life. Result: Will I have a lot of new friends this year? Depends on how you define “new friends.” This allows me to stop worrying about quantities of friends, and work on the quality of the friendship. By asking people to join me in doing something, we have a greater likelihood of becoming friends. Also, I am determining how I will treat these people. It’s like my parents told me growing up, “If you want friends, then be a friend.”

I believe it is worth having great expectations in life. My great expectations have shifted though from focusing on great outcomes to making great inputs. One of the most amazing benefits of this shift is that I don’t place the burden on other people that they have to treat me perfectly. Potential clients don’t have to buy from me. I don’t live and die by the outcomes of life. Instead, I define what I want to do, and then do a lot of that. When I create input goals, the outcomes are much sweeter.

What would it look like for you to create input goals, and focus on what you can control? Imagine letting go of the outcomes for a bit. What would it look like to simply focus on what you can do, and let the results come from that?

Questions To Consider

  1. What are some outcome goals you’ve created? What is your internal response when the outcomes don’t turn out how you planned?
  2. What would be one input goal you could create? How could you use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal tool to make an input goal?

One Simple Way To Turn Your Values Into Action

When you get serious about what clarifying your life around your values, you start moving forward. Goal setting is a tool to give you traction in driving towards what you want. I remember when I first got around goals, the very idea of them was breathtaking to me. My Dad has always been YUUUGE on setting goals, and challenged me to do the same. I’m pretty sure in 3rd grade, I wrote down in my Memo Notebook, “Change the world. Eat food I like. Play more basketball.”

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Those aren’t goals. Those are dreams and themes for life, but they aren’t goals. At least not the way I define the word goal. I learned I needed to have a way to evaluate my goals to find out if I was succeeding or not. The further I went into goal setting, the more I realized how important it was for me to have goals that matched what is really key to my life. Getting crystal clear on your goals help you hit the bullseye of your values, not just the general target. Goals should be short term extensions of your values. Goals help your values get a grip on the road of life, as you drive forward.

“Goals help you hit the bullseye, not just the general target.”

There are different tools to help people set goals. Here is one that I have found to be helpful. It is called the S.M.A.R.T. Goal tool. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.

Specific — Make sure your goals are distinct, and defined. “I want to become a healthier person” is not specific. “I will become healthier by losing weight” gives a more specific type of health plan you have in mind.

Measurable —  Make sure you can use metrics for your goal. “I will lose weight” is not measurable. However, “I will lose 15 pounds” is measurable.

Achievable — Many people are thrown off course here. “I want to lose 15 pounds” is a great goal for some people. How will you achieve this goal? Have you tried before, but didn’t have a plan in place? Create a clear path to achieving your goals. “I will lose 15 pounds by exercising four times each week, and changing my caloric intake to _______ each day.”

Realistic — It isn’t realistic to say, “I’m going to lose 15 pounds by working out 7 days a week for 2 hours each day, and eating only prunes and drinking water.” That isn’t realistic. Also, that sounds terrible. Give yourself a realistic goal and say, “I will lose 15 pounds by exercising four times each week, and changing my caloric intake to _______ each day.”

Timebound — Finally, your goal needs to have a beginning and an end. I recommend for a general S.M.A.R.T. goal no longer than 6 weeks. Often, 3 weeks is even better because you begin to have some momentum 3 weeks into your goal. “I will become healthier by losing 15 pounds by exercising four times each week, and changing my caloric intake to _______ each day for the next 6 weeks.”

When you accomplish your goals, you’ll gain some traction. Once you have some traction, you’ll find you’re driving forward with momentum. When you gain momentum, you will find life to be more enjoyable. Just remember this. Make sure your goals are aligned with your values. Otherwise, you’ll just have a lot of momentum taking you in the wrong direction.

Questions For Application: 

  1. What has kept you from reaching your goals in the past?
  2. What is one practical step you can take towards setting and reaching a new goal?

How To Stop Drifting

This is the beginning of a 5 part series on how to reach your goals. This week, we will talk about your values and why they matter, how to translate values into goals, and then we will discuss practical application to making sure you stay focused on your goals.

At the end of 2015, I looked back to the beginning of the year and saw the goals I had set for myself. I had no dropped the 40 pounds I set out to lose. Actually, I did and then I gained it all back. I had said I wanted to read through the entire Bible, but I only read half of it. I didn’t write the book I wanted to write. I hadn’t even gotten out of the first two chapters. I had wanted 25 speaking engagements, but I only had 10. What was going on? “Maybe I just don’t have the magic that all these other people have,” I thought to myself. 

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Have you ever been there? It is that moment when you see other people get the results you want, and you find yourself falling short of what you want. Simply put, you don’t achieve what you set out to do. You drift from what you want. Maybe you have the goal of dropping 15 pounds, learning a new instrument, writing a blog, or getting the GPA you desire. We usually don’t set out to kill our progress. We just drift off course, as the waves of desire pull us away from what we set out to accomplish.

A while back, I was having a coffee with my friend, Phil. He told me about a book with a fascinating name, “Why Choose This Book?” The main message of the book is that we as human beings are value machines or in other words, we as human beings only do what we value.

“We only do what we value.”

So, if you see a new sweater at the GAP this weekend that you literally must have even though your budget says do not spend you may still buy that sweater because something inside says you need it right now. In reality, you value the sweater, its texture, color, and the way you’re going to look amazing in the sweater more than you value your budget being met.

That’s when it made sense to me. I needed to identify what I really valued. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to keep the 40 pounds off, read through the Bible, write the book, or schedule 25 speaking engagements. At the end of the day, I valued cheeseburgers and fries more than keeping the 40 pounds off, and I valued binging on Netflix more than I valued the Bible. I valued talking about ideas of a book more than actually writing the book. I valued watching Ted Talks more than I valued setting up speaking engagements. The common theme in all of these things that hijacked my goals was that they had minimal resistance, and the temporary happiness that comes with them. It was easy and fun.

“To get what you want, first identify what you value.”

What about you? What has gotten in the way of what you really value? It is paramount to center your life around your chosen values, or you will go back to the path of least resistance and momentary enjoyment. Drifting leads you to short term payoffs that don’t give you what you really want in life. If you don’t identify what you want and design your life around what is important to you, then you will drift. If you do what you’ve always done, then you’ll get what you’ve always got. If you want something different, do something different.

Here are a few questions to consider that can help identify what you want, and create the change you desire.

What do you value most in life? Why are these values important to you? What is getting in the way of your values?