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?

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?

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

November 28, 2016 — 1 Comment

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? 

Have you ever been overwhelmed by how much stuff you have? When you’ve been living in one place for a while, you may not notice how much stuff you have. That’s what happened to me, as I lived in Tulsa for 7 years. Then one day, you realize you have no more space to store anything. So where does all the stuff go? What happens when you have too much stuff?

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The startling realization that I had too much stuff occurred after I sold my three bedroom house in Tulsa, and moved to Boise, Idaho to help take care of my mom in the spring. I left a bunch of stuff in Tulsa in a 10’x15’ storage unit for the months I was in Boise. After my time in Boise, I moved to OKC. My friend, Kent, offered me a room in his house.I was downsizing from a three bedroom house with an attic and a basement, to living in one bedroom. When I opened my storage unit in Tulsa, I realized 97% of it would not be going with me to OKC. I had way too much stuff.

After settling into OKC, I realized that the 3% in the storage unit, coupled with what had been in my car was still too much stuff. I would look through my overcrowded room, and wonder why I had so much stuff. Yet, I knew I couldn’t part ways with most of it. When I walked through the garage, I would see a few boxes full of things I knew I couldn’t get rid of. These things were important. What was in the boxes? I couldn’t tell you, but it was probably something an aunt or cousin gave me fifteen years ago. Maybe it was my baseball cards, or letters from church camp in high school. This was important stuff. You don’t just get rid of these necessary things. As I kept thinking about all of the stuff I own, I remembered something my friend Jay Mack said a few years ago.

“If we’re not careful, the things we own will own us.”

I realized it had happened to me. I was being owned by my stuff. It was my stuff that made my room uncomfortable, and made my life feel overcrowded. What I learned was the stuff I thought I might need, I didn’t need. So I began a move towards minimalism. Over the past month, I’ve given away over 100 clothing items, 100 books, and thrown away a lot of unnecessary stuff. My life is becoming less cluttered as I do this. With each thing I give away, I feel a greater sense of energy and clarity. Here is a secret I’ve come to understand in the process.

“When I minimize what isn’t important, I can maximize what is important.”

Getting a lot of these unimportant things out of my life has helped me clarify around what is important. I max out now on connecting with God and people, and creating meaningful work. Never in my wildest dreams would I have considered myself weighed down by all the stuff I had. The “muchness” of so many clothing options, seeing books I never intended to read again, and the clutter in my life had me spending too much time thinking about things that aren’t important to me.

Am I a “true minimalist”? I think that is a somewhat fluid term, and you could get a lot of answers from different people. I don’t think the point of minimalism is to get rid of everything. At least for me, it isn’t. I believe minimalism is a tool to help clarify your life by getting rid of what is not important, so that you give yourself to what is of maximum importance to you. When we choose to minimize what is not important, I believe we will maximize what is important.

Is your life full of too much stuff? What would it be like to move out of clutter, and into clarity? Can you imagine how much more energy you would have to attend to what matters if you didn’t have to focus on the things piled up that aren’t important. What would it be like to minimize what is not important, so that you can maximize what is truly important to you?

Why We Go Back

May 23, 2016 — 10 Comments

I’m sitting in a room with about 50 people I don’t know. The people range in age from early 20s to late 60s. I think there were a few millionaires, and there were a few people who were bankrupt. Everyone was there because we had some unsolved issues that are taking us down paths we don’t want to walk any longer. But for some reason, we keep walking down those same paths again and again. Our guide on this weekend asks a question.

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“Why do women who are abused go back to the men who abuse them?”

I sit there quietly waiting for someone who is wiser than me to speak up. After the group voices a few answers, the guide gives us his answer.

“Because it works for them.”

I sit there and stare at the carpet wondering how this could be true.

“This is exactly why every one of you do what you do. People think on a scale of right and wrong, but that’s not really why people do what they do. People do what they do because it works for them. So if you’re addicted to drugs, don’t tell me it doesn’t work for you. It does work for you. I want to know what about drugs works for you. If you’re hooked on porn, co-dependent, bitter, self-loathing, and self-defeating, tell me this. How does that work for you?”

There’s a question being answered behind the question, “How does that work for you?” The question being answered is,

“Why do people go back?”

Don’t you hate it when you promised yourself you wouldn’t do that again, and then you go back to doing the same thing again? We can swear things and people off like crazy, but most often, that is what we keep going back to.

I wondered how these things we hate actually work for us. Maybe you’re four and you don’t have these struggles of going back to the same old problem, but I’m doubting that you’re reading this if you’re four. The rest of us known as the human race have struggles. We keep going back.

If we’re really being honest, there’s some lie that we’ve accepted as a truth about ourselves. Our lies are wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. It’s like when you’re watching The Perks of Being A Wallflower, and the movie is reminding us of exactly why the Harry Potter movie series needed Emma Watson when all of a sudden, the room goes silent and this line hits hard as Ali.

We accept the love we think we deserve.

It makes sense. The thing we say doesn’t work for us does work for us because it makes us feel strangely comfortable because it is what we deserve. So we go back to that same old wolf dressed as that same old sheep, and find ourselves decimated by that same old lie again.

I remember in college, there were these great girls who kept going back to these guys who cheated on them. I never understood why. And then one day, I get it. They go back to those same guys, because I go back to the same lies that tell me I’m not worth more.

We all have it. What is your lie that you keep owning as truth?

Here is the crazy part. We will stay miserable because it is familiar, and at least familiar is more comfortable than the fear of the unknown. We treat the unknown like a prison cell, and misery like it is our saving grace.

I think that’s what Paul is talking about when he says “be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” The point isn’t to look like you live in a church, and have a “do not contaminate me” sticker on your shirt as you walk around this earth. The reason is that God loves us, and wants us to stop believing these lies about ourselves. He wants us to start treating ourselves and others with dignity and respect. He wants us to leave the room of misery, shame, and frustration. Open the door of unfamiliarity, and walk into freedom.

It isn’t that easy though, right? I mean, that’s what is always on the other side of that door. The door of possibility we don’t walk through. A voice says, “It will be worse than what you have”,  “This is how you deserve to be treated,” or “You can fix her” “You can fix him.”

Is it really working? Often, it is not. But it works for us to stay where we are.

If we want to move forward with our lives, a decision has to be made. It isn’t about promising ourselves something, and swearing up and down what we won’t do any more.

It is about facing a lie, and making that lie face the truth.

We are loved. We are worthy of dignity and respect. We are strong. We are worth it.

Does it work? It does until the day we say we’ve had enough of that lie, and we’re going to step into the truth of who we are.

Seasons of Life

February 8, 2016 — Leave a comment

There is a time and season for everything, and everything has a purpose it’s in time. Yet, time and it’s great race run in the hand of God is created with patterns, rhythms and seasons, so Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to live and a time to die. The seasons turn.

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As Galadriel says in a voice over at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring (movie), “The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it.”

Like pages in a book, the seasons turn, and nothing can prevent a new leaf from happening. Some wear change on our shoulders, sometimes like the burden of time. Others hold the season of life in their wrinkled faces, the revelation that time has worn it’s way throughout their being.

Who can deny this? Perhaps in America, where people seem to think death does not happen, and we are shocked when it does. In a nation where we cure disease, and fix what is wrong, we stare at the sky shocked when we realize we are not God, that we are finite, and that everything has its time.

Seasons are speaking from our souls if we will listen. Something inside of us even has to die so that something new can be born again. And if our souls hold violently to what was, how can we accept what is? If only living were as easy as such pithy statements as “let go and let God.”

“Let go? Of what was? I might lose myself for all that I know is what was.”

And true, the pith statements sometimes are a bit cliche, especially when they sound romantic, but the seasons must change, and we must continue. Like a leaf hanging from a tree, falling to the ground, only to be crushed by the foot that walks upon it. Under each crunch heard on an Autumn walk is something fading into the dust, “for to dust you shall return.” This allows life to be life.

To flourish in the spring. To dance through the summer. To tremble in a violent vulnerability in the Autumn. To feel the cold sting of Winter, death and all its friends.

Yet, we are not alone. We are found among our suffering friends if we will but look and see the lines on their faces, and the sorrow or joy in their eyes. Perhaps it is a mingling of both joy and sorrow, the tension of humanity and Heaven written into our eyes. For this is who we are. We are eternal. And all of us, every part of us lives in these seasons. Each in its time.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Look backward. Feel the present. Onward. The saga continues on. One season. Turning. Like pages. We are writing with our lives. Pages to be read. These seasons of life.