I Cannot Transform if I Conform

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This is slime. Making it is messy, but fun. Parents hate it. 10 year old girls love it.

We went against the grain for our daughter’s 10th birthday party. Normally, most birthday parties these days are held off-site in some controlled environment with boundaries. Kids’ creative energies aren’t permitted to be unleashed. They are cold parties, not warm and inviting. They’re just a another checkbox. Birthday party, check.

Back in the day, all birthday parties were held at my house. In addition to cake and ice cream, we played outside, walked in the woods and came up with ideas to entertain ourselves. I remember them fondly.

What used to be the norm is now an anomaly. As a society, I’m not sure how we segued to the new normal, but I prefer being different and evidently so does my daughter and her friends. They’ll never forget this party. It was fun, meaningful and strengthened their friendships. It was everything we hoped it would be, as it was purposefully designed to be unique.

Repeat after me. “I cannot transform if I conform.”

To transform is to change. To conform is to become similar. They are mutually exclusive. You can’t do both.

Examine how you spend your time, your days. What percentage is spent conforming to the prevailing societal norms? How much of what you think is dictated by pop culture? How much of what you do is influenced by what others are doing?

Here’s a secret. The majority is often wrong. They just have momentum that feels like it’s the right thing to do. If you’re directionless, it’s easy to get caught up in that feeling. This is the reason why so many people live empty lives today. It explains how someone can have 500+ Facebook “friends”, yet be lonely and depressed.

Deep down, we all crave meaning in life. In fact, it’s in our DNA. We were designed to be unique. We were created with a purpose in mind.

Therefore, to find meaning, you cannot let conformity seize your thinking or your habits. You must break the hold that the majority’s momentum has on you. Be a contrarian. Be independent.

By rejecting the majority’s control, you free your mind to critically think about who you are or want to become and base your opinions and decisions on that. This is what permits true transformation of mind, character, habits and life. You define what you want and where you are going and consequently aren’t blown off course by the winds of the masses.

Write this down. Keep it somewhere for easy access. Read it often.

“I cannot transform if I conform.”

Friction. Choices, Choices?

Friction

Friction is everywhere. If it wasn’t, life would be easy. There’d be no resistance to anything you try to do. Choices would be a breeze.

One type of friction is good. It’s feedback telling you you’re on the wrong path and should adjust course.

Another type of friction is bad. It’s a test trying to derail you from the proper path you’re on.

How do you discern the good from the bad? How do you make the right choice? You need to do the following:

  1. Slow life down. Your busyness is creating noise, which is distorting the signal. Slowing down is like watching a video in slow motion. You see things you don’t notice in real-time.
  2. Calm your mind. Your mind is like a computer that never shuts down. Multitasking is overrated. It prevents us from seeing the big picture. Use breathing exercises like the one described here to calm your mind.
  3. Make quiet time a habit. Every morning and evening, set aside 5-10 minutes to reflect on your day. Ask yourself key questions and write down the answers. Be honest and open with yourself. Here’s what I ask:
    • Morning ritual:
      • For what and whom am I grateful today?
      • What am I excited about and look forward to doing today?
      • What is my purpose? Do my plans today connect me to it?
      • How can I move the dial toward my goals today? Are my goals aligned with my purpose?
      • To whom can I reach out to serve or thank today?
    • Evening ritual:
      • Was I “on” and in the zone today or “off” and unbalanced? What contributed to this feeling?
      • What were the top three positive things today? What did I learn from them?
      • What went wrong today? What is the silver lining?
      • Are there unsolved challenges I would like my subconscious mind to help me solve tonight?

If you commit to mastering the art of discerning good friction from bad friction, then you’re on your way to a more levelheaded life.

And a happier, more confident, calm, assertive you making better choices.

Fear. Fret. Faith.

Romans 8-28

Do you fear anything? Do you fret about anything? Do you live by faith?

I can honestly answer: no, no and yes.

Can you?

It took me 46 years to really understand what it meant to live life by faith. I’m 47 now. I thought I understood, but I didn’t. That is, living secure in the fact that all things work for my benefit, as long as my priorities are aligned properly, and I place my trust in the right person. Through the good and the bad, I’m consistent and confident because my heart and mind are genuinely transformed and in balance.

All things aren’t good, but all things work for the good. In all things I give thanks, but I am not thankful for all things. It’s subtle, but there’s a difference.

I am not immune from life’s storms. However, I am equipped to withstand them. I am able to remain calm and peaceful even in the middle of a storm. I have self-control even when tempted to do the wrong thing: lie, cheat, take a short cut, etc.

I also experience many of life’s successes, and I am able to humbly accept, enjoy and appreciate them. I understand that I receive these gifts not for my glory. Pride, envy, greed and wrath have been sifted from my character.

I want the same for you.

No fear. No worry.

Only joy, peace and success.

You Are Essential

Essential

It’s a snowy winter morning, and you’re commuting into town listening to the radio. The news reports that “Only essential government personnel need to report to work. All nonessential employees are to stay home.” What goes through your mind?

If you’re like me, you say to yourself, “Well, if someone is nonessential, then why would they need to report on any day of the week?” This makes me chuckle, but it also makes me sad. Sad about all those nonessential folks who are just getting by in life. Conforming to what society has conditioned them to think they should do. Punching in and punching out of the daily time clock of life. There’s no meaning behind what they are doing. There’s no purpose other than to go to work and get paid.

That’s such waste of life because we are all designed to be essential. You are meant to be indispensable.

However to become essential, you need to choose to spend your life doing things that only you can do. Trim out the stuff that isn’t going to matter in the end. There is something you can do that will make an eternal difference.

And it’s linked to your character-based purpose in life. The person you want to be, the one you crave to become. Discover it and you’ll be spiritually alive. You’ll feel and be essential.

Here’s a hint to finding it. It involves your ability to positively impact the lives of others. There is something in you that is uniquely you. Something that you’re passionate about because it’s part of your core design. And you can use this passion to do good works.

Imagine at the end of your life someone coming up to you saying “I’m here because of you.” That’s using your life in a meaningful way.

To someone out there, you are essential.

 

Small Things

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What do you do with the small things in life? Do you handle them with care? Are you a good steward of them even when no one is looking? Do you think of them as incremental building blocks of the future? The answers to these questions reveal your character.

Bolt 2

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.

Whether you realize it or not, someone is watching.

And listening.

To everything you say and do.

And each small thing is a building block that you are either putting up or tearing down.

If you don’t like something about your character, you can change it. One small step at a time, you can alter your mind and behavior. It won’t happen overnight, but it’s possible with desire, persistence and resilience. Block by block.

Why is resilience important? Because you’ll have set backs, and you’ll need to press on. These set backs will require you to forgive others or yourself and drive forward. Everyone needs to forgive. Everyone needs to be forgiven.

So what are some examples of the small things?

  • Daily decisions where you have to chose between right and wrong
    • You notice that when buying lunch, you were given more change than you should have received. There’s an extra $20. Do you keep it?
    • When doing your expense report for work, you could fabricate an item and get away with it because you feel the “company” owes you and can absorb it. Do you do it?
    • On your commute home after a long day at work, you get cut off by someone driving aggressively and distracted by their cell phone. Do you get angry, cuss and flip them the bird?
    • You have the opportunity to connect with a woman on Facebook. Your trusting wife doesn’t know her and would not suspect anything inappropriate. You just met the woman through a vendor’s social event at work and find her attractive. Do you do it? Do you tell your wife?
  • Daily moments where you can be thoughtful and serve others
    • After a lunch meeting, pack up the left overs to give to a homeless person on the walk back to your office.
    • Upon witnessing someone dropping all of their papers, which are now blowing in the wind, help them recover everything.
    • When walking by a piece of trash on the ground, pick it up and throw it away.
    • Slow down and help the senior citizen cross the road.
    • When you see a veteran of our armed forces, thank them for their service.

If you want to be entrusted with more in life, then demonstrate you can do the right thing with the small things. Behave like someone is always watching and listening.

Because someone is.

 

 

Other Peoples’ Shoes

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People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

You can be the smartest person in the room, but it doesn’t matter until that opportunity to show genuine empathy. That moment to connect on a meaningful level. True connection that reveals your humanity, not some superficial Facebook-level connection.

Such intuitive awareness of others’ feelings and circumstances can be learned and mastered. I would argue it is our fundamental calling for only if we achieve self-mastery of empathy can we be fully alive.

Being fully alive means personifying the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Challenge yourself to master empathy. With every encounter, observe and take note of others’ appearance, body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, hygiene, etc… Put yourself in their shoes. Show them grace. Ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What’s their “story”?
  • What kind of day have they had?
  • Are they hurting?
  • Are they stressed?
  • How did they get to where they are?
  • How confident are they?

Mastering Empathy = Making Meaningful Connections = Being Fully Alive

Inspiration and Temptation

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Good ideas inspire. Bad ideas tempt. They coexist in your mind and battle daily for control. You get to choose which thoughts to dwell on.

You always have a way out when tempted. It may be hard, painful or embarrassing, but it’s there. To take this escape route, you need to see and follow the road signs to “strength” and “humility”.

To see and take action is to change your mind. Replace temptation with truth. The root of temptation is a lie. The foundation of inspiration is truth.

It’s really that simple. Don’t over think it.

When you find yourself being tempted, catch yourself and replace it with the truth. Be honest with yourself about the long-term consequences even if the short-term gain is gratifying.

The key is being able to replace thoughts in your mind. Bad with good. Lies with truth. Being aware of this need is the first step to winning battles. The second step is the effort. Just focus on doing it and don’t worry about failing. The more you do it, the more you’ll master it, and it will eventually become habit.

 

 

Man’s Best Friend

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You might have a pet as a best friend. That’s ok. Dog, cat, pig, frog and more. You love them and they love you, unconditionally. Spoil them, play with them a lot. You’re responsible for them. It’s amazing what they can do for your spirit. They’re the best heart medicine in the world. They’ll keep you young at heart.

To them, you are trustworthy. They rely on you to feed them, wash them, clean up after them and care for them when they’re not feeling well. They know you will protect them, and they will protect you too.

Cherish your time with them today. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

In fact, do this with all of your loved ones today.

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Everything is Made Beautiful for it’s Own Time

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Until this weekend, this looked like a weed. And every weekend since Spring, I thought about pulling it. Boy am I glad I didn’t. Look how beautiful it is.

Unbeknownst to me, it was designed to be beautiful. It was created to be a thing a beauty. To see that, patience was required. Long after other flowers have come and gone, this flower’s purpose was revealed. It stands out not just because it’s big and pink, but because most everything else has already blossomed and withered. This is it’s time to shine. It was meant to warm my heart when I walked out my front door this morning.

You have a time to shine too. We all do. Our purpose in life and how long it will take to blossom are unique, but everything has been made to be beautiful for it’s own time.

That’s a promise. Just be patient.

What enables me to be patient is knowing my purpose. I don’t know how it will ultimately manifest itself, but I know what I was made to be:

My purpose is to be a player-coach equipping others to overcome their hurts, hangups and habits to do the right thing and find life by having a tender heart and tough hide.

Until I understood that, I was thought I was a weed, not a flower that just hasn’t yet blossomed. I’m not concerned about how long it will take because I know it will be revealed. I’m also not concerned about comparing myself to others and how quickly or slowly they are moving through life. I’m living life for an audience of one. I am running with patience the particular race that was designed for me.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Every season of life has a purpose to mold and shape you. Good and bad. But you must know where you are going.

To know where you are going, you must identify your purpose. To do that, don’t think of acquiring a certain position or title, but rather center it on a concept of self-transformation, of becoming something at the character-level. In other words, investigate and define a “being” purpose, your purpose for existence.

Reflect on this. I have an exercise that can guide you through it. Your purpose can be found through all things that have happened to you, good and bad, which is why in all things I give thanks.

You’re not a weed. You’re a flower that will blossom in your own time.

Throwing Stones

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Imagine a place where nobody throws stones.

Where everything said or done is to build up, not break down. To help, not hurt. To support, not accuse.

Where there is no gossip. No making fun of others. No harmful words that cut like a knife.

Where there’s no pointing fingers. No getting even. No eye for an eye, but rather giving freely even to save a life.

Where anyone can get a fresh start as long as they are contrite, repent and commit to live life the right way.

What a wonderful place that would be.

You can be that place.

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