A Path, A Guide, A Life

I’ve been thinking …

Life is complicated. We learn from each other how to navigate this thing called life. We first learned from parents, then from teachers, coaches and for those fortunate enough to partner up with one, a mentor who articulates important life-enhancing behaviors. We glean knowledge from listening and from watching others. The common thread in how we learn is guidance woven through every aspect.

We need guides to teach us things we may never understand without the wisdom of people willing to share from their experiences. We need guides to pour into us from their wisdom.     

To look forward and not back;
to look inward before stepping outward;
to grieve a little for what is lost but be thankful more for what is still here;
to plant seeds of encouragement in the dirt that is sometimes dark and heavy;
to be grateful for what is before presuming the best of life is yet to be experienced;
to be careful how you live your moments because they become your memories.

Do you wonder how to get from where you are to where you want to be? Seek a guide who has already forged the path and found success.

Anyway … That’s what I was thinking.

This vignette is written for Five Minute Friday. The prompt is GUIDE. The rules are to write for five minutes without overthinking, without editing, and let the words come from your soul.


Work-Life Balance Brilliance by Denise R. Green: book summary

Have you ever thought of hiring a life coach? Have you ever wondered what you could achieve if you had an accountability partner? Maybe you’ve tried the novel approach to creating different results than the trajectory you are on right now. If you are self-motivated at all, this book could be the recipe for positive momentum in finding what works for you. One glance at the book cover should clue you in to what the author thinks of work-life balance. In fact, the title of the book is, Work-Life Balance Brilliance and isn’t that really what we want from our lives and from our work?

I usually don’t copy chapter titles into a book summary, but in this case, the chapter titles are like opening the doors and giving you a full spectrum view of why this book functions like a personal coach. Burnout versus Brilliance, Tame Your Thoughts, Reinvent Your Outer Self, Nurture Brilliant Relationships, Manage Your Relationship with “Stuff”, Brilliant Sleep., How Not to Change, How to Choose the Right Goal, How to Change for Good, How to Say No with Grace, Not Guilt. Now you can see why I wanted to reveal the chapter titles before mentioning what is so fascinating and magnetic about this book.  From the outset, I had a feeling there was a meaningful purpose behind the writing of this book that I could identify with and Denise Green described it. “I’m on a mission to help people light the spark within them that may feel like it’s been nearly snuffed out due to the demands of life.” Does that sound anything like your dilemma? Here’s your next book.    Work-Life Balance Brilliance  

This book, with the chapters listed above, can best be described as a tool for knowing yourself and understanding inspirations and aspirations within and how your relationships and interactions are key in creating brilliance. The author identifies the four realms of Whole Life Integrations which she calls Brillance. Then through stories and instructive dialog, she coaches you through the steps to create that work-like brilliance.

I am a huge advocate of being careful with thoughts because thoughts drive actions. I was impressed with the content of the chapter, Tame Your Thoughts. Green doesn’t just rely on dialog to teach the methods of controlling thought. She offers a 6-step upgrade tool that I would call guided self-reflection. Then she offers advice on how to make your release from negative thoughts really stick.

Some strong points of this book are in the toolkits integrated with each chapter. Story is interesting, and case studies are evidence that somewhere along the line the principles taught in the book worked for someone. All you have to do is read through some of the action items to know that, if put into practice, many of your niggling aspirations could become your reality. By implementing some of the basic ideas suggested could bolster your confidence and give you an edge toward balance which you will redefine as brilliance. You don’t have to change everything. The changes will be dictated by what you discover about yourself and about relationships as you work through the pages of the book and guidance received by using the focus-inciting questions.

When I read a book like this one, I have a tendency to choose a favorite chapter. Manage Your Relationship With “Stuff” was a surprise. It is a powerful game-changer. Rarely have I read a book like this one that so aptly presents the tethers that hold us back like our ‘stuff’. Denise Green points out that we have two limitations that are huge. Time – we get 24 hours every day. Period. Physical – we operate with imperfect bodies that need to be taken care of – sleep is one thing most of us need more of. Note: we get 24 hours every day. Period. The author remarks that “This Brilliance realm (relationship with stuff) includes our relationship to our spaces, possessions, technology, and time.”  Certainly, every reader can identify with the components we all deal with every day and how we allow them to affect our world makes this book invaluable to creating a brilliant life. Do you need ideas for managing your time, designing a winning pattern for your day, working productively in your environment, managing technology? How about reducing your exposure to toxic energy? The toolkit consists of worksheets to help you replace those components that are not serving you.

Remember sleep? Some of us are more familiar with the lack of it. The chapter titled Brilliant Sleep is – well – brilliant. Whether you suffer from legitimate insomnia or sleep deprivation brought on by environmental or physical or activity conditions, the best practices for sleep hygiene in this chapter are priceless. Yes, we all know the trick of going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every day. We know to restrict caffeine in the afternoon. We might, on the advice of a physician, take melatonin. We might invest in a book that sends us to sleep because it provides absolutely no spark of interest. If you want to sleep and have forgotten what it feels like to get adequate sleep, you aren’t alone. The tips in this book are plentiful.

The final chapters of the book are based on putting legs on what you learned in the first part of the book. What do you want to change? What goals do you have? Are they the right goals for how you envision your work-life brilliance future? I remember hearing someone say that we invest ten months planning a two-week vacation and about ten minutes planning our future existence. That’s probably not truly accurate, but isn’t it true that we have goals, but may not know if they are the right goals until we get there and realize they aren’t?

This book, like a life coach, walks through the realms of life and helps you create a vision for your best life, set the right goals, determine how you will get there, and make wise choices of what you will do and what you will not. The author concludes with what I think of as the magic three. I mean if there was a bit of magic in all this.  Green says in her final address to readers, “If I were forced to describe achieving work-life brilliance in a few steps, those steps would include Assess, Choose, Change.”

There is no magic, but if you’re looking for help in reinventing your life, this book can bring magical results.

This book summary was first published at BizCatalyst360.com.  https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/work-life-brilliance/ 

Crunch Time: How to Be Your Best When It Matters Most

One of the hooks that attracted me to this book is knowing that one of the authors, Rick, is a coach and the other, Judd, is a vice president at the Ken Blanchard Companies. Expecting to learn something valuable, I wasn’t, for a moment disappointed.  Read the full book summary here

The book is organized for easy learning with quick refer backs to practice the principles for yourself. Each chapter ends with a page highlighting what the authors hope you learned followed by a Try-it section to guide the self-motivated reader to make improvements, beginning now. Peering through the book, I noticed that each chapter title contained the word Reframing. Curiously, I looked for how that term was defined – you know. Just in case my interpretation was far distant from what was intended. I think you’ll like this Reframing approach to getting past hurdles that might be holding you back.    crunchtime

Reframing – The skill of consciously thinking about a situation in a new or different way to change how you interpret the situation, and actions you take, and the results you achieve.
Reframing can be learned by anyone. It’s a cognitive skill you can use to quickly and effectively equip your mind and body to perform well under pressure, anytime, anywhere.

I am a firm believer in how powerful our minds are and how they affect our lives from the smallest moments to the most extensive outcomes. As proven throughout the book, “Thinking differently is the starting point. Change how you act, and change your results.” Put your thoughts into a new frame of reference, new frame of mind, and therein lies the power of Reframing. Each of the chapters tells stories that are totally true, have teachable moments, and are so entertaining you will not be able to choose favorites from those the authors have used to illustrate their points.

Full book summary is published on the BizCatalyst360 network website under BizBooks & Beyond.  Here’s the direct link. https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/crunch-time-how-to-be-your-best-when-it-matters-most/


The winning formula for making a difference

It seems football frenzy has taken over the digital network. Have you been watching any of the games? How about that game on Saturday?file0001659363699 You know the one. Edge of the chair, nail-biting, hold-your-breath exciting. I’m not a TV watcher and not a sports fan, so there were already two strikes against the probability that I would use up minutes to watch a football game on television, but up in the north country where TV channels are scarce, I succumbed just a little. What was so compelling about those games? Three things. First, the timing – I was a captive audience which is typically the only time I watch television. Second, the teams that were playing – Ohio State is ‘the team’ one friend supports and Michigan State (the green team). Third, the team work – I was immersed in the way those teams on the field and from the sidelines supported each other. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, But if there’s no one to help, it’s tough!

I confess, I don’t remember any of the details that a sports fanatic would find important. I don’t remember the coaches, the ending score, or who scored the most points. I don’t remember the names of the heroes credited with winning the game. What I do remember is the clock ticking down while the skirmish on the field produced conflict, then progress, then pile-ups, then more progress. First one team had the ball, then the opposing team had their chance  – back and forth till the final seconds of the game . The teammates passed the ball back and forth, intercepting, running, rolling on the ground, punt, pass, kick, run like crazy people, tumble to the ground till time runs out. Then comes the eruption in the stadium. The final second, the careful checking of the recorded tape, the winner proclaimed, the beginning – because the next game is already being planned.

Watching those players work as a team was an amazing work of art. I couldn’t keep up with the ball even from an angle where I could see the full field. How do the players know who to toss the ball to, and how many seconds remaining before the next team has the ball, and how does the ball carrier pummel through the maze of opposition to get to the place where they can pass the ball or carry it through to a touchdown?  Many would say that those games were won or lost in the final seconds of the game. I disagree. The final score was the deciding factor but the games were won or lost by the strategies and interactions of the players through every moment of the game. Teamwork! And practice! Vince Lombardi, a famous football coach said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

This is how it is in life too. We can do some things on our own, independent of anyone else, for a while, but not for an extended period of time. We were created for relationship and need each other. Whatever path in life we are on, there we find relationships. Our first and primary relationship is with God. He created us in his image. Genesis 1:27 “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” And from that point on, we all were destined for relationships. It might have taken civilization a few thousand years to coin the term ‘team work’ but here is where we are. The game of life.

Life is a contact sport and sometimes we get beat up pretty bad. Sometimes it’s difficult to be part of the whole. Right? Sometimes I want to yell, ‘Stop the world and let me off, just for a little while.” Are you with me on this? Sometimes I pass the ball off and it falls to the ground, a dead ball. Other times, I pass the ball off – right into the hands of the opposing team. I aim high, and the ball goes far outside my target. Then there are those instances when the ball is in play, it gets passed and caught smoothly, hands touch it, move it to the next player, back to me, I pass it, they catch it, we move forward, we follow the play, we all win. I have a whole Bible full of scripture that advises on how to be the ultimate team player. Here are a few of my favorites for acting as a good team member:

Psalm 89:15 “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.”

Psalm 106:3 “Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.”

This game of life is our mission. We were uniquely created for a purpose and for relationship. We make a difference when we play our best game: carrying the ball, passing it off, intercepting, and running it in for someone who can’t do it. Let’s finish up with this primer on how we can make a difference on our mission field today.

Matthew 6:1-4, 14-15 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you…. or if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”


The Fire and the Masterpiece

Awhile back I watched the Day of Discovery program produced by RBC Ministries.  I was intrigued by the familiar topic of the potter and the clay.  Isaiah 64:8 says ”Yet Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we all are the work of Your hands.” I’ve heard that story all my life. The potter (God) takes a lump of clay (me) and puts me on the potter’s wheel, spins me around while dousing me with water, and shaping me into a masterpiece, fashioned for a unique purpose. Does that sound familiar?AA031

Through the process, the master has this designer mindset that transforms an image into a vessel with all the qualities planned in advance, before the clay even arrived.  Jeremiah 18:6 spells it out for God’s vision for his people. “He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.” God has a plan for his people today, just as he did back in the days of Jeremiah the prophet.

Here’s what really caught my attention. The gentle shaping of the clay, forming the sides to fit the base, making the handle ornate or leaving it smooth and serviceable, creating purpose inside its shape. Characteristics – all malleable through tender prodding with features formed through gentle guidance to balance its designed purpose.  This is how we want God to work on our design.  We want slow, deliberate guidance, not too rough.  If we must endure some pain along the way, like smoothing out a rough patch or covering a dried out crack, we want the action to be swift and precise. We want to be assured that no matter what we’re going through, God is close by, working all things out for us because we love him.  Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” The potter and the clay – a masterpiece.

What happens when our life is not defined that way?  Instead of the gentleness we agree with, our circumstances are tumultuous and agonizing. We feel like the temperatures of our circumstances are rising and we are far past the boiling point. Where is God then? We are going through fire and we feel like God has abandoned us.  Did he just walk away and leave us in our distress? What does the potter do in these times? When the potter puts his fully formed masterpiece into the kiln, it is then that he watches most closely. The temperature in a kiln reaches over 1500 degrees.  The potter can’t risk being far away or being distracted. Think about it for a moment.  Remember how David sang about being relieved from his distress over and over in the Psalms.  Just as the potter watches and protects his masterpiece when the kiln is fired to its hottest temperature, so these are the life times when God watches, tends, and protects his children, his masterpieces.

Yesterday, I talked with someone on the phone whom I had met through a complex network of individuals I’ve known through online communities. Nobody but me would recognize the miracle of that phone call. Nobody but God had heard my specific prayer, and even I didn’t know the name of the person I would have a conversation with yesterday. Through that one phone call though, it was like being taken from the kiln and released to cool air; no burns, no scorches, just on time. For months I have prayed for a place to use my current skills and build new ones, to improve my writing, and in the process, make a difference. I can’t describe the intricate paths God had to intersect on the way to preparing the right conditions for that call yesterday. I know God was protecting me from making poor decisions that would have prevented it though – and just when I was tempted to think he wasn’t paying attention, God opened the door. What does this mean in a tangible way? I’m not sure because I have only this moment.  I can’t see into the future.  But I know that in God’s sovereignty, he orchestrated yesterday’s event.  I have no doubt that he will orchestrate anything that comes from it.

All I can think of when I realize that only God could connect so many dots in a pattern that makes sense, is Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” And Psalm 16:5 “Lord, you give me stability and prosperity; you make my future secure.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  You are strong enough to wait for God’s best plan to be acted for you.

The Promise

Whoa! Has anyone else noticed the extreme number of last minute offers flooding your inbox? Many of them appeal to my sense of pride an ambition promising that if I sign up with them, all my plans will succeed. The tug is there. Who doesn’t want to be successful? Who isn’t on a mission to make this month better than last month? Answer:  We all want that, of course we do.  But here’s a shocker – reading a book and buying into one more program isn’t the answer. I’m speaking to myself here too. Promises are like a magnet pulling me toward a new success plan, finding a roadmap to success and getting on it. Isn’t that what we all want; to be successful at something?

God has a plan for each of us, and it’s good to seek ways to put his plan into practice and live out our purpose. Jeremiah 29:11 (the Message)  “I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”

Here’s a challenge. Before buying another book, before signing on for someone else’s plan, before ordering that new miracle exercise device, stop!  First know yourself. Do some intense soul searching and ask, “What is it that I am trying to accomplish? What does success mean to me?  What am I willing to do to be successful? What will I give up now to see my dreams through to reality? What do I want my life to look like 6 months from now, a year from now, five years down the road – and counting?

Act one: Know yourself

Act two: Write specific goals

Act three: Consider what you need to do to get those goals from the paper to your life.

Here’s a word to ponder.  Discernment

There are literally thousands of books to read, hundreds of programs architected to make you the poster child for success and yes! It can happen for you.  But remember these words from your childhood:  Anything worth doing is worth doing well.  Remember? It still applies today. Make this your mantra while you pioneer your course of action. “Focus on things I have, not on things I’ve lost; capitalize on things I can do, not on things I can not.”

You might decide to buy a program or hire a coach, but before investing in another book, another plan, another program that promises unprecedented success, consider Act three.  Carefully read through the offers of unprecedented success.  Remember that it is you, who will engineer the plans of others to fit the goals you’ve written out for yourself.   With the Psalmist, prayerfully consider your decision.  “I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.” – Psalm 119:125

Proverbs 3:5 & 6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.

And let’s remember to set priorities so we keep the main thing, the main thing. Matthew 6:33  Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Ready?  Let’s get on it!

WAKE UP AND SMILE! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPy0ctqMwE0