Wednesday, July 1, 2020

33 Clarifying Words

We've all heard the term "mission statement."  Companys have them.  Starbucks.  Nike.  The Ford Motor Company.  It's a short statement that encompasses that company's purpose and goals.  Walmart's is by far one of the shortest: "We save people money so they can live better."  The benefit of having a mission statement is that it guides every decision a company makes.  Its employees know what they are about.  It's the principles that guide every decision that company makes.

But individuals can have mission statements, too. In fact, they should!  Too many of us drift through life without any real clear direction or any sense of purpose.  A mission statement can be a powerful tool in finding that direction for your life, defining what you're about, and can be used to help you make every major decision in your life--it's either in line with that purpose (your mission statement) or it's not. 

I'd attended an online seminar a few months ago.  It was a couple evenings, and I'll be honest I thought it was dumb at first. Somebody that was advising me suggested it--they thought it would be a good exercise for me to go through as I'm going through a transition period right now as one career winds down, and I begin training for another. My opinion quickly changes, and before I got even an hour into the first evening, I realized my advisor was right.  I decided I wanted to work on having a personal mission statement.

And I took my time about it.  I spent a few weeks creating a personal mission statement.  There's a lot of ways of going about it, and a lot of books on the subject--you won't have any trouble finding help on this subject if you need it.  I keep a daily journal, and I have for decades so that was a big part of my method. I kept track of things that were important to me as they occurred to me throughout the day.  I picked out a special color ink, and every time one of these guiding principles or goals came to my mind, I jotted it down in my book.  I started out with many of them on a daily basis, but as time went on, I was jotting down fewer and fewer new things.  And when that flow of principles I was writing down tapered off to almost nothing, I knew I could begin putting that mission statement together.

I went back and pulled those statements and principles out of my journal and typed them up--there were several pages of line items, and the task of narrowing that down to a short statement seemed impossible.  But I quickly realized that all those items on my list fell into a few big groups.  It happened to be four groups for me.  I quickly sorted them out into those four groups, and it wasn't that challenging to find short statements that encompassed each group.  When I was finished, I had four sentences--a total of 33 words.

So what purpose does it serve? 

It's a statement I can go back to each time I have to make a decision.  It's a statement I review frequently (actually I've memorized it) to remind myself of what my guiding principles are.  Part of my statement is aspirational, and part of it is functional--there are some reminders to keep working on certain areas I struggle with as well as reminders of how I should be focusing the majority of my time and efforts.  It wasn't intentional, but my statement of four sentences broke out like this: one sentence describes my purpose, one sentence describes my primary roles in life, one sentence describes how I want to conduct myself, and the last sentence describes what I want my purpose to be.

Like I said, I've found great value in taking the time to do this.  One of the best short books on the subject was written by well known writer Stephen R. Covey "How to Develop Your Personal Mission Statement."  It's very short, just the basics, and last I looked it was a .99 cent download and a very short read.

I think what you'll find is the same thing I did.  We all think we know what we're doing in life, but too often we aren't working towards what's truly important to us.  A personal mission statement is a compass that keeps us from drifting off course.  We can look to it frequently to make sure we're still pointed in the right direction as we interact with others, make decisions, and face the daily challenges life throws at us. 

It's well worth the time, the thought, and the effort!


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Amazing Grace Around The World

My pastor shared this video yesterday.  It may be the best thing you see this week!  Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Garbage In, Garbage Out

I wrote about Quarantine Fatigue on Sunday--a lot of people seemed to like that one.  A few people contacted me asking me how I planned to go about that break from media. I've done this before, so I thought for "Self-Improvement Wednesday" I'd share a few tips from my breaks before. Taking a break from the media, and from social media isn't impossible at all.  It may sound scary, but I'm going to tell you something from my own personal experience. I've never regretted taking a break from social media--what I've regretted in the past is going back to it.

Do Some Research
How much time are you spending watching television and on social media? Most phones will tell you how much time you're online. It's an easy thing to do to keep track of how much time you're watching news on television also.  If you keep track for a couple days, I think you'll be shocked at how much time you're spending especially on social media platforms.  If I had taken a guess, I'd have thought it was about 1/4 of what it actually was. I was stunned. 

It's Not About Quitting--It's About Limits
Now that you know how much time you're spending on television and social media, you know how many hours a week you have to do other things. Obviously we can't stick our heads in the sand when it comes to daily events or ignore our friends--so set a daily limit.  I allow myself an hour of news a day, and a half an hour on social media a day. 

I make sure I'm listening to actual news, and not opinion. There are still a couple real news broadcasts that simply report the news. That's what you should be looking for--just the facts, without being told how you should feel about it.

On social media, I give myself time to see what my friends and family are doing, and like a few things.  But I don't post anything. I don't comment.  And when I see things I don't like from friends and family, I take the time to make decisions about whether I still want to see posts from that individual or not--you can unfollow or unfriend toxic people. It's perfectly okay to do that.

Finding Better Ways To Spend Your Time
All that time you're spending on social media and watching news programs you could be doing something else. You could be reading books like I suggested--that's a big part of what I'm doing. You could take up a new hobby.  Take a class at the local community college. Get more exercise. There's no limit to what you could come up with.  All too often we say "oh, if I only had more time I'd do this" without realizing just how much time we're wasting on a daily basis that we could be doing just that!

How Long A Break?
I usually go with a Biblical number--I usually go 40 days when I'm trying to establish a new habit.  And I keep track in my journal.  I'm on day 2 right now, and that means I'm going to work very hard and be very focused about this until the end of July.  Then I'm going to reassess the situation.  Unlike before, I don't think I'm going to fall back into the social media habit again as I did before.  However, I am a lifelong political junkie, and I will start following current events again.  There will be one change.  During this break I intend to find better sources to take in that news without all the bias and the opinion worked into it.  As I said, they do exist still. 

And Finally . . .
We do become what we consume.  As I said on Sunday, the media is not our friend.  It's almost entirely negative. It's biased. Just about every story these days has been politicized to the left or to the right. No matter which side of the fence you happen to be on, the media is shockingly dishonest in their reporting. We get a very distorted and very dark view of the world around us. Too many people are manipulated by this, and too many people actually believe this. Look for the facts, and watch carefully for biased opinion reporting disguised as journalism. Make up your own minds about things--don't fall into a media narrative. Learn to recognize it when you see it.  Just ask yourself this question after watching a story on the news. Are they telling me what happened, or are they telling me what happened AND how I should feel about it.  If it's the latter, your news source is biased and you're getting a narrative along with your news.

When social media began, it was great fun--a way to share with family and friends far away.  Too much of social media today is negative. I'm not even "friends" with many of my friends and family these days because I don't like the things they post, the opinions they share, the political rants they go on, or the things they think are appropriate to share publicly.  I've unfollowed many, and unfriended many more. 

The bottom line. Don't consume garbage. So many people watch carefully what they eat. They make sure they don't eat things that are bad for them. They exercise. They drink healthy juices, and take vitamins to make sure they stay healthy. They watch their weight. They watch their blood pressure.  They watch their numbers. They understand that their body needs good, healthy nourishment to thrive.  Your brain is the same way, but we aren't nearly as careful about what we put into there. We should be. Try and be as aware of what you're putting in your brain as you are about what you put in your body.


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Quarantine Fatigue

"The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble."

~Psalm 9:9

I had a very difficult time writing a piece this week.  I haven't been in a good place this week.  I'm a people person, and as I approach day 100 for this shelter in place, work from home, quarantine world I've found myself in it has started to take an emotional toll on me.  Then more bad news. I found out late in the week, that this working from home could extend well into the fall or even winter where I work--that would mean I may not even be half way through it yet.  The news hit me hard.  I miss people.

I read a piece earlier in the week about the mental health costs of this crisis, and I'm beginning to understand that. People are meant to be together.  People were created to share their lives with others, to be social, and to be part of a community.  When that vanishes, it's a difficult adjustment for many of us to make. 

But I have to look at this as an opportunity.  Over the last hundred days, I've been in a holding pattern waiting for things to "get back to normal."  That's probably the wrong way to view it.  Instead, perhaps those of us that are in this boat should use the time to find productive ways to use the time.

That article I read said that these emotional issues and depression people are feeling from quarantine fatigue are exacerbated by several factors.  People are drinking more--the liquor stores never closed in most places, and alcohol is a depressant.  People are spending more time on social media, and their anxieties are being fueled by bad news about the pandemic, and the violence and riots, and the political fights surrounding the next election.  And people are watching more television, and the news there isn't any better--feeding on our fears and anxieties about this uncharted territory in America we're going
through now.  And all this anger, and violence, and vandalism . . . possibly the result of being shut in for months and being fed a constant diet of poison on our phones and on our televisions.

The media is not our friend.

I've decided to take a break from all of it. Focus on my work, on my family, and on my studies--let God take care of the rest of it.  Over the next couple months, I'm turning it all off.  I know the mess the country is in, so I don't need a daily reminder.  I'm not undecided about the election--I know who I'm going to vote for, so I don't need to see the day-to-day fist fight on my television.  I'll spend my down time reading in my Bible, and in books that inspire and motivate me.  And I'm going to pray.  A lot.  For my family.  For my friends.  For my country.  And for an end of these horrible divisions that our media and our politicians have fueled for decades. 

This is not the way God intended for us to live our lives. This isn't the way God intends for us to treat each other.  Take a step back.  Take a deep breath.  Take a long break.  Ask God for his guidance.