Friday, August 23, 2013

Pine Needles and Excuses

From a distance, everything looked serene, like one of those magazine covers that make you wonder why you live in the city (maybe you don’t, so empathize with me). It wasn’t until closer inspection that I could see hundreds of thousand of pine needles building up on the landscape. Pine needles, dry and flammable – and this during an extreme fire warning with wildfires close by. What a great metaphor for our lives.

If you look at the picture above, what you probably don’t see is the extra inches I am carrying around the belly-button. (Okay, maybe some of you can.) And you can’t hear that my breathing is a little too labored. That takes examination much closer up.

A good friend of mine, Dr. Bill Dyment generously sent me a copy of his new book that he co-wrote with Dr. Marcus Dayhoff entitled “Fire Your Excuses”  It only took a couple of chapters to realize that this book could change a person’s life. I immediately recognized all the excuses from listening to clients in the counseling room. Unfortunately, I also acknowledged many of them from my own life and how they produce feelings of shame. Consider this book an invitation to take a close up look at your life.

Do you have a ready list of excuses that you pull out regularly?

As a kid, I hated doing yard work. I was somewhat overweight, unmotivated, and it was a power struggle between me and my dad. So when I looked at the acres of pine needles I needed a breakthrough. Using some tips from the book I approached the task.

  • I first had to adjust my way of thinking. I was thinking negatively, and I realized it was an emotional component left over from my childhood. Once into the raking, I actually enjoyed it. Dealing with a past hurt or struggle might be your first step. 
  • I couldn’t finish it all in the time allotted, so I tackled what I thought was the most important first, not just the most noticeable. That turned out to be the stuff closest to structures. What is the most significant area of your life that needs attention right now? 
  • I set goals and stuck to them. I didn’t allow myself to be distracted. I didn’t overdo it, so I wouldn’t get discouraged. You might need to have a coach to help you set realistic goals, and a team to push you when you want to quit. 

Is this what the book is about? Well, actually it’s just a little corner of it. It’s about dealing with all the areas of life where we are likely to make excuses: blind spots, health, finances, time management, career, social connections, serving, and communication. So many of these areas are hard to face alone, but not facing them is like leaving those pine needles to build up until disaster finally comes and the loss is terrible. There is even a free assessment online to help you get started at  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Owner Of Truth - Rigid Not Relational

One of the necessary qualities of a good relationship (or just plain getting along with people in general) is the ability to be flexible. Relationships thrive when there is an attitude of openness, not just toward decisions, but also in ideas and perspective.

Rigidity kills dialog, and dialog is necessary for mutual respect. And mutual respect is necessary for a close relationship. This does not mean you have to agree with the other person’s conclusions. It means that you are open to hearing them and giving weight to them and be willing to compromise when an action step is required.

I am not advocating chaos, which is the polar opposite of rigidity. Life needs order and structure – just not too much or too little. In Christ’s time the Pharisees were the picture of rigidity – rules and regulations to be followed without compromise. But Jesus was all about love. He put people first – over schedules and the material aspects of life. He, however, was not without structure – he always kept his mission and purpose in mind.

The lack of flexibility can come from what might be called ‘truth owning’. This is the belief that ‘I am right and you are wrong’ – and so you must conform to my ways.

People that hold this belief too tightly are relational hazards. 

They can become angry, sometimes very angry, when others do not recognize and surrender to their ‘truth’. They can become dictators in their own family or work place, and people will tend to avoid them or ‘walk on eggshells’ around them.

If you are one of these truth owners, you have some work to do. You must make modifications to your belief system. Only God is the source or owner of ultimate Truth. Our truth is our perspective and opinion. 

Sometimes rigidity may come from an obsessive-compulsive nature that needs to be brought under control. If you are unable to do that on your own then you may need help. When your belief is that it does not need to be brought under control (because I am right, and if everyone was like me the world would be a better place) then you may be dealing with a personality issue that needs even deeper help.

Proverbs 16:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

So, where are you on the flexibility scale?  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

It's All About ME!

I love being on the receiving end of wisdom from my counseling clients. Often they will bring snippets of useful information that I can store away in my toolbox to bring out as warranted.

This week I heard this statement from one of my younger clients:

“If you could do something to meet a need of your partner, why wouldn’t you?”

Wow – what a difference from the more common 

“Why should I? What’s he/she done for me?” 

The truth is he or she has probably done a lot for you. Or it is entirely possible that they haven’t because of the above attitude. I remember Sarah Eggerichs comment in the “Love and Respect” conference video: 

“Why wouldn’t you give your husband sex if he wants it? It’s an easy enough thing to do and it makes him so happy.” 

(Right about now some husbands are thinking "I like this blog -- I should share it with my wife")

Of course there are always exceptions, but she is speaking to the far greater percentage of good willed marriages. I thought at the time “That’s a pretty mature attitude. Why didn’t I think of that?” I don’t know why I didn’t consider applying that same thinking to many other parts of relational life. 

  • Turn off the electronic stuff and engage in a connected conversation. This used to be a complaint I only heard from women, but I hear this more and more from men as well. 

  • Take out the trash without being asked. Enough said. 

  • Be on time for a change. Always late and worth the wait? Umm – maybe not. 

  • Don’t leave the gas tank empty. You might make somebody you love late because they have to stop and fill up. 

  • Make plans before the very last moment. I used to do this when we were dating. It drove Nan crazy. I still sometimes do this when it comes to making vacation plans. And I love vacations. What gives with that? 

  • Monitor your own spending. Don’t create a parent-child scenario by being irresponsible. It’s no fun for either one of you. 

  • Help with dinner and clean-up. Or make dinner even when you don’t particularly feel like it. Sometimes it’s seen as the measure of a good or troubled marriage.

What prevents this kind of thinking? Sorry, but it’s selfishness or not being willing to surrender in some kind of immature power struggle. I’ve done it -- actually still do it at times. But I’m not proud of it, and it isn’t my goal.

Phil 2:3-4 (NLT) Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Finding Real Work in a Tough Economy

It is still a very difficult economy in which to find meaningful work, especially if you are recently out of college, or you’re struggling to find something in your field of choice.  I have five thoughts based on my experience, and the advice of experts, that I hope might be helpful.

At 21, fresh out of UCLA and about to get married, I scrambled to get a job.  Working at minimum wage at Pine Crest Preschool was not my idea of what I wanted to do after college, but a B.A. in History and Social Science doesn’t get you much!

  • So, my first advice is ‘take anything that is remotely related to what you think you want to do.’  

And, if you can’t find a job doing that, take whatever you can get.

The reason I say this, is because I got a job I really enjoyed later on from a friend who I had worked with at that first minimum wage preschool.  Her recommendation to her new boss landed me a position I would not have known about if it weren’t for her and my willingness to take what I could get.

  • So, the second thing is to connect in a meaningful way with your colleagues, and with those who have jobs in the field you would choose.  Referrals for work are the number one way people get better jobs!

  • Eighty percent of available jobs are never advertised, and over half of all employees get their jobs through networking, according to BH Careers International.

  • The third thought is that you must carry out an active, as opposed to a passive, job search. It is not enough to respond to leads from want ads or employment agencies. Carrying out an active search allows you to control the job search process and opens up many more job opportunities. It is estimated that only 10% of jobs are actually found from online searches.

  • Have a great attitude. Dress appropriately for any job interviews. Remember to smile.

  • The fourth thing is to conduct Informational interviews. Meet with someone from the firm to get more detailed information about the company itself and possibly a job lead.  This shows initiative and helps you to know if a place is where you would like to work.

  • The fifth suggestion if you are a person of faith, is to pray and ask God’s help in your search. Ask Him to inspire you about what you desire to do and with whom you should talk to find out more.

Several years ago I felt a restless feeling that there was something more I wanted to do. I had just prayed about it, and then I talked to a friend at church who mentioned she had too much work to do as an adjunct professor at Fuller Seminary.  I mentioned my interest in doing more, and within a day I was called and hired to teach part time.  I believe God put it on my heart to be open to new work, and on my friend’s heart to work less. So, God answered both of our prayers! 

One more thought: Can you be an INTROVERT and have a successful JOB SEARCH? Click on the link to the left and find out!

I pray that God will bless you as you seek him for direction in your life and your work!

Jeremiah 29:11-13  "I know the plans that I have for you. This message is from the Lord. I have good plans for you. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future."