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  

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