3 Strengths You Had as a Kid

Staring up at giant sky-scrapers. Riding glass elevators. Feeling absolute awe and excitement. It’s one of my earliest memories. I don’t even remember what city it was. Maybe Chicago or Atlanta. But I always remember what it felt like to be a child.

When I was a kid, I had a very big outlook on life. At 7 or 8 I would wake up in the morning and sprint full-tilt around and around our big house, dreaming of the day I would run like Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire.

I wanted to be a zoo keeper when I grew up. An airline pilot (or spacecraft maybe?). A cowboy. A baseball player. Even a WWII soldier.

What did you want? When you were a kid, what did you dream of doing one day?

And why did you stop?

blog image 18Most of us, as we grew up, were pressured by people around us to “be realistic.” To let go of some of those dreams. To face the cold, hard reality of life. That we’ll probably never amount to much.

Well with that attitude, we won’t!

There are 3 things most of us grew out of as we grew up. Well, there are lots more, but 3 things we probably shouldn’t have grown out of:

Enthusiasm

Do you remember how energetic and excited you were as a kid? About simple little things like going to the playground or on a roadtrip? Do you remember how obsessive you got over little projects and hobbies? And how shamelessly you expressed your excitement, happiness, and love?

Where has our genuine enthusiasm gone?

Curiosity

Do you remember how much everything amazed you when you were little? How you couldn’t stop staring at a squirrel, wondering how and why it does what it does? How you just had to know what was hidden in that closet, just because? How you wanted to know everything? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Do you remember how open-minded you were as a kid? Open to anything?

When did this incredible world stop interesting us?

Confidence

Remember how unstoppable you were as a toddler? Fireplace, balcony, kitchen table, bicycle. It didn’t matter. And you knew if you fell of your bike, you’d pick yourself up and try again. Until you made it. Remember how intent you were on making your dreams come true? How you didn’t care that you didn’t know how to do something yet, you were determined to figure it out? Remember when you believed in yourself?

When did we decide it’s bad to hope and expect great things of ourselves, others, and this incredible world?

Reconnect With Your Inner Child

I miss being a kid. I miss the feeling of awe and excitement in a big, awesome world. I miss the enthusiasm. I miss the curiosity. And I miss the confidence. And goodness knows we could all use a boost of each!

Imagine the power and productivity, the excitement and energy you’d feel if you brought childlike enthusiasm, curiosity, and confidence to your life and work!

The past couple of years I’ve been getting back in touch with my inner child. It’s been awesome! “Growing up” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

What do you think?

When Panic Hits in a Relationship

We are addicted to happiness.

That seems pretty sensible. Like a pretty good addiction, if there ever was one. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with that.

But the “happiness” we are addicted to isn’t quite the happiness that lasts. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

See, when it comes to romance and relationships, happiness is largely defined in many cultures as immediate feelings of comfort and satisfaction.

And when you define happiness as feeling-perfectright-now, and then pursue it like an addiction, momentary imperfection becomes disaster. Molehills become mountains. And the tiniest bump in the road of an otherwise loving relationship becomes a reason to panic and break up.

blog image 17Now to be clear, a generally unhappy relationship certainly is not a healthy one. It’s silly to suggest being “okay” with an unappreciative and unfriendly relationship.

But you’re in for a rough road (and a lot of breakups) if you panic whenever things don’t “feel” right.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard someone say, “Something’s off, I just don’t feel the same way when we’re together lately.” Understandable. But then the next day, “Oh yeah, we’re fine now! I don’t know what I was thinking!”

Too many relationships go in dramatic cycles you should only expect to see in a sorority or in a high school cafeteria.

So here’s the big deal I think bi-polar couples aren’t getting: “Happiness” does not mean immediate satisfaction or perfection-right-now.

We are far too fickle and moody for that. Feelings and emotions come and go with the weather, with grades, with lack of sleep, and every other insignificant circumstance you can imagine.

But when you’re addicted to feeling “sure” or “perfect” right this moment, because you think that’s “happiness,” those feelings become your “reality,” and your reality becomes harsh and unstable. The beauty is replaced by insecure introspection.

One of the most helpful things in my relationship is my girl’s level-headed outlook. She takes everything in stride. Whether it’s excitement or heartbreak, she takes it with a grain of salt. When emotions are involved, she has a healthy dose of skepticism. She realizes that an extreme feeling today might be a little quieter tomorrow, and will probably be forgotten in a week.

Here’s the bottom line: Most struggles, disappointments, and frustrations in a serious relationship are going to be temporary. Most things we worry and panic over are really just passing phases.

Again, that doesn’t mean for a second that an unhappy relationship is just fine. It just means that “happiness” isn’t nearly as stable, as dreamishly “ever-after,” as we wish. A happy relationship probably won’t “feel right” every single day.

On the other hand, though, I’ve seen a lot of pious people justify their often cold and lifeless relationships, defined by unkindness and selfishness, by saying, “Oh, love isn’t a feeling! It’s not about the butterflies in your stomach. It’s about commitment and sacrifice, bla bla bla.”

Well if romance isn’t about feelings, then I certainly want no part of it.

Love is absolutely about feeling happy and fulfilled. But it’s also about patience, self-control, understanding, forgiving, and everything else that turns patience-now into happiness-ever-after.

But again, here’s the bottom line: In every relationship, the going will get tough, on occasion. There will be a time for everything–for laughing and for crying, for doubting and for trusting, for encouragement and discouragement. It’s all going to happen.

But the strong relationships that end up happy after years and years (and not just piously pretending to be happy out of some showy commitment to “goodness”), are the ones where two people can say, “We know something feels off–really off–and we’re scared and hurt. But we know it will probably feel better later, so let’s not get crazy.”

The strong partner sees that life is full of passing phases, and that there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Biggest Lie You’ve Been Told About Relationships

If only I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard it:

“Every couple fights.”

You’ve probably been told that you’re not going to be able to help fighting with your life partner. And you’ve also probably been told that it’s a natural, even healthy part of being in a relationship. That you need to “know how to fight” and “know how to make up.”

That is a lie.

Fighting Over Things vs. Working Through Things

Don’t get me wrong. Struggle is a natural part of being in a relationship. And refusing to deal with issues is certainly unhealthy.

Every couple I know has to deal with hurt, frustration, disappointment, confusion, annoyance, and misunderstanding. And that’s okay. Nobody’s perfect.

And it is healthy to share those feelings, to work on things, to talk through things, to be scared, to cry, to plead, and to challenge.

But do you really think it’s impossible to say no to fighting? Especially with the one person you promise to love, support, respect, and care for with all your heart?

There is a difference between discussing and fighting. It has to do with kindness and respect. And when you are fighting, you are giving up on those. Working through things constructively, on the other hand, is a part of kindness and respect.

Some Couples Really Don’t Fight

Don’t just take my word for it. I have only been in a relationship for about three years. But I know other couples–couples who have been together for a long, long time–who say they have never had a fight. Oh, they’ve been through a lot, struggled a lot, shed a lot of tears. But they have never “gotten into it” with each other. They have never really fought.

And I think there’s something really special, really loving and caring about refusing to fight with someone, no matter how familiar and comfortable the relationship gets.

This doesn’t mean that if you’ve fought, you’ve failed. There’s nothing “better” about me if I don’t fight with my girlfriend. We might end up having some fights, anyway.

But all the excusing and explaining and justifying fighting, as a “normal” part of relationships, has got to stop.

Why Fighting Doesn’t Make Sense

I don’t claim the peace that my girlfriend and I have had is because of something great in us. But I am thankful for it. And I wish that more people would believe it’s possible to have peaceful relationships. Because believing you can stop fighting is the first step.

I do, though, think I have an idea of one big thing that’s keeping us from fighting. And I want to share it with you. Because the point is not to judge couples who fight, but to give hope and encouragement. So here’s what helps my girlfriend and I say no to fighting:

We are a team.

We stand and fall together. If we fight each other, we fight ourselves. If we support each other no matter how hard it gets, we support ourselves.

One of the most valuable things we provide for each other is the comfort of knowing we have someone on our team, in every single part of our lives. Someone who cares for us, will defend us, and will help us.

So when one of us is stressed out, the other understands. When one of us disappoints, the other forgives. When one of us fails, the other picks up the slack. And when one of us doesn’t pull enough weight, the other gently asks for a change.

blog image 13Staying Focused on Teamwork

We don’t escape fighting because we’re perfect. If we were perfect, we would do a lot less crying, a lot less sitting in confused silence, a lot less apologizing, and a lot less hugging.

I think we escape fighting largely because, no matter how tough things get, we keep this in the forefront of our minds: We are a team. We have to be a team!

I know we may fight someday. (And the surest way to make it happen is by saying we’ll never fight.) But if that becomes a part of who we are, shame on us. Because fighting is not necessary. It is disrespectful, self-centered, and damaging. We’re supposed to be a team, and that means having each other’s back–even when it hurts.

I’m not willing to assume Alyssa and I will ever fight, though. Because there are couples who just don’t do it. And, like them, we make a point of remembering that we’re on each other’s team.

“Every couple fights” is a lie. And it’s one that’s damning a lot of young couples to very hurtful and lonely relationships.

What helps to make your relationship peaceful and supportive?

6 Steps to Stay on Track When You’re Discouraged

20170907_090654

I’ve been struggling with some personal things lately. Just some discouragements I’ve had to work through. Sometimes when you’re discouraged, it’s easy to lose sight of where you want to go–to doubt you’ll get there. And when you’re not fully expecting to get somewhere in the future, it’s not easy to discipline yourself to do the hard work today.

I remember learning this the hard way in my first job. But then I learned how to keep going anyway. Staying diligent through discouragement is hard, but it’s not impossible. Here are 6 steps you can take when you get discouraged. They’ll keep things in perspective and help you stay focused and productive.

     1. Calm your mind.

This is the first step I take in just about any personal challenge. When your mind is fighting (with itself or with outside influences), it is full of adrenaline and doesn’t think clearly or make careful decisions. So the first step to solving a mental and emotional crisis is to just calm down.

I like to go to a quiet place if I can, where I’m not surrounded by people or distractions. Sometimes I close my eyes and just breathe deeply. I let go of some emotions like anger and panic. I relax my mind until I am in a better state to think carefully.

     2. Acknowledge how much you change.

Your mind, heart, temperament, passions–they fluctuate by the day, by the hour, by the minute. Recognizing this helps keep things in perspective. How you feel right now does not have to define who you are. In fact, you are most certainly going to feel differently later.

Part of emotional maturity is being able to make decisions that are no longer based on current moods and feelings. But that takes perspective. It requires really understanding your mind, and appreciating how inconsistent it is, so that you stop basing decisions primarily on your mood. And take hope: You’ll feel better about it later!

     3. Get rid of unnecessary discouragements.

Don’t focus too much on the negative, but do take time to figure out what may be bringing you down. Maybe it’s problems on the job or in your relationship. Maybe you just didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Maybe you’re paying too much attention to one friend’s opinion. Or maybe you’re getting down on yourself for putting on a few extra pounds.

Some of these things will take longer to work on and will never be perfect. Like your relationship, or your career. You can’t just ignore those. But is there anything bringing you down that you can deal with immediately? Could you get more sleep tonight? Could you make healthier choices in your diet? Sometimes just getting rid of or changing your attitude about a little struggle can completely re-energize you.

     4. Ask yourself what you want your future to look like.

After deciding what I need to get rid of, I remind myself of what I’m trying to create. Try asking yourself where you want to be in the future. Be specific. What do you want to be able to do? Who do you want to be serving? How much money do you want to be making? Why? What do you want to be able to provide for family and friends? What experiences do you want out of life?

Dreaming of your future helps put things back in perspective. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to get re-motivated. What you’re doing today is not just for the sake of feeling good today. What you’re doing today is because you want to have something later. Whether you want to travel the world, start a charity, or send your kids to a good school, today’s work is for the sake of that future, not your mood.

     5. Ask yourself how you’ll get where you want to go.

Once you know what you want your future to look like–the place from where you want to be looking back on today–ask yourself two tough questions. They’re easy to answer but the answers demand your hard work and self-discipline:

Will you get there by being disciplined and productive? Maybe, maybe not (though if you do miss the moon you may land in the stars). But will you ever get there without being disciplined and productive? No. Definitely not.

6. Ask for help.

This might be the hardest step to take, but it’s often the most valuable, and sometimes the only one that’ll do it for you. When you’re struggling with discouragement, whether it’s laziness or depression, or just a little mood swing, reaching out for help can be a game-changer.

You can find encouragement, teamwork, accountability, or another form of support. And lots of people are ready and eager to help you. But you have to ask for it. You can ask friends and family. The most helpful teammate I have is my girlfriend, who knows me and cares about me more than anyone else. If you’re a religious person, you can reach out to God. An impressive amount of highly productive and successful people say one of the biggest anchors they have is prayer and church. Wherever you find support, don’t be afraid to go there. And when you feel embarrassed for needing help, that’s probably when you need it most.

These six steps help me a lot. I hope they help you, too!

We’re all in this together. What are some other ways you’ve learned to keep going when you’re discouraged?

Balancing Your Purpose

Hey guys! I want to share something with you I’ve been learning lately–it’s helping me a lot!

I’m learning that I need a balance between three states of activity: Learning, Creating, and Enjoying.

blog image 8Receiving, Giving, and Appreciating.

The less balanced those are, the more stressful my life. When I’m experiencing too much of one kind of “purpose,” I find myself asking, “What’s the point?”

The more balanced they are, the happier I am. When I learn, create, and enjoy in balance, I feel fulfilled.

Has anyone else experienced this?

I know what it’s like to learn, learn, learn–never give back, never enjoy. It feels rather self-centered after a while. What’s the point of learning, after all?

I know what it’s like to create, create, create–never learn, never enjoy. Pretty soon you feel like a hypocrite. If you cannot experience the fruit of creations, how can you believe yours will be of value to anyone?

I know what it’s like to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy–never learn, never create. It feels good for a minute, but give it a day, a week, a month, a year. Soon the pleasure becomes a void of purposelessness–torture.

When I begin feeling stressed, it is usually because I am not being who I want to be. When I feel like I am not being who I want to be, I usually realize I have been forgetting to receive, forgetting to give, or forgetting to appreciate.

When I bring them back into balance, I feel the weight of selfishness, hypocrisy, and pointlessness lift from my shoulders. And I feel the energy to live what I believe.

I have been learning to lead myself purposefully, keeping in balance receiving, giving, and appreciating–learning, creating, and enjoying.

How about you? What have you learned about finding balance in your daily activities?