Stop your excuses

Round one goes to…

I am learning to celebrate the victories and a job well done.

I have a great job; I get to share my stories with people, through what I write and speaking at events and workshops. I love what I do.  I do not love the day after an event, or after my work has gone out public. 

I find it extremely easy to focus on the little mistakes I made, sometimes real but mostly imagined.  No matter how well an event has gone or the great feedback I get, I go through this process of tearing it all apart and beating myself up for not doing better.  It is a boxing match with many rounds as I try to dodge punches from myself.  I am the meanest and toughest opponent I will ever face in a fight, because I will always go for the low blows, pulling out all the insults and old baggage to use against myself.

The joy of a doing a good job, of seeing all the hard work in planning and preparation come together is stolen through self-doubt and self-criticism. 

Yes, it is always worth reviewing your work and getting feedback so you can learn and grow for next time.  A healthy debrief is vital in improving our performance and services but a personal attack on ourselves for perceived failure or obsessing over it, is not healthy or helpful and destroys confidence and joy.

So, what do we do instead?

What has worked for me is to stop focussing on myself, but instead focus outwards.  Self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-reproach have one thing in common: SELF.  These destructive thoughts are all directed internally.  Too much time spent dwelling in the negative or when we became too absorbed thinking about ourselves is damaging.

To change your focus from your inner critic to the outside world, change the direction of your thoughts.  For me instead of thinking about all the things I might or might not have done right, I think about the people I met or talked to. I pray for the people who heard me speak or brought my book.  Praying for other people shifts your focus.  Do not stay stuck in your own boxing match, fighting against the nastier and meaner version of yourself.  Take off the gloves and step out of the ring. 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-5

Love Workouts

I have signed up to do a half marathon in March.  I have done a few in the past but not for 2 or 3 years so I definitely need to train for it.

Training for a half marathon generally involves 4 types of workouts – speed, hills, long and easy.  Speed workouts are shorter and faster to increase your pace.  Hills increase your endurance and fitness.  Long slow workouts help you be ready to cover the distance of a half marathon and easy is a workout but comfortable and enjoyable.  Each training workout is designed to develop different skills and abilities. All together they make doing a challenge like a half marathon possible, not just to finish but to enjoy the journey and finish well.

Similarity in our lives if we want to develop perseverance, stamina, strength and tenacity, there are challenges that we must face to build these skills.  Just like the workouts, we need different type of experiences to develop a variety of important life skills.

We will face speed challenges, those situations that require us to react quickly and respond immediately. It might be a highly stressful situation which does not last awfully long but requires all our energy and attention at the times. 

And we will face the hills, the ups and downs of life.  Sometimes we cruise downhill and then we need to put our heads down and give it a burst of energy as we face an uphill battle.

And there will be times when we are in for the long slow challenge.  Those projects, dreams, or situations when we need to persevere and pace ourselves during periods of extended challenge or struggle.  We are in for the long stretch and slow and steady wins this race.

And then in between we will have times when it is easy. Times when life is in cruise mode, breathing space.  We can take a moment to enjoy and be grateful for all that we have.

All these different seasons and experiences we have in our live create our character and develop our resistance.  God gives us opportunities to grow and learn for our benefit, these challenges and trials might seem like a bad thing, but they are not.  They give us the ability to grow stronger and be ready for the future.  Love the workouts.

When you are Called

When you’re sitting in church, listening to the notices asking for volunteers for the worship team and you feel a little nudge saying, ‘You could do that’. Do you obey and sign up?

When you hear your neighbour has lost their job and you feel a wee tug in your heart saying, ‘Go and help them.’ Do you obey and help?

When you’re sitting with a friend over coffee as she tells you her marriage is struggling, and the Holy Spirit prompts you to pray with her now. Do you obey and offer to pray with her right then?

These little moments are opportunities to follow the call of God and obey. When we are faithful and obey with the little things, God will trust us with the bigger things.

I have heard it said God will call us according to our gifts and talents. God created us all with different gifts, abilities and strengths, and it is good to work within those strengths, within our passions and interests.

But don’t limit God by working only within the things you already know or are good at.

How do you know what other hidden talents or character traits could be developed if you don’t step out and try different things? God knows best what you are capable of and He will equip you for any purpose He calls you for, but you might not have everything you need at the start of the process. Obey in faith, and trust God for provision of all you need as the journey continues.

I’ve also heard people say that if a calling is a struggle or too difficult, then it must not be from God. Some people say your calling should be natural and easy for you. I disagree.

Don’t use this as an excuse to not take on something that seems like an impossible challenge, or to give up. Following God’s call may not be easy, and it might not ‘feel’ natural—especially at the start. Be wary of quitting something and classifying it as not being your calling too soon just because it feels too hard or too unfamiliar. Push through. Then the growth will come.

If you think you have been called by God to do something big, a calling that will have an impact on your life or those around you, consider it seriously. Pray about it, study the Bible, and talk with God. Pray for clarification and confirmation. Talk with people who are involved. Take advice from trusted Christian friends. Seek advice from wise and spiritual leaders around you. Be sure you have a calling from God before you follow. Then obey and trust the journey.

Be prepared to step up and step out of your comfort zone. Be prepared for surprises. God often doesn’t do things the way we expect or would prefer.

The outcome may be surprising, unexpected or even disappointing. But that is our human perspective, not God’s all-knowing eternal perspective.

Our plans can never be as well-planned or as imaginative or as intricate as the plans of God, the Creator of the Universe.

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try”
John F. Kennedy

(except from ‘Footfalls’ by Staci McLean www.stacimclean.co.nz)

Are you destined to be ordinary?

Are you destined to be ordinary?  Is following goals for other people but not you?   Are you quite happy in your comfort zone and not that keen to step outside?  It is great other people do that, but it is not for me.  When friends talk about their holidays or exciting weekends do you think, that sounds amazing, but I am just not that lucky to have a life like that? 

Luck has nothing to do with and you are worthy of having a full exciting life.

I do not believe in luck. The people I know who would be considered ‘lucky’ are the people who get out there, they take risks, they work hard and create the life they want and have a desire to serve others.  Some people are born with more advantages in life or more privilege and some are born into a life with many more obstacles and disadvantages, but it does not destine you for a lifetime of being ‘unlucky’.

I did not grow up in a happy home, I was born into turmoil and dysfunction and then made bad decisions for myself and was an alcoholic at 14 years old.  I drunk myself into hopelessness and desperation until I was 24 years old and then was saved through my faith in Jesus and becoming part of a church family.  You can read more about that in my first book ‘Soaring out of the darkness’.  I know what it is like to be damaged and to struggle to just get through a day, dealing with depression, addiction, and heartache.  But that is not the end of the story and with hard work, faith and determination any life can be turned around.  I have an amazing life now and when people say ‘You are so lucky’ I just laugh as I know luck had nothing to do with it.

For a long time, though I believed I did not deserve a good life, I was broken and unworthy and wanted to be invisible.  But over time I realised that I was missing out on incredible adventures and I did not want to miss out anymore.

I am not the adventure kind of person, I do not like roller coasters, and I would never Bungy jump.  I just do not get that feeling that people report from those activities. I get my adrenaline rush from marathons, speaking on stage and travelling.  So, when a few years ago we were traveling to the Philippines with a group from Ezymovez dance fitness and I found that we could swim with Whale Sharks there. I have no idea why I thought that was a good idea.  I am not an ocean girl, I love the beach to sit and read a book, not much into the water although my husband is a surfer and spends a lot of time at the beach and I particularly do not like deep water.  But I do love to see animals in their natural environments and whale sharks are huge and it just looks so much fun.  I saw the website and I thought ‘I would love to do that.’   So we went to the place where you swim with the sharks and as I waiting to go out in the water I was struck by the ridiculous of where I was, I am just not the kind of person that swims with sharks but I had suggested it and here we were.  Often in those situations, I will stay back on the beach and watch the others go and do the cool things, firstly because I don’t want to be seen in a swimsuit but mainly because I just did not see myself as that type of person to have adventures.  But I decided I was no longer going to be the girl who sat back and watched all the fun, I was going to be part of it.  I am so glad I did, swimming with the Whale sharks was amazing, once in a lifetime experience.  I would have regretted it so much if I had not participated due to feeling like I was just not that type of person.

I am not that kind of person – to examine where this thought comes from you need to look at what you are telling yourself and why you are saying it.  Who told you what type of person you are? What types of people are there?

Many times, it comes from things people have said to us growing up.  When I was at High School, I loved English and History, I love reading and am crazy about English royal history and World War II.  But at school, I was never very good at writing essays, but I was good at maths and science. Towards the end of my schooling, a well-intended teacher advised me never to go into a job that required me to write anything because I was so bad at it but to stick to maths and science type careers.

When I decided to write a book, I kept coming back to those words of that teacher, that told me I was not a writer. To get to where I wanted to go, to write a book, I had to push past those words said to me and decide that I was not going to let that stop me. It was just one teacher’s opinion and school results that only tested one type of writing. And I hope since you are still reading, I am doing ok at writing this book.

We believe all sorts of things about ourselves that might be exaggerations or not true at all. Maybe it is ‘I can’t dance’ but who told you ‘you can’t dance’, and why. Perhaps you tried a ballet class when you were 5 years old and did not like to and forever after you told yourself I can’t dance. It does not mean it is true now.   Or maybe in your family drawing attention to yourself or doing something for yourself was considered selfish and was discouraged, so now you are the encourager of everyone else dreams but never do anything for yourself.

Take a moment and examine why do you think you are not the kind of person that has goals or dreams or has adventures or enjoys life?

You can be that type of person if you want to.  You can change this narrative of your life.  We get to choose, so choose to be someone who has joy and is kind and cares for people but also has fun and dreams for themselves.

Are you the problem or the solution?

Take responsibility and find growth

Do you procrastinate and then get stressed when the pressure comes on? Or do you get angry with your kids because you are tired, but you are tired because you were up late watching Netflix? Or do you keep repeating the same mistake over and over, even though you know it is the wrong thing to do and has negative consequences?

How often do we struggle and face obstacles that were simply caused by our own behaviours or inaction or rebellious attitude?  It is easier to blame the world or everyone else, but to grow we need to take personal responsibilities for the difficulties we cause in our own lives.

Before I stopped drinking, I was a professional at creating drama and problems.  I did have a difficult childhood and struggles growing up but most of the pain and brokenness I experienced was not from other people’s actions but from my own.  I hurt people and caused problems through my drinking, through my out of control emotions and my self-destructive behaviour.  And I did blame everyone else. I blamed my parents, my siblings, genetics, my friends, the ‘system’, it was everyone else’s fault but mine. 

One of the scariest and the most liberating truths I faced in recovery was the realisation that I was responsible for it all.  I was responsible for the things I had done that hurt myself and others, I was responsible for the consequences of my behaviours and I was responsible for how I had responded to the actions of others. 

We are responsible for our actions and for own our lives, but we still mess up and do the wrong thing and, we also fail to do the right thing.  The challenge is to stand by the choices we make, without blaming others or making excuses but accepting accountability. 

To be able to change or to stop doing something that is hurtful or wrong can only come with admitting responsibility. Through acknowledgement and bringing your actions into the light, you can be empowered and strengthened by God to make changes and grow in your character.

Taking responsibility is not about judgement or guilt or shame or fault finding but facing truth and allowing growth.  God has given us the gift of forgiveness, but to be forgiven you must first acknowledge your wrong doing. By avoiding responsibility, you miss out on grace and the freedom that comes from God’s forgiveness and mercy.

   

‘Some people create their own stormsthen get upset when it rains’.

Unknown

Time is not the enemy

Take control of your calendar

Too busy? Time is flying by? Where did the day go? Do you feel like time controls you and you have no idea what is going on each day?

Stop seeing time as an outside enemy something you have no control over. It is time to take control of your time and use it to your advantage

Time can be looked at in the same way as a financial budget. Each week you get a certain amount of a resource—money in a financial budget, and hours in a time budget. Work out your essential time items like work, school, commuting, sleeping, and kids.

Then take a critical look at how you spend the rest of your hours each week. Where your time is going?

  • Are you spending enough time sleeping? Or too much?
  • Are you spending too much time watching TV or on social media?
  • Are you spending enough time with your family?
  • Are you working too many hours?
  • Do you spend too much time reading and responding to email?
  • Can you work smarter and more efficiently in your work and at home?
  • Have you scheduled in time to do things just because they are fun, because you enjoy them, because they challenge you, or simply because they make you happy?

Take a critical look at your time budget. Where can you make some changes? What can you cut back? How can you share the workload more to free up some time?


Try a Time-Budget Analysis

Download my Time-Budget Analysis form. Fill in your activities over a week and then add up the hours you spend working, travelling, cleaning, exercising, with family, hobbies, socialising etc. Then consider this against your ideal ratios. What can you change?

For more tips and ideas check out my latest book ‘I would love to, but..’ This book examines 10 common excuses including I’m too busy, that prevent us from doing the things we want to do. Check it out on my website.

http://www.stacimclean.co.nz