Why It’s So Important to Step OUT of Your Comfort Zone

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(photo credit: Huffington Post)

As a parent of three teens (ages 16, 14, and 12), I’m long past the days of diapers and terrible twos (and threes), so it’s pretty crazy to hear about how some of the newer moms and dads are raising their kids. Like, I just read an article about a British singer named Stacey Solomon who JUST slept the first night in NINE years without one of her children in her bed. (She also still takes baths with them, but that’s another story altogether.) Let’s stick with the bedtime routine here. Btw, the story is RIGHT HERE if you’re interested.

Point is, this mom has had her oldest sleeping in the bed with her for nine years. Now, that may not seem like alot to you, but to me, it is. And what’s worse, that’s NINE YEARS that this little boy has been kept in his little warm and cozy comfort zone. Admittedly, one of the hardest things to do as a parent is to take our children out of their comfort zone, and let them make mistakes, learn, and grow. But isn’t that the point? Don’t we ALL need to have the freedom to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow? I know I do. Some of THE most rewarding times in my life were times when I stepped out of my comfort zone.

How about the first time I spoke to a crowd using my own material (and not a script). Or the time, I was asked to teach a group of prisoners in Belize while on a mission trip? Those were exhilarating experiences! And that just two examples from the top of my bald head. Each one of those times (and every time I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone), I’ve grown in confidence, ability, and readiness to step out of my comfort zone the NEXT time. I firmly believe that each new and different experience or challenge in life sets us up for the next new experience or challenge. So, if we don’t ever learn to step out of our comfort zones, we never learn to take on new experiences. That leaves us with a life that’s not NEARLY as fulfilling as if we HAD embraced those new, uncomfortable experiences.

I know you don’t want that kind of life for yourself, or for your children. I know I don’t.

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(photo credit: www.smartactors.com)

How To Understand The Importance of Persistence

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I read a really cool story recently about a 78 year old woman in nearby Valparaiso, Florida who has finally found her biological brother after 60, yes, sixty years of searching! Read all about it HERE. Now granted, searching for a long  lost family member is much easier now with all the internet offers in that regard. However, you have to remember that this search started some 60 years ago when the internet and Al Gore had not yet met.

Point is, thanks to her dogged persistence, she tracked down a member of her immediate family that didn’t know she existed.  Her brother, Fred Vanderwoude is so happy that he’s moving his entire family to Florida to be closer to his long lost sister.

There is something to be said here for that dogged persistence. Author Andy Andrews broke through in the publishing world with a best selling book called “The Traveler’s Gift” which tells the story of man who has lost just about everything traveling through history learning key principles for life success from key historical figures. The last of the 7 principles is “I Will Persist Without Exception”.  “I will persist without exception. I will continue despite exhaustion. I acknowledge the fact that most people quit when exhaustion sets in. I am not “most people.” **

Dogged persistence is evident in just about every success story you can research. Take Andy Andrews himself. After being turned down over 50 times by various publishers, he persisted. After a ten or twenty rejections, most people would give up and move on. Not Andy. He was scheduled to attended a certain dinner, seated at the table of ONE of the publishers who had rejected his book. Andy knew if there was one person MORE influential than a publisher, it had to be the publisher’s wife. Andy waited for the wife to ask him what he’d been working on, and he was ready to pitch his book, and what’s more, he was ready with a copy for her to read. She did just that. She read the book to her husband, the publisher, who sat with rapt attention, and proceeded to publish Andy’s first novel.

That chapter in “The Traveler’s Gift” concludes with this: “I will continue despite exhaustion. I focus on results. I am a person of great faith.”**

Speaking of faith, we are all familiar with the scripture from Matthew 7:7  that reads “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

I will never forget a grade I received on a monologue as a freshman drama major in college. My professor, a serious actor himself, gave me a C, with a comment at the top of the page next to the grade, in red marker, that I will always remember. He said: “Logan, there are almost 5 billion people on this planet. No one will notice if you don’t try your hardest”.

Keep on seeking. Persist without exception. Try your hardest, and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.

Fred Vanderwoude sure was.

**Excerpts taken from “The Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews. 2002. Published in Nashville, Tennessee by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc

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5 Ways to Bless Others Around You

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I read a story this morning where “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radclifffe came to the aid of mugging victim who had been knifed in London. Read the story HERE

Granted, we are not all “Harry Potters” ready to lend our celebrity helping hand at a moment’s notice, BUT we all have opportunities to bless others….if we just take the time to look around us.

I used to do a regular feature on my radio show (and I’ll probably start it here soon) called “The Good News”. This segment focused on people making a difference in the world around them. 99 percent of the time, these people were no different than you and me. They had no special skills or abilities. They didn’t have a huge bank account. They weren’t world famous. They were just regular people who took the time to look around them and see where they could positively impact the lives of others. We ALL have that same opportunity. If you want to use the Bible as an example, God didn’t call men of extraordinary talent or skill to be his disciples. They were just ordinary people who were willing to be obedient and observant to opportunities around them to bless others.

With the world we live in today, opportunities to positively impact others are ALL around us. Here’s at least FIVE:

*While we’re driving, we might see someone in need.

*While we’re at the drive through of a fast food restaurant, we might be able to “pay it forward” by paying for someone’s meal.

*While we’re on the job, we might lend a listening ear to someone who’s going through a difficult time.

*While we’re online, namely social media, we see plenty of opportunities to bless others through prayer, encouragement, time, money, etc.

*At home, we have opportunities to bless our family and friends. The opportunities are endless…IF we just take the time to look around us.

I really believe we weren’t put on this earth for ourselves. We are here to impact the lives of others. When we die, people aren’t going to dwell on our accomplishments, or our nice  homes or cars. No. They are going to remember the good we did. They are going to remember how we made them feel. They are going to remember the impact we had on others. When it’s all said and done in this world, we are going to be measured on the difference we made in the lives of others, and what we did with the opportunities we had to bless those around us.

Those opportunities are all around you today. What are you going to do with them?

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How To Create Lasting Happiness

The Power of Gratitude

Do you know what two of THE most powerful words in the English language are? Thank you. Yes, thank you. Do you know why? Because when you are genuine in saying “thank you”, you unlock a powerful thing…gratitude. When people feel that gratitude, they feel blessed. And is there any greater feeling in the world?

The incredible thing about this is that we ALL have the ability to unlock this amazing power! All it takes is three little words…stop, look, and listen. Remember when you were little and you arrived at the school crosswalk? They always told you to “stop, look, and listen” and then you can go. Well, the same holds true for gratitude. All you have to do is STOP and realize ALL there is to be grateful for….the very fact that you’re here now reading this is something to be grateful for. Each moment is a gift. And each moment contains within it opportunities. Opportunities to bless others. Then of course, you LOOK. Look around you for ALL you have to be grateful for. If you live in America, you are richer…much richer…than 90 percent of the world’s population. Things we take for granted, things they would LOVE to have…fresh running water, air conditioning, electricity….just to name three. Look at the sunshine, nature, your family…you are literally surrounded by visual reminders of your blessings. Then LISTEN. If you stop and look, then you can really listen….listen to the birds singing praise to their creator, listen to the rain, listen to the washing machine cleaning your clothes.  How poor would your life be without those and SO many other things?

And then GO. With a heart full of gratitude, you can bless others. Speak words of encouragement. Perform a kind act. Take time to listen to someone and make them feel valued. See, gratitude unlocks joy. It’s the ultimate attitude adjustment. Gratitude is a gift. It’s one of the biggest gifts we have. Each moment is a gift, and each moment contains within it opportunity for gratitude, and opportunity to SPREAD gratitude. Because when we spread gratitude by sincerely expressing our thanks, what are we doing? We are conveying appreciation, validation, and respect to others. Who doesn’t want those? Those are some of THE most cherished gifts we can give. Everyone wants to feel appreciated. Everyone wants to feel validated. Everyone wants to be respected. And we have the power to give them those things…if we can have that “attitude of gratitude”

You might think that it’s the happy person who is grateful, but I would counter that it’s the grateful person who is happy! So, give THANKS right now, and spread some happiness!

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How To Make The MOST of Each Day of Your Life!

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I confess that I am a very impatient person. When it comes to driving, my impatience flares up rather quickly, especially living where I do. In our small town, you can pretty much set your cruise control on 35 mph and you can stay with the flow of most local traffic. Nobody around here seems to have much of a sense of urgency.

Does your life have a sense of urgency? So many of us are stuck in a routine, thinking the same things, reacting with a certain predictability to most every circumstance.

What if you suddenly found out the exact number of days that you have existed on this earth? Would it give you more of a sense of urgency? Robert D. Smith one day realized that he’d been alive for exactly 20,000 days, so he took the opportunity to spend 48 hours in a fancy hotel to plan out his NEXT 20,000 days. The result is the book 20,000 Days and Counting.

In the book of Psalms we read, “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”. Scripture also tells us that a person’s life is like a vapor or a breath (Psalms 39:4-6) and it’s like a “shadow that only temporarily appears” (Ecc. 6:12). If you’ve ever lost a loved one suddenly, you know first hand how fleeting life can be. So what do we do to maximize the uncertain time we have here?

Certainly we all should be seeking to gain wisdom. The book of Proverbs devotes much of its content to the importance of wisdom.  Proverbs 8:11 says that wisdom is “better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” Wisdom comes to us in many ways, but often we find wisdom in listening to those wiser than us. Yes, listening, and not talking. Of course this mostly applies to the ultimate source of wisdom, God. God’s wisdom is found throughout the Bible.

Speaking of others, Robert D. Smith points out many times the importance of relationships in our lives. He exhorts us to “say I love you to all those who matter”, and know that everyone matters. He tells us to “maximize your relationships. Be more loving, more forgiving, more unselfish.” Put your heart and your thoughts into others. He even encourages us to give someone a standing ovation every chance you get. Think of all the people who have NEVER gotten a standing ovation. Be an encourager!

So many of us live life without much of a sense of purpose. Robert tells us we should distill down our purpose in life focusing on our strengths and the value that we can bring to others. Make it a few sentences and then whittle it down to one or two sentences. Then, keep it in front of you daily to point you to where you need to be directed.

We should start EVERY day thanking God for the things for which we are grateful. That simple practice can serve to give you a serious “attitude adjustment”.  It literally fills you heart with joy. Remember, “it’s not the happy person who is grateful, it’s the GRATEFUL person who is happy”.

Are you spending life merely reacting to events as they happen, or are you moving forward each day with a clear objective? Robert D. says when you form a clear plan for your life, every day becomes part of something so much bigger….the process. College football fans are probably familiar with Alabama head coach Nick Saban and his belief in “the process.” Robert D. Smith wants us to become “process fanatics”. In other words, love the activity. List what you have thought about and what you want to become. Plan your work, and work your plan!

Every day, Robert D. tells us, we have a chance to make ripples…impacting others and your future in a much bigger way down the line. You never really “arrive”. No matter how big the accomplishment. Write a book, sign a big long term contract, win a prestigious award. It’s at that point you say to yourself, “now the real work begins.”

Go ahead, put your birthdate into the widget in the link below, and see how many days you have lived:

CLICK HERE FOR THE DAY CALCULATOR

Are you shocked? Amazed? Then determine the answer the these two important, ongoing questions:

1/What is important to you RIGHT NOW?

2/What is next for you?

If you’re having trouble answering these questions, ask yourself:

What I have not thought of yet? What is one immediate need I can fill for someone I know? What is a huge dream I have? How can I make it bigger?

Robert D. Smith says that life is not about FINDING yourself, it’s about CREATING yourself. Take chances. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They are your biggest teachers. Be impatient with yourself daily. Make the most of each day. Impact those around you. Know that everyone matters.

Smile, he says. Smile bigger. Start acting happy. Remember, act first, and the feeling will follow.

**Excerpts taken from “20,000 Days and Counting” by Robert D. Smith. 2012. Published in Nashville, Tennessee by W. Publishing, an imprint of Thomas Nelson

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