Success & 5 Thoughts to IGNORE

I’ve been here before. Thinking this is impossible, that I’ll never be able to successfully change my bad habits into good ones. It feels foolish really, to try things that make others scoff–especially when you wonder yourself just how long you’ll be able to sustain the change.

Writing a book.  Finishing a marathon.  Losing weight.  Getting happy.  Becoming a better parent.  Improving mental health. Landing a promotion.  Living by faith.  Fighting disease.  Finding a cure.  YOU fill in the blanks.

I know THIS is possible. This healthy, vibrant image of ME that can’t help but rub off on my family and friends. And I know how great it feels to accomplish something big (big to ME anyway), while others are on the sidelines feeling obliged to say congratulations. I’ve been here before, at the beginning of a long journey with all of the nagging obstacles that are really just mostly “thoughts in my head.”

Here are a few thoughts that keep re-playing in my head EVERY TIME I try to make a positive change in my life.

But these are the thoughts that also merit being IGNORED.

1. What if I fail?
So what if you fail?
In order to make a habit of something, you will always have to start at square one.  Nobody has the luxury of waking up as a star athlete, without having made the painful day-by-day decision to train hard.  Failure starts with the FIRST time you say NO to a positive change. 
2. What if I fall off the wagon?
You WILL fall off the wagon.  Falling off the wagon is an indication that you were on it to begin with.  FAILURE is the perfect start.  It’s an indication, “You’ve begun.”  Yes, you may have to run to catch up and jump back on.  But, EXPECT to FALL and when you do, get back up again, brush yourself off and smile as others smirk at what they perceive to be your naive commitment to success
3. What if this is JUST a stage?
It IS a STAGE.  Your life is made up of stages!  Don’t spend time obsessing over how long your new-found direction in life will last.  There is a lot to be said for “changing directions.”  Your “stage” is made up of small choices that those around you will observe for better or worse.  You never know the impact that those choices will have on others.  Your “stage” of eating healthy today may inspire one of your friends or family members to make it their ongoing lifestyle.  Eventually, you may just find that your “healthy” STAGES will all connect together to represent an overall healthy life lived! 
4. What if my family and friends are resistant to the change?
They WILL be resistant to CHANGE!  All of us are part of unhealthy relationships because unhealthy relationships kind of just evolve.  We don’t have to TRY to have unhealthy relationships.  We only have to TRY to get rid of them.  They are a result of who we are when we’re NOT deliberate about life.  As soon as you start being DELIBERATE about your actions, your unhealthy relationships will immediately come to the surface and you’ll be forced to make yet another CHOICE.  Do I continue to affect change and bear the pain of isolation from friends and family who 1) Don’t believe I’ll succeed 2) Don’t want to lose the part of me that made them comfortable with who they are 3) Fear they’ll have to change too, if they want to continue to keep my company  ??  Avoiding positive change to sustain mediocre relationships is a mental health disaster waiting to happen.  Ask me how I know.  Your healthy choices will change those around you.  Or else!  There’s no getting around it.
5. What if the “change” doesn’t really produce the intended results?
Ahhh!  This one is the kicker for me.  What if I don’t feel better?  What if I don’t like the new me?  What if no one appreciates my success?  What if my success draws a hard line between myself and the ones I love?  What if taking a new direction means leaving others behind?  What if others are jealous of me instead of proud that I’ve finally accomplished something?  These “Thoughts” are the ones that ultimately keep the greatest number of people from reaching their desired goals.  What if the outcome is not better than my previous way of living?  Just remember, in most cases–it’s easier to go backward than forward.  Lose weight?  Don’t feel great?  You can always start buying Big Macs again.  It’s not that hard to put on a few extra pounds.

BOTTOM LINE is:  You’ll never find success unless you proactively choose to IGNORE these thoughts by recognizing them for what they are, because they won’t go away until you reach the TOP of the mountain.  Until you PERSONALLY feel like you’ve arrived—these thoughts will be your most dreaded companions along the way.  Don’t let the thoughts stop you from taking the FIRST step.


Focus on the Vision

Almost everything we enjoy, cannot be enjoyed in its entirety until we realize that what we enjoy will most always be accompanied by the mundane tasks that make our moments of pleasure possible and we in turn, set ourselves up to focus on the vision, not the next step.

Take music for instance.  One of the absolute most pleasurable moments of music for me is to direct a choir in its polished form on a song that contains the concentration of emotion that has built over weeks or months of polishing each intricate detail.

But the journey to that performance is laden with the mundane, the long and tedious stress of wondering whether it will ever come together, the laborious rehearsals where everything goes wrong–when the effort of choir members seems to be lackluster at best.

Why is it that we define our lives, our day-to-day existence by the journey and not the end result?  Why, when we awaken in the mornings, do we not first think of the end result, instead of the steps of drudgery we must take in order to get there?

It is really hard to let the vision of our “end result” shape our daily activities.  Too often, the complaints of others, the voice of our own insecurities, memories of our past failures and overwhelming prep work destroy our vision and we give up short of that brilliant performance.

I for one, habitually awaken to the remembrance of the next step I need to take, instead of an intentional reminder of the desired “end result.”

No matter what your life’s calling…if God has given you a vision of the “end result,” if He’s given you a glimpse of who you may one day become, intentionally create reminders of that vision and stay inspired by focusing on the end result.  Life can get awfully dark and dreary when the only thing we focus on is taking our next step.

Life is more than putting one foot in front of the other.

There is a vision, a finished product, a postcard finish line.

Instead of filling your calendar this month with reminders about what you need to do next to reach your goals, why don’t you fill your calendar with reminders about the vision of who you hope to become?

Here are a few reminders for me this week:




Planting TOO many seeds

‘how to plant seeds’ is Googled around 300,000 times per month globally.

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So, I’m not sure what is going on with me, but I am in a seed planting mood.  I’ve even recently transplanted grass from my backyard to the front yard.  The problem is, that it doesn’t matter HOW MANY seeds you plant.  If you do not take the time to pick the weeds, water just the right amount and watch out for pests, your seeds will probably not bear any flowers or fruit and you will be disappointed, thinking that surely out of ALL the seeds you planted, at least one of them would have grown to the full sized beauty you had imagined.

There are a couple of problems with my urgency to plant seeds.  First, I know nothing about the particular seeds I’m planting, much less how to garden in general.  Second, I do not have the time to dedicate to each and every seed from germination to adulthood.  Third, I do not have the patience to wait for the end results.

So many seeds, so many dreams, so little time to invest in every single thing we would like to see come to fruition in our lives.  What would happen if we planted only a handful of seeds, ones that we have enough knowledge to cultivate, carefully choosing those that can withstand our particular environment, those seeds that need just the amount of time, watering and effort we can afford to invest.

Sometimes, our tendency is to sow as many seeds as possible, hoping that at least ONE of them will make it into a strong and hearty product of all the time and money we put in.  We sow a few here, sow a few there.  Oh my goodness, I forgot that a month ago I planted that seed.  Let me go check on it.  Oh my, the dirt is all dried up, all shriveled up.  There is no sign of life.  Why don’t my seeds ever grow?  Why don’t they ever take root? I’m so tired.  I’m so tired of planting seeds.

It is quite fulfilling to brag about how many seeds we’ve planted.  It makes us feel like we’re getting something done.  Our stories are always about the seeds we’re planting, not about the crops we’re harvesting.  The problem with patience, in being selective with those seeds we choose to plant, is that others might not notice the work we’re putting in.  They might think we’re at a standstill because they can’t see the underground work of germination, the mornings and nights of watering, days of sheltering from the sun.  For days, weeks, months and years on end, it might seem like we’re watering ghosts.  What if everyone laughs when something doesn’t grow as big as I wanted it to?  What if this thing doesn’t take off at all?  What will people think if it just looks like I’m tending dirt all day?

Choose your seeds carefully.  Learn as much as you can about planting in general.  Learn even more about the particular seeds you’ve chosen.  Be patient as you wait for the results.  Don’t forget that regimen is important.

Sometimes, it feels like we’re stuck in the stage of cultivation, especially within the church music program.  Some seeds have been planted.  We have to remember to keep watering, keep sheltering and keep praying, all the while trusting the end results to God’s hands.  Afterall, HE was the first TRUE gardener.  Sometimes, we have to fight the tendency to keep scattering seeds anywhere and everywhere, just because we are afraid the ones we planted might not grow.