Begin with the End in Mind

How often do we neglect developing new habits because we think a positive outcome will take too much effort? Or maybe we start to improve our lifestyle only to give up prematurely because we don’t get what we want fast enough. It’s easy to allow today’s challenges to become tomorrow’s excuses.

Have you wondered how you became  a member of the Start-Big-Finish-Small-if-at-All-Club? Perhaps, you’ve set targets that are difficult to reach. Often, the pain of disappointment may leave you feeling burned out with little desire to follow through. Remember, you do have options. The breakthrough you’ve needed could be to practice thinking small to help you transform your life.

Often, we may be full of ideas and eager to establish a new plan. We may soon realize it’s easy to bite off more than we can chew. We want rapid success and no hitches. The size of the task and the time it takes to get there may make it tempting to throw in the towel. By focusing on the here and now, it is easier to find a steady pace.  Besides, slow and steady worked for the tortoise!

Whatever you hope to gain in your endeavors, you need to decide precisely what it is you want, and be specific as you define what exactly it is you hope to achieve. Reflect in why you desire this outcome. Goals are often more “real” if they are written. Decide what is a reasonable length of time to realize your desire and be realistic. Make it measurable so you will have a target at which to aim. Once you have a clearly defined idea of the what, why and how long to reach your goal, you can break down the entire process.

Here are a few tips for breaking it down into bite-size pieces:

1. Brainstorm all of your options and determine what can be divided into smaller, detailed steps. Each task is a stepping stone towards achieving your end result.

2. Simplify the action plan. Think of the steps as actions. When you understand what actions are needed to achieve your desired result, you can pull these together into a plan.

3. Establish daily and weekly tasks. When you create your action plan, work out a series of targets that you believe are possible to reach on the way to your goal. Keep it simple with many small victories to keep the momentum.

4. Keep on track. The small-scale approach is flexible and allows for instant changes.  Continue tweaking and completing the simple tasks so the end result will be well within your grasp.

5. Focus on your daily actions plans and not so much on the end date. Like the tortoise, concentrate on one small step and repeat consistently.

6. Master the art of delaying gratification. Though you may be tempted, avoid trying to rush things and bite off more than you can chew. Refer to the reasons why you want the desired goal. Concentrate on where you are in the journey, and not on what’s next. Reflect on how far you’ve come and what a waste it would be to throw in the towel.

In order for us to grow, we will need to allow ourselves to be stretched at times. In most endeavors, if we don’t grow, our plans and goals won’t either. Long-lasting lifestyle change requires an investment of your time and effort, as well as some patience. The road to achieving great things is much less intimidating when you break down the end result into smaller steps.

And absolutely nothing can compare to how you will feel when you finally make it to the place you wanted to be.

If this encourages you, share it with a Friend!

Sheri 

What Steps Can I Take to Live More Simply?

This journey isn’t so much about eliminating the number of shoes or books we own, the square footage of our house or giving away every non-essential item we own.

Simplicity, for me, has become the removal of the unnecessary things that tend to distract me from discovering and enjoying what I value most in my world.

5 Steps to consider if you want to live more simply.

1. Simplify your wardrobe. Adopting a minimal wardrobe has afforded me less stress when choosing what to wear each day. Eliminating items I rarely wear and only purchasing clothing, shoes and accessories that I feel most like myself in, has given me more time each morning and the ability to eliminate chaos.

2. Eliminate digital distractions. When meeting with someone, I intentionally allow my phone to take a coffee break. For me, multi-tasking simply means I am able to screw up two things at once! I work when I’m at work. I am intentional when I am in a meeting. I continually strive to remember that I own the phone, it does not own me!

3. Learn to be vacationally-minded in your work. Changing the mindset in how we view our work can transform the way we work. God designed us to create! Realizing that creating is our work makes getting to it a lot easier. If the goal is only for a promotion, prestigious title, or a larger paycheck, it will not be enough to fulfill us in the long run. On vacation, we are intentional in getting the most out of the moments we have and creating special memories. Focusing on seeing ourselves as ‘creative’ beings helps us to view our work as our gift or contribution to something bigger. We develop pure intentions and ultimately greater joy in doing it.

4. Learn to say no to things. It’s tempting to believe that saying yes to everything is the path to success. However, if we treat everything as a priority, we will not reach a high level of success. Unnecessary commitments and obligations can cause stress and friction in our relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. The ability to say no provides space to focus on the things we value most. It’s not about being involved in everything, but rather learning not to trade off “best” and settle for “good”.

5. Embrace the mundane. Life is truly lived in the morning coffee chats on the porch, car rides to school or work, standing in the grocery line talking to a neighbor, reading to your kids before bed time, caring for a loved one, walking the dog, and clearing off the dinner table as a family. It is these moments that we often hurry past. Yet it is these simple memories that last a lifetime. These are the experiences that write our story and shape our lives.

I invite you to consider what ‘keeping it simple’ could mean for you…

Sheri

How Can I Live a Life of Passion?

How Would You Describe the Speed in which YOU Do Life?  Life balance isn’t about having it all or how many plates you can juggle, but more about relinquishing what doesn’t work for you so that you can be rightly aligned and fully intentional with what does.

Resisting the Hindrance of Resistance…Growth requires becoming an expert at navigating inevitable life change by learning to accept what you cannot change and eliminating excuses for not changing the things you can. Reflecting on where you and how you are impacted by things outside of your control is an excellent exercise for some super new habits!

You Are What’s Eating You… How much sleep are you losing, or how many ways are you indulging yourself over unresolved issues, relationships or projects? The more baggage we carry, the sooner we show signs of aging. So travel light to find the fountain of youth.

Live Free… Give of your resources generously. The level of your ability to freely give is directly proportionate to how ‘free’ you truly are. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. Avoid the temptation to clutter your life or schedule with unnecessary weight. To the one who has much, much will be required.

Live Out Your Passion… Find ways to do what you love and share it with others. Express love as often as you are able. Do all that you do as if God were your employer.

Be intentional… All work and no play dulls our senses to the beauty all around us in the people love and the things we enjoy. Learn to adjust your speed of life to take time to smell the roses, experience the beauty of a sunset or the warm hug of a dear friend. The day may come, that you will be very glad that you made the effort!

Sheri

How can I let go of my fear of what others think of me?

Choosing to do something or not do something based on what we “think” others would say about our choice prevents us from having the freedom to make the best choices. Having to first “check in” with a panel of judges, internal or external adds confusion to the decision-making process.

Accountability and support are extremely important. And the folks in our life, who are committed to our well-being without attempting to control us, can provide excellent guidance for us. Having listened to our hearts and shared in our joys and sorrows, they are in the best position to offer objective advice.

A good indicator of these supportive relationships is that we feel valued and not judged, when sharing our thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams with them. When we are making choices that align with our overall direction in life, those who support us are willing to cheerlead and urge us on. And, if we are considering a choice that may not appear to be the best for us, they have the courage and our permission to remind us of our values and question us on the choices we may be considering.

The key difference in someone who believes in us, respects our choices and our right to make them, is that they will ASK questions as opposed to TELLING us what they think we should do.

To get over believing what other people think about us, it is wise to remember that their opinions of us are really none of our business.

A possible reason for listening to the panel of judges is a fear of failure. However, consider the fact that we never truly “fail” unless we quit trying to find a way that satisfies the pursuit we are on.

An effective way to face the fear of failure is to visualize the worst case scenario and ask ourselves what would we do if it were to happen?

My grandmother always said, “when people are talking about ‘you’ they’re leaving someone else alone”.

Yet, the truth is that people will always be talking; they will always be judging. This is something we have no power to change. But we do have the power to choose what we believe is best for ourselves!

Sheri

If we are unable to completely avoid regret, what can we do when we experience it?

We often hope we will never have to experience regret. Our response to it will determine whether we are strengthened during the process, or if we crash and burn and then have to pick up the pieces and begin again.

Even having a sincere desire to do our best in life, we will likely make some choices that we may later regret.

If Regret is Unavoidable, What Choices Do We Have?

Avoid indulging it. Imagine you are swimming in the ocean and your feet have become entangled in seaweed. The seaweed is “regret” (apply this reflection to anywhere you may feel stuck). You tug and swim harder, yet you are still unable to move forward with the seaweed wrapped heavily around your feet. Indulging a regret, means we go over and over it, analyzing every detail, and becoming more tangled by replaying in our minds all the “woulda-shoulda-and-coulda(s)”. We may hold on to it becoming identified with it which can cause us to feel paralyzed or victimized.

Be honest with where we are and learn to make new choices. We have the choice to simply look at it, feel it, accept it, learn from it, and when ready, untie it and swim on. Repressing our regrets, on the other hand, creates a different problem because we believe we are actually “getting on with life”. Yet, by ignoring the feelings that need to be felt, we tend to harden our hearts over time. Acknowledging our regrets, helps us face and feel them, learn from them and make good wherever possible. We can then forgive ourselves and others and find healing, rather than be held hostage to our past.

Just do the work without worrying about the timing. We like to have timelines attached to transformation, want to know when we will finally be done with a particular regret and freely swimming on. The best way to gain what we need from the situation is to focus on shedding layers of remorse that get in the way of living and showing up fully. Any time it may arise, we can simply notice it, allow it to deepen our experience of vulnerability and humility, and grow in integrity.

You don’t have to do it alone. Speak your regret out loud to someone close who supports you or write it in a journal between you and God. There is something inherently restorative in either of these acts. At times, if we are able to reflect on the respective journeys we have taken in life with a close friend, it builds a strong bond. It’s where we can learn there is a place beyond regret.

Once we allow regret to change from something that drags us down and overwhelms us, we can grow more sensitive, kind and caring… a true refreshing breath to others.

Regret may linger for a season, but it loses its sting!

Sheri

What is the Big Deal about Minimalism?

I’ve been writing about the value of simplicity for nearly 20 years.and since you’ve asked, I’d have to say that Minimalism is best described as pursuing the Right Things so that we are able to Focus More on the things we Enjoy Most!

Simply put, it is the identification, and then the continual choice, of living (doing, buying, seeking) ONLY what is essential. Quite similar to a life of simplicity, Minimalism elaborates on the saying, “less is more” to make it a declaration that “less is better.”

I have considered myself a “minimalist” since 1999. Something about the all around scare-tactics etc., of what Y2K may cause, got me to thinking that I wanted to focus on making better and more meaningful choices in my life.

After a divorce in 2003, and armed with a belief that God has and always will have a plan for me that is better than I could ever design for myself, I set out to learn what was most important, most enjoyable, and most aligned with His best for me. My goal was to best utilize what He had taught me in my life up to that point.

Here is what I found:

I have been given the privilege and responsibility to prioritize my life! If I avoid doing it, someone else may step in and take on that role in a way that serves their needs best.  Taking the time to prioritize our life and choices eliminates our being tied and / or obligated to others expectations.

I continually ask myself, whether I am at work or play, “Is this the most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?” It helps me to zero in on what is most important in the moment. If it isn’t important to me at the present time, I  simply choose to redirect my focus to what matters and what will have the most impact on the purpose I am seeking to achieve.

I want to live a life by design, not default. I will do this effectively by learning to master my response to situations and be able to turn things around, as opposed to living like the bow tied on a kite string based on what is happening to me at any given moment.

I don’t want to have it all and I don’t need to do it all. It is imperative for me to first clarify and then be willing to make the necessary trade-offs in order to pursue what is most important to me. One of the things I remind myself when I am struggling to stick with my plan is this: “I choose to NOT trade off what I want MOST for what I want right NOW!”

I have learned that I do not need to be ‘plugged into’ all that is happening either virtually or globally all of the time. Rather I have decided that the most important thing for me to focus on is what’s front and center of my actual world at the present time. I continually find that focusing on the few essential ideas right in front of me is typically more rewarding, and offers greater potential, than the many that may be trying to distract me.

The best thing I’ve learned is when to say no to the nonessentials so I can say yes to the things that really matter. I find it easier not to commit if I’m not certain that I can give 100%. This requires me to have the courage to say no firmly, resolutely and gracefully so that I can say “yes” to those things that I truly value and where I know I can purposefully make a difference.

The effectual pursuit of simplicity (minimalism) is about arriving at a deep understanding of what leads to a happy and meaningful life for each of us personally. It has never been about sacrificing or getting rid of stuff.

Sheri 

How Do I Know if My Feelings are Telling Me the Truth?

“How are you feeling today?”

“My feelings were hurt.”

“I’m not feeling it.”

It would be easier to respond to the “facts” about our life situations if people asked, “What is true about your life today?”, or “What can you do today that will make a positive difference?”

We can easily become overly concerned about what we ‘think” someone else is ‘thinking’ regarding us. When, in actuality, we may be the furthest thing from their minds.  When I begin thinking like this, I chuckle and remind myself that I am onlykind of a big deal’ in my own mind. 🙂

Picture a train, the engine is the power that drives it and the caboose (when they were used) served to house the crew responsible for track switching and acting as lookouts for load shifting or other concerns.  If we regard the TRUTH about our lives as the engine of the train that drives us, we can move along empowered by making decisions based on what we know to be right. If, on the other hand, we are led by our FEELINGS, it is as if we are letting the caboose engineer our life train and we become disempowered because we can be on a roller coaster driven by emotions and not truth. It is stressful and chaotic at best and ultimately results in, you guessed it, a train wreck!

Avoiding this mindset of feelings-driven living, requires us to be intentional in cultivating a belief system that is grounded in the truth about any given situation. By recognizing the things we have the power to change as well as the ones we need to accept, we can be empowered to put our efforts where we can make the most difference.

When I struggle with determining the facts vs. my feelings, I ask myself, “What am I feeling about the current situation I am facing?” And then, “What is true about the current situation I am facing?”

Feelings are merely assumptions we make, often based on past experiences, and can impact what we believe about the way something is likely to turn out.

It is much less stressful to focus on the facts and adjust to what is true than it is to be carried on the winds of our feelings, emotionally going up and down and never really sure what is true and what to expect.

Regardless of our feelings or emotions, we can choose to remind ourselves that our feelings follow our actions, so choose what is the next best thing you need to do and do it… the right feelings will come along in due time!

Sheri 

What Happens When Life Happens?™

Sometimes Life happens in a way that puts us out-of-control. What can we do and where can we focus during these seemingly answerless seasons of life?.

Have you ever had a deep conversation with a trusted friend when you were perplexed about something? You probably didn’t walk away with all of your problems and concerns solved, but more than likely, you left with a lighter step and a clearer head. Your friend may have listened to your heart and encouraged you that things will work out.  It felt good to just be heard.

Establishing a deep connection with God by quietly sitting and sipping tea or coffee, taking a walk, journalling or other ways that refresh us,. can help us be open to good things that can come from our struggles when we have so much swirling around in our heads. A daily time and space for time in His Presence can provide light for our path, renew our spirit and give us strength to press on. Things often don’t change or get corrected over night. But, everything does eventually work out for the best, if we make the best of how they work out.

Regardless of the storms we face, we can find comfort in knowing that God doesn’t waste anything that happens to us.  And, who knows, one day we may write our own story about what really happened when life happened!

Points to Ponder: Think of a time when it seemed your world fell apart, reflect on what God was doing, how you “made” it through, and what you gleaned from it. 

Sheri 

What is a Heart Makeover?

Most of you who have followed my Blog for a while know that I am a diehard Minimalist… Mama used to say that if I owned two of anything I wanted to give one away! 🙂 I mostly agree; however, I do like both shoes, earrings, and gloves. And don’t forget the socks… two of those work, also!

In all of the Ordering of My Life… something I’ve done all my life, from lining up my dolls to making my bed each day (yep, pretty much for all 60 years), as I get out of it. I. Like. Order. Actually, it’s a Love Affair that I have with Order.

Imagine my surprise when I began to study that our attitudes are matters of the heart… Proverbs 27:19 tells us, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart”. Wow, my attitude reflects my heart. Need to do a little minimizing here… Yep, a little less resentment (or a lot less), grudge-holding, anger, un-forgiveness, fear, doubt…quite a bit of “ordering” needs to be happening inside my heart.

Here’s what I’m learning…

The word heart is used in different ways all the way through the Scriptures.  The Bible says that “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). When God looks at us, He doesn’t look at the color of our skin, or at the kind of clothes we wear. Nor does He consider our position in society. The Bible says that God looks upon our hearts to see what we are on the inside—the thoughts, motives and intents of our heart.

We can go to church, lead small groups and have the sticker on our vehicles, but our hearts may be far from Him. This happens when our hearts—our real selves—are taken up with (overly consumed by) the things of this world.  This results in us having a worldly view of life, people and things. In order to gain God’s perspective, our focus must be centered on Him. 

The Bible teaches that our hearts can be hardened. The sun shines on clay and hardens it, yet the same sun melts butter. The Truth of the Gospel can soften the hearts of some who choose to align with Jesus, yet, it can harden those who rebel against Him. So, what is God’s attitude toward our hearts? Our secrets are not hidden from God; He knows every single thing that goes on there.

Scripture also teaches us that God ponders the heart. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord ponders the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2). We can attempt to justify and  rationalize the way we live and the choices we make. But the intent of our heart is abundantly clear to God.

The Bible talks about the heart of Jesus, and illustrates His compassion and His love, laying down His life on the cross for our sinful hearts. His pure heart, His perfect heart, His glorious heart, His loving heart, His tender heart, His compassionate heart—bled on the cross, in our place… so that our hearts could be reconciled to God and enjoy the gift of His Eternal Life. That is the True Heart of all that Matters!

Lastly, the Bible encourages us with this glorious promise—that God will give us a new heart. When we come to Christ and surrender our heart to Him, God says, “I’ll take out the old heart and I’ll put in a new one.”  This is ‘Regeneration’, and it means that God will give us a new life—a new direction for our life, new thoughts, new energies, new ambitions, and as He transforms us from he inside out… He is perfecting all that concerns us according to His purposes. This just makes my Heart Happy!

Invest in things today that bring lasting value…….. Sheri

How do I remain positive when life gets tough?

Perhaps, you’ve said or thought that happiness is something that must be achieved:

“When this is done, I’ll be happy.”  “When I own that, I’ll be happy.” “When I weigh less, I’ll be happy.”

Choosing a journey of going deeper with God, I’m learning to choose to be happy in any given moment. Taking control of my thoughts and actions, helps me become more content now!

Some actions were obvious good choices: going to bed earlier, routine exercise, being in the moment, singing to my favorite music…others were not that obvious: handling a nagging task, looking for the lessons in failed efforts, avoiding the temptation to gossip, and making the effort to declutter my home, life and schedule.

If a task can be done in under 2 minutes, I don’t put it off. Like Mama taught me, just get it done and you’ll be free of it. I’m learning to find pleasure in small victories and not just the moment of crossing a finish line.

It’s okay to take life a little less serious, to even be silly and go off the path and do the unexpected. These are key sources of enjoying this moment.

Choosing to be more light-hearted in both actions and attitudes, helps me to ask, “do I need to laugh more“, ”be kinder”,  “stop being critical” or “be more cheerful“?  Even when I don’t FEEL like it, if I focus on taking control of my emotions and doing the next basic ‘right’ thing, eventually my feelings catch up!

Every day that you choose to be content in whatever situations you face, can become your favorite day too!

Sheri