Relax

So, continuing on the theme of the joys to be had with shotguns and clays and a wide-open field…

You’re standing in the hot sun, holding your shotgun, joking around with friends. You know the goal is to vaporize the orange clay on the first shot. You know everyone around you is counting their shots and keeping one eye (or both!) on yours as well. Will you just chip it? Will you miss? Can you hit double after double? There is pressure to perform. If you are competitive, multiply that pressure exponentially!

Time after time, there has been consistent, obvious improvement in my accuracy when I am relaxed. The more relaxed, the more I hit. I’m breathing better, my muscles respond better, my energy is not wasted and can be used for what I want to do.

There’s a life lesson here too.

Relaxed and focused will maximize your time and efforts. Overwhelmed, panicked, tense, disturbed and distracted — all take time and attention from your goal or task or schedule for the day. The more time you spend ‘stressing’ or worrying about all you have to do and how you are going to do it, the less time you use to get it done. You psych yourself out of productivity when you focus on the potential problems.

Time after time, when I am coaching someone on process or time management, we start the hour with a HUGE project that seems impossible to get done. But as we break it down into steps and make a plan, twenty minutes later — it’s no problem at all. It’s possible. Not only that, it often is a project that can be enjoyed! How would you rather spend an hour: worrying and procrastinating, or working and enjoying the results?

My encouragement to you is this: Enjoy the moment! Do the work that is given to you for that time. Relax and get it done.

 

__________________________________

Another way to support a little less tension in your day is to schedule margin. We have discussed this before, but it has a huge impact on reducing stress in your project or your calendar.

 

Looking to Jesus

So how do we “look unto Jesus” in our daily lives?

I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word.   — Psalm 119:147

The most obvious example that comes to mind is: to whom do I look first thing every morning? Whether it is first before anything or the first activity requiring thought, am I looking to the Word for sustenance? It is tempting to look to our family members and their needs, or even to social media to check on what happened in the world, but then we are distracting ourselves from the “one thing.” When we look to the Word, we will let Him set the tone for our minds, our hearts and our days.

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.   — Psalm 5:3

Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.   — Psalm 119:97

Building on that, as we move through the day, are we basing our actions on a desire for Christ-likeness? Are we feeding our own selfish pride or seeking to reflect the humility of Christ?

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  — Philippians 2:1-7

Scripture is also full of wisdom for life, which guides us through countless small daily decisions and also tough decisions. When we come to a crossroad and don’t know which way to go, we do have a Guide and can trust Him to provide what we need to make good choices. When we need to respond to a situation, having already saturated ourselves with who Christ is and the truth in His word as discussed above, we will be able to respond well.

For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding — Proverbs 2:6

As we feel weak, where do we look for help? Do we make everything work ourselves? Or do we acknowledge our weakness and His strength, deepening our trust in Him?

The Lordis my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.  — Psalm 28:7

What do we do when fear takes hold on occasion? Our sovereign God is our Rock, and trusting in Him is the best answer to our fear.

Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?  — Psalm 56:3-4

These are just a few examples, and I’d love to see others share encouragement. Please comment below with how you have turned your eyes to Christ in your life.

Eyes on the Prize

One morning this summer we thoroughly enjoyed heading out to the country and shooting clays. It is one of my hobbies, and this particular morning was a real winner. The sun was shining. There was a nice breeze. Clays were shattering. It was beautiful!

As I have been learning and improving, some expert advice was given that was helpful in the process: Keep your eye on the clay. Get your stance correct and solid. If you are in the right position, your body will naturally follow your eye.

It is true. When I was focused where I should be, I was successful. The shots I missed were most often because I wasn’t paying attention or got distracted by a bug or didn’t move past a comment from the peanut gallery.

As we left the field after shooting that morning, I thought about how the principle works for more than just shotguns.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Our lives tend to follow our focus. When our eyes are on Christ, we can follow Him much more easily. Our lives will naturally follow our attention. (Speaking for myself, I NEED that aid.) We will not be drawn off the racetrack by distractions. Sin will have a harder time trapping us. We will not be confused about where we are heading. We will be motivated by the glory we view ahead. We will see our Savior and know the path to joy.

Perfect Plans

I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. Ecclesiastes 3:14

God’s plans are perfect. Everything He does stands eternally. Nothing he does needs to be adjusted as things “come up.” Everything is accounted for perfectly in God’s plans. Our plans will never be that.

“Yes, yes,” you say. How obvious. But how often have you been frustrated when your perfect plan was not followed and everything would have been just beautiful if everyone would just follow your plan? Or how often have you worked to craft the perfect plan that will solve all the daily problems? But then, it wasn’t quite exactly perfect, so you throw it out and try again as the problems continue to accumulate.

We react to what God has appointed. He has planned. Already. Perfectly. Our plans are a tool to be used to live wisely, but our plans are always subordinate to His.

One way we live out that truth in our lives is that we make plans humbly, relying on God’s wisdom as we create and strength as we implement. Then we gratefully adjust when His plan for the day is not meshing with ours. Our plans are always subject to his perfect plan.

Don’t keep trying to make perfect plans and throwing them out at the first snag. We react to what God has appointed. We humbly flex. We tweak our plans and continue good works, living in obedience, doing what we are called to do each season.

I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

My husband frequently closes our prayers before meals with a request to “bless this meal for the nourishment of our bodies and our bodies for Thy service.” May you sit down to your next meal and see the good in the work you have done, humbly dependent on our perfect God. Then may you be fueled to further service.

 

Photo Credit: Bridget Duffy

Acting on Your Plans

The school year is starting! This time of year is also when you may have made plans for how things will run on the new schedule. You may have goals for a new school year. Although we have touched on action plans already this year, today I’d like to spend a few minutes more on the steps involved — hopefully making it even easier to do.

Now, first of all, a good action plan is based on a clear goal. You will be set up for success when you start by knowing exactly what you plan to achieve and have a deadline. If you don’t know specifically where you are going, it will be hard to get there. So if you need to clarify how you are stating your goal, now is the time to do it.

Once your goal is defined, you can spend a few minutes brainstorming.

  • What steps will help you get to your goal? What actions will help? What supplies are needed? What has to be done to start? What will it take to finish? Do you need any resources to support your effort (i.e., books, training, input from experts)? Write down any and all ideas you have. Try to think through all the aspects and requirements during this time, and get it all down on paper (or screen).
  • Next, take a minute to look at all you have noted. Evaluate which ideas will work the best and do the most. Pick out the cream of the crop until you have enough chosen to accomplish your goal but not more than you need to do. Your action plan should have what you need but not have distractions or wasted effort.
  • With this list, you can break the work into manageable pieces (or bites of the elephant) and set your timeline. A timeline can be either dedicating a set amount of time per week, with at least one waypoint to check progress; or it will be lining up steps one, two, three, etc. Sometimes it will be a combination of both.For instance, you may dedicate time each week to completing a Bible study book (and check halfway through to make sure you are halfway through the work). Or if you are making a quilt, your action plan will be a series of steps (choose pattern, buy fabric, cut, piece, etc.) in addition to time dedicated. Your timeline will depend on your goal.

The only step left is to schedule your timeline. Block out slots for the weekly time you plan to spend on your goal. Set a target date on your calendar for each step in your project. The schedule for your action plan may need to move as other things come up, but you have something to aim at and milestones to keep you on track.

“What gets scheduled gets done.” — Michael Hyatt

If you would like an infographic summarizing these action plan steps, see below.

My hope is that this helps your success! Working through the steps to create an action plan will make it smoother and quicker each time. Breaking down what is needed makes the project more manageable. If you run into any snags or have any questions, please contact me and I am happy to help. Onward and upward!