The Secret to Having Discipline in your Life


Most of us hate discipline. We don’t like being told no or having to say no to things that we want. If I feel like ice cream after dinner, I want to be able to have ice cream after dinner. If I want to sleep in, I’m want to be able to sleep in.

We look at disciplined people and we think to ourselves, “It must be easier for them, they are just naturally a more disciplined person than me.”

While that’s a nice thought, it simply isn’t true. At least it’s not true in my life.

Most of my life I have not been a very disciplined person. I have always liked my freedom. I like to choose what I want when I want it. Discipline means I have to say “No” to myself. I don’t like anyone telling me no, even if its me!  But that all changed last June. I decided I was tired of being overweight. I decided I was tired of looking at my fat belly in the mirror every day. I was on a website looking at the before and after pictures of scores of people who had transformed their bodies and I decided I wanted to look like that too. I stood in the full length mirror and sucked in my belly. I decided I wanted to get rid of my gut more than anything else in my life right now. And once I decided that was what I wanted, the rest was easy.

“Discipline is choosing what you want most over what you want now.”

Pastor Craig Groschel

Discipline then came into my life, not as a hammer, forcing me to say “no” to a bunch of stuff like ice cream and sleeping in, but rather as a tool to help me say “yes” to something I wanted much more, a good looking body.

What I wanted most was to be in shape. I wanted to feel good about the way I looked. I determined that this is what I wanted most. It then became much easier to say “no” to other things. When I wanted ice cream, I would think to myself, “What I want now, is this bowl of ice cream. What I want most is to lose this belly.” And I would choose a small bowl of frozen blueberries instead.  Saying “yes” to what I wanted most, was in effect telling everything else “no.” I guess this is what Discipline is, but in my mind I wasn’t saying “no” to stuff… I was saying “yes” to a preferred future.

I am starting a new weight lifting program tomorrow. I have a vision of what I will look like 90 days from now. I am saying “yes” to that future.

So whether its saving money for college or to go on once in a lifetime trip to Disneyland with the kids. Or maybe you to want to reshape your body, or learn a new skill. Determining what it is that you want most, is the secret to having the discipline you need to get to where you want to be.

Ask yourself the question “What do I want most?”

~Mark

p.s. Now that I’ve decided what I want… I love knowing that the only thing that stands between here and my future is hard work! I know how to do that!

discipline

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Leader: After the Big Event “Watch What you Say!”


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You’ve been planning and talking about this big event for months. Now it’s finally over and someone asks you “So how did it go?”

You have two choices:
Option 1) Tell them about a problem and what didn’t go well or
Option 2) tell them a story of success tied to the event. It sounds so simple, but listen to yourself and you’ll be surprised how often you choose Option One and tell people “It went good, but…” The problem is when you choose Option One, you’ve just made that problem the story that circulates. “It was a great fundraiser, but it went really long and we fell short of our goal.” Or, “It was a great retreat but Johnny got hurt.” This story then becomes what those people share with others when asked… “Hey do you know how the fundraiser went?”

Instead you should almost always choose Option Two. What if instead of sharing the problems, you instead chose to share a story of life change that was connected to the event?

So instead you might say something like: “The fundraiser was fantastic. “This teenage girl talked about when she was incarcerated and how the program changed her life… It was amazing!”

How much better to have that become the story that circulates by word of mouth? When that happens, it tells people what you value. When you say… “The fundraiser was just okay. We only had 46 people there and barely raised $3,700.” You are telling people how you evaluate success. In other words, you are telling people not enough people came and not enough money was raised. They think to themselves, “I’m glad I didn’t go and waste my evening.” Instead you want them to think “Wow, I would have loved to have heard that; I need to make sure I don’t miss out next time.”

When I was a youth pastor I used to hate it when after a big retreat or missions trip my senior pastor would stop me in the hall… “Hey, how did it go?” Did anybody get hurt? Did you make budget?” That made me feel like that the bottom line was the only thing that he really cared about, (which I knew wasn’t true). So after a few years I figured something out. On our our way back from the retreat I would find a kid story from the event. I would then I’d send out an email to the rest of the staff talking about the story of life change. I’d also tell all my leaders who went to share this story when they were asked how the event went. This created such a positive buzz about the event. We learned to help shape the story that was told. Before I started doing that, a kid might get hurt and that became all anyone talked about after the retreat and it would totally hijack the attention away from all the amazing positive stuff that happened.

It’s not manipulation, it’s simply being intentional about your words. The stories you share become the narrative that people repeat. Make sure the story that’s told, is the one you want.

-M

Stop Villianizing Richard Sherman


I’m not defending his actions, but I’m tired of people villianizing Richard Sherman. He is not a thug. He is not a dirty player. He doesn’t get in trouble with the law. He’s intelligent, graduated with a 4.2 in HS, 2nd in his class, a Stanford graduate and usually very well-spoken. He a fierce competitor, who runs his mouth, but isn’t intimidation part of the game? This video will make you look at him differently, but what you won’t see is what he does in Seattle all the time. He gives back to the community constantly, doing fundraisers, visiting kids in the hospital stuff like that. He’s a mixed bag like all of us… and I wish he hadn’t called out his opponent. But I’ll bet he had very good reason…. it’ll come out, just wait. He was miked and NFL films will show it all Wednesday night. And love him or hate him now, Richard Sherman will be a commentator someday that you will love, along the lines of other brash athletes who’ve blazed that trail like Deon Sanders and Karl Malone.

Leader: Are you coasting?


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“Mailing it in” is what we used to call it in sports. Its the term you use when you get to the place in your life where you’ve done all this before, and honestly you’re bored. You’ve stopped pushing, you’ve stopped growing, you’re leaning hard on your vast experience, and you’re not giving it your best. You’ve starting repeating old messages, not prepping like you used to. You’ve begun a new habit of leaving a little early from work, and you’ve started coming in late. You’re basically going through the motions. You’ve stopped dreaming. You’re clocking in and clocking out. What used to be a dream job, had become just a job. It’s a horrible place to be in life, but especially sinful in a ministry context. Remember what it was like to be nervous to stand in front of a group of kids and deliver a message? Remember when you led your first parents meeting and the feeling you had in the pit of your stomach that someone was gonna figure out that you didn’t know what the crap you were doing? What happened to that? You used to dream about God doing stuff, but reality has sucked the life out of you. You no longer have any dreams. You’re mailing it in.

As a veteran youth worker I’ve been there a time or two. It’s natural to get comfortable with things after you do them over and over. And it’s okay to not get as nervous as you used to. But you must fight the urge to let lethargy creep in as you gain experience. It will lull you to sleep like anesthesia. And your people will follow.

I remember when our youth ministry had grown to a place where it needed another level of leadership. I had some very talented youth workers that were trained up and ready to take over both the Middle School and High School programs. I wasn’t really ready to let go, but they were chomping at the bit, young bucks with talent, energy and passion. I knew as a leader, I needed to step aside and let them run. So I added an extra layer of leadership, and put each of them in charge of Middle School and High School respectively, and I oversaw the vision, mission, direction of the whole thing. My mistake was not holding onto any direct contact work with teenagers. I didn’t mandate that I speak every month. I started snowboarding more. I let the youth workers dream about the youth ministry, and I started dreaming about fresh powder. My create energy and passion migrated to this new area, while my heart for youth ministry languished. I got bored with my job. Something else had captured my heart. Here I was at a megachurch, one of the most influential churches in the Northwest, and I was bored.

By the time I realized my mistake, it was too late. I had given the keys to the car away to the new youth guys, and there was no taking them back. And after several conversations with my boss and Sr. Pastor, who were both close friends of mine, with tears in our eyes, we realized that I needed to move on. I resigned, and started the process of dreaming again. I left the comfort of the big church with the nice salary and good benefits and started over.

It was terrifying. I had to ask the question, “What would I want to do if I could do anything?” I had to reengage my heart and connect it to my mission again. While it was scary and uncertain, it was exhilarating at the same time. We are not designed to mail it in. We are designed for greatness, to achieve more than what we thought we could. We were created to chase dreams, God’s dreams, to grow and develop, to do hard things.

If your heart has become disconnected from your job, you owe it to God, to your people, to your family… Most of all you owe it to yourself, to re-engage. Start the process today.

Your life depends on it. You were not created to mail in a mediocre existence.
You were designed to dream God dreams. Get to it.
-M

 

Leader: When facing a fire do you add fuel or water?


Youth Leader, has this happened to you? A student comes to you with a secret.  A parent calls and is concerned about kids smoking outside the church. The pastor is angry about the mess you left in the kitchen after your event. What do you do? As a leader you carry a bucket in each hand. One bucket is full of water, the other is full of gasoline. The job of a leader is to determine which bucket to pour on each fire that arises, and to train your volunteers to do the same. Some leaders always use the same bucket. To them, every situation is an emergency, and they add fuel to every issue that arises. Other leaders try to minimize everything. They pour water on every issue that is brought to them. Both of these leaders are exercising  poor judgement. A wise leader has learned which situations need fuel and need to be ramped up and which situations need water, and need to be diffused.

Once as a youth pastor I was running a HS Camp where one of my volunteers came to me with a concern. A volunteer was seen giving an extra long hug to one of the teenage girls.

Decision: Fuel

I confronted the volunteer, without accusation, “This was seen… it is true? What is the extent of your relationship? Don’t do it again. Stay away from her.”

End result: The volunteer continued to exhibit physical behavior toward this minor. The leader was sent home from the camp and removed from leadership. It was discovered soon after that they had a sexual relationship prior to the camp.

Fuel was the correct bucket for this situation.

Most other times a hug is just a hug. How do you know when to add fuel and when to add water?

1. Fuel – Don’t ever ignore safety concerns. If someone brings you a concern regarding safety or health, treat it seriously. If after investigation you determine that the issue is overblown, then you can add water. But always err on the side of protecting students.

2. Water -In general, I pour water on issues of conflict between people, where motives are being assigned and assumptions are being made. I pour water on gossip and slander when it comes to me. I do not allow an atmosphere to be created that allows or encourages that sort of fire to smolder under the surface. Pour water on the gossip and actively engage in resolving the situation where appropriate.

3. What if I’m unsure which bucket to use? Solicit advice from an older / wiser figure in your life. This may be your pastor, or a mentor, or simply a parent you respect and trust. Ask around “Wisdom is found in many counselors.”

Part of developing as a leader is knowing which bucket to use when. To make a mistake in this area can have a high cost attached to it. Take the time to seek wisdom when you’re unsure. And maybe even when you are…

~M

I Need a New Mirror – Youth Ministry made me fat!


So I’ve been largely absent from my blog over the past 6 months in case you’ve missed me! And here’s why… I saw myself in the mirror. Honestly. One day I saw myself, really saw myself. Not the way I have always seen myself, but the way everyone else sees me. I finally saw myself the way somebody that just met me would see me. And I got mad. I got really angry with myself. My belly was bigger that it had ever been. I was flabby and overweight. I decided that was it. I drew a line in the sand and said this is the worst shape I will EVER be in for the rest of my life. I got a coach, spent some $$ on a workout program (p90x), and I created some space. I carved out both a physical space to workout in in my basement and made room in my schedule (bye-bye blog). I told some people (created some accountability), and I worked my butt off, 60-90 minutes a day; every day, for 90 days. EVERY DAY. It was a big commitment, but honestly looking back, I can’t believe that it only took 90 days to flip my life on its head. 3 months! I’m 48 now, what’s 3 months? I spent decades eating pizza and junk food while in youth ministry to get to where I am. I am now 6 months into working out, and am in the best shape of my life, no question about it. And I owe it all to my mirror.

Accurate self-perception is a gift. When we see ourselves the way we really are, versus the way we think we are… it’s rare. Sometimes one of our co-workers tries to hold up that mirror for us. Sometimes its a loved one that tries to get us to see ourselves the way were really are. And sometimes the Lord has to show us. Often times we get defensive and make excuses, but in reality we need to say “Thank You” to people who are willing to risk holding a mirror up to us. And then we need to start making some changes.

How about you? Are you who you think you are? We judge ourselves by our intentions, others judge us by our actions. I was fat and out of shape and I couldn’t see it. Until I did.

In what areas of your life could use a new mirror?

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I waffled as to whether or not to post this. I decided the ultimate accountability is to post an embarrassing pic of yourself on your blog. Haha… There’s no going back now!

 

p.s. The best thing about being in shape isn’t the way I look, or the fact that I have more stamina. It’s that I don’t feel defeated anymore. You know that feeling when you should be doing something that you’re not doing, and the only reason your not doing it is that you’re not disciplined enough? That feeling is gone! And it’s fantastic to look in the mirror and not feel defeated. I feel exactly the opposite.And I highly recommend it!

Next challenge? Writing. I know I should do it. I’m supposed to do it. I feel defeated because I’m not doing it. I just need to be more disciplined and DO IT! Is there a p90x for writing? or prayer?

Ya. I should invent that.

~M

 

 

 

 

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