7 Rebuilding Lessons I Learned from a Crash

crash siteHave you attempted to change your life before?

Is change easier if it’s voluntary, or if there is no choice in the matter?

In the summer of my senior year in college, I discovered the answer.  An oncoming car crested a hill in my lane. It struck my small car head-on with such force that we spun backwards down the hill.

The impact slammed my face into the steering wheel, opening a gash from eye to lip which partially severed and displaced my nose. The trauma left me disfigured with memory and speech problems, and recurring seizures, over the next few years.

Against medical advice, I returned to school. Initially, I rejected any suggestion that I might have limitations. As a consequence, I exhausted myself trying to do things in the regular way. Rather than adapting, I prolonged my suffering.

To be honest, I did not travel the long road to recovery well. Sheer stubbornness propelled me through law school. Yet, perhaps in spite of myself, I discovered tools which, along with my faith, sustain me to this day.

I share this in the hope that the insight gleaned from this experience might be of assistance to someone struggling to reshape his or her life.  It is as follows:

1.  Do not wait for a “crash” to make needed changes. Voluntary reboot is preferable to involuntary rebuild.

2.  Set aside pride and stubbornness. Ask for help. Healing and change are hard.

3.  Regardless of your circumstances, decide to be thankful. Find ways to “pass it on”.

4.  Assess your circumstances as objectively as possible. Then, make the most of your resources and opportunities.  Let go of what has been “lost”, and begin to realize that which has been gained.

5.  Refuse to compare yourself to others or to a previous or idealized conception of yourself.

6.  Embrace creativity.  Amazing things can be accomplished in unconventional ways.

7.  Keep your focus on your priorities, and never ever give up.

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

The Secret to Growing Margin

tray 1To be good at life is to have good relationships.  What is life if not our connection to the people we get to know and love?

But, in order to live a life of generosity and connection, we must first take an honest look at ourselves.  We must also understand, in very practical terms, what it takes to have something left at the end of the day to share with others.

We believe the key to unlocking this God given potential is margin.

In his book, Margin, author Richard Swenson says, “Margin is the space between our load and our limits and is related to our reserves and resilience.  It is a buffer, a leeway, a gap;  the place we go to heal, to relate, to reflect, to recharge our batteries, to focus on the things that matter most.”

Many of us struggle with having too little margin in our lives.  We feel it.  We live it.  It is painful.  Too little time, energy, and money, to properly care for others.  But feeling it and understanding why we continue to experience it, are too very different things.

We believe many of us lack margin primarily because we have too little financial margin.

Forgive the simple analogy which follows, but it might help to visualize how decisions are often made and the consequences that follow.

For a moment, imagine a garden in the desert.

Margin’s Garden

Margin’s Garden is made up of three plots. Each plot represents a monthly to-do list.  We shall call them our to-do plots.  The plots are arranged in order of priority.

The First Plot is the MUST to-do’s plot.  These to-do’s must be completed by a given date each month without fail.  These to-do’s include paying the mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc.  This plot is full.

The Second Plot is the NEED to-do’s plot.  These to-do’s are important, but do not have a specific performance date.  These to-do’s include items such as fixing the lawn mower, replacing the roof, updating our skills, etc.  This plot is half full.

The Third Plot is the WANT to-do’s plot. These to-do’s are the things we want to do some day when we have more money, more time, more energy, and more emotional reserves.  These to-do’s include spending time with family, improving our fitness, engaging in philanthropic activities,  etc.  This plot has one or two flowers trying to bloom which are surrounded by a bunch of dead weeds.

THE INCOME WELL

Stationed a little way out in the desert is an income well.  Our garden requires income water to live.  To water our garden, we go to the well once per month, drop the bucket in, fill it up and haul it over to our garden.  Such hauling requires most of our energy.

THE PROBLEM

The problem is that one full bucket only has enough water for a plot the size of the first plot.  How can we sustain all three plots?

As the MUST to-do’s plot requires the entire income bucket, we are frustrated because we have no water left for plot #2, much less plot #3, without taking water from the MUST to-do’s plot.

So we work longer and harder.  We now carry a bigger and heavier bucket which holds more water so we can water the other plots.  But once we have a larger income bucket, we feel obliged to plant more expensive and water intensive crops  in the first plot. The extra water we had hoped to apply to plots #2 and #3 is much reduced.  What are we to do?

THE SOLUTION

While it may seem simple,  most of us struggle with the solution – to reduce the water requirements of the first plot which holds our MUST to-do’s.  Yet, if we refuse to do so, we will never have enough water to properly care for the other plots.

The garden represents the tension between our resources and our expenditures. Creating financial margin involves taking action to create a buffer between the two. According to Swenson, there are three ways to increase financial margin.

We can:

1)  Decrease Spending

2)  Increase Income

3)  Increase Savings

Unfortunately, the second two measures, Increasing Income and Increasing Savings, are generally ineffective over the long run because increasing  available resources often prompts a corresponding increase in spending.  It fails to get to the heart of the matter.  While increasing savings is a good thing, it is much like filling up a back-up bucket.  Without addressing the underlying water requirements of the various plots, our savings will most likely get used up at some point as an emergency water infusion for the plots.

Here at Simple Life Reboot we believe the things in life which bring joy do not come with price tags. We must learn to live below our means, so we can be in a position to share more of our time, energy, and resources, with those whom we care about.

Grow margin – and watch your entire garden bloom!

 

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

How Do We “Flip the Switch” to Make the Change?

IMG_1003Have you experienced this?  One day you are relatively satisfied with a situation. Then,  something happens and you cannot make needed changes fast enough.

How can something be “okay” one moment, and then abruptly “not okay” the next?

For most of us, there is usually a triggering event which causes us to become acutely aware of a shortcoming.  After making the decision to change, our motivation shifts into high gear as we reach for what we now consider to be a necessity.

But what “flips our switch”?  What creates this internal discord and urgency? And perhaps more importantly, how do we keep that switch flipped on?

Recently that switch flipped for me with respect to my weight and fitness. In years past I had completed Ironman triathlons, but more recently,  I had drifted into a sedentary lifestyle.  At some imperceptible point,  I finally recognized my fitness level was unacceptable.

The decision to make a change was nothing less than thrilling.

Then, almost immediately, the high of making the decision to change gave way to the realization of the sustained commitment, time and effort, that would be required.  If only I could have bottled that initial excitement and clarity of purpose for repeated application over the months and years to come!

So, in an effort to stay the course, I devised an experiment of sorts. As part of Simple Life Reboot, I decided to videotape what I hope will be a transformational process. At points of discouragement, I will review the tape to remind myself of the progress I have made.  I may, if I become brave enough, post video of this journey.

Please join me on this journey.  Also, please share what measures you have found helpful over the years in keeping your motivational switch flipped on.

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

Mend the Broken Rest Cycle

1025081504aI remember when I was a child, pleading with mom or dad to let me stay up “late”.  On that rare occasion when I was allowed extra time to play or watch the tube, it was like I’d hit the jack pot!

What I discovered after leaving home was that a routine bed time was optional.  Who knew?  This attitude of “who needs sleep when there is fun to be had,” continued into my 30’s and 40’s.

Many of us have, in fact, perfected ways of distracting ourselves from getting enough rest at night.  Our in-home entertainment options have increased exponentially over the past decade with cable programs, computer games, text and email, and games on our handheld devices.  We go to bed only when our options become less interesting.  Establishing a routine for when to climb into bed does not even show up on our radar.

What many of us fail to realize is that getting less sleep over time can result in a number of surprising outcomes, none of which are positive.

A few of these possible outcomes include:

1)  Accidents – in the home, at work or while driving, drowsiness slows reaction times and mental capacity.  Operating our bodies under these conditions can lead to a simple mistake being made that can result in a life-altering accident.

2)  Health Problems – Sleep deprivation can put us at risk for things like heart disease, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.  When our solution for lack of energy during the day is additional consumption of sugar and caffeine, our health problems are compounded.

3)  Weight gain – In a study conducted  by the University of Colorado Boulder, in March 2013, getting less sleep leads to weight gain.  Having less energy during the day tricks our little brains into thinking food will solve the problem.

For years I would stay up too late, convincing myself I would simply deal with the fallout of being too tired during the course of the next day.  Maybe I would get up a few minutes later, or take an extra nap.  If I was really dragging, I was not above purchasing an energy drink to make it through.

But over the years I have learned the truth about bed time.  Living in a healthy manner compels us to impose upon ourselves the discipline our parents once did.  Drat!  It’s true.  We must on a regular basis deny ourselves that latest t.v. episode, tweeting out or gaming on our handheld device, so that during the course of the next day we can function at full capacity.

If you’ve been suffering from a lack of energy, mend your broken rest cycle.  Establish a regular bed time, and get the rest you need.

Those around you need and deserve the best you have to offer.

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

Why Practice Does Not Necessarily Make Perfect

705“What are you practicing?!!!”

I can still  hear my gymnastics coach decades later.

There is no grey area.  We are either practicing to improve, or we are practicing habits which lead to decline, if not danger. Missed or sloppy practices result in a fall.

What we fail to recognize is that the greatest “injury” comes not from the fall,  but rather from ingraining poor habits. Whether we realize it or not,  our practices are either moving us toward our priorities or are rendering us less healthy, connected, productive, etc.  We tend to become what we practice.

Why do we do this?  Perhaps we hold back in a futile attempt to protect ourselves from disappointment.   We know that whether it is in the world of gymnastics, business or relationships,  careful consistent training does not guaranty success.  Even the most talented hardworking gymnasts fall from time to time.

What we need to remember is that our practices develop our character.  Are we practicing to be a diligent  person who dares greatly?  Are we giving it our best effort even though we will fall from time to time?

Let’s reflect on how we practice… and when we fall, let’s dust ourselves off and try again.

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

 

 

 

Rethinking When the Workday Begins

Hawaii Nick 2009 018When does your day begin?  Until recent years I thought my day began after getting up in the morning.  But deeper analysis suggests we should begin to prepare for our day at night, by getting the proper rest.

According to Genesis, when God created time, He first created night and then day.

Night Before Day – Rest Before Work

It requires a mind shift, but if we think of the rest we get at night being the beginning of our day, we become more aware of the need to go to bed at an established time.

The Western concept of the work day has us working hard, then getting rest at night, or working hard all week toward a restful weekend, or working hard through the years until we eventually stop working (retirement).  Maybe it should be the other way around.  Maybe the emphasis should be on resting in order to work.

We like to think the reward is rest, but actually the reward is work.  After all, work feeds us, it clothes us, shelters us.  It keeps us motivated.  It supplies purpose and contentment.  Without it we are rudderless.

So, begin your day with rest, so you can enjoy the reward.

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com