Grow or Die!

Grow or DieGrow or die! I like that. The growing part, not the dying part. I guess a nicer way to put it is: If you aren’t improving then you’re standing still. That’s what I’d like to talk about today.

Have you ever met someone who is merely coasting along in life? They have it pretty good. They have a car, a job, a place to live, food to eat and cable TV. What more is there to life?

Okay, I think we all know people like that. They are not moving anywhere in their life. Nothing has changed in their life for the last ten years. They haven’t done a thing to improve themselves or make this world a better place. Most of their time is spent in front of the TV watching sports or the news or, heaven forbid, reality shows! They spend two or three hours a day reading the newspaper from cover to cover only to throw it away the very next day because just about everything in it is worthless. Each day they go through the same process. Life is just a big circle going round and round headed for nowhere. Each day finds them not one bit better than the day before. Each day they contribute nothing to better the world they live in. They are content and satisfied with the status quo.

I think that’s very sad. Life is for LIVING!

There is a woman that I know who is in her eighties. Right now she’s enrolled in college and working on a degree. She’s continuing to improve herself to make herself better. I think what a contrast between her and most retired people. How would it be if all the retired people in the world continued until the day they died to improve themselves, to learn new skills and worked every day to make this world a better place? Many do and I admire those people and I want to be like them. I hope I die when I’m 105 working on my pilot’s license and not lying in bed at an old-folks home.

If a plant stops growing, what is it? It’s DEAD! What happens when you stop growing? I think you get the idea. There seems to be a lot of people in this world who have stopped living. They have just delayed the funeral. Don’t be one of them. My challenge to you today is to continue to improve yourself, to continue to move forward, to move higher, to keep growing.

Getting Yourself to Act: 3 Ways Commitments Give You Power

BurningShip

Are you having trouble getting yourself to act on your goals? Is your motivation, shall we say, pathetic? I was experiencing this recently until I did one thing: I made a commitment.

When I say I made a commitment, I don’t mean I made a decision. A decision is good but it lacks power. A commitment is something you do that is more tangible and real.

The commitment I made was to sign up for my 10th marathon. I spent the $80 and registered. Now I am committed.

Making that small commitment has had a great effect on my daily exercise program. I was having trouble getting out every morning to run or exercise. My motivation was anemic at best. I knew I needed something to motivate me to get out there every day. That’s when I decided to run another marathon. But that was just a decision. The commitment came when I actually put my non-refundable money where my mouth was.

I’m reminded of the story of General Cortez when he landed his armies in Mexico to fight the Aztecs. To insure victory, he ordered the burning of their ships so there would be no means of retreat. By burning the ships it gave the soldiers only two options: win the war or perish. Now that is what I call commitment!

There is great power in making commitments. Here are three ways commitments can help:

1. You have a goal to work towards.

When I was getting up each morning to simply go out running I had no real reason to do it. Sure, I wanted to be healthy but sometimes that’s not enough. When I committed to run a marathon it gave me a very clear-cut and definable goal to shoot for.

2. You will experience pain if you don’t follow through.

Let’s face it, we are all motivated to avoid pain. When I was trying to exercise each morning without a commitment, failure to do it wasn’t too painful. Now that I’ve made a commitment, failure to exercise each morning will result in a very painful failure, the pain and humiliation of not completing a marathon.

3. The decision is already made.

When you make a commitment, it locks you into a decision. There is no wondering for me each morning whether I should go running or not. The decision is made. (See article Decide to Decide).

My challenge for you is to examine your goals and find ways that you can make a real commitment to do them. Burn your ships, so to speak. Put your money where your mouth is. Commit!

Thank you.

Look Ahead and Never Look Back

lookahead

I’m actually running on a trail right now as I tape-record my thoughts. It’s interesting that while you’re running along a trail you’re brain has the ability to look ahead and then plan where to place each foot. This seems to happen as an automatic function of the brain. I look ahead on the trail and take in what’s coming, whether it’s a rock or a stump or a curve in the trail. My brain processes that information and tells my body where to place my feet. I don’t have to think about every footstep. It’s an amazing process to me of how, by looking ahead, I know where to put my feet on the trail.

Yes, I’ve slipped up a couple of times and made some mistakes. It usually happens when I take my eyes off the trail and look in some other direction. My brain had insufficient information to tell my feet where to go; therefore I stumble and sometimes fall.

Can we relate this to life? I think so. We can’t just concentrate on what we are doing at the moment. We need to look ahead in our lives and see what’s coming and plan for it so when the time comes we’re ready. We need to process the information ahead of time so when the time comes we already know where to put our feet. The idea or concept is that of making future plans.

I like the idea and have seen benefits of sitting down on Monday morning and looking at my whole week, seeing what’s going on each day and thinking about it and planning ahead. If I see a presentation coming up on Thursday I know I can’t start on that presentation on Thursday. I’ve got to begin preparing and working on it ahead of time.

In this way I think trail running is like life. We need to look ahead and plan in advance in order for our feet to be planted properly in the here and now. You’re todays will go much better when you look ahead at your tomorrows.

Staying Up Late – Is It Worth It?

Sleep Depravation

Is it worth it? I heard that question this morning. If was from my wife Lisa. She knows me too well. Let me back up a bit. I was in the bathroom shaving this morning when my wife walked in. Her greeting wasn’t, “Good morning dear, how did you sleep?” It was, “Soooo…you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning. You know what that does to you. Is it worth it?” I didn’t give her an answer. I didn’t have a good one to give.

I have a character flaw. It is not knowing when to quit a project and go to bed. I was working on some articles last night and before I knew it, it was nearly 2:00 a.m. Lisa had long since gone to bed and was sound asleep. When I crawled into bed she didn’t wake up or roll over or even move a muscle. I thought I was safe and she would never know how late I went to bed. How she knew what time I went to bed is a mystery to me. It’s one of those mysteries of women that men can’t figure out.

So she had me. She asked me if it was worth it because she knows from past experience the price I usually pay for staying up late.

Is it worth it?

Before I can determine if it’s worth it I need to find out why I stay up late, what the benefits are, and what price I end up paying for those benefits. Then I can determine if the benefits are worth the price I pay.

Why do I stay up late?

For different people there are different reasons why they stay up late. If you have this problem then you know what your reasons are. Perhaps you stay up late watching television. Or maybe you love to read. Maybe its endless video games or surfing the internet or chatting with babes online. You know what your reasons are.

For me it usually involves a project I want to get done. Because my days are so full I feel that the only time I have is late at night. I see I have an hour before my normal time to go to bed and I’ll think, “Great, I’ve got a whole hour. I can get an article written in that amount of time. So I’ll begin working on my project. Invariably whatever I’m working on takes much longer than I expected. I grossly underestimate the time it will take.

The next thing that happens is I’ll look at the clock and think, “Well, I’ll just work until eleven.” Before I know it it’s midnight and I still haven’t got my project done. But by now my ideas are flowing. I’m making progress. I’ve got my momentum going. So I think, “I can’t quit now! I can’t stop my flow of ideas and thoughts just as they are getting going!”

It’s so hard for me to stop a project right in the middle. I feel compelled to get it done. I hate loose ends. So I keep going.

By now I’m thinking, “Gee, it’s already so late. I’ve already blown it. I may as well just keep going.” So I keep working until the project is done.

And that, my friend, is how I ended up working until two in the morning!

What are the benefits of staying up late?

So I have to ask myself: What benefits do I gain by staying up late?

  1. Of course the main benefit is actually getting something done.
  2. Probably the next biggest benefit in my mind is TIME. Time for me seems to be in short supply, so whenever I can find a block of time I grab it.
  3. The next benefit would be that the time is uninterrupted time. Not too many people bother you at that time of night. Nobody schedules meetings. No one calls you. You are free from distractions. So having a block of uninterrupted time is a great benefit.
  4. Another benefit is going to bed with the feeling of accomplishment, of having finished a project.

What is the price I pay for staying up late?

Let’s now take a moment and examine what I am paying for those benefits. What are the real costs to me? As I have thought about what it costs me I have come to realize that there is a huge domino effect that comes into play. One thing seems to lead to another. Let me explain.

  • The first domino to fall is that I feel extremely tired in the morning and it lasts throughout the day.
  • The next domino is that I feel lousy. In addition to being exhausted and tired, I usually have a headache because of lack of sleep. Many times that headache will develop into a full-blown migraine and then for sure my day is wasted.
  • The next domino to fall is my inability to get up on time. Because I feel so tired I can’t get up at my regular time.
  • The next price I pay is getting that “look” from my wife when she says, “So, you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning.” I could see the look of disappointment on her face because she knows what it costs me when I stay up too late. So the real cost is the erosion of my relationship with my wife.
  • The next cost is being behind schedule. Because I didn’t get up on time it messes up my schedule for the whole day.
  • Because I’m behind schedule the next price I pay is not being able to exercise in the morning.
  • Next is the cost of not being able to do my daily personal study session. Every morning I try to study and ponder good books. I can’t do that when I have no time.
  • Another big cost is not having time to plan my day.
  • Because my day isn’t planned then I fail to accomplish important tasks that I should have gotten done.
  • The next big price I pay is more stress in my life. Because I’m behind schedule I find myself in a big rush and my stress level rises.
  • Because I’m stressed then I’m in a bad mood.
  • What puts me into a worse mood is having no time to eat breakfast, one of the most important meals of the day. So in addition to feeling lousy and tired and having a headache, I’m also hungry.
  • Then I get to work late. Here I come strolling into work 45 minutes or an hour late. How does that look to my boss, my subordinates and the employees I manage in my department? Not good. Big price.
  • When I eventually do get to work my productivity and my ability to think clearly is affected because I’m so drained.
  • The overall affect continues throughout the day. Because I got to work late in the morning that means I have to stay late to be fair to my employer.
  • Because I had to work late then I get home late. The price I pay is getting, for second time of the day, that “look” from my wife when I walk in the door. She doesn’t have to say anything – I can see the disappointment in her eyes.
  • Because I’m late getting home I miss having dinner with my family.
  • If I have meetings or commitments in the evening then I either have to gobble down my dinner or miss dinner altogether because I don’t have time.
  • The tendency to fail in other areas of my life. When I’m tired and hungry and angry and discouraged and stressed and depressed then I’m more susceptible to failing in other areas where I have made commitments. Failure loves company.
  • Finally, the last domino to fall is the cost of having an overall feeling of frustration and disappointment with myself. My self-esteem takes a big hit.

As you can see the dominos keep falling, one after the other. Its amazing how one little decision the night before affects the entire next day.

Is it worth it?

After weighing the benefits with the costs, it becomes clear that it’s a huge price you pay for that 2 or 3 hours that you think you are gaining by staying up late.

What is the solution?

Well, duh! The solution is to stop staying up late – right? Easier said than done. Here are some ideas to help in mastering this part of your life.

First: You have to make a serious commitment with yourself that you are not going to stay up late any more for any reason.

Second: You have to have a deadline for going to bed. This means you need to decide what time you will be in bed with your head on the pillow and your lights out.

Third: You have to determine how long it takes you to get ready for bed so you know what time you need to begin going to bed. It takes time to brush your teeth, change into your pajamas and whatever else you do before going to bed. If your goal is to be in bed by 11:00 p.m. and it takes you a half-hour to get ready for bed then you need to begin by 10:30 p.m.

Fourth: You need to think ahead and make sure you don’t start anything you can’t finish or end by 10:30 p.m. You can’t be going to a movie at 9:30 at night because you know a movie is roughly two hours and it takes time to get there and time to get home and you’ll never make it.

Okay, so I’ve laid out a very convincing argument against staying up late. I’ve shown that the costs far outweigh any benefits that might be gained. I’ve also laid out a simple plan to change this habit. And I’ve done it all for your benefit. But really, that would be a lie. You see, this really is a challenge to myself to master this area of my life. It’s something I’ve known for a long time that I needed to change.

So, beginning today, I am going to follow this plan and report back to you how I’m doing. Thanks for listening in as I have attempted to convince myself of all the reasons to change. Wish me luck on this challenge.

Do What You Know

farmer I once heard a story about a farmer who had been farming for many years. He had a son who went off to college and after a few years came home with a degree in hand, and a head full of knowledge. He told his father, “You know, Dad, this farm would be much more productive if you would use the new methods of farming. These days everyone is using hybrid strains of seeds. There are better methods of crop rotation and contour plowing. Plus you really should be using up-to-date insecticides and fertilizers. And did you know most farmers are milking their cows three times a day instead of two.” He went on and on expounding the virtues of all the modern methods of farming. Finally his father said, “Now just hold on there son! I’m not farming half as well as I know how already!”

Isn’t that the way we are? We seldom perform as well as we know how. I’ve heard people say that “knowledge is power.” To a certain degree it can be. But in my own personal experience I find that I know a lot of things that I should be doing but I don’t. Just having knowledge about something doesn’t necessarily translate to the ability or power to do it.

Many times over the years I would tell my children to do their homework. Invariably they would answer back, “I know dad!” and I would say back to them, “Then do what you know!” It’s kind of a joke around my house because I have said that phrase so many times to my children: Do what you know.

How many self-improvement books have you read over your life time? I have hundreds of them! We probably learn ten-times more than what we ever put into action in our lives. Yet we keep buying books and wanting to learn more.

At some point it’s time to stop learning and start doing. We need to put our knowledge to use. I’m not suggesting we completely stop learning but what good is learning if we never use it?

Here is my suggestion: How about making a list of all the things you know you should do but aren’t. Then from your list choose two or three things and start doing them! You can read books, read blogs and listen to tapes and CDs till the cows come home but until you actually do something you are going nowhere. It’s time to take real action! At the end of the day, knowing the answer means nothing if you don’t do anything about it.

Decide to Decide

Fork in the Road

Fork in the road

What if there was a key behavior that if you could master, would save you untold pain, worry, effort and time? What if this behavior could make your efforts to achieve total self-mastery ten times easier? Today I’m going to teach you a simple concept that seems to elude most people, yet is so simple.

One thing you share in common with nearly every one else is that your day is full of decisions. Dozens of times a day you are faced with a fork in the road and must decide which way to go. Humans are naturally lazy creatures so when you are faced with two choices you tend to gravitate toward the easiest path. Why choose the long, hard road when you can take the short, easy one? Or why do something when you just don’t feel like it? As you stand there at the fork in the road and evaluate the situation, the pull to the easy road becomes powerfully strong. More often than not, if you are like the average person, you are sucked into the easy road.

The problem here is that the easy road is not always the best road to follow in the long run. In our minds we know which road is the best road but somehow we end up going the wrong way. What I am explaining here is the answer to a long held question. It is:

“Why do we do what we do when we know what we know?”

In other words, why do people do things they know aren’t good for them? The answer is because we are making our decisions at the wrong time. We are making our decisions when we are standing at the fork in the road.

Let me give you an example. If every morning you make the decision of whether to get up or not at the time your alarm clock goes off, you are making that decision at the fork in the road. In your mind you are deliberating, “Should I get up? Should I sleep for ten more minutes? I’m so tired! Just a few more minutes of sleep.” And back to bed you go.

Do you see the problem here? The time to make the decision of when to get up in the morning is not at 6:00 in the morning!

“Right decisions are easiest to make when we make them well in advance, having ultimate objectives in mind; this saves a lot of anguish at the fork, when we’re tired and sorely tempted.” – Spencer W. Kimball

There are dozens of decisions we face every day that should already have been decided long ago. We shouldn’t have to agonize and re-decide the same decisions a hundred times! Many of these decisions only need to be made once. This statement by William James describes it so well:

“There is no more miserable person than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work are subjects of deliberation. Half the time of such a man goes to deciding or regretting matters which ought to be so ingrained in him as practically not to exist for his consciousness at all.” — William James

The whole point we are trying to make is to determine early on what things you will and will not do and be done with it. Look at your long-term objectives and make the decisions now that will lead you in that direction. You only need to make those decisions once.

For example, my wife made the decision long ago that she will go out running every morning, no matter what. There is no deciding each morning as to whether she is going running or not. That decision has already been made. There is no painful deliberation and analyzing that takes place. It is as automatic for her as the rising of the sun each day.

Now I want you to think about the decisions you make on a daily basis. Aren’t there a number of them you could make once and for all and be done with them? Aren’t there decisions about what you will eat or not eat, decisions about exercising, decisions about daily habits, decisions about all kinds of things that you can make once and forever be done with them?

I challenge you to consciously examine your life and make this one key behavior change. Examine each fork in the road you come across on a daily basis and see which ones you can decide once and for all. You will be so much further along the road to self-mastery.

“We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.” — Aneurin Bevan

What are your thoughts about making decisions once and for all? What are the ones you have the biggest challenges with? Have you found ways to make this process easier? Please share with us in the comments below.

Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson