WHERE WILL YOU SPEND YOUR’S THIS COMING YEAR?
As we move into the New Year, there is a lot to keep in mind. One thing that will help us all is if we can remember that “Perfect is the Enemy of Good.”
As a recovering perfectionist, I have to keep remembering this. Whether I am cleaning my house, doing a project, or writing an article; there is a point where I must say, “It is good enough.” If I keep striving to make it perfect, I am only going to be spinning my wheels and wasting my time.
I began to learn this lesson when my oldest son was a toddler. I would clean the house, look around and think, “Everything looks so good, it is perfect.” That would last about five minutes. He would drag his toys into the living room, spread them out and begin to play. My perfect home was no more. At some point, he would be done with those toys; we would pick them up, put them away and he would drag out some more. All day long this would go on, and only at night, when all the toys were put away and he was in bed sleeping, did my house look “perfect” again.
I then had another child. The cycle continued and I continued to be stressed on the inside because my “house wasn’t perfect.” Looking back, I can see that I should have just relaxed and enjoyed the fact that my children were having fun. That was really a good thing; my children had a good childhood and enjoyed their home. If I would have learned the lesson then, I could have saved myself years of stress.
You see, when you are a perfectionist, you look at life through a lens that casts a negative light on everything you see. That critical eye can find something that is not quite right in every situation. It can rob you of your happiness because as you look around, you see the things that take away from the perfection in every situation.
The truth is, life is not perfect, nothing really is. The new car is only perfect until you drive it off the lot and a rock puts a ding in the paint. That new home is only perfect until you move into it and someone spills coffee on the rug. The new husband or wife is only perfect until you start living with them. Instead of seeing things through the lens of perfection, we need to see things through a lens that sees the good in every situation.
As we move into the New Year, I wish you one that is good – not perfect!
When you think about your life, do you focus on the negative facts about it? Were you raised in poverty? Did your mother or father leave your family? Have you lost a business, an election or had to declare bankruptcy? Did you not have much of a formal education? Do you suffer from a physical or mental disability? Do you focus on these facts and believe that they are the sum total of who you are?
I just want you to know that the negative things that have happened to you do not define who you are. They are NOT the sum total of who you are. In other words the facts about your life are not equal to the truth of who you really are. Those negative things are just a part of the story of your life, they are not the totality of who you are. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at a few examples:
This man was born into poverty. He had about eighteen months of formal schooling. He failed at his first business. He lost eight times he ran for public office. He was estranged from his father. He battled depression for most of his adult life. Who was he? Abraham Lincoln. We all know that he was not the sum total of the negative facts about him and he made one of the greatest contributions to the history of our country.
This man was born into poverty. His parents were on the run from the authorities for the first few years of his life. He lived as an immigrant in a foreign country during those years. He worked as a skilled laborer. The last few years of his life, he lived as a transient. Who was he? Jesus. I don’t need to tell you the contribution he made to the planet.
Just remember one thing: THE FACTS DON’T EQUAL THE TRUTH.
The truth of who you are is so much greater than any negative facts about you. Everyone has negative things happen to them. It is only part of the story of their lives. The truth about each one of us is far greater than any negative aspect about us. If we want to be productive people, we need to focus on the positive things in our lives and not focus on the negative things that have happened to us. When we do this, we can live our lives knowing that the facts about us don’t equal the truth of who we really are!image by geralt. courtesy of Pixabay
In my last post, I talked about finding our gifts and talents. So what happens when we do know what our gifts and talents are? Can we just move forward and find a path that will help us express them and use them for the benefit of others? Sometimes the way is clear, but at other times it is blocked, and many times we are the one’s blocking it. How do we block our own path forward? Through Self-Disqualification.
What is Self-Disqualification? It is where we tell ourselves we cannot move in a certain direction because we either do not have the resources, qualifications, or we believe our past has disqualified us. Let’s look at each reason and let’s take them in reverse order.
Our Past: We disqualify ourselves and keep ourselves from moving forward because we have made some mistakes in our past. We tell ourselves, “Surely God cannot use someone like me.” This is the height of self-negation and it does not take into account the grace and mercy of God: the God of Second Chances. Let’s look at a few examples of people God used in spite of their mistakes: Moses killed a man and fled the country he was living in. God called him to become the leader of his people and help bring them out of slavery. Joseph spent considerable time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Pharaoh took him from prison and made him the second in command in Egypt. David committed adultery and had the woman’s husband killed when he found out the woman was pregnant. God used these men in spite of the mistakes they had made or the places they found themselves. If he could use them, he can surely use us.
Our Qualifications: It is true that many times we don’t at the moment have the qualifications to do the job we aspire to do. That said, it will take some time and effort to find the right school, internship, or training we need. Remember, no one is born qualified. Each of us must find a way to get qualified if we want to pursue a certain career path or area of giftedness.
The Resources: Granted we all need some resources to move forward. We may need a grant, scholarship or loan in order to get more training. We many need money for transportation if we want to volunteer somewhere and get our training that way. We all need something. But here’s the deal, each of us has something we can use to begin right where we are. How do I know this? Let’s look at one of the examples I used earlier. When God called Moses, he was living on the backside of the desert herding sheep. Moses gave God all these reasons why he couldn’t do what he was being asked to do. Finally, God said to him, “What do you have in your hand?” Moses told him it was a rod. God then had him use what he had in his hand to help him accomplish the task he was given.
So I would say to you? What do you have in your hand that you can use to get started on your journey? Is it a pen, pencil, artist’s pad, mop, broom, vacuum or laptop? Is it a mower, rake, shovel, steering wheel or cell phone? We all have something right where we are that can help us get started in the direction we need to go. So let’s take what we have, where we are and get started. The journey will be exciting. We don’t know where it will lead and who we will meet along the way. But sure as can be, we will never get there if we don’t take that first step!
We have all heard of Rene’ Descartes famous saying, “Cogito Ergo Sum,” meaning, “I think, therefore, I am.” Is it true? I don’t know; should we talk to the goldfish in my aquarium? He exists and I don’t believe he thinks. If he did, he would jump out of there in a heartbeat. After all, he will spend his entire life in a very small confined space. If he could think, he would either be on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. He would most certainly need to be treated for a severe case of claustrophobia. Not to worry though…he’s happy. He probably lives responding to his innate biological needs and instincts.
One thing we do know for sure is that we think and we exist. Are our thoughts important or are they just ethereal things that fly through our brains randomly? Jesus said, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” So what does that mean? I think it means that the things we spend our time thinking about become a part of who we are. If we spend our time thinking about positive things, we will become a more positive person. The same goes for the negative. If we dwell on hateful, negative thoughts, we will also become more of that kind of person. We do have a choice about what kinds of things we think about and dwell on.
Do we always have a choice about what comes into our brains initially? No, not always. We may be driving down the street and see a billboard with a negative sentiment or image. A thought will come into our mind about that image or sentiment. What do we do with that thought? We can choose to think about it or we can refuse to. We have to learn to be intentional about the things we think about. Scripture says that we are to “Take every thought captive.” Kay Arthur said it another way: “Frisk every thought at the door!”
How do we do that? Simple, we replace it with another thought. We say to ourselves, “No, I don’t want to think on that, I will think on this.” We then choose to think about something positive or different than that image or thought. It takes practice and discipline to stop the negative and move to the positive. Does it really work?
Yes, it happens to me every day. I may be doing something and a random thought will come into my mind. Let’s say it is something negative about someone. I can choose to dwell on it or I can say to myself, “No, I choose to think differently about that person.” I then think about them in a different way and then I move on. I don’t want to harbor a negative image about anyone in my brain. There must be something good about them I can think about if I have to think about them at all. Sometimes, I will think on a Scripture verse that helps me put my mind back into a more positive mode.
Will it make a difference in our lives? I think so. I know two people who have dementia. One was a positive person during the course of her life and the other was negative. Now that they don’t have their faculties the way they used to, the basic thought patterns that they have developed during their lives have taken over. The positive person is cheery although she doesn’t remember much, and the other is as negative as she always was. It is sad to listen to her talk; she views everything from a negative perspective. They are examples that our thought choices really do matter.
What if we have chosen the negative most of our lives? Can we reprogram our brains? Yes, it is never too late. Our brain is a living entity and we can begin to be intentional about what we think about. If you need something concrete to help you get started, I would recommend a book I read a while ago, “Switch On Your Brain,” by Dr. Caroline Leaf. It talks about “The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health.” She has a 21 day Brain Detox Plan to help people reprogram their minds from the negative and help them get their brains on a more positive track. She has worked with the very young and very old and has seen success in both groups. I enjoyed reading her book and appreciated the scientific backdrop for her work.
What about you? Have you found a way to be intentional about your thought life or are you letting thoughts take root in your brain that are harming you? Cogito Bonum or Cogito Malum: Think on the good or Think on the Bad. It’s your choice!