Don't Settle for the Parade

I am convinced the biggest hurdle in life is in our mind. I’m not saying that we don’t all have other obstacles and/or challenges in our everyday life. I am saying that we must shift our mindset, grow our mindset, and develop our mindset, if we want to change our future. If we want to grow, if we want to move past the obstacles that have hindered us from reaching success in the past, if we want to change the trajectory of our life, we must learn to think differently.

Let me explain. I’m reminded of a story of a little boy named Tommy. Tommy was so excited when he learned the circus was coming to town. He loved the idea of the circus. It was just after WW II and he was an only child of parents who did not have anything to spare. Because of Tommy’s excitement, Tommy’s parents decided to stretch finances and scrape money together so he could go to see the circus.

Finally, the day came. Tommy got all of his chores done early and cleaned up to get ready to go. He planned to see all the circus offered - the ringmaster, performers, clowns, and animals - everything he had been dreaming of. As was tradition, the circus paraded through town on that first day and Tommy made sure he got there in time to line up near the edge of the parade route and watch as they walked by. Initially, he realized he could hear the band and then, to his great joy, he saw them coming - the ringmaster and elephants, the acrobats and lions. He had never experienced anything like it and certainly could not have imagined the grandeur and energy he was witnessing as the parade passed by.

At last, the parade finale approached with the troupe of clowns bringing the parade to a close. The clowns were the best part of the procession yet. As they brought up the rear of the circus parade, Tommy did something no one could have predicted. He walked up to one of the clowns and gave the clown his precious admission for the circus and went home. Tommy started out with a thrilling vision of what he thought would be the greatest day of his young life, but he settled for something far less.

What is the point people are missing? People miss the point when they have no purpose, no clear vision. They are being tossed by the waves of circumstances and situations they find themselves in. Sometimes good things happen and sometimes bad things happen. They make their way through life the same as millions of others so that, when they compare themselves to others, they can honestly say, “My life isn’t so bad; I’ve done OK.”

I have a different view. Tommy’s vision fell short. If he really wanted to see the circus in its fullness, he needed to buy a ticket and sit through the show. The show was planned well so that there would be surprise, amazing feats, thrills, and a high point he would remember for the rest of his life. But because his vision was not explored and developed, he really was content to only see the people and animals of the circus simply tumble, dance and walk past him in a parade.

Have there been times in your life when you were content with just the crumbs from the table, or the parade without the show? Our vision needs to be clear. It needs to birth passion and promote drive within us. It needs to call upon all of our talents and abilities to be achieved. If our vision is not driving us in this way, I don’t think it is true vision. We need to actively pursue those dreams that reside in us and we should never settle for less than those dreams. We need to find information, counsel, and mentors who can help us expand the imagination of our heart. Be transparent with those who can speak into your life. Invest time reading and listening to those who have gone before you. Try and fail and then try again. Investigate and stretch. The resulting dream could be right at the end of the parade and the beginning of a thrilling success.


What Is Real?

As you contemplate the habits you would like to form in your life and as you use the information in Make That, Break That to help you do it, I want you to pay close attention to the habits you choose to nurture. It takes time to develop a new habit and to make that habit a permanent and subconscious fixture in your behavior. For that reason, you should choose your habits wisely, because the habits you choose to form will reveal your true priorities in life.

Some people will want to develop habits designed to preserve their health. Others will develop habits that can advance their careers. Some will seek to nurture habits of financial advancement. And still others will form habits that can make their lives more organized and a little easier to manage. But when all is said and done, there are really only three things that matter in this life. As you grow older and as you begin to focus more intently on those things that matter most, you will begin to focus more on your relationship with God, your relationships with the people you love, and your relationship with the destiny God has given you to fulfill.

As the end of your life grows closer, you won’t care about the size of your house or all the “Employee of the Year” plaques that hang on your wall. You will only care about the things that matter most, because these are the “real” things in life, the things that will endure beyond your lifetime and truly count when you stand before God.

So as you consider the habits you would like to develop in your life, think on these things, because these are the things that really count. These are the things that can bring you true joy in this life and significance throughout eternity.


Manage It Well

Next to health, I don’t know any other area of life that causes people more concern than money. Solomon wrote in the Bible, “Money is the answer for everything” (Ecclesiastes 10:19, NIV). And what he meant by that statement is that money, properly handled, can solve many of the problems we experience in life. With an ample supply of money and with the wisdom to use it rightly, a person is more likely to be happy, healthy, and fulfilled. But with an insufficient supply of money, the problems of life are multiplied.

This is why it is so important for us to develop good financial habits in our lives. Some of us spend money emotionally. Others of us stay in debt because we have no ability to delay our own gratification. Still others fail to save or invest, because they do not understand the combined power of time and compound interest. And still others have no idea where their money goes. They make a lot, but they spend more than they make, and they have no idea how it disappears so quickly.

But while some people live beneath their full potential financially, others have nurtured habits that serve them well in this important aspect of life. These people have learned to respect money and to understand how it can work for them instead of against them if they will only practice those behaviors of earning and spending that have proven to be reliable over the centuries. So in Make That, Break That, I explore the benefits of developing good financial habits. Nothing can cause more stress in a family than a lack of money or the waste of it. But nothing can create more satisfaction than being able to live free from stress while enriching the lives of those you love through the wealth God has entrusted to you.


The Point of Order

Next to losing weight and exercising, the area of life where people seem to need the most help in developing better habits is in the area of organization. People know they are disorganized; they just don’t know what to do about it.

On any given day, a person will spend way too much time fixing the messes that his disorganization has caused and too little time doing the planning and organizing that could prevent these messes from happening. But since we were children, all of us have been conditioned to do things the same way other people do them, so we don’t have a good point of reference for creating more order in our lives.

This is why I suggest that people start small and try to bring order to just one tiny aspect of their lives. After that, they can do more to organize their lives and they can do it with the added inspiration that comes from seeing the results of their first efforts at organization. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.

Several women in my family have told me that they can’t decide what to wear in the mornings when they are getting ready for work. So they procrastinate and lose a lot of time by having no order to their mornings or their closets. But imagine what would happen if one of these women were to start hanging up her clothes immediately after getting home from work and start ironing the clothes that needed to be ironed so those clothes would be ready to wear the next time she wanted to wear them.

One tiny change can alter the whole landscape of your life. So perhaps you need some better habits of organization. And perhaps you need a little help from Make That, Break That so you can learn how to create new habits.


Embrace Vitality

In Make That, Break That, I explain the science behind habit formation and the tactics a person can employ to form good habits in his life. I then propose a 13-week plan for creating a new habit in one’s life. But after I offer this information—information that has worked for me in my own life—I share with the reader a long list of suggested habits that a person may want to adopt as he works to create a new habit every three months (four new habits per year). And believe it or not, the first suggestion that I make is for a person to consider nurturing one or more habits of rest.

I am a big proponent of rest. Don’t misunderstand me. I am a big proponent of hard work, too. But I find that most hard-working people have more trouble resting than working. And rest is vital for one’s health and happiness. It is vital for one’s relationships, too.

For this reason, I encourage everyone who reads my newest book to take a critical look at his (or her) life and evaluate the quality of the rest that he gets. Some people don’t sleep enough. Some people never allow their brains to shut down. Some people claim to love their wives and husbands, their children and friends, but they never spend any time with these people. They never curl up with the person they love to watch an old movie and eat popcorn. They never just sit around, looking at old photos and laughing with other people over old memories they share together. They never take a slow walk on the beach just to think or to remind themselves of the sheer grandeur of nature.

Learn to rest by developing habits of rest. God made you to rest and to replenish your energy for the battle ahead.


The Power of Programming

New habits are not the product of self-discipline or self-control. Determination and willpower do play a role in the initial stages of habit formation, but we humans are not built to operate under self-imposed duress for long periods of time. Eventually our bodies and brains will rebel against our efforts to force ourselves to do things we really don’t want to do.

This is why it is important for a person to use the short-term power of self-discipline to train his body and brain to perform a new behavior. Then, by the time his willpower expires, the new behavior will be permanently programmed into the subconscious parts of his brain. The behavior will become a fixed and automatic activity that is performed without thought or intent every time the circumstances demand it.

So to create a new habit, you must intentionally interrupt your old patterns of behavior and purposely inject a new behavior into your regimen of “automatic” activities. And to do this, you must tie your new behavior to something that is already automatic in your life. If you do, your brain will “absorb” the new behavior and prompt you to perform it regularly and without thought. But if you don’t tie your new behavior to habits you already possess, your brain won’t prompt you to perform the behavior routinely. Instead, you will have to discipline yourself to perform the behavior, and that approach won’t last very long.

In Make That, Break That, therefore, I teach the reader how to do this. And surprisingly, it isn’t that difficult. With a little bit of thought, a little bit of creativity, and a little bit of planning, you can develop a new habit of success every three months that can set you apart from the ordinary performers around you and set you on a path to achievement and personal fulfillment.


Make It Automatic

In Make That, Break That, I go into great detail to explain the components of human behavior that cause us to form our habits. I want the reader to understand the unseen dynamics of habit formation so he (or she) can purposely “hijack” these dynamics to form the good habits that he wants. To develop good habits, we must learn to use the same processes that our bodies and brains use every day. We must learn to use the tools that God gave us.

So in my book I teach the various steps that a person needs to follow in order to learn a new behavior over a 13-week period. And though I cannot go into detail in this limited space, I do want prospective readers of the book to know that the first step in habit formation is to strip down the new behavior to its most basic component.

For instance, if you want to develop a new habit in your life, your first goal is not to learn how to perform that behavior; your first goal is to simply learn to remember to perform that behavior. For that reason, you would want to start a new habit of exercising every morning by simply getting up and putting on your running shoes. That’s it! At first, you don’t want to do anything more than that. You want to teach your brain to remember the new behavior. You can expand the behavior after your brain gets “addicted” to the activity.

In my detailed explanations, I go through the whole process of how to make your desired behaviors permanent, automatic, and repetitive without forcing yourself to do things against your will every day. But I need you to know that habits are built slowly, and there’s a science behind the process. Make use of the science, and you will see results.

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