My brother, Dr. Clement Ogunyemi, and I are excited to announce our most recent partnership with the Good Dads nonprofit organization in Springfield, MO! Good Dads has dedicated the entire year to men’s mental health, so we are elated to be a part of these efforts at such a pivotal time.
The Men’s Mental Health interview.
Clement and I were both extremely transparent during this conversation-style interview. In less than 25 minutes, we discussed depression, counseling, family, self-esteem, and more! Our hope is that we can encourage and inspire other men to free themselves from societal norms, and seek the help they need to focus on their mental health and become stronger. Why? Because you have to focus on personal development before you can pour into anyone else. That was the focal point of the entire interview–self care.
The Men’s Mental Health blog.
You will hear us reference a book throughout the interview. Well, that book is none other than the “Three Day Mental Health Guide: Major Payne Edition. A leader’s journey to building mentally strong children.” We created this journal-style eBook to help parents, teachers, and mentors lead their children on a positive mental health journey. This guide is completely free to download and has been shared all over the world! You can download your own copy below.
Good Dads was gracious enough to share “Day 1” of our guide. Day 1 helps leaders introduce the “mental health” topic. Mental health should no longer be a taboo topic–especially with men. We must continue to be open about our mental health journey and prioritize mental resiliency the way we prioritize physical resiliency.
I would be remiss if I didn’t provide more information about the organization behind these noteworthy initiatives. Here is a short blurb about what Good Dads is. Find out more about this great nonprofit organization–to include how to donate– by visiting https://www.gooddads.com/about-us!
Good Dads is the only organization in Southern Missouri focused on helping all dads be more engaged with their children. It began when business leaders in Springfield, Missouri recognized the impact of father absence on child well-being and came together for the purpose of supporting father engagement.
Good Dads is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that aims to encourage fathers by providing inspiration, resources and events to help dads be the best they can be.
Today, I am inspired to write after finishing yet another great workout! However, I also realized this is my 100th post! 🥳🎉 I started this blog unsure what to write about, so it is unreal to know I have already published so many articles. Guess I had a lot to talk about after all lol. There are numerous topics I can discuss on this one hundredth post, but there is one topic that has been on my mind throughout the week: how do we achieve the goals we set for the new year?
Many of us view the new year as a refresh and an opportunity to set and pursue new goals. Some of us use the new year to reset and recommit to pre-existing personal and professional goals. Either way, many of us are in fresh pursuit of our goals! However, if you’re anything like me, some of those goals are daunting and overwhelming to even think about. If that’s you, I want to quickly encourage you to adopt and apply the “one day, one rep” methodology.
How do you achieve your goals this year? One day, one rep at a time.
Where does “one day, one rep” come from?
I spend a fair amount of time in the gym–around 10 hours per week. As such, it has become a lifestyle, hobby, and necessity for me. Seriously, my entire week is discombobulated if I miss one day 😬. Because it has become habitual, there are times that my workout routine can become monotonous and unexciting and my “gains” stagnate. For that reason, I am constantly tweaking my workout routine to meet new strength and/or physique goals.
Without fail, I find myself flexing in the mirror after every workout–including the first day. Of course there’s no noticeable change. Yet, I wake up early the next day and execute my workout routine even more diligently than the day before. I usually start to see and feel minor changes after a couple of weeks. Many inspirational leaders would simply say that you should use those minor changes as motivation to continue exercising day after day. The issue is the change you see and feel will be so minor that you may feel discouraged–especially when the soreness lingers. That discouragement makes it harder and harder to muster up the strength and motivation to exercise the next day, and your goals stagnate.
That’s where my one day, one rep methodology comes in handy.
When I flex in the mirror, I flex to measure my progress and dream, not to simply motivate myself. My motivation is based upon how challenging the workout is each day. For example, I focus on the rhythm of each stride when I’m doing wind sprints for my cardiovascular workout. Another example is I focus on how my targeted muscle group contracts on each repetition while I’m lifting weights. Overall, I recognize that the rhythm of my stride and the contractions are what will cause me to reach my ultimate goals.
I know some of you are already wondering, “What does this have to do with setting and achieving my goals in 2023?!” If you’ve been following my platform for any length of time, you know that’s exactly where I’m going next!
How does the one day, one rep methodology apply to you accomplishing your goals in 2023?
This mentality applies whether you want to build muscle, become more patient, get a promotion, find a new job, or any other goal! Here’s how to to apply it.:
The phases for setting and achieving goals!
I am going to introduce an easy-to-remember (and slightly cheesy) acronym to discuss the phases of setting and achieving goals. I will place more emphasis on the execution phase. You ready?
Have a clear vision of what achieving your goal looks like. Maybe that means identifying someone who has been where you are trying to go, reading books, watching movies, reading articles, or doing whatever it takes to boost your imagination. You have to clearly see future you after accomplishing whatever goal you set! I’m encouraging you to dream in such high definition that you can physically feel yourself in that future moment. Sounds crazy right? Not really. That’s one reason I stare in the mirror after each workout; I am picturing what “success” looks like and I encourage you to do the same.
Brain dump every aspect of your dream! This is why the clarity and high definition vision are important. Focus on what you see in your vision, not how you are going to achieve it. We will address the latter soon. Imagine you’re an artist painting the world around you. Don’t worry about structure or a template during this phase. The purpose of this phase is to simply write out every single aspect of your dream. Try not to omit a single detail.
Honestly, this phase can be both fun and overwhelming. For me, the offload phase can create a range of emotions because I get really excited, then overwhelmed when I start to cheat forward to the plan phase, then I get excited again once I realize I don’t have to worry about “how” yet. Writing down your dream or vision in detail is a crucial step, so do your best to stay focused and inspired by your dream!
This is the first time you have to apply the reality of your expertise and resources to your dream. Sometimes, it can be the most discouraging phase as you feel like you have to completely erase portions of the dream you offloaded in the last step. Before you do that, slow down. You may not have the knowledge or expertise, but there is someone out there who does. Be creative as you add structure to the dream you offloaded.
Before I begin planning, I like to highlight four “legs” or critical aspects of each dream. Similar to a chair, without all four legs being equally balanced, the overall goal will rock and eventually fall. Each of these “legs” are similar to the “mini-goals” I described in “You CAN Make it Through These Dark Times! PART 2- How to Conquer Adversity, Anxiety, and Toxic thoughts.” The difference is these legs aren’t necessarily sequential, but they are required to achieve your overall goal. For example, if my goal is to lose weight and build muscle, the four legs I would identify are diet, cardiovascular workouts, strength training, and rest. Then, I would go through the first three phases (Dream, Offload, and Plan) for all four of those legs.
The next step is to conduct research on how to accomplish each of the legs. Here are the eight questions I want you to answer for each leg.:
What does achievement or success look like in the end?
Are you in the right physical, spiritual, and mental position to accomplish this goal?
Why do you want to accomplish this goal?
How does this goal align to your overall purpose?
Who is involved?
Who needs to be involved?
What sequential steps do you need to take?
How long will it take to complete?
You know the “aha!” feeling you get when you’re watching a movie and one of the characters says the title? Well, we’ve made it to the last phase–the execution phase–and it’s time to reveal the title!
Make every rep count!
Many of us naturally feel refreshed and rejuvenated by the idea of getting a fresh start each day. Build upon that momentum! Wake up every morning and affirm this:
Today is a new day and a fresh opportunity to achieve my goals! Yesterday is gone; I won’t dwell on my mistakes, but I will build upon my momentum. Tomorrow’s challenges remain unknown, so I will live in the moment to set myself up for success tomorrow. I will make every rep count today!
That’s exactly how I want you to prep your mind every morning. You should execute a small portion of your plan each day if your goal is important to you. Those small actions (“reps”) accumulate over time and result in you achieving your goals. That means you must be laser-focused and apply all your energy into each rep.
Coach Waldron, my high school basketball coach, would always say something that has stuck with me over the years, “the next game on our schedule is the most important game of the year.” That means that no matter how talented or unskilled the next team was, we would have to recalibrate our minds and focus our efforts on solely preparing for the next team. I apply this same logic to accomplishing my goals. We have to be laser focused on completing the current reps regardless of how challenging the future may appear to be.
Trust the process. Failure is not fatal.
Even with the daily affirmations, focus, and energy, some days will feel like big wins while others feel like significant losses. The most important thing is that we remember that whatever sacrifices we made that day were worth it. The true victory comes from the fact that you did your best, and your best is good enough. You made progress even if you feel like you failed! Though often unplanned, failure is an important part of the process because it presents an opportunity for you to learn, tweak the plan as required, and grow. For that reason, failure is not fatal; it’s fabulous!
I get it though; failure rarely feels good. It causes a bit of a rollercoaster effect on our emotions. Well, I’ll have to borrow an encouraging message that I got from my brother, Joshua Ogunyemi, in his book tough times don’t last, TOUGH PEOPLE DO.:
“Rollercoasters are fun! We have had a blast raising Kennedy. Yes, it’s been scary at times. Yes, it’s been a bumpy ride. But that’s why we love rollercoasters, right?! We stand in line patiently for ‘ it doesn’t matter how long,’ push past the fear and anxiety, then buckle ourselves in and enjoy the ride. That’s the mindset you have to take into your tough times.”
Dedicate time and remain focused, committed, and consistent.
Accomplishing your goals gets tougher as time progresses. For many, it’s the combination of slower than expected progress, failures, change in priorities, loss of focus, reduction of resources, and tiredness that impedes our ability to accomplish our goals. This is where having a strong “why” and aligning your goals to your overall purpose comes in handy. Your “why” and purpose are the driving forces behind your daily reps. Keep them posted in a location you visit often–whether that be your refrigerator door, your office computer, or the “to-do” list in your phone. Commit yourself to continuing a lifelong pursuit of your purpose.
Once you remember your why, ensure you have a set time each day to work towards your goal. This not only helps you settle into a new routine, but it becomes a forcing function for you and everyone else to respect your time and boundaries. Additionally, having a set time and routine produces the consistency you need to achieve your goals.
Measure and celebrate progress.
“Before” and “After” pictures have become a staple in the fitness community. The bigger the difference in the pictures, the more inspiring they appear to be. The minor changes are the ones we tend to overlook and underestimate. That’s where I want you to focus. Create reliable metrics to validate your progress, but don’t forget the warning I gave you in “You CAN Make it Through These Dark Times! PART 2- How to Conquer Adversity, Anxiety, and Toxic thoughts.” Remember, be keenly “aware and selective of what (or whom) you allow to validate your efforts.” But when you do record progress, celebrate it like there’s no tomorrow. To some it may seem small, but you are celebrating the fact that you made progress when many people have already given up on their goals…fourteen days into the new year.
Keep pressing and pursuing your goals this year! I have no doubt that you will be one of the success stories as you achieve whatever behemoth goal you dreamt of accomplishing. I believe in you!
Somehow, 2022 is already over! So many great things transpired throughout the year to include: 1. I published my third children’s book (“Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine”). 2. I won a writing award (“Mutter Marines Command and Control Writing Award”). 3. I celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary. 4. I welcomed additional guest bloggers like my wife Brea, Benjamin C. Fields, Jesse Iwuji, and my brother and illustrator, Josh. 5. I was promoted to major in the Marine Corps. 7. I added additional FREE Downloadable Resources at https://parent-child-connect.com/free-resources. 8. Much, much more! Even so, I am expecting greater things in 2023! I–like many of you–am ending this year with positive affirmations and goals for the next year. If you know me, you know that I am a firm believer in speaking things into existence; therefore, I will be extremely selective with my words. Why? Because, words mean things.
Words Mean Things.
I believe I first heard the expression “words mean things” from a Marine officer. Although I cannot remember his name or rank, I definitely mumbled, “thanks a lot for that sound wisdom Captain Obvious.” I didn’t miss his point though. We often say things without checking our tone, the accuracy of our words, the way the words will be perceived, or our ability to follow through. This would be a great article for politicians and reporters, but I digress. I want to take this opportunity as you prepare to bring in 2023 to encourage you to say what you mean and mean what you say.
Begin with introspection. Ask yourself these questions.:
What do people see and hear when I open my mouth?
Am I consistently reflecting my personal values and the values of the religion I profess, the organizations I support, and my family?
Are people compelled to follow me based upon what I say?
Do the people I lead feel like they will be heard when they talk to me?
Do the people I lead think I ramble and waste words or use my words wisely?
Do I sound competent and confident when I speak?
It’s important to ask these questions and search for an honest, objective answer. (Having someone in your corner who will give this answer is key). Overall, we need to examine whether or not the person we’re presenting is the person we intend to present to others. Oftentimes, we find that is not the case. The words we both consciously and innately speak reflect who we truly are. Therefore, beginning with introspection allows us to get to know ourselves by taking inventory of what we say. This introspection also allows us to focus on a few key factors as we learn to become more intentional with our words and live up to the positive words and affirmations we declare for the new year.
You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.
Matthew 12:34-35 NLT
Garbage in Garbage out (GIGO).
I remember learning this concept from Dr. Marv Brown during my COBOL computer programming classes. The meaning is self-explanatory; incorrect or poor quality input will always produce faulty output. This same logic applies to life in general. You will always waste words if you are constantly listening to inaccurate or faulty information that makes you feel inferior or superior to others or provides a one-sided opinion. Broaden your horizons by reading things you may not initially agree with or having hard discussions with others without getting offended. This is the only way to learn, form your own opinion, and say meaningful words.
Hurt people hurt people.
This is another common phrase that carries a lot of meaning. In other words, the bitterness, rage, anger, jealousy, condescending tone etc. may be the result of past hurts. Check your words for signs of past hurts, and you’ll probably be surprised what you find. How do you do that? Think about some of the most harsh things people have told you. How did those words make you feel in that moment? How do they make you feel now? What is your reaction to similar harsh words (whether to you or someone else)? Have you said something similar to someone? How do you interact with others in relation to the “harsh” topic?
These are just a few questions to help you not only identify the root of your hurt, but it will help you see how that hurt still impacts everyone you interact with. The only way to truly replace bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, slander, and evil behavior with kindness and forgiveness is to address the root of the pain. As always, I recommend that you hire a professional counselor to help you throughout this portion of your journey.
“Say less”: choose quality over quantity.
One of my favorite series that I have ever written is the “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]” journal series (download yours for FREE). Therein, I described how daily distractions are causing us to be more distant from God and others. On day three, I specifically discussed how our words are causing us to disconnect from others. I offered three T’s to check before you speak: Time… Type… Tone.:
Time: Is it the right time to speak or should you just be quiet?
Take inventory. How much of your time have you spent socializing in comparison to growing your relationship with God and others?
Type: Ephesians 4:29 NLT says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
What kind of conversations are you having? Are you giving encouraging words to everyone you encounter?
Tone: Are you addressing the situation in the best manner possible? Are you using the “gentle answer” described in Proverbs 15:1?
Set a goal and follow through.
This is the second time I have quoted that line from the movie Storks on my blog. (No, I do not receive any kickback for mentioning the movie (although I would gladly collaborate *hint hint, Warner Bros.) I specifically love the part where one of the main characters prepared to deliver a package with a broken wing. This was, of course, the beginning of a long series of unfortunate events before the “package” was finally safely delivered to its destination. Storks reminds me of the one certainty in life: we will all encounter obstacles that will challenge us to remain committed to our words.
2023 will not be an exception to that rule. The question we have to answer is will we give up, or will we find a way to follow through on what we say? Obviously, I encourage you to do the latter. It will get hard, but that is ok. The resistance you feel is there to make you stronger. You are tough enough to overcome any challenges that come your way, because “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going!”
I know, I’m just full of cliches today! But cue Billy Ocean!
Speak blessings and positive affirmations.
Remember: words mean things, so stop whining and complaining! Complaining does very little to help you achieve your goals, and your whining may be the very thing that stops you from winning. Instead, use words that will positively impact your future. I found this wonderful summary from http://www.ymcansw.org as the author beautifully wrote about “The Importance of Affirmations.” :
“Affirmations have the power to motivate you to act on certain things, help you to concentrate on achieving your goals in life, give you the power to change your negative thinking patterns and replace them with positive thinking patterns, assist you in accessing a new belief system, but above all, affirmations can reaffirm the positivity back into your life and help regain or increase your self-confidence.”
Ryan Tanti | The Y NSW
So speak out! Use your words to positively impact everyone you come into contact with. Say what you mean by setting your goals with a purpose. Mean what you say by relentlessly pursuing your goals for next year. Make 2023 the year you dominate every situation you encounter. I believe in you!
Thanks for reading! I wish you a wonderful, prosperous, and blessed 2023!
I wasn’t originally planning on releasing a part two, but after receiving feedback from you beautiful people, I decided to continue the conversation and discuss how to conquer adversity, anxiety, and toxic thoughts.
As you already know, life is a journey. In Part 1 (Click here for Part 1), we discussed a quote by award-winning poet, Theodore Roethke: “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.” As I continued to read and think about this topic, it reminded me of a challenging hike I completed when I was doing the Mission Trails Regional Park 5-peak challenge in Santee and La Mesa, CA. It was not the most physically demanding thing I have done (U.S. Marine Corps training will push you to your limits), but there were definitely a few extremely challenging portions.
There was one particular portion of the North Fortuna Mountain that gets fairly steep; especially after inclement weather. The natural competitor in me forced me to complete this trail numerous times…but the first time was not a pretty sight! When I first approached this portion of the trail, I heard a loud, Drill Instructor-esque voice in my head yell, “attack the hill!” So I looked down and began charging up the steep incline that led to the summit–pumping my arms and power breathing as I went. I kept my head down in hopes that this would somehow help me magically arrive at the plateau quicker. Unfortunately, this was not reality. The further I hiked, the steeper the incline became. After about two minutes, my legs were burning, I was panting, and I was raining sweat.
I finally glanced up… I was definitely not as close as I thought I’d be. In fact, I hadn’t made much progress at all! So I had a choice to make. You see, I had already determined I was going to finish the hike. (Once I put my mind to it, it is going to happen!) Turning back wasn’t an option, but I had another decision to make: how should I motivate myself to complete this hike? Should I focus solely on the plateau? How long will I dwell on my progress (or lack thereof)? Should I closely monitor my progress as I continue to go forward?
I chose the latter and restarted my journey. After a couple more minutes, I checked my progress. When I looked back I initially thought, “I haven’t gone anywhere!” Then, I noticed some people who were close to where I started. “Those people look small,” I thought. “I am further along than I thought!” That’s all I needed to continue pushing! So I started to hike again–looking back every 5-10 steps or so to see if the people behind me were getting even smaller. After another couple minutes passed, I decided to look up to see how far I made it. “You haven’t gone anywhere!” I exclaimed to myself. The tree I marked during my last break was still relatively close. I made less progress this time than I did before my first stop.
This is where I started to feel sorry for myself. “I am doing my best to get in better shape, and I cannot even motivate myself to get past this hill!” That’s when it hit me. I could not efficiently move forward while gazing at the things behind me. While I was glancing back, I found myself slipping on loose sand, stumbling over rocks, and falling off the path. In hindsight, this made my journey even more rigorous!
I could not efficiently move forward while gazing at the things behind me.
The Winning Strategy to conquer adversity, anxiety, and toxic thoughts!
With that in mind, I developed a new winning strategy that would eventually help me overcome this challenge and subsequently make it to the summit. Before I restarted, I established what I called “checkpoints” or “mini-goals” along the path where I would rest and reflect (i.e. celebrate my progress). While hiking, I paid close attention to where I stepped; ensuring I constantly progressed as each step was on solid or compacted soil. Lastly, I kept my overall goal in mind: reach the North Fortuna summit, take a picture, and enjoy sunrise and the peaceful nature around me. It is important to note, this portion of the trail did not get any less steep or challenging; however, I knew I had the winning strategy to conquer this adverse situation and achieve my goal.
There are a few things I learned from that hike that I believe are helpful…
Rest and reflect. One of the biggest contributors to successfully completing this hike was implementing my mini-goals. I set my sights on several large rocks, trees, or recognizable features along the trail and said, “do not stop until you reach that mini-goal.” Once I reached my mini-goal, I did a small celebration to commemorate my progress. In essence, I broke my journey into manageable chunks that I could physically achieve and implemented preplanned opportunities to refresh my mental resiliency. The stops were not long; just quick enough to catch my breath and celebrate my progress. As goes life. Schedule quick moments to rest and reflect on progress, then keep pushing towards your ultimate goal!
Live in the moment. While grappling with today’s challenges, we cannot allow ourselves to be burdened by yesterday’s news or overwhelmed with tomorrow’s issues. Focus on traversing the path ahead of you and achieving your mini-goals instead of gazing at the things behind you or worrying about tomorrow’s uncertainties.
Be aware and selective of what (or whom) you allow to validate your efforts. I was gauging my success on the trail off of someone else. In retrospect, those people were taking pictures, enjoying nature, strolling, and most importantly, they didn’t even take the same trail. We currently live in a society where it is easy to allow likes, shares, comments, money, and praise to validate us. The issue is those things are temporary. We should only find validation in things that are permanent (e.g. your purpose in life). For me, it is inspiring others. My efforts are validated when my children’s books, blog posts, speaking engagements, and my platform in general inspires someone else to pursue their own goals and dreams!
Don’t lose sight of your goal. My overall goal was to reach the summit, and I did! No matter how challenging the journey, never forget where you are going. Your “why” is what drives you day to day. Your “where” is what makes the journey worth it! You can and will achieve all of your goals! Believe in yourself!
Have a fantastic week, and know that you CAN and WILL make it through these dark times!
Want a little help making it through these dark times?
I partnered with my friend Deb Kartz during her Conquer Anxiety & Toxicity 21-day virtual summit to give you proven strategies to conquer anxiety & toxicity! I embedded the 2-part YouTube series below! Enjoy!
Anxiety and toxicity are just another way that sneaky “shadow” tries to creep into our life and our children’s lives. As my Amazon best-seller Crow From the Shadow says, “The Shadow is a person… or maybe a thing… or a place. The Shadow tells me who to be, how to go, and where to stay.” Not anymore! In this two-part series, we expose that sneaky shadow and kick ’em to the curb! Watch these FREE interviews as we #defeattheshadow to conquer anxiety and toxicity!
It is no secret: we are living in dark times. It seems like every time there is light at the end of the tunnel, a dark shadow is cast to make the sunshine look more like a small flickering candle. The darkness of that shadowy tunnel seems to surround and embrace us until the small flickering light becomes nothing more than an irrelevant annoyance. I use this symbolism because for many of us, the darkness in the world parallels our hardships (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual). The flickering light (hope/anticipation that it is going to get better) is more annoying than helpful. It just seems so much easier to give up. Right?
One day as I was meditating (as I do every morning), I received a quote from inspiringquotes.com:
“In a dark time, the eye begins to see.”
I found that quote to be a bit oxymoronic. Darkness is the absence of light. Scientifically speaking, without illumination human vision is unable to distinguish anything. So what is Mr. Roethke talking about?!
I was intrigued, so I did a little research. That quote is actually the first line in the poem “In a Dark Time” by Theodore Roethke. Click here to read the full poem if you are interested. If you do not know who Theodore Roethke is, he is an award-winning American poet who “helped to produce a remarkable body of work that would influence future generations of American poets to pursue the mysteries of one’s inner self.” When he was only 14, his uncle died by suicide and his dad died of cancer. This had a significant impact on his life and influenced his work. (That brief bio does not do his life’s work justice! Read more here.)
I gave that quick background to highlight that his quote has credence, but that still left me wondering, “how does the eye begin to see in darkness?” That question led me to my own philosophy: we can create our own light in times of darkness. How? Allow me to introduce an easy to remember acronym: L.I.G.H.T.
Light at the end of the tunnel.
The first thing I will challenge you to do is shift your perspective of the “light at the end of the tunnel.” It is easy to view the light as simply an escape or exit from dark times. We exclaim, “if I can only make it to that light, I will be out of here!” The issue with that simplistic view is it does not allow room for “life.” Some days we feel like we make significant progress, but most days we trip, stumble, and sometimes fall as we focus on the exit and not the things around us. That makes the light seem like a distant dream or “hope deferred” as the great Maya Angelou called it.
Take another look. Don’t just view the light as a means to the end; instead, view the light as a tool that reveals the things around you. At times, that light may seem distant, but in times of darkness, even the smallest light will expose the stumbling blocks that lurk in the shadow. When you view the light as a resource, you begin to learn and grow from the dark environment. You begin to recognize and quickly step over stumbling blocks in your path that you previously would have missed! So yes, the light is the means to the end but it is also the tool that illuminates your path.
What inspires you? What is your “why?” We get tired sometimes as we traverse through the dark tunnel. We ask ourselves, “what’s the point?” That’s when our inspiration kicks in! It pushes us to limits we did not know we had. It drives us along our illuminated path.
So how do you find what inspires you?
Surround yourself with positive people who are headed in the same direction.
Think about the issues you are passionate about changing.
Find people you can help lead through dark times.
Our inspiration is usually centered around the value we bring to others. We all have a calling or purpose that is bigger than just us. Allow that calling or purpose to be your inspiration.
My good friend and popular Artist, Aha Gazelle, said it best, “the hardest thing about growing is you can’t feel the movement.” (Song: Invitation by Aha Gazelle) That is such a profound message and fundamental truth. I remember how it felt when I started playing basketball as a young child. I knew you didn’t have to be tall to play basketball, but it was a huge help! So everyday I would stand against the wall and record my height with a pencil. It was very discouraging because I could not see or feel the growth. Eventually, I started to measure my height out of habit instead of anticipation. It wasn’t until I looked back after a few months and noticed my pencil mark moved a little higher. I was thrilled! “I grew overnight!” I thought.
That’s a fairly humorous comparison, but don’t we do this as adults? No matter how far we have actually progressed, we feel like we have not made significant progress. Stop doing that to yourself!Every step forward is progress you should be proud of! Even when you do not feel or see the growth, it is happening. Celebrate your growth!
If you read “In a Dark Time” in its entirety, you noticed Theodore Roethke was making the same point I am making right now, hardships exist to make us better. That hurts to even think about. We have spent so many years looking at darkness and hardships as a negative when in reality, they are necessary for our growth. As I shared before, I will compare hardships to the weights in the gym. The gym is full of things that can either crush you or make you stronger. It all depends on your perspective. Just like hardships, gym equipment is designed to create micro tears in your muscles. Sounds scary and counterintuitive right? Maybe. Until we realize that our body heals those micro tears to make our muscles stronger and more resilient than they were before!
So shift your perspective! Those hardships may cause pain or “micro tears,” but you will become stronger because of it! I know it is hard to fathom, and it may seem impossible that you will become stronger as a result of the hardship(s) you are experiencing right now. But like Nelson Mandela once said, “it always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Why is it important to see, learn, grow, and develop while in darkness? Because it takes time to make it through. I have always been a fan of taking action and making the most out of every second we have here on Earth. As I said before, time is one of our most precious nonrenewable resources, so don’t waste it. Embrace where you are, and invest time learning more about yourself and growing those around you!
Brea and I have always encouraged our children to read a variety of books. On one hand, Brea was a huge reader growing up–choosing to spend time in the book mobile from the time it arrived until it departed. On the other hand, I enjoyed reading until I decided I wanted to rebel against my parents’ “reading time.” Although we had an entire library of interesting books to choose from in my home, I transformed my perspective on reading from “fun” to “forced.” That was just one of the many weird things I decided to rebel against during my preteen and early teen years. Thankfully, I matured (a little) and regained my love for reading by junior year of high school.
Our reading strategy.
As parents, we decided that reading would be one of our main priorities. Even so, we do our best not to order our children to read; instead, we create opportunities for them to enjoy quiet recreational time before bed. They usually write, color, read, or play with their toys quietly in their separate rooms during this “wind down” time. We found that each of them are more inclined to enjoy reading when they didn’t feel forced to read. With that in mind, we always try to strategically purchase books that align their interests with the values we teach in our home. Recently, I slightly deviated from this plan after I found and began reading the book, “Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations” by Alex Harris and Brett Harris.
Honestly, I found this book on accident while looking for another book with a similar title. However, I knew this book was a great read for both me and my oldest daughter (recently turned 13) after I read the first four chapters! The irony is not lost on me that I–the prior rebellious teen–have handed my daughter a book about becoming a “rebellious teen.” Of course as the title reveals, the kind of rebellion I’m encouraging is against low expectations and harmful stereotypes. I encouraged my daughter to reflect on what she’s learning and how she can apply what she reads.
The elephant analogy.
Alex and Brett lead in with an “elephant” analogy I have heard and read several times. Similar to the “grasshopper in a jar” analogy, Alex and Brett explain that trained elephants are often restrained using only a small rope. As with every other time I’ve heard this analogy, I interpreted that I should not allow artificial or superficial constraints to limit my potential. I handed my daughter the book thinking that was the same message she’d receive. To my surprise, here’s what she wrote.:
Some people are like elephants; they are strong, smart, and hold potential, but sometimes they have to be held down by a rope. Elephants can escape from a small rope, but they have to be trusted to do what’s right.
Constraints vs Tethers.
My brand new teen daughter taught me a valuable lesson on perspective. Some of us view the proverbial rope as a constraint. This rope can and will stop us from achieving greatness. It makes us think less of ourselves and keeps us from achieving our true potential. Others, like my thirteen year-old daughter, view the rope as a tether.
I use the specific word “tether,” because it has multiple definitions. One definition in Merriam-Webster states, “a line (as of rope or chain) by which an animal is fastened so as to restrict its range of movement.” People like Brilee use the second definition: “a line to which someone or something is attached (as for security).” The easily recognizable difference between the two definitions is the connection’s purpose. One is used to restrict while the other is used to secure. To “secure” is to, “fix or attach (something) firmly so that it cannot be moved or lost.”
Bringing it all together
I’m so proud that I was able to learn a valuable lesson from my teen’s perspective of a well-known analogy! Many of us view the proverbial rope as a limitation. Even so, Brilee reminded us that it can be a firm connection to our values. Life presents so many obstacles that at times, we choose to take the easiest path. Unfortunately, the easiest path isn’t always the one that aligns with our values.
Brilee’s perspective is a gentle reminder that we must identify and commit to the principles that drive our daily decisions. We have to remember our purpose and allow our moral compass to direct our judgement. This is what will inform our decisions when we have the opportunity to cut corners or cheat.
Brilee, thank you for encouraging me to remain committed to my guiding principles regardless of how hard it may be!
Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful holiday weekend!
I’m in my hometown (Ruston, Louisiana) enjoying time with my family, checking out some scenery, and of course, engaging with some excited children!
Stop by if you live in the surrounding area or just happen to be passing through Ruston on I-20. I would love to meet you, sign your books, engage with your children, etc. This will be a great time for you to get to know the guy behind the big smile! 😁
Do you want me to do an in-person or virtual visit? Me too!
I would love to meet you, your class, your children, your mentees… Whoever you’d like me to meet! Go to https://parent-child-connect.com/contact to fill out the form or shoot me an email at email@example.com. I look forward to meeting and engaging with you!
Welcome to the fourth and final day of “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]!” So far, we have learned about God’s free and freeing love, eliminated worry, and disconnected from the things that take away all of our time (See the other three days by clicking here!). Now we are going to tackle our third and final distraction–you are what you eat!
Distraction #3: You are what you eat!
Don’t worry, this isn’t health 101 where I judge you for your vice in the kitchen. Quite honestly, I don’t do as well as I should when it comes to eating right–whether we’re referring to physical food or mental food.
While I was meditating on this topic, I John 2:15-16 NLT became the focal point of my devotion. It says, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”
So what is the Bible telling us? Does this mean we cannot enjoy the pleasures of this world? Of course we can! In fact, God desires that we laugh, eat, and enjoy life! So what is the Bible saying? The Bible is telling us to avoid becoming enamored with the physical pleasures of this world. In other words, we should pursue our purpose in God and the upbuilding of His kingdom. Though enticing, pursuing physical pleasures distracts us from achieving what God wants us to achieve and drives a wedge between our relationship with Him.
My moment of self-reflection
In my moment of self-reflection, I realized while I am distracted by my continuous craving for/pursuit of the physical pleasures of this world (like great food, accolades, keeping up with the Joneses, and being the “first to know”) I could be praying in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion–staying alert and being persistent in my prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 6:18 NLT). While I am constantly seeking to obtain my oral fixation, I could be doing what Jesus instructs us to do in Mark 9:29 when He healed the boy that was possessed. That is fast, pray, and meditate on Christ. While I am constantly feasting on the negativity of the media, I could be “Fixing [my] thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think[ing] about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 NLT
What we eat, becomes who we are.
The “old folks” used to say, “you are what you eat.” In other words, choosing to enjoy healthy physical and mental food increases energy and brain function, and it improves your overall mood.
But what happens when you feast on negativity? It leads to the following in the spiritual realm:
Indigestion: We reject wise advice and biblical teachings and turn to “strange doctrines” for hope and guidance.
Heartburn: Our hearts are burning with anger, rage, and hatred for others instead of burning with compassion for the poor, widowed, and sick.
Diarrhea of the mouth: Instead of being silent and patient, we are quick to vent our anger/frustration and our disdain for others but slow to talk to God.
I Corinthians 6:12 NLT does an excellent job of summarizing this last point by saying “You say, I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.” We must choose to avoid becoming a slave to our appetites! Let’s pledge to make sound choices with the physical and spiritual food that we enjoy.
I am confident that if we apply the basic principles that we have discussed the last few days and avoid these distractions, we will begin to live more healthy and whole lives, build better relationships, and most importantly, draw closer to God. I am excited and proud that we serve a God that can be described like this: “there’s no shadow He won’t light up, no mountain He won’t climb up coming after me. There’s no wall He won’t kick down, no lie He won’t tear down coming after me!” I said all of that to say, with all of our daily distractions, our loving Father is still there, waiting on us to reconnect with Him. So my question to you is, will you defeat these distractions and reconnect with God?
Father, we honor you, we praise you, and we thank you for your Word. Thank you for being a great God! Now Father we pray that over the next few days, weeks, and months we become less distracted with our daily lives, and more focused on you. And ultimately Father, we pray that everyone reading these words can feel your unfailing, unwavering, and never ending love. We magnify your Holy and Righteous name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Welcome to day three of “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]!” In yesterday’s devotion, we discussed how how to defeat worry! Today, we will introduce our second distraction–the need to disconnect.
Distraction #2: Need to Disconnect
Now that we are free from condemnation and we have kicked worry to the curb, let’s talk about another distraction that becomes more complicated everyday. A lot of us are distracted by the need to disconnect.
So I had to do some self-reflection to prepare for this one, and I ask you to join me. Take out your phone, tablet, or whatever device you use, and list out all the applications that take time from your day. My list went like this: Instagram, Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, XBox Live, Zoom, Marco Polo, GroupMe, LinkedIn, news app, weather bug app, and Gmail. Wow!
That was alarming to me because there are still only 24 hours in a day (and I spend about 16 of them either sleeping or working)! With that in mind, I felt a little better because my research told me that I am not alone. In fact, a recent study showed that the average American checks their phone 96 times a day or once every ten minutes. To compound this issue, social distancing and quarantines have given us an even more insatiable desire to remain connected and socialize.
It is very apparent how this distraction has caused distance, because, as I said before, there are still 24 hours in a day!
So how do we disconnect so that we can focus on God? Well, I will start by saying, we talk/socialize too much and oftentimes, it is done in the wrong way.
The right to speak is important; saying things at the right time in the right manner is even more important. Proverbs 13:3 says, “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.”
So how do we defeat this distraction?
Watch your words. Words matter because words mean things. Proverbs 15:1 NLT “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”
Say less. Connect less. Be Wise. (Proverbs 17:27 NLT) “A truly wise person uses few words…”
Words are like dollar bills. They should be spent wisely because we cannot take them back. Yep, that means even on social media…especially on social media! I am not saying we should not socialize/connect, but when done in excess, it drives a wedge between us and God. Simply put, we just don’t have time for God.
Don’t look like a fool. Mark Twain said it best, “Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” Because we are so connected, we often find ourselves caught in constant debate (most times publicly). Which leads me to the last tip to fight this distraction:
Three T’s to check before you speak: Time… Type… Tone
Time: Is it the right time to speak or should you just be quiet?
Take inventory.How much of your time have you spent socializing in comparison to growing your relationship with God?
Type: Ephesians 4:29 NLT says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
What kind of Conversations are you having?Are you giving encouraging words to everyone you encounter?
Tone: Are you addressing the situation in the best manner possible? Are you using the “gentle answer” described in Proverbs 15:1?
Think about these things and challenge yourself to disconnect from the rush, rat race, and rigmarole of life. Disconnect from distractions so you can reconnect and build a healthy relationship with God.
Father, thank you for your grace, mercy, and kindness towards us. We realize that busyness, drama, and life circumstances constantly pull us away from you, and for that, we apologize. Father, give us the strength, wisdom, and wherewithal to disconnect from the many daily distractions we encounter so we can connect to you. Thank you for continuing to love us! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Welcome to day two of “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]!” In yesterday’s devotion, we discussed how God’s love causes us to be free! Today, we will introduce our first distraction–worry.
Distraction #1: Worry!
“Will my family get sick? Am I doing all I can? What will we eat? What do others think about me?…” If we are honest, some of our minds continuously reverberate with these kinds of questions daily! The second our feet touch the cold or carpeted floor in our bedrooms, our minds begin to race. Usually this race persists until we finally return to bed at the end of the day. The unfortunate truth is our minds naturally dwell on difficulty and troubles which distract us from the important things in life like developing our relationship with God, family, and friends! So let’s take down our first distraction–worry.
When I began meditating on this topic, three scriptures immediately came to mind. First was Matthew 6:27 NLT that asked, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Then, Proverbs 12:25 NLT reminded me that “worry weighs a person down.” Lastly, Jesus told us in Matthew 6:34 NLT “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
The Word is abundantly clear about worry, and we all know that increased worry causes increased anxiety which causes increased mental and physical health concerns…So why do we worry? Why don’t we simply adopt Timon and Pumbaa’s slogan and lifestyle? You know, Hakuna Matata!
Well, I will start by sharing how I [falsely] justified my worry:
A little worry combined with fear is my instinctual way of emotionally preparing for the worst outcome. I am like a gazelle on a Safari! My worry and fear keeps me from being consumed by the lion (life). Right? WRONG. Along with the increased physical and mental health risks, worry was increasing my paranoia. Simply put, my physical presence was not a “gift” to my heavenly Father, family, friends, and work colleagues because I was so busy worrying about being consumed by life that I was not building healthy relationships and enjoying life!
My worry allowed me to thoroughly analyze a situation to develop a well-rounded solution. Solid logic right? WRONG. Worry primarily focuses on the “difficulties and troubles” (negatives) associated with a situation; thus, my perception and analysis is skewed to focus solely on the negative outcomes.
Those are my [busted] myths associated with my worry. Take some time to examine your own myths… then bust them!
Now that the jig is up and we have eliminated our excuses to worry, let’s answer the million dollar question: “How do we combat worry?”
The million dollar answer is that we must fully understand and appreciate this fact: You are what you THINK!
A fairly recent study following tens of thousands of people found that those who were optimistic had a significantly lower risk of dying from several major causes of death, including: heart disease, stroke, cancer (including breast, ovarian, lung, and colorectal cancers), infection, and respiratory diseases.
Sounds like a pretty clear answer to Matthew 6:27!
The study concluded that several proven benefits of thinking positively include:
Better quality of life
Higher energy levels
Better psychological and physical health
Faster recovery from injury or illness
Lower rates of depression
Better stress management and coping skills
Longer life span
I’ll take the benefits please!
Now that we understand the importance of positive thinking, how do we put it into practice?
1. Make a concerted effort to focus on positive things.
This is a tough one for us because sometimes you just want to sulk. In my personal life, I found a way to justify sulking. I felt that I deserved to be frustrated and disappointed! “Coincidentally” my Pastor emailed me to remind me that though the overall circumstance may appear to be negative, I can choose to dwell on the negative aspects of the circumstance or fix my thoughts on the positives. Yep, it is a choice!
Try this! Write down three positive things about your current circumstance! Even if the list starts with “I am breathing,” celebrate the fact that you are still alive with an opportunity to make it through this circumstance with an amazing story to tell!
2. Practice gratitude.
Practicing gratitude has been proven to reduce stress, increase your self-esteem and the self-esteem of those around you, and foster resilience amongst you and your inner-circle. Every day, find no less than three things to thank God for (and thank Him) and find no less than three things to thank others for (and thank them). When offered an opportunity to complain and criticize, thank! When you think of the positives, thank for the positives.
3. Now that you have recognized and shown gratitude for the positives, create and maintain a gratitude log.
Label it, “People and Things I am grateful for.” I know. I know. It sounds corny, but it works! Maintain your log in a place you visit often, and keep focusing on that growing list.
4. Open yourself up to humor.
Laugh a little! I heard someone once say, “if you’re happy and you know it, tell your face.” We cannot allow life to beat us down so much that we walk around like a bulldog eating lemonheads (just picture that for a second–maybe that was your laugh for today). Take out time to enjoy the pleasures of life. God has always intended for us to enjoy the pleasures of life. I mean, think about how beautiful the Garden of Eden was! We were designed to be happy. So take a second, look in a mirror (or prepare for a selfie with your electronic device), and make the biggest smile you can! Now let the brightness of that smile, your positive thoughts, and your attitude of gratitude melt the negativity away!
5. Check your inner-circle!
You are who you hang with. In the country, the old folks would say “if you hang with stray dogs, you may catch fleas!” Spend time with Positive Paulas versus Debbie Downers. Think back to my story about my Pastor. Had he begun to sulk with me and feed my negative thoughts and emotions, I may not have survived that circumstance. Remember this, Debbie Downers wallow in defeat, while Positive Paulas bask in triumph!
6. Start off on a positive note by practicing positive self-talk!
Instead of beginning with worry, begin with a prayer, devotion, meditation, and affirmation or declaration that you will have a positive day. Then carry that declaration with you throughout the day. As you walk into a situation that appears negative, say to yourself (or aloud if you’d like) I will see the positive in this! Still have that mirror or selfie handy? Let’s try this right now! Smile, say something positive about yourself, and make the declaration that, “I will see the positive in every situation!”
I believe that these steps will not only eliminate worry, but these steps will also foster a more healthy relationship with God and everyone you come in contact with!
Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to see another day and meditate on your Word. You are truly our source of happiness and strength. We pray for your forgiveness for failing to see your beauty in every circumstance, and we ask you to help us to fix our thoughts on you! In Jesus’ name. Amen