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Achieve your goals this year! One day, one rep at a time.

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?

Successfully achieving our goals is DOPE!

Dream

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.

Offload

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!

Plan

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.:

  1. What does achievement or success look like in the end?
  2. Are you in the right physical, spiritual, and mental position to accomplish this goal?
  3. Why do you want to accomplish this goal?
  4. How does this goal align to your overall purpose?
  5. Who is involved?
  6. Who needs to be involved?
  7. What sequential steps do you need to take?
  8. How long will it take to complete?

Execute

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.”

Joshua Ogunyemi, tough times don’t last, TOUGH PEOPLE DO

If you want to read more about overcoming rejection and failure, I talked about failure a bit more in a previous article titled, “How do you Respond to Rejection and Failure?

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!

Thanks for reading!

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Say what you mean and mean what you say because your words mean things.

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?

The right to speak does not take precedence over saying the right thing with the right attitude at the right time.

Set a goal and follow through.

Make a planstick to the planalways deliver!

Storks

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!

Billy Ocean – When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going (Official Video)

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!

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You CAN Make it Through These Dark Times! PART 2- How to Conquer Adversity, Anxiety, and Toxic thoughts.

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.

The Journey

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…

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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!

Register for FREE to learn more winning strategies!
Watch my two-part series with Deb Kartz as we discussed how to conquer anxiety & toxicity! (Embedded below)

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!

Conquer Anxiety & Toxicity with Deb Kartz and U.S. Marine/best-selling author, Olaolu Ogunyemi (P1)
Conquer Anxiety & Toxicity with Deb Kartz and U.S. Marine/best-selling author, Olaolu Ogunyemi (P2)
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You CAN Make it Through These Dark Times! PART 1- Just Shine Your L.I.G.H.T.

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.”

Theodore Roethke

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.

Inspiration.

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.

Growth.

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!

Hardships.

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.”

Time.

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!

If you need a little help learning and/or teaching others how to make it through dark times, download my FREE #defeattheshadow Journal (and my other FREE resources) at https://parent-child-connect.com/free-resources/ today!

U.S. Marine Officer, mentor, and best-selling author, Olaolu Ogunyemi gives you tips on how to make it through these dark times.
Olaolu Ogunyemi: U.S. Marine | Mentor | Best-selling Author

If you enjoyed today’s post, head over to https://parent-child-connect.com/blog/ for more like this!

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The stimulus-response model: How to develop a healthy response to ANGER!

On the go? Check out the audio version of “The stimulus-response model: How to develop a healthy response to ANGER!

Have you been here?

You are breathing heavily, your heart is racing, your nose is flared, your body is tense, and you continue to replay what happened over and over. You’re disappointed, embarrassed, and most of all, angry. You know forgiveness is the answer, you have to demonstrate grace, and you must return to your jovial demeanor, but your continued rush of emotions seem to make it impossible to move on. You want to participate/contribute to the world continuing around you, but you do not know how to return. Your smile is broad but forced, and your words are few and shallow. You feel old instincts or habits returning that would satisfy your primal desires to express your anger but leave you hollow when you finish. You want to isolate yourself and not be bothered because you are mentally exhausted from giving everything you’ve got and receiving little in return.

Yeah, I’ve been there plenty of times. In fact, I wrote the above paragraph when I was angry. Those were my actual feelings and emotions at the time. The “old instincts or habits” I was referring to involved me lashing out on people, throwing stuff around, yelling into my pillow, or hitting or kicking an inanimate object (like a wall) which, in turn, caused me bodily harm. I used to tell people I had “anger issues,” which means that was the identity I assumed. It was a harmful stereotype that I willingly accepted. Anger and my subsequent response became addicting, so I knew I had to change.

Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. However, many of us give up control of our response to anger. So that’s where we will focus today.

The anger stimulus-response model.

Frank Esser published an insightful article at the University of Zurich entitled, “Stimulus-Response Model.” Therein, he states, “Similar to higher animals, human beings are endowed at birth with a uniform set of instincts that guide their ways of responding to the world around them.” He continues to explain how mass media manipulates this instinctual behavior–which he describes as the stimulus-response model–to produce enticing content. Today, I want to offer a way that we can manipulate this same instinctual behavior to change our response to anger.

How humans differ from other animals.

Stimuli are events in the environment that influence behavior. Today we refer to these as “cues” and “triggers.” Unlike other animals, the beauty of human beings (or homo sapiens) is that we can influence this stimulus-response model through the application of free will or choice. In other words, where other animals instinctually respond to the stimuli around them, our brains are able to critically think about the various stimuli and develop a response based upon the environment we are in.

For example, when we feel hungry but we are on a diet, we are able to suppress those hunger pangs. Similarly, when we feel sleepy but we are driving, we choose to stay awake because it is not the appropriate time to sleep. Dr. M. Scott Peck has a funnier (but true) way to describe this phenomenon in his book, Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Towards Spiritual Growth.

People sometimes ask me the most impossible – for example. “Dr. Peck, what is human nature?” And because my parents raised me to be an obliging child, I try to come up with answers to such impossible questions, and first answer I give is: “Human nature is to go to the bathroom in your pants.”

It really is. That is exactly the way each one us started out, doing what came naturally and letting go whenever we felt like.

Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Towards Spiritual Growth by Dr. M. Scott Peck

Point made.

Neural pathways.

As proven by millions of potty training toddlers each day, we have the ability to influence our personal stimulus-response cycle. Because of the brain’s plasticity (ability to change and adapt), we are able to develop “neural pathways.” According to https://www.merriam-webster.com/, a neural pathway is “a series of connected nerves along which electrical impulses travel in the body.” This is an important concept in psychology because these neural pathways are our brains’ way of automatically responding to stimuli (which is received by one or more of our five senses).

For example, when I smell food (cue) after I have gone a few hours without any (cause), the response is usually a growling stomach (reaction). So, I decide to turn into a restaurant parking lot in response to my hunger pangs. As I prepare to turn, I observe a car speeding up (cue) to prevent me from turning first (cause). My automatic response is to become irritated, shake my fist, and yell, “you idiot!”(reaction) Get this, the only intentional or “conscious” decision I made in this process was to go to the restaurant. The rest was predetermined by the neural pathways I developed over time. This is one of our brain’s many efficient ways to save energy.

How to develop neural pathways to change our response to anger.

1. Take inventory. Identify cues (events that signal the brain to react), causes (reasons why the cues exist and trigger certain reactions), and reactions (the actions you take as a result of the cues).

For about a week, I want you to do the same thing I did in the above scenarios. Don’t cheat, justify, judge yourself, or change anything. Just record your cues, causes, and reactions to as many automatic processes as you can–especially those that ended with you being angry. If you happen to be driving at the time, turn on your voice recorder and do a voice log. Whatever you do, it is important that you capture as much data as possible.

2. Limit or eliminate the cues.

Of course this is easier said than done in some cases. In my above scenario, I cannot remove the people who will cut me off in traffic. It would be absurd for me to think or suggest otherwise. However, there are many other examples of cues we can either limit or eliminate. For example, I already know there are certain times of day where I will be hungry. If my goal is to avoid eating out to save money, perhaps I can avoid driving down “restaurant boulevard” during the times I’m likely to be hungry. This simple rerout will avoid the luring smells, giant pictures of food everywhere, and the entertaining guy with the sign advertising my favorite happy hour sale.

The book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear describes a similar concept to remove negative habits. Since we naturally gravitate towards the more convenient option, make it harder to encounter your negative cues.

3. Identify the cause.

This is the psychological step, and it feeds your cues. This step is extremely important because there are many cues you cannot limit or eliminate. Even if you could, I have always advocated for running towards something, not simply avoiding things. The cause is what gives your cue relevance. That’s why this step is arguably the most critical.

We can start with the most rudimentary example. I felt the urge to go use the bathroom (cue). Why? I am doing the gallon-a-day water challenge to ensure I get an adequate amount of water each day (cause). Of course, we know the reaction is to actually go to the bathroom.

Let’s look at the other scenario. I observed a car speeding up to cut me off (cue). Earlier I identified, “to prevent me from turning first” as the cause. Some of you probably scratched your head wondering how that caused the cue. Allow me to explain.

In my mind, this fella personally attacked me! Although it was my turn to go, he intentionally sped up to prevent me from turning. In doing so, he delayed my day. What an idiot!

I know I’m not the only one who has thought this before. Seeing some of the drivers’ reactions in Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. earlier this year proves me right!

4. Address the cause.

Regardless of how many of you agree that the above driver is idiotic, our assumption that the driver personally attacked us is irrational. But to strengthen our argument, let’s say he did personally attack us. My mom used to tell me, “if you let people know which buttons to press to make you angry, they will press them every time.” In other words, some people get a thrill out of seeing you angry. I believe they crave the ability to control you.

Whoa, so these external factors (including people) want to control you?! That’s right!

5. Regain control.

If you haven’t noticed by now, a cue with no cause produces no reaction. In other words, the way you perceive your cue is what causes the reaction.

With that in mind, I have a couple of recommendations when it comes to retraining your mind. If you need more advice on changing your thoughts, check out my post: “Command your thoughts: Three actionable steps to remove toxic thoughts!” If you need more advice on adjusting your perspective, check out my post: “How to shift your perspective and live a better life TODAY!

  • Capture your thoughts. This means we have to be active in our approach. Don’t just allow your thoughts to run wildly because those thoughts feed our emotions and those emotions feed our actions and those actions feed our identity. This is why we started by taking inventory. SEE what you think. That means we are creating a new cue to gain control of our reactions.
  • Ask the 5 Whys. In “How do you Respond to Rejection and Failure?” I introduced a concept called the “5 Whys.” Simply put, this is how we get to the root of our perspective. This time, instead of using the Stone Cold Steve Austin fan approach of asking “why,” I want you to ask, “why does this matter to me?” I’ll use my “cause” from above, but I challenge you to use your own “cause” list.
    • That guy cut me off!
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because it was my turn!
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because it isn’t fair.
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because he’s taking advantage of me.
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because I’m tired of being taken advantage of.
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because I know my worth, and I don’t like when people make me feel like I’m less than I’m worth.
Reframe your thoughts

I believe we’ve made it to the root, and from that root spawns many thoughts, emotions, and causes. Take that root to your counselor and work with him or her to develop new neural pathways. For me, I’ve worked to reprogram that cue. So instead of yelling and shaking my fist at the guy who cut me off, I use that cue as a reminder that I am worth a lot, and no one (including the random people I encounter in traffic) can take that away from me. In doing so, I have intentionally changed my response from anger to calmness and happiness.

This isn’t magic or just some feel good mumbo jumbo. Trust me, developing new neural pathways doesn’t happen over night. Just keep practicing and give yourself some time.

Change = Steady progress over time

I want to end with this analogous encouragement. When hiking a mountainenous trail, you may be confident and sure of your next step, until that next step causes you to slip and fall. Stand up, brush yourself off, and keep hiking. Regain the momentum that you started building before the slip. When you start again, your legs may feel a little stiff, you may feel embarrassed, and you may be a little bruised from the fall, but keep hiking. This is especially important to remember in the beginning when you fall multiple times. Remember this, you may have lost a little momentum, but you didn’t lose progress. In other words, the only time you lose progress is when you intentionally turn around and hike back downhill (relapse).

You are reading this because you want to change and/or improve. Stay focused and keep progressing towards a better you!

Thanks for reading! Have a great week!

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How you start does not determine how you finish: Guest Post by Jesse Iwuji

A note from Olaolu: Happy Saturday! As the parent-child-connect brand continues to grow, I have been blessed to meet and work with some phenomenal people! With that in mind, today’s guest blogger needs no introduction. Jesse Iwuji is an American professional NASCAR driver and officer in the United States Navy Reserve. He is a motivational speaker with many inspiring stories. Today, he has graciously offered to share one of those stories with us about desire and ambition. Enjoy!


How you start does not determine how you finish: By guest blogger Jesse Iwuji

Opportunity still exists!

My mom used to fetch water from rivers at age 11 to help provide water for her family in Nigeria. Later on, my dad brought her to America from Nigeria with 0 dollars to her name, and she was a hotel maid at age 23. My dad came to America with barely any money in his pocket, and a crooked cab driver robbed him immediately when he arrived. But just because you start with nothing, doesn’t mean the rest of life will be nothing.

But just because you start with nothing, doesn’t mean the rest of life will be nothing.

Jesse Iwuji

Since then, they’ve had four kids, excelled in their career fields, and owned small businesses on the side. After coming to America years ago with nothing, my parents just closed on this house. If you tell me there’s no opportunity in America I’m going to tell you my parents story.

My parents’ home -Jesse

There is hope for you too!

Just because you are doing a lot more doesn’t mean you are getting a lot done. Don’t confuse movement with progress!

Denzel Washington

Some of you will say, “nice story, but hard work is not always rewarded.” I challenge you with this: Understand that desire is different from ambition. We all desire success, but do we all have the ambition to achieve it? Denzel Washington once said we often confuse movement with progress, and that just because you’re doing a lot doesn’t mean you’re getting a lot done. You should apply that same logic toward achieving your dreams.

Don’t confuse movement with progress!

Let’s put it all together: Use your ambition to work towards your dream!

Life is a card game, and every deck of cards has a finite amount of cards that are all different. When the card game (life/career/relationship/etc.) begins, God unbiasedly deals us a certain hand. That hand is our beginning point, NOT our designated end. Some people start with an amazing hand which makes their odds of winning less complicated, while others start with really crappy hands. Just because you began with a crappy hand, DOES NOT mean that you can’t fight your way to a win. There is no law in life’s card game that states you automatically lose if your initial hand is crappy!

Where people start to lose is by making bad decisions in the card game, greed, blaming the card dealer (God) for your bad hand, analysis paralysis, and mentally giving up. Play your hand to the best of your ability with faith and action, and I promise good things will come. If you started with a crappy hand in life, your career, your family, your marriage, or whatever it is, never let that initial hand determine the outcome of the game. Even if you do lose, sit back down and just play again👊🏾!

The Guest Blogger: Jesse Iwuji

Jesse Iwuji | Official Website

In all things Jesse Iwuji does, there are two constant elements: his devotion to service and his inspirational nature to many. Jesse went from competing at the top level of Division-1A college football to rising the ranks of the military as a Lieutenant Commander, and is now the only current driver in all of NASCAR at the national levels that actively serves his country as a US Military member.

It has been key for Iwuji, who is currently serving in our country’s reserve fighting force, to honor his country while pursuing excellence in the business world as a business owner and on the track as a driver. It should come as no surprise that he has championed companies and charities that give back to our men and women in uniform.

Jesse is also a big supporter of NASCAR diversity, equity, and inclusion. Today he is one of two African Americans competing at NASCARs national level of racing. He was honored by NASCAR for two years in a row – the Diverse Driver of the Year Award. He is well versed both on and off the track!

It is fair to say in many ways Jesse is a first in NASCAR. While clawing toward the top tiers of NASCAR, Jesse Iwuji continues to take us all along for a memorable ride showing those who dare to dream that life truly rewards those who stay strong enough, long enough.

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Who is Olaolu Ogunyemi?: Author Interview with Kidlio Mag + An encouraging Message—Don’t lose that smile!

Click here for the audio version of this encouraging message! Stay tuned for a special message at the end!

Happy Sunday! I have been blogging for a little over a year now (time flies when you’re having fun), so I realize I have made several new connections who may not know who I am. Well, I was honored to share a little bit about who I am with Kidlio Mag (embedded at the end of this post) and of course you can always find out a little more at https://parent-child-connect.com/about. There is one more thing that I like to do at my initial introductions; I like to tell people something about me that they may not have otherwise known. So today’s fact about me is, I love to smile!

A childhood photo of (front to back) my oldest nephew, my youngest brother, and me. (Jan 25, 1998)

My smile means a lot to me.

For me, my smile is not simply an indication of my current emotion because as those emotions flee, so would my smile. Instead, my smile is an expression of who I am–a guy who is a joy to be around and genuinely excited to be alive. It is an open invitation to anyone I meet to engage in conversation with me because I am truly interested in what you have to offer the world. My smile is a gentle reminder that no matter what is happening, I can communicate peace and calmness to those around me with a simple gesture. It is an encouragement to others who may feel unwelcomed, unseen, unheard, or unwanted; I see you and appreciate your existence. It is a show of pure, unadulterated gratitude for your service whether you are a janitor cleaning the airport restroom, a police officer checking IDs at a military gate, a cashier servicing hundreds of customers a day at a busy grocery store, or anything in between.

There were times when I hid my smile.

There were times that I forgot how important my smile was, specifically during my preteen and early teenage years. I lacked so much confidence in myself and my smile because of all the negative things some of my peers (and even adults) were saying about my weight (I gained a lot of weight), my name, the size of my head, the size of the gap in my teeth, and more. After absorbing these insults, I found myself wanting to hide in the back corner of any room I entered. When I laughed, I quickly covered my mouth to hide my gap in hopes that no one would notice. Someone did notice.

Someone encouraged me.

One morning, my Sunday School teacher at church noticed me doing this and she told me, “Don’t hide your smile. You have a beautiful smile!” She probably does not remember saying that to me. Also, she likely had no idea how much those words meant to me. Regardless, I held those words tightly! When people would say harmful things, I would tell myself, “you have a beautiful smile” until I internalized it. Over time, my confidence returned and my smile was restored. Now when you meet me, you meet a giant, confident smile! So much so that many strangers have looked at me, turned their head slightly, and said, “Don’t lose that smile.”

Now I’m encouraging you!

So I want to encourage you today, don’t lose that smile! People will say harmful things, but they are wrong. Don’t listen to them! Your smile is beautiful because the person giving it has something beautiful inside of them!

Have a great week!

Enjoy this song by Kirk Franklin!
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Divided We Fall: A Call to Unite the [un]United States

Author’s note: This call to unite is not:

  • An attempt to bash the United States of America. Contrarily, I proudly serve as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. My service has afforded me many opportunities that have allowed me to open my aperture and further develop my perspective.
  • An expression of some form of political affiliation. I will remain apolitical throughout the entire post.

Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.

Matthew 12:25 NLT

Where we are now

I do not enjoy watching or reading the news. Instead of reporting to inform, many stories are developed to simply highlight our differences in a way that polarizes our opinions, beliefs, characteristics, and values. Recent history informs us that our country has fought to eradicate racial segregation. Even so, a more dangerous and complex form of segregation has emerged. We find ourselves segregated by race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, marital status, and more. The danger in this form of segregation lies in its covertness. It is shielded by our conscious and unconscious biases and driven by our inability or unwillingness to unite. It is time that we expose all forms of submersible segregation and work together towards achieving common goals. I envision that the road to unity requires a three-phased approach that each of us can implement into our daily affairs.

Phase 1: Community.

I believe to develop “community,” we must assemble people with diverse thoughts, behaviors, and experiences into the same physical (or virtual) area. This requires each member of the newly-assembled team to be open-minded and willing to actively listen to understand–forgoing any preconceived notions. Everyone must be willing to apply the timeless advice that transcends generations: you have two ears and one mouth to listen twice as much as you talk.

Phase 2: Togetherness.

Togetherness begins with establishing commonalities. This requires all parties to listen to understand vice listen to respond. Additionally, everyone should respect others’ opinions and feelings while maintaining an unwavering determination to collaboratively work towards shared goals. This does not mean we should agree on everything. Contrarily, I believe respectful disagreements based upon our varying perspectives creates a more well-rounded and thoroughly discussed solution. The differences each person brings to the team strengthens the collaborative effort unless those differences are highlighted for personal gain. Ultimately, togetherness is all about respect and ensuring that regardless of everyone’s background or beliefs, we are all working towards a common goal.

Phase 3: Unity.

Unity is the intangible bond that is developed over time from consistent collaborative efforts. It is an agreement that no matter the circumstance, our community will consistently work together towards a solution. Though some sources may attempt to persuade you otherwise and though some exist simply to cause division, unity is achievable. It requires and indestructible will and relentless focus on progression and collaboration. It requires each member of the community to think less of themselves and more about the betterment of the team as a whole.

If unity is the ultimate goal then we must uproot all forms of segregation and bias. We must not shy away from discussing the topics that divide us; for if we do, hatred, division, and segregation will continue to spread like weeds and strangle all hopes of collaboration and unity.

This weekend, we celebrate independence as a country; however, the people must become unified to maintain that independence. So as we celebrate our fight for independence, I urge you to join a new fight–the fight to unite. Remember this: it’s hard to win a battle when you view the battlefield from only your perspective, and it’s impossible to win a battle when you misidentify the enemy. The enemy is segregation, and we are better together. Let’s fight!

Take Action: Spark a conversation with someone who shares a different opinion or perspective. Learn about them and seek to understand what forms their opinion. Listen intently and ask open-ended questions only to get a better understanding. The fight to unite begins with you!

Feel free to like, share, comment, debate with me, etc. Most importantly, let’s continue the conversation!

Zeek Burse – One People
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Quick Parent Tip: Father’s Day Edition (Reblog)

Happy Father’s Day to all my Dads out there! We celebrate your accomplishments, sacrifices, and love today!

Let’s dive straight into today’s encouraging Quick Parent Tip for this Father’s Day weekend:

Fight for your family.

You are your family’s physical, mental, and spiritual protector. Embrace it. Fight for peace in your home and for your family’s unity and mental stability. Never stop fighting! You got this because you are not alone. I believe in you!

Accept responsibility.

You are responsible for everything that happens and fails to happen in your home. Let me be the first to tell you that this is both an honor and a burden. Regardless, keep pressing! Accept your responsibility willingly and take pride in being the leader of your home. Keep making decisions with your family’s best interest in mind.

Teach your family.

You are a great teacher and mentor for your family. You have the wisdom, knowledge, and experience to do it; just believe in yourself! Remember, more is caught than taught, so continue to set the example with your words and actions.

Hearing vs listening.

We all do it. We look up, see someone’s lips moving, and realize they have been talking to us the entire time. It’s ok. Next time, engage in active communication. Hearing is passive (i.e. your ears recognize a sound); however, listening is active. So be actively engaged in conversations today. Ask questions, nod along, mirror body language, and share the moment!

Elevate your perception of your contributions.

I know you are working your butt off, and oftentimes, it feels like it goes unnoticed. I want to encourage you to keep doing it. Your hard work, decisions, love, protection, and care are definitely making a difference. Even if no one else celebrates you this weekend, I am celebrating you right now! Great job brother! You are doing exactly what you need to be doing!

Relax and recover.

Take some time to focus on the positives–the great things you have done for your family! You have done (and continue to do) what many have turned away from. Rest well knowing that your impact is felt by more than those in your household. Society is indebted to you.

Thank you for your hard work, commitment, and sacrifices! Happy Father’s Day!

For those reading this who are not fathers, please take some time to thank a father this weekend. I promise you it means a lot!

Olaolu Ogunyemi: U.S. Marine Officer | Mentor | Best-selling Author
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Mission accomplished: A retrospective look at my time at Marine Corps Expeditionary Warfare School

In December 2020, I was working out with my oldest brother when the congratulatory messages came rolling in; I had been selected to attend resident United States Marine Corps Expeditionary Warfare School.  Normally, junior officers celebrate this news because it means you were board-selected to continue your education at Marine Corps University which is accredited to award Master’s Degrees. Instead, I was annoyed (to say the least) because I could only think of all the late nights/early mornings I spent to complete the distant education variant of the school I was selected to attend. I was even more annoyed by the fact that I was leaving behind a great team of people just as we were starting to work together and make significant progress.

After I finished what I can only describe as a private adult tantrum, I remembered one of my favorite verses that I learned as a child:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Romans 8:28 NLT
Romans 8:28 (Courtesy: YouVersion Bible App)

That is when I decided to take my own advice and shift my perspective on the opportunity I was about to pursue.

*Author’s note on spiritual fitness*

It is easy to talk about physical fitness because anyone can track and observe tangible results. Mental fitness is fun to talk about because I am enamored by the brain, so I nerd out on things like the cognitive process and neuroplasticity. However, though it is equally as important, I admittedly do not discuss spiritual fitness enough. Too often we associate spirituality with a religious affiliation. I teach that our spirituality is customized to each individual person. Our spirituality guides our moral compass and gives us a reason to live and “do” that exceeds personal gain. Many people call the latter our “purpose” or “higher calling.”

Our spirituality allows us to realize that our situations are all temporary; however, we remain hopeful because we firmly believe each of those situations–whether bleak or lush–are interconnected and will work together to create a favorable outcome. This gives us the courage to search for the growth opportunities in each circumstance. Therefore, when approaching any circumstance, I challenge you to ask two questions: 1. “How can I accomplish my purpose while here? (Extrospection)” 2. “What can I personally and professionally learn from this? (Introspection)”*

I shifted my perspective

Once I shifted my perspective, I was able to develop personal and professional goals. I will share a few of them with you in hopes that I can help you establish and pursue your own goals. Use these as an example vice a threshold, because quite honestly, I did much better in some categories than others.

Just a few of the personal and professional goals I set last summer

  1. Improve cardiovascular endurance
    • How did I do? I decreased my run time by forty-nine seconds.
  2. Make better dietary choices to improve physical appearance
    • How did I do? I cut several food items to include dairy milk. As a result, I lost nine pounds and reduced my body fat percentage by approximately 2-3%
  3. Help train others to prepare them for their upcoming promotion board.
    • How did I do? I offered to train anyone who was willing to train first thing in the morning. One person accepted the challenge, and we began training in September 2021. She was able to achieve a 300/300 Combat Fitness Test score and a 295/300 Physical Fitness Test score. Additionally, she had noticeable changes in her physique and established a workout regimen that she plans to continue.
  4. Become more studious and a more avid reader
    • How did I do? In conjunction with my school studies, I read and studied several additional books on diverse topics and a plethora of scholarly articles. These books ranged from The Mentor Leader by Tony Dungy to We Were One: Shoulder to Shoulder with the Marines Who Took Fallujah by Patrick K. O’Donnell to The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity by Norman Doidge
  5. Become a more clear and succinct writer and write a scholarly article to publish
    • How did I do? I am sure my Faculty Advisor (he reviewed all of my papers) may argue that the “succinct” portion of that goal is subjective, but I believe I did well :D. More importantly, I was awarded the Marine Corps University Foundation Academic Year 2021-2022 “Mutter Marines Command and Control Writing Award” for my argumentative research paper entitled, “Adapt or Perish: A call to revise the Marine Corps Command, Control, Communications, and Computer (C4) Architecture.” At the time of this post, none of my articles have been published, but I am still working with a few editors for future publication.
  6. Collaborate with organizations and media outlets to inspire our future generation to pursue their dreams
    • How did I do? I was featured in several articles, podcasts, and elementary school visits. Check out this link to see a couple of the articles!
  7. Dedicate time to spend with family
    • How did I do? I made it a point to attend every extracurricular activity and practice that I could attend for my children. My children’s extracurricular activities included music lessons, football (in season), basketball (in season), and baseball (in season). Additionally, I did my best to always study and build my personal brand when my family was sleep (either early in the morning or late at night). I knew that I had to take advantage of this opportunity while in school, because work requirements sometimes hamper my ability to give my wife and children the time they deserve.

My hope for you

I hope you are able to use my experience and examples to prepare for your next challenge! All the obstacles you have encountered (to include what you are working to overcome right now) will work together for your benefit. Be encouraged and inspired to keep progressing, keep setting and pursuing your goals, and go win. I believe in you!

Thanks for your support! Please like, share, comment, and check out https://parent-child-connect.com/blog for more!