Monday, October 28, 2013

Self-help vs. God-help

Self-Help Vs. God-Help
Tim Connor

Having been a self-help advocate and teacher for many years I have recently come across a number of articles and books that have challenged this theory and label of material, ideas and inspiration designed to help us prosper and find success, peace and happiness.

Let me be clear I am not against personal growth as long as its motives are grounded in gaining skills, attitudes and mindsets that help us travel through life with compassion, wisdom, understanding and joy but of late considering I have read over 2000 self-help books during my life and written a few, I have come to the conclusion that self-help is a far less beneficial life approach if it doesn’t include what I am referring here to God-help.

For years I have believed, thought, shared and even preached now and then, “God never gives you anything you can’t handle.”  I was wrong.  God always gives us stuff we can’t handle, but He never gives us stuff He can’t handle.

When we think or believe that we can navigate life’s challenges alone without some help from Him we are in serious denial. Think for a moment – how many times during your life have you been in a corner, up against a wall or on your knees due to distress, despair, discouragement, grief or any other negative life circumstance.  Did you blame God?  Did you feel abandoned? Did you feel alone?  Did you feel like you had nowhere to turn?  Did you feel you were out of choices, options or acceptable alternatives?  I have done all of these, but in the end sooner or later (according to His schedule) He showed up and guided me, sustained me, helped me or led me out of the darkness and the valley and into the light and understanding.

None of this ever came from a self-help book or Guru.  Yes, I frantically looked in all of my favorite sources for answers, ideas and help, but in the end until I finally turned to Him was I able to be set free from the fear, anxiety and concern for my circumstances.

Been there?  Oh, I’m sure you have your favorite self-help authors, books and guides and often turn to them for guidance and solutions to life’s many issues but let me ask you – if these helped you – did you ever find yourself in similar situations again causing you to once again look to these same resources for help?

The answer is sooner or later until we can learn to listen to our inner voice (spirit or God trying to teach and guide us) we will continue to try and solve all of our life challenges alone and I can tell you from much personal experience – yes these can help – but in the end until you come to ask, trust, rely on God for answers you will often continue down the wrong path experiencing repeat outcomes from self-directed decisions, choices and actions.

Yes, we all have free will, but again let me ask you has your free will and its choices ever let you down?  Yes, we all have experience but have your experiences ever been poor teachers for present situations.  Yes, we all have a certain degree of knowledge and wisdom, but has this ever caused you to make poor choices or decisions?  And your point is Tim. . .

My point is that we all have access to a source of guidance that its purpose is to help us live, happy, productive, prosperous and joyful lives, but until we come to trust this source we will tend to find ourselves in repeat negative circumstances until we finally learn to seek the guidance and wisdom of 
God-help and just not-self-help.

The one thing God is after is character.”
Oswald Chambers

Saturday, October 26, 2013

God is in control

God is in control

Tim Connor

Control people must have control.  Perfectionists must have control. Negative people get stressed when things don’t go the way they want or planned. Here’s the problem – even the things we can control – and these are very few when you think about it are often not really within our control.  Yes you can control what you eat, buy, decide, do, feel but can you really control the ultimate outcomes of these actions or behaviors?

The more I consider each of life’s actions and decisions the thought keeps coming back to me that in the end I really don’t have control of most of the important areas of life.

Yes I can control the career I choose but not all of its circumstances and outcomes as the months or years pass.  Yes I can choose the relationships I want to pursue but I can’t control each of the dynamics that will eventually become reality during their existence.  Yes I can control what I choose to buy but can I really determine their ultimate impact on my life?

You might think I am digging too deeply into the weeds or being negative but consider – Life happens and not always the way we want it too.

So where does ultimate control reside? Or better still who or what is really in control of our lives?  I don’t know your spiritual beliefs or inclinations but for me giving up control to God, and He has had it all along, has been a difficult and challenging journey.
Humans by nature want control and behave rigorously to get it and maintain it but let me ask you – have you ever been disappointed by an outcome or incident that happened in your life when you thought you had control?  I will wager that your answer will be – yes.

So, what are we to do – just sit back and wait for God to run and rule our lives?  No, I don’t believe that is His purpose for the years He gives us but I do believe He wants us to let go of our insatiable need to have things our way.

Struggle, disappointment, pain and grief come to all of us sooner or later.  Is this due to our actions or decisions or is it His way of guiding, teaching and leading us in the right or even a better direction?
I could write a book about all of the disappointments in lifer I have experienced but in more serious contemplation I learned each of them was due to my need to have it “my way, on my terms and on my schedule”.  Lately I have come to understand that my relationship with God is a partnership.  He leads and I follow and things sooner or later work out for the best.  Or he leads and I don’t follow and things just take longer with more pain to finally accept the simple concept that He is in control.

Yes, we have free will and the right and ability to make decisions and take action and He will let us travel the wrong path for awhile hoping we will learn what He wants us to learn but if we fail to learn - the pain or struggle is sure to follow.

One of my favorite lines was spoken many years ago by one of my heroes, Eric Butterworth.  He said, “God’s law of adjustment regulates all of the affairs of our life.”  In other words, we are all in control of what we do but He is in control of the learning and the learning that will always be in sync with His purpose for our life.

Ever had a person come into your life just when you needed them?  Ever had an event you didn’t see coming enter your life that was needed to guide you back on the right path?  Ever read something – out of the blue – that changed the rest of your life?  Coincidences or a part of a larger plan?  You decide.
“I shall not believe that God plays dice with the world.”
Albert Einstein

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Two types of retirement

There are two types of retirement . . .
Tim Connor

Thinking about retiring soon? Or some day? Regardless of your age I would like you to consider the two types of retirement and their impact on your life; physical retirement and mental retirement.
Physical retirement – Whether you are 65 or younger or older you have decided it’s time to call it quits when it comes to your career or business. You have decided that it’s time to play, travel or just hang out till your last day here.  Physical retirement has its positives and negatives.

Research has indicated that the average lifespan of the average retiree at age 65 is 5-7 years.  Yes, lots of folks make it to 90 while others kick the bucket shortly after they leave their career behind.

Why this short average?  Well for starters while people were working whether they liked their career or job or not, still had something to look forward to every day and something that gave their life meaning.  When they leave all of this behind their biggest challenge in retirement is to find some activity that gives their life a sense of meaning or purpose and I’m not talking about playing golf every day or traveling the country in your Winnebago for several years. (I don’t mean any disrespect to those who choose this path but the evidence indicates that many people are back to work after retirement.  May not be full time or the same type of position but they need a reason to get up every day.

Retirement is well earned by most people and if the statistics are true - over 75% of the people working hate their job or career and can’t wait to retire and leave it behind.  If this is your situation I agree with your decision to call it quits but the answer remains – what are you going to do with your life now?  Volunteer? Part time? Sleep a lot? Drive your spouse nuts every minute of every day?

The human spirit needs something to look forward to both in the short and long term and when you retire if you don’t honor this need with something of personal value to you, you are headed for a lot of wasted years.

I love what I do – speaking and writing and retirement isn’t even in my vocabulary or DNA but I can’t speak for each of you. I guess the question is why would a person spend 30 or 40 years doing what they hate so they can have only 5-10 years doing what they want?  Then there is mental retirement.

Mental retirement – If you think physical retirement is a challenge how about mental retirement?  Mental retirement is when for whatever reason you decide to stop learning, growing, improving or just living life in general without joy, passion, zest and a sense of adventure – in other words you are just passing each day – one after another - waiting to die.  Oh, you may have a lot of years ahead of you but many people in their 20’s and 30’s have mentally retired because they think; they know it all, they are the smartest person in the room, they are more successful than others their age, they are just bored or lack an adventuresome spirit and mindset.

We all were put on this earth to do something unique and special regardless of whether that is raising great children or sharing your talent and wisdom with others to help them find success, joy and happiness and this assignment is NOT a function of age.

I know many younger folks who have just shut down, settled or given in or up on life and I know many people in their 70’s and 80’s who are living a vibrant, exciting and rewarding life.  The question is – are you retiring or have you retired mentally?  If so, how is that working for you when it comes to relationships, success, happiness, achievement and the reason God gave you life?

I could give you many examples of my mentors or hero’s who were productive, dynamic and vibrant well into their later years but how about just five – Mark Twain, George Burns, Bob Hope, Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill.  What did each of these folks have in common?

They all; cherished each day, lived with a sense of purpose, gave to life more than they took from it and had passion and a sense of humor that was engaging and yet prickly. They were often described as – rebels, mavericks and trouble makers.

You don’t have to copy their traits to life a “life worth living” but you do need to keep growing, learning and improving in some area of your life.

“Nothing is more disgraceful than an old man should have nothing to show or proved that he has lived long,
except his years.”

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Decisions, decisions and more decisions

Decision, Decisions
and More Decisions
Tim Connor

Facing a difficult decision? Expect to have to deal with one in the near future?  Putting off a decision for any number of reasons? Let’s talk about it.

I’m sure you have heard the phrase – failure to make a decision is to make a decision. Decision - something that somebody chooses or makes up his or her mind about, after considering it and other possible choices. The ability to choose or decide about things in a clear and definite way without too much hesitation or delay. (Just wanted to make sure we are on the same page.)

First of all making the decision is the easy part – it’s the action that must follow the decision that is often the most difficult or challenging for many people.  To decide is meaningless unless it is followed with appropriate action.

People make decisions every day; to lose weight, start exercising, to learn a new skill, to clean the house or get to work earlier every day but these are meaningless when all you do is decide.  It’s the action that is the most important part of the decision process.

So, having said this, why do people procrastinate when it comes to certain decisions and or the action that must or should follow?  Too many to list but most fall into the following categories; fear of failure, fear of success, fear of possible consequences, a concern that you won’t be able to handle what happens as a result of your decision, the concern for other’s opinions, past history of a lack of action, the wrong motives, doing it because someone else (spouse, friend, parent, boss) wants you too, laziness, a lack of discipline, a lack of commitment etc.

And, I’m not just talking here about major decisions; who you should date or marry, what career steps you should take, whether to move to a different part of the country, to buy or sell a house, to stay in a negative relationship but also things like; what to wear to a special event, what to say when your views or opinions are challenged, whether to initiate something - anything, what to do this weekend or what to eat or not eat.

Keep in mind that all decisions, followed by action, have consequences.  Some can be negative while others could be positive and some are long term (years) while some can be instant.

The question is – do you have a decision strategy or process when it comes to deciding – anything or do you just leave it all up to how you feel that day, the weather, chance or just luck and whatever will be –will be?

What exactly is a decision process or strategy?  Without giving you more information that you want, let me just repeat that making decisions is the easy part especially if you have a history of not following through on decisions.  So the real challenge is not the decision but the will, courage and confidence to take action.

I recall my friend Charlie Jones telling me years ago – “Stop trying to make good decisions. Sometimes good decisions can turn out wrong and bad decisions can turn out right.  The key is to make the decision and then make it turn out right with your actions, attitudes and behavior.”

A simple decision process is; consider all alternatives and their potential consequences (you can’t guarantee any of these), stay in reality and not fantasy, deal in truth and not just personal perception as perceptions are often based on many false premises, decide, develop a plan to implement your decision and make sure it includes possible obstacles, opportunities and the potential for failure, write down the plan, give it a timeline for results or outcomes, keep inspecting your actions and adjust as necessary, if you find that you don’t have passion, courage or confidence in the actions then re-visit the decision.

There are many more steps and I have not delved into the details of the previous steps – the thing to keep in mind is that – if you want something to happen – be better, happen sooner, not happen etc the key is in the actions but you must have faith in the decision otherwise the actions will be nothing more than imaginings.

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
George Bernard Shaw