perspective

How To Gain New Perspective on Life

At 60 years old, I can legitimately say I have perspective. I can look back and connect the dots of my life and look ahead with anticipation of what God has in store for me. Instrumental in helping me gain perspective over the past 11 years is being involved in several small group communities like Convene. Left on my own, it is difficult to hold my life in perspective. My worldview becomes narrow and biased. Isolation breeds self-pity, negativity, and ultimately, hopelessness. It feeds my ego, my self-sufficiency, my need for control. It creates an inward spiral that draws me further into myself. In contrast, community helps keep me in perspective. It shows me that I’m not alone in my brokenness. It allows me to understand my trials and challenges relative to other good people’s struggles. It helps me examine my own lifestyle and character and forces me to challenge my own limiting beliefs. Community creates an outward spiral that draws others into my life.

Let me share three areas in which I have gained perspective.

Time

Ecclesiastes 3 says, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under heaven.” We all know the Scripture. A time to give birth, to die, to plant, to uproot the plant, to tear down, to build, to weep, to laugh, etc. In 60 years I’ve had a chance to experience most of those.

We talk a lot about “God’s plan” but we are often unwilling to let it play out. We fret, become anxious, think the worst. Have you ever heard it said that “God is the slowest person to be on time”? His timing and His ways are best and when we don’t allow it to play out, we are being disobedient to God’s will. When we try to circumvent the path He’s laid in front of us, we are disallowing God to work on us--to mold us and shape us. So at 60, I can say that I have gained patience. Patience is the fruit of perspective of time.

Vision

Romans 11:34: “For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?” Elsewhere in Philippians it says that “we have the mind of Christ.”

The mind of Christ—think of that! A regular prayer of mine is to watch the story of life unfold with patience and vision: to stand back and watch God’s plan play out like a movie. But that only happens when I know and care about the people who surround me. To trust God’s plan is to understand our role in it.

Courage

Joshua 1:5, 9—“As I was with Moses, I will be with you: I will not leave you nor forsake you. …I command you: be strong and courageous! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go.” I have adopted the rally cry of “Be strong and courageous.” That speaks loudly to me about continuing to carry out the work of God no matter how inadequate or undeserving I might feel.

So, the combination of patience for God’s timing, plus vision to see through God’s eyes, plus courage to act, knowing He is with me…those all produce perspective.

I have learned that the fruit of this formula of Patience, Vision and Courage is peace of mind and joy in my heart. Philippians 4:7 says, “The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

So now a question for you: Who in your life helps you keep perspective?

Riding a Bike In Tuscany Taught Me Why People Don’t Set Goals

I learn a lot riding my bike. We’re in Tuscany for a month and today was the sixth day of riding. Twenty glorious days to go. The first day, and every day since, I simply decided which direction I was going (north, south, toward the hills, away from them, etc.), then got on my bike and went.

Living For The Moment I have spent hours each day blissfully unaware of where I am, just riding through the countryside, impulsively going left, right or straight as it seemed right for the moment. The future and the past don’t play into the decision. I’m just “living for the moment.” But each day I have to find my way back to our fairly remote, countryside villa south of Lucca. The first day it took an hour to find home on these winding roads (even with a digital map), where I could easily have done it in 20 minutes if I knew the area. Each day since it has gotten easier.

“I Just Don’t Know Where I Am” Every day my wife, Diane, and daughter, Laura have asked me, “Were you lost?”, to which I always reply, “I’m never lost, I just don’t know where I am.” Today, I was going through the process of finding my way home, and on an unusually straight stretch of road with time to think, I realized that I get a little perturbed right around this time in every ride, because now I’m actually trying to get somewhere.

That’s when I figured out why people don’t set goals. Because they answer the question the way I did—“I’m not lost, I just don’t know where I am.” On that same late stretch today where I was now trying to hone in on the villa, I realized that I actually do get lost, and I do it once on every ride; when I’m trying to get home; when I finally have a goal.

Measuring Progress Requires a Goal In Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat which direction she should go. He responds wisely with the question, “Where are you going?” Alice says, “I don’t know”, to which the Cat replies, “Then either road will do.” And off she goes, enjoying her adventure.

When I have nowhere I need to be, I’m simply on a glorious adventure with no constraints, no rules, no timelines, and no pressure to perform. Nothing to measure in the long run. I truly am not lost, I just don’t know where I am. But that’s okay, because I have nowhere I need to be.

But as soon as I ask, “Where is home?”, I’m immediately lost, because now I have somewhere I need to be, and at first I don’t know how to get there. My stress level goes up a bit, and I start getting frustrated that I missed a turn, or have to backtrack, when minutes before, I would not have seen any of those activities as missteps. I’m now “failing” (we should call it practice or learning) where I used to have no measure of such a thing.

Too often we see that kind of pressure as negative stuff. But something else comes into focus as soon as I ask, “Where is home?” Instead of just wandering around, for the first time, I’m immediately measuring progress toward some potentially positive future goal.

Living On Purpose All six bike rides getting home have come with a big sense of accomplishment by just finding our remote villa. The same is true on a grander scale with chasing my own personal Big Why, which is To Live Well By Doing Good. Things worth accomplishing always involve a challenge, some stress, and clear measurement of progress.

But utter clarity on where you are going and what it looks like when you get there, makes all that worth it. We can live reactively and any road will do, or we can live on purpose, design our future, and become intentional about getting somewhere. We get what we intend, not what we hope for.

“Where Are You Going?” Nobody’s lost until they have a destination in mind. We shouldn’t ask people if they are lost. It’s a negative question that assumes incompetence. We should instead ask them if they know where they are going; where they want to end up. That’s an interesting challenge that just might change their lives.

Some people work hard at being confused because when they are confused, they are not responsible. “There are so many good choices of where I could end up, I just don’t know which road to take.” The ability to measure progress is sometimes threatening, but a man still finds his destiny on the path he chose to avoid it. You will end up somewhere, the question is whether by default or by choice.

He who aims at nothing, hits it every time.

Off to bed before a big ride tomorrow. Getting home is the biggest challenge I expect to face.

Where are you going?

Article as seen on Inc.com

Creating a “No Losers” Mindset in Your Marriage

One of the biggest causes of marital breakdowns … and in business relationships … is the inability to resolve conflict effectively; and every married couple runs into conflict because … Conflict is inevitable … two people who are in love … want each other to think and feel the same way about things … how to deal with money … how to deal with children … free time … and more!

The problem is … too many of us have come to believe that conflict is a bad thing … and that we should avoid it at all costs … but that’s not true … nor is it healthy for your marriage …

The truth is … conflict is a sign of connectedness … it says we have a vital relationship here … Remember – we rarely have conflicts with people we do not know or like.

But the most important thing we need to know about conflict is that it does not have to be negative!  When we learn how to successfully resolve conflicts with our spouse … we discover new things about him or her that we didn’t know before (which is why we’re having the problem) … and that helps to deepen our intimacy.

To make conflict a productive force in our marriage we have to establish a “No Losers Policy.” 

If you are “one,” a house divided against itself can’t stand.  If you are a “team” … it is impossible for one member of a team to win while another member of that same team loses!  You either both win … or you both lose … but there should never be an “I win – You lose” mentality allowed your marriage!

You both “win” when you both feel good about and agree together on the solution to your problem.  Maybe one of you came up with the solution … that’s OK … as long as both of you willingly agree that it is the best solution … you have a win-win scenario!  What will break down any marriage is the “my way or the highway” mentality!

The 2 Driving Forces in Life

Both are powerful, but only one will help you build a great life.

There are really only two fundamental driving forces in life. One of them can be helpful, but is short lived. The other one can make you very successful.

1) Running away from something (survival) 2) Running toward something (your Big Why—purpose)

Only the second one creates lasting success. The first one might even create failure.

Survival—Running Away

Moving away from something is a survival tactic. Survival is a very strong instinct, but the negative nature of it will not help you get to great places. It will only help you escape unhelpful ones. Running from something gets tiring.

There are legitimate reasons to run from something—a bear in the woods, a mudslide, that guy who won’t stop talking. Many people look for a new job or start a businesses because they are fed up with the boss or the company they work for. Others do it because they were let go and didn’t want to ever be that vulnerable again. All of these are legitimate reasons to run from something unhelpful.

A negative driving force can be a good incentive to get something started. But the problem with running from things is that it isn’t sustainable. The gravitational pull of that thing chasing you, will eventually slow you down and wear you out. We aren’t built to find long term sustainable motivation from running away from things, but by running toward them.

Purpose—Running Toward

When you find something to run toward you’re much more likely to create a sustainable motivation and succeed. A positive driving force is something that you don’t have, but it has you. It grips you and compels you forward—you can’t help but go in that direction because the gravitation pull in front of you is strong and always getting stronger as you get closer to it.

What drives your life? What compels you to get up in the morning even when you’re not making money and when you’re tired of the struggle? What helps you see the struggle as the road to success rather than the road to nowhere? I call that my Big Why—the big reason to be in business or in life that is so much bigger than just the trivial need to make some money.

If you have a Big Why, a positive driving force that is compelling you forward, you are unlikely to wear out, slow down or give up.

The Paralyzing Middle—Neutral

But there is one other condition that won’t get us anywhere, and is paralyzing—living in neutral. When we’re living in neutral, we’re neither moving away from something or toward something, but simply not going anywhere—dead in the water of life—just treading to keep our head above it all. People who live in neutral many times have reasonably safe, comfortable and predictable lives, but rarely have a story to tell. Movement of some kind is critical. Moving away from the earth might help us eventually find the gravitational pull of the moon. Running away can help us find something to run toward, but neutral doesn’t help us find anything.

Get A Big Why—Your Blue Flame

Get out of neutral if you’re in it—wake up, get a Big Why and run toward it. We call it the blue flame that drives you forward, like the afterburner of a fighter jet.

Do you have a blue flame coming out your back side that is driving you forward? It’s the best way to ensure you’ll build a life you’ll love.

Some day your life may flash before you. If it does, make sure it’s worth watching.

Carpe freaking diem, already.

Power, Position, Prestige…or a Life Well Spent?

What do you imagine your ‘last words’ might be? Someone was listening in to a few famous people as they breathed their last; here’s what they said. “I'm bored with it all.” (Before slipping into a coma.)  ~~ Winston Churchill, statesman, died January 24, 1965

“How were the circus receipts in Madison Square Gardens?”  ~~ P. T. Barnum, Circus Promoter, died 1891

“All my possessions for a moment of time.”  ~~ Queen Elizabeth I, Queen of England, d. 1603

Business leader Malcolm Forbes's life emphasized the epicurean philosophy, “Eat, drink, and be merry – for tomorrow we may die.” He was famous for denying himself nothing that money could buy. Malcolm threw himself a birthday party for his eightieth birthday that cost $1,000,000. The party favors were amazing! He flew two or three hundred of his closest friends to Tangier in a chartered 747 jet. He knew, and was known by, every important person in the world of politics and finance. He built one of the world’s great fortunes as one of its foremost publishers. It seems that Mr. Forbes philosophy of life would be that we should strive to see, taste, hear, experience, or possess as much of the world’s various valued faire as possible before the time to depart it comes. I wonder what his last words were!

Actually Solomon, the Bible king was richer than Malcolm Forbes. He pursued meaning in things, in work, in money and in entertainment. Listen in to his words,

“I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned great herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire! So I became greater than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. And with it all, I remained clear-eyed so that I could evaluate all these things. Anything I wanted, I took. I did not restrain myself from any joy. I even found great pleasure in hard work, an additional reward for all my labors.” Ecclesiastes 2:4-11

You may come to the end of your life’s journey with a large amount of wealth or you may be honored by your peers for your accomplishments. But what do you suppose it might all mean to you as you face your last moments on earth? Do you suppose that you might hold a stock portfolio to your chest and gain comfort by looking at the number of shares on the certificate? The house that you own, the backyard renovation, the new carpet or the car…none of which you’ll ever see again… how much will they mean then? Likely not much at all. As you slip across the threshold into the arms of God, they’ll mean even less…actually nothing at all unless they were used for lasting purposes.

The Apostle Paul who was mentored by Jesus Christ had it all, the social status, the recognition, the power. He could even throw his enemies into jail. He was respected by the existing religious authorities of his day, he was an ‘up and comer’, “of the stock of Israel, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee.” He said all of those status symbols, the power, prestige, position type things, became “rubbish” to him when he met Jesus Christ.

What in the world would make him change his mind about things like that? Why would he give up the power and access to affluence? Paul believed that there are things that are even more important than power, position and prestige. He believed in eternal things. He knew that, “You cannot serve both God and money.”

How about you?  What are you striving for? Who are you trying to be like? When Saul of Tarsus met Jesus Christ, he either gradually or immediately, stopped pursuing the status and values of this world. He, either slowly or immediately, began to pursue only those things that would promote and proclaim the great news of hope and meaning and purpose that is found in Jesus Christ. To him life became, “forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.”

We only have so many assets to invest. Our assets are the amount of time we have left, the money that we control, the relationships we have, and the package of gifts and talents that God has given us. Investing them to honor God and proclaim the kingdom of God is why we’re on earth. How about you? Have you invested well on earth so that your dying words will reflect an eternal legacy?

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Greg Leith was born in Canada and has lived in all four corners of North America. His career spans over 35 years of senior leadership roles in corporate, nonprofit and academic sectors. He is currently the CEO of Convene , a nationwide group of hundreds of faith based CEO’s learning together to grow exceptional businesses, become higher-impact leaders and honor God. He serves on various boards related to his passion of faith integrated with the marketplace, and he loves helping people get clarity on mission and purpose as a certified life coach. Married for over 35 years to his wife Shelley, he’s the father and friend of five thriving young adults. He and Shelley love to speak on marriage and parenting for FamilyLife, and they live in Southern California.