Never, Ever Settle for Normal. Unless You’re Driftwood.

Can I encourage you to never do something? Don’t make peace with the status quo. Ever. And never settle for normal. It will be the death of you and everything you care about. Normal is what everyone wants you to do. Normal is what society forces us to do. Your life is worth extraordinary value, so live that way. Be wild. Do something crazy that creates amazing experiences and builds memories that last a lifetime. You’re unique, you’re gifted, and you may not be able to walk on water but it’s a lot more fun swimming in the Mediterranean than looking at pictures of it. (By the way – that picture is me jumping into the Mediterranean!)img_2891

You are a wonder of creation. Scientists say the very chances of you even existing are about one in 400 trillion. This means that there is no one like you. You are incredibly unique with gifts, talents, and answers for the people on this planet that only you can deliver. You cannot afford to be stuck in a rut.

“Each human being is unique, each with their own qualities, instincts, forms of pleasure, and desire for adventure. However, society always imposes on us a collective ways of behaving, and people never stop to wonder why they should behave like that. They just accept it, the way typists accepted the fact that the QWERTY keyboard was the best possible one. Have you ever met anyone is your entire life who asked why the hands of a clock should go in one particular direction and not the other?” ~ Paulo Cuelho

Deep Change vs. Slow Death

Leadership expert and author Robert Quinn says that we are in one of two places in life, the place of deep change or slow death. We are either changing or shriveling up on the inside.

This is in agreement with the 2nd law of thermodynamics which states that all things lead to entropy – decay and disorder. It’s a natural system. It’s really easy to get stuck. Stuck in our comfort zones, habits, normalcy, negativity and routine. We are either changing or dying, growing or decaying. It takes a strong, willful, and soulful choice to go against the flow and take a leap of faith into the land of the unknown. A phrase I love to describe this is, “Walking naked into the land of uncertainty.” Don’t worry, it’s not literal. Keep your clothes on. 🙂

Moving Our Family to Europe

I’ll preface this by saying that you probably don’t need to move, but you do need to change and do something different. Maybe something really big and completely out of the box. Get out of your comfort zone. Take risk, not simply for the sake of risk but out of the yearning to truly live for what matters most to you.

For my family that meant moving overseas, learning a new language and building an adventurous life filled with a calling, and the things and people we love. We lived in a wonderful community at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The beauty was indescribable and the weather was my favorite of any place in the world. We were there for 14 years. So many incredible friends and experiences that were simply magical. (more…)

4 Things I’ve Learned Without a CAR for 1 Year

IMG_1619 copy2As a family we did one of the craziest things on the planet 1 year ago. We moved our family to Barcelona, Spain. It’s truly been the greatest adventure of our lives! Because we chose to live in the center of the city, we also decided to depend solely on public transportation. That means no car after 20 years of marriage!
Now, let me assure you this has its ups and downs. There were a number of reasons we decided to do this. One, we had a limited amount of money and we didn’t want to spend it on a car. So, survival! We had no idea how long we would be here and this seemed like the right thing to do.

Two, we live right in the center of the city. Parking is a nightmare and so is driving. This is an old city so there are a ton of one-way streets everywhere you go. We chose simplicity over convenience.

Now, by no means am I saying you should give up your car. And, I’m not writing a book about, “Being free from the tyranny of driving and car payments.” I just thought it would interest you to know what we’ve learned and how this has changed us. In the process, maybe the things we’ve learned could make a difference in your life too.

  1. Your Health Gets WAY Better

In the U.S. I barely walked anywhere. We drove our cars (5 of them) from the garage to work, practice, and life. We always looked for the nearest parking spot at Coscto and Walmart. We were trying to cut out walking every chance we could get!

Without a car, we average 6-7 miles of walking per day. What a perk! I’m in the best shape of my life thanks to not having a car. I’ll obviously need a car again, but walking is one new habit I will take with me wherever I live.

  1. It’s A Good Thing to Depend on Others

 I am fiercely independent by nature. I’ve had to be while growing up an only child from a broken home who lived in a new town almost every year. As an adult I learned that depending on people is risky. They will let you down, stab you in the back, lie, cheat and steal. I’m guilty of doing that to others in my weakness as well.

All these reasons lead me to believe that you cannot really rely on other people. Until you don’t have a car. In a foreign land where we had very few relationships, we were forced to rely on the kindness of strangers.

You know what I learned? There are many people who are more than willing to go out of their way to help when you ask. They are gracious and loving and that realization has changed me. It’s shown me that it’s ok to ask for help. In fact we need to ask for help sometimes because we need each other. No one is an island.

  1. Your Connection with Your Family Deepens

Without a car, our family has had more time together. We take public transport and walk the kids to their practices. Yes, sometimes this takes 40 minutes one way, but we have had some of the best interactions and conversations we’ve had in years. IMG_8678 copy

There is no replacement for quality time with the people you love. We’ve learned to slow down, enjoy being with each other and we’ve made the most of our very long walks together.

  1. You Have More Peace

I don’t think I’d realized what a nut I’d become. Getting in my car to rush to this thing, talking on the phone the whole way there, and stressed out about my car payments. And then there was trying to sell cars that cost me money to get rid of. Ugh!

I was caught in the consumerism that raised me and I was steeped in the stress it brought to my life. I was disconnected. I wasn’t engaged as I should have been with my friends and family and I was shriveling up on the inside. I was becoming less of myself not more of who I wanted to be.

Getting rid of some ‘stuff,’ including my cars, has helped me re-center my life on what really matters. I’m able to enjoy the blessings God has brought to me and fall in love again with the people who are around me.

Not having a car this past year hasn’t been a burden, it’s been a gift. I’ve learned to live for the people and the values that really matter and I think I’ve added a few extra years to my life!

Most of you have cars, and you should! But perhaps you can apply some of these lessons in your life, right where it is. My hope is that you will take a deep breath, be fully engaged and completely present in the lives of those you love and care about, and you will be free to live for the things that matter most to you deep inside. You really can discover new freedoms when you do unconventional things.

 

 

 

Can the Bible Help Me Be More Positive?

 

Fear and negativity have become as common today as barbecues and movie theaters. Our world is steeped in it. These feelings and emotions are in direct contradiction to a life filled with wholeheartedness and purpose which are promises of a positive lifestyle. In the midst of our disappointment our challenge is to keep ourselves filled with hope and to have a strong, positive mindset. But how can we live that way? Can the Bible help us be more positive? Does it have anything to say about overcoming fear and living a life filled with good things? Photo_Bible_IICor

I chose to pursue a Masters in Theology and a Doctorate in Leadership because I wanted answers to the deeper questions in life such as these. I was also hamstrung with negativity and a terrible mindset. I saw problems with most everyone and everything around me. I thought life was a cruel joke and people were not to be trusted. The truths below have literally changed my life and help me live my values and the things in life that are important to me. They are simple yet powerful. I hope they impact you too.

3 Promises to Help You Live a Positive Life

 Romans 8:28“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

This is one of my personal favorite passages on hope and staying positive. NO matter what happens in our lives, God is actively working on our behalf to turn all things into good things. This means that in the middle of our darkest struggles we are not alone. We are not forgotten. And we are not orphaned. In no way does this mean God causes evil and calamity, but he inevitably brings good through everything that happens in life.  (more…)

This Shift Will Create More Love and Success in Your Life

Can we create more love and success in our lives? Absolutely. And a strange research study proves it. A man named Dr. Masuru Emoto conducted a study and found an usual path to success. He attempted to determine the effect that spoken words had on water. He chose words that communicated both love and hate, then immediately froze the water to see what effects the words would have. The results were fascinating.photo_man-stress-male-face copy

Words centered around love, gratitude, happiness and appreciation formed beautiful crystals resembling intricate snowflakes. Spoken words about hate, anger and war formed images that were black and deformed. Words literally had an impact on what happened to the water. It changed its structure. This should not come as too much of a shock to us. The ancient book of Proverbs, written sometime between the 10th and 6th centuries B.C., tells us that. “life and death are in the power of the tongue.” Since research shows we are 60% water, we need to take this study seriously.

Change your words, change your life.

We are designed to be creative people. We create with our hands, our minds and with our words. Human beings have an innate ability to speak life and death over their lives and circumstances. This is one of our most powerful and overlooked abilities to bring about positive change. (more…)

Making Meaning Out of Your Mess – 4 Things I Learned While Shipwrecked

How do you find meaning in the mess?

What do you do when life doesn’t go quite according to plan? After years of hard work and tedious effort, you reach a place you never thought you would be – tired, burned out, and unhappy.

That’s what happened to me.

The good news is that this is one of the greatest places in life to find yourself. I know it’s counter intuitive but it is true.

Why? Because it is the place to rebuild and resurrect. What I mean is this: when you come to the end of yourself all of your defenses and pretences are down. There’s not much left to protect. Somewhere deep inside, you’ve resolved that you must change because life isn’t going according to plan. You must transform into the real you that’s been hidden.photo_man_water_rainbow_copy

You become like the mythological Phoenix who has come to an end of itself and is ready to be reborn. There is nowhere else to go but to turn inward and to God – it’s a perfect time to rediscover your passions and the things that matter most. You are finally in a place where you have the courage to blow up the old wineskins of your life that use to work for you and make way for something beautiful and new. Something amazing rises from those ashes.

The psychological notion of this is the ‘death of the ego.’ Richard Rohr says, that we live out of our egos the first half of our lives and spend the second half learning to live without fear and pursue the things that really matter to us. Or, “When you get your, ‘Who am I?’, question right, all of your, ‘What should I do?’ questions tend to take care of themselves, as he writes in his book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.

Are We Going About Life the Wrong Way?

The idea is that we spend much of the beginning of our lives trying to find ‘containers’ that help to answer critical questions we face in life. Who am I? Do I matter? How can I support myself? Who will go with me?

In this ‘first half of life,’ we spend most of our time doing our best to answer these questions and then placing boundaries around them because they have become our identity. We get stuck.

This was similar to my predicament. I absolutely loved what I did. What I didn’t realize is that too much of my identity was wrapped up in it. Tom the author, Tom the speaker, Tom the orphan advocate and justice guy. None of these things are wrong by any means, I had just allowed myself to put too much stock in them. And the truth was, I really didn’t want to be some of them. Traveling all over the place was conflicting with the time I needed to spend with my wife and family. I ignored those signs and the issues got bigger. I was trying to protect containers, not what was inside of them.

Whatever identity I had was actually good and it was true. But now its not because my life has changed, the seasons have changed and what stands in front of me has changed. I had to dig deep and find the courage to walk a road that I didn’t know and that would only be made by walking. (more…)

Creating a Life You Won’t Regret

How to always live with meaning and purpose

What is most important to you in life? After years have passed, will you have lived for what really mattered? Sadly, many people will ask these questions too late because they weren’t internally driven and they didn’t take the time to create a life they really wanted.  Our society has become one gigantic scare tactic against what really matters. And it can squeeze your true self and your true purpose right out the window. I am going to tell you how to make a very important personal change so you can live a life with no regrets. Making this change changed my life.

Everyone tells you what you have to do to be successful. You have to go to college when you graduate. You have to get a good paying job at a respectable company. You have to make friends with important people to catapult your career. You have to be popular and get tons of likes on Facebook. The list is endless. 
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The problem comes when we focus on what we “have to” do according to what other sources have said, and we lose track of the things that genuinely matter to us. We are no longer living our dreams, but someone else’s.

Are you Living the Life You Want?

All of these, “have to’s,” start to spin ridiculously out of control and most people find themselves doing things they don’t like with a life they really don’t want to be living. That’s why so many people are unhappy. In fact, 52.3% of Americans are unhappy at work, according to a new report by the Conference Board, the New York-based nonprofit research group.

Yet, the path to happiness and fulfillment lies in our hands. According University of California PhD researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky states: “40 percent of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change.”

But many won’t do what it takes to change. They choose ‘things’ over people – stuff over what’s really important. According to another research team who recently published their findings online in the journal, Personality and Individual Differences, materialistic people find it more difficult to be grateful for what they have, which causes them to become miserable. In other words, the more we get, the less fulfillment there is in our lives.

This is why living your values are so critical to your personal happiness and fulfillment. I spoke about this in some detail in this article and want to drill deeper into how it looks. I asked my readers what would help them from these posts and they said, “more examples,” so here it goes.

Creating a Successful Life on Your Terms

I went through a really amazing values discovery session with Jo Bell, one of my mentors. She helped me uncover the five values that were at the heart of every decision I made – they define who I am. They are: (1) Faith/spirituality, (2) Family, (3) Hope, (4) Freedom, and (5) Vulnerability.

These are so deeply engrained in me that I could sit down with you and talk about each of them for hours. I can define them for you and explain them in detail. We all have at least 5 values. If we start making decisions and living a life against those values, all kinds of turmoil will break out. Let me explain.

I experienced an incredibly painful time in my life a few years ago when my life became misaligned with my values. I was the CEO of an international non-profit that helped widows and orphans. It was amazing work that I really loved. But all of the travel began to adversely affect me and caused my family to suffer – and it caused me to suffer. I wasn’t myself. I became angry and irritable and when I was home, I just couldn’t relax and enjoy life. (more…)

Lacking Purpose and Motivation? You Don’t Know Your Values.

Values. After 20 years of executive coaching and being the CEO of a multi-million dollar non-profit, I am convinced of this truth: Most people struggle to achieve their life’s purpose – and lack motivation to do so – because they do not live their values. In fact most people don’t even know their values. This happened to me and it led to a severe case of burnout.

If I asked you to name the 5 most important values that direct every decision you make, could you do it? In other words – could you tell me, without hesitation, why you do what you do? If you can’t, you are not alone. photo_catholic_church_oldman copy

Whether you know it or not, you are directing your life by a specific set of values. But they may not be the values you want. Why? Because most of us adopt the values of our parents and the dominant values of our society. The values you internalized as a child remain with you through adulthood, according to Jim Taylor, PhD in this Psychology Today article.

This is true because many of our values were shaped before the age of 5. As a 5 year old child, you are incredibly vulnerable. You are learning about the world and you are receiving information about right and wrong, fear and safety, and a host of other important issues about life. You can’t even filter this information. What you see and experience shapes your values Those who grow up in abusive homes adopt different values than those raised in a more stable environment.

How about society? What do they teach us to value? Turn on the TV or open your internet browser. Sex, money, fame and body image. Those pursuits don’t seem to get people very far down the road towards their life’s purpose and what’s really important.

What about the values of our children and this generation? A recent research study reveals that one of their key values is materialism and money, but they are not very motivated to work for it. So, give me the money while I sit on my butt. You can read about it here. I’m not a child psychologist, but I don’t think that’s going to work. Could this be one of the reasons so many millennials are moving back in with their parents according to this Wall Street Journal article?

Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent. — Parker Palmer

My son has recently been struggling with his purpose in life. He has spent a lot of time in his life focused around a certain sports activity – and he has been incredibly successful. He’s loved it and it has brought him a lot of joy. But lately, he has found himself losing his vision and passion for it. (more…)

Does God Want Me To Be Happy?

How Positive Psychology Can Help Strengthen Your Faith

For most of my life I have struggled with negativity. I wanted to be positive and life-giving, but kept falling into negative traps I had set for myself – traps I didn’t even realize were there. I grew up in a broken home and my life was tumultuous as a child and teenager. I concluded that the world was full of idiots and most people were not to be trusted. And that view carried into much of my adult life. It was terribly destructive to me and those I cared about.

I wanted to change, but to do so, I had to come to a place where I took personal responsibility for my life – every aspect of it. As I press into becoming the person God wants me to be, I have to remember that I’m a work in progress. And one of the first things I had to do was accept that God might want me to be happy.

photo_KIKHW5NC6Y copyWhen you think about your faith, have you ever wondered if God wants you to be happy? Does our happiness matter? And what is happiness anyway?  When questioned about the greatest commandment, Jesus said, 

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Is that passage showing us the key and giving us permission to be happy? It speaks to the wholeness of a person – heart, soul, and mind. It follows with a perfect definition of healthy relationships and self-regard. It also describes the happiest people I know . 

Let’s dig deeper. Much of our “happiness” deals with two main issues in our lives (more…)

How Positive Emotions Can Save Your Holidays

Living Positively Is Vital to Success in Life

There are times we all get tired of hearing we need to “be more positive.” Is positivity some kind of weird self-help theory that instructs us to feel “good” when things in life are painful, difficult, or tragic?

This is exactly what I thought. Strong arm myself into the person I should be by reading another self-help book, listening to a pop-preacher’s message. or brainwashing myself into believing something about my life that isn’t currently true. But that’s not positivity at all. photo - Think Positive Poster

Positivity is not about simple self-help techniques. It is about being a healthier version of yourself by building important things in your life – like positive emotions. These include joy, serenity, gratitude, love and amusement – emotions we all need more of in our lives! It’s about creating ways to make the amazing things about life shine brighter and happen more often. It’s also about a better you filled with kindness, meaning, and purpose – the version of you that creates personal fulfilment and promotes healthy relationships. (more…)