Friday, March 25, 2016

Parenting Beyond Your Capacity

I finished a great book this week.  I think it was especially helpful to me because it spoke to what has probably been my single biggest challenge, as an adult.  Parenting.  Can you relate?  I've moved back and forth, and everywhere in between, from thinking I'm doing alright to knowing I'm doing terrible. Again, can you relate?

Although I do struggle with parenting, the reality is that I am a proud parent of four wonderful sons. Colin and Liam are twelve, Ethan is ten and Jude is seven.  Every time I spout off that list to someone in conversation, the reaction is always the same. "Wow, four boys . . ."  Silence ensues.  The truth is, four boys is a challenge.  But, so is two girls or a girl and a boy or a single boy.  Whatever your parenting situation, it's a challenge.  There's no doubt about that.  

The book I just finished, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, offers some hope to us struggling parents and those future strugglers, as well.  As the name implies, it does offer ways you can increase your capacity as a parent.  But contrary to what us "super-parents" tend to think, the idea here is that none of us can do it all.  Sorry.  Not you.  Not me.  While it's true that God has charged us with a great responsibility, He never mandated, or even planned for, us to do it alone.  The quote below, from the Introduction to the book, sums it up well.

"One of the reasons we're writing this book is to let you know you don't have to parent alone.  Don't misunderstand.  No one has more potential to impact your child or teenager than you.  But one of the greatest ways you can impact the life of your child is to become intentional about parenting with others who can also have an influence on your child.  If you try to parent alone, you will just become increasingly aware of your built-in flaws and risk becoming discouraged and disillusioned with parenthood."

The bottom line is that you don't have to parent your children alone.  God has blessed you and your children with a host of others who can go on that journey with you.  I can't say for sure, but I would imagine this could be particularly helpful to single parents.  Whatever you situation, please consider laying down your pride and accept - even lean on - the help offered by extended family, teachers, pastors, friends, co-workers, coaches and anyone else you think can be a positive influence in the lives of your children.  Over the years, my boys have talked of some of the above-mentioned people in much higher regard than they do about Sara or I. Hey, I understand the sting of that, given the incredible effort and sacrifice we all put in.  But it's a much better and healthier exercise to just embrace that God has blessed us with a community of people to aid in our parenting journey and help our kids grow in ways we never could.  

If you struggle with unrealistic expectations as a parent (as I do), you feel totally overwhelmed with parenting, or you just want to be a better parent, I really want to encourage you to read this book and allow its ideas to change the way you look at this incredibly important job of parenting.

I would be interested to hear what some of your biggest parenting challenges have been.  As for me, I believed I was an expert parent before I had kids, so twelve years of re-learning what I thought I already knew has been humbling and painful.  I'd love to hear your perspective.  Please share by leaving a comment.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Two Big Problems With Your "Strengths"

There is a lot said and written about "working in your strengths". So, take a minute and think of a few of your greatest strengths.  Do you have a few in mind? Now answer a much better question.  How do you know those are your strengths?

I bet you thought about some things you’re good at.  Maybe you thought about aspects of your job or hobbies that people tend to praise you for.

Well, that's not unusual.  But, there are two problems with this line of thinking:
  1. The bias factor.  You’re not objective.  And most of the people praising you are not objective either.  Your boss praises what he wants you to do more of.  He’s biased.  Your mother praises everything you do just because she loves you.  She’s biased.  You praise yourself based on your intentions, not reality.  You’re biased.
  2. The energy factor.  Even if you do manage to identify some tasks you truly excel at, those are not necessarily strengths of yours.  The question you have to key in on is,“What activities leave me feeling energized?”  When you identify those, you’ve begun the path to identifying your true strengths.
A quick example.  For about two years, I preached and taught at my church almost every weekend.  I got very good feedback.  People complimented me on my messages.  I felt reasonably pleased with what I had delivered when I watched it back via video.  I even have a good friend who swears my preaching changed his life!  You would have thought preaching was a strength of mine.  One problem.  I hated it.  Because both the preparation and delivery sucked every ounce of energy out of me.  Identifying this was a contributing factor to my decision to resign as the pastor of that church.

So, how did I identify that poignant truth in my life?  How could you do the same? I found someone and you can find someone (a coach, consultant or mentor) or something (strengths finder test, etc) who is totally unbiased to help you discover the activities in your life that bring you energy.  Do more of those.  In turn, you will also discover activities that deplete your energy.  Do fewer of those.  Above all, find someone or something to help you identify your strengths and begin living in that zone. 

What tools have you used to help you identify your true strengths or weaknesses?  Would you mind sharing those in the comments?

Friday, March 11, 2016

One Easy Step To Lose Your Influence

The easiest way to lose your influence?  Stop growing.  If you're a leader, you need to be growing and moving forward. This could take any number of shapes in your life . . . reading, taking a class, getting coaching, listening to podcasts, getting your body healthy, setting up true accountability measures for your life, working through a new Bible reading and devotional plan. The list could be pretty long and your list would not necessarily look like mine.

No matter what would make your list, remember one thing.  If the people you're leading are growing faster than you are, you won't be leading them long.  The journey of growth, improvement and learning is never over.  Don't resent it. Embrace it.

And don't think this is about staying ahead of others and keeping your position or even your influence.  It's not.  Those things are natural by-products of you being a vibrant, growing leader. What areas are you growing in right now?  In what areas do you feel stuck or stale?

Friday, March 4, 2016

4 Reasons You Should Consider Quitting

Winners never quit and quitters never win.  Really?  Winners never quit anything?  I quit one of the biggest endeavors I ever undertook.  How do I feel about that now? Well, like a winner.  I couldn't be happier about my decision to quit.  In 2009, I moved my family across the country to start a new church.  I was convinced I'd pastor that church for life and become one of the most effective lead pastors ever seen. In early 2012, I resigned from that church.  Why?  Well, there were many reasons.  Some are listed below.

I know, the prevailing wisdom is that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to, as long as you don't quit.  But, come on.  Does that really qualify as wisdom?  Think that through.  I'm 45 years old, 5 foot 7 inches and 170lbs. Could I be an NFL defensive lineman if I put my mind to it and don't quit?  Of course not.  And please don't let your mind default to, "Well, that's different.  That's too extreme of an example."  It's not different.  It's exactly the same as any other goal.  It's either in the cards or it's not.  Granted, you may need to spend some time exploring whether or not you've got what it takes, but as you explore, you must be honest with yourself.

Here are four reasons you may need to consider quitting:
  1. You're terrible at it.  Remember American Idol tryouts?  They were filled with people who were terrible singers, yet their family and friends tell them they are good and they just need to follow their dream and never quit.  You and I both know that's ridiculous.  For these guys, there is no amount of stick-to-it-ness that will bring them singing stardom.  Why is your situation any different?
  2. It's sucking the life out of you (even though you may be good at it).  So many of us make this mistake.  Maybe you're not terrible at it. Maybe you're actually good at it.  That does not mean you ought to be doing it.  You have to spend some time considering it and get honest about how it makes you feel.  Does that thing you're striving to master feed your soul or suck the life out of you?  A couple years ago I was offered a speaking engagement at a church to talk about time management with the opportunity to sign people up for personal coaching afterward. Seems like a good opportunity, right?  I'm a decent public speaker and have been an effective personal coach.  But, as I considered it, I had to face the facts.  Preparing for isolated speaking events sucks the life out of me and at the time, so did personal coaching with strangers. Why would I say yes to that?  Why are you saying yes to something that makes you feel the same way?
  3. Your family hates you doing it (even though you may love it).  Even if you're good at it and you love it, it still may not be a good fit for your family or the season your family is in.  Do yourself and them a favor.  Put your family first.  Achieving your goals and losing your family is a net loss.  No question about it.
  4. You're missing the boat.  This is probably the biggest reason why this is important.  With all the time and effort you're putting into whatever goal it is you're never going to accomplish, you're ignoring something that you could be truly great at and deeply fulfilled by.  Why not take the courageous step of strategic quitting to clear the way to find what you truly should be doing?
Please understand this important concept.  There is a huge difference between giving up and strategic quitting.  But most of us group them together like they are the same thing.  That could be a serious mistake that could be debilitating to you for many years to come.  I hope you'll consider this topic very seriously.

If you find this to be an interesting topic you want to explore further, I would recommend a great little book by Seth Godin entitled "The Dip".  You can read it in an hour (if you're fast) or three (if you read slow, like me).  Either way, it's a short and powerful read.  Another great resource, if you're looking to change your work to something that will feed your soul, is Dan Miller's "48 Days to the Work You Love".  

Finally, a short disclaimer.  If this resonates with you and you have a job you're terrible at or sucks the life out of you or falls into one of the other categories above, please do not quit that job until you have something else lined up.  That's just irresponsible.  

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject.