Don’t Let Comparison Steal Your Joy

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Comparison is the thief of joy. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

This quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt is one that can resonate well with us all. As humans, we’re always comparing ourselves to each other. We choose someone else’s standard of living or success, and we attempt to hold ourselves accountable to it rather than focus on our uniqueness or distinct individual characteristics given to us by our Creator. We are made in our God’s image, and He gave us a standard in and through Christ, so ultimately His likeness should be our goal. We should strive to be Christlike, not copycat versions of each other.

If you stop and think about the lack of joy you may be experiencing in your life, likely you’ll be able to attribute it to comparison. You might be unhappy about your physical appearance because you’re comparing it to someone else’s standard of size, shape, weight, athleticism, etc. You might be unhappy about your career because you’re comparing yours to the standard of professional success you witness all around you. Or maybe you can’t find joy in your relationships because you’re comparing them to everyone else’s. Many people are quick to blame the media–TV, magazines, Hollywood, Facebook, Instagram, the Internet, and the list could go on. But, in the end, we get to decide our standards. We get to choose joy or misery. It’s easy to point the blame elsewhere, but we can only blame ourselves for not choosing to live the unique calling that our Creator God so beautifully and wonderfully made us to live (see Pslam 139:13).

So, are you unhappy? Do you struggle with finding joy and rejoicing with others? Are you always comparing your life’s successes or failures with someone else’s?

If the answer is yes, maybe it’s time to do a spiritual inventory within your own heart. Here are some suggestions to reflect upon:

1. Talk to God about His unique purpose or calling for you. God wants to guide you. He wants you to seek His direction. Ask God where and how He wants to use you, and then open your eyes to where He’s leading you.

2. Spend some time reading, meditating, and memorizing God’s Word. We seem to forget, but God gives us the answers to life’s greatest questions within Scripture. Sure, the Bible may not always be clear or make sense to the complex human mind, but there’s a great consistency throughout the entire message of the Bible. Don’t just chew on a few tidbits–really dive deep into Scripture and wrestle with it. Just be ready for God to wow you.

3. Redirect your worship to God Himself and away from others or the things of this world. There are distractions at every turn, but stay focused on the Lord. Don’t let the Enemy cleverly and cunningly win your full attention and keep you from being able to live a life of worship to God. Offer God the glory for what He’s doing in your life. Embrace an attitude of gratitude daily.

4. Find ways to serve and encourage others. The greatest joy is often found in investing our energies into serving and encouraging those around us. Use your words to uplift, not criticize. Celebrate others’ victories and successes rather than allowing yourself to be jealous or envious. As you lift up others, you’ll also find encouragement for yourself.

5. Stop comparing yourself to others. Just be the very best version of you. At best, you will only be a poor imitation of someone else, but you can be the greatest you that has ever lived.

3 Reasons Social Media Filters Are A Must

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For the most part, our culture loves filters. Some use filters on photographs and videos with apps like Instagram and PicLab in order to refine the light or color quality. Others use special filters to purify the flavor of coffee or beverages. Some even use specially-designed filters to purify the air quality within their homes or offices. In the business environment, many companies use software or database filters to do more effective and efficient consumer research.

A paraphrased definition of the dictionary’s take on the word suggests that a filter is any substance that removes impurities. Of course, this makes sense within the context of any of the examples listed above. But as much as culture seems to have a grip on the use of filters, there seems to be one type of filter that’s less common. In the social media world, could it be that we need more filters? Could it be that we should more carefully remove the impurities from what we share with the world?

I’ve gotten myself into trouble a few times. And likely you can relate.

More times than not, I’ve caught myself crafting a status update or tweet, only to have my conscience step in just before hitting the send button. What my first instinct tells me is funny or sarcastic or wise or newsworthy always needs a last-minute filtering process in which I ask myself, Could this potentially hurt someone? Is this really worth sharing with thousands of people? Could this photo send a wrong message to someone who might be struggling?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s potential to overthink the filtering process. And every person has the right to the freedom of speech and expression. Everyone also has the right to be transparent and real. But in the end, some things just aren’t worth sharing. And we can all probably agree that social media filters are more worth it than not.

Before you post, consider these three reasons social media filters are a must:

1. Filters Offer You Protection

Whether you like it or not, even the people you think can’t see your profiles can find ways to see it. Filtering what you say or share can protect you from losing a job, a relationship, or from general harm. Remember things like this: (1) posting your location can allow someone (that you may not want) the ability to track you down, (2) sharing images of inside your home can reveal to potential burglars what valuables are up for the taking, (3) the “innocent” rant about your horrible work day can send negative messages to your employer, or (4) the “harmless” joke you overheard at the office might be culturally or racially hurtful. These are just a few examples. Ultimately, the power to protect yourself online is in your hands. 

2. Filters Keep You Humble

Humility is a lost art. Instead of turning the other cheek (see Matthew 5:39), culture tell us to retaliate and get revenge. Sadly, social media channels are not exempt from being the platform for retaliation. Rather than using social media channels to complain or shout frustrations, a simple filtering of such responses can keep us humble and more appropriately positioned to make a positive difference in moment or situation. Before you post, choose humility. Every time.

3. Filters Uphold Your Reputation

Reputation goes a long way when it comes to landing a job, building a platform, and maintaining positive relationships. The things you post can either uplift or destroy your reputation. While no one’s goal is to have a bad reputation, sometimes the types of things people share can contribute to it without them even realizing it. The “innocent” photos from a party, celebration, or vacation can send negative messages without the slightest intention. The venting session about your child’s behavior can misconstrue your image as a parent. The reposts or shares of your favorite political or business-related interests can categorize you to others as someone you might not intend. Before you share, pause and ask, Can this derail my reputation?

When we allow it, social media is one of the greatest tools for making a difference in the world. Our words and actions can build up or tear down. But filters are a must. As you craft the messages and images you want to share with the world, consider a simple removal of impurities by implementing filters. You don’t have to hide who you really are, but instead evaluate who you really want to be in the way you interact with others. Let integrity and encouragement always win.

It’s All About the Hustle

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With the start of each new year, I’m ever intrigued to hear and see what people intend to accomplish. Even more, I’m always eager to set and accomplish a few new goals myself. Along the way, I’ve learned this: It’s easy to set goals, however it’s not always easy to stay motivated in accomplishing them.

Rather than putting so much emphasis on the actual setting and accomplishing of new goals, what if we redirected our focus toward  keeping ourselves motivated? It’s in the daily motivation (a.k.a. hustle) where we’ll find the true results. 

To help myself accomplish my goals, I’m joining Jon Acuff’s #30DaysOfHustle (along with a few thousand others). We’re spending the next 30 days not only making goals, but encouraging each other along the way as we accomplish them. My goal for the next 30 days is to write something (whether a blog, outlines for book ideas, book, manuscript, and so forth) every day. It’s only Day 1 of the journey, and I’m off to a great start. Encouragement from others on the journey is already proving to be an excellent way to stay motivated.

As you make your list of goals or resolutions for 2014, I challenge and encourage you to focus on the hustle. Find ways to stay motivated (accountability from friends, enlisting/being a mentor, reading, and so forth). Ultimately, don’t let this year’s goals go unaccomplished. You can do it!

It’s all about the hustle.

When You Feel Defeated (Part 2)

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If you read my previous post, “When You Feel Defeated (Part 1),” I shared the first 20 statements of a personal 40-day challenge of shifting feelings of defeat into positive perspectives that reflect God’s goodness. Many of you expressed affirmation and encouragement regarding this challenge. So, as promised, here’s the follow-up post with the final 20 statements.

If you’ve been battling defeat, my prayer is that God will use these words to help you overcome defeat and emerge victorious. As you trust the Lord, may He do a transformational work in and through you. If you know someone who may be feeling defeated, hurt, or experiencing loss in some way, please feel free to share these words of encouragement with them.

21. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is bottle your frustration. But the best thing to do is burst with joy.

22. When you feel defeated, the easy way of thinking is “The end.” But the better way of thinking is “Endure.”

23. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is stop dreaming. But the best thing to do is dream bigger.

24. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is be bitter. But the best thing to do is be better.

25. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is reflect on the wound. But the best thing to do is focus on the healing.

26.  When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is mourn over the destruction. But the right thing to do is celebrate the restoration.

27. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is pull the covers over your head. But the best thing to do is make the bed.

28. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is raise hell. But the best thing to do is raise hope.

29. When you feel defeated, the easy way of thinking is “It’s over.” But the better way of thinking is “It’s on!”

30. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is cave in. But the best thing to do is work out.

31. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is close the book. But the right thing to do is turn the page.

32. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is wade in negativity. But the best thing to do is swim in optimism.

33. When you feel defeated, the easy way of thinking is “There’s a long road ahead.” But the best way of thinking is “Look how far I’ve come.”

34. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is focus on the ugly. But the best thing to do is concentrate on the beautiful.

35. When you feel defeated, the easy way of thinking is “They got it wrong.” But the right way of thinking is “God got it right.”

36. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is fight back. But the right thing to do is turn the other cheek.

37. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is hang on tightly. But the best thing to do is let go freely.

38. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is be wasteful. But the right thing to do is be generous.

39. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is make excuses. But the right thing to do is create solutions.

40. When you feel defeated, the easy way of thinking is “I’m done.” But the better way of thinking is “I’m just getting started.”

When You Feel Defeated (Part 1)

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At some point along life’s journey, we all experience the feeling of defeat. It’s one of the worst feelings…ever. Defeat can be humbling, depressing, and just plain frustrating. But if you allow it, defeat can be life-changing in the most positive ways.

In my own recent season of feeling defeated, God did a great work in me. Where it’s easier to bask in the blah-ness, God opened my eyes to something better: His perspective. And I’m learning that where we often see defeat, God sees victory.

Through it all, I challenged myself to 40 days of shifting those feelings of defeat into positive perspectives that reflect God’s goodness. My goal is to use these 40 statements to encourage others who are also experiencing a similar season.

Here are the first 20 days’ statements:

1. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is give up. But the right thing to do is look up.

 2. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is bask in discouragement. But the best thing to do is encourage others.

 3. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is blame somebody for your pain. But the right thing to do is love somebody even harder.

 4. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is be jealous. But the right thing to do is hi-five everybody.

 5. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do to bring others down. But the best thing to do is build others up.

 6. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is sob and mope. But the better thing to do is smile and hope.

 7. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is be angry with God. But the right thing to do is to exalt Him.

 8. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is question God. But the right thing to do is trust Him all the more.

 9. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is distance yourself from others. But the best thing to do is invite everybody over.

 10. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is binge on something. But the better thing to do is fast from something.

 11. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is surrender to depression. But the best thing to do is embrace happiness.

 12. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is punch somebody. But the best thing to do is hug somebody.

 13. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is judge somebody. But the right thing to do is love everybody.

 14. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is play the victim to everybody. But the best thing to do is be a hero to somebody.

 15. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is criticize someone. But the right thing to do is compliment everyone.

 16. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is break something. But the best thing to do is build something.

 17. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is cry for help. But the right thing to do is lend a hand.

 18. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is yell profanities. But the best thing to do is shout praises.

 19. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is beat yourself up. But the right thing to do is fix yourself up.

 20. When you feel defeated, the easy thing to do is be mean. But the better thing to do is be meaningful.

*Stay tuned for Part 2 of “When You Feel Defeated” in the coming days.

Got Passion?

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You can’t teach passion. But you can catch it. In fact, it’s quite contagious. And like an infectious disease, it will sneak up on you from out of nowhere when you least expect it. It can slay giants, knock down walls, and open doors of opportunity. Passion can transform a person and change the world.

However, unlike a real contagious disease, passion can be quickly dissolved. In leadership, we see it happen too often. Without a constant feeding of passion, we lose momentum, focus, and love for the game (career). Without passion, we surrender to the opponent. And where there’s no passion, there’s no followers. 

Consider yourself and your place of leadership. Are you constantly feeding your passion? Do you notice it to be contagious to your teammates and spectators?

When you feel your passion starting to wane, consider these three tips for keeping the passion alive:

  • Surround yourself with passionate people. If they’re not the people on your own team, look elsewhere. Whatever the case, seek inspiration daily.
  • Unplug. Rest. Relax. Ultimately, don’t let yourself burn out. An occasional recharge is necessary.
  • Work hard–especially when others don’t. Exercise your mind and body for wisdom and strength, which leads to endurance.

We must never let a lack of passion from teammates or coaches distract us from playing hard and being champions in our work. Passion is essential for leaders. It must be continually fed in order to be continually spread.

Who Quit and Made You a Leader?

Leadership is a word that everybody seems to be talking about these days. I even heard someone recently make the comment, “It seems like, all of a sudden, everyone’s a leadership ‘expert.’” So while chewing on that comment, I even had to ask myself, what constitutes a leader? What makes someone qualified to talk about leadership?

In order to answer those questions, we first need to put into perspective what leadership really is. To most people, leadership is seen as a position or title (i.e. a CEO, VP, manager, supervisor, pastor, etc.). To others, leadership is human nature. It’s something that doesn’t require a title or high-ranking position in a business or church. Whichever way you look at it, leadership involves a following. A leader influences, encourages, inspires, and guides a group of followers toward a goal or destination.

As I put myself into this equation, something became very clear to me: I’ve been a leader all my life. To clarify—No, I’ve never been a corporate CEO, executive pastor, company vice-president, or even a department manager. But I’ve always been a leader. As for my qualifications, well…here’s a bit of my “leadership resume”:

Infanthood—My mom and dad can make a pretty good case that I was influencing and “inspiring” people from my first moments in the world. (I’m having to just take their word for it since my cognitive skills don’t allow me to remember that stage in life.)

Kindergarten—I was chosen often to be the class “leader.” Responsibilities included leading the pack in a straight line up and down the hallways of York Elementary (No, the school was not named after me…ha!) and getting to sit at the special “leader’s desk.”

Elementary School—I was president/vice-president of the 4-H club for a few years. I represented my class/school at community academic and talent competitions. I “competed” for the highest grades, always striving to be better. I even held the honor of 8th grade valedictorian (gotta love small schools).

High School—I kicked my leadership passion into high gear, holding several president/vice-president titles (Class of ‘98, Beta club, Christian club, student council, etc.). I had the honor of representing York Institute (yes, it’s a high school) on various speaking and performing engagements.

Youth Group/Church—I often led the pack when it came to engaging in various Bible study or church activities. I was blessed to have the type of personality that naturally meshed with all kinds of people and could easily invite others to be a part of ministry activities.

College—I once again held a class office and soon became manager of the campus ministry choir. In one of my many college jobs, I was quickly promoted to being a staff trainer (where I learned that I love leading/training/guiding people).

Career—In every job I’ve held, I’ve been blessed with multiple opportunities for advancement and great managers who have set me up for success. I haven’t quite reached that “executive” level status yet, but I continually find ways to be a silent force wherever I’m serving. As a former youth pastor, I saw the fruit of my students who trusted in me to lead them well. That was affirmation to my leadership. When I write an article or a blog, I’m always encouraged by the amount of people who encourage me to continue. Once again, affirmation to my leadership. As I continue to invest myself in my current role by going beyond my job description, I’m continually affirmed in my leadership by the support and following of others who seem to notice.

Let me stress one thing here: This is not a “brag fest,” but rather an example of how I’ve been equipped for leadership from the very beginning of my time on earth. It’s more than titles. It’s more than being “selected” or “chosen” for a role, but it’s both an attitude and a passion that keeps me constantly craving to be the best I can be for others (and ultimately, for my Creator).

In Scripture, some of the best leaders weren’t the most highly skilled. They often didn’t have any leadership experience at all. But God used them as they were. And He used them as they were willing. In modern-day life, some of the best leaders don’t have the most prestigious career resumes. In fact, if we were to really get down to the heart of things, many individuals with high-ranking titles or fancy resumes aren’t the best leaders. But ultimately, genuine leaders can be found where the followers are.

So am I qualified to give leadership advice? Maybe not from a CEO perspective, but as someone who’s been leading by nature and passion all his life…YES!

How about you? What does your lifetime leadership “resume” look like? Who follows you? Who gives you affirmation in your leadership?