The Single Most Important Factor to Success

What is success? How do we define it and how do we achieve it? Many are looking for the answer, but the truth is there is no one answer.

Success is a value. It is personal. Each individual who is motivated to be successful will need to come to terms with his or her own idea of what success looks like for him/herself. Some define success in terms of fame, popularity, and being well-known. For others, it means making a 6-figure income, achieving a high-ranking corporate position, and having all the luxuries of life at their disposal. A third group define success in terms of doing what they enjoy and value such as being able to spend more time with the family, maintaining their health and doing good in the world. What’s more, one’s idea of success can change as we achieve in different areas of our lives and fulfill what Maslow calls our basic human needs.

Whatever your definition of success is, there is one factor that is the common denominator in success of any type. I’ll call it “the ability to show up”. For example, to be a success on the job, we must report to work everyday, arrive on time, and be mentally alert. We must “show up”. After working in a corporate environment world for over 30 years, showing up is a given. A fellow coworker put it this way “They expect us to be on our A game every day” and it was true. You were either 100% or they didn’t need you.

If we want to be a successful parent, it is important to show up there as well: for the baseball game, the soccer match, the school play, the Honor awards ceremony. We might not think of it as important, but to our son or daughter our presence means the world. Kids notice more when we’re NOT there, than when we are. As a single parent, it meant cutting out of work earlier and staying later the next day, but if it means seeing my son hit a home run, get a chance to pitch, or score that goal, it was well worth it.

In our personal relationships, if we tell our spouse or friend we will be available at a certain time to have lunch or dinner will we show up? Or will we call with an excuse at the last minute? Will we be available to help out when crisis hits and a friend is in need? Will we show up to visit, cook or bring them a meal? Will we listen to our spouse talk about his/her day and tune out the television, computer and cell phone? Will we be present?

What about showing up for ourselves? Suppose I want to lose some weight. I tell myself I am going to work out or go to the gym 4 times a week. Will I show up? Will I do what I said I was going to do? Same thing with learning any new skill such as learning to dance, practicing yoga, meditation, reading the Bible, or training for a 10k or a marathon. It goes for writing these blog posts. I’ve been writing them faithfully for six years now. Do you think it’s been easy? Not at all, but I can tell you I’ve learned a lot about showing up even in my free time. I learned to sit myself down at the computer and write. It wasn’t as hard writing the book because I had so much inside I wanted to pour out on paper. It still took discipline to do this after working 8 hours at a mentally demanding career. I tracked the days and the times I spent writing to establish a regular writing routine. You might say I was driven to show up.

Finally, what about showing up for God? When we hear that call to help out at church, visit a sick friend, or volunteer for a worthy charity, will we show up? In the morning when we know God is waiting to meet with us and talk with us in that quiet time, will we show up? Will we rise a few minutes earlier if necessary so we can have that special time with God? I have realized this is the most important appointment of my day. Everything falls into place and I have a sense of peace knowing I am fully protected and prepared for whatever comes at me during the day.

The key, I think, to success in any area of our life begins with this one simple step – just show up. When we want to do something new, something different, something we feel we are not quite ready for, all we have to do is show up. We don’t need to have the whole plan mapped out from A to Z. If we’re on a God-sized mission, we won’t even know the next step most of the time. All we have to do is show up and do “the next right thing”.

What is it you want to achieve in this life? What area of life do you wish to be successful in? Ask yourself this question: “Am I showing up?” This really makes a tough job seem much less difficult. When we want to achieve something new it can seem like a mountain in front of us, but really, as Jesus said, if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. In other words, what may seem impossible to us, begins with the first step of just showing up and believing. If we keep showing up day after day, we are going to make progress. We will slowly climb that mountain. We will gain clarity on what to do next to achieve our goal.

If this post has resonated with you, I’d love to hear your feedback. Please click the Google +1 button or leave a comment. Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

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Turn the Page

Happy 2015! It’s a brand new year, full of promises, plans, and projects. So many things to look forward to: projects to complete, fun times to be had, new people to meet. The list of possibilities is endless and that is something to get excited about. Thoughtful goal setting helps keep my joy meter on full because I always have something to work towards, accomplish, and look forward to. 

Yet before we get into all of that, I want to talk to you this week about turning the page. As it is with reading a scary novel, it is sometimes difficult to turn the page of our lives after a particularly difficult year. We tend to carry over not only our unused vacation time at work, but also the hurts, offenses, shame and guilt from the past.  The problem is many times we don’t realize we are carrying this negative baggage.

January 1st is a perfect time to let go all of the stuff that is weighing us down emotionally and spiritually.  Life is way too short to hold onto negative feelings. If we want to start the New Year on a positive, joyful and energetic note, we must cast aside any feelings of unforgiveness, anger, jealousy, inadequacy, or low self-worth. Often these demons dwell in our sub-conscious mind.  So what are we to do?

Now I am not saying to ignore or allow inappropriate behaviors continue by any means, but once we have taken the appropriate action and done what we can to set healthy limits and boundaries, it is important to let go of any negative energy  we have accumulated. People are human and so are we. None of us is perfect and we are all prone to say or do the wrong thing at some point, most often unintentionally or without thinking. We have a choice: either to stew and marinate in the event or take a few minutes to clear it out of our mind and body so the effects don’t accumulate.  Stored negative energy eventually causes physiological disease.

Time marches on, and so must we. When we hold onto negative feelings, we are preventing ourselves from living a life of peace and joy. Isn’t that what we all want? To rise each glorious day and meet it with expectation, hope and joy?

I think so. At least I know that’s what I want.
So if you are starting off this New Year feeling less than joyful, I would encourage you to do the following simple but effective steps to clear your energy and your spirit:

1. Ask yourself what it is you are feeling and why. In this fast-paced world of ours, it is easy to ignore our feelings, brush things under the rug and move on but these are neither healthy nor wise behaviors.  

2. Take appropriate action to rectify the situation, conflict, or relationship. Yes, you can do it.

3. If it is something you cannot control, surrender it to God. His shoulders are much more capable of carrying the weight than ours are. 

4. Take some deep cleansing breaths, and with each exhale, say “I am letting go of (such and such)”.  Feel the tension in your body and then consciously release it with each breath.
5. Forgive yourself. It all starts within. Check out Psalm 32:1-5 for some encouraging words.

I guarantee you will feel much better. The skip in your step will return. You will feel light and free and ready to take on the world again.

It truly is a new day and we are new creations, being transformed slowly but surely by every difficulty, hardship and pain we encounter. Think of the process as a type of sanding for our souls. We are the clay on the potter’s wheel and each of us is being transformed into a beautiful masterpiece with a divine destiny.
Life is a novel. Turn the page on yesterday and write a new chapter this year. What exciting things would you like to do? Places you would like to visit? People you would like to meet? It is true. The world is our oyster and it is up to us to discover the pearls.

Wishing you a fabulous New Year and may you soar on wings like eagles and shine like the noon day sun!

Until next week, keep smiling and keep looking up!

Ariel

Are You Living a Fulfilled Life?

Would you consider yourself fulfilled? Have you accomplished the goals you have set in life? Are you full of joy and expectation when you wake up each morning? If so, then you are living a life of wholeness. If not, this post will help you to understand what may be part of the problem.

One of the keys to living a fulfilled life is focus. Focus is a critical discipline we need to master if we want to make progress in life. It means having a well-defined goal in front of us and a strong belief that we can achieve it. It means having our eyes and our mind set on the direction we want to head in and wearing blinders to everything else. It means practicing the word “No”.

If we are wise, we will put our energy towards what we value in life. If it really matters to me to look good in a size 6 jeans, then I will exercise. If I like my house clean and organized, then I will make time to clean it. If I care about my health, then I will watch what I eat and monitor my cholesterol and blood pressure. Like-wise, if I want to ditch my debt, I will monitor my spending habits. It really comes down to two things: values and awareness.

Values are the things that are most precious to us in a given season. Some values change over time while others remain constant. For example, family has always been a high priority for me and always will be. Good health and keeping in shape is also important to me. Other values are peace of mind, security, fun, and growth, to name a few. Our values determine our choices and how we spend our time. When our activities and choices align with our values we feel at peace and content because we are living a life of integrity and wholeness. When our lives are full of activities that do not align with our values, we will feel unfulfilled, uneasy, and discontent.

Awareness, or as some call it, mindfulness, is making conscious choices in the present moment that align with my values. I call it being in the presence of God, the great “I am”. When I am fully present, my mind and my thoughts are focused on what I am doing. I make choices based on my values and goals. I am listening to that still small inner voice. Peace and joy permeate my spirit.

Ephesians 5:15-16 says “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because <sup class="crossreference" value="(F)”>the days are evil.” In other words, it is very easy to be distracted and it is the wise person who makes good use of his/her time.

What goals have you set for yourself? Do you want to lose weight? Get out of debt? Declutter your home? Or achieve some other worthy goal? Whatever it is, one key to making progress is to stay focused and to believe you can achieve your goal. Until next time, keep looking up!

Faith, Fear, and Focus

No question about it, life is tough! It doesn’t matter where we are in life, every season has its own set of challenges. It is up to us to decide how we will respond to these challenges – with faith or fear.

Since it’s the start of a brand new year, I’ve been talking about setting goals this month. As we all know, making forward progress in life is a challenge in and of itself. I’ve discovered that our main enemy is this silly thing called fear – False Evidence Appearing Real.

Fear comes in many forms: doubt, worry, anxiety and negativity, to name a few, all of which have one purpose – to distract us from moving forward and achieving our goals in life. Fear also steals our joy and our peace and that really sucks, doesn’t it?

What to do? Shrink back? Retreat? Give up? Cry? Drink?

NO!!

The answer is to STAND FIRM and refuse to give up or give in. We will be rewarded in due time for “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

When trials come my way, I repeat this phrase to lighten the situation. “This is a test. This is only a test. In the event of an actual emergency, you will be instructed where to tune in your area.” Remember that blurb they used years ago when testing on the radio? I know where to tune in – to Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. When I put my focus on Jesus he gives me peace through any storm and calms the waves of doubt, fear and anxiety that threaten to drown me, if I let them. Jesus gives me strength, courage, and confidence to endure till the storm passes.

What are you going through this month that is distracting you from your goals? Where has your focus been? If you don’t know where to tune in, may I encourage you to give Jesus a try? Like Coca-Cola, He is the real thing and he will refresh and energize you to keep pressing on to accomplish your goals.

Until next time, keep the faith, keep looking up and as Winston Churchill said long ago, “Never, never give up!”

Follow Your Dream – Part 2

We were talking about following our dreams last time. It is important to have a dream and to follow it. A dream gives us a goal to works towards and motivates us to action. Dreams do come true if we believe in them hard enough and if we do our part to make them come true. But sometimes something holds us back. That something is fear.

Honestly, I don’t even like to say the word. But one thing I have learned all these years is that I have to confront. As I talk about in my new book. “The Power of Faith”, we must FACE OUR FEARS!

We all have them, yes? Some of them go back as far as childhood. Others are buried deep in our subconscious mind and we may not even be aware of them. Yet they can still influence our behavior today.

Let’s take finances for example. Let’s say my dream is to own my own home. But, because of some experience in the past, I am afraid to get into debt and take out a loan. I may have a good job and a decent income, but I still am hesitant. Why? Because my thinking is colored by an irrational fear.

When I take a look at the reality of my situation and understand my fear comes from something in the past and not something in the present, then and only then, can I make a choice to step out in faith.

I think that’s part of what makes achieving goals and dreams so exciting. We gain strength as well as knowledge when we pursue something new and conquer a fear that has held us back for far too long. Now, isn’t that something to rejoice about?

Until next time, follow your dream, keep the faith and above all, keep looking up!

Practicing the Presence of God – Part 1

Earlier this week, I talked about our daily habits and how they affect our goals. Well, one of my goals is to have a closer relationship with God. I have been re-reading the small above-named booklet about the conversations of Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk who lived in the 17th century. Brother Lawrence lived in continual communication with God, no matter what he was doing.

I have to admit I cannot say that. Granted, I am more “aware” of the presence of God when I am praying, reading the Word, or in church. But, I want to feel like I am in His presence continually.

One way is to speak to Him during the day. I have started the practice of speaking to the Lord the first thing when my eyes open in the morning. I wish him “Good morning” and then I usually chat about the weather, thank him for the sunshine, my health, and ask His plans for me that day. I also try to ask him “Who shall I bless today, Lord?” Then I try to follow up with some songs of praise and worship, time permitting.

Starting off the day by speaking to God puts me in a good frame of mind. It helps remind me that He is always with me, even though I may not “feel” his presence. In reality, it is I who drift from Him, and not vice versa. The distractions of the day, my job, and my emotions, all take my attention away from my Source.

So, if you, too, would like a deeper sense of God’s presence in your life, join me in this simple practice of beginning the first minutes of the day in conversation with the Most Holy One. Write and let me know if you notice a difference in your day. Until next time, keep looking up!

Daily Decisions Do Count

We all have choices to make in this life. Some decisions impact our lives for years to come such as: should I go to college, shall I marry this person, shall I change careers. These weightier decisions deserve a lot of thought as well as prayer.

Thankfully, these major decisions are not too frequent. But what about the many decisions we make on a day to day basis almost without thinking?

Today for example, I chose whether or not to go to the gym, what to eat for the day, what tasks to complete at work, whether I want to watch “Dancing with the Stars” or work on my writing. The small daily decisions I make, over time, do make a difference and the difference is major.

It is my daily choices that determine whether or not I will achieve my goals in life. If I want to maintain a certain weight, my food and exercise choices will help keep me there. If I want to keep my job, the way I spend my time will impact the quality of my work and if I want to have a decent income in retirement, I will need to watch my spending today.

It’s one thing to have faith that my dreams will come to fruition, but I also have to take appropriate action to make them happen. The Bible says “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26).

What decisions did you make today and how much thought did you give to them? Do you have a clear idea of the goals you want to achieve? I know it’s time for me to revisit my goals, how about you? Drop me a note and let me know what goals you want to achieve and remember this passage from proverbs “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Until next time, keep looking up!