Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Drains Your Passion?

What diminishes your passion?

It's important you know the answer to this.

Without passion, life is a chore. A bore. And soon becomes little more than a blur of mindless, minimum, routine activity (with a heavy focus on television watching).

Since God calls us to become good stewards - careful managers - of the time, talents and gifts He has given us, a passion-less life is a problem. It's a hindrance to being all we can be in Christ.

I'm not talking about physical, romantic passion. Not necessarily. Though this applies there too.  I'm talking about your passion for life, for work, for nurturing others. Your passion for growth and spiritual fruit.

So what it is that diminishes that in you?

I'll tell you two things I know drains my passion.

1) CRITICISM -  I love being taught, coached, and helped to improve! But I hate feeling judged or criticized for my lack or my failures. Criticism definitely drains me. 

Often the difference is a matter of how the person approaches me with their correction.  How they phrase it or frame it. And whether I feel there is respect and caring behind what they're saying about me or my work.

Interestingly, criticism can fuel some people - they get charged up to prove the person wrong. To do what they said can't be done. But it doesn't quite work that way for me. I need to feel valued if not supported.

When I feel valued and supported, I can typically run through brick walls. When I don't, I'm likely to quit. And go eat chocolate.

2) COMPARISON - One of the fastest ways I kill my own passion - for my work, my home, my hobby, my family, my body, my ministry, or even the quality of my walk with God - is to compare it with someone else's.

There is a line between learning from others, getting ideas from others, getting inspired by others to fuel your own efforts, and digging your passion a grave with the tombstone engraved: I'll never be like them.

There's a continuum that on the right side side says "Wow, that's inspiring! I want to do my work well too," and on the left side says, "Why bother! Everyone is already doing it so well that I don't have a chance."

It's helpful for me to take inspiration from others, but full-on envy withers my passion like grass in a drought. I have to watch out for that.

I don't have a lot of control over how constructively someone critiques me. Or how they might compare me to themselves or someone else. I can't control their assessment of me. And my gut reaction is likely to feel drained if it feels harsh.

But I can choose how I will respond to it, even if I feel drained.

And I have lots of control over how I critique myself, and how I compare myself to others. I just have to exercise it. That's what I'm personally working on right now.

What drains me may not drain you, and vice versa. But it's important to know what drains you and if or how you can counter that. I'll talk more in my next post about my process on learning to counter it.

As I said on Monday, burn out is common, but it's also curable. Thank God for that!

Monday, September 24, 2012

When You Don't Want to Work

Are you ready to work, serve, or create with passion today?

Or is your passion for what you do gone?

Feeling ...

I know that feeling. I've felt burnt out on teaching before. Burnt out on writing before. Burnt out on house-keeping before. Burnt out on blogging before. It's an awful feeling and a worse way to live.

"Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.

Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. 

Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody. Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone."

  ~ Romans 12:11-12 (MSG)  

Obviously this passage is talking about our attempts to love and live like Christ. But I think it contains good advice we could apply to any situation in which we've lost our zeal.

It is saying, if you want to regain your zeal you're going to have to make some choices and changes.

If you want to fall back into love - with your work, your home, your hobby, your family, your life, or even your walk with God - you have to show up to it differently than you have been.

Let's pull some adjectives and verbs from this passage for some ideas of how to show up differently. According to this passage, we need to show up cheerful, expectant, not quitting, praying, helping others, creative or inventive, hospitable, talking positively, laughing, happy, empathetic, getting along, humble and not quarrelsome, or seeking to see the beauty in people.

So which part of that have you been skipping?

The first part of the passage tells us to keep ourselves {our passion and zeal} fueled and aflame. We can't expect passion to always be there just because it once was lit. There's an active fueling and refueling to it to keep it alive. An active tending of it.

Mother Teresa said, "To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it."  Exactly.

Look at the list we made above from Romans 12 and decide what you can do today to do put some  oil into it. How can you make your work fun?  How can you be cheerful while working? How can you get creative or inventive with it? Or, how much could simply speaking positively about your work begin to retrain your thoughts and feelings about it?

Maybe zeal is something we bring to our work, rather than our work bringing to us. How can you and I approach our work with zeal instead of just waiting for it to hopefully emerge?

If this post doesn't help answer that, pray and ask God to answer it. He cares about your work, whether it's raising a child or designing a website, running PTA or running a marathon, cooking for your family or cooking for customers.

Burn out is common, but it's also curable. When you don't want to work, acknowledge that reality, but then think about how you can show up to it differently. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Revolutionary Love

Today when my daughter Alaina gets home from high school I will hand her a new devotional book by my P31 teammate Lynn Cowell. It's called “Devotions for a Revolutionary Year; 365 Days of Jesus’ Radical Love for You.” I asked Lynn to write Alaina a letter to accompany the book, and I'm posting that letter here today because I think it's good advice for all of us.

Dear Alaina,

I bet you can’t believe you’re in school already! Summer was so fun and free! Days of pony tails and swimsuits; every day carefree. No worries about make-up. No concerns about your wardrobe.

But now that school is back, the fight is on to hang on to your carefree self. You can probably feel the pull to worry about other people’s opinions, and other people’s pressures.

I want to encourage you to do one thing: pre-decide.

Pre-decide who you are and what you’re going to do.

Now, at the beginning of the school year, make up your mind that you are going to live a life that honors God. A life that stays true to who you are and who God has created you to be: a girl He is wild about (Psalm 45:11).

Pre-decide how you will honor God. Where you will go, what you will do, and who you will be with.

See, when you pre-decide, it takes the emotion out of it. The guy in Algebra that is so cute but definitely not someone you should be crushing on is not texting you about Friday night right now. The group of girls you hang with are not at this moment deciding what to do after the football game. You’re not sitting in Biology right next to the class brain while you are struggling for the answers on the test. You’re not in any of those situations right this moment. So this is a good time to pre-decide how you will handle them.

Decide right now that you won’t look to any guy to fill the love gap in your heart; only Jesus can do that.

Decide right now that at/after football games you’ll only do things you wouldn’t be ashamed for your parents to know about.

Decide right now that you would rather take the F on the test than an A you don’t deserve.

Then, when the situation arises, just stick to that decision you already made, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, live it out.

I don’t mean to make it sound easy; it is anything but. But I will say it is worth it.

I pre-decided. I pre-decided to save my body for my husband one day. That was worth it. I pre-decided not to get involved in things I would be ashamed of later, and my life has had very few regrets. Tests scores? Sure, I could have gotten better grades, but the grades I got were the grades I earned and I felt no guilt about them.

I’m not saying my life is perfect, but it is a blessed life. And I love it!  This is what I want for you, your friends, and the girls of your generation.

Alain, if you want a little encouragement to help you stick to what you pre-decide each day? I’ve got just the tool! I created a 7 Day Faith Builder. For 7 days you can get just what you need to remind yourself of whose you are and why you are making wise decisions each day. Just sigh up online (click here:

 Have a terrific year, Alaina! I know that Jesus will be with you all the way!

 ~ Lynn

Note:  To celebrate the release of Lynn's new book, we are giving away over $75 in free content with each purchase of the book. Simply purchase Devotions for a Revolutionary Year for a girl or young woman in your life before October 1st and email your receipt to You will receive an email with a link to this special free content on Lynn’s website at Pop over to her site today and check it out all the good stuff she has to offer.

Happy Weekend, Everyone.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Don't Break the Chain

Someone once asked Jerry Seinfeld {this is when he was a touring stand-up comic just breaking out as a sit-com star} what his secret was to coming up with such great material. Jerry pointed to a calendar. The large wall kind that has the entire year on one page.

Jerry explained that he believed to improve as a comedy writer, he'd need to write comedy every day.

So each day that Jerry wrote, he drew a red X on the day's block on the calendar. Several days of writing would form a long chain of Xs. And not breaking the chain became its own motivation to keep writing.

Jerry improved greatly by writing daily. And he wrote daily by trying to keep his writing streak alive ... as evidenced by the chain of Xs.

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking some Xs on a calender wouldn't really be enough motivation for you. I figure you're thinking that because it occurred to me too.

Like our brains are some how more complicated and advanced than Jerry Seinfeld's?

Why This Works

Often there's a lot of mental resistance we have to overcome to begin doing something we actually wish we'd do. (Strange and frustrating, huh?) Like writing or cleaning or exercising daily. (Anyone want to amen?) We want to do it but we-don't-wanna, and we're stubborn.

The beauty of the "don't break the chain" method is that it lets us divert our stubbornness away from the "I don't wannas" and redirect it towards not wanting to mess up a good winning streak.

Raise your hand if when you're on a roll, you're highly motivated to keep rolling. 

I thought so.

You can put your hand down now. (Seriously, if you are at work or in a coffee shop, please put your hand down.)

If you want scientific reasoning for why this works, I'll tell you what clinical neurologist Dr. Daniel Amen says. (Can I get another amen? Just kidding - I should let Jerry write the jokes.) Dr. Amen explains that:

"The chart appeals to your logical PFC; but the series of Xs, signifying accomplishment, gives your limbic system a little rush of good feelings."

And we tend to continue doing anything that gives us a rush of good feelings. Don't we?

So, could you be only one pen and one calender page away from improving at something? Or from creating a good habit? Only a chain of Xs away from a daily quiet time routine or a daily walk after work?  Try it and see.

I'm going to try it. Like Jerry, I'm going to mark an X for each day that I write since my one word is CREATE. And I'm going to see if my brain buys in to the concept of keeping the streak alive.

I want you and I to become the kind of person that keeps our good streaks going. So I'm encouraging you today to think about what you could try using this method to do. A daily quiet time? More home-cooked meals? Training for marathon? ...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pray and Don't Give Up

Hey there, glad you stopped by. Welcome to Monday Morning Motivation.

I do these posts each most Mondays as a sort of shot in the arm to get you going on your week. I think of them as productivity jump-starters. But you can think of them as posts designed to reduce your need for a third second cup of coffee. (subscribe in the side bar)

If you've come over from my devotion published today, you know today I'm talking about faith. And prayer. And not giving up. So this one is a shot in the arm for your prayer life.

Only I won't give the shot to you so much as Jesus will.

If you haven't already read the devo yet, be sure and do that so that 1) you'll understand why my neighbors think I'm erratic but I'm not, and 2) so your arm will be prepped for this next dose.

OK. I love me some parables. But I especially love it when Jesus spells things out plainly for us. He does that in Matthew 7:7-11.  Give me your arm, this won't hurt a bit ...

Ask, Seek, Knock


 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"  (Matt 7:7-11, NIV)

If you do word studies on the verbs "ask," "seek," "knock" you'll discover that the tense they were written in would have you translate this as: "Ask, and keep on asking; seek, and keep on seeking; knock, and keep on knocking ... " In other words: PRAY ALWAYS AND DON'T GIVE UP.

Both this passage and the parable in the devotion communicate to us that sometimes in life you have to persist to see the outcome materialize. We don't always know why but apparently it is so. So make up your mind now to persist.

These passages also remind us that if a parent will give good things to the child they love, and even a cranky, corrupt judge will do the right thing when pressed to, of course your Heavenly Father will give you what you need when you come to Him in faith.

So stay at it while expecting results. That's the faith part.

{Desperation drives us to prayer. But it's faith that keeps us at it, expecting results.}

It's worth noting that the provision of the good gifts is probably a reference to the wisdom, blessing and guidance of God supplied in response to repeated requests. The teaching as a whole doesn't imply that we get everything we want, but that God gives the good that we need.

Case in point: I do not have a beach house in Malibu. Nor have I grown a single inch past my 5'2" frame.

If you want to read more on this passage in Matthew, I recommend Matthew Henry's excellent commentary on it. But if this shot in the arm is all you needed to close your eyes and seek God in prayer today - and again tomorrow - my work here is done.

What did you stop praying for?  What did you once seek, but give up on?

Tell me in a comment here, or on my Facebook post, and I'll join you in praying for it!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pull the Trigger

I remember the day I realized I’d gotten in the habit of hesitating to pull the trigger.


Not on my spouse, or on the slow driver in front of me.  On my projects. 

I’d get whatever I was working on to a place of 60%, 80% or even 90% done, and then I’d stop working on it. I’d just walk away with the intention of finishing this later. And I was sure this was a smart move. Sometimes later came. But sometimes it didn’t.

Plans were made. Supplies were bought. But then the project wasn’t begun.  Or begun but not finished.

If I did manage to complete “production” on my work, I’d hesitate to pull the trigger on “shipping” it.  The “product” sat on my warehouse shelves instead of being sent to its intended customer.  Cards sat addressed and stamped but not mailed out. Writing pieces sat almost done, but not sent to editors.  

I realized this one day as I was online creating custom labels for some CDs I was making.  I spent an hour searching for a good label company to use, looking at the possible designs, choosing one, uploading my graphic to put on it, tweaking the colors on it, and then I final-proofed it and put it in my online shopping cart.  Then I quit. I didn’t place the order. Instead I saved it for later.

Twenty minutes later, while I was on to the next thing, I wondered, “Why didn’t I just finish that task while I was doing it?  It would’ve been so easy to just get it done.  Now I have to remember to go back and finish that.”

So why didn’t I pull the trigger? 




Those are always safe answers about why I'm hesitating. But as I thought it through, I realized there was something more to this trap I was in.

There had been a couple of times I gotten something almost done but waited to finish it. Then I got new information I didn’t have before, and I was glad I hadn’t yet pulled that trigger.  I found a better price elsewhere, or I learned that it won’t work like I thought it would. I read a bad review of it, or I dreamed up a different, better way to go about it.

The huge feeling of relief that I hadn’t yet pulled the trigger got associated with the act of stopping before finishing. Hesitating had brought me good results or saved me from bad ones.  So I started hesitating more often – just in case.

I’d reach almost done and start to wonder: Maybe I should sleep on this decision – think about it for a couple days. Is this the best possible deal? Am I going to regret this later? Have I spent too much time on this already today … maybe I should go work on something else for a while.

I lost sight of the reality that these incidents where waiting worked well were exceptions to the done-is-better-than-not-done rule.  Plus, I forgot how great “done” feels and how bad a gaggle of unfinished tasks feels.

Not pulling the trigger did bring me relief a couple of times, but it brought me frustration much of the rest of the time.  I had to work twice as hard to remember to go back and close the loop, finish the project, ship the product.  And I had to live with the consequences when I forgot.

Bottom Line:  
Better to pull the trigger while the metaphorical get-it-done gun is in your hand and aimed. If you wait until later you’ll have to find the gun, polish it up, reload it with motivation and re-aim it on your target. You don’t want or need to do all those extra steps.

Realizing that helped me a lot.  Maybe it will help someone else out there too. Today, I want you to pray, then pull the trigger on your projects. Unless of course, God tells you not to as you pray. Or, if you are aiming at your spouse or that slow driver in front of you.
Do you have a tendency to stop short of done?  ... Pull that trigger!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Why I'm Giddy (and Busy)

I apologize for the lack of a Monday Morning Motivation post this morning.  But a rather unique opportunity arose this morning. 

If I can get a course put together by 5:00 tomorrow, I can try to offer a special course at the university this spring.  One that allows me to take a group of students to Italy for ten days.

Rome, Sienna, Florence, Bologna ...

Yes, see, I knew you'd understand my dropping everything to make this happen.

I've always wanted to do this. So I will be back here once this brain child of a course has been birthed to paper and linked with the locations we'll visit. 

Sienna, Italy

Talk about short deadlines ... but I'm totally up for this challenge!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why to-do's take forever to get done

My One Word for 2012 is CREATE. Here’s what I can tell you: A creative piece of work never feels entirely finished to its author. (In fact, I’ve heard of famous painters being banned from museums to keep them from continuing to add to their masterpieces.) So I tend to want to give myself as much time as possible to work on something.

And that’s a problem because: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

I talked about this proverb known as Parkinson’s Law the other week.

Parkinson’s Law means that if you give yourself a week to complete a two-hour task, the task will seem to increase in difficulty-to-get-done so as to fill that week. Even if it doesn't fill the week with more work, or endless tweaking, it will with the stress and tension of still needing to get it done. And remembering to get it done.

The remedy is to give yourself short deadlines. Shorter than you think is necessary, or comfortable.

I once read a response to Parkinson’s Law insinuating that if it were an accurate observation, you could assign a time limit of one minute to a task and it would become simple enough to complete within a minute. No. Parkinson’s Law a truism, not a law of physics.

It’s a truism because people generally give certain tasks more time than they really take to be completed. 

Why do we do that? 

4 Reasons Parkinson’s Law is in Effect

1) WE DREAD. It’s a task we’re dreading doing, so we keep putting it off. We convince ourselves it will be so dreadful and time-consuming that we can’t possibly deal with it right now. Surely tomorrow will be a better time to tackle this.

2) WE’RE TIME-CHALLENGED. It’s not that we don’t have enough time available to complete the task; rather we’re not good at determining how much time this task needs. Plus, we lallygag, daydream and get off track rather than focusing and getting it done – so it seems to take forever. (Personally, I can be a terrible judge of time.)

3) WE’RE PERFECTIONISTS. We assume that the longer we work on something the better it will turn out. And we want it to turn out as perfect as possible. So we give ourselves lots of time to work on it. And in the meantime, the task grows in complexity because we’re trying to do the best possible job at it. (Note: not everything needs to be "just right," many things just need to be done.)

4) WE STRESS. We live with stress. We don’t enjoy it. So we’re always looking to avoid more stress. We think that giving ourselves the buffer of some extra time to do the task will reduce our hurry and stress. Yet it often does not. Instead we stress all week over getting a two-hour task done, then we hurry to complete it last minute.

Any of this sound familiar? I am guilty of all four of those.

Parkinson's Remedy

By assigning ourselves (or our kids or employees) a short but doable amount of time to complete a task, we can gain back wasted time. Time spent dreading, postponing, daydreaming or trying to do something to an unreasonably or unnecessarily high standard. Then we can restore the perceived complexity of the task back to its true state—and reduce our stress.
So I'm working on giving myself short deadlines and getting to-dos done rather than tweaked twenty times or postponed. I'm completing more, faster. And that's upping my enthusiasm for my work. As Martha Stweart might say, "That's a good thing!"

Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. ~ Romans 12:11