Discovering Inspiration

The past few weeks I have been working with my church for a program called Angel Tree. We deliver Christmas gifts to children from a parent that is in prison. I woke up one morning intrigued about the level of gratification I felt from being involved.

I have helped with this program for a few years, and I will help again next year. Why? Because I am motivated to do so.

I have been contemplating what factors have led me to this level of commitment. If I can define them, will I be able to apply them to other activities? Can I use them to increase my motivation for another goal?

I have discovered many factors that have impacted my inspiration, my commitment, and my gratification.

1. Helping others – I am driven by the ability to help others. Doing something without reward is usually not motivating. However if other people are able to reap the reward of my effort, and I am able to participate in the process, it is highly rewarding.

2. Personal impact – I am emotionally impacted by the gratitude expressed by those we serve. It drives me to want to do the best I can to meet their needs.

3. Supports by my core values – We all have gaps between who we want to be and who we actually are. Just like we have differences between our intentions and our actions. The role with Angel Tree helps me close my gap.

4. Sense of urgency – Each year the time between receiving information on the children in the program and delivering gifts is short. It creates urgency, and a fixed timeline to which we are committed.

5. Effort – The amount of effort I need to invest to support the program is known in advance. Each year, I know approximately the number of hours and days to schedule.

6. Supported by othersThe program is supported by a team of volunteers. I would never be able to achieve the goal by myself.

7. Accountability – People are counting on me. My assigned tasks assigned are only going to be done by me. My actions affect the team. My actions affect our success.

8. Clear Goal – We must deliver gifts to the assigned children before Christmas. Our goal is clear. There are hundreds of obstacles, but the desired outcome is unmistakable.

9. Personal growth – I grow from being involved. Each year the challenges we face are different. Usually unique to a family we are serving. Overcoming challenges is the basis for growth.

The next step for me is to discover how I can connect these factors to a different goal. For the last couple of years, I have wanted to exercise more. I go through periods of success and then allow myself to drift away. It has been clear as I reflected this week, that these factors are not linked to my goal for exercising.

If I can establish the links, I think my outcome would be very different. That is my challenge. What challenge do you have that can benefit from discovering your inspiration?

You Can’t Go Back

I read constantly, both fiction and non-fiction. When I am reading a fictional tale, I enjoy finding a life lesson revealed within the context of the story.

Here is an except from Mad Ship by Robin Hobb. Wintrow is depressed because his life is way off the course he had planned. Mostly due to unfortunate events that were out of his control.

He shook his head sadly, “I do not know. Perhaps it is, for other folk, I only know it was not what I was accustomed to, nor what I expected. I keep trying to think of a way to get back to where I was and restore my life to what it is supposed to be, but—”

“You can’t go back,” she told him bluntly. Her voice was neither kind or unkind. “That part of your life is over. Set it aside as something you have finished. Complete, or no, it is done with you. No being gets to decide what his life is ‘supposed to be.’” She lifted her eyes and her gaze stabbed him. “Be a man. Discover where you are now, and go on from there, making the best of things. Accept your life, and you might survive it. If you hold back from it, insisting this is not your life, not where you are meant to be, life will pass you by. You may not die from such foolishness, but you might as well be dead for all the good your life will do you or anyone else.”

Do you ever find yourself trying to go back in time? It is only natural to think that we can fix things by putting them back to the way they were before. Life just doesn’t work that way!

I find that when I am facing a difficult situation, it is important to remember not to try to undo the past, but to chart a new future. I must evaluate the current situation, learn from the past, but move forward.

This may seem easy as you read this example, but subconsciously we want to go back to a time when we were comfortable. I try to recognize when I fall into this trap. It is true. We cannot go back.

Growth Versus Goals

Stop for a moment to think about your lifelong dreams and goals. Focus on something that you wish to achieve in your lifetime. Are you actively working towards this accomplishment?

If you are like me, we always have to weigh short-term needs and goals, with longer-term growth. It is not easy. Spending fifteen minutes a day on that long-term goal can pay high dividends.

It is a matter of thinking about your goals versus your growth. Growing continuously over a long period of time leads to the ability to accomplish great lifetime achievements.

However, it can be a struggle to bypass short-term gratification for the longer-term goal realization. I find it useful to think about goals in various timeframes, for example, one-year, three-year, and ten-year goals.

Once these are defined, then ask yourself two questions. One, how must I grow in order to achieve these goals? And two, how can I allocate some of my time daily or weekly to this growth, and these goals?

If we don’t utilize today to make tomorrow great, then we lose the opportunity to attain something that may be very important to us.

As John Maxwell has said, “The great men and women of history were not great because of what they earned and owned, but rather for what they gave their lives to accomplish.”

Avoid Being Stranded

“The past is a place of learning, not a place of living.” – Roy T. Bennet

I am a zealot of daily personal reflection. The process has revealed many opportunities for me in past years. Reflection helps process the past and improve the future.

Recognize that when we stay in the past we become stranded. For reflection to be effective, it must allow us to move forward rather than to be stuck in yesterday. The power of reflection materializes when we determine a more valuable plan for tomorrow.

The mistake I have made is failing to act on the improved plan. When I spend time in reflection, I may find many alternatives or options for moving forward. Without an effective process, you may lose sight of these options in the coming days.

Upon reflection a the path forward may seem strikingly clear. But when you fast forward a day, a week, or even months, how do you remember the new plan? Under the stress of day to day challenges, it may be difficult to implement the ideas you developed.

Capturing lessons learned is one method that helps me. I write them in a journal or in a spreadsheet. I document the actions and options that I need to pursue. This reflection, capturing, and remembering cycle that helps me grow from yesterday, and move to the future.

I have been stranded before, it does not feel great. And the longer you stay stranded, the harder it is to move forward. You have heard it said. We are best defined by our future rather than our past.

Keep moving. Find a process that works for you, and keep moving. Our future lies in what can happen, not what has happened. Each day becomes an opportunity to improve and move forward.