Balance vs Imbalance in Life

If you’re searching for meaning, joy, happiness, fulfillment, quality relationships, peace in your household and real success in life, they all will be very hard to find without balance. Balance gives us strength, momentum, peace-of-mind and allows us to do things you never thought possible. For instance, look at this picture…

 
Natchez Trace Bridge (Wikipedia)
Natchez Trace Bridge, Williamson County, TN (Wikipedia)

This 155-foot-high bridge along the Natchez Trace Parkway spans 1,648 feet over Highway 96 in Williamson County, Tennessee. When it was built, the bridge received national recognition for it’s design and construction. Whether I drive over or under it, I can’t help but be amazed. It’s a very imposing structure but it has a peaceful simplicity about it as well. Rather than numerous columns, it has just one along with two huge arches that hold up the road deck. This allows for a flowing and uncluttered view of the valley it spans. There’s amazing balance in both the structural and visual function of the Natchez Trace Bridge. There were many obstacles to overcome in it’s design and construction, but with creative thought, out-of-the-box thinking and lots of evaluation, it was completed and is generally considered a huge success by both engineers and those who use it. This amazing bridge is possible because of balance…

On the other hand, here’s what can happen when there’s a lack of balance….

If you didn’t notice it before, watch it again and listen to the roar as it passes by the camera.

This huge tornado shredded parts of Weld County, Colorado, on Thursday of this week (5-22-08). It was the result of a very unstable and highly sheared atmosphere. To say it another way, the atmosphere was very imbalanced. In nature, all extreme weather is caused by imbalance. It’s simply cause and effect. It a matter of physics. It’s just the way it is…

You and I are products of God’s nature and we fit into this equation as well… With this in mind, wouldn’t you rather be a strong and balanced support for your family rather than an imbalanced monster that leaves nothing but destruction in your wake? I know I would. In what ways can you be more balanced in your life beginning today?

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Got a Problem???

Hail is one of the most destructive forces in weather. It’s responsible for billions of dollars in damage to homes, cars, windows, crops and anything else outdoors each year. If you don’t believe how damaging it can be, watch this amazing video from a storm chase by Cloud 9 Tours back in 2003…

How about that? Hail is formed when strong updrafts in a severe storm carry a raindrop high into the cloud where the temperatures are below freezing. The drop freezes into a ball of ice. It then fall back toward the earth where more rain coats it before it is carried right back up into the subfreezing air where the coating of water freezes into another layer making the hail grow. With very strong storms, this can happen over and over until the hail is the size of a marble, golf ball, baseball or even softball. The largest hailstones often develop large spikes that make them that more destructive…

Life’s problems often act like hailstones. They start off small but the more we ignore them, the larger and more destructive they get. This happens all the time. A small problem in your relationships can grow into large, divisive issue if not tackled early. Charging small amounts on your credit cards each day will end up as a big bill at the end of the month. Not taking the time to really think about where you want to go with your life in the next month, year or five years can put you on a path to disaster. Don’t ignore the warning signs that something isn’t right. The housing crisis was predictable. An eventual run-up in the price of oil was predictable. A credit card crisis is likely coming because people are spending more than they make in these tough financial times. Without their homes to take out equity, more and more people are turning again to credit card debt (Financial figures from last month showed a substantial increase in unsecured debit – mainly from credit cards). If this trend continues, bankruptcies will begin rising by the end of the year. This is a relatively small problem right now that has the potential to grow into a much larger problem down the road.

So, what small small problem are you dealing with now that could grow into a destructive monster if you continue to ignore it? Think about how you can tackle it beginning today. Don’t let grow until it’s an overwhelming force. Think about the problem, come up with a plan to conquer it and then take massive action on that plan. If you don’t feel motivated, just watch the video again and picture yourself being showered by that huge hail. If you don’t work on solving the problem, that picture may become all too real all too soon!

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Thinking for a Change…

The art of thinking about where you are and where you want to be is, I believe, the most important step in changing your life for the better. You have to take action on your plan once it’s made, but you have to work on designing it first. With that thought in mind, here are a few questions to help get you started…

The biggest factor to our happiness in life is the quality of our relationships. When our relationship with our God, spouse, friends and family are good, life tends to be good. When those same relationships suffer, we suffer. For instance, think about the last time you had a fight with your spouse. What kind of day did you have? I bet it wasn’t one of your better ones. What can you do right after reading this blog to make sure those who love you know how much you care? Just a few loving words, phone call or note may be all that’s needed to do this.

Something else that helps determine the quality of our lives is where we are in relation to where we want to be. The greater the distance between these two points, the higher the level of anxiety. That’s because what you’re actually experiencing doesn’t match your expectations. That’s can be very frustrating.  We have all experienced times during which life threw us a curve ball and in the end, it was for the better. But, many of us have the potential to do and be much more than we are but we’re not taking the time to nurture our growth. To have a great life, it starts with creative thought then followed by planning and action. Like anything, it takes time, effort and energy. Don’t be afraid of that – complacency will keep you right where you are. If you like the way your life is, that’s fine. But if you get up each day frustrated and stressed with the way things are, it’s time to think for a change…

Let me give you an example. Yesterday, I saw a report that stated that the amount of unsecured debt (mostly from credit cards) is skyrocketing. This is happening in part because with the downturn in the housing market, fewer people have the opportunity to take out equity in their homes to meet their expenses. So, people are turning again to credit cards. Some are running up thousands of dollars in debt. Like the housing market crash, this trend could lead to a credit crisis. It’s predictable. The more households that try to fill the gap between their expenses and income, the deeper the hole they dig and the closer to bankruptcy they are. If this continues, watch for the rate of personal bankruptcies to rise over the next few quarters as more people get in over their heads (Rising gas prices won’t help this situation).

If you are in this trap, you’re going to have to make a plan to get off that track. Think about how you can either make more money or reduce your expenses, write down your plan and then take massive action on it. But again, you first have to think about what’s wrong and how you want to fix it. That’s step one. Start here and you’re well on your way. Don’t put it off. You can begin to change your life just by thinking. Pretty cool, huh?

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Do Something Different Today

Change is hard.  Most of us strongly resist change even if we’re in a situation that we know isn’t the best for us.  That’s sad.  There’s one simple thing that you can do beginning right now that can change the course of your life:  Do something different.  Sounds simple, right?  Well, when you factor in our resistance to change, it’s not as easy as it appears.  For example, why do we eat the same foods that we know aren’t good for us?  Why don’t we get up just a few minutes earlier each day so we’re not always in a rush?  Why do we stay in jobs in which we’re miserable?   Why do we work late night after night knowing that our families miss us?  Why do we date people that we know aren’t right for us?  Are the wheels turning in your head yet?  Are you thinking about a situation that you would like to make better but seem to keep putting off?  If you are, good.  That’s step one – think about what you can do differently.  Step two – DO IT!   Make a plan right now of what you are going to do differently today (or tomorrow if it’s already nighttime).  Do you need to talk with your spouse about something that’s been bugging you?  Have you been putting off that fishing trip with your son?  Have you been postponing trying that new church?  Do you have a membership to your local gym but never go (it’s been said that gyms have more members that don’t attend than do).  Here’s a given:  If you don’t do something different, nothing in your life is going to change.  You can sit, wait and hope that your world will get better but don’t bank on it.  You have to move toward what you want.  No movement, no change.  It isn’t enough just to focus on, visualize and think about what you want.  You have to take action to move toward it.  Simply visualizing and hoping it happens won’t make it so.  Find anyone you consider successful in life and ask them how they did it.  They’ll tell you that is was a process.  Don’t get me wrong…  There’s nothing bad about focusing on a goal and visualizing your life the way you desire it to be, but you can’t stop there.  You have to take action.  Set a goal, make a plan and then go out and do it!  Try it and see for yourself.  Once you get a little momentum and see your life changing and getting better, it will keep you motivated and help you get to your goal even faster.  It’s a fun and exciting process…

Another Lesson from the Weather…

The atmosphere did it again.  Large tornadoes ripped through Tennessee in the second major outbreak this year on Friday, April 11th.  Back in February, tornadoes killed more than 50 people across the state.  April’s storm event fortunately only caused a few minor injuries but damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes.  I would venture to say some folks around here are becoming a bit storm weary – we need a break already!

So, what caused the tornadoes in February and April?  Meteorologically, the combination of instability, high shear and strong triggers did the job.  Another way to say the same thing a bit less technically; IMBALANCE.   When there’s a lack of balance in the atmosphere, the resulting weather becomes turbulent as the sky attempts to restore itself to a balanced state.  The stronger the imbalance, the more violent the weather can become.

Weather is a product of nature and so are we.  This principle of imbalance = chaos works with us too.  Don’t ignore this.  Too many of us do and end up leading out of control, chaotic lives.  But, unlike the weather, we can change our situtation.  We can change the direction of our lives to make them better…

With this in mind, ask youself these three questions and think about the answers over the next few days…

1.  Am I letting those in my life whom I love know how important they are to me?

2.  Where do I want to be five years from now?

3.  Am I doing all I can do to take care of my health?

The reasons for these questions are simple.  First, studies show that 85% of the joy that we experience in life is based on our relationships.  We should strive to make sure our relationships stay a top priority and are healthy.  Number two, if you’re not where you want to be in life now, what can you change to get there?   When you feel like you’re not living to your fullest potential, unhappiness can result.  If you feel this way, what can you do to move toward your idea life between now and the year 2013?  Finally, think about how well you take care of your body.  It’s very hard to lived a balanced life with an unhealthy body.  If 70% of chronic diseases in the country are lifestyle related, then we need to make sure our current lifestyle doesn’t put us in that 70% bracket in a few years…

So, when the weather’s bad, let it remind you to examine how balanced your own life is.  Could it be better and if so, how?  Asking questions like this can put you on a path to change your life…

Also, keep those who have been affected by this year’s tornadoes in your prayers and thoughts.  I also encourage those of you who would like to do even more to find ways to help with disaster aid or disaster clean-up.  Contact your local Red Cross office and ask how you can help.

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Improving Your Odds for Success with Life Balance…

Some people let life just happen to them. They don’t believe they have much influence over the outcomes in their lives. They see themselves as, more or less, boats floating on a big ocean without much of a rudder. Where they go is determined by the wind and the current. Sometimes they may get where they want to go but if they do, it’s just happenstance. I believe most people live their lives this way. They let others decide how their day will play out. They, more or less, forfeit their lives to the people around them.

Are you in this trap? Ask yourself some of these questions:

1. Do you feel like your boss solely determines your chances for promotion?
2. Do you wonder how in the world your marriage ended up such a mess?
3. Are you amazed at how quickly your paycheck is used up?

For many of us, these things just seem to happen. That’s too bad. In reality, we have much more control over of our lives than most of us give credit.

In weather, we forecast using probabilites. We can recoginzie patterns that have resulted in a certain kind of weather in the past to forecast what will happen in the future. If a storm system has plenty of moisture and rising air, then the probability of rain will be high. Your local forecaster might forecast a 90% chance of rain. The odds that it will rain are much higher than the weather staying dry based on how the system is behaving.

I consider our lives to work by the same principle we use in forecasting. The outcomes are largely based on our behavior. For instance, if you want to improve the statistical probability that you will get promoted in your workplace, then you need to take action to make that happen. Don’t sit, wait and hope that your boss will do it on his or her own. You need to start going above and beyond the call of duty. You need to make a plan of action that will get you noticed when the opportunities for promotion come up. Take initiative, show off your talents and stand out from your coworkers. If you’re doing merely what’s expected of you in your job just to “get by”, the probability of staying in that position and not getting promoted goes up. If you want to have a loving and healthy marriage, then nurture it. You should want to make sure your spouse knows how loved and appreciated he or she is. Take the time to show that person that they are important to you. If you don’t, then the probability of a successful marriage goes down. The probability of becoming wealthy is nearly zero if you spend more money than you bring in week after week, year after year. You can hope to win the lottery, you can hope for a windfall out of the blue, you can hope someone else will save you but probabilities are, that won’t happen.

Begin thinking about living a balanced and successful lifestyle in terms of probabilities. Every day, think of new ways to improve your odds that the outcomes in your life will be good rather than bad. While there are not guarantees in life, those who live extraordinary lives take specific steps to make that happen. They improve their odds by making good decisions. It’s much more simple than many people think. Remember, the crowd is small at the top and very crowded at the bottom. Don’t continue to flounder in the crowd at the bottom, allowing circumstances and other people determine what happens to you. Make decisions that will increase the probability for you to move up. If you ask anyone at the top, they’ll tell you they are glad they did…

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Remembering Helps You Move Forward…

On the road to balance, most of us have habits we want to leave behind. Maybe it’s a habit of eating too much sugar. Maybe it’s a tendency to argue every little point with your spouse. Maybe it’s watching too much television. Whatever that bad habit is, there’s a very effective way to change it. Here’s how it works…

Image in your mind doing that bad habit you want to change, perhaps it’s your tendency to eat that sixth or seventh cookie in a row. It tastes good at the moment, doesn’t it? But how do you feel afterward?  Are the feelings negative or positive? Negative, I bet. You went from enjoying the taste of all of those cookies to feeling badly because of how many you ate and how all of those calories are going to affect your waste line. It’s easy to have the best of both words; enjoy the cookie and have it not affect your weight. All you have to do is simply eat only one or two. So why don’t we do that? Here’s the reason – it’s easy to FORGET how badly we feel when we eat too many until after we’ve done it. You can change that. The trick is to remember that feeling BEFORE you eat too many cookies. We respond strongly to feelings. We try to avoid negative ones and desire ones which are positive. So, if you’re able to associate negative feelings with a bad habit, you stand a much better chance of breaking it. This can take a little practice but if you do this a few times with your bad behavior, you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make. I find it easier to get out and run 15 to 20 miles a week when I remember how badly I feel when I don’t excercise. Next time, before eating all of those cookies, remember how badly you feel each time you eat too many.  Let that feeling sink in.  Now how do you feel about the cookies?  Enjoy one or two and then enjoy feeling good about it.  Enjoy the feeling of knowing you didn’t eat too many.  I’ve seen this process work time and time again, not only in my life, but in others who are transforming their lives from overwhelmed to outstanding. You can do it too. Try it and see!

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