“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
― Dr. Seuss,
2018 is the 3rd year that I’ve set an intentional reading goal to challenge myself. I don’t do it just for the sake of saying I read more books. The goal is to be more intentional about the type of books I read and what I get out of them. I want to read books that are actionable and help me grow.
My book choices focus on personal development, spirituality, how-to, and biography/autobiography. I also throw in a few just for fun books here and there – these are good for my imagination. My goal this year is 24 books.
As part of my learning process I will blog about some of the books and share the key points that I find helpful. My hope is that some of these tips may be helpful for you too.
Disclaimer: The links for the book titles take you to Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate and I make a few cents if you purchase using my link. This helps me fund this blog.
My January reading was a nice mix of personal development, how-to, biography, and fiction.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth – Read more about some of my lessons learned from this book here. The big takeaway I got from this book is that effort counts twice. Others may be more talented than I am but how I put my gifts to use with intentional practice matters even more.
The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success by Darren Hardy – This one was a re-read. I will probably read this book every year. I find this book helpful for anyone, no matter what kind of goal you are working on. You can read more about it on my post here. I highly recommend that you download the worksheets that go with the book and DO the steps.
The Beauty of a Darker Soul – by Joshua Mantz – I saw Josh speak last year at a conference I attended. He is a veteran who was killed by a sniper in Iraq and saved by a skilled combat trauma team. He now works with veterans to help them heal not only from physical trauma but from the trauma of shame, guilt and powerlessness. Here’s a quick video of Josh.
Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide to the Benefits of a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet– by Jimmy Moore – This book has been a valuable resource in my keto journey. I will refer back to it over and over. Jimmy Moore has lost 180 pounds with a ketogenic lifestyle. This book is easy to read and includes information from research and physicians as well as his own experiences.
Small Great Things – by Jodi Picoult – This is my first book by this author and I enjoyed her writing style. This book tackles subjects such as power, race, and privilege. The moral dilemma of a nurse in an OB department gripped me from the beginning. As a Risk Manager for a hospital this one hit home.
Kill the Spider – Carlos Whitaker – Carlos is a well-known worship leader, author and blogger. This is an engaging peek into a very tough part of the author’s struggle with deep-rooted issues that were cropping up in his life in various ways. I really identified with the concept that we should stop cleaning up the cobwebs in our lives and get to the root of the problem. Kill the Spider is a great read and has actionable steps for you to start looking at the spiders in your life.
Even So, Joy: Our Journey through Heartbreak, Hope and Triumph – Lesa Brackbill – This book is powerful. Lesa is a friend that I met through Facebook when we were doing an online challenge together. We’ve been able to connect in person a couple of times even though we live across the country from each other. This book tells the story of of their daughter Tori who was diagnosed with a fatal genetic disorder known as Krabbe Leukodystrophy. Lesa and Brennan’s story is a beautiful example of how we can live with joy even in the midst of unfathomable grief and pain.
Memoirs of Pontius Pilate – James R. Mills – This novel is written from the perspective of Pontius Pilate looking at the events surrounding Jesus life and crucifixion. I found it to be a fascinating read and it gave me a better perspective of the political situation of that historical time. It’s interesting to see the historical events from the perspective of the Romans.
Thank you for visiting my reading challenge page. Comment below if you are you working on a reading goal this year? I’d love to cheer you on and to hear what you’re reading. One technique that helps me maintain progress is to use a habit tracker to read at least 30 minutes per day. You can download my free weekly habit tracker/planner page below.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition where the body is unable to use insulin effectively to get glucose (blood sugar) out of the bloodstream and into the cells where it can be used for energy. Many people are able to manage their Type 2 diabetes with lifestyle changes. Others may need medications to reduce blood sugar levels. These medications may include oral medications, insulin or other injectables.
Diabetes is diagnosed with a lab test. The main test used for this purpose is a fasting blood glucose. Other diagnostic tests may include an A1c or a glucose tolerance test.
Also known as fasting blood sugar test. This is a blood test that measures the amount of glucose in your bloodstream at the time of testing. As the name implies, this test is done when you have been fasting for several hours. A normal result would be between 70 and 99 mg/dl. If your level was 126 mg/dl or higher after fasting, this indicates diabetes. That leaves of range of 100-125 that is called prediabetes or "at risk for diabetes."
The A1c may also be known by the name Hemoglobin A1c or HgbA1c. This blood test shows your average blood glucose levels over a 2 to 3 month time span. It is expressed in a percentage. For people without diabetes the number is lower than 5.7%. The goal for people with diabetes is to keep the A1c less than 7%.
The glucose tolerance test is a blood test that is taken after you drink a sugary drink in the lab. This tests how well your body is processing the sugar in the drink over time. Two hours after consuming the drink your blood glucose level should be less than 140 mg/dl. If it is over 200 you have diabetes. A level between 140 and 199 mg/dl is considered impaired glucose tolerance or prediabetes.
One use for this test is to diagnose gestational diabetes. It is usually done between 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.
This post is a follow up to the post Stop Quitting on Yourself by Growing Your Grit.
I have always felt that I lacked the “stick-to-it-iveness” that others seemed to have when it came to sticking with my goals. I had passion but not a lot of perseverance. I would start off with great gusto on a new goal or a new project, only to give up before reaching it’s completion. My latest read has been encouraging in the news that I can improve my “grit.”
Angela Duckworth is a researcher and professor who studies the science of grit. In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance she uses the word “grit” to describe an intangible quality that people have that combines passion and perseverance. While we all have natural talents, there is usually a gap between our potential and what we actually achieve. Grit helps us narrow that gap. Some people are naturally “grittier” than others but the good news is that we can grow our grit. We can learn to push through difficult challenges and conquer our highest goals.
Duckworth tested her theory at West Point. The leaders at West Point had a system to try to determine which candidates might drop out during the weeks known as Beast Barracks. This takes place in the summer before entering West Point. Their system, known as the Whole Candidate Score was an attempt at predicting who would make it through Beast Barracks. To test the grit theory they administered a survey to rank each candidates grit. The result of this survey was a much better predictor of which candidates would survive Beast Barracks. This survey identified candidates with a combination of passion and perseverance that displayed itself in determination and resilience.
Have you ever been frustrated that someone is more talented at something than you are? Well, the good news is effort counts twice as much as talent. All the West Point candidates had talent. It is a very rigorous screening process before a candidate even earns the right to be invited to West Point. But those who had the potential to stick it out had more than just raw talent. Consider the following equations:
Talent + effort = skills
Skills + effort = achievement
In these equations is a simplified explanation of how talent paired with focused effort produces skills. When those skills are paired with effort (as in practice) it produces achievement.
You can apply this principle to any goal you are working on. Even a health goal. For example: I lose weight painfully slowly. I don’t have the raw “talent” that naturally thin people do. I have to work extra hard at it and be more disciplined. As I put effort into it I build the skills necessary to get better at it (meal planning, figuring out what foods to eat, self-control, discipline, self-care, etc.). As I continue to build skills and practice these new habits, I get better and better at losing weight.
The author quotes writer John Irving as saying, “it doesn’t hurt anybody to have to go slowly.” Irving was not a writer with natural raw talent. But with effort he became a master at his craft and his stories have been read by millions.
If you find that you don’t stick with your goals to completion there are ways to improve your grit.
You can improve your grit from the inside by:
You can improve your grit from the outside by:
If you want to stop quitting it helps to realize many of us have made it a lifetime habit to quit. If we have our brains on autopilot this is where we will end up – quitting. The subconscious part of our brain is focused on survival. It’s job is to tell us to seek pleasure, avoid pain and conserve energy. These are great guiding principles if I find myself in the middle of the desert struggling for survival. It requires the use of the pre-frontal cortex part of our brain to make decisions beyond mere survival and to produce awesomeness in the world. We must develop our thinking in order to meet goals that are uncomfortable. Goals like losing weight, learning something new, becoming a top athlete, homeschooling children.
If I practice quitting I will become a better quitter. I spent many years practicing procrastination and it made me a great procrastinator. I also had a great deal of practice as an over-eater. What do you practice on a daily basis that may be taking you away from achieving your goals?
What excuses have you made for quitting something? Here are some of the favorites I’ve used:
I am learning to wrap my mind about the idea of fully committing. When you are fully committed you are no longer worried about failure. The only way to truly fail is by quitting. Quitting, in the moment, feels like relief.
When we commit to accomplishing something it feels great at first. We’re motivated and gung ho. If you have a goal to lose weight this is the stage where you’re making grocery lists, menus and diving into meal planning. As time goes by the discomfort sets in.
Then your survival brain kicks in and you may get scared that this will be one more diet that doesn’t work out. When you stop reaching for food for comfort you may find that you experience more negative emotions and thoughts. It gets tough trying to figure out how to do all this in the real world – lunch meetings with food, family functions, vacations, friends who just don’t get it. This is where you start to justify quitting. Once you quit you are relieved and temporarily happy with the decision. If may feel like peace or self-care. But later, regret and despair set in when you realize you are stuck back in your same old situation. Eventually you commit to trying again or to trying something new. And in the end you never reach your goal. It’s a vicious cycle. This is the exact cycle I was stuck in with dieting.
The key is to do work on your thinking at the level of discomfort. I encourage you to get help with changing your thinking and learn to manage difficult emotions. This is the work I have been doing and, oh, how I wish I had known how to do this stuff sooner. Dive into your Bible and do some studying on the mind and on thinking. Get a counselor to work through some of this with a trained guide. Feel free to jump in our Facebook Nutrition Encouragement and Support group.
Read more about growing your grit here. Grit is a key ingredient in pushing past discomfort and learning to stop quitting on yourself. I just finished the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. You can also sign up for my email newsletter so you don’t miss a post.
This small, easy-to-read book is deceptive. The concepts are simple to understand and the examples are compelling. But the power of “small, smart choices, completed consistently over time” can be the key to whether or not you achieve your goals. The compound effect is at work in your life whether you realize it or not. The question is whether you will use it to your advantage or if you will let it gradually drift you off course. Imagine an airplane on taking off from the west coast on autopilot. If the plane is pointed one degree off course and continues across the country, it can put you 50 miles off course by the time it arrives on the west coast. If you wonder why you keep missing your targets, I encourage you to get this book.
The Compound Effect is one of the best personal development books I’ve read. I read it the first time a couple of years ago and I just read through it again this month as I am refocusing on my goals. I originally chose the book as a business book but I quickly realized that the concepts in the book can apply to ANY area in my life that I want to improve. The subtitle is Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success. I read the book quickly the first time because I couldn’t put it down. But it’s not the type of book that you should just read and move on to the next book. This book is filled with actionable steps that will change you if you take the steps. Each chapter gives you steps you can implement in your life to begin to make those small actions that add up to big results over time. There are free worksheets to go along with the book that you can download online. If you’re needing a kick start to achieving your goals, get this book!
Daily disciplines are not fun and they are not always easy. That’s why they are called disciplines. You have to purpose in your heart to complete these mundane habits. But if you stay with them long enough they will make a difference in your life that builds over time. Anyone who has been successful in their lives has implemented daily disciplines. These could be physical, financial, or mental habits.
Momentum is one of the key concepts to the book. Whenever you start to develop is a new habit it is difficult and tedious. It takes more effort in the beginning. But as you are consistent, the momentum builds and builds until it takes very little effort to continue with the momentum. The gains grow larger and larger.
Another key point of the book is to bookend your day with great habits to set yourself up for success. Read more about how to design a morning makeover to get your day off to a great start. In general your morning and your evening are the parts of your day you can control. By using these times to focus on good habits you can be better prepared for the more unpredictable parts of your day.
I am an Amazon affiliate so if you purchase using the link below I make a small amount that helps me run this blog. Feel free to purchase the book through any avenue you choose. Just read it and put the steps into action. You won’t regret it. Stop living your life on autopilot. The compound effect is active in your life already.
We are bombarded with distraction every day: busyness, stress, social media, and an abundance of information. Our minds are a torrent of thoughts. A meditation practice can help us train our minds to move beyond the superficial noise and practice inner contemplation. I have often felt that one reason I don’t hear the still small voice of God is that I am not quiet long enough to listen.
The Bible mentions meditation more than 50 times. The Hebrew words for meditation meant listening to God’s words, reflecting on His work, reviewing what He has done. Meditation is a practice of hearing God’s voice so that we can obey His words. We live in a physical world and many times we forget that we live in a spiritual world as well. Meditation is taking time to connect with the Divine and enjoy communion with Him. Jesus frequently drew away from the crowds to spend time in prayer and meditation.
The key is to commit to the practice. We get good at it by doing it. Simply stated, we learn meditation by meditating. Put it on your calendar daily. Over time it will be a habit that you don’t have to think about it. You will just do it. Download my free weekly habit tracker printable at the bottom of this post.
Start small and be consistent. Keep it simple.
Establish a regular time to do it. Tie it to another routine to remind you to do it in the beginning. I am building a habit of doing it as part of my morning routine. After my alarm goes off I get up and take care of pets and get a big glass of water. I spend time studying my Bible and then I go into my workout room for my meditation and prayer time.
The purpose of meditation is not to get good at meditation. The purpose is to impact the rest of your day. It can help you to feel more grounded, centered, and conscientious. It can reduce anxiety and improve your memory. That sets you up for a day of feeling and being awesome!
Ideally you will set up a place to meditate that is somewhat quiet and free of distractions. It doesn’t have to be completely silent but away from television and other noisy distractors. Another great place to meditate is outside, in nature.
In reality you can meditate anywhere, any time. Susanna Wesley was the mother of well-known hymn writer Charles Wesley and John the founder of the Methodist church. She had 19 children (10 survived into adulthood) and there was no place or time for quiet solitude. So she developed a practice of pulling her apron over her head to spend time in prayer and meditation. Her children knew that when she was in this posture she was not to be disturbed.
Sit in a position of comfort but not slouched. Sit straight – on the floor or in a chair but sit up straight and tall. Your posture affects your mental state.
You can also practice meditation on your knees. Some days I get out my yoga mat and assume the position of Child’s Pose. It is comfortable to maintain and conveys a sense of surrender.
Take deep rhythmic breaths (example: inhale for 6, hold for 2, exhale for 7). This helps to clear the mind and quiet the noise. Pay attention only to your breathing. Do this for a cycle of 5 repetitions.
When the mind drifts, bring it back. Your mind will wander. This is not about turning off your brain; it’s just about bringing it back when it does. In the normal course of our days we are bombarded with thoughts. It’s natural that it will return to this pattern. Observe that you drifted and bring your mind back to the task at hand. This practice is like doing repetitions in an exercise program. You get better and better at it as you practice.
As you meditate you will notice multiple irritations. Train your mind not to respond to every irritation or urge. This is fantastic training for your mind. Itchy nose? Buzzing fly? Urge to open your eyes? Work on increasing the amount of time that you can notice the irritation and not respond to it.
There are many ways to meditate but here are some common versions:
Ponder it in your heart. Imagine yourself in the “scene.” Use your senses. Imagine how it would have felt listening to Jesus’ words as He taught the Beatitudes. What does it sound like, what would it feel like to sit on a grassy hill with thousands of others who had come to hear this teacher? Are there any particular smells? What hope do you feel as you sit there listening and realizing that this man could truly be the Messiah? Let the verses take root in your heart.
This is a type of meditation that gives you space to be still and center your mind. Allow God to commune with you. Give Him your concerns and surrender to whatever He has for you. Release the things that are burdening you. He knows our needs but He still wants to hear about them from you. Philippians 4: 8 says, “…let your requests be known to God.”
If you are meditating outside or have a view of the outside, really look at nature. Be in wonder of what God has created. Ask God what He is saying through His creation.
One definition of willpower is doing what you need to do, when you need to do it, whether you feel like it or not. The bad news is willpower can be exhausted like an over-used muscle. The good news is that you can cultivate willpower and strengthen it.
Because your willpower can be depleted, it’s best to use it wisely and not squander it. An example of wasting your willpower is using it on emergencies such as temptation. Another example is trying to tackle 100 things at once and fatiguing your brain. The best way to use your willpower is in building habits that will make your life easier. Once these habits are ingrained in your life they will happen on autopilot. Here is one example of how this works in my life: I prepare food on Sundays that I can use for my lunches. That way when I’m in a rush in the morning I’m not grabbing just any old thing to pack in my lunch. And I don’t end up at work with no food and fall into the trap of fast food or junk food for lunch. Food prep has become a habit for me and I don’t have to think about it anymore, it’s just part of my routine.
Put systems in place to help move you towards success. Pre-commit to difficult decisions ahead of time. Here are some of my examples:
Businesses know these principles when they market to us. Just go to a Starbucks on a busy day. You may start out with the best intentions to only buy a small skinny latte. But you have to walk past all the shelves with many different, delicious snacks on them. Once you’re in line there are more choices to resist in the food case. At the register there are even more yummy snacks. Chocolate-covered coffee beans, anyone? By the time you get to the register your brain wants to reward you for being so good and resisting all those temptations and you give in and get “just one small treat.” Your willpower wore out.
Breathe – In moments where you need a boost of willpower, take the time to take some deliberate, deep breaths. This action can create some space between your thoughts and emotions and give you time to plan a course of action that is in line with your goals. Just one minute of deep breathing provides a disconnect between an impulse and your reaction to give you time to make a better decision.
Nutrition – Good nutrition is vital. Your brain doesn’t function as effectively on junk fuel. Sugar and flour are very ineffective brain fuel.
Get Moving – Exercise is known to increase willpower and is good for your overall health.
Sleep – Adequate sleep improves your ability to make good decisions.
Meditation – Taking the time to quiet your mind has been shown to increase blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex. This is the thinking/processing/willpower part of the brain. I have started taking 10 minutes in the morning to practice mediation.
Stress Relief – Increased stress decreases willpower. We tend to turn to ineffective stress relief methods. These are things like scrolling through Facebook, surfing the internet, binging on TV shows, drinking, eating, video games, etc. We think these things are helpful because we get a boost of dopamine that feels good in the moment. But it doesn’t actually allow you to recover your willpower. More effective strategies include things like meditation and exercise, petting your dog or cat, time with loved ones or taking a walk.
Do you set New Year’s resolutions or goals for the coming year? I’m working on setting goals this year in a different way than I ever have before. I’m pushing towards making this a year that I get closer to being the absolute best version of myself. I want to stretch my sense of possibility and think much bigger than what I think that I can achieve. The thing about goals is it’s not really about achieving the goal in the end. It’s more about who you become in the process of pursuing it. So it benefits you to choose a goal that stretches you. In this post I will share the tactics I’m following for this year’s goals. I have been listening to Brian Johnson of Optimize.me and Brooke Castillo of The Life Coach School for guidance on goal setting.
I’m starting by evaluating what I want in 3 major areas of my life:
Where do I get my energy to be a high performer? My energy comes from my spiritual practice, nutrition that fuels me, and exercise.
How do I cultivate my relationships with my family to be an exemplary wife, daughter, mom and Gammy? I have to be intentional about deepening relationships with those I love.
How am I using my gifts and talents in service to others? How do I show up in the world? Can I create value for others?
The next step is to brainstorm all my possible goals in these 3 areas. I wrote these down on paper and just let my brain flow. I do this over the span of a few days because the more I activate my mind the more ideas I come up with. Then I chose the ONE goal that helps me to achieve all the other goals. This will be my focus for the coming year.
Next I am going to think bigger and move the target on that one goal to a level that I feel is impossible to achieve. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone and risk failure. That’s where the change happens. My plan is to fail early and fail often for the lessons that failure will provide for me.
We fear failure but in reality it is only in failing that we grow. If a baby was too afraid to fall he would never learn to walk. Each time he falls he fails in his attempt. But in getting up again his muscles become stronger and he becomes more practiced at walking. The falling and getting up again is actually what makes him stronger. Soon he is a master at walking and learns to run. As I’m writing this one of my favorite worship songs is running through my head.
So I am planning to set a big goal and then actively think about all the ways I will fail in trying to reach it. I’m not talking about failure where I just don’t do anything and say, “See, I failed.” I am talking about planning targets towards my goal that stretch me. I may fall down in reaching for them. But each time I pick myself up I will have learned something valuable and grown a bit stronger.
The rest of the song goes something like this:
Philippians 4:6-7 is often quoted and memorized.
"6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
I grew up knowing these verses but never really understanding how to apply them in my life. How do you just, "be anxious for nothing?" I prayed. But most times the worry was just still there. Sometimes quietly running in the background of my mind. Sometimes loudly screaming incessantly in my ear. I would feel guilty for being anxious when I knew I should be giving the worry over to God. So then I was not only worrying about the original worry, but also worrying about my faith. I didn't feel the peace of God that was promised so I felt like I was always missing something.
What I didn't realize was that the key for me was found in the next verses. God had given me actionable steps to take to manage my thinking.
"8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."
The bottom line is that I need a daily practice of thinking about the right things. I am responsible to invest my thought life on things that I know to be true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy, etc.
When I spend my time thinking about my anxieties and worries they are things that are potential future events. I am thinking about things that may or may not be true. God tells me to think about what I know to be true. Not on what my imagination has dreamed up as future possibilities.
I also need to look at what I am filling my mind with. IfI start my day watching or listening to the news my mind is filled with negativity. I now have a practice of starting my day with the Word of God. The Bible contains the tools and the wisdom I need to get through life. If I don't have the right tools in the tool box I can't access what I need when my mind is running amok.
What we spend time thinking about matters.