“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.
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:
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.
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:
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell was a thought-provoking book for me. It was my 11th personal development book this year. I picked it up because I have wanted to read something by Malcolm Gladwell for a while and the title of this one grabbed by attention. I know many of you have felt like an underdog or a misfit at one time or another. I certainly have. And we have all faced our own giants.
Most of us have heard about the story of David and Goliath. Many times the story is told as if David was the underdog and Goliath had all the advantages. Gladwell turns this story on its head when he describes the battle from a historical perspective. Slingers were a regular part of ancient armies. The slinger could launch a stone with accuracy at 30 meters per second. It was the equivalent of a .45 caliber handgun. The slingshot was superior technology to Goliath who was stationary and relied on close combat to defeat his enemies. The question Gladwell raises is if we have been looking at this story wrong, what else might we need to take another look at?
There are four main concepts of the book. Each concept has multiple stories to illustrate Gladwell's point. I will highlight some of them here but I recommend you get the book to get all the great information yourself.
In the book Gladwell tells the story of Vivek Randive and his 12 year old daughter's basketball team. The team was made up of girls with little to no basketball experience or skills. Matched against teams who had far more experience, the team was doomed to fail. Except that Vivek was from Mumbai and looked at the game with an outside view. He saw how traditionally the game was played in the U.S. One team would score and then run to the other side of the court to defend their basket. He saw that if his girls would practice what is known as a full court press they could use it to their advantage. Instead of running to their own side when the ball was thrown in by the other team they pressed hard to not let them advance down the court. Frequently there was so much pressure on the opposing player to pass the ball in the allotted time that they would either throw it away or run out of time and the ball would go back to Vivek's team. If they did make the pass they faced additional pressure to advance the ball across mid-court in time before a turnover. In this manner Vivek Randive took this team to the national championships.
Moral of the story: When you don't have an advantage it can lead to innovation of a new way of doing things. You either give up or you work harder than the other guy. You may not always win but you increase your chances.
The inverted U describes a curve in the shape of an upside-down U. On the left side is the concept that too little of a good thing does not bring the results you want. The middle of the upside-down U is the sweet spot. Just enough of the good thing brings maximum results. The right side of the curve shows that too much of the good thing once again decreases the likelihood of good results.
I know that's a bit confusing but stick with me here. One of Gladwell's examples was classroom size. Smaller classroom size does not produce better learning for students. There is a sweet spot where optimal learning occurs and students interact with each other and learn from each other. Too many students once again decrease learning.
Another example he gave was choosing colleges. The top rated schools are not your best choice if you want to increase your chances of a successful career. It would take me too long to explain it here but he covers it well in this Google interview video:
Moral of the story: There is a sweet spot when you are trying to increase your chances of success.
One of the stories that goes along with this theme is the story of the London bombings by the Germans in World War II. It was predicted that before the bombings that there would be widespread destruction and panic that would completely break the morale of the British. People lived in great fear of the coming attacks. When it finally began with 57 straight days of bombings an interesting thing happened. There were, of course, those who were killed and those who survived near misses and subsequently traumatized. But there were many people who survived what was known as a remote miss. This group of people, after days of NOT being killed, actually became more resilient and more resolved that they would survive. The predicted panic didn't happen and the people actually became stronger for having lived through it.
Moral of the story: A disadvantage can be an advantage when we stop being afraid of being afraid.
A large part of the book discusses how some difficulties in life can be desirable if you look at the outcomes that arise from managing them. One example is about a man with dyslexia who compensated by learning other skills that made him highly successful. Another story discusses a man who grew up in a rough home and faced many difficulties as a child. He had to learn many different skills in order to survive and navigate his challenges. These skills resulted in some significant advantages as an adult.
Moral of the story: We don't wish for difficulties but when they arise we can use them to our advantage.
"Reframe some of your biggest challenges as difficulties that gave you the resources and the perspective to actually do what you're capable of doing." Brian Johnson of Optimize.me
Are mornings pleasant for you or do you just try to survive them until your coffee kicks in? Do you hop out of bed when your alarm goes off or hit the snooze over and over? How you start your day can set the tone for your whole day. There’s a reason that there is a saying about getting up on the wrong side of the bed. I’m going to give you some tips for how to do a morning makeover to set your day up for success.
I’m a born night owl. Most of my life I went through my mornings in a fog. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and I wasn’t amused at all by morning people. How dare they talk so loud and be so cheerful! I remember when I was a child my Grandpa (who got up before the sun) used to get just a few inches from my sleeping face and sing “Good Morning, Mary Sunshine” to me. His voice was beautiful, the song was sweet, he loved me, and yet I responded with a groan and pulled the pillow over my head. Late nights were my happy time. I would generally have to make myself go to bed because I never felt ready. Unfortunately I was not productive in those late hours. Time was wasted on TV, video games or social media.
A few years ago that all changed. I took on a challenge set up by author Jon Acuff to start working on something that mattered to me. As part of that challenge I began waking up at 5 a.m. so that I could work on my goals before the rest of the house was awake. It was a real stretch for a night owl but I found that I could get more done in my day and my whole day was better. I am now a dedicated morning person. This doesn’t mean I’m ready to have a deep conversation early in the morning but I don’t groan at everyone that looks at me either. I go to work with a sense of accomplishment and a lifted mood.
My perfect morning looks like this: I wake up after a good night’s sleep. A cup of delicious keto coffee to kick starts my fat burning for the day. I spend time studying my Bible and praying. Then I open my journal and review my goals for the day. I get a bit of exercise and meditation in. Next is reading for personal growth. If I don’t have time left to read I will listen to a podcast or video that helps me grow or motivates me. Listening to audio while getting ready for work or during my morning commute has been another game-changer for me.
I’d like to guide you through some steps to create your perfect morning routine.
What does your perfect morning look like? Take a few minutes to think about that and maybe even write it down. You can’t begin to design a great day if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. It’s not going to happen by chance. Write it down in as much detail as possible. Think about why you want to do these things. For me it is to have a sense of accomplishment, to focus my time on the right things, to start my day on a positive note, and to free up my evenings for time with family.
Everyone has different reasons why they may think they don’t have time in the morning. It may take setting your alarm just a little earlier or even breaking the habit of using the snooze button. The snooze button just puts you behind from the very start. It’s a habit that creates interrupted sleep and does not serve your purposes. Cut the snooze, get up a little early, and set yourself up for an amazing day. There are other ways to restructure your day to make mornings better. Depending on your goals there are steps you could take to put success in your way. In other words, set yourself up so that you can’t help but be successful. Here are a few ideas of what to do to build your morning makeover:
Pull out your description of a perfect morning that you wrote down in the earlier step. If you didn’t write it down I suggest you do it now. Put it where you will see it first thing in the morning. Your tendency will be to wake up and do what you usually do every other morning. For a while you may need a reminder that mornings are different now. As you practice your new routine you may find the need to tweak it a little to find what works for you. That’s OK. Tweak as needed.
Watch out that you don’t slip back into your old habits. It’s easy to do. If you slip up get right back on track the very next morning. Starting your day off right is worth it and sets you up for success for your whole day. Keep using those first few precious minutes of the day to establish some positive change in your life.
So how will you design your perfect morning? Post in the comments and let me cheer you on!
During worship at church I was struck with a thought that grabbed my attention. I was singing one of my favorite songs, “No Longer Slaves.” The chorus says,
“I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God”
This has become one of my battle cries in my war against food addiction. But today when I sang the bridge of the song:
“You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me so I could stand and sing
I am a child of God”
I pictured the splitting of the Red Sea when the children of Israel were fleeing the enemy. It was a sudden, immediate miracle. But I didn’t feel like my weight loss journey was like that. It wasn’t a sudden breakthrough but a long process of struggling, of seeking and praying. Then it struck me. The moment wasn’t sudden for the Israelites either. It came after centuries of slavery and struggle. It came after Moses, the man of God, pleaded with Pharaoh, the ruler of the day, to let them go. They went through plague after plague while God fought for their freedom through Moses. They were protected from the plagues but it still must have been horrific to witness. It came after God gave them a tradition that would point them to the Messiah and his future sacrifice for them. It came after their obedience and it came after they followed God’s leading.
Once they finally got permission from Pharaoh to go to the desert to worship, the Egyptian army was sent against them. They spent a long night up against the sea with nowhere to go and the Egyptian army on their heels. God stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians. The next day, as they stood on the shore and witnessed the sudden splitting of the sea for their freedom as the enemy bore down on them, it seemed they were rescued in an instant. But they had experienced the many works God had done to bring them to the place where they were ready to step out into what He had for them.
But God had done many great works preparing and equipping them for the faith journey to a promised land. Now I stand at the edge of my own breakthrough and am realizing all God has done in me to bring me to this point. As this sea parts I stand in wonder not only at what God has prepared for me, but also at what He has prepared me for.
Once you decide it’s time to focus. Focus on actions that move you forward towards your goals. Focusing on the past does not move you forward. It’s OK to learn from the past but don’t hang out there. Focus on what you can control. What you focus on drives you.
There is value in gaining knowledge but don’t get stuck acquiring enough knowledge until the time is perfect. The time will never be perfect. Take what you know and take a step forward. Build momentum.
Continuing to build knowledge and applying that knowledge with action. Each day start out stating to yourself what your goals are and the steps you will take today to move towards them.
And now as William Wordsworth said,