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Stress Less and Enjoy Each Day
By DAVID ZERFOSS
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Simple Truths
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePrinciple #1
Spot That sprout
ENJOY THE LITTLE THINGS, for one day YOU MAY LOOK BACK and realize they were THE BIG THINGS. —ROBERT BRAULT
MANY OF US SEEM TO HAVE an endless to-do list. But does all that rushing around stop us from seeing the big picture? Taking a moment to step back from our day-to-day schedules can help us simplify our lives—and may even help us identify what we are missing that would keep us energized and fulfilled.
Mary kept up a constant and hectic schedule of work travel. It kept her metabolism and adrenaline high. Add this to the fact that she was keeping up with two very active, triple sports–playing teenage sons, which meant there wasn't much time leftover to think about "simplifying." Besides, simple lives were what other people wanted. She was very content. She was busy being busy.
During one business trip out west, Mary traveled with one of her company's sales representatives. His name was Bob, and he was quite up in years. Mary often wondered why Bob continued to work at such an advanced age and chose to keep such a sizeable multistate territory.
On this particular trip they were traveling on an especially long car route, visiting customers throughout New Mexico and then on to Colorado. After driving several hours through sparsely populated, very dry, and rocky terrain without even a single traffic light in sight for miles, Bob looked over at Mary and said, "Are you overwhelmed by the vastness of the landscape and wondering when will it ever end?"
"Yes," she replied. "How did you know what I was thinking?" Bob explained that throughout his many years of traveling this route, everyone who accompanied him felt the very same thing. Then Bob went on to share a profound rule with Mary about simplifying.
Bob explained to Mary that we can all choose to easily get lost in and feel overwhelmed by our surroundings. "Do you see that little tree sprouting up there ahead, among all those large rock formations?" Bob asked. Mary strained her eyes but could not find what he was seeing. As they got closer, Bob pointed out the small sprouting tree he had seen when it was far off in the distance.
Bob shared with Mary that he handled these long drives through hundreds of miles of vast terrain by looking for the little things amid the overwhelming, complex landscape. He didn't focus on just seeing what was all around him, but rather he chose to look for what he might have been missing.
He continued on his drive, merrily searching for and pointing out more little things hiding along the way.
As you go about your day, are you letting yourself become overwhelmed by the vast amount of things in the landscape of your life? Choose to live by one of Bob's rules, and spot that sprout you might otherwise be missing. In the midst of daunting, wide-open spaces, take the time to "be still, and know" that He is God (Psalm 46:10). Did you know that "the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isaiah 6:3)? We need only take the time to look.
Some Questions to Ask Yourself:
What's missing in your life?
Are you spending too much time on things that don't really matter?
What's the "sprout" you need to focus on?
Chapter TwoPrinciple #2
Focus on priorities
LIFE CAN BECOME VERY FULL VERY FAST. If we first block off time for who and what is most important in our lives, it can actually free us up to really focus on all the rest.
I've had the pleasure of getting to know Joe Gibbs, three-time Super Bowl championship coach and three-time NASCAR championship team owner. You could say that Joe leads a very active life—one full of things to do and people to see, whether he's on the racetrack or on the football field.
One day I got a glimpse into one of the rules Joe lives by. It's something he commits to only after time spent in a personal relationship with God, through prayer and reading his Bible.
And that's his family time. I'll refer to it as "Pat's time."
As with all busy executives or famous people, in order to get on Joe's schedule, you have to go through his personal assistant, and you have to want him on a date not already marked out as "Pat's time."
What's "Pat's time"? Pat is Joe's wife. As I mentioned earlier, first is Joe's time with God, second comes his time with family. Everything else comes after those first two. Many people may know Joe as a religious man. Well, I can tell you, he's also religious about Pat's time. It's as simple as that. If you want him for something, at best you will be third in line.
You've got to respect a man who lives by simple rules and is so true to his convictions. No matter how busy life gets for this world-renowned coach and leader, he has his priorities straight. He chooses to set aside time for what's truly important in his life and in a particular order he feels is most appropriate.
Do you have an order for the priorities in your life, or is everything in competition with each other? Are you so caught up in what's next that you have forgotten the person next to you? Choose to carve out some "Pat's time" in your life (whatever this may mean for you). You may find that it's simply the best time of your life.
Some Questions to Ask Yourself:
Do you have a sequence for your competing priorities?
Is there time for God in your life?
Who's your "Pat"?
Is she or he on your calendar before all the to-dos?
Chapter ThreePrinciple #3
Reduce the Numbers
IN THIS WORLD OF INSTANT GRATIFICATION and unlimited choices, we often find ourselves surrounded by mountains of things—furniture, knickknacks, toys (for children and adults), tools, clothes, and so on. Are all these things bringing us real joy and happiness or are they prohibiting us from seeing what really matters? It's amazing what simple rules we can relearn when we open our eyes.
With the pace of the world today, we are often moving so fast that we don't pause to consider what we really need. Are all these things in our lives adding value or just adding clutter to both our surroundings and our lives? Are they complementing our lives or complicating them? With each additional thing often comes additional stress—how to use it, where to put it, and ultimately how to pay for it.
Looking back on your early childhood, what intrigued and interested you? For many of us, it was the joy of spending time outdoors. One day I had the pleasure of visiting the Niederman family farm in Hamilton, Ohio. The Niedermans have been in farming for many generations. Farming life is so important to them that they open up their home, their land, and their barns so folks can come experience what farm life is like. Among other events at the farm, each October they create a giant corn maze for children and adults to wander through day or night by flashlight.
This past year they were digging out an area for a new addition to their corn maze attraction. A large pile of dirt was placed off to the side until they could determine how to make good use of it somewhere else on the farm. However, they found themselves at the opening day of the corn maze before they got an opportunity to take care of that pile of dirt. Not only was the corn maze a hit as usual, but to their surprise, children immediately gravitated to that large dirt pile. Kids were running up and sliding down this unintentional playing field. There were no blinking lights, no electronics, no sound effects. The sounds of laughter and fun filled the autumn air as kids did what kids do best—be imaginative and seize the moment.
As adults, we often find ourselves acquiring more and more things for ourselves and our children—whether it's the next great video game, cell phone, computer, or the latest hot new toy. As we add more material things to our lives, we often forget not only what's most important but also what it feels like to be childlike—to truly experience life in the moment and therefore be more carefree.
When we focus on what really matters, on what we and our children truly need, life becomes a whole lot simpler—and something as simple as a dirt pile suddenly becomes a whole lot of fun again. We can say joyfully with Paul, "And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content" (1 Timothy 6:8).
Some Questions to Ask Yourself:
How much is enough?
Where and what can you declutter from your life?
Read Philippians 4:11–13 and consider how it does or does not reflect your life. Are you truly content? Or is your life full of striving?
Chapter FourPrinciple #4
Go Forward by Going Backward
THERE ARE MANY BOOKS ON THE MARKET that teach us how to "be in the present moment." Yet first we must learn to visit the future. How might our present lives take on new meaning if we think backward from what we envision for the future?
The best way to plan ahead and reduce stress is to go backward.
That's right. I said, "Go forward by going backward." You see, to create a powerful life or supercharge your business, you have to experience your future right now. See it; feel it; be in it. Then go backward to the present.
I'm not proposing that we all pretend we're psychics or enlist their help to foretell our future. We don't need others to tell us our future. By faith we can take hold of the future God has for us. We can take stock in His plans for us, plans "of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11). By trusting God for these plans right now, you can make an action plan for how to get there!
When I was a young child growing up in a very small town in rural Pennsylvania, I worked on the family farm as well as other farms and went to school in a one-room schoolhouse (believe it or not, one-room schoolhouses still existed when I was a kid). I walked to school each day, no matter what the weather, and when I got there, I had the opportunity to learn at my own pace. This open-classroom style allowed this young first grader to hear the teacher teaching second-grade and third-grade lessons as well. This environment helped me to develop a thirst for learning.
Although my family had very limited means and my mom sewed all of my clothes, I sat in that simple one-room schoolhouse and dreamed of a future in which I was a successful businessman, reading and learning from as many books as I ever wanted, and leading and motivating others.
Thanks to wonderful teachers and that one-room schoolhouse's open-learning environment, I went on to graduate from college. My career path took me to various positions within the petroleum, marine, and outdoor recreational vehicle industries and later to become president of a major U.S. division of a multinational outdoor power equipment company.
Wherever you are in your life and career, you can take hold of God's promises, dream big, and take action in the present to make your dream happen.
The young boy named David who sat in that one-room schoolhouse in homemade clothes is living proof that if you set your mind to your goals, you can acomplish them.
Go forward by going backward.
Some Questions To Ask Yourself:
What future did you once dream for your life?
Where are you now?
If nothing can separate you from God's love and His plan for your life (Romans 8:38–39), then what are you afraid of?
How can you trust God with your future more completely today?
Chapter FivePrinciple #
Leave the Past Behind
WITHOUT REALIZING IT, we often carry something around with us everywhere we go. We bring it out in our conversations, and it shows up in our attitudes. Whatever that thing is from the past may never have really existed, yet its power lives inside us and keeps us from moving forward.
Listen to people talk throughout the day, and take note of where their conversations are grounded—in the future, in the present, or in the past. Where would you guess most conversations draw from?
The answer is the past.
Some of us take our past—and, therefore, stress—with us everywhere we go, towing it along behind us. Why do we do it? It's familiar to us. It's that warm and fuzzy bag of stories we like to take out and share with our family, friends, and coworkers. This comfortable past is often our "best friend." It's who and what we know best. It's like a worn-out easy chair or an old pair of shoes that fits us and feels just right. But God commands us, "Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old" (Isaiah 43:18), lest we miss the new thing He is doing right in front of us!
When people talk about or think about their past, it seems to take on the characteristics of a real-life being. The past cannot breathe, talk, think, or do. However, it is immensely powerful and can take over our future—if we let it. It's like the sirens on the shore, luring you toward the rocks over and over again. Focusing on the past will certainly limit your choices for the future.
For a lot of people, I know the past holds a difficult childhood, an abusive marriage, or a financially draining job loss. Yet no matter how painful our past may have been, for some strange reason we often choose not to let go. In order to get on with our future and simplify our lives, we must choose to make a clean break.
There's an engaging Peanuts cartoon where Lucy is apologizing to Charlie Brown for missing a fly ball during a baseball game. She's sorry she missed the fly ball and says it's because she started remembering all the others she missed. "The past got in my eyes," she says.
Many of us know people who are very reasonable—they have very good reasons for why they can't move forward in life. Take for instance a person who has endured multiple bad relationships or marriages. He is certain that because of these relationships, he's stuck in the terrible spot he's in today. Isn't it difficult to watch that person once again become attracted to the same type of person with whom he just ended a contentious relationship?
Carrying the past forward to the future will provide us with only one thing—incremental change—in our lives. "Unreasonable" people make a choice to create transformational breakthroughs, without "reasonable" ties to the past.
Each of us has a powerful choice. We have the ability to create our own simplified future by starting with a blank sheet of paper and a heart surrendered to God's will for our lives.
Choose to leave your past behind, and begin living a life filled with new possibilities!
Some Questions to Ask Yourself:
How has holding on to your past put limits on your future?
What might you need to leave behind or let go of in order to move forward into the future?
Is there a situation or a conversation from the past that you need to deal with in the present in order to move on to your future?
Chapter SixPrinciple #6
Choose to Be a Victor
ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL MEDICINES in the world is choice. We can choose our attitude, how we react to situations, and with whom we want to share our lives. When illnesses or situations threaten to disrupt our lives, it's our choice to throw in the towel and become a victim or stand and fight, no matter what the outcome—living the life we have as victors.
No matter what your circumstances in life, you have a choice about your attitude toward them. Whether it's the changing economy, difficult relationships, or a life-changing accident or illness, we possess the strongest mechanism there is to create a breakthrough: the power of attitude. We choose how we react, what we think about, and what we become—no matter what our surroundings or circumstances. We also choose how we want others to perceive us, acting and speaking accordingly.
In the fall of 2001, I awakened early one morning to get ready to spend the day at an industry trade show. While shaving, I noticed a lump on the side of my neck. It hadn't been there the day before. I was not feeling ill and, in fact, had just gotten a physical thirty days earlier and received a clean bill of health.
As soon as I got back into town a few days later, I called my family doctor. After explaining my situation, I got an appointment right away. My doctor took immediate action and sent me to a specialist. After a series of many tests, the diagnosis came back—lymphoma. That profoundly confrontational word—cancer—had just come to define my life.
It was a few weeks before the Christmas holidays, and the oncologist asked if I would like to wait to begin treatments until after the New Year. In my typical fashion of attacking a problem head-on, I said, "Let's get to work beating this thing right now." To be quite frank, I was scared to death. After living a very fast-paced life and conquering many challenges, nothing compares to the blatant nature of the c-word and the fact that your life may soon be over. Questions begin reeling through your mind: Will I be here to see my grandchildren be born? Graduate? Get married?
My treatment was set to begin with several months of chemo, followed by a month of radiation. Much to my surprise, while I was sitting in that chemo chair for the very first time, my best friend, Fred, walked into the room. He had come to be there with me. How do you quantify friendship like this?
Excerpted from Stress Less and Enjoy Each Day by DAVID ZERFOSS Copyright © 2012 by Simple Truths. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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