“Control tower your life” – by Lauren Allen

As I’ve grown older I have realized that I carry far more control over my life than I once thought. There will be and have been lots of situations and experiences that “happened” to me, but how I responded and choose to respond are all 100% within my control. Gretchen Rubin wrote “Better than Before” in 2015, it centers on making and breaking habits in order to live a happier life. Herein lies the real roots of my “brain hacking quest.”

I am highlighting just two quotes from the book that resonated with me and have driven me to actively work on my habits and rework them and create new habits and rid myself of unnecessary habits.

“Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat 40% of our behavior almost daily, so our habits shape our existence, and our future. If we change our habits, we change our lives.”

The idea of habits being the architecture of my daily life really struck me…more specifically the fact that I was giving habits control of my life did not sit well with me. Especially since so many of my habits were social media driven, which in turn means that I was giving Apple, Google, and Facebook the ability to control my days. I know that may seem like a reach, but essentially if my habits controlled me to log into social media at more than 4 hours a day-was that not what I was allowing?

 “Habits eliminate the need for self-control. With habits we conserve our self-control.

This I love, I am 500% for efficiency. So, the idea that I can use my brain even more efficiently than it already is, is definitely my thing. To tag onto this, Gretchen also says: “Stress doesn’t necessarily make us likely to indulge in bad habits; when we’re anxious or tired, we fall back on our habits, whether bad or good.” Habits therefore, help with my self-control in all situations.

So, a habit that I have gotten into over the last week is playing solitaire on my phone right before I go to sleep. One way that I was attempting to “hack” my brain was to put limitations on my phone by entering a passcode for when I go over my time allowed. Unfortunately, I…failed to write down the passcode. So, I have no way of accessing certain items on my phone when I need to after a certain point. The only way to resolve this is to wipe my entire phone, which I refuse to do…at this point anyway. So, I’ve found a work-around…by staying up until midnight I can tell my phone to give me access for the whole day, so that way I have no limitations. But that requires me to stay up until midnight in order to trick my phone and I am no longer 17 and capable of functioning well the next day if I stay up that late. And when it’s late and I’m tired and annoyed with the phone situation that is 100% my fault, I fall back onto the habit of playing solitaire. To “wind down,” which is code for stay up long enough to trick my phone into allowing me to snapchat with my sister during the day.

Circling all of this back to the first quote….we repeat 40% of our behavior almost daily and that in turn shapes our lives. I guess it’s time for me to implement some new habits.

Who are we seeking to become? by Seth Godin

We get what we invest in. The time we spend comes back, with interest. – Seth Godin

developing your personal plan

Quote from Warren Bennis

Quote from Warren Bennis

Great quote from Warren Bennis from Susan Cain’s Facebook page

rewire your life

Front porch JAN 2014Good morning! Don’t know about where you are, but it is still cold here in NE Indiana!! It’s a -5 with a wind chill of -16. That’s tough on a Southern boy.

Last week I wrote a blog post on rewiring your organization vs. restructuring the organization.It occurred to me that principle applies to our lives as well. If we want different lives, we need to be “rewired” instead of only a restructuring. We need new mindsets, not just different routines.

However, sometimes the right changes in some of our behaviors will start producing new mindsets. Too often we want to wait until we feel like starting a new behavior, whereas actually beginning the behavior, whether we feel like it or not, will actually produce the new mindsets.

So, here are some simple 30 minute behaviors or routines to assimilate into your daily routine that will, in my estimation, change your mindset:

1. Read the Bible for 30 minutes each day or at least one chapter daily.

2. Spend 30 minutes in prayer quietly before the Lord.

3. Exercise for 30 minutes six days of the week.

Incorporate these three things into your life for 30 days and see if you are not a different person.

One other thing – look for opportunities each day to do something simple to help someone else. Ideally, it should be someone that cannot do anything for you and, ideally, it can be done so that no one knows it was you.

Finally, be present – don’t always be anticipating the future or replaying the past. Spend time in the now – especially with those you love.

Blessings on your week!



depth and breadth

spring tree by LaurenFirst go for depth in your life before going for breadth.

Just as a great building first needs a deep and strong foundation and as a magnificent tree needs a wide and deep root system so do our lives.

So, go deep and ensure you have a solid foundation.


a personal vitality plan

Good morning! It has been a beautiful fall week here in the Midwest.

So, how are you doing in your personal vitality? Do you know? Do you know where you want to be in the different areas of your life? Do you know where you are now? Do you know how to get from where you are to where you want to be?

Someone pointed out once that we will spend more time planning a two week vacation than we will evaluating and planning our life. Additionally, Patrick Lencioni notes in his book The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family, that high powered executives who are excellent planners and leaders fail to apply these same skills to leading their families.

Well, there are couple of good tools to help you in this area of your life. One is a personal vitality plan developed by Life Action Ministries. In fact, my oldest daughter, who still serves there, just finished her mandatory all-day review of her vitality plan this week. Life Action takes seriously the health of their staff thus they require every staff member to go through their vitality plan for a full day each year.

The approach is fairly simple. First, they have broken it down into 12 segments:

  1. Seeking God
  2. Marriage
  3. Family
  4. Relationships
  5. Emotional Health
  6. Physical Health
  7. Rest & Recreation
  8. Moral Purity
  9. Service
  10. Financial
  11. Work
  12. Other

Then there are four steps to take:

First – ask these three questions:

1. What has been going well?

2. What is being neglected?

3. What are some achievable steps I could take over the next year to replenish this (these) area(s)?

Second – Recognize that spiritual health requires community. Ask who is speaking into your life in these areas? If no one, then who needs to be part of the conversation? Who can be praying for you, advising you, and holding you accountable?

Third – once you have a big picture of what is going on in your life, select one or two areas to focus on for the next three months. Don’t try to do everything at once, just pick one to two areas.

Fourth – Revisit this exercise quarterly to track your progress and to set / adjust your goals.

The other tool I would recommend is Patrick Lencioni’s book I mentioned above. Click here to access some of the helpful tools he has designed to help with your family.

Being healthy is simply a choice – it is your choice. Now I do understand that simple does not equal easy – it is hard work to break old habits and build new ones, but these tools are a good way to start.

Seek health in all areas of your life and make a difference in this world,

more thoughts on anxiety

Barn - Keely's photosGood morning to you!

I mentioned last week, that I would share a bit about my journey in dealing with anxiety. It has been surprising how often the subject of pride has come up in this process so far. As I have delved deeper into some of the causes of my encounters with anxiety, I really did not want to share them as they do not reflect the image I desire to portray – by the way that is called “image management” and is not a good thing.

A lot of good has come out of the last couple of weeks as well. As I have acknowledged the anxiety and began to push past my pride and image management to look clearly at the causes, I am beginning to better manage it when it begins to occur. I recognize it earlier, deal with it head on, and the “spells” are getting shorter and shorter.

Now as to some of the causes that I have uncovered so far. I am an INTJ by the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. That means I am someone who processes internally and thinks a lot – a lot. And I spend a lot of time planning and thinking about the future or reflecting on and evaluating the past (not nearly enough on the present). Sometimes that thinking on the future can become “what are all the things that can go wrong” – which is a long list by the way. Reflecting on the past becomes evaluating on past actions which becomes thinking of all the ways I could have done something better. Those two things not handled properly can cause a bit of anxiety.

A year ago, I left Life Action Ministries as I was a deputized missionary (I raised my own funding to pay my salary) and after eleven years the funding dried up, so I was forced to look for a job. Leaving an organization where you have served for twelve years, that you care about and are invested in and know how things work and then going to a new organization (Ambassador Enterprises) where you are the “newbie” among some incredibly smart and talented people was incredibly challenging. I went from knowing my job well and coaching others, to being the rookie – that was hard and much harder than I had anticipated emotionally. Ambassador has been great to me and very welcoming, so it has been my issue not theirs. Again, one root of this is pride as I did not want to be the rookie again, I wanted to be the one who had the answers.

The next cause I will mention today is the “fear of man” (click here to read an article on this subject). I have found myself overly concerned what others think of me, especially those that are my authorities. Here at Ambassador I work for the CEO who is a great guy. He has exceptionally high standards (more for himself than others), very intelligent, and not bashful at all about “coaching” you when you need it. His coaching is usually timely, needed, and accurate, but it still stings. I have often found my self anxious about what he (and others) think about what I have to say and how I do things. That’s not healthy. Of course we want to be doing things well and in accordance with what our authorities (bosses) want, but there is a healthy approach and an unhealthy approach that causes anxiety.

So, so far, I have identified three things impacting me:

1. Allowing my internal processing (future planning and the evaluation of the past) to take on a negative aspect. NOTE: This is, in my opinion and for me, rooted in how closely I am walking with the Lord at that point and how much I am actually putting my trust in Him.

2. Pride – plain and simple. When pride rears its ugly head, the consequences are always negative.

3. Fear of man – this is actually a subset of pride if you will. Overly concerned with what others think of me.

There are more things I am discovering, but this is where I am today.

Blessings on the rest of your week!

dealing with anxiety

“Anxiety is nothing but repeatedly re-experiencing failure in advance. What a waste.” — Seth Godin

Do you ever deal with anxiety? I do. Also, it seems worse now that I am older, which seems counterintuitive to me. To top it off, Scripture tells us not to worry, so that creates even more pressure on me. I know I am not supposed to be anxious, but at times I am. Why?

Well, I am on a journey now, to find the roots of this and to learn how to deal with it. One book I have picked up that looks promising is The Anxious Christian by Rhett Smith in Plano, Texas. Following is a review of the book from Amazon:

“So… Many… Choices… Can’t… Make… The… Wrong… One…What will I do after graduation? Whom should I marry? Where should I look for work? What will my friends think? What if my marriage is falling apart? What if I’m drowning in debt? In our journey of faith there are particular moments that produce a certain amount of anxiety. Often anxiety and/or worry has been looked upon as an “un-Christian” feeling to have. But The Anxious Christian conveys the message that anxiety can actually be helpful in our spiritual formation, and that God can use anxiety as a catalyst to move people forward in their life of faith. In that movement, anxiety’s gift is that it allows us to face our resistance and fears, understand where those fears come from, and then make intentional choices about important issues such as career, marriage, money, and our spiritual lives. It’s time to get unstuck. It is quite common in the Christian life that when someone mentions they are experiencing anxiety, they are often dismissed and devalued by what are often well-intentioned Christian platitudes and Bible quoting. But this dismissal of anxiety often produces shame in the individual, driving their anxiety into hiding where it can do more damage. Let’s re-think our shame in this area by planting the seed that anxiety in our lives can be a catalyst for growth that moves us closer to who God created us to be.”

So, I am on a journey to start dealing with this issue in my life and I hope you don’t mind if I share where I am with you at times.

Also, if you have any thoughts for me, I would appreciate those as well.

In Christ,

dissent or agreement – which do you seek?

butterflyOn my way to Florida today! Somehow, I need to figure out how to travel to Florida in the winter instead of mid-summer!

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to be around people that agree with me, that share my viewpoint, and that make me comfortable. The conversations are easier, there is minimal conflict and tension, and it just makes me happier. I know that I am right most of the time, so why waste time with those who obviously don’t understand and disagree with me. Right?

The problem is, what I want is not what I need. While that is true as an individual, it is also true for leaders of organizations. We have a tendency to seek out affirmation of our ideas and not seek out dissent. However, dissent is exactly what we need – individually and corporately. We need people who have the courage to challenge our ideas, to shoot holes in them, to create friction and sparks. This is the only way that ideas will become better. This is the only way bad ideas will die a timely death.

As a leader, often times people will avoid disagreeing with you, they will avoid criticizing your ideas and will be more concerned with earning your favor – especially if you quash dissent. You have to set the tone for your team so that they know that not only is it safe to challenge your ideas, it is actually expected. Because you know that you need their dissent to develop the best ideas.

Seek dissent, encourage creative friction and sparks within your team as you wrestle together to find the best solution to your challenges.