Archives for posts with tag: habits

I learned something in church a couple of weeks ago. That happens regularly for me. Although I have heard thousands of sermons, some very good and some very bad, I often hear something new or understand a well-known principle from a different and helpful perspective.

In his sermon the preacher mentioned an exercise that Stephen Covey suggested in his very influential book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, published 29 years ago. It has sold more than 25 million copies and continues to be one of the more significant offerings of the self-help genre.

Covey promotes what he labels “the character ethic“- aligning one’s internal and subjective values with external natural laws and timeless principles.  He insists that our values govern our behavior while principles, or natural laws, determine the consequences.

A key influence on Covey’s thinking was his study of American self-help books that he did for his doctoral dissertation. Most self-help books at the time focused on personality with an emphasis on public image, how you dress, how you perform in social interactions, positive mental attitude, skills and techniques to get people to behave in certain ways. He reacted to the emphasis on “the personality ethic.”

The author of this incredibly influential book believed that a person’s character rather than their personality was the driving force behind success. He suggested seven principles, or habits, that shape our lives.

Russell Marion Nelson Sr., an American religious leader and former surgeon, in a speech entitled “Begin With the End in Mind” speaking from his medical training said, “An elective incision is never made without planning to close it. The same principle is generally applicable in all fields, however. Track stars don’t begin a race without knowing the location of the finish line.” In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey agreed.

According to Covey, “Begin with the end in mind” is Habit #2 of highly effective people. In addressing this practice the author presents an intriguing exercise. He suggests that you imagine you are at your own funeral. There are four people that are going to be speaking about you at your funeral.  One is a close family member (brother, sister, son, daughter, etc.), one is a close friend, one is someone you worked closely with, and the last is someone from your community (charitable organization, church, local government, social club, etc.).

Now write down what you would want each person to say about you at your funeral.  Think about all the things for which you want to be remembered. The object of this exercise is begin at the end of life and work backwards. What are the qualities that you want people to remember after you are gone? Once you decide how you want to be remembered then you begin to let those values shape your everyday life.

In an interview promoting The Book of Joy, the Dalai Lama said to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, his co-author and friend, “I imagine I will see your face at the moment of my death.” Archbishop Tutu had lived such a life that his friend would remember him with fondness.

As the Apostle Paul neared death he said, “I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, and I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7, GNT). Is that the way you want to be remembered? Is that what you want people to say at your funeral? More importantly, is that what the God of all Creation will say?

Now is the time to assure that others will have good things to say about us and The Master will say, “Well done!” The best way to be sure is to begin with the end in mind.

Jamie Jenkins

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Seen on a billboard: “Live generously and life will reward you royally.” I don’t know what it had to do with the well-known brand of liquor it was advertising but I liked the slogan.

A recent Huffington Post blog reported that researchers have discovered that the area of the brain that is responsible for our cravings and pleasure rewards, lights up when we give to a charitable cause showing the link between charitable giving and pleasure. They assert that “this response to giving is the physiological reason behind the ‘warm glow’ or that good feeling you get when you give and why you may choose to spend money on others or charity compared to yourself.”

A couple of years ago the New Republic published an interview by Jordan Michael Smith with sociologists Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, authors of The Paradox of Generosity, which presents the findings of the Science of Generosity Initiative at Notre Dame. Researchers for the initiative surveyed 2,000 individuals over a five-year period. They interviewed and tracked the spending habits and lifestyles of 40 families from different classes and races in 12 states, even accompanying some to the grocery store.

 

The result is among the most comprehensive studies of Americans’ giving habits ever conducted. They concluded that people who are generous with their money are healthier and happier.

The sociologists believe that “it’s circular. The more happy and healthy and directed one is in life, the more generous one is likely to be. It works as an upwards spiral where everything works together, or it works sometimes as a downward spiral if people aren’t generous.”

These two reports agree that our brains seem to suggest that the joy of being a gift’s giver may eclipse that of being its recipient.”

Maybe that is what Jesus meant when He said “Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold” (Luke 6:38). It certainly affirms the words of the Apostle Paul that it is “more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). I like the way The Message puts it: “You’re far happier giving than getting.”

Although we are happier and healthier when we give, the purpose of generosity is to benefit others. Tom Stoddard understands that we will give sacrificially for our children and those whom we love and he rightly states, “The trick in life is to take that sense of generosity between kin, make it apply to the extended family and to your neighbor, your village and beyond.”

Jamie Jenkins

 

New Year a Good Start

Today is the last day of the year. Tomorrow we turn the calendar over to January 1, 2016. As we approach a new year many people resolve to do certain things in the coming year to improve the quality of their lives and the lives of others.

New Year 4

I do not make New Year’s Resolutions. Make no mistake, I understand that there are many things that warrant change in my daily actions and attitudes. Nevertheless, I don’t go through the exercise of listing them intentionally upon the advent of a new year.

New Year 2

It has been said if you aim at nothing, you will probably hit it. I agree that identifiable, measurable, and achievable goals are good. I do periodically assess my lifestyle and attempt to make adjustments. However, rather than make specific resolutions at the beginning of the calendar year, needed changes may be recognized and addressed at any time.

New Year Better Man

For example, a few years ago I realized that  I needed to make some changes as I got older and my lifestyle became more sedentary. I am relatively healthy and active but I have slowed down. My metabolism, which has been my best friend all my life, has slowed down also. Thus, I do not have a weight problem but I am developing a waist problem.

Although I am fairly active, I am not a physical fitness fanatic (that is putting it mildly). I knew that I would not follow through long term on any drastic changes. So, I started with small but significant changes to my diet. Because I have a real weakness for anything sweet, and especially ice cream. I decided that I would eat sweets only on weekends. I also started eating a light but somewhat healthy breakfast, something that I had not done consistently since I was a kid, and I determined to reduce my intake of soft drinks and mid-day snacks. Small but significant changes.

New Year Endless Possibilities

The beginning of a new year provides impetus for us to think about changes that we need to make. It prompts us to reevaluate the practices of our daily life. Somewhere I read an article on the fundamentals of journalism but I cannot remember any of the content and I cannot recall where I saw it. However, I do remember three principles that I believe apply equally to all of life: Honesty, Integrity, Accountability.

I will address each of these in subsequent writings but for now I leave them for your consideration. Whether you are making New Years Resolutions or simply thinking about how you order your life, these three principles provide a framework for some serious self examination and goal setting.

New Year 1

Happy New Year!

 

Jamie Jenkins