Remember when you woke up on New Yearâs Day and immediately sprang into action on all those realistic goals you set forth the week before?Â Yeah, neither do I!Â I recall waking up on New Yearâs Day, sipping coffee in my pajamas, scrolling through Netflix, munching on something from Hickory Farms and half-heartedly proclaiming, âIâll start tomorrow.Â Tomorrow is the first REAL day of 2019.” Â I had good intentions, but zero direction on that first day of this fresh new season.Â Thomas Edison once said, âA vision without execution is hallucination.”Â I suppose that means I was borderline psychotic for the first several hours of this year, but lucky for me I quickly found my way into remission!
During my first Sunday church service of the year, our beloved Pastor Craig Groeschel reminded us that âour life is the sum total of all the small decisions that we make.âÂ This made me realize that most of us approach our resolutions and personal goals in all the WRONG ways!Â Weâve been told much of our life to focus on the BIG picture.Â âKeep your eye on the goal!âÂ âFocus on the prize!âÂ However, with our eyes exclusively on the reward, we overlook the individual steps it takes to get there, and then we wonder why we never made it.Â In his book âAtomic Habits,â James Clear says, âYou do not rise to the level of your goals.Â You fall to the level of your systems.âÂ So in order to simplify our strategies for bringing our personal goals to life, we must first take a look at our systems.Â Letâs identify what we tend to do wrong when approaching our personal goals, then letâs visualize the improved version of ourselves and choose one small new system for getting there.
MOVE AWAY FROM BIG, BROAD AND BEST
I believe the problem we often make when approaching our goals is that we focus on BIG, BROAD and BEST.Â For example, âIâm going to rise to the top this year!âÂ Too big â Too broad! Â Or perhaps we say, âIâm going to get my life together.âÂ Â Your LIFE entails no less than 100,000 different things, so how and where exactly does one begin?Â Too broad!Â You might even say, âIâm ready to be the BEST version of myself!âÂ Unfortunately, BETTER must come before BEST, so if you only focus on the best, you might miss all the small, meaningful victories along the way and then give up prematurely.
Voltaire said, âThe best is the enemy of the good.âÂ Smart guy, that Voltaire!Â If we set our personal goals around big, broad or best, we donât know where to begin, we miss small (but important) achievements and we give up too soon!
START SMALL, SPECIFIC, AND SATISFYING
So if we arenât supposed to start BIG, BROAD or BEST â then what are we supposed to do?Â You guessed it!Â We should start small, specific and satisfying.Â The Bible says, in Job Chapter 8, âYour beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous your future will beâ.Â Â Small beginnings are the key to realistic outcomes!Â Specific beginnings are the arrows on the map.Â If I am going to save more money, I need an exact amount per week (or month) to get started.Â If I am going to lose weight, I need an exact macro count, calorie count or fitness plan to execute each day.Â If I am going to pray more often, I need to identify the exact number of minutes Iâm striving for.Â Finally, why must it be satisfying?Â Because letâs face it, we live in a generation of immediate gratification.Â If I need information, Google answers the call in less than one second.Â If I want something but donât have the cash for it, Capitol One Venture Rewards Card!Â Amazon delivers things to your doorstep faster than you can press âbuy now,â and Uber shows up quicker than I can walk to my driveway and engage the ignition of my own car.Â We must choose small steps that are satisfying because if we donât get some type of gratification fairly quickly, we are more likely to give up.Â If I choose âpray 3 minutes each morning after I wake upâ as my faith-seeking goal, then it will only take 3 minutes before I feel the satisfaction of completing that goal (and likely, God will reward me with answers!)Â Satisfying steps keep us moving!
START AND RESTART
Identify a specific area of your life that needs work.Â If you arenât sure where to begin, I recommend praying about it and asking God to direct you to the area that needs your attention right now.Â He says in Psalms 32:8, âI will guide you along the best pathway for your life.Â I will advise you and watch over you.âÂ So ask Him!Â And listen for answers!Â Another strategy is consulting what ThriveTime Business Coach, Clay Clark calls the âF6 Goalsâ:Â Family, Faith, Fitness, Finances, Friendships and Fun!Â These are the primary 6 areas of our life that contribute to whole-hearted living.Â Look over these and decide which area you might want to tackle first.Â Next, visualize what we EMDR therapists call a âfuture template.âÂ Get comfortable in a quiet place, close your eyes, and run a movie in your mind of you operating exactly as you would if your chosen focus area was âon point.âÂ For example, if I choose faith as the area Iâd like to work on:Â When Iâm running my future template of âme living with strong faith,â I might see myself waking up each morning and reading a few scriptures, spending a few minutes in prayer, attending church on Sunday, and possibly engaging in a small group or Bible study.Â Â After I finish my mind-movie, I should then ask myself: âWhat is one thing that I saw myself doing in that visualization that I am NOT doing now?âÂ Choose one that is small, specific and will be satisfying shortly after you do it, commit to that one thing, and begin doing it every single day.Â Gretchen Rubin said, âWhat you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.âÂ So start your small action, and then restart the next day, and restart again the next day.Â THAT will be a small, specific, satisfying thing that leads you to your big, broad, best-self goal.Â Before you know it, it will simply be something you DO, and it will be time to identify the next thing to START! You will be proud of each new healthy habit you create, and each will be a building block in the tower of your personal success.Â Your tenacity and repetition will pay off.Â If you get bored or discouraged on your small-stepping journey, remember these words from Galatians 6:9: âLet us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap harvest if we do not give up.â
Shawn Maguire has been trained in EMDR, NLP, and CBT (to name a few) and uses these techniques with an emphasis on Christian Counseling.
My shoulders had tension that no amount of yoga or deep breathing would cure, the grip on my steering wheel would undoubtedly break any stress ball, and a puddle was quickly forming beneath my sweating palms.Â The GPS on my phone repeated, âre-routingâ over and over through the speakers of my car.
Yes, I was lost.Â Hopelessly, lost.
You see, Iâd just moved to a big city.Â It was dark.Â I was in the middle of traffic on a bridge in an area of the city that did not look safe to stop and ask for directions.Â The only hope I had for the drive was that I would eventually be able to get off the bridge and park long enough to look at a mapâwell, cry and then look at a map.
Have you ever been that lost?
If not, I have news for you: without a vision for your kids, you will eventually end up just as lost.Â On my ridiculous drive, I didnât have a destination or a vision.Â I was just aimlessly driving around the city to learn it better.Â The GPS on my phone had no way of helping me because it didnât know where I was going.Â Creating a vision statement for relationships with your kids is as important as identifying a destination for your drive.Â You canât expect to get anywhere if you donât know where you want to go.
So how do you do that exactly?
First, make the vision statement kid-friendly.Â
When downloading a map app for my phone, I always choose the English version. Why? Because I only speak English. While thereâs a chance that I could look at pictures and decipher where to go in an Arabic version of a map, any specific instructions would be entirely lost because I do not speak that language.
Yet, we expect kids to understand our grown-up jargonâand we punish them when they donât.
When creating a vision statement for your family regarding relationships, it is essential that it uses kid-friendly language.Â For example, your kid-friendly vision statement might be, âGod made humans to treat each other like we would want to be treated.â This statement makes sense and is easy to apply.Â For younger kids your statement might be, âGod made us to be nice.â
A good way to determine whether your vision statement is kid-friendly is whether it can be chanted.Â Kids love to be silly and chant with their family.Â You canât chant, âRelationships are an entity God designed to display His glory to the world.â That statement may be a good place you and your spouse to begin brainstorming, but it canât be the final version for your kids.Â
In addition to chanting your kid-friendly vision statement, making a hand motion can be a fun way to help kids really learn the vision youâre casting for your family.Â If your vision statement is âGod made us to be nice,â you could use two cupped hands moving upward for the hand motion.
Having trouble thinking of a statement, chant, or hand motion? No problem, have your kids help you! The more they are involved, the more likely they are to engage.Â
Second, donât be afraid to initiate hard conversations.Â
The birds and the bees is without-a-doubt the conversation I hear parents worry about the most.Â Afterall, who wants to talk about sex with their child?
Like the dreaded sex talk, most hard conversations with children involve relationships.Â Whether it is explaining why the family dog canât come back after that tear-filled vet appointment or why a kid on the playground didnât invite them to a birthday party, each of these conversations is made difficult by the feelings surrounding relationships.Â Your child was designed to be in relationship with others and they are going to seek relationship with others, regardless of the instruction they receive from you.Â
The best way to help your children have a godly vision for relationships is to initiate the conversation first, before the kids on the playground or the Internet taints their view of relationships.
Kids on the playground might say, âmy older brother told me sex is for grown-ups and is a lot of fun.â While both of those statements are true, you might prefer your children know about sex from Godâs perspective before knowing that sex is fun.Â Letâs explore how having a vision statement for relationships can make equipping your kids with that information easier.
Iâve seen some families come up with a specific vision statement for sex.Â For example, âGod made sex for grown-ups in marriage.â For younger kids, this can be helpful because it helps answer those questions like, âWhere do babies come from?â Instead of responding with a deer-in-the-headlights look, a parent could respond by explaining that God designed babies to come from two married people having sex.Â For older kids, parents can use this statement to talk about how sex is purposeful but it is also pleasurable.Â Initiating the conversation about sex being pleasurable can help preteens and teenagers feel safer to talk to their parents about sex rather than trying to find out the pleasures of sex on their own.
Other families might be inclined to incorporate the sex vision statement into their original vision statement for relationships.Â For example, âGod made humans to treat each other like we would want to be treatedâ can be a good basis for sex also.Â This vision statement helps begin conversations about respecting our bodies and other peopleâs bodies.Â Regarding sex, this could include, âGod designed sex for marriage.Â With sex, we treat each other like we would want to be treated by not having sex with someone until marriage.â This can also be a good opportunity to have conversations to prevent childhood sexual abuse and talk about respecting each otherâs bodies.
Finally, live out relationships the way you want your kids to relate to others.
Has your child ever said or done something completely inappropriate that you know they learned from you? You are not alone.Â Anyone with kids has experienced the gut-wrenching moment of their child imitating language or behavior not intended to pass on.Â
As you chant your vision statement, make sure that you do what the chant says.Â The vision statement, âGod made us to be niceâ means that your kids need to see you being nice to people.Â This statement should challenge you as much as it challenges your kids.Â Whether it is in heavy traffic, a long line at the grocery store, or to your spouse after a long day, let your children see what you want them to learn.
New Vision Counseling offers a unique Christian approach with proven therapy techniques. Call (405) 921-7776 today.
By Ben Thompson
âBe still, and know that I am GodâŚâ
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Psalm 46:10a
In the first part of this blog we discussed being present in all the chaos of life. If we wait until everything is calm and peaceful before we can become present, we will either wait a longtime (maybe forever) or rarely be present in our lives.
Most importantly, when we are present, we are able to experience the presence of God in powerful ways. We slow down enough to realize God is with us and wants us to look to him.
Imagine having God right by your side to guide you through life, but never taking the time to listen to him or ask him for anything. Crazy, right? But we are all guilty of this because instead of being consumed by God in the present, we are consumed with everything else.
How do we practice being present so we can experience a closer connection with God?
Here are three simple things you can start doing today:
- Breathe! Breathing is the quickest and easiest way to reorient our bodies and minds to the present moment. I recommend taking slightly deeper breaths than normal and simply focus on the in and out of your breath. As you are more connected to your breathing and to the moment, you can then feel the presence of God more fully.
- Be quiet and listen. This is especially important in times you are having a heated conversation with someone or find yourself mentally obsessing over something. Simply tell yourself to slow down and pay attention to what is going on around you and inside you. Your body, for example, may be trying to tell you, âHey there, Iâm getting pretty hot and frustrated here. I need a break!â Then, you can take the little break that your heart, body, and probably everyone around you knows you need to take. As you quiet down, this will allow you to listen better to God in whatever ways he is speaking to you.
- Surrender. Donât confuse this with giving up or giving in to your feelings. Surrender means accepting that your thoughts and feelings are currently too hard to let go of and you must give them over to God before they take you over (see Psalm 55:22). The next time you find yourself frustrated and getting angry tell yourself, âSurrender to this. You are upset and feeling out of control. God I am giving you control,â and allow yourself to experience God taking care of you and your emotions.
Being present takes practice. At New Vision we are here to help you become more present in your life and more connected to God. If we can help in any way, donât hesitate to reach out to us. We have great therapists who want you to experience a more present and connected life with God, yourself, and others.
By Ben Thompson
âThe virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call himÂ Immanuelâ (which means âGod with usâ).
âBe presentâis something weâre hearing more and more these days, which is great advice, but who has the time? Sure, Iâll be present when the kids are quiet, itâs peaceful,and the last present is bought. If you are like me, that leaves little time to be present unless you are willing to get up at 2:30 in the morning.
Fortunately, God did not wait for everything to be calm before he sent his son, Jesus, to be present with us on earth. God did not wait for conditions to be perfect. As you read in the Bible, Jesus presence on earth started in the midst of scandal,serious danger, Roman rule, and potential death from King Herod that we read about in Matthew 2.
God showed us that peace was not a prerequisite to being present.
How peaceful and present are you feeling this holiday season? We find ourselves worried about getting the right presents, frustrated with our overspending, and getting angry with our loved ones. We are more concerned with buying presents than we are about being present. Ironically, we are in a season of year focused on the presence of God on earth, and it is one of the hardest times to be present.
Being present means being in this moment, peaceful or not.
It means taking a breath right now and calming down. It means stopping in the middle of a fight with your spouse or your kids, taking a breath, and asking yourself, âWhatâs most important to me right now?â When you slow down and pay attention to your body, mind, and soul, you are present.Then, you can make better decisions for yourself and those around you.
There is no better time than to be present than right now. Jesus presence on earth brought peace to a chaotic world. Likewise, our presence can bring peace on earth,peace to our families, and peace to ourselves in spite of all that is going on around us.
Â In the next part of this blog series, Iâll teach you more ways you can become present in your everyday life.
Most therapists would describe fear of letting go of the past as depression and fear of whatâs to come in the future as anxiety. All that lies between the past and the future is a single day--today.
Listen, I know how difficult it is to let go of the good-ole days, and I know first-hand how a coming deadline or the loss of income can send your mind spinning into hyper drive. How many fully-present days do we ever get to enjoy without fear of yesterday or tomorrow creeping in? Not very many.
We have to fight hard to embrace each day and remember they are each gifts. There is no guarantee of tomorrow, and entire lifetimes can be wasted fixated on whatâs to come without ever getting to fully experience the here and now.
When our eyes are fixed on the days behind us or ahead of us, we lose sight of the gifts God has tucked away for us here, today! When we look at the day weâve been given and accept it for exactly as it is instead of wondering what it could or should be, our hearts will be filled with gratitude and our minds will finally be at peace.
Accept Your Season
If you are living in a difficult season, itâs okay to acknowledge the challenges youâre facing!
I had a client once who was the mother to young twins, and she was so worn out that she felt this enormous guilt for not enjoying the season she was in. She tried her hardest to be as productive as she was before she had two babies to take care of and ended up driving herself into to the point of depression.
Once she accepted her new season along with the limitations that came with it, she was able to give herself more grace and pay attention to the gifts of motherhood at a much slower pace.
Are you in a new season where you have to give up the standards and perfection youâve held in the past?
Accept Your Challenges
With every season comes challenges. Just like the mother I mentioned earlier, you may be hard-pressed for time or energy. Maybe you just lost your job and the greatest challenge you are facing is a lack of income as the holidays quickly approach. Maybe someone in your family was just diagnosed with a chronic illness and you are now having to change your lifestyle to accommodate it.
The reality is that every season, whether good or bad, comes with its fair share of challenges. The sooner you are able to name and accept those challenges, the easier it will be to stop looking back at how life used to be and you can live in confidence that you will one day step out of this season into something better.
Know Where Your Mind Wanders
I am someone who constantly looks to the future. Iâm a visionary. That happens to be one of my strengths, but it also means that anxiety creeps in if I donât constantly push against it and make every effort to keep my mind fixed on the present.
Maybe you are the sort of person who by default always has your eye on the rear-view mirror. Knowing where our minds tend to fixate will help us fight against these temptations. If you are unsure of where your mind seems to wander, ask someone who knows you well and they can help you shed some light on the situation.
As we enter the holiday season, it is so easy to lose ourselves in the hustle and bustle of travel, family, and vacations. Remember, there are so many gifts in store for you each day, and unless you take time to pay attention and see what God has hidden away from you, you could miss out on what makes the holiday season so special!
Here are some questions for you to consider this holiday season:
- What season are you in and what challenges come with the territory?
- What challenges do you need to accept as the way of life for now?
- Where does your mind wander if you allow it? Does it slip into anxiety of the future or does it look longingly to the past?
Have you ever been stuck inside on a rainy day feeling sorry for yourself and like the world is out to get you? Of course you have! You work hard during the week and you want nothing more than a beautiful, sunny day to enjoy with your friends and family.
Itâs human nature to be bummed out about plans that went awry or for catching a cold when itâs most inconvenient. But if we allow our circumstances to make us happy then we are tying our happiness to something way too inconsistent.
We have to instead tie our happiness to God because He is always consistent. The Bible assures us He never changes! Not yesterday, today, or tomorrow! So practically speaking, how exactly do we do that?
Look for the Blessing Behind Every Curse
Sure itâs raining outside when youâd rather it be sunny. But you know what? That means you get to spend valuable time indoors with your family. It means your lawn will be all the greener. It even gives you a chance to slow down and curl up with a good book youâve been meaning to read.
Rather than cursing the rain, we can thank God for the blessings He has tucked away for us in every circumstance.
Shift Your mindset from Disappointment to Gratitude
One of the best practices you can do to shift your mindset from disappointment to gratitude is to make a gratitude journal. Each morning when you wake up, challenge yourself to Â write down 10 things you are grateful for.
Eventually this mindset will become a habit and you will be able to see the world through gracious eyes.
Distance Yourself from Negative People
Some people are bent on being negative and bummed no matter what. You need to remember you cannot control their mindset, but you can control yours.
Being around negativity will breed more negativity, but by surrounding yourself with joyful, gracious people, you canât help but let a little positivity rub off on you!
So to help you get to a place of gratitude and joy today, letâs take some time to apply these steps. I promise you wonât regret it! Here are three questions to help you gauge your mindset:
- What are you disappointed by today?
- What hidden blessings has God tucked away in these disappointments that you could focus on today?
- Are there any negative or toxic people in your life that you need to create distance from?
This month at New Vision, we are talking about all things gratitude!
We love that the holiday season offers a chance to slow down and take a look at the gifts God has blessed us with over the years. God loves His children and it gives Him great joy, just as it would give any father, to bless his kids.
And while we believe that God loves to bless His children, if we stop there and think that His blessings are intended for us and us alone, we actually miss one of the greatest blessings of all!
The Bible is full of examples of how God blesses His people and then commands them to use those blessings to be a blessing to others who do not yet know Him. Itâs one of the sweetest forms of evangelism! By sharing the blessings God has provided us and our families, we are pointing others to see that there is a good and loving Father who will love, care for, and provide for those who choose to follow Him.
So rather than simply focusing on the blessings God has given us this holiday season, how can we take inventory and intentionally share these blessings with those who do not know God yet?
Say for example you received a gift card to your favorite restaurant recently. Rather than using it for yourself, maybe there is someone who you feel the Lord is tugging your heart to get to know and show love and grace to. Then share that blessing by taking this person to lunch. This kind gesture could go a long way in building a relationship which God could use to alter this personâs story.
What could be a better blessing than knowing that you could play a part in the salvation story of a friend, neighbor, or coworker? And what a great way to show God gratitude for all that He has blessed you with!
Letâs try an exercise together and commit to taking intentional steps in sharing our blessings this holiday season!
- Take a sheet of paper and fold it down the middle from top to bottom.
- Consider what gifts God given you in this season. Write those gifts in the left-column of the paper.
- Consider how each of these gifts could bless someone else who does not know the Lord. List these in the right-hand column next to each gift.
- Look at the list and see if any specific faces or names come to mind that you could bless. Jot down those names next to each blessing in parentheses.
- Now itâs time to take action! Place a star next to a blessing you can share this week. Then write it on your weekly calendar.
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Do you find it difficult to say the word, âno?â Iâve met very few in my life, especially in ministry, who admit the word ânoâ slips seamlessly off of their lips. Thereâs something about the word ânoâ that just feels wrong or selfish. In many cases, it feels like the word ânoâ communicates weakness. While very few of us think someone is weak when they tell us âno,â (often itâs the opposite) we all have this rooted fear that by saying ânoâ we will appear not organized enough, not dedicated enough, or not strong enough. How do we fight this fear and start to view boundaries as an act of strength and health for ourselves and our relationships?
Write a List of Your Current Responsibilities
If you sat down to list all of the tasks and people you are currently responsible for, chances are you might be a bit surprised by how many things are currently on your plate. If youâve been feeling tired or worn thin lately and your list appears long, well guess what! Youâve found the culprit! Itâs tempting to pack our days with so many responsibilities that we are spread too thin to do any of them well. Before we can create boundaries and remove items off of our plates, itâs important we take inventory first to become fully aware of the mental and physical loads we are carrying.
Pray and Consider what God has Called you To in This Season of Life
Itâs simple math--there is only one you, and only so many hours in the day--so the longer the to-do list, the less energy, attention, and time you can dedicate to each task. The problem is, some responsibilities can afford less attention and time, while others, such as your family or your relationship with God, canât afford to be neglected.
You may be familiar Â with the rubber or glass ball analogy. Consider each responsibility or task in your day as either a rubber or a glass ball. If the rubber ball gets dropped (work, laundry, golfing with your friends, etc) it will rebound and bounce back safely in your hands. The glass ball, however, cannot afford to be dropped (God, family, finances, etc) because it will inevitably shatter.
Looking at the list of responsibilities you just made, consider which responsibilities are rubber balls which can be placed on the back-burner if necessary, and which ones are glass and should be made top priority.
Set Priorities and Cut-Out Any Areas You Canât Afford to Uphold Right Now
Now that you know which responsibilities you cannot afford to neglect, itâs time to protect those items and take proactive steps to ensure you are able to do those tasks well. This doesnât mean that you create a list of good things to say yes to and a list of bad things to say no to. Serving in the church is a very good thing! But if saying yes to every single request for your time and service by the church starts to eat away at the foundation of your marriage, then itâs vital that you say, âno.â
Donât Apologize for Saying No and Holding those Priorities Firmly
Donât fall into the trap of feeling like you need to apologize for taking charge of the tasks God has called you to oversee. So what Â if your boss has a hard time understanding why you canât work late every night when you have a family to go home to. At the end of your life, you wonât have to stand before your boss and give an account of how well you treated your wife, how much time you spent with your kids, or how well you led the family youâve been entrusted with. You will have to give an account to God, though, so donât feel the need to be apologetic to the call God placed on your life. Once you realize that saying ânoâ is an act of obedience to God, it becomes easier to see it as an act of courage and strength, rather than of fear or weakness.
Learning to say, âno,â and holding firm to healthy boundaries is not an easy thing to learn. It takes practice, effort, and a whole lot of prayer. As you begin to evaluate your own list of responsibilities, ask God to give you clarity. I promise He will! And feel free to use the following questions as a starting point:
- What has God called you to in this season?
- What is keeping you from investing fully into those responsibilities?
- What do you need to say ânoâ to this week?
Chances are that after you set-up the coffee machine and turn off all the lights before going to bed each night, you instinctively walk to the doors and windows to see that they are shut tight and locked. If you have a security system, you likely set the code as well. Many houses have floodlights installed in their yards to expose threats and make it clear that intruders are not welcome. We go to great extents to keep our loved ones and property safe. Our mental or spiritual well-being, however, is often overlooked. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be around toxic people who hold unhealthy control over our lives. Sometimes we watch scary movies that keep us wide-awake at night, unable to get the dark images from our minds. When it comes to threats that are unseen, there are several precautions that we can take to ensure we are safeguarding ourselves from a spirit of fear. It is important that we identify easy access points where threats and intruders could enter our minds, and take steps to lock those doors and windows tight!
Identify Easy Access Points
The two easiest access points for fear to creep in and plant roots are the eyes and the ears. Current studies estimate that the average person spends between 5-9 hours on social media each day, listens to approximately four hours music of music a day, and watches anywhere from 22-29 hours of television a week! We can no longer fool ourselves into thinking that what we watch and listen to that many hours of our lives has no influence on our minds. Yes, watching a scary movie with friends from time to time might be an adrenaline rush, but if it affects the way we think or makes us less firm in our faith or more prone to fear, we should limit the amount of access we give to these influences.
Evaluate Your Influences
It may be easy to limit the number of scary movies we watch or find more wholesome music to listen to, but the greatest influences in our lives are the people we surround ourselves with. If you fill your inner-circle with people who are positive, faithful, courageous, and hard-working, you will naturally glean these qualities yourself. However, if your closest influences are negative, doubtful, discouraging, or fearful, then you will find your courage and faith slowly erode away. This doesnât mean you cannot be friends with or love these people, but be cautious when deciding how much access you want to give them to your mental well-being.
Make a Security Plan
Only you can know for sure what influences cause the most damage to your spiritual health. Therefore, only you can create a security plan that works for you! The trick is to be completely honest with yourself and consider the long-term effects of the music, videos, and friends you allow into your life. So when you go to bed each night and walk from room to room checking the windows and doors, take this time to visualize shutting and locking the doors to your mind as well. Identify new threats that could cause unease, and consider how you can protect yourself from those threats in the future.
When it comes to protecting yourself and your loved ones, donât just settle for protecting your physical health. Make the emotional, mental, and spiritual health of your family a priority as well. Soon youâll see first-hand just how much fear in your life was a result of the influences around you, and youâll be able to live life in a more positive light! You can take the first step today by answering the following questions:
- What steps are you taking to safeguard your mind and your spirit?
- Are there any influences you are allowing in that are carving away at your faith and making room for fear?
- What doors do you need to bolt shut to ensure you and your family are living healthy lives free from the control of fear?
This month at New Vision, weâve dedicated a lot of time and resources to talk about the importance of facing your fears. God did not create us to be controlled by fear but to rely on Him to keep our fears at bay and live up to our full potential. That said, it is important that we are able to identify the warning signs of pushing ourselves too far or too fast. If you are currently challenging a fear in your own life or have been given the opportunity to help someone else face their own, there are three zones you should be aware of to ensure your efforts will create progress instead of regression. As you read, visualize a dart board with three rings. We will start in the center and work our way out. Take time to honestly consider which of these three zones you find yourself in today.
1) Comfort Zone
This zone is exactly what the title implies--comfortable. Without pushing ourselves, this is where we fall by default. Our heart-rate is low, our posture is relaxed, and our feet are likely propped up, completely at ease with the world. While this does not sound half-bad, it is important to note that very little growth happens when we are comfortable and unwilling to break a sweat. Is there a time and a season to step back and recharge, absolutely! But should we aim to stay in this zone for fear of really pushing ourselves to face what scares us? Iâm afraid not. In the dartboard analogy, we will place the comfort zone in the center, or bulls-eye.
2) Grow Zone
Taking a step outside of the center circle, we enter the second ring, called the grow zone. The grow zone is where we feel most alive! When we step into a new situation that makes us nervous, our posture becomes poised to react, our heartbeat quickens, and our minds become clear and attentive. Yes, this zone may make our palms a little sweaty, and we may find ourselves uncomfortable or unfamiliar with our surroundings, but the benefits far outweigh these slight inconveniences. You see, as we step outside the comfort zone and challenge ourselves to face what scares us, we become more confident and courageous and our comfort zone or bull-seye begins to grow! In the moment the task you face may seem like a challenge, but in the long-game, you are expanding the boundaries of where you feel comfortable and confident. Whenever possible, strive to be in the grow zone and just watch how you live as your attitude begins to change!
3) Panic Zone
The third and final ring of the dart board is the panic zone. This zone is dangerous because once we push ourselves past the limits of the grow zone, we are no longer able to grow because fear has taken over. Our hearts are pounding out of our chest, the mental clarity we found in the grow zone becomes jumbled, and our minds are not able to cope with the experience around us. While itâs relatively easy to identify when weâve pushed ourselves to the point of panic, it is vital that we learn to recognize the signs of panic in those we are helping. Once we reach this zone, the panic zone begins to grow and the comfort zone in the center of the dartboard becomes smaller. If we are in the panic zone, we are providing more strongholds for our fears to take control which force us to run back to our comfort zone until we are able to calm ourselves to try again.
We hope this analogy proves to be helpful next time you are in a new situation which makes you nervous. Here are some questions to guide you in self-reflection. Be honest with yourself and set safety barriers for to help channel you into the grow zone. Keep yourself from slipping back into the comfort zone and be cautious not to step too far into the panic zone.
- Which zone is your default zone?
- What area of your life do you need to step back into the grow zone?
- What signs does your body give you when you are about to slip into a place of panic?
Weâve already discussed in this series how as Christians, we are called to face our fears and take steps towards overcoming them through faith and perseverance. Weâve also shared how this is not an easy command which is why God provides over 365 daily reminders to âBe strong and courageous.â The fact is that facing our fears takes practice, and what better way to equip our children and our families to be bold and courageous warriors of God than to begin training them young. Of course, it takes a great deal of discernment to decide when a child is ready to take the first step towards overcoming a fear, and the method should always be age appropriate. However, no matter what ages your children are, here are five simple steps you can take today to create a culture of courage in your home:
You may not always be around when fear creeps into your childâs heart--but God will! By teaching your children to pray when they are afraid, you are teaching them that ultimately God is the only one who can protect and shape their hearts into hearts of courage, and that He will always be there for Â them, even when you are not.
If we avoid facing our own fears, how can we expect our children to willingly face theirs? By acting as though nothing scares us, we are setting the wrong example. Model what it means to face your fears. Be transparent about what you are afraid of with them (age appropriately). Allow them to help you work through a fear of your own and donât be afraid to let them see you struggle at times. This will reassure them that even their role models struggle with fear from time to time.
3) Look Deeper
Many fears are shallow, but some are much more complicated than face-value. Yes, your son may be afraid of the dark, but maybe the dark represents a deeper fear--fear of the unknown. Maybe your daughter is afraid of sitting in a room alone, but what if deep down she is afraid of being abandoned or left behind? You canât heal what you canât see so try to look beneath the surface ask questions identify the root of your childâs fear.
As parents, our first instinct may be to protect and nurture our children from what scares them. However, without the ability to face their fears, they will struggle as they grow to be more independent. Hold their hands but fight the instinct to carry them through their fears or they wonât learn to walk through fear themselves. This may be the most difficult step!
5) Give Grace
This process will take time. Sometimes, if the fear is encroaching on your own life (ie. you have a child terrified to sleep in his own room so he still shares your pillow) it is easy to lose heart and patience. In moments of frustration, remember that God how patient God has been towards you as you faced fears of your own, and whenever necessary, pray for more grace towards your child.
We hope these five steps will help you nurture your children to be courageous and brave warriors of God! We want to hear from you, what steps have you taken to help your children face their fears? Share your tips in the comments below!
And if you want to receive more tips and messages like this straight to your inbox, submit your email below to be added to our mailing list. We will only send resources we believe will bless you, so take advantage of what New Vision has to offer today!
Did you know that âfearâ is one of the most common themes discussed in the Bible? Believe it or not, God has a lot to say about how His people should be careful not to live in fear or give it control over their lives. Is fear a natural part of our human nature? Absolutely. Does that mean we should give it free reign over our lives? Absolutely not.
Of course thatâs much easier said than done.
The Bible shares some variation of âfear notâ over 365 times! Thatâs right--a reminder for each and every day of the year. God in His grace knew before we were even designed what would keep us lying awake at night. He knew what circumstances would make our palms sweat and our knees wobbly. When God tells His people to âfear not,â He isnât condemning them or shaming them for being afraid. God is always kind not to minimize our problems or our fears. The things we fear can be very real and very big to us, but the kicker is thisâŚ
God is bigger.
Remember David and Goliath? David didnât step up to battle because he thought he had any stamina, experience, or height over Goliath--he stepped boldly up to a giant because the God He serves, who loyally protects him, is so much bigger!
Many times when we are afraid of something, itâs because we feel outmatched or out of control. Something we all need to learn is how to be okay with taking the reins out of our hands and placing them into the willing and able hands of God. Take some time to reflect today by asking yourself these simple questions:
- What are you afraid of giving to God that is holding you in a life of fear?
- How has God been faithful to you when you gave Him your fears in the past?
- What Bible verse do you need to memorize for when fear starts to creep in?
If you would like to learn more aboutÂ our servicesÂ and see how New Vision can serve you or your family,Â contact usÂ today. If you have a loved one who is struggling with fear or anxiety, share this message with them so they can feel empowered to regain control in a healthy way.
Sometimes change can be seen far down the horizon, and whether itâs welcome or not, we have time to brace ourselves for what lies ahead. Weddings, a babyâs due date, graduation, and the changing of the seasons are usually predictable and provide plenty of time to prepare.
But what about the changes that occur suddenly with little to no warning? What do we do when a routine screening tests positive for cancer? What happens when a meeting with your employer ends with a pink slip or transfer papers? How do we respond when a police officer knocks on our door with news that there has been an accident?
When the proverbial rug is snatched out from under us, we have to be careful in choosing our next steps. To handle change in a healthy way, we need to be aware of our own instincts, surround ourselves with healthy relationships, and know our own limitations.
Know Your Instincts
When change comes unexpectedly, our fight-or-flight responses kick in. Some of us are naturally wired to attack the situation with every ounce of energy they can muster. They become consumed by it, believing they have the power and ability to make it go away if they fight hard enough against it. Others will push the change out of their thoughts or even live in denial of what has happened to them. They go about their lives as normal, neglecting what needs to be done and the changes that need to be processed.
Whatever your instinct is, there is a verse in scripture that can help you accept change in a healthier way. Psalm 46:10 says, âBe still and know that I am God.â For those of us who are fighters, we need to remember we canât face anything in our own power but we can with His! He is the creator and sustainer of all things, including your situation. So be still and let Him fight for you. For those of us who are runners, we have to remember that while this may be a surprise to us, it certainly isnât a surprise to God. He promises to get us through any situation He has called us to, so stand boldly and let Him work His strength out in your life.
Find Your People
The Bible is very clear that none of us are called to face life alone. Time and time again, it describes the disciples going out two by two or meeting in each otherâs homes to encourage and motivate one another. When change takes you by surprise, donât underestimate the power of a coffee date with a friend, or a phone call to your sister. Just as you would hope your loved ones would call you if they needed help or encouragement, your friends would be honored to face this challenge with you.
If you donât have a strong community of friends, pursue a membership in a local church. Make it a point in seasons of stability to surround yourself with healthy relationships with other believers so when change does come--and it will--youâll have people ready to step in and lend a hand.
Know When to Seek Professional Help
While some changes can be managed with the help of a friend, you also need to be aware of your limitations. Some situations are far too complex to be handled alone or in the church. Sometimes professional counseling is the next step. We at New Vision Counseling and Consulting believe that by integrating Godâs truths along with proven counseling techniques, we can help your mind, body, and soul as you cope with the changes ahead. We want to become part of your community as a source of encouragement, motivation, and understanding.
If you would like to learn more about our services and see how New Vision can serve you or your family, contact us today. If you have a loved one who is struggling through a season of change, share this message with them so they can feel empowered to regain control in a healthy way.
Ah, the good old daysâŚwhen life was easier, we were younger, and the world was as it should be.
If youâre like most people, chances are youâve surrounded yourself with items that bring back memories of a special time in your life. Maybe youâve stayed in touch with friends and laugh over old photos on social media. Perhaps you kept certain items from those years, even if they are now outdated. You may even find yourself doing things a certain way simply because thatâs how youâve always done them.
Thereâs nothing wrong with feeling nostalgic of the past. In some seasons, it can even be healthy to look back and remember the ways God blessed you. But sometimes, what we may mistake as nostalgia is actually a deeply-rooted fear of change.
It is only natural to fear the unknown. We are creatures of habit and cling to whatâs familiar. But if our eyes are constantly locked on the past and the way things used to be, we miss valuable opportunities to make new memories here in the present. Even worse, though, we take our eyes off of God and the incredible blessings He has in store for our future.
I had a client several years ago who shared the negative impact nostalgia had on her family. When she was in high school, her grandfather unexpectedly passed away. While she and her family grieved over this loss and painfully accepted the new way of life, her father became so fixated on the memories of his childhood with his dad, that for the next five years, her family wondered if any of the new memories they created were valuable to him at all. Her father was so fearful of what it would mean to live in a life without his dad, that he unintentionally forced his children to live without theirs.
In Jeremiah 29:11 God makes a promise. He says, âI know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.â You canât afford to miss out on the amazing plans that are about to unfold, even if those plans come after a season of difficult and painful change. Remember, when God calls you to something, He will get you through it as well. So when you find yourself reminiscing, make sure you arenât grasping for the past, but instead remembering Godâs faithfulness so you can face this new season without fear.
Some questions to consider as you enter your weekend:
- What memories are holding you so tightly in the past that youâre distracted from the present?
- In what ways was God faithful to you in those seasons of blessing?
- Do you believe God wants to bless you in this new season He is calling you to as well?
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone was unabashedly destroying you with their words. Tell me if any of this sounds familiar âYou stupid idiot, why did you do that?â Or how about âCanât you do anything right?â Or how about âYou are not as pretty as, smart as, fast as, rich as, loved asâŚthe list seems to never end.â If you have ever been talked to like this you know how awful it feels. How we can feel paralyzed and hopeless when someone who is close to us criticizes us like this. How can we value ourselves if someone who is supposed to be for us betrays us like this? Many of us have had a parent talk to us like this. Others, like me, have suffered feeling not good enough by the absence of a parent. But right now I am not talking about any of them. I am talking about you. What if this is the way your internal critic talks to you. Ouch!
The great news is today is your day to take back control. God did not wire us to tolerate critical and abusive words. He wired us to live and give love and that is where we are headed today. You have already done Step one and thatâs identify the critical voices that are not serving you well.
Step two is to identify who they sound like from your present or past. If you are not sure then ask if it sounds like a male you know or a female you know. Sometimes you may need to pray and listen to identify the origins. When you get the answer write it down.
Step three is to look up in your Bible (or just ask Alexa) who God says you are. Ask how much He loves you and how He sees you. Does he think you are worthy of love, intelligent, good enough, and worth fighting for? If you are still not sure then Jesus dying to take your place is a good start.
Step Four is where the rubber meets the road and you activate Godâs truth in your life. Select the top 5 scriptures and phrases you have found and immerse yourself in them. Do this a minimum of three focused times per day. This could look like morning, noon and night. In addition to reading and memorizing what is true, where a rubber band or set alerts on your phone to remind you to look at them throughout the day. And every time the negative voices begin spewing their venom choose to replace them with Godâs truth. And watch your belief system slowly but surely begin to shift.
Shawn Maguire is a Licensed Professional Therapist who has served marriages, families and individuals for almost 25 years. He is the owner of New Vision Counseling, a place where therapists integrate. their faith with cutting edge counseling techniques to offer hope and healing in any circumstance of life. You can find out more about Shawn and his team at NewVisionCounseling.org or follow him on facebook and Instagram at NewVisionCounseling.