Posts Tagged ‘Self-discipline’

Simplifying Life: the Pareto Principle

Pareto Principle

When I was working as a management consultant, one of my favorite lessons to convey to clients was the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80-20 Rule.  The principle was named for the 19th century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that an 80-20 percent relationship applied to many practical aspects of life. For instance, about 80 percent of nonprofit donations come from 20 percent of the donor base.  About 80 percent of sales come from 20 percent of your client base. 

The application of the 80-20 Rule I most like is that about 80 percent of the work on a project is accomplished through 20 percent of the effort.  For example, if it takes five hours to detail a car, you can finish 80 percent of the job in about an hour.  The remaining 20 percent of the tasks will take four hours to complete.  The lesson learned is that if you can accept something less than perfection in a practical task like vacuuming your house or maintaining your lawn, you can save yourself a lot of time and significantly simplify your life.

The Rev. Dr. Alexander Whyte (1836-1921), was a popular Scottish theologian in his day.  His biographer, G.F. Barbour tells an interesting story about Whyte’s encounter with a particular female parishioner who told him, “Dr. Whyte, I just love being in your presence. You are so saintly.”  Whyte replied, “Madam, if you could look into my soul, what you would see would make you spit in my face.”

While the Pareto Principle has many practical applications in everyday life, Rev. White knew that when it comes to God, giving 20 percent of yourself is not enough.  Whyte understood what Jesus means in Matthew 10:37-39 when he says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (ESV) 

Jesus wants all of you—not 20, or 80, or even 99 percent of you.  He makes this clear when He tells his disciples “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, ESV)

It’s easy to give part of yourself to God.  You can attend church every Sunday, pray to Him every morning, and tithe 10 percent of your income. Outwardly you might appear saintly, as the Rev. Whyte appeared to his parishioner, but God sees inside us all.  Scottish Theologian Oswald Chambers said, “We are only what we are in the dark; all the rest is reputation. What God looks at is what we are in the dark—the imaginations of our minds, the thoughts of our heart, the habits of our bodies; these are the things that mark us in God’s sight.”  This is why, St. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12 (ESV), “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

God wants all of you. Therefore endeavor constantly to place Him first in every aspect of your life. And when you fail, as you inevitably will, seek His forgiveness.  As St. Paul encourages us in 2 Timothy 4:7, continue to fight the good fight.   

 

 

 

A New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping

New Years Eve Time Square

“Exercise is labor without weariness.”  —Samuel Johnson

Exercise is an important part of my life that was ingrained during a 24-year career in the U.S. Army.  I enjoy a good workout and feel out of sorts when I go too long without exercising.  In January there are always a lot of new faces in my local fitness center—mostly folks who made a new year’s resolution to exercise and lose weight.

Moving into February the numbers dwindle and by March, few of the new faces are still around.  We humans are great at making promises to ourselves that we never keep.  This year I’ve made a resolution worth keeping and it’s not the usual “lose some weight.”   Instead, I’m going to slow down.

“Adopt the pace of nature.  Her secret is patience.”  —Ralph Waldo Emerson

An Army career often requires one to maintain a “hair on fire” pace for long periods of time.  Mine was no exception. After retiring from the service, I continued the fast pace in my civilian work.  I can recall my mom continually advising me to slow down, but I never made an attempt to comply until fairly recently.  A couple of years ago I came to a realization that there are better ways to spend one’s time than to dash about in a frenzy trying to get as much done as humanly possible.

Slowing down doesn’t mean getting lazy, however.   It’s more about tempering the urgency in life and finding balance.  If I succeed at this, there won’t be sufficient time to do everything I might be inclined to do.   Therefore, I aim to re-evaluate what’s important in my life and then do my best to focus on the things that matter, while sweeping aside the trivial.

“The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.”   —Oswald Chambers

I’ve been thinking about some of the things I can sweep aside this year.  Television ranks high on the list.  As my wife often reminds me, I watch some fairly mindless shows with no redeeming social value. Shows like ”Man vs. Food” come to mind.  If you’re not familiar with it, check it out on the Travel Channel website.  It’s about a fellow who travels the country seeking “pig out” restaurants  (www.travelchannel.com/tv-shows/man-v-food).

The “Colbert Report” is also on my “fuggedaboutit” TV list.   I enjoy the show immensely, but it truly is mindless entertainment.  There are others, but I’ll spare you the laundry list.

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”  —William Penn

As a management consultant, I periodically presented time management seminars.  They were very well received by every audience. Unfortunately, I constantly find myself violating the time management techniques I know to be effective.   I aim to be more disciplined with my time this year.

One of the best techniques I know to save time is by turning off the TV.  Limiting time on Facebook and other unproductive Internet sites is also advisable.  Avoiding web surfing and clicking links on the web pages one must visit will also save an enormous amount of time.

I’m also going to avoid checking emails and messages on my phone every few minutes.  At present, I’m an email version of Pavlov’s dog—grabbing my cell phone every time an email or text message alert beeps.  (For those struggling with time management, the Mindtools.com website has a simple, 10-step approach to help you get on track http://goo.gl/RsWrQ1.)

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”  —Groucho Marx

By reducing the time spent in front of the boob tube and on unproductive websites, I hope to make some time for reading.  I’m not talking about casual reading either.  Gibbon’s classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire has been sitting on my bookshelf for about three years.  This year I plan to dust it off and dive in.  I’m also going to try to read or reread several books by C.S. Lewis.

“Prayer does not equip us for the greater work, it is the greater work.” —Oswald Chambers

At the top of my “to do” list for 2014, however, is spending more time in the scriptures and prayer. Prayer is work and I plan to work a lot in this new year.   Romans 12:12 advises us, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (ESV).  Now that’s a new year’s resolution worth keeping.

Divine Simplicity: Focus on the things that matter…sweep aside the things that don’t.

 

 

Discipline in Everything

Cupcakes

Developing discipline is neither easy nor pleasurable. Anyone who has tried to diet knows this! For most people, dieting is a struggle between the desires of the body and the needs of the spirit.

Like dieting, a good job search also requires strict discipline. The best approach is to develop a strategy and stick to it. Your strategy must be proactive. It should include networking, personal branding & marketing, lots of research and a double dose of patience and perseverance. Approach your job search like a fulltime job until you find employment. At the same time, use your period of unemployment as an opportunity to improve yourself: try to shed a few of those extra pounds; develop a fitness routine to improve your physical condition; work on acquiring some new job skills that will make you more marketable and current in your field; reach out to help others around you; and work on disciplining yourself spiritually.

Taking just a few minutes of quiet time each morning to pray, study the scriptures and reflect on the day ahead will add clarity and purpose to your day. Christians could learn a lesson from the followers of Islam. Muslims stop five times per day to pray–morning, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening. Periodically pausing for prayer throughout each day is guaranteed to help you cope with stress and worry, two challenges that you will encounter daily while unemployed.

Mark 1:35 (NKJV) tells us that, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He (Jesus) went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” If this is the way the Lord began his mornings, how can we do otherwise? If you don’t currently start the day with some quiet time with God, I challenge you to give it a try during this season of Lent. A blessing awaits you.

Psalm 84, the blessedness of dwelling in the house of God
How lovely is Your tabernacle,
O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young—
Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
My King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in Your house;
They will still be praising You. Selah
5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.[b]
8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 O God, behold our shield,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.
10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts,
Blessed is the man who trusts in You! 

Today’s Lenten Prayer: a prayer for self-discipline
Lord, give me the wisdom to see
No good life comes without right discipline.
Give me the grace to impose it upon myself
Lest others do it for me.
Help me to discipline my tongue
That I may be clear rather than clever
Sincere instead of sarcastic
Help me to discipline my thinking and actions
To do what is right
And not what is easy
Let me get on with the job on hand
Doing the best I can
And leaving the rest to You. Amen.

Today’s Reading: Oswald Chambers – the Discipline of Spiritual Perseverance
http://utmost.org/the-discipline-of-spiritual-perseverance/

Take a Lenten Journey

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During the first week of Lent, as part of my personal discipline, I will be writing a daily inspirational lesson for my jobseeker’s group.  Begining on Ash Wednesday, please check in for seven consecutive days to help kick off your Lenten Journey.

Zack