Are You Growing?

My boys’ football season ended last Friday at 9:37 pm. They had a great season and made it into the finals for the state championship. They fought back from a 15-point halftime deficit and with 30 seconds left on the clock, had the chance to win the game with a 2-point conversion. They fell short and the game ended 28 to 27. They were heartbroken and as a parent it’s hard to offer comforting words to your sons when they come off the field, defeated and dejected.

I didn’t tell them this – because they didn’t want to hear it – but this loss brings with it learning and growth. There are powerful life lessons that come with a defeat on the football field: putting up the good fight, team, learning from mistakes, character, giving credit to the opposition, being thankful for past successes.

Reflecting on their loss, I know my boys are growing from this experience. That leads me to the question: How am I growing?

Have you ever asked yourself these questions: What am I doing, proactively, to grow, personally and professionally? Am I learning new skills? Am I stretching myself? Am I staying in my comfort zone or am I stepping out and challenging myself?

Here are a few areas in which I’m trying to grow. This list may not resonate with you but I put it out there as some food-for-thought:

· Health: I don’t always enjoy it but I try to exercise every day. In the past month this has taken different forms: working out on elliptical machines; chopping wood for the fire pit; carrying my golf clubs and walking instead of riding a golf cart; walking the dog. I’m also working on my diet: eating a bit less, especially at dinnertime and drinking more water during the day. And, just this week I made an appointment for that long dreaded physical.

· Turning off the TV and Radio: With two teenaged boys who love to watch sports, our TV is on most evenings and weekends. Personally, I find this a distraction and mostly a waste of time. As I want to be present in their lives, I will watch some sports with them but I also reach for earplugs and a good book. I have also gotten into the habit of leaving the radio off in the car, not always but often. This is then my quiet time when I think, pray or just enjoy looking at the changing color of the trees. I don’t have a Facebook account so this is not one of my issues. How much time do you spend on Facebook?

· Reading: I try to read every day, both the newspaper and something in a book. Most of the time I read business books. Amazon makes it very easy to purchase used books for literally pennies. Last Wednesday I went to a business book club and we talked about the book: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It was a great time.

· Conferences, Workshops & Forums: I get invited to attend a lot of different events. Some are free, others require a fee. I can’t attend all of them but I do go to as many as possible. In fact in about an hour I will head off to Wake Forest University’s Center for Private Business to hear a presentation. Not only are these great venues to learn something new but I also get to meet a lot of interesting people. I find the best way for me to get to one of these events is to put it on my calendar and not procrastinate.

· Quiet Time: We live in very fast, busy and noisy times. Being connected 24/7 via laptops and smart phones makes it difficult to tune out the noise and find time to reflect. When was the last time you sat in your living room or den alone, without any media distraction, closed your eyes and just reflected on… whatever. Personally, I do this every morning for 15 to 30 minutes. I start with prayer and then I read some scripture and reflect on what I’ve read. You might not be a Christian or have any spiritual direction at all. Regardless, it is good to tune out and enjoy stillness and see where your mind will take you. For me, this is probably the best way to find personal growth.

· Videos and Podcasts: The resources that are available for our personal and professional growth are crazy. Most towns have their own public libraries and if you haven’t been to yours lately, you will be amazed at the free resources. I download free podcasts and listen to these while I’m exercising, walking or in the car. I’ve also ordered several video courses on different topics from The Great Courses website. I recently went to YouTube to learn how to take better sport photos in low-light environments.

· Volunteering: Here’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone, help others and grow personally. I have done a lot of prison ministry over the years and while it takes some getting used to, the experience is very rewarding. What might your passion be: environmental, animal shelter, helping underprivileged youth, feeding the homeless, the list and needs are endless. Find a cause and grow!

Growth is a verb because it is something we need to initiate and actively purse. Most of the time real growth only happens with discipline and repetition. Think of it as a marathon rather then a sprint.