By Eddie Pipkin
July 7, 2017
I write this blog from Butler Beach in northeast Florida. It’s the height of summer and for many folks in ministry, things slow down a few notches (that is, unless you are a camp director or in charge of summer mission trips or camp—in which case, we are praying for you). One of the things I value about a slower pace is the time to get to things I’ve been meaning to get to, which translates for me to an opportunity for runs, bike rides, body surfing sessions, and night walks on the beach. That’s the essential relax and recharge component associated with downtime, but the summer slowdown is also a time to catch up on reading and doing some deep thinking.
Summertime turns out to be a good time for mindfulness.
It’s a great opportunity to consider priorities, habits, and daily routines. Even when we think strategically about major work and life goals, we sometimes fail to see the ways in which our basic habits and routines empower those goals (or work against them). It’s a variation of “can’t see the trees for the forest.” In scrolling through the many articles, interviews, and books I had stacked up in my “to read when time allows” folder, the one theme that kept repeating itself was the value of good fundamental habits of mind and body. As infamous motivator Jim Rohn once wrote,
“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day.”
So, on that note, here is a link to an article from Time Magazine’s Motto web site, “10 Things Successful People Do.” It’s an insightful look by Tim Ferriss in his new book, Tools of Titans, at habits of people considered highly successful in their respective fields. It makes a nice companion to this infographic-based quick read, “7 Work Habits of the Rich and Genius.” Maybe you’re thinking this kind of listicle is old hat and you’ve seen this advice before. But that would only be true if you’re familiar with all these strategies:
- combinatory play
- the Pomodoro technique
- the power of afternoon naps
- the creative influence of natural light
- why you should schedule less meetings not more
- working problems while you sleep
- relational insights from reading Proust
- the 5 chimps theory
- embracing clichés
- and a big jar of awesome
The key here is not that any sane human being could embrace each of these strategies or that any one of them is essential to the success of you or the organization you help lead. Some of them may seem silly or obvious to the point of eye rolling. Some of them may seem fresh and profound. The key is to expose yourself to lots of ideas and find some clever, creative strategies that work to keep you focused and energized. Mindfulness in this context means a deep understanding of your and your team’s motivations and how positive directional discipline can be maintained. Again, to quote Jim Rohn:
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and achievement.”
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
Rohn liked to write about how failure rarely stems from one catastrophic decision, but is rather the culmination of hundreds of seemingly inconsequential small decisions made over time. Likewise, success is achieved by the accumulation of many small decisions thoughtfully made and executed. Healthy disciplines not only keep us on track in pursuit of our vision statement (which we have, of course, mindfully and collaboratively crafted) but also make it possible for us to be flexible when necessary, deal with inevitable adversity, and respond to unexpected opportunities.
I am a big believer in making the bed every day. Here’s part of retired Navy admiral (and coordinator of the Osama bin Laden raid) William H. McRaven’s highly-quoted college commencement speech from 2014: “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” He leveraged his practical, Navy SEAL-acquired simple lessons for life into a bestselling book:
If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.
I personally took this advice to heart and have found it to be very effective for positively jump-starting my day, but the college kids home for the summer at my house are skeptical (despite my leaving the good admiral’s book around in unavoidable places for them to read and be inspired by). Maybe it’s not the advice they need; it really works for me. And the whole point is to find and refine the simple habits that help us as uniquely gifted individuals to be the productive and fulfilled people that God has called us to be. Slower times are good times to be thinking about that and to experiment in a way that’s not possible in the hectic rush of back-to-school and holiday seasons.
What are the habits and routines embraced by you and your teams? What was a challenge you faced, personally or as a team, that changing a habit helped you to overcome? If you have serious or funny tales to share, we’d love to hear them. And you can learn more about developing healthy ministry goals through practical strategies at the EMC3 web site. Happy summer mindfulness!