Do Hard Things

I’m reading Bren Brown’s book Dare to Lead these days. One part of the book challenges us to examine our values. She refers to Jim Collins’ work saying that if you have more than two values, then you don’t have any. It’s been a challenge for me to narrow down to just two things as the core values for who I am. Today I’m settled on these two: Growth and Faith…though I’m not 100% certain those are the best ideas to capture my values ultimately. I would have finished this book a month or so ago if I could get myself past this chapter on values. Perhaps the thing I’m discovering in this is that I’ve been operating without clear values for most of my life, or at the least without an awareness of my values. That’s a conversation for me and those closest to me and a therapist though. This book has challenged me, and I’m rising to that challenge, albeit a bit slower than I would have wanted.

Growth as a value requires that I act rather than react. Growth doesn’t happen accidentally or in a void. It happens by taking in and responding to. Animals grow by working to gather nutrients and convert them into energy. You don’t have to watch the BBC series Life to know that growth takes work. Therefore, one of the actions I undertake as I try to live out this value is to do things that challenge me. I know on the surface this sounds like a no-brainer, but as I examine my life, I find that I often opt out of challenge in favor of comfort. I don’t practice my guitar because I’ve let the callouses on my fingers wear away and it hurts to play now. I don’t practice my Spanish because it’s embarrassing to talk to my computer and others in a language that makes me sound like a toddler. I read books and articles that support my assumptions rather than challenge them. I find excuses to skip my run or day at the gym. I could go on…basically I’m saying that it’s easy to opt out of growth. This ease doesn’t excuse me from the need to grow or the challenges that come in that growth.

Lent is a season in the Christian faith that is focused on growth. Growth in our knowledge and love of God as disciples of Jesus the Messiah. This season of Lent draws near to an end. I began with a challenge to “do hard things” for myself. One of the hard things I’ve worked at is the discipline of journaling. I have taken a page out of Jim Collins’ practice and kept a record of what I’ve done during the day and how I’m feeling at the end of the day. I’ve also reflected upon why I might feel that way given the high and low points throughout the day. I haven’t been perfect in this discipline, but I’ve written more in these days of Lent than I had in the previous year. I’ll call that growth! It’s hard for me to set aside time before going to bed when I will stop, focus, and reflect. For some of us this may be a simple thing, but the intentionality of it has been a challenge. When I’m tired and just want to go to bed, I have to muster up the energy to reflect, or I have to do this before I get tired. This practice has given me new insights into myself, and my relationships with others. I highly recommend it! I’m grateful for this Lenten challenge and will continue to practice this discipline because I know it’s a challenge to actively reflect. (I know that sounds like an oxymoron.) Growth happens because we act, and action is challenging.

What hard thing are you avoiding? What core value do you avoid because it requires work to live into? Lent may be ending, but that doesn’t mean our growth has to. I invite you to join me in growing as a disciple of Jesus the Messiah, or at least a human being who is gifted and empowered to do great things in this world. God bless you my friends!

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