Have you ever learned something significant that offered the promise of unalterably changing your life for the better, only to find yourself back in the “same-old, same-old” a week later? You read a fantastic book or are deeply moved by a speaker and can’t wait to tell others about your experience, then by the time you see your friends you have forgotten what touched your heart in the first place. Why? I’ve often mused that self-help is an opioid by the appeal it makes to your soul, but an addiction after the initial experience wears off, ever requiring a new supply. Right?
This certainly isn’t an indictment against self-help or self-development as it’s now called, but rather a sincere question in need of a real answer. Personally, I think people who seek to improve their situation are the most honest people on Earth. But, wanting to advance and actually advancing are two entirely different animals. Thinking without practice is dead.
In every realm of life it’s understood that in order to develop any skill you must first learn the right way to do it, then practice what you learned until you master it. Reading how to hit a baseball with a bat, while valuable, cannot possibly prepare you for the actual experience. Reminds me of the first time I went rappelling in the Army. Although the Drill Sergeant told us over 100 times that your brake hand would only work wrapped around the back of your body in the small of your back, my unpracticed mind thought it would work better by grabbing the rope from the top with both hands….sliding all the way to the ground with leather gloves on fire! Knowing without practicing is not knowing.
At those times you feel inspired and blessed by some insight or revelation, your experience is most likely genuine. An appeal is being made to your heart. But your heart isn’t found on the surface, it’s much deeper than that. You satisfy the appeal both by your further investigation and your willingness to put what you discovered into practice. Practice does make perfect when true understanding is what you are after. ‘Gratitude’ is just fancy word for thankful until you learn to express it. ‘Focus’ promises to salve your disturbed mind, but only when you actually focus it and keep it focused! ‘Seeing’ what you want in your mind in order to get it, sounds attractive, but the 30 seconds you devoted to it over two days won’t help anything to appear. In the end it’s all wishing, sort of like New Year’s resolutions.
Recently, I was lamenting to my wife that after learning a principle in the Bible for the first time 33 years ago, then re-learning and re-learning it again and again, by now you’d think I’d get it. Then it hit me! I know it but don’t really know it because of failure to consistently put it into practice. Former victories don’t mean anything in the time called today. Each day is a brand new day rife with opportunities to put ‘it’ into practice. Or it’s a brand new day to slide back into the pointless chase called, what’s wrong with me today? Both options are always there with the latter requiring little or no effort on your part. Just go with the flow and you’ll find it.
In the Bible this process is called “renewing your mind.” It means putting what you learned into actual practice. Now, don’t go religious on me here. I’m not talking about competing for good person of the year. That contest has no end point nor winner. I’m talking about changing the reality of what is or what you see to the reality of what’s true. The reason you seek advancement in some area is because you are smart enough to know you have gotten stuck. But you’ll never find the way out of the rut by floating along with the debris of yesterday’s thoughts. Nor can you drift along today with today’s debris and get it done either. You have to find real things; true things and focus your mind on those things. In other words, stop floating! The currents of the world have been well crafted to eventually suck you down the rapids. You can’t escape unless you paddle and paddling requires effort. And, the paddling needed to start long before the waterfall appeared.
Lest I drown you in a litany of water related metaphors (sorry), what I’m trying to say is you have to finally get serious about the thing that caught your attention; the appeal, and do something with it. Everyone can see the outline of what needs to be done, but you have to stick around to fill in the middle. It is your one life to live and it’s going by too fast. If it’s your weight, get serious and fix it. If it’s your job, get determined and change it. If it’s a lack of understanding, get honest and get committed to understanding. (When the student is ready, the teacher appears, right?) If you need God’s help (and you do!) then make up your mind to receive it. But, for Lord’s sake don’t just play around the edges, ‘dive’ in with all that you are! The price you pay in terms of effort will pale in comparison to your reward ~ life!
Okay, enough of the “rah-rah,” what about tomorrow and the next day and the next day. Your life; your task; your duty; your response is all centered on just one thing ~ TODAY! Live in the moment today and when it dawns on you that you’ve left today, come back to today. Don’t eat so much right now instead of trying to swear an oath for the next 6 months. Become grateful again right now. Refocus yourself right this minute. Restart with what you want again and again and again until you finally break free from the grip.
I wish I could tell you it’s easy but it’s not. It is simple, but never easy because you didn’t arrive at the place you are at overnight. It took time to wear you out in your rut and it will take time to fill in the road again. But hey, the good news is you only have to do some shoveling today. Anyone can shovel for just one day, right?
Whatever it is that you’re after, my friend, is available to you, but only when you stop all that thinking and start putting things into application. Thinking without practice is dead…
Just some good thoughts (and practices)…