Service Creates Sanctuaries of Belonging

Too often I fall in the selfish camp, but I’ve found that the best way to forget my worries and struggles is to set them aside and find someone I can serve.

In the words of Neal Maxwell:

So often what people need is to be enveloped in the raiment of real response.

So often what people need is to be sheltered from the storms of life in the sanctuary of belonging. Such a service cannot be rendered by selfish people, however, because the response of the selfish will always be that there is no room in the inn. Chronic self-concern means that the “No Vacancy” sign is always posted.

Often the best “self care” is to forget ourselves and focus on serving someone else. This doesn’t need to be through a service project or a grand display of charity. It can simply be accomplished by finding someone who’s struggling and being a light to them. A smile. An act of kindness. A helping hand.

We can all become sanctuaries of belonging.

Daily Gratitude: Good Neighbors (Day 1,800)

In April 2017 I kicked off a gratitude challenge where I wrote a daily blog post for 30 days (more on my learnings here). When the challenge ended I decided to continue the habit but only occasionally share these gratitudes on my blog. 

What does it mean to me to be neighborly?

When we moved to a new house in California, my wife decided she was going to get to know our neighbors. She made a huge batch of cookies and we started making visits. Relationships were formed and over the four years we lived in that house we developed meaningful friendships. 

Next door lived a women and two of her adult children. After eating my wife’s cookies, they wanted to do something nice. So the next time they went to the movies, they brought us back a tub of popcorn. My kids made paintings to say thank you. They then bought toys for our kids. This cycle went on and on.

When we had new babies, they came over to welcome them and looked for ways to help with the transition (that baby is almost 6 now!). We didn’t live near family, so it was special feeling that kind of love.

Had it not been for my wife deciding we were going to be good neighbors, we would have missed out on these relationships and memories.

To me, being neighborly means serving others when they’re in need. But it also means letting others serve YOU. Everyone wants to feel useful and filled with purpose. Everyone wants a sense of connection.

What does being neighborly mean to you?

3 Daily Practices to Thrive During COVID-19 (Episode 5)

I don’t know about you, but for much of this COVID period, I’ve been in survival mode, learning on the fly how to cope with this new reality. But recently, I was challenged to look at things from a different perspective.

Rather than merely survive during this period, what if it were possible to truly thrive? What if it were possible in one year to look back and say that we experienced more personal growth and were more productive during this time than any other?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to believe that, while difficult, holding a new perspective is possible. In this video, I share 3 daily practices for thriving during COVID-19 and any other challenging period.

For more videos, click here.

4 Ways to Conquer Career and Workplace Stress

“I don’t know why this is so hard. Are you stupid or something?”

I was already under a lot of stress. These words from my manager only made matters worse. New to my job, I was working around the clock building a complex financial model for a software company our firm was advising.

A few numbers in the model weren’t adding up, and my manager was in my face, demanding to know why. The tension had been building inside of me for weeks. I knew if I didn’t find an outlet, I’d fall apart.

This kind of workplace stress is something we all deal with at some point, regardless of our career focus or goals. While many view it as entirely negative, stress is not inherently bad. In fact, a certain level of stress can improve your focus and sharpen your attention.

But for many, stress can become debilitating. Left unchecked, stress can reach a point when it negatively impacts your career, life and health. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced this firsthand.

But situations like that manager questioning my intelligence don’t have the same negative impact as they once did. As time has passed, I’ve learned techniques for overcoming triggers that cause stress.

Here are four ways I conquer career and workplace stress so I can perform at a high level:

Stay Active

The benefits of exercise are well known, so there’s no need to expound on those. The tough part is making time to exercise. This is no easy task, but I’ve found that blocking off time in my calendar is critical. If I don’t set aside a specific time to exercise, it doesn’t happen. If there’s no time for an extended workout, even 15 minutes of exercise will give you a boost of energy and relieve stress.

About a year ago, I started the habit of going on short walks throughout the day. Taking a moment to get up from my desk and go outside is always refreshing. These walks elevate my heart rate, if only for a few minutes, and enable me to go back to my work with renewed focus.

Read a Good Book

Social media has become ubiquitous, and the next post, tweet or status update is always one click away. At the same time, book reading has steadily declined. Too many of us miss out on the many benefits of reading good books.

A few years ago I was challenged by a professor to read 30 books in a year. He promised that doing so would help me think more strategically. As I worked toward this goal, I found reading was a great stress reliever. We all are constantly pulled in a number of directions, and balancing it all takes a toll. Reading good books can be relaxing, help you sleep better, and reduce your stress. (If you’re looking for ways to read more, here’s a great resource.)

Write It Down

One of the best ways to conquer stress is to simply write down how you’re feeling. What’s bothering you? Why is it bothering you? What are some ways to take action? Taking a moment to reflect and write down what you’re experiencing will provide relief.

The writing process also provides clarity of thought. You can put pen to paper or keep a digital record on your computer or phone. The benefits are there regardless of the medium. Keeping a journal and writing down my thoughts and feelings has allowed me to compartmentalize my frustrations. Writing will help you find clearer solutions to your problems and enable you to focus on what you can control.

Find Someone to Serve

Shortly after finishing college, my company went bankrupt and I was out of a job. It was the height of the great recession and I struggled to find work. During one rough stretch, I was encouraged to serve others, and I volunteered to organize service projects at my church.

One Sunday morning I was coordinating parking for a large church meeting. Our parking lot was fairly small, and my job was to direct cars to the various parking lots nearby. A heavy rainstorm struck shortly before the meeting and I stood in the rain for several hours.

By the end of the meeting I was completely soaked, but I had never felt better. Serving others had a cleansing effect on my soul and eliminated the selfish cares that were holding me down. I’ve found the fastest way to forget your own needs is to focus on the needs of others. This may sound counterintuitive, but it works.

Next time you’re overcome by career stress, try one of these four techniques. Go for a walk or run, read a good book, write down how you’re feeling, or find someone to serve. The benefits are real and immediate.

Don’t let stress debilitate you. Take action. Be proactive. Learning how to effectively conquer stress will enable you to achieve greater career success than you can imagine. Invest in yourself by implementing one of these four practices today. You won’t regret it.