A voice in the darkness

Ever felt like you are stuck in a dark place? Then this post is written just for you….

Gods first words in the human story were words spoke in the darkness – words from the darkness. Spoken by God. Spoken to breathe life into the darkness.

Out of the darkness these words were uttered:

“Let… there… be… light!”

And there was light. The first light in the universe came from the voice of God in the darkness. Gods first breathe in the universe created light.

This was the beginning. The first beginning. The first of many beginnings. This is the work of God in our lives. God enters into the darkness, unperturbed or disturbed, to bring light, growth, love, joy, peace that surpasses understanding, and all other manner of blessings as he wills.

Whenever God wants us to grow he leads us into the darkness where we are led by the spirit into the place of deepening faith and holy trust. And into our darkness He speaks ever so gently… let there be light, and Christ enters our darkness. He walks in it with us to lead us through the dark wilderness into his promised land for our lives.

Where there is darkness today God is already at work. New life will spring up at the sound of his gentle voice. Do not listen for a booming voice in the darkness. Look for the still small voice of the Spirit speaking and breathing the new life of God. God is speaking light into your darkness.

Choose to Live life

So often we rush through life not paying attention to how we live it. We rush from one situation straight into the next circumstance.

Why not take a moment today just to stop and choose how you will live today? We might not be able to choose our mood, but we can choose our attitude. How is your attitude to life today?

Mindful Reflection

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It’s that day of the year again: you know the one where we think back and look forward?!

Reflecting back is great, and helpful, and we ought to do it more. Looking back is NOT about living in the past – it IS about learning from the past in order to move forward today.

As we reflect on this year, what learning can we share with others for the coming year?

Happy New Year

Stuart

Partnership & perseverance move mountains (or fridges!)

The fridge stood in the middle of the room where the delivery guy had left it. It was huge! I unfortunately am not huge. How on earth would I move this fridge?

We’ve all had days like this: days when there’s something in our lives that appear to be immovable. It might be a big white fridge, a debt, or a housing issue. We each have our own ‘barriers to progression’ or ‘monsters to fight’. We all have complex issues facing us in our workplace or in our business. Life can be full of the immovable!

But back to the fridge…

So my fridge was intimidatingly large standing there in the middle of the room. I decided to start trying to move it. Sometimes you just need to make a start.

Sometimes you just need to make a start!

I pushed and pulled; I rocked it and tried to walk it… and I began to move it! Making a start on something is always the first step to moving the problem. But I got tired. My muscles ached. My hands got sore. My mind began telling me I couldn’t shift it. I needed help!

Sometimes you just need to ask for help!

I asked for help. A friend came round and moving the big white fridge became easier. I still felt the weight of it, but it became manageable and movable.

But what if we hadn’t been able to move the fridge? We couldn’t just leave it in the middle of the room. We would have kept on trying until that fridge was moved, plugged in, and working as it was designed to work. We would have persevered!

Sometimes you just need to persevere!

We all have the metaphorical fridge in the middle of the room. Who can you help today to move theirs?

 

I have a dream you can’t let go of

I woke up this morning with Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in my head.

What would’ve happened if Dr King had not pursued the dream?

What would’ve happened if he listened to those around him who said ‘its too big a dream to achieve’?

What would’ve happened if He just stayed silent?

I’ll tell you what would’ve happened:

Equality today would look less equal!

Humanity would feel less human!

Dr King would have lived an ordinary life.

Why settle for ordinary when you can live your dream? Whatever the dream, if it benefits others – hold it, live it, and word to make it a reality.

016 Litter Trays, Sand therapy & the value you give to yourself

I have had a number of conversations recently about the value of ‘things’; the value we add to those around us; and the value of learning. I love the idea of Adding Value – I first came across it in a little book by John Maxwell called 360 Leader. This book impacted me with it’s core idea of adding value wherever you are in life and work. It looks at adding value regardless (or in spite of) your position or role.

Value is important. But more importantly… YOU are important.

Why is it so hard for us to accept our own importance and value? We look at celebrities, scientists, teachers, business people, etc, and we think I’m nowhere near as cool, famous, valued, important, clever (add your own chatter-box-mind description) as they are.

The good news is this – that thought is so off the mark! We are made for so much more than being the little guy with nothing of value to give to the world. We are each here for a purpose. You have a destiny; a reason for being. You have value to add to those around you. So why do we think we do not. I think the answer is in the litter tray!

At work this week we got a small shipment of cat litter trays. A pile of blue plastic trays in which you put a load of tiny white stones in which your cat will then deposit all its crap! Do you ever feel like a litter tray? Do you ever have those days when you feel that you’re being dumped on?! Days when you feel crap. Days when you feel that no one values who you really are. Days when you don’t want to show other people who you really are. Those days can easily become weeks, months or even years. Years of being dumped on and undervalued.

So why is a therapy centre receiving a shipment of litter trays?

Our training manager runs courses on “Sand-play therapy“. Sand Play therapy aims to help people overcome life difficulties and traumas by encouraging the client to create a therapeutic world in the sand to safely explore and be in control of processing life. Our cat litter trays which are used for cat-waste are transformed into something which helps people to recover from life’s traumas – they find their true value whilst adding value to others!

They find their true value whilst adding value to others

How do you value YOU?

Life is full of ups and downs. At the moment do you feel life people just ‘dump on you’ and make you feel of little value? Are you feeling that you have value to offer and give to others (through firstly attributing value to yourself)?

Don’t let yourself be someone elses’ dumping ground – position yourself to be a person of value; be someone who adds value to those around you. Just like I need to choose how to use the blue plastic trays, each of us needs to choose how we will use our lives.

Let your true value shine out. Let your sense of purpose rise up so that others see your skills; your accumulated knowledge of the world; your experiences; your funny stories; your musical genius. Whatever it is that makes you, YOU…let it out. Unleash yourself on the world and look for opportunities to add value and to be valued.

015 Finding your purpose and some Japanese thinking (Ikigai)

I recently wrote about how knowing your purpose is a key to living in joy. But what if we don’t know our purpose? What if we’ve never been able to work it out? – Then this post will really, practically help you…

Maksud continued to wander the wilderness, the cold east wind blowing her hair across her face. Strands of her long black hair blew into her eyes as she battled against the wind and sand, still unsure of her destination. She looked up from the ground into the distance, something mystically arising within her soul: Something that felt like hope despite the harshness of her surroundings. She had heard in the distant past that sometimes hope defies reality. She stared hard into the distance, willing some glimmer to appear. Maksud reminded herself that sometimes a glimmer of hope is all you need to feed the thirsty longing of your soul. Just for a second she thought she saw a shadow through the blowing sands. 

Have you ever felt like Maksud? Your direction in life seems shrouded in shifting sands which blind you to the direction your life should take. It’s easy to feel like there’s no point – no purpose. It’s easy to feel that you are wandering while everyone else is ‘living a purposeful life’. Can I encourage you?

Let hope arise – sometimes hope defies (or changes) your reality

In this post I want to provide you with a practical idea based on a Japanese concept called ‘Ikigai‘ which may inspire hope to rise, and glimmers to appear in how you think about your purpose in life. You have something to offer the world that no one else can give. You are unique in the life experiences, education, skills, knowledge and ideas that fill you. No one else is like you, and no one else can give what you can give in the way that you can give it. In your life you will connect with people that others cannot connect with and you will speak into their lives in very unique ways. Understanding your sense of purpose is vital in this.

Seven Benefits of living your purpose

  1. You will be more focused – purpose directs your decisions, journey and destination because you will have a stronger sense of meaning in life
  2. You will be more passionate, with a deeper joy in living
  3. You will be more hopeful – it is a joy to know that every day you can do something (even a small thing) that is linked to your overall purpose in life
  4. Life is more straightforward – decisions are made through being purposeful
  5. You will be more motivated – you are able to move in the direction you want and will be doing what energises you
  6. You will be more resilient – having a stronger sense of purpose means that when life is tough (as it can be often!) you have strong reasons for weathering the storms and persevering to move forward
  7. Purpose has been linked with better health and stronger personal relationships

This list is not exhaustive – there are a great many benefits a purposeful life can give to you. So how can you practically work out your purpose? Here goes…

IKIGAI

In Japan there is a simple concept called Ikigai (loosely translated it means reason for being). The image below shows the 4 main parts of Ikigai. They are:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What do you enjoy?
  3. What does the world need?
  4. What can you get paid for?

img_9767Ikigai is the place where all four ‘spheres’ connect and overlap. The original concept of Ikigai does not place importance on what you can earn because true happiness in life is not about what you accumulate in life, but rather in how you live your life. The ‘earning’ part of the model is shown because we have to consider how to survive practically in life, and there is a monetary cost to that. It’s hard to feel fulfilled when your stomach is empty!

Ikigai is also not about knowing what career to choose – a career choice should come from having a sense of purpose.

Ikigai – A Purposeful Process

Get yourself a large sheet of paper and write the 4 questions across the top of the page (see the photo below for my example)

Ikigai lists

Make Lists

Next, start listing everything you love doing under the heading “What do I love?” – be exhaustive in the list. Take your time. You might need to come back to it many times (I spent weeks reflecting on this).

It can be helpful to talk with friends or family to get their ideas (but only write down what is true for you, not them!). This list is likely to be your longest list: add sports; musical interests; work ideas; creativity pursuits; tasks; everything you can think of that makes you feel happy!

Then do the same for the next three questions. Be sure to write as many things as you can think of. Put down everything you think is relevant to each question. Remember there is no wrong thing to write – you can always cross it out again – it’s vital to the process. Allow yourself to dream, but keep it real.

Look for ‘themes’

Once you have done this, look at each list and begin to look for what words or ideas reoccur – circle these as shown on my example – you should now be seeing how some of the initial ideas on the ‘love list’ are also on your other lists (if not, should they be?) – seeing words and phrases on 3-4 of the lists will help you see the parts of a greater ‘purpose’ or sense of meaning for you.

In the lists above, the person listed things like ‘inspiring others’, ‘telling stories’ and ‘teaching stuff’ – each of these could easily join together into the role of a Teacher. They also said they were good at ‘explaining things’ – a great teaching skill! They had always seen ‘public speaking’ as a presentation skill, but never as a teaching skill – this process changed their view and allowed their mind to open to wider possibilities!

Create a Purpose Statement for your life

Take the reoccurring statements from your first three lists and try to craft them into a statement of purpose for your life – this is perhaps the hardest part of the exercise. It will take time. You will need to draft , draft and redraft until you are content with the statement you have made. This part of the process took me over a month!

Ikigai does not guarantee that you will be happy in life, but the process will lead you to a clearer idea of what your purpose in life actually is. The purpose statement that flowed from the example above ended up being…

Inspiring others to learn from life through teaching, speaking and writing

Notice that this statement doesn’t mention their career – your career choices will flow from your sense of purpose. They could be a blogger, motivational speaker, teacher, life coach, youth worker, or a travelling preacher and still live their life ‘on purpose’.

Make choices based on your Purpose Statement

By the time you are reflecting on ‘What can I get paid for?’ you should have a ‘glimmer’ (or a clear insight) of what your purpose looks like. The person above knew before this point that they needed to work with young people and that they needed to be doing public speaking because it gave them a massive sense of happiness and energy.

If your purpose statement was about being fabulous in finances and impacting the banking world, you would not then choose a career path as a train driver. You would make choices that facilitate the fulfilling of your purpose. You would aim to work in finance, and to grow in depth of knowledge and experience with which you might make an impact. Growing in your purpose requires narrowing down your options – this is one of the ways you will become more focused.

Moving forward on Purpose

It is important to point out that purpose is not always about what career you have (although it can be). Purpose is about what gives your life meaning and this differs for each of us. Our situation in life can deeply influence our sense of purpose. A Japanese lady who was struggling with her purpose came to the conclusion that her purpose was to be the best mother to her children possible.

The key thing in finding purpose is about happiness – what will give you joy while you are giving yourself to the world around you? As you move forward keep on reflecting on your purpose – continue to draw on it in your life choices as you aim to live it out with passion, energy and meaning.

Mark Twain

I must point out that knowing your purpose does not make your life easier (it might make it harder!) – it makes it more fulfilled (but only when you life according to your purpose. Living out your purpose will require grit, determination and a lot of perseverance. Other people will always try to get you to live according to their purpose for your life – stay focused and stay on your track – it will be worth it in the end.

May you know an ever deepening sense of happiness as you  uncover your sense of purpose and give back to the world around you.

If you have found this article helpful please leave me a comment below, or drop me an email to let me know how it has helped you. You might also wish to share it with your friends, or on social media – this would be kind, and appreciated.  With warm regards, Stuart.