When Have I Done Enough?

Years ago, my friend Natalie taught a lesson during our women’s meeting at church about “Having Temperance in All Things”, which had a profound effect on me. I’d like to share my epiphany.

First, let’s establish a definition:

Temperance = moderation and self-restraint

Before her lesson, I’d say I easily understood the concept of “moderation” in terms of harmful substances (like sweets), or addictive behaviors (like binge-watching your favorite shows). But when I thought about what temperance in ALL things means, I had some trouble.

For example, I was never very good at knowing how to be temperate in goal achievement. I’d aim high, and then I’d overbook myself and get overwhelmed by all that needed to be accomplished.

I didn’t know at what point I could take a break and say, “I’ve done enough.”

Part of the problem was that I truly had the mindset that I could do anything – and that there was no such thing as doing “too much”.  I didn’t always know how to temper my ambitions, because frankly, they helped me achieve some things that I was pretty happy about.

However, sometimes my mortal body couldn’t keep up with the pace of my thoughts and expectations, and so predictably, I went through periods of unbridled ambition, followed by periods of crashing and burning, until I regained my strength to start it all over again.

I’m telling you, that kind of pattern can eventually break a person, like bending a metal rod back and forth until it finally snaps.

According to the Law of Cause and Effect, I knew that each time I took a step toward my goal, it took a step toward me. So I wondered, “How could it ever be okay to stop stepping?” Well, that morning before church it felt like I was on the verge of another crash-and-burn, so I prayed for insight. I wanted to know how I could keep making progress without burning myself out or incinerating my relationships.

We got to church and during the third hour, I joined the ladies meeting.

That’s when Natalie, at the front of the room, began. She said:

I like to make cookies.  In fact, I have a wonderful recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies that just works. Over the years I’ve used it, as long as I follow the right steps, we predictably end up with perfectly delicious cookies.

If I set the timer for 13 minutes and take them out when it dings, they’re perfect.  But if I get busy and ignore the timer, pretty soon I’ll start to smell them, and by then it’s too late. Even if I get a whiff and then run to take them out, it’s too late. They’ll be hard, dark, and good for nothing, except to be thrown away.

So, after mixing all the ingredients together, letting them bake is one of the most important parts – otherwise, you just don’t have a cookie. But baking them for the right amount of time determines whether or not they will turn out good. That’s why the timer is so important: to help you make sure the cookies don’t burn.

Life is the same way.

When you’re trying to accomplish something good, your energy and attention on the goal is one of the most important parts, like heat in the oven baking a batch of cookies.  However, you’ve got to turn off the energy and attention when the “timer” dings, or you just might ruin it all. So listen for (and heed) that inner voice that says, “Ding! That’s enough…”

Wow. I got it. I finally understood how too much of a good thing can be bad.

That lesson had a profound and lasting effect on me. I was amazed and grateful that the Lord answered my question so directly, so clearly, and so quickly! For the first time in my life I could finally understand that yes, there IS such thing as too much, and if you push the limits, you run the risk of ruining everything.

Too much of even the most wonderful things can turn into something bad. So remember:

When the “dinger” rings, it’s not just okay to stop, it’s critical!

Finding that middle place, finding your “13 minutes”, is so important. We have to trust that it is by “small and simple things” (instead of longer-than necessary intensity on things) that “great things are brought to pass”. Choosing this belief and abiding by it is an act of faith of the highest order.

After my epiphany that day, I tried to listen more carefully to the Spirit of God that serves as my “timer”. It quietly alerts me when I’m pushing things too long or too far. And instead of rationalizing that “I can still do MORE!”, I try to remember burnt cookies, so that 1) my goal can get just the right amount of energy, and 2) so that I can also avoid burning myself out as well.

As for the Law of Cause and Effect? Well, sometimes the right action is to take no action at all.

Natalie concluded her lesson that day by giving us each a perfectly formed cookie and saying:

“Careful baking is what determines the quality of my cookie, and temperance in my actions determines the quality of my life.”

Thank you, Natalie, for being an instrument in God’s hands that day. My prayer was answered (and my family thanks you for it, too!)  🙂 Originally published Mar 27, 2010


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Hope Like a Balloon

Hot air balloons. Helium balloons. Truly magical, if you don’t understand the science behind their buoyancy. And even magical if you do, in my opinion.

Do you remember how it was to experience your first helium balloon?  When you were a child, were you astounded at how everything else you knew fell downward… except that beautiful, shiny ball in the air? It did two things: it ascended upward, and it helped you feel happier.

As you got older, maybe you allowed it to become more of a a commonplace phenomenon.

Even now, every time I stop to think about it, my spirits are lifted as I watch the pull of a balloon rising in the opposite direction of everything else around it.

All it is, is a container full of a gas that happens to be lighter than the oxygen/carbon dioxide mixture in the air, and when a balloon is full of a gas that is lighter than the gas mixture of its surroundings, it naturally rises above them.

Our thoughts, kept buoyant by focusing on the positive, also have the ability to pull US up and out of downer circumstances.

Every time you consciously choose a solution-oriented, hopeful, enthusiastically-expectant-of-good-things kind of thought, you fill your MIND with stuff that is lighter in nature than the common thoughts of negativity and discouragement.

It’s science:

Hopeful, buoyant thoughts do more than just help you feel good; they literally LIFT you above adversity like helium in a balloon.

So fill your mind with light-thinking, and in time, you’ll naturally rise above the gunk. The stuff that pulls you down will fall out of your life, like ballast out of a hot air balloon.

For a tank full of helium of the mind, I strongly recommend joining me in the Mindset Mastery Program.

I’ll help you keep your thoughts buoyant. I’ll give you REASON to hope, and a valid reason to have it, too. I’ll fill your mind with the stuff that will help you rise above your challenges, no matter what they are.

To your success! Originally published Oct 27, 2009

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Why I Needed to Have a Bad Day

A number of  years ago I was having a particularly horrible, edgy day. I was angry at everyone, and everything around me. Even things that weren’t all that bad felt intolerable. I don’t even know what originally set me off, but I was totally out of emotional control.

And then the final straw: doggie poop in the back yard.

That was it. We had already had a pow wow with our children the month before, and the deal was agreed: they needed to pitch in on his poop and start caring for him without being reminded, or we’d need to find him a better home. Don’t judge me.

With seven children between the ages of 3 and 17, surely one of them would care enough about keeping our basset hound to show some initiative.

But unfortunately, it had been about four weeks, and only once had one of the children cleaned up his poop independently.

He was already listed in one classified ad, and we had received two calls up to that point. But we also had a list describing the perfect home (it would need to be a step up), and we weren’t going to give him away unless we found a home that matched the list.

But on this day, I was especially upset about the poop and determined to place another ad to speed up the process. My 14 year-old son saw me typing furiously on the computer and asked, “What are you doing?”

“Placing another ad for Charlie.”

“What?!” He was devastated. He couldn’t believe I was actually going to go through with it, and was horrified to find out this wasn’t my first ad. Finding no sympathy from me, he stormed out of the house to cool off. Naturally, I felt horrible. Total mom failure.

But a few days later I found out how God used me, even though I was a mess, to accomplish his purposes:

On the day I placed that ad, my younger ten year old son was across the neighborhood coming home from the park on his bike. His pant leg had gotten caught in the bike chain while he was on a street that we rarely traverse. He was stuck, alone, and didn’t have the strength to pull it out. That’s when my 14 year-old wandered into that remote area of the neighborhood, just looking for some time away from his cranky mother. But in reality, he was being LED to rescue his brother, and didn’t even realize it.

Now, I don’t think God purposely ticks me off so he can set up a rescue; but he does know me, and he knows my weaknesses, and miraculously, and mercifully, he even uses my weaknesses to accomplish his purposes. Knowing this helps me feel like everything is going to turn out okay, if I just keep trying and trust that the Lord is in the details, even on the days when I’m at my worst.

Think about that: perhaps all is NOT lost when you feel like a failure; in fact, I’m certain that quite often, there is more good that comes out of those experiences than we realize.

So keep your chin up, and if you want to learn more about how you can get really great results in spite of yourself, find out how in the Mindset Mastery Program. You really don’t have to be perfect to enjoy wonderful results. Originally published November 6, 2009

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