4 Ways to Finish with Success

4 Ways to Finish with Success

At the end of 2018, our team decided to focus on finishing well by reading Jon Acuff‘s book, Finish. It was a great book to end the year with, but as I was reading, I couldn’t help but wish I had these tools at the beginning of 2018. My goals were already set, completed, or abandoned by that point. But the great thing about goals is that you don’t need a new year to start (even though it is pretty handy that 2019 just started).

I’ll be honest – I rarely finish books like this. But with a title like Finish, I knew this was one that would bother me if it stayed on my bedside table without getting read. Thanks to Jon’s ideas, I was able to read some parts and audiobook other parts without feeling like I was cheating – I simply finished and that felt great!

As Teen Life looks forward to 2019, we will be using many of the tips, tidbits, and tools from Jon’s book. While I will recommend that you pick up your own copy, here are 4 things that can help you get started as you set your own goals this year.

 

Take the Pressure Off

One of the first chapters in Finish is called “The Day After Perfect.” Man, this one hit me hard. It is easy to set a goal and excel at it for a few days, weeks, or maybe even months. But what happens when you mess up your perfect streak? How do you recover when you eat a pizza buffet instead of grilled chicken and spinach? How do you show your face at the gym again when its been a few weeks and you’ve lost your progress? It is so easy to slip into bad habits of staying up late, letting our houses get too messy, relying on our phone when we get bored, or focusing on the easy things at work instead of the important things.

Once we have a bad day, our goal is easy to abandon. Forget the new shoes you bought, the fancy planner, or that expensive gym membership – one mistake can derail progress, and that is wrong!

So instead, take the pressure off. Give up the idea that you are going to be perfect this year. Expect the imperfections instead of quitting when you meet them. In this chapter, Jon Acuff writes, “You will not be perfect, but do you know what’s even more important than perfection? … Moving forward imperfectly. Reject the idea that the day after perfect means you’ve failed. That’s just not true. You get to try again. Today, tomorrow, next week.”

 

Set Achievable Goals

Along with this idea of perfectionism comes the idea that a goal isn’t worth having if it isn’t the biggest and best. Who wants to lose 5 pounds when you could drop 30? It sounds so much better to say you are training for a marathon instead of a 5K. No one wants to set foundational goals for business when doubling income or growing to a new state is more exciting. But it is incredibly defeating when you set a goal that is out of reach, so Acuff suggests that you “cut your goal in half”.

Just like we talked about before, if you set a goal that is too big, the perfectionist in you is going to quit. Often, we would rather quit than fail. It makes us feel better to say we gave that goal up before we had a chance to fall short. Jon suggests that we stack the odds by making our goals more attainable. He doesn’t say that we should do less work, only that we should set goals that are within reach so that we will be motivated to do more and actually finish. When you reach that attainable goal, you are more likely to keep going day after day, month after month. You will do more with smaller goals than a big goal that you gave up on!

So cut your goal in half or give yourself more time! Try to lose 5 pounds this month instead of 10 (that way if you lose 8, you’ll have exceeded your goal instead of failing). Give yourself a week to reorganize your entire house instead of only taking a weekend. Grow your current business before choosing to add a completely new product. By setting realistic goals, you will do more and finish!

 

Make it Fun

In his book, Acuff says, “Perfectionism believes that the harder something is, the more miserable something is, the better it is. The lie it tells you is: Fun doesn’t count.” Does anyone else identify with this lie? I hate to run. I don’t really care if it will help me get in shape, lose weight, or be healthier. It’s the worst, so I don’t do it. Maybe signing up for a marathon shouldn’t be my goal anytime soon…Instead, I need to set a goal that is fun for me – like signing up for a cycling class or meeting friends to walk (and talk) outside. Your goal does not have to make you miserable, and if it is something that you hate, you probably won’t push through the hard days and imperfections to finish.

We need to find new and inventive ways to make goals fun again! Maybe that means doing research for work in the form of an interesting podcast or audiobook while you are driving. Or maybe you find ways to reward progress for a goal that is inherently “not fun”. Plan a beach trip after you drop the weight or get on Facebook for 5 minutes after you’ve worked hard at your goal for an hour straight. It is not cheating to enjoy your goals – you just have to get a little creative!

 

Eliminate Distractions

Now that we have tackled some of the lies of perfectionism, we have to protect ourselves from the destruction of distraction. Sometimes these distractions are intentional, sometimes they seem important and validated, often they could wait until after you completed your goal. Honestly, I am not good at staying away from distractions. It is something I still struggle with, but now that I am aware of what I am doing, these distractions are easier to overcome.

Do you ever say, “Let me check my phone really quick…”, and then look up an hour later find yourself deep in the depths of “Best Dressed” pictures from the latest awards show? Or did you glance at Facebook only to stumble across pictures of that high school friend who you haven’t seen in years. Your phone (with its social media apps and addicting games) can be a slippery slope. Or do you ever start you work day with a big goal only to spend the first couple of hours cleaning out your email and unsubscribing from every spam newsletter? That is a distraction.

Many times I will reach for the easy thing over the important thing. Not that the easy task shouldn’t get done at some point, but often I use it as a distraction to keep myself busy so I don’t feel bad about not getting to the difficult, time-consuming task that has to come next. I love Jon Acuff’s suggestion that you should ask your spouse or a close friend what your distractions or “hiding places” are. Chances are, they know them even if you don’t realize they are there. Let’s make an effort to set aside distractions (even noble ones) to get our goals finished!

 

We talk about goals often in our Teen Life Support Groups. We encourage teenagers to set small goals that they can accomplish that week and then we continue to build on them week after week. We ask them what worked and what was hard. We give new ideas for how to tweak goals moving forward to have the most success. Why does this make sense for teenagers and not for us? Why can I give better advice to others and then struggle with my own goals on a weekly basis?

In 2019, I hope you will join me in finishing. I hope you will change your expectations, set small, fun goals that you can build on, and minimize distraction for success. We can do this. We can finish!

 

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Marketing & Development Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
You Are What You Eat

You Are What You Eat

It’s that time of year. For a majority of my adult life, late December brings on loads of ambition. This will be the year. I’m gonna lose weight, get in better shape, read some more books, and in general – dominate life. We all feel it, right?

Gym membership deals are flooding our mailbox while visions of what could be possible flood our imaginations. Maybe this is the year we will get out of debt. What if I actually got my act together on all of the things I have neglected to this point?

We all love the opportunity to start over. This is the great part of living in a free society – we get to choose our direction. If we want to be successful, generally with the right tools and support, we can do so. If we want to be a drain on society, there is an option to do that as well!

This is the time of year where making good choices seems not only possible, but likely. We are filled with a sense of hope and optimism that next year could be better than the last.

But it all starts somewhere, and it does begin with a choice. The older I get, I’m realizing it is all about consumption. We are consumers, and live as such. As consumers, we consume. There is no way around consumption – it is part of being human.

Let me give you an example. Back in my younger days, I would listen to political talk radio when I would drive. I would drive a lot as a part of my job, so I would spend hours listening to radio hosts talk passionately (and angrily) about their political viewpoint. For me, the angrier the better. At that time in my life, I thought if the person was more passionate and loud about a topic, they could be trusted.

But I started to notice a few things. First of all, these hosts would talk about people with opposing viewpoints with flippancy and disrespect. They would use insults and call people names. I remember thinking one day that I would never let my children talk about someone that way. So, why was I justified to listen?

More importantly, I realized how I felt after listening to these radio shows. I felt angry and distrustful of everyone. My worldview felt narrow and uninformed. In short, I didn’t like how I felt about myself or the world after consuming these programs.

The same could be said of watching cable news or surfing political websites. I just didn’t like how I felt after I would do those things.

So, I stopped. I can’t recall if it was cold turkey, but I don’t do that anymore. And guess what? Things changed. I started being more selective about what I listened to and watched as it pertained to political and social commentary. I started seeing a more hopeful and meaningful world ahead of me. I found out that people do not exist in worlds of black and white but of layered nuance.

Simply put, I changed what I consumed and things were better. We are what we eat, folks – whether it is food, social media, television, movies, all of it. And, I am coming to believe it starts there.

I could start running 5 times a week and not loose a pound if I don’t change what I eat. It all starts with what we consume.

So, as this time of hopefulness and motivation is upon us, let us focus on our choices and what we consume. Here are a few things to think about:

  1. How do you feel after you consume things like social media, entertainment, digital devices, food, etc?
  2. How defensive are you about these things when confronted?
  3. How hard do you think it would be to quit one of these things cold turkey?

Any strong feelings or emotions around any of these three questions lets you know there might be something to explore. Trust me, there is something to it.

Find a friend, make a plan, pray, and get to consuming something else. Our life could change for the better if we had the courage to consume better.

Chris Robey, Teen Life’s Program Director, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
3 Conversations to Have Before School Starts

3 Conversations to Have Before School Starts

It is that back-to-school time of the year again!

I can hear the cheers and tears from the Teen Lifeline office. Whether you are looking forward to getting back to a routine, wondering how your baby has grown into a high school senior, or are trying to figure out how your youth ministry is going to hold up against football season – you have a role to play in this upcoming school year!

Before teenagers start back at their Middle or High Schools, or the graduates leave home to start their college adventures, take time to have bold, encouraging conversations! You have an opportunity to help students set goals and think about where they want to be at the end of this 2016-2017 school year.

By having healthy conversations (check out this blog post), this school year can get off to a great start from the very first day! Here are some goals to help teenagers think about before they start school:

Grades

Grades are important. They help you graduate high school and get scholarships for college. They are a reflection of what you have learned and how hard you have worked at a particular subject.

However, grades don’t define your student or their worth. Students will put pressure on themselves about what kind of grades they should be making before you say a word. Instead of starting out the school year with a lecture about responsibility, finishing homework before video games or the consequences for poor test grades, ask your student these questions:

  • What do you want your grades to look like at the end of this school year?
  • If you improved your grades and school work from last year, what would that look like?
  • How can I help you succeed this school year?

If you allow them to set their own goals, they will take more ownership in their school work. Instead of working toward your expectation, they will be stepping up to the standards they set for themselves – what better lesson could you teach a teenager? Help them set realistic goals and hold them accountable throughout the year with {friendly} reminders. Don’t expect your B student to make a 4.0 this school year, but encourage them to improve and continue to grow!

Friends

As you know, friends and peers have a huge influence during teenage years. They can impact grades, decisions, activities and attitude. While they are old enough to choose their own friends, as the adult it is okay for you guide them in these choices. When it comes to friendships they have at school, start a conversation by asking these questions:

  • What relationship last year provided the most encouragement?
  • How do your friendships impact your performance at school or in extracurriculars?
  • Are their any relationships that provided drama or stress? What can you do to make that relationship healthier?

They probably aren’t going to react well if you ban them from hanging out with their best friend. But maybe you can open up the door for healthy conversation if you ask them to share first. Teenagers are smarter than we often give them credit for! If they are in an unhealthy relationship, let them talk through what that looks like and what they could do to either get rid of the friendship or set up healthier boundaries.

Extracurriculars 

It seems like today’s teenagers are busier than ever. Not only are they expected to go to school during the week and church on the weekends, but they also have to be involved in multiple extracurriculars, join school clubs and complete crazy amounts of service hours.

That is what colleges expect, right?

Extracurriculars are good and character building, but it is important for students to set goals not only on how to better themselves through these activities, but also how to find margin and rest in the midst of their busy schedules. Especially if you are talking to a teenager who is involved in multiple sports, activities or volunteer opportunities, encourage them to set healthy goals by asking these questions:

  • How many extracurriculars do you think you’ll have time for with school and other responsibilities?
  • How can you improve and use these experiences to help you in the future?
  • What can you do to make time for rest, friends and fun?

Have them prioritize their activities – there may be some new opportunities that arise this year, but if it passes what they can handle, it is not worth taking it on. They are teenagers, but they are still allowed to have fun! Please don’t allow your teenager to live like an adult. Help them take advantage of the freedom and fun that comes with adolescence. If they feel like they need to give up an activity to better balance their time, help them make the decision that is best for them (even if it means giving up that sport you love).


 

You have the power and the opportunity to help teenagers see their future and set goals to reach it. Ask good questions, listen with empathy and work together to set realistic goals that will allow them to not only enjoy but also take advantage of their teenage years.

Are you willing to have these conversations? Share what goals the teenagers you talk to set! How will you help hold them accountable?

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Lifeline’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.