I’ve always considered myself a fairly competent person.
At school I did well at sports, and I was always a straight-A student. And I liked being good at things. I liked that there was a right answer – that if I just dedicated myself to it, and worked hard, I would find it. And to be honest, I’ve always known how to get an A, even an A+.
Then I had children.
And suddenly it felt like I was getting nothing right – let alone everything right. Tantrums, fights with my wife, confusion and uncertainty over boundaries and discipline. It all just felt so grey. So messy.
We all want to be A+ parents, and A+ partners, and A+ employees, and A+ daughters, sons, friends. But A+ applies to things that have yes/no, black/white, right/wrong answers. Like multiple choice tests and math.
A+ has no real place in relationships, no place in living.
Because relationships aren’t A+ games, they are C- games.
I read that on a blog once. Let me say it again…
The best grade you are ever going to get in parenting, or relationships in general for that matter, is a C-.
Initially my perfectionism pushed back against this – “No way – that’s just compromising. Settling.” I can do better. But there is actually research to back this up.
In the healthiest parent-child relationships, and even adult-adult relationships, we spend about 30% of our time misreading each others’ cues and disappointing each other.
So, even when we are operating from a place of ease and connection, we only get it ‘Right’ about 70% of the time.
That’s a C- I’m afraid.
But here’s the irony – what I’ve found in my own life and in my own parenting, is that the more you try to get a “better grade” – read exactly what the other person needs all the time, the worse you do, because you are now anxious and operating from your own need to be perfect, rather than being present with your child or the other person.
Someone once said to me – and it really hit home for me – that when it comes to parenting “good enough is good enough”. And that truth has been so freeing for me, and for our family.
Children do better, we do better, all our relationships do better, when we’re OK with a C minus, rather than an A+.
When we accept that we aren’t going to understand our own needs a lot of the time, let alone someone else’s, we relax and increase our compassion for our own mistakes and others’. When we accept that we are human. That only God is the perfect parent. And that’s OK.
We are always going to get it “wrong,” every single day, multiple times per day. You’re going to be firm when your child needed soft, or soft when your child needed firm. You’re going to talk when your partner needs you to listen, or listen when your partner needs you to talk. You cannot do ‘Right’ all the time.
Accepting ‘good enough’ is a gift we give ourselves and others. Accepting ‘good enough’ allows for us to clarify our needs to express them more clearly, to apologise when we misread someone’s needs or hurt them.
Most importantly, accepting ‘good enough’ is crucial to empathy. You will have more empathy for yourself, more empathy for your partner or mother-in-law, more empathy for your wild, clumsy, sensitive child. And your child in turn will develop more empathy, as he or she sees you failing and trying again, being open about your own shortcomings, and loving yourself for your beautiful C-.
The world is divided
And we – you and me – are the ones dividing it.
It’s part of human nature.
We set up barriers, boundaries, divisions – these walls that separate and segregate.
Us vs them, black vs white, rich vs poor, in vs out, gay vs straight.
And we go to great lengths to build these walls. We kill. We bomb. We comment on Facebook. We stay silent.
But the more we do, the greater the gaps between us become. Until eventually they are monstrous crevasses into which we all fall.
What is the solution? I do not know. But my hunch is that it lies somewhere in the heart of love.
“In the end we will only conserve what we love, and we will only love what we understand.” – Baba Dioum, 1968.
We only really love what we understand.
And the only way to understand is to listen.
Because when we sit and listen to someone else’s story. When we feel their pain, when we put ourselves in their shoes – then suddenly it becomes very hard to hate.
And the gap starts to close.
And that person stops becoming a “them” – part of a group we can simply generalise away – and instead they become a person to us. A real human being with a family, with friends, with insecurities, hopes and ambitions…
And the fire of hate that burns on the oxygen of “other” is snuffed out.
There is simply nothing to give it energy anymore.
It is now we.
And we are in this together.
We are in this together.
So scale a wall today, break down a barrier, walk across the room, sit with someone who doesn’t look or think or live like you, and simply listen.
In 1 Cor 9:24 the Apostle Paul writes: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
I remember the year I ran the Comrades Marathon. It was 2010 and I was aiming for a 10-hour finish time. But at 26k’s into the race, my ITB tore, and all hopes of that time – even just finishing – seemed to vanish.
But I persisted – took a few painkillers, told my running partners to go on without me, and hobbled along for the next 40km. By the time I got to Pinetown I was done. The pain was too much to bear, I felt completely alone, and I was on the verge of quitting. But then I heard a familiar voice calling out my name from behind me…
It was my mom.
She was a seasoned runner, far slower than I (not this day apparently!), and tough as nails. She caught me at the bottom of Fields Hill and we embraced each other as mother and son. We both burst into tears (mainly me) and I began to complain, “It’s too far, I’m in too much pain, I’ll never make it, I…” But before I could finish my sentence, my mother grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Tom, we can do this. I’m with you. We are going to finish this fucking race!”
It was the first time I had ever heard my mom swear, and it kind of kicked me back into gear! “Yes Mam!” I said obediently. And pretty much from then on, I followed her lead. She told me when to walk, when to run, and literally took me by the hand all the way to Durban. We crossed the finish line with 17 minutes to spare. We had done it. And I swore that day – never again!
Now the reason I tell you that story, is because perhaps today, you are feeling like I felt at the bottom of Fields Hill.
You’re tired, your worn out, perhaps you’re in pain – physical or emotional, and you’re convinced you’re not gonna make it. Perhaps you’ve been asking God for a breakthrough and you’re just not seeing it. Maybe there are relational tensions you’re dealing with. Perhaps you feel like you’re alone in this race of life.
Well if that’s you, let me encourage you from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He says, “When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience.”
In other words, he says, you were running well.
“Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up.”
He says, “Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, for God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
This is a beautiful and powerful promise.
That as a Christ-follower, we have God’s power – His energy – His Spirit – at work within us, not only giving us the desire to finish well, but the power to as well.
Just like my mother was there for me – God, our heavenly Father, is along side you.
And whatever it is you are facing, know that He is there, holding your hand, saying, “C’mon you can do this, no WE can do this!”
Phil 4:3 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Isaiah 40:28-31 says, “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
And so, my prayer for you today is that you would know you are not alone in this race we call life.
When my mom and I crossed that Comrades finish line hand-in-hand, it was a powerful and profound moment I will never forget.
And so may your strength and your courage be renewed today in Christ. May you know His presence, His power, and His provision.
And may you run, and not grow weary.
So often when preaching on a topic I find myself having to really live it out in the weeks before… This Sunday my wife & I are both preaching on giving thanks in ALL situations, and in the last 10 days the following has happened:
- I have broken my foot, requiring painful surgery.
- I’ve had to cough up over R15 000 ($1000) in unexpected car issues.
- Our cat was hit by a car and badly injured.
- My wife’s laptop was stolen.
- Our whole family got a bad gastro bug (I’ll spare you the details!)
- Plus two fairly devastating work incidents that I can’t mention.
To be honest I am feeling GRATEFUL, because there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. I am thankful for:
- The fact that we have cars.
- That our cat survived.
- Medical Aid that covers most of my surgery.
- Insurance that enables us to replace the laptop.
- Our usually very healthy family.
- My job.
This is what I’m learning:
It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy.
What is flow?
Imagine for a moment that you are running a race. Your attention is focused on the movements of your body, the power of your muscles, the force of your lungs and the feel of the street beneath your feet. You are living in the moment, utterly absorbed in the present activity. Time seems to fall away. You are tired, but you barely notice.
What you are experiencing is “flow” – also known as “the zone“.
Named by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (pronounced me-high chick-sent-me-high), flow is a state of “being completely immersed in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Flow experiences can occur in different ways for different people. For me personally, finding flow happens most easily in three activities: Surfing, preaching, and gymnastics. In all three instances I feel completely alert and in tune with my surroundings. There is a sense in which “time stands still and everything else fades away except the task at hand”.
But it’s not just sports. Others might find flow while painting, drawing, or writing. Even everyday life provides opportunities for flow. If you’ve ever lost an afternoon to a great conversation or gotten so involved in a work project that all else is forgotten, then you’ve tasted “the zone”.
The Benefits of Flow
The flow state has been described as “the ultimate experience”. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energised, and aligned with the task at hand. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture – producing high levels of gratification, and even lasting contentment after the fact.
Did you get that? Finding flow for just 15min in the day, can make you happier for the rest of it.
In addition to making you happier, researchers have also found that flow can dramatically improve performance and learning across a wide variety of areas.
Nowhere is this more obvious then in the emerging world of action and adventure sports. As Steven Kotler – author of “The Rise of Superman” – writes, “Over the past three decades [these athletes] have pushed human performance farther and faster than at any other point in the 150,000 year history of our species.”
For these guys finding flow is a matter of life or death.
Whether that’s scaling a sheer cliff-face without ropes, riding monstrous waves, or clearing giant gaps on a skateboard – these “impossible” athletic feats are now actually helping scientists to decipher the mysteries of flow, so that we can apply this knowledge across all domains of society.
Where is your flow?
So the challenge to you today is to figure out where you find flow? Where do you find yourself becoming utterly absorbed, where action and awareness merge and all else fades away?
Finding flow is crucial, whether we are parenting, planning, pioneering or parachuting. I mean, who doesn’t want to know how to be their best when it matters most? To be more creative, more contented, more present? To soar and not to sink?
As the deeds of those extreme athletes prove, if we can master flow, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.
Seeing as August is Women’s Month, I thought I’d post this awesome blog written by my amazing wife, Jess Basson. You can check out her blog here.
Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try it’s just Not Good Enough? Although August is about celebrating women, all these stories of incredible overachievers defying the odds can be quite depressing. Oh, you started a non-profit that educates underprivileged girls, teach yoga to the elderly and wrote a best-selling recipe book? That’s nice. Today I made snacks, tidied up, and got the cat down from the tree. I did have a shower, though. As Christopher Reeve says, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” That 3-minute shower was my act of hygienic heroism for the day. You’re welcome, world.
There seems to be this impossible standard of womanhood that constantly leaves us feeling Not Good Enough. From career to kids, from your relationship status to your bra size, we are being bombarded with advice from all directions on how to improve ourselves. Do more. Try harder. Be better.
Work more so you can further your career.
Work less so you can spend time with your family.
Try harder to get fit this winter so you can look good in a bikini.
Try harder to care less about how good you look in a bikini.
Make sure you have time on your own.
Make sure you have time with your friends.
Do something new everyday.
Simplify your life.
Be gentle with your children.
Be strict with your children.
Don’t go on a diet.
Don’t eat carbs.
I heard of a mom who had a chalkboard in her kitchen where she would leave herself notes and lists. After one overwhelming day she just wrote across the whole board, “Be Better At Everything!”
No wonder one feels Not Good Enough. No wonder one gets sucked into a comparison game with other women that leaves you resentful, or depressed, or momentarily smug as you watch another mom negotiating with a screaming toddler until five minutes later when it’s your child having a colossal tantrum in the shopping aisle.
Is there any other way to do this potentially powerful but often intimidating identity called womanhood?
I think there is. It’s called Grace.
I don’t mean grace like someone who is elegant and sophisticated. I don’t mean Grace like the most popular middle name for girls EVER. I mean Grace like love that hasn’t been earned. Grace that is acceptance just as you are. Grace that is an endless supply of forgiveness no matter how many mistakes are made.
Grace isn’t denying that there is a standard. Grace is what makes up the difference for our shortcomings. It’s love that fills the gap when we feel Not Good Enough.
But here’s the secret…
Discovering true contentment in your role as a woman doesn’t start with giving grace. It starts with receiving grace. It’s hard to accept love when we feel like we don’t deserve it. It’s hard to accept forgiveness when we know we’ve let someone down. We even struggle to receive a compliment without saying something negative about ourselves! What do you do when someone pays you a compliment?
“Oh, this shirt? I’m so overweight it’s the only thing that fits me.”
“Thanks, I think it did go well – but I really could have finished the project sooner.”
“Ah you’re sweet, but my hair is so frizzy. I wish I had straight hair like you.”
Many of the women I know have high expectations and can be hard on themselves when they don’t measure up. So receiving grace feels very counterintuitive. We are so used to working hard for everything that it’s tough to accept value that isn’t related to our performance. But grace is being loved, appreciated and worthy because of who we are, not because of what we do. We are loved because of who we are, not because of what we do. That’s how grace saves us from the tyranny of Not Good Enough.
There aren’t a lot of relationships, religions or ways of life that offer grace, but as women we need it so desperately. I know I do.
This Women’s Month, perhaps it’s time to push aside all the fanfare on what’s so amazing about women, and go on a intentional journey to find out what’s so amazing about grace.
“You have a choice in life. You can either live on-purpose, according to a plan you’ve set. Or you can live by accident, reacting to the demands of others. The first approach is proactive; the second reactive.” – Michael Hyatt
Sure, you can’t plan for everything. Things happen that you can’t anticipate. But it is a whole lot easier to accomplish what matters most when you are proactive and begin with the end in mind.
One of the ways I do this is by creating a template that I call “My Ideal Week”.
The idea is similar to a financial budget. The only difference is that you plan how you will spend your time rather than your money. And like a financial budget, you spend it on paper first.
My Ideal Week — the week I would live if I could control 100% of what happens — looks like this:
Without going into too much detail, here are a couple key ideas for me:
- Family first. Nothing is more important, I promise you.
- Have a morning ritual.
- Schedule your most important work tasks first.
- Fight hard to keep distractions to a minimum.
- Set aside some time at the start of the week to plan your week.
- Schedule meetings, calls, and little things in the afternoon.
- Limit responding to email to specific time slots in the day.
- Date night is a non-negotiable.
- Make sure you move everyday – doesn’t have to be exercise per se, but do something active.
- Set an end-of-the-day deadline, and try stick to it (there will always be more work to do).
Now that you’ve seen mine, I suggest that you map out your own Ideal Week. And once you have created it, you can use it as a basic template for planning each week.
If you are like me, not everything can be shoe-horned into the template, of course. But having this basic blueprint will better enable you to to accomplish those things that matter most.
For a more detailed look into how I formulated my Ideal Week, click here.
Over the years I’ve been blessed to have had my blog read by thousands of people. I currently have over 5000 regular subscribers from all around the world and people often tell me how much they enjoy reading my blog and how much it has helped them be more productive in life and at work.
This of course makes me very happy.
But what a lot of my readers don’t know is that everything I have to say and everything I have learnt about productivity and wellness comes from Jesus.
He is the Why, the What, the Who, and the How behind it all.
Yes, my personality is such that I love reading books about neuroscience and how the brain works. Yes, I’m interested in nutrition and health, and I love learning more about productivity and effective self-leadership techniques, and sharing that with my readers.
But honestly, that desire comes from a simple desire to follow Jesus.
Of course, we don’t know if Jesus ate a “Paleo” diet, and I’m pretty sure He didn’t have an iPhone or use Evernote to store His sermon notes (I think He was more of a moleskine-journal-kind-a-guy). But the truth is almost all the principles I have learnt about self-leadership/organisation/health/discipline etc. can be found in His life and teachings.
And so if you, like me, want:
Then follow Jesus.
Seriously, at least investigate it.
Now if you haven’t rolled your eyes yet and are still reading, then here are some suggestions on how to do that.
Firstly, throw away all your pre-conceived ideas about Christianity. Disregard your bad experiences with church or Christians. I imagine most of the hang-ups you have about Christianity have nothing to do with what Jesus was trying to do and who He was. Like Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ”. So true.
Secondly, simply pursue the person of Jesus. Investiagte. Read. Explore. Who was he? What did he say about himself? Why did His life have such an effect on human history? And don’t just read what others say about the Bible. Read it for yourself and make up your own mind. Start with the Gospels and go from there…
Thirdly, if you’re kind of skeptical and have lots of questions, reservations and doubts, don’t just read Dawkin’s “God Delusion“. Read other smart people’s views like this book by Tim Keller. Or maybe join an Alpha Course near you. It’s a safe, relaxed, and non-threatening environment to ask questions and discover.
These are just some ideas but of course there are many more. The point is if Jesus was who He said He was, it’s worth investing a few weeks or months in to explore.
I don’t often speak so plainly about or push my personal faith on my blog, mainly because I have other places where I do that and I want to respect people who read this blog and hold to different beliefs. But I just felt that I needed to get this off my chest…
My blog is all about “healthy body, healthy mind, healthy spirit = healthy soul”. And all I have ever learnt about that, I’ve learnt from Jesus. My saviour and my Lord.
*I had to asterisk “success” because I think the success we speak of in our world and the success Jesus offers to us are not the same. The one is about standard of living and the other is about quality of life.
“May all who are godly be HAPPY…” – Psalm 97:12 NLT96
It feels so good to hear the words, “God wants me to be happy.” It feels good to hear that, above all else, He wants me to enjoy life and only wants good things to happen in my life.
But what if that weren’t entirely true. What if God never said that?
See, the problem with believing that God’s supreme goal for me is my happiness, is that I might start to reason that “whatever makes me happy must be right” and “whatever makes me unhappy must be wrong”. With that mindset, any discomfort or delay or inconvenience can’t be God’s will, and so we spend our lives trying to avoid these things, instead of embracing them for what they are: a necessary part of our growth and development.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that bows down at the altar of happiness. Thinking that comfort, money, pleasure and things will make us happier. Yet, ironically it’s making us more miserable than ever.
Of course I do believe that God is not against our happiness. In fact, I believe he delights in our happiness. That when we’re happy I believe it brings Him great joy. Just as I feel delighted when my children experience joy or happiness. But, as Eleanor Roosevelt points out,
“Happiness is not a goal, it’s a by-product”.
When we make our lives solely about pursuing personal happiness, then somehow it remains elusive – we never quite find it. Yet, when we give our lives for something else, something outside of ourselves – God, others, the healing of our world – then we find a joy and contentment and peace that goes beyond mere happiness.
Bottom line: God doesn’t want us to pursue happiness. He wants us to pursue Him.
And in the process find happiness we never knew existed. Happiness that isn’t based on “happenings”. It’s called blessing.
I am 32.
I am tired.
I am not alone.
A few weeks ago I managed to get away for a “boys-only” weekend. No kids. Good surf. Lots of meat. Bliss.
But one thing we all were aware of was just how exhausted we all felt. Pretty much all the time.
We concluded that the decade between thirty and forty is often the time you are making the greatest advancements in your a career, stepping into bigger roles, and taking on more responsibility than ever before. At the same time most couples in this age bracket are raising small children, who are arguably at their most demanding. These two combine to form a perfect storm of tiredness.
Case in point, all of us on the weekend were in our thirties, all running our own organisations or taking on higher leadership positions, and all of us with two kids under the age of four. And lets not even talk about the sleep deprivation that comes packaged with our little bundles of joy.
No wonder the famous writer, Madeline L’Engle, called it “the tired thirties”.
Of course, alongside chronic exhaustion comes a whole host of others nasties. These include irritability, anger, confusion, decreased sex-drive, and depression.
Wow… this blog just got super depressing! Did I just write decreased sex drive??
My point is, next time you see a young parent in the shops and their kids are running amok, or we react defensively to your innocent comment, or we can’t seem to pay attention to your story… cut us some slack.
We’re just tired.
It doesn’t mean we aren’t happy. We love our kids, we love our jobs. We wouldn’t change it for the world.
We’re just tired. Really, really tired. And not getting enough sex. That too.
- Build your meals around fruits and vegetables, especially those with dark and vibrant colours.
- Replace chips, crackers and dried fruit with nuts, seeds, apples & celery.
- Select a healthy standby snack & carry it with you wherever you go.
- Eat slower. Try make every meal last 20 minutes.
- Use smaller cups, plates and serving sizes to eat less.
- Sugar is a toxin. Stay away from it, and any refined carbs.
- Structure your days to eat more early, less late, and nothing after dinner.
- Steam instead of grilling or frying.
- Never go a full day without eating something green.
- Check the sugar content of so called “healthy” foods. If it’s more than 10g – find a replacement.
- Sleep longer tonight to do more tomorrow.
- Track your sleep time & quality.
- Dim your lights in the evening and block out all light in your bedroom at night.
- Keep your bedroom cool at night.
- Create a bedtime routine where you don’t eat or use electronic devices in the hour before you sleep.
- Wake up at the same time everyday to keep your internal clock on track.
- Banish the snooze button for good. Snoozing adds nothing to your sleep quality.
- Aim for 8 hours of sleep every night.
- Try working without sitting.
- When you have to sit for long periods, stand, stretch, & walk around every 30 minutes.
- Track your daily movement.
- Aim for 10,000 steps every day or 70,000 per week.
- Do 1 hour of vigorous exercise in the morning for a better mood, more brainpower, and to burn calories all day long.
- Figure out a way to exercise at home.
- When tempted to skip a workout, just start exercising for a few minutes. Starting is often the hardest part.
- Take the stairs & park far away.
I didn’t want to write this blog.
Because it seems like whenever South Africans get into the discussion of whether to stay or whether to go it only creates armies on two sides. The “leavers” and the “stayers” – both defensive, both trying to justify their case.
And that is not my intention at all.
There is no right or wrong answer here. It’s a completely personal choice and I understand why many have left.
What worries me, however, is often the motivation behind all the debate: to find a “better” place or a “better” future. And again, there’s nothing wrong with wanting a better future for yourself and your family (we all want that!) – but what exactly is better?
Is it merely got to do with safety, comfort and convenience? “Everything just works”, “We can leave our doors open”, “Better job oppourtunities”. Of course these things are great but surely there is more to it than that?
We live in a culture that continually tells us to pursue a higher standard of living in order to improve our quality of life. But “standard of living” and “quality of life” are not the same thing.
In fact, studies reveal that many of the countries with the highest standards of living have the most unhappiest people. Why? Because the one does not necessarily equal the other.
I myself have lived in the UK for two years, Canada for a year, and the US for four years, and I absolutely loved it! Great people, incredible geography, and of course first-world efficiency. But whilst I had a great time, I missed the sunshine, the smiles and the generous spirit of our people. I missed biltong, “howzit”, “just now”, and the simple freedom of space. I missed hanging round the braai and early morning surfs with mates. I missed the vibrancy and diversity of our streets. Most importantly though, I missed the oppourtunity to be an active part of a country that needs me.
Yes, life in South Africa is hard. Yes, it’s risky. Yes, its messy and complicated. And yes, there are HUGE challenges before us. But that, in many ways, is why I love it!
Because “comfortable” and “safe” and “easy” are not the goal.
Because no matter who you are, if you want to, you can make a real difference here.
“All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” We still have good people in South Africa who are willing to stand up and fight, and as long as I’m alive I want to be part of the solution.
Maybe South Africa will go to the dogs, but I would rather be actively involved in our future then criticise from a distance. I am choosing to take my chances in this incredible country and whilst there are other positive people like you living here, making a difference, then I believe our future will be very bright.