Living Well

January 30, 2010

Prostate Cancer: My Story Guided by Personal Mission

Life is about choices.  My personal mission guides me all the time.  It guides my thoughts and how I make decisions.  Because I want to “invite people to abundant life by choosing God’s best” I am writing this particular blog on the area of my prostate cancer surgery and future.  This is my experience.  I want to weave through it how my personal mission helped me (and continues to help me) make decisions 1 ½ years after my cancer surgery.  I write it as an encouragement to men who are facing the reality of prostate cancer and potential surgery or other treatments.

I am writing, too, because when it was determined that I had prostate cancer; I joined a ‘secret club.’  I use this phrase because of encounters I have had with men concerning their own potential of cancer.  I have often had men come and talk close up to me about ‘their situation.’  This is a private matter for men, but I want to break that silence and talk frankly and authentically about prostate cancer, its treatment, and the life journey.  In the end, it is my hope by sharing my story; other men will find abundant life by how they make choices in their own prostate cancer situation.

After I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I began researching about this disease.  While I found a lot of good medical advice, I didn’t always find how men actually worked through this emotionally.  As I stated in a previous blog, the outcome of prostate cancer always revolves around three ongoing concerns: impotence (the inability to have an erection or sustain an erection during intercourse); incontinence (the inability to hold one’s urine and thus a man leaks, often forcing them to wear absorbent underwear), and; cancer management.   I have this discussion every time I see my surgeon.  But I did not find any reflection about these topics in my internet search.

I don’t take these lightly because for men they are important issues.  Plus I think it important not to just deal with these three areas of concern, but with the emotions that go with them.  I will deal specifically with impotency in another blog, because it is the one that I did not find a good deal of information on.  Since this deals with sexuality, I will deal with that later.

There is a billboard near our house that says, “You wouldn’t tell a person with cancer to just get over it.”  The billboard is about how we sometimes respond to people about depression.  It is an apropos statement because a person getting a diagnosis of cancer does not get over it, but this diagnosis also can lead to depression.  In my own case, I realized that I was a victim of a drama not of my own creation.  There were ‘actors’ coming in and out of my life that I did not create, but had to acknowledge and work with in this journey.  For me, I would have moments of heavy sighing….just a ‘soul sigh’ because I had cancer in me that I could not control.  It was growing and I couldn’t do anything about it.  I was moving to the instructions of a lot of people simply following their directions and making decisions on the advice they gave me. 

This is where my personal mission came into play.  In these moments, I kept asking myself what was important in life. What had I determined was important for living well?  How would I honor God in how I lived my life and made choices about this cancer journey?  How would I set an example for my children and other men I came in contact with?  My personal mission served as a foundation for the choices I would have to make.

The first choice was to accept that I had prostate cancer and would have to do something about it.  At 53, there are not a lot of options.  Older men have more options related to prostate cancer, but younger men have to be intentional in seeking consultation that will help them win over this disease; to find a cure.  If one is in their 70s, wait and see can be an option; but at 53 waiting is not in one’s favor.  So the first choice was, “Who should I listen to?”

I had a plethora (dozens actually) of people ‘telling’ me how to proceed.  Everyone had their own story, their own advice.  I had a number of people point me to experimental drugs, herbs, new techniques, and a host of other ways to deal with prostate cancer.  But, each man has to deal with this journey how they view as the right path.  After a lot of reading, I intentionally chose a well respected surgeon (plus a dear friend put me in touch with him).  This was and has been a key for me.

As I close today, my mission guided me to choose a good doctor.  In today’s health environment, YOU are responsible for your own health care.  The Ad Council has a good commercial.  A person is asking all kinds of questions of a waiter about what is in a particular menu item at a restaurant before they order it.  But in the next scene, they are sitting on a table in a doctor’s office.  The doctor says, “Do you have any questions?” To which the patient says—“no.”  We would rather know how many calories are in a plate of food than what is happening in our bodies!  Men, in particular, are more likely not to ask questions. 

Thus the desire to live well allowed me to make a good choice—I have things that I believe I am to do in this world; a table of opportunity set before me.  So I chose a good doctor and took control of my health care at that moment.  I had some depression along the way as well, yet my personal mission, faith, and life of prayer helped me work through these moments of ‘soul sigh.’ 

A personal mission and future hopes guided me in this initial endeavor.  It can guide you, too.

Blessings, grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 29, 2010

You have the Tools: Now Write a Mission Statement

“Live in such a way that when you die the preacher doesn’t have to lie.”  That statement on a student tee-shirt has always been humorous to me and captures what I believe about personal mission.  It is unfortunate that people spend a lifetime working on “something” thinking that “someday I will do what I am supposed to do in life.”  Problem is it becomes like St. Augustine observed, “By and by never comes.”  Often we wait, but for what?  What are we waiting for to live out that we cannot start to live at this moment?  I love the comment by Tony Campolo, “When we get to the end of life, we ought to be about all used up!”

If you are following my blog, you are at the point of trying to write a personal mission statement.  Take the legacies you want to leave behind, the values you believe identify you, and write a sentence that will help you set before you those areas of life that are important.  Whatever you write at this moment does not have to be polished because it is a first attempt at writing a mission statement.  Mission statements are not at first an exact science, but a fleshing out of your thoughts, dreams, and what you believe about yourself and your future.

After you write out your personal mission statement, test it by asking, “Can I really affect my world and the people in it by living out my mission?” If your answer is yes, then how will you do this?  If no, how must your mission read in order to keep you actively working toward its fulfillment?

Your personal mission statement will guide you and give you focus related to your preferred future and legacy.  The statement you write should be challenging to you and something that you are passionate about.  It does not need to be a statement exciting to others, but must extract your best abilities, passions, use of time, and daily actions.  When you read your mission, it should give you an ache to live well in what it commands from you every day.

Here is also a way to test your personal mission.  It comes from Laurie Beth Jones, international bestselling author of Jesus, CEO.  As a side, it is an honor to also have her as one who endorses my book, “Four Seasons of Leadership.”  Jones believes your mission statement should be a single sentence (in standard English this is about 7-10 words); simple enough for a 12-year old to understand and recite, and; you should personally be able to recite it from memory at “gun point.”   Jones received criticism for this last element, but she is right….sometimes we have to make split second decisions that require us to know exactly who we are and what we will stand or not stand for.  Life sometimes forces us into its corner where we have to decide that quickly.

I originally wrote my own personal mission statement in 1989.  It was a few sentences.  It did not fit Jones’ criteria above.  So I worked on it over time.  I honed it over a few years until it now reads, “inviting people to abundant life by choosing God’s best.”

Now it is funny, but I actually have people say to me occasionally, “What is your mission statement?”  Some know I teach leadership courses and this concept; some just hear about this activity I believe deeply in.  These are my “gun point” moments.  And so I recite it to them from memory.  It is my agreement for how I will live in this world, both today but also in the days ahead.

In the end, here is the real point of having a personal mission statement.  The purpose is in not having a written statement to impress people, but to use it for goal setting, making decisions, determining what really matters in life, and “living your life in such a way that when you die, the preacher will not have to lie” but only recount what you did during the years you had on this planet.

I am convinced that if you ponder your life, figure out a personal mission, and set it into writing you will live well daily and you will influence those around you both now and into the next generation.  In the end, having a personal mission will influence the quality of your relationships, career, community service, and how you make potentially critical decisions should they come your way.

There is freedom in knowing your life’s purpose and in living your personal mission.  The Apostle Paul writing in the First Century challenged “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:1-2).  We can be transformed and live well—fully living what we were created to be IF we work out our personal mission.  It is a task worth agonizing over.  It is a choice that will lead to a life lived well.

Blessings, grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 28, 2010

For What are you Willing to Die?

Difficulties in life will come your way.  There is no doubt about this.  I have already written a little about prostate cancer and as I write this blog today it is from a chair where I have been for 3 weeks.  Three weeks ago this day I fell on ice while scrapping snow from the windows of my car.  In that fall I experienced a spiral fracture of my femur that required surgery, a rod that runs the length of my thigh, four screws, and a band to put it all back together.  For three weeks now, I have been looking out the picture window of our house because I cannot walk, except with the use of a walker.  Reading, blogging, and working from my computer to my office have been the majority of my time.  But I know that through my prayer time and also having a solid mission and purpose keeps me focused toward the day when I will be active again.

I personally wrote out and considered the implications of all the questions I provided in the last blog as it relates to having a personal mission.  Honestly answering these questions is a start, but they need to be shaped into a mission statement.  If you read through the answers to those questions for the BIG areas of our life that are important, they will gradually begin to surface.  These big areas will ultimately become legacies, those things you hope to accomplish in life and accomplishments you hope to leave behind.  Legacies will also help you focus now and in the future.  What they are calling you to live now and in the future will also help establish your goals and achievements for the years ahead.

 An example of developing legacies comes from my own answers to the questions in the last blog.  After reading through each response, I began seeing areas of importance for me that I believed were what would help me live well over my lifetime.  Those areas of importance are: living a faithful life as a Christian, being a loving spouse and parent, being an effective teacher, being active in my community, and being a writer.  These areas are foundational for me.  These are legacies around which I set monthly and annual goals.  These legacies also help me to make decisions in the day to day.  And even more, they do help me make choices related to right and wrong—ethical and moral decisions.

I say this because it is true.  Legacies and their appropriate goals give us boundaries.  If I want to be a loving spouse that desire sets the tone for how I will relate to my wife.  It means I will respect her, stay committed in our circumstances, and always be faithful to her.  So you see, personal mission and legacies are not just about accomplishing THINGS in life.  They also help set the moral and ethical tone of it.

I want to give one exercise for today on your journey to writing a personal mission statement.  This is not unique to me.  It is available from the Centers for Ethical Leadership.  They are a good tool for studying and thinking about leadership as well.  This exercise helps you determine your values.  These values (who I think I am and how I actually live) are important to goal setting and decision making.  The exercise goes like this:

From this word list, choose ten values that are important to you; they are words that reflect what is most important to you in life.  Make the choice in no more than two minutes.  The list is: peace, wealth, integrity, joy, happiness, love, success, recognition, friendship, family, fame, truth, authenticity, wisdom, power, status, influence, justice, nobility, fairness, virtuous, gentleness, kindness, goodness, purity, hope, honesty, freedom, faith, honor, dignity, respect, equality, charity, simplicity.

Now, from the list you created in these two minutes, select FIVE values that most accurately describe your core life values; the values essential to your identity.

Now, from the list of FIVE, select three.

Now, from the list of THREE, select only one that answers the question, “For what one of these three values am I willing to be persecuted for or die for?”  I heard Dr. Bill Grace, founder of the Center for Ethical Leadership; take it to this last question at a Greenleaf Conference many years ago.  He challenged us to consider the one thing that is never negotiable or to be compromised in your life; the ultimate value for which you are willing to die.  Again, knowing this in advance also helps making ethical and moral decisions, because when we violate or compromise that one value, we may never be able to look at ourselves the same again.

Many people will find most of my blogs ho-hum or too esoteric, I am sure.  I have wrestled with that thought.  But in the end, I know through witnessing the lives of others and in my own experience that these things matter.  I know (and follow the best authors on leadership to verify) that mission and goals help us to live well.  I hope you are trying it.  In it you will find…

Blessings.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 27, 2010

Writing a Personal Mission Statement

If you have been following my blogs, you may see that I have been working to bring you to this particular blog on writing a personal mission statement.  I am bringing you here because there is too much talk about living well and not enough real action and effort put into it.  I just devoured the Feb. 2010 issue of Success Magazine.  It is filled with articles and shorts expressing the same things over and over.  Without a personal mission and passion for living well, we are only wishful thinkers about our lives and our futures.  I highly recommend the Feb. issue of Success Magazine.  It is worth reading and following some of the activities listed there.

Living well does not happen by chance.  It is a series of choices we make starting with what we believe to be our personal mission.  In this blog, I want to give you a handle on writing a personal mission.  There are many techniques out there, but I have used this particular step-by-step process with thousands of people—so I KNOW it works.  One thing I would state up front.  Your mission will become clearer over time, but you need a place to start.  These exercises will help you begin that process.

I am going to give you these steps a little at a time because you need time to reflect and think about personal mission and living well.  It is not a race to see how quickly you can complete the task.  I teach this process in a leadership class three times a year.  It takes students about five weeks to really work through the process.  I will give you all the steps quickly, but it may honestly take you a number of weeks to fully work through them to write a clear personal mission statement.

So, step one—consider your life from the end.  This is not unique to me.  This is a premise advised by Stephen Covey and others.  Covey calls it, “Beginning with the end in mind.”  We get caught in the moment without at times considering where we are headed.  In working with many senior adults and researching senior adults over the past five years, I have come to understand that many of them do not end life well because they have not considered the end until they are at the end.  By that point, it is too late.  One of the hidden and sad realities of senior adults is the high rate of suicide.  There are many factors for this, but one does relate to the emptiness of life and the conclusion that life has been for no real purpose.  Writing a personal mission statement now can help a person from this moment on through the rest of their lives.

These questions are to begin helping you set a target for living well and writing a mission.  Take time to complete the series of questions.  Get a journal to aid you in the process.  Here goes.

  • When I consider my life from the end, what do I long to achieve or see as a part of my life that I believe will give it meaning?
  • If there were no barriers to what I could do in life, what work or activity would I undertake that would bring me personal fulfillment and satisfaction?  Why do I believe this?
  • If I discovered today that I had just six months to live, what would I focus on?  How would I rank my life agenda by priority so that these priorities would be accomplished before I die?
  • At an old age, when you think back across your life, what will bring a smile to your face?  What will give you a feeling that your life has been lived well—to its fullest, in a whole manner?
  • What do I want said about me by my family, friends, and community at the end of my life?
  • What do I believe God is asking me to undertake or be during my lifetime?  What keeps me from acknowledging and accepting this belief?

These questions are meant to help you consider your life, your legacy, and living well—for setting a target toward which you actually live out daily.  See, you are not guaranteed anything.  I was not guaranteed a cancer free life.  It happened.  But, I can choose to make choices about living well in the midst of these life difficulties.  I can choose to live with purpose and meaning, no matter the circumstances or outcome.

The question in BOLD is a particularly important one. We deceive ourselves when we think people will have legacy words to say about us when we actually do not build that life over time.  What is said about us at the end of life is built OVER a life, not in the final moments of it.  It is as the adage says, “Live in such a way that when you die, the preacher doesn’t have to lie.”

This is step one.  The other steps will follow in the days ahead, but this will get you started.  Blessings to you as you work through these questions.  The reality is that millions of people will never even consider these questions about life.  They will float and hope something better just happens.  Bluntly, it just won’t.  Grace and peace to you in this life changing process.  Live well!

David Neidert

January 26, 2010

Prostate Cancer: Personal Mission Helps in Facing Identity Issues

Consultations can be overwhelming.  That was the case with my own prostate cancer consultation two weeks after my biopsy showed I did have cancer.  My doctor, Dr. John Ramsey of Urology of Indiana, spent three hours with my wife and me discussing the biopsy, treatments, and the outcomes of any decisions we would make.  My wife and I sat as he drew pictures, explained in detail procedures, and thoroughly outlined any options we might have before us.  He answered a lot of questions.  In the end, because of my age (53 at the time), the best option out of six potential solutions was surgery.

This is where personal mission, faith, and belief in living well help one to make decisions that matter for the long term.  Knowing what is important allows us to evaluate all the complexities and make more effective decisions in the moment.  Having a written mission statement and living it out can make decisions easier.

I have to back up a little to describe one of the issues that men MUST face, discuss, and talk through related to prostate cancer.  It is the issue of male sexuality.  Again, I am no psychologist, but I do understand myself and am aware of the many innuendos our society places on virility, mostly subconscious.  As a teacher and student of ancient history for thirty years, I know that sexuality has permeated every culture of the ancient world, from fertility cults to ritual practices to architectural design.  It doesn’t matter if you consider the Far East, Ancient Middle East, or Meso America, you will find sexual rites a part of every society (we just don’t read about them in our history books).  The phallus (as well as women’s sexual anatomy) can be found in all cultures as a representation of masculinity, virility, and power.  In ancient myths, sexuality, intercourse, and male power displayed in the phallus are commonplace, even if we never read this kind of literature in polite circles.

One of the very real outcomes of prostate cancer (whether through surgery or leaving it untreated) is the loss of impotence (erectile dysfunction).  This is a fact of the male reproductive system.  The nerves that allow for a male erection are side by side with all the nerves connected to the prostate.  While I do not know all the physiology, I have given recommended websites to help men understand their anatomy.  The bottom line is that erectile dysfunction will increase with prostate cancer.  Thus, men must think through this part of who we are.

So a question has to be answered.  Will men lose their lives to try and save an erection by not having surgery (or other treatments) or take the treatments or have surgery and save their lives?  Will my identity be wrapped up in my ability to have an erection or will it be built on character, purpose, and living well in all life areas?  Our world is saturated with sexuality.  It tells us if we are not sexually capable, we are actually not men.  Just consider hand gestures used in profanity.  Consider statements made in movies, like “what’s the matter, can’t get it up?”  Men are portrayed as less than adequate in all kinds of commercials and media if they are sexually unable to perform.  Prostate cancer leaves men with this very possibility of impotency.  It is important to know that if nerves get cut during surgery or even damaged by radiation or other treatments, the ability to either get an erection or maintain one will be diminished. Viagra, Cialis, and other ED drugs can help, but men MUST know that they DO NOT restore an erection to 100%.  So, this section and answering these questions are critical for men and their wives related to prostate cancer.  (More in future blogs about ED drugs).

For some time, I had the Bible verse on my mind that whoever seeks to save their life will lose it, but whoever looses it will find it.  That verse along with my desire to live well forced me to have to think clearly about this part of prostate cancer.  My friend David, however, was the one to force the issue.  I did not know he knew I had prostate cancer.  David had undergone a prostatectomy (full removal of the prostate) about a year earlier.  He stopped by my office to just “talk.”  He asked how I was, but then forced the discussion of sexuality and impotence.  I am a private man by nature, but I needed him to talk frankly with me.   I needed him to be honest with me from his own experience.  He talked most candidly about the change in the sexual relationship with his wife, but also the joy of it….the deeper parts of intimacy came through.  They had found newer ways to love each other sexually.  But before he left my office he said, “Seek the higher good; save your life to find more life.”  That was honest and that was the confirmations of my own thinking…possibly lose the potential of some sexuality to find wholeness, well being, and life.  Trust in God and trust that my life decisions would matter over the long term.

So it was at the end of the three hour consultation that Dr. Ramsey asked, “What do you want to do?  You can leave and take a few days to think about it, if you like, just don’t wait too long.”  I leaned forward onto the table where we had talked that evening and said to him, “There is something you need to know about me.  I am a man of deep faith and a man with a mission and purpose in life.  I want to grow old with my wife because I love her and there are things I have yet to do in this world.  I make the decision to have a prostatectomy.  When do we schedule it?”  Dr. Ramsey chuckled a little in response, “You are pretty sure. That is one of the most purposeful responses I have ever heard.”  My wife nodded in agreement.   He continued, “Sometimes men leave here because they cannot consider the possibility of impotence and never come back.  It is an important decision to make so that it doesn’t take your life.”  And with that, we scheduled the surgery for the next opportunity.

You see, it does matter that we have a sense of purpose, a mission, a deep faith that will help us think through difficult issues, even the issues of sexual identity and performance.  If we know what we believe, we can be confident in whatever life presents us.  In the blogs ahead, I want to outline tools to use for writing a personal mission statement.  I will return again with frank sharing on the topic of prostate cancer, because I needed a place of authenticity in my own journey; but I did not always find them.   I some future blogs, I will talk about these last 16 months of my own prostate cancer journey and the aftermath of it.  But for now know that a personal mission can help you choose life in life’s toughest moments.

Grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 25, 2010

Prostate Cancer: How Personal Mission Helps in Crisis Decisions

This blog is my first public sharing about prostate cancer.  I will be sharing a number of important topics during the upcoming blogs on this cancer journey.  I share them because I have had many men come and ask me about their own prostate cancer issues.  I am sharing frankly and authentically about my journey.  I am not an expert in prostate cancer, but I do understand my own emotions about it.  I want to be frank in these posts so that other men with prostate cancer in their future can find some honest insights into what they will experience.

My cancer journey started in December 2007.  I have an accountability partner.  This is friend who I meet with regularly to discuss life, my goals, and areas of concern or frustration in my life.  He is a really important friend.  One of my commitments to him is to have an annual physical since I am 55 years old (I was 53 at the time of cancer discovery). 

I went to my doctor as promised and completed my physical.  While all was good, my doctor said, “Your PSA is just a little high.  Let’s send you to a urologist for a follow up.”  I went to a urologist in the following week.  While his bedside manner was lacking, in retrospect, he was the first to detect my cancer by digital rectal exam (DRE).  I didn’t really want to accept that initial exam from him, so I began praying about my next steps and where I should go in this process.  I couldn’t ignore it; I had to deal with something that several doctors told me might be growing in me.  A dear friend (who had dealt with prostate cancer) led me to Urology of Indiana and Dr. John Ramsey.  As a side, I would encourage any man thinking they have prostate cancer to locate a urologist they are comfortable working with.  This is a critically important issue.  We all must take charge of our personal health.  My desire for a second opinion (allowed by most medical plans) was a way that I did take charge of my own physical health. 

It was now January 2008.  I had been dealing emotionally with all that was transpiring over the course of three weeks.  I had a range of emotions—fear, disbelief, anger, denial—emotions that moved from moment to moment, day to day.  I began searching websites and found many that described prostate cancer as a “life journey.”  I realized this was becoming the start of a much longer pilgrimage than initially imagined.

My faith was a solid foundation during all this time.  As I have stated in my “Who I Am” section, I am a believer in Jesus Christ.  I believe he watched over me and was protecting me in this journey and initial discovery.  Not only did we discover I had cancer, but also an aneurism.  I was finding that my faith was a central point for me.  A stable faith continued guiding me in times of doubt and frustration.  Believing that God was watching over me was essential to giving perspectives to the tears I shed at times wondering about the upcoming doctor’s visits.

A month of waiting and personal agonizing had now turned into February 2008.  On Feb. 20, I had a biopsy.  A prostate cancer biopsy consists of inserting a probe to the prostate through the rectum (the probe is about the size of a frankfurter).  This probe has a needle in it that inserts a Novocain or anesthesia into the prostate.  The prostate is a gland that sits on both sides of the urethra, the tube leading from the bladder into the penis for urination.  One half sits on each side of the urethra.  The prostate holds the semen that is emitted during intercourse/ ejaculation.   The probe then has a needle that grabs microscopic sections of the prostate.  Typically there are four to six sections taken from each side of the prostate.  The probe sampling stings a bit.  The noise of the probe is like a loud mouse trap snap.  This snap startles, but the Novocain makes this tolerable.  You are lying on your side in a fetal position during this procedure.  After the biopsy, you are a bit tender in sitting and will experience some blood in your urine over the coming day or so.  The procedure takes about 30 minutes, in which you are awake the entire time.  Once the procedure is complete, the waiting begins.

On Feb. 26 my doctor called.  I definitely had cancer.  One side of the prostate was a zero (on the Gleason Scale), but the other side of the prostate was a seven on the cancer scale of zero to 10.  This meant a series of appointments must now begin.  The first was to have a full body bone scan.  Prostate cancer makes its path into the bladder and bones.  Prostate cancer is always prostate cancer, except that it can lodge in the bones or move to the bladder (which is only separated by millimeters of tissue).  So, my first appointment was a full radiation body bone scan to determine if the cancer had spread.  With a report that the cancer had not spread, I was ready for my first major consultation on the steps we would now need to take to deal with my prostate cancer diagnosis.

During the weeks between January 1 and Feb. 26, I had a lot of time to process my thoughts and emotions.  I had to deal with them….any man with prostate cancer will have to deal with them.  I had to deal with the possibility of the spread of the cancer, the possibilities of complications, the fact that I am young with this disease, and the effect this diagnosis might have on my sexuality and sexual relationship with my wife.  But in it all, I was focused on the items I have already been blogging about….having a personal mission and knowing what really matters in life.  My faith, my mission, and my determination to live well were always at the center, even in times of grief and anxiety. 

Having a personal mission helps in crisis decisions, like those of cancer.  Whether it is cancer, a broken relationship, a loss of a job, or other events that happen in life, I am convinced that knowing what personally matters and making a choice to live well allows better decisions and choices to be made.  Having a personal mission doesn’t change the fact of the situation or maybe even the outcome, but it does allow you to be in a place for creating a brighter path through these life events.  A personal mission helps make the decisions cleaner and more definitive.  It also adds courage for the long outcome, not the short term issues.

My faith, mission and life purpose would allow me to make some choices.  I will explain how in upcoming blogs.

Grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 24, 2010

Your New Year’s Resolutions are Bogus!

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Quick….write down the answer to this question: “How much time did you spend planning your last vacation?”  A few minutes, over 40 hours?  Now answer this question, “How much money did you spend on one or two weeks of vacation?”  One hundred dollars, a thousand, or you had to take out a second mortgage to pay for it?

Honestly, you probably spent more time planning this vacation than giving any consideration to the rest of your life and what will bring a sense of living well.  Most people rely on making New Year’s resolutions as the sum total of their life planning for the coming year.  But what we know about resolutions is that at least 70% of all resolutions will never become reality.  Google Stephen Covey’s New Year’s Resolution survey he does annually and you will find that most people will not stay committed to what they pledge on Dec. 31 of any given year.

Dorothy Fisher, American author, wrote, “If we would only give, just once, the same amount of reflection to what we want to get out of life that we give to the question of what to do with a two weeks’ vacation, we would be startled at our false standards and aimless procession of our busy days.”  About 20 years ago, I got very serious about planning, focused learning, setting annual goals, and determining life legacies—legacies which I believe are important to accomplish during my lifetime.  I stopped setting resolutions, because they are bogus, just like thousands of people’s resolutions.  I took seriously the insight of Fisher.  It has changed my life and it will change yours also.

We have to make choices about what is important in life, what gives us meaning, and how we will work toward those things that will not only allow us to live well, but will influence the lives of those around us for the  good.  We can send our lives amassing day upon day, hour upon hour, just letting the circumstances of life unfold and allowing others to decide where we will end up in life.  Or we can choose to invest time in self reflection, planning, goal setting, and making meaningful choices based on our purpose and meaning in life.

So here it is—set aside 5 hours this week to review some of the previous blogs and consider what is your purpose in life?   Spend this time also considering how  you might begin living in ways that move you toward what is  honestly important in life…not just more accumulation of more days.  Consider how having a sense of purpose will help you make decisions. 

I know this time will make sense and will help you in the future to make important and critical decisions.  I know having a sense of meaning, purpose and goals in life will help you when unfortunate or crisis circumstances catch you by surprise.   I know because all this helped me make important decisions in my own cancer journey.  Stay tuned and I will show you how.

Blessings….Grace and Peace.

David Neidert

January 23, 2010

Do You Have Enough Pain?

I served as a university risk manager for over 15 years.  While in that assignment, I learned the basic elements of ergonomics.  Simply put, ergonomics helps identify those workplace or furniture designs that create uncomfortable environments or stresses on the body that over time become physical trauma.

One lesson I learned as an ergonomic’s student is being aware of what your body tells you through discomfort or pain.  It is often easy to spot and correct a workplace induced physical stress when we pay attention to what our body verbalizes.

I was complaining one evening to my wife that my shoulder and elbow had been hurting for weeks.  Over the next few days, while working at my computer, it dawned on me that this pain resulted from where I had placed my computer mouse.  I lowered the mouse location by five inches and received pain relief in another ten days.  I could have tried a lot of pain killers or received medical attention and never reduced the discomfort.  But by being self-aware, I eliminated my pain and regained lost productivity.

Honest self-reflection is an essential teacher in our journey to self-identity.  Spanish Jesuit and novelist, Baltasar Gracian, says it this way, “Self-reflection is the school of wisdom.”  Self reflection provides the insights needed for living well, just like being aware of my pain and watching for the remedy.  If we are not living as we want, we must ask the question of why?  If your dreams are not being fulfilled, you have to ask, “What keeps me from enjoying the life I dream about?”  Honest and penetrating self reflection educates us about what matters in our life and what keeps us from truly living with purpose and meaning.

A Stephen Covey insight applies to this statement and jabs enough that it might be what is needed to nudge a person awake.  It is about pain.  In his book, “First Things First,” (which I highly recommend), Covey observes, “Much of our pain in life comes from the sense that we’re succeeding in one role (of life) at the expense of others, possibly even more important roles.”  Dr. Phil McGraw is blunter when he asks, “Is it working for you?”  If we have enough pain from our current situations and life journey so far, acknowledging that pain and finding healthy remedies for it might really change us now and for the future.   Self awareness is fundamental to a purpose driven life and ultimately contentment.

So today’s consideration: If your life is not what you want it to be, why?  What are the external barriers that keep you from living with satisfaction (e.g., finances, location, job skill, education)?  What are the internal barriers that keep you from living with contentment (e.g., fear of risk, fear of failure, procrastination, or lack of accountability)?

In upcoming  blogs, I want to give you some steps in setting goals.  I don’t intend to leave you answering seemingly esoteric questions.  To do that would be irresponsible for me.  I will give you some steps in goal setting that I use and that have been suggested by many experts.  But for now, I hope you are following this process that I know will help you live with purpose.

Blessings as you continue moving forward and become honest with yourself about what will help you live well.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 22, 2010

Contentment has to Come from Inside You

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I taught an introductory course on business at the college level many years ago.  During the class we discussed marketing concepts at length, particularly promotion and advertising.  It was fun sharing the multifaceted stages of promotion and advertising used to capture a consumer’s attention.

One assignment students enjoyed was analyzing various advertising methods.  I asked them to consider only one question as they dissected these enticing ads; “What is this advertisement honestly selling?”  Students often reported that the bulk of advertising sells a better life with little effort required, pleasure as the only purpose for life, or sex.  Visually captivating sound bites often persuade consumers to spend billions of dollars for products they do not need in order to grasp a “better life.”

The French author Francois Duc de la Rochefouchauld wrote, “When we cannot find contentment in ourselves it is useless to seek it elsewhere.”  Goethe’s character, Dr. Faust, is the epitome of seeking contentment outside ourselves.  In Goethe’s story, Dr. Faust makes a pact with Mephistopheles—the devil—to provide contentment through pleasures found in the world around him.  But over time, Faust realizes there is no fulfillment in pleasure seeking.  Faust sadly acknowledges that satisfaction and meaning to life comes when we are content with ourselves, find love, and give compassion.

Seeking fulfillment and wholeness in things—possessions, fame, or power—can never lead to contentment if we are not internally at peace with what we are doing in life or who we are.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.”  Paul could accept whatever externally life provided because he knew internally whom he served and what brought him lasting life.  Paul was so sure of his purpose, calling, message, and the meaning of life that he went to his death in AD 64 rather than give it up for fleeting earthly existence (we believe Paul was beheaded under Nero’s reign during the Roman Empire).

Intimately knowing one’s life purpose and what is truly important does bring contentment.  Failing to know what will lead us to live well may cause us to make choices that will lead us to circumstances we never intended or thought would happen.

So today ponder, If I lost everything I owned materially, would I still be a contented person?  Why?  If I would not be content if I lost all my possessions, why would that be my response?  What does fame, fortune, or prestige give me that are necessary for my feeling of completeness and purpose?  If I discovered I would be dead in six months, what would I focus on?  Why would this draw my attention?

Blessings as you discover what really matters in life….Grace and Peace.

David Neidert

January 21, 2010

Make a Choice to Live, Not Just Endure

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Multitudes of people die a little more each day at 5 pm without even knowing it.  This is the hour when scores of people awake to discover they died a little more that day because they are in jobs they hate, force themselves to endure, or use merely to pay the expenses accumulating in their lives.  This is confirmed by a survey released today showing that 55% of workers, both young and old, are dissatisfied with their work environment.

Some time ago, I read a “Letter to the Editor” in a popular business magazine from a young man toiling in a company that he cannot wait to leave once he has “enough experience.”  This toxic working place is draining the life out of him eight hours at a time.  No wonder he lamented in this letter that the only energy he musters is for enduring rather than contributing to his company.  His letter gives us an image to go with the observation of American poet, Edward Dahberg, “Man pines to live but cannot endure the days of his life.”

In earlier vernacular, it was fashionable to speak of ‘pining’ for something, particularly one’s sweetheart.  The phrase is no longer in vogue, but it legitimately captures the way multitudes of people feel about their work and lives.  People often grow weary with longing for a more fulfilling job, career, or life.  Women and men not only grieve but also ache to possess a more satisfying existence, one that makes them feel complete like having the love of a special someone.

I don’t think it is off base to assert that people feel grief (a loss, brokenness) for a more fulfilling job or daily existence.  As a former HR director and student of leadership for the past 30 years, we see this ‘soul grief’ played out in lost productivity, high turnover, absenteeism, and debilitating stress.  I used to watch the percentages of these in workforce figures.  These numbers often gave me a clue when things were not going well in the heart of those employed.  What is sad for leadership (or should be a concern for leaders) is that this grief and stress secretly harbored may become so profound that is spills over in how a person engages their families, friends, and those closes to them.  What happens in the work environment, I believe, has a direct link to the quality of our well being not only personally, but in our communities.

I hear and read about the longing of employees several times a year in a class I teach.  During a five week course, the final class assignment is developing a personal written mission statement.  The students in this particular class get to present his or her mission statement after they have used many of the questions I am including in my blog posts.  It has NEVER failed that on the night of these student presentations that some of the adult students announce they have resigned from his or her current employment because he or she awoke to the subtle death happening to them eight hours at a time.  I always forewarn them that this might happen during the opening night of class, but most don’t believe it.  I haven’t been wrong yet, even with the most skeptical of students.

Developing and living by a personal written mission statement helps us have a sharper image of what will bring well-being and fullness to our lives.  A personal mission statement will also help us make the choices necessary to live well in all areas of life.

Is spending your life just enduring what happens appealing to you?  Does dying eight hours a day to pay the rent fulfill your dreams and purpose?  Spending time coming to terms with your life and purpose is a worthwhile endeavor, because you have to ultimately answer the two questions above.   So consider:

If no barriers existed to what you could do or be in life, what job, work, or activity would you undertake that would bring you personal fulfillment?  Why would it fulfill you?  What would it provide (honestly) that your current situation does not supply?  What would it take you to start uncovering your dream job, work, or activity?  How would living out this change help you live a life that has meaning and purpose?

Blessings for this day.  Find life, hope, and excitement as you consider this moment and your future.

Grace and Peace.

David Neidert

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