Why You Need A Vision

She stood there in front of me at my desk. Sixth grade math begins the change to Algebra. She had just failed a timed quiz on Addition.
“I’m not good at math,” she said. “I’ve always gotten bad grades in the subject.”
Then she added, “I wish it would change.”

“Wishing isn’t going to change anything,” I replied. “For your grade to change, you must change!”

We then worked together to develop a plan of action for her to create the change she needed and wanted. She had the potential for excellence in math all along.
But she hadn’t seen it in herself. And she didn’t have a plan to create the change she wished for.

In order to hit a target, you must first see the target.

Her vision for herself became the target.
I won’t give the details of the plan, because the story is just to illustrate.
Over the first semester of that year she mastered the foundations of all four operations.

If your Vision of Your Best Self is unclear, out of focus, incomplete, it is difficult to hit that target.
You might even say that it would be an accident if you did.
Maybe it would be more comfortable to use the word ‘lucky.’

Do people realize their dreams just out of luck? Maybe. But the odds would be millions to one.
But wishing is not going to produce in real life the results seen in Fairy Tales.

What about if I work hard? Isn’t that likely to get me to my goal?
That would depend on the connection between your work and your goal.

You see, often we mistake rewards for the goal. “I have this reward, so I must have reached a goal.”

The commercials and shows on TV, movies, music, entertainment – you might generalize and say Society Today – is focused on rewarding yourself just because ‘You deserve it.’

If you already deserve it, you don’t have to work for it. Just being You qualifies you for everything you can dream.
Does Life work that way for you? It doesn’t for me.

Rewards are easy to get. A few credit cards, a loan or two, good credit – those make it possible to give yourself rewards without actually reaching Your Potential – without attaining The Vision that you have for yourself.
But –
Rewards without effort quickly lose their allure.
Rewards without effort result in boredom, even in the midst of abundance.
And Boredom results in depression, when it is allowed to live in your mind.

Shape Your Vision

It is easy to focus on the rewards that you associate with Reaching Your Potential.
But, as shown above, a reward that is not earned becomes a trap that distracts you from working toward your real target.
There’s nothing wrong with motivating yourself with pictures and dreams of a beautiful home, cars, boat, travel.
But, attach the reward to a level of achievement.
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“When I master Chinese I will travel to walk the Great Wall.”

This way you are focused on reaching personal growth goals.
You will have a clear, focused vision in which you see yourself achieving your potential, at the top of your game, acknowledged by those who are important to you.

Shaping your vision should not be viewed as an easy task, one that you can sculpt with little effort.
Just thinking about your future achievements while driving or playing golf or sleeping will not be sufficient to create a detailed vision in which you are the star.

Wishing for change will never achieve change. Change takes work. Hard work.

Question 1
What will reaching my Vision look like?

You will need some paper to write on. Lots of it.
I know how easy it is to believe that “I won’t forget, so I don’t need to write it down.”
I know how easy it is to lose scraps of paper that I used to scribble my thoughts on in a moment of inspiration.

So- I recommend a Notebook.
I have found Composition Notebooks to be the best for me.

Reasons –
The wire-bound ones get the wire caught on something and the result is a pointy nuisance.
The wire gets crimped and the pages no longer lay flat.
The pages tear out too easily.
They are just large enough to be difficult to carry around.
The covers are not stiff enough to make a comfortable writing background.
I get too much on the larger page that needs to be organized later.

First, write out what your Vision will look like when you have Reached Your Goal.
This will maybe take many pages to get the picture just right.
Write, edit, rewrite.

An Example Vision
“I will be standing on the stage before an audience of thousands detailing my discovery of the sequencing and interconnections among the components of literacy that will make the classroom teacher more effective and the students more successful.”

Getting your Vision into just-right words may take more work than you think at first. But keep working. Keep tweaking.
You are worth it!

Shape Your Vision.

Next week: Shape Yourself : Create A Plan

How To Get The First Time Done

First time for anything is a little bit scary. Sometimes immovably scary, scared stiff.

However, life is filled with first times. The fewer firsts that we experience, the fewer things we accomplish.

What prepares a person to face firsts with a calm determination?

I remember the first time I kissed a girl.
My heart was pounding, my face was red, I was sweating and trembling. I had no idea what would happen. What would it feel like? How would the girl respond? Would it be just like kissing my mother?

I was in the third grade. I had written “Love Notes” to her many times.
Dear Muriel,
I love you.
Do you love me?
Check ____ Yes or ____ No.

My friend Richard had dared me. I knew I had the ability to kiss. I knew that Muriel had checked Yes many times that year. I believed she would let me kiss her. I wasn’t sure if my heart would explode before or after the kiss. But I was pretty sure it would indeed explode.
So I kissed her on the cheek, then raced for the classroom.
This was a time in American Education when the teacher sent the kids out for recess, while she stayed inside. Simpler days!
It was winter. A couple feet of snow lay on the ground. I took off my jacket, boots, hat, and scarf in the cloakroom, then sauntered into the room looking as innocent as possible.
She looked up from her desk, handed me the bell, and told me to ring it for the end of recess.
I smiled smugly at Richard as he came in, but blushed when Muriel walked past me with a coy grin on her face.

First times!
I think I can guarantee two facts about First Times:
1. You will remember it, probably for the rest of your life;
2. You were scared.

Maybe there’s a third thing to ‘guarantee’ :
3. You were proud of the accomplishment.

With some of Life’s Firsts you may have later realized you should have been embarrassed.
But, not in the moment of victory.

This is supposed to be a “How To” – not a trip down Memory Lane.
So, here goes…

Actually the Memory Lane trip above is the First “How To.”

Dig into your Memory for the record of the successes that you have experienced. Every one of those successes is a preparation for another Victory, with another First.

Human logic says, “If you could do that, then you can do this!”
Relive the feelings, both scared and victorious feelings. Pull them up in your mind and rehearse them as you plan for the effort on a new First.

It is not a surprise to you that not all of your attempts at a First Time ended with a victory lap.
Everyone has experienced failure.
Failure is both bad and good.
While it makes us feel bad, maybe even look bad to important people, the failure experiences hold a lot of important learning opportunities.
Make the failure as important as the success.
Analyze the thinking you did, the preparations you made, the things you said and did, who you included as your team, your performance in the Doing, responses from important people during and after the event.
Learn from both the good and the bad. Resolve not to repeat the bad. See if a second chance is available and desired.

Modify yourself and your preparations and Try Again.

Success in a 3 Act Play.

Influences on My Life

Muriel moved back to Vermont.
My family moved to Florida.
New friends.
New courage to muster.
New girls to write notes to.

I’m sure that I developed some courage for new things as a result of seeing my father take on life’s challenges.
Parents sometimes don’t realize the importance of allowing their children to see parental struggles, successes, and failures. But these are life lessons. Parental experiences can provide the memories for their children to pull up when facing the terror of their Firsts.

My sister taught me a lot about courage, too. Every day, every breath, was a struggle for her. But her courage and grace helped to shape me as I have faced life.

Bible Heroes have shared their courage with me as I have studied their lives, their experiences.
The Bible has shown us the results of poor choices in peoples’ lives.
The Bible also provides the standards, values, and Source of strength that we may all build into the structure of our daily lives.

Share a memory of a First that you have experienced.
Learning from other people’s lives is often easier than experiencing it ourselves.

Comments are welcomed.

How To Reach Best You

I have used the #BestYou on my blog for some time now – more than a year. It’s time to look carefully at what my intended meaning is, and what it might mean for you.

First, My Best is not to be the measure you use for yourself.
We each have capabilities and talents.
The level I am capable of attaining in some areas may not be your Best.
And, my Best in some efforts may be paltry when compared to your achievements.

Rule: Don’t compare yourself to others.

Second, there are only two acceptable comparisons:
1. With yourself from where you started;
2. Jesus to where He wants us to be.

I realize that you probably have already accumulated many accomplishments.
But let’s work through a couple exercises.

An inventory to determine where you are starting is important.
1. What are your inherent aptitudes?
Things that you had a natural liking for and easily acquired skills in?
What skills or interests did your parents model for you?
Teachers or others that were role models to you that inspired you to learn something?

What have you done with these abilities, knowledge, and skills?
What are you doing to encourage yourself to continue developing things on this list?

2. What are your ‘dream abilities’?
Maybe you have thought or said “If only I could…”
Write a list.

What have you done to pursue these abilities, knowledge, and skills?
What are you doing to encourage yourself to pursue things on this list?

3. What are your developed abilities and achievements?

You probably read through those lines without getting paper and pen and ‘doing’ the exercise.
That’s okay.
Let me stir the soup a little more.

Focus your thoughts on one category at a time and write what comes into your mind.

Categories in which you may have skills and abilities:
Mind – mental abilities – thinking – learning
Hands – manual abilities to make things and do things – touching that soothes and heals – draw – paint – sew – cook – garden – musical
Body – exercise – balance – dance – movement – rhythms

Spiritual, Creative, Academic (Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral degrees)
Physical, Recreational, Musical, Artistic

Attitudes: persistence, consistency, never quit, positive outlook, encouraging, resolution


At an early age I determined that I wanted to become a teacher.
My mother was my first teacher. I found that I learned well from her methods of instruction.
I also had two or three excellent teachers in my formal school experiences.
I applied the methods they used that were effective with me. I found that I could successfully tutor fellow students that where struggling.

I read every book on teaching that I could get my hands on. Then I applied what I had read to my classrooms.
I observed other teachers whenever possible.
I assembled ideas of my own – amalgams and hybrids of reading, listening, and trying.
I asked mentors to observe and coach me.
I built successes into my regular performances in the classroom.
On the ride home and in the quiet of working in my gardens, I reflected on the work of the day – noting successes and failures. Planning for the next time that would avoid the failure.

That is the operant word.
The key to all learning is Repetition.
Repetition is the Mother of Learning.
Mastery of the basics makes it possible for Genius to Achieve.
Whether it is manual or mental skills, they are honed through practice – Repetition.

I know that there are exceptions – savants who seem to be born with a special ability.
One of my students could tell which day of the week any date was – past or future. No practice involved.
My wife has piano lessons with a first grade boy. He is able to create original compositions. He has finger dexterity that is beyond most children his age. His musical thinking is amazing.
But he spends hours practicing in between lessons. Because he wants to do more.

Now – – –
Go back and do the 3-Part Inventory.
Put in the effort.
Be confident that you are The Best You now, and are working toward the future Best You.

Tomorrow will probably require some more effort so you can stay The Best You.
It’s an on-going effort.
Be willing to Repeat the effort daily.

Everyone has the responsibility to become their Best Self.

Beware The Temptation

The Tuesday deadline came and passed.

I had no inspiration, no message.

“It’s no problem!” I assured myself. “What loss or penalty will I experience if I miss a week?”

So, I let the day pass. Oh, I stayed busy! So busy that I could ignore the nagging thoughts that I had somehow ‘let my readers down.’

No one shouted at me, “Beware the temptation to let it slide!”

I planted seeds and tended young plants in my garden.

I made a plant stand for some plant-gifts that I received for my birthday.

I worked along the fence-line that had been ignored for a decade (so it really needed my attention).

I scraped fence, I pressure-washed fence, I painted fence. All worthy work.

Still, no one shouted at me, “Beware the temptation to let it slide!”

Usually I have a burning idea in my mind that bursts out of the keyboard almost spontaneously.

I reviewed my notebooks, looking for an idea from previous notes, that would inspire me and be beneficial to my readers at the same time.

“The 5 Cs of Leadership”

“Turning Your Deficiency Into Sufficiency”

“Routines – Love ‘em; Hate ‘em”

“How To Keep Motivation Motivating”

“You Don’t Know What You Can Until You Try”

“Enemies of Success”

“Discovering Your Expertise”

While each possible topic released some brain waves, not one grabbed me and shook me out of my lethargy.

Wednesday came and went, with me busier than usual. But no words on a page for my blog happened.

I have a safety net for the week’s post on Thursday afternoon.

The teacher inside me kept up the insistence that I do the work. Schedules are important to teachers. Math class starts at a certain time, English class is on a schedule…

What will my students think if I bail on this task?

The teacher in me shouted, “Beware the temptation to let it slide!”

My sense of ‘teacher responsibilities’ has pushed me to perform over and over during my 40+ years in the classroom.

“It doesn’t matter how I feel; Do it for my students!”

I didn’t keep track of the number of times that mantra (“Do it for them!”) pushed me to prepare and to perform.

As the thoughts (revealed above) coursed through my mind this morning, I was forced to take up my pen (really, my computer) and write.

Do It For Them! carries an urgency that I can’t ignore.

The responsibility is mine.

If I don’t do the work, who will?

“Beware the temptation to let it slide!”

The same urgency exists for you and your work. What can you do?

Plant a tree.

I will never sit in its shade, but ‘they’ will.

Write a book.

My life experiences may be just what someone else needs to gather the courage to persist in their life-calling.

Create a poem.

Someone may not read a whole book, but will gather strength from a short poem – a turn of phrase that sticks with him or her, from which they gather strength.

Write a song.

The melody may be the miracle that lifts the clouds from someone’s mind and helps them carry on.

Show up at work and be cheerful.

Your smile, your humming, the twinkle in your eyes may change a co-worker’s gloom to match your cheer.

When these ideas traveled through my thoughts this morning, I turned off the news, I silenced my phone, I entered my writing spot, and I thought of you.

It takes courage to keep doing. Especially when you feel ‘un-’.

There are so many endings for the prefix ‘un-’.

Un-loved; Un-appreciated; Un-motivated; Un-used; Un-sung.

Because it takes courage to keep doing, build your courage with a different set of ‘un-’s.

Un-daunted. Un-afraid. Un-stoppable. Un-equaled. Un-matched.

As for the list of 7 topics that I rejected for this week: I’ll get to them.

That’s another teacher trick I learned: make a list of things you’ve wanted/planned to do – and it becomes an inspiration to get busy – to get the list done.

Do it for them.

Make your list.

Get started.


“Beware the temptation to let it slide!”

Comments are welcomed.

How To Develop Confidence

My mother knew a lot of Child Psychology. She had no formal degree, but she knew.

When I was about 12 years old she asked me to make a cake. By myself, but she would be in the kitchen with me.
“I’ve tried this recipe a couple times,” she said, “but I can’t get it to come out right.”
All of the ingredients were set out on the counter. The recipe was propped up so I could easily reference it. I began measuring, adding into the bowl, mixing – one line at a time.
The oven was pre-heated.
The raw batter in the cake pan was placed on the middle rack.
The timer was set.
We waited. I don’t remember what I did while waiting. But I checked through the oven glass many times.
The cake was rising just like a good cake should.
Mom also checked, and every time announced, “Looks good. I think you’ve done it!”

Tomato Soup Cake became my specialty.
Every time we had it Mom would repeat, “I don’t know what he does, but I can never get Tomato Soup Cake to turn out right.”
I read recently that it is proclaimed by experts that “Mothers make the difference in establishing confidence in children.”

Too Late

It’s maybe too late for the readers of this blog to depend on their mothers for this miracle.
Does that mean there’s no hope?
Can you at your age do something to develop more confidence?

Yes! You definitely can increase your self-confidence!
Self esteem is a related term.

If you are a parent, or a grandparent, of young children, you have a strong influence on the self esteem that is developed in them.

Confidence-Building Activities

No matter your present level of self-confidence or self esteem, you can take action to increase to a higher level – without becoming conceited or obnoxious.

Confidence is what you want, and change is required in a few areas of your life to achieve it.

1. Change Your Appearance
2. Take Inventory of Yourself
3. Talk To Yourself
4. Set Goals
5. Polish Your Interpersonal Skills

The Details – How-To

1. Appearance
What people see as ‘you’ includes your Clothing, Grooming, and Movements.
Start with the inexpensive areas if you have a limited budget for a new wardrobe.
Grooming: Hair style, hair cut, hair color, beard – your general grooming – is a good place to start. Get some input from trusted friends and advisors.
Movements: The way you stand says a lot about your confidence. Stand tall, shoulders back, head up. Say, “Yes, this is me!” with your posture.
Walking: Confident people walk faster than others. Pick your feet up, don’t slide; take confident steps, which tend to be a little longer than hesitant steps.
Sitting: Don’t slouch. Sit up tall. Always have reading and writing materials with you – and use it while you’re waiting.
Working: Stay busy. Keep the materials out that you need to get your job done. Organized for easy access.
Clothing: Observe what your bosses are wearing. Dress like them.
At Home: If you complete some or all of your work at home, you need an organized work space – an office if you have the space. Avoid clutter. “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”

2. Self Inventory
Make two lists
A. Your Strengths
B. Your Accomplishments
Get a friend to help you with this step.
Keep the list where you will read it daily.

3. Self Care; Self Talk
Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you.
Tell yourself the good words that will encourage you to keep going.
Exercise, diet, recreation, friendships, worship – some of the ways that we can take care of our selves.
Take up some new activities: painting, music, writing – artistic expressions.

4. Set Goals
Change takes time. Be realistic. You might need some advice from a trusted friend or advisor.
Be patient as you put your plans into action.

Ultimately, confidence is built on what you can see that you’ve accomplished.
Every day you need to see that you have reached, or at least, moved closer to a personal goal. Set your goals accordingly.

5. Interpersonal Behaviors
Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Be an Encourager, a Friend. Sound like you have confidence in others as they do their work. Find ways to compliment others. Speak as if you have achieved your goals.
Eliminate complaining and whining.

When possible, avoid places, people, and activities that make you feel bad about yourself – at least until you are stronger, more confident.

In the words of Lao Tzu: Confidence is the greatest friend.
Make that friend.

Comments are welcomed.