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Measure

This morning my workout was a Plyo workout. This is the dreaded day of the week for me as plyo is a cardio jumping workout, and it’s hard. And today’s plyo was adding weights, so I knew it was going to be even harder. Cardio has never been my favorite part of working out. I love lifting weights, and I enjoy outdoor cardio like running, but cardio workouts online are hard. But, I also know that pressing past that dread and getting it done is the best thing I can do, and when I’m done I will be glad I did it, so I did. Never give up on a goal or habit just because it’s hard.

I felt pretty good when I started, so I pushed myself a little harder than I had the last several times I’ve done this particular workout. I jumped everything, usually I modify at least a couple, and I did it with more weight. I finished the whole workout without hitting pause or stopping a couple seconds early on any of the sets. At the end I had the thought hit me really clearly; I had improved, I had made progress! When I workout, I really don’t measure my progress too much, because I have enough of a habit that I just keep going every day. Often I feel sore, which is a good indicator that I’ve worked, and I do work at doing more, lifting heavier during the workout, completing it faster, etc. But rarely think about it beyond that. But today I was proud of myself. I don’t need the motivation of always seeing results in my exercise routine to keep going, but today was a great reminder how important seeing that progress is, at least some of the time. However, there are so many other areas of my life that I forget to measure, I forget to look back and see the progress. This mornings workout reminded me that looking back and seeing progress is an important part of keeping us going.

Our bodies are fairly easy to measure progress in given the right tools. It requires more than just a scale to gauge fitness, but some of the things that measure progress would be inches lost, or if you’re trying to build muscle inches gained. How your clothes fit, if you’re sleeping better, how much energy you have, etc. But other areas of our lives aren’t as easy to gauge. I paint, as my website is evidence of. About a year ago my daughter cleaned out our guest room so she could move into it. She brought me a whole bunch of my first year’s worth of paintings that I had completely forgotten I even had. I looked through all these pictures. Some I was impressed with my ability, even early on, but most I realized how far I have come. It was a great measurement tool to help me see I had improved and to help motivate me to keep going.

It is so easy to get up every morning and do the same things over and over, and never think too much about it. But as we set goals and try to live intentionally each day we can’t do that. Setting goals, creating habits, developing character – all these things require conscious effort and time. But they also have measurable outcomes. How often though do we forget to measure, forget to celebrate those small victories? As we move forward day to day, we will have awesome days, or weeks, but we will also have bad days and weeks. Looking back to see how far we’ve come is a great way to help us push past those bad days. Sometimes when we hit a wall in our progress, looking back will give us the motivation to break through that wall instead of stop. How do we measure? Look at your big goals, look at the small steps it takes to get there, break them down as small as they need to be to accomplish, and then celebrate every single step you take, don’t wait until you’re finished. Exercising is something I plan on doing for the rest of my life, but today I realized how important it is to celebrate those victories over self, over dread, the victory of completing well what I set out to do, no matter how hard I thought it was, or how hard it truly was. Next week’s plyo won’t be so dreaded, and some day I might even enjoy it!

I hope today you will take opportunity to look at your life, look back and see how far you’ve come, whether it’s just looking back at yesterday, or back 20 years, see the good, celebrate those victories. With those victories, set more goals, live more intentionally, and remember to measure your successes, because no matter how small they may seem, they are there and deserve to be celebrated.

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Perseverance

Perseverance is something I think about all the time. Often when things don’t seem to be fitting together, I can’t see the next step, or I wonder if I am even going in the right direction. I have the choice to keep going or to quit. I remember really early on in developing my website, I was trying to get the program to do something, and it wasn’t working. Nothing I did seemed to be working any more. I was extremely frustrated with the computer, but even more so with myself and my apparent lack of ability to learn. I stood up from our family computer, everyone else was in the room watching a movie, and very frustrated said how stupid I was, and I couldn’t learn anything! I left the room very discouraged and went to my room to cool down. I’m sure my family was stunned. I don’t usually let my frustrations out in such a vocal manner. But as I cooled down, and asked my Heavenly Father if I truly was stupid, I had an overwhelming feeling of peace, and a thought to try again tomorrow. The next day I resumed my efforts with my website, and found that overnight everything I had tried to do had worked, it had just taken time for those changes to take affect. That lesson has helped me as I continue to modify and work on my website, as some things seem to be instant, while others take several hours to work correctly. I am grateful for the patience I was instructed to have, the ability to have that patience, and for not scrapping the whole project that night.

Perseverance to me is the difference between our initial goals and success. Dreams are great to have, goals are great to set, but it is by daily choosing to take the steps necessary that we accomplish those goals, that those dreams become a reality. No matter what our goals are we will hit a wall. Perseverance means to figure out how to get through over, under, or around that wall. More and more today I see people afraid to fail. Everything needs to be perfect, everything needs to be laid out ahead of time so that there is no guessing. Often my husband or I will send our kids on an errand or have a task for them to complete. They used to ask a lot of questions, how to do this and that, they spent so much time asking questions that they could have been done by the time they were finished asking questions. Often, if we chose to answer the questions ahead of time, they couldn’t comprehend the answers because they hadn’t completed any of the steps in the process to even understand what we were talking about. We now tell them to go figure it out. If they get to a point where they really can’t proceed then come ask, but not before. Some people ask us, what if they don’t do it right? My response, there’s more than one way to accomplish any job, and usually they are successful once they get into it without needed additional help. We are living in a world with a “now” mentality. Many people in our society think things should be handed to them, but have no real idea of how those items will be paid for, or even an understanding that they need to be, that other people are working hard to make wages so that they can have what they want without putting forth any effort.

When Thomas Edison was inventing the lightbulb it took upwards of 10,000 attempts before he got it right. He was asked how it felt to fail so many times. His reply was that he had not failed 10,000 times, he had successfully discovered 10,000 ways which did not work. When we think we have failed it can be discouraging to start again. But we only fail when we give up. Everything else is just data, and as Edison put it, successful data, telling us what does and doesn’t work. When we organize that data we can proceed forward, either in the same direction because we are getting closer, or to completely change courses because we can see the data not moving us in the right direction. But if our goal or direction is something we really want, we need to persevere through the data so that we can arrive at the end goal.

We are born with an innate ability to persevere through difficulties. If I fell down as many times as a toddler learning to walk, I think I might give up on walking. No matter what a small child does, they persevere through difficulties to learn. They are fun to watch, and can be an inspiration to us as we think about our own challenges and trials, and how to work through them. Thomas Edison also said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” That is the beauty of how the Lord has set up the earth and time. We have about 16 hours a day to work on things, and then we get to sleep. What’s awesome is that we get to wake up the next morning and start again. Every day is a new beginning. Even if we didn’t do as good, or complete everything we were working on the day before, we can start again the next day, often with a fresh perspective.

Perseverance through life requires us to know what we want and where we are going. If we don’t know those 2 things, then it really doesn’t matter what we do. I love the famous Cheshire Cat quote from Alice in Wonderland:

See the source image

Without our dreams and our goals, we won’t know where we are going, and instead of persevering to an end, we end up just floating along, being taken wherever the current flows. The problem with that end, is it’s usually not where we expected to be. I can’t find the author to the last quote, but this is one that I love, and hear often in my workout videos. It’s inspirational to me to keep going, to keep moving forward regardless of how well I did the day before, to persevere through everything life throws at me, and to put in the effort for what is really important to me. It says:

“Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do.”

I would love to hear how you have persevered through trials, challenges, or to achieve your goals!

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Character

The other day my boys and I were driving into town.  It’s about a 30-minute ride, and we often have very interesting conversations.  We were talking about speed limits and my boys were asking how much over the speed limit I am willing to go before I think of it as speeding.  I told them that no matter how fast I went over the speed limit I felt I was speeding, but I usually allowed myself about 2 miles per hour over the speed limit.  (Yes, I am one of those annoying people who goes pretty close to the speed limit!)  They stated that Dad didn’t feel like he was speeding until he passed 5 miles per hour over the speed limit.  I said, “good for him, he’s not me.”  They asked if I had a really long straight stretch of road if I would be willing to speed, just to see what the vehicle would do.  I told them no.  They asked, what if you knew there would be no cops.  I still said no.  They wondered why not.  I said, “Character is who you are and what you do when no one is watching, and I want to have good character.”

It’s interesting thinking about this, and then reading about it as I have pondered upon character.  I found it interesting that several people talked about reputation versus character.  I thought a lot about that.  To me, reputation is what we want people to see, character is who we truly are.  Reputation has a huge influence, but a good reputation doesn’t mean that you are a good person, likewise, a bad reputation doesn’t mean you are a bad person.  To me, a reputation is what others think, what others perceive.  That is something I cannot control.  Reputations can be built without you ever doing anything if others decide they want to talk about you.  Reputations can also be destroyed over night just because people don’t like you.  However, character, who you truly are is something only you control.  No one else has that power.  When someone destroys their own reputation it’s usually because they have poor character to start with.  A reputation of a good person can be destroyed, but the good that they do, and the good influence they have had is a lot harder to dismiss or get rid of.  We cannot control what other people think or say of us, the only thing we can control is ourselves and how we respond to the myriad of different situations we find ourselves in on a daily basis. 

So, what is character?  This is something I have also consider a lot, and this is something you somewhat have to decide for yourself, but I think there are some basics that make up a good character, and things that everyone can strive for.  These are a few of many that I think are important:

  1. Honesty/trustworthy – This is something I see lacking in our society today.  People keep their word as far as it is beneficial to them, but if a little lie or a little twist of the truth would be more beneficial, or make them look better, they go for it.  I remember learning about being trustworthy as an older child.  I had a tendency to tell small lies.  One day my mom told me that she simply could not trust what I said any more.  I couldn’t believe it!  Didn’t I deserve to be believed!  She said I could earn her trust back, but it would take time and work on my part.  I wanted to be trust, so I worked hard.  Eventually I was able to gain her trust back, and I have never done anything since to lose that trust.  I strive now to be honest in all my dealings.  Do I slip up occasionally?  Of course, I’m not perfect, but if I do, it bothers me so much that I have been dishonest, I have to return and apologize and try to make amends.  I don’t ever want anyone to question my honesty ever again.
  2. Responsibility – This is one I have always tried to do, I don’t remember any particular reason that this has always been important to me, but I was always taught to take responsibility for my own actions.  My kids have sometimes struggled with that, and I feel badly that I made such a big deal out of it when disciplining, but I believe they are the better for it.  Sometimes they can’t see how their own actions affected the situation, they can only see how the other person reacted, and we have some pretty humbling discussions about how our actions affect others, but we need to see that, we need to realize that what we do doesn’t just affect us, but others, sometimes only a few, sometimes large amounts of people, what we do has a ripple affect and we need to take responsibility for those actions.
  3. Self-Control – This one may seem funny as a character trait, but we need to have self-control.  I remember as a kid we had everything we needed, we were very blessed, but we didn’t have tons of excess, we used what we had wisely, and we saved for what we needed.  We took care of the things we had so they would last.  In today’s world everything is disposable.  Something breaks you go get a new one, a new version comes out, you replace the old one even though there’s nothing wrong with it.  Don’t have enough money, use credit cards, get a new loan, pay it off later, or maybe never.  We are not a society that looks to the future.  We want things now.  Self-control is gone, we eat too much, we spend too much, we play games too much, we don’t take our responsibilities seriously.  There is no character building in that.  Character comes from seeing the bigger picture, making priorities, and then striving for them.  Pay off the loans, save up for the car, eat healthier.  They all take work, they all take time, but the rewards are not just about self-control, but about being at peace.
  4. Integrity – This one is harder to define, but I think is one of the most important ones.  Integrity to me is having a moral code that I live by based on truth.  Truth is non-negotiable.  I remember my son learning how to write his numbers.  He struggled with the number 8.  Finally, one day he said to me, this may not be how it’s supposed to be, but this is how I write my 8’s.  I told him that’s not how it works.  In our society today we hear so many people talk about truth as if it’s something that can be changed based upon circumstances.  That’s not how it works.  Whether we accept it or not, there are truths that exist independent of what anyone claims are their reality, for example – Everyone can agree that killing another person is wrong, or that stealing is wrong.  Those are truths that are non-negotiable.  There are many truths that exist, we need to seek those truths, because they make us better people. 

There are so many more attributes that make up character: knowledge, wisdom, accountability, dependability, kindness, courage, selflessness, good work ethic, just to name a few.  A good character is not developed by happenstance, but by conscientious effort over a long period of time.  The small things we do every day, the little acts of kindness, the little patience we have in a hard situation, the benefit of the doubt we give when no one else does, being honest even when it might hurt us. We decide on what is important and then we make a conscious effort to make choice that coincide with that. The nice thing is, we have a lifetime to develop a good character, but we need to work on it every day, every choice.

A couple quotes from my reading that I loved, the first from Author/historian: Erasmus – “We sow our thoughts, and we reap our actions; we sow our actions, and we reap our habits; we sow our habits, and we reap our characters; we sow our characters, and we reap our destiny.”  We need to be aware of what we are doing, where we are going, and how we are getting there, and if it’s not a place we want to be, we are the only ones who can change it.

The second quote is by Earnest L. Wilkinson – “Character … is not something to be obtained by ease and indolence or being socially agreeable.  It cannot be acquired by absorption or by proxy or on the auction block.  It is a reward derived from honest toil in overcoming difficulties.  We grow by mastering tasks which others consider impossible.”  You can read the article here. I love this.  We can change, we just have to decide to and then work on it, day by day. 

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Dall Sheep Time lapse

I recently was asked if I had ever painted a Dall Sheep. I had not, but I do like a challenge, so I painted 2. My son asked why I never did a time lapse video of my painting. I said because I really didn’t know how. So he got the camera set up and ready to go so all I had to do was turn it on and go. I then learned how to combine videos, speed them up and load them to you tube. I have not, however, learned how to add music or anything, so they are a silent video this time. You can check out the videos here:

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Priorities

Many years ago someone told me to write my priorities down and then rank them from most important on down. I thought I knew what my priorities were well enough, but did so anyway. I think I really did know them, but writing them down and then putting them in order not only helped me see what was really important then, but has influenced how I make decisions and why, ever since then.

Our priorities should govern our lives and everything we do. We can set new priorities as we progress, so they aren’t set in stone, but there are some that shouldn’t be negotiable. When we have good priorities, it helps us to set better goals, better boundaries, and to achieve more conscientiously in our lives. I love to exercise, and eat healthy. When people ask me why I look like I do, I start talking about exercising and eating right, and they quickly stop me and say, you just must be blessed to be fit. Actually no, it is a priority in my life to be healthy, and so I take the steps to be so. Sometimes people set priorities and then feel like they are restrictions on themselves, I notice especially in the fitness department. Eating less food, or exercising everyday is viewed as an inconvenience, or as a punishment. Priorities aren’t punishment, rather, a means to an end.

I will share with you several of my priorities and why they are what they are, and where they are in my ordered list. Your list will look different than mine, but I want you to really think about what is important, why, and how you are going to get to where you want to be. It takes effort, but disciplining yourself will help to make you who you desire to become, but doing nothing about what you want will keep you where you are.

First priority: My relationship with my Heavenly Father, and as appendages to that, with my Savior Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. These relationships are the most important thing in my life, because I want to go back to live with them, and that responsibility lies solely with me and no one else, so it is totally up to me to maintain that relationship. No one else can do it for me. What do I do to work on that, it’s actually pretty simple, pray, lots of prayer. I pray all the time. Sometimes formally, but mostly in my mind. Read my scriptures daily, usually takes about 30 minutes. And lastly, try to emulate my Savior in all I do. I fail often, but I have made progress. Progress is what it’s about, not perfection right now.

Second Priority: My family, first my relationship with my husband, second my kids. These are the most important relationships I have on earth, and I want to get back to my Heavenly Father with them, but it takes all of us working individually to do that. What do I do to work on this priority? My husband and I try to go on a date at least once a week. Sometimes it’s dinner at home without the kids, sometimes at a restaurant, sometimes its a trip to watch one of our kids play sports, but we get the drive together and hotel room alone. Sometimes it’s going with him to get materials for his job, that happens a lot of the time. I also try to listen to what he’s interested in so I can ask intelligent questions, and actually understand what he’s doing. I spend time at his job sight helping, and usually get to clean it up regularly. Today, I am typing in the truck as we drive to look at a job. My kids learn, or hopefully learned they were a priority as I spend hundreds of hours volunteering at their elementary school in various capacities. Making their education a priority all the way through, even though it meant schools twice as far away as the normal schools because of the opportunities. Hiking and biking in the summer. If they have a hike they want to do, or a place they wanted to visit, we try to get there. Playing games on a regular basis, and teaching my kids about Jesus, so they can make good choices. Participating in the activities they want to participate in and finding the money to do so, even when it’s tight.

The next few priorities aren’t in a particular order as they all are of equal importance to me.

Being healthy. We all have genetic predispositions to things. Those things might kill us in the end, but, I always tell my kids, I want my genetics to kill me, not my lack of taking care of myself. I want to postpone all the genetic problems I might have for as long as possible. What do I do about it? I exercise 6 days a week (Sunday is a day of rest). I strive to make healthy choices in what I eat. This one is harder as I love food. But for the mot part we eat pretty healthy.

My Church. Going to Church is important to me as it makes my week go better. Also, we always have a job, and making sure I do my job is really important as well. What do I do? Well, obviously go to church, but I also do my calling, which right now is an early morning seminary teacher. That happens at 6:30 am Monday through Thursday. I am grateful I team teach with a friend. We enjoy the kids, and it has been one of my favorite callings. I also help out when I see a need or am asked to help with other activities or meals, etc, and check on several other people in my area regularly to make sure they are doing well.

My business. This is important, not only to me, but hopefully someday, it will benefit our families income. I enjoy art, I enjoy sharing my art. I also have enjoyed my blog, learning about new products, and sharing my interests with others. I am still trying to figure out a lot of how to move forward, but I am enjoying the journey for the most part, and love it when I get feed back from people, whether it’s suggests on a new product, something I could do better, or just people enjoying what I do, it helps motivate me to continue.

Everything else comes after these few priorities. You don’t need to have a ton, but you do need to know what you want in life, and how you want to get there. A lot of my goals stem from what is important to me, or new things I want to learn about that may some day become new priorities. Priorities can help to guide your life, make decisions easier, and give you a reason why you do things they way you do. Priorities and goals go hand in hand. If anyone ever asks you why, be enthusiastic about it and share, you never know who might need ideas or help getting started. If someone thinks what you want in life is dumb, ignore them. It’s not their journey. And when someone tells you their goals, encourage them, help them if you can, everyone needs a cheerleader once in a while. Whatever you do, go write them down so you know exactly what they are. I would love to hear some of your priorities and how you make them priorities in your life.