Category Archives: balance

Being Thankful at Thanksgiving

Gratitude

Gratitdude 365 Days a Year

I recently read a story about Charles Dickens and a lecture tour he did in America. The story goes that he told one audience that we here in this country are a bit mixed up. He said we should not have one Thanksgiving Day, but that we should have 364 Thanksgiving Days. The one day left over would be used just for complaining and griping; the other 364 to thank God. He said we tend to do the opposite. We complain for 364 days, and then, perhaps, on one day count our blessings.

That left me wondering; how many of us actually take the time to be Thankful even on Thanksgiving? Or do we get so caught up in the turkeys, pies, cranberry sauce and football to remember why we have the day off. Yes, the Pilgrims had a great feast with their new friends, but the reason they had the feast was to express gratitude. First, to God for blessing them with a great harvest, and also, to thank the Native People who had shared their knowledge and resources with them.

If your answer is no, or you are not sure if you show gratitude on Thanksgiving (or any other day) here is some incentives to change some habits…

Ten Years of Research Shows the Benefits of Gratitude

A growing body of research has tied an attitude of gratitude with a number of positive emotional and physical health benefits. A November 2010 article in The Wall Street Journal summarized the research:

Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy, or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly, and have greater resistance to viral infections.

Now, researchers are finding that gratitude brings similar benefits in children and adolescents. [Studies also show that] kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches, and feel more satisfied with their friends, families, and schools than those who don’t.

The researchers concluded, “A lot of these findings are things we learned in kindergarten or our grandmothers told us, but now we have scientific evidence to prove them …. The key is not to leave it on the Thanksgiving table.”
Melinda Beck, “Thank You. No, Thank You,” The Wall Street Journal (11-23-10)

So this year as you sit down to your feast, remember to be thankful, express gratitude for the blessings in your life, and then continue that gratitude for the remaining 364days of the year.

God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time,
Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
It is a rare person who, when his cup frequently runs over, can thank God instead of complaining about the limited size of his mug!     —Bob Russell

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Choices that Guard your Heart and Help you to Grow

balanced life

A balanced life is a key to spiritual growth

At Celera we are truly blessed with some of the best leadership and church growth coaches in the world. These are men and women who pastor at Mega, Mega churches, author best selling books, strategize for the likes of John Maxwell, and are innovators to the extreme.  One of our newest coaches, Richie Hughes, is no exception. Richie has been in leadership at one of the biggest churches in country, and has now authored his first book: Start Here Go Anywhere. Recently, Richie was a guest writer for Dan Reiland (another Celera coach) for The Pastor’ Coach, and the article tied in so well with my last post regarding the importance of rest, that I wanted to share the article with you here.

“Moving Forward in Your Spiritual Life”

by Richie Hughes

“I’m not going back, I’m moving ahead. I’m here to declare to you, my past is over. In YOU, old things are made new, surrendered my life to Christ, I’m moving forward!” The lyrics to this song by my good friend Ricardo Sanchez have transformed many lives, mine being one.

As leaders, we are constantly reviewing and analyzing data that is critically important, but in reality, it is all yesterday’s news. Don’t get me wrong. As a former executive pastor of Free Chapel in Gainesville, GA and Irvine, CA we must be somewhat obsessed with data. An old basketball coach of mine used to say, “The stats don’t lie!” I found that to be so true. Churches like businesses must be into numbers. Our budgets, attendance, baptisms, etc. all measure the growth or lack thereof in our ministries. The growth of the church is important, but what about your growth, and most importantly, your spiritual growth? There are no hard “stats” for that, so how do you know when you are moving forward?

I remember when my Senior Pastor, Jentezen Franklin informed me that we were going to launch a church in Irvine, CA. Wow! (A bunch of guys from the South doing church on the West Coast? Really?) My mind began to spin, not with fear or doubt, but excitement! I wondered aloud, would our ministry model from GA work in CA? How would we transition staff to our new location? How are we going to pay for all of this? Ok, maybe just a little bit of apprehension rolled in.

Make no mistake, God can do anything He wants and no group of men can ever take credit for what God has done at Free Chapel, but as I was reminiscing with a close pastor friend just recently at Cornerstone in Athens, GA, God always exceeds our expectations when we give Him all of ourselves in our effort. So how do you give Him all of yourself? In our staff coaching sessions, I often share what I believe are three critical components of moving forward in our own spiritual lives:

1. Preserve YOUR Individual Identity.

We must be ourselves, plain and simple. God knows we all wish we could communicate like Andy Stanley, John Maxwell or Rick Warren, or maybe our voice fill the room like Mac Powell from Third Day in the worship experience. But I have found that God loves not only those guys, but He loves you and me just the same. More amazingly to me, He likes us! Now, I’m not talking about a Facebook click for a like, but God really enjoys our communication style, our worship style and everything that makes us who we are. We as leaders don’t have to be the most creative pastor in town. Yes, God loves creativity and people appreciate the preparation, but think about this: as a former high school basketball coach, I never called plays for my team to run with the intent of showing how smart I was as a coach. I called plays to win the game! Likewise we should not start new programs, campaigns or teaching series to show that we are more creative than that “other” church down the road, let’s do series and programs that reach people, change lives and win the game! I remember a reporter asking my friend and Atlanta Braves pitcher, John Smoltz what was his “best” pitch? I loved his answer: John didn’t reply my 96 MPH fastball or my 90 MPH slider or my incredible change up, he simply said, “The one that gets the hitter out.” John got it right! Leaders, do we understand the ultimate goal? How about our staff? In the midst of all this, it’s important to be yourself!

2. Realize the importance of Real Relationships.

As I travel from church to church, this issue is the one I see so many leaders doing poorly. To stay fresh and continue our personal growth in Christ, it’s important to:

Find a hobby. You might think, “I don’t have time for a hobby.” I hear it everywhere I go. You need to find time. Take up running, fishing, golf or the latest craze I have seen is at the shooting range. I’m not going to say what the virtual targets are and it troubles me a little to see so many “gun friendly” pastors who get a little crazy out there! But I am a firm believer that without a release, your effectiveness as a leader and even a communicator will suffer greatly. Be careful though, my competitive spirit will sometimes overtake me and I may just “accidentally” throw a club on the golf course when the breaks don’t go my way. Note to self: That could be hazardous to your testimony! Stop throwing clubs.

Find close friends outside your church body. The conversation has got to be about something other than the church all of the time! During my time as an executive pastor, I intentionally had a small core of about four people that were my “best” friends. Of the four, only one attended our church. We enjoyed friendships with parents on the soccer field and basketball court while watching our children compete. Of course my golfing buddies were patient enough to hang out with me on my day off. The bottom line is to find a release, it makes your time with God that much more special.

3. Preserve and Protect your Personal Passion.

One of my favorite worship leaders, Israel Houghton wrote a song called “Go back to your first Love.” When I listen to the lyrics, it reminds me of my personal salvation experience. Do you remember that moment? Of course you do! Are you still as passionate in your personal relationship with God, or are you spending so much time and energy leading others that your personal time with God has diminished? Admittedly, I am guilty! When I started as an executive pastor at a mega church, I was so consumed with the church and the people that in my first three months in that position, I was hospitalized with ulcers. I had to evaluate some things and in doing so realized that my personal growth in Christ was suffering, not to mention my body.

Maybe you are like I was, reading every leadership book, blog, etc. and doing your best to keep up with the latest trends in ministry. Here is what I determined: ask and believe God. Time in prayer and devotion will always trump overworking, over downloading, and over-analyzing the things we do constantly as leaders. I’ll say it like I heard it from the Lord, “Who do you think inspired all of those leaders to write those thoughts? Those thoughts came from me!”

Lastly, I am reminded of what helped bring me back into spiritual growth and development:

1. My personal worship time.

I hope as leaders that we participate in the worship segment of service. Like you, my cell phone stays hot with texts from department heads and volunteers and we seem to find ways to put out fires throughout our weekend services. But what about the fire in our hearts? Do we allow ourselves to just take a moment and experience God? Our church must have something pretty good to offer or no one would come. I encourage YOU to worship in the service you have worked so hard to plan for others, as much as possible. Other times for me are when I worship in the car blaring out worship tunes and most days when I run, I fill my ears with worship music and carelessly sing along just enjoying my time with HIM. Find your space and time to worship.

2. Read the Bible for pleasure, not just for sermons or teachings.

Wow! I remember when someone told me that. It was like a bucket of cold water in my face! Probably like you if you teach, I usually sit down with my Bible, pen, paper and laptop all at once. This advice was good for me. Sometimes we need to just read the Bible. Period! No agenda, just out of the pure joy of reading the greatest book ever written. Will you get sermon ideas? Yep, but that is a bonus, not the intent. Life Church’s YOUversion has made it possible to read the Bible anywhere, anytime. Download the app to your phone and just enjoy the Word of God.

By practicing just a few things I’ve shared, you as a leader can not only increase productivity in yourself, but teaching these principles will have a trickle down effect in your leadership of others. More importantly, your personal relationship with God will grow and become, or return, to that level of passion that God seeks from you and seeks for you.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ministering from a Place of Rest

be still

Take time to rest

At our most recent Celera Roundtable, one of the coaches, Dave Stone, was speaking to us about “ministering from a place of rest.”  Picture this, a room full of pastors from across the country, most of them lead pastors, hearing the passionate plea to take time to rest. If you are a pastor of a growing church, or any church for that matter, you know the irony in that.  Dave broke down several areas that he takes time for rest in his own life. First, he makes sure to take a day off every week. Not a half day or a few hours here and there, a whole day. That was the first area of conviction for me. Then he made the jaw dropping statement that he, Dave Stone, pastor of one of the largest churches in the country, takes the entire month of July off! You could hear the collective gasp in the room.  Not only does he take the month off, his board of Elders forbids him to even step foot on campus during that month.

Some time after that conference I was speaking to my executive Pastor, Jared Dunn, and it was mutually decided (actually Jared insisted) that I take the month of July off. After some initial reluctance, I agreed. So for the first time in my life I took an entire month off from work, and it was fantastic. I had some great time with my family, and a lot of great time to rest and gather my strength (physical, mental and spiritual) for the push ahead.

I am back now and ready to take off running. I came across this article on Focus on the Family, and I wanted to share a portion of it with you. You can read the entire article at Focus on the Family. These are principles that can be applied not just to pastor or people in church leadership, but in every area of life.

The pastor’s need to rest and retreat

Written by Jerry Ritskes

When you get asked how you are, do you find yourself proudly (but with some frustration) answering that you are “busy”? There is a world to win, programs to organize, people to train and a church to maintain. No wonder ministry is so busy. We are short on finances, people and time. It seems the only way to make it is to work a little bit harder.

Eugene Peterson, in his book The Contemplative Pastor, makes this almost absurd statement “that the adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a  banker.” Can he really mean this? Isn’t busyness a sign that I’m making a difference for the kingdom? Isn’t it proof that I’m being a good and faithful steward? I don’t think so. I believe that busyness takes pastors away from what they are truly called to do.

Driven to busyness

I have often been so busy with “doing ministry” that I have no time to be with God. How silly is this? Peter Scazzero, in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, identifies this as one of the top 10 symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality – “doing for God instead of being with God.” Driving ourselves into busyness could be a sign that we’re trying to earn God’s approval, counter poor self-worth, quieten the negative self-talk we’ve been listening to, or we feel that saving the world is our responsibility. For whatever reason, we keep driving ourselves into doing more – and it makes truly hearing God’s voice very difficult.

Sabbath

The principle of the Sabbath is extremely important. Sabbath is a time to stop our work, not when it is completed, but when we need to stop. It is pacing our lives and recognizing our human limitations.  Sabbath frees us from the need to obtain God’s acceptance by being productive. It is resting from our efforts, and trusting God’s.

Our congregations not only look to us to teach them with our sermons, they are looking to us to as an example of what it means to walk with Christ. When they see us going “mach 10 with our hair on fire,” they interpret that as what a believer should do. We inadvertently teach that it is somehow not enough to enjoy being a child of God.  As a pastor, when I take time to slow down or even stop, this reaffirms to others that “there is a Saviour, but it is not me.”
Listening

I love the word-picture Ruth Haley Barton gives us in Invitation to Silence and Solitude. Our lives are like a jar of river water – agitated and murky. As soon as you stop moving the jar and let it sit, the sediment begins to settle and it becomes clearer. When we take time for quiet, the sediment in our lives begins to settle, and the things God is trying to tell us becomes clearer. When we take time to listen to God’s voice, He helps us to find perspective on what He is calling us to do, rather than on what we feel compelled to do.

Making the time

I’ve often said “I’d like to take a breather, but I can’t seem to make it happen. It’s just too busy.” While there are seasons in our schedule that require more time and attention than others, there is still the need to keep ourselves in tune with our Creator. Here is a “low-tech” but effective way of making time for rest and listening: Plan it. All you have to do is put it into your schedule, like you would schedule any other demand on your time, and then keep it. When something comes up that conflicts with the time you’ve planned, you can say “I’m sorry, but I’m booked then. Can we find some other time?” Unless we are intentional about taking time to be quiet before the Lord, and unless we can do it without feeling guilty, we will never really find the time to do it.

When I take time to rest and listen to God’s voice, what happens? I begin to hear His calming voice that tells me I’m His beloved child. I begin to find a “Holy balance” to my life. I become more of who He made me to be, and not nearly so concerned with performing to gain people’s approval. As The Message paraphrases Matthew 11:28-29, I begin to live “freely and lightly.”

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. – Mark 6:30-32

Higher Ground Becomes Shaky Ground Without the Balance of Solid Ground – Part 2

balance in life

The different elements of your life are like spokes on a wheel

In the previously posted excerpt from, In Search of Higher Ground we began looking at the eight elements that keep our life in balance. We referred to the elements as spokes on a wheel and that in order for the wheel to move quickly and freely it has to be in balance.
The eight spokes included:

• PERSONAL,
• FINANCIAL,
• RELATIONAL,
• PHYSICAL,
• EMOTIONAL,
• PROFESSIONAL,
• MENTAL AND
• SPIRITUAL.

Your Personal Higher Ground is dependent upon your ability to keep these items balanced in your life.

There are some who would argue that these eight elements are an either/or choice. In other words, if you are completely committed to your family life, then you will not have financial success. Or if you are committed to your career, your family will suffer. I couldn’t disagree more! I am not one who believes that the eight spokes of life are an either/or choice. I am convicted to believe that all of these things are possible for someone if, they truly work at it and keep it all in balance. I believe with all my heart that each person can live with a high level of character, that their relationships can be rewarding and fulfilling, that they can obtain a comfortable level of financial independence, that they can be emotionally, mentally and physically healthy while maintaining a constant and growing faith in God. Life is not an either/or because Higher Ground does not have to exist in only one area of your life. If you are at least willing to be all that your Creator wants you to be…more and better is always possible.

We have looked at the first four elements or spokes in our life. (Personal, Financial, Relational, and Physical.) Now let’s take a look at the final four elements that are necessary to keep your wheel rolling.

EMOTIONAL

We are speaking here primarily of being free of Emotional baggage. We live in a society where it is easy to pick up Emotional baggage. There are millions of people who are bitter toward a former spouse, angry at a parent who neglected them, have memories of a tragedy that took place in their life, have a friend who hurt or betrayed them, or have had a certain event that is causing them to live their lives with constant resentment. This type of baggage is like a giant weight that is attached to your heart, and it keeps you from climbing to Higher Ground.

I have learned that resentment is like a boomerang. It keeps coming back and hitting you upside the head. I also have learned that most of the time those whom we are resentful toward don’t know it, and quite often don’t care.

As I continue to climb up my own personal Higher Ground, I have had my share of darts thrown at me. People have hurt me in ways I would have never expected. Sometimes things were said by people in whom I had personally invested my life. I can choose to let it make me bitter or I can choose to let it make me better. I choose the latter! I don’t want to live with resentment. I realize that my Higher Ground in life will be extremely limited if I cannot learn to let it go.

Please note that I do not want to minimize any event that has hurt you. In my line of work I meet hundreds of people who have real pain from real situations. I feel for them and I do my best to help them overcome it. I want to do the same for you. If there is resentment, anger or bitterness in your life, you have to deal with it. See a counselor or pastor, but begin to remove that thing that is wrapped around your heart and won’t let you go. If you don’t, you are destined to live a life short of your capabilities. You will never reach your Highest Ground because you will be anchored by a weight called resentment and it will inhibit you from climbing to the top. Alexander the Great said, “I have conquered the world, but I cannot conquer my own emotions.” Be determined to conquer your Emotional baggage or in the end it will conquer you!

PROFESSIONAL

Years ago a movie premiered starring Billy Crystal -it was called “City Slickers.”1 The movie centered around a character who was set up to be your typical middle aged man. He had a good job, a wife, two children, and was making descent money. However, he had become bored with his life and bored with his work. His job performance was at such a low level that his boss demanded to approve any decision he would make. For his birthday present his two buddies gave him a gift. It was a two-week adventure in which they would move a herd of cows from Colorado to Texas. (I know what you are thinking, it doesn’t sound like much fun.) The movie is great and full of comedy, but at the end of the movie when he sees his wife again, she says to him, “I have been thinking, if you want to quit your job because you are not happy, go ahead, we’ll get by.” He says to her, “No, I’m not going to quit, I’m just going to do it better.”

Maybe you can identify with Billy Crystal’s character and the thousands of other Americans who say, “I hate my job.” Maybe it’s not the job you want or maybe it’s a job until you finish schooling or until your business gets off the ground. Either way, it’s what you do to make a living and where you probably spend about 1/3 of your life. What you may not realize is that the characteristic of someone who is reaching for Higher Ground is also someone who does the best they can in any situation. Every mountain you climb has its share of obstacles. That’s what makes it a mountain. It’s your attitude toward the obstacles that will make all the difference in your journey to the top.

Martin Luther, in his commitment to excellence, once said, “If you’re a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be.” Your occupation may not be what you want at this time, but that is not the point. Your attitude toward your current profession will be the same attitude you carry with you throughout life. If you can’t strive for excellence at your current level, there’s a good chance that you won’t be ready for the next level.

MENTAL

The next spoke in the wheel of life is Mental. The mental condition of a person strongly determines the outcome of that person’s life. Your personal Higher Ground is more likely to be achieved when it is spearheaded by a healthy Mental state of mind.

Doctors, psychologists, and behavioral studies all point to the power found in having a strong and healthy mental approach toward life. Even the Bible indicates that our actions follow our thoughts, and that if someone truly believes, they can overcome the mountains in their lives.

Being mentally healthy means having a strong self esteem. It means believing in yourself, believing that anything is possible. It means thinking on a more positive and optimistic level. It’s realizing that nothing good comes out of a negative Mental approach. That all hope is removed by the individual who continues to be pessimistic about their own life and their own surroundings. The legendary comedian Lucille Ball stated, “One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.”

Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has proven that optimists are more successful than equally talented pessimists in business, education, sports, and politics. The Metropolitan Life Company proved this theory by developing the “Seligman Attributional Style Questionnaire.” This test is taken by applicants looking for employment, and its purpose is to separate those who are pessimists from those who are optimists. Metropolitan Life has discovered that optimistic people (those who have a healthy Mental approach) outsell the pessimist by as much as 50% per year. Same talent and same ability, but different mental outlook.

Our mind is a powerful thing. When we finally attempt what we once thought was impossible, we realize how much we would have missed, had we continued with our pessimistic approach. Focus your mind on the possibilities, and your mind will direct you to a Higher Ground.

SPIRITUAL

The final spoke in the wheel of life is Spiritual. For those who have a practicing faith, this is what you may call a no-brainer. You have a faith that is lived out each day and you have come to understand the great joy and fulfillment that comes from having God in your life. But for those who have not yet consecrated their life to God or who have put their faith into action, this act of spirituality may seem irrelevant. It may be hard for you to imagine why a Spiritual pursuit would be necessary for success. How does God fit into my relationships, career, finances or any other dream or goal I am pursuing?

A variety of studies have been done indicating that having an active faith is helpful for one’s day to day life. For instance, Harvard University studied the causes that prayer has on someone’s life and discovered that those who make prayer a daily practice are more likely to be healthier and happier. They also did a study indicating those who practice their faith in God have a much greater chance of making their marriage work. The odds of divorce in America is one out of three. The odds for those who have an active faith in God are one out of 1,000. Another study indicated those who practice their faith have a lower level of stress in their lives. Many studies and many facts prove the same that a Spiritual life makes a difference.

I would encourage you, if you do not have a practicing faith in God, to investigate it for yourself. Find a local church who believes in the Lord and the Bible and begin to seek out what it really means. You will discover what millions of businessmen, political leaders, firemen, policeman, entrepreneurs, and small and big business leaders have discovered for themselves:…God makes a difference.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Before you move any further, think back over all eight spokes in the wheel of life. (Personal, Financial,Relationships, Physical, Emotional, Professional, Mental, and Spiritual.) Think about the ones that you need to work on the most. What needs to change in your life? What priorities are out of line? Are there character issues that need to be handled or maybe some relationships that need nurturing? Maybe you have some emotional issues that need tending or possibly you need a boost of self-confidence and a new positive outlook to help you reach your Higher Ground. Whichever one, or more, it is, begin working on it. Don’t neglect one or the other, pursue excellence in each area. Remember the spokes only move smoothly toward the top when they are all in balance.

I said earlier in this chapter that the eight spokes in the wheel of life are not an either/or decision. As Zig Ziglar says, “You can have all the things money can’t buy and some of the things money can buy,” if you will learn to keep it all in balance. Work hard at all eight spokes and become the person you are meant to be!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment,  you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.”

-Brian Tracy

Higher Ground Becomes Shaky Ground Without the Balance of Solid Ground – Part 1

time in balance

It is important to keep your life in balance

Excerpt from In Search of Higher Ground

I am one who believes in the human spirit, and that everyone is loaded with potential and has the ability to accomplish great things. I believe in people’s abilities so much, that I have dedicated my life to helping individuals discover the possibilities that lie within each person. However, I must admit that over the years I have met many people that have pursued their personal Higher Ground, and have reached a level of success that many others would desire, but they are not happy. They have a business that’s thriving, financial security, and have many personal achievements, but their life still seems to be lacking. Why is that? Why is it that some people seem to have it all, but still seem to have nothing?

Probably because most people connect the word “success” with the word “money.” When you see someone who is financially independent, there is an automatic feeling that the person is successful. There are a lot of enjoyable things that money can buy, but success cannot be limited to these things. Success must include the things money cannot buy.

It has been said that money can:

1. Buy a bed, but not sleep,
2. Buy affection, but not love,
3. Buy company, but not friends,
4. Buy a wedding, but not a marriage, and
5. Buy a house, but not a home.

I was recently having lunch with a friend who shared with me some sad news regarding a mutual friend. We’ll call this friend of mine “Mike.” Mike has had a great level of success in many areas of his life. He was not born into a wealthy family, but decided at a young age that he was going to make something of himself. In his early 20s he began working for someone else on the weekends while running a small retail business. Over a few years, this business began to grow in such a way that he was able to quit his weekend job and devote himself entirely to his business. He worked hard, dedicated his time and efforts, and year after year it continued to pay off in great dividends.He expanded his small shop and began to build his own place. Soon he was operating his business from a 35,000 square foot shop in which he began to see his business hit a new level of success. Over time he diversified into multiple projects including real estate, and each project brought him success. Everything he touched turned to gold. Mike was an entrepreneur and an icon in the city in which he lived. The sad news that was shared with me at lunch was that Mike had been diagnosed with a disease, and his chance for survival slim. After being  told this news from my friend, I drove back to my office and began to think about his life.

Death always causes you to think about life.

I asked myself, “Was Mike a success?” Then I realized, you can’t answer that question until you define success. So first I thought about his finances. Undoubtedly he is a success when it comes to money. He is a multimillionaire and has enjoyed all the things that life has to offer.  Then I began to think about his personal life. He had one failed marriage and his current marriage is on the rocks. Mike seemed to have worked so hard to make a living that he had forgotten to make a life.

I began to also think about his children. Each of them have shared in their own personal struggles. Drug abuse, illegitimate children, a low standard of values and morals are all part of the story behind Mike’s children. I am not saying that Mike was a bad parent or that his children don’t love him. What I am saying is that, to a certain degree, Mike did not fulfill his parenting obligation by raising his children with a deep level of character. Regarding any spiritual awareness, there has been none in his life and nothing passed on to his children.

Then I thought about the disease that is taking over his body and I couldn’t help but wonder what words would be said at his funeral if he should die. I wondered about the legacy and heritage he will leave. Has there been anything done in his life that will outlast him?

Now that you have a clearer picture of Mike, what do you think? Does the word “money” make him successful?

Don’t get me wrong, money is a great thing and can be used for great purposes, but you cannot classify money as the means for success. You see, Mike had a dream. He wanted to create a successful business and make lots of money, and he did. However, one thing Mike forgot to do was to keep his feet on “solid ground” while reaching for Higher Ground. Mike had forgotten the golden rule behind the principle of Higher Ground. The rule is, “Higher Ground becomes Shaky Ground without the balance of Solid Ground.”

Consider the courageous people called tightrope walkers. They stand on a thin rope suspended high in the air, and they walk across from one side to the other. The key to the entire success of that tightrope walker is one word… “balance.” His entire life is dependent on his ability to keep things in balance. The same is true for anyone seeking Higher Ground. Their entire success is depending on this one word:… “balance.”

Imagine if you will a large wagon wheel that has various spokes coming out from the center. The ability to make a wheel roll properly lies in the balance. The strength and success of that wheel relies on the spokes being in balance. Let’s pretend now that your life is that wheel and the spokes in the wheel represents various areas in your life. These areas include personal, financial, relational, physical, emotional,professional, mental, and spiritual. The success of your life depends on your ability to be successful in each of these areas. In this chapter I want to break down the first four elements for you and provide some practical ideas that will help you raise the bar of excellence in each category.

PERSONAL

The first spoke in your wheel is the spoke we call Personal. This is your character, this is who you are when no one is looking. It is the premise of your true success as a person, leader, worker, spouse, parent or friend.

Some people may think character doesn’t matter. If it’s only what you are when no one is looking, then who cares? It won’t affect my business, my family, my finances, nothing will be affected by character because it’s who I am when no one is looking. Nothing could be further from the truth! If character doesn’t matter, then tell it to the person who just found out their spouse is having a secret affair. Or tell it to the person who just discovered their accountant has been skimming from the top, or that their business partner has left the country with all their money. I promise you this, character matters to those people.

Remember, there are many things in life that others can take from you, a family, a fortune or even health, but character is the one thing that cannot be taken from you…only you can give it away.

FINANCIAL

The next spoke on your wagon wheel is Financial. Finances are a big part of our society and are often used as a measuring stick for where you’re at in life. Finances are not everything…but they are something. Your Higher Ground may not include finances. It may be to raise wonderful children, to learn a second language, to develop as a leader, or to be the founder of a non-profit organization. Whatever your personal Higher Ground is, you must include the powerful benefit of properly managing your finances. I strongly encourage you to discuss your Financial future with an expert. Develop a plan for your future, your retirement, college education, to pay off your home, and any other dream that requires finances. You might be saying, “But I don’t make a lot of money.” It doesn’t take as much as you think. Sit down with Financial planner and you will discover the power of budgeting your finances and consistently investing for your future.

RELATIONAL

We now arrive at the third spoke in the wheel that will help keep your life in balance, your relationships. All the personal success in the world doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have someone to share it with. Unfortunately, people pursue their personal Higher Ground at the cost of their relationships. Marriages lose their romance, children lose touch with their parents, and families become fragmented under the guidelines of success at any cost. We are a society who is in desperate need of turning our attention to the family. What good does it do to have all the money in the world if your marriage is failing, or to have a thriving and successful business at the price of becoming more of a guardian than a parent?

In the course of my life I have seen people speak with deep regret. Regret for not nurturing their marriage, regret for not spending enough time with their children and regret for not having enough people in their lives they call “friends.” Although relationships are only one spoke in your wheel of life, it is an important one. Keep your life in balance by keeping in mind what really matters!

PHYSICAL

Let me just say that I am by no means the expert on Physical condition, but I do try my best to stay in shape and eat right. I have got a long way to go, but I am working on it. One thing I will say is that exercising and eating right does affect your approach and perspective on life. It gives you more energy, boosts your self-confidence, and causes you to embrace and enjoy life at a higher level. Oddly enough I seem to get more done with less hours on the days I work out.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

Quote of the Day:

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children. To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others,
to leave this world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition. To know even one life has breathed easier because you have  lived, this is to have succeeded.”   – Ralph Waldo Emerson