Decluttering

I just wanted to share some thoughts on my thought processes of late. The theme for this summer for me is decluttering. Not in the physical space sense (although that is needed at times), but rather in the schedule/mental health sense. I have realized over the last two months that I have tried so hard in my life to pack every last minute with something “productive;” meaning that when I am not working, in class, or doing homework, I’d find every opportunity to fill it with either a fun–or what I deemed necessary–activity. I realized that I developed this mindset heading into my undergraduate studies, where I was in a position where I needed to 100% maximize the balance between work, school, and fun. Although this mindset got me through some good and bad times, when a good friend brought up the need to reallocate the structure of my time, I knew he was 100% right. I was not prioritizing my self-care: emotionally, spiritually, or physically. Even though my extraverted self needs a lot of time with others, which I consider “rest.,” there is just as much value in spending an evening at home.

What does this change look like?

A). Be thankful for the family and friends who invest most in you and spend a significant amount of your time in those circles. These people build you up, and you realize your exact purpose in life is in a community with these individuals.

B). Similarly, ensure that you are creating space where you can also invest in others.

C). Pick up a side hobby that you can do by yourself (or others) that doesn’t take your whole evening. For me, this is disc golf. I can play a quick round after work or school, or during a break. This activity can replace the need or urge to try to fill this time with something “extravagant.”

D). Ensure you find time for sleep and create space for the self-care that you value most (for me, this is ensuring that I can build an effective morning routine and have an adequate quiet time. But this can look differently for many others).

E). LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA. Yes, I’m telling you this as I write on a social media platform, but I have deleted my Instagram and Twitter accounts entirely, allowing me to have space to impact the people closest to me. I understand and support the responsibility of being a “global citizen,” which those platforms can provide. Still, I’ve realized that I cannot control the outcomes of all of the discussions and issues that these social mediums present, and pulling away from them allowed me to focus on the relationships and decisions I can control.

F). Find space to create an effective diet and budget- if you build your day around an effective diet and budget, you are more likely to build your day around more holistic things than instant self-gratification. There will be days when you are not perfect, but it’s easier to re-align yourself on these goals when the structure is in place.

G). Continue to seek external resources to help build your holistic self. It’s been nearly a decade of counseling for me, and I’ve recently begun seeing a dieting coach. Both of these resources have proven to be valuable in creating plans and goals that can be successful.

I know I am far from perfect, but these are some tips to help re-organize your life if you feel the need to do so. Taking the time to do this in a lighter season will help create the space needed in the craziest times. I’m sure there will be moments this next school year that will be highly stressful, but I am optimistic that I will be less stressed with these guided allocations.

Here’s to a great week!

Morale Leadership within Coaching Styles

Featured image: Clip Art Illustration

Note: This article post is in accordance with an element of a doctoral class assignment. We were tasked to create a leadership theory. I conceptualized Morale Leadership. See the Theory’s matrix below.


I began articulating the Morale Leadership Theory (yes, morale and not moral) as I noticed that there are two critical behavioral elements that allow each leader-follower relationship to flourish. There should be a good balance between mental health and inclusivity. No one is perfect, so no one masters this process entirely, but some leaders are incredibly gifted in these areas, while others need improvement. To articulate this theory in a relatable fashion, I thought there was no better way to articulate this than to personify different styles of coaches that you may have played for, or you may have watched during your lifetime.


Low Inclusivity, Low Mental Health—Everyone Has Had One of These


Have you ever had a coach in youth or high school athletics that was hard to play for? Most people have had a coach who is often unbearable. On top of the coach’s demeanor, the team may very well be in last place, and there are not many friendships being built. The coach is not being considerate of either building team inclusivity or caring for the individual’s wants and desires on the team. One could question, why are the team dynamics this way? Is it because the coach has had a rough work or home life that he or she is spilling onto the team? Is it possibly because the coach has anger issues and does not know how to accept a loss? Or is it because the coach feels that anger forces response and results? Many situations may have led the coach to act in this particular style. Hopefully, you have not faced these scenarios too often.


High Mental Health, Low Inclusivity—Your Local NCAA Basketball Coach?


When it comes to finding a coach that will shower praise on his or her stars to the ultimate level, look no further than your local NCAA Division I basketball coach. The last decade has featured the “one and done” model. Players are often courted to college basketball to profile themselves during their “gap” year between their high school graduation and their admittance into the NBA. It is easy to feel that the heart of college basketball has been compromised since this new philosophy has entered the sport. It is not an issue of the coach’s morals or the ability to sustain a positive attitude. However, the nature of this “one and done” model does not encourage team-based unity of X’s and O’s tactics. Due to the need to cater to specific stars, it is very difficult to promote comradery and team play within this system of college coaching, which could lead to several individuals feeling not included in helping the team in the overall goal. In the business world, this would be considered unequal delegation. However, the downside of sport is that often not everyone has an equal opportunity, which means that this style of coaching is often prevalent at all levels and all styles of coaching.


Low Mental Health, High Inclusivity—The Long Slog of Baseball


Most professional baseball leagues play at least 100 games in their regular seasons, which is by far the most of any major North American sport. I would argue that baseball is the ultimate sport of delegation as it needs at least nine players to be somewhat equally skilled (outside of the pitcher) for a team to be effective. Coaches and management strive to give the most opportunities to their best players. Still, a power hitter can only bat once out of every nine opportunities, and a lights-out starting pitcher can only throw once every five days.
For baseball managers it is arguably more important to keep their players sane throughout the season than to worry about effective delegation. An underperforming baseball manager cannot break through the pride or perceived “masculinity” of all of his players and figure out how to have each of his players in the right headspace. If a star player, or heaven forbid, the entire team is in a season-long funk, then the team performance will dwindle.


High Mental Health, High Inclusivity—Friendly Culture


Every athlete has his or her favorite team that they played for during their careers. Some players may say they were able to bond well with their teammates. Others will say it is because they love their coach. There’s always a contingency that would say it is due to the team’s success on the field. All three of these reasons can be attributed to the coach’s culture in the program. The team’s leader needs to encourage bonding between fellow team members and the coaching staff. Sometimes, it is simply the coach’s personality to feel as if they are part of the team. In other scenarios, they step back and let the team become cohesive without their influence. Either way can be effective, depending on the situation. If a team succeeds in emotional health and can be productive in their sport consistently, then you have a scenario that is life-giving, and memories will be certainly made.


Conclusion


There are plenty of lessons for an athlete or a person who participated in youth-organized activities and from the sports we watch. These scenarios can be prevalent in group settings that we face today. We want to avoid being the leader who does not care for our team’s mental health and inclusivity. Instead, we should focus on how these scenarios have shaped us into becoming the best morale leaders we can be.

Life’s Perceived Climb and the Value of Today

There are many times in my life that I feel that I am simply on a stop for more incredible things ahead. Not many almost 27-year-olds believe that they are “set” in life; however, that truth gets distorted in my life. What grinds my gears more than anything is ruminating on half-truths and other lies that do not spell out the complete trajectory of where my life is heading. Often, living in this uncertainty leads me to try to control things on my own accord and desire to move past the mundane.

My counselor recently reminded me that our lives are not about the destination but rather the journey that it takes to reach said destinations. This is completely the truth. Once we reach certain plateaus that we were hoping to accomplish in life, the reality is that the feeling of satisfaction often lasts for a minimal amount of time even though we have perceived that situation as life-changing.

Take, for example, last week’s super bowl. 53 Los Angeles players and dozens of coaches and team personnel completed the long journey of winning the super bowl. Although they celebrate for several days, many of these individuals quickly shift their gears as their mind changes to focus on winning another championship the following year. Although the immediate 48 hours are incredible, I am sure that many of these players are now realizing that winning that super bowl does not bring life-changing satisfaction to their lives.

With this in mind, I am challenging myself to begin living my life more in the present, knowing that my decisions today are just as valuable as the decisions I will make once I reach said goals. It is very easy to try to satisfy these life-long desires in the immediate. However, since I know the sun will almost assuredly come up tomorrow just as it did today, I know that my overall value does not change regardless of my circumstances, and I am thankful for that.

So how does that affect my life? Well, I am beginning to live today as if it is the most important day of my life. I am trying not to focus on letting future personal desires dictate the common decisions I make in today’s duties. Although it is essential to plan ahead in many regards, stressing over which gym I am going to work out in will not affect my desired public speaking career. That example might be slightly facetious, but you see where I am going with that point.

I’d encourage you to think about your life and think about how to limit your own stress knowing that the decisions you make today are just as important as tomorrow. I’d hope through this exercise you’d see how attempting to control your entire current life situation is simply impossible to do. Therefore, be thankful for what you do have and know that you have an impact on the world as much today as you do the next.

New Year, New Beginnings

2021 has been a very difficult year for many of us, including myself. Although there have been many, successes—that I have been incredibly grateful for—there also have been many trials that have made this year a struggle.  

Before I proceed further, I do want to note that the goal of this post is not to create a pity party for myself. Rather, I know that many people in my life have faced similar circumstances, and I want to provide a fellow understanding of the struggles of life and hopefully provide a sense of hope and direction for others.

This year has been filled with many successes: starting a doctorate program, successfully navigating Judson’s first-ever football season, moving, joining a new church, losing 35 pounds, and continuing to foster and build new and old relationships that hopefully will last a lifetime. 

One can look at this 12-month resume and call it a success. However, all these moments feature internal ponderings and consternations that have led to significant anxiety. 

I see many of my peers marrying the loves of their lives, having kids, buying houses and cars, and it appears as if their lives are coming together. They most certainly should celebrate in that, and I celebrate with them. However, once I see these successes and compare them to where I perceive myself to be, my self-esteem decreases like my leaking bike tire on Christmas afternoon.

I often devalue my worth by noting that I currently live in my grandma’s basement; holding a job that is not my career goal in the second-lowest tax bracket; belonging in a doctorate program in large part due to personal connections; and quitting my side job, to boot.  

The easy self-help response to these moments is simple: I moved to save money and create an environment that fosters working-at-home successes. I am employed and go to school in a great environment that encourages professional growth and holds positions that I aspire for. And I am much more emotionally and physically healthy since lowering my weekly stress load with a Sunday sabbath.

But any relief I have from reminding myself of these truths is short-lived. Hence, I began an end-of-the-year quest to understand the root of my perceptions of life from a glass-half-empty perspective.

I first began to process personal environmental reasons of why I may feel this way. I live in a family that has highly successful and influential individuals—including doctors (PhD), lawyers, engineers—who are making a difference for the world, and, therefore, have pressured myself to reach unnecessary expectations on myself that a 26-year-old cannot achieve. Sure, many of my goals could be reached by someone my age, but to expect to reach every goal to near perfection is not of our fallen human nature.  

I am driven by my late grandpa’s saying, “Make it Happen,” which encourages the paving of the way for one’s success. I am grateful for his example. However, this mindset is only pure when it is not laced with the belief that we have complete control over the immediate outcomes of our lives, as our fast-paced technological world alludes (Thanks, Andy Crouch, for the wisdom here).  

I have come to a much greater peace recently by realizing and embracing that I am currently in a season of waiting. Although my plan-oriented mind aligns with the world’s desire for efficiency and effectiveness, I have learned that the benefits of waiting include seeing the beauty and worth of my existence by letting the nuances of life occur and I appreciate the personal growth that this season brings in preparation for the future endeavors that this world has for me.  

After I began reading select chapters of books and listening to numerous podcasts and sermons, my discovery can be summarized by the following statement:  

I need to “BE” and not “DO.”

What is my personal application to this statement? Well, I need not be anxious about meeting the “standard” 26-year-old life in an ever-changing and confusing society that we live in. I should not over-stress myself with trying to prove my own worth or even living the “perfect” lifestyle; even if that means occasionally ignoring well-intended, and often correct, value-oriented expectations. One person cannot live perfectly. I believe only one person who has graced this earth has ever done so.  

I recently heard on a radio program a psychologist who suggests that we take emotional self-care daily by telling ourselves a three-second statement to begin our days: “Today is a great day because [insert reason].” This is a beautiful example of how we can remind ourselves of all the positives of life by having an optimistic outlook on our daily activities.  

In short, if we appreciate what each day has to offer for us and understand that it today is a process in a life-long journey, then I believe we have a good shot at increasing general daily emotional homeostasis.

God Bless you all this Christmas/Holiday season and have a Happy New Year!  

How to Process Today’s Social Media Climate

Image Courtesy: cleanpng.com

Social Media has intensified the knowledge and understanding of world issues and has amplified the ability and understanding to be heard.  In the 20th century, Marshall McLuhan had the idea that is known as “Media is the Message” that the media influences our mindset and thought process about world issues. 

McLuhan

During his main time of study during the middle 20th century, the media had a general message that was down the middle, and was a common agenda from the media that was pushed, and the media was trustworthy overall during that timeframe in informing the people.  

What is worth noting is that McLuhan died 40 years ago, before the internet technology existed. But many of his principles are still intact. 

McLuhan’s largest hinting to social media was his idea of the global village, that modern technology allows people to have more access to each other than ever before, which could lead to irritableness and/or conflict.  

What I think McLuhan, no anyone else could predict is that with the extra access now of social media, it does not take much for someone to change the influence of a splintered portion of that global village, often leading to significant conflict between two parties. This arguably has helped influence our current standoff between the two political sides in two significant discussions. 

There are two situations where the current media landscape is polarized. One is how to deal with COVID and the current civil rights movement.

The splintered parties are led by medical experts (which tend to land liberal followers) and economists (who tend to side with republicans). With most discussions, both sides have very valid points. We want to limit possible exposure to the virus, especially to the most vulnerable, and many people have lost their jobs due to shutdown, and they need financial support to have a decent livelihood.  

It is so easy to make an offensive comment on social media to gain influence, or to straight up lie about statistics or stories to help your side in any situation.

Now look at today’s racial injustice climate. Social media, rightfully so, has been a great tool to bring awareness to the issue that minorities are still being oppressed in America, and that this needs to stop. This push has been brought up by people generally who are of liberal background, and many conservatives, from southern states, have doubled down on their racism and supported the confederate states history further since this has all occurred, and that is heartbreaking.   

Political columnist David French mentioned recently that a fundamentalist movement is occurring, but it is not religious-based. There appears to be a tolerance in society growing to understand other people’s views. Take this opportunity to learn more about other peoples’ understanding so that we can learn from one another!

Not-So-Social Media

Social media is a fantastic way to connect with distant family and friends, create connections with acquaintances, and stay in tune with the outside world. However, we all know that social media can also be the root to numerous problems that can either equal, or exceed, the benefits of social media as a whole.

Ruffalo

American actor Mark Ruffalo summarizes this eloquently:

“With social media, you have this new kind of way to communicate with people that’s very immediate, sometimes alarmingly so, sometimes painfully so. If you could just hold some objectivity, a very direct, unfiltered, raw reflection of the way something is landing in the culture without any spin, or filtration, or anything, it’s very raw.”

According to Globalwebindex, people spend an average of 2:22 daily on social media. Although much of it can be productive, there certainly can be a lack of productivity on social media as well that can become problematic.

Two problems that social media has been linked to are depression and anxiety. Anxiety due to our society’s demanding pressure to be instantaneous, and depression since an inferiority complex can be created by comparing yourself to others, when people tend to only post highlights of their life and not “low-lights.”

The most tactful way to combat social media use is to limit usage. I use a screen time app (Android | Apple) to limit the amount of time you are on your phone.

But sometimes social media is not avoidable, in those cases, some mind power is needed. An understanding prior to logging on that no person is more important than another will be key. Every person has worth in the eyes of the creator.

I hope this week that you keep in mind the pros and cons of social media as you peruse the inter-webs.

Inclusion in Community

We all desire to be included by others. But sometimes, it is more difficult than intended.

Two summers ago, I had just graduated college. On the surface, everything seemed to be going great as I had just graduated magna cum laude, and had an internship lined up that was on the same trajectory as my career. Even though there were many aspects of that summer that were very enjoyable, it was one of the least satisfying summers of my life.

I went to college with the intent of being narrowly-focused on my career as a sportscaster. But as time progressed, I quickly realized that there was more to my college experience than the degree. I was challenged to grow deeper in my intellect and my faith, and have a more full understanding of the world than I was allowing myself to have prior. My fondest memories of college are with the community that I developed there.

Community is something that we are all striving for. It is something that binds us together as we were created to enjoy each other’s company. In 2019, we can connect with people remotely more than we ever did before.

Lori Gosselin wrote the book Sounding the Drum: Community Building in the Digital Age. In this work, she mentions early on that “We yearn for community because it represents to us a feeling of belonging. We seek connection with others because we are social beings. . . . Community is the hope for the human race: This is a movement of hope.”

She later adds, “Community will lead us to discovery of the answers we desperately need personally– and globally. . . . In community we find the greatest joys life has to offer. In community, we discover the true power to change the world.”

Community also gives us a line of support. Gosselin mentions in her book that community “saved her life” when her young adult son passed. Having a group of people that support you in the good times, and in the bad can be vital to our mental health for overcoming struggles and celebrating successes.

So if we are not in community, how can we become part of one? Well, it is easier than it sounds, but there are numerous ways to get involved. But one of the best ways is finding something you enjoy doing, and joining already established groups that do the activity you desire. This could include joining a local softball league, or joining the community theater. Also, meetup.com can be a utilization to connect people.

Many communities may have local adults social activities or gatherings. It is not uncommon in larger municipalities for there to be organized adult hangouts that are designed for people to meet. Also, local church groups have communities geared towards gender and age groups.

After my summer internship in 2017 and I settled into employment, I made it a personal mission of mine to get involved in local community. I was able to join a church group and played softball and basketball nearby. Some activities I enjoyed more than others, as I tried numerous groups and activities until I could find a sustainable routine schedule that fits my needs. Even two years afterwards, I am still altering my weekly community routine, and that’s ok!

If you currently are not part of a community, i’d highly recommend you doing so. It can certainly enhance your life in numerous ways!

A Four-Year Lesson

The last four years have been challenging for me in many capacities. Most notably, externally, in physical appearance. Prior to the summer of 2016, I weighed as much as 275 pounds, well above what my normal weight should be. I had a significant decrease that summer of about 60 pounds which eventually led me to weigh to even as low as 190 pounds, which in hindsight was probably a bit too low.

Fast forward to the summer of 2017, my motivation to stay in shape dwindled and I jumped up to a personal high of 295 pounds within a year. As a 2019 New Year’s resolution, I decided enough was enough. I watched my diet once again, got a membership at Planet Fitness, and increased my outdoor exercise activity. Now, I am down 70 pounds to 214 lbs. Unlike last time, I will likely maintain a weight total of about this range as I look to tone and build up muscle mass.

I’m not going to go into every detail, but this time around, my weight loss tactics and motivation are much more sustaining, and I look forward to maintaining a healthy lifestyle as long as the man upstairs gives me the physical ability to exercise on a regular basis.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I am not posting this to gloat, but rather as inspiration. There are many life-long battles that will be persistent. This is one of many for me. As the good book says, “keep fighting the good fight,” my friends!

Identity

Loving Yourself in a “Profile” World

Image Credit: WordUp411

Editor’s Note: In our blog’s summary statement, “bringing awareness to neuro-immune illnesses and mental health,” we view the term ‘mental health’ in a broad spectrum. There will be many posts that will be dealing with the depression, anxiety, and the more well-known usage of the phrase; but there will be other posts, like this one, that will encompass health of the mind in a variety of topics. I believe these posts will be just as meaningful. Enjoy the read and join the discussion!  

Every person wants to be viewed by others in a positive note. Especially with social media, people are striving for the most likes, the most followers, and a positive view of themselves with others. What can separate you from others is being the most self-confident no matter what stage of like you are in. Every person has the capability to have a positive mindset and to view themselves as another positive piece of the society in which they live in.  

Dr. Karin Anderson-Abrell

Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell says, “[w]e spend so many years battling with the one person who sticks with us through thick and thin—ourselves.” She also states that the best way to cope with this battle is to love ourselves. 

I feel one misconception that people have with my identity is that people view me just simply a sports nut. Yes, I do enjoy sports very much, and my current employment situation deals with sports, but there’s much, much more to me than just sports. I am a person of faith, a musician, a board game enthusiast, a people person, and someone who cares about every person that comes my way. But many of those attributes are not present on social mediums, or what I feel is being portrayed on my social media, or quite frankly, in face-to-face conversations.  

Please realize no person has it all together. The person with 10,000 Instagram likes may very well be very depressed and feel very lonely. The person who only gets three birthday greetings on Facebook may very well be grateful for those three, and enjoying life to the fullest. 

No matter what situation you are in life, whether you are completely healthy, or on your deathbed, very popular or not, everyone can have a positive outlook, and love who they are as a person. There’s always something to be thankful for, and a glimmer of hope for tomorrow. If you don’t feel this way, I invite you to do some soul-searching to see what is out there. I have found a solution in my faith that will keep me in a joyous and hopeful perspective my entire life. 

I am by no means perfect at this, and I need to practice being content in my current state, but I would suggest the following items to keep you feeling content with where you are at in life.  

Andy Crouch

1). Limit technology: It’s hard in today’s society. I get it. Andy Crouch, Author of “The Tech-Wise Family” suggests that people should be off technology an hour a day, a day a week, and a week a year. This is a good model to attempt to practice for all of us.  

2). Be thankful for what you have: I am trying at least once a day this week to be thankful for what I have. I invite you to try as well.  

3). Don’t worry about what other people are thinking of you: I spend WAY too much of my day thinking about what other people think of me. Focus on what you can do to make the world a better place.  

Hopefully these steps will help you shape the identity that you want to have in your life. Please feel free to give feedback on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages (@mindsofmeaning) and let’s reassess throughout the week. This is supposed to be a community, not a lecture. God bless!  

Origins of This Journey

Near Mute? No More!: A journey from significant illness to 100% recovery.

First off, thank you for reading the start of this journey! Let me first tell you my story of how I am where I am today.

People who know me as the guy who is energetic and passionate about many avenues of life and whose favorite two things to do involve an excess of oral communication: announcing sports and singing/performing music. But early on in life, it appeared that the ability to talk and the ability to be cognitively aware of things that other people experience was threatened.

When I was between 18 months to two years of age, my family started noticing some signs that I wasn’t developing right. I wasn’t talking, Irritable of many noises and my parents decided to take me in to see certain specialists. The majority consensus for multiple specialists was that I was diagnosed with a form of autism, and there was a chance that it could have progressed to something more severe.

Thank God my parents decided that the answer could not be. They kept searching for another doctor until a family friend referred us to Dr. Michael Goldberg. Goldberg’s philosophy is that many diagnoses in the autistic spectrum do not match Leo Kanner’s initial discovery of what autism truly is. Goldberg believes that many cases of autism are actually severe illnesses, called Neuro-Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, where the synapses in the brain become “turned off” and with intensive medication, and therapeutic treatment, these synapses can be trained and turned on, causing an increase in quality of life.

There was much improvement in my cognitive life and behavior, and about 10 years later I was considered fully healed, and I have no signs of any part of this illness lingering with me today. I am thankful to this day that I was able to recover in such a manner.

For the years following the recovery. I felt ashamed to share my story publicly. I was afraid people would me still view me as “sick” and would then associate me with significant differences from other people or believe that my story was a hoax. For the last 10 years, I went through this battle and I felt the best way to overcome this is to go public about my childhood illness.

I believe that a main purpose of the rest of my life here on earth is to share more about my story and provide hope to those who seek it. This is why I am starting this experience entitled Minds of Meaning which will consist of this blog and public speaking opportunities.

The goal is this experience is threefold:

A). To bring awareness to neuro-immune illnesses and to bring a perspective of someone who went through these trials.

B). To discuss and relate to other struggles of the mind that society goes through on a daily basis, including anxiety, depression, etc.

C). Occasionally relate to how faith can help the mind overcome obstacles.

Thank you for reading this initial post and I hope that you continue to read. Please share this information I truly look forward to continuing this journey for the month and years to come.