5.05.2010

Wednesday Book Recommendation

Several weeks ago I wrote a post about how a friend had introduced us to John C. Maxwell's books and the impact that had on our lives. So if you read that post, you already know how I feel about John Maxwell and it should come as no surprise to you that I'm recommending another one of his books. So for this week, my book recommendation is...

Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow's Success (Maxwell, John C.)

...Today Matters by John C. Maxwell. One of the things I have learned about Maxwell is that he writes common sense books - he covers the stuff that we all know (or should know) but we might not have consciously thought about. There were several times when I was reading this book out loud to Peter when one of us would comment, "We do that already...he's simply putting our actions into words!" It helps to think through the process and understand where you were, how you need to change, how those daily actions of change will impact your life, and what you can do to improve in that area. Making changes without thinking through the steps will leave you open to relapsing into your old habits.

For example, in Today Matters, Maxwell discusses twelve areas of life to focus on today. One area that we have been working on for a while now is the area of Health. Last year we realized that our weight and eating habits were getting out of control. We made small changes that helped Peter drop 20 lbs. and me to lose 10, but then we stopped. In January we decided to go to the beach this summer with my family and it was the motivation we needed to start working on our weight loss again. We recognized that there was a problem (we were stuck) and we took steps to change which has resulted in another 20 lb. weight loss for Peter and an additional 12 lbs. for me. Okay, you might be thinking, "That's nice Carrie, but how does this tie in with Today Matters?". You see, we had already made the decision to manage our weight and eating, but we were still getting bogged down in the I-have-to-eat-this-way-and-exercise-for-the-rest-of-my-life attitude. Honestly, it was overwhelming. The missing piece of the puzzle was handed to us by Maxwell (and basically I'm summing up the book here):

Don't focus on the failures of yesterday and don't worry about tomorrow's temptations - manage your decision today.

It was a total light bulb moment for us. Now we have the attitude each morning of, "Today I need to eat healthy and exercise." We're no longer daunted by the thought of doing this "forever", and we're no longer dreaming about the day when we can go back to eating the way we did before or skipping the exercise. Instead, we are empowered by thinking, "I only have to worry about what I do today." Our weight loss and new healthy lifestyle is now broken down into manageable, bite-sized pieces. Today I choose to fix dinner at home and not order Chinese take-out (maybe we'll do that later, but not today). I don't need that icing-filled Double Doozie cookie today (maybe I'll get one next time, but not today). I'm kind of tired, but I'm just going to go ahead and do my 20 minutes of walking today (maybe I'll skip tomorrow). You get the idea. And you know what? Tomorrow never comes because we're focused on making the right choices and decisions today.

Maxwell makes a lot of good points in this book about how certain actions will give you certain results. Realizing that today matters and looking at the big picture in smaller chunks was very helpful to me, but the most life-changing chapter (for me) was, "Today's THINKING Gives Me an Advantage". He write about how we do not spend as much time thinking as we do other things in life. When I first read that I scoffed - of course I think! I think about the laundry that needs to be done and what we are going to have for dinner and I get totally overwhelmed when I think about the big dreams that Peter (who is the visionary in our relationship) has. In fact, I think so much that I simply want to sit down and do something mindless - like watch TV or read a (non-thinking-required) book. But I tried to keep an open mind and I kept reading, and it was a good thing I did because I learned a lot, including:

"Set Aside Think Time Every Day: As important as finding the right place to think is carving out the time. [...] I recommend that you try to discover the time of day when your thinking is the sharpest. Then set aside a block of time every day just to think. I believe you'll find that you're much more productive and focused as a result." (pg. 140)

"If you don't write down your ideas, then there is a great danger you will lose them. [...] Have a system and use it." (pg. 141)

"I believe that many people take thinking for granted. They see it as a natural function of life. But the truth is that intentional thinking isn't commonplace. What you do every day in the area of thinking really matters because it sets the stage for all your actions, and it will bring you either adversity or advantage." (pg. 143)

I now start every day with a cup of coffee, a notebook, and my Bible. I spend time thinking (everything from my daily schedule and what's for dinner to brainstorming book ideas and finances) and then have my quiet time with the Lord. It has given me the "permission" (for lack of a better word) to take time to be quiet and let myself think about anything and everything. I reference my notebook throughout the day so I can see what's next on my schedule or to see my reminders of what I wanted to get done today or this month. Peter has been bugging me for years to write a book...and with my thinking time in place, I've actually started brainstorming. Nothing is too silly to write down because it's just thinking on paper. It's safe. In the last few months we've recognized that Peter has a risk-taking personality and I'm the security-dot-all-the-i's person. Risk is bad could have been my motto (though you'd never guess that based on our lifestyle the last 10 years!). But that's a whole other topic...the point is that because I'm now writing down my thoughts, I've been able to break down goals that Peter has always talked about (things that scared me because of the long-term risk). When I can look at them in smaller portions, I can actually take steps to help make some of those goals happen for him without me panicking. :-)

So those are just some examples of why I like this book. I can say with certainty that I am more productive in my days since reading Today Matters. It could be an excellent book to work through in a group (small group at church, office group, book group, etc.), and I really do hope you'll pick up a copy and see what you can learn from it. Happy Reading! For more great reading recommendations, check out the Booking It post over at Life as MOM. 

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