[I have revised and updated this post from a couple of years ago.]
Are your problems like other peoples’ problems?
Have you ever thought to yourself that you were the ONLY one concerned about . . . (name it).
Let’s take a few minutes and look at the 8 biggest problems people face (whether they know it or not). See where you fall out in comparison.
This is not a scientific study**. These are my personal reflections over three decades of serving people. As a busy, involved Life Coach I get lots of questions from clients, friends, and family. They all center around the following eight concerns:
1. Relational Issues. Human beings are relational. Those who aren’t are considered abnormal, and for good reason . . . they are. Men relate to women, women to men, children relate to parents, people to employers, teachers, and government. Everything in life revolves around relationship. Why are so many so bad at them? Relational equilibrium is what Life Coaches help to establish. People sometimes need a new or different perspective on their old habits of relating that aren’t working for them. Perhaps they need a new mental window to look through when they’re communicating with others.
If you want to see shallow, superficial relationships and attempts at “love,” just watch some of the contemporary reality TV programs. The problem with watching them of course is that they have nothing to teach you. Unless you learn from them that relationships need to be other-oriented rather than selfish and self-serving. Who would want a “friend” like some of the people you see on the “Bachelorette” or “Jersey Shore?” I’m hoping these aren’t the new “reality.” If they are, we should add a ninth problem to our list: Shallow Reality TV.
2. Fear of Running Out of Money. Will the money last? Will I have a job tomorrow? Most people are concerned about their income, especially the lack of income. They are concerned about expenses. He says, “She shops like there’s no tomorrow. She can’t possibly wear all the shoes she owns!” She says, “He thinks a boat is more important than renovating our bedroom or kitchen. If it were up to him, I wouldn’t have anything.”
Some have more than enough but worry that they’ll lose it. Others have just enough to squeak by today but are not sure about tomorrow. Some say they don’t care . . . and among those are the truly content and the obviously deluded. Life and death, sickness and health are tied up in these issues. FREE ADVICE: The best place to be in regard to finances is completely out of debt.
3. Health Issues. What happens if I get sick? How will we get by? OR I’m so tired of hospitals and doctors. I’m sick of sickness! How can I keep myself healthy? Many are deeply in debt through no fault of their own and see no way out. Many folks I talk with are ignorant of healthy nutrition. Others have begun to take seriously the way our food in America is raised and processed (for a real education watch the documentary Food, Inc.–you can stream it on Netflix). They are opting in on organic produce and fruits, grass-fed cattle, and free-range foul. Some worry about their health future. There are solutions that do not involve medical insurance. More and more believers I know are taking advantage of group sharing programs like Samaritan Ministries (for those who are disciples of Jesus).
4. Anxiety over Finding or Losing Loved ones. Am I lovable? Will someone care for me? Am I worth caring about? Am I perfect enough? Can I find mister/ms right? Will I ever find someone like . . . ? Love is at the center of most relationships. All but the most dysfunctional people care deeply about finding, keeping, and losing love. Yet no two people can agree upon what “true love” is. Some say there’s no such thing . . . and they have enough broken relationships to prove it. Relational issues in families, between families have escalated since the late sixties, early seventies. I’m not a sociologist, so I can’t give you the reasons for this. What I can say is that the majority of people I speak with or coach desire whole, functional relationships. Others don’t want to pay the price to change. They want the OTHER person to change. Our difficulties are always easier to blame on someone else when we’re too immature to take responsibility for the way we relate.
Abandonment, rejection, and loneliness have attacked every one of us through some relationship. Good reason exists for us all to be love-shy. Yet, people who can’t or won’t love will remain incomplete and dysfunctional. Love is after all what our Creator says we were created for. All the negative experiences are the result, not of love, but of SELF-love.
5. Religious Questions. Is there a God? Or is this life all there is? Are we alone in the Universe? What if there is a God and I’m wrong? Do I end up in Hell or Heaven? What are the requirements? Who’s right? Muslims? Jews? Buddhists? Hindus? What’s the big deal about Jesus? Why are Christians so insistent on Him for everybody? Do we really need religion? These are not problems for some, but for those who deeply examine their lives, they have to come to terms with whether they want to live a Tea Bag Philosophy of life or encounter and relate to the One who claims to be Creator, and lover of their soul. The reason Jesus is such a big deal, the reason that every known religion has had to come to terms with Him is because He claimed a relationship with God as Father. Then he rose from the dead and was seen by over 500 credible witnesses. His followers number in the 10’s of millions. Like Him, they claim that God has “revealed” Himself to them. They experience fellowship with their Father-God. Other religions make claims as well, but of a very different sort. None claims that their God is the God who is Love. No other God has demonstrated that love by reaching out to human beings to bring them into his Household. For this reason, and many others, I’m a Christian spiritual formation Life Coach.
6. Concerns about Death. What happens when I die? Of course, the obvious answer is “You’re dead. It won’t matter to you.” Don’t we just die, go into the ground, and float around as a spirit looking to hang out in a place that was special to us? Most of the cultural views regarding death are based upon a misinformed Epistemology–Most people are clueless about immortality, death, the grave, and what happens after (including, and sometimes most especially, religious people). You can change that. You can know what happens when you die. That’s why beyond the grave books are such hot sellers. That’s why Life Coaches, who also deal with spiritual formation, can bring clarity to many of these issues.
7. Global War. Aren’t we headed toward destruction of the world? Why can’t we just all live together? Why can’t we live at peace? For the same reason that people struggle with so many of these life questions. Most people look only on the surface and refuse to see the invisible, underlying realities that shape our existence. I guess they feel that they can’t impact those unseen things. So now combine misplaced Epistomology with a misplaced Anthropology. War is the result of men who are unsatisfied with what they have (greed) OR of men who think that they have to institute their religious laws on everyone else (religious legalistic totalitarianism). By the way, Christians to not believe they must institute religious laws on everyone. Quite the opposite. They fulfill and satisfied the law in their relationship to Jesus Christ. What do Imean? Take a week and read, then reread The New Testament in the Bible. Then you’ll understand.
Think long and hard over these two causes (greed and religious law) before you’re tempted to move on. The lust of man, the pride of life, and the desires that he can’t control all drive him to take what is not his or want what is someone else’s. He wants to control, to enforce his will upon others. No god offered by other religions encourages freedom or liberty. They can’t. They want to control. The One True God–Yahweh–is the God of freedom and love. A person adopted as His child, is truly free and beloved.
8. Concerns about the Future. What should I do with my life? Where are things headed? Scores of questions abound regarding the future–what it holds, how people are to face it, perhaps leverage it. The future is big business too. So naturally people wonder if it’s OK to seek out fortune tellers, palm readers, psychics, and other practitioners of divination. As a Christian spiritual formation Life Coach, I share God’s view regarding those practices. They open people to demonization by seeking future information from supernatural sources–which God has expressly forbidden (not because He’s a Blue Meanie–but for our safety). I explain that two sources are available for believers to KNOW their intended future, including preparing for unforeseen events. But that’s another post.
The eight biggest problems people voice to me seem to cover most things human. The specifics change, but the concerns seem to group together under one of the eight–relational issues, fear of running out of money, health issues, anxiety over finding or losing loved ones, religious questions, concerns about death, global war, and concerns about the future.
QUESTION: Can you think of any BIG problems I’ve overlooked?
©2011, David C Alves
**MY RESEARCH: Just to give you some context to why I know something about this topic: I’m speaking from tens of thousands of conversations for over twenty-six years as a Life Coach. The questions and concerns people bring to me tend to be repetitive. I also speak as someone who has weathered bankruptcy and am now completely out of dept. I have been divorced and have been happily married now for 32 years in my second marriage. I was lost and have been found. I was rejected and am accepted. I have defeated panic attack disorder and quit smoking and drinking decades ago. All this just to say, I’m not someone who can’t empathize with the people I coach. Character and wisdom come from weathering life’s storms, caring for others, being teachable, and taking sound counsel.
- Life Coaching Tips (womanby1design.wordpress.com)
- Why I Despise “Religion” (davidcalves.com)
- One2One Life and Parenting Coaching, LLC offers Free Parent and Life Coaching Consultations for Palm Beach County Residents (prweb.com)
- Lust, Love, or TRUE Love? (davidcalves.com)
You can become a better friend. And in only 30 minutes. It’s easy.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes for a good friend. If you are willing to participate in the following activity, you’ll not only see how you can be a better friend, but you’ll also see the importance of having a Life Coach. I’m about to demonstrate how I would coach a client. Ready?
- If you don’t have a Life Journal, get one. Make one. Buy one. Do whatever you need to do, but make this a special journal. Don’t just add it as a page to your current journal of feelings or your diary (if you keep one; which is a good idea too). This is going to be a journal for the practical steps that will absolutely transform your life (not merely make you a better friend). By the way, procuring a journal is not included in the 30 minutes. 🙂 Ready? Got your journal and a pencil or pen?
- Make a list. Your OWN list of the traits that you think are important in a “good friend.” Don’t judge the list. Just list them rapid-fire.
- Now, think about WHY those traits are important to you.
- Refine your list. Which ones are not crucial? Eliminate those which on second thought you realize are not that important in a good friend. You want the essential traits of a good friend. Got them?
- Friendship is a strong and habitual inclination in two persons to promote the good and happiness of one another. ~Eustace Budgell
- The only way to have a friend is to be one. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Real friendship is shown in times of trouble; prosperity is full of friends. ~Euripides
- Your friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you. ~Elbert Hubbard, The Notebook, 1927
- Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty. ~Sicilian Proverb
- In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. ~Albert Schweitzer
- The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart. ~Elisabeth Foley
- If I had to sum up Friendship in one word, it would be Comfort. ~Terri Guillemets
- As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. ~The Holy Bible, ESV, 1 Samuel 18:1 [this is known as a “soul tie” These can be positive or negative. Positive soul ties are of God. I should do a post on this right?]
- When one of your friends has a need, or is hurt, or grieving, don’t ask “Is there anything I can do for you?” Without being asked, just think of something and DO IT! ~Dr. David C Alves
- Think about each quote. What one word (or short phrase) will express the trait that the numbered quotes emphasize. EXAMPLE: Reread quote number 4. The trait exemplified is “unconditional acceptance.” Place the trait you see in a new list.
- Compare & Contrast your list to the list of what others have considered important traits in a good friend. Which ones agreed with yours? Were there any you forgot? If so, add them to your list.
- Select three to five traits, from your completed list, that you currently demonstrate in your friendships. Those are your strengths. Put a star next to them.
- Select three traits that you DON’T have or are really weak in. Those are your weaknesses as a friend. Let’s strengthen them.
- IMPORTANT: Think about how your strong traits can enhance your weak traits. EXAMPLE: You’re really perceptive about your friend’s needs. [strong trait]. But you tend to procrastinate when you get an idea to do something to meet a friend’s need [weakness]. Use your other strength of (let’s say) encouragement to call your friend and let her know that you’re willing to help in that need. THEN FOLLOW THROUGH!!
- Make a couple of decisions about actions you can take RIGHT NOW to stregthen those three weak areas.
AND . . . you’ve just walked through a coaching session that really can help you to be a better friend. And if you’ve read this far and decided to put this into action, that’s what you really want to be.
If you’d like to be a friend to me and others, simply share this post with others. Maybe we can start this awesome friendship thing happening.
QUESTION: How did YOU define a “good friend?” Let us know.
Friendship quotes 1-9 from http://www.quotegarden.com/friendship.html
©2011, David C Alves
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Some have said that Paul was talking and acting from pride. They must not have read or thought much about Paul, his teachings and his own testimony. He told us to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. Humility was constantly modeled and taught by Paul. No, Paul was merely stating what was true to encourage his son in Christ. He was urging Timothy to follow his “father’s” example.
As a spiritual dad and son of the Living God, I too want to finish well. I want to finish stronger than I started. And I want that for my spiritual sons–the young men I mentor/coach.
Paul used a couple of metaphors. Each brings something special to the table to be seen. He was in a habit of mixing metaphors, but not by mistake like so many of my previous students in English. He knew what he was doing and what those metaphors would evoke in the mind of his reader(s).
First he says in verse seven that he has fought the good fight. Faith can be just that too. Faith fights the deadly “D’s” of the enemy–doubt, discouragement, disappointment, depression, and darkness. Holding onto the promise can be hard–a fight. Certainly we’ve all fought doubt and discouragement. We know what it is to battle against unbelief. Unbelief plagues every promise and word of His. Paul has been there and holds up a picture for Timothy. He has fought the “good” fight. The fight is worth it. IMPLICATION: And so can you. You can and will. Paul, ever the encourager, places this encouragement before his “son.”
Second, he brings in an entirely different picture. “I have finished the race.” Interesting from two vantage points.
Paul sees our sonship as a race in that it has a starting line and a finish line, toward which we “run.” We began completely by the grace of our Father. Likewise, we have a destination. Otherwise how could he say that he “finished.” How did he know that? I think when you or I finish, we too will know. We don’t quit. We FINISH. As long as we finish well, we don’t need to finish first or even second. Even if I come in dead last (no pun intended), I want to FINISH. And from beginning to end, God’s grace and delight will carry us the distance.
Both metaphors–the fight and the race–point to activities that have an END. He says, I have fought and I have finished.
Finally he says, “I have KEPT the faith.” The word literally is “kept watch over” in the sense of a sentry on guard. Are you guarding, watching over, the Good News and your spiritual formation? Paul made sure that he held on to what was important to Father in the ministry he carried out. He was faithful, like his Master.
I love it that Paul was not asking Timothy to live something he had not lived. He was encouraging Timothy to walk like his “father.” To pass on what he had seen and heard in Paul (2 Tim. 2.2; Phil. 4.9). This is the pattern given us in Jesus (1 Jn. 2:4-6). The pattern is passed on through Paul to Timothy and all of us.
From start to finish, the fight, the race, the keeping of the treasure ALL require endurance. That is where the power and steadfastness of the Holy Spirit must be the energy at work in you to keep you going until the end. Paul desired for us to know the power and he wanted also to know the power that raised Jesus from the dead. That’s the same power that can carry you through all to finish well.
With all this in mind, we do well to invite Father’s Holy Spirit to empower us to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith until we see Jesus face to face.
QUESTION: What are your thoughts on this pattern in Jesus, Paul, Timothy, or YOU?
©2011, David C Alves
Effective writing mentors/coaches are rare. Mainly because most successful authors spend so much time writing or speaking that they simply can’t afford the time. In addition, there is an unspoken assumption that writing, unlike painting or music, is magical and no one can teach you how to do it. You just need to sit down and write. I agree that we need to sit down and write, write well. But how does the writer in us take shape? I want to encourage you to write and to consider the benefits of a writing mentor. The questions below should be a beginning if you do not already have one.
Anyone seriously practicing a craft or art needs at least one mentor. So how do you go about securing a writing mentor/coach? Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Am I serious about writing? All of us think we have a novel in us. Or at least one great book. But only a small percentage of those who think this way ever write a book. Perhaps writing is just a hobby. If writing is more for you, if it’s a passion, then ask the next question . . .
2. Lord, would you provide me with a mentor? Pray about it! Ask the Lord. When you’re desire is to honor Him in your craft or vocation, He will lead you to the right situation. His timing will be perfect. My first mentor was my fiction instructor at Bread Loaf School of English in Middlebury, VT. I attended there in the ‘80’s and we’ve been friends ever since. Our correspondence continues to be rich and meaningful. I’ve learned by reading all his books. He continues to coach me as I have need. And I value our relationship. I believe he was God’s choice for me. He was an answer to my early prayer.
3. What do I need to learn? Be clear about what it is that you need mentoring in. First lay solid foundations. Learn about the Father as Creator and Poet. Remember, he’s an author (the Bible). You are made in his image. Second, read about the craft. Learn how you can do it better. Begin with my virtual mentors: my list of “Essential Books for Writers” is a good starting place. They are arranged the way I would arrange a course if I were coaching a group of believing writers. After you have read these, you are half way to an MFA for Christian writers. Writing well is the other half. I once had a friend tell me that a graduate degree is nothing more than a good set of bibliographies. Not actually, but he was close. So what do you need to learn? Perhaps you just need some cheerleading. A good coach is usually a good cheerleader and can encourage and empower you.
4. Who can teach it to me? Who are the authors you appreciate? Make a list. Go down your list. Are they living? If so, they probably have a blog. If not, do they have a book on the craft? Have they written articles on writing? Most authors have. Do they teach or speak? Do a Google search. You’re sure to find your author if he/she is doing anything. Read everything your favorite author(s) has written. You have to be proactive and do your research if you’re serious about a mentor. A mentor is not going to call you up out of the blue (although God has done stranger things). But your Father will provide you with what you need if you work with him.
5. How should I meet my prospective mentor? Take a course taught by him/her. Go to a conference where he/she is scheduled to speak. Don’t be a pest though. Introduce yourself. Ask if you may email him/her with a couple of questions. If you can’t meet at a conference. Email her/him if the email address is available either in the latest book or on the website. Perhaps your future coach is a blogger. Follow the blog and leave thoughtful, sincere comments. Don’t flatter, most authors are perceptive.
Just remember, many authors are extremely busy. Depending upon their renown, they may have received 30 or 300 requests like yours in the past week. Don’t be discouraged. Simply go to another author on your list of possible coaches. Many excellent authors are little known but may have the time and inclination to help others.
Be considerate in your approach, but don’t be shy. Be really clear about what it is you want to sharpen. What you want to learn. Be brief. Don’t be disappointed if they point you to a book or article. That’s being mentored! Don’t ever call! Unless you have an invitation to call, you are sure to be disappointed. This should be obvious. On the other hand, Skype is a really good face to face venue for coaching as long as you and your prospective mentor/coach have agreed upon it. Don’t expect to receive his/her expertise for free. “The workman is worthy of his/her wages.” Be creative, if you’re a blogger and have thousands of followers, ask if you can feature your writing coaches work on your blog in place of a coaching fee.
Examine your motives. If your mentoring relationship is not based upon the right motives, it will not produce the fruit that you, and the Lord, desire. Be certain that your motives are professional. I used to think that the ideal mentoring situation would be face to face. One of my mentors met me face to face a couple of times. Then we continued through email until our goals had been met. I’m no longer convinced that face to face is the best scenario. Close proximity could be devastating—for both of you. For you, because it’s too easy to become dependent. Result, you won’t risk. You have to take chances in your writing if it’s to crackle and snap. Fresh writing is free, even of your own inner critic. How likely would you be to risk if you had easy access to your mentor? Close proximity could be detrimental to your mentor too, because he/she might be interrupted once too often. Other risks include male/female challenges when face to face or becoming over dependent. Mentoring relationships need boundaries.
6.What should be our focus? This question is answered when you’ve answered #3. If an author agrees to coach you, make your goals SMART—Simple, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely. For help with focus and goal-setting check out the online “Goal Setting Guide.”
Just because writing mentors are rare is no reason you can’t find one. You just have to begin, be proactive, and remember: “ . . . be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1Cor. 15.58 ESV).
And Yes . . . I am a writing coach, but my expertise is non-fiction and Christian assisted publishing. If you want to contact me see my “Writer Coaching” page or write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org Just be sure to be brief and to the point. No life stories. No advertisements please. Show me you’ve read this post. Wouldn’t hurt to leave a comment too. Then I’ve been introduced.
QUESTION: Do you see the need for a mentor/coach? Do you have a coach? Or perhaps you are a mentor . . . could you make other suggestions?
©2011, David C Alves