Saturday, January 28, 2012

How I Found a Date Worth Keeping

Have you ever found yourself stuck in an unsatisfying pattern of life with no clue how to change it?
My dating life wasn’t working and I didn’t know how to fix it.  I was still single in my 30s, approaching 40, and wondering why I couldn’t find someone who wanted to be in a relationship with me.  The women I was attracted to and interested in dating weren’t interested in me and vice versa.  I was successful in other areas of my life.  Why was I so unsuccessful in relationships?  What did I need to do to change?

Significant changes came to my dating life when I read best selling author and psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping.”  The book is based on his work as a dating coach to his assistant Lillie Cashion.  Dr. Cloud offered to serve as Lillie's dating coach and then equipped her to tackle her dating life in fresh and challenging ways.

The book offers three strategies to revamp your approaching to dating and guarantees you’ll be dating in six months.

Here are the strategies and how I applied them:

1.  Get a team – I needed to surround myself with people who would support me in my efforts to change my approach to dating.  People who would cheer me on in my efforts and hold my feet to the fire if I got in any unhealthy relationships.
My primary team member was my counselor Michael.  At the time I began implementing Cloud’s strategy, I was in seminary. My particular degree program required me to receive six months of counseling.  I found it so helpful that I spent 18 months meeting weekly with my psychologist Michael, who also served as my dating coach.  He provided a safe place for me to go with any anxiety, questions, or issues that surfaced as I revamped my approach to relationships.

2.  Get out there – I stepped up my dating game significantly and became much more assertive in my efforts to meet women.  I joined and looked for opportunities to meet women in my church.  At one point, I went out on coffee dates with eight different women in a two week period.  A well-meaning friend questioned my efforts and suggested that word was getting out that I was “playing the field.”  Honestly, I didn’t care.  I knew what I was doing.  I had no interest in being physically or emotionally promiscuous.  I was simply trying to meet more women to figure out what I was looking for in dating relationship and eventual marriage partner.  I knew I was heading in the right direction.  If people had nothing better to do in their free time than discuss my dating life, so be it.

3.  Get Healthy – Meeting with my counselor Michael was enormously important.  Stepping up my dating game caused some buried internal issues to rise to the surface, which is exactly what Cloud’s approach to dating is designed to do…it forces you to confront your issues so you can resolve them and move on.

You don’t need a paid professional to address the personal issues in your life that might be hindering your dating life (although in my case, it was worth the investment).  A good friend who shoots straight with you can also be of great help.  Michael helped me wrestle with the things in my internal world that were getting in the way of meeting potential marriage partners.  In particular, he opened my eyes to the ways my addiction to approval and my tendency to people please had the potential to derail me from meeting and pursuing a great woman.

Within eight months of reading the book and applying what I was learning, I met my wife Tracy.  Needless to say, I highly recommend Cloud’s book! 

This past weekend, I invited Dr. Cloud's former assistant Lillie, the subject of the book, to speak to single adults at my church about what she learned through her experience of having a dating coach and how she met her husband Audie.  She now serves as a relationship coach and executive coach.  You can listen to her talk by clicking here.

Me, my wife Tracy, Lillie and Audie Cashion
Were you ever stuck in an important area of your life?  What changes did you make to overcome it?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spiritual Formation and Control

“Our constant struggle with the issue of control is a crucial part of our spiritual pilgrimage. I don’t mind spiritual formation at all as long as I can be in control of it. As long as I can set the limits on its pace and its direction, I have no problem. What I do have a problem with is getting my control structures out of the way of my spiritual formation and letting God take control. In the final analysis, there is nothing we can do to transform ourselves into persons who love and serve as Jesus did except make ourselves available for God to do that work of transforming grace in our lives.” (M. Robert Mulholland. "Invitation to a Journey". Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 26.)

How does this quote hit you?  When I read it on my former spiritual director’s blog, it led me to step back for a moment to examine my life.  At times, I’ve been tempted to think of spiritual growth as a process I’m in charge of, sort of like going to the gym.  My effort alone produces the results. 

It reminds me of a quote from Dallas Willard that one of my seminary professors was fond of repeating, "The Christian life is what you do when you realize you can do nothing."  More significantly, it reminds me of what Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

If there is nothing we can do to grow ourselves spiritually except make ourselve available for God to do the work of transforming us, then what does it look like to make ourselves available to his transforming work vs. trying to grow ourselves in our own power?  Thoughts?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Life Planning

"If we would only give the same amount of reflection to what we want out of life that we give to the question of what to do with two weeks' vacation, we would be startled at our false standards and the aimless procession of our busy days."
-Dorothy Canfield Fisher

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12)

As we finished out 2011 and entered the new year, my wife and I took a day last week to do some life planning.  How easy it is to get caught up in the business of life with small children and not stop to give thought to our lives as a whole.  If I am not careful, I end up feeling like I am being "lived" instead of I'm following a script that someone else has handed me and that I have had no role in shaping

I discovered a very helpful free ebook by Michael Hyatt called "Creating Your Personal Life Plan."  My wife and I were able to read it together in about an hour or so.  The next day, we began implementing the suggestions for mapping out our lives based on the outcomes we hope for and our priorities.  The only "cost" to get the ebook is to subscribe to Hyatt's free email newsletter...meaning that you will receive an email version of his highly popular blog.  His blog is the only one I subscribe to via email and honestly, the content is so good, it's worth having it pop up in your inbox.  (he writes primarily on leadership, productivity, publishing, and social media).Creating a Life Plan Cover

Life comes rushing at all of us and we have no way of knowing what will befall each of us in the years ahead.  But that doesn't mean that we cannot give thought to what we will prioritize and how we will prepare to face the joys and challenges that await us in the future.

Have you done an life planning exercise similar to the one my wife and I are using?  What is the most helpful thing you have done to steward your life well?