What Do You Do When Your Life is Out of Control?

For years our family would purchase a season pass at Canada’s Wonderland, a major theme park about an hour from where we lived. Four or five times a year we would make a day of it, enjoying the drive, a picnic lunch, the shows and the rides.

Well, mostly it was Alex and me who enjoyed the rides while Kathy and Megan people-watched. There wasn’t a ride us guys wouldn’t go on, but for the ladies, it was often a challenge to go on anything beyond the spinning tea cups.

But I have to say, Kathy was a good sport, often going on rides she’d rather not.

One afternoon we were standing in line for the Drop Zone (a 230 ft tower that you gradually are lifted to, only to be dropped, free-falling to the ground, and breaking just feet before the earth).

When the kids were younger they wore coloured bracelets the park handed out to indicate the rides they could go on, based on their height. If they were too small for a particular ride, like the Drop Zone, they would stand in line with us, then move through and watch us.

As we were approaching the front of the line I noticed the operators weren’t paying much attention to individual riders. I looked at Alex and he looked back at me and I whispered, “do you want to go on?”

Without saying a word and with eyes wide open I knew his answer and ripped off his bracelet and told him to “just act natural”.

Megan moved beyond the barrier to get a better view and Alex moved toward the ride with Kathy and myself.

Suddenly I saw terror on Kathy’s face as she put 2 & 2 together.

Have you ever screamed at someone while at the same time whispering so not to be heard by those around you? It’s quite a skill and that’s what Kathy was doing. She was freaking out because our barely 4-foot-tall son was buckling up for the ride of his life.

I quickly hushed her so not to give us away and Alex sat between us. Kathy could look over him to me and with her eyes expressed great fear, dismay and a few other things I won’t go into.

The oblivious operator ensured we were secure in our seats (which meant you could barely move because the shoulder harness was so tight and restrictive).

Once moving towards the sky, Kathy let into me like no one’s business while Alex and I would have high-fived each other if we could get our arms free to do so.

After reaching the height of the ride, and taking in the view, we dropped back down to the ground at over 16 feet per second. The whole thing was over in about 30 seconds.

And it was awesome.

Once we were free from the ride, Alex and I did high-five each other and we couldn’t stop laughing. It’s a great memory for us…Kathy maybe not so much.

But I didn’t share this story to suggest a reckless parenting strategy or to encourage breaking the rules.

What Do You Do When Your Life is Out of (Your) Control?

I love that story of us riding the drop zone ride at Wonderland. I smile every time I think of it. But during the ride itself, you just can’t move much at all. Once we were harnessed in, everything was out of our control.

Ever felt like that?

A couple of weeks ago I shared a personal story about a situation that took Kathy and me by complete surprise and turned our world upside down. You can read it here.

In a blink, our life went from an exciting new adventure to everything is out of control and uncertain where nothing made sense.

Have you ever been there? I think most of us have. Because as I suggested last week, life is rarely “up and to the right”. It’s never a straight line. Whether your job or career, your family or marriage…it doesn’t matter. The most important things in our lives rarely go from point A to point B in a straight line. Up and to the right just doesn’t happen.

So what can you do?

Or maybe better, “What do you get to do?”

You get to decide.

You get to decide how you are going to respond to the situation that has caused you to feel like you’ve lost control. In other words, even when life is out of control, or you feel completely stuck and life is beyond your control, you still have options. You get to decide what you will do in response.

Sometimes life’s restraints are almost overwhelming. When you’re riding the Drop Zone, that’s okay…when your world is turned upside down, that’s another thing altogether.

But you still get to decide. You get to decide how you will respond.

Maybe you are in the middle of a “my life is upside down” situation.

What are you going to do?

Will you give up? Or will you regroup?

Will you seek input from trusted people in your life or will you grow more cynical and isolated?

Will you lean into God? Or will you become more self-sufficient?

Will you grow bitter? Or will you look for ways to learn, grow and improve?

Will you retreat and give up? Or will you discern what’s next?

Will you allow a setback to define you? Or will you allow it to propel you forward?

What will you decide to do?

Feeling stuck? Not sure what to do next? Your life not where you want it to be? Life coaching can help. Contact me to arrange a free 45-minute discovery call. Let’s talk.

 

A Perfect Day For An Imperfect Father

For me it was a perfect day. My family was together, we enjoyed a beautiful day and swimming in the pool, (something we didn’t do all last summer) we BBQ’d and played games to cap off the night.

A Perfect Day For An Imperfect Father

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Kathy and I are often asked about how we parented our kids who are now 21 & 19.  To be honest, I think they have often made us look better than we were. I am very proud of who they are for sure; but maybe in spite of our parenting as much as because of it.

Regardless, from the very beginning we were intentional about who we wanted to be as parents and what kind of family we envisioned. Before Megan was born we participated in parenting courses, read books and talked to parents who were ahead of us.

Eventually though, you just have to get in the game. Apparently even when you don’t want to. Let’s go back in time.

Kathy and I got married with the understanding that we would not have children. Not that we couldn’t, but that we wouldn’t. I won’t go into the details here, but that was a very clear expectation for me.

We didn’t talk about children much, as it was understood that we just weren’t having them. In fact, 5 years into our marriage, we affirmed our commitment to that end while on a vacation…it was the summer of ’94. I brought it up just to be sure that we were still on the same page…we weren’t having children.

To make a long story short, I think our commitment and celebration of said commitment actually lead to Megan.

That Fall I was in my final year of Seminary and one day I returned home from classes in Toronto to be greeted by Kathy who was crying uncontrollably. I had no idea what was going on when she said, “I have something I have to tell you.”

My mind started racing and I didn’t like where it was going. Did someone die? Did she have an affair? I had no idea. Until she calmed down long enough to say, “I’m pregnant.”

“Honey, I’m Pregnant”

Oh man, I was relieved. Of all the things I thought she might say, being pregnant wasn’t one of them, but I’m glad it was. Maybe at first because it was better than all the other options I had come up with.

So Megan was born 3 weeks after I graduated from Seminary. Life would never be the same and 5 minutes later she is 21 and Alex is 19.

And this Fathers Day I am grateful.

My life is richer because they are a part of it

I didn’t want children for selfish reasons. I didn’t want to parent a child who potentially could be like me. All I was thinking about was me. But I didn’t realize at the time, that my life would be richer because of them.

I remember watching the kids play in the local park…they were about 7 & 5. I was with my mentor when I asked him, “How to help them avoid the kind of life I lived as a teenager?”

He was very gracious in his response by suggesting that I already had by the way I parented them and loved them. While I appreciated his kind words I wasn’t confident that the next 10 years would not be extremely difficult.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It requires so much of you…and that’s the best part. Children need you in different ways at different stages of their lives. You learn more about them and you learn more about yourself too. 

I have loved every stage…and each one is better than the last. I wouldn’t want to go back. I look forward to what’s next. I love watching them grow and change.

Parenting is hard work that doesn’t always seem to pay off in the moment. And we’ve had our challenges as a family for sure. But I am grateful for the privilege of raising two children. I’m a better person and my life has been richer because they are in it.

 The world is better because they are in it

 Megan & Alex not only make our family better, they make the world better. For me, the most important part of their school report cards were the evaluations at the end. Not their grades but how they interacted with others, with teachers etc. Their character was more important than their grades.

Don’t get me wrong, my kids aren’t perfect. Their dad isn’t perfect and neither are they. But I am grateful for the way they choose to live their lives. I still learn from them. In some ways I need to become more like them. And I’m okay with that.

While the list of things I would like a “do over” for is long, on this Fathers Day, I am grateful. Grateful that my plans to not have a family were thwarted by a greater plan. And grateful for children that have made my life richer and the world better.

 

Dan

Five Keys To Living Your Best Life Now (Part 3)

As a teenager I made life very difficult for those around me. Teachers, students, my pastor, my sisters and perhaps especially my parents. I don’t need to go into details here but I pushed my parents to the brink on numerous occasions I’m sure. It got to a point where no one really knew what to do with me. I was selfish, belligerent and determined to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it.

For example, in grade 10, I missed more classes than I attended. No, I wasn’t the exceptional student (Patch Adams for example) who only needed to show up for tests and exams because he knew the material. My average for the year was below 50%…brilliant right?

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Continually making poor choices and living a lifestyle that went against everything my parents taught me made life extremely difficult at home. I remember something that my dad would say to me, mostly out of frustration and discouragement I think.

He said, “Dan, anyone can do what you’re doing.”

The first time he said it, I didn’t really understand what he meant. But I remember thinking, “Are you kidding me? I dare you to find someone who was like me, doing the things I was doing and doing them with such disregard and contempt for anyone else. No one I knew was taking more risks or breaking more rules. What do you mean anyone can do what I’m doing?”

In my narrow perspective, as far as I was concerned, I was knocking it out of the park. Crazy right?

Over time, my dad would repeat those words to me again and again. “Anyone can do what you are doing” And what he was trying to say to me, was…

  • You are so much better than you are now.
  • You have so much more potential but you are taking the easy way out.
  • You can be so much more but you are settling for a mediocre life.
  • Instead of living your best life you are wasting it.

As I look back on that time, my dad was exactly right. Of course with me, the evidence was overwhelming clear and obvious. When your life consists of

  • Spending more time in pool halls than the classroom
  • Playing golf with laid-off factory workers because you dropped out of school
  • Stealing at every opportunity to support a less than honourable lifestyle
  • Taking advantage of people and showing no respect to anyone

Coming to the conclusion that I wasn’t living my best life was pretty easy.

But enough about me.

Key #3  Live Your BEST Life Now

What about you? Are you living your BEST life now? Hey, I’m not suggesting that like me as a teenager you are wasting your life or living a mediocre life or taking the easy way out. I’m not saying that at all. But what do you say?

Are you living your BEST Life now?

If you’re not sure if you are living your best life now, consider the following questions:

  • Do you have a clear vision for your life?
  • Can you articulate your life calling?
  • If today was your last, would you be satisfied with how you would be remembered?
  • Do you wake up refreshed?
  • Do you typically go to sleep satisfied with your day? How about last night?
  • Do you like the story your life is writing?
  • Are you growing?
  • Do you embrace change?
  • Are you clear on your priorities?
  • Do you live with an unsettled feeling? That there is more for you to be and to do?
  • Are you enjoying healthy relationships? For a simple life-assessment exercise see part one of this series.
  • Do you have a plan for your life?

These questions are worth the time and effort to consider and answer. In part because we often don’t. They’re not easy though. Believe me I get. But what’s the alternative? Avoiding the questions won’t bring about the changes in your life you are looking for.

Only by God’s incredible grace, the faithful love and support of family and friends and choosing to live the life I was designed to live was I able to move from a life that was not my best.

Are you living your BEST life now? I hope you are. 

If you have questions or would like to explore life coaching but you’re not sure where to begin, contact me to arrange an initial free 30 minute call. Let’s talk. Simply fill out the form below and we can arrange a conversation. I look forward to it.

 

Five Keys to Living Your Best Life Now (Part 2)

A number of years ago a young man was sitting in my counselling office at his parents request. They were concerned about the decisions their son was making and hoped I would be able to help. Meeting a client who was being dragged to my office by his parents didn’t make for a promising outcome. Let’s just say their commitment to the therapeutic process was lacking which made our sessions especially challenging. 

After some small talk amid long periods of silence, he slowly began opening up to me.  As we talked I learned that he had only one credit to complete to graduate university. But instead of completing his course, graduating and pursuing a job in his chosen profession, he dropped out of school.

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After all the hard work, not to mention the expense to get through 4 years of university, he just quit. With no warning or apparent signs that he was about to walk away from all he had worked toward, he just said, “I don’t want this.” His parents were frustrated and confused to say the least. 

What would make someone choose to stop…just drop out. So close to the finish line, he just dropped out of the race. Why?

The answer wasn’t obvious to me at first and it took him a few sessions to come clean or better, to come to terms with what he was thinking. His parents (both extremely “successful”) had mapped out his life for him. They essentially made the decisions related to his school and career path. Now that graduation and a new job were on the horizon, he just couldn’t go through with it.

As you can imagine, this revelation to his parents didn’t go well. He never did graduate that program and it was a real struggle to come to terms with what he was going to do. Aside from disappointing his parents, he had no idea what he wanted to do or what he wanted his life to look like. He told me that he spent so much of his life living his parents plan for his life, that he never took the time to come up with his own.

“I spent so much of my life living my parents plan for my life, I never took the the time to come up with my own.”  

By the way, it’s well documented that young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group. While there are many factors to consider, one I believe, is the struggle this age group has in finding their autonomy to make decisions. 

As a parent, I hope I can be a positive influence and offer guidance to my children; I believe that is part of my responsibility. But at some point they must make decisions for themselves. 

Key #2 Live YOUR Best Life Now

Are you living your best life now? I think it’s a relevant question at any age. Are you intentional in the choices you make? In a recent post I mentioned 3 reasons to pursue our dreams. I don’t think it’s ever too late to consider what they are.

Last week we looked at a simple exercise to evaluate the various areas of your life. You can check it out here.

How do you know if you are living your best life now? 

The following is a sample of statements that can help you determine if you are living the life you are meant to live.

Which of the following are true of you?

  • I understand my 3 greatest strengths and live them regularly.
  • I have a clear understanding of what I am uniquely good at.
  • I know my life purpose.
  • I am striving to achieve 3 goals this year.
  • I have a clear plan for achieving my current goals.
  • My family is aligned around clear values.
  • My spouse and I are best friends.
  • I have a plan for my physical health and follow it.
  • I don’t compare my life to those around me.
  • I am growing spiritually through spiritual activities such as prayer, involvement in a local church and reading the Bible.
  • I am living within my financial means.
  • I am generous.
  • I have healthy friendships where strength, love & encouragement are shared.
  • I enjoy a hobby and recreational activities.
  • I participate in activities that help me grow personally (ie read, take online classes)

So how did you do? Out of the 15 statements, which ones are true of you today? In what areas would you like to make some changes?

My client was in a difficult place because up to that point he wasn’t living the life he really wanted to live. He had deferred to his parents wishes but finally decided he had to make a change…a drastic one.

Each of us has the opportunity to make decisions and choices to live the life we are meant to live.

Are you living YOUR best life now?

If you have questions and would like to explore life coaching but you’re not sure where to begin, contact me to arrange an initial free 30 minute call. Let’s talk.

 

 

 

 

Welcome to My Blog

My name is Dan Barber…welcome to my blog.

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A Little Background

My life took a turn in early 2014. It wasn’t a dramatic change at the time,  I simply began asking questions about myself and my life.  Up to that point I had enjoyed various ministry roles including the church I was serving at, Connexus Community Church. I have been blessed with a wonderful wife, now 26 years and a 20 year old daughter and 18 year old son.

My family life was good and my ministry was meaningful. I have watched our children grow into amazing young adults and I have enjoyed the privilege of serving in 3 great churches, as well as counselling in private practice. Yet, believing that my best years were in front of me I began to ask questions about my own future; Did I want to stay in my current role? Was there something else for me to do? With my children now young adults, were my options changing.

 

Why life coaching?

To help me process the questions I was asking, I enlisted the help of a life coach. And for the past eighteen months she has been coaching me through this process. It’s been an incredible journey together.

As we considered my personality, skills and passions she suggested, “Why don’t you do what I am doing.” That is when I began to explore the world of life coaching.

Then a detour. Early this year, my wife and I left our jobs to open a cafe – Em’s Cafe in Coldwater, Ontario. Crazy right? Well maybe, but owning a cafe was something we’ve been talking about 15 years; but it was only now that the pieces were coming together for it to become a reality. And on May 1, 2015, we opened Em’s Cafe and we are 5 months into this new adventure.

Perhaps you are at a place of transition or possible change too. I’ve been there…I’m still there and I know what it’s like to

  • ask hard questions about the future,
  • consider making changes while others question it
  • believe that change was needed but uncertain about where to start or what it would mean for my family
  • leave the security of a job and paycheque to follow after a dream.
  • face the fear of the unknown

 

My Goal For This Blog

Through my blog I will address life questions we all have from time to time and offer helpful content that I trust will give you the clarity, courage, and commitment you need to address the areas of your life that you’d like to see change…ie relationships, health, finances, faith, careers & personal development & growth.

My passion is helping others find theirs. I believe each one of us is uniquely gifted through our personalities, abilities, passions, hopes and dreams and that it’s never too late to make the changes necessary to live your best life now.

That’s what this site and life coaching is about. Helping you overcome the barriers and obstacles that hinder you from taking the steps necessary to live the life you want to live. I’ll be 50 later this year and I believe my best years are in front of me and I believe they are for you as well.

If that is you, then you’re in the right place and whether through this site or one-on-one coaching I’m glad we’re on this journey together…Welcome.

 

Dan

This One Project Can Change Your Family

If you visit our home you will likely notice a plaque that sits in our front hall. Nothing fancy, but possibly one of the most significant items in our home.

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Years ago we decided it would be a good idea to come up with some basic principles that would guide our family. This became a family project that everyone participated in.

We scribbled down notes as we talked about our family; what was important to each of us…anything and everything was open for discussion. The goal of this exercise was to identify and clearly capture in a few brief sentences what we valued most.

By the end of the evening, we had listed what we called “Our Family Values”, five of them. For each value, we wrote a brief description of what it would look like for us and a Bible verse or two that explained it. We reviewed it, edited it and wrote a final draft…then we all signed it. Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking…we just took advantage of our children’s age, and their desire to please mom and dad. You may be right, but having young children sign a document is awesome! It may not be legally binding but it still carries a lot of weight in our house.

I can say without a doubt that taking a few hours out of our evening many years ago, to create our family values has been one of the most important things we have done as a family. Here are some reasons why…

1. Our family values reflect our faith. Our values are not our way of trying to gain God’s favor but a way of living as a result of it. By this point, both our children had surrendered their lives to Jesus so we were able to approach it from that perspective. These were not to be simply words on a page but guidelines for how we would make decisions, and interact with each other. Our other family values include honesty, kindness and having a strong work ethic. By the way Ephesians 4 is a gold mine for relationship guidelines.

2. Our family values create a sense of accountability. This was not a top-down thing…a tool for mom & dad to guide and discipline our children. This was for all of us…I am as accountable to my children as they are to me. And when we signed the page together, we were all in.

3. Our family values influence our decisions. For example, when Alex was eight, he played football and I was an assistant coach. That summer we practiced three times a week for 2-3 months before the season even started…then 2 weeks before the first game, the schedule came out…every game but two, were on Sunday morning at 10am. My heart sank and I didn’t know what to do. On the one hand, commitment and working hard were our values, and we had put so much into the season already.  But loving God was a family value as well and one commitment we made as a family was that “we would attend church together regularly.” After the practice we sat together reviewing the schedule. As a pastor, I knew what I had to do but I asked Alex what he thought he should do. He paused and thought about it for a while, then said to me, “well dad, I guess I won’t play football this year because we go to church together.” With tears pouring down my face, I thanked him for making such a tough call. Perhaps not wanting the season to end, I suggested we pray about it and see what happens. A week later a revised schedule came out and only 2 games were on Sunday and thankfully they were late enough that we could attend church and still make the games. It was a great season!

4. Our family values serve as a reference point at crucial times.  When wrestling with a decision they serve as guardrails. And if one of us violates a family value then the rest of us will call them on it. The phrase,” Hey, does that reflect who we are?” has been raised more times than I could count and contributed to an on-going conversation over the past 10 years.

5. Our family values contribute to our family identity. I’ve heard it said, that our calendar and our bank statements reflect our values. There’s a lot of truth in that I think. For us, we have sought to define who we want to be as a family by our family values. It’s a work in process and one I love being a part of.

Writing family values may or may not be your thing, but those few hours, years ago still impact who we are today.

What defines you and your family? What do you value and how have you been able to live them out?

3 Keys to Effective Parenting

Have you ever picked up a parenting book and gone directly to the back section? You know what I’m talking about. The “if they do this then you do this” section. It’s okay, to be honest I’ve done it too.

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Hey, I get it. As parents we want our children (no matter what their age) to make good choices and to follow the guidelines and expectations we have of them as parents.  But I think it’s easier at least in the short-term to focus on discipline (how we respond when our children disobey) rather than spend time teaching and training our children first.

Structure, guidelines and rules are a part of most families and every parent wants their child to follow them. But a common mistake parents make is disciplining for wrong behaviour before training for right behaviour.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. When our children began going to school, one of our expectations was that when they arrived home, they would hang up their coats, empty their backpacks (in the appropriate places) and make sure everything was put away, before getting a snack or playing etc.

A mistake on our part would have been to think we had done our job simply by telling them what we expected. I think after numerous failed attempts, they would eventually have gotten very frustrated with us and we wouldn’t have see any progress either.

So here was our plan.

First, teach them. We walked them through what it would look like to arrive home from school. We explained what was expected and made sure they understood what we were asking of them.

Second train them. We practiced. Not after school but on a Saturday morning or after dinner. We had them practice coming home from school; hanging up their coats, emptying their backpacks and putting things away.

Third, be clear on the consequences of failing to follow through on our expectations up front. If they failed to follow through with the “after school” routine we had agreed to, then a specific, predetermined consequence would follow.

We would monitor how things were going and when they put away their things after school as planned we celebrated that. If they came home and dropped everything at the front door we would call them on it. In the beginning we might extend some grace and not follow through with the predetermined consequence…instead we would have them start over. Put their shoes, coats and backpack back on, go back outside and come home again. This served as more training and was usually perceived as more painful than the consequence might have been. (We didn’t make them go back to school but there were days we thought about it.)

Teaching, training, discipline. Three parts of good parenting. But don’t skip the first two and go right to discipline. A good rule of thumb, “Don’t discipline for what you don’t teach or practice first.” 

What do you think? Share some of your parenting strategies. Are they different from how you were parented? If so, how?

How Dad’s Can Really, Really Frustrate Their Kids

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.” Ephesians 6:4

I know that verse, I’ve read it plenty of times but sometimes it’s easier said than done. And why are dads centered out anyway! I’m sure that none of you parents, dads in particular woke up today and made it a priority to aggravate your children.  

But if you’re looking for ways to drive your children crazy, alienate them or have them resent you, then I can help. Here are 20 ways to do it:

  1. Do not follow through on promises you make.
  2. Live by the mantra, “As long as you live under my roof…” Otherwise known as the MWOTH (my way or the highway) parenting philosophy.
  3. Treat your friends, neighbours, even strangers better than your own family.
  4. Don’t prioritize your marriage.
  5. If you’re a pastor, play the “do it because you’re a pastor’s kid” card as much as possible.
  6. Use your masculinity (voice, strength and size) to intimidate them.
  7. Stop all forms of affection, especially towards your son once he turns 7.
  8. Disrespect your wife, especially in front of your children.
  9. Discipline your children for things that you never teach or train for.
  10. Always ensure your discipline never relates to the offense in question.
  11. Only give attention to your children when they are misbehaving…otherwise keep your distance.
  12. Never say, “I’m sorry”. Never acknowledge you make mistakes.
  13. Never ask for forgiveness when you have blown it.
  14. Never spend one-on-one time with your children.
  15. Routinely be late or miss family meals altogether.
  16. Have an inflated view of yourself and your importance.
  17. Do not listen to the opinions of your children.
  18. Don’t have fun with your kids…never let them see you laugh.
  19. Be rude to your children’s friends.
  20. Treat your children as pawns, rather than people…simply because you can.

Perhaps you’re wondering how I came up with such a compilation…how many resources I referenced to create this comprehensive list. The truth is, I have used most, if not all of these at some point over the past 20 plus years. So I know from personal experience. Hopefully these are less true of me now than ever before.

What do you think? What would you add to the list?

So what do you do if you find yourself doing one, two or ten or more of this list? 

Start here: Pick the behaviour you are prone to and do the opposite.

For example, lets say #17 is true of you. Instead of never letting them talk or cutting them off mid-sentence let them finish a thought. Ask for their input and thank them for it. Have a conversation not a monologue. 

Where can you start today?