For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.
KING JAMES VERSION
HOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO, the wise King Solomon wrote, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” In the Middle Ages, scientists and philosophers believed that the soul resided in the human heart. The idea made sense: when we are sad, our heart aches; when we are physically or emotionally energized, our heart pounds.
During a recent sermon, my pastor, Dan Reeves, illustrated the connections among our thoughts, our hearts, and our lives. As he took the stage that Sunday morning, the familiar sound of a human heartbeat filled the darkened auditorium.
Boom-boom . . . boom-boom.
A video of a beating human heart appeared on the overhead screen.
Boom-boom . . . boom-boom.
“The human heart is designed to pump the perfect amount of blood needed to meet the exact demands of your body at the exact time,” Reeves said. “When resting, your heart pumps slowly. When exercising, your heart rate increases to the perfect level to meet your needs. You are not consciously thinking, ‘I’d better make my heart beat.’ Rather, your heart changes its output based on the demands you put upon it at any given time. Like your heart, your life is ready to deliver exactly what you ask of it.”
With the rhythmic heartbeat in the background, he asked a question I hope you’ll answer now: “What will you ask of your life?”
What a powerful point, “Life is ready to deliver exactly what you ask of it, what will you ask of it?” In this book, I will encourage you to look deeply at your life. Do you know what you really want most out of life? How would your life be different if you made the best use of your mind? Your nutrition? Your sleep? Your learning? Your time?
If you want a more meaningful life, are you asking for your life to deliver its very best?
Reeves continued his sermon by picking up a large rock that sat next to the pulpit. The dirty mass measured about twenty-four inches wide, fifteen inches across, and four inches high. It had to weigh almost thirty pounds. As he held the rock, he described the difficulty he’d had carrying it into the building. Unable to hold it and open the door at the same time, he’d had to put down the rock, open the door and brace it with his foot, bend over, pick up the rock, place his back against the door, and maneuver his way inside. From there, he had carried the rock about a hundred yards, wrestling with yet another door. Finally, sweating with exertion, he had placed the boulder on the stage, taking care not to damage the wooden floor.
The rock seemed to grow heavier in his hands as he recounted the story, and his arms were visibly straining to hold on to the rock.
“We aren’t designed to carry heavy rocks all day,” he said as he carefully put it down. “I can no longer feel my fingers. My arms are aching. There are simply some things in life we were not meant to carry. What do you need to change in your life? What do you need to put down?”
Then he added, “My body and my strength allowed me to carry the burden of the rock. Unfortunately, like so many people, I was straining after the wrong goal. Life is ready to deliver exactly what you ask of it—maybe it is time to ask what to seek.”
Boom-boom . . . boom-boom.
As I sat there listening to the sound of the human heart beating, I wondered, What are the rocks in my life? What rocks have I been holding onto that are keeping me from creating a life with meaning? Most important, am I asking enough of life?
CAN YOUR LIFE REALLY BE DIFFERENT?
What do you need to throw off or set aside to live more fully and less fatigued? The good news is that, like putting down a heavy rock, change can happen in an instant. One moment you are facing one direction in life; in the next your world changes forever.
For me, that change took exactly seven minutes. I was forty-one, and as a full-time working wife and mother, I felt the constant crushing pressure of deadlines and obligations. My life sped past me in a blur from one day to the next, one month to the next, and one year to the next. I wanted more. I wanted my days to be more than waking up and going to work. I wanted my life to matter. I wanted to make a positive difference to my family and to the world. I wanted to be different, but I didn’t know what my next steps should be.
My guess is that you are looking for many of the same things I continue to seek. Maybe you can relate to my story. I am a full-time working, teenage-chaperoning, pet-grooming, laundry-doing, treadmill-marching, tweeting, Facebooking, fiftyish-year-old wife, mother, and daughter. And I am creating a life of more—more meaning, fulfillment, significance, purpose, hope, and joy.
The 7 Minute Solution is the outcome of my desire to grow, live, and give with purpose. It is not the end of the journey; it is the story of what is happening in my life and in the lives of other friends and sojourners who are on the same path.
Throughout this book, you’ll be encouraged to consider what rocks—what burdens—you have chosen to carry. Are they worth the effort? Does the strain of holding on to them keep you from enjoying and experiencing growth in other areas of life? Are those burdens inhibiting your faith, family relationships, health, personal growth, creativity, or generosity? Is the weight of what’s not working keeping you from making a positive, lasting impact on your relationships at home, in the workplace, or in your community? If so, it’s time to make a change.
You can be different tomorrow than you are today,
seven minutes at a time.
THE 7 MINUTE SOLUTION
Definition: The 7 Minute Solution offers strategies to help you prioritize, organize, and simplify your life for greater meaning and productivity.
Living the 7 Minute Solution is not about living in seven-minute increments; it is about gleaning a deeper understanding of the seven vital signs of living with meaning: conscious awareness, motivation, growing and learning, engaging, persevering, living in flow, and living with faith.
The 7 Minute Solution is a choice. The 7 Minute Solution is about choosing to consciously focus your attention for 7 minutes every day on what is most meaningful in your life. You can be different tomorrow than you are today based on the choices you make on a daily basis. The process of moving from where you are today to where you want to be is about engaging your desire to learn and grow, while acknowledging that today is your only opportunity to live and breathe. The 7 Minute Solution is about taking tiny steps forward every day, while fully experiencing every moment in the present.
Life is intended to be lived, not watched; inspired, not easy; meaningful, not mundane. The ideas of the 7 Minute Solution have inspired change in the lives of thousands of people I have been privileged to meet and share ideas with during the past two decades. You’ll learn from fathers who have reconnected with their children and from couples who have rediscovered joy in their marriages. You’ll be inspired by the perseverance of women and men who have faced unimaginable odds—and won. You’ll read accounts of triumph experienced over life-threatening circumstances—and in everyday moments.
You will meet people whose lives were very much like yours may be now. Then, in a matter of moments, their lives changed forever. Their journeys will inspire you to see new possibilities for yourself—and to stay the course when you encounter challenges.
CHECKING FOR SIGNS OF LIFE
Imagine being the first person on an accident scene and finding an injured person. The ABCs of first aid are to see if the person is a wake, check for b reathing, and then c ontinue care. You shake the person gently and call out to him. If he doesn’t respond, you watch his chest to see if it rises and falls, you put your hand near his nose and mouth to see if you can feel his breath. You feel his carotid artery to check for a pulse. You check for signs of life.
The 7 Minute Solution is designed to help you check your own vital signs. You may be up and walking around, but that doesn’t mean you’re truly living. Like an accident victim in shock, you may be walking through life in a state of unawareness. Chaos, distraction, interruption, procrastination, stress, and the increasing speed and demands of life squeeze the joy out of life—they can suffocate you before you know it. It’s time to wake up and focus on what really matters to you. It’s time to check your vital signs.
Your heart is designed to pump life-giving blood through your body, but it can’t function properly without oxygen. In the same way, it’s impossible to live the life you were created for if these seven vital signs are not part of your everyday existence. Action without purpose is like a heart without access to adequate oxygen—even if it is able to pump, what it delivers is not as rich or as beneficial as it should be. Now is the time to breathe in life. The 7 Minute Solution will help you evaluate your vital signs; it will shake you and call out to you to wake up! But more than that, it will equip you with the tools and systems necessary for creating a life with meaning “7 Minutes” at a time.
Begin to discover the 7 Minute Vital Signs as you ask yourself the following questions.
Are You Consciously Aware?
Life is filled with so much noise that your brain has trouble filtering out what is really important. The first vital sign to check is simple: are you aware of what you really want from your life? Life will give you exactly what you demand, but first you must clarify your ideas in writing and create an action plan.
Are You Motivated?
As you ask more of your life, you will discover gaps between where you are today and the person you want to be in the future. Motivation is the force that pushes you to stretch for your goals. By creating ninety-day goals, you will break your ultimate objectives into more quickly achievable minigoals and experience the thrill of success more often. You’ll also develop a powerful momentum, because, by creating ninety-day goals, you will break up your ultimate obstacles into manageable pieces and allow yourself to experience success on a regular basis. One win leads to the next.
Are You Growing and Learning?
Your brain has incredible potential, but it functions on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. Growing and learning equip you to develop new and better ways to live. Growth is a vital sign, because it is what ignites your enthusiasm for letting go of old habits and routines.
Are You Engaged?
Mired in routine, it’s easy to become a fatigued, bored zombie oblivious to the brilliant opportunities that surround you. Purposefully focusing on your highest-value activities ensures that you are engaged with the people and priorities that matter most—and also primes you to be better poised to take advantage of any new opportunities.
Are You Persevering?
Making significant changes requires perseverance. Why? Bad habits are hard to break; they’re comfortable routines to return to, even if you know they’re not good for you. But it’s when you push through the barrier of your comfort zone that you experience amazing growth.
Are You Living in a State of Flow?
The term “flow” here means using your highest skills—your personal gifts and talents—to accomplish your most meaningful challenges. It is about channeling your abilities in a way that leads everything to click and let you know you are experiencing life at its optimal level.
Are You Living with Faith?
The vital sign of faith ties together every element of life. Because of faith, you seek a better life—a life filled with purpose and meaning—and you trust that it exists. Faith compels you to look beyond yourself, to reach out to others, to give of your time, energy, and love. A life without faith is filled with hopelessness, but with faith anything is possible.
YOUR WAKE-UP CALL
Change begins by becoming aware of where you are today. So before you begin the 7 Minute Solution, take a moment to ask yourself these Big Life Questions:
Each of us desires to create a life with meaning. We seek significance. We want to reconnect with our faith and purpose. We want to know that we have been placed on this earth for a reason. But too often we go through the motions of life without really living. Your answers to the Big Life Questions will help you revive your life and reconnect with its deepest meaning. By answering them, you’ve already begun a process of discovering where you are, deciding where you want to be, and mapping out a plan to get there. Let these questions awaken your soul. Refuse to allow life to pass you by any longer.
Let’s get started on the journey of awakening to the goodness, the greatness inside you. Before we explore the 7 Minute Vital Signs, let’s first introduce a little more about what the 7 Minute Solution is and where the idea of “7 Minutes” comes from.
© 2012 Allyson Lewis