Great Expectations

I’ve got a medal in my desk drawer at work that’s worth a handful of dollars, yet I have an identical medal at home which is worth far more.

The medal in my drawer is one of the extra medals that were purchased for our Ride for Compassion a few years ago, an annual ride from Albany to Perth. I’m not even sure why I keep it there because its value doesn’t really go beyond what it cost to buy.

On the other hand, the medal I have at home, which cost the same to buy, and was purchased at the same time, is worth so very much more to me.

Wrapped up in that medal is all the training, all the fundraising, every one of the 528.3 kilometres we cycled on that ride, including the downhills and the climbs, the hot days, the headwinds, the rain and the times I felt like putting my bike in our support bus and giving up but I didn’t.

We can give things value they wouldn’t ordinarily have.

We place significance on a range of items because we see something more than their inherent value. They carry memories, hopes and dreams. We can see something of value where others don’t.

We can also bring out potential and value in people more than we might imagine.

Sometimes we can see something of value in other people that others don’t. We can see value and significance that other people don’t even see in themselves.

We know we can boost a person’s sense of self through the words we use and the way we treat them but did you know that many people believe that even our expectations of others can make a difference too?

The Pygmalion Effect says that higher expectations lead to increased performance.

In the early sixties, Psychologist Robert Rosenthal and his colleagues tested the effect of expectations on rats.

He randomly labelled some rats bright and some dull then gave them to experimenters to put through a maze and record the results.

In one of his early experiments, he tested the effects of experimenter expectancy on maze-running performance. He had two groups of students test rats, wrongly informing them either that the rats were specially bred to be “maze dull” or “maze bright.” In reality, all rats were standard lab rats, and were randomly assigned to the “dull” and “bright” conditions. The results showed that the rats labelled as “bright” learned the mazes more quickly than those labelled as “dull.” Apparently, students had unconsciously influenced the performance of their rats, depending on what they had been told. Rosenthal reasoned that a similar effect might occur with teachers’ expectations of student performance.University of Wisconsin-Madison

Rosenthal and his colleague then went on to try a similar experiment with school students.

Rosenthal and Jacobson tested children at Oak School with an IQ test, the Tests of General Ability (TOGA) at the beginning of the school year. This test was used because teachers were likely to be unfamiliar with it, and because it is primarily non-verbal, and not dependent on skills learned in school (i.e., reading and writing). In order to create an expectancy, the teachers were informed that the test was the “Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition,” which served as a measure of academic “blooming.” Therefore, teachers were led to believe that certain students were entering a year of high achievement, and other students were not. In reality, the test had no such predictive validity.

Eighteen teachers at the school were informed of the students in their classes who had obtained scores in the top 20% of this test. These students were ready to realize their potential, according to their test scores. What the teachers didn’t know is that students were placed on these lists completely at random. There was no difference between these students and other students whose names were not on the lists. At the end of the school year, all students were once again tested with the same test (the TOGA). In this way, the change in IQ could be estimated. Differences in the size of the changes for experimental and control group children could serve as an index of any expectancy effect. – University of Wisconsin-Madison

Following the experiment, there was a marked difference in IQ test score gains. Students who had been labelled as “ready to bloom” showed greater gains than the others. The expectations of their teachers seemed to make a significant difference.

While some have attacked Rosenthal’s studies and conclusions, others have supported his findings and have gone on to do more work in the area of expectancy.

Most of us know the sense of confidence we receive when we know others have high expectations of us.

What value are you placing on others? What are your expectations of those around you?

Are you a leader who has high expectations of those you lead? Are you a parent who expects great things from your children? What are you expecting from friends and family?

This week, raise your expectations. Choose to place greater value and expectations on others and watch the value of others rise.

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Jesus is Coming … Look Busy

You’ve had the same conversation a thousand times. You meet up with someone who asks how you’ve been and you answer by telling them … ‘busy’. Their question isn’t about your level of activity, it’s about your personal wellness, yet you still feel the need to assure them that you’ve been a productive member of society. I know this because I get caught up in it too.

Many people have written about this before but it still seems to be such a problem for so many.

Busy speaks about a level of activity, often a flurry of exhausting exertion, without considering whether all that hustle and bustle is effective in any way. There may well be a more productive way of achieving what we need but when the goal is being busy, and telling everyone how busy we are, that doesn’t really matter.

Can I get a busy badge?

Why do we feel so compelled to assure everyone that we’ve been busy? Is that really the measure of our worth to others … or even our own attempt to justify our worth to ourselves?

I guess the starting point is convincing ourselves that ‘busy’ isn’t life’s ultimate aim. There’s nothing wrong with being busy when we need to be but it’s not the goal we should be seeking above all else,

Wasn’t technology going to save us all?

On top of the constantly growing expectations of others soaking up our time, we now add more busyness into the mix with our use of technology.

Advancements in technology promised us an easier, more productive life, yet all that seems to have happened is that we’ve lost the ability to switch off.

Our technology usage has blurred the lines between work and play like never before. We’re checking personal emails and social media updates while we’re at work and checking work emails and catching up on work projects while we’re at home or out with family and friends. That means that our employer never has our full attention and sadly, neither do those closest to us.

We’ve sacrificed that which should be most precious to us on the altar of frantic activity.

Hanging Out for Holidays

We’re about to launch into what many call the ‘silly season’. The lead up to Christmas and New Year festivities pound us with activities and deadlines. Everything needs to be ‘finished before Christmas’.

Many of us take annual leave at this time and so we feel the need to complete every project on our desk before taking that leave. That usually means that we crawl across the finish line of the year, battered and bruised from the frantic pace we’ve held for the year, having just enough time to bandage our wounds and ‘almost’ recover before the whole thing begins again for the next year.

We’ve got to stop going at full speed towards the end of the year, imagining that we just need to get to the start of our leave so we can collapse in a heap.

We don’t just need that extended time to stop and refresh at the end of a busy year, we need time weekly and daily.

Jesus is coming. Look busy.

Sadly, those of us in the church have bought the lie that we have to be forever run off our feet too. In fact, a lot of the time we buy into the whole busyness thing even more because we have this strange image in our heads of God watching us and shaking his finger at us whenever we sit down to breathe.

This constant striving to work harder and harder within our daily lives and the church says more about our idea of who God is than anything else. If we imagine that we’d better look busy because we don’t want Jesus to catch us taking time out, we’ve missed the point entirely.

The truth is, God is the one who came up with the idea of rest. If we think God wants us to be constantly striving without rest, we’ve given in to a ‘religion’ that requires our efforts to appease God. That was never his plan.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Psalm 127:2 (ESV)

Been Busy?

The next time someone asks you how you’ve been, how will you answer? Will you keep on assuring them that you’ve been busy or will you give them a deeper answer that speaks about something other than frantic activity?

You know that the world will keep crowding out times of rest and recreation so how about being more intentional in planning time daily, weekly, monthly and annually for time aside from the craziness? Then once it’s scheduled, guard it jealously. Don’t let it be the first thing that gets bumped from the schedule when something ‘more important’ comes up.

If you’re too busy to schedule in those times it’s a very clear indicator that you need to say no to those things that scream for your time but aren’t necessarily beneficial. Learn to say no so that you can say yes to the right things in your life.

And don’t forget that we are spiritual beings. Spend time connecting with God. You might just discover he doesn’t want you to burn out trying to achieve your busy badge.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or illfitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

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I’ve been talking about you

In my work I regularly meet with people such as church pastors over coffee or a meal. We talk about a range of matters but one of the topics that seems to come up again and again is family. My wife and my children are incredibly important to me so it should be no surprise that they are always in my thoughts and conversations.

Recently I was chatting to a pastor and once again our conversation turned to our families. We both shared stories of how incredible our respective children are, how quickly they’ve grown up and how proud we are of them.

That conversation about our children reminded me of a time long, long ago.

My dad worked on a ship travelling up and down the Western Australian coast. He was away from home a lot.

I still remember, one day when I was quite young, visiting the ship dad was working on when it was docked in Fremantle. I’m the youngest of five siblings and for whatever reason, on this day I was there with my eldest two brothers.

A man who also worked on the ship walked past and a conversation began. Once he was told we were ‘Tom’s kids’ he said something to the effect of, “You must be … “ and then mentioned our names. “Your dad talks about you all the time.” He gave us the impression that our dad was very proud of his children.

Wow! That was a revelation. Dad talked about us.

I would never have thought that when he was away from our family for weeks at a time that one of his popular topics of conversation would have been his children.

I don’t know why I found it so surprising but I did. It meant that I might just matter to dad.

All of that got me thinking.

Do my children know that I talk about them, endlessly?

Does James know that earlier this week while talking to a group of people about him someone mentioned how I immediately puffed out my chest with pride? They caught a glimpse of how much I love James in my facial expressions and body language as well as the words I was using.

Would Emily ever think that I often talk about how incredibly talented she is and that I’m so proud of her? Would she know that the picture I paint in others’ minds of her is of an incredible young woman who I love so very much, because that’s exactly how I see her?

Do both Emily and James know that even though I’ve had some amazing highlights in my life, they top them all? Do they know that even in the busyness of my life and work they are never far from my mind and my conversations?

Emily and James, you don’t have to wait for someone else to tell you …. your dad talks about you …. all the time.

If you’re a parent, do your children know that you talk about them to others?

Do they know that when you’re away from them and you can choose to talk about anything in the world, you talk about them? Do they know that you’re always on your mind and in your heart? Maybe it’s worth telling them today.

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Life Happens

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
– John Lennon

For some reason, I started thinking about that line from John Lennon’s song Beautiful Boy recently.

Life is what happens to you? Really? Are we passive players in the whole process of life?

There are things that happen in life where we have no control but there are many more times that we are given the privilege of choice. It’s at those times we need to learn how to choose well.

I’ve met many people in developing countries who don’t have the luxury of choice. They don’t have options. That’s a big part of poverty. That makes me appreciate the opportunities I have for choices in life all the more.

Choosing to choose.

Sometimes we simply need to choose to choose. We need to choose to decide on the options in front of us knowing that if we choose not to choose, there are many other people ready to step in and make decisions for us … and their decisions probably won’t be for our benefit.

Choosing isn’t always comfortable.

On Monday morning my alarm went off at 5:00 a.m.

It was a public holiday. Outside it was dark, wet and so very cold. In my bed, it was warm, dry and oh so lovely.

I had to choose to take hold of the day rather than letting life happen to me.

I got out of bed. I tried to move around quietly so that I didn’t wake my wife. Our cats thought I was mad. They were probably right.

I put on my cycling gear, including my rain jacket, and headed out the door to ride.

The rain bucketed down. I rode. I met with some other cyclist. We rode together.

There’s something about being drenched to the skin, covered in sand and pushing hard against headwinds that lets you know you’re alive.

Sometimes choosing to stay in bed and catch up on rest is the choice we need to make. When the weather gets too wild it’s dangerous to be out there on a bike and so the choice to stay home makes more sense.

But sometimes we need to choose to take the hard way. Sometimes we need to step out of what’s comfortable into what we know we should be doing.

I have a six-day ride coming up in a few weeks and I need to be trained and ready. I need to choose to do what it takes to be fit enough to tackle a week on the road.

This time next year I’ll be halfway between Perth and Newcastle on a four and a half week cycling journey across Australia. I’ll have to choose the hard road many times in the months leading up to that adventure.

Refusing to make choices is a choice in itself.

If I don’t choose to train, I won’t be ready to achieve what I want to achieve. If I don’t choose to watch what I eat and take other steps to get fitter, I won’t be able to ride into Newcastle next year knowing that I’ve conquered the challenge.

Sometimes our choices are between comfort or challenge. Sometimes we choose between good and bad and at other times we choose between better or best.

Do we want to live passively or proactively?

Every day we need to make choices. Those choices let us know that we’re truly alive.

You can make a choice right now.

You can choose to let life happen to you while you’re busy making other plans …. or you can choose to decide what paths you take.

I pray that you’ll choose to choose.

What choices do you need to take today?

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This Time Next Year

Are you old enough to remember what you were doing 30 years ago?

1987 was the year Michael Jackson released his hit album, Bad. It was also the year Microsoft released Windows 2.0. And in 1987, The Simpsons cartoon first appeared as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show.

On this day 30 years ago I was in the middle of Australia. I was cycling from Perth to Canberra. It was the first of my five crossings by bike.

So far, I’ve cycled across Australia in my twenties, thirties, and forties.

This Time Next Year

On this day next year, the 15th of September 2018, I’ll start pedaling from Perth, Western Australia towards Newcastle, New South Wales. Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast will be my first attempt at cycling across Australia in my fifties. I’ll be riding with around 30 other riders for a common cause.

We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, NSW on Tuesday the 16th of October, having cycled around 4300 km. There’ll be 28 riding days and 4 rest days. The average riding distance for those riding days will be 150 km. Our longest day will be just under 200 km.

If you’d like to support my ride you can do so in two ways.

You can sponsor a child living in poverty. By using that link your sponsorship will count towards my fundraising goal while releasing a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Sponsorship gives kids safe places to play, the chance to see a doctor when they’re sick, education, and the opportunity to discover Jesus’ incredible love for them.

Sponsor a child. Give them a brighter future so they, and eventually their own children, can live free from poverty.

The other way you can support my ride is by making a direct donation to my fundraising page. Your donation will touch the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our world through Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund.

Every child in poverty is vulnerable, but some children are at risk of the most deplorable situations in the world.

Children whose parents who have left, died, or are unable to provide for them, children exposed to exploitation and children with special needs are highly vulnerable. They often find themselves on the edge of extremely dangerous situations like child labour, gang violence, trafficking, and life on the street.

Registrations for the ride close soon but if you’re interested in joining me on a bike or as part of the support team, head to the Ride for Compassion website.

I need to get fit. Really fit.

I used to keep a moderate level of fitness by cycling to and from work each day but my job hasn’t really allowed me to do that for the last three and a half years. Over the next twelve months, I need to get myself into better shape than I have ever been. I’m going to have to be strategic and focused if I’m to drop a bunch of kilograms and put plenty of kilometres into my legs. I’ll need to be able to ride around a thousand kilometres a week for just over four weeks.

Taking part in the ride will take a huge effort.

But every effort I make to be part of the ride will be worth it because some things are unacceptable. It’s unacceptable that millions of children are living in extreme poverty. Next year I’ll put my body on the line to do whatever I can to make a difference for as many of those children as I can.

Will you help me give more children a chance to live, dream and hope? Sponsor a child today or donate through my fundraising page.

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