10 Reasons Why Running is Great

When I started running, I saw a lot of stuff about why running is a bad idea. From how it hurts your knees to how boring and painful it is, there’s a lot out there about why other forms of exercise are better ways to workout.

I can see where some of these things are coming from. I recently attempted to cycle for the first time in a long time, and afterwards felt how a lot of people feel after a short jog: it was hard, it hurt and I didn’t want to do it again.

Based off past experience, this would be how I’d expect to feel about running. But it isn’t. To my surprise, after a short time of struggling to keep up the commitment, I began to enjoy going for a run. In this post I’d like to talk a bit about why this was, and in contrast to the many obvious reasons why someone wouldn’t want to run, offer 10 reasons why I think it’s a great idea. So without further ado, here we go:

Continue reading “10 Reasons Why Running is Great”

Reflections on my internship, week 24

Another late post! At the time of writing (20th March), I’m thinking back on last week, when I was at the New Wine Leadership Conference in Leicester, which meant that I wasn’t at the intern morning on Thursday. This means that the week went at a completely different pace to usual and everything feels a bit muddled. It also means that my reflections will be partly based on the previous week’s chapters and discussion on dignity and power. I have to confess that after consistently reading the chapters week by week even when we weren’t discussing them, I’ve now managed to fall fairly far behind! All of this going away has taken its toll in many ways. Anyway…

I’ve been thinking about communication. There are several reasons for this:

  1. The chapter on dignity; how can I give others dignity, fight for what is right and become more aware of my flaws?
  2. The chapter on power; how can I make a difference in the world? How can I give others power?
  3. The conference I was at; one of the talks focused on the need for mission in the church and the statistics around decline. The number that hit me hardest was that nationally there’s only 0.8% of 18-25 year olds attending (Anglican) church, which means that at the current rate of attendance, 2062 will be the final year of existence of the Church of England. That’s less than 50 years before a church with so much history no longer exists.

All of these things lead me to think about what I can bring to the table, and I think the answer is good communication. Communication of God’s love, the message of Jesus, of hope, dignity, life and love. Communication that there’s another way to live and that the Church doesn’t have to be irrelevant. Communication to the church about the needs of the people and how it can make a difference in the world. Bridging the gap between those who are included and excluded, passionate and uncaring, loved and forgotten.

So I’m doing my best to think about how I can communicate better. How can I become a person who others listen to? Can I become someone who gives wholeheartedly? Will my life match my message? And how can I talk in a way that is more relevant to others?

Reflections on my internship, weeks 22 and 23

This is a bit of a bumper post (not that I’m saying it’ll be twice as long!) because last week I was in Durham on the Talking Jesus mission with Bishop Tony and the team from this diocese from Wednesday until Sunday. I’m writing this on Tuesday so it’s still somewhat fresh on my mind but I’ve (hopefully) got a quieter week as a result of this.

I got home at 7pm on Sunday and felt absolutely wiped out. It was such a good time but really busy. I think that I learned a lot and found it enjoyable as well as challenging. Over the week and weekend we did a range of activities, and I was involved in a few assemblies as well as an all age service, getting involved in parkrun, and speaking at church on Sunday morning.

A highlight for me was the all age service. I had spoken very briefly and hadn’t made any notes, but found that I was just saying the same things over and over and felt that it wasn’t very well presented. I’m my own worst enemy but I thought it was pretty bad personally. I tried to stretch myself by not having notes with me (I was only supposed to talk for 5-10 mins anyway) but found it too much to have nothing at all, it would’ve been better if I’d struck a middle ground and kept something but not detailed notes. I was disappointed by this and that’s not the highlight; I found the best thing actually just to play some football with some of the young boys, aged anywhere between 5 and 10. It was great just to have a laugh with them and it meant that they knew my name, listened to me and one even took a bible because I had said he should. It was easy impact and I think they’ll remember it, and it wasn’t very much effort at all.

Other reflections could be around the importance of light evangelism. As Bishop Tony talks about, it’s all ‘Seed Scattering’. We weren’t doing a lot of groundbreaking stuff but we were encouraging the churches, helping them to be open to outsiders and making links to the community. For some, this will actually have been groundbreaking. Bishop Tony spoke well and always mentioned Jesus, even at the park run, but in such a simple and relevant way that it wasn’t a stumbling block. He struck the balance at each of the events really well.

Another thing was reflecting on preparation. The importance of being ready but not over prepared. I felt at times a bit under prepared if anything, but hadn’t stressed for hours and days beforehand preparing detailed plans. It meant that I was vaguely ready if called on, but not bogged down and over tired.

Finally, something I realised about myself is that when I’m tired I get very negative and pessimistic! Something to keep in mind.

Reflections on my internship, week 21

This week I’d simply like to reflect on how well yesterday went, both in terms of the morning session and the evening event at Bishop’s Manor. Both were brilliant and thoroughly enjoyable.

I found the chapter this week in the book on culture particularly helpful and was really encouraged by all that Bishop Paul said; the way that Jesus reveals the gospel both in terms of his own life and passion, and the message he brings about God’s kingdom. The subsequent discussion on human sexuality was interesting and helpful as well.

The evening was great as it was a good opportunity to meet others in the diocese and discuss together what we do and how we can move forward together. I had the opportunity of staying at Sacrista as well and so went to Evensong and Communion services at the minster. This all really helped me with where I am at the moment with my development and church activities.

Reflections on my internship week 20

Continuing on the same track as the last few weeks, I’d like to show a bit further what I’m trying to do to grow in my strengths. I’ve been looking at some talks and articles on leadership and communication, both at TED and 7u. I’ve also found a site called dropmark that I’m experimenting with in order to collect ideas, which was one of the suggestions from strengthsfinder.

The other thing I’ve been doing is looking at a guide to improving social skills, because I know that this is something that can be a strength for me but I’ve often felt awkward or not sure what to talk to people about. This has been really helpful and practical, and for the rest of this I’d like to insert some of my notes from the guide.

A lot of what I’m doing at the moment is learning how to work better, and allowing myself time to reflect and improve my skills.

The Importance of Social Skills

1. Poor skills have hidden costs

May miss out on a conversation or give a bad first impression.

2. Even the “naturals” work hard to be liked

People take time to learn to tell stories and to develop their social skills.

3. Nobody will tell you if you’re lacking social skills

How to properly ask for and receive feedback:

Social interactions bring out our insecurities. We think that people aren’t interested in talking to us at a subconscious level. All about receiving feedback, not about positive self talk.

Ask people you trust for hard hitting and honest feedback, that way you won’t get it as much from others. Got to be clear that you’re asking for candid feedback, not simply someone to say ‘yeah I think that’s great.’ Ask for their hardest shot.

Small Talk

1. How to Small Talk

Taking an active role; moving the conversation on. Example given is being asked how long a guy has worked somewhere, response is to answer then to task about something else. Simply giving the answer can lead to an awkward silence and giving loads of information might not be interesting. All about making it more personal.

2. Helping conversations to go more smoothly

Not asking too many questions, but reflecting back what they’ve said. ‘That’s interesting, I never would have thought that…’. Also making sure not to ask too few questions – men tend to talk about themselves too much on dates for example.

3. Exiting a conversation

Two things that make you want to leave: natural end and awkward person. First response – ‘well, it was nice to meet you..’ indicating with language and body language that it’s time for the conversation to end. Taking an active role. Second response – someone won’t let you get a word in. More direct ‘Nice to talk to you, but I’ve got to go now [I’m here with friends, there’s someone else I need to see etc.] and talk to someone else.

Increasing Confidence

1. Invisibility Cloak – we would act differently if no-one could see us or knew who we were. So we should make ourselves come across as more confident; it’s not false but we’re choosing how we act and our attitude will often follow the behaviour.

2. Make it a game – 60 second game: when walking in to a new environment, meeting, event etc you need to introduce yourself to someone within a minute. Compliment game – make a habit of giving compliments. It helps you to feel better about talking to people, and encourages others too.

3. Overcoming shyness – article: “Caring for your introvert.” Change the way you think about shyness – all conversation can be building relationships, not just what we expect of the conversation. Slow yourself down and study how others respond.

Reflections on my internship, week 19

I’ve come to enjoy doing this. It doesn’t feel like a chore, but to some extent I look forward to it. It needs to be done and inspiration doesn’t always strike but it just isn’t troublesome or encumbering to think that I need to write a blog anymore. I’m encouraged by that, and hope that eventually I’ll get to that point with journalling, because I’ve managed to both get into and fall out of the habit recently.

Last week was a reasonably busy week, but had the feeling that it was busy because I was keeping busy, rather than because I was on the back foot. This is a bit of a theme of late, that I’m feeling more confident and am getting things done. I was preaching again on Sunday and managed to get most of that prepared on Wednesday, before finishing on Friday. I didn’t feel rushed or panicked though, and it seemed like a decent enough sermon. I also visited a reasonable number of people so was very happy about that. We finished our first Alpha course on Thursday evening, which was also lovely and to see how far we’ve come as a group in faith and conversation with one another was fantastic.

I’m very thankful for the opportunity that was afforded by the retreat day on Thursday for both rest and reflection, and found this particularly beneficial since I’d reflected quite heavily already in my blog for the week on the StrengthsFinder report. I’m concerned now that I need to make sure that this is outworked in a practical way, and with that in mind I have a few further reflections on how to do this:

  • I need to properly get into Journaling; perhaps I need to have one notebook exclusively for thoughts and another for work matters only.
  • I’m aware that daily prayer needs to come back in to my routine.
  • I’ve arranged to meet regularly with two individuals to talk about vision and the future, and this will keep me going in regards to one of the strengths. I’m also arranging to meet my mentor again soon, and also my spiritual director. Having these distinct, complementary relationships has been helpful.
  • I’ve been reading the two books for this term on character and culture; I’d like to write brief overviews/reviews of each as well as the books for last term, as well as typing up all of the key quotes that stood out most to me.
  • Along these lines, it would be helpful to have regular time for reflection built in to my week. Even after this year, the discipline of reading just 1 or 2 chapters per week of a leadership book would be very useful to keep up with.
  • Also thinking of keeping a log of the books, it would be helpful for strengthening the input talent to better use evernote or something similar and come up with a way of keeping quotes, sermons, anecdotes etc. all together for future reference. I do a lot of reading and learning, but most of this comes in one ear and goes out of the other (so to speak) and it would be helpful to collect it, learn from it and use it to help others.

These are some really practical ideas and I’m aware that I’m not necessarily reflecting in quite the right way, but it really is helping me so I’m sticking with it! Even just making a point to keep the discipline of writing this each week has been a massive help to me.

Reflections on my internship, week 18

Following up on last week’s blog, this week I want to reflect a bit further on myself and what I’m learning, particularly relating to the Strengthsfinder assessment, ahead of our retreat day on Thursday that will be looking at this. I can follow up again afterwards, but I thought it could be useful to have a look beforehand so that I’ve got some ideas to reflect on on the day.

In some ways, January has been a quiet month but I’ve also been doing lots of preaching, which has presented a challenge as I’m having to be more organised to get everything prepared that I need to do! For me at the moment, it’s all about learning what I do best and how I can maximise the time spent on those things while getting through the other stuff the best I can. So I’m really grateful for all of the support I have during this learning curve, and particularly for the Strengthsfinder test as I know this is a really highly rated resource.

I very much feel that I’m sharpening up and learning how I work better. Things like emails, distractions through the day and managing time to get different types of tasks done are moving forward. Its also interesting that as I get busier, some other areas have started to slip and having to balance things out is a constant challenge!

My top 5 themes for the assessment were input, activator, futuristic, woo and communication. The questions for each were as follows:

1. As you read your personalized strengths insights, what words, phrases, or lines stand out to you?

Input –

  • “Juggling a variety of topics, plots, and authors in the same time span. Driven by your talents..”
  • “you usually equate education… with understanding more about something today than you understood about it yesterday”
  • “Even when you have not experienced particular situations, events, opportunities, or dilemmas, you might have the ability to project yourself into them.”
  • “People usually rely on you to offer clear and easy-to-comprehend explanations.”

Activator –

  • “You energize others so they feel enthusiastic about a position you have taken”
  • “Instinctively, you might derive some satisfaction from leading conversations with outsiders and/or newcomers.”
  • “Provide people with the impetus”
  • “help individuals overcome their resistance”
  • “By nature, you may launch certain projects or start particular assignments when no one else is willing to take the lead.”

Futuristic –

  • “spend a lot of time considering what the coming months, years, or decades have to offer you.”
  • “help people see the opportunities and possibilities”
  • “viewed by some people as an innovative and original thinker.”
  • “help certain individuals select the best alternative”
  • “Maybe you cannot refrain from talking about some of the things people can create or accomplish in the future.”

Woo –

  • “help coworkers reach a level of mutual understanding they might not attain without you.”
  • “enlighten people about potential partnerships, common interests, or shared goals.”
  • “gravitate to activities that permit you to join specific teams.”
  • “Perhaps you gather information, store it in your mind, or somehow document it.”
  • “Instinctively, you are sometimes unreserved.”
  • “You may enjoy being the first person to talk with newcomers, strangers, or outsiders.”

Communication –

  • “drawn to discussing issues and ideas with others.”
  • “welcome the opportunity to regale people with your stories.”
  • “your verbal exchanges generate excitement.”
  • “distinguish each person’s unique contribution to a conversation. help others express their varied, peculiar, eccentric, quaint, or unusual viewpoints.”
  • “Chances are good that you sometimes enjoy being the person who gets people talking.”

2. Out of all the talents in this insight, what would you like for others to see most in you?

Input – I’d like to help people understand concepts and situations, and explain things in clear and concise ways. I’d like to keep learning and be known as someone who can give insight.

Activator – I’d like to be seen as someone who is willing to give others both the impetus and the opportunity, and to encourage people in doing new things.

Futuristic – I’d like to be seen as visionary and forward thinking, constantly giving people the drive to be excited and hopeful.

Woo – I want to be seen as someone who is prepared to push conversations and thoughts forward, and can find something in common with many people.

Communication – I want to be seen as an exciting and engaging speaker, bringing conversations together and relating to others.

1. How does this information help you better understand your unique talents?

It in many way confirms what I already thought  – that my best contributions relate to people, conversations and ideas. That I should focus on helping people understand themselves and others, and conversation plays a huge role in this. It also helps me to see that I can often be lazy and shy away from what comes naturally to me and the things that I should be developing.

2. How can you use this understanding to add value to your role?

It means that I need to allow time for learning new ideas and passing them on to others, for being involved in leadership and vision, and giving ideas the spark that they need.

3. How can you apply this knowledge to add value to your team, workgroup, department, or division?

I need to put myself forward more to bring ideas to the table, even if I can’t necessarily get them off the ground. I need to invest in others more and share what I’ve learned, and push myself forward to constantly learn more.

4. How will this understanding help you add value to your organization?

Not too sure about this – something to reflect further on. Perhaps it means more widely; the organisation as a whole. In the context of the church of england, I can constantly be thinking of what the future might look like, being willing to offer challenges and solutions, and a sense of vision.

5. What will you do differently tomorrow as a result of this report?

I need to have a good look at where my time is spent and how much this is focused on what I do best – also looking at moving forward and how this could shape future ministry. I also need to talk to people more and develop confidence!

Ideas for application that stand out:

Input –

  • -Devise a system to store and easily locate information. This can be as simple as a file for all the articles you have clipped or as sophisticated as a computer database.
  • -As you gather and absorb information, be aware of the individuals and groups that can most benefit from your knowledge, and be intentional about sharing with them.
  • -Identify your areas of specialization, and actively seek more information about them.
  • -Deliberately increase your vocabulary. Collect new words, and learn the meaning of each of them.
  • -Also make sure to let your friends and colleagues know that you enjoy answering their questions.

Activator –

  • -At work, make sure that your manager judges you on measurable outcomes rather than your process
  • -Look for areas that are bogged down by discussion or blocked by barriers. End the stalemate by creating a plan to get things moving and spur others into action.
  • -You learn more from real experience than from theoretical discussions. To grow, consciously expose yourself to challenging experiences that will test your talents, skills, and knowledge.
  • -Consider partnering with focused, futuristic, strategic, or analytical people who will lend their direction and planning to your activation, thereby creating an opportunity to build consensus and get others behind the plan.
  • -Be strategic and wise in the use of your Activator talents. When is the best time, where is the best place, and who are the best people with whom to leverage your valuable influence?

Futuristic –

  • -Take time to think about the future. The more time you spend considering your ideas about the future, the more vivid your ideas will become. The more vivid your ideas, the more persuasive you will be.
  • -Seek audiences who appreciate your ideas for the future. They will expect you to make these ideas a reality, and these expectations will motivate you.
  • -Find a friend or colleague who also has powerful Futuristic talents. Set aside an hour each month for “future” discussions. You can push each other to greater heights of creativity and vividness.
  • -Partner with someone with strong Activator talents. This person can remind you that you do not discover the future, you create it with the actions you take today.
  • -Read articles about technology, science, and research to gain knowledge that will fuel your imagination.

Woo –

  • -Deliberately build the network of people who know you. Tend to it by checking in with each person at least once a month.
  • -Join local organizations, volunteer for committees, and find out how to get on the social lists of the influential people where you live.
  • -Learn the names of as many people as you can. Create a file of the people you know, and add names as you become acquainted. Include a snippet of personal information — such as their birthday, favorite color, hobby, or favorite sports team.
  • -In social situations, take responsibility for helping put reserved people at ease.
  • -Whenever possible, be one of the first people others meet. Your capacity for meeting and greeting new people will help to quickly put them at ease.

Communication –

  • -Start a collection of stories or phrases that resonate with you. For example, cut out magazine articles that move you, or write down powerful word combinations. Practice telling these stories or saying these words out loud, by yourself. Listen to yourself actually saying the words. Refine.
  • -When you are presenting, pay close attention to your audience. Watch their reactions to each part of your presentation. You will notice that some parts are especially engaging. Afterwards, take time to identify the moments that particularly caught the audience’s attention. Draft your next presentation around these highlights.
  • -Practice. Improvisation has a certain appeal, but in general, an audience will respond best to a presenter who knows where he or she is headed. Counterintuitively, the more prepared you are, the more natural your improvisations will appear.
  • -Keep getting smarter about the words you use. They are a critical currency. Spend them wisely, and monitor their impact.
  • -Volunteer for opportunities to present. You can become known as someone who helps people express their thoughts and ambitions in a captivating way.

Practical Steps:

  1. Make sure I have four people in my life: Mentor, Mentee, Spiritual Director and Visionary. Organise regular time to see each of these people so that I’m being invested in, investing in someone, learning alongside someone and moving forward spiritually. (Possible fifth person could be someone who isn’t a christian)
  2. Take time regularly to reflect personally – this focused hour or two working on this has been hugely helpful. Need to do it more.
  3. Push myself forward in making small talk and getting comfortable to talking to new people – can’t make excuses!

Reflections on my internship, week 17

I’m writing this week’s blog at the start of the week for two reasons, one practical and one purposeful.

The practical reason is that I’ve got a busy week, sermons to prepare and I’m good at procrastinating. In some part I’m using writing this as a means to procrastinate, but I’m also doing the tasks that I know will end up falling by the wayside early in the week, so that they’ll be done and I can focus on what else needs to be done.

The purposeful reason is that I’d like to take a bit of a step back to reflect more generally on The Road to Character and the subject of character. I’m around halfway through the second (or third?) chapter, on Eisenhower, and it’s an absolute joy to read. It has helped me to think around what building character practically looks like, and the sort of things I need to be doing to do so. In particular, the area of self restraint and making seemingly arbitrary rules is important to me.

I’ve found January quite hard to get back in to the swing of things. I haven’t been getting up as early as I’d like, journalling, or consistently doing bible reading. Even when I was, this hadn’t matured in to real study at any point. My running has suffered of late, and I’m eager to do something worthwhile at the gym. I know that I struggle with consistency, and need to build these things in to my life more deeply.

It can seem strange to reflect on these things in such a way, but I’m aware that things like reflections on strengths and weaknesses can be massively helpful. As the book shows, you need to admit your faults and actively seek to better yourself. For me, I’m not sure what this looks like. I’d like to have a notebook that I only use for the sake of diary and journal writing for example, but I always get bogged down about the presentation of these things. Should it be in writing or on the computer? How easily accessible is it? And so on. It doesn’t matter, but I’d like to be able to look back on these things, and my handwriting isn’t too helpful for this.

But the issues are clear: I sell well and can say the right thing. I can present myself, put up an image, say the right thing. And believe it. But too often I can find myself telling small lies, being false. And this is something I need to get past, I need to be genuine, consistent and trustworthy. I was very interested by the language of authenticity being dismissed by the book, as this can often represent being yourself, rather than shaping yourself in to something better. I’ll have to think some more about this.

As for trying to improve, here are some basic, undeveloped ideas on how to do this. Again, I’ll think of this more but I thought for this blog it would be helpful to think about character and the process of that, rather than just what I’m doing!

  • Getting up on time, the same time every day
  • Fasting once per week/fortnightly?
  • Always dressing well – no compromises (a more arbitrary rule)
  • Journalling and diary – actively having things to think through
  • Keeping track of wrongs and moral qualities
  • Doing the same tasks at the same time each week (I’ve started this, kind of)
  • A more disciplined diet and exercise regime
  • Limiting social media usage (another one that I’m working on!)
  • Prayer and bible study
  • Always being on time

I’ll have to develop this some more, but the idea of developing an intentional ‘rule of life’ is a good idea I think!