Any day we wish; we can discipline ourselves to change it all. Any day we wish; we can open the book that will open our mind to new knowledge. Any day we wish; we can start a new activity. Any day we wish; we can start the process of life change. We can do it immediately, or next week, or next month, or next year.
We can also do nothing. We can pretend rather than perform. And if the idea of having to change ourselves makes us uncomfortable, we can remain as we are. We can choose rest over labor, entertainment over education, delusion over truth, and doubt over confidence. The choices are ours to make. But while we curse the effect, we continue to nourish the cause. As Shakespeare uniquely observed, “The fault is not in the stars, but in ourselves.” We created our circumstances by our past choices. We have both the ability and the responsibility to make better choices beginning today. Those who are in search of the good life do not need more answers or more time to think things over to reach better conclusions. They need the truth. They need the whole truth. And they need nothing but the truth.
We cannot allow our errors in judgment, repeated every day, to lead us down the wrong path. We must keep coming back to those basics that make the biggest difference in how our life works out. And then we must make the very choices that will bring life, happiness and joy into our daily lives.
And if I may be so bold to offer my last piece of advice for someone seeking and needing to make changes in their life – If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree. You have the ability to totally transform every area in your life – and it all begins with your very own power of choice.
An absence of faith is like a bird without wings
“It can’t be done. It’s physically impossible. One would fall unconscious before it could be done.” These were some of the comments of renowned athletes, coaches, psychologists, and physicians, who were discussing the possibility of running a mile under four minutes. They believed it was impossible. And as long as they held that belief, it was. Then along came Roger Bannister, a British medical student who lived by faith instead of belief. What’s the difference? Belief is what others tell you; faith is what your inner voice tells you.
Unencumbered by negative beliefs and brimming with faith in himself, Roger Bannister shocked the sports world on May 6, 1954 by running the mile in 3:59.4. Suddenly, “the impossible” proved possible, and the shattering of the old belief was heard around the world. Bannister’s feat was all the more amazing when you consider the following facts. 1) As a busy medical student, the only time he had to practice was during his lunch hour. He practiced every day for 45 minutes and spent 15 minutes for lunch. 2) Although the track where he broke the record was supposed to be level, it had a slight upward slope, making the race even more grueling. 3) The race took place on a windy day.
Bannister’s victory destroyed the artificial barrier that prevented others from running the mile under four minutes. After everyone realized it was now possible, it only took 46 days before the record was broken again by Australian athlete John Landy. Today, of course, “the impossible” has become a common occurrence. In fact, New Zealander, John Walker, has already smashed the four minute barrier 100 times! And Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj has shaved the time to 3:43:13!
“He must be mad! Imagine! Mr. Edison is trying to create light in his laboratory despite two fundamental laws of physics which make it impossible. First, there can be no light without combustion. Second, there can be no combustion in a vacuum.” The experts at the time may have known about physics, but they didn’t understand the human spirit. The incandescent lamp was already burning brightly in the mind and heart of Edison. Because of his faith, he persisted. Until, one day, his faith unlocked the secret and achieved “the impossible.”
The message is clear. Faith is like a key that unlocks our potential. It knows no doubt; hears no discouragement, and sees no insurmountable barriers. It is resolute. With faith everything is possible. That’s why “According to your faith; be it done unto you.” Why aren’t there more Roger Bannisters in the world? Is it due to a lack of faith? No, says Eric Butterworth, “There is no such thing as a lack of faith. We all have plenty of faith, it’s just that we have faith in the wrong things. We have faith in what can’t be done rather than what can be done. We have faith in lack rather than abundance but there is no lack of faith. Faith is a law.”
Faith is the realization that we can accomplish whatever we set out to do, as long as we work at it. For as Joe Namath said, “First, I prepare. Then I have faith.” People of faith realize the universe is here to support us, so they surrender to their dreams and leap into the unfamiliar without fear. American Physicist, Edward Teller explains, “When you get to the end of all the light you know and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.”
When Henry Ford was asked if he ever worried, he answered, “No, I believe God is managing affairs and that He doesn’t need any advice from me. With God in charge, I believe everything will work out for the best in the end. So what is there to worry about?” Faith in life, such as Mr. Ford’s, helps us to eliminate anxiety and reach our potential. No wonder someone wrote, “He who loses money, loses much. He who loses a friend loses more. But he who loses faith loses all.”
Every great endeavor flows from faith. It is only after we place our trust in our dream that we can begin to materialize it. Faith is not fanciful; it is logical, for it is based on understanding the laws of life. Ralph Waldo Emerson clarifies, “All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” Elton Trueblood also makes a good point, “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” Perhaps our faith cannot move mountains. But what’s to stop us from climbing them? Let’s cling to our faith, for it is the dawn of a new tomorrow.
Have you lost your drive because you’re out of gas?
“Help! There’s a lot I’d like to do, but I’ve run out of gas. What can I do?” Lack of energy or exhaustion is a problem that is holding many people back. Energy is the fuel that powers our drive to get things done; constant bouts of exhaustion are the brakes that bring our progress to a halt. So, much is at stake here. Our physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being need high levels of energy. If we wish to reach our potential, it’s a subject we must pay attention to. What follows is a glimpse at some of the causes of a lack of energy and some of the methods to develop more energy.
What douses the flames of energy?
Are you wiped out by work? The fatigue that we associate with work often has little to do with it and much to do with a negative attitude. That is, the culprits are not a demanding boss and uncooperative coworkers, but negative emotions. Resentment, impatience, anger, anxiety, envy, fear, and other negative feelings gnaw away at us throughout the day, draining us of all our energy. No wonder we’re exhausted. We’ve got to turn our attitude around. We’ll regain much of our lost energy as soon as we start to appreciate what we have, begin to help those around us, and focus on improving ourselves instead of the workplace. Also, it is not the work we do, but the work we don’t do that causes exhaustion! In other words, when we do our job, we feel exhilarated, or energetic. But when we procrastinate, we experience guilt, regret, and fear of the future consequences. The result? Stress, or lack of energy.
If you’re staying up most of the night partying or hanging out with friends, your body will not have enough time to rejuvenate itself. Lack of sleep is a major cause of fatigue. It’s a problem that’s easy to fix. Get enough sleep! If it’s fun you’re looking for, get a life. A life full of energy!
It takes 50% of our energy to digest a meal of fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. If our meal consists of cooked and processed foods, our body will direct about 80% of its energy toward digestion. Heavy meals, with fat and sugar, can take up to fourteen hours to digest, forcing your body to work all through the night and early hours of the morning. No wonder you’re not full of energy after a night’s sleep. So, if you eat more raw fruits and vegetables and less fat and sugar you’ll regain some of that lost energy. Overeating is a double attack on the body’s limited resources of energy. Not only does it cause the body to work overtime digesting food, but the extra weight that we have to carry throughout the day saps even more energy.
We also need to avoid trying to do too much at one time. By spreading our limited resources of energy over many tasks, none of them receive enough attention, resulting in stress. Far better to do a few things well than many poorly. When we prioritize our tasks and devote our energy on the important matters, we will accomplish more. And those accomplishments will boost our energy.
What fans the flames of energy?
The benefits of working out in the gym, walking to work, or climbing stairs are too numerous to ignore. Exercise creates energy, improves our health, and builds self-discipline and self-esteem. The message is clear: we need to get off our buts and exercise!
All athletes are familiar with the “high” they achieve after strenuous exercise. It allows them to continue past the point of exhaustion. What is true in sports is also true in other areas of life. If we persist in a grueling task, despite the enormous outlay of energy, we will experience a “second wind,” and find that we can do even more. William James explains, “If an unusual necessity forces us onward, a surprising thing occurs. The fatigue gets worse up to a certain point, when, gradually or suddenly, it passes away and we are fresher than before! We have evidently tapped a new level of energy. There may be layer after layer of this experience, a third and fourth ‘wind.’ We find amounts of ease and power that we never dreamed ourselves to own, sources of strength habitually not taxed, because habitually we never push through the obstruction of fatigue.”
Good posture and proper breathing are key elements in maximizing energy. Holding the phone with our shoulder and neck instead of our hand, slouching, and poor posture, cause muscle strain, draining energy. Also, if we do not sit properly, we do not breathe properly. Shallow, “chest breathing” can reduce our oxygen intake by up to 33%. We need to use our diaphragm when we breathe. That is, our stomach should go out when we inhale and in when we exhale. Proper breathing increases energy.
A deep breathing or meditative exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress and increase energy. Try this exercise: Sit comfortably with eyes closed while maintaining good posture and fill your lungs with oxygen by inhaling slowly through your nose. Allow the oxygen to travel throughout your body by holding your breath four or five seconds. Slowly exhale. Then, hold your breath 3 or 4 seconds, dissipating stress. Repeat this eight or nine times to complete one set of deep breathing exercises. Three or four sets a day will help to keep your energy level high.
If you’re working at a desk most of the day, be sure to get up often and take 15 ~ 20-second breaks. Stretch, get the blood flowing, take a deep breath, relish the moment, smile, and get back to work. More than a caffeine break, you need an energy break.
Our body is mostly made of water. We need plenty of it to preserve our energy. Not all liquids are helpful. Coffee and alcohol, for example, are diuretics. That is, they cause you to lose more fluids than you gain. You may want to drink bottled or filtered water, but even plain tap water is better than no water. Many of the problems we experience, such as headaches, are caused by dehydration. So, drink water throughout the day to maintain optimum well-being and energy.
Perhaps the above information, though limited, is enough to get us to reevaluate our priorities and set out on the road of high-energy living. After all, a life without energy can hardly be called living. Well, pardon me as I leave for a cup of coffee. Whoops, I mean a glass of carrot juice!
Facing the enemies within
We are not born with courage, but neither are we born with fear. Maybe some of our fears are brought on by your own experiences, by what someone has told you, by what you’ve read in the papers. Some fears are valid, like walking alone in a bad part of town at two o’clock in the morning. But once you learn to avoid that situation, you won’t need to live in fear of it.
Fears, even the most basic ones, can totally destroy our ambitions. Fear can destroy fortunes. Fear can destroy relationships. Fear, if left unchecked, can destroy our lives. Fear is one of the many enemies lurking inside us.
Let me tell you about five of the other enemies we face from within. The first enemy that you’ve got to destroy before it destroys you is indifference. What a tragic disease this is. “Ho-hum, let it slide. I’ll just drift along.” Here’s one problem with drifting: you can’t drift your way to the top of the mountain.
The second enemy we face is indecision. Indecision is the thief of opportunity and enterprise. It will steal your chances for a better future. Take a sword to this enemy.
The third enemy inside is doubt. Sure, there’s room for healthy skepticism. You can’t believe everything. But you also can’t let doubt take over. Many people doubt the past, doubt the future, doubt each other, doubt the government, doubt the possibilities and doubt the opportunities. Worse of all, they doubt themselves. I’m telling you, doubt will destroy your life and your chances of success. It will empty both your bank account and your heart. Doubt is an enemy Go after it. Get rid of it.
The fourth enemy within is worry. We’ve all got to worry some. Just don’t let it conquer you. Instead, let it alarm you. Worry can be useful. If you step off the curb in New York City and a taxi is coming, you’ve got to worry. But you can’t let worry loose like a mad dog that drives you into a small corner. Here’s what you’ve got to do with your worries: drive them into a small corner. Whatever is out to get you, you’ve got to get it. Whatever is pushing on you, you’ve got to push back.
The fifth interior enemy is over-caution. It is the timid approach to life. Timidity is not a virtue; it’s an illness. If you let it go, it’ll conquer you. Timid people don’t get promoted. They don’t advance and grow and become powerful in the marketplace. You’ve got to avoid over-caution.
Do battle with the enemy. Do battle with your fears. Build your courage to fight what’s holding you back, what’s keeping you from your goals and dreams. Be courageous in your life and in your pursuit of the things you want and the person you want to become.
‘Surrender’ isn’t a dirty word
Surrender sounds like a dirty word. It conjures up an image of someone standing with arms held high, perhaps with a white flag, giving up to the enemy. In spiritual terms, however, surrender means to stand with arms outstretched, embracing the world. It is unconditional acceptance of what is. It is not mere toleration of any unpleasant circumstances or events we may face, but it is the joyful welcome we give to what cannot be changed. We do this because we are secure in the knowledge that our present circumstances, however difficult they may be, are what are best for us now. That’s why it says in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Will be done.” Not our will, but the Will of Infinite Intelligence.
What is a miracle? Some people believe it is when God follows our will and answers our prayer. Not so. If we want to experience miracles, we need to follow His will. So, if we must prayer, let’s prayer not to be delivered from misfortune, but for the strength to accept our fate. We are given difficulties to overcome so we can rejoice in victory and marvel at the miracles we achieve.
Here’s how Henry Miller expressed the idea of surrender, “Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.”
For the last 2,500 years, Chinese have practiced surrendering to fate by following the Way (Tao). They learn to flow with the tide of events, to bend in the wind like bamboo, and to avoid resisting, struggling, or recoiling from what is meant to be. Isn’t it better to be led willingly than to be dragged along? Or, as Seneca wrote in the first century, “It’s the great soul that surrenders itself to fate, but a puny degenerate thing that struggles.”
I’m not suggesting that we accept everything, only that which cannot be changed. If a loved one dies, for example, there is nothing we can do to reverse the situation. So rather than curse the darkness, we can use the tragedy to strengthen ourselves, and by learning how to overcome our own grief, we’ll know how to console others in their hour of need. When you are dealt a severe blow, you may think the world is far from ideal, but remember, if the world were perfect, it wouldn’t need you!
Sometimes we can, and need to, change the situation. For instance, while working in one of my first jobs, I discovered my employer was dishonest and cheating our customers. As I didn’t want to support or engage in such conduct, I quit my job. But many years later, when I lost my job because of downsizing, instead of resisting and fighting the unavoidable, I took advantage of my freedom to learn about The Internet and start writing as a freelancer. What we need to do, then, is have the wisdom to distinguish between what can and cannot be changed. Whenever something can be changed, we should make IT better, and whenever something cannot be changed, we should use it to make US better.
We mustn’t follow the example of the fish who complained about living in water and jumped out, only to die on land. It would be folly to try and jump out of the situation we have been placed into. By surrendering to the inevitable we learn new lessons. Don’t see the world as you are, but as it is, for “Acceptance of what has happened,” according to William James, “is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.” In other words, acceptance brings inner peace and tranquillity, instead of anger and resentment.
The difference between a mean word and a kind word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug
The Roman Statesman, Cato The Elder (BC 234-149), taught “Speech is the gift of all, but the thought of few.” When was the last time you thought about the power of speech? When speaking, are you always aware that we use speech to inspire, strike fear, dissuade, persuade, console, hurt, disappoint, encourage, educate, censure, exchange ideas, vent feelings, pontificate, argue, thank, threaten, ridicule, criticize, cheer, sadden, curse, brag, comfort, insult, provoke, incite, or apologize.? Before you speak, do you remind yourself our words can express understanding, hate, love, praise, appreciation, resentment, kindness, respect, rudeness, or wisdom? How do you apply the gift of speech? Do you use it to tell jokes, spread rumors, wrench tears, recite poetry, or instill hope?
Have you ever been hurt by the remarks of others? Many have. That’s why Pontianus, who was crowned Pope on July 21, 230 and reigned until 235, wrote in his Second Epistle, “The stroke of the whip maketh marks in the flesh: but the stroke of the tongue breaketh the bones. Many have fallen by the edge of the sword: but not so many as have fallen by the tongue.” That’s a strong commentary about the pain words can cause. But words don’t have to hurt. They can soothe, uplift, and give support.
Do you realize how much power your words have to make a difference in the lives of others? Let’s think about this for a moment. Suppose you encouraged two people today, motivating each of them to encourage two others tomorrow. If the process continues everyday, 128 people will have benefited by the end of the week. If it continues for two weeks, there will be 16,384 beneficiaries. What if it lasted for three weeks? There would be more than TWO MILLION people benefiting from kind acts that you initiated! But let’s be conservative and assume that at the end of three weeks “only” one-half of one percent of that number would benefit. If so, there would “merely” be 10,000 people better off because of your two acts of kindness. Imagine if you were kind to two different people every day! Can you begin to appreciate the enormous power you have to do good?
Of course, the reverse is also true. That is, each of our unkind acts spreads and multiplies just as quickly. Is there any wonder there is so much suffering? Isn’t it obvious the world is in desperate need of our acts of kindness? Can we afford to let a single day pass without a kind word? Let’s begin to make a difference today. Although we can improve the world in many ways with the gift of speech, for clarity’s sake, let’s focus on one issue: ENCOURAGEMENT.
Plants need water and kids need encouragement
“Save lives; save kids.” writes Celeste Holm, “We live by encouragement and die without it – slowly, sadly, angrily.” The number of sad and angry children is rising. So is the rate of crime. To put the brakes on crime, we need to build more lives, not more detention centres and prisons. We build lives by nurturing our children. We must encourage them every step of the way, for they become what we encourage them to be, not what we nag them to be. As they struggle to become responsible, they are sure to stumble along the way. At such times, let’s remember that a word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after a success. If they engage in inappropriate behavior that requires a scolding or discipline, guide them gently. The purpose is not to instill fear, but to build confidence. As Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe wrote, “Correction does much, but encouragement does more. Encouragement after censure is as the sun after a shower.”
When nurturing our children, we begin by accepting them as they are. After doing so, we then encourage them to become more than they are. William Arthur’s words seem to describe how children may feel, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you.” We are all standing on the shoulders of others. We have reached our present station in life because of the help and encouragement we received from others. The best way to return that favor is by picking up our children and placing them on our own shoulders. The best friends children can have are parents that constantly encourage, inspire, and guide them in becoming what they wish to be. The only thing a good parent will do behind their child’s back is pat it. How shall we use our gift of speech? Wisely. After all, as Edward Thorndike explains, “Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure.”
A Little Black Pen