Tag Archives: change

How to Use The Power of Focus To Improve Your Life

focus, how to focus, focus on the positive

Focus is a powerful thing. When used correctly, it has the potential to help us get our life back in balance and have more objective perspectives of what is going on in our lives, which in turn allows us to take a step back and make better and more informed decisions.  When used incorrectly, however, focus has the potential to cause us to feel utterly out of balance and become subjective, which in turn causes us to make rushed, uneducated decisions or poor choices that we may later regret, not to mention causing us added stress and anxiety about what may be going on.

Let me give you an example:

Take a moment to quickly evaluate your life as a whole and rate your current situation using a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 means you are at your ideal, exactly where you want to be, and 1 means there is MUCH room for improvement.  Now fold a piece of paper in half, and on one half of it make a list of the good or positive things in your life as it is right now and on the other half make a list of what you consider bad or negative things that you would like to change or improve on.

Let’s say rated your current situation a 4.  On one side of the paper you would list what’s good about your life right now; these are the things that helped you to rate your situation at this number. You could add things like:

I have a home
I have a job
I am healthy
I have a family that loves me
I do make some money
I can pay most of my bills on time
etc…

On the other side of the paper you would list the bad or negative things currently going on in your life.  These are the things which, when changed or improved, would help you to rate your life a 9 or a 10. You could add things such as:

My relationship with (…) sucks
I have no savings in the bank
I am fat
My car is old and broken
I don’t have money to vacation
etc…

So, in this example, the positive side is a 4 (because that’s what you rated your current situation) and the negative side is a 6 (the difference in the 1-10 scale).  Now take a look at your paper with your lists side by side and read them again. How does it make you feel?  Do you still believe you rated your life accurately? If you did this exercise honestly, you’ll probably realize that your initial rating was lower than it should have been.  I’m also willing to bet that as you were doing the exercise you had an easier time coming up with things to write on the “negative” side of the paper than on the “positive” side.  This is because on a day-to-day basis we’re generally mostly thinking about what is lacking in our lives rather than on the blessings that we already have.  Our focus is mostly on what is missing, what is wrong, what is broken, what needs to be improved.

Imagine that your life is graphed on a line like this one. We’ll place an x on it to indicate your rating:

Balance1

Now we’ll turn this into a scale or a balance by adding a support under it like this:

Which way is the scale currently going to tilt? It’s pretty obvious, right? It will tilt towards the “bad” side like this:

But now we’ll add something to our diagram; we’ll add focus which, for the purpose of this illustration weighs a full 10.  If we add it to the “bad” side of the scale, we’re stuck. In spite of the good things that are going on in our lives, we’ll continue to feel like nothing is working, like everything is bad, like this is a hopeless situation, because our focus is on what’s wrong, missing, or broken in our lives.  When this happens, we may enter a state of despair, depression, hopelessness, anxiety, sorrow, etc., and we miss out on appreciating and enjoying the blessings that we do have.

But what would happen if we shifted that focus and placed it on the “good” side of the scale? What will happen is that even with the rating remaining at 4 we will have managed to tilt the scale in favor of what’s good in our lives, and here’s where we can truly shift our perspective.

Here’s where we can truly see and accept that, while there is plenty of room for improvement, our life is already good. Here’s where appreciation and gratitude can truly take place, because our focus is now on our blessings, on what is working and what is positive in our lives. We’re not denying that there is room for improvement; we’re simply focusing our attention on what is already working because that is what’s going to help us get even better so that our diagram looks like this:

What we focus on expands

What we focus on expands, and what we resist persists. Focusing our attention on what is “bad” in our lives and resisting it or fighting it will only cause it to increase and persist.  It’s like trying to get out of a hole by digging the hole deeper.  This is not an efficient way of going about improving our situation. A more efficient and effective way would be to focus on what is already working and then figuring out how we can do more of it or expand it to other areas of our lives.

I picked a very low rating as an example to demonstrate that even with such a low rating we can shift our focus and gain a better perspective.  No matter how bad we think our life situation is, there is definitely much good going on already and there are definitely many things that are working. So I invite you to add the weight and power of focus to all the good that is already going on in your life and see how much better you’ll instantly feel as a result of it. You will not regret it.

To your success!

JC.

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The Negative Side Of Positive Affirmations

positive affirmations, stay positive, remain positive

Positive affirmations can definitely be beneficial; they can assist us in feeling better, especially when we’re feeling down and in the dumps.  However, they also have the potential to pose a great danger to anyone working to manifest their desires; my goal in this article is to explain what this danger is and how we can avoid it so that it doesn’t get in the way of our manifestations.

This great danger is that positive affirmations, if not used carefully, will tend to disconnect us from our real emotions and launch us into a game of pretend that will ultimately be counterproductive to our manifestation efforts.  If you’ve read Greg’s book “Grow a Greater You,” you know that our emotions are a key element in playing the manifestation game successfully.  But as Greg states, the emotions in and of themselves are not enough; we must be completely connected to them. We must feel them and own them without masking them with other positive emotions, or pretending that they are not there.

Simply using positive affirmations when we’re feeling a negative emotion is like driving a car when the fuel gauge is pointing to “empty” and slapping a happy face sticker over the gauge to avoid seeing it.  While the happy face sticker will in fact prevent us from seeing the fuel gauge registering “empty” and will probably distract us little because we’re not looking at it, it’s not likely that we’ll make it to our destination because our car will eventually run out of gas.  We’ve only masked the situation; we haven’t really changed it.

According to Greg, it is during the times that we experience negative emotions that we have the greatest power and greatest opportunity to grow a greater version of us; this is where we can experience real growth, rather than pretending that we’ve grown.  And we do it by acknowledging and owning our emotions while at the same time telling the best feeling believable story that we can tell at the time.

The problem with just using positive affirmations is that every time we use them we become a little more disconnected from our emotions, and therefore we lose some of our power to grow, and we miss out on taking advantage of the growth opportunity that these situations present to us.

Generally, positive affirmations do help us to feel good in the moment, and that’s probably the reason why we keep using them.  However, positive thinking gurus commonly suggest an unrealistic way of using positive affirmations. Let’s take weight loss as an example.  Let’s say that we’re doing everything we can to lose the extra 20, 30, 50 lbs. We’re eating healthier and we’re moving more.  However, as it is often the case when we’re trying to lose weight, we may tend to dislike what we see when we look in the mirror, or get upset because we can’t fit into our clothes, or become disappointed if we find ourselves out of breath when going up a flight of stairs.

At this point, the positive thinking gurus recommend using affirmations such as “I have my ideal weight!” as a way to move away from the negative emotions and the negative thinking patterns.  They recommend saying this affirmation (or others like it) over and over dozens of times, in front of the mirror if possible, visualizing ourselves at our ideal weight and incorporating our emotions by feeling the feelings of being at our ideal weight.

The problem for some people – and I’ve experienced this myself – is that, while we may be able to make ourselves feel better in the moment, our subconscious has not accepted that statement as being true.  As I understand it, our subconscious says to us something like this:

“OK, I can see that you feel badly about your weight and you’re attempting to use this affirmation to change your situation. However, this affirmation goes completely against the belief you asked me to store in here for you as your truth, so I can’t let this one through.  There are tons of evidence to support your truth (your existing belief) that you do not have your ideal weight, and this evidence contradicts your current statement (affirmation).  However, your feeling better is our common goal, therefore I’ll allow you to feel better now while you repeat that affirmation to yourself; but know that I’m protecting your existing belief and I’ll soon bring it up again and point out the supporting evidence to you so that you don’t feel like you’re going crazy.”

Do you see what’s happened?  We have simply masked the situation with a story that was “too good to be true” so that we could make ourselves feel better in the moment. In other words, we’ve slapped a happy face sticker over the fuel gauge in our attempt to not look at the warning that our car is running on “E” but we haven’t really dealt with the real issue.

So what should we do instead?

The first thing we need to do is understand that emotions, no matter how negative they are or feel, are not bad.  Emotions are nothing more than a feedback mechanism to alert us of how aligned or misaligned our current beliefs are with our desires.  In other words, if my desire is to have my ideal body weight but my underlying beliefs regarding my weight are “I can’t have it; it’s very difficult if not impossible; I’ll never look good; everything I eat makes me fat; I don’t deserve to be thin or to look good; other people can but I can’t; if I so much as look at food I get fat”… or any variation of these beliefs, I will experience negative emotions in relation to my weight.  But as I said, this is not a bad thing. These emotions are my feedback mechanism telling me that it is time to upgrade my underlying beliefs!  Without this mechanism in place, how on earth would we know that there is an issue with our beliefs and that they need to be upgraded? We just wouldn’t know! Isn’t this a wonderful mechanism?  Isn’t this something to be grateful for? Sure it is!

It seems obvious then that our primary goal should not be to just make ourselves feel better in the moment, but to tackle the underlying limiting beliefs and upgrade them. And while many positive thinking gurus tell us that that is exactly what affirmations are supposed to do, the truth is that rarely do these limiting beliefs get upgraded by the use of positive affirmations alone; additionally, we have to remember that we run the risk of masking our beliefs and disconnecting from our true emotions, which in the long run will prove counterproductive to our growth efforts.

Another thing to remember is that the successful upgrading of our beliefs – as explained by Greg – takes place gradually.  So we have to be wise on the approach that we use to make sure that we don’t end up against a wall as in the example I gave above.

So how do we do it?

In a previous post I talked about my experience with positive affirmations and explained that the reason they don’t seem to work sometimes is because the jump we’re trying to make from where we are emotionally to where we want to be is just too great (read the full post here). Without knowing it, I had stumbled upon one of the key elements of Greg’s approach to upgrading our beliefs, and that is our gradual movement up the emotional scale; and the way we do that is by making statements owning our current emotions, and appending to these statements the best feeling believable story that we can muster up at the time.  I’ll repeat this because this is important:  we have to make statements where we own our current emotions and also add to these statements the best feeling believable story we can muster up at the moment.  Notice I did not say “add a good story,” because the best feeling believable story may not necessarily sound good.

As I mentioned in the post I referenced earlier, a better feeling believable story may cause us to move from depression to anger in the emotional scale. I’m sure we can all agree that anger is not necessarily a good emotion, but we can also agree that it is definitely a better emotion than depression.  So the statements that we make owning our current emotional state must include statements that help us to move up the emotional state gradually.  Sometimes this process may take a day or two, and sometimes it may take longer.  But however long it takes, we must be aware of our improved current emotional state and revise our statements to tell the best feeling believable story from our new vintage point. As we do this we’re going to the root of the issue (our beliefs) and making the necessary changes there.  Will we still feel good in the moment? Maybe, maybe not; but we will definitely feel better because 1. We’re owning our current emotions rather than denying them; and 2. We’re upgrading our emotions gradually so that slowly but surely we will be moving up the emotional scale.

I was of the mentality that as soon as I became aware of negative emotions I was supposed to do everything in my power to change them, since negative emotions would interfere with manifesting my desires.  Feeling any negative emotion sucks; it’s painful, and we don’t want to experience that pain.  I would therefore do what I had learned was the best thing to do in these cases: reach for my positive affirmations and repeat them over and over again in order to not feel that pain, but not realizing that all I was really doing was denying my true feelings and doing myself more harm than good.  Why? Because as a result of all the masking and denying, I’ve now had more difficulty connecting with my true emotions, which as I have already stated are the primary mechanism that alerts us when our beliefs need to be upgraded.  In other words, I’ve had to work extra hard to be able to identify my limiting beliefs.

I hope this revelation is as helpful to you as it has been for me.  If you have any input on this subject, or any questions or comments you would like to share, please do so in the comment box below, or email me directly at jc@effect180.com.

To your success!

JC

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Is Your Mind in a Constant State Of Emergency?

negative thinking, worry, fear, disaster, pain

In a previous post I mentioned that in my journey of self-discovery and self-improvement I came across the book Thoughts and Feelings by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning.  I learned a lot from this book, especially in the area of automatic thoughts and negative thinking patterns.  One of the negative thinking patterns that truly resonated with me was what the authors called “Catastrophizing,” which basically means turning any seemingly negative situation, no matter how small, into a major catastrophe in our minds.  For instance, not getting the job after an interview may mean that we will never find a job. When failing to make a sale, the salesman may conclude that he’s a failure.

People who catastrophize tend to use phrases that start with “What if…” and what follows these words is usually something negative and of an apocalyptic magnitude.  Here are some examples of everyday scenarios and some of the thoughts that may surface for a person who tends to catastrophize:

[While going for a night out] What if my house gets burglarized while I’m out?
[While driving on the freeway] What if I one of my tires blow up while I’m driving?
[When about to give a presentation] What if the entire audience hates me?
[When going into a tall building] What if there’s an earthquake while I’m in the building?
[When experiencing a headache] What if I have a brain tumor?
[Regarding our kids] What if my son starts using drugs?
[When watching a movie at the theater] What if there is a fire?
[When taking a flight] What if the plane malfunctions and crashes?
[When hearing of a couple who got divorced] What if it happens to me?
And the list goes on and on.

Now I’m sure many of us have experienced some form of automatic negative thoughts along these lines at some point or another, especially when something negative happened recently that may be related to the situation in which we are.  For instance, if we’re watching a movie at the theater and we suddenly recall that we heard in the news about a recent fire at a movie theater and recall hearing that there were many victims, the thought that it could happen to us may suddenly take a hold of us and cause a wave of panic to sweep over us.

This is normal and can usually go away with a bit of rationalizing; a person who does not tend to catastrophize will usually ask him or herself, “What are the odds that it could happen to me?” and this is usually enough to stop the negative thinking pattern and be able to enjoy the movie.

However, for a person who tends catastrophize it’s not as simple.  One catastrophic thought leads to another, the images in their minds become more and more vivid, and pretty soon they find themselves almost feeling as if the situation is already happening to them.  At this point it becomes practically impossible for them to enjoy the movie, and they may end up choosing to leave the theater because the uncomfortable feelings are just too strong to ignore.  As you can imagine, the level of stress and mental anguish that a person experiences as a result of these negative thinking patterns are very high.

So how can we deal with this?

Catastrophizing is a mental habit, and as such, the more we do it the stronger the habit becomes.  So the first thing we need to do is become aware of when we’re doing it.  This awareness will also be a tool in helping us stop the negative thinking pattern.

We also need to develop a plan action in advance.  If we know that we tend to catastrophize, we need to select a few techniques that we can use once we become aware of the negative thinking pattern.  Once technique I found extremely useful was asking myself the same question I was already asking (“What if …”) but in a positive way instead.  For instance, if my catastrophizing thought was, “What if my marriage fails?” I would switch it to, “What if my wife and I find a way to reconcile? What if everything turns out ok? What if everything is better tomorrow?” or something along those lines.  I would make it a point to replace every catastrophizing thought with 3-5 better feeling thoughts, and this usually did the trick.  Not only would I save myself unnecessary mental and physical stress, but I would also free my mind to consider better possibilities and see opportunities to improve my situation.

I used multiple positive “what if” questions in order to re-train or re-condition my mind to take this route instead of the one it was used to taking.  Remember, catastrophizing is a mental habit and like any other habit, the best way to get rid of it (in fact, some argue it’s the only way to get rid of it) is to replace it with another habit that serves us better. And just like anything else, the more we do it the stronger the new habit will become and the weaker the old habit will be.

The key here is to use better feeling thoughts that are believable to us, as opposed to positive but unrealistic thoughts that we don’t believe.  If I said to myself “Everything will be wonderful tomorrow!” not only would I be deluding myself but my mind would not accept it, and I would experience a different kind of stress caused by the conflict between my current reality and what I’m trying to make myself believe.

The magic of “What if” is that we open ourselves up to the possibility of something positive happening; we’re not forcing it and we’re not pretending it, we’re simply acknowledging the possibility of it.  Shifting our attention from the catastrophic thought to the possibility of something positive happening has the ability to help us feel more peaceful and at ease almost instantly.

Another good technique to use in conjunction with the “What if” technique is the rubber band method I shared with you in a previous post.  Wearing a rubber band around our wrist and snapping it lightly when we catch ourselves in the middle of a negative thought pattern can help snap us out of it, and then we can switch to using the “what if” technique described above to ease ourselves into better feeling thoughts.

Negative thinking patterns can be replaced with positive ones, but it takes patience, dedication and persistence.  If you find that you experience this negative pattern of catastrophizing, give this a try and let me know how it works for you.  Or if you have any other techniques that have worked for you, please feel free to share them in the comments box below.  I’d love to hear from you!

To your success!

JC

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Is It Really Possible For Me To Change?

One day while having a conversation with my father who was in his late 60’s at the time we got into the subject of bad habits.  He complained about some bad habit he had, and expressed his dislike for it.  I told him that if he really disliked that habit he could always change it, and he could start today just taking baby steps.  His response was, “I’m too old to change. I am an old man set in his ways, and change is impossible for me.”

I happen to know that he was not alone in his thinking.  It is a commonly held belief that the older a person gets the harder it will be for them to change.  “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” they say.  But I’d like to share with you that contrary to this widely held belief that people do not change, they do change and often in dramatic, life-altering ways. I say this with full confidence because not only have I witnessed it happen time and time again, I am a living testimony that creating positive change in our lives is totally possible.

The journey begins with a deep desire for growth and a sincere commitment to make bring it about. This desire and commitment become the fuel that carries us through the challenges that effecting change brings us. Change will definitely bring us challenges, and sometimes these challenges will be uncomfortable, even painful.  But this is natural and to be expected.  Even our bodies experience pain as we go through our physical growth. Nevertheless, we know that this pain is only temporary and a natural part of growing up.

If we want to effect real and lasting change, we need to take an honest look at ourselves.  We must be willing to look in the mirror and see all there is to see; that which we consider good as well as that which we consider bad.  Making an honest assessment of our qualities and motives will be the first working step towards bringing about positive change.

Steven Covey, in his critically acclaimed book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, states:

The inside-out approach to change means to start first with self; even more fundamental, to start with the most inside part of self – with your paradigms, your character and your motives.

Having assessed ourselves thoroughly, we must now identify the areas which we want to improve and how we want to improve them.  In order to do this we must take full responsibility for our lives and our current situation and not place the blame elsewhere.  This is not to say that we are to blame for everything that happened to us that let us to the place where we are today.  Perhaps things happened to us when we were young and felt powerless. A child cannot be blamed for his or parent’s neglect or poor parental skills or abusive behavior.  However, once the child grows up it will be of no benefit to him to continuously blame his parents for his behavior or current condition.  Sure, it often helps to understand where certain unwanted behaviors originated.  But once we become aware of patterns of behavior that we wish to change, it behooves us to take responsibility for our life from that point onward, and to begin taking the necessary steps to heal and bring about change.

We now need to assess what qualities are required to effect the desired change, and determine whether our values are in alignment with those qualities. We must do the important inner work of discovering who we are now, what matters to us, what we are passionate about and what we place value on. If, for instance, the change that we want to bring about will require more patience, more nurturing, etc. we need to determine if these are things that hold value for us. If not, we will not be successful in our quest.

Awareness is of utmost importance when effecting change, because it allows us to live our lives being fully conscious of our actions; this in turn allows us to free ourselves from reactive and self-defeating behavior and realize our personal best. Often we are operating in a sleep-like state.  While we may think that we are making conscious decisions, in reality our subconscious is the one running the show based on prerecorded programs playing in the back of our minds.

Try this as an exercise the next time you’re about to make an important decision.  Simply notice that chatty voice inside your head and hear what it’s telling you.  Is it telling you that you’re crazy to consider what you are thinking of doing? Does it remind you of how many times you’ve failed in the past and warns you that you will probably do so again?

That is the voice of your subconscious.  But understand that that voice is not your enemy nor is it out to sabotage you; it really does have your best interest at heart.  The tapes that it plays for you, believe it or not, are for your protection. These are the messages that your conscious mind allowed your subconscious to accept as true, so you can hardly blame your subconscious for playing them back to you.

When we have identified that an old program no longer serves us, it becomes incumbent upon us to begin taking steps to replace it.  Once we implant new, better and more beneficial programs in our subconscious, they will become the messages that get played back to us whenever we need to make decisions.  In this case our behavior will be positively influenced by the new programs, and we will find ourselves feeling and acting in more confident and courageous ways.

In the words of Stephen Covey:

Being proactive means that we are responsible for our own lives.  Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.  We can subordinate feelings to values.  We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.

Through inner-work we will be laying the foundation for a state of mind that will allow us to make lasting positive changes that will create a more meaningful, productive and happy life.  We will begin looking at life through new eyes, and this will allow us to view everything that happens as an opportunity for growth rather than as a roadblock.

Change is definitely possible, regardless of your age, gender, or past or present circumstances.  If you have a burning desire to bring about positive change in your life, and make the commitment to do it, you’ll inevitably succeed.  You’ll definitely need some guidance, so you should probably consider hiring a life coach to help you along the way.  You can certainly succeed without one, but having someone in your life who can provide some guidance, feedback, and encouragement when times get hard, has the potential to help you catapult your growth.  But it all begins with a decision; the decision to not let your past or present situation define you, and choosing instead to create your own destiny.

As famous philosopher and psychologist William James puts it:

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.

Do you have any input on this subject?  Drop me a line in the comment box below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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How To Find Out If Your Decoder Glasses Are Serving You Or Holding You Back

I love board games. They are an excellent way to spend time with family and friends while having a lot of fun.  But did you know that one board game in particular can help you improve your life almost instantly?  It did for me, and I’m about to share with you how it did that.

I’m talking about the game “Password.” Did you ever play it? It’s a fun game from the ’60s or ’70s in which the players try to guess a “secret” word based on minimal clues given by their opponents or by someone from their team.  The secret word is printed on a special card and is “encoded” by red and white squiggles that make the word appear invisible to the naked eye; however, when looked at through the special decoder glasses that are included in the game, the word is “magically” revealed.

After writing my post yesterday about the principle which states that we tend to experience more of what we focus on,  I suddenly realized the striking similarities between this board game and the game of life; our life.

Have you ever met or been around a person whose very aura feels negative to you? Someone who is constantly complaining or whining about how bad things are in his or her life?  People like these are generally unpleasant to be around because their attitude about life just seems to bring us down.

On the other hand, have you been around people who are the complete opposite?  These are people whose very presence just seems to brighten our day and make us feel better.  People in this category seem energetic and full of life and their attitude about life is always positive and uplifting.  You can’t help but smile in their presence.

What is the difference between these two types of people?  Some may claim that this was probably due to the conditions of their upbringing or how they were raised.  But that’s unlikely.  If the difference were due to their upbringing, siblings who were brought up in the same household would all have similar attitudes towards life and therefore similar auras; yet I know of several examples of such siblings who have grown up to have totally different attitudes and auras. A classic metaphor used to illustrate this phenomena is one about two siblings who were raised in the same household, yet one grew up to be a successful businessman while the other grew up to be a drunk bum.

When the drunk bum was asked about the reason behind his failure, he stated, “I come from a broken home and had a terrible childhood; as a result, my life has been filled with one misfortune after another.  This weakened me and broke my spirit, and that’s why I am where I am today.” When the successful businessman was asked about the reason behind his success, he replied, “I come from a broken home and had a terrible childhood; as a result, my life has been filled with one challenge after another; that made me stronger and more determined to succeed, and that’s why I am where I am today.”

As you can see, the two brothers had the exact same upbringing and were exposed to the same circumstances, yet they both attributed the reason behind their success or failure to the same thing.  What does this reveal to us?  To me, this story reveals that our individual life experiences are never based on our conditions or circumstances, but rather on the attitude towards them and the meaning that we assign to them.

You see, I believe that we all walk through life wearing permanent invisible decoder glasses just like the ones that are used in the board game, and all the experiences we encounter in our lifetime are those that we pick up or are able to read based on the lens that our glasses have.  This lens acts as a filter, and out of everything that life has to offer, we are only able to pick up or attract those experiences which match our filter.  That’s where our attention will be focused, and that is all that we’ll see.

I find this to be fascinating, because it means that at any given moment we have the power to change our life experience and remove what we don’t want to see simply by changing the lens in our decoder glasses, therefore shifting our focus to what we do want to see.

This is great news, because it means that while I may not have control over everything that happens in the world, I do have control over what I see and how I see it, and what I do with the information I receive.  Read again the metaphor of the two brothers and see if what I stated makes sense in their case.  The two brothers were exposed to the same situation and circumstances, but one of them was wearing decoder glasses that allowed him to see his life experiences as negative, and all he ever saw was the misfortunes that plagued his life, and eventually led him to ruin.  The other brother was wearing decoder glasses that allowed him to see the same life experiences as challenges that propelled him higher and higher in his path of success; all he saw were the positive qualities that each of those experiences helped him to develop, and which eventually led him to his great success.

The thing I’d like you to take away from today’s post is this: that which you consider good and that which you consider bad are both readily available to you everywhere.  There is an abundance of both types of experiences all around you. What you actually see and what you end up incorporating into your life experience will depend on the filter that you choose to look at the world with. You have that decision each and every day, every second of your life.

So I will close today by inviting you to analyze the lens of your decoder glasses.  Remember, we all are wearing these glasses, the only difference is the lens or filter that they have.  So I invite you to take some time to really ponder on this and determine if the lens that you’re wearing is serving you or if it’s holding you back from reaching your highest potential.  If you discover that you are wearing a lens that serves you, congratulations! Continue doing what you’re doing.  If not, what are you waiting for? Replace your lens immediately and begin your journey to a better, richer, more rewarding life today.

Do you have any input on this subject?  Drop me a line below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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How To Instantly Improve Your Life Using This Simple Yet Effective Technique

One day while sitting at a coffee shop I overheard a conversation between two women who were sitting directly in front of me.  No, I was not eavesdropping, they just happened to be talking in a rather loud voice, and the coffee shop was small so the tables were pushed rather close together.  I heard one of the women say “Every time I make a little bit of money, something bad happens and I end up having to spend it right away.  I just don’t know what to do anymore! I just can’t seem to be able to save any money.  Just the other day we got our yearly bonus at work, and not 2 days later my car broke down and we had to use practically every penny of it on the repairs, which wasn’t much to begin with.”

I zoned out after that.  You see, a while ago I learned that engaging in conversations of a negative nature – complaining, whining, or just talking about everything that’s wrong with the world – has the potential to perpetuate the very situation we’re complaining about by the mere act of giving our attention to them, especially when there is nothing we can do about them.

I found this to be true in my life; I found that the more I complained about something, the more accentuated that something became, and the more of it I experienced!  For instance, I had a habit of dreading traffic. I often told people, “I can’t stand driving, and I especially hate sitting in traffic.”  But that wasn’t entirely true.  I’ve always found driving to be enjoyable, but I often got tense and anxious the moment I saw red tail lights on the road, especially if I was on my way to work or to an appointment.

The problem was that whenever I was on the road I often found myself stuck in traffic, and so slowly but surely the association became lodged in my subconscious: driving = stuck on traffic = ugh! I often complained to people at work about how bad traffic was in the morning. If I was meeting up with friends or colleagues I complained to them about how bad traffic was on my way there.  This habit became so engrained in me that my first thought when getting in the car usually was, “I hope there is no traffic.”  So what do you think I often encountered? You guessed it! Traffic, and plenty of it!

So when I learned that giving my attention to something tends to accentuate it in my experience, I decided to test it out.  I made it a point to not give my attention to this dreaded traffic, and focus instead on something else, something pleasant.  I made it a point to change my thought when getting in the car to something other than traffic.  For instance, I would take a deep breath and think, “What a gorgeous day today is!” Or, “I’ve never seen the sky so blue!” or anything else that was positive or uplifting.  The thought I chose had to be non-traffic related, because if the thought was related to traffic in any way, my focus would still be on traffic! So that would not work.  I also decided that driving was the perfect time to listen to some recorded self-improvement seminars or some uplifting or relaxing music.

Let me tell you. It wasn’t long before I started seeing a marked difference in my driving experience. Slowly I started noticing that I found much less traffic in my commute to wherever I was going, at whatever time of the day.  And even when there was traffic, it seemed to flow faster in whichever lanes I chose.

I then conducted an experiment to see if the opposite was also true; meaning that if I focused on something that I did want to see manifested in my life, would I experience more of it? To my amazement, my experiment brought about similar results. This was to me a clear indicator that the notion that whatever we focus on we’ll tend to see more of was completely accurate.

Since then I made it a point not to give my precious attention to anything I did not want to see manifested in my experience, and focus instead on those things that I did want to see more of; and I’ve had wonderful results.

That day that I was sitting at the coffee shop and overheard that woman complaining about her money situations, my mind suddenly took me back to when I learned about this principle.  She seemed upset and worried, which I understood completely. I had no reason to believe that things weren’t as she described them, so her feelings about her situation were perfectly reasonable.  But it occurred to me that if she were to shift her focus or take on a new perspective on her situation, she would feel much better about it.

You may be wondering, “But what is the use of feeling better about it, if the situation itself remains the same? Aren’t you just lying to yourself or being unrealistic?”  But I would ask you these questions: “What is the use of complaining about it, if the situation itself remains the same? Don’t you feel worse rattling on about how bad your situation is? If there is something you can do about the situation, do it and make it a point to expect the best outcome.  But if there is nothing you can do about it, wouldn’t you rather spare yourself this unnecessary added stress and worry?”

It’s something to think about isn’t it? A simple shift in perspective or refocusing of your attention can turn your attitude 180 degrees and do wonders for you, your health, your beliefs, and your expectations, which ultimately shape your reality.

If I were standing in this woman’s shoes, knowing what I know today I would shift my attention and alter my story by saying this instead:

“I am so grateful that my needs are so anticipated, that the money I will need for whatever situation that comes up is provided to me in advance.  I don’t even have to worry about “what ifs” because I have received an abundance of evidence that my needs will always be provided for. I have plenty of examples to support this truth; for instance, my car broke down just the other day and it required a lot of major repairs, but you know what? Not 2 days prior to that, almost the exact amount of money I was going to need was provided to me via my bonus at work and I did not have to spend a single dime out of pocket. How wonderful is that!”

Don’t you feel better about this woman’s situation just by reading that? Don’t you hear and feel the attitude of gratitude in those words?  Wouldn’t you rather live your life in a state of gratitude, trust and reliance that everything will turn out all right?

I will leave you with a quote that my wife shared with me which encompasses this message perfectly:

If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.
~ Mary Engelbreit

Do you have any thoughts on this that you would like to share with me?  Leave me a comment below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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How To Give Your Negative Thoughts a Knockout Punch

So far we’ve discussed some eye-opening facts about automatic negative thoughts and learned how they can twist our perception; we’ve also learned about the characteristics of automatic negative thoughts so that we can easily identify them.  It is now time to put into practice some techniques to help us stop these negative thoughts dead on their tracks.

Today I will be talking about a skill I learned from the book “Thoughts and Feelings – Taking Control of Your moods and your life” which the authors call “Thought-Stopping.”  So put on your boxing gloves and prepare to give those negative thoughts a knock-out punch!

Thought-Stopping

Thought stopping involves focusing our attention on the unwanted negative thoughts for a short period of time, then interrupting the train of thought abruptly by vocalizing the command “Stop!” or making a physical move to act as an “interruptor.”  It’s a very similar approach to the one used by Pavlov when conditioning his dogs to salivate upon hearing the ringing of a bell.

I used this method successfully whenever my mind was preoccupied with thoughts of excessive worry.  For instance, I used to stress excessively about our financial situation and whether we were going to make it to my next paycheck.  This caused me to be in a high level of stress and anxiety for most of my waking hours, and any sign of an unforeseen expense, however small, would set me off on a worry tangent.

Here’s how this technique works:

Preparation

  1. Take a piece of writing paper and fold it in half. At the top of the page write “Trigger Situation” as the heading for the first half, and “Negative Thoughts” as heading for the second half.
  2. On the section labeled “Trigger Situation,” briefly describe a scenario that typically causes you stress, worry or anxiety. A single sentence is preferred.  For instance, in my case I would write “Looking at my bank statement.”
  3. On the section labeled “Negative Thoughts” write down the thoughts that generally plague you regarding that situation. In my case I would write “We won’t be able to make it. I can’t believe money is running out so fast.  We won’t have money for groceries or even to put gas in the car, so how will I be able to get to work? If I can’t pay the rent we’ll be evicted and then where will we go?” As you write, allow any feelings or physical sensations to come up and cue in additional negative thoughts associated with this scenario.
  4. Now flip the page over to the blank side, and at the top of the page write “Positive Situation” as the heading for the first half, and “Positive Thoughts” as the heading for the second half.
  5. In the section labeled “Positive Situation” you are going to briefly describe a scenario or topic that you would like to focus on instead of the triggering situation. Again, a single short sentence is preferred.  It could be anything positive from a vacation, an achievement or award, a person you love, or even a pet.  The key here is that whatever you pick must not be related to the triggering situation at all.  You’ll be writing pleasant thoughts about something that brings you peace or pleasure.  In my case I love the beach especially at night because I find it very peaceful and relaxing, so I would write “sitting on the beach on a cool, full moon night.”
  6. Finally, in the section labeled “Positive Thoughts” you are going to write down some thoughts associated with the positive situation you chose. Just as you did with the “Negative Thoughts” write down some brief sentences about the situation that you find pleasurable or peaceful, and allow the positive feelings or sensations to come up and queue in additional thoughts as you write.  In my case I would write something like “I’m sitting barefoot on the beach, and feeling the cool sand between my toes; I feel the cool, refreshing ocean breeze gently brush my face; I close my eyes and I hear the soothing sound of the waves. I take in a deep breath and feel the salty scent of the ocean fill my lungs.”

The process

You are now ready to begin. Keep in mind that this technique requires you to set aside some time for the process, so that you can practice it while you are in a calm and stress-free state of mind.  It cannot be successfully learned while you are in the middle of stressful situations, and as you read through the process you’ll understand why.

When you are ready to begin follow these steps:

  1. Sit in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for at least 5-10 minutes. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and relax your body completely.
  2. Now look at your paper and read silently the “Triggering Situation” and the “Negative Thoughts” you wrote about. As best as you can, focus on the thoughts and feelings that come up, taking in any sounds, scents, or sights from the scenario you described.
  3. Allow the scenario to become as vivid as possible and sit with it for a while until you feel like you are on an unstoppable train to worryland (or whatever emotion you feel as a result of the negative thought pattern).
  4. Once you’ve reached that obsessive-like state, shout “STOP!” very loudly, and mean it! To accentuate the effect snap your fingers, clap your hands loudly, or stomp your feet once.
  5. Immediately empty your mind of the unpleasant thoughts, flip the page over, and read the positive scenario and related positive thoughts you jotted down. Allow yourself to switch completely to the positive scenario and focus on it as much as possible, taking in all the pleasant sights, sounds, scents, and imagery from the scene; breathe slowly and deeply.  Do this for at least for 30 seconds.
  6. If the negative thoughts or feelings return before the end of the 30 seconds, shout “STOP!” again and focus on your positive scenario and positive thoughts.

Follow the above process until you are successfully able to stop the negative train of thought dead on its tracks when shouting “STOP!”  If you find that the positive scenery you’ve chosen is no longer strong enough to hold your attention, the authors recommend picking a different one.  It is important that the imagery you choose helps you to completely make the switch from the negative train of thought to a positive one.

As you can see, this technique does not involve resisting the negative thoughts; often, trying to resist a negative thought pattern can backfire and end up accentuating it or reinforcing it instead. This technique is about training or conditioning your brain to instantly (and eventually effortlessly) switch the focus to a different, unrelated positive thought pattern.

Advanced thought-stopping

Once you’ve succeeded in interrupting the negative thought pattern and refocusing on a positive one by shouting “STOP!” it is time to begin preparations to bringing this newly acquired skill into the real world.  Don’t worry, I am not going to ask you to yell “STOP!” and clap, stomp or snap your fingers in the middle of your next office meeting or while you’re standing in front of a bank teller making a withdrawal.  Imagine that!

What you’ll be doing is slowly modifying the technique, but you’ll be doing it in stages:

  1. Still in private, begin to interrupt the negative thought pattern by speaking the word “Stop” in a normal voice instead of shouting it.
  2. When you have succeeded in doing this, switch to just whispering “Stop.”
  3. Finally, don’t say anything at all, but instead think the word “Stop!” as if it was being shouted inside your mind. If you have difficulty accomplishing this, wear a loosely fitting rubber band around your wrist, and try thinking the word “Stop!” being shouted in your mind while at the same time snapping the rubber band just enough to feel the snap but not enough to cause you pain.

When you have succeeded in reaching level 3 above, you will be ready to bring this newly acquired skill into the real world without bringing attention to yourself.  The next time you find yourself in a situation that causes you stress, worry or anxiety, and you find your mind being plagued by obsessive negative thoughts, shout “Stop!” in your mind (and snap the rubber band if you need to) to interrupt the train of thought, and switch to your positive imagery.

Final words

Remember that this is a skill and every skill requires practice to master it.  If you’ve struggled with being able to stop or interrupt negative thought patterns, don’t beat yourself up for it.  Be patient with yourself and give yourself time.  It is likely that negative thoughts will return time and time again even after you’ve mastered this or any other thought-stopping technique.  The important thing is to condition your brain to make the switch as early on as possible and to focus on the positive imagery, so that in time the frequency of their occurrence will be greatly reduced.

Have you used this or any other technique to make the stop or replace negative thinking?  Please share with us.

I’d love to hear from you!

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How Negative Thinking Can Twist Your Reality And Ruin Your Life – Part 2

In my last post I talked about automatic negative thoughts being the reason behind our negative emotions, and explained that it is the meaning that we have attached to people, circumstances and events that trigger the automatic negative thinking cycle rather than the people, circumstances and events themselves.

Today we’ll be looking at ways to identify those negative thinking patterns as the first step towards stopping them and ultimately changing them.

Here are some characteristics of automatic negative thoughts to help you identify them.  As you read, try to see if you can relate to any of them:

  • Automatic negative thoughts often express themselves as one or two words which we already associate with some negative meaning, for instance, fear or loneliness. Sometimes they don’t express themselves as words at all, but rather as flashes or brief images, or even as memories of scents, sensations, taste, etc. I my case I experienced this in an intensified manner. The memory of a person who had broken my trust in the past was enough to put me in a bad mood, and that memory could be triggered by the mere mention of the person’s name.  All of a sudden my demeanor would change to the point that it was clearly discernible to those around me that something was bothering me.  This happened because the utterance of single word (the person’s name) triggered a series of automatic negative thoughts associated with that person breaking my trust.
  • Automatic negative thoughts are usually very believable to us; when they occur, we tend to grant them the same validity as the validity we ascribe to things we perceive with our senses such as the color or texture of an object. Basically, we think it therefore it must be true.
  • Automatic negative thoughts often involve words such as should or ought to, which imply a certain level of expectation whether from ourselves or from others. A person may think, “I should clean the house because it’s a mess.” This is a self-imposed expectation which, if not fulfilled, may result in negative emotions such as self-blame or feelings of failure or low self-esteem.  And while it’s true that some “shoulds” are valid, they happen so automatically that we tend to take them at face value without analyzing them or modifying them to fit the situation.
  • Automatic negative thoughts tend to exaggerate (or as the book “Thoughts and Feelings” calls it, “awfulize”) the situation. They tend to predict and expect the worst in everything. And while this may have its function in helping us prepare for worst-case scenarios, we must learn to keep these thoughts in the proper perspective as tools rather than as reality.
  • Automatic negative thoughts vary tremendously from the way we describe our circumstances or events to others. When speaking to others we tent to describe our situations in a cause and effect context; however, our self-talk about the same situation may include words of blame or guilt or detrimental predictions. For instance I could say to someone, “I’m feeling sad because I hurt your feelings.” But internally, my self-talk would be more like, “I’m a terrible person. I can’t believe I did it again.   What kind of a monster am I?”
  • Automatic negative thoughts are generally theme-based, especially in the case of chronic emotions. For instance, chronic anger may be caused by thoughts about deliberate hurtful words or behavior from others, and chronic anxiety may be caused by thoughts of danger or impending doom. I could see now that my chronic anger stemmed from my thoughts about other people looking to intentionally hurt me or take advantage of me in some way.

These are just a few of characteristics to help you identify automatic negative thoughts.  On my next post I will provide some tips on how to go about stopping the cycle before it spins out of control, and we’ll explore some techniques we can implement to change the direction of our thoughts.

Do you have any additional input on this subject that you’d like to share? If so, please do so in the comment box below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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How Negative Thinking Can Twist Your Reality And Ruin Your Life

There are many things I’ve had to work on and address as part of my self-improvement journey, but one of the main things was being able to spot and change my negative thinking.  For as long as I can remember I suffered from chronic negative emotions such as anger and fear.  As a result of this I unintentionally ended up hurting people I loved with my words and actions.  I wanted to change these negative patterns of behavior but I didn’t know how to go about it.  At one point I came across a book by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning called “Thoughts and Feelings – Taking Control of Your Moods & Your Life.”  This book helped me tremendously and was an excellent tool for what I wanted to accomplish.

One of the first things I learned was that thoughts and thought patterns, rather than people, circumstances or events, were the cause behind my negative emotions.  As easy as it would be to blame my anger, fear, frustration, sadness, irritation, or whatever it was on a person or situation, it was always a thought or a series of thoughts that would precede and give birth to my emotions, and subsequently to my behavior.

I learned that situations in and of themselves are neutral and have no emotional content; but it is our interpretation of those situations that causes our emotions.  This was a little bit difficult for me to accept and process at first.  Surely if something appeared to me to be negative, it had to be! Looking at a situation and judging it for what it was, it was clear to me that the situation was the trigger behind my negative emotions.  But I quickly learned that that was my black-and-white mentality speaking, and a little bit of logic proved me wrong.

If in fact it the situation was the cause behind my negative emotions, absolutely everyone experiencing that situation would also experience the same negative emotions, isn’t that so?  Allow me to illustrate.  Let’s say that my teenage son has a 10 PM curfew, and he has broken the curfew several times in the past; the last time he did this I let him off with a stern warning.  Today he decided that he would not respect the curfew yet again, and came home well after midnight.  When he walked in I reacted by getting upset and irritated at him for disrespecting me and being careless and dismissive of the household rules.

But let’s say that a stranger was walking by the house just as my son was returning home, well after midnight.  Would the stranger have reacted in the same manner? It would be weird if he had.  The stranger is not emotionally involved with my son or the situation, so he would have no emotional reaction even though he observed the exact same situation I observed. Although very simplistic, this is a good example that demonstrates that the situation itself was not the cause of my angry outburst.

What then, was the real cause behind my anger and irritation about this situation? The answer? My interpretation of it; the meaning that this situation had to me, or put another way, my thoughts about the situation, regardless of how fleeting or unnoticed those thoughts were.

Here’s where I learned that if I changed my thoughts, it would logically follow that I would also change my emotions.  The tricky part was being able to identify the thoughts because they seemed to happen so quick and almost unnoticed, as if my brain was bypassed altogether and my emotions spontaneously expressed themselves.

But cognitive therapy tells us that that doesn’t happen.  There is always a thought behind every feeling, and being able to spot those thoughts is the first step towards changing behavioral patterns.  This is a skill I would recommend to anyone looking to improve their lives.  And it is indeed a skill, for it takes dedication and practice.

The situation->thoughts->emotions->behavior sequence is not always as clear as in the example I described above. Sometimes, our own emotions and behaviors join the cycle and create yet another situation which is followed by additional thoughts which then give birth to additional emotions and behavior, which then become another situation….and the cycle goes on and on.

For instance, imagine that you are on your way to work, but your car doesn’t start.  What is a possible emotional cycle that may result from this?

  1. Situation: Car does not start.
  2. Thought: “I can’t believe this. I’ll be late for work again! And my boss warned me that I’d be fired if I came in late again.”
  3. Emotions: anxiety, fear, irritation; sweaty palms, heart beating fast.
  4. Thought: “If I lose my job we won’t be able to pay the bills. It will be very difficult for me to find another job, especially these days. We will lose the house!
  5. Emotions: more anxiety, more fear; feeling sick to your stomach, dizziness.
  6. Thought: “We’ll be homeless. We’ll have to move to my in-laws and they don’t like me already. They’ll blame this entire situation on me. My mother-in-law will drive me crazy!”
  7. Emotions: sheer panic.

You can see how easy it is to get carried away by these cycles.  We’re constantly making interpretations and assigning meaning to the situations that we encounter in our lives. We judge events as good or bad, pleasurable or painful, relaxing or stressful. These judgments and labels are the result of the constant chatter going on in our minds, and this is why these thoughts are very subtle and rarely noticeable.

Since childhood we have practiced habitual patterns of thinking and have been conditioned to interpret our lives’ circumstances and events a certain way.  There will always be situations and events which will have some level of negative meaning to us; and unless we learn to identify the cycle and put into practice some techniques to break it, we’ll be in a highly stressful state most of our lives.

In my next post I will share with you some of the most common characteristics of these automatic negative thought patterns to which most of us fall prey to one degree or another, and then we’ll start looking at some techniques that we can implement right away to help us get out of the cycle. In the meantime share with us! Do you believe you’ve fallen into the automatic negative thinking trap? When does it usually happen? What have you done to get out of it?

I’d love to hear from you!

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Why Having A Magic Lamp Wouldn’t Make You Happy

magic lamp, wishes, dreams, Aladdin, dreams, goals

Imagine for a moment that you found Aladddin’s lamp. I know. Humor me. Imagine that one day you’re taking a relaxing stroll around your neighborhood and you suddenly spot something shiny hiding in the bushes.  At first you ignore it and dismiss it as something unimportant (perhaps an empty soda can?).

You continue stroll but a few moments later you can’t shake the feeling that you were meant to see that, whatever it was.  What if it was something important?  “I better make sure,” you think.  So you walk back to retrieve the shiny object and to your surprise you find yourself staring at what appears to be a magic lamp.  Could it be?  “Yeah, right.” You let out a sarcastic chuckle and laugh at yourself for thinking such a ridiculous thing. “Still… what if it is?”  You take an inconspicuous look around to make sure no one is looking, and carefully rub the sides of the lamp.

As soon as you do that, smoke starts oozing from the lamp and suddenly, out comes a genie who, to your amazement, utters those amazing words you’ve been waiting to hear all your life, “Your wish is my command.” He then tells you that he’s there to grant you all of your heart’s desires.  Not just 3 wishes, but all of them.

Now think for a moment. What would you ask for?  You’d probably ask for all the major things right away. Love, health, money, success, vacations to exotic locations, mansions, more money, more love, etc. etc. etc.  You would basically ask for all the things that you believe would make your life easy, happy, pain-free, and struggle-free.  You’d go wild, testing the waters to see if you would really be able to get all you want.

You’d then realize that you can ask not only for you but for everyone else around you.  So you’d become the biggest philanthropist, sharing your good fortune with everyone around you.  At some point, however, you’d start running out of things to ask for.  You’ve had all the vacations you could think of, helped everyone in the world (work with me here), have more money than you know what to do with, all the success and love you can imagine, all coming instantly to you without any amount of effort or struggle on your part.

How long could you live like this? Honestly. How long? A year? Ten years? Twenty?  How long would it be before you were bored out of your mind and were left feeling depressed and worthless?  How long would your mind be able to live without a challenge or a worthy goal?  How long before you felt like you were no better than an inanimate object that adds no value to anything?

Sooner or later you’d start looking for things to do, challenges to face, goals to pursue, problems to solve.  But you wouldn’t ask the genie to bring these to you, you’d want to go out and find them yourself.  We would all want to do this.  And do you know why?  Because that’s our nature.  We think that we want life to be a breeze; we think that we’d just as soon be without the worries, the pain, the suffering, the sorrow, the struggle.  From our vintage point, we’d trade our lives for the imaginary scenario I described above in a heartbeat. But how quickly we would tire of it.  We’d soon find out that a life like that is not much fun.  You probably know by now that the things we value the most are those that required some involvement or contribution from us, no matter how small; and the higher our contribution, the greater its value to us.

There is a lesson in all of this.  I’m not saying that life has to be difficult in order for it to be fun, exciting, exhilarating or rewarding.  What I’m saying is that life is not supposed to be pain or struggle free.  I’m saying that the pain, the struggle, the challenges and all the emotions associated with these things, the good and the bad, are what make the human life such a magnificent experience.

The true joy of living does not stem from never experiencing difficulties or struggles, but from overcoming them.  So don’t get all bummed out about how life may be right now.  It won’t stay that way forever.  In spite of what it seems like at times, there is perfect balance and order in the universe. The seemingly negative experiences we encounter are meant to help us become better versions of ourselves. Embrace the challenge and push forward with confidence.

Pain may be inevitable, but suffering is optional.

Decide today that you will suffer no more.  Decide today that you don’t need to wait to find Aladdin’s lamp to be happy.  Decide today that no matter what situations you encounter in life, you will make it your dominant intent to look for the good in them, for there is good to be found if we only look hard enough.  Decide today that you will take on every day with unshakable confidence, and the determination to feel good, to spread love, to experience joy in everything you do. Decide today that you will go after your goals and your dreams, and that you will enjoy and appreciate the ride as much as, if not more than, getting there.  Decide today to share your gifts with the world, which no one but you can share.  Decide today to leave your mark in this world.

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