Tag Archives: positive affirmations

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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How Our Thoughts Affect Our Reality

When I began my self-improvement journey several years ago I came across a book that inspired me and gave me much needed clarity about how to change my life for the better.  In my opinion this book is a must-have for anyone looking to understand how our thoughts affect our world and shape our reality.  It is written in plain English without the jargon commonly associated with the study of the mind, so it’s easy enough for anyone to understand.

I still revisit this book now and then because from time to time I need a reminder of how important it is to be mindful of what we entertain in our minds.   The book is a very short read, and it can be found in audio form as well.  The audio version of the book is less than an hour long, so I can easily listen to the entire recording in a day just driving to and from work.

The book I’m referring to is “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightingale.  There is great information in the entire book but there is one segment in particular that always grabs my attention for its truthfulness and simplicity.  The segment begins by stating this:

Let me tell you something which if you really understand it, will alter your life immediately…Here’s the key to success and the key to failure: We become what we think about.

The author then proceeds to explain exactly how this works, and gives the analogy of a situation that parallels the human mind using a farmer and fertile soil.  In his example, Earl asks us imagine that a farmer has a piece of fertile land in which he plants a seed of corn and a seed of poison.  The land, being impartial to what is being planted, will invariably return to the farmer exactly the “fruits” of what he has planted, a plant of corn and a plant of poison. He compares this fertile land to the human mind and the seeds to our thoughts because the mind – like the land – does not care what you plant in it; it will return what you plant, but it doesn’t care what you plant.

While it’s true that the mind is far more complex and mysterious than the land, the principle is the same.  Whether we plant thoughts (seeds) of success (corn) or thoughts (seeds) of failure (poison) the mind (land) will return to us exactly what we plant in it in the form of our experiences in all areas our lives such as work, family, love, finances, etc.

For me this was a wake-up call.  If this was true (and I had no reason to believe that it wasn’t) it meant that I needed to become aware of my thoughts throughout the day.  I needed to make sure that whatever thoughts I was entertaining were seeds that would produce the type of experiences I wanted to have in my life.

This proved to be easier said than done.  It was easy at the beginning of the day because I would start off with a clean slate and a positive attitude, but as I gradually got busy and distracted with my daily activities, I found myself repeating old thought patterns that were sure to produce unwanted results if left unattended.

At first I would get bummed up about it, because I thought that no matter how hard I tried I somehow managed to end up back at square one.  This would only cause me to feel more like a failure and, you guessed it, negative tapes to start playing again.

But I later learned that it is impossible to watch what we are thinking 24 hours a day (or however many hours we spend awake), so getting temporarily distracted was perfectly normal.  In fact, a recent study revealed that, astonishingly, humans are on autopilot nearly half of their waking hours!

Our mind is designed to jump on autopilot whenever possible in order to automate mundane tasks.  You do something long enough and it eventually becomes a habit, making it a task that you no longer have to think about.  If you’ve ever driven from one place to another and had no recollection of how you got there, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I can certainly relate to that.  There were times when I suddenly realized I had arrived, and thanked God I was alive and prayed that I hadn’t committed any violations while driving.  Yikes!

Whenever I think of this I realize what a wonderful design the mind is.  I’m speechless when I think of all the intricate wiring and programs that are running to ensure that we follow all the traffic laws and make critical decisions almost unconsciously!  Of course this works to our advantage when our mind is engaged in something positive or uplifting, but it can just as well work against us when it’s engaged in something negative or undesirable.

But the good news is that we can change our thought habits just like we change any other habit: with repetition and persistence.  How do we know this?  Because that’s how our negative or pessimistic thinking became so natural to begin with.  It all started with thoughts that we entertained, then entertained some more, then recalled and entertained again, until now those thoughts just seem to naturally come to us on their own, and when we least expect it we find ourselves on a train to Looserville.

Like everything else, making a change in thought patterns takes practice and persistence, but it all begins with awareness.  If you’ve determined that you want to change the thought seeds that you’re planting in your mind, make it a point to become more aware of your thoughts throughout the day; whenever you catch yourself thinking less than favorable thoughts, don’t beat yourself up for it.  Instead, be glad that you caught yourself and reach for a better thought.

But if you are feeling a strong negative emotion associated with the thoughts you’re thinking, remember our river analogy from a previous post and make the jump gradually so that you don’t end up in the river.  With practice and persistence you’ll soon turn your new thought patters into a habit, and the less than desirable thoughts will fade away.

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The Stigma Associated With Sacrifice

Have you ever met a person who says “I’ve sacrificed xyz for xyz” with a smile on their face?  I haven’t.  I can usually tell by the tone of their voice or the look on their face that the feeling associated with their sacrifice is not a positive one, and I’m beginning to think it has something to do with the stigma associated with the word itself.

The dictionary defines sacrifice as:

An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.

That makes sense to me.  But why then do we have this somewhat negative emotion associated with it?  Shouldn’t the emotion elicited from the true recognition of the worthier cause be joy or something similar?

I thought about this, and realized that generally when I say that I’m making a sacrifice I may feel a somewhat negative emotion because I may be focused on what I’m losing or giving up rather than on the worthier cause; I may be, therefore, feeling the loss or absence of what I’m giving up instead of the joy of why I’m giving it up.

The stigma generally associated with sacrifice is one of loss, suffering, or going without. This in itself has the potential to create feelings of resentment or self-glorification.  I may consider myself a nobler person because I’ve made sacrifices.  Therefore, you must look upon me as a nobler person, too, and praise me for my ability to make such a sacrifice. On the other hand, if I‘m focused on my loss, and the worthier cause for which I gave up something ends up going south, the feeling of loss may turn to resentment.  “I sacrificed [fill in the blank] for this? What a waste!”

I’m sure not everyone views sacrifices this way, but my experience has been that when people (including me) speak of sacrifices, they generally do so with an almost sarcastic tone.   I’ve decided that I would like to change that about myself.  I would like to change my perspective so that when I sacrifice something for the sake of a worthier cause, I am so intently focused on the worthier cause itself that whatever it is that I’m giving up no longer even matters.

When parents work in order to earn money to support their family, aren’t they sacrificing something?  They certainly are. They are sacrificing family time, or fun time, or “me” time.  Yet we normally don’t call that a sacrifice.  Even parents themselves don’t call it a sacrifice.  Why? Because the focus is not on what they are giving up but on the worthier cause, taking care of their families.  No body even thinks of the time and energy that is being expended or given, because the focus is not on the loss, but on the gain that results from the loss.

These are the types of sacrifices that I’d like to make.  To others it may seem like I’m making a sacrifice, but to me it would simply feel like the most natural thing to do.  I want to get to the point where, having acknowledged and assimilated the worthier cause, the absence of what is being offered simply no longer matters.

How will I go about making this change?  I don’t know yet, but while I figure it out I’ll start by making it a point to change my perspective.  Perhaps that is all that is needed!

What does sacrifice mean to you?  What feelings have you experienced as a result of the sacrifices you’ve made?

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When Positive Affirmations Don’t Work

Positive thinking word cloud

Several years ago I was introduced to the use of affirmations as a way to overcome negative thoughts or behavior patterns.  I learned that I was to write out positive statements stating how I wanted to be or what I wanted to accomplish; they were supposed to be written in the first person and in the present tense.  I was then supposed to repeat these affirmations hundreds of times a day (or at least as often as possible) from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. While repeating them I was supposed to feel and behave as if the statements I was making were already true.

If you’re anything like me you know that this is easier said than done.  Remembering to do the affirmations throughout the day was a challenge of its own, but actually feeling as if the affirmations were already true was the real kicker.

When using affirmations such as “I have all the money I want and need” or “I have an abundance of money at my disposal,” acting as if they are already true does not come as easy as positive affirmation gurus make it sound, especially when your bank account is about to reach below zero temperatures, you are knee-deep in debt and are staring at a pile of bills, and your car is complaining that it doesn’t feel good and may need a trip to the car doctor.

I thought that making those positive affirmations was supposed to help me feel better and help me manifest my fondest desires, but instead they left me feeling like a deluded pathological liar.  Instead of raising my spirits they managed to heighten my awareness of my real situation, and this in turn made me feel angry, frustrated and hopeless.

I read and re-read the positive affirmation material to make sure I was doing it correctly.  I watched and re-watched the videos showing people who had used positive affirmations successfully.  Apparently I was doing everything right, yet this was not working for me for some reason.  There were many times when I thought that something must be wrong with me, because no matter how much I did this positive affirmation stuff I was not feeling any better, let alone “manifesting my fondest desires” like the gurus claimed to do.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that I was, in fact, doing something wrong.  The emotional jump that I was trying to make from feeling hopeless to feeling awesome was far too great.  At first I thought I didn’t have enough momentum to make that big of a jump from one emotional state to the other, but then I realized that the issue was not the momentum, but the gap.

Allow me to illustrate.  Imagine that you are you are standing by a river and you want to get to the other side of it.  The side that you are standing on represents a very low emotional state such as hopelessness, and other side represents the ideal emotional state that you want to get to, such as joy, excitement or exhilaration.  The river is about 300 feet wide.  So to get to the other side you decide that you are going to take a few steps back to gain momentum, run as fast as you can and attempt to make it across the river in one big jump.  What do you think might happen?

Unless you have some form of secret superpower that allows you to make that big of a jump, you’ll likely end up in the river.   The distance between where you are and where you want to be is far too great and you’ll likely not make it dry.  That’s the equivalent of trying to instantly transition between two emotions that are so far apart from each other.

So I decided to modify my approach a little bit. Instead of trying to get to the other side of the river by attempting a single jump, I decided to make multiple smaller jumps by using the protruding rocks across the river.  Each of these rocks represents an emotion that is just slightly better than the emotion I’m currently standing on.  So I would jump from hopelessness to sadness, for instance, and stand there long enough to regain my posture.  This type of a jump would certainly be a lot easier to make, and it wouldn’t take a lot of effort.

“Wait a minute!” you might say. “There is nothing positive about sadness!”  But you’d be wrong.  Maybe in the big scheme of things sadness is not considered a positive emotion per se, but it certainly is less negative compared to hopelessnessAnd remember, we’re not making sadness the ultimate goal.  We’re simply using it as a stepping stone (pun intended) to make it across the river to the emotion that we really want.  We stand there just long enough to regain our posture and make sure we don’t slip, and then we make the next jump.

So we go from hopelessness to sadness, and from that to the next emotion that is just slightly better than sadness, and so on and so on, stepping from rock to rock until we get to the other side of the river.  You can see how this approach is much easier to implement and requires much less effort than trying to make it to the other side in a single jump.

I know what you may be thinking.  Wouldn’t moving from one negative emotion to another (even if it is less negative) only perpetuate those feelings?  And the answer is, not if you do it in the way I stated.  While it is true that you don’t want to wallow in negative emotions, you also don’t want to attempt to make a huge transition in one fell swoop because that is almost always guaranteed to fail, and then you will definitely continue to wallow in those negative emotions.  The trick is to keep your affirmations kind of real, so that the resistance created in your mind is small to none.  Rather than trying to deny how you really feel, you acknowledge the current emotion and play with your words just enough to move up to the next less negative emotion.

When I tried this approach, it made a world of difference.  It did take me longer to get there than if I had been able to do it in a single jump.  But the truth is that I never managed to do it in a single jump and I remained in that negative emotion longer; however, with this new approach, I was able to transition to my desired emotion every single time.  So overall, the “longer route” was definitely a shortcut for me.

Positive affirmations do work but some of us need a more gradual approach, and that’s perfectly okay.  If you have struggled with positive affirmations the way that I have, don’t give up just yet.  Give this approach a try first and let me know how it goes.  Also, if you have any suggestions of things that you’ve tried and have worked for you, please share in the comments below so other readers can benefit.  I’d love to hear from you!

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