Make sure you are standing in the right line.
Recently, I entered a poetry contest for my city of West Allis, Wisconsin. First of all, I would like to say that I thought this was a great opportunity for citizens to become involved with the city. In previous posts I have mentioned the mayor and the good programs he has put forth. This program came from the West Allis Public Library Board of Directors and I am so humbled that they chose me as a winner. There are two points that this event made me think of and I wanted to take this opportunity to share them with you.
The first is that this is just another example of the steps that West Allis is taking to improve both the city and the quality of life for its citizens. It shows a commitment to excellence and resurgence for a city that many left for dead when manufacturing jobs began to disappear. It is a good reminder not to give up on your city. With some forward thinking, and creative initiatives a city can begin to become vibrant and full of vitality again. It is also a good reminder to search out and get involved in programs your city might offer. If you cannot find programs such as these in your city it presents a great opportunity to speak with elected officials to begin to set some up. Elected officials are not just the only ones to turn to either. There are community groups, senior centers, clubs and organizations that have many chances to become active in your city. Contests and activities like this foster a sense of community. In doing so they help neighbors get to know each other which can reduce crime and increase a safe atmosphere in which to raise a family and spend your days.
The second point that this contest brought to mind was an opportunity to both inspire my fellow neighbors as well as promote the good things that happen in the city. A quick glance in the newspaper or on social media will supply you with plenty of reasons in which you may NOT want to visit and/or live in a city. It is always a good idea to balance those out with promoting good events that are happening as well. In my city there is a neighborhood walk to encourage physical fitness, a monthly coffee with the mayor in which citizens can relax with a cup of coffee and hear exactly what is happening in the city from the mayor himself. There is also a new dog park being planned and built as well as roughly $200 million worth of new developments in various stages. There are what seems like a thousand other great things I could mention here that are going on as well.
Maybe your city is not as fortunate as mine, but truly there is something great going on in your city as well. Make it known. Get the neighbors involved. Like in my poem below, it is by becoming the best citizens we can that we create the best cities possible. I encourage you to promote all the good that is happening in your city. While you are reading this, feel free to check out my winning poem, along with the other 5 winners that I am honored to be joined by. At a future date all of these poems will be placed in concrete to honor the authors. Still another great event to look forward to in West Allis.
Last post I told you about some people I interviewed that had every reason to be negative and jaded about life. You will be able to read all the interviews in my upcoming book Living the Dream. Right now I will tell you their challenges included miscarriages, abuse of physical, emotional and sexual nature. They had major health challenges. Their families were killed and they were forced to flee countries due to a civil war. Despite, and in some cases because of these challenges, they are some of the most positive people you will ever meet. I asked myself, and them, how is that possible?
The secret was they were all able to control their thoughts and thus controlled their lives. How did they do it? Honestly, they all had their own unique ways which you will be able to read about in my book. For today’s post, however, I am going to share one thing they all had in common. If you add this one thing to your life it will do a great deal to help you overcome whatever challenge you have in life. We are going to look at what that common trait was and some fun ways to use it in our own lives.
You may have guessed from the picture that the common trait that all of these people shared was gratitude. In challenges far greater than I had ever faced, each one of them found reasons to be grateful. If they can do it facing the kind of challenges we mentioned above, surely we can utilize gratitude to take control of the thoughts and challenges in our own daily lives.
Finding something to be grateful for in a challenging situation can be difficult, especially in the beginning. Like any other muscle, our gratitude muscle will grow stronger with use. In the beginning, however, it helps to have a few tools and tips to help foster a sense of gratitude. My advice when diving into this is to resist the temptation to attempt to change everything at once. Remember, you are trying to change thought patterns you have built up over years. Pick one topic and start slow. Not only will it be less difficult, but it will actually increase your chances of success. Let us look at a few ways in which to start infusing our lives with more gratitude.
The first method is pretty straight forward and works well for difficult areas of our lives. Pick an area of your life that does not bring you joy. For our example let us say that you are not crazy about your job. At a time where you are not otherwise occupied, such as driving in your car or at the job you dislike so much, grab a pen and piece of paper. Next, get comfortable. Maybe make yourself a fresh cup of coffee or tea if that is your thing. Put on some relaxing or fun music. Now begin to think of everything about your job in which you are grateful for. You may find your mind a little reluctant at first, but stick with it. Maybe you don’t feel your job pays you what you would like, but be grateful it does pay you. It may not allow you to take that vacation to Fiji, but it does allow you to keep the lights on. It gives you a reason to get out of bed and be active. It introduces you to different people. Sure, they may not all be perfect people, but it allows you to be social. It also allows you to practice and strengthen your skills of being hopeful and positive. Just like muscles, these things only grow and get stronger when they are challenged. When you have a pretty good list going put it in a jacket pocket or in the car. Somewhere you can take it with you. Next time you are on the way to work look at and review this list. Read it right before you walk in the door. It will at least help balance the frustration.
The next way to put more gratitude in your life can be looked at as a game to play. I do this one on the way to work as well and find it puts my mind in a great place before I get there. As I drive along I look for as many things as I can that I love. This can be the color of a house I am driving by, or the humor behind someone’s personalized plates on the car ahead of me. Sometimes it is a nice dog walking down the street, or a fun jacket someone waiting for the bus is wearing. A good practice is to say these things out loud. “Wow! I love that jacket!” or “What a fun color to paint a house/door/car!” Even hearing yourself say these things out loud can put you in a better frame of mind.
These are just two ideas for increasing the feeling of gratitude in your life. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below. There are a million ways to add and strengthen the gratitude you already have in your life. I encourage you to try them all. The more grateful you are, the more likely you are to have control of your thoughts.
The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. I used to think quotes like this were a bunch a new-age nonsense. I also used to be a pretty angry and depressed person. Personal perception can do a lot to change your life. This may be hard to believe, but let me ask you a question. Have you ever read about, or perhaps even known someone personally, who seems to have the worst situation but has the best attitude? I am sure we all have. In my upcoming book Living the Dream I have a collection of interviews with people who seem to have every reason to be depressed, angry, jaded or a host of other unpleasant emotions, but yet are some of the most positive and inspiring people I know.
The million-dollar question is how do they do it? They control their thoughts. It is not easy and is not something they woke up doing all of a sudden. They ask themselves empowering questions such as, “What is good about this?” and “How can I use this?” I am certain there are times when the first answers that pop into their minds are not the most inspiring, but they keep asking.
The hard truth is that we cannot control all the circumstances of our lives, no matter how hard we try. We just do not have that power. What we can control is how we react to those circumstances. We have all heard the cliché “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” The reason things become cliché is because they have some truth to them.
Finding out how to make lemonade out of your particular lemons can be a tricky and ongoing process. The payout, however, is control over your life. Once you can control your thoughts, life can no longer control you. The tough times cannot bring you down because you will be able to both find the good in them, as well as use them to your advantage.
The next post we will look at another way in which all of the people I interviewed for my book control their thoughts. It is one trait they all have in common. Once you introduce this trait into your life and combine it with the two questions we mentioned here, you will be well on your way to controlling your thoughts!
A lot of people think they can only be considered a success when they achieve their goals. That is not even close to true. Being someone who loves the process is just as important as achieving your goals. You can set a great example in several ways. Let us take a look at a few of them.
First is your ability to stay focused and moving forward. Some people call this ‘drive’ some people call it ‘persistence’. Whatever you call it, managing to go through the process day after day can inspire others to do the same. A lot of individuals I know have a hard time staying focused, especially when they are not seeing results. Seeing someone who continues to put the work in despite the results not being visible right away is inspiring. Think of that person who is struggling to get in shape, but still shows up at the gym every day. Personally, I find those people inspiring.
Another way to be a masterpiece while you are a work in progress is to show how you handle adversity. Everyone can be smiling and positive when the chips are going their way, but when the wheels fall off and things start going downhill that is when a person’s true character is revealed. Someone who can handle obstacles while staying calm, motivated and positive is a masterpiece!
Lastly, do not give up. It was Babe Ruth, the famous baseball player who said, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” If Babe Ruth would have given up every time he struck out, he would not be the masterpiece of professional baseball that he is now. Believe in yourself. Not only will you be a masterpiece, but you may inspire others to do the same.
As an author and motivational speaker, people often come up to me and ask things such as, “how do I fix my life?” Or “what is the amazing wisdom of the day?” I don’t really mind answering these questions, but find it amazing people are looking for instant answers to problems created over years. I liken it to eating junk food for years then asking a trainer to get you in shape for your wedding… next week. I presume those of you in the fitness field no doubt have stories like this.
Understanding that we live in a nanosecond world where there is an instant fix for almost everything, I do my best to supply individuals with some universally applicable nugget of wisdom. There are a few powerful things that can change a life when applied with conviction.
Lately, I have been thinking about the quote above. All we really have is today. We cannot change the past no matter how hard we try. If we wish to correct something from the past, we must take different action…today.
The future will arrive when it does. If we wish to be prepared, or are worried about some upcoming events, the only way we can affect our future is through the actions we take…today.
This moment is all we have, but it is very powerful. It can help correct, though not undo, our past. It can affect and direct our future. What matters is what we do today. Make sure whatever we do, that we do it to the best of our ability. An honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind.
Above is a picture of my beautiful Margie and I at the gym after a good workout. Not so glamorous, but it serves the point we are talking about here quite well. One of the most important words in both personal development as well as in spiritual development is faith. This can be a difficult concept for some to describe. To be quite general faith is a belief that everything is going to turn out for the best. Those with a good amount of faith tend to lead a more positive life. Faith can certainly serve us in the darkest of times.
What about living in faith? How can we live a life that demonstrates that we have a good deal of faith? This can be even trickier than defining exactly what faith is to us. Just so we are all on the same page, I am going to being referring to a more secular type of faith, but the principles apply equally to both.
Faith can be a great motivating tool if we use it to better our lives. It is with this thought in mind I would like to explore another word for faith. If we really understand what I am going to say next, I believe it will not only make our definition of faith a little clearer, but help us discover new ways to live a life of faith.
Earl Nightingale is one of my favorite authors and philosophers. If you do not know who he is yet, I would recommend looking him up and listening to his work The Strangest Secret. Earl once said “Persistence is another word for faith. If you didn’t have faith, you wouldn’t persist.” If you think about it, that is very true. Faith motivates us to keep going when times are tough, knowing there is a greater plan and that things will eventually work out. If we have faith in humanity, we can keep from getting jaded when we read stories in the news of the terrible things people can do to one another, or when we experience some of those things ourselves. To the above example of putting yourself through a workout on the faith that eventually you will be fit and healthy.
Faith is also being persistent when things seem to be going against you. You have faith in your friend and then they let you down. Having faith that your friend is a good person allows you to trust them again and be forgiving. After all, haven’t we let people down before? Even the example of being healthy. Les Brown, another personal favorite author and speaker, once said, “You have to have faith in your plan. I have lost 20 pounds…several times.” In addition to being able to relate to that statement, it serves to remind us of the importance of having faith in ourselves. By doing so, we can persist in pursuing our goals.
Live a life of faith. Be persistent in your efforts for good. Be forgiving and compassionate towards others. Most importantly, use those two statements on the most important person in your life, you. Have faith in yourself. When you make a mistake or let yourself down, know that you will do good once again. You may have gotten off track, but as long as you know what the track is, you can get back on again. By doing so you are demonstrating your faith.