YOUR IDEAL LIFE

Fireworks

As we welcome a new year, many people are making resolutions. I prefer to set goals rather than make a laundry list of “should do’s” that I will probably give up after a couple of weeks because they are just so dull, tedious and uninspiring! I promise you that the exercise I’m suggesting in this post will be a lot of fun and you’ll probably really enjoy doing it!

What I want to encourage you to do as 2018 begins is imagine your ideal life, the life you would want to live right now, if you had absolutely no restrictions. This is the time to let go of any limitations, such as money, time, circumstances, age…anything. The only rule is that the life you imagine must be a life that would suit YOU as the person YOU are. It has to be believable for you, or it won’t work. In other words, it would be of no use to picture yourself as the President of the United States if you have no interest in politics and would never run for public office, or to imagine that you are another person entirely (i.e., your favorite celebrity or public figure). This would be so beyond the realm of possibility that you would not be able to really get into the whole exercise. You can imagine your fondest dreams, but they need to be YOUR dreams; they need to be something that you can really believe!

Give your imagination free rein and ask yourself: If I could have any situation I wanted, what sort of life would make me happy at this time?” I specify “at this time,” because our idea of what constitutes an ideal life changes and evolves as we do. Don’t worry about whether or not you might change your mind one day…this exercise is for now.

Here are some suggested questions to guide this imaginative journey. Jot down your answers in your journal or a notebook for further development later on. Take as much time as you need to formulate your answers. This should be an enjoyable, relaxing and uplifting pastime – no pressure. Do not get bogged down or discouraged by thinking about what your life is right now. Just let yourself dream!

In your ideal life:

  • Where would you be living (town, state, country)? Near the ocean, in the mountains, in a big city? Warm climate, a four-season climate, a colder climate?
  • Who would you be living with (if anyone)? Would you have a spouse, partner, any children, any pets?
  • What things would be in your environment that would make you happy (furnishings, vehicles, other possessions)?
  • How would you look? What would you be wearing?
  • How much money would make you feel secure and comfortable?
  • What would be your ideal job/career?
  • If you are retired or don’t prefer a career, what is the ideal way you would spend your time most days?
  • What talent or skill would you excel at?
  • Would you travel, and if so, where would you go?
  • What would you love to accomplish?
  • What would you like to leave behind as your legacy to the world; for what would you most like to be remembered?

One effective way to come up with answers is to imagine how you would feel if you found out that you only had another year to live. Suddenly, all those unachieved goals, latent talents and unresolved issues would become front and center in your life. Use this as a jumping-off point to discover what really matters to you.

Now that you have your answers written down, it’s time to develop them into achievable goals. Take each answer from the preceding questions and tweak them so that they become realistic enough to become an actual goal. For instance, if you answered that “a billion dollars” would make you feel secure and comfortable, honestly ask yourself if you really would need that large an amount. Would you feel financially secure and be able to live comfortably with $1,000,000? With $500,000? Would an extra $100,000 or $50,000 give you peace of mind? This is a personal thing; everyone’s needs and comfort levels are different. It’s true that some people will never feel secure no matter how much money they have; but most of us have a “magic number” that we feel would do the trick.

If your dream is to be a Broadway star or a famous singer, this could be a possibility for some of you, but could you still be happy if you performed in community theatre, or sang with a band at local venues? Sometimes all we want is a chance to share our talents and shine a little bit, even if we never become superstars. After all, we know that fame and fortune do not always equal happiness.

After you have gone through your list of answers and come up with versions of them that seem believable to you, the next step is to formulate them into actual goals. I heard a great quote recently: “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Dreaming alone will never help us achieve anything; we need to unite dreaming with planning and action. Some of these goals will be short-term; others might take months, and still others years. It doesn’t matter; all that matters is that you create a plan that will bring you step-by-step closer to your dreams.

In this post, we’re going to take the first step in the plan to transform your dreams into achievable goals: Create a visual representation of Your Ideal Life. You can choose one or more of the following – or even do them all! It’s your dream, so do whatever works:

  1. CREATE A VISION BOARD: Get a large piece of poster board or foam-core board, or even one of those memory boards that people use for photos. On this vision board, you will post at least one picture for each aspect of Your Ideal Life. You can write “My Ideal Life” at the top of the board if you wish. Cut pictures from magazines, print out online pictures, or draw your own. Attach the pictures to your vision board, and in the center of the board put a picture of yourself, smiling and looking happy. Put the vision board in a place where you will see it every day.
  1. MAKE AN “IDEAL LIFE” SCREENSAVER: This is similar to the vision board, except that you will save the pictures to your computer as a screensaver. This is a great way to keep your goals always before your eyes! You can also post them in the image gallery of your smartphone where you can look at them every day, or make a collage of them in a photo-editing program and use them as the home screen on your phone.
  1. MAKE A TREASURE BOX: Buy an attractive box with a hinged lid, or use a decorative photo box with a lid. Embellish it any way you like with beads, glass gems, stickers, paint, etc. Inside the box put pictures and symbolic objects that represent each aspect of Your Ideal Life. For instance, if you want better finances, put some money in the box. If you want to live by the seashore, find a pretty shell and place that in the box. You can also write down each aspect of your dream on  slips of paper or index cards and place those in the box as well. Keep the box in a prominent place of honor where you will see it often. 
  1. CREATE AN “IDEAL LIFE” SCRAPBOOK: If you enjoy scrapbooking, or simply are the type of person who feels more connected by holding a tangible object like a book, buy yourself an attractive scrapbook and mount Your Ideal Life pictures inside it. Have a separate page for each aspect of Your Ideal Life. Give the page a title, and decorate it with appropriate stickers, or draw designs on it that represent your goals. Keep it in a safe place but where it is easily accessible to you.

Keep whatever visual representation you choose handy and look at it often. You do not have to have it in open view if you are afraid that other people will make fun of it or otherwise discourage you. Sit in a comfortable place when you have enough time to give it attention. Let the images, designs, objects and words permeate your consciousness. Smile as you immerse yourself in this visual representation of Your Ideal Life.

Another excellent way to impress your ideals on your subconscious mind is to visualize Your Ideal Life every night as you are falling asleep. It’s a way to put yourself in a positive mood at bedtime, which also can lead to better sleep.

Once daily is enough time to spend with Your Ideal Life exercise. Do not obsess over it. You must live in the present at the same time you are visualizing your future. If you get obsessive about your goals, constantly comparing your dreams to your current less-than-ideal situation, you will get depressed and discouraged about how far away you feel you are from them. When you do get disheartened because your dreams seem unattainable, just remind yourself that although you are not there yet, you are getting closer every day to a better life.

Also stay open to the idea that you might get something different from what you expect will make you happy right now, but it will be something that is actually better and more appropriate and attainable for you. Hold your dreams, but hold them loosely. Think of them like a little baby bird you have in your hand who will get crushed if you squeeze it too hard. Only if you hold it gently will it grow strong enough to be able to soar one day.

I have used all of these methods at one time or another. The first one I tried was the scrapbook. I was amazed a few years later when I came across the scrapbook again and saw that every one of the goals depicted in it had come true!

I want to close this post by apologizing for not having posted in quite some time. The reason is that I was reassessing my own life and formulating some new goals. One important goal is wanting to do more with my artwork. Art has always been a passion of mine since childhood, and although I have drawn, painted and done commissioned portraits for many years, I feel that at this time in my life I want to give it more attention, a more prominent place in my life.

Part of my plan for my own Ideal Life involves taking more commissions, doing much more artwork, and making people happy with it. I have spent the last several weeks making a new website for my art, and also creating more artwork. I do not intend to give up this blog, but I am working on balancing the various aspects of my life in a harmonious yet productive way.

If you’d like to visit my new art website, it is: http://gloriapinskerportraits.com

In my next post, we’ll explore more techniques to bring planning and action to your dreams to create Your Ideal Life. Happy New Year! I wish all of you the best in 2018. May all your dreams come true!

CHALLENGES TO STAYING POSITIVE

Smiling & Frowning Man

Living with Light #3

My last two posts focused on becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings, releasing the negative and focusing on the positive, so that we can discover our true heart’s yearnings, utilizing the Law of Attraction. In this post, I want to talk about something that, although unpleasant, is often part of the journey towards changing our thought patterns and fulfilling our goals.  I hadn’t been planning to write about this particular aspect yet, but my own experiences since my last post appeared have messed with my original outline for this blog! When something like that happens, I assume that it’s for a reason and maybe it’s what I need to write about at this particular time. So here goes:

Over the last several months, I have been formulating a new set of goals that focused on several areas of my life, and keeping watch on my thoughts and feelings so that I could remain positive. No human being can think and feel positive 100% of the time, but if we can raise the percentage to at least 51% positive vs. negative (the higher the % the better), we will see significant changes in our lives. I was very excited about my goals, and was utilizing many of the processes for manifesting them with the Law of Attraction, which I believe is simply a matter of cooperating with the Divine to bring about the best circumstances for our particular life journey.

However, very shortly after my last post, most of the goals I had been carefully considering and planning came under fire and began to look as though they would completely fall apart. I won’t bore you with a lot of personal details, but here in a nutshell is what happened: First, an online friend reacted with negativity and criticism to some of my beliefs, which hurt me and deflated some of my enthusiasm, despite the fact that I knew I shouldn’t let it. Then, a particular event caused my husband to get cold feet again about a relocation goal which had just been starting to get his support. Some of my efforts concerning other goals seemed to meet with indifference and a lack of results (insert cricket chirping sounds here). All in all, my confidence was badly shaken, leaving me feeling adrift, without direction, discouraged about my goals, and finding it difficult to remain positive and hopeful.

Meanwhile, through another set of circumstances, a goal that I had not been focusing on suddenly came to the forefront. Although I did not feel receptive to it at first, I soon found myself becoming excited about that goal again, much to my surprise. So at least this was a positive development. But still, I must admit that all these circumstances threw me for a loop, causing me to rethink my goals, putting some of them on hold, changing my strategy on others, and focusing on some I had not been previously considering.

I know that I am not alone in this experience. I have heard often about this sort of thing happening to other people when they begin to make positive changes in their lives and pursue their dreams. In fact, it has happened to me before regarding goals I have set in the past. Sometimes I did attain those goals eventually, and in other cases those goals were replaced with other, better ones. So, since I have been thinking a lot about this turn of events in my own life, I thought it would be helpful to explore some of the reasons why things like this might happen just when we have set our goals and started to seriously work towards them:

  • Course Correction: Whenever I set goals, I always pray that what I am pursuing is in keeping with the Divine will for my life. It’s never wise to doggedly and blindly pursue goals without seeking guidance, because we often can end up unhappy because some of our goals may not turn out to be what we expected and instead cause trouble and regret. I totally trust that God always leads me in the right direction, provided I keep an open mind and heart. So when setbacks and disappointments rear their heads, I seriously consider whether Divine guidance is correcting my course and showing me that what I am pursuing is not a true goal and is not beneficial to me in the long run. (More about Course Corrections in an upcoming post).
  • Cosmic Shake-Up: Whenever we set a goal, it requires the Universe, guided by the Divine Mind, to put things in motion to bring it about for us. Because of this, it sometimes means that for a while things will be in chaos. But if we stay open and trusting, we will discern whether there is something we need to do differently or better in pursuit of our goals. Sometimes we just need to wait a bit for “the dust to settle,” and we will see our way clear again.
  • Test of our Determination: How committed are we to our goals? Can we stay the course, even when other people tear down our beliefs and aspirations, even when it seems that everything is falling apart, and/or we feel we don’t have what it takes to succeed at our goals? Sometimes setbacks are a way of putting our determination to the test.
  • Test of our Trust and Faith in the Divine: Even though we say that we want to do God’s will, and that we don’t want any goal that is not in our best interest or that of others involved, because we are human, deep-down we are always hoping that God’s will is the same as our own. It’s only natural that when a goal appears to be crumbling, we will feel deeply disappointed, maybe even a little bitter and angry. But it’s important not to immediately give up on all of our goals. We need to continue to put our faith in Divine guidance and do our best to keep an open mind, trusting that if one goal is not meant to be, then something different and better will take its place.
  • Divine Detour: Almost all of our goals do, out of necessity, involve other people and circumstances. Because they have free will, sometimes other people might be disinclined or unable to do their part in what is needed to allow our plans to succeed. It can also be that another person’s involvement or cooperation in our goal would not be in their best interest. This does not always mean that our goals won’t manifest, but it may mean that a detour and/or delay is necessary. Think of it like your GPS recalculating your route when you come across a road that’s closed.

 

Woman-ClosedRoad

  1. Things in Our Life are Out of Balance: Sometimes we can develop tunnel vision about our goals, and in the process ignore or put on the back burner other goals, gifts and areas of our life that are actually important for us to focus on now. I suspect that this is what recently happened to me. I trust that there is a good reason why I have been called upon to resurrect a particular goal that has been dormant in my life for the past couple of years. I have now included this other goal in my plans. I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I’m enjoying including it in my life again, even though at first I was reluctant, even resentful about it.

These are some of the reasons we experience setbacks, even complete chaos and confusion, when we set goals and make the decision to effect positive change in our lives. Although these “roadblocks” are disturbing and discouraging, it’s important to stay determined to remain positive and keep our minds and hearts open to where our path may lead, even if we can’t see very far ahead right now.

I would love to hear some of your own experiences and insights into this problem. So, if you’d like to share, please comment below.

Releasing Negative Thoughts & Feelings

LIVING WITH LIGHT #2:

Girl Blowing on Dandelion-resized

Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash

In my last post (“Time to Wake Up” – Living with Light #1) we explored the subject of negative thinking and how it can set us up for failure at what we want to be, do, or have, how it can keep attracting the same bad situations into our life and adversely affect how we act and react to the world around us. I listed a number of common negative thoughts so that we could identify the areas in which we seem to have the most trouble. In this way, we are “waking up” spiritually and mentally by recognizing the numerous negative thoughts we have on a daily basis.  If you did not see this list, please read my last post, the first in an ongoing series that will explore in simple steps how to change your circumstances for the better, how to cooperate with the Creator to bring more joy, peace and abundance into your life.

So, once we’ve identified some of our negative thought patterns, how do we turn things around? Most negativity is an expression of what we hate, fear, and want to avoid — in other words, all the things we DON’T want! Thoughts are energy, and because “like attracts like,” constantly dwelling on what we don’t want will keep bringing what we don’t want into our lives. The subconscious mind accepts everything you tell it, whether good or bad, positive or negative. For instance, it doesn’t matter if you say, “I don’t want to be poor.” You are still thinking about poverty and probably fearing it, which is subconsciously setting you up to fall prey to more circumstances, people, and bad decisions that will keep you from having more money. Furthermore, the negative energy you are emitting will draw those circumstances and people to you.

To bring about change, we need to focus on what we love and yearn for, rather than what we don’t love and don’t want. Think of it this way: Supposing you went with a group of friends to an all-you-can-eat buffet. You go down the buffet table looking at all the varieties of food, and every time you see a food that you dislike and would never want to eat, you add it to your plate. By the time you get to the end of the buffet, your dish is filled with food you can’t stand. You pay for it and go sit at the table with your friends. You sit there, not eating, feeling hungry and miserable, while your friends are heartily eating and enjoying their food.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Who the heck would do that???” Well, we do exactly that every time we waste our valuable energy by thinking and talking about what we DON’T want out of life! The friends who are enjoying their meal represent the people who focus their thoughts and energies on the things they truly want, to which they aspire, who love their lives and feel happy and satisfied, while you look on and wonder why you are so miserable. Would it help you to resent and envy them because they are enjoying their food and you’re not? No, because you chose the food yourself! This life is a precious treasure — God’s gift to you. Your power to co-create with God the kind of life you truly want is part of this gift. Why would you waste it on things you don’t want? Why would you expend your precious time and energy perpetuating a life that is unsatisfying to you?

Remember, a random negative thought or two will not bring a host of bad things upon you. There is a time delay between our thoughts and their consequences, and positive thoughts are a great deal stronger than negative ones. That’s the good news! The bad news, though, is that sustained or habitual negative thoughts, especially when accompanied by strong emotion, will eventually attract negative things into your life. Like the food you chose at the buffet, the currency of your thoughts and feelings is capable of bringing both good and bad things to you. It’s a matter of which ones you choose.

GorgeousSunrise-Sunset_Final

Photo (without text) by Ravi Pinisetti on Unsplash

Because we have tens of thousands of thoughts a day, it is impossible to monitor each one. But an easy way to identify your predominant thoughts is to tune into your feelings, because your feelings are the result of your thoughts. Are you feeling negative emotions, such as: boredom, irritability, disappointment, anger, worry, depression, hatred, envy, guilt or fear? Or are you feeling positive emotions like love, gratitude, joy, excitement, enthusiasm, hope, satisfaction? Don’t feel guilty or afraid because you are experiencing a negative emotion or thinking a negative thought, as that is just adding more negativity!

We don’t want to deny our negative emotions and pretend they don’t exist, because they often serve to point out areas in our lives that need our attention. Also, it is natural to feel negative emotions at particular crisis points in our lives, i.e., loss of a job, death of a loved one. If this is the case, you must allow yourself to experience the emotions, and to seek help if necessary. We’re also not talking here about serious mental or emotional illness, such as clinical depression or bipolar disorder, for which one needs to be under medical supervision. What we’re discussing are the typical thoughts and emotions that most of us experience on a regular basis. However, even if you are going through a life crisis or suffering from a mental illness, you can still apply these principles in addition to any other help you may be receiving.

Self-awareness is the key. Once you are aware of why you are feeling a particular way, you can then understand what your emotions are telling you and what changes you can make to improve your circumstances. You can then achieve mastery of your conscious thoughts. One way to do this is to practice a simple form of meditation. Don’t let the word “meditation” scare you. I don’t mean that you need to sit in Lotus Position for two hours every day and chant “Om” (although this is perfectly fine if you want to do it!). You only need a few minutes, and the following practice is very simple and will become easier with time:

Set a timer for 10 minutes. Sit comfortably in a quiet room (turn off all your devices and ask to not be disturbed). Begin to focus on your breathing and/or picture a blank movie screen in your mind. As you sit there, thoughts will naturally bubble up. Just “watch” the thoughts. Don’t get involved with them; just witness them, and then turn your mind gently but firmly back to your breathing or to the blank movie screen.

If the thought is negative, acknowledge that you had a negative thought. Do not try to resist it, because resistance means you are focused on it with powerful emotion, which will only make it stronger. Just release it without judgement or guilt. Continue this way until the timer goes off. Make an effort to do this every day, or at least several times a week. You will find that you feel more relaxed and focused after this, and may want to do it for longer periods. Eventually you will reach a point where the intruding thoughts will decrease, and you will experience longer periods of peace as your mind lets go of its constant chatter.

If you are feeling particularly sad, angry, depressed or fearful, you can use the following exercise to get to the root of your feelings and release them:

Sit in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed, with all electronic devices turned off or in another room. Focus on your breathing until you become more relaxed. Then ask yourself why you are feeling unhappy, and express the reason out loud, i.e., “I am afraid that I won’t find another job,” or “I’m sad and lonely because my love life is terrible right now.” Once you have identified the emotion and its cause, don’t try to resist it or force it to go away. “Fighting” an emotion (like “fighting” an illness) usually doesn’t work, since it involves negative emotions like anger, resentment or resistance, which can actually attract more negativity to you and make the condition worse.

Face the negative emotion and ask it what it might be trying to teach you. Let it speak to you, without forcing it or censoring it. Learn from what it is telling you. For instance, if you are depressed because you’re sick, the reason you might hear when you ask this question is that your life was out of balance, you were stressed, rushing around, not taking time to relax, not eating and sleeping right. The illness was your body’s way of telling you to slow down and take better care of it, to bring your life into a better balance of mind, body and spirit.

Thank your subconscious mind for giving you the reason. Tell it that you will heed the lesson, and that you no longer need to experience the negative emotions. You can picture yourself letting go of the emotion in any way you like: i.e., blowing it away like dandelion fluff, releasing it as a balloon, or watching it wash away like sand in an ocean wave. Once you learn the lesson that your negative emotion is trying to teach you, it will no longer have a strong hold on you. You will be able to release it and move on.

Once again, do not worry or become anxious about having negative thoughts, as this will attract more negative thoughts to you. We all have numerous negative thoughts occurring throughout each day, but they become a problem only when we dwell upon them and repeat them often or infuse them with strong emotion. Say to yourself, “All my negative thoughts are weak, while my positive thoughts are very powerful!”

Simply by having read this post and the last one, you have become much more aware of any negative thought patterns you have. From now on, you will not be on “automatic pilot,” reacting in the same old way to everything that happens in your life. You will now be aware of your reactions (your thoughts) in each situation and can take action on them! You are now in the driver’s seat of your mind, no longer a helpless and clueless passenger!

Brooding Man_Final

Photo (w/o text) by ANDRIK ↟ LANGFIELD ↟ PETRIDES on Unsplash

The simple forms of meditation given here are an excellent way to become more observant of your thoughts and feelings in order to learn to control them. Meditation has tremendous benefits for mind, body and spirit. There are many excellent books, blogs, and videos about meditation if you would like to explore this practice in more depth. One good blog to check out for meditation tips and links to meditation videos is ThoughtsnLife:  https://thoughtsnlifeblog.com/meditations/

 

Time to Wake Up!

AlarmClock&Coffee

Living with Light #1

No, we’re not talking here about the setting on your alarm clock.  You’re probably thinking, “Obviously, I’m already awake, or I wouldn’t be reading this right now!” You might not be sleeping, but are you fully awake and aware of the life you are creating for yourself at this very moment?

How do you create your life and your future? You do it through the thoughts and feelings that you hold in your mind consistently over a period of time. We have tens of thousands of thoughts a day, but many of them are random and fleeting and don’t have much impact. What does matter, though, are our dominant thoughts — the ones we dwell on consistently, the habitual thought patterns we follow on a regular basis. Those thoughts of today are what draw the events, situations, and people that will form our tomorrow.

What we don’t realize is that what we think consciously and believe subconsciously affects how we act and react to the world around us. It sends out a signal that in turn has an effect on other people, drawing those of like mind to us. This is great if our thoughts are positive and constructive – who doesn’t want to be surrounded by people and situations that lift our spirits, encourage and inspire us to be our best selves? But what if our thoughts are sad, gloomy, bitter, angry, fearful or anxious – do we really want to draw people to us who will just perpetuate this negativity? Please don’t invite me to that party!

Our thoughts also influence our future, because when we are steeped in negativity, we do not make wise choices or take constructive action. We are too reactive, act too hastily without sufficient reflection, respond to others with negativity, try to control or manipulate people, or force events and situations in such a way as to sabotage our own goals and progress.

Many of you may know about the Law of Attraction (LOA), which is based on the theory that “like attracts like.” Personally, I firmly believe in this law because I have seen it manifest over and over in my own life – for both good and bad, depending on the way I was thinking, feeling and acting at the time. Although the LOA was made popular by Rhonda Byrne’s inspiring 2006 movie, The Secret,  it has been written about over the last 100+ years by various “New Thought” authors, and these principles actually have been around in one form or another for thousands of years. They form a part of virtually every major religion, and are mentioned by many great thinkers and spiritual leaders and in many religious texts, including the Judeo-Christian Bible and the teachings of Buddha. They may not have called it “the Law of Attraction,” as that is a relatively new term, but in principle they were teaching the same truths.  We may have heard their words hundreds of times, but just never truly understood or “got it” on a deep, basic level. 

Utilizing the LOA is just another phrase for unwavering faith in Divine Power to manifest that to which we aspire. Although many modern LOA proponents use the term “the Universe,” I prefer the word God or Divine Power instead of “Universe,” because I believe that God is the supreme intelligence that created all things; the Universe is simply a creation through which God works to manifest, using the power of love. But it doesn’t matter what you call it, and you don’t have to be a particularly religious person to utilize it; it is only necessary to have an open mind and to believe in a Power greater than yourself, which is the Source of everything and the loving Force that is present within you and everything else in the Universe. You can refer to this Power by any name that resonates with you.

Even those who are not of a spiritual or metaphysical mindset would likely agree that our subconscious beliefs affect the way we act and appear to others, and that they definitely have an impact on our own bodies and mental/physical health (many medical professionals today acknowledge the mind-body connection). 

NegativeThinking

Image courtesy of kittijaroon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is the first post in an ongoing series that will explore in easy steps how to change your life for the better, how to experience more joy, happiness, serenity and abundance. I like to call this “Living with Light,” as opposed to dwelling in the darkness of negativity. The first step is “waking up” by becoming aware of the quality of our thoughts.  Awareness is the beginning of changing things for the better, because if we walk around unconscious of what we’re doing, we will never change. Below are some questions to help you identify your own habitual thought patterns. 

Do you often say or think any of the following:

  • I’m too ___ (tired, sick, achy, weak, old, young, fat, ugly, stupid, etc.)
  • I’ll never be able to _____ I’m not ______(fill in the blank)
  • I’m a bad sleeper
  • I can’t relax…I can’t concentrate…I can’t lose weight…I can’t get up early…I can’t _______ (fill in the blank)
  • I’m always late / I’m always running behind schedule
  • I never have any money
  • I’ll never get out of debt
  • I’m never at the right place at the right time
  • It’s all the fault of my dysfunctional parents/family…my bad childhood…the traits I inherited from my parents, etc.
  • I’m just a victim of ______
  • I have no control over what happens to me
  • I never get a break
  • It’s Murphy’s Law
  • I just look at food and gain weight
  • I’m getting…(old, fat, sick, worn out, forgetful, poorer)
  • I’ve only got a few more years left
  • I’m not ____ enough (i.e., smart, attractive, thin, talented, skilled, educated, rich) — or:  I don’t have enough ______ (brains, education, looks, money, ability, luck, talent, etc.)
  • Something that good can never happen to me
  • I’d never be so lucky
  • I never win anything
  • Other people get everything and I get nothing
  • This is just my luck  (or) I never have any luck
  • I hate that person
  • That person should drop dead
  • I look horrible in everything I put on
  • I never take a good picture
  • I’ll never have enough ____ (money, time, ability, health, etc.)
  • I’m so afraid of _____ 
  • I really dread _______
  • I’m not feeling well – it’s probably cancer
  • I will probably get (name the disease), because it runs in my family (or because so many people get it). I live in constant fear of getting (this disease).
  • I HATE (cancer, diabetes, asthma – or any disease)
  • We must FIGHT cancer (or other disease or problem)
  • Getting old sucks
  • I’m getting senile
  • I just can’t lose weight
  • I can’t cope with this
  • What if _____ (imagining something bad and then worrying about it)
  • I always have too much work
  • I hate my job and I’ll never get a better one
  • I don’t have enough to give to or share with anyone else
  • I’ll never forgive _____
  • I’m too…(old, tired, busy, far gone)…to care about my looks or my health anymore
  • Everyone gets (fat, sick, high blood pressure, diabetes, memory loss) as they age.
  • I’m just falling apart
  • It’s hopeless
  • I never get good weather on my vacations or when I plan something

Do you often:

  • Gossip or complain about someone, or join in gossip/complaining about someone?
  • Try to instigate trouble and bad feeling among others?
  • Argue over and/or ridicule someone’s political or spiritual opinions?
  • End a friendship or become estranged from a family member because of differing political or spiritual beliefs?
  • Feel you have nothing to be thankful for?
  • Compare yourself negatively to other people?
  • Make nasty, snide or critical comments or cruel jokes in person or on social media?
  • Refuse to buy something you really wanted or needed, even though you have more than enough money to afford it, because you’re afraid to spend any money?
  • Make self-deprecating comments or denials when someone compliments you?
  • Criticize someone, and/or try to make someone else do things your way?
  • Harbor resentment or bitterness towards someone? Keep thinking about how to get even? Wish bad things on them?
  • Respond instantly with anger to someone else’s words or actions?
  • Try to control and “fix” other people’s lives rather than letting them learn from their experiences in their own way?
  • Frequently make or share self-deprecating remarks or jokes about being stupid, fat, old, forgetful, or other negative things?
  • Forward emails or share social media posts encouraging hatred against anyone or anything (political figures, celebrities, certain races, ethnic groups, religions, etc.)?
  • Say, “I HATE____” (fill in the blanks)?
  • Talk at length and frequently about your illnesses or someone else’s?
  • Feel envy towards someone? Withhold a compliment from someone because you secretly envy them?
  • Try to take something/someone away from a person because you think you deserve it more? Try to turn others against someone because you’re jealous?
  • Constantly worry about your loved ones and what could happen to them, or about losing your partner, your money, your health, etc.?

Okay, so you probably identified with at least several – and maybe a lot – of these. Some of them might rarely or never pertain to you, while others are fairly frequent. If so, welcome to the human race! We ALL think, say or do these things from time to time. A fleeting thought or occasional slip-up won’t have a significant effect on your life or your future. If, however, you habitually think, do or say any of the above, if the thoughts carry a strong emotional charge, you are setting yourself up to attract exactly what you say you hate, fear and don’t want! This is because our subconscious mind believes everything we tell it, whether it’s true, false, good or bad. It is merely responding to our conscious thoughts, words and actions, like an obedient, cooperative child. It doesn’t analyze whether the thoughts are good or bad for you, positive or negative. Analyzing and choosing are the domain of the conscious mind; the subconscious just accepts what we tell it.

Consequently, with our negative thoughts we will attract, or subconsciously be attracted to, just the circumstances and people that we want so much to avoid! We also will block any good things that God wants to send us. Nothing is forced on us by God, who respects and honors our free will. So always thinking negatively about your life is like keeping your hands behind your back when someone offers you a gift. You cannot accept the gift unless your hands are open to receive it.

LOA experts recommend that we shift our positive thoughts to at least 51% over the negative ones. Even this 1% over the halfway mark could be enough to dramatically change one’s life. I believe that the more we can shift our thoughts from the negative to the positive, the quicker and more dramatic the change will be!

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Legend says that in the Buddha’s travels, he encountered a man who was awed by his peaceful, radiant persona. The man asked, “My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being? Are you a god? A magician? A wizard?” The Buddha replied, “No. I am awake.”

We cannot even begin to improve our lives unless we become awake and aware of the negative thoughts we harbor on a daily basis; otherwise, we walk around in a perpetual state of “automatic pilot” and unconsciousness. Once you become aware, you will begin to notice anytime you are thinking or speaking negatively. You also will be shocked and dismayed at all the negativity you will notice around you from other people. In upcoming posts we’ll examine these negative thoughts and attitudes and explore ways to bring about positive change and achieve our goals and dreams.

As always, I welcome your feedback, so comment below…and have a positively wonderful day! 

7 Steps To Sharing Talents – Pt. 3

Little Ballerina

Re-posted from 2016:

This is the last post in a 3-part series. To read Pt. 1 click here; for Pt. 2 click hereIn Step 3 of my previous post, we listed all our talents and abilities. Step 4 dealt with finding opportunities to share our gifts. Now on to our last three steps:

5. Give without worrying about your imperfections or limitations. “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8 NIV). You don’t have to be a saint,  genius, or the next winner of a TV talent program to bring joy to others with your gifts. Let’s face it, the vast majority of us will never reach those levels! Give without restraint, and it will free you to be more than you ever imagined. Don’t get discouraged by what you see as your limitations. My mother couldn’t drive in her later years, but she used her talent for knitting to make sweaters and other items for charity.

Your gifts are only as great as you allow them to be. If you feel the need, read books or take a class to improve your skills. But it is by using our gifts and seeing the happiness they bring that we gain the greatest confidence. Our skills will grow as we continue to share them. We will also gain valuable feedback about where we are succeeding and how we can keep improving. 

Jesus told a parable about three servants who were entrusted by their master with varying sums of money (called “talents”), each according to his ability, before he left on a journey. The first two servants invested the money wisely and doubled the amount they had been given. But the third servant, because he was afraid of losing his master’s money and angering him, buried it in the ground. When the master returned, he praised the first two servants for their ingenuity and entrusted them with greater authority and responsibilities. But when the third servant returned the money exactly as it had been given, with the excuse that he had been afraid to do anything else with it, the master was angry. He took the money from the third servant and gave it to the first servant, who had returned to the master the greatest amount of money.

God wants us to “invest” in the talents he has given us, and if we do, He will increase them and reward us with greater opportunities and deeper fulfillment. But if we “bury” our talents out of laziness, fear, or feelings of inadequacy, this is contrary to God’s plan. It is not showing proper appreciation and gratitude for the gifts our Creator has entrusted to us. Hoarding our gifts gives nothing back to the world, or to God from whom we have received so much. When we stop giving, we stop growing.

Although we fear other people’s criticism and rejection, we usually are our own worst critic. We are eager to answer God’s call to use our gifts.  Then that little negative voice inside us undermines our confidence, reminding us of our limitations and everything that can possibly go wrong. “You can’t do that!” it taunts. And that’s true: We can’t do it, but God can do it through us! If we reach out to God in faith, He will lift us up to our true potential.

6. Remember that sharing our gifts and earning money are not mutually exclusive! What if you are unhappy in your job, or unemployed and trying to find a job, or are in need of additional income? Usually our talents will lie in the areas for which we have a real passion. Many times, these passions point to our life’s true purpose. A career change or an entrepreneurial opportunity will sometimes develop from volunteer work that opened new doors for us. If you are unhappy in your present job, finding ways to do the things you love and for which you have an innate gift can help you feel happier and more fulfilled, whether or not you ever earn any money from it.

If you are unemployed and job hunting, share your gifts and abilities in the meantime. Offering your talents as a volunteer is an excellent way to hone your skills, make new contacts, and ward off the depression and discouragement that can come with being unemployed and searching for a new position. It also is a way to “plant seeds” that will demonstrate your faith and grow into future blessings.

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7. Make use of the present time and don’t procrastinate. “So then, if we do not do the good we know we should do, we are guilty of sin” (Jas. 4:17). The excuses are many: “I’m too busy right now,” “I’m not ready,” “I’ll wait until I retire,” “Maybe next year,” “I’m not good enough yet.” But our time on earth is limited. We don’t know if we’ll have tomorrow. By procrastinating, we can miss precious opportunities and later regret it. Future possibilities grow out of what we do in the present. Don’t wait until all the conditions of your life are ideal or your gift is “perfect.” Guess what? This will never happen! Do it now!

As we freely share what we have been given, our power to help others and do God’s work multiplies. Using our gifts is an investment in God’s Kingdom. This is like buying stock that can only go up. Be a star in God’s talent show! Lavishly spending our gifts brings happiness to others as well as ourselves. It fulfills our responsibility to make the world a better place.

What are your particular gifts and how have you used them?  I would love to hear your own thoughts and experiences in the Comment section below. 

 

 

7 Steps for Sharing Your Talents & Gifts-Pt. 1

This 3-part series is a repost from 2016, for those who might have missed it the first time around! Here is Part 1:

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God is holding a universal, never-ending talent show — are you a contestant?

“When I stand before God at the end of my life,” said American humorist and best-selling author, Erma Bombeck, “I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” Yet many of us find it easier to be generous with our money than with our time and talents. Giving of ourselves feels frightening and risky, and we tend to put our own feelings before God. Like a mother bird with her fledglings, God wants to push us out of our nest of complacency to use the talents He has given us. We want to try our wings, but lack confidence in our ability. But God is always nearby to answer our call for help. When we trust in Him, He gives us the strength and courage to spread our wings and soar to greater heights.

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth…the light of the world. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all…so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matt. 5:13-15, NLT). Let your light shine!

What are some benefits of sharing our talents and abilities?

  • Giving glory to God for the gifts He has given us
  • Bringing joy to others
  • Inspiring others by our example to share their own gifts
  • Finding personal fulfillment and satisfaction
  • Improving and enhancing our talents by using them
  • Opening up new opportunities for us

What if you are not sure of your own unique gifts and abilities, or perhaps you know where your talents lie, but are uncertain about how to share them with others? In this series, we’ll discuss 7 steps for determining your gifts and the best way to use them.

This week we’ll tackle Steps 1 & 2, which are important preparation steps:

  1. Pray for guidance to determine your own unique abilities and how God wants you to use them to brighten others’ lives and find personal fulfillment. Here is a suggested prayer: “Heavenly Father, I thank and praise you for the gifts and talents you have given me. Help me to recognize them and use them according to your will. I might not think they are remarkable, but I know you give only perfect gifts. Give me the confidence to turn mine into a personal triumph — not necessarily in the eyes of other people, but in your eyes. Help me to be open to any opportunities to use my gifts. Remove from me any selfishness, conceit or false humility, and keep me aware of my dependence on you, the origin of all good things. I trustingly place all I have into your loving care. Amen.”                                                                                                                            
  2. Leave your mind receptive to God’s answers and guidance. When we ask God our questions, we need to make sure we give him room to respond. God’s answers come in various, sometimes unexpected, ways, so we need to keep alert and open. Some suggestions:
  • Spend time this week in quiet reflection about what you most love to do and what you think you do well. Quieting the mind is necessary in order to hear the still, small voice that will give us the insight that we seek. Even if you can spare only a few minutes a day, it will make a big difference.
  • If you are already familiar with meditation, use whatever technique you prefer to open your mind to God’s guidance.
  • If you are not an experienced meditator, at least try to sit quietly for a few minutes and clear your mind as best as you can. Sit in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted, turn off your cell phone, close your eyes. When thoughts pop into your mind (and they will!), try to just “witness” your passing thoughts without getting involved with them. It’s not easy to turn off the mind’s endless chatter, so don’t get frustrated if your mind is not entirely blank the whole time.
  • Inspiration and ideas may bubble up spontaneously, either during your quiet time or at random times during the day. Often when we ask God for guidance, we will receive it in the course of daily life by something that we see, read, or hear from other people.
  • Carry a small notebook, digital recorder, or use your smartphone to instantly record any ideas while they are still fresh in your mind.
  • Dreams are also an excellent source of Divine guidance and inspiration. Immediately upon awakening, be sure to record any dream insights you have. If you wait too long, you may forget them as your mind becomes immersed in the concerns of the day.

Next in the series: Determining your talents and abilities.

 

 

The Traveler

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At a time of my life when I was facing a lot of changes and adjustments as well as new opportunities and possibilities, including a new job, I naturally was feeling excited yet stressed, encouraged yet confused. I was praying about it all, of course, but still felt somewhat overwhelmed. I asked for a sign to help me know what direction to take with some of my goals.  One night, I had the following dream:

Dream: “The Unknown Road”

I am driving my car along a beautiful but unfamiliar country road. I am alone, with no particular destination in mind – just going for a ride on a beautiful summer day. I am driving carefully, especially at intersections, although there is little traffic in that rural area. The scenery is gorgeous, with gentle, rolling green hills in the distance, and the sky is a lovely blue with some puffy cumulus clouds. But then I notice some wisps of black in the sky and became frightened, thinking a storm is approaching. Then I see some men fixing the road up ahead and realize that what I had seen is not black clouds, but smoke coming from a machine that is mixing hot asphalt.

The road then ends at a “T”-type intersection. I don’t know whether to turn left or right. I pull over to the side, stop the car and get out, looking for a street or destination sign, but see none. The scenery here is breathtaking, because up ahead I see beautiful mountains and an enormous cathedral, bigger than any building I’ve ever seen, with the ornate, beautiful architecture common in old cathedrals. As I scan the panorama, I’m dismayed to see some ugly industrial buildings to the right and left in the distance. I think what a shame it is that they’re spoiling the beautiful landscape. The sight of them lends an eerie, desolate aspect to the scenery, giving me a creepy feeling. I wonder if I should ask someone where I am, so that I can figure out how to get back home. At first I resist, because I really had wanted to figure it out for myself, but with no signs to guide me, it doesn’t seem possible. I realize that I’ll have to ask for directions.

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When I awoke, I realized how perfectly symbolic this dream was of my current situation. Roads, of course, symbolize the path we are taking in life. The road I was on, though beautiful, was rather narrow, which brought to mind “the narrow way” mentioned in the Gospels, and it was long and winding, showing that I still have far to go. The black clouds that I saw, which turned out to be harmless smoke from a truck doing street repairs, seemed to mean that some of my fears were groundless, and that my attempts to “repair” the things that are wrong in my life might be scary and upsetting sometimes, but necessary.

The T-intersection symbolized the fact that I can’t travel in the same direction forever; eventually I will come to a crossroads and have to make a decision and choose a new direction. I believed that the great cathedral in the distance represented my spiritual aspirations, and its huge size showed that it was an extremely important aspect of my life. The industrial buildings made me feel “creepy” and also angry at the way they ruined the beautiful landscape. Since industry is another word for work, I felt that they symbolized my fear of being overwhelmed with work to the point where I’d be unable to fulfill my higher ambitions and spiritual growth.

The dream was inconclusive, because it ended with my still being at the crossroads. To get more insight into this dream and what it might be trying to tell me, I put my mind into a passive, receptive state and did some journaling, which often results in spontaneous words and insights flooding into my mind (I call this “The Writing”). I received the following inspiration about my dream:

Become as a traveler who is not totally sure of the way, so he asks Someone who knows the area well to guide him. From the traveler’s viewpoint, sometimes the road will be deceptive. He might think one direction will lead him where he wants to go, only to find that it winds around and around, and he ends up back where he started. The wise traveler will admit his ignorance of the way and seek help. He will follow the direction of a knowledgeable person, even though sometimes the road that is pointed out seems like it could not possibly be the right one. The shortest path is sometimes the wrong one, and the experienced guide will know this, but the traveler, who is unfamiliar with the territory, will not.

“If sometimes the road ahead looks deceptively easy and you are fooled into thinking it is the right one, you might get lost. But if you seek the help of God, Who knows the way, you will never go wrong. You still might have to travel a great distance, go over many obstacles and follow a very tortuous road, but in the end you will reach your goal.

“The traveler who goes nowhere is the one who is too proud to ask directions, who goes his own way no matter what the circumstances. Do not be like this traveler, but like the one who is humble enough to know when he needs guidance.

“Ignore those who will tell you that sometimes you must hurt others to get ahead. If you aspire to this sort of success, you are on the wrong path. ‘Getting ahead’ this way is only a euphemism for selfishly grasping at things that are only temporary. This will give you nothing but grief. You will ponder on what you achieved and find it empty. Honor first what God has asked of you — to use your gifts for the benefit of others and to glorify God. If you do this, you will achieve your goals, find true contentment, and overcome the obstacles which hinder your growth. This will give you a freedom that no earthly success can ever give. Do not heed the discordant voices that try to lead you astray. They are only empty noise in a space that is devoid of any true peace or happiness.

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Happiness

 

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If you pursue happiness on earth, it eludes you. If you do what you feel compelled to do with your life, and it is the right thing for you, happiness will follow. After we die, God will not ask us if we were happy; He will ask what we did with what we had.

This is not to say that God doesn’t want you to be happy; however, God has planned  your life so that when it aligns with His will, you are happy on earth and happy in eternity.

If we aggressively pursue happiness, we risk hurting others and ourselves, and conflict and grief will follow.  Happiness is not a thing you can capture in a bottle and hold to yourself. It is not a treasure to be searched for and found. It is, rather, like a road on which you walk — not a destination in itself, but part of the journey. It is only when we achieve our soul’s goals that we are truly happy — not the human happiness that ebbs and flows, but the inner joy and peace that come with fulfilling one’s destiny.

Never give up on fulfilling your goals. They are as the air you breathe — they keep you alive; they keep you going! Hold fast to them and trust God to lead you to their attainment.

 

 

 

 

From Setbacks to Success: Finishing the Race – Pt. 2

 

RunnerwithtitleThe first post of this two-part series examined how perception and attitude shape our experiences whenever we encounter obstacles to achieving our goals, and how keeping an open mind and asking for Divine guidance can keep us from giving up. Once you have quieted your mind and prayed for guidance, reflecting on the following 10 questions can help you gain a clearer perspective on your situation and turn your setback into success:

  1. Am I on the right path? If a goal is unrealistic, incompatible with your soul’s deeper purpose, your talents and abilities, or potentially harmful to you or others, the obstacles you encounter might be a way of detouring you to another, better goal. Consider constructive criticism and feedback about your goals from people whose judgment you trust. Don’t seek the opinion of people who might be envious and not want to see you succeed, because they will only discourage you, undermine your confidence and give you false advice. Conversely, people too close to you might not want to rain on your parade, or their feelings for you might cloud their own judgment. But an honest and objective third party might see things you’re missing because you’re too emotionally involved.
  1. Am I using the right tactics? Sometimes the goal is appropriate, but the approach is wrong. If you consistently meet with opposition and failure, it could mean a change in strategy is necessary. Brainstorm to see how many new tactics you can come up with, and then begin to implement them one by one until you hit the right formula. Look to the example of others who have accomplished what you want to do and try to emulate their process to the best of your ability.
  1. Is my timing off? The worthiest goals and the cleverest strategy will not succeed if the timing is wrong. Anxious to reach our destination, we sometimes rush ahead without adequate thought or preparation. When plans stagnate, it’s tempting to try to force results before the time is right, often with disastrous consequences. I have committed some of my worst mistakes when I tried to make something happen that wasn’t ready or able to happen. If you’ve given something your best effort but still encounter a setback, if it seems as though everywhere you turn you come up against a brick wall with no discernible way out, a waiting period might be necessary to allow the right people and circumstances into your life to help you achieve your goal when the time is right.
  1. What motivates me? Selfishness, greed, revenge, jealousy, egotism, or a desire for excessive power can spoil even the most worthy goals. Obstacles and setbacks can force us to examine our motives and determine whether they conform to the highest standards. When we have the wrong motives, even if we succeed we may destroy relationships, hurt other people, and even jeopardize our own soul in the process. As a result, although we might achieve our goal, we ultimately will not feel fulfilled.
  1. Do I need more education, expertise, or experience? If you are unable to compete successfully in your field of endeavor, it might mean you need to sharpen your skills, increase your knowledge, or obtain more practical experience before you can attain your goal. Take classes, or find a mentor or role model who is successful in the field you are pursuing to help you. Read books by and about people who have done what you would like to do. Search the internet for articles, webinars, podcasts and videos that will give you more information. It’s amazing how many people will launch themselves toward a goal about which they know nothing and have never bothered to do any research! Adopt as your motto the old saying, “Knowledge is power.”
  1. Is this setback necessary for my personal and spiritual growth? Obstacles, failure, and stagnation are not only inevitable, but essential to the soul’s development. Growth occurs by overcoming obstacles, not by sailing through life without challenges. No creature is capable of constant productivity. God uses our dormant times to nourish us on a deep level, enabling us to draw upon new sources of strength and ability. The Roman poet Horace said, “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talent, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.”
  1. Am I encountering resistance because I am undertaking something important? It’s a known fact that often when we are about to embark on an endeavor that will do a lot of good and help a lot of people, we will encounter obstacles and misfortune, at the beginning and also at various points along the way. Whether you believe in evil forces or attribute it to your own subconscious resistance, these setbacks are a supreme test of your faith and determination to carry on with your high ideals and goals despite the opposition you’re encountering.
  1. Does someone need my help? Our plans are sometimes halted simply because our spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends or neighbors need our attention. Christ often interrupted his preaching and teaching in order to serve people’s practical needs of food, healing, and comfort. This doesn’t mean putting our lives on hold indefinitely or using other people’s needs as an excuse to shirk other responsibilities. But we can rest assured that the time we take from our own plans to show love and caring to someone will never be wasted. It may even open doors to helpful contacts and new opportunities.
  1. Do I need more trust, detachment, or acceptance? Having initiative and determination to make our dreams come true is essential, but we also need the detachment and discernment to know when to let go. All situations, whether perceived as good or bad, are temporary. When we trust God, we know that if we don’t get what we want, it’s because God wants to give us something better. God is not the denier of good things, but the source of them. “When you call me, when you pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you… And I will change your lot” (Jeremiah 29, 11-14).
  1. Is the effort more important than the result? There is a saying, “Some goals are so worthy, it’s glorious even to fail.” The growth we achieve through our efforts will benefit us, regardless of the visible outcome.

Whenever you experience failure or frustration, remember that everyone who has ever done anything worthwhile has met with obstacles. “I am not discouraged,” said Thomas Edison, “because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” Edison’s teachers thought he was stupid, and he was fired from his first two jobs. It is a well-known fact that Edison conducted hundreds, even thousands, of failed experiments before successfully inventing the light bulb.

One of my favorite people of all time, Walt Disney, was fired in 1919 from a job at a newspaper because the editor said he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

If you do research into the lives of famous people from all walks of life, you will discover stories of failure, frustration, and opposition of all kinds. What makes these people extraordinary is their persistence and determination to achieve their goals in the face of all odds. So, if you currently are experiencing obstacles and setbacks, cheer up — you’re in excellent company!

Oh, yeah — you’re probably wondering whatever happened to our writer friends who couldn’t sell their stories: They finally found a small publishing house on the verge of bankruptcy that was willing to take a chance on their book. And Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen became what Time magazine called, “the publishing phenomenon of the decade.” To date they have sold over 500 million copies worldwide, with more than 250 titles in 43 languages – and still going strong!

From Setbacks to Success: Finishing the Race – Pt. 1

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Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

In 1990, two men collaborated on a collection of inspirational stories. They were sure they had a winner, but in the first month alone thirty-three New York publishers turned them down. “No one buys short stories,” they were told, “and your title stinks!” Even their agent dropped them; yet they refused to give up. But after 140 rejections, they seemed to be up against a brick wall. No one wanted what they had to offer.

At one time or another, we all face obstacles, setbacks, and failures. Whenever we make changes in our life or embark on a new venture, we meet resistance from outside sources and from within ourselves. Friends and family may question our goals, or maybe we are inwardly fearful of what lies ahead. Random events beyond our control can also disrupt our plans. Confidence fails; doubt and discouragement replace our initial feelings of hope and excitement. But obstacles are a natural part of progress. If we realize this from the beginning, we can gain insight into the possible causes, and learn from our experiences. We can find the courage to press on instead of giving up.

Few people experience as many obstacles as did St. Paul. He was shipwrecked, beaten with rods, whipped, stoned, suffered many sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, cold and exposure. On top of that, he experienced constant anxiety about the early churches who looked to him for leadership. In Damascus, the governor guarded the city so Paul could be arrested. He writes, “…but I was lowered in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped…” Now that’s persistence!

Undaunted by the innumerable obstacles he faced, Paul continued writing and encouraging the early Church even from prison. In his second letter to Timothy he wrote, “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”

Perception

Events in themselves are not necessarily good or bad. It’s our perception of the situation that labels it, our reaction to it that determines the ultimate effect it will have on our life. “The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty,” said Winston Churchill.

When our plans go awry, the human tendency is to react with fear, despair, or anger. We are angry with ourselves for our perceived failure, with other people for getting in our way, or with God for letting us down. But doors are opening even while we think everything is hopeless; changes are occurring during even the darkest times. We cannot see this, because our earthly perspective is limited to our present circumstances. It’s only in hindsight that we understand how each piece in the puzzle of our lives is essential to the entire picture.

Attitude

The late comedian Flip Wilson had a character named Geraldine, who used to flaunt her charms with the announcement, “What you see is what you get!” Similarly, what we see when we envision our future is often what we get. Lacking self-confidence, doubting God’s care, and obsessing about everything that could go wrong, set us up for failure.

Equally impractical is the blind optimism that stubbornly clings to unreasonable goals and pie-in-the-sky dreams. People with a well-balanced attitude set realistic goals and focus on success, while still leaving the door open to God’s surprises. They’re confident that nothing happens that God cannot use for good. They know they are guided, even when they can’t see the road ahead or feel God’s presence

 “Make Room for Abba”

Set goals and make plans, but leave them open-ended. Remember, God might have an even better idea, so stay open to it! Jesus referred to God  as “Abba,” which translates into “Father.” If we think of God as our loving Father, it stands to reason that He would want only the best for us. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” Jesus asked the crowd during his Sermon on the Mount, “Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” If God is our loving Father, we can trust that He will give us the very best!

“If you are discouraged, it is a sign of pride, because it shows you trust in your own power,” said Mother Teresa of Calcutta. “Your self-sufficiency, your selfishness, and your intellectual pride, will inhibit [God’s] coming to live in your heart, because God cannot fill what is already full.”

After Christ ascended to heaven, the apostles didn’t know what their next step should be. During this dormant time, they had to wait for God’s direction. “…They went to the upper room where they were staying…[and] devoted themselves with one accord to prayer…” (Acts 2:13-14). For ten days, they waited and listened prayerfully for God’s answer, which manifested at Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Brick Wall with slogan

Every one of us has experienced frustrating times when despite all our efforts, nothing moves forward. You leave voicemail messages, send emails, texts, letters, etc., but no one responds. You launch a new venture, but the people you counted on to support it are strangely absent, whether through thoughtlessness, self-absorption, or because they’re dealing with personal problems. Your new business seemed off to a great start, but now the phone is silent and no one seems to know you exist. Just as you seem to be advancing toward a goal, you’re hit with illness, a family crisis, or financial problems, and all progress comes to a screeching halt.

During times of stagnation or frustration, surrender your anxiety to a Power greater than your own. Quiet your thoughts and listen with an open mind to what Divine wisdom might be telling you. Gradually, guidance will emerge out of a seemingly hopeless situation.

In Part 2, we’ll examine 10 steps you can take to help turn your setbacks into success. (You’ll also find out what happened to the two authors who couldn’t sell their book!)