Posts Tagged ‘purpose’

The Tricky Balance of Self-Mastery

May 1, 2018

ScalesI’ve been getting advice and guidance from Kirk Duncan, a local teacher and mentor. A principle that I learned from him goes like this – self-accountability + self-forgiveness = self-mastery. I really like that. And the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that this principle is one of the main keys to success for anything in life.

There has to be a balance at all times. If you’re too much on the side of self-forgiveness, you’ll tend to be way too easy on yourself. You’ll just take the attitude that everything is fine and you don’t need to work or improve; that just getting by is all that’s required. In a way, it’s a nice way to be. Less stressful and actually healthier physically and mentally. The problem is that you don’t progress that way. You can’t coast your way to greater success in life. Pretty much anything worthwhile to accomplish in life takes a certain amount of effort, discipline and even sacrifice.

On the other hand, if you’re too much on the side of self-accountability, you’ll be way too hard on yourself. You will have no patience with your faults and weaknesses. If you’re a real go-getter, you may be thinking that you shouldn’t have patience with yourself like that. But it creates a great deal of stress in you that can tear you up inside, destroy health and relationships, and rob you of all happiness. Life is a journey that was meant to be enjoyed. Besides, what I’ve seen in my own life and the lives of others is that without self-forgiveness, you really don’t move forward effectively.

Here’s a little-known secret – success is often the product of joy, not the cause of it! Too many people are pushing themselves harder and harder, making themselves sick and miserable to accomplish their goals, while actually pushing their goals further away. Being sick and miserable does NOT attract success and happiness. Yes, progressing in life and accomplishing goals take effort and sacrifice, but you can do it while feeling joy, not putting off experiencing joy until your goal is accomplished. That’s where self-forgiveness comes in. If you’re really driven to accomplishing great things, you may be prone to beating yourself up every time you fall short of being where you want to be or finishing something you wanted to have done. Feelings of self-worth help to attract greater success. But if you’re constantly beating yourself up every time you make a mistake or don’t accomplish what you wanted to do, you will devalue yourself and put yourself into a place where it’s difficult to think positive and attract good things into your life.

So the key here is balance. If you can maintain accountability for your performance and setting and working toward goals, while forgiving yourself for falling short and for your natural limitations and weaknesses, you can move forward and accomplish great things in your life. It requires a healthy amount of self-honesty and the ability to distinguish reasons from excuses. But even when we fall victim to our own excuses, even the lame ones, we have to understand that we are human and as such, have natural faults and weaknesses. It’s important that we forgive ourselves but then immediately recommit to get back on track and do better next time. Just like a baby learning to walk, there is not a limitation on the number of failed attempts to do better. As long as you commit yourself and keep moving forward, you are a success!

 

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The School of Gratitude

February 15, 2018

gratitudeI’m thankful

for the toes on my left foot. Why would I say such a thing? Because I lost the toes on my right foot! (Be careful with lawn mowers!)

I’ve written before about how one of the greatest secrets to having joy in this life is to feel and express gratitude. It can be hard to feel gratitude (or joy) when you’re depressed, discouraged, or overwhelmed with physical and/or emotional pain. The problem is… when you’re in a deep dark pit or your mind is completely enveloped in some kind of crushing stress, how do you “look on the bright side” and start working your way to a better place? It can be difficult to take even a tiny step in the right direction.

One thing that I’ve learned in life is that you never EVER say that things can’t get any worse. The universe will be glad to prove you wrong. I don’t care how bad things are. They can ALWAYS get worse in some way. Also, when you say that, you’re implying that there’s absolutely nothing to be grateful for. That’s a slap in the face to God and everybody on the planet.

Every successful person will tell you that your attitude and outlook on life has everything to do with your ability to set and achieve meaningful goals. However, that can be a real challenge when life has beaten you down and all you can see any more are the negative aspects of your life. So let’s start with some basics.

There are lots of things in life that we don’t appreciate until they’re gone. Prior to my little altercation with the lawn mower, I can’t remember ever feeling gratitude for my toes. As with many things in life, I just took them for granted. I’m sure there are things in your life that you never really appreciated until it was taken away, even temporarily. Perhaps there was even a really close call that made you appreciate your health and safety.

So in the school of gratitude, basic level, your assignment is to make a list of things that you’re grateful for. The easiest way to approach this is to look around you (including in the mirror) and identify each item that benefits you in some way. Then think about how your life would be made more difficult or less enjoyable if you didn’t have that thing. Remember – it can always get worse. Do you have a broken leg? If not, be thankful for that. If so, be thankful that both legs aren’t broken. If they are, be thankful both arms and legs aren’t broken, and so on. Look at yourself in the mirror. Are you very attractive? If so, be thankful for that. If you don’t think so, I’ll bet you’ve seen someone else who is disfigured or for whatever reason is much less attractive than you. If there is anyone else less attractive than you, that means you have a measure of beauty, for which you can be grateful.

So make that list. You can go through your body parts. You can list all sorts of things in your environment that are luxuries or necessities that benefit you in some way. As you look at things around you, if you would be better off without something, skip over it for now. Otherwise, list it. I think you’ll find that the list will grow very rapidly. As the list grows, you will feel more joy in your life.

Once you’ve mastered that and can feel gratitude for all the things in you and around you, you have earned your bachelor’s degree in the school of gratitude. You’re now ready for the more advanced courses.

Have you ever had trials and difficulties? Of course you have. Have they benefited you in any way? Perhaps more than you think. I believe that we only grow through challenges and difficulties. Some of them are thrust upon us as trials and hardships. Some of them are self-inflicted, such as going back to school and taking hard courses or pushing ourselves to perform a more grueling workout routine. You can seldom cruise your way to meaningful success. You don’t generally accomplish great things sitting on your couch watching mindless TV shows. Work is required. Also, there are trials that you’ve gone through that have made you stronger or more empathetic or have helped you appreciate the good things in life more. I don’t recommend sticking your foot in your lawnmower. I can’t say that I’m glad I did that (I tripped actually), but I have learned from it. Be thankful for the lessons and growth that have come from hardships.

Another thing you can do is to look around again. Pay specific attention to the things you skipped over. Maybe they weren’t just things. Perhaps some of them were people and relationships. Especially in light of what I was just saying about trials, there may be some benefits that you missed as you were making your initial list. Often times, we can look closer and consider ways in which we’ve benefited. It doesn’t work in all cases, but sometimes we can find some blessings in the midst of horrible circumstances.

If you can do all of this, you’ve earned your master’s degree in the school of gratitude. Shall we talk about how to take it even further? There are a few ways in which we can feel gratitude at the highest level.

One way is to feel gratitude for benefits and blessings not yet received. This is called faith. A simple way is to think about your next paycheck. There’s no guarantee until you have it in your bank account. However, you’re reasonably confident that you will get it around the designated time. Therefore, why wait to feel gratitude for it? Feeling thankful for things and exercising faith helps to draw more good to us. So you might as well start feeling grateful now. There are blessings on their way to you right now, some of which you’re not even aware of. So be grateful for them now.

Another way to feel the most advanced form of gratitude, which is something that most people struggle with and why it’s part of the school of gratitude’s doctoral program, is to feel grateful for other people’s good fortune, even when it’s something that you desire and have not yet been able to attain. “Sour grapes” is more the common attitude in that situation. It’s easier to feel jealousy, resentment and disappointment, maybe even a loss of self-esteem. But you’re becoming an expert in gratitude. Therefore you can take on that challenge.

Lastly, especially if you recognize God’s hand in your life and you feel confidence that he has a plan for you, it becomes possible to feel grateful for everything in your life. This even applies to trials and hardships while you’re in the middle of them. It doesn’t mean that you have to be a martyr or to enjoy the pain that they cause. But it does mean that you understand that everything has a purpose and that all things will work together for your good.

I hope you don’t feel like I’m being overly optimistic. I still get down sometimes. I’m not trying to minimize difficulties that you’re going through. However, I maintain that whatever degree of gratitude you can feel and express is the degree to which you can feel joy in this life, even if it’s small. If you’re feeling very down, start with that basic list that I described earlier. Do it today.

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