Monthly Archives: July 2017

The Potential Within Each Of Us

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson … 

What lies within me? I sometimes feel that my worth is directly correlated to the things I have accomplished, the things I have done in life that others tend to define me by. However, this is simply not true. As Ralph tells us here, the potential within each of us dwarfs everything that we have done so far, and everything that we are going to undertake. It is therefore of the utmost importance that I understand “what lies within me”–as well as spend time developing myself and my abilities–if I wish to find happiness and success in life.

We all have the potential for success already within us. We do not need to be intellectually gifted, or athletically gifted, or be superior to anyone else in any way–all we need to do is put forth the effort on our part. The amount of success we experience is directly related to the amount of effort we put into self-discovery and self-improvement. Therefore, a few key ingredients to success are hard work, perseverance, and a great attitude.

What would you like to be good at? Join a class; read books on the subject; practice more; watch some educational videos; find someone who has experience already that can mentor you; develop your abilities and find out what lies within you that you may not have been aware of before. With the right amount of work, you can excel at anything you want to.

Set aside some time for self-development today.

Questions to consider:

How much have you worked at developing your abilities in your chosen field recently?

Is it possible to grow and improve by accepting the status quo and letting things ride?

What can you do today to start developing your expertise in a given field? What will the long-term effects be if you start and then keep it up?

For further thought:

“Your success and happiness lie in you. External conditions are the accidents of life, its outer trappings. The great, enduring realities are love of service. Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulty.” ~ Helen Keller

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What Is Success?

“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it; Who has left the world better than he found it, whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; Whose life was an inspiration; Whose memory a benediction.” ~ Elisabeth-Anne “Bessie” Anderson Stanley

In 1904, Elisabeth-Anne submitted this poem for a contest held in Brown Book Magazine in the form of an essay. The competition was to answer the question, “What is success?” in a hundred words or less. To this day, her words still serve as one of the clearest definitions of success that I have ever encountered. Therefore, it is no wonder that she ended up winning first prize with this essay.

These words are such an eloquent and beautiful lesson on perspective. Without condemning or criticizing more popular visions of success–such as fame, power, or wealth–Elisabeth-Anne gives us a set of criteria that definitely can help us to “succeed” in life. More importantly, however, is the fact that these criteria can give our lives purpose and meaning–something that we can find satisfaction from as we work to accomplish them in our lives. With the ingredients above, happiness and success in life is not only clearly defined for us, but also easily attainable. Of course, we will still have longings, but our satisfaction will not depend upon the fulfillment of these longings.

Success in life is about maintaining a healthy perspective about what is important in life. It is about helping others, and showing them compassion and empathy. It is about letting them know that they are valuable and respected, and sharing in their lives. And additionally, it is about not feeling like we need to achieve the types of success that others say are necessary.

If I reach the end of my life and I can say that I have done even a few of the things listed above to the best of my ability, I am confident I will have lived a happy and fulfilling life. And most importantly, if I can live by my own definition of success, no matter what others may define it as, I will find that my days are building towards a successful life.

Establish your definition of a successful life.

Questions to consider:

Why do others try to get us to accept their visions of success?

Is it always easy to see the importance of the small things we do? What steps can we take to make it easier?

What is more important–achieving fame and fortune, or helping others to live their lives fully? Which is more fleeting?

For further thought:

“There are no secrets of success. Success is doing the things you know you should do. Success is not doing the things you know you shouldn’t do. Success is not limited to any one area of your life. It encompasses all the facets of your relationships: as parent, as wife or husband, as citizen, neighbor, worker and all of the others. Success is not confined to any one part of your personality but is related to the development of all the parts: body, mind, heart and spirit. It is making the most of your total self.” ~ Wilferd A. Peterson

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Extraordinary In The Ordinary

“The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things of life.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson … 

The light that reaches our eyes has been traveling for many, many years, and since we can see the stars, we know that there is a beam of light that extends all the way from our eyes back to the star. If the star ceased to exist, we will continue to see the light from that celestial body for thousands of years to come.

With that in mind, in the time that it has taken the light to reach us, the sky as we see it probably has ceased to exist. So while we may want to keep that star as our own, there is a good chance that it is no longer there. The night sky that we see probably is much different than the night sky that exists now–the one that people on our planet will see hundreds or thousands of years from now.

So if we grasp at the stars, we will come up empty. If we grasp for the hand of a friend, though, we will find that the friend is right there. If we put our full effort into the work that we do, the work will become more fulfilling, and we will get better at it. And if we do so and it does not… well then that should be a pretty clear sign that we need to find new work.

We cannot touch the stars, but we can experience our life’s daily bread. And I do not think Robert is telling us not to set our ambitions high, or to be satisfied with mediocrity in the things that we do. But he is telling us not to ignore those beautiful things of our daily life that, if we do pay attention to them and appreciate them, can greatly enrich us as human beings.

Experience the extraordinary in the ordinary today.

Questions to consider:

What parts of “life’s plain, common work” are the most enjoyable for you? What are the least enjoyable?

Why do we seem to have a tendency to undervalue our daily tasks and our daily bread?

Why do advertisers spend so much time and money trying to make us dissatisfied with what we have in order to make us desire that which we do not have?

For further thought:

“When one cannot be sure that there are many days left, each single day becomes as important as a year, and one does not waste an hour in wishing that the hours were longer, but simply fills it, like a smaller cup, as high as it will go without spilling over.” ~ Natalie Kusz

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Spiritual Growth

“Souls grow on bones but die beneath bankers’ hours… ~ Gabriel Thy … 

The origins of this date back to the traditional opening hours of banks in the 1800s… 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Over the years, however, this has become synonymous with working short hours or the bare minimum necessary–perhaps even lacking in effort. What Gabriel is getting at is that spiritual growth requires effort on our part–and not just a passive effort, or the bare minimum amount of time, but a dedication similar to that of athletes and scientists in their trade.

We may like to imagine the soul in a similar way to the physical being. When we neglect the body, it becomes sickly and weak. In the same way, if we neglect our soul, it too can become spiritually ill. It is therefore important that we not set aside the shortest amount of time possible for spiritual growth, or look at it as an inconvenience. A bedridden soul is as dire a situation as a sickness or ailment that leaves one on the deathbed.

Do you allow your soul a healthy amount of spiritual growth? Do you take the time to pay attention to the life around you? Look around yourself. You are alive–life is here, at this very moment. We are all surrounded by the wondrous and the miraculous, and so much of growing our souls can be accomplished by working on our ability to listen. Our ability to not just hear, but to see and understand–to feel it in the very depths of our soul.

Set aside some time for spiritual growth–read a spiritual book or spend some time out in nature.

Questions to consider:

When was the last time you consciously tried to help your own soul to grow?

How can paying attention to all that is around you help your soul to grow?

Which is easier to do–learn about information, or learn about our spirits? In which area are there concrete answers, and in which are there none?

For further thought:

“We must work on our souls, enlarging and expanding them. We do so by experiencing all of life–the beauty and the joy as well as the grief and pain. Soul work requires paying attention to life, to the laughter and the sorrow, the enlightening and the frightening, the inspiring and the silly.” ~ Matthew Fox

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Do Not Allow Yourself To Become A Spectator In Your Own Life

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.” ~ Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn … 

What a beautiful way to experience life! Here, Betty encourages us to see life with our eyes wide open–to recognize the wonder and beauty in things that we have seen before, and perhaps as a result, take for granted. And if doing so will fill my time here on earth with glory… why not?

I still can remember the first rodeo I went to as a child–the calf roping and bull riding, the cotton candy and funnel cake, the rides and games–it was magical. But over the years, as I grew older, so much of that wonderful fascination began to disappear. Of course, I still found it to be exciting and fun, but the magic of seeing things for the first time was missing, and this understanding became apparent to me when I brought my children to that same rodeo for the first time in their lives. It was through the ability to see the magic and wonder through their eyes, that I once again saw just how magical it is and still can be.

Are you awake? Do you see things with eyes wide open? There is so much beauty around us each moment of every day if we are aware of it. If not, however, we begin to stagnate like a pool of murky water–water that is not very pleasant and potentially deadly.

Do not allow yourself to become a spectator in your own life. See things with the eyes of a child, with your mind wide open. Doing so will fill your days with glory.

Take Betty’s advice and look at everything as if you were seeing it for the first or last time today.

Questions to consider:

What new things in your life did you notice yesterday?

Can you think of any specific ways that you can increase your awareness?

About what types of things are you indifferent? What causes your indifference?

For further thought:

“If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.” ~ Leo Tolstoy, Essays, Letters and Miscellanies

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Knowledge Of Oneself

“Know thyself and all will be revealed.” ~ Pamela Theresa Loertscher … 

When I watch a magician or an illusionist perform, I constantly wonder how each trick or act is accomplished. My mind begins to surmise my own thoughts on the mastery of their craft. Here, of course, Pamela does not mean that we can have the answers to all the questions on Earth. Instead, she is illustrating just how we can prepare ourselves to go in search of the answers we seek.

Knowledge of oneself is the pinnacle of all knowledge, for what is learned through self-discovery can be applied to all parts of life. Through it I can discover just who I am and what I am made of. I can confront past experiences–disappointments and regrets, wounds and hurt feelings, or things that have not been dealt with–and I can find healing and closure.

Additionally, the knowledge that I gain about myself will be ageless–it can stand the tests of time and will go on to benefit me for the rest of my life. Why do I shy away from confrontation? Why do I have a short fuse? Why do I tend to blame myself for everything bad that occurs?

Self-knowledge offers me comfort, for I know that I can trust myself. It offers me confidence, for I know what I can overcome. It offers me hope, for I know where I have been and where I can be. And it offers me purpose, for I know what I must do.

Take some time to look at your life through the eyes of someone else.

Questions to consider:

Can you think of some good things that have come through your own self-discovery?

What might our knowledge of ourselves reveal about life?

Do you know anyone who constantly struggles looking for answers in the wrong places? How might you help them find the right place?

For further thought:

“The great gift of a spiritual path is coming to trust that you can find a way to true refuge. You realize that you can start right where you are, in the midst of your life, and find peace in any circumstance. Even at those moments when the ground shakes terribly beneath you–when there’s a loss that will alter your life forever–you can still trust that you will find your way home. This is possible because you’ve touched the timeless love and awareness that are intrinsic to who you are.” ~ Tara Brach, True Refuge

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Look For The Positive In Every Obstacle You Encounter

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” ~ Charles A. Beard … 

When I wish to go stargazing, I find a place that is dark enough, a place with little to no light pollution or cloud coverage. And as Charles is hinting towards here, our lives are very much the same: if I wish to become something greater than who I am now, I have to search for the stars even in the darkest of nights. Through the obstacles I face and the difficulties I encounter, how I see things determines more of my happiness, or lack thereof, than I might ever imagine. The question, then, is do I look for the stars?

It is all about our perspectives in life. What may be a branch that is blocking the path for a runner, could be used as a bridge to cross a creek, or fashioned into a ladder to help another man harvest apples from a tree. The way in which we react to things is usually a reflection of how we have seen them.

And we all have troubles in life. Some are easy to work our way through, such as a broken lawn mower or bicycle–we simply fix or replace it. Others require more effort on our part to get through, such as relationship problems. Yet if we can maintain a healthy perspective, we can see that any obstacle put in our way is there to help us to learn and to grow, to develop our character and our ability to help others. After all, once we go through a certain obstacle or problem, we now have experience, and that is something we can gain through no other means. Furthermore, it is something that we can share with others who may be faced with similar issues.

We sometimes require the darkness of difficulties and hardships in our lives to see the brightness–the goodness and the beauty–of the stars. Do I take the time to realize the positive potential available to me through my obstacles, difficulties, or setbacks? A failed relationship can teach me much about myself and what I do and do not like in other people. A job that is difficult and unpleasant can teach me much about what I can and cannot do well, and what I truly enjoy and do not enjoy doing. The death of a loved one can help me to reflect on what that person meant to me and to appreciate those who are still here with me in life.

Look for the positive in every obstacle you encounter today.

Questions to consider:

What sort of things build the most character in us: the positive and easy, or the difficult and sometimes negative?

How would you advise a friend to look at his or her problems? Do you look at yours in the way that you would advise others to?

Can you think of something that happened to you that seemed awful, yet that turned out to be a positive experience?

For further thought:

“The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud–the obstacles of life and its suffering. The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share, no matter what our stations in life. Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying and death. If we are to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, more kindness and more compassion, we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one.” ~ Goldie Hawn

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