Monthly Archives: September 2017

Knowing Yourself

“You have to start knowing yourself so well that you begin to know other people. A piece of us is in every person we can ever meet.” ~ John D. MacDonald … 

What a beautiful concept! That we can find a piece of ourselves in everyone we could ever meet. We are all similar beings, experiencing many of the same things as one another in life; and as John mentions, if I am able to start knowing myself well, I will begin to know others well too.

I have come to understand that the more I know about myself, the more I recognize the commonalities I share with others. My joys and happiness, my pain and sorrows, my likes and dislikes… others share very similar feelings in life. And when I am able to recognize these bonds I share, I am able to show empathy towards others–I am able to help them through the tough times by carrying some of the load, and I am able to be by their side to share in the joys they experience.

By gaining a deeper knowledge of ourselves, we improve our abilities to help others in life. Many of the obstacles we face in life will be faced by others. And thus, through our own self-discovery, we are better able to share ourselves with others, and vice versa.

What are my talents? What are my strengths? Do I spend time learning more about what I enjoy and what I do well? Do I strengthen my skills? Do I take time to care for myself? Do I burn myself out?

Take a moment to find out more about yourself today.

Questions to consider:

In what ways can you begin to “start knowing yourself well?”

Is it possible for us to live life fully without knowing ourselves?

What are some situations in which knowing yourself better would benefit you?

For further thought:

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” ~ Lao-tzu

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Happy Attitude

“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci … 

Things can go wrong in life. In fact, I can be certain that my life will always involve a small amount of trouble and distress. The question I must ask myself then is this: “do I still keep my happiness when times like these come?” And if not, then why?

Many years back, I had some vehicle problems on my way to a hockey game. While I was on the interstate, I noticed that the SUV was starting to rumble loudly, and deduced that either the road is in terrible condition and causing the vibrations, or I probably had a tire going flat. It was evident, of course, that he road was not in terrible shape, so I pulled over to assess the car. As I got out and looked at the back tire, I saw it was collapsing down, and at this point looked to be barely holding the rims off the road. “Just great,” I thought to myself. “Now there is no way I will make it in time to play.”

It was a nice day–not too hot with a soft breeze. However, my attitude grew quite sour. And as I spent the next couple hours changing my tire, and missing my game entirely, I was only thinking about how unfortunate I was to have this occur to me today.

The point of this story is twofold. First, I choose my attitude in life each moment of every day. I could have choose to be happy and at least enjoy and make the most of the time I have on this Earth, even though changing a tire was not the most enjoyable thing. But I did not. Secondly, who am I to look so negatively at the outcomes of life if they do not go my way? Who knows exactly what the grander scheme of life is? Perhaps what is unfolding before my very eyes is precisely what I need. Maybe I would have ended up in an accident had I not had a flat tire. Maybe I would have got hurt playing hockey and ended up in the ER. Who really knows? In the end, I missed one hockey game and had to cover the cost of replacing a tire–by no means was it the end of the world.

Our experience in life is determined by our attitudes… not by the things that life brings our way.

Keep a smile at least, and a happy attitude throughout the day.

Questions to consider:

Is there always just one way of looking at something that happens to us?

How can we learn to see things that happen to us in different ways?

Why does trouble and distress so often affect the way we act and the way we see the world?

For further thought:

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

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Maintain Positive Attitude Always

“Everything in the world we want to do or get done, we must do with and through people. Every dollar we will ever earn must come from people. The person we love, and with whom we want to spend the rest of our life, is a human being with whom we must interact. Our children are individuals, each different from any other person who ever lived. And what affects them most is our attitude–the loving kindness they see and feel whenever we are around them. If you’ll begin to develop and maintain an attitude that says yes to life and the world, you’ll be astonished at the changes you’ll see.” ~ Earl Nightingale … 

The interconnectedness of this world, and every person in it, is unceasingly evident in the countless interactions between each of us. Whether that is through financial transactions, our relationships with those we love, or our attitudes–which as Earl points out, affect others the most. To me, it is especially evident through the interactions I have with my children. When I project anger and stress, or when I fail to bring calmness and peace into a volatile situation, the negative effects that my attitude has on my children is easily apparent.

My attitude is my choice. Sure, I will have days where I am tired, sick, or perhaps sore. However, that does not have to affect the person that I am inside. Unfortunately, we often let our attitudes mirror our feelings. Perhaps this is a way for us to ask others for help, or for positive support in improving our attitudes. Yet most of the time, this attitude tends to have the opposite effect, and pushes others away from us.

You are not a victim of life. You have the power to choose who you are. Take up an attitude of “loving kindness” and see how it affects those around you. Earl is right, “you will be astonished at the changes you see.”

Choose a positive attitude today, and do not let anything bad that happens change it.

Questions to consider:

Think of the people you know who have the best attitudes. How consistent are they with those attitudes?

Do truly positive people allow their attitudes to change based on outward circumstances or happenings?

Can you think of a time when your day was ruined by something someone else did? Did your day have to end up that way?

For further thought:

“There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with. I can select what I can read and eat and study. I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life-whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

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The World Is A Mirror

“The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice.” ~ William Makepeace Thackeray … 

For the majority of us, having the power to create our own lives and determine our own happiness and success is cherished dearly. For some, this could seem a little overwhelming, perhaps because it implies our responsibility for the way things are going in our lives. Regardless of how we feel, though, it all comes down to our “choice.”

The world is a mirror… and as the saying goes, “you get what you give.” If I contribute negatively to life through my own thoughts and actions, then things are most likely to end up going wrong. But if I contribute positively to life, good things will flow my way. And the more I put this principle into practice, the more I am convinced of the truth within it.

Prosperity, peace, happiness, joy, contentment–the world is yours if you but choose to let it be. But it is something that takes time, and we must not expect immediate results. If we can consistently add to the positive in the world, our lives will in time begin to change to reflect the goodness and happiness we project–they will turn into a reflection of an attitude that focuses on beauty, empowerment, and love.

Imagine seeing yourself from the outside throughout the day.

Questions to consider:

In what ways is life a mirror to you?

What kind of power is exists in your own thoughts? Does this power have a tendency to create the life you live?

Does it make sense to think that “life” really can discriminate and put some of us down and give some of us great gifts, or is it truly objective?

For further thought:

“Life is a magic vase filled to the brim, so made that you cannot dip from it nor draw from it; but it overflows into the hand that drops treasures into it. Drop in malice and it overflows hate; drop in charity and it overflows love.” ~ John Ruskin

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“Buyer’s Remorse”

“Advertising rises to an art when it stimulates not a perceived need, but boredom. Generosity sweepstakes, patient repetition, diligent associations, claims of skyrocketing temperance-–a cavalry charge of techniques weaseling the tedious virtues into subliminal consciousness to make people fidget in their jiggling bodies, necrohabits, and abusive relationships. This campaign of discontent would implant not a longing for this or that product, but a heartache to jump on the bandwagon of another existence altogether. To lodge ennui in the soul is to commodify life.” ~ Bauvard … 

I see very little good that ever comes from advertising. Generally, it makes us feel unhappy and discontent; it leaves us feeling like a smaller man, as if we are lacking something or inferior. And worst of all, it leaves us with a temporary high, searching endlessly in the wrong places for our inner peace–for as Bauvard mentions, advertising merely “lodges ennui in the soul.”

What is ennui? It is a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from safety or lack of interest… or in other words… boredom. Advertising commodifies our lives by encouraging us to look for happiness and joy in things. Sure, my car still works and gets me around fine, but this new truck has all the latest bells and whistles. How could I not live with satellite radio, bluetooth sync, GPS, a towing package, and upgraded leather seats with the heating and cooling built in? If we cannot find happiness in the things we already have, we will never find happiness elsewhere.

True happiness comes from within… so these commercials create a tension that most of us just do not understand on a conscious level. We want things, but are not sure why. “Perhaps I would be better off with that brand new truck?” Of course, there is nothing wrong with fulfilling wants, but our needs are another thing. Most of what we see advertised is completely unnecessary, and we usually do not even want it until we see the ads in the first place.

If we maintain our awareness of what the people who create the ads are trying to make us feel with their words and images, we will have a better understanding of why we are compelled to buy the things they are advertising. And if we are aware of our true needs in life, and put them above our wants, we will be well on the right path to finding happiness and contentment in life. The key is constant discernment, and awareness of what is truly necessary and what is not.

When you see or hear any ads today, think about what the advertisers are trying to make you feel.

Questions to consider:

Do you ever find yourself buying something out of a feeling of boredom with life?

Have you ever bought anything that you did not really want because of a really good ad?

Why is “buyer’s remorse” such a common phenomenon?

For further thought:

“Every increased possession loads us with new weariness.” ~ John Ruskin

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Defend Your Principles

“When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” ~ Abraham Kuyper … 

It can be hard to always follow what we know to be true. Sometimes it means being laughed at… sometimes it means financial loss… and sometimes it brings with it an unwanted form of hardship. But being true to our principles is what offers us our peace. Without doing so, our character and integrity will falter, and our peace in life will fail us. It is in these times, that Abraham implores us to go into battle, to fight for our beliefs, and to be true to ourselves “with all the fire of our faith.”

However, the line between conviction and stubbornness seems to blur all the time. We often see someone standing for what they believe in less as a sign of strong character and more as a sign of close-mindedness. So how are we best able to discern the difference between the two? The answer lies in recognizing what is truly the truth, and what is merely something that we currently believe–something that is subject to change.

An inspirational story of personal conviction is that of Rachel Joy Scott–the first victim of the Columbine High School Massacre. Reports said that one of the gunmen, after having first shot Rachel in her leg, picked her up by her hair and asked her if she still believed in God, and that she had answered, “You know I do.” Her response provoked a second, fatal shot to her head at point-blank range. The thing to note is that she stood up for what she knew was true in her heart–a quality of a person with conviction, and not a sign of close-mindedness or stubbornness.

Our convictions are strongest when we have doubt, yet overcome that doubt. I would even go further and say that they are strongest when we have fear, yet overcome the fear–for being afraid of the results of standing up for what you believe in, and doing so in spite of those results, is an absolute sign of fortitude, integrity, and strength of will.

What am I willing to stand up for? On the day I die, I have a feeling that I will be more concerned about the things that I stood up for than about the things that held little interest in.

Reclaim some internal peace today by standing up for your principles.

Questions to consider:

What are some of your personal truths that have changed over time?

In what ways can being a man of principle affect the peace in your life?

If you had a major ethical dilemma at work, could you leave your job even if it meant significant financial loss?

For further thought:

“The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt.” ~ Rollo May

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Your Beliefs

“The Buddha spoke gently, “Once a person is caught by belief in a doctrine, one loses all one’s freedom. When one becomes dogmatic, that person believes his or her doctrine is the only truth and that all other doctrines are heresy. Disputes and conflicts all arise from narrow views. They can extend endlessly, wasting precious time and sometimes even leading to war. Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to the spiritual path. Bound to narrow views, one becomes so entangled that it is no longer possible to let the door of truth open.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh … 

Many people limit their own perspectives in life by clinging to views and ideas that they have embraced simply because they were taught from others that they were true. Yet by doing so, they will most assuredly miss out on experiencing the breadth of the spiritual journeys that lay before them. Furthermore, by accepting the words of others as personal truth–without seeking a deeper understanding–they lose sight of the deeper meaning of life.

There is nothing silly about questioning what you have been taught… for that is the path of growth. People who refuse to do so are sacrificing their own freedom just to hold onto a belief that may or may not truly hold any meaning to them. If we want to become truly spiritual beings, we must embark on our own journeys into our selves and into our personal relationship with God and life. Although the answers to my spiritual questions could be inspired and based off someone else’s interpretations, they most likely will need to create some personal connections within me to be able to grow–I must learn to trust myself and my own perspective on life.

When I mistakenly think someone is mad at me… it leaves me feeling awful. This belief will hold me back because I do not like having someone angry with me. Yet later on, when I come to find out that the person was not angry with me at all, my belief is shattered, and it no longer has any hold over me.

Spiritual growth is about actively learning and growing in our own spirituality. If we choose to make the journey, and continue on it all the way, we will find the truth we seek.

Take some time today to question and learn more about your beliefs.

Questions to consider:

How can one believe something if they do not truly understand that belief?

What are some of your beliefs that you are perhaps unsure of?

How can you go about learning and understanding these beliefs better? How can doing so bring you closer to God and strengthen your faith?

For further thought:

“Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car.” ~ Garrison Keillor

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