Category Archives: Food For Thought

We Control Our Attitudes

“Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” ~ Franz Kafka … 

“To never grow old…” it is a goal of mine that really is quite simple to accomplish. After all, age is defined more in our attitudes than in our bodies–for even though our bodies grow older physically, we can still remain young in our passion for life. We can find opportunity and take smart risks, and participate in those activities we enjoy and find invigorating. I am therefore a bit baffled that so many adults choose to be old when they have the option to be young at heart instead–to age gracefully and still enjoy life with an appreciation for all the exceptional qualities inherent to it.

There is a friend of mine, who is in his early 30’s, that makes me feel old when I am around him. He is consistently living his life in the past–talking about how great things used to be and how bad things are now. In addition, he often turns down my invitations to go biking, jogging, and sometimes even just to hang out, instead complaining about being too old to do things like that anymore, or too sore. His discontent is evident and at times a bit toxic. I have another friend in his upper 40’s who is the exact opposite. He is extremely active, playing hockey 3-4 times a week. He will jump at the opportunity to enjoy life and will point out the little things that make life beautiful. I feel younger just being around him–as if he radiates energy and life. I am sure he has problems, difficulties, and pains, yet he seldom complains about his lot in life.

I bring up this comparison simply to show you that I believe we control how old we are. We control our attitudes, and for this reason, we have the ability to improve how we see life. We can see it through the eyes of a young heart or through the eyes of an old body, and it would seem much more desirable to me to age gracefully and still see the beauty in this world than to be the old person who has let the world get to them.

Notice the beauty around you today and share it with those you encounter.

Questions to consider:

What traits do you want to hold onto as you age? Why?

What is more important–the number of years that we have lived, or the way we look at the world each day of our lives?

How might we work at keeping our ability to see beauty? What does it mean to you to see beauty?

For further thought:

“The whole of life is a journey toward youthful old age, toward self-contemplation, love, gaiety, and, in a fundamental sense, the most gratifying time of our lives. . . . “Old age” should be a harvest time when the riches of life are reaped and enjoyed, while it continues to be a special period for self-development and expansion.” ~ Ashley Montague

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See Better With Your Heart

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Le Petit Prince … 

We generally think of using our eyes when it comes to perception and observation. After all, they constantly absorb ridiculous amounts of data in real-time when we have them open. The human eyes are capable of seeing an astounding detail of 576 megapixels, 30 times greater than HDTV, and each “picture” our eye sees is about 1.61 gigabytes of RAW data. In comparison, it would take a current high-end laptop about 2 minutes to save just one of those pictures and do any kind of data processing on it like pattern recognition or color and motion detection. With all this data bombarding our brains, we must remember that we often have other senses that are under-utilized when it comes to observation and searching for truth.

I was friends with a blind person several years back who made a difference in my perceptions in life. I used to rely solely on my eyes for sight in life, only trusting what I saw–my belief was in seeing. However, one day, my friend was talking to me about food that he found delicious and I found gross. During our discussion, I came to the realization that I dislike some foods merely by their appearance, and not their taste, touch, or smell. I was restricting my perceptions to sight, and not allowing my other senses a chance to observe. This principle exists in all aspects of our lives–that rude and obnoxious man could be a sorrowful and hurting man.

What we see each day is not the most important aspect of our lives, for there is so much more that we can taste, smell, touch, and hear, and so much more that we can feel and experience from our hearts and spirits. Our bodies are beautiful and amazing instruments, but they are limited in how they let us experience our world. They do not tell us that another person needs comfort, nor do they feel the joy of an early-morning walk when the sun is rising. Our bodies cannot distinguish between concepts such as compassion, trust, love, peace, wonder, and acceptance. Not even our brains can do that, as wonderfully crafted as they are.

Our life is fashioned not by what we see with our eyes, but by what we feel with our hearts. So much of life I cannot see with my eyes, yet I know it in my heart. Thus, you choose poverty by feeling poor; you chose misfortune by not allowing your heart to feel fortunate; you choose happiness by allowing your heart to bathe in joy and elation. And although our eyes are amazing creations, the world that they present to us is at least half illusion–what we see is not always what is there. If you remember this, and let your heart do much of the seeing for you, you will discover a new look at life, right there in the midst of the one you have always thought you have known.

Try to see the world with your heart today–the troubled coworker, the sad child, the angry stranger.

Questions to consider:

Why are people so willing to believe that the world is just what their eyes tell them it is?

How might we go about “seeing” with our hearts? What would be the benefits of doing so?

Who are the people who have taught you the most? Thinking very honestly, have their teachings opened up your perspectives, or limited them?

For further thought:

“Inside yourself or outside, you never have to change what you see, only the way you see it.” ~ Thaddeus Golas

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Do Not Be Discouraged

“Sometimes things can go right only by first going very wrong.” ~ Edward Tenner, Why Things Bite Back … 

It is easy to become discouraged when things go wrong, and this is especially true when those things that are going wrong are happening to us personally. Fortunately, when we are at our low points in life, there is plenty of room for things to go right. Even in my own life, I have seen and experienced bad things; and yet despite this truth, I always discovered good things that still existed in the midst of it all, and even more that could have come about as a result of those bad things. And by honing my ability to see these things–this optimistic view of adversity in life–I have been able to find much more potential good in bad situations than I ever thought possible.

During the hot summer months, one of my favorite things to do is to take my daughters to the swimming pool. And at the pool, I often find that the pavement, after allowing the sun to beat down it all day, tends to scorch my feet in a very painful way. Generally, when this occurs, I try to find some cool water to get my feet wet. The cool water on my skin is such an amazing feeling in contrast to the hot pavement. Yet this wonderful feeling would not be possible without first feeling the scorching burn from the pavement.

It is in the pain, that we realize pleasure; in the rejection, that we realize acceptance; in the loss, that we realize the importance of presence. I find there is much more clarity in life when I allow myself to experience adversity and hardship in a real way, and then use it to contrast the good in my life. That is not to diminish the importance or the effects of what has gone wrong. We can experience things that go wrong without going through the feelings associated with those things happening in our lives. A breakup is difficult, and it will hurt us and bring us down. Losing a job is tremendously difficult on many levels. However, this is where we can have hope, where faith can play an important role in our lives. Just because the night looks dark, does not mean we have to cower in the darkness. We can allow ourselves hope that the light will return, and work to make sure we have done something before the morning light.

Life is a journey filled with many highs and lows. And at some point, we will all face similar situations in which we must deal with adversity and hardships, and find ourselves impoverished by our losses. Yet somehow, a thing going wrong often acts as motivation for us to change and to work towards improving. And it is from that growth, and a strong faith in life, that we are able to hold onto the hope that things can and will get better someday.

Take a moment to reassure yourself of any doubts you are currently facing. Tell yourself, that this too, shall pass.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things have you seen go right only after they have gone very wrong?

Why is it important to keep our eyes open for the silver linings in every cloud that comes into our lives?

Think of people you have known who have faced great adversity. What kinds of attitudes have the people had? Which people were able to make more positive strides after having had things go wrong?

For further thought:

“In the hour of adversity, be not without hope; for crystal rain falls from black clouds.” ~ Nizami Ganjavi

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Why Knock Yourself

“Some people like me. Some people don’t. You can never get everyone to like you, so why knock yourself out trying?” ~ Claudette Colbert … 

Not everyone likes me. Not everyone is going to like me. There are personality conflicts, differing opinions, and even the inability to simply work well together and get along. Nevertheless, it is quite easy for me to desire to have everyone like me–even though this is obviously not going to happen–and it is important that I recognize, acknowledge, and remember this so that I do not have to face unnecessary disappointment, dejection, or depression as a result.

I have my close friends and family, and I have casual friends and professional colleagues; I then have those who chose not to talk to me or associate with me, and those who tend to dislike my company and attempt to avoid most interactions with me. This is the reality of my human interactions in life, and as long as I respect them and recognize the fact that they do not have to like me, then things are fine for me I am okay with it. And this to me is the most important–and powerful–thing Claudette is saying here: why knock ourselves out trying? It is much easier for me simply to be myself than to try to be someone others will like. Trying to prove something to others or to impress others really serves no purpose while we are here on this planet and will ultimately lead to us hiding away our true and authentic selves.

I have come to realize that I should not take other’s dislike of me too personally either. It is often times a result of their previous experiences in life with people whom they associate with me, and not necessarily something that has to do with me specifically. In addition, I want to always be my authentic self–I hope to be kind, compassionate, and loving, but only because those are the qualities I want to show, not because I want others to see those qualities and like me because of them.

Someone will most assuredly dislike us at some point in our lives. And instead of worrying about it, and trying to make them like us, we can work on becoming the person we truly desire to be. It is nice to be liked; however, not being liked does not have to affect us either. And if others choose not to like us, let it be at their loss and not ours.

Try to be your authentic self in your social interactions today and always.

Questions to consider:

Why do many of us get so focused on getting others to like us?

How much conscious effort do you give to becoming the person you wish to be?

What are some reasons that others may not like us that have nothing to do with us personally?

For further thought:

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” ~ Jackie Robinson

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Marks Of Success

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” ~ Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love … 

Do I feel successful at night when I lay down to sleep? I sense that the answer to this is yes, however, I still feel that I could do more, that I could do better. There are times when I find myself wondering if I am using my talents and abilities to their highest possible effect and in ways that best serve others and their needs. I even question if the things I do really matter–if my contributions to the world are at all important. I have very little money to help others when they are experiencing hard times, I find myself too busy some days to be there for those who may need me, and at times I even get too busy satisfying my own wants and desires that I fail to ask myself, “What are the needs of others?”

However, I really should be realistic with myself and of the expectations I hold, for success does not have to be something I can quantify or that others can see. In addition, I need to keep in mind that we each have certain talents and abilities in life that are stronger than others, and it would seem to me a good measure to think that using them to serve others is the most important element of success. After all, I have an extremely limited influence in this world, and so it would be very unrealistic of me to measure my success by any other terms.

If I go by Marianne’s definition of success, there are many days in which I have not succeeded–days in which I have fallen short of my potential for serving others. Yet I should not allow this to make me feel like my talents are not worth sharing. Instead, I have the ability to use this knowledge to aspire to succeed in a new way that benefits both myself and everyone around me. There are plenty of people in my life who have talents and abilities that are certainly needed by those who do not possess those talents. Some people are good at helping others work through issues and problems… some are not. Some can build, others cannot. The world needs all of our unique talents and abilities, and if we allow ourselves to serve others, then we will find success each night when we go to sleep.

Living life to the fullest involves finding ways to serve others and to leave our own unique marks of success in their lives. These marks can be small, and they can be modest, for they are always part of a much greater whole and their marks go on to affect others as well. And once we do discover ways in which we can serve others with our talents and abilities, we will begin to see our lives through different eyes at the end of the day–eyes with much greater gratitude and clarity.

Take some time today to serve another with your unique talents and abilities.

Questions to consider:

What are your three strongest abilities? Who might benefit from you sharing them?

Why do so many of us think that we have to serve many people for our service to be worthwhile?

From where do we get the idea that service must be far-reaching to be worthwhile? Is that an accurate assessment?

For further thought:

“It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank, that counts. These mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success.” ~ George Washington Carver

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Nature Speaks

“Rivers and rocks and trees have always been talking to us, but we’ve forgotten how to listen.” ~ Michael Roads, Talking With Nature … 

It is true that nature speaks to us if we choose to listen to it. I can often feel and smell the thunderstorm gathering in the distance, and I can hear the rustling of the trees from the wind as the storm front moves in. Rivers can tell us years of history, of cutting courses through the terrain and the slow and constant wearing of rocks. Still, I often forget how true Michael’s message is in my life, and when I forget, I am not nearly as aware of the beauty surrounding me, or of the calming properties of the things nature has given to me. Therefore, it is at these periods in my life, more than ever, that I need to allow myself some time for clarity.

One thing I have always loved to do since my childhood is to stand outside in the rain–to allow the cool water to soak my clothes and wash over me. When I allow myself this experience, I feel alive–as if I have come much closer to eternity–which leaves me with a deeper sense of peace and acceptance in life. And we can all experience this… and it does not have to be a thunderstorm–perhaps a simple walk out in nature will suffice. Just taking some time alone allows us the opportunity to increase our awareness of the messages that nature is speaking to us–to develop and strengthen our connection with nature and be receptive to our surroundings and their messages.

It seems that the further humanity travels onward down its path, the more we find ourselves becoming distanced from nature. Cities grow larger, people become busier, and the communication gets lost. The messages are still there–rocks, trees, and rivers still speak to us–but how well do we listen? Are we receptive to the messages nature speaks to us or are we preoccupied with things, activities, and places that break our connection with nature? For many of us in our busy lives, time with nature tends to become more of a luxury than a necessity.

Do you hear the birds when you are outside? Do you feel and smell the rain during thunderstorms? Do you see the beautiful colors present outside on a nice summer walk through nature? I believe our connection with this earth is important, and we should attempt to keep it just as much a part of our lives as we are of its life.

Spend 30 minutes outside listening to nature speak.

Questions to consider:

Why do most people lose their contact with the elements of nature? What effects can this loss have?

How might we re-establish our contact? What kinds of benefits would this effort bestow upon us?

What possible messages could rocks, trees, and rivers have for us?

For further thought:

“If only we knew, boss, what the stones and rain and flowers say. Maybe they call–call us–and we don’t hear them. When will people’s ears open, boss? When shall we have our eyes open to see? When shall we open our arms to embrace everything–stones, rain, flowers, and people? What do you think about that, boss? And what do your books have to say about that?” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

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A Testament To Possibility

“If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” ~ Thomas Alva Edison … 

Holding the record of 1093 patents for inventions in his lifetime, Thomas was quite an astounding man. He invented the phonograph, improved upon the light bulb making it practical for home use, made many advancements in electricity, patented work in motion picture recording, and so much more. I would think that he knows just what he is talking about when it comes to astounding oneself; and so the question I should ask myself is, “How can I do all the things I am capable of?”

Since we each are each unique and completely different people, we have no way of knowing what anyone else is capable of… we can really only understand what ourselves are capable of. So right of the bat, we should rule out giving advice to others on what they are not capable of, as well as taking advice from others on what we are not capable of accomplishing. As a kid, I had the blessing of great parents who not only supported me, but also reinforced my confidence in what I can and cannot do. From firsthand knowledge, I can therefore say that the second thing we can do is to be supportive and encouraging towards the youth of our society, especially our own children. They are on a path of discovery, and we should impart our wisdom carefully by allowing them to pursue their ambitions with confidence and clarity.

How else can I do all the things that I am capable of, after all, there simply is not enough time to develop all the possible talents I have let alone the potential ones? However, in recognizing this truth, I can certainly concentrate on spending more time doing the things I love and find fulfilling. This will allow me to focus my attention on my abilities that interest me and will provide the greatest potential for me. As long as I do not allow the restrictions and limitations voiced to me by others to affect me, I am well on the path to becoming everything I am capable of becoming.

We have such awesome potential to do all sorts of amazing things if we just allow ourselves the time to learn them well. And if we remember this, well then life can never be boring, pointless, and tedious–for there is always the potential for something better in our future. If we dedicated ourselves to it, we could learn a new career, and in that career, we could accomplish new and great things.

Edison’s life was a testament to possibility and the power of our potential. And when reading these words, and knowing that they have come from such an remarkable man as him, it is easy for me to understand that I am reading some very special concepts about life and living. Do some new things–enjoy them and get good at them–and I guarantee you that you will astound yourself each day of your life.

Spend some time today doing something that helps develop a talent of yours.

Questions to consider:

Why do we start to believe other people when they speak to us of limitation?

What kinds of things might you truly enjoy doing that you do not do currently? Do you have some potential time to devote to them? Are you willing to try them?

How might you go about developing the ability to take on new things and to trust your ability to do them?

For further thought:

“I have a very firm belief that the life of no man can be explained in terms of his experiences, of what has happened to him, because in spite of all the poetry, all the philosophy to the contrary, we are not really masters of our fate. We don’t really direct our lives unaided and unobstructed. Our being is subject to all the chances of life. There are so many things we are capable of, what we could be or do. The potentialities are so great that we never, any of us, are more than one-fourth fulfilled.” ~ Katherine Anne Porter, Conversations

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