Category Archives: Food For Thought

Believe in your ability to succeed.

“Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible.” ~ Cadet maxim, United States Military Academy at West Point, New York …

Living life to the fullest requires we take risks… there is simply no way around it. It means not embracing low expectations out of fear of facing failure or disappointment down the road–failure is only permanent if we learn nothing from it and let it stop us from persevering onward. It means defining life on our own terms and not letting others set them for us–some people do not want us to take risks because they fear we might make them look bad when we succeed. Still others will want you to stay safe because they care greatly for you.

What we make of our lives is something only we can decide. We can allow others words and thoughts to influence our choices; we can even look to others as examples of how we want to live our lives, or perhaps even how we do not want to live them. Nevertheless, no matter where we end up sailing, we, ultimately, must steer our ships–we are the ones who make the final decisions on how we are going to live our lives. And since we are the only one who can hear the words of our heart and soul speaking, it is essentially up to us to listen to them and allow them to help us to define our lives.

Never settle for less. Even if those around you embrace mediocrity–doing their best to do their least–you have the potential for something far greater. Set goals. Get back up after you fall. Moreover, always remember that if you “expect more than others,” more than others is what you will get.

Believe in your ability to succeed.

Questions to consider:

Why might we sometimes settle for so little in our lives?

How high are your expectations? How have they reached that level?

What might we experience if we always strived to do things “more than others?”

For further thought:

“The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.” ~ Maureen Dowd

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Listen to the gentle voice within

“If we learn once again to listen to the gentle voice within, we will hear it counseling us many times a day to simplify our lives. When the voices of the world propose the multiple complexities of modern living, the gentle voices within will whisper: Why complicate your life? . . . . Simplify. Simplify. Simplify your life and you will find the inner peace that the poets and saints of every age have coveted more than any possession.” ~ Matthew Kelly, The Rhythm of Life …

The more I get to looking at it, the more apparent it becomes that much of the outside world does not necessarily want us to discover “the inner peace that the poets and saints of every age have coveted more than any possession.” And why would they? After all, once we understand the benefits of simplifying our lives, we will have very little desire to spend wastefully on things that will never provide lasting happiness and joy in our lives. And once we begin removing the complexities of modern living from our lives, the opportunities for others to make money from offering us fleeting happiness will slowly disappear.

Simplifying our lives is not an easy task–it is our natural inclination to complicate our lives. However, if we address our impulse to complicate our lives, and seek honestly and openly within, we will eventually come to understand that our happiness and meaning in life does not come from things of this world. Lasting peace and joy come only from what we can hold within us–our attitudes, understanding, and acceptance of all that we are.

So how do we go about simplifying our lives? By identifying with what is most important to us, and then gradually eliminating everything else. Nearly every aspect of our lives has the ability to be simplified–fewer and less expensive possessions, fewer commitments, less tasks and clutter, limited consumption of media and entertainment, fewer negative thoughts, fewer credit cards and debt, less value on worldly things, and on and on. In addition, with every complication we release, we lose one less thing to worry about–one less bill to pay, one less credit card to budget for. And as our lives become less complicated, we begin to hear “the gentle voice within” with much more clarity, providing us a more concise purpose and direction in our lives.

“Why complicate your life?” Perhaps the better question we should ask ourselves is, “Why have we complicated them so much already?”

Listen to the gentle voice within; allow it to free you from the complications you have espoused and help you to find clarity of purpose in life.

Questions to consider:

What benefits would simplifying have on your life?

What areas of your life could use some simplification? Which of these might be the easiest to begin with?

What are the first few steps you need to take in order to simplify?

For further thought:

“Do you know the more I look into life, the more things it seems to me I can successfully lack–and continue to grow happier. How many kinds of food I do not need, or cooks to cook them, how much curious clothing or tailors to make it, how many books I have never read, and pictures that are not worthwhile! The farther I run, the more I feel like casting aside all such impediments–lest I fail to arrive at the far goal of my endeavor.” ~ David Grayson

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Focus on your unique path in life.

“We have all been placed on this earth to discover our own path, and we will never be happy if we live someone else’s idea of life.” ~ James Van Praagh …

James is right on the money here: we will never find fulfillment in our lives if we look for it in places that are never meant for us. If we live our lives based on what others expect of us and from us, we will find ourselves lost. That is because someone else’s idea of happiness, purpose, and meaning in life, defines their authentic self, and not necessarily ours. Searching out our own paths and journeys in life is the only way to become complete and whole.

Of course, there are some things that are expected of us–following laws, cooperating with others, and acting in set ways in certain situations. These expectations are meant to be helpful in guiding us in moral, just, and righteous ways so that we do not harm others or ourselves. Beyond them, however, living up to others expectations is usually more harmful than good. Conforming to stereotypes, accepting unfair judgments of others, mistreating others, or living in ways that do not represent who we really are, all serve to make us smaller than we were meant to be.

The idea we are presented with here was also proposed to us in a similar manner in the words by Robert Frost, “I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” In his poem, Frost did not say that it made his life easy; nor did he propose there were no difficulties on the road he took. Rather, he simply implied that he was able to live his own idea of life rather than the idea that other people might have had in mind for him.

It is often true, that the roads that are most constantly traveled are devoid of life. The soil gets trampled down so tightly that nothing can grow there, thus our journeys on those roads are not nearly as rich as they would be on those we find on our own. Find the path in life that leads to the best version of you possible.

Focus on your unique path in life.

Questions to consider:

Why do we often try so hard to live up to the expectations of others?

What does discovering your own path in life mean to you? How might you go about doing so more effectively?

Have you seen any indications that your own unique path may deviate from the path that you are on right now?

For further thought:

“Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the most wonderful things that will ever happen to us.” ~ Nicole Reed, Ruining You

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See the troubles you are faced with in life as challenges that offer you growth.

“If I were asked to give what I consider the single most useful bit of advice for all humanity, it would be this: Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life, and when it comes, hold your head high. Look it squarely in the eye, and say, “I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.” ~ Ann Landers …

This is truly is some useful advice, however, I believe it could be taken even further: perhaps it should also be said that when trouble comes, do not even see it as something that is trying to defeat you; instead, see it as an opportunity to grow, to develop, to become something better and stronger than you previously were. For in truth, trouble does not come into our lives to try to ruin us or to make our days miserable. Rather, it is an inevitable part of our time here on Earth that can help us to grow and to thrive if we only allow it the chance.

In actuality, a life without troubles sounds rather simple and dull. There would be no need for me to increase my skills and abilities, and my analytical and problem-solving skills would lie unused somewhere deep inside me. Without trouble, I would never learn how to overcome obstacles, and some of my most important accomplishments would never have come to be.

Of course, there is no need to embrace troubles as if they are our friends. They are more like the stepping-stones necessary for us to cross the river without falling in and being swept downstream. It is important that we keep in mind how beneficial they can be for us if we let them challenge us. When we see our troubles as challenges, they become opportunities for growth, and that subtle shift in perspective can be all that is necessary for us to face anything that happens to us in life.

“Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life…” for it will come. Some of the times it will be more challenging and demanding of us than others are; that is ok, be strong. For those troubles are bound to intensify if we see them as something that is here to harm us or test us, or even worse, a hopeless endeavor. Our troubles can be a significant part of our story in life if we can simply learn to see the value that they are bringing.

See the troubles you are faced with in life as challenges that offer you growth.

Questions to consider:

Why do we often let troubles take away our peace of mind?

What are some of good things that have resulted from any past troubles you have faced? What potential opportunities might troubles bring to you now and in the near future?

How can we learn to shift our perspective on the troubles in our lives?

For further thought:

“Let us not see today’s troubles as a reason to give up; let us see them as an opportunity for God to deliver.” ~ Dillon Burroughs, Hunger No More

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Make amends with your past mistakes and find personal forgiveness.

“I have learned, that the person I have to ask for forgiveness from the most is: myself. You must love yourself. You have to forgive yourself, everyday, whenever you remember a shortcoming, a flaw, you have to tell yourself “That’s just fine.” You have to forgive yourself so much, until you don’t even see those things anymore. Because that’s what love is like.” ~ C. JoyBell C. …

Following yesterday’s inspiration on accepting ourselves, I would like to delve a bit further into some of what self-acceptance entails: that being self-love. No person is perfect; we all make mistakes in our lives. Yet regardless of this truth, there is no one more deserving of our compassion and gentleness than we are; even more importantly, there is no one more deserving of our forgiveness than we are. Unfortunately, however, there is usually no one who receives less of any of these things from ourselves than us.

Somehow, many of us are more willing to forgive others for their mistakes than we are to forgive us for our own. But by setting unrealistic expectations of ourselves, many of us condemn ourselves to the perpetual cycle of unhappiness–we get down on ourselves and beat ourselves up for not reaching a bar that we never really allowed ourselves to reach.

The result of not being able to forgive ourselves is exponentially negative. First off, it restricts our growth, robbing us of so much of the joy and purpose that is available to us in life. The resulting unhappiness we begin to feel is then spread to others–because we treat ourselves poorly, we also begin to treat others poorly, essentially poisoning the well of life-water for all those around us.

The next time you find yourself in error, ask yourself, “What would I say to someone else who made the same mistake?” Then, resolve to treat yourself with that same compassion, kindness, and understanding. After all, mistakes are for learning from, not for disparaging and demoralizing ourselves. By instead allowing them to teach us and to help us understand ourselves better, we grow stronger and more complete. And it is only from such a place of wholeness that we will ever find happiness, purpose, and peace in life.

Make amends with your past mistakes and find personal forgiveness.

Questions to consider:

Do you ever tend to get down on yourself for your shortcomings and mistakes? If so, when? Why?

Why do you think other people tend to be so hard and unforgiving of themselves?

Can someone who is hard on themselves be gentle and caring with others?

For further thought:

“Often, we are harder on ourselves than others are. If we cannot forgive ourselves, how can we forgive other people? How could I express compassion to anyone when I didn’t know what it was since I couldn’t even express it to myself? . . . . Everyone’s lesson is to forgive ourselves for our mistakes, even those things we feel ashamed about, and learn to accept ourselves for who we are, knowing that we can always gently work on making improvements. For me, the true experience of inner peace began only once I was able to forgive those around me, my parents, and myself. Of course, forgiveness is a continuing process.” ~ Patrick Wanis, PhD

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Accept the person that you are today.

“Accept everything about yourself. I mean everything. You are you, and that is the beginning and the end; no apologies, no regrets.” ~ Clark Montanas …

There are some people that might twist these words into something negative, arguing that this type of thought is selfish, unrealistic, or not conducive to positive change. But these individuals would be sorely wrong; for within Clarks words, lies the secret to beginning to live our lives to the fullest: understanding and accepting ourselves exactly as we are. Since we cannot change who we were in the past, it really serves no purpose to reject anything about ourselves. Instead, we should strive to accept that past part of our lives and ourselves and move forward. The key word here is acceptance, which is an integral step towards enacting meaningful change in our lives.

It is important to note that accepting everything about ourselves does not mean that we cannot change any aspect of ourselves with which we are dissatisfied. On the contrary, because we cannot change anything about ourselves that we have not first faced and accepted, this is the only way that we will ever realize meaningful and lasting change in our lives. An addict cannot deal with the addiction until he or she first admits and accepts that addiction as a part of who they are. In the same sense, if I desire to be more compassionate and kind towards others, I must first accept that I am not as sympathetic and understanding towards them as I would like to be; after that, I can work on it.

Our past is an important part of who we are today. And once we recognize that in every situation, we have always done the best that we knew how at the time, we can come to be more forgiving and accepting of ourselves, regardless of whether those elements of our past are a result of experiences we had, or part of our genetic makeup. This enables us to let go of the need to feel apologetic about who we are at this very moment and instead work towards becoming who we desire to be.

Life goes on no matter what; and getting down on ourselves for our shortcomings will offer no help for us in dealing with them effectively. But with steadfast and unreserved acceptance of the beautiful and complicated beings that we are, our lives will become much richer and much more fulfilling.

Accept the person that you are today.

Questions to consider:

What does acceptance mean to you? Does it necessarily include approval?

Why is it often so difficult to accept certain aspects of ourselves?

What do you see as the first step towards accepting who you are now?

For further thought:

“Self-acceptance is my refusal to be in an adversarial relationship to myself.” ~ Nathaniel Brand

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Try something you have previously given up on.

“So long as there is breath in me, that long I will persist. For now I know one of the greatest principles on success; if I persist long enough I will win.” ~ Og Mandino …

Persistence is the key to success in everything we do in life. Far too many people waste precious time and energy trying to avoid difficult things in their lives, or even worse, give up at the first signs of any complication. Little do they realize, however, that even the most complex of tasks become much simpler and much easier when we persist in trying them.

Realizing success in life is a choice–one of the many choices we have available to us each day. When faced with something that may seem overwhelming and difficult, I can choose to give up in favor of something that requires much less effort, or I can choose to keep at it, in spite of overwhelming odds, regardless of whether or not I see any visible progress.

A great example of this is building up endurance for running. If I wanted to run a 10k, I most likely would not succeed if I just went out and tried to run it, or at least I would finish in poor condition. But if I work at running it over time, at shorter but increasing distances, and at a slower but increasing pace, I will gradually approach a point at which running a 10k is something within my power to do. Running each day builds up and improves our ability to control our breathing, our lungs ability to distribute oxygen better, our hearts ability to pump blood more strongly and efficiently to our vital organs, and our muscles ability to perform and recover.

Do not let pain, discomfort, failure, fear, or difficulty remove your ability to reach your full potential. Giving up and avoiding difficulty may seem like the easier and the smarter path at the time, but the more we keep at things in life, the easier they will become. More importantly, the more we persist at them, the more we will learn, grow, and develop ourselves into the person we wish to be. No matter what we wish to do, we are all beginners at one point in our lives–runners grow by running, singers grow by singing, speakers grow by speaking, and leaders grow by leading. Allow yourself the opportunity to accomplish the things you truly want to do in life by refusing to give up.

Try something you have previously given up on.

Questions to consider:

What are some things that you are persistent at? Are those the things that are most important to you as a person?

In what things have you noticed your persistence paying off? Have them become easier? How do the gains feel?

How does persistence increase and empower us?

For further thought:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is filled with educated derelicts. Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

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