Take COMPLETE Responsibility For Your Life

23 04 2014

responsibilityThe opening chapter of Jack Canfield’s fantastic book, The Success Principles, has this challenging title: “Take 100% Responsibility For Your Life.”

The chapter is worth the price of the book. Easy. It is slowly but surely changing my life. The concept will radically alter your destiny if you embrace it and practice it. And great mentors talk about this as the fundamental step that will reinvent your life. Jack Canfield. Stephen R. Covey. Brian Tracy. All attest the same.

100% responsibility.

Think about it. Aside from obvious things over which we have no control (planes crashing into our house, forms of disease, tornadoes, and such), we really have the marvelous opportunity and ability to craft a life.
To do this, you must become a good swimmer. Why? Because the current of our society flows against personal responsibility. It has strong undertows of victimization, blame-shifting and an unrealistic sense of entitlement. And it has kept leaders from emerging. You must swim against it. And you are well able to do it.

I heard Brian Tracy once say that assuming complete responsibility for our lives is the mark of adulthood. It means being a grown-up. As kids we long for that moment. Now, we can maximize all the possibilities.

Here are some challenges for the coming days:

• Every day embrace the reality that you have the God-given ability to better your life and circumstances in some way. Viktor Frankl learned this in Hitler’s death camps. He realized that the Nazis had no power whatsoever over his thinking and inner life. Unless he gave it to them.
• Every day work to improve your skills of attention, concentration and laser-like focus for whatever task you happen to be doing. Be all there. Be fully in the moment. If it isn’t worth doing with all your being, is it worth doing at all? I did this last night as I walked for two miles in the bone-chilling cold air of winter. I embraced the frozen air and punishing wind. And became stronger because of it. I enjoyed it and improved my physical and mental life as a result.
• Write down your goals. There’s something about putting pen to paper that sets a course in motion within you towards the fulfillment of those goals. Your subconscious mind engineers reasons and plans for achieving what you’ve set as a target. Dream it, write it and be very specific. And then work your plan.

This is your moment. Hold nothing back.

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What Lights You Up?

22 04 2014

Enjoying the sunWhat lights a fire in your gut? And no, we’re not talking about indigestion from too much Thai cuisine last night.  What drives you to get out of your comfort zone and set off into the dangerous unknown?  What is that inward power, that energy that gets a man or a woman out of their seats and into action–the kind of action that protects life and brings lasting change and good to society?  Where does that kind of heat come from?

The ancient Greeks had very rich languages and dialects.  Greek is a lot like math with its precision.  Many of us are familiar with the many Greek words for love, one of the most common and oft-misunderstood words we use.  Storge.  Phileo.  Agape.  And, of course, eros.  These words talk about the various manifestations of love.

They also gave us the word thumos.  Doctors and nurses will recognize its kinship with thymus, one of the organs in our immune system.  It is not a common word when used in the world of biblical studies—an area very important to many of us.

Thumos may be described as “an inner fire that motivates action.”  It is used of the soul, but, unlike psuche—from which we get words like “psychology”—it describes the soul with a fire lit under its seat.  It is protective by nature.

I first came into contact with writer Paul Coughlin a few years back.  His book No More Christian Nice Guy radically took apart my idea of virtue, namely, that being nice and being good are not necessarily the same thing.  Jesus is the embodiment of goodness.  But he wasn’t always nice.  And He didn’t always play nicey-nice.  He would get into a lot of trouble today, upsetting the applecart.  Being good, rather than just nice, has a way of doing that.

Thumos is the fire, the motivation that enabled Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to champion civil rights—a fight that ended in his death.  It enabled Martin Luther to challenge a corrupt and ossifying Church with the need of reform.  It enables people to defend those who are bullied.  It is that intangible quality that stimulates action—change of behaviour—not simply a change in an intellectual position, a modified idea.  It’s what pushes Popeye to say, “That’s alls I can take; I can’t takes it no more.”  Then out comes the spinach, the muscle and the bad guys are put in their place.

So….how’s your thumos level today?  That fire inside your gut?

Listen to it.  It has something important to tell you.

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Letting Others Think For You? Think Again

24 02 2014


One of the most challenging tasks one can engage in is focused and thorough thinking.  Our very human tendency is to take the easy way out of things.  In the realm of thinking, the easy way out is often found in 1) trying to find cut-and-dry, black-and-white solutions to every problem or 2) denying the complexities of modern life offering superficial and simplistic solutions to sizeable challenges.

M. Scott Peck once discussed the problem of simplism in his book The Road Less Traveled and Beyond, which tends to reduce the complex challenges of modern life into neat and tidy solutions.  Too often, we gravitate towards simplistic solutions to these difficulties and mysteries.  Why?

For one, it’s easier.  Thinking–serious thinking involving focus, research and reflection–is hard work.  Again, we have a bent towards laziness…following the path of least resistance and exerting minimal effort.

The problem with simplistic thinking is that easy answers in neat, tidy packaging eventually get found out for what they are.  The result?  Cynicism.  Disillusionment.  Loss of values.  Even loss of faith.  Having come from a background that has included not a few years as a minister, simplistic solutions to serious problems ultimately destroy in the end.  Fundamentalists, note this please.

The solution?  Do your homework.  Whatever your challenge, put your time and paces in to get to the bottom of a matter.  The greater the stakes, the more effort you must exert.  At times, life is simple, even black and white.  Most of the time it is not.  If you know this going in, you’ll fare well and your ship will probably moor safely.

Do your homework.  And don’t leave it to anybody else, even the experts.  There’s far too much at stake.

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Rocky, Telling It Like It Is

19 02 2014

rocky-balboa-trailerMy wife and I are huge fans of the “Rocky” movies.  In this moving scene from “Rocky Balboa,” Rocky gives his grown son powerful advice about taking personal responsibility for one’s life, career, dreams and choices.


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Praise and Criticism: Valuable, But Limited

18 02 2014

Fear of ManOne receives inspirations at the oddest times.  Months ago, while listening to some a moving film score, I had a moment of understanding.  It had to do with desire for praise and fear of disapproval.

We tend to desire the approval of people we look up to and to fear the disapproval of the same.  Some of this is normal and healthy, a matter of common sense.  Most every child desires to please his parents.  Spouses yearn for the approbation of their spouses.  Employees want their bosses to be pleased with them and fear falling into disfavor due to poor performance.

All well and good.

There are many of us, however, who have an inordinate and unhealthy desire to please everybody.  We fear being “on the outs” with people–the more significant, the deeper the fear.  Corollary, we yield to the corresponding urge to bend over backwards to please.

We do this because of the valuation we’ve given to human applause or criticism.  And it trips us up.  One Proverb from the Bible sums it up: It brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25).  This fear of disapproval has been called, from ancient times,  the fear of man.

If I had Confederate currency lying around or piles of Monopoly money in my home, I would not be too upset if someone took it.  Why?  Because these things have little or no value.  Their gain or loss is of little moment.  It’s a different story when someone picks my pocket.  You get the idea.

Someone once wrote, “If you desire the praise of man, you will fear man.  If you fear man, you will serve him–for you will serve what you fear.”

What to do?

Remember, if you don’t get in the habit of drinking the Kool-Aid of praise and applause, you’re less likely to dread their loss.  You will ultimately answer to One, not seven billion.

It’s the sense of perspective that makes all the difference in the world.  Go and do the right thing and don’t fear man.  As my wife reminds me over and over again:

“We’re just people.  We poop.  We pee.  We die.”

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The Cardone Zone and Full Commitment

17 02 2014

Grant CardoneA friend and colleague of mine has recently turned me on to yet another personal development trainer, Florida real estate mogul Grant Cardone.

While listening to an audio book of his today, Sell or Be Sold, he made this provocative statement:

“I’d rather be fully committed to the wrong thing than be half committed to the right thing.”

I have to admit, his statement rattled me.  Now, I’ve listened to enough of his material to know he’s definitely not arguing for getting behind a losing cause.  “Choose well” is his advice.

But his unnerving statement highlights an important truth, one we’ve discussed here on The Upside:  “Wherever you are, be all there.”

There is energy in full, unbridled passion for what is important to us.  When we decide “This is it—I’m getting behind this effort, this value, this goal, taking no prisoners, come hell or high water,” stuff begins to unlock, paths open, your subconscious mind begins serving you and the target you’ve set.

Life is far too short to live in half-hearted fashion.

What are your goals and are they compelling enough to motivate you to burn your bridges and trash your excuses to make them a reality?

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Getting Airborne

16 02 2014

FlightIf you’ve ever flown in a large airliner and been seated on or near a wing, you’ll notice that there are adjustments made to the size and configuration of the wings before the pilot begins his takeoff roll.  Flaps and slats are extended, which increases the surface area and shape of the wings.  Large jet aircraft need this.

I remember vividly a terrible object lesson that illustrated what can happen when this crucial pre-takeoff step is omitted.  I lived north of Detroit, MI, in August, 1987.  One very hot and muggy Sunday evening, I was busy making donuts for the next day’s business at the bakery where I worked.  Sweat poured off me.

About an hour into the shift, a newsflash interrupted the regular radio programming announcing that a large airliner departing from Detroit Metro Airport had crashed upon takeoff.  There was one survivor—a little girl named Cecilia who was shielded by her mother.  It was an event that haunts Michiganders even  now, years later.

The ensuing NTSB investigation yielded the crucial piece of information as to why this flight was doomed.  Engine failure? No.  Mid-air collision with another aircraft?  Again, no.  The pilots had forgotten to extend the flaps and slats.  It was a hot, muggy night and this important pre-takeoff adjustment was even more critical.  The plane didn’t get the lift it needed and collided with the light towers of the nearby car rental area just northeast of the airport and came down on Middlebelt Rd.

The crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 was a tragedy.  Lives lost and families changed forever.

In life, we talk about “hitting the mark for our lives.”  We speak of our dreams, things we want to be and do.  Doing so, we often use the metaphors of flying.  “Fly high—the sky’s the limit.”  And so forth.

Often, we fail to get lift not unlike the jet that crashed that muggy August evening.  And, like an airliner, it is because we don’t prepare ourselves–emotionally, mentally, and physically–to accelerate into the wind and get airborne, moving towards a better future.

All the jet engines in the world will not get a plane off the ground if the shape and volume of the plane’s wings are incorrect, either by design or failure at during pre-flight adjustments.

Can I suggest that some basic modifications—and these are not big—can help us all really to roll on down the runway, get the lift we need, and soar?  Here are some:

  • Don’t be dependent on the approval of others before you roll down the runway.  Hitting a “Like” button on a social media website really doesn’t carry a whole lot of weight in the long haul—unless, of course, you let it.
  • Be honest with your makeup, drives, loves and preferences.  It’s doing something for which you have both aptitude and enjoyment that ultimately helps you fly.  Yes, we all have day jobs which we may or may not “love” but we can leverage these as well as our hobbies and avocations for the flight.
  • Avoid negative people.  They “drag” you down.  Drag hinders flight and is the reason that any jet you watch lift off the runway pulls in its landing gear immediately.  Drag will keep it from flying high and can bring it down.

Now soar!

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