21 March 2017      

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to begin your spring in extraordinary ways this week!

 Breaking Away from Other
People's Expectations
Alan Loy McGinnis

If I Had to Do It All Over Again (Parenting)
Zig Ziglar

When Balance Goes Awry
tom walsh

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If I were to begin life again, I should want it as it was.  I would only open my eyes a little more.

Jules Renard

Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself.  We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem.  We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.

Iyanla Vanzant

We win half the battle when we
make up our minds to take the world
as we find it, including the thorns.

Orison Swett Marden


Breaking Away from Other People's Expectations
Alan Loy McGinnis

Sydney J. Harris was walking in New York City one evening with a friend, a Quaker, who stopped to buy a newspaper.  The newsboy was surly and discourteous to him as he made change, but Harris' friend looked him in the eye and gave him a warm farewell as he left.

"A sullen fellow, isn't he?" Harris asked.

"Oh, he's that way every night," shrugged the friend.

"Then why do you continue to be so kind to him?" Harris asked.

"Why not?" his friend responded.  "Why should I let him decide how I'm going to act?"

The Quaker obviously knew how to live independently.  He was a person in possession of himself, with a solid center of gravity.  It is such a center of gravity--an assurance of who we are and how we wish to live--that we must pursue if we are to develop genuine confidence.

Unfortunately, most of us are more reactive.  We allow the people around us to determine our attitude by their behavior or expectations.  But how can you be your own person, living above the expectations and demands of people?  The first step for independent living is this:

Dare to be a little eccentric.

Those with strong self-confidence always have people they love and are close to, but they also have the courage to be different from those around them.  We cannot live without the love of others.  In fact, in a later chapter I will emphasize the importance of building a network of strong friendships to enhance your self-image.  But that is quite different from a neurotic need to please others.  There are many people who would like to impose on us certain conditions of worth, and to submit to them is to submit to a life of scrambling.

The Dangers of Trying to Please

Dr. Neil Clark Warren, former dean of the Fuller School of Psychology, says that we waste large amounts of psychological energy studying the important people in our lives, determining what they want from us, and then trying to become the kind of person who can meet all those needs.

If you buy into this strategy, calls come from every side.  For instance, my mother wants me to be gentle and loving and nice.  My dad wants me to be tough and confident and well-defined.  My wife wants me to be a tiger:  strong, successful, but sensitive.  My friends want me to be open, and willing to be weak, but courageous.  The students at our school want me to be well-prepared and well-reasoned and thoroughly competent and productive.  The Seminary wants me to be conservative, but charitable; discriminating, and yet unconditional.  They want me to be an effective fundraiser, an administrator and scholar and teacher.  Society, I think, wants me to be masculine and sexually aware.

Sometimes I feel like crying out, "I just can't do it!"  And somewhere I hear a voice, "If you can't do it, pretend."  And the challenge to be a good pretender becomes the most challenging challenge of all.  We create masks and learn parts.  We make ourselves into actors and actresses and quick-change artists.  We move from one part to another as rapidly as we meet someone in our life who has differing expectations.  Other people think we're amazing.  They're so proud of us.  They seek our company.  They promote us and give us merit raises and hugs and trophies.  We're so important to them but we have become strangers to ourselves.  We have met everybody's needs but our own.

Returning to Your Center

The alternative to all this, according to Warren's felicitous phrase, is to "return to our center" and live from the authentic core within us.  In psychoanalytic terms, it is seeing the ego as the decision-making entity, receiving data from the id--our clamoring instinctual desires--and listening to the equally clamoring super-ego, which includes all the shoulds, oughts, and don'ts we have heard from countless important figures.  The ego then makes its decisions from that strong center, which is our core.  We are empowered to make those decisions, says Warren, by embracing the unconditional love that God has for us.  When we embrace that experience of grace and live from such a center, we will refuse to let either our persistent instincts or the people around us control our lives with their expectations and demands.

It is a liberating step when we decide to stop being what other people want when it is pretense.  Although the singer Risė Stevens had learned to work on the stage with great poise, the self-confidence she felt before audiences evaporated in social situations.  She said, "My discomfort came from trying to be something I was not--a star in the drawing room as well as on stage.  If a clever person made a joke, I tried to top it--and failed.  I pretended to be familiar with subjects I knew nothing of."

After watching herself fail so desperately in this way, she had a heart-to-heart talk with herself:  "I realized that I just simply wasn't a wit or an intellectual and that I could only succeed as myself.  Then, facing my faults, I began listening and asking questions at parties instead of trying to impress the guests.  I discovered that I had much to learn from others.  When I spoke, I tried to contribute, not to shine.  At once I began to feel a new warmth in my social contacts. . . . This brought me a new joy in being with people.  They like the real me better."

Discover how you can build inner strength, handle rejection, develop your uniqueness, keep your flaws in perspective, make friends with your body, find a place to excel, expand your network of love, and help others become more confident.  These and other practical guidelines, along with fascinating stories and anecdotes, show how you can increase your self-confidence without falling into the trap of self-worship.  A book to help you succeed at being yourself.


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If I Had to Do It All Over Again (Parenting)
Zig Ziglar

This question is frequently asked of people after they've reached a certain age.  One unknown father came up with some answers I believe have a lot of merit:

1.  "I would love my wife more in front of my children."  That is, he would speak more words of affection, hold her hand more, put his arm around her more, and hug her more.

2.  "I would laugh with my children more at our mistakes and joys."  Laughter breeds happiness, and a happy home has far fewer problems.

3.  "I would listen more, even to the smallest child."  It is amazing what little ones can teach us as the pearls of wisdom often come tumbling out.

4.  "I would be more honest about my own weaknesses and stop pretending perfection."  Kids know we are not perfect, and it's comforting to know we can acknowledge our humanness.

5.  "I would pray differently for my family.  Instead of focusing on them, I'd focus on me."  After all, that's where it really starts.

6.  "I would do more things together with my children."  We repeatedly hear about fathers who get too busy to spend precious moments walking, talking, playing, shopping, fishing, and cycling with their children.  That's where bonding takes place.

7.  "I would be more encouraging and bestow more praise."  It is said that encouragement is the fuel of hope, and praise, particularly for effort, brings about even more effort in the future.

8.  "When I made a mistake in the way I dealt with my children, I would admit it and ask them to forgive me."

9.  "I would pay more attention to little things, deeds and words of love and kindness."  When you add up all those little things over a lifetime, they make a huge difference.

10.  "I would share God more intimately with my family through ordinary things that happen in a day."

This unknown father has some marvelous lessons for us.  Take his approach, and you will have a happier, more fulfilled life as a parent.

~from his book, Staying Up, Up, Up in a Down, Down World

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Integrity is the first step to true greatness.  People love to
praise, but are slow to practice it.  To maintain it in high
places costs self-denial; in all places it is liable to opposition,
but its end is glorious, and the universe will yet do it homage.

Charles Simmons



When Balance Goes Awry

There are many times when I feel out of balance.  Heck, when I look back on my life and I see the things that have happened and the ways that I've thought about them, it sometimes surprises me that I have any balance at all in my life.  From day one I was exposed to toxic environments and harshly judgmental people, and I can never remember a time when I was very young when I felt any sort of peace or trust that everything was going to be okay.

Of course, in those years I had no idea what balance meant.  I had no idea that my life was out of balance, that the stress and the anxiety that I felt were not necessarily natural--they were the results of family situations that were completely out of my control, and they were not something that everyone else was feeling.  Our situation was our situation, and we dealt with it as best as we could, though I have to say that all in all, that wasn't very well.

Nowadays, though, I pay close attention to balance and its effects on me.  When I'm feeling balanced--that is, when things seem to be affecting me in appropriate and "normal" ways--life is pretty pleasant.  I've learned over the years to deal with a lot of adversity and problems, so those don't normally take me to the dark places in my mind--I simply deal with them and move on.  There will be conflict and there will be joy, but neither of these will be overwhelming.  There will be stress and there will be problems, but they're easily dealt with when my mind and spirit and heart are in balance.


Life is often messy, uncertain, and unpredictable.  Sometimes it's a string
of troubles that seem to never end.  That's normal.  Ups and downs
are normal.  Being ill on occasion is normal.  Feeling peaceful and happy
are normal.  Occasional low-energy days are normal.  According to Chinese
medicine, it is accepted as natural that we fluctuate from being in balance
to being out of balance.  Peace of mind comes from not attaching a great
deal of significance to either state.  We simply note our moods and
physical states and gently move toward balance as best we can,
accepting it all as part of the flow of life.

Charlotte Davis Kasl

Things do happen, though, to upset that balance.  Without going into great detail because of the personal nature of the incident, something happened a few weeks ago that seriously upset my balance--I started focusing my mind and my thoughts on almost one thing exclusively, devoting much more time and energy to that thing than it really deserved, and it was very negative.  My work in other areas was seriously affected, I didn't sleep well for several days, and I constantly felt tense.

The saving grace was that I recognized what was going on.  I knew that it wasn't the thing that happened that was the problem, but the way that I was responding to it.  It had thrown me off-kilter, and I was listing.  Even though I knew this, though, I still wasn't able to simply shrug off the occurrence and forget it, for it was far too meaningful in too many ways.

And contributing to the problem was the fact that I was quite exhausted at the time, as I usually am as I near the end of any semester.  This was right before spring break, which was a blessing, because I could at least take care of the exhaustion over the break.  But dealing with the lack of balance--my inability to choose to not focus on the negative--was still quite a challenge.

There is no such thing as work-life balance.  Everything
worth fighting for unbalances your life.

Alain de Botton

The first thing I had to do was convince myself of two things--first, that this thing wasn't nearly as drastic as my mind wanted to make it out to be, and second, that it didn't deserve the amount of time or energy that I was devoting to it.  It simply was what it was, and while it was hurtful, it wasn't all that bad.  My mind was making it worse than it was (which my mind tends to do a lot of), and things really were still okay.  What helps me in such situations is to examine the facts of the situation and figure out what they mean, if I can.  That doesn't mean that I try to pretend that what happened was completely insignificant, for it wasn't.  The truth of the matter, though, was that other people whom I trust were reassuring me that it wasn't that drastic, yet I was still feeling that it was rather than believing what they were saying.

Previously in my life, I would have let that imbalance--allowing my mind to attach far too much importance to a situation rather than believing trustworthy friends--continue much longer.  This time, it took me a few days, but even during those few days things weren't nearly as bad as they used to get.  I didn't allow the balance to go too far too one side; I made a conscious effort to keep the shift from going too far to one side by forcing myself to acknowledge and accept the ideas that were coming from others, thus allowing my mind to balance itself much more effectively.

Then I had to force myself to focus on other things that were much more positive, though not less important.  In my state of imbalance, these other things were seen as not being nearly as important as the negative occurrence, so it was very easy to neglect them.  By focusing on them, though, I reminded myself that my life is made up of so many other facets than just this one thing, and my brain was able to start realizing the true extent of the importance of the negative thing--it did have some importance, but I wanted to put too much importance on it simply because it was hurtful. 

Life is just like our checkbooks.  We need to learn the tools for bringing
them back into balance, for once we get them balanced, they will only
have a possibility of staying that way if never use them again.
Living in harmony is an ongoing process.

Anne Wilson Schaef

As I grew up, I had no real examples of balance.  My family was constantly in a state of imbalance, and I learned that as a norm--we were all just waiting for the next terrible thing to come along and throw our world out of whack.  It wasn't just that I wasn't able to be balanced; rather, I had no idea what balance was or what it felt like.  As I've grown up, though, I've come to learn that much of what I've seen as problems is actually simply a question of me focusing too much on one or two negative things rather than allowing them to be part of a greater whole, a whole that is in a healthy balance as I focus also on the positive and the healthy.  This doesn't mean that I ignore the bad or pretend it doesn't exist.  It simply means that I give the bad its due, just as I give the good its due--and no more than its due.

Sometimes when the world feels simply overwhelming and you're questioning your job and your relationships and your reason for being, you're experiencing the loss of balance.  Your focus has grown to be far too attached to one or two things, and when even a tiny aspect of those things goes awry, so does your balance.  You start to channel more attention and energy towards the problem, and you lose much of your connection to the positive parts of your life that are supposed to be balancing out those things.

Take some simple steps to re-establish that balance.  Take a walk in a very natural setting and remind yourself that you're part of a much greater whole.  Sit and talk with a friend whom you trust and for whom you care so that you can remind yourself that you do have love in your life.  Make a list of what's going right in your life--do you have food? shelter? clothing? electricity? heat? free time? work?  When you remind yourself of your blessings, you allow those blessings to help to balance out any negatives.  Give something away--or some things.  Share your blessings with others to remind yourself of the power of kindness.  And accept that things are the way they are and that you'll deal with them as well as you can.

It's not always easy, but it is necessary.  Often what we do is allow ourselves to feel this imbalance until it works itself out of our system on its own.  That strategy, though, can lead to many unhappy or even miserable days.  It's important that we try to keep a healthy perspective, and a balanced perspective, for when we're in balance, we can be a positive influence on the lives of others.  When we're out of balance, so is our contribution to the world--what we give is tainted by what we feel.  Let's try to maintain our balance so that the people we love will always benefit from our presence rather than be tried by it.

More on balance.


One of the most important elements
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To complain that life has no joys
while there is a single person
whom we can relieve by our
bounty, assist by our counsels
or enliven by our presence, is
to lament the loss of that which
we possess, and is just as rational
as to die of thirst with the
cup in our hands.

Thomas Fitzosborne

Edward J. Lavin

Contentment is a balm, satisfaction is a friendly embrace, but happiness is a warm glow and tingle that arise from the health of both mind and body.

We all want to be happy, yet how many of us can with certainty declare that we are?  We all have little happinesses that raise us up out of the mire of our daily struggles.  Perhaps we should be content with these small gifts, for the quality of perfect happiness is an uncommon state.

This little caution is a warning to those whose life is a perpetual search for the perfect happiness--a holy grail that requires an immense effort.  It is not found in a clean bathroom, although the TV commercials want us to think so.  Nor is it found in money or health or friends or lovers or travel or small packages.  These may lead to small happinesses, and blessings on them all.

Perfect happiness is a well-regulated hierarchy of spirit, mind, and body. The order is important, and anything that disturbs that order ruffles the surface of the lake of happiness.  Unregulated desire, as the Buddha knew so well, is a heavy stone dropped into the lake; equally disturbing is the tendency to forget about the spirit and to concentrate exclusively on the mind or the body.  Perfect happiness is not to be found in the leaps of aerobic movement nor in the dense concentration of scholarly research.

Yet we must not despair.  Perfect happiness is our birthright--it is only that we must work at it.

from his book Life Meditations


Hope is outreaching desire with expectancy of good. It is characteristic
of all living beings. Birds, beasts, and people are always alert and striving
for the fulfillment of their hungers. They are impelled forward in a ceaseless
quest for satisfaction. The antennae of insects relentlessly explore
and feel their way ahead, and the imagination of humans functions
in the same manner, ranging through wide areas and far futures
in search of the good which hope ever promises.

Edward S. Ames


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