My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Monday, August 31, 2009

Moving From Thinking to Action

Life is more than talk. When I speak to my Student Success course students, about the power of our self-talk, I tell them we have to move beyond our positive self-talk. Changing our negative thoughts to positive is helpful but with no working action nothing will be accomplished. We need to actively work out our positive thoughts for progress to occur in our dreams, or profitable changes we want for our lives. The book of Proverbs 14:23 tells us, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

Let’s say for example, my self-talk is about getting in better physical shape. I may say things like, ”I am going to exercise to improve my health for my self and to be a better me for my family.” I even go so far as ordering a Leslie Sansone DVD to do walking at home. Then if all I do is sit in my recliner stuffing cupcakes in my face while I watch the DVD, is that going to help me get in better physical condition? No, I have to rise up from the chair and start walking, go outside for a jog, or join a health club if the recliner is too much of a temptation.

Another example I use with my students, many who struggle with Math, I suggest they can change their self-talk from, “I am no good at math-I just can’t do it.” to “I need to pass Algebra I to receive my degree, so even though I don’t love Math I will do whatever it takes to pass it.” What is the “doing whatever it takes”? The student needs to work on going to tutoring, place extra time in his schedule to increase the number of math problems he practices. For those students struggling with math I tell then when they start dreaming of numbers chasing them in their dreams they are probably doing the right number of math problems in their personal study time.

What I am getting at, is once your self-talk has been changed into a positive mode you need to jump into active work on what you want for yourself. Here is a helpful quote from Napoleon Hill: “Do not wait; the time will never be "just right'. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” When we need to make a change, it is easier to make excuses and stay stuck in the soft comfort of the recliner with remote in hand. Waiting for the right time to change will not work, as time will eventually pass us by and the positive changes for possibilities in our life will pass us by. I know from past experience in my life. I like how Napoleon Hill says to start with the tools you have at your disposal to get moving. Again move away from the excuses of waiting for the “right”-- time, people, circumstances, or God. I love the God excuse. Mind you, as a Christian, I do believe in seeking God’s guidance, but many times sitting around waiting to hear from God, is a cop-out to keep from moving into the tough work of action. Seriously, the move from positive thinking to the hard work of action is tough but necessary. As we take the first step with the tools we have available more helpful tools will come our way as we progress in our journey toward what we want.

Sometimes as we are working hard at accomplishing what we want, we begin to be tired and want to give up. A reality check reminds us that hard work is called hard work for a reason. It is hard and difficult at times. When you are ready to give up, think over these ten positive benefits to hard work in our lives. Use them as reminders why you need to keep pressing on, working for the changes in your life. They come from the book Life’s Greatest Lessons by Hal Urban:

1. Hard work helps us realize our potential.
2. Hard work helps us face up to life.
3. Hard work makes us feel good.
4. Hard work builds character.
5. Hard work earns the respect of others.
6. Hard work earns self-respect.
7. Hard work adds meaning.
8. Hard work gets the best results.
9. Hard work becomes a habit.
10. Hard work is healthy.

Begin working today on improving your Life More Than OK!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Program Your Self -Talk in a Positive Direction

If you did the exercise in the last posting about comparing your negative vs. positive thoughts and came up with more negatives, don’t start feeling too bad. Dr. Shad Helmstetter in his book, Who Are You Really and What Do You Want? states there is some research that shows for some people up to 70% of their thinking is negative. That is a big chunk of negativity. What can we do to change the percentages in a positive direction?

One key area where we can improve our thinking in a more positive way is what we say to ourselves – our self talk. Yes it is ok to talk to yourself. We do it all the time. You probably don’t want to walk through the shopping mall holding a long dialogue with yourself. You will get a lot of strange looks but seriously, it is important to consider the things we say to ourselves.

I remember years ago in a College basic computer programming class learning the acronym, GIGO, Garbage In Garbage Out. If your computer program is filled with errors, your output on the program will be filled with errors. The professor mentioned that in his opinion the greatest computer ever designed was the human brain designed by God. He exhorted the class to apply the GIGO principle to our lives and thinking. If you allow garbage in to your minds the output into your life will be garbage.

Years after this while I was studying on my first Masters degree in Divinity/Counseling at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL my advisor encouraged me to read the Dr. Helmstetter book, What To Say When You Talk To Yourself. This, along with my appreciation for Cognitive Behavioral theories in my Psychology courses caused me to be awestruck by the power of our thinking in our individual lives.

Self-talk is the internal scripts we say to ourselves in our minds- “Boy, I’m sure having a rotten day!”, “How could I be so stupid”, “I should be able to do this better”, “ I will never be able to remember things!”, “ My mom said I would always be a failure. I guess she was right.” “I just can’t be creative!”. The scripts are programming statements that we consciously and unconsciously repeat over and over to ourselves. These statements program our personal internal computer, (our brain). When the programming is full of shoulds, coulds, can’ts and regrets we are programming major negativity which will produce negativity in our lives.

When I first read What To Say When You Talk To Yourself , I reflected over all the “I can’t” statements that had limited my past from my teen years and negatively affected the present at the time. I was astounded at the negativity and limitations I had placed on myself, almost unknowingly. I would like to say that that realization changed my life to success over night. Mental habits are slow in changing. Even up to this day. Before starting this blog for months I remember arguing with myself, “Why bother writing a blog you have nothing to say. You can’t do it. Who will read it anyways? It won’t help anyone” I finally reprogrammed my self talk with “I have always wanted to work on improving my writing. Doing a blog may be productive writing practice. Even if I only get a few readers, if I can encourage them to live a more than ok existence it will be worth it.”

In the previous paragraph I give an example of the primary way Dr. Helmstetter promotes to change the thinking programs in our minds. Set aside 30 minutes of quiet alone time to think over your self-talk statements you say to yourself on a routine basis. Jot down on a paper the things you say to yourself –
Examples –“Why me?”; “I never say the right thing”; “my room is always messy – I guess I am just a messy person”; “nobody likes me”; “I just can’t lose weight”. Look over the statements. Are they things I really want to be true about myself? Can I have pride in saying these things? Are they helping me be a better person? Then finally think over what you should be saying instead and write the new programming statements out. Here are some examples --change the “ I can’t” to “I can”; “I am having a rotten day nothing is going right” to “My day is starting off rough but I am not going to let it beat me. Look out world here I come!”; “My dad said I would always be a dummy in math” to “Maybe I am not a numbers guy but I need Algebra to get my degree so I will use the campus tutoring and do extra practice to make sure I pass.”

You get the idea. Look at the negative statements you are telling yourself and create a positive new program. Then when you catch yourself saying the negative statement hit the delete button in your mind to erase it and then paste in the more positive statement. Try the 30 minute exercise mentioned in the preceding paragraph and try building some new positive programs for yourself. Let your thoughts move your life in a positive direction!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Taking Thought of Our Thoughts

From the first thought of the day, “I don’t feel like getting up”; to the last thought, “why can’t I fall asleep”, we are faced with thousands of thoughts. Constantly we are bombarded with our thoughts during breakfast, driving in traffic, while listening to others. Do we understand how these thoughts affect our lives, our choices, and our futures?

In the Old Testament book of Proverbs 23:7 we find these words, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” This is a powerful proverb if you reflect over its importance. Our thoughts are what shapes the real us. Our character, values, behavior, dreams, attitudes are all shaped by our thought life. Our environment and genetic makeup has a part in our development but the driving force of development is our thinking processes. This idea raises the bar on our personal responsibility if we consider the power of our thoughts.

I recently re-read a little leather bound book a friend in Chicago gave me years ago, by the writer James Allen. It is called As A Man Thinketh. You can read an online version by clicking on the preceding title. Here is a sampling of ideas from his work:

A man's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.

Every thought seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces its own, blossoming sooner or later into act, and bearing its own fruitage of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit.

His analogy of the mind and life to that of a garden is important in contemplating what kind of life we want to lead. When our family visited Chicago recently I made sure we visited Chicago Botanic Gardens as my wife always enjoyed visiting there when we lived in Chicago. You can stroll through acres and acres of well manicured gardens full of flowers not weeds. The various gardens there, are a peaceful setting to appreciate a variety of flowers and plants.

Thinking back to Allen’s analogy, how do we want our lives to be? Do we want a life in disarray and a mess or a life of beauty? Deep down we want a life of beauty but moving beyond what we want; we must look at what actually is. We can ask ourselves do I have a life in disarray or a life of beauty? Our thoughts have a major effect on the outcome of our lives. It is our thinking that drives our choices for good or for bad. If we are filling our lives with negative thoughts or dwelling on how boring our lives we are not living more than ok. Weeds of life will quickly overtake our daily experience leaving us in disarray.

The Apostle Paul in the New Testament scriptures states an important point of what the focus of our thinking should be. In Philippians 4 :8&9 he says, “ 8 Finally, brethren,)whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” The focus of our thoughts should be on positive things. Our thoughts should be seeking truth with the aim for excellence. I enjoy The Message paraphrase, by Eugene Peterson of the same verse 8 Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. We need to fill our minds and reflect and ponder those thoughts that are the best and thoughts of beauty. How much could we improve our lives if we took the time to meditate on true, noble, authentic, and gracious thinking.

What would others think of us if our thoughts appeared above our heads like walking billboards. Would they see noble, gracious thoughts? Or would we be embarrassed by the negatives of unfair judgments, negative putdowns, and personal insecurities? Too often we allow cursing and negative thoughts gain control. Relationships falter as we have ungracious thinking about those around us. We limit our potential by having untruthful and ugly thoughts about ourselves. These negative thoughts work out to make our lives ugly like an overgrown weed filled garden not a peaceful garden of beauty.

Take some time at the end of the day to reflect over your thoughts of the day. Make a list of the negatives and the positives found in your thought life. . Is your list full of road rage thoughts, complaints, and personal putdowns on yourself? What can you do to change the negatives and build up reputable and authentic beautiful thoughts? We will delve more into what you can do in the next post. Until then, take thought of your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Exercise a Key to Living More Than OK

For the past six years I have been consistent in using a treadmill and Elliptical for exercise most every night. Before then exercise was not a priority. What caused the change? It is amazing how having two stents placed in two formerly 99% blocked arteries changed my perspective on life. The Cardiologist told my wife at the time if I had not been taken to the emergency room I would have died in my sleep. I wasn’t that overweight. The artery problem was more genetic in nature as my father had died of blocked arteries to the heart at age 58.

When you come that close to death, life takes on new meaning. Especially when after the stent surgery I learned news of two people near my age that died of heart attacks. I reflected over why I was still alive when I stubbornly almost refused going to the hospital and possibly would have died that day. From the context of my recent thinking on living more than ok, I also thought how even though I am predisposed to clogged arteries my style of life of just being ok catered to junk food and lack of exercise in my past. My thinking had been, I am not overweight, so why bother with exercise.

After the stent surgery, I was placed in heart rehab therapy so was forced to go on a heart diet and an exercise regimen. Since that initial heart rehab after the hospital, I have kept disciplined in diet and exercise partly due to my wife’s direction but also because I enjoy living life. I know I need to follow the regimen if I want to keep living. Another factor since that day when I could not breathe, as I felt like a thousand pound weight was on my chest, is a sincere belief God is not finished with me yet. I figured there must be a purpose for me to still be alive. My wife and daughter are in that purpose zone. But I believe even this post on exercise is part of the purpose. If I can encourage a few people to exercise before a hospital visit forces them to -- it is all worth it.

Exercise gives you more energy to face each and every day. Since my time in the hospital I have been more aware of sensing my body. If I am sick and cannot exercise for a few days I can feel a sluggishness overtaking me physically. Recently I read in the July/August issue of Scientific American Mind that exercise is not just good for the body but for the mind as well. Vigorous aerobic exercise helps keep the brain in better shape. So if you are wanting to live a better life and enjoy improved mental health become involved with physical activities as part of your lifestyle – jogging, walking, swimming, tennis, basketball, or treadmills can help in promoting a strong circulatory system. You can exercise by yourself, with close friends, or if you are a more social person you may find support in joining a health club.

My wife recently had a friend give her a Walk at Home DVD that we have begun to use and enjoy. It is done by Leslie Sansone. At first I did not think walking in place at home could be any help as a workout. We have tried it and it is vigorous and gets all the muscles moving. My wife has seen an energy boost from it. Our daughter enjoys it as well so it is a positive way to spend some family time together. I still enjoy working out on my machines so we alternate as they do not have to exercise everyday like I do.

Make exercise as part of your lifestyle choice. It is better for you to choose now rather than having a hospital visit choose it for you. You will be doing your body and mind a favor and it is a great gift you can give those you love – a better you!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rekindling Your Dreams

Continuing on the subject of our personal dreams for our life, what stops us in following our dreams? Why do our lives get turned upside down and lose sight of the path we were on in our life journey? Why do people of faith have feelings that God has disappeared from involvement in their lives?

Dreams become squelched by the stuff of life overwhelming us. Instead of using wise active choices to control what we can, we passively move about on autopilot and let life situations and dull drudgery control us. Day to day distractions grow and grow until we give up on living more than ok and settle for mundane existence. Then our dreams fade away.

It is sometimes hard to imagine how this can happen. For example, a person who goes off to college with high hopes of a college degree does not plan on not finishing. Yet he may stop out for a year to save up a little more money with the intention to go back soon. Ten years later he never goes back as more and more bills pile up. Another person who wants to start a photography hobby, or learn a musical instrument, she then lets work, housing chores, and other activities take over -- never gets around to it. People actually then say “I will get around to it some day”. Some day never comes then regrets take over with all the entailing negativity.

The title track of Phil Keaggy’s Dream Again CD came to my mind as I was thinking over this topic of rekindling dreams. You can listen to a sample of the track at As you listen to the song reflect over what Phil is saying about dreaming again in his lyrics I have listed here.

Dream Again by Phil Keaggy
Ready with a pen in hand, I’m wondering why I haven’t slept, well I’ve had a lot on my mind.
And it shows it shows. I must let go of all these distractions. Leave them far behind and dream again

And when I wake up smiling the world’s a different place.
Only when I choose. Only when I use my eyes to see your beautiful face.

If ever I’m upside down Whenever I’m turned around I will pray.
If ever I lose my step, If ever I should forget I will , I will pray.

Ready with these open hands I’m turning them upside down, cause
I must let go of all these reactions. Leave them far behind and dream again.

And when I wake up smiling The world’s a different place
Only when I choose Only when I use my eyes to see your beautiful face.

If ever I’m upside down Whenever I’m turned around I will pray
If ever I lose my step, If ever I should forget I will , I will pray

Help me to let go all these distractions. Leave them far behind and dream again.
I must let go of all these. If ever I’m upside down, Whenever I’m turned around I will, I will pray.

I can relate to his thoughts of feeling upside down. When we have lost track of our dreams we do feel out of sorts. As I mentioned at the beginning, it is all the distractions of life that hinder us with our dreams and our wrong reactions lead to giving up on our dreams. We wind up giving up on God and give up on ourselves. I appreciate the picture of him being ready with open hands turned upside down. He is not tensed up clenching wildly on to his distractions. He is ready to move on with dreams for his life and letting go of his distractions so they can fall away. The phrasing reminds me of a single mom named Lucy, who attended a church in Chicago where I worshipped years ago. Her favorite phrase was “Let go and let God.” We can’t rekindle lost dreams or create new dreams, if we keep hanging on to life’s past difficulties and hurts.

Here is one, More Than OK, idea for you to consider and try. In Phil’s song he repeats “I will pray”. If you are in a period of feeling dreamless and desire to rekindle the fire of personal dreams in your life, get away for a day by yourself. Go to the beach, rent a cabin in the woods, or visit a mountainside retreat. Some place you find relaxing. Make it a spiritual dream retreat day. Pray and meditate over your life. Let go of the reactions of the past and distractions of the present. Brainstorm ideas for dreams -- new ones and old ones you had forgotten about. Hopefully if you have done the dream list exercise from the last post bring it with you. During your day do two writing exercises. Write for about 20 minutes on where do you see yourself 5 years from now if you follow some of your dream ideas? Repeat the exercise later expanding the timeline up to 10 years in the future. We are not placed on this earth to live tensely distracted but to live joyfully and abundantly.