My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Being Thankful Each Day

My wife and I noticed while shopping in mid-October there were Halloween decorations in one section of the store and Christmas decorations in another. Most stores are the same way. Thanksgiving is squeezed out we felt by commercialization. We spoke to each other how Thanksgiving is too often forgotten as a holiday and in our practice of daily living.

I would like to continue the thoughts from the previous post on gratefulness, by reflecting on a song about thankfulness. It is a song called Thank You For Today on Phil Keaggy’s Dream Again CD. Read over the lyrics here and then click on the You tube link below hear Phil sing the song:

Thank You For Today
Thank You for today. I am Grateful, for today is all I have.
The past is much too heavy for me to carry
If I hold on to it for too long, You know it will crush me.
The future’s far too fragile for me to worry
If I hold on to it for too long, You know it will rush me.
Right now is where you live, Right now is where I want to live.
Thank You for today. I am Grateful, for today is all I have.
In the past I am a fool, I play the fool, if I stay in that place for too long.
Dreams surrender to regret.
In the future I’m a clown, a selfish clown
If I stay in that place for too long, to love another I neglect
Right now there is no temptation Right now there is only faith.
Thank You for today. I am Grateful, for today is all I have.
Right now is where you live, Right now is where I want to live.
Thank You for today. I am Grateful, for today is all I have.

Click here to see a You tube video of Phil singing this song.

The song to me is a positive reminder to live each day and even in each moment with a thankful heart. In the Positive Psychology class I am taking online with lecturer Dr. Tal Ben Shahar, the past couple weeks has focused on the importance of gratitude. Phil is reminding us in this song that the main focus of our time orientation should be living in the present with a spirit of thankfulness.

It is not that the past or future is not important. The past is helpful so we can learn from previous failures in our lives. The past also relates to thankfulness, as I look back, I can be thankful for a mother who encouraged me to read and focus on my education. I am thankful for teachers, friends and ministers who were influential in my life journey. But if we allow hurts and hardships of the past to gain a hold on our hearts the past can crush our spirits into complaining and regret.

As for the future, I am very goal oriented, and I do believe future dreaming has a place. But is that where most of our focus should be? Focusing on the future too much can bring us to a state of continual worry of ‘what is going to happen?” A constant focus on the future can foolishly cost us by neglecting those who should be most important in the present -- our family and friends. It can also cost us by our not doing our best in each present moment which can hinder our future potential. So Phil’s song is right on the money in that right now, is where I am really living. I am learning to be mindful of keeping my focus on living each day to my best ability. As Thanksgiving day, the forgotten holiday comes near, it is a reminder that each day can be a day of thanksgiving.

What is your daily time orientation? Do you live in the past? Do you live for the future? Or are you living thankfully mindful of each present moment? Take a short time to write down three things in your past you are thankful for and three things you are thankful for today!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Living With a Grateful Heart

When we are caught up in the malaise of okness it is easy to focus on complaining how boring life is. We then spiral into more negativity and get caught up in a cycle of just existing and the habit of complaining. Some complaining can be useful if it realistically is discovering a problem to solve, or providing an impetus to improve. Yet all too often we keep on with the complaining, and habitually gripe -- that mires our thought lives with negativity. A positive way of breaking this cycle is to look at life with a grateful heart of thankfulness.

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." - Epictetus

“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” -Margaret Cousins

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." - G.K. Chesterton

The above quotes relate to having a grateful heart. Being grateful in our daily attitude is to focus on being thankful concerning what we have and the good things in our past that have helped mold us to who we are at this present point in time. Being thankful for parents, teachers, friends, and influential heroes that have shaped our present brings inner joy. This helps to counter the blame game of victimhood. Gratefulness for our present situation is a contentment that guards against complaining about what we don’t have.

The sense of appreciation that comes from a grateful heart changes our life for the better. It can break the cycle of negativity if we are in the habit of complaining. Building the habit of a grateful heart will also affect the lives of those around us. For example, when you smile or say “have a nice day”, to a tired sales clerk you can see an immediate body language change as they return a smile and say thanks. Try it on your next shopping trip. Give a smile to the worker at the counter and you will notice a difference. Too many complain, “That store clerk was rude”; “the waitress was so unfriendly”. Maybe they just need a smile to remind them of how they should be. So our appreciative nature may influence others to be more thankful and happy as well.

The Chesterton quote pointed out to me that gratefulness can lead us to a sense of happy wonder. A deep spiritual joy can grow in our inner being as we look at the small things around us, and see how a simple thing like a rose in the garden brightens our day. Noticing the little miracles in life will lead us to having an awe-filled day instead of an awful day. We have a dear friend, Cathy Matovich, who manages a birding store,( Wild Bird Center), in the Chicago area. She gave us a Hummingbird Feeder on our Summer trip to Chicago. We have it hanging on our back patio and there is a sense of joyful awe of God’s creation as we watch our hyperactive little friends flitting about enjoying the nectar from the feeder. We can appreciate God’s creation as we enjoy our morning coffee while watching the birds.

I have had my times in the negative complaining mode, so I can appreciate the experiential difference of living in a more appreciative mindset. In a Positive Psychology class I am taking online; this past week’s lectures have touched on the issue of gratefulness. It is helpful to see the research on the topic. Here are some Samples of research on being grateful that can be found at this website by Dr. Emmons— . From looking at the research it is seen that having gratefulness in our daily living has physical health benefits for better health, positive mental health benefits, increased happiness levels, and higher levels of personal success. That is what Living More Than OK is all about.

Many religious traditions speak to the subject of thankfulness and gratefulness. As I have mentioned in past postings, my spiritual heritage and personal worldview comes from a Christian standpoint of having a personal relation with Christ. Here at the following website are samplings of verses on the importance of being thankful from the Judeo Christian viewpoint:

Ephesians 5:19 & 20 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

The two verses above are a couple of my favorites on gratefulness. Ephesians 5 speaks to our interpersonal communication that it would be positive in nature. Speaking to each other with Psalms and hymns with an attitude of thankfulness. Philippians 4:6 speaks of overcoming anxiety by the act of spiritual prayer in an attitude of thankfulness. We may not be blissfully happy about everything that is happening to us but by keeping a thankful heart we are better able to cope with life difficulties.

Take 15 minutes to think over two things you are grateful for in your life. How does the reflection over these things make you feel? Is there a person or persons related to what you are grateful for?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Embracing Chaos Shifts in Your Career Life

In this ever-changing often chaotic world we live in, there can be unpredictable twists and turns in our career journey. Add in the economic stressors of job losses or fear of job loss may create tension bringing anxiety and depression. Feelings, such as Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” Lyrics - "But If This Ever Changing World In Which We're Livin' Makes You Give In And Cry" can turn your life upside down. We can either give in to the stress, continually crying about the chaos or we can embrace the situation as a shift in our lives making the most of it and press on to new directions and possibilities.

I am not making light of these moments, as I have had my share of depressive moments in my journey; as my well paved plans buckled up and blocked my pathway. Thankfully I had my faith in God, good friends to seek advice from, and made the use of Professional Counselors at the deepest point of the struggle. In Living the More Than OK life we need to look at the realities of life that it is not a clearly marked yellow brick road, instead often it is a turning, twisting, bumpy, and pot-holed filled path. When a shift occurs through a serendipitous happening we need to work through any pain, ( with a help of a professional Counselor can help), and move on in a positive manner.

I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Jim Bright this past July, at the NCDA, (National Career Development Conference) in St. Louis, MO. He is one of the main thinkers behind the Chaos Theory of Careers. His presentation drove home a point that although our lives do have stable smooth flowing times, we need to be prepared for when the tumultuousness of complex unplanned events come into our lives. For each one of us these events vary in number and intensity. We need to have an openness to new ideas that come through pleasant chance events or unplanned times of adversity.

Reading of Chaos Theory reminds me of a student I had in one of my classes a few years ago who was a very good student and never missed class. Then mid semester he stopped coming. I tried contacting him to no avail until the end of the term I finally contacted him. It was too late to salvage his semester. He said a family event occurred that knocked him flat and could not keep going. I encouraged him to regroup and keep going in the future not to let the event stop him from the education he wanted. He did not plan during the semester for this difficulty to happen. It just happened and stopped him cold. . As I often tell students no one wakes up and says, “Boy, this is a great day for a flat tire!”

Dr. Bright was considerate enough to send me this YouTube video he created which looks at some of the issues in chaos theory. Click on the link and take a moment to view it.
Where Will You Be?

Viewing the video made me think of the career shifts in my life from a library worker during High School, before college a shipping clerk in Ohio, then a janitor and library worker working my way through school in Chicago, customer service in publishing and other companies in the Chicago area, Real Estate in South Texas, and finally teaching and Counseling college students in South Texas. Some of the careers have been planned and some unplanned through necessity.

I also thought through the concept of the Butterfly effect thinking over small events that had a big effect in my latter time periods of my journey. Sometimes it was a discussion I had with someone that seemed insignificant at the time but as I look back in the grand scheme there was an effect on my life. One impetus in starting this blog was I always wanted to do some writing of my ideas. This I believe stems from my favorite teacher, Mrs. Verna Clifford, from 3rd grade who had us write little stories in her class. It was a little class assignment, ( a butterfly event), but I enjoyed it and later it helped me in my writing of reports in my higher education. It was memories of her encouragement back then that helped me consider venturing out in writing this blog.

I have added Dr. Bright’s website to my favorites listing. Do check it out, because as we look at the concept of chaos it does relate well to how we live out our careers and other aspects of our life journey. Dr. Bright is so right in that we need to build in our lives and strengthen qualities such as Optimism, Openness, Self-Efficacy, Vision, Playfulness and Risk, Flexibility, and Persistence. These are things we need to work on developing in our inner selves so we can better handle the complexities and happenstance events that enter into our outer lives. These are some topics that I will touch on in coming months as I believe they are important in Living More Than OK.

In closing take a short quiet time to reflect over the career shifts that have occurred on your life journey. Can you think of any Butterfly effect moments where in your past a seemingly insignificant event or small interaction with another person later had a significant impact on your life?