My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Critical Thinking Needed At The Start Of The New Year

This year started early on with a tragic and sad shooting rampage of Jared Loughner at Congresswoman Gifford’s gathering in Tucson, Arizona killing 6 people and seriously injuring the Congresswoman and others. Just as tragic in another sense is what happened right afterwards in the media. Some in the Liberal media immediately jumped into the issue with critical emotional based assumptions blaming Sara Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Conservative talk radio and Fox News for the killings. There was no taking time to wait for the facts. No time to take time to reflect on the pain of the victims’ families. Just emotional blame in hopes to score points against Conservatives.

As I was watching reports on Fox News I thought how all the reactions showed the need for critical thinking. Critical thinking doesn’t react. Critical thinkers wait for the facts to become clear. It is not based on emotional snap assumptions that are based in hating another group of people. That is all I saw in the reports from the Left. Critical thinking also looks at what can be learned for improving our life even through tragedies. The liberal media by blaming Conservative’s speech totally were missing the main issues in the situation. Even the President, although his speech was lauded as positive at the Memorial service still did not get it. He still emphasized that civil discourse was needed but that was not the issue in this case.

The critical thinkers in reporting on this were Fox News reporters, who were zeroing in on the shooter as being responsible. Also I had a chance to listen to hear Rush Limbaugh, who I sometimes have the opportunity to listen to on my lunch hour. He rightly was making people think through the facts that it went back to responsibility of the shooter Jared Loughner. One thing I like about Rush Limbaugh is he forces his listeners to think and even tells them to critically think through the issues. Charles Kraughthammer, who reading his columns is a great way to grow in your critical thinking skills as he presents logical and rational arguments spoke concisely to the issue of the madness of Jared was behind the killing. He pointed out that there was no evidence or facts to show the shooter even listened to Sara or Rush.

One critical thinker who I feel came closest to what we need to learn from this was Lou Dobbs. I heard him on Bill O’Reilly’s show, ( yes you have deduced correctly I am a FOX listener). He was making the connection of Jared’s drug use and his mental health decline as being a causative factor. He was still rightly putting the blame on Jared’s choices but I sensed a real caring attitude of what could have been done to help the young man before this. Lou’s point has hardly been mentioned in the news. The facts that have been presented from high school girlfriends and others who knew him that he was somewhat normal in high school but the big change began after his stronger use of Marijuana and psychedelic mushroom drugs. This may have been a major factor in what seems to be his personality change to a paranoid schizophrenic. I of course can’t say for sure but we know drugs have a negative effect on people. That is why I am so against them.

We could reduce many of these senseless killings and tragedies in life if people could learn to enjoy natural highs and stay away from drug use. I have mentioned this in the past and will continue to say it. If you have not looked at the website check it out today. Share this website with teachers you know as changing the lives of school kids is one of their main focuses.

S. E. Cupp in a recent column brought up also valid critical thinking ways to look at this tragic case. She didn’t emotionally point fingers. Instead she reflected and brought up valid points that I had not thought of but I do believe are very valid. Could the violence and narcissism of reality tv and Hollywood be encouraging these events in the minds of fragile people on the edge in their mental illness.

To me the main issue that has not been brought up because people do not want to deal with it is mental health. From all descriptions, Jared seemed like an average kid in his high school days. There are pictures of him playing in a jazz band and girlfriends said he was a quiet person and nice even though there were signs of anger issues, but nothing major. The problems seems to begin near the end of high school and the beginning of college as he began using and abusing drugs. That is where I feel Lou Dobbs was right on point. The college gave him a number of chances but a learning point could be how to better intervene in situations like this. Earlier when his problems started to surface if someone would have offered some mental health counseling could the tragedy had been averted?

Some people come across acting like he was crazy all his life and there was nothing anyone could have done. Or once someone starts spiraling down there is nothing can be done to help them. Positive Psychology shows that if we can spiral down we can spiral upwards as well. Since Jared is still alive I hope although the news has brushed the story under the rug, there will be practical learning for the good of society from this tragic event.


How is your critical thinking? Are you a reactor or do you take time to reflect? Are you an assumer or do you look for the facts? Take some time to reflect over some recent problems that have come into your life and examine what your thinking patterns were like. How can you improve your thinking to be a better problem solver?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Looking Ahead Into Your 16 Life spheres

Part of moving into a new year, is looking back savoring the past direction and activities in our lives. This I have looked at over the past couple of weeks discussing the topic of savoring life. The other important aspect of a new year is the ability to start afresh in moving forward with new ideas, new goals, and new accomplishments on the journey forward. An important book that can help us with this is Creating Your Best Life by Caroline Adams Miller and Dr. Michael Frisch. Here they present research on the effectiveness of creating life lists for what we desire to accomplish in our lives.

Today I want to look near the end of the book where they bring up the idea of looking into 16 spheres that are vital to our life journey and then create goal lists of want we want for ourselves in these 16 areas.

The first sphere areas they look at are Purpose, Values & Spirituality. Our purpose is the overarching reason we see for our existence. Why has God placed you on this earth? Our values are those beliefs are the most important to us. Examine your spirituality -- what place does God have in your life. Or if you are a non-believer in God what brings meaning to your life? Personally, As a Christian spirituality is the driver of my purpose, and values for me in my life journey. The authors encourage creating a mission statement based on your purpose and values. As I have mentioned before, this can be written out as a short declaration like the U. S. Declaration of Independence. Or it can be written as a poem or some create a short mission statement like an advertising statement craft a mission statement for their life. The New Year is a profitable time to review a previous mission statement or create a new one for a new year. For new ideas on mission statements the authors suggest looking for examples on the internet. I found a helpful mission website to look at mission examples -- .

The next sphere area they discuss is Family, Friends and Relationships. Those around us who touch our lives and the lives we touch are important to our New Year life journey. In today’s world sometime friends have taken the place of family as we are more scattered across the country. The important point is to look at your significant relationships and build a list of how you want to improve these relationships during the New Year. What goals and action steps can you create to improve this area of your life?

The spheres of the inner and outer self, is discussed next- Health, Self-esteem and Volunteering. Many New Year’s resolutions revolve around health in desiring to diet and exercise. The list and goal concept of looking at our health moves beyond a short wish spoken at midnight. Take time to write down what improvements you plan in the coming year in relation to your health. The self-esteem sphere is how we build our inner self of believing in our self and being proud of the skills and talents we have. It is that inner confidence that helps us be resilient in the face of the difficulties and changes that may face us in the New Year. Jot down a list of those skills and talents you have that you can make use of in new areas you want to challenge yourself in the New Year. The volunteering sphere relates to the fact that we do not develop ourselves for selfishness. We need to focus on relationships but with volunteering it may be not in close relationships but giving of time and personal talents to needs in your church or a community cause you are interested in. In today’s world there are so many volunteer opportunities. Check with your local church or local chamber of commerce for service opportunities. Do a brainstorming list of ways you can volunteer some of your time or resources in this new year.

These next spheres bring deeper level of fulfillment to our lives --Play , creativity, and learning. By play the authors do not mean sitting in front of the tv. Make a list of activities you enjoy and make a list of potential vacation, and weekend getaways to bring fun into your life. Think of play as active in creating your play lists for the year. Creativity. I am a big believer in creativity as it brings depth in to our existence. Place on your list the scheduling of quiet time in your life to contemplate new ways to be creative. Search on the internet sites that will help you look outside the box on creativity. As to learning, life long learning will keep the mind sharp. Create a list of books you wish to read, Think about taking a class at the local college or take an online class.

The spheres of Money, work and retirement relate to the practical side of earning a living and what are your plans in your retirement years. It is never too early to begin dreaming of that time in your life. In your list in these areas think how can you make the best use of the money resources you have. You don’t have to be a stingy miser but living simpler provides you with more funds to enjoy your retirement years better? What of your work? In your lists can you come up with ideas to turn your job in to a calling? Rate areas of your work and find which areas you thrive in and enjoy; and then areas of struggle to improve in during the year.

Their final section of spheres relate to surroundings – Home, Neighborhood, and Community. Make a list in this area and think first of improvements you desire in your home. This can be physical improvements or values of new traditions you desire to create. In your neighborhood, are there neighbors you would like to get to know. In the news recently there was a tragedy and a person mentioned they had lived next door for years and never even learned the last name of who lived beside them. Sad to say that is the norm. Then with the community this reflects back to the volunteering sphere. Are you involved in a local church or synagogue in your community? Are there ways you can be involved in the community such as literacy projects, community clean ups? Add these to your list for the year.

In the coming year we will delve more into the specific sphere areas and other topics for you to be living more than ok in the New Year. In these first few weeks of the New Year think over which sphere areas do your need more improvement in your life.

Reflection: Take some quiet time to reflect on your life in these 16 spheres. Make a list of what you want for yourself in the 16 spheres. Then prioritize which of the spheres are most important to you at this point in time.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Reflecting On Your Life Pathways

Moving into the year 2011 instead of my usual looking ahead to this new year I took sometime to continue on last week’s theme of savoring. I took some time to reflect on paths I have taken in my life. Each of us on our journey through life take a variety of pathways in our life journey.

What really made me think about this was a song and a video that was done with the song. Recently my wife sent me an email with a song by trumpeter Chris Botti embedded in it. The song’s name was The Way Home. I enjoyed the song and searched for it on the internet as I wanted to find the cd it was from. In my search I came across this You Tube video done of the song. Take a few moments to watch this video and be thinking of pathways to your home at various times in your life; while you listen and view the vivid scenic photos of pathways. Click on this title to view the video --
The Way Home

The melody of the song is very catchy and has a feeling of a traveling song. I could imagine myself strolling down a pathway or listening to it in a car stereo traveling down a road home. Then as I was looking at the photography of the variety of pathways I thought of pathways to various homesteads in my life. The first one I remembered was my drives from Chicago, from school breaks and holidays to visit Ohio with my mother while she was still living. I usually always took the same pathway of the Indiana and Ohio turnpikes. In the Winter many times the path was slick and icy. In warmer weather when I was young I usually traveled home at night and would drive the turnpike with my windows rolled down with Kansas or Deep Purple blaring from the speakers to keep me awake. This remembrance reminded me of my visits with mom that I enjoyed and missed after she passed away.

Another pathway that came to mind was when I lived on the far North side of Chicago on Peterson Avenue. I had one favorite pathway especially during a period of time I was going through some difficulties and depression. I would walk from Peterson Avenue on the far North side down to North Avenue Beach. In the Spring and Summer this walk would give me time to reflect on issues in my life and think over ideas for the future. I always enjoyed the people watching as well as the exercise the walk gave me. Getting out of the apartment and enjoying the journey on this Chicago pathway, helped me through some of my most difficult and dark days during that period of time in Chicago.

Then the last pathway I will mention amidst the myriad of pathways I have had in my life is a pathway from Chicago to Brownsville, TX. That was a pathway to my present homestead in Brownsville, TX. I won’t say final homestead because one never knows what other moves are in the future. This was a pathway that initially had much uncertainty. It was a move to be where the lady I loved had moved to. She had a nice job in Brownsville but the worry was, what was the chance of my finding work there? Friends who knew me best in Chicago and Ohio told me not to hesitate but to move out in faith and follow the path of love God was guiding me on. Their advice gave this non-risk taker the added impetus to step out and drive this pathway to what would become a new way home as the song is alluding to. Reflecting over the past -- going on 11 years of marriage reminds me that this pathway was guided by God as it has been the best years of my life. Of course one thing I pick up from the energy in Chris Botti’s song The Way Home, is that each path way has its own positive energy and beauty so I have a hope that the future years new pathways will be just as beautiful.

Before you begin planning new ideas for your new year take some time to reflect over some of the pathways home in your past years of your life journey. What were some of the hills and valleys you faced in the pathway? Every path has pitfalls and holes we trip over. But if we mindfully reflect over our pathways we can be reminded of the beauty in each pathway and reflect over the joy in the journey that we experienced.


Take some time in a quiet place and jot down on paper 3-5 of the Pathways home you have journeyed on. Choose one pathway and write your feelings about it. What were some hardships you faced? What were some beautiful things you enjoyed about the pathway? Reflect over the joy in that journey and write what you are thankful for concerning that period of your life.