My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
purchase it at B & N, Amazon or (click on image of cover)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Become A Difference Maker

In a recent USA Today issue, they listed a Pew Research poll on how readers got their most recent book. Borrowing from a library was listed as 14%. I would like to see that number grow higher as libraries are a wonderful place to pick out books that interest you. Today I want discuss a book I borrowed from my local library in New Braunfels, Texas. The book is Making a Difference by Being Yourself by Gregory E. Huszczo.

One reason I wanted to read it was that perusing through it, I noticed the author was focusing in on the MBTI, (Myers-Briggs Type Inventory). Although personality inventories have received a bad rap from some I do believe from taking them and studying them, they do offer helpful insights in understanding ourselves better. The author helps in this book to show how the personal insights gleaned by knowing our personality type can help individuals grow in their work relationships and personal relationships.

Think over the phrase “making a difference”. In living a life more than ok, having an attitude of making a difference is a motivator to move us beyond just existing. The author brings out in the text, that starting with the desire to make a difference helps in giving meaning and fulfillment to our lives. As he states in the book, “The More we notice opportunities to make a difference and push ourselves to rise to the occasion, the better we will feel about ourselves as well as life in general” (Page 7). Living this way gives our lives meaning and purpose.

The book discusses how making a difference is based on three parts in our life: our abilities, our motivation, and opportunities that come up in our daily lives. The more we know the unique elements of our personality type we can understand how to use our abilities in our interactions to make a difference. The primary realms we can make a difference is in our work and in our relationships. It is all about how we touch other people’s lives. That is how we make a difference.

Think over how we can help make a difference. In the book the author gives a list of ways we make a difference in work or relationships to help the reader brain storm other ways they have or can make differences in lives around them. Here are some items from the list: solving a problem, being a role model, motivating others, resolving a conflict, team building, caring for others, reducing stress in a situation. As you consider the list of items you can probably think of other ways of making a difference.

As we understand how our unique personality traits work we can be effective in making a difference. Based on our personality type we all attack problems differently, we care for others differently, we team build differently. The key word is different. Personality is not about right or wrong it is about our unique strengths we each bring to the opportunities in dealing with things in life differently from the next person.

We can only imagine how better life in the world would be if each of us took the viewpoint of making a positive difference in our workplaces and relationships. It would create a more giving environment instead of a passive, “I’m sure someone else will do it” or worse yet, the victim mentality we see too often today of “why doesn’t someone help me. It’s not fair!”. Difference makers seek to improve other people and situations around them. The positive paradox is that the more we give and serve the more we will find our lives more fulfilled rather than empty.

I encourage you to explore the author’s book website -- and look for his book at your local library or local bookstore.

Reflection: This is based on one of his reflections in his book. Write down on a piece of paper several examples of when you have made a difference at work. Then Write down on a piece of paper several examples of when you have made a difference in personal relationships. Think over these times. How did they make you feel? How did these experiences affect those around you and yourself in a positive manner?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Keep Your Dreams Flying Higher

Last week I was driving down the highway listening to a San Antonio a classic rock radio station. The song, Dreams by Van Halen came on. I had always liked the energy of the song; as well as, since being a big believer in the importance of dreams, I appreciated the overall theme. I thought to myself that I had never really looked at the lyrics of the song so decided to look for the lyrics and check out videos of the song.

When I made it home I went on line and saw several videos for Dreams. The video I embedded in this post struck me for several reasons. First it took me back from a savoring concept, of remembering days in Chicago attending the air and water show along Lake Michigan. I also remembered a student this past year, in the college success class I teach, who wrote his career paper on his passion of wanting to follow in the family tradition of being in the Air Force. Going into the military forces often begins with a dream when the person is younger and that is part of what the song is about. Take some time to look over the words to the song also to view and listen to the video.

Dreams By Van Halen(click on the title to activate the video)

World turns black and white, Pictures in an empty room
Your love starts fallin' down Better change your tune
Yeah, you reach for the golden ring Reach for the sky
Baby, just spread your wings

We'll get higher and higher Straight up we'll climb
We'll get higher and higher Leave it all behind

Run, run, run away Like a train runnin' off the track
Got the truth bein' left behind, Falls between the cracks
Standin' on broken dreams Never losin' sight, ah
Well just spread your wings

We'll get higher and higher Straight up we'll climb
We'll get higher and higher Leave it all behind

So baby dry your eyes Save all the tears you've cried
Oh, that's what dreams are made of 'Cause we belong in a world that must be strong
Oh, that's what dreams are made of

Yeah, we'll get higher and higher Straight up we'll climb
Higher and higher Leave it all behind Oh, we'll get higher and higher
Who knows what we'll find?

So baby dry your eyes Save all the tears you've cried
Oh, that's what dreams are made of Oh baby, we belong in a world that must be strong
Oh, that's what dreams are made of

And in the end on dreams we will depend 'Cause that's what love is made of.

From the context of the whole song it is focusing on the dreams of a couple in a relationship who are facing difficult times. “World turns black and white, Pictures in an empty room” causes me think of metaphors for barrenness and despair leading to broken dreams. From dreams in a relationship point of view, I believe the song is saying don’t give up. Keep climbing higher and higher to keep hold of shared dreams. It is important in marriage to support each others dreams and to also have united dreams together. In the difficult times the shared dreams can help the couple work together and stay strong on climbing higher in life together.

Looking at the song from just an individual dreamer standpoint, I first notice “reach for the golden ring, ..and spread your wings.” Go for the gold in your dreams. Not meaning money instead, go for the best for your life in your dreams! Keep going “higher and higher” focuses in on dreaming big. Not every big dream comes true but dreams move us out of the empty black and white of life. They take us out of the empty room. Where do the dreams take us? Sometimes as the one lyric phrase says, “Who knows what we will find?”. We often don’t know what God has in store as we move out with dreams he has implanted in us. Yet if we don’t dream or stay sulking about broken dreams, we will know where we are, as we will remain stuck in the same empty room going nowhere.

“Straight up we will climb” relates to our discipline and perseverance in following our dreams. We again go nowhere if we just write our dream down and stay seated in our recliner. We need to be actively engaged in reaching for the sky and spreading our wings following a plan of action to go for the dream. We have been reminded recently in the political arena discussions that dreamers who actively have reached out for the gold ring have been one reason for America’s success. To continue this we need to be dreamers who dream big and then are willing to spread our wings to reach those dreams!

Reflection: Are you a dreamer or stuck in your recliner in an empty room? Take ten minutes to reflect over a new dream for yourself. Maybe it is to be involved in a new volunteering venture, or writing, or a new business idea, or fill your own blank. If you are in a relationship take time to share your dreams with each other. Discuss shared dreams you want to work on together.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Be Compassionate to Yourself

One of the best books I have read on the subject of Anxiety is From Panic To Power by Lucinda Bassett. She is the founder of the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety. It is a very realistic book on the subject as the first portion of the book she shares her story of her battle with anxiety related disorders. Then she offers a variety of practical helps for individuals with anxiety or therapists can use these helping ideas with clients.

I want to focus in on one of recovery techniques she shares. In chapter 8 she discusses Compassionate Self-Talk. I am a big believer in the importance of Positive Self-Talk which is the same thing but the term compassionate intrigued me. If we think about it and ponder over the negatives things we say to ourselves we are often more compassionate to others than to ourselves. We can often be our harshest critics. We stop our selves from progressing in our work or activities we want to do because we put ourselves down. Thoughts such as “someone else could do better than me”; “there is no way I can be successful with that”; “There are so many better writers, painters, singers,…than me”. The negative critic inside stops us from what we can really do. If we heard our best friend say these things we would stop them and help them think in a more positive way. But living with inner self we continue to tear ourselves down with negative self-talk.

Ms. Bassett says of compassionate self-talk, “it is any message or dialogue with yourself or someone else that makes you feel good, strong, happy, confident, relaxed, capable, loving, energetic, peaceful or motivated.” It is the messages we tell ourselves that can overcome and help us flourish in our daily walk. We need to understand that our thought life is powerful enough to motivate ourselves to do great things, to overcome depression and anxiety, to gain power in difficult times, and to rise above being a passive victim and conquer the difficulties.

We first have to understand the level of our negative self-talk. She recommends carrying a small spiral notebook, ( I call these my brain on paper), and when you hear yourself say something negative like, “I feel too blah to go to work today” or “I can’t volunteer at the Summer camp, what if I make a fool of myself?” Write the statement down. After a week look over the statements. Is there a theme? Are you a “what ifer”? Such as “what if I fail, what if I look foolish”. Funny thing about what ifs is that they rarely come true. Or maybe you’re an “I Can’tr” Phrases like “I can’t do that” come up over and over again in your self-talk. As you look at the list consider how negative is what you are saying to yourself. How harmful are the statements? How are they defeating you or stopping your success.

In your notebook Ms. Bassett says to rewrite thought replacements. Take the time to write what you should say instead the negative things you are saying. This is like re-writing the scripts for your life. In being compassionate in your rewriting of negative self-talk be realistic. If you are feeling depressed because your car was wrecked don’t try to negate a true feeling by saying, “I am not depressed I am cheerful and happy. I am gald my car got totaled.” Instead say “I am feeling down about the car but I can be thankful I wasn’t hurt.” In understanding compassionate thought replacement we need to understand our thoughts can make us bitter or better. They can cause our emotions to spiral down in the dumps or spiral upwards to a energetic triumph over our difficulties.

Reflection: Spend 15 minutes thinking over your most recent thoughts from the past few days. Jot down a few of the negative scripts you say to yourself. Imagine you heard your best friend saying these same things. What would you tell your friend out of a spirit of compassion to help them say things that are more positive? Be more compassionate to yourself!

Friday, July 6, 2012

God Cares When Bad Things Happen

Last week I wrote about a song of comfort for difficult times. I was going to move on to another topic until I found myself reading a new book Godforsaken by Dinesh D’Souza, President of The Kings College in New York City. What I like most about his books is he makes me think about my viewpoint on topics. I find him reaffirming most of what I believe and sometimes challenging me to think in new ways. The subtitle of the book is “Bad Things Happen. Is there a God who cares? Yes. Here’s proof”. Just as song “Tears of Joy” looked at suffering and difficulty this book digs deeper into the subject.

Dr. D’Souza leaves no stone of suffering unturned. He looks at terrible acts of God in nature: earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes. Pain and suffering in the animal kingdom which often makes us wonder why God created a nature full of pain and struggle? Of course there is also much human suffering in young people who die too young. People you become paralyzed due to illness and accidents. He discusses the full range of suffering along all spectrums, as these are all areas where people look at the pain and suffering and ask where is God? How can there be a God that allows all this suffering? In my younger years I read the atheist, Bertrand Russell’s writings and in recent years I have read the new atheists writings of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris as well as others. Suffering is one angy complaint they hold up as evidence,(?), that God does not exist. So from that point alone it is important to look at the subject of suffering. Also it is important for me as a Christian to see what there is to learn from suffering.

I appreciate how the book does not describe the suffering in a detached intellectual way but delves into the emotional impact of it in our lives. I remember recently a dear friend in Chicago lost his son to an early death from sickness. When I had received the email from his mother I was shocked as I could not believe what had happened and felt sadness for a dear friend who had been a big help to me when I lived in Chicago. Those sudden unexpected deaths are often the hardest to take in trying to understand the silence of God in it all.

There are too many things I learned from the book to address here is this post so I encourage you to pick up the book in your favorite bookstore or library. But I will touch on a few items. One item that first comes to mind is his discussion on atheism and what he terms “wounded theism”. I had always wondered to myself why do these atheists in their writings write full of anger raging against God who they happen to believe does not exist? So you don’t believe in God -- big deal get on with your life. In many of them though is a background of religious upbringing and they become disillusioned. The idea of at their root of their anger at God is a wounded theism makes sense so I can understand where many of them are coming from. Some of them are angry with God so then make a choice to believe in an atheistic faith.

Another point I appreciated was that one purpose of suffering is to help mold us to be more empathic in our caring for others going through suffering. A helpful quote is, “Happiness is an incompetent instructor; much of the knowledge we get in life comes from hardship.” As I look back on my life as I went through a very difficult time a friend asked me what was I going to learn from the experience. Through pain and suffering we can either become bitter or become better. I try to aim for the better mindset as the bitter attitude causes a negative spiral downwards. A move to improve to be better, spirals us upwards to an improved attitude and better future response to difficulties.

We should never wish harm and pain on others. My blog attempts to improve people’s happiness levels. Yet our journey on this earth gives each of us our times of trials and pain. My worldview causes me to turn to God and know He will not forsake me. He is there in the storm with me. Just as Christ suffered more than any of us could imagine there is a promise of a future hope of a world without pain and suffering. An atheist may think I am crazy for believing that. But as I was reading Dr. D’Souza’s book verses from Romans 8:19-22 came to mind, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

I simply believe the Bible’s message of the Fall of man and subsequent fall of nature and the promise of God’s love and redemption through Christ makes the most sense out of what I observe in the world around me and in the world’s history. That is my belief, yes and I stand firm on that. Just as the atheist stands firm in their faith belief, that this magnificent miraculous world just poofed into existence by random chance.

Reflection: This reflection idea comes from the book, God Forsaken. Take a sheet of paper and draw two columns. Look over the past year and first write out all the bad things that happened to you. Then in the other column write out all the good things that happened and things you are grateful for from the past year. You will see even though there are bad things that happen for the most part there are more good things. Also look over some of the bad painful items. Has there been anything you learned or grew in from those events?