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You Are What You Think You Are

August 29, 2021 by  
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Too many of us stumble through life on one consistently low plane. We see ourselves as failures in the things that really matter. When it comes to high stakes, “Count me out,” we say. “I can succeed at little things, but when the big times come along, I’m a total failure.”

And amazingly, we are right many times. We are what we think we are. We’re much like the fictional character in the novel by Harry Leon Wilson called Bunker Bean. Bunker Bean had a lot of potential locked up inside him, but because it was locked so deep, he didn’t know about it. But then something happened to make Bunker believe in himself, and despite his humble beginnings, he went on to make a fortune, overcoming his fears and weaknesses and becoming a giant of a leader.

Many, if not most people live and die with too small an estimate of their own abilities. As a result, they spend their strength on small tasks and never put their real powers to the test.

So it was with Bunker Bean, at least in the beginning. When Bunker was very young, both his parents died, leaving him alone and friendless in a cold world. As he roamed through his years in rags, living timidly through various terrors, he developed fears of all kinds. He also began to feel inferior because he couldn’t do anything right and his acquaintances made fun of him.

Bunker Bean’s life was one of misery. He was afraid of almost everything—policemen, elevators, streets, social and business situations. He was afraid to make decisions. He was afraid of the future. He was even afraid of himself.

Eventually, Bunker moved into a cheap, rundown boarding house on the unhappy side of town where he met a man who claimed to be a spiritualist medium. This new friend told Bunker that just as we cast off our old shoes and clothes, so we cast off our old bodies when we die; in fact, we are reincarnated as a new person.

The spiritualist was pretty convincing. He was so convincing, in fact, that when he said he had supernatural powers given to him from another world, Bunker believed him and paid his new friend to find out who he was in his previous life. When Bunker was told he had been Napoleon, he totally believed the fake spiritualist. Thinking he had been this great, confident leader in his previous life, he changed to match the image of his prior self which lifted him to a huge and higher life.

I think it’s absolutely incredible how our brains can work to lift us to a much, much higher level of living. Next week I will finish the story of where and how Bunker Bean lifted his life!

The Power of Book Notes

August 22, 2021 by  
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When I read books, I almost always write notes on the blank pages. I jot down a quote that strikes me or I write my own thoughts that were stimulated by what the author wrote. This week, I’d like to share some of my notes from a couple of great books. I hope they strike and motivate you the way they did me.

In Patrice Jenkins PhD’s great little book What Will I Do ALL DAY?, I wrote down a number of thoughts. Here are a few:

1. Structure can be and should be a very important part of our lives and now that I’m retired, I must push myself for more structure.

2. Set more deadlines and make more commitments and goals and always write them down with a time deadline.

3. Set my alarm and schedule time for working out and stretching.

4. Make a big deal out of small things in my life.

5. Remind myself often that, now that I am retired, I have time to turn molehills into mountains.

6. Remember that it’s very important when retired to find work for yourself.

7. Make a list of new places, cities and countries to visit — at least 6 more countries to add to my 94 already visited.

8. Write down my intentions for each and every day.

9. Take time to make a list of those things I love to do and push myself to concentrate on those items.

And here are a few gems I scribbled down when reading the book Write it Down and Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser.

1. Don’t forget that writing down my intentions works better than just speaking them.

2. Remind myself that I can’t have what I want most until I know what it is.

3. Writing is a good way to force my negative emotional reactions into words and not stomach churning.

4. I need to write down my intentions, my passions, my talents, then write down what actions I should, and can, take.

5. I need to take time to write down things that are not working for me in my life and let them go. Klauser ‘s suggested that you make that list then ceremoniously dispose of that paper, as in burn it or bury it.

Do these notes inspire you to make a few of your own now? Taking down notes as you read a book makes it a much more active and, ultimately, more productive read!

Before We Lose It

August 15, 2021 by  
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A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I had no idea how important the social aspect of my life was until the pandemic hit. That made me realize just how much I valued my face-to-face conversations and hanging out with my friends. It also hurt that our annual trip to Europe and other counties was gone. We’ve met so many wonderful people and made so many new friends on those trips as well.

Most of us take way too much for granted and don’t take the time to be as grateful as we should be for what we have. But when one of those great things in our lives is suddenly taken away… wow, we certainly notice how much we appreciate those things when they are gone. 

Something that I took for granted for far too long was my daily long walk and comparing my daily steps total to my previous daily steps. As I’ve written before, I have given myself a minimum goal of 20,000 steps a day, although I usually go well over that. I use a super great gift my wife gave me years ago, a Fitbit, that counts each step I take and gives me weekly totals. That little device enhanced and lifted my life. It’s helped me stay fit, even now as the ripe age of 80 approaches, less than 3 years away.

Well, that little device that pushed me to regularly walk my 20,000 plus steps a day was a big deal and I totally took for granted what it was pushing me to do until recently. I got hit in the head several months back, which laid me up for a while. 

Then, just this last week, I had a big trip and fall at 2:30 in the morning. I hit my right knee so hard that I could hardly walk the next day and for many days to follow. The few steps I did try to take were too painful, so I would find myself in bed or sitting in a chair all day long. Ugh. Even taking a pain pill didn’t help much. Double ugh! 

That is when it hit me like a brick that I’ve taken the ability to walk without pain totally for granted. I know this happens to many of us when we get injured, but shouldn’t we start to appreciate what we have before we lose it?

I think all of us should take time to consider all the great things in our lives that we are just taking for granted. I talked about that here on my blog before. Back then, I made a list of the many things that I was taking for granted, but perhaps it’s time for an update.

I suggest now, as I did then, that all of us consider making or updating a list of that kind so we have time to enjoy and appreciate what we have while we have it. Doing so has the potential to make us more content as we begin to truly recognize all the great things we have in our lives. 

You can look at my prior list to help you start building your own. It’s in my post from 4/16/2020. You might also want to read or re-read what I posted on 11/29/2020 for an additional reminder. 

Feed the Good Dog

August 8, 2021 by  
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No doubt we’ve all heard that we can’t love and appreciate others until we truly love and appreciate ourselves. But most of us have some deep dark doubts about ourselves. In fact, if we are brutally honest, we probably feel guilty (at least some of the time) because we’ve done things we are not proud of. We think, “If the world really knew everything about me, it wouldn’t think I was a very good person.”

If you’re like most people, you’ve had those thoughts before. Rabbi Harold F. Kushner, in his book, Living a Life That Matters, makes that point very strongly by simply stating that, “Good people do bad things.”

However, he goes on to say, “If they weren’t mightily tempted by their ‘yetzer hara’ (evil inclination) they might not be capable of the mightily good things they do.”

Kushner gives us yet another way to look at it:

“Good people will do good things—lots of them—because they are good people. They will do bad things because they are human.”

He also quotes a Native American tribal leader who described his own inner struggles with a canine metaphor:

“There are two dogs inside me. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.”

When someone asked the tribal leader which dog usually wins, he answered after a moment’s reflection, “The one I feed the most.”

I think if you can focus on all the good you’ve done and recognize all the good that you’ll do on whatever journey you are on or are about to embark on, it will help feed that good dog inside of you.

So, the bottom line is that even if you know you are not perfect, it’s important to take time to be grateful for the good things you’ve accomplished and those tough goals you’ve reached.

No one’s perfect—not you and not me — and it can be hard to forgive yourself, but ditch the humility for a while and do that now. Choose gratitude for what you’ve done and toast yourself, putting all that guilt behind you.

Remember this from the Dalai Lama’s book, The Compassionate Life, where he wrote, “Everyone’s real enemy is within themselves—enemies are not on the outside.”

So, why not celebrate, appreciate, and love yourself now and every day?

Time to Appreciate

August 1, 2021 by  
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As I was walking down our very long driveway to pick up the garbage cans, I looked up at the same sky I see every day, but this time I focused in on the absolutely beautiful blueness and the great billowy white clouds. It almost took my breath away. 

Probably the biggest reason that I was so moved is because for the last few days we’ve had thick, ugly, smoke-filled air caused by the huge fires in the western part of Utah and from all the way over on the west coast. Seeing the beautiful blue sky I had missed over the previous days just made me really appreciate it.

While I admired our clear skies, the thought hit me that there are so many times in our lives that we just take things for granted. The truth is, we often don’t really appreciate them until they are taken away from us.

That was certainly the case for me when the pandemic restrictions started to be pulled back. The lock downs took away my social life and, as I wrote several posts back, the pandemic restrictions made me realize how very important my social life and friends are in my life.

So, up until the day all that dirty air and smoke hit our city and state, I took all that good clean air for granted. Ugh! But now, wow, I notice and totally appreciate our beautiful sky and clear air. 

After this mental breakthrough, I started making a list of the many things I love but don’t always take time to appreciate. Here’s part of that list. The first 6 are all good “F” words:

1. Family, especially my wife

2. Friends

3. Freedom

4. Finances

5. Fun

6. Future

7. Health

8. A brain that works fairly well. (Okay, my wife may dispute that one!)

9. Home

10. Country

11. Nature

12. Kindness

I think I need to make more and more lists and review those lists and on a regular basis. I am sure that will lift my spirts and my life. I would encourage and challenge you to do the same!