Thoughts are things

ThoughtsareThings“Every thought sets the fulfillment of its desire in motion in Mind, and Mind sees the thing as already done.”

– Ernest Holmes

My mother was fond of saying “thoughts are things.” (This is also the title of a book about the power of thought written by Prentice Mulford more than 100 years ago.)

Whenever I made a negative comment about a situation or expressed a lack of confidence in my ability to successfully complete a task or seize an opportunity, my mother would remind me of this wisdom.

She meant that my attitude helped to shape the outcome of my situation. If I thought I would fail, I had created an energy – something real – that increased the likelihood that I indeed would fail. If I genuinely believed I could be successful, I had created a positive energy that would help me to succeed.

At first, I was skeptical of this connection between thought and outcome, but by high school I began to take my mother’s advice to heart. I still remember one time muttering about the likely difficulty of an upcoming test in math — not my best subject — but Mom nudged me with her “thoughts are things” admonition. I responded with a more positive approach and was pleasantly surprised at how well I performed. Mom was right.

Since then, no matter how difficult the task before me, I picture a positive result. In doing so, I create something real that helps me to succeed.

I still do not understand how it works, but it does. Our thoughts indeed shape our reality, so think positively: you’ll be surprised at the power you create.

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Everything in moderation

“Everything in moderation. Nothing in excess.”

scales– Socrates

 

 

 

 

I’ve learned that it’s fine for me to indulge in my guilty pleasures: chocolate, silly television programs, pizza and cold beer, sleeping late, or a hundred other fun and enjoyable experiences. I also spend a lot of time on more serious pursuits: working, studying, exercising and a myriad of other worthwhile efforts.

I’ve learned, though, not to overdo any of them.

As a youth, I indeed overindulged. I’d spend hours doing some fun activity over and over, or I’d work ridiculously long hours, including weekends, not taking off any time.

Eventually, I became aware of this imbalance – I feel uncentered when straying into excess – and developed the self-control to correct it. To this day, I definitely feel happier and healthier with a more balanced approach to life experiences.

Most of us overindulge at some point. The key is to learn to recognize it, not overdo it too often, and adjust to find a degree of moderation.

Your happiness is up to you

Happysummer“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

– Abraham Lincoln

 

 

 

 

If nobody has told you yet, please take note: you are in charge of your own happiness.

Please do not wait for someone else – a child, a spouse, a friend – to make you happy. Look in the mirror, because the responsibility for any needed action begins and ends there.

Many people understand that they are captains of their own happiness.

Still, other people are unhappy and will complain constantly about it. They will wring their hands, blame other people or circumstances, and wait for someone other than themselves to change the situation.

There’s a better way.

Nearly everyone has to suffer through tough breaks in life. When it happens to you, it’s your responsibility to pick yourself off the floor, dust yourself off and move forward.

And when life is good, take time to reflect.

In short, your happiness is up to you.

Enjoy the healing power of nature

outdoors“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”

– Anne Frank

A little time spent outdoors can be restorative and healing.

At least one medical study has shown that hospital patients recover faster from surgery if they are offered a view of nature compared to patients whose view is a brick wall. And according to The Chopra Center, the ancient healing tradition of India – Ayurveda – recommends spending time in nature every day. The Center says doing so shifts our attention from our ego to recognition that we are inextricably connected to the universe.

Almost every day, unless the weather is dreadful, I spend at least a little time outdoors. A short walk through a garden, forest, beach or park has a remarkably calming influence on your body and mind. Extended time outdoors is even better.

Even if you are not an outdoorsy person, step outside a little. Enjoy the healing power of nature.

Money isn’t everything

moneypic1“Money has never made man happy, nor will it; there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.”

– Benjamin Franklin

 

Money has a role in our lives, but put it in perspective.

Yes, it’s important to earn a living and take responsibility for supporting your family and yourself, but seldom are people happy when they make their life’s focus the pursuit of money.

Other priorities are more important. Choose a career you enjoy. Spend time with family and friends. Develop a hobby. Take care of your health. Simplify your life and appreciate its simple pleasures.

Money can be helpful – and it’s great to live in a nice home and surround yourself with nice things. At times, money can even be important.

But be careful living life like money is everything.

Love might be right in front of you

holdinghandsLove is friendship that has caught fire.”
– Jeremy Taylor

 

 

 

Popular culture often romanticizes falling in love. The fantasy is that you see a stranger across a crowded room, flash a smile, and know instantly in your heart that you’ve found the love of your life.

Does love at first sight really happen? Perhaps. But it is not the only – or most likely – scenario for meeting a special partner. People who expect an instantaneous romantic connection often are disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

Sometimes, love is not a lightning bolt; it’s more like the rising sun. At first you don’t see it, but slowly it emerges, warm and full of light. Such an experience often happens between friends or with someone you take the time to get to know. You enjoy spending time together, comfortable and without expectation. You have fun, share common values and goals, and naturally treat each other with kindness and respect. It builds over time until the truth is shining before you. Relationships built on such a foundation often are truly special.

The world is full of people who have unknowingly dismissed deep and long-lasting magic with someone already in their life because they are waiting on a lightning bolt from someone new.

Maybe love is closer than you think.

Will you choose the window or the mirror?

WindowIt is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.

– Harry S. Truman

 

 

 

In his book Good to Great, author Jim Collins outlines what he calls the Window and the Mirror model of leadership.

To paraphrase, Collins says that when something positive happens in your life, envision a window so you can look out and acknowledge the people who contributed to your success. When things don’t go well, envision a mirror and seek to reflect on what you could have done differently.

While Collins’s intended audience is business professionals, his philosophy can apply to anyone. Sharing credit for your successes – particularly in a team setting – and taking responsibility for your failures is a sign of maturity and the mark of a leader.

The next time you evaluate a life experience, think carefully when choosing to use the window or the mirror.

Live for more than yourself

 

Helpothers“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Few things are more rewarding than helping someone in need.

At times, focusing on others seems difficult because we are so consumed with taking care of ourselves and our loved ones, and the daily maintenance of a life filled with a career, home life, family, friends, spirituality and hobbies can leave little time for taking on yet more.

But something special often happens when we extend our reach to those who need a helping hand.

In his terrific book “Being Mortal,” doctor Atul Gawande quotes a Harvard philosopher, Josiah Royce, who observed that simply existing – “merely being housed and fed and safe and alive” – is unfulfilling. Royce says that a truly rewarding life demands we do more than just safely exist; we must embrace something beyond ourselves.

In short, Royce is saying we should give back.

I believe that while it’s important to pursue your dreams, balance is achieved when we willingly assume a sense of duty to our larger community and the bigger world.

If it’s not part of your vocation, help someone else. Volunteer. Pursue a cause outside your own. You’ll discover one secret to a truly fulfilling life and make a world of difference to someone.

Be True to Yourself

Ocean

“To be nobody – but yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
– E. E. Cummings

My daughter has no shortage of people who offer her advice.

Fortunately, most of these people have good intentions. Sometimes, though, people go beyond giving friendly advice and will bluntly try to tell her how to live her life. I’ve told her to be polite and smile at these folks — and ignore them.

I’ve experienced my own share of overbearing advice givers. Sometimes the advice is unwanted but harmless enough: people want me to change the clothes I wear, the style of my haircut, the hobbies I pursue or the music I enjoy. Other times, the “advice” is about more serious life decisions: what career to pursue, who to marry, or even which side of a moral fence to stand.

In the noise, it’s easy to lose confidence in our own decision making. It’s even easier to follow the advice of someone just to make them happy, even if it’s not what’s truly in our heart.

I tell my daughter that when making a decision, it is wise to seek out opinions of others and weigh all options. But in the end, we must live our own life, and in doing so it’s important to be true to ourselves, free of the expectations of others.

Simply put: live the life you want, and don’t care too much what other people think. Those who truly care about you will understand and support you.

Choose wisely, and choose for yourself.

Simplify your life

kayakfront

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand….”
Henry David Thoreau

 

 
Even before she was a teenager, my daughter’s closet overflowed with clothes. It was difficult to see everything because clothes hung on top of clothes. It was only after cleaning out the closet, discarding old blouses and pants and shoes – and reducing her total clothing count – that we could fully see and use her entire wardrobe. Less actually became more.

Sometimes, life is the same way.

We often overflow our lives with so many things, not only material possessions, but activities, personal commitments, professional responsibilities, hobbies, people, pets, worries and other items. In some ways, the concept of decluttering runs counter to our culture of making ourselves incessantly busy and acquiring stuff.

Simplifying our lives is a wise alternative. Doing so frees us to spend time and energy on the truly important, which often comes to light when the noise is stripped away.

Declutter your life. Simplify.

Less will be more.


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