Before I begin, let me ask you this question: when are you going to die? I'm almost certain that none of you have the answer to that. You might die today -- or you might die many years from now. But for now, let's assume that you'd actually live longer than you expect.
Now, that should be quite comforting! You thought that you may have 10 or 20 years left, but you might actually have 50 more years to go. You may live past 100. Now tell me, if you do find yourself living that long, are you preparing NOW to enjoy the life at a very old age?
Right now, many of you are making decisions as if you're not expecting to live long. Some of you aren't pursuing what's on your heart. Some of you are not taking good care of yourselves. Some of you are being very wasteful with money as if you're going to die tomorrow. Some of you are putting off important things because you don't think it would matter in the future. Whatever it is that you're doing or NOT doing may hurt you very dearly should you live long enough to feel the pain.
Being in EMS, I've gone into many nursing homes, enough to not ever put my mother into one. It's sad seeing that many of these people will lay on their beds for many years unable to talk, move, or clean themselves. For some, tragedy happened that put them in a nursing home. But for others, they ended up there because they didn't take better care of themselves while they had the chance to.
But you know what is truly scary to think about? Many of these nursing home patients probably didn't expect to live as long as they are now. So now they are trapped in broken bodies wondering when they would die. That's scary to think about.
My grandmother ended up in a nursing home because of a stroke. She was about 89 or 90 when she had a stroke, but before that happened, she was still active and in her right mind. She was still driving! Being that old, you would think that the stroke should have killed her. Instead, it just left her debilitated, unable to talk, walk, or clean herself. She stood in the nursing home for FIVE more years!
One night, I went to the hospital where she was transferred and said a prayer while she was asleep. I prayed that God would take her soul and end her misery -- if she had any misery. The very next day, she died at age 95.
There are people who are currently living past that who are still fit, active, in their right minds, and live independently. They have taken care of themselves. They probably didn't expect to live to 99, 100, 106, but they lived their life preparing as if they would live forever.
Right now, are you preparing to live forever? Of course, we all will die -- but it may happen much, much, much (much, and much, and much) later in life for you. So, take care of yourself NOW so that you won't find yourself living past 80 broke down with your mind gone.
I saw this episode of the Twilight Zone (the 1950s version) of a man who was a glutton for books. He loved reading, reading, reading, and reading. One day, a hydrogen bomb destroyed his town, killing everybody in it (and it possibly destroyed everybody in the world). Sad and alone, his spirits were lifted when he discovered a library with lots and lots of books! He was excited! He had enough books to read for many years.
Then, the unexpected happened. This man needed his thick glasses to see. As you would guess, he dropped his glasses, breaking them in pieces. He was surrounded by the things he loved: books. But, he can't read any of them because his only pair of glasses were destroyed. He should have spent time finding stores that had extra reading glasses and stock up -- even if those glasses didn't fit his prescription. Then he would have had enough glasses to indulge in his love for reading. But instead, he may live a mighty long time in misery because he can't read a single word anymore.
Aren't we the same way? We don't expect to live long, so we could get careless with our decisions. But then we discover that we are living longer than expected. We could have been in a much better place by now, but because we didn't expect to live long, we've arrived at our future unprepared. Unfortunately, once we've arrived at our future unprepared, there may not be much for us to do, except to simply wait to die.
It's important that we live TODAY as if we are going to live forever. Take care of your body. Pursue what's really on your heart. Don't make enemies on purpose, causing people to hate you. Make these changes NOW so that you don't arrive at your future with a load of regret. You may die tomorrow, you may die in the distant future. In either case, prepare so that you won't end up in an unpleasant place in the future.
Everything has a starting point. Nobody was born rich. Nobody was born with a job offer. Nobody was born fit. Nobody was born successful in anything. We ALL had to start somewhere, and wherever we started from, we would never get from Point A to Point Z quickly. Progression ALWAYS takes time when you are at your starting point.
Not only is progression from a starting point slow, it's also simple and gradual, slowly growing with small actions taken on a regular basis.
Being a gardener requires accepting this one fact: everything starts with a seed. You can't plant a seed and expect it to become a tree overnight. Knowing that the SEED is the starting point, you would understand that this seed would take time to become a plant, and that you need to care for that seed on a regular basis so that it could become a beautiful plant. If you cannot accept this, then gardening is not for you.
All the beautiful plants you see in a garden center all started from seed. Yes, you know that -- but you truly don't understand the patience and the work that goes behind making those seeds into eye-catching displays at the stores. The seeds are typically tiny, ugly, without any shape or form. Some seeds are so tiny that they look like dust, like the seeds of oregano plants. But give it time and attention, those seeds would produce beautiful plants that produce fruit or be used for medicine.
I think about the Biblical account of creation. In the first chapter of Genesis, it starts with the globe, which was empty, shapeless, having water and darkness covering it. The globe looked very chaotic. Then little by little, God said, "Let there be," and the globe was made more and more beautiful until it was a dazzling sight, filled with living creations. That former globe was very much like a seed: formless, ugly, chaotic, nothing much to look at. But little by little, day by day, that ugly thing would become a glorious sight!
See, no matter where you start from or how ugly that starting point is, when you take small, daily actions, you will eventually be in an entirely new place in your life.
Think about someone who needs to lose 100 pounds, who takes 20 different medications, and has many health issues. The starting point looks ugly, doesn't it? You're struggling everyday just to move around. What kind of life is that? But then you decide that you're going to change. Obviously, you can't join CrossFit and do everything the athletes are doing. You start by simply making small changes in your diet, which leads to doing some physical activity, which leads to more changes, which would eventually lead you to shocking your friends and family with your new transformation!
But do you think your new transformation will happen overnight? Absolutely not! It will take some time. It could take several months to several years (at most 2 years if you're consistent everyday). Eventually, you will arrive at your new destination, but you have to start somewhere.
Here's the good news about starting points: they don't determine the rate of your success. Let's think about seeds. Do you think the smaller the seed, the longer it would take for a plant to grow? No, size makes no difference. Let's take a jack fruit seed. Jack fruits could weigh as much as 120 pounds (and you thought a watermelon was heavy!). The seeds are slightly bigger than your big toe nail. These seeds could sprout a stem with leaves within two weeks. But let's take lettuce seeds, which are smaller than the point of your pen. They could sprout leaves in less than a week. But lavender seeds, which are about the same size as lettuce seeds, could take nearly a month to sprout anything!
So, the condition of your starting point means NOTHING. Don't look at your situation and think it's going to take forever to see any changes in your life. How much and how quickly you make a change depends on YOU.
Let's go back to the seeds. There are ways to make any seed sprout quickly. If you plant a seed directly in the dirt and water it inconsistently, the seed could take a while to sprout. If you plant the seed in the dirt and keep the dirt moist everyday, the seed would sprout quicker. If you take the seed and wrap it in a moist paper towel, you could see sprouts very quickly. Your ACTIONS, not your starting point, will determine the rate of your progression.
Never look at your starting point and get discouraged, thinking how impossible it would be for you to change. Your starting point NEVER determines your success. What you do everyday will determine that.
When you're at your starting point, remember that success will not happen right away. If you go jogging today, will you see your belly flatten on the next day? Of course not. How about within two days? No. Three days? Nope. Maybe a week? Possibly. Within two weeks? You will start seeing some visible changes, just enough to convince you that whatever you're doing is working. Within a month? That is when you see the numbers on the scale making drastic changes. In six months? You could look like a completely brand new person -- AS LONG AS you're taking consistent, progressive action EVERY - SINGLE - DAY.
Let's go back to the seeds -- yet again. After you see a plant sprouting, should you back off and let nature do its thing? Absolutely not, especially if you're planning to leave your plant in a container. At this time, you need to be a bit more aggressive. This is when you need to inspect for pests, prune away diseased leaves, and fertilize the plant. You need to still be consistent with watering the plant, even if the plant is so-called "drought resistant." In other words, the more the plant grows, the more action you need to take. In the same way, the further away you are from your starting point, the more actions you need to take.
We have this mentality of "I'll do it until..." No, no, no. There is no "until" -- unless "until" is followed by "I die." It's very common for people to get serious about their weight when, say, they're getting married, getting ready for summer, getting a job, you name it. But once that event is over, they scale back, thinking that they've done enough. No, no, no! You're just getting started! Once you start seeing changes in your life, you need to get a bit more aggressive -- otherwise, you'd fall right back to your starting point.
When you make progression, NEVER scale back. Keep on going! If you can't lose anymore weight, think of something else you could work on. When you can't work on that anymore, think of something else to work on. Keep the momentum going so that you won't end up back to your starting point. Believe me, if you find yourself back at the starting point, you'd have to start ALL OVER again.
Don't have that "lottery" mindset. You know, if you hit the lottery, you'd quit your job and live the good life. I don't care if you have BILLIONS in your bank account: keep making money. Keep the activity going. Keep that fire burning. Because if something crazy happens to those billions and you find yourself broke, what are you going to do? Beg your former boss for your job, after you've used some choice words before you quit?
It doesn't matter where you are in your life, just start. Start where you are right now. It doesn't matter how bleak your starting point looks. Just start now.
Not only was I a fat kid, I was also a very weak kid. I could remember other kids being stronger and faster than me. Back in high school, one boy squeezed my hand so hard that I nearly cried "Uncle," and he left saying, "See, that shows that I'm stronger than you are."
Now, fast forward that to when I was a physical education teacher in my 30s. I did sit-ups with about 160 pounds of cinder blocks on my chest in front of high schoolers. I tried racing against a high school student with a 200-plus-pound boy on my back. And I had one middle-school kid who told his mom that he wanted a chest like "Mr. Jones."
I like being physically strong. It means that I could be more independent and do more things. When you're weak, you would always need someone else's help, and you can't move on until you get help. When you're physically strong, you could do almost anything by yourself and you won't feel helpless.
But there is something else I like more than physical strength: mental strength. Having mental strength is much more rewarding than physical strength, because when you make up your mind to do something, it will happen. It's mental strength that leads to physical strength, because you have to psych yourself to lift those weights on the days you feel lazy. When you have mental strength, you could pursue whatever it is you want in life. You could lose the weight, gain the muscles, learn the skills, and accomplish any goal that's on your heart. But if you're mentally weak, then the biggest thing you could accomplish is simply staying alive.
One thing I tell my CPR students is that performing CPR is quite easy. The hard part is DECIDING whether or not to do it. Deciding to take action is much harder than the action itself. A task could take you only 5 minutes to complete, but you have to spend 5 weeks thinking about it. Another task might only take you two seconds to complete, but it took you two hours to think about it. The physical task is never as intense as the mental task.
Losing weight is pretty easy -- and I could say that, because I've spent nearly 10 years helping people lose weight and get in shape. I have lost weight myself several times. The hardest part about losing weight is making the DECISION to lose weight. You have to make up your mind to start a weight-loss journey AND complete it. Most of us are good at starting the journey, but very few of us are good at actually completing the journey.
How many times have I seen people start their weight-loss or fitness plan just to fall off the wagon and drop off the face of the earth? Plenty! Why does this happen? Mental weakness. Eventually, we become so mentally weak that we cannot complete what we've started.
What makes mental strength so hard to obtain is that our minds are always fighting with our bodies. The mind wants to do one thing, but the body wants to do another. I think about something Jesus once said: "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41). Think about walking with one leg asleep. Have you ever done that before? It feels weird walking when one of your legs go numb. If the leg takes a while to "wake up," then you could only go so far. But if the leg is completely awake, then you could go anywhere. Our bodies are like legs that have fallen asleep, while our minds are hungry to chase after something.
Here's the thing about the body being weak: it will ALWAYS be weak! You won't ever have days where your body wants to do exactly what your mind determines to do. This is why mental strength is so important: without it, the body won't do anything. Breaking a bad habit or learning something new won't happen unless your mind MAKES the body do it. All the body is good for is surviving. Your mind is good for THRIVING. Ever heard the term "failure to thrive"? The thriving part is all mental. The body could survive just fine without the mind, but YOU cannot thrive without the will of the mind.
The more you strengthen the mind, the more you could do with yourself. I think about another scripture that says, "I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should" (1st. Corinthians 9:27). How do you make your body your slave? By making up your mind to do so, and realizing that your mind, not your body, is in control. You aren't forced to do anything. You determine what you do, whether or not your body agrees.
My kids are disciplined. Yes, they still act like kids at times, but when I give the word, they do what I say. During these times, a parent controlling their children seems to possess special powers. Wow, how could you get your kids to clean their rooms? Simple: I just tell them to do it. But that doesn't work in my house! Why? Aren't you the parent? Aren't you the boss? For me, I could simply snap my fingers and my kids know to listen. Why? Because I'm in charge. I'm the boss. What I say goes. I have this attitude as a parent and as a teacher at church. My word is gospel to these children. And whenever I have children who decide to test my authority, I'll put more energy into that child so he or she would know who is the law.
In the same way, you need to treat your body as if you're parenting a child. You are in charge, not your body. The more you realize that you are in full control of your actions, you could discipline your body to do whatever you want it to do. The key to change is all in the mind. It's all in realizing that once you make up your mind to do something, it will happen. But if you let your body overcome your mind, you'll be like a first-year school teacher who's simply trying to survive the school year -- and I could say that, because I was once a first-year school teacher.
Good news! You got the job! Yes, it's in another country that's 2,000 miles away, but you got it! They want you to start in two weeks. They promised to reimburse you for all of your moving expenses, and once you get to that state, they promise to pay for everything that you need to settle in your new home. You are so excited that you could pass out -- and you nearly did. This is the job that you've always wanted and it seems to be too good to be true.
Now, before you quit your current job and spend almost all that you have to relocate...how do you know that everything will turn out your way? How do you know that once you move to another state that you would actually have a job waiting for you? How do you know that once you start your new job that you won't lose it in 30 days? How do you know that you would actually enjoy the job? How could you be sure that this is the right move? And how do you know that they would actually reimburse you for your relocation cost and not pull the ol' you-ought-to-be-thankful-that-you-got-this-job?
Answer: you don't know. Yes, you could invest a lot of time and money for something that may not even happen. But you know what? Life is one big gamble. You could NEVER be 100 percent sure of anything. Most of what you do in life is all based on faith.
Don't believe that? Are you going to wake up tomorrow? If so, prove it. Is your car going to start up in the morning? Prove it. Is going to college going to guarantee that you are going to get a job? If so, prove it. Show me a vision of the future that reveals that what you said should happen will actually happen. If you can't do that, then all your assumptions are based on faith.
We don't like the idea that almost everything we do is based on faith. We like to believe that we could prove everything. Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. You cannot be completely certain of everything. In fact, the only thing you could be 100 percent certain about is that you are alive -- unless you live under the philosophy that you can't even be sure about that.
But you know what? While you can't be completely sure that things will go your way, you still need to proceed as if they will. You cannot live your life wanting to prove everything. You need to be willing to step out on faith and believe that whatever you hope for will happen.
How do you know that all of the good dieting and exercising will be of any benefit to YOU? Yes, you see how these things benefit other people, but will they also benefit YOU? If so, prove it. But you can't. So, you just have to proceed as if your diet choices and fitness activities will actually benefit you.
When you live by faith, anything is possible. You could achieve anything, be anything, go anywhere. But if you're waiting for "proof," then nothing will happen -- because you won't do anything until you see some proof.
Guys, can you imagine asking a woman to marry you, just to hear her say, "Prove to me that you won't cheat"? Ladies, could you imagine your husband not wanting a baby unless you prove to him that this baby would have ten fingers and ten toes? Mothers, could you imagine your 30-year-old son living in your basement not applying for any job until you prove to him that he will actually get a job? Fathers, what would your daughter think of you if you refuse to let her get her driving license until she proves that she won't ever get into an accident? Wouldn't she AND other people think you were being quite unreasonable? In the same way, we all are unreasonable if we wait for proof before doing anything.
This is why we cannot get caught up in results. We should just enjoy the process and see the results as rewards for our hard work. Rewards aren't promised, after all. You could do all that you could and get nothing in return. But if you at the very least enjoyed the process, then all isn't lost.
Anything you do may NEVER bring any results. In fact, you could invest much money and time and STILL have nothing to show for. Well, if you didn't enjoy the process, count it all as a lost and invest time and money into something else. Nothing in life is guaranteed. You gain some, you lose some. You could work hard and get nothing, but barely did any work and get great results. Life is a gamble. One choice doesn't offer more promises than another. Pick something to pursue and pursue it until something comes from it. But the one thing you SHOULD NOT do is to wait for proof before acting.
I cannot prove that you will lose weight on my program. I cannot prove that you will sleep better by taking this herb. I cannot prove that doing this, that, and the other will take you from Point A to Point B. But I can guarantee you with 99 percent (or more like 98.7 percent) certainty that if you do NOTHING, then NOTHING will happen.
Didn't apply for a job? Don't expect a job.
Didn't have a healthy diet? Don't expect good health.
Didn't exercise? Don't expect to get fit.
Didn't pursue your dreams? Don't expect those dreams to happen.
While you can't prove everything, you can ALWAYS have faith in anything. Faith, not proof, is what makes you move. Proof may never come, and the only proof that you could receive will happen AFTER you take that leap of faith.
Instead of looking for assurance, just do it and see what happens. There is something motivational about mystery. Will it happen? Will it fail? Who knows! But we won't ever know unless we take action. One of the worst feelings in the world is regret that comes from not taking action.
Stop looking for proof and start taking action. Even if everybody else says no, you could be the one person to prove that it actually can be done. But again, you won't ever know unless you do something TODAY.
Right now, you're trying to escape your situation -- whatever it is. You're tired of it. You can't stand it anymore. You're just done! It's time to move on, right? Well...not yet. Your "destiny" will come...but not when you want it to come. It may come tomorrow, or it may come in the next 10 years. When it comes, it comes BIG.
Now, I hate using the word "destiny," because it sounds like some kind of health and wealth gospel. But a destiny is simply an endpoint, a place where you eventually want to arrive. All of us have that one final destination ("destiny") that we want to be in. Keep in mind that this destiny may not have gold and jewels, but it will be the place that was meant specifically for you.
I think about a familiar story in the Bible concerning Joseph (remember that Broadway show that was made about him?). At 17 years old, his brothers sold him to slavery to a group of people called Ishmaelites, who then sold the boy to the Egyptians. Joseph's destiny was to ultimately save countless lives of people in several countries during a 7-year famine. However, Joseph didn't reach this destiny until he was in his 30s. He spent a long time in Egypt being a servant and being a prisoner until Pharoah promoted him to be second-in-command of the Egyptian nation.
Your current situation seems long and drawn-out, and it's like when you seem to get closer to this destiny, you get more set-backs. Keep traveling on this road and don't give up, because you don't know when that destiny would reach you. But you do know this: it's just not your time.
The best thing you could do while waiting for that ultimate destination is to focus on what you could do with what is currently presented to you. Going back to Joseph, he was a favored servant and a favored prisoner -- he was even awarded a high position in the prison system. During his whole stay in Egypt, all he could think about was his home back in Canaan, hoping that one day he could go back. But his destination wasn't to go back home: it was to save lives in Egypt and in the surrounding countries.
See, it's so tempting to think about "the good ol' days," and "if only I had" or "if only I could." But put this in your mind: you may NEVER go back to the good ol' days. You may NEVER get that one thing or accomplish that other thing. Why? Because those things don't lead you to your ultimate destiny. Those things are just distractions. Joseph's situation as a servant and then a prisoner led him to be a ruler of Egypt.
I believe all of us have life assignments, but many of us ignore those assignments for other pursuits. If we could just be patient and not rush our current situation to finish, we could finally see what we were meant to do in this life. Yes, I know that your current situation stinks. You hate it! You're done with it! But just wait. You will one day see where the road is leading you. Just wait. While you're waiting, use this time to thrive in the situation that you're in NOW, because this situation just might be preparing you for what you were ultimately meant to do.
Looking up a diagnosis for your problems online is like asking for someone's general opinions of you: you won't like the outcome! I, like a normal person, don't like criticism of any kind. However, I believe criticism is absolutely vital -- as long as it's the RIGHT kind of criticism.
I've written a post about constructive criticism vs. destructive criticism. When someone critiques your personal style, they are attacking your personality. This is destructive criticism and it serves no purpose. When someone, however, has critiques that could make you a better person or help you do something better, then that is the criticism you do want. That's constructive criticism.
Now, how could you get constructive criticism instead of destructive criticism? By asking specific questions. If you don't know what to ask, then you won't know what answers to look for. If you don't know where you're going, then you won't know which roads to take. If you don't know how to ask for criticism, then you'll get all sorts of criticism that would make you feel like a horrible person.
Moving forward in life happens when you know what to ask for. If you don't know what you're looking for in life, then you won't get it. When your vision is clear, then you know exactly what you need to work on.
I NEVER, EVER ask my fitness participants if they like my musical choices. It's a bonus if they do, but their musical preference is not my top concern. Why? Because musical preference does not add or take away from a work out -- and if you allow it to take away from a work out, that's on you, not me. However, I DO ask the things that would impact everybody's workout: can you follow my cues, was the exercise hard to you, do you feel like you got a good sweat in class, did the choreography seem to flow with the music? I NEVER ask a person, "Did you like the class?" Personally, I don't care. That's almost like asking, "Do you like me?" Again, not my concern. My main concern is how was your performance impacted in class.
I could make myself better and better as long as I look for the right things. Not every answer is a good answer. Not every road is a good road. Not every sign that I see is a "sign from God." Not every dream that I have is a message from the divine. If you don't know what to look for, you won't know what to do.
I think about an incident in the Bible about a servant who was looking for a wife for his boss. His boss, Abraham, wanted a wife for his son Issac. Abraham told this servant exactly WHERE to go to find a wife for Issac, and Abraham specifically told the servant to not settle for less. That is, if the servant finds the right woman in the right place BUT that woman refuses to come, then don't look for a woman anywhere else.
The servant then prayed to God to help him find the right woman, and his prayer was VERY specific. Before the servant even finished his prayer, he found the right woman for Issac named Rebekah. This girl was willing to travel back with this servant to marry Issac, and they had two boys: Jacob and Esau.
Want answers in your life? Be specific. Know EXACTLY what you want. We're not kids in high school anymore who have no idea if they want to be astronauts or dancers. We are adults, and as such, we need to start looking for specific answers. We need to know exactly what we need to work on. We need to know what road to take. In fact, we don't need to focus on all the wrong ways to go. We just need to know that one RIGHT way of getting what we want.
Looking for a house? You won't be vague about it, right? You're about to make a HEFTY investment and you can't afford to be vague about the kind of house you want. Looking for a spouse? You can't be vague about it. When I was looking for a spouse, I had only a few VERY SPECIFIC concerns that I wasn't willing to compromise on: her faith in God, if I could trust her, and if she could be my best friend. Everything else I was loose with. Nearly 15 years later, I still believe I made the right choice in marrying her.
Don't get vague about life. Pick something and roll with it. If you're vague about your symptoms when looking them up online, you'll almost guaranteed to be diagnosed with cancer. But if you're very specific (like LASER specific) about your problems, you could actually find a permanent solution for yourself.
You could have anything you want -- but you just can't have EVERYTHING. You could pay for anything, but you can't pay for everything. While anything is at your reach, you can't grab everything that you see.
In life, you could live any way you want to AS LONG AS you're willing to make a trade. For example, you could travel the world, live in exotic places, and eat lots of "ethnic" food. But, living that kind of life takes lots of money, and unless you're rich, you would need to cut back on some of your activities. If traveling the world means that much to you, then you'll have to make sacrifices in other areas of your life.
I'm able to see my wife and kids much more than the average working father. But it comes with a trade-off: I can't have a regular job that provides "security." I have no idea what I'll make every week, and if I want to make money, I have to hustle. I don't have the luxury to clock in, put in my time, clock out, and get a steady paid check every 1 or 2 weeks. I don't have the luxury of sending my car to the mechanic to fix an issue (I have to fix it myself). I don't have the luxury to get sloppy with my budget and blow through money. But guess what I get to do? I get to go on road trips whenever I want, see my kids grow up, and work pretty much any time I want to. I could also watch movies late at night and sleep in late. We're not struggling with money as we used to, so I'm pretty content with my life.
I remember a woman telling me and my wife a long time ago, "I believe anybody could have anything they want as long as they live within their means." Or in other words, if you're willing to sacrifice one thing for another, then you could really start living your dreams. But if you have to have EVERYTHING, then the only way to achieve that is by striking it rich -- and even then, there would be some trade-offs that you'll need to deal with.
Do you know someone who puts his hopes and dreams into...well...winning the lotto someday? It's like that person wakes up every morning hoping to "hit those numbers." The chances of him winning that lottery is so astronomical that it's nearly non-existent...but he plays those numbers religiously as if his soul salvation depended on it. To him, he thinks riches is the answer to his problems. The answer to his problems is not getting more money, but by making more trade-offs. Just recently, I was in a gas station witnessing a woman buying a lottery ticket and a pack of cigarettes, both being expensive yet wasteful purchases. If she continues buying lottery tickets and cigarettes, what do you think she would most likely accomplished? Getting sick, broke, and complaining how life isn't fair.
People who dream of riches fail to see that there is a quicker, more realistic way of getting what they want. You just need to be willing to make a trade. Want to live near downtown and pay that high rent? No problem! What are you willing to trade? Want to have 16 children? No problem! What do you have to trade? Want to visit Disney World every month? No problem! What are you willing to trade?
Riches are not guaranteed to anyone, no matter what you do. But everybody could make trade-offs RIGHT NOW to get what they really want.
Realistically, no matter how greedy we are, we don't truly want everything, do we? The only reason we want everything is because it's all available to us. How many of you would eat food if it was FREE and AVAILABLE? On my delivery gig on Saturdays, I have the opportunity to get FREE coffee in at least 6 different places. I would find myself drinking at least two free coffees simply because they were available, not because I really wanted them. I bet many of you have drank coffee or eaten food on the job simply because it was there, not because you really wanted it. In the same way, we don't really want everything, but since EVERYTHING is around us, we feel that we need them. In reality, there are only a FEW things that we truly want, and those things should be the only things we need to focus on.
Here's the good news: you CAN have those few things as long as you're willing to be without other things.
You CAN have a slimmer body as long as you're willing to sacrifice certain habits. You CAN live in a certain area if you're willing to cut back on other expenses. You CAN drive that gas-guzzling SUV and fill up that tank every week if you're willing to sacrifice a few expenses in your life. If something is highly important to you, then you CAN have it -- as long as you're willing to trade for it. But if you're unwilling to trade, then whatever you want is probably not that important.
So many people are sitting at home wishing they could have cable, or afford organic foods, or get out of "the projects" or the trailer home park. They think, "I can't get this" and "I can't have that." Of course you could have that stuff -- you just can't have that stuff with everything else in the world.
Life is about trade-offs. You can't have everything, nor should you want to. You should just focus your energies on what is truly important to you, and when you do, you'll find ways to get it quicker than you imagined. But if you're going to the gas station every other day to buy lottery tickets, or begging your employer for overtime, or trying to work five jobs, then you missed the mark. You're trying to buy the world when you should only want a small island.
Don't walk around thinking, "I can't have..." Instead, ask yourself, "What could I do without so that I can have..." One way of thinking makes you a victim. The other way of thinking makes you a problem solver.
I'll be 40 next year...and I'll say that in all of my near-40 years of living, I rarely (if ever) went into a scary situation that was as bad as I'd thought it would be. What made these scary situations REALLY scary was my own mind. My imagination didn't match reality, and my imagination scared me much more than reality did.
Whatever you are scared of probably doesn't compare to reality. The worst case scenario in your mind may never come your way, and even if it did, the experience would most likely not be as bad as you think.
The worst nightmare of every Prius owner is to have the hybrid battery go bad. Those batteries could range from $3,000 to $5,000 brand new. When those batteries go dead, you CANNOT drive that car. So once you buy a Prius, especially a used one, you simply have to pray that your battery would last for a very, very long time. Of course, if you're rich, buying a new hybrid battery would be nothing more than going into a dollar store.
So, about six months of buying my used Prius, my hybrid battery goes bad. Now we were faced with either selling it or paying a hefty fee for somebody to fix it -- which you could do instead of buying a whole new battery. But I opted for Option C: fix the thing myself. The actual experience of fixing that battery was more pleasant than dreadful, and I felt so empowered after I accomplished the task! My worst fear about the Prius came true, but the experience of dealing with this situation was nowhere as bad as I thought it would be.
Whatever it is that you're scared of, just imagine that the REALITY would be more manageable than you thought it would be. Or just imagine that whatever you're scared of may NEVER happen.
Count on just ONE hand how many times your worst fears came true. You can't THINK about it. You have to do it quickly and smoothly. Losing a very important job, losing a loved one, getting a disease, etc., are among people's worst fears. If any of these have actually happened to you, then you would quickly remember them. But if you really had to think about it, then most likely you never had any of your worst fears come true.
Now, count on just ONE hand how many of your worst fears that DID come true that you were able to handle better than you thought you would. Again, you can't think about it.
Fear is powerful enough to stop you in your tracks. It's strong enough to keep you from reaching your full potential. For many of us, we will never in our life time do what we dream about because of fear. Just imagine knowing that you're entering the final days of your life and realizing that everything you were scared of never happened.
I think about a parable that Jesus told about the talents. A man gave three of his servants a certain amount of talents (or money) so that they could invest them and make more money. The first person doubled his investments and was greatly rewarded. The second person doubled his investments and was greatly rewarded. The third person, however, did NOTHING with his investments because...well...he was scared. He was scared that his master would take all of his profits that he made with his hard work. So, he just gave his master back his money.
How did the master responded? He called his servant a "wicked and lazy" servant. Then the master told his servant that if he was that scared, he should have AT LEAST put the money in a bank to collect interest. Nope, the servant didn't even do that. But had the servant disregarded his fears and invested the money, he would have been greatly rewarded along with his fellow co-workers.
See, fear will keep you from better things. Whatever it is that you're scared of, acknowledge it and go forward with your plan. The worst that could happen is that if things don't go your way, you'd at least know. The best that could happen is that things would go MUCH BETTER than you thought.
Right now, you're held captive by fear, which is how fear works. It holds you down and keeps you from doing anything. What if...just what if you get greatly rewarded by doing the thing you fear? What if you've opened many doors because you disregarded your fear? What if only good things happened because you ignored your fears? You could spend your time asking how many things could go wrong, but you could spend that same amount of energy asking how many things could go right.
Every year is a new year. Before we enter the new year, we make these lofty plans (aka "resolutions") concerning how we're going to change our lives. Of course, these plans never go exactly as...well...planned. In fact, these plans never get past March. Before we know it, we failed yet again at keeping our resolutions. So...now we have to wait until next year to try again.
We get so caught up in making plans for an entire year that we forget that each year is made up of 365 individual days. What we do on each of those days would determine the overall outcome for the entire year. So instead of focusing on one year at a time, wouldn't it make more sense to just focus on how you're going to change your life for each day?
See, an entire year is made up of failures and successes that occur EACH DAY. Instead of focusing on how the year is going, you ought to focus on how your DAY is going. Did you start the day off right? If not, did you end the day on a good note? If yes, then you had a successful day. If not, then you had a failed day. But guess what? You have tomorrow to start over again. If you fail tomorrow, then you could start afresh on the day after. Each day brings new beginnings, new chances to get things right, new opportunities to finish the year on a good note.
So, if an entire year goes by and you felt that it wasn't a good year, it's because you had too many failed days. Instead of using each day to your advantage, you let the day use YOU. Instead of starting anew with the beginning of each day, you thought that all of your sins and failures just rolled over to the next day. Instead of thinking of how to make the new day better, you just went with the flow and let the day take you anywhere it wanted to.
When the new year comes, you will start off strong and determined! You would have lots of successful days. Then once February hits, you would get tired and have more failed days. But when March comes, you'll be just about done with your resolutions because you are too far behind. Once again, you failed to keep your New Year's resolutions.
But it shouldn't be like that. When March comes and you see that you failed more times than you succeeded, guess what you should do? Redeem yourself on the next day! When you go to bed and wake up, treat the new day as a day of second chances.
Whether or not you're big into sports, there is one general thing you know about sports: the game isn't over because one team scored a point. Each round is a new beginning for each team. The team that scored the first point might lose in the next round. The team that lost the first round might score a point in the second round. The game isn't over until it's over. Even if the losing team is very far behind, they could still catch up because every new round is another chance to win.
If you find yourself very far behind in your goals, don't despair. Tomorrow is a new day, bringing new opportunities to make things right. And if you messed up that day, then the following day would offer another chance to catch up. One of the worst things you could do in any year is to simply stop trying. Yes, you've failed over and over and over again. But the year is done when it's done, and as long as the year is still going, you have available days to make things right.
At the end of the year, did you have a bad year because life was completely against you...or because you just gave up on your goals? Did you really have a year of "bad luck" or did you have so many failed days that you didn't think your goals were worth the pursuit?
Everyday is a new day, bringing new opportunities, new chances. If you failed today, try again tomorrow. If you succeed today, don't lose the momentum, because you could easily fail tomorrow. If you started the day good, keep it going good. If you started on a bad note, then end it on a good note. If you completely destroyed the day, guess what? Tomorrow offers you another chance to make things right.
As you enter the new year, don't look at the year as a whole. Break down the year into individual days. How well you perform on each day would determine the overall outcome for the year. If you simply focus on the year, then don't be surprised if you have a bad year. But once you focus on conquering each day, then you could end the year on a good note.
Emotions are wonderful servants. They help us learn how to be compassionate toward others. They teach us how to be angry about injustice, and how to be happy in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. However, emotions are TERRIBLE masters. If you let emotions lead your life, then they could easily fill your head full of lies and make you do plenty of irrational things.
Distinguishing FEELINGS from TRUTH is all about discipline. You could feel fat all you'd like, but what you see in the mirror would tell the truth. You could feel that you're not doing enough, but if you keep a log of your activities, that would tell the truth. You could feel that you're not being a good parent, but your child's behavior and overall well-being would tell the truth.
If we have no feelings, we would simply be robots. If we were all feelings and no logic, we would simply be fools. We humans are the greatest creations in the world because while we have emotions, we also have the ability to override our emotions with logic. We could initially be frightened of a situation, but after using our abilities to be logical, we could override our fears.
Think about this. If you see a big water bug running across your kitchen and you run out the house screaming and hollering, were your actions logical or emotional? They were emotional, because there is absolutely NO logical reason for you to be scared of something that you could easily step on. What can that water bug do to you? It's more scared of you than you are of it -- which is why it's running away from you.
Now, before you run out the house as if it were on fire, you should ask yourself, "What can this bug do to me??" After pondering on that question, you should be empowered to walk in that kitchen and go after that bug.
While growing up, I would run away if any flying insect was chasing after me. After growing up and realizing that I had much more power than a mere insect, the tables turned. Now, I would be more than willing to run after a wasp if I feel threatened. But since gardening, I let the wasps make their home among my family because they eat the destructive insects. And since I know more about wasps than I ever did before, I have enough guts to get up and personal with a wasp to take photos. This is what happens when you override your emotions with TRUTH.
People who lose their tempers and pull off irrational actions are acting solely on emotions. Children are prime examples of people who act solely on emotions. They act out in anger, say hurtful things "because she said it first," want to hit someone because "he said something mean," etc., etc. They act out in their emotions because they haven't learned to override their emotions with logic. Instead of saying something hurtful out of an emotional response, they should ask themselves how much damage their words would do to a person.
So many of us adults haven't learned how to override our emotions. We let our feelings dictate our actions. If we "don't feel like it," well, we just won't do it. And if we did something simply because "we felt like it," then we would get into trouble. Marital affairs happen because someone couldn't control their emotions. People get thrown in jail because they acted out on their emotions. We lose our jobs, get into fist fights, and get banned from stores because we couldn't keep our emotions under control.
Remember: our emotions are wonderful servants, but TERRIBLE masters.
I think about a scripture that says, "Fools die for lack of sense" (Proverbs 10:21). "Sense" denotes logic, reason, being rational. Fools don't have these things, but instead, they run purely on emotions. I think about pranksters, how they love to pull jokes on unsuspecting people just to get some laughs. I think about one particular prankster who was dressed as a clown and painted a guy's car. The car's owner saw it and started beating up on the clown. Even after the clown told the man that it was a prank, that the paint was washable, and that he was on camera, the guy continued beating up on the clown.
Now, tell me, did that prankster use any sense? Of course not. He just thought about the laughs. He acted purely on emotions without considering that his actions could get him killed.
I think about people who are quick to run off at the mouth at a complete stranger. Does that person not consider that she could get hurt or killed? I think about people who decide to get mouthy with the police. Do they not consider that their actions could lead them in jail? I think about a guy who is a black belt in his field of martial arts going to a store late at night, thinking that his fighting skills would keep him safe. Did he not consider that he might be fighting against 5 people? Did he not consider that even if he wins the fight, he might walk away permanently injured? Again, when we have no senses and act solely out of emotions, we become fools -- and all fools would eventually get hurt one way or another.
Don't be that fool! Don't allow your emotions to ruin your entire life. We are not animals -- we don't operate entirely on instinct. We could control our actions with our senses, and prevent ourselves from acting out in emotions.
Moving forward in life depends on how well you could control your emotions. Being a better person, improving your situation and overall quality of life is about mastering your emotions. If you allow your emotions to control you, don't expect any good to come into your life. But if you DISCIPLINE yourself to rule your emotions and to make decisions based on the truth, then expect wonderful changes to happen in your life.
All information in this blog are for inspirational purposes only. Unless otherwise stated, all content is written and copyrighted by Aiyo A. Jones.