Inspiration from a Young Mother

The stories in our new book, Goodness Abounds, follow two basic guidelines:

  1. They have to be true stories about goodness.
  2. The “good-doer” has to be someone other than the author.

Because of guideline #2, these stories aren’t about authors “tooting their own horn” (which is fine in many contexts — but that simply isn’t the focus of this book). Sometimes, though, even while they were shining a spotlight on other people’s goodness, I couldn’t help but admire the authors themselves. This was definitely the case with Jerri Eddington’s story, “The Baby and the Bus Driver.”

In this piece, Jerri pays tribute to a bus driver who was particularly kind to her when she was a 19-year-old mother, traveling with her 10-day-old baby. She also expresses gratitude for her own mother, who babysat so Jerri could finish her university courses.

For those of you who are planning on reading this piece, I won’t give away any more “spoilers” — but I do want to talk about something that’s not the focus of the piece: Jerri’s dedication and perseverance in the face of challenges.

Yes, I was definitely moved by the account of Jerri’s mother and her bus driver, both of whom went out of their way to extend kindness and consideration while Jerri juggled motherhood, school, and the rest of her life. But I was even more inspired by the behind-the-scenes glimpse into Jerri’s past.

I’ve known Jerri for several years now, so I know she’s quite accomplished: After a 30-year career as a teacher and middle school principal, she became a bestselling author, healer, and Soul Success Coach who’s created programs and services to help people “lighten up and thrive.” She’s also a kind, caring, and wonderful human being.

But until reading her story, I never knew that her path to getting her bachelor’s degree (and later, her doctorate) and becoming a teacher (and later, principal) involved catching a 6:33 a.m. bus with her 10-day-old baby so that she could travel across town, drop her baby off with her mother, then turn around and take another bus to school in time for the 8:30 class that was required in order to qualify for student teaching.

Talk about dedication!

I have to remind myself that she was just a teenager then! It would have been so easy for her to throw her hands up in surrender, to give up her dream of becoming a teacher, or to simply delay it indefinitely (or at least until her own child was in school). And that would have been fine. She had a perfectly valid and true excuse.

But she didn’t want an excuse; she wanted an education. She wanted a career. She wanted to fulfill her dream.

And she did.

What a great example she set for her child. And what an inspiration she is to everyone who knows her or even just reads her story!

Even if your goals and dreams are very different from Jerri’s, isn’t it good to know that even major obstacles (such as needing to get up before sunrise to take care of a newborn, riding the bus for almost four hours per day, and taking a full load of university courses) doesn’t need to derail your dreams. And isn’t it good to know that when you pursue noble dreams wholeheartedly, good people will arise to support you every step (and every bus ride) along the way!

P.S. If you’d like to read Jerri’s entire piece — as well as 364 other true stories of loving kindness — please visit www.goodnessabounds.com to learn all about our new book and the 60+ bonus gifts you’ll receive if you order now.

Also, if you’d like to read more by authors on our blog tour, you can check out these posts from yesterday and today (and come back tomorrow for the ones scheduled for 11/16):

Nov 14
Nov 15
Nov 16

 

 

The Empowering Alternative to Nature vs. Nurture

Where do you stand on the “Nature vs. Nurture” debate?

What do you think makes us who we are: Is it the genes we inherit from our biological parents? Is it our environment and the way we’re raised? Or is it some combination of these factors — and, if so, which factor has the  biggest influence?

You could make a convincing argument for either position: On the Nature side, you’ve probably heard stories of twins raised separately who went on to live remarkably similar lives. On the Nurture side, you can clearly see the effect of environment and upbringing by observing how frequently people conform to expectations of the society/class and family in which they’re raised (or by watching Michael Apted’s Up Series).

It’s a fascinating debate, but as I’ve pondered this issue over the years, both sides have made me uncomfortable. I don’t want to think of myself as a blank slate, like a  lump of clay that’s molded by other people and external forces entirely beyond my control. But I also don’t want to think that my entire life is predetermined by some genetic code that was set in place before I was even born!

It wasn’t until I watched Oprah’s interview with happiness researcher Shawn Achor that I finally put my finger on what exactly made me uncomfortable about the nature-vs.-nurture debate: both sides are disempowering!

Whether your life is determined by genetics or environment, the same underlying premise holds true: You have no say in the matter! You’re not the master of your destiny! You don’t get to determine your own life!

(Or, as one t-shirt humorously — but depressingly — puts it: “Nature or Nurture…either way, it’s your parents’ fault!”)

But what’s the alternative?

Does this mean that we’re doomed to spend our lives like puppets, controlled by others? Not at all! To a very large extent, you can still determine the quality of your life, regardless of your genes and upbringing. The key can be summarized in a single word: FOCUS.

(The judges would also accept appreciation, and you’d probably get partial credit for variety.) 🙂

Focus on 40

This is not to say that nature and nurture don’t play a role in our lives. They do — quite a big one. In fact, researchers (including Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness) estimate that more than half of our happiness is determined by genetics and environment (with the emphasis on the former).

According to studies, approximately 50% of happiness is determined by genetics, while only about 10% is determined by external circumstances (such as significant gains or losses in our finances or romantic relationships).

Yes, these factors make up a lot of your life, but that still leaves a whopping 40% that’s within your control — determined by how you think and behave. And focusing on this 40% can make the difference between happiness and depression, success and failure, empowerment and disempowerment.

Serenity and Sanity

So, here are your options:

  1. You can worry yourself sick and drive yourself nuts fretting over all the things that aren’t within your control (including your genetics, your upbringing, the past, and all the externals beyond your sphere of influence).
  2. You can focus on the things that are within your control (such as appreciating what’s already in your life, trying interesting new activities, taking inspired action toward meaningful goals, and getting enough sleep).

As is so often the case, it all comes back to the Serenity Prayer: finding the serenity to accept the things you cannot change (such as your genetics and your past), the courage to change the things you can (such as what you focus on and how you focus on it), and the wisdom to know the difference.

And what a difference it is: it can mean the difference between a disempowered life spent stuck in the past, bemoaning the present, and worrying about the future vs. one in which each day offers new opportunities for joy and growth.

A Third Option

So, the next time you’re faced with that age-old debate of Nature vs. Nurture, remember that there’s a third option: you can focus on what is within your control, take steps to make that as positive as you can, and appreciate all of it!

4 Kinds of Dreams

book dreamsThere are four kinds of dreams. You’re probably already familiar with the first three:

  • Literal Dreams – the kind you have when you’re sleeping. (A fascinating topic, but not the focus of this post.)
  • Emerging Realities – the goals and visions that you’re actively working toward manifesting. (These are the “dreams that you dare to dream” that really do come true – works-in-progress where there’s actual progress!)
  • Pipe Dreams – far-fetched fantasies, unrealistic flights of fancy, or downright impossible dreams. (This is the kind of dream that, I believe, gives dreamers a bad name!)

But there’s a fourth kind of dream that’s rarely discussed…but often experienced: velleities.

Merriam-Webster defines velleity as “the lowest degree of volition” or “a wish or inclination that is so insignificant that a person feels little or no compulsion to act.” In some ways, a velleity is like a pipe dream – a wish that, on some level, the wisher knows isn’t likely to come true. (For instance, wishing you could quit your job, sell your house, and go live on Pluto is a pipe dream.) Unlike a pipe dream, however, a velleity IS possible and realistic…but only if the dreamer takes the steps to make it real!

Velleity is one of my favorite – and least favorite – words!

It’s one of my least favorites because I find it so depressing when people have beautiful dreams but never take the steps to make them come true – thereby depriving the world of what would have been a beautiful reality!

But velleity is also one of my favorite words because, aside from making a critical distinction between dreams that are unlikely to manifest and those that are already on their way, it also calls the dreamer’s bluff: Do you REALLY want this dream – enough to make it happen (or at least give it your best effort) – or is it just a velleity?

Because I’m a writer, I’ll use writing a book as an example of different kinds of dreams. (If you’re also a writer, you’ll probably be able to relate to this. If not, I’m sure you can still apply this idea to examples in your own areas of interest.)

If you say, “I’m going to write a 3,000-page epic trilogy that uses a multi-generational romance to trace the history of Europe during the middle ages…and I’m going to start and finish it by the end of this month, the world’s #1 publisher will release it next month, Oprah will recommend it a few weeks later, and it will sell 100 million copies by the end of the year,” it’s easy to tell what kind of dream this is: yes, a pipe dream. It’s completely absurd, wildly far-fetched, and downright impossible. In short, it ain’t gonna happen. You know it. Everyone knows it.

But what kind of dream is it if you say, “I’m going to write a 200-page book based on my personal experiences. It will be positive, uplifting, and as well written as I can make it. I’ll finish it by the end of next year, self-publish it, and market it to my ‘tribe’ through social-media, emails, and a variety of creative promotional techniques.” – is that an emerging reality or just a velleity? From the outside, it’s hard to tell. Only you can know for certain.

Sure, many people say they’d like to write and publish a book. And most of them actually mean it. But what some of them mean is, “It sure would be nice if I’d already written a book, but I don’t plan on putting in the time and effort to actually write one in the foreseeable future.” (In other words, for these people – those who are merely dreamers but not doers – this dream is just a velleity.)

But there are some people (dreamers who are also doers!) who actually plan on writing and finishing a book within the coming year (or whatever time frame feels realistic). How do you recognize these people – and how can you tell if you’re one? How can you tell if you’re “working on a dream” (to borrow Bruce Springsteen’s phrase) that’s actually going to come true, as opposed to merely entertaining a pipe dream or velleity?

You can start by asking yourself these four questions:

  • Can I “see” my completed dream? Do I know what it will look like (and feel like) when my dream comes true? Can I visualize it as an accomplished goal, or does that feel too far-fetched to even imagine?
  • Is my dream a work in progress? Am I already taking steps to achieve my dream (such as writing down ideas, outlining, or actively writing a book), or is this a dream deferred indefinitely?
  • Is it realistic? Do I have “SMART Goals” (that are specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound) or just some vague notion of wanting to accomplish something at some point?
  • Have I enlisted help? Even for an activity as seemingly solitary as writing, you still need some kind of support: such as from an editor, agent, publishing/marketing expert, or (at the VERY least) an accountability partner to keep you on track and moving toward your goal.

If you can answer YES to these questions, chances are, your dream is more than just a velleity or a pipe dream – it’s an emerging reality!

If not, however, I urge you to do whatever you need to do to turn your dream into an emerging reality. You’ve probably heard the expression, “Don’t die with your music inside you.” Well, please don’t die with your book inside you (or your paintings or your company or whatever your dream happens to be). And don’t put it off indefinitely, either!

I’ve been on both sides of the dream (with books and other areas): feeling the frustration of letting a dream stall, stagnate, atrophy, and disappear…and also knowing the satisfaction of watching my “emerging reality” emerge – holding my published book in my hand and knowing that my dream became a reality! And I can tell you unequivocally: the second option feels a whole lot better!

Whether your dream is to write a book or do anything else that’s important to you (and others), remember that your dream came to you for a reason: to make it come true. I sincerely hope you will.

Your Soulful Book - a heart-centered writing programP.S. If you’re like me and you do have a dream to write, publish, and market your own book within the coming year, I’d love to help! In fact, my wife and I (along with a team of experts in design, marketing, editing, and other related areas) have put together a year-long program to support you in making this dream a reality!

It’s called Your Soulful Book, and for this month only, you can sign up at a huge earlybird-special discount! To learn all about it, please visit www.yoursoulfulbook.com.

I hope you’ll join me and a supportive group of fellow authors in making 2018 the year you successfully write, finish, publish, and market your soulful book! Let’s make a deal that your beautiful dream will NOT be a mere pipe dream, a velleity, or a dream that disappears the moment you wake up – but an emerging reality…soon to be a bona fide dream come true!

Ego and Soul: Opponents or Partners?

I love to read for so many reasons: for inspiration, for education, and just for the fun of it! I read because it expands my world and introduces me to new people and new perspectives. I read, as C. S. Lewis said, “to know we are not alone.” And I read because, every now and then, an author takes a thought that I’d had, but hadn’t been able to put into words, and articulates it far more eloquently than I could’ve done. I recently had this experience (again and again and again) while reading Jodi Chapman’s new book, Soul Bursts.

I love so many things about this book (and not just because Jodi is my amazing wife!).  I love that it’s authentic, vulnerable, and uplifting. I love that it’s simple yet profound, personal yet universal. And I love that, as I read it, I found myself saying, Yes! THANK you! — not just once or twice, but on almost every single page — as she gave voice to so many important truths. Although I could choose from hundreds of examples, for this post, I’ll focus on just one sentence (from the chapter “What Do You Believe?”):

“I believe that the soul and the ego are in partnership rather than opposition.”

Thank you!

So often, I’ve read books that rail against the ego as if it were some demonic force sent to ruin all that’s good in the world — or a parasite living within you that must be contained (or, better yet, destroyed). Although I’m sure all those authors meant well and have some valid points, something about this underlying premise never quite sat right with me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it…until Jodi did!

Once I started thinking of the soul and ego as partners, rather than opponents, it made perfect sense. Now, in fact, to see them any other way seems almost absurd. And once I started to see the soul and the ego as partners, I started thinking about almost everything this way! And why not? Think about it:

  • Are your eyes in opposition to your ears?
  • Are your hands in opposition to your feet?
  • Is what you eat in opposition to what you drink?
  • Is your car in opposition to your bicycle?

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point: the different parts of our lives — and ourselves — can work together as a team rather than working against each other.  In different situations, one part might take the lead or be more appropriate (such as using a car for traveling long distances and a bike for short distances, using your hands to type and your feet to walk, etc.). And sometimes they work in tandem as partners (such as enjoying a movie with your eyes and ears, or loving someone with your head and your heart).

The same goes for your body and spirit, your ego and your soul — they can be on the same team! They don’t have to be opponents, fighting each other to the death. You don’t have to choose one and reject the other. It’s not either/or. (At least, it doesn’t have to be!)

You can embrace your human side — including your physicality, your mind, and even your ego — while still living a deeply spiritual life guided by your soul. You can use the so-called “lower” parts of you — such as drive, ambition, and a sense of your individuality — in the service of (so-called) higher goals (such as uplifting others through art, charity, and compassionate service).

Think about it: Why would God/Nature create a part of you whose sole function was to thwart another part of you? I simply don’t believe it. To me, this would be as absurd as your body having lungs (for breathing) and “anti-lungs” (which made it harder to breathe…unless you renounced them). Of course, this is ludicrous. But I don’t believe it’s any more ludicrous than thinking that inherent parts of who we are — our thoughts and emotions, our hands and feet, or our ego and soul — are somehow designed to be pitted in eternal opposition.

Yes, if you believe that one part of you works against another, I’m sure you can turn this belief into a self-fulfilling prophecy — and experience this as your truth. But it’s not necessary! The different parts of you can fight against each other, but they can also complement one another in beautiful ways — working in alignment for your highest good.

And the implications can extend far beyond individuals — the same concept applies to possibilities for harmonious cooperation between people with different interests, professions, backgrounds, religions, or even nations. This shift in perspective can literally change your entire worldview…and the world!

So, within your own life, which way would you rather see it and experience it — fighting yourself every step of the way…or working as a harmonious team? It’s your choice.

Of course, everything I’ve written here is just a roundabout way of saying what Jodi put into a single short sentence: “I believe that the soul and the ego are in partnership rather than opposition.”

P.S. To learn all about Soul Bursts (and to see a preview of it), please visit www.jodichapman.com/soulbursts/.

Goes to Show, You Don’t Ever Know

Goes to show, you don't ever know

I recently experienced a frustrating — but ultimately eye-opening and heart-opening — situation with a company I’d contracted to do some work around my house. The situation was that they never showed up and never returned my calls…even after they’d been paid for the work.

Because they’re a reputable company, I wasn’t worried that they’d split the country with the money I’d already paid (a relatively small amount, fortunately); I was more just confused. I couldn’t help wondering: Didn’t they want the work?  Didn’t they want the rest of the money I would’ve paid them (if they would actually show up and do the job)? And, if this is their S.O.P., how do they stay in business?

After weeks of unanswered calls and unreturned voicemail messages, I managed to get ahold of the company’s owner, who assured me that a worker would be there in two days. I was hopeful but not optimistic, based on the company’s track record…and the fact that the owner was noticeably slurring her words on the phone.  I figured that her lack of responsiveness might have been because she was drunk or on drugs. But, regardless of the cause, at least we now had a verbal agreement and an appointment. (In theory.)

Anyway, two days came and went. No show. No word. No luck.

I can’t say that I was shocked, but I can say that I was livid. As I prepared to call once again, I had a few choice words in mind. When I reached her voicemail, though, I somehow managed to bite my tongue and reiterate the situation as politely but firmly as possible, urging her to call me back and rectify the matter as soon as possible.

Long story short: the very next day, a worker showed up and took care of everything.

But that wasn’t the eye-opening and heart-opening part of the situation. That happened when I asked the worker about the owner. Is she okay? He told me that, no, she’s not okay — she has a medical condition so severe that just a few months ago, she was pronounced medically dead…but was resuscitated (and managed not only to leave the hospital but resume work). He said that she’s very proud and doesn’t tell people about her condition and doesn’t like for it to keep her down. She’s tried her best to keep going, business as usual, despite her condition and the ongoing treatment for it.

Well, I put two and two together and figured that this was the reason for her slurred words, her very delayed response, and the confusion about appointments — presumably, side effects of the treatment.

In light of this new information, I was extremely glad that I bit my tongue and didn’t leave her a rude voicemail message (such as the one that I’d been mentally rehearsing). I would have felt even worse about her condition once I found out. And I would’ve felt like a jerk!

As it was, the experience did serve to remind me to give people the benefit of the doubt. After all, you don’t ever know what they’re going through on their end, regardless of how it looks from your perspective. And it reminded me to be sympathetic of others’ situations, even if — or especially because — you probably don’t know the whole story.

Fortunately, the woman is in the clear for now and seems to be on the mend. I’m praying that it won’t be too long before she has a clean bill of health.

As for me, hopefully I won’t find myself in a similar situation again. But if I do, next time around I’ll do more than just bite my tongue — I’ll open my heart.

I’ll Have What She’s Having

If you’ve ever seen the movie When Harry Met Sally, you undoubtedly remember the famous scene of Meg Ryan, um, “faking it” in the deli. (Even if you haven’t seen the movie, chances are you’ve seen this clip in one of the countless montages it’s featured in.) And, in either case, you also probably remember the “topper” line that closes the scene (delivered by the director’s mother, Estelle Reiner): “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Aside from its raunchy comedic value, this line offers great advice about relationships, business, and just about every other area of life: Rather than trying to push yourself (or your product, service, or anything else you might be trying to sell or advocate) on others, simply radiate an authentic, natural joy and love of life. Anyone in your vicinity will be drawn to you and your energy. They’ll want “what you’re having”!

This doesn’t mean that you should “fake it” (like Meg Ryan’s character or in any other way) or that you need to experience/exude orgasmic pleasure every moment of every day. It also doesn’t mean that you need to pretend that you have it all figured out, be at the pinnacle of your field, or be the ultimate “catch” in terms of a romantic relationship, business partnership, or any other area of life.

It simply means that if you are authentically filled with love, joy, personal fulfillment, and “YOU-ness,” this will naturally flow out into the world…and attract the kind of relationships (of all kinds) that you’d like to attract!

Remember, you are your always your own biggest testimonial — which can be positive, negative, or mixed depending on your energy and, most importantly, your LIFE! Your life is “Exhibit A” of how desirable (or not) whatever you’re promoting is.

If you are consistently negative, desperate, or miserable, most people are not going to want “what you’re having”! On the other hand, if you’re the embodiment of the qualities that people are seeking, they’re going to be drawn to you.

To give a somewhat superficial (but widely applicable) example: Many years ago, a woman tried to sell me a special brush designed to make your hair thicker. (At the time, I had thick, wavy hair that reached halfway down my back, so I’m not sure why she thought I might need this product, but that’s beside the point.) In any case, she was very pleasant and spent a good deal of time with me, explaining how this miracle brush worked (something to do with magnetic bristles, if I remember correctly) and the positive results it could produce.

Her explanation and sales pitch sounded great, but there was just one problem: The woman was nearly bald — with only a smattering of wispy tufts barely covering her scalp. As nice as this woman was, whatever she was doing — with the comb or anything else — clearly wasn’t helping much in this area. Needless to say, I did not “want what she was having” in the ‘do department.

Chances are, you’re not in the miracle-comb business, but you can apply this same principle to almost anything you do (or want to do):

  • If you’re a life coach, is your own life an example of what your clients might want?
  • If you’re a fitness trainer, nutritionist, or holistic doctor, are you healthy?
  • If you’re a teacher, do you excel in the area you teach?
  • If you’re looking for a loving, joyful relationship, do you exude love and joy?

In other words, are you living in such a way — personally and professionally — that others would want “what you’re having”?

By embodying what you and your potential clients or partners desire, you do yourself a couple of favors: First of all, you simply feel better. (Even if it didn’t lead to anything else, wouldn’t you just rather be radiant?) Also, this approach means that you don’t have to “sell” in the traditional sense. You don’t have to convince someone to want what you’re having. You simply live your life — enjoying your health, happiness, and success — and let the Law of Attraction connect you with the people who naturally gravitate to your energy.

I’ve found that it’s so much easier to live your life and conduct your business this way. You don’t have to be pushy or salesy or (like Meg Ryan’s “Sally” character) cause a scene. You just have to be you.

What are elements of YOU and your life that might attract others or make them say, “I’ll have what (s)he’s having”?

P.S. This piece is adapted from Manifesting Soulful Love — available now as a pick-your-price ecourse on DailyOM.com. Click here to learn more.

Manifesting Soulful Love

What’s Next?

Have you ever experienced (or witnessed) any of these scenarios?:

  • You just got married, and people immediately start asking you when you’re going to have kids.
  • You just experienced a loss or setback, and people immediately start trying to “help” you move forward.
  • You just finished a major project, and people immediately start asking you what you’re going to do next.
  • You watch a sports team celebrate winning the championship, and a reporter asks about their plans for next season.

In these situations (or any similar ones), the questions all boil down to the same essence: What’s next?

What’s next on the agenda? What are you going to do next? Where are you going to go next? Who are you going to date next? How are you going to get out of the “hole” you’re in or build on the success you’ve experienced? What’s the next step?

And all of these questions boil down to this: How soon can you escape the present moment?

The people asking these questions (which can also come from that nagging voice in the back of your own mind) are probably very well intentioned (or, at the very least, innocuously curious). Still, I find this line of questioning to be extremely annoying. It just makes me want to shout: “DUDE! This just happened! Would you let me be where I am for five minutes? Can’t I just celebrate, grieve, or experience whatever I’m experiencing right now?”

It makes me feel like a restaurant’s staff is trying to rush me away from my table and out the door while I’m still in the middle of my entrée.

Aside from simply being annoying, it feels like the embodiment of a modern (or perhaps age-old) tendency to want to escape the here-and-now, whether that reality is painful or pleasant. It’s a mindset that never lets you be where you are, cherish the moment, feel your feelings, and fully experience your life. It’s a mindset that says, “Let’s get out of here…fast!”

But the irony is that this what’s-next approach doesn’t necessarily hasten the next step; it simply robs you of the one you’re on. You don’t need to rush things — life will flow, and you will naturally arrive at the next step simply by living. A new idea will come to you, you’ll feel inspired to take action, you’ll figure your way out of a problem, or time will simply heal your wounds and allow you to move on.

Now, I’m all in favor of planning, dreaming, and even preparing for the future — but not at the expense of experiencing the present. Not to the exclusion of living your life in the here and now. And certainly not to the extent that it robs you of all present-time joy, sorrow, or whatever else you’re experiencing.

Sure, by always looking a mile (or more) down the road, you may feel like you’re staying a step ahead — and, in a way, you are — but you’re missing the step you’re on. By focusing on the future, you may feel like you’re preparing yourself for what’s next, but you miss the only place where life truly happens: NOW.

And, besides, the imagined future that you’re “preparing” for may never come to pass — or it may arrive in a very different form than you’d imagined. Or, even if it looks more or less the way you thought it would, when it does arrive, you might be too focused on what’s next after that to really experience it.

On the other hand, when you allow yourself to fully experience the here-and-now — feeling it all without trying to run away — you’ll naturally allow yourself to take in all the joy, learn all the lessons, heal all the hurt, and be present for your own life. And when the time comes and “what’s next” becomes “what’s now,” you’ll be good and ready.

And you’ll really be there.

P.S. There’s still space available in our upcoming collaborative book, Goodness Abounds: 365 True Stories of Loving Kindness, but spots are filling up — so if you’d like to be part of this book (which will be the last one in our bestselling 365 Book Series until at least 2019), this is the perfect time to join us. Please click here or visit www.goodnessabounds.com to learn more.

Goodness Abounds

My (Belated) Words of the Year

For the past few years, I’ve come up with a word of the year — something that encapsulated my desired focus and aspirations for the coming 12 months. I fully expected to do the same this year as well, but when January 1 rolled around, I just wasn’t feeling it.

No single word was calling to me — and the words that did keep springing into my mind (such as anger, bewilderment, disgust, and disillusionment) were hardly ones that I wanted to serve as my theme for the year! But trying to force myself to “fake it till I make it” with a positive word (such as optimism, enthusiasm, or joy) just didn’t feel authentic.

Over the next few months, however, one word did keep coming up…again and again:

ALLOW

And, unlike those other words, this one actually felt good. It fit.

This small but powerful word can mean a lot of things — such as non-resistance, non-interference, or letting yourself and others be who they truly are. My spiritual mentors, Abraham-Hicks, even call their workshops “The Art of Allowing” and say that this is the most important lesson for most humans to learn in this lifetime. But to me, the word was mainly a reminder that I didn’t have to judge my emotions or beat myself up for not feeling bright and chipper — I could simply allow myself to feel what I was feeling. Period.

As I let this word’s energy seep into me, I felt lighter. I breathed easier. And I actually did start to feel a bit more bright and chipper (well, at least some of the time!).

Maybe ALLOW can be my word of the year, I thought.

But something about that word felt incomplete. It felt too passive — too yin. I needed some active yang energy to balance it out!

Around that time, my wife and I started thinking of ways to shift our energy, take positive action, and “be the change we want to see in the world.” Our first step was to change the theme of our next collaborative book, which we titled Goodness Abounds: 365 True Stories of Loving Kindness. We felt that this energy was (and definitely still is!) so needed in our country and around the world. And, selfishly, we wanted to immerse ourselves in goodness, to surround ourselves with these uplifting reminders that, despite what we’ve been seeing and hearing in the news, we still live in a kind, loving, and GOOD world.

And now I see that, without even looking for it, I’ve stumbled upon my second word of the year:

GOODNESS

Like allow, goodness means many things to many people. To me, this year, it mainly represents that active force of positivity, soulfulness, an insistence on truth (or satyagraha, as Gandhi called it), and direct action to bring more soulful truth, love, and kindness into the world.

That feels good, too.

It feels empowering to realize that my life — including my thoughts, my actions, and my emotions — isn’t determined exclusively by my environment. I don’t have to be a passive recipient of others’ energy, at the mercy of the world around me (or even my own thoughts and emotions). I can actively take steps to shift my vibration, change my focus, and maybe even bring a little more goodness and light into the world.

So this year, I’ll be focusing on the GOODNESS that is within my power to bring about (in my life and in the world around me) while I ALLOW myself to feel whatever I may feel, without judgment. And since I get to make the rules for my own life, I’ve decided that I can decide on my word of the year in mid-April — and that it will actually be two words:

ALLOW-GOODNESS

And that’s just what I plan to do!

P.S. If you’d like to join me in celebrating goodness, I’d love for you to share a story in our upcoming collaborative book, Goodness Abounds: 365 True Stories of Loving Kindness, which will celebrate goodness and the many people who actively bring more of it into the world. If you’re interested in joining us, this is a perfect time because we’re offering discounts until April 30. (Please click here or visit www.goodnessabounds.com to learn more.) Thank you for all the goodness you’re bringing into the world!

Goodness Abounds

And for my next act…

365 Life ShiftsYesterday, Jodi and I (along with over 250 contributing authors) launched our new book, 365 Life Shifts: Pivotal Moments That Changed Everything. I am so grateful to everyone who contributed to this collection (the third volume of the 365 Book Series), the hundreds of people who promoted it (which helped it become an instant #1 bestseller on Amazon), and the thousands of people who will read it and open their hearts to these true stories of transformation.

As I reflect on this project, I realize that it came about at a perfect time for me, although it didn’t always feel this way. In fact, for much of the process, it felt like the absolute worst timing imaginable. The bulk of the editing needed to be done in October, November, and December — when my mind was largely preoccupied with the U.S. elections. And the final proofs had to be reviewed in late January and early February, when my mind was largely preoccupied with the consequences of the U.S. elections (as it still is).

Frankly, I found it rather hard to focus on the niceties of grammar and punctuation when there were so many pressing issues throughout the country and around the world. In the grand scheme of things, did it really matter whether I used a comma or a semicolon when there were Syrian refugees being turned away from our shores and legal U.S. residents being separated from their families despite valid Green Cards or work visas? When the EPA and National Parks were being threatened, park employees’ voices censored, endangered species threatened, and animal-rights abuses being covered up by the government? When we faced environmental disasters and nuclear threats? When civil rights were being trampled upon and LGBT rights were being ignored? When Muslims were being…well, you’re no doubt aware of the quickly growing list of grievances.

So, what does all this have to do with Life Shifts? A LOT!

Although I’m not sure what exactly…yet. I just know that I’m ready for a life shift. A big one. And reading these 365 true stories has reaffirmed that, yes, big life shifts can and do happen. These stories also offer reminders that positive shifts can emerge from the most unpleasant (or even tragic) circumstances, such as those who made positive shifts as a result of injury, illness, or loss of loved ones. Reading them, I’m reminded that shifts sometimes take many years to manifest, but they can also take place in a single moment — often with the decision to make a change.

And that’s where I am right now — deciding to make a change, even though I don’t know what it will be. I’m not at the end but at the turning point in my own story. I feel a shift brewing, but I don’t yet know the specifics of my “next act.” Perhaps I’ll end up offering my time, money, and/or services to groups that promote the freedoms I cherish, such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of choice. Perhaps I’ll make a more concerted effort to express myself and live in a way that better reflects the values I wish to promote in the world around me — to “be the change I wish to see.” Perhaps my life will take a more overtly political focus, or maybe I’ll just be more passionate about creating works of art that I feel are worthwhile, thoughtful, and (hopefully) uplifting and beautiful.

Yes, the uncertainty of this “TBD next act” does feel a bit unsettling, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with allowing myself to sit in the unknown, allowing the gestation process to take place in its own time. And I’m OK not knowing what exactly is going to be “born” from all this — partly because of the reassurance I’ve received from so many others who have found themselves at crossroads, oftentimes facing bleak situations, only to emerge stronger and healthier and happier than ever. Which is exactly what I want for my own story-in-progress…and for yours!

In any case, in light of the big changes I feel brewing within me and already taking place all around me (as well as all the significant changes that so many others have gone through — including the ones described in this book), yes, those punctuation issues do seem rather trivial. But, on the other hand, they’re still important to me. It is important for me to embody, to the best of my ability, the traits that I wish to see more of in the world, including intelligence, attention to detail, and heart-based professionalism.

And if my only way of expressing that, for now, is to use a properly placed semicolon, then so be it.

***

What about you? Have you gone through any major (or minor) shifts in your life? Are you going through one right now? Do you have a good idea of what it’s leading to, or are you still in the thick of it? I’d love to hear YOUR story, too! 🙂

(By the way, in case you were wondering — and I sincerely hope you weren’t — the big comma-vs.-semicolon issue was: Which punctuation mark should we use before a coordinating conjunction when at least one of the independent clauses they join contains an internal comma [especially if the comma is in the sentence’s first clause]? After much back and forth — and consulting numerous, and oftentimes conflicting, style guides — we decided [largely guided by Garner’s Modern English Usage] to use commas except in rare instances in which they could lead to miscues, ambiguities, or other reading difficulties. And you thought I didn’t lead an exciting life — ha!) 🙂

P.S. This is the second day of our month-long blog tour related to this book. If you’d like to read posts by other co-authors, here are the posts that went up yesterday and today, as well as those going up tomorrow:

Feb 21

Feb 22

Feb 23

P.P.S. I also hope you’ll check out the book itself — as well as the 70 bonus gifts you’ll get for FREE if you buy your copy now. You can learn all about the book and the gifts at www.365lifeshifts.com.

365 Life Shifts - Available Now!

The Upside of Anger

the-upside-of-anger-angry-birdI used to think that anger was always bad. Growing up, I got the message that it was an unacceptable emotion. And as a young adult, I thought that it was somehow “unspiritual.” More recently, however, my perspective has changed.

I still don’t think that anger is a fun emotion to feel or a fun “place” to hang out (and I’m extremely wary of those who make it their home), but I’ve come to see that there is an upside of anger.

As I now see it, here are three of anger’s biggest benefits:

1. It allows you to practice self-acceptance and self-awareness. You don’t have to judge yourself for feeling angry, any more than you would judge yourself for feeling hungry or thirsty, hot or cold, or happy or sad. The feeling is simply an indication of where you are in that moment. No, you wouldn’t want to spend most of your time feeling angry (any more than you’d want to spend most of your time feeling hungry, thirsty, or tired). But the anger does provide valuable feedback — much like a car’s low-gas warning or your hand’s pain if you touch a hot stove — which can help you shift to a more positive place. (For instance, acknowledging a negative sensation, such as thirst, can inspire you to take positive action, such as drinking more water — thus helping you feel better in the short term and, in the long term, improving your health and avoiding dehydration.)

2. It might be a step in the right direction! As I’ve learned from Abraham’s “Emotional Scale,” anger is sometimes a step toward love, freedom, and joy! For instance, if you’re feeling depressed, afraid, or powerless, anger can motivate you to get up and do something to empower yourself. Again, you don’t want to spend your whole life in this place, but if you’re “just passing through” from depression to a more hopeful place, anger may be an important way station on your journey!

3. It launches “rockets of desire” toward a better-feeling place. Perhaps the greatest benefit of anger (and another great Abraham-Hicks lesson) is that knowing what you don’t want (whatever’s making you angry) helps you clarify what you do want (something that’s the opposite of, or at least very different from, whatever’s making you angry). And the strong emotional charge that generally accompanies anger can help you manifest a more desirable state…IF (and here’s the key caveat) you shift your focus away from the undesirable cause of the anger and toward something that feels better to focus on!

Let’s consider an extreme example:

Although we all have different triggers that make us angry, let’s look at one near-universal source of anger: Imagine that you’ve just read a history book or watched a film about Hitler and the Nazis. There’s a good chance that you’d be pretty angry! And, in my mind, there’s nothing bad or unspiritual about this anger. (To me, it’s just the opposite — evidence that you have a heart, a brain, and a pulse!)

Perhaps you’re angry at a man whose xenophobic conspiracy theories and racially motivated ideology (based on a twisted notion of national “purity”) resulted in  the attempt to eliminate members of one of the world’s largest religions from his nation, the persecution of homosexuals, and the bullying of his opponents. Perhaps you’re angry at those who put this man into power through a free election — giving him control of the nation and its military (thus allowing him to become a ruthless tyrant rather than remaining a schoolyard bully or a street-corner crackpot). Or perhaps you’re angry at the millions of people with misgivings who, nonetheless, appeased him or normalized his bizarre behavior and blatant lies, docilely allowing them to spread and grow into the deadliest conflict in human history.

Your anger here would be perfectly understandable, natural, and perhaps even healthy.

But, again, this anger is not a place where you want to spend a significant amount of time. Life is too precious to spend most of it feeling angry (or any other negative emotion).

So what do you DO with that anger?

Let’s run this example through the three “upsides of anger” mentioned above. (While I don’t want to dwell on something negative, it might be helpful to see these principles in action — and, hey, if we can do it for something this extreme, we can do it for anything!)

First of all, acknowledge and accept your anger. Don’t judge it as bad, wrong, or unspiritual. Just notice it and take in the message it’s giving you (in this case, that Nazis, xenophobes, homophobes, and anti-Semites don’t make you feel good).

Secondly, if you’d previously been feeling depressed or powerless, realize that your anger may be a sign that you’re heading in a positive direction. Or, if you had been feeling better, noticing the dip into anger can help you avoid slipping into even more negative states (such as despair — which could easily happen when contemplating something as extreme as our current example). The anger might be the trigger that makes you say, “Enough! NEVER AGAIN!”…and then do something about that thought!

And thirdly, you can follow the “rockets of desire” launched by the anger — in other words, shift your focus toward desirable states or conditions in the opposite direction from the anger. In this example, thinking of a violent, xenophobic bully might make you think how nice it would be if the world were filled with (or at least led by) those who embraced other nationalities, races, and religions with open-minded intelligence, peace, and love…and then take inspired action to move toward manifesting this highly preferable reality!

Above all, be gentle with yourself.

If you’re feeling angry (today or any other day, for any reason) don’t beat yourself up for feeling what you’re feeling (any more than you’d beat yourself up for feeling thirsty or tired). And don’t beat yourself up if you’re not able to shift instantly from anger to peace, love, and joy! It might take some time for the anger to run its course; and even when it does begin to ease up, you might initially only have access to slightly-less-negative emotions, such as worry or frustration.

But know that you won’t stay in a negative place forever. And know that allowing yourself to feel what you’re feeling can have tremendous benefits in the long run. You can use your emotions as “rocket fuel” — leading you to take inspired action. And when you’re ready, you can ride those rockets toward a life where peace, joy, and love are the norm, and a world where goodness abounds.