Eventually, if we don’t give up and we keep doing what needs to be done, things will begin to settle down in life, both inside and outside of us. We finally realize that life is not an endurance contest or a competition with fate, but rather a process of discovery. As we wrestle with our thoughts, feelings, and secrets during this transitional phase, a picture of who we are materializes.
Everything we do and everything that is done to us somehow becomes transformed onto the canvas of our lives. As this miraculous transformation takes place, our senses expand and merge into a kaleidoscope of intuition and awareness, resulting in influences that alter our personalities. Somewhere in the process, we begin to notice that we’re more balanced, more complete, and more alive to the influences in and around us.
We also discover an inner voice—a guiding influence that leads us to greater personal acceptance and less inner conflict. The world itself doesn’t change but our hearts do, and that is what causes us to view the world differently. In essence, the calm before the storm expands until it is able to overcome the storm altogether.
We become more aware of the current in life that is life-giving and life-enhancing, and we become more able to focus on the significance of the journey and less on confusion and fear. With this awareness, we develop a greater capacity to understand and accept that the responsibility for this process lies directly on our shoulders. In life, we can either make excuses or recognize results, and making excuses won’t get us anywhere.
With this new awakening, we realize that if we really believe in the beauty of eternity, then we must learn to appreciate the splendor of each day. Without this appreciation, we participate in life, but we have no real freedom. Ultimate freedom is dependent upon three things—freedom of choice, freedom to choose our own path, and freedom to have no regrets for the paths we didn’t choose.
As we choose to let go of our regrets, even though the pain and problems don’t disappear completely, everything—even the past— tends to fall into place. We accept that we weren’t perfect and that we made mistakes, but that was then, and this is now. Then we move on.
We finally get a glimpse of eternity as we realize that we’re part of something much greater than ourselves. As we take part in this never-ending state of change, we begin to understand that everything is as it should be.
Creating a New Belief in Ourselves
All that we’ve lived through and had experience with in the past has colored our perception of who and what we are in the present. But remember, it’s only a perception of who we are and not who we really are. In the past, we may have felt that we had very little choice in these matters. The future is different. The future is ours, and the future starts now!
Unfortunately, because of the patterns of the past, some people believe that it is impossible to alter old belief systems. Even if it were possible to change these patterns, a unique set of conditions must be in place before these individuals would consider taking corrective measures.
The fact is that these perceptions are not immutable or unalterable, and they will transform us, but only when we are prepared to accept such changes. It’s also true that we begin to believe in ourselves, even when things are difficult—not only in the sunlight, where every detail is clear and every probability has been calculated, but also in the dark, where uncertainty and fear serve as the incentives that generate change. This change triggers a developmental process that results in experiences; new experiences lead to expansion; expansion leads to confidence; and confidence leads to clarity. Such a process is never easy, but it’s always worth it. These principles serve as a foundation for a new reality, and they allow natural laws to form the basis of this new perception. In this manner, a new future will begin to rise from the ashes of the painful past.
As a result, we begin to realize that we can be the choice we wish to make. We can become what we search for. We can create the transformation from what we were to what we are capable of becoming. We can rise above the fears that seek to immobilize us. We can progress toward what we aspire to be. We can adapt to the ideals we search for. We can revise the limitations that may have controlled us. We can harness the pain and grow beyond it. We can bridle our courage to defeat uncertainty. We can formulate new methods to overcome confusion. We can attune ourselves to the positive forces in life. We can redesign our old, imperfect perception of who we are as we envision what we dream we can become. We can recruit the help of caring individuals to assist us in rising above our past. We can synchronize what we previously thought was hopelessly disorganized and we can generate a metamorphosis that will enable us to rise to previously unexpected levels of achievement. From an eternal perspective, we can accept nothing less!
The Power of Perception
Things are seldom as bad as they appear to be. We all know that. And yet, when we’re feeling miserable, somehow we forget what we know as we slip back into the tried and tested perception of fear and insecurity. Feelings are the result of chemical reactions in our bodies, and when there is a chemical imbalance inside of us our perception becomes a chemical figment of our imagination. When this occurs and everything seems chaotic, we have two choices—we can attempt to change our perception, or we can try to prove there is no need to do so.
Given these two options, we generally tend to avoid change at all costs, even when this avoidance means the pain will continue. Another interesting pattern of human nature is that the way we see others is often a reflection of how we see ourselves. In other words, when we’re negative and critical of others, it may be an indication that we have similar views of ourselves.
When we have difficulty trusting others, we may have a history of not trusting ourselves. If we believe something long enough, it either is true or it becomes true. As a result, we push ourselves to the point that we don’t know whom to trust. Hence, we systematically sabotage ourselves and separate ourselves from everyone because we feel that they just don’t understand!
We are the only ones who can stop the insanity. It all starts with making new choices. If we keep on doing what we’ve done, we’re going to keep on getting what we’ve been getting. Unfortunately, when we struggle too much with our problems in life, sometimes we miss out on the lessons they teach. The process of change starts with a change in perception. It’s not easy. In fact, some would say it’s impossible. In reality, while the “difficult” takes time, the “impossible” just takes a little longer.
The good news is that we don’t have to go through this process of change alone. Once we make the commitment, the powers of providence move into action, preparing us for what’s to come and bringing individuals into our lives who can assist us. With this in mind, there’s an ancient prayer that emphasizes this principle: “God, help me to be thankful for assistance that’s already on its way from unseen sources.” Miracles do occur, and healing does take place. So keep your expectations high, because no one ever rises to low expectations.
The Limits of Our Reality
When we repeatedly feel like our lives have become overwhelming, it’s almost certain that our perception has become imperfect. For it is not the world that controls who we are or how we react or which course we take in life. Through the experiences we have and the resulting choices we make, we are the ones who determine the role we play in the theater of life. In spite of the successes and failures of the past, we are the ones who determine how we will manage the challenges of our world today. We are the ones who define both our reality and ourselves. Once we understand this great responsibility, all things become possible.
We can always choose what attitude we will have in the face of any circumstances. Specifically, we are not our past, although we are touched by it. We are not our fear, although we are drawn to it. We are not our pain, although we develop because of it. The choices we make and the attitudes we develop are constantly changing as we move from one transitional phase to another.
There’s no end to this process. This means that, sooner or later, what we have now is going to change. Those who are failing will find success. Those who are overwhelmed with pain will find relief. Those who are lost will find the path.
No one will escape these essential emotional and spiritual dynamics. The result will be a continuing process of redefining ourselves and of growing beyond ourselves. In this manner, we alter the limits of our reality.
There are many things in life that seem impossible and some of them actually are. When something is truly impossible, another option invariably becomes inevitable. As a result, when our movement in any given direction becomes impossible, it becomes inevitable that other possibilities will be discovered. The goal is to develop a philosophy of life that enables us to actually believe that the impossible always leads to the inevitability of new possibilities. This is why our attitude is so important.
Without patience and faith, it would be easy to become overwhelmed. If we are overwhelmed now, it’s easy to believe we will always feel that way—but we won’t.
Hence, when you’re in the midst of a struggle, remind yourself that life exposes us to sensations and powerful emotions that have the capacity to build or to destroy. Based on the choices we consistently make, one or the other will result. We are the ones who define the limits of our reality.Survival Skills
Survival skills seem to be a logical attempt to cope with an illogical situation. No one really chooses these patterns beforehand. They just appear. Because they are developed in the midst of crisis situations, they become inextricably linked to, and require a continuation of, additional crisis situations. Life literally becomes nothing but one crisis after another. As a result, we tend to believe that our real selves are a combination of being broken, unlovable, abandoned, victimized, confused, and maybe even crazy.
When we’re raised in an environment of instability and pain, we tend to accept these variables as normal, inevitably trusting the dysfunction and hesitating to let it go. The abnormal becomes normal, despair becomes reality, and the perception of helplessness and hopelessness creates the illusion that this is as good as it gets.
The ultimate goal in recovery is not to change yourself or anyone else. It’s to make new choices that are more successful than the previous ones. When we make new choices, changes will occur on their own.
Big changes will not occur all at once but will come in bits and pieces. We only change what hurts. Until it hurts long enough and hard enough that we can’t ignore it, numb it, or run from it, we tolerate it—because we really don’t know how to change it to start with. That’s not an excuse. That’s just the way it is.
Crossing the boundaries of belief and going beyond the paralysis of fear and anxiety are difficult. Life is filled with a wide variety of choices, so live your life in such a manner that you always have a choice. If you don’t recognize your ability to choose, you will lose that ability by defaulting to poor choices.
It appears that this world is accomplishing the purpose for which it was created. It’s full of joys and sorrows, successes and failures. This opposition prepares us to withstand the storms of life, both the ones we’re experiencing now and the ones yet to come. The challenges we’re facing now are simply part of the preparation for us to handle the bigger ones that will come—and come they will. That’s what life is all about—growing, experiencing, and rising above our previous self. There really is a purpose to life, and there really are reasons behind opposition.
The painful elements in life—such as fear, anger, and sorrow—are things that we all try to avoid. In fact, sometimes we’re so successful at avoiding them that we never develop the life-management skills necessary to cope with them, so we continue to be victimized by them.
Ironically, these painful elements are some of the integral components in the equation of life. Instead of running from them, make the attempt to face them and embrace them—both for the lessons they teach and for the strengths they give you.
How Do You Define Yourself?
Usually when people are consistently unhappy, their unhappiness has more to do with how they define themselves than with what their specific problems are. Whether weak or strong, capable or incapable, secure or insecure, we tend to perceive ourselves in certain ways and then support those perceptions with beliefs and behaviors that anchor us in that level of development. In reality, our perceptions about ourselves are merely a belief system that we choose to accept. So, if you don’t like the way you’ve defined yourself up until now, make new choices. That’s where it all begins.
As human beings, we tend to believe that we are what we believe we are. But our perceptions are only beliefs, and beliefs can be altered or discarded. It just takes practice. We also tend to believe that our past experiences are all-controlling—that simply because we’ve always acted in a certain way, we will always continue to act that way. But that’s not true either. It’s only another example of an incorrect belief system.
In life, each of us will progress at a rate of speed that only we are capable of determining. Regardless of how encouraging or discouraging others may be, no one else is accountable for the speed with which we progress or for the pain that we bring upon ourselves because of poor choices. Fortunately, there are no such things as negative experiences; there are only experiences that serve to strengthen, develop, and clarify the person we really are. Nothing is wasted, regardless of what we have come to believe.
It all starts with how we define ourselves. When it comes to our natural tendencies or predispositions, our self-made definitions are powerful. We are either the victim or the victor. Victims allow themselves to be controlled by their natural tendencies and predispositions. Victors manage them by choosing to replace their natural predispositions with a course of self-mastery, self-discipline, and reliance upon correct principles. Victors also seek out the help they need to succeed.
Self-mastery, self-discipline, reliance upon correct principles, and seeking out help are ultimately the essential building blocks of happiness. So, invest in yourself. Be victorious! After all, you’re exchanging a day of your life for today.”
Portals of Discovery
If we have everything but a sense of who we really are, we have nothing. And yet, if we have nothing but a sense of who we really are, we really have everything.
Unfortunately, sometimes we get lost while trying to discover who we really are. If we can keep the big picture in mind—that we’re in this world to gain experience and touch the lives of those around us—then everything else becomes manageable. In other words, we’re not broken simply because we’re not yet perfect.
In fact, life appears to be orchestrated in such a manner that even our weaknesses, inabilities, limitations, and disabilities enable us to touch the lives of those around us in ways that only we can. Because of their impact upon us, our problems force us to redefine ourselves.
In essence, they are our portals of discovery.
I’ve come to believe that God is intimately involved in our life process, and that things are so well coordinated that he has already prepared others to answer prayers we haven’t even prayed yet. He knows what our needs are now and he knows what they will be in the future. He has prepared others to be brought into our lives to touch our spirits, strengthen us, and fill the void that we sometimes feel. The most exciting part of this process is that you’re in the midst of becoming one of these “tour guides” yourself.
The recovery process you’re going through right now is much bigger than you are, and it has a much greater significance than the pain of your own personal issues. As a result of the choices you’re making, changes will occur. Your life and the lives of those with whom you are involved will never be the same. With the insight, understanding, and wisdom that will develop from this experience, and with the knowledge of tools and techniques that you’ll learn, you’ll find solutions to your problems, and you’ll be brought into the lives of others in a manner that will replenish both your energy and theirs.
We really do have a worth that is far beyond our mortal ability to fully comprehend. Because it’s so far beyond us, its effect will be to serve as a guiding beacon that will quietly, but most assuredly, lead us home.
Everything Is Already All Right
It may sound like a cliché, but if what you’re doing isn’t giving you what you want, then don’t do it anymore. Life is a long journey, and you probably aren’t done yet, so be patient with yourself and learn to enjoy the ride. Believe it or not, life is not a life-threatening illness! I’ve come to believe that everything is going to turn out all right. If I really believe that everything is going to turn out all right, then I have to accept the fact that everything is already all right. There is a divinely orchestrated plan that uses pain and frustration to teach us, reach us, and prepare us for what’s to come. In essence, we are being prepared today for what’s going to happen ten years down the road. This preparation never ends but continues throughout life.
No one escapes this process. Though there may be variations in our trials, we will never become immune to them—no immunity from the pain or loss or difficulties brought on by our own mistakes and no immunity from the confusion or insanity brought on by the actions of others. Sometimes it almost seems to be too much to bear, but it’s not. Life wasn’t meant to be accommodating and pain free, but it wasn’t meant to be so overwhelming that we would give up.
To manage life effectively and to achieve some measure of happiness, we need to do three things: First, we need to develop an eternal perspective that helps us see the light at the end of the tunnel; second, we need to accept ourselves as we are right now, with the expectation that we’re going to continue to grow; and third, we need to be willing to forgive both ourselves and others.
If a seed doesn’t grow, it dies. When it does grow, it eventually destroys its old container and must be transplanted in a new pot. Growth can be painful. I guess that’s why we tend to avoid it. However, happiness requires a combination of discovery and growth. If we’re not committed to these principles, we will be hesitant, anxious, and ineffective.
Happiness is a by-product that occurs naturally as we discover and accept who we are, and as we become who we are meant to become. This process continues to repeat itself as we move from one level of development to the next.
As we master each new level of development, we develop a greater emotional depth that enables us to reduce our dependence on people, situations, or circumstances. Happiness is an integral part of this development. Happiness is having options, alternatives, and choices, not addiction, dependency, or domination. Happiness is developing an optimistic perception in which our focus is on the rose, not the thorn.
Since some people weren’t raised to be happy, they don’t expect to be happy. They deprive themselves of the happiness and pleasures in this world, clinging to the idea that, in the eternities, they’ll have it all. Now, while that may be true, we need to remember that we’re in the midst of eternity now. Eternity is not something that’s going to happen in the future. It’s here and it’s now. It’s okay to be happy!
There’s a reason for our existence, and it seems clear that happiness should be a part of that existence. We have a right to be happy. However, with every right comes a responsibility to ourselves and to those around us. With every responsibility comes an obligation and with every obligation, a duty. Each of us must define these variables as we define ourselves. A systematic, disciplined approach is necessary to put life back in balance for those who have been used, abused, or confused or for those who suffer from depression or anxiety disorders. Without balance, there can be no long-term happiness.
The good news is that no one has to remain stuck in a rut. If we feel a sense of powerlessness, it can be replaced with strength and confidence. If we feel a loss of freedom, it can be replaced with choices. We can stabilize, understand, and manage our confused feelings. Since our symptoms are messages, an important question is, “What are they trying to tell us?” Part of the answer is, “everything is all ready all right.”
As our capacity for self-love increases, a transformation takes place. We develop greater emotional maturity. We become more centered, more balanced, and more accepting. We make fewer demands on others, and we develop an ability to rise above our own concerns. As others see this, they will be drawn to us, and our relationships will develop greater depth and substance. From everything that I’ve been taught, it is clear that God wants us to be successful in this endeavor.
It appears that our fate, or our destiny, is nothing but a natural set of laws that God uses to influence our lives. Throughout history, philosophers have written that destiny is the result of character, character is the result of habit, and habit is the result of choice. From this point of view, destiny is not a matter of chance—it’s a matter of choice. God is the author of choice.
It’s through our agency, or our choices, that we become who we are capable of being. God’s love and our own self-love are major elements in this process. Hence, there will be no failures. There will, however, be many of us who progress slowly. And while this process is not always easy, I’m convinced that it’s manageable.
We all have the tendency to see ourselves through a clouded lens. We get all mixed up with our past, our fears, and our pain. We are not our past, although we are touched by it. We are not our fear, although we are drawn to it, and we are not our pain, although we develop because of it. These are some of the essential steps in the development of self-love.
During the process of developing self-love, we eventually realize that we determine our personal limits, our interpersonal boundaries, and the expectations that we set for ourselves and for others. It’s a process of learning how to love ourselves and others.
Our interpersonal boundaries include being able to set healthy limits with others, establishing healthy life-management skills, and setting realistic expectations that provide balance, stability, and control. Each of these is directly related to self-love.
In fact, the following three concepts form the basis of our reality: We can only accomplish what we think we can. We can only become what we think we are. We can only be what we repeatedly do.
God understands this. That’s why this world was created specifically for us. Because of his plan, our problems were never meant to be permanent, our mistakes were never meant to destroy, and our patterns of behavior were never meant to stop our progression. These things were meant to serve as a foundation for learning, for building upon, and for rising above. I believe that God wants us to know what lies behind us and what lies before us, but that he wants us to know what lies within us even more.
We didn’t come into this world to obtain self-worth—we brought it with us. Because we’ve always had it, our job is not to develop it but to discover it. Self-love is directly tied to this. Ultimately, we are the deciding factor in the discovery of self-love. In essence, we have to believe it to see it.
This is a beautiful world, and—no doubt—it is accomplishing the purpose for which it was created. We’re primarily here to learn to be like Jesus. Fortunately, it’s never too late to start our process of change. Embracing that process is what self-love is all about. Giving us that opportunity is what God’s love is all about. We must learn for ourselves that we are worthy to have both our own self-love and his love.
Choice and Accountability
Apparently, life is as it is. Sometimes it’s very simple, and sometimes it’s very confusing. In either case, it appears that our choices are the determining factor in managing every part of life. Because of this natural law, we are one hundred percent successful in achieving our definition of success. What this means is that, even though difficulties arise, we are the ones who define ourselves as being optimistic or pessimistic, victims or victors, loving or distant, in control or out of control, fearful or confident, uncertain or self-assured.
Nobody else can be held accountable for these choices. If we’re not getting what we think we want from life, maybe we need to look back at the way we have defined ourselves. We become the managers of our eternal destiny based on the definitions that we create.
We’ve spent a lifetime establishing and developing patterns, and we tend to define ourselves by these patterns. Although it seems that these patterns could inspire personal growth because of their imperfections, they actually retard growth as long as they persist. Because of these dynamics, it’s essential that we redefine ourselves by the insight we have developed from our mistakes, not by the mistakes themselves.
There really is purpose, reason, and wisdom in life. Nothing is wasted—not even our most difficult and painful experiences. So expect to succeed. Live life by design, not by accident.
Today is not a drill, and this moment is not a dress rehearsal. We have prepared our entire lives for this performance. We don’t want to miss it because of hesitation, and we don’t want to blow it because of fear. Since life has probably not been completely accommodating in the past, maybe we need to commit ourselves to a new belief system for the future. As we dare to develop a new way of looking at ourselves, we’ll discover that destiny is not a matter of chance, but rather a matter of choice.
We can’t afford to wobble with uncertainty. It hurts too much. We can’t afford not to go first class; there is no good reason to settle for less. Ultimately, we are the determining factor in the equation. We are one hundred percent successful in achieving our definition of happiness.
We are unique. As we discover who we really are, we begin to accept that we are the way we are, that life is the way it is, and that it has real purpose. We each have a variety of gifts, characteristics, weaknesses, and inabilities that separate us from all others, and they literally prepare us to accomplish certain things in life. Nothing is wasted. So, we overcome what we can, accept what we can’t, and do what we can in spite of what we can’t. In this manner, we will touch the lives of those around us in ways that only we can.
We have infinite worth. Our greatest strength lies in our self-worth. We didn’t come in to this world to get self-worth, we brought it with us. It was a gift. It was part of the package we were given. It never goes away, and it has nothing to do with our performance. Our job is not to develop our self-worth, but rather to discover it. We can then use that knowledge to rise above our previous selves.
We are part of something greater. We’re not alone in this world. There is a divine purpose for our existence. There is a reason for our being. The choices we make, the principles we use, and the roles we play are all part of a life that is orchestrated for our benefit and development. With this in mind, we need to be consistently shifting our focus from a temporal perspective to an eternal one.
We have a significance that affects all areas of life. Our significance refers to our ability to make a difference in life. It’s what we do with our self-worth that affects us socially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially. Our significance never goes away, but when we feel we have no significance, it affects the way we interpret our challenges and results in potential impairment in all areas of life.
We are responsible for our choices. There is a cause-and-effect relationship between the choices we make and the changes that occur in life. As we make new choices, changes occur automatically. Ultimately, we’re responsible for these choices—no one else is. As these principles become more deeply embedded in our lives, a natural change occurs, and personal responsibility is converted into personal accountability. When this occurs, we are able to see the world from a different point of view, and we are never, ever the same.
We are capable. When we do our part, we will develop capabilities and life-management skills as we need them. As time passes, we will progress and attract to ourselves those things on which we focus. What distresses us, overwhelms us, or strengthens us invariably becomes integrated into who we are. We are a work in progress. We’re not done yet.
If we can visualize it, we can achieve it. As we rise to a higher level of functioning, a change must take place—not only in our behavior but also in our thinking. If we follow old patterns, we will maintain our old, limited perception. So, make the decision to engage the magic that exists in powerful imagery. Don’t settle for mediocrity. When we can visualize and imagine something, it materializes and creates an energy that manifests itself in our minds. This imagery is a force that can be used to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, the common into the unique. It unifies the power of mind, body, and spirit as it converts the “storms of conflict” into the “river of experience” and the “waves of emotion” into the “peace of serenity.”
Perspective is everything. Don’t let the apparent imperfections in life fool you. Life is not a disease. There is no cure for it. Natural laws dictate that where there is pain, there will eventually be growth. Where there is chaos, organization will follow. Where there is limitation or restriction, freedom will be achieved. In this manner, the cycles of life repeat themselves as they follow the natural laws of life. As you take charge of these cycles, you’ll find that you can manage all of them.
Commit yourself to being surprised. Life is full of color, beauty, and opportunities, but you must believe it before you will be able to see it. So don’t take life for granted, don’t put yourself on autopilot, and don’t have near-life experiences! Dare to do mighty things. No one benefits when you choose not to do so. You can break self-defeating patterns and reprogram incorrect belief systems. Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right!
Commit yourself to life. There really is purpose, reason, and wisdom in life. We’re often unable to fully appreciate life because of our limited perspective. In an attempt to feel good, we often take the path of least resistance, and we end up sabotaging our happiness. Yes, feeling good is important, but feeling good is not enough. It doesn’t last. When we finally reach the point in life where our vision becomes clearer and we commit ourselves to the higher road, we begin to realize that it’s possible to feel better than just good. Only then will we find a freedom and a peace of mind that will follow us for the rest of our lives.