Better Than Planned

Hope 11/16/2019

My friend started in the restaurant industry as a means to support himself through college. First a server, then a bartender. A few more years and then an assistant manager. The cost to get a doctorate in Psychology was too much. My friend stayed in the restaurant industry and is now a general manager for one of the busiest stores in his corporation. He planned on being a psychologist. Last week he said, “I never planned on being in the service industry over the last twenty years.” These days, I think he has resigned himself to be working in it until he retires. It is a lot of stress and hours, but there could be worse alternatives. And we never know what the next chapter in our life entails. What he is doing now could be preparing him for a future he never planned.

Maybe I was fortunate or just plain stupid. Growing up, I never really had a plan. I skipped around in college changing degree programs based on whatever whim I had at the time. There was no difference in my professional life either. I was a soldier, retail manager, manufacturing associate with a sprinkling of a few others in between. I plan to keep on writing. As a profession? I’m not sure. Maybe someday, but right now I’ll continue working my 40 hours and write in my spare time. I am not much different than my friend. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring or what is around the corner.

I am an ambitious person, and I do have plans. Will they come to fruition? I don’t know, but I am going to do the work and see what happens. I’m going to keep walking the path that I think is the right way to go, but I am also going to be flexible. My current stage in life might only be a stepping stone to a future I never imagined. If I get too caught up in my own plans, I might not see the better life that is in store for me.

As for my friend, I hope he does the same. This isn’t what you dreamed of all those years ago, but it is only one stage of your life. Cherish the experiences. Learn from them. See the opportunities as they come and make the most of them. They may take you away from what you planned and direct you toward the life waiting for you.

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us. –Joseph Campbell

The Two Step Process to Achieving the Best Day Ever

Hope 11/9/2019

The rational part of you, your mind, has had enough. It makes an agreement with the emotional part you, your heart. The mind tells your heart, “We can’t keep going on like this. We were meant to do better.” The heart sees the logic. Together the mind and heart go to the body and informs the body of their decision. The body is in agreement, “Change must happen. So how are we going to do it?”

Step 1: The Prep Work

It begins the night before. Mind, heart, and body agree to go to bed at a decent time. They have to remember the events of the day, but they cannot let that impede their tomorrow. How do they (your three parts) do it?

-End the evening with a clean conscience. Anger must not be allowed when the sun goes down (Ephesians 4:26-27). The mind must be sober, the heart not hindered, and the body free of toxins. In other words, you need to be sober.

-Journal. There has to be some kind of reckoning. In order to make tomorrow better, today has to be accounted for. What went well, and what went wrong? This is a good time to note any items of gratitude. It is a time to consider how to make things better the next day. There has to be a plan.

-Go to bed with it on your mind. Visualize the best day. What does it look like? It may sound a little hokie to some but consider the words of Thomas Edison, “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” See it, request it, and pray for it.

Step 2: The Best Day Ever

The prep work is complete. The mind is willing. It has involved the heart. The heart has sent its nutrients to the body with a little side note, “Take this and go do what you were born to do.” The body revived by sleep, supported by mind and heart, will begin the day full of energy. When the body tires, the heart (soul) and mind (spirit) will give it wings to continue its mission.

The plan has been formulated. All that is left to do is to execute it. Do that, and it could be the best day ever. There may be obstacles and distractions. There always is. Deal with them accordingly and then get back to the mission.

The Next Night

Was it the best day? If not, no worries. You can always try again tomorrow. The goal is that every day gets better than the day before. In order to improve the next day, go back and do the prep work again at night. Repeat steps one and two over and over. You will eventually get there.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Believe It Is Possible

Hope 11/2/2019

Alec has been going to a new gym over the last couple of months. With no boys’ gymnastics class available in our area, he has moved to parkour. His coach teaches gymnastics as well, and she is demanding some very technical skills from him that he has not had to do before. Even cartwheels, which once were very easy for him, are now nearly impossible for him with the form his coach is requiring. It is tough for him, and his Czech coach does not coddle him like his previous coaches had done in the past. She is actually harder on him than she is on the other students. Why? Because he is the only one in the class with a gymnastics background.

He is frustrated. He is trying, but he has not yet mastered these new skills. Of course it is not impossible, but it sure seems like it to him.

We constantly witness feats which seemed impossible only a few years ago. Remember the Miracle on Ice? The Soviet hockey team could not lose, but they did. Or how about those smart watches? They would make James Bond drool. Yesterday’s miracles are today’s norm. But for all the great feats we see achieved by the modern day titans of our time, do we ever stop to consider that we have the ability to do the impossible too? Why can’t it be you or me that does the next great thing? After all, we are the masters of our own unique skills and traits.

Alec might think that those gymnastic tricks are impossible now, but they won’t be impossible forever. He has to believe it can be done, he has to practice diligently, and he has to grow in his confidence and strength. If it is humanly possible, then he can do it. So can you.

Not to assume the impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that it it’s humanly possible, you can do it too. –Marcus Aurelius

Keep Dreaming

Hope 10/19/2019

I have been thinking about dreams lately. My dreams at night have become more and more vivid. Not only vivid, but stimulating enough to activate my mind and keep it awake for several hours afterwards. This is a bummer if I have only been asleep for ten minutes, which is what happened to me earlier in the week.

I have a friend in Ireland who told me about her recurring dreams. I am in her dreams, but in them I refuse to climb up a mountain with her. It reminds of me of my own recurring dreams. I used to love those types of dreams, because I always woke up feeling like a completed the next chapter of a book. And though my dreams are very different than my friend’s, they have one thing in common. They are both completely random. On that day at that particular time, the mind pulled that dream out of nowhere, allowed it to run its course, and then casually placed it back in the hidden closet from which it came. The sleeping dream is completely random. And try as you might, you have no ability to influence its outcome.

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. –T.E. Lawrence

I used to spend more time thinking about my sleeping dreams than I ever did on my waking dreams. What a shame, because I was focusing on something I had no control over. Why focus on something I can’t control, when I could focus on the things I can control. One is magical in that you can’t control it or touch it. You can only watch it and hope the story turns out good. The other is magical in a totally different sense. You can imagine it, shape it, and write your own narrative. You can control it from the beginning and even see it through to its completion. The waking dream that becomes reality is truly magical, and the magician is the dreamer who chooses to keep her eyes open.

“Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be.” –James Allen

I’ll Step Aside While You Create

Hope 10/12/2019

Alec loves to draw. He loves to fold paper into different shapes. But after countless boats, airplanes, paper wallets, and swords, my wife and I told him to stop wasting all that paper. Looking back on it, I am starting to think the cease and desist order was a mistake.

Alec wants to be a creator. He wants to imagine something and then make it come to life. Is this not the same thing I try to do? No one, at least anyone I ever paid attention to, has told me to stop writing. Why should I tell him to do so? Because he is wasting paper? I waste paper every day on little notes to myself. I could do a better job of conservation, but I never do. I save my conservation efforts for plastic. Besides, paper has probably never been cheaper in any other time in human history.

What if Alec’s dream is to be an artist? What if it is to be an origami instructor? Who am I to derail his dreams? Instead, I should honor his dream and encourage him to go after it.

My son, let your imagination run wild. Fly and see where that freedom will take you.

The man who has no imagination has no wings. –Muhammad Ali

Spark the Desire

You could wish upon a star, make a request to the universe, or even pray to the deity you serve. But none of it will make a difference, unless you put some energy into the thing you desire.

A wish is a desire without energy.  –Paramanhansa Yogananda

What is energy? It is action.

And what does acting on a desire look like? You have to make a plan on how to bring that desire born of the imagination into reality. And then once you have that plan, you have to breathe life into it by executing the plan.

Action. It is the key every time. But like everything else in life, you have to make the choice to act. Will that wish be a forgotten remnant of a memory or will you touch a spark to your desire and manifest a new reality?

Are You Really Too Old?

Hope 9/23/2019

Have you ever heard someone say they are too old to do something? After hearing it, you look at the person and try to qualify the statement. If he is older, you would think his statement makes sense. It he is not very old, then you wonder if age is really the issue. 

Why would someone make such a statement regardless of age? Is it a mental or physical limitation, or is it a lack of confidence? And if you are the one making the statement, is this the end of road for you? Are your dreams to be left in the pipe, only fleeting with no substance?

Saying you are too old to do something may have started in the physical realm. That feat you could perform twenty years ago is no longer possible. It is understandable. Age creeps up on all of us. The motivation to stay in shape has fallen off, your flexibility has diminished, and that beautiful silence you enjoyed while moving has been replaced with a bunch of clicks and pops. In today’s world anyone over thirty seems to get a pass. You have moved into over-the-hill status and are preparing for the empty nest.

Once you start believing you are too old physically, how long before you start to think you are too old mentally? When will you start thinking you can’t learn new things? When will the click and pops of your body makes it way to your brain, causing you to be mentally fatigued, sluggish, and unable to grasp new concepts? Is it only a matter of time before you are a mindless zombie perched in front of the television or hunkered down before your phone endlessly scrolling for the next high found in a cute or heart-warming picture?

Such a scenario might seem a little too extreme, but it is happening more often. If you don’t want this to be you, what can you do?

-Stay fit. You don’t have to do a lot, but you should at least do a little something. If it means going out for a walk or taking the stairs, do it. Build yourself up so that down the road your friends won’t leave you behind on the next adventure.

-Get curious. Continue to learn new things and keep that mind of yours active. Technology is only going to continue accelerating into the next phase. If you don’t keep up, you will be the one that the younger generation is staring at in amazement because you still take three minutes to send a quick text on your flip phone.

You can shoot for the sky, develop a plan to get there, and take the next actionable step needed. The possibilities are endless as long as you don’t set limitations on your goals and dreams, and you don’t handicap yourself along the way by being physically or mentally sedentary.

Get after it friends!

You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream. –C.S. Lewis

Stuck

Ever find yourself stuck, not knowing where to go, unsure of the next chapter in your life? Of course, you have big plans, hopes, and dreams, but you seemed to have stalled?

The ship left the yard. Sleek, shiny, and new. It was built to cut through the roughest of seas. But without a navigator, it only sits in the harbor. Oh, don’t worry. Nothing is going to happen to the ship. The harbor is protected. The ship sits in safety.

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for. -William Shedd

How many hours I have passed lying in bed? How many hours sitting on the couch, playing video games or watching television? How often have I made the choice to relax in comfort in the safety of my home? Living a life consuming, rather than creating? If I get really down to the brass tacks, how much time reading? Is reading really that much better than watching? Am I not still consuming in the safe confines of my personal harbor? Is this what I was built for?

I was built for action. I was built to move. It is what my early ancestors did. Hunt, gather, or die. They didn’t sit in the cave hoping food would appear from nowhere. If they wanted to eat, they had to get it. Generation after generation until I showed up on the scene. Did I think sitting in the harbor was the best use of the genes that made me who I am?

A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder. -Thomas Carlyle

It is July. More than half way through the year. As I look back on the last six months, I was on a self-improvement roller coaster. Climbing, coasting, running flat. I think my elevation gain on life’s journey has been positive, but am I really better than I was at the beginning of the year? Am I any closer to the goals I laid out six months ago? How many times have my goals for the future changed over the last few months? I may be a man with too many goals spinning around in erratic circles.

There is something I need to do. It may be something we all need to do. I need to stop, get out my compass, and find my true north. What is it I am really aiming for? Can I get there if I have too many way-points along the journey? How can I get where I want to go, if I don’t even know where I am going?

If you don’t know where you are going, you might not get there. -Yogi Berra

Hope 5/11/2019: Into the Light

We must remain hopeful even in the darkest of times. This is when the real test comes and we begin to change into our future selves. Here is where we find our mettle. Here, where we evolve.

Think back to the darkest moments of the past. You survived. You became stronger. You saw the light and climbed your way out. Entering the light, you became the light.

The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light. -Joseph Campbell

Hope 5/4/2019: What if?

Winners, I am convinced, imagine their dreams first. They want it with all their heart and expect it to come true. -Joe Montana

It starts with curiosity. You say to yourself the magic words. Not abracadabra, not even please. The real magic words. You say, “What if?” This is the great question, the seedling floating in the ether. In your mind you continue to ponder the “what if” until it starts to gain substance. It begins to take shape as a dream. The stronger the dream, the more power is given to the “what if.” The dream, snatched from the ether, solidifies. The seedling is planted. Watered. Nourished. Cultivated. It goes from something floating on the wind to something grounded and alive.

Dreams become reality. Hope is made real. What if…

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The Virtue of Hope

There is a belief by some that tomorrow will be better, that our future will be a little brighter. This hope is what spurns them to keep going even when the day is at its darkest. Without hope, we are lost.