Overdrive

Every once in a while we get so many projects, duties, obligations, goals, desires and activities going on that we can go into mental and physical overdrive. You can identify some of the symptoms of being in mental overdrive is forgetfulness, sometimes insomnia or restlessness, inability to focus, etc. Physically overdrive, if maintained for too long, can make health suffer, increase likeliness of illness, increased possibility of injury during activities or performing, reduced coordination, focus, ability to think, possibly even judgment, and it could affect emotions and moods. Overdrive can sneak up on us without us even realizing it until our condition deteriorates to a point where it starts affecting the things and people around us.

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More Successful Than A Millionaire!

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When you think of success, what comes to mind?  Money?  A mansion?  Any material possessions you want?  Ability to travel?  Enough money to buy time to do whatever you want?  Who comes to mind when you think of success?  Donald Trump?  Bill Gates?  A president?  A CEO?  What about success that looks like a mother?  A father?  A student who graduates and says no to drugs?  Charities?  Soldiers?  A person giving out of their own needs to help others?  Mother Teresa?  Martin Luther King Jr?  Harriet Tubman?  Have these people achieved success in life?
Success seems to be such a nebulous term.  Everywhere you turn people are chasing after success, but have they really defined what they are actually seeking?  Everyone wants success, but not everyone has really thought about what success looks like or what it means to them.  This is a vital step if you are ever to achieve success.  It’s awfully hard to find something if you don’t know what it looks like.  When you thought of successful people, what kinds of things did they have in common?  Based on your impression of successful people, you might have insight into your own beliefs about what it means to be successful and what that looks like.  After all, who you admire says a lot about you.  Don’t forget, that Adolf Hitler was a very successful leader.  Of course what he chose to do with his success is highly frowned upon by the world today, but if you don’t define success clearly in your own life, it can be easily misinterpreted or misguided.  How will you know once you’ve reached success if you haven’t set the parameters for identifying success?

I’ve had to think a lot on this myself.  I, of course, am one of those also searching for success.  I promote successful living on this site, in my blog and in lots of other ways.  So, it seems naturally important that I at least have an idea of what I am promoting!  I believe success to come in many forms with many levels.  Upon deep contemplation and also praying for God to reveal to me what His view of success is, a few things came to mind that I think establish a basic understanding of success in general.  When I think of successful people, everyone from Martin Luther King Jr to Bill Gates to Adolf Hitler, there is a commonality I can think of, regardless of whether the way each person used their success was interpreted as good or evil.  All of those successful people were effective with the strengths and skills they possessed.  They provided value to other people.  Not everyone agreed with the value they offered, but it was still very effective and created change and influence.  I have concluded personally, that success has to do with how effectively you are using the individual gifts, strengths, talents and skills you have to offer value to other people.

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When I think of wealthy people, or those with a lot of money and stuff, I don’t automatically consider them successful.  The means by which they obtained their wealth might have something to do with their success in using their personal abilities, and their wealth might be an indication of their personal success, but I know that money itself does not define success.  If a person is always looking for the next top of the line item to buy or the best place to live or the nicest car or personal comforts, they may not be taking the time to appreciate what they already have.  Every time their appetite for something newer or nicer gets satisfied, that appetite grows larger and is always looking for something else, because what used to be the target of their desires is no longer sufficient to fill their desires.  Therefore, if money or materialistic desires are your goal when you say, “I want to be successful,” then you are only fooling yourself.  There are a lot of very rich people who do not enjoy their lives and live in a constant state of unrest and dissatisfaction.  On the other hand, there are a lot of poor people and people everywhere in between who live very happily and contented, because they have learned that the definition of success does not have to do with money.  Money is often a side effect, or a lie that can control you if you idolize it.

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After long thought, I have concluded that success is the measure by which you effectively cultivate eternal value.  What do I mean by eternal value?  I mean any desirable trait, situation or state of being that cannot be worn out, degraded, destroyed, or otherwise damaged or eaten away by any physical means.  For example, relationships, good will, personal development, encouragement, peace keeping, teaching, sharing, learning, creating, imagination, innovation, etc.  The use and growth of such personal traits and characteristics that help one another and grow us as individuals.  By this definition of success, it is easy to see how one with less money could very well be far more successful in life than one with much money.  That is not to say money is bad, or that people with a lot of money are not successful in the areas of life that matter.  Not at all.  Success with providing value and living well does not have to do with whether or not you have money, which means both the rich and the poor have equal opportunity to be successful in life.  It all depends on how they use what they already have available to them, both internally AND externally.

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If you have millions, then use it to increase the amount of value you can provide. To whom much is given, much is expected. 10% for a wealthy person will be more money than 10% for a poor person, but it is equally proportional to according to what they have.

However, on the money side of things, keep in mind that money is a tool.  It should not be the goal.  It is a necessity we need in order to be able to continue living well, no matter what stage of life we are in.  If we desire to be successful by offering value to others and helping to develop the things that last forever which are often intangible, then our desire for money should match what we need to best use our abilities to help others.  It is reasonable to want enough money to cover the bills, provide for your needs and those in your family, provide a little extra for enjoyment and hobbies, and then of course enough to best provide value to others.  We need to be careful though, in our money driven society, not to let greed or the having of money itself start to drive our motivations.  It is hard to resist this sometimes, it almost feels natural to let the money or lack of money start to control us and our happiness.  However, that will lead to unhappiness.  Let’s not become a Scrooge with our resources.  As you provide value to other people, it is natural that people will pay you for the value you provide.  That is what usually turns into a career.  As you focus on increasing value, the money will likely increase as well, but remember, it is a tool to help you, not the end goal.

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Be sure to subscribe to my blog on the left side of the page!  Also, please LIKE Spark True Living on Facebook HERE!  Feel free to comment and tell me what you liked or a personal inspirational story that can be encouraging to others!  I’d love to hear it!

Once Begun Is Half Done

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Most of us should remember hearing this phrase at one point or another, at the very least from Mary Poppins. There seems to be a lot of truth to the idea that once something is started, half the work is done. How many times do we tell ourselves that one day we are going to do something. It could even be a simple problem of procrastination. Tomorrow, I’ll do that. Then tomorrow becomes today and once again we find ourselves making excuses for today and saying we’ll try again tomorrow, or next week, or next year. Starting on a goal seems to be one of the hardest steps to take. Finishing seems so much easier if we could only get past the first step; starting.

This week I’ve been listening to a group of successful authors and bloggers sharing their tips on writing a first book or growing an email audience. Many of their tips are useful for any goal though, not just writing. James Clear is an author who recommended a few ideas I’d like to share because they may be useful for getting over this initial hurdle of simply starting to work on your goals. For starters, Mr. Clear says he has an ideas folder. He puts titles, subjects, thoughts, paragraph summaries or stories he’s heard into this folder for possible expansion into a blog, article or book later. This idea is great because it can clarify your goals. Make a place for your ideas and desires. What things do you really want to accomplish in your life. Make short term goals and long term goals and write them down, put them in a folder or safe place and make sure they are easy to see and remind yourself so that you can remember what you are working toward.

Next, I would recommend something I heard from another successful author named Lise Cartwright. She uses a method called, “Mind Mapping” to organize her ideas. She says she writes an idea or goal in the center of a page and then in bubbles or sections around it she breaks down the idea or goal into subtopics, steps or descriptions about what it looks like, what it means, what is involved, how to get there, etc. She uses different colors and creative expressions in this process. When I heard her idea of Mind Mapping, the first thing that came to my mind was an online program that operates very similarly called, “Coggle.” I use Coggle the same way she described, but I haven’t been very active with it, so after her recommendation, I will probably expand my use of this program. It does essentially the same thing, it provides a center space for a main thought or topic and then you can add different colored branches to subtopics, descriptions or ideas related to that main topic. It is completely free to use and quite helpful. It also has printing, saving and sharing options so multiple people can contribute to the same mind map or brainstorming Coggle sheet.

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James Clear as well as other authors also emphasized consistency. He says there is something powerful about simply “showing up” regularly to work on something. When you work on a new idea or goal, or a new writing project, etc. the first few ideas or attempts that you make might not work out so well. That is part of the process. He says that the bad ideas or failed attempts are not a reason to avoid starting or trying again. It’s all the more reason to start faster and do more because you have to get through the bad ideas and attempts in order to get to the good ones. As he put it, you can’t skip straight to year ten of a career. You have to go through years one through nine first and put in the necessary time in the learning curve before reaching a stable handle on things. If you are trying to write, you can’t skip to book four before you write books one through three. It’s a learning process, so the faster you start the learning process, the sooner you’ll become a master. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to reach your goal. Just get started!

To help with consistency once you start, Mr. Clear recommended making it part of your regular scheduled routine throughout the week. People who put in the effort to schedule a committed time and place to do something have a much higher rate of sticking to it and getting it done. Scheduling something in advance and consistently makes it a priority and eliminates the decision making process. You no longer rely on your mood or whether you feel like doing it or not. It is in your schedule of required appointments, so you show up regardless of whether you feel like it or not. It’s like scheduling time to work out and get fit. If you leave it up to the whim of how you feel when your alarm goes off in the morning, you’ll probably just go back to sleep. But if you commit to a scheduled fitness regime, then you rule out your mood and just show up, which yields the benefits you seek. Know that working on your goal is something that you are going to do at this scheduled time and simply expect that and comply with that demand as if it is part of your job.

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Also, give yourself a deadline. Having a final completion date in mind creates focused attention on the goal in order to reach the desired result within the time frame you set. Make it reasonable and don’t kill yourself. Remember that quality is better than quantity. In writing, if you can only write 3 good sentences, then just write 3 good sentences. If they give a good strong message, that is better than writing five pages that are weak or beat around the bush too much. Make your time count. If you feel like you don’t have time to work on your goal, then make it a very small amount of time to start. James Clear also gave these suggestions:

  • If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it immediately.

  • Make your initial goal so small that it doesn’t take much motivation to do it. If you can work on it daily, that’s great, but if you can’t, then pick once or twice a week to work on it.

  • If you are really overwhelmed, then just commit to working on your goal for just two minutes. If it’s writing, then commit to write for only two minutes, or if nothing is on your mind, just stare at your page for two minutes. What Mr. Clear discovered when he made himself do this is that during his two minutes of just starting to write something, whatever came to mind, before the two minutes were up, he stopped paying attention to the timer because he was now on a roll with whatever thoughts started coming just from committing to those first two minutes.

The bottom line is that small improvements, slow or average speed, and tiny gains can add up to amazing achievements. Slow progression is better than standing still. Wonderful pieces of work and accomplishments can come from simply showing up often and consistently.

Be sure to LIKE Spark True Living on Facebook HERE!  Feel free to comment and tell me what you liked or a personal inspirational story that can be encouraging to others!  I’d love to hear it!

Differently-Abled

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I can’t exactly remember where I heard it, but I remember a story that I think illustrates the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people. It went something like this:

Two men went to work for a railroad. They both started at $10 per hour. They both stayed with the company for ten years. By the end of the ten years, one man was in the top leadership of the company, and the other was still making $10 per hour in the same position he had when he started. So, what was the difference between the two men that made one advance and the other remain stagnant? The difference was that one man went to work for $10 per hour. The other man went to work for the railroad.

The principle here is that if you go to work for money, you will be owned by money and remain a slave to the amount you make. If you go to work to provide value to others and genuinely care about people and the mission of your work, then you are more likely to advance and be entrusted with more assets. It’s very much like the phrase, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Customers steer clear of salesmen who are only out to get the money. Customers are attracted to people who offer them value in order to help them improve their lives. It is detectable which one is which. If you are only working for the money, you will never be satisfied and will not likely be nominated for advancement. Life and work are about more than money. As Brian Tracy once said, “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, “what’s in it for me?”

So if the keys to success involve offering value to others, how do I do that? What if I don’t know what value I can offer?

Everyone is made uniquely different. Some love their individual attributes while others don’t like their uniqueness. However, we are all made differently because we are all made for different things. There is something that we each can contribute that no one else can offer. Why is it unique? Why couldn’t anyone else offer the same things I can? Well, there may be some overlap on some things, but overall, what you offer the world is unique because no one else has had the exact same experiences, perspectives, talents and personal attributes that make you you. The things you’ve been through, the beliefs you’ve adopted, the physical features you have, the challenges you face, the limitations you endure, the losses you’ve grieved, the victories you’ve won, the skills you’ve developed and every other aspect of your life, image and spirit are a unique combination that no one else can match. People may share a few similar features or experiences, but the combination of all of them is never the same.

So often people mistakenly believe that the only people who can be truly successful, make a difference, or have anything of value to offer are those that are born with all the right attributes, in the right environment, surrounded by the right people, with the right personality, with the right abilities, etc. I’m telling you that your exact personality, attributes, environment, abilities, etc. ARE the right things to enable you to offer value and to be successful in life. It doesn’t matter where or how you grew up, what disabilities or limitations you may have or just think you may have, or what environment you are currently in, these things provide you with the value that you alone can offer.

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For example, I grew up believing that divorce is bad and I was certain that I would never go through a divorce. When I got married, I made sure we were on the same page about divorce, that it simply was not an option and that our marriage was too important to us to give up on it. A few short years later, when my husband told me he wanted a divorce, it shattered me. It was a blow not only emotionally, but to the very beliefs that I held dear my whole life. I have never felt a worse pain than heartbreak. However, as a result of having been through that, I have discovered that that experience has now enabled me to relate to and reach out to a whole new group of people that I was not equipped to help before. Before having gone through divorce, there was no way I could relate to someone who had, or be a comfort to them. What did I know? I had never felt that pain, so how could I comment on the possibility or length of recovery? How could I give tips on things that would help the healing and coping? My support efforts would be almost useless to those people if I couldn’t say that I’ve been there.

Here’s another example. During my studies of dance in college I was introduced to the idea of people dancing with physical limitations. These limitations are most commonly referred to as disabilities or being handicapped. As I learned about these people, I also learned to refer to them as being “differently-abled” rather than disabled. Disabled has a negative connotation that implies having less ability than others. However, these people don’t have “less” ability, they simply have different abilities. In fact, some of them have some very amazing abilities that “normal” or non-disabled people would not be capable of doing. I was introduced to a dance troupe in Denver that is called, “Spoke N Motion,” which is a group of mixed ability dancers made up of many people whom society calls, “disabled.” The dancers include people who are blind, deaf, crippled, autistic, etc. You can check out their Facebook page HERE (please LIKE!) These “differently-abled” people are amazing examples of people who do not let their circumstances dictate their value or quality of life.

No matter what you have been through, what you look like, what scars you have inside or out, what environment you are in, you are able to use all of those things to be a beacon of hope to others struggling with similar challenges. You may even save lives of people who are losing their battles with the same kinds of things you’ve been through. Your life has developed in you skills and strengths that can be channeled to help others improve their lives just as you improve your own. No matter where you are coming from, what your background is, or how you feel right now, always know, tell yourself, and believe that you are incredible and no one can offer the same kind of value that you can. Now go find a way to use your gifts and experiences to help others! Opportunities find those who seek them.

Feel free to watch this video of a dance performance by the Spoke N Motion dance company:

Come Sail Away by Styx

Here are a couple more wonderful videos of amazing differently-abled people doing amazing dances!

This guy is Dubstep Dancing with crutches!  Click HERE!

Ballet; Hand In Hand – She without an arm, he without a leg!  Click HERE!

 

Be sure to LIKE Spark True Living on Facebook HERE!  Feel free to comment and tell me what you liked or a personal inspirational story that can be encouraging to others!  I’d love to hear it!

Misalignment

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Ever feel like things just don’t seem to go like they’re supposed to? Like maybe it seems like the more you hold onto something, the easier it seems to slip away? Or the more you try for something, the harder it seems to achieve or obtain? It’s almost like the way we think is misaligned with the way life actually operates. God said that our thoughts are not His thoughts and our ways are not His ways. It seems like He created the universe to work a certain way, and for some reason our internal logic and instincts are not aligned with the way He created things to work.

Think about times when you’ve been in a job or tried a start a business selling something. Especially if your income has anything to do with commissions for the amount you sell. Sometimes it may seem like you try so hard to close that sale. You push and push, you address every objection, yet it just seems like the more you talk, the more your clients try to get away from you and the sales slip through your grip. Then one day you suddenly realize that you are tired of trying so hard to get those sales. You’ve burned yourself out trying to get those commission checks and so you relax and stop caring whether people actually buy from you or not, and you just answer questions without the pressure of needing that sale to close. All of a sudden you may start noticing your sales start to go up. What happened? You tried so hard before and the more effort you put into your goal, the further it seemed to push your goal away. Then, when you suddenly realize that you don’t need your original goal, it almost seemed to bring it to you like a magnet!

The same can be true of relationships. Ever have that someone that you wanted to like you so badly, so you go through everything you can think of to try to impress them, to try to be around them, to try to get them to like you, but it seems like they just keep trying to get away from you. Or perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of someone like that. Why do you think that doesn’t work? On the flip side, the attraction somehow seems to build between people who are content with or without the other person liking them. They don’t feel the need to go out of their way to impress someone and they don’t hound them for time together. They just treat each other normally and go about their regular lives as if they are just friends. However, over time, that friendship can grow into more, but it is not because it was forced, it is because it was a relaxed enough relationship to allow the attraction to grow, and even if it didn’t, both people would still be happy with their friendship.

A writer named Jeff Goins wrote a blog post called, “The Abundance of Scarcity and the Scarcity of Abundance.” He touched on these concepts about how the universe (God in my belief) seems to reward those who are grateful and content with what they already have and take away from those who are constantly needy for more. This shed new light on a bible verse that he brought up which I had never seen from this perspective, but it makes so much sense to me now.

Matthew 13:12 (NASB)

12For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.

At first glance, this idea doesn’t seem at all fair. But think about the way life inherently works beyond our control. It’s just the concepts we’ve been discussing. The tighter your grip, the more the sand or water slips through your fingers. The harder you pursue someone or something, the more it seems to flee from you. After considering these things, the way God seems to have created the universe to work is that those who are never content with what they have, who are always wanting more, will never be satisfied. Their appetites will always keep growing beyond what they obtain or achieve, and they will never be content or happy. Those who can appreciate what they have, who have a heart of gratitude and are content to use what is already available to them to their advantage, to them greater and greater rewards and opportunities seem to cling like magnets. Some people call it the Law of Attraction, others just give credit to the universe (which I think is silly since it has no consciousness), but for me, this is simply the system created by God and in order to benefit from the way He designed things to work, we need to let go of our intense desires for more and learn to appreciate what we already have. He rewards gratitude and contentment.

Be sure to LIKE Spark True Living on Facebook HERE!  Feel free to comment and tell me what you liked or a personal inspirational story that can be encouraging to others!  I’d love to hear it!

Let It Go

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No, no, this isn’t about the movie Frozen.  However, these three words, “let it go” hold a lot of power.  There are times when the greatest act of love can be to let someone or something go.  There are times when the ability to let things go can also improve health, clear the mind, improve quality and efficiency of work, and set loose the imagination.  On the flip side, letting things go can have an equally negative effect.  Letting go of opportunities, relationships, potential, belief, etc. can in some cases be very personally detrimental, sometimes to multiple people.  It takes wisdom and discernment to know what is good to let go, and what would be a mistake to let go.

For now, I want to focus on one thing that is very good to let go.  One of the best things we can let go of is WORRY.  As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, Identity, I have begun listening to successful authors and publishers for a Self-Publishing Success Summit in order to give insight into tips and strategies that can enable someone to begin writing their first book and get it published.  According to what I heard on the first day of the online seminar, approximately 80% of people have at least considered writing a book or wanted to, but only about 8% ever do.  I don’t know whether or not that is accurate, but it is believable.  I am finding, however, that many of the principles that are encouraged by these authors to accomplish writing a book are also very applicable to multiple other areas of life, and to most other endeavors and goals.

Worry is an unproductive and crippling emotion.  Worry and fear prevent people from doing amazing things and reaching expanding their potential all the time.  Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur, artist, entertainer, scientist, teacher, engineer, home maker, parent, or anything else, worry will always hinder your ability to be highly effective in any role.  Fear (in a controlled portion) can occasionally be good for helping us avoid dangerous situations or initiate the fight or flight response.  However, worry is good for nothing.  It is fear of things that may not even exist, or if they do, are beyond your control.  It does nothing to help the situation and most often causes responses that make the situation worse.  It can be harmful to health, detract from clear thinking, hinder good judgment, lead to panic or loss of control, and ultimately create more chaos for a situation that may have been far more manageable without the introduction of worry.

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One of the authors presenting during this online self-publishing summit is named Mitch Matthews.  His lecture was about overcoming worry about book writing and publishing.  Of course, whether choosing to write a book or not, I believe his advice is applicable to any area of worry.  I’d like to summarize a little bit of what he said here in hopes that it may be helpful if you find yourself frequently worrying about things.  There are three main steps he recommends to overcome worry.

  1. Identify and acknowledge your worry.

Figure out what it is that is preoccupying your thoughts and emotions and ask yourself a better question.  Worry creates tunnel vision.  We see less visually, and mentally we also see less options available.  It inhibits our best thinking.  If you are worried that you can’t do something well, or that people may not like your work, then ask yourself, “What if what I’m doing helps even one person?  What if someone needs what I am about to give?”  In that case, would the rest of the critical opinions matter?

  1. Replace it.  Don’t just try to forget about it.

Once you’ve identified what you are worried about, don’t just try to put it out of your mind.  Replace it with something better.  Mitch Matthews shared a story about a professor that went to his class and instructed his students that they must NOT think about purple cows.  After this instruction, he went down the line of students and asked them what they were thinking about, and almost all of them said they couldn’t stop thinking about purple cows.  Then he came to one student and asked her the same question and she replied, “I’m thinking about pink elephants.”  The rest of the students tried to put the thought of purple cows out of their minds, but in attempting to just forget the subject, they kept bringing it back to their minds.  The only way one student was able to effectively not think about purple cows was to intentionally start thinking about pink elephants instead.

  1. Take action intentionally.

Make a plan of action to counter your worry and carry it out.  The example that Mr. Matthews gave in his lecture is a common excuse for many people.  Worry about having enough time to devote to writing, or doing whatever is your goal or dream.  So, he made a plan to devote 15 minutes a day just to write (or do something that moves you toward your goal).  He made a list of topics he could write about for 15 minutes, and he gave himself permission to skim books and podcasts that would help him learn about things that would help him toward his goal.  If he didn’t have time to read, he would skim for basic concepts at least.  Time can be a difficult resource to manage sometimes, but if it is important enough to you, you will find a way to make time for it, even if only a little.  A little time working toward a goal is still forward motion.  Slow progression is still way better than standing still.

A few other tips that he recommended which are very important are to have an idea of what success looks like so you will recognize it when you reach it, and give yourself grace.  Define short term and long term success and put a time limit on reaching it, step by step.  Is your dream to start your own business?  Then describe in detail what you want that to look like long term.  What kind of business?  What’s the name?  Will you have employees?  Will you have your own building space?  What will customers say about your business?  What will you offer?   After you have an idea of what the long term success looks like, then define the short term success stages.  What is the first thing you need to do to start your new business?  How long would it reasonably take to complete that first step?  How about choosing a name for your business, copyrighting it and choosing a logo.  Maybe you could get that done within a week, so you might set that as your time limit goal.  If you successfully complete that goal then reward yourself somehow.  Then do the same thing for the next step.  Identify and celebrate the small successes that bring you closer to your big success!

Don’t forget to give yourself grace.  No one is perfect and mistakes will be made along the way, guaranteed.  Let your mistakes go!  The worst type of rejection is rejecting yourself.  Another author and speaker at the summit named Marisa Peer also mentioned that psychologically we start to believe what we hear the most.  So, if you are constantly telling yourself that you are no good at something, that you can’t, that people won’t like it, that you don’t have the time or resources, then you will believe those things and they will dictate your actions, and being negative, they will crush your dreams.  So, she recommends constantly giving yourself praise and support in your own efforts.  Look at your work and say, “this is amazing!” or “this is brilliant!” or “this will be so helpful to people!” or “people are going to love this!”  Positive reinforcement of what you are doing is going to build confidence and relax worries which will in turn free the mind and imagination to reach new heights and enable higher quality of work.  She also mentioned the basic concept of “fake it ’til you make it.”  If you don’t have the belief in your abilities, skills, ideas and work you’ve created yet, then pretend that you do until it starts to feel like you really do see just how wonderful it is.  We can choose what we believe and we can take action to fight lies and negative feelings.

One last thought from Ms. Peer was to give yourself grace because if your efforts don’t work out, at least you’ll know that you gave it your best shot.  More than likely though, it will work out.  She said, “I’ve never regretted doing something, I’ve only ever regretted NOT doing something.”  No one can reject you unless you let them.  If you have a skill, you should share it!  You never know how much time you have in this life, so use today wisely and don’t miss your opportunity to take your best shot!

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Be sure to LIKE Spark True Living on Facebook HERE!  Feel free to comment and tell me what you liked or a personal inspirational story that can be encouraging to others!  I’d love to hear it!

Identity

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Over the past decade or more I’ve been through a lot of big changes, particularly during my six years in the military.  I graduated high school, started college, went in the military, got kicked out of the career field I thought I wanted and put into something I hated, got married, then divorced, and overall had a lot of really tough challenges.  The combination of some of these things were causing me frequent health problems due to the stress, and I will say from experience that divorce is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences someone can ever have and I am very empathetic with anyone who must endure such a travesty.  Painful experiences aside though, these kinds of twists and turns in life change us.  They change our perspectives, our knowledge, our wisdom, our discernment, our trust of others, our coping mechanisms, how we handle people and situations, and our beliefs.  We can choose to use these changes to be positive and help us grow stronger, or we can allow them to seed our hearts with bitterness and anger or sadness and consume us with dark thoughts and personal barriers.

How we handle the trials of life has a lot to do with how we see ourselves.  If you see yourself as a victim, then you are likely to blame everything else that is happening “to” you or other people for not preventing it, or providing you with what you think you need.  It is a very limiting view to take, because it ultimately means that you don’t think you have control over anything and that people and circumstances inevitably dictate your life and happiness.  If you view yourself as a hero, you may always be looking for the solutions to problems and ways to save others from messes they’ve gotten themselves into.  This of course can be problematic if you take it too far and feel like you are responsible for the well-being of the people around you.  Don’t take on their burdens.  You have enough of your own.  Help where you can without assuming the responsibility that they need to take for themselves.  The only people who might need you to assume that responsibility only until they learn to take it over for themselves are your children and family members.  Help people learn to help themselves.

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As has been eluded to in many of my other posts, there is balance in everything.  Any strength taken to an extreme can become a weakness.  I recently read another quote that I think is absolutely correct.  I read in a blog post by Jeff Goins, a successful writer, that “action follows identity.”  He said, “Sometimes before other people will believe something about you, you have to believe it first.”  If you want to become a writer, artist, dancer, singer, entrepreneur, scientist, etc. then you first have to recognize that as part of who you are right now.  I have never considered myself much of a writer before, and never really had interest in it before, yet here I am now with a daily blog!  I’ve even been seriously considering writing books and becoming an author of some sort.  Though I never expected this to become my ambition, I am realizing more and more as time goes on that this is what I am endeavoring to become.  So, I may not have been a writer before, and as of this blog post, I have only been blogging for less than half a month, but as of today, I recognize within myself that I am a writer.  I wasn’t last month, but I am now.  This is something that I believe will only help my writing improve and my discipline to keep at it to strengthen.

As Jeff said, action follows identity.  So, since recognizing that I am on a writing adventure and that writing is now part of who I am, I have begun taking action to improve my writing ability.  I am subscribed to blogs of other more successful writers and I have recently registered for an online summit called the “Self-Publishing Success Summit” where I will hear from multiple highly successful authors about how they started, achieved their success, how to write well, how to market and publish, and a whole slew of other helpful topics on writing and publishing.  As this summit is taking place this week, I will happily share of few of the useful points in this week’s blog posts as I go through the videos.  I hope it will be helpful and encouraging to others who may be aspiring writers or maybe just thinking about it.

We all have our own stories to tell, some are just too uncomfortable sharing it yet.  Your story is worth sharing and the world could learn from what you have experienced!  The world could be inspired by what is in your imagination!  I hope you will take the time to research about yourself and discover all the wonderful parts of your identity as you have been created, then claim your identity and weed out the lies.  If you believe anything about yourself that makes you feel bad about who you are, then it is a lie and should be trashed.  You are made unique, wonderful, beautiful, and full of value.  There are things that only YOU can offer the world and no one else can do it for you nor replace you.  Share all that you are!  Be a blessing to others and teach what you have learned and imagined!  We need what you have to offer, but first you must discover it and believe it yourself.

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Keep checking back throughout the week and I will keep sharing what I am learning in my own exploration of myself and what I have to offer!  I hope you’ll join me in self-discovery and sharing!

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Never Ready

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I’ve been swing dancing off and on for over ten years now and there’s a common fear and belief I see among many beginner dancers.  A lot of people who are new to dancing are afraid to ask other people to dance or participate in the social dances because they feel like they are not good.  Some people won’t even try to dance because they never learned how and don’t want to go through the awkward stage of learning.  For some reason, many people seem to be under the impression that we have to be good at something right from the start before we are willing to try it, or that we need to have some kind of natural ability that gives us prodigy-like skill at something in order to feel qualified to get into it.  It is a very backwards way of thinking.  You don’t get good before you start, you start so that you can become good!

People don’t like to be in a position where they are ignorant or unskilled at something they are attempting to do.  People want to look good all the time and in everything.  However, this prideful notion of needing to be good before even attempting something is not practical or realistic.  As any successful person knows, whether it’s in dance, art, science, business or anything else in life, you fail your way to success.  Failure and mistakes are not things to be avoided, they are things to be valued.  You don’t go into something wanting to fail, but sometimes it will take multiple tries in order to get it right, and that is not a bad thing.  It is called learning.

People who are determined not to “look bad” or not to try something new until they feel “ready,” are the ones who are doomed to keep saying, “someday I’ll do this thing,” yet that someday never comes.  Or, they may be the ones who simply think, “I can’t,” and therefore never try.  As other very successful people have also pointed out to me, you will always miss 100% of the shots that you never take.  There may never come a time when you actually feel ready, because in order to feel “ready” you have to learn how to do what you want to do.  The first day you start, you will not be ready, because it is your first day.  It is impossible to be ready for something before you learn about it.  It takes courage and confidence to try without being ready.  You become ready through the process of experience and practice.

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The achievement of goals and dreams do not come without the risk of failing and making mistakes along the way.  Achievements are created by making mistakes along the way.  The best things in life take effort and persistence.  They will not be handed to you on a silver platter, and if they were, you would not appreciate them nearly as much.  Success is much sweeter when you work hard for it, otherwise it hardly feels like your own success.  The value comes from the journey.  The journey shapes and molds you along the way, so that the final product holds deep personal significance and joy.  Any attempt to skip the journey and go straight to the reward makes the reward empty, and will inevitably hold no long lasting satisfaction for the receiver of the handout.

Don’t be afraid of not feeling “ready” to try something new.  Maintain reasonable safety practices, but don’t let fear or discomfort stop you from trying something.  Dare to take the first step.  No one who is good at something started at that level.  It is important to just start, and the skills will develop along the way.  Don’t wait for “someday” to come.  Make that “someday” today!  Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so start prioritizing your dreams so that they have a real chance at becoming a reality.  There will always be other things demanding your attention and resources, but you must ask yourself where you will be in one, two, five or more years down the road if you keep allowing your goals and desires to be pushed back and procrastinated.  Make today the day that you begin working toward your true desires.  No one else is going to drop them in your lap, it’s time to start seeking them out.  Use your journey to encourage others along the way!

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Value the journey!

 

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Show Off

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“Don’t be a show off!”

“C’mon, you’ve got skills! You should show ’em off!”

At one time or another, we’ve heard, thought or said both of these or some similar variation.  Seems rather contradictory.  We look down upon arrogance and bragging, but then we turn around and encourage it as part of self-esteem and being admired.  We all love to be admired for our gifts, talents and features.  So what’s the difference?  When is it good to show off our stuff, and when is it bad?

I’ve gotta admit that sometimes animated kids shows and movies have more fun ways of illustrating these kinds of lessons.  I could give real life stories, but some of those have already been simplified into more entertaining characters and situations that make the difference easier to understand.  Two good ones that come to mind are The Emperor’s New Groove and one of the episodes of the new My Little Pony series.  Don’t judge me!  Wait… we covered judgment already in a previous post.  Anyway, if you haven’t seen those cartoons, they are worth watching.  Very entertaining ways to illustrate good principles.

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Emperor Cusco in The Emperor’s New Groove illustrates the kind of “show off” that we don’t like.  He allows his status and power to make him feel better than everyone else and treats others as if they owe him everything just because of his position.  He shows contempt for the needs and feelings of others and is consumed with himself.  Of course, this isn’t to say that he doesn’t actually have unique abilities & opportunities.  He has a position worthy of respect and with the ability to make a real difference in people’s lives, but he misuses the power for solely his own benefit.  He has to learn the hard way how to humble himself and use his gifts to help others.

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In My Little Pony, there is an episode where one of the main characters who has special talents in magic struggles with the difference between bragging on her abilities and acknowledging her skills and using them in a positive way.  She saw another pony who was bragging and even exaggerating her own abilities just to put other ponies down and look better than everyone.  She was showing off just to feel superior.  However, when she saw that pony showing off and noticed how everyone else was becoming angry and resentful of the bragging pony, she was afraid to stand up to that pony because she didn’t want to be seen as bragging also.  She had better skills than the pony who was acting arrogant, but she wouldn’t stand up for herself or her friends because she thought they would get angry at her too if she were to “show off” what she is capable of.  Trust me, it’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it.

Needless to say, she eventually learned that there is a big difference between showing off your abilities or features just to feel superior, and showing off in positive ways that acknowledge your wonderful talents but also encourage and inspire others in the process, rather than making others feel inferior or incapable.  There is nothing wrong with being proud of who you are and what you can do as long as that pride doesn’t start making you feel like you are deserving of extra special treatment or recognition.  People are much more enthusiastic about praising the abilities of someone who doesn’t feel the need for recognition than someone who is always praising themselves.  When people praise themselves a lot, others may take more delight in seeing their arrogance deflated and watching them go through a situation where they can’t praise themselves.

In summary, don’t be afraid to be yourself and use the wonderful gifts you’ve been given, but be careful not to let it go to your head so that people will want to see you praised and admired, rather than humbled.  If you humble yourself, you’ll be praised.  If you praise yourself, you’ll be humbled.

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Just Ask

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I’ve noticed another common problem among many people.  We seem to have an aversion to asking when we need help or have trouble receiving generous gifts or offers of help, especially if we feel like it’s an imposition on the person giving.  Of course there are some people out there who have completely shut off any concern for the comfort or desires of others and have no problem taking things or help if they want it.  But for most of us, we seem to experience some concern that we are being a burden on others if we ask for things or need help.  Particularly for people who have the gift of giving.  When giving is something that makes you feel good and helping others is a natural response for you, sometimes it can be hard to receive the same treatment from others.

I’ve had occasions where I have gone to lunch with some of my team leaders with LegalShield, which is my Legal Services business I have on the side (see “Top Income Suggestion” at the bottom of the page for more information).  We often go out to eat together after attending some kind of big conference or business briefing.  However, I was on the low income side of the spectrum, just a baby on the rank scale so to speak, so I didn’t feel comfortable spending money on a nice lunch.  When the team invites me to lunch, I already know they plan on going some place really fancy.  We’re talking the kind of lunch where each entree costs around $60-$80 per person.  I didn’t want to ask them to pay for me, but I did want to go, so of course I reluctantly admitted that I couldn’t pay for it, so they offered to cover me.  Even though I know that my team leaders are full blown millionaires within the company and can easily afford to buy me such a nice lunch, I still felt bad that I couldn’t pay for myself and needed help if I was going to be able to participate.  I couldn’t help but almost feel ashamed that I couldn’t take care of myself in that instance and felt like I was a troublesome burden to have to be covered by more capable people.

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However, those feelings are outright lies and have no right to make me feel that way.  I know that my team leaders are adults who can make their own decisions.  I know that they do not consider it a burden to pay for me, it wasn’t even a difficult gift for them.  I also know that they wanted me to join them.  There is nothing about the situation at all that would warrant me feeling like a burden.  So why does that happen? Why is it, when we are offered something nice, or put in a position where we must ask others for help or to be gracious to us, do we feel like doing so makes us a burden and puts a terrible imposition on others?  They can say no if it really is a problem, but generally speaking, we only make it a problem in our own minds.

Think about when you offer to help someone in need or give a really nice gift.  Have you seen the person on the receiving end of your offer suddenly feel hesitant to receive it, or like they are unworthy or couldn’t ask you to do something so nice?  How would you feel if your gift was genuinely rejected or couldn’t be enjoyed because of that person’s insecurities?  We need to remember that gratefully receiving gifts and help is the same as giving a gift in itself.  People give to others because they want to.  There’s a wonderful sense of compassion and joy that comes from giving.  So, by receiving a gift, you are giving the gift of satisfaction to the giver.  You are completing the action that makes both people feel good about what has happened, but only if you can let go of any silly notions that they are giving out of obligation.  Most people are not obligated to give things to you, so stop treating them as if they think you are a burden.  You are not a burden, you are someone they value.

Give people a chance to be the adults they are and say no if they don’t feel like doing something.  Give them that chance by asking first.  If people say yes, it is because they want to help you.  If they say no, then you are no worse off than you were before you asked.  Be a cheerful giver AND receiver.  These actions are a reward to both sides.

 

James 4:2-3 (NASB)

2You lust and do not have, so you commit murder.  You are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have because you do not ask.  3You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

 

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Pantser

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Being new to blogging and consistent writing in general, I’ve been learning about types of writers.  According to the NaNoWriMo website (www.nanowrimo.org – National Novel Writing Month) there are two types of writers; planners and pantsers.  It didn’t take me long to figure out which kind of writer I am.  In almost every aspect of my life, I am a planner.  I like to organize my schedules, plan ahead, know details of events or duties ahead of time so that I can plan when to wake up, what to wear, when to go to bed, or set out special materials I might need.  I’m always trying to avoid problems before they start.  However, when it comes to writing, I just don’t feel like expending the energy to write outlines and character maps, or brainstorm a list of topics or timed pieces for the next six months.  So, as opposed to most of my other endeavors, when it comes to writing, I am definitely a pantser.  In case anyone missed it, a pantser is someone who flies by the seat of their pants, or essentially doesn’t plan anything.  Just going with the flow.

I almost never know what I’m going to write about until I sit down in front of my computer and just start writing something that comes to mind.  On this occasion, I had a couple topics in mind, but I felt like they required more thought and preparation than I desired to put into it at the moment, so here I am writing about writing!  Oh, and eating chocolate ice cream.  Sometimes when I’m not feeling my best or struggling with mental blocks or unmotivated, chocolate ice cream seems to help.  Most of my topics so far have been of fairly serious nature, but important.  After all, I do want to post things that have value and help people to lead successful and fulfilling lives.  I’d like to think I’ve hit on a few helpful notes.  However, I see no reason not to have a lighthearted post now and then.

I suppose that could lead into the point that it’s important to be yourself!  See?  I had no idea I was going to make that point.  Start off with a silly, lighthearted blog post and make a serious data point after all.  Being yourself really is very important to developing a life that makes you feel fulfilled and happy.  There is always work involved with obtaining quality of life, good relationships, and finding your potential, but there’s nothing that says you have to be serious and stoic during the process.  Put your personality into your work and how you handle things.  Of course, be aware of appropriate times and places for things.  That takes discernment, but if you like to have fun, then be creative and find ways to make things fun!  That’s part of innovation!  It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, but pleasure and fun have introduced their fair share of creative creations as well.

If you can’t find something out there that is the right fit for you, then invent something that is!  Have a weird conglomeration of interests and skills?  Then find a creative way to combine them and use them to provide value!  Help people.  That’s where most business ideas succeed or fail.  How does it help people?  Do people need what you’re offering?  Is it already available in some form?  If so, how can you revolutionize it in a unique way to be competitive?  If not, how can you let people know that you can offer it and that it’s something they want?  Again, it takes work, but if it involves things that make you you, if you’re interested in it and passionate about it, then the work will just be more fun!

I wish you the best in finding the best career and purpose for your life!  Like I said, if it’s not out there, then bring it into existence!  Not all the best jobs have been created yet.  There is always room for new ideas!  Let imagination take flight!  Be yourself!  You have something valuable and unique to offer the world, and the world needs it!  They just don’t know it yet.  Tell them!  Show them!  Be the shining star that you are!

Also, don’t forget to eat chocolate ice cream.  It helps a lot! 🙂

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White Flag

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I remember one instance when I was a child, my parents took me to see a rodeo and at one point my mom gave me her nice camera with a roll of film in it (Not digital! I must be getting old.).  She allowed me to try taking a few pictures and she specifically instructed me to only take three pictures and no more.  Film is limited of course, so she didn’t want me to waste it.  So, naturally, I proceeded to take my three pictures, then four, then five and six… then all of a sudden the camera started making noise and rewinding the film!  Oops, that got me caught.  My mom knew immediately that I had taken more than three pictures because I used up the rest of the film.  I was embarrassed and felt so bad about it.  It made an impression, obviously, which is why I remember the incident.  I instantly had to own up to my mistake, there was no excuse for what I did.

I made another mistake while driving today.  As opposed to my first example though, this mistake wasn’t intentional, but a mistake is a mistake, and you know right away when you’ve been caught in the act.  It was just a stupid point where I zoned out while driving and almost missed my turn.  Technically I did miss it, but I was only past the turn off by a few feet and I caught myself right as I was passing it.  So, I slammed on the breaks, I knew I wasn’t in heavy traffic.  There was no one behind me, so I decided to just back up in the lane and make the turn.  I know, any moment now you’re expecting an accident or cop to enter the scene.  That didn’t happen.  This is really just a moment of feeling stupid.  I started backing up in my lane and saw that other cars were coming toward me from the road onto which I was trying to turn.  My mind flashed to what they were probably seeing from their own driver seat.  Some stupid driver backing the wrong way right in front of them to turn onto a street she had just barely passed.  I must have looked ridiculous and possibly like an idiot.  Still, I knew as soon as I saw those other cars that my mistake was well known to others now and I felt a little embarrassed, even in front of strangers.  I got over it pretty quickly, but in order to do so, I had to swallow my pride and own up to the fact that I made a mistake.

Being humble means putting up your white flag and surrendering your right to defend yourself.

 

There is something about making mistakes, poor decisions, or looking foolish that irks us.  We get defensive, offended, even strike back if we feel accused or caught.  We do or say whatever makes us feel justified and in the right.  We are the good guy, and everyone else is in the wrong.  We’re just misunderstood or treated unfairly.  At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.  We have a natural disposition to trying to place blame on anyone or anything but ourselves.  Why are we so uncomfortable with being imperfect?  Why do we always want people to think of us as never wrong or never making mistakes?  Why is it so important for us to feel right, justified, or superior in our behavior and intentions?  Why do we seem to fight tooth and nail to avoid owning up to our actions and wrongs?

I think I can sum up the answer in one word; PRIDE.  The desire to be right, or superior, or justified, or respected is all because of pride – the desire to be better than others.  We all do it.  Some have fought harder to control it than others, but none of us can completely escape pride.  It is a constant battle.  We have this impression that humility is too uncomfortable or somehow makes us weak or “less” than others in some way.  Really, we don’t like humility because being humble means acknowledging our shortcomings and flaws, and we don’t like to look at those ourselves, much less let anyone else see them.  To acknowledge that you are not perfect, that you make mistakes, that you sometimes choose poorly or act foolishly, that you don’t know everything or can’t do something makes people feel vulnerable, insufficient, and dependent on others for help and correction.  That is a hard thing to admit and even harder to be comfortable with that.

To be humble is to be open to learning and growing.  To recognize that you don’t have all the answers, all the abilities, and you don’t live a perfect life or make perfect decisions all the time.  It is being willing to own up to those less-than-desirable traits, experiences and choices and accept the consequences of them, any correction needed, and apply what you learned from them in order to improve yourself and avoid future problems of that type.  Being humble means putting up your white flag and surrendering your right to defend yourself.  It is submitting yourself to criticism, training and corrective actions.  It takes great courage to put up that white flag and choose humility over pride and defensiveness.  Humility is a far greater show of inner strength than pride will ever be, and far more worthy of respect.

Make a daring move that maybe no one would expect next time you make a mistake or bad decision; show humility and take responsibility for your actions.  You just might blow some people’s minds by setting such a powerful example of integrity and maturity.  Then make it a habit for every mistake.  You might be surprised how much you will grow and improve personally.

Proverbs 18:12 (NASB)

12 Before destruction the heart of man is haughty,
but humility goes before honor.

Proverbs 11:2 (NASB)

2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor,
But with the humble is wisdom.

 

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