“YOUR opinion of ME is none of MY business!”

— Joseph Binning

 

 

Self-Image is the mental picture one has of oneself, of a kind resistant to change, that depicts, not only details available to aim investigation by others (height, weight, hair color, etc.), but also items that you have learned by the person about themselves, either from personal experiences, or by internalizing the judgments of others.  — Wikipedia

 

Your self-image comprises four mental pictures:

  1. Physical appearance.
  2. Worth because of what you learned through life experiences.
  3. Goodness, because of internalizing the judgments, thoughts, and views of others about you.
  4. Your total self, because of personal beliefs, perceptions, and illusions you have about yourself.

 

So the question I’m asking you is, how do you picture yourself?  How do you know if the image you see of you is the real you?  One simple way to find an individual’s self-image is by asking yourself, “What do you believe other people’s opinions are of you?  How do you think others see you?”

 

Ask yourself if what you do, where you go, what you say, or how you act is to be a part of or having a sense of belonging to something?  Do you do these because they feed your soul?  Do you Love because you need to be Love?  Or, do you Love because you need to Love?

 

Is your sense of happiness, belonging, or worth only made by someone else’s attention, protection, support, or affection? Are you are seeking validation that you are lovable and worthy of loving from things and people outside of you?  Do you base your feelings on fitting in or receiving attention, acceptance, approval, or praise from someone, or something outside of you? If so, you have not identified and integrated your sense of self, your self-value. News flash: you are not what you do, who you do it for, who you are with, how, when, where you fit in, or what possessions surround you.  You are none of that.

 

How do you know you have not yet identified or integrated a strong sense of self?

If something breaks, if you don’t accomplish something, or if I make a negative comment, would you experience a sense of feeling lower, loss, anger, or even depression. Here’s an example: If I became angry and called you a name, do you think you would you take it personal?  Let’s be crazy for a moment and pretend that I called you an ugly chair. Would it offend you?

What if I took it further and told you you were the most uncomfortable seat I’d ever experienced? What if I told you how weak your legs were? That your back is rickety, you’re painted an ugly color? Or that you should just put yourself out of your misery and take yourself to the dumpster? It’s crazy, I know.  But I am calling you something you are not or telling you my perception of you. Did you get offended because you believed it?

Probably not. Why? Because it’s not true. You are not a chair; you are human.

 

You put energy and emotion and thought into others’ opinions. 

When someone, whose respect, approval, attention, or Love is something you want or need, calls you foolish or ignorant, or ignores you, do you have a sense of feeling lower, angry, or depressed.  Why?  Because you want them to approve of you and accept you and talk well of you.  Why?  Because you believe what they believe of you is true!

 

My perception of you is none of your business. 

People’s perception of you is not complete or correct.  People’s opinion of you doesn’t decide your value. No one’s opinion of you determines your truth.

Your opinion of you is what determines your value and truth, and only you are in control of creating that.

Words have power only if you allow them 

How can someone say something to you, you know isn’t true aka the chair example, but believe it? By not knowing who you are. When you define yourself by the words and decisions of others and don’t take the time and dedication to focus and discover the truth of who you are for yourself, you will be forever sensitive to, and weakened by the words, opinions, and actions of others.  Empower yourself by knowing who you are, what you love, what you want, what you can do, and why you are here.

 

Take this Self-Image Assessment test

Answer the following questions True or False:

  1. Is my glass empty?
  2. I find I apologize for things, or say, “Sorry.”
  3. Do I often hear myself telling myself “I should” be doing this or that?
  4. I find I have a habit of criticizing myself.
  5. Does what other people think about me affects the way I think about myself.
  6. I relive or over analyze my mistakes.
  7. Do you tell yourself I think I have let people who care about me down?
  8. It seems I have the weight of the world on my shoulders.
  9. Do I believe a partial failure equals a complete failure, and I make do it a lot?
  10. I bend over backwards to please people.
  11. I don’t rarely show my emotions.
  12. I’m not sure I’ve done a good job until someone tells me whether I have.
  13. If I don’t do as well at something as others, it’s because I have to try harder than others.
  14. I believe if I can’t do something well, I won’t do it.

 

Tally your responses by giving yourself one (1) point for every statement that you answered True.

Results

0-4          You have a positive way of thinking and a positive self-image of yourself. Great job!

5-9          You struggle with negative emotions. Review your good qualities every day.

10-14      You are judgmental of yourself. Challenge yourself to change your way of thinking.

 

Each of you has a story.

You compose your own story of many beliefs and experiences, including the four self-images each of you has see as ourselves.  Your story dictates how you see yourself. Someone was mean and never apologized, so your hurt feelings turn into resentment, which turns into a wound you carry, which causes you to act mean to others.  You don’t accept the feeling of being forgiven for something you’re ashamed of, so you hold back forgiveness for others.  You gave you the message you were not worthy, so you don’t expect the feeling of being worthy, and you allow others to ignore, condemn, use, or abuse you. 

Your minds create negative chatter.

The problem with having a story based on false information is that the mind tells you what to believe and what to listen to. As you listen, you create your realities, based on your mind chatter, your story, and your self-image.

When you create this reality that says: My life looks like this or: or my life should look like this: or I deserve treatment such as this, you end up not liking yourselves for being mean to others, for holding back forgiveness, for allowing others to mistreat or ignore you.  You mistreat yourself, hold back your own emotional nourishment, and put yourself last.  You know you want to change, but don’t know how, because you’re conditioned to believe this story that dictates whether you are deserving of feeling better.

 

When you believe that this reality you created is how life is.  

When you’re not aware that you have created this, your life becomes an illusion. Your distorted self-image has been growing for so many years it has become entwined into every part of your being, and you cannot see that it is not real, and that it is not a true reflection of who you are.

 

What is the ultimate and only reason we don’t have a correct, strong, and high self-image? 

FEAR.

Fear keeps us frozen (see my post titled What I Learned From Being Stuck and Frozen and why you need to read this) sometimes for years—sometimes entire lifetimes. Here’s what I mean by fear.

  • The Fear of Disappointing Someone
  • Fear of Failing
  • The Fear of Being Alone
  • Fear of Being Wrong
  • The Fear of Dying
  • Fear of Making the Wrong Choice
  • The Fear of Being Hurt
  • Fear of Making a Mistake
  • The Fear of Feeling Not Good Enough, Smart Enough, Pretty or Handsome Enough, Strong Enough, Capable Enough, Exciting Enough
  • Fear of Not Being Seen
  • The Fear of Not Being Chosen
  • Fear of Being Thought Strange
  • The Fear of Falling

 

You might tell yourself that you are not afraid; you are just a caring, realistic, concerned, smart, cautious, or even an intentional person.  But if any of these self-defined characteristics cause you to do things other than what you want to, they are running you.  They are inward drivers dictating your behaviors.

 

Why are you so afraid—aka worried, thoughtful, realistic, concerned, smart, cautious? 

Most of your conditioning is from birth, by everyone who has had an influence on you, causing you to believe that you are not capable, deserving, self-equipped, or powerful on your own and that you may need acceptance, protection, and to be molded and directed.  This false set of beliefs has hypnotized you into a crippling amnesia that has caused you to forget who you are. (Read my post on Mediocrity * not the life you’re here for, for more.)

 

Despite what life may have taught you, you cannot find the truth outside of yourself, in someone else, or by applying any external remedy. You cannot solve an internal distortion with an external action. No vacation, medicine, food, job, therapy, or relationship can fix a distorted view of yourself and your reality.

 

How to find your true Self by sitting, with just your Self.  

The way to get to know who you really are is by taking time by yourself, getting to know your Self.  Get to know the parts of the Real You that has always been—the innocent, wonder-filled, joy-seeking fresh Being that is still You, the You who believed in possibility, the You who dreamed and wished and believed, the You who explored and created and pretended. The who made imaginary houses, travels, and worlds.  Your true SELF has no limits and is unstoppable.

 

“Humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit in a room alone.”

— Blaise Pascal, French Philosopher

The true You is still in you, and so much more. 

Get to know the new parts you haven’t taken time to know yet or integrate—the parts of You-you are becoming, the parts of you that have grown, developed, clarified, and evolved into, and the parts you are visioning for yourself. How do you see your true self? By taking time alone, separating your true Self from everyone else to find out who you are contrary to the world’s opinions, illusions, and dictations.  That is the path to discovering every wonderful, unique, and minute detail that makes you YOU.

 

You can create what you wish to believe in concerning yourself, if you Choose.  

Choose in this now moment, and from this moment forward, to create a new reality for yourself.  When something doesn’t end up the way you wanted it to, or thought it should, don’t say, “This always happens to me,” instead ask yourself, “How does this affect me? Who am I being with this thinking?  Is this me?  Am I acting like the person I want to be?  How am I feeling scared, angry, controlled, hurt, wrong, not good enough? How do I want to act?  What new learning am I getting from this thinking?  What outcome do I want? How can I create my outcome? How can I own this now moment?  Ask yourself what is a new way or idea of thinking right now?  How do I want to be in this moment?”

 

How to free yourself from these fears that affect your actions, routine, thoughts, behavior, body, mood, emotions, freedom.

 

As you lay in bed at night, before you go to sleep, begin a habit of one or more of these practices to own the good in your Self:

  • Focus on what went right today.  What went well with it? What felt good?  Only good.  Don’t do the “High and Low” game.  Don’t focus on what went wrong.  Only do the high.  What did you learn or discover?
  • Go to a place inside of you that feels gratitude for today, but not for things.  Things are fleeting. Focus on moments.  Moments can stay in the mind and heart forever.  Your moments belong only to you.
  • Create a victory journal and write your victories of the day, great and small. When you’re feeling low, re-read the victories and relive them. Remind yourself of your ability to have them.
  • As you lay awaiting sleep, pay close attention to what you let into your thoughts. Remember, a tire does not go flat all at once. It happens slowly. Thoughts are similar. They gather momentum, no matter which way they go.  Refocus your thoughts toward the positive, appreciative, reflective, to keep them from going sour. Fall asleep with the thoughts of the good in our mind.

 

Remember to stand on the highest place in your story, not on the bottom.

From the moment you make the choice to create a new reality for your Self, you are no longer a victim. Begin small or big, here or there.  It matters not where.  Just begin.  The Tao Te Ching says, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Take the first step, and then the next, and the next.  It’s Amazing how far you will go and how fast you will grow.

From this day forward, live your life by two rules:

  1. No Regrets. Think about everything you do, and the potential consequences good or bad, BEFORE you do them. Then own them.

  2. Always remember my saying, “Your opinion of Me is none of MY business.”

Do not be a prisoner of other people’s opinions of you. When they say something to you you know is not true (remember the chair example) your new answer should be “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Stand tall in YOUR truth. Your NEW story.

 

The Universe made only one of you.  

There is only one You and You are Perfect.  The world needs your uniqueness, but only when you are being you, not someone else.  It’s your self-image that you are creating, not a duplicate of someone else.

Life rewards the brave, bold, and clear minded. Embrace who you are, with no fear.

Be who you are boldly.  Always be bold in expressing who you are.

You have boldness, bravery, and clarity in you.

Remember, you were born with it.

Now be Great!

This writing is in memory of my Father, who—without knowing it— helped make me the man I am today.

When I was a young boy, my father seemed bigger than life, like most fathers seem to young sons. I looked at him in the same way that I imagine my son Jeremiah looked at me at that age—the Superhero—the towering giant who can fix anything, do anything, and make anything seem better than it is.  We see what we want to see, until we don’t.

Life took him away from me very early in my life, so we never got to have the kinds of deep conversations that my son and I have had. We never shared a beer together. We never ran a half marathon together, never traveled the world together, never went camping, never attended baseball or football games together.  My memories of him are very few, but I have one that will never fade.

I was about seven years old, and we were returning home from somewhere.  We were laughing when he pulled into the driveway. He was good at making me laugh. As we got out, and I looked at him over the roof of the car, all I could see was his head. My superhero dad seemed so small, with only a head and no body.  As I chuckled, I slammed the car door shut with my thumb still in the door.

Screaming at the top of my lungs, crying for him to fix it, I stood frozen, unable to move. What he did next remains forever etched in my mind.

Calmly and gently, but firmly, my father said, “JOSEPH — OPEN THE DOOR.”

At that point in my seven-year life, I had fallen, bumped, smashed, crashed, and broken quite a few objects and body parts.  On those occasions when I’d hurt myself, I’d had seen the alarm in his eyes, sometimes panic.  This time it was different.  His eyes were still, quiet, and wise, as if he knew that he was passing down an important lesson, from a father to his son.

Life guarantees that things will go wrong and we’ll get hurt. Sometimes in those moments, we freeze or panic. The lesson that my father taught me that day is, when those things happen, get calm, breathe—and OPEN THE DOOR. 

My dad reminded me that I have the knowledge, the ability, and the strength to handle the situation. So, I did, I opened the door and I was free. Afterward, he walked me in the house, put my thumb on ice, and did what a good dad does, gave me a bowl of ice cream.  Then, we went to the doctor.  The thumb nail eventually fell off and, to this day, a small section on my left thumb nail doesn’t grow.  That’s just fine with me. When I feel stuck, it’s my reminder to get calm, breathe, and OPEN THE DOOR.

Thanks Dad. 

I was conceived by two people who Loved each other enough to deliver my brother and me into the world and create a family.  Out of his sons, I was my father’s favorite.  As it turned out, he and my mother discovered that they weren’t right for each other and chose separate paths.  It’s a very familiar story. Some in my family have suggested that my father was not equipped, not in the state of mind to be the best example for me. I’ll never know. He took the divorce very hard and was not allowed to see us after they separated.  My last memories of him were watching him sit in his car crying outside of our house.  Without my superhero father, I felt alone.

 

We moved every year.  My mother struggled alone on a secretary’s salary to raise two boys in Los Angeles, California.  Most landlords wouldn’t allow us to renew the lease, since most months we were late with rent. My brother and I never knew about that—her way of protecting us.

 

Being the new kid meant you were bullied—unless the other kids thought you were crazy—in which case, they’d leave you alone. I learned early on to pick a fight with the biggest kid on the playground on the first day of school, even if I’d get pulverized, which was the case a fair amount of the time, and the other kids would leave you alone.

 

I ran away from home a few times. I thought, If I could just find my dad then everything would be alright. I hadn’t yet been told that he was dead.

The cause listed on his death certificate I would later find was suicide.

Alcohol and sleeping pills were apparently somewhat common during that era.  I found out three years after he died, when I was in ninth grade—again, my mother’s way of protecting us.

 

Although I was a decent student—passing my freshman year with a B+ average—I didn’t feel good enough, ever.  When I was fifteen, my mother dropped me off at the local police station.  From there, I was sent to juvenile hall and sent to live at a boy’s home for troubled youth, called at the time The Pacific Lodge Boys Home.

 

Woodland Hills, California was a strange place for a boy’s home.  We attended the local public high school, for some sense of normal life.  That worked in theory, but kids can be very cruel. We were referred to as “the Lodge Boys” by the other kids and reminded daily that we were not “normal” kids. Friends were hard to come by, unless they were from the Lodge.  So, most of us just hung out with each other, it created a bond between us.  If someone from school messed with a Lodge Boy-and they usually did—we all came running.

We called ourselves The Band of Wayward Brothers.

 

The daily schedule at the lodge was designed around individual counseling and occasional family group counseling sessions, with the eventual goal of reuniting each boy into his family unit. I knew I’d never be allowed to return home, that I’d live at the Lodge until I turned eighteen, alone, with no family, no tribe, and no one to belong to—a throw-away child no one wanted.  One minute you belonged to something—be it healthy or dysfunctional, it was your tribe, your family—and the next minute, it’s taken away.  You’re suddenly, unexpectedly, bewilderingly alone.  After losing my dad as a child, I felt alone.  Now I truly was alone and lost.

 

The multiple dorm residential facility had several counselors who worked and slept there during their shifts.  One of my counselors, Cane, was a social worker. He was a warm, laid-back surfer guy, and was always nice, Cane seemed to genuinely care and never judged us.  I was horrible to him. Most of us were. We were a group of angry, hurt boys, deposited in a home for troubled youth, who felt alone in the world.

 

Out of the hundred, or so, kids at the Lodge that Christmas, only two of us were not welcomed home to be with our family for the holiday. My friend Patrick and I wouldn’t be going home, which meant that our counselor Cane, who’s shift was that night, had to stay at the dorm with just the two of us, instead being of home for Christmas with his family.

 

Little did we know, Cane had asked, and was granted permission, to take Patrick and me off campus for Christmas.  We didn’t know what we were getting into, but it was better than being at the Lodge for Christmas.

 

Cane picked us up on Christmas Eve and off we went on what he called

“Cane’s Christmas Present Run”, visiting friends of his to exchange presents and Christmas wishes.  Not once did any one of them make us feel awkward for being there, even though they knew where we were from.  The day ended at his mother’s house with homemade Christmas dinner and all the fixings.  It was a real family dinner with lots of food and lots of people, none of whom made either of us feel left out or unwelcome. Cane and his mother gave presents to Patrick and me—no ugly sweaters or generic or cheap items—genuine gifts they put thought into selecting just for us. I had never known that kind of generosity.  I didn’t understand it.  I’ll never forget that day for as long as I live.

 

When he brought us back the next day, I asked him why he was being so nice to me.  He said,

 

“My job, Joe, is to Love you enough, until the day comes when you are able to Love yourself that much.”

 

I have never forgotten his words, though I didn’t know what that meant at that time.

My life changed that day. I have had my ups and my downs.

I’ve been homeless to homeowner. Not an easy task in California.

Unemployable to a nationally recognized business owner.

Poor and broke, to not having to worry about being evicted.

A 15-year-old throw away child to a sitting Board Member of the San Diego Center for Children I affectionately call The Pacific Lodge Boys Home South.

A lost boy, to world traveler, knowing now that not all those who wander are lost.

Multiple Ironman triathlon finisher

And now new author of a book titled “You Matter, even if you don’t think so” that will be published next year.

 

 

To the next generation of Wayward Brothers and Sisters, or anybody who thinks they are stuck and frozen, here is what I have learned along the way. I hope it helps you.

  1. Good people make bad decisions, that doesn’t make them bad people, it just makes it a bad decision.
  2. Forgive easily and often. Others and especially yourself. Remember, there is only one perfect, and we aren’t it.
  3. You are not broken, and therefore do not need “fixing”. You are perfect, just the way you are.
  4. Life rewards the brave, so be brave. Take a chance, on yourself and others.
  5. Knowledge is only potential, but action is power. Knowing what to do is only half the equation. Take that leap of faith.
  6. Decide to be the best you, just for you. You deserve it.
  7. Love yourself first with all your heart. Those around you will benefit more.
  8. Be your own best friend first. And don’t let him or her down or cut them any slack.
  9. Just because someone says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. They have the right to an opinion, but you also have the right to choose to not believe it.
  10. Happiness is a choice, not a place, thing, moment, or a person so stop chasing it. Only YOU can make YOU happy.
  11. Everything in life is a precious gift. Treat it as such. Don’t disregard it or you WILL lose it.
  12. Everything happens for a reason, figure out why. There are NO mistakes in life, only lessons.
  13. Lastly, and most importantly,

 

OPEN THE DOOR AND SET YOURSELF FREE!

 

If this helped you, spoke to you, or made you think of someone who needs to read this please leave your comments and/or share it.

I was like, ‘If I don’t change my mind,

if I don’t change my heart,

if I don’t develop some skill,

 I’m always going to be sleeping in my car.’

Tony Robbins

Mediocre is: “of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate; not satisfactory; poor; inferior.”

Many have chosen a life of mediocrity.  They have settled and lowered their standards, to accept what is barely adequate. Most don’t know why or how, and they don’t always know ahead of time that they are about to do it.  They probably don’t realize that they do it, or that they have a history of doing it.  You may even be thinking that I don’t know what I’m talking about.  Take a deep breath, open your heart and mind for a few minutes, and hear me out.

 

When you began this life of yours, you didn’t intend to have any relationship, job, health, body, creativity, adventures, or life experiences that were less than fulfilling, or just ordinary. Yet here you are, less than fulfilled with life, perhaps slightly jaded, tired or sick, in pain, or maybe worse.

 

Have you consciously, or unconsciously, chosen that which appears safe, low- or risk-free, or that which pleases others, over what is right, uplifting, exciting, and pleasing to you?  How often have you taken the safe road, or the leftover choice, or the smaller pile, or the lesser value, even though you didn’t like it or want it?  Why?

 

Less than ten percent of college graduates work in the field of their degree. Most spend most of their adult years working at a job they can’t stand, for people they don’t respect, with people who bring them down, in an environment that makes them depressed, stressed, in pain, or sick.  Why do you think that is?

 

Less than ten percent of Americans own and operate a small business.  Are you one of the ten percent?  Or, are you one of the ninety percent?  Why is that?  Do you think the ten percent are smarter than you, more capable than you, more creative than you, more skilled or gifted than you, better than you, more deserving than you? If you think yes to any of these, you’re under the influence of a false belief.  If you think that those ten percent want their work life to be better than ordinary and are willing to take risks, if necessary, to have that, you are absolutely right.  If you think they are not afraid, you are mistaken.  They just don’t let fear get in the way of their focus and vision.  They do not settle for mediocrity.

 

Yes, they are risk takers, but so are the ninety percent who haven’t taken the risk and followed their passion to create their own businesses.  Think about it.  What risks do we take when we don’t step out and try something new, scary, or difficult?  What risks do we take when we don’t reach for something that we want, create something that excites us, try something that enlivens us, go for something that inspires us, or learn something that challenges us?  What happens when we settle?

 

This is what happens:  we disappoint ourselves; we lose faith in our abilities; we lose happiness; we affect others around us; we weaken ourselves; we co-depend on others; we stay in discomfort, depression, or suffering; we shrink ourselves; we settle for less; we get sick; we lose our energy; we give up on ourselves; we let others down; we lose our selves; we fall into mediocrity, or worse.  A much heavier load awaits those who don’t risk taking a chance on themselves.

 

Why do we settle for a mediocre life, relationship, job, health, experiences?  Why do we measure ourselves by the standards and opinions of others?  Why do we suppress our desires and shrink our dreams?  Why do we care more about the opinions, words, ideas, needs, and desires of others than we do our own?  Why are we afraid?  What is the ultimate reason we are living a mediocre life? 

 

We do that because we believe we are not good enough.  We do that because we don’t want to have more or better than others who have not.  Why?  Because others convince us that we should settle.  Because we were taught that we’re nobody special, and we can’t have what we want, and no one’s life is perfect anyway, and we will have to settle, because life is hard, and that only the strong, lucky, smart, active, educated, supported people can start that business, audition for that role, try out for that competition, paint that masterpieces, have that relationship, look that way, live that way.

 

From birth, those in our familial, communal, religious, educational, societal, political, and/or cultural environments have—mostly unintentionally—conditioned us to:

 

  • forget who we are, forget what we’re capable of, and why we’re here
  • believe that we’re here to please and serve everyone over ourselves
  • care about and follow what others do, say, and think, over what we want, think, and know
  • believe that we are not capable or deserving of creating the life we desire if others don’t
  • believe that we need to be approved of and included in some existing group, rather than freely following our independent compasses
  • forget that we are born free.

 

Of all of life’s creatures, we are the only species that gets up or keeps going when we’re tired, force ourselves to sleep when we’re not tired, to go to a job that we don’t want, and live a life of self-inflicted suffering.   We do that rather than take the risks in the areas that give us the most vitality, joy, and self-empowerment.  And, inside, we feel the guilt and the burden of giving up on ourselves, so we push ourselves in other ways, convincing ourselves that we must, all the while, settling deeper into mediocrity.

 

 

Pause to Write.  

 

Write your thoughts on the following.  If a response doesn’t come easily, pass it and go to the next.  Come back later if you have a new awareness on any that you skipped.

 

If you didn’t have to go to the job you have now, would you?  

 

Are you doing what you’ve had to do?  Or, are you doing what you Love to do?

 

If you had a choice (and you do), would you do things differently?

 

If you stopped looking backward, and if you stopped regret, what would you change?

 

What’s holding you back?

 

Are you afraid of what others might think?

 

Whose life are you living?  If not yours, why?

 

Are you still wishing, reaching, hoping?

 

If not, what stopped you?

 

When did you first learn to settle for mediocre?

 

Where have you cared more about the opinions, words, and ideas of others than your own?

 

Where have you given yourself away, suppressed your vitality, or shrunk yourself?

 

Who did you learn that from?

 

When did you stop being excited and riding the momentum of your ideas, desires, wishes, and dreams?

 

What desires have you suppressed?

 

What dreams have you downsized or buried?

 

 

A dream is something you eat, sleep, live, and breathe. You think about it and refine it so that you can’t see any separation between you and the dream.  You are intertwined. Nothing will stop you from getting it. It’s that important to you.  When I ask people if they have a dream, almost all of them say yes. So why don’t they act on it? Why don’t they start that business venture? Why don’t they go back to school?  Change careers?  Sell their house?  Move to that country? Build that widget? Travel the world?  Buy a sailboat?  Learn to play music?

 

You can tell the size of a person’s dream by how much it takes to put it aside.  Think about that. You have a wish to lose those fifteen pounds.  You know you should.  You really, really want to.  Yet, you put it aside for the immediate gratification of the ice cream, beer, pasta, piece of chocolate, or cheeseburger. Why?  

 

Because it is just a wish in your mind.  Because you somehow learned that dreams don’t come true.  You’ve tried before and didn’t make it.  You don’t want to be disappointed.  You don’t believe in yourself.  Or, you want to believe in yourself, but you might make someone else feel bad who isn’t pursuing their dream.  Or, someone has told you that your dream is too big.  So, you put it aside.  You don’t allow yourself to imagine anymore, or as big as before.  You stop visioning, in vivid color, what you will look like, feel like, be like, or be able to experience by reaching for and realizing your dream.  You forget the feel of the power of the dreaming.  You no longer allow your passion to electrify you.

 

 

Pause to write.

 

You may not remember but allow yourself to think back. Before the world told you that you couldn’t do it, you had a dream. You felt good.  You were excited.  You were energized.  You couldn’t wait to start another day.  You wanted to do something. You wanted to expand and explore. You wanted to create something. You wanted to go somewhere. Can you remember what you wanted?

 

Knowing that you can make a different choice, what do you want to do differently?

Where do you want to live?

What do you want to do?

What kind of work do you really want to do?

What do you dream of?

Whose destiny are you creating?

When will it be time to start consciously creating your own destiny?  Your own happiness?

 

 

I attended a seminar lead by one of the top Transformational Life Coaches in the United States, Lisa Nichols.  In sharing her inspiring story, she impressed upon us the importance of:

 

  • Not living an average life
  • Realizing that life is not promised
  • Knowing that we cannot wait for the right time
  • Being uncomfortable with mediocrity

 

She asked us, “What if extraordinary was your birthright? How would you act?

 

So, I ask you, what if everyone has been wrong?  What if all the teachers and officials and parents and religious leaders taught us the wrong information?  What if they didn’t know, because they were just following the same recipe that had been handed down for generations, afraid to challenge it or change it, or attempt a bigger recipe?  What if we really are extraordinary?  What if having an extraordinary life is our birthright?

 

Let me tell you once more:  You were not born just so-so.  You were never barely adequate. You were not born so that you could live a mediocre life.  You were born special and capable. You are powerful and valuable. You are born worthy of living a brilliant and beautiful life.  You are one of the four great powers. You are GREAT!

 

To shift from believing that you must settle for mediocrity, to knowing that you are extraordinary, you must know that you are your own rescue. You are your own remedy.  Not your government, not your justice system, not your educational institution, not your parents, not your children, not your friends, not your partner, not your job, not your possessions.  

 

YOU.  ONLY YOU.

 

[Source] is the mother of the Universe. For lack of a better name, I call it the Tao.

The Tao is great. The Universe is great. Earth is great. Man is great.

These are the four great powers.

— Tao de Chang

Some people come in your life as blessings.

Some come in your life as lessons.

— Mother Teresa

 

Forgiveness is a topic that always intrigued me, partially because it is a very misunderstood concept. Many believe that the person who committed the offense must earn forgiveness. However, that belief is our ego saying, my feeling good and righteous is more important than yours, so you must do the work, not me.  That is not what forgiveness is about.

 

You may have heard the expression “hanging someone up on a cross.”   You may not know that it refers to the practice, during Roman times, of people being crucified for wrong doings against the Empire.  It was and is an inhumane method of punishment. Yet, many crucify others for their offenses—through their thoughts, wishes, words, and actions.  In reality, this crucifixion only hurts the one who crucifies.

 

My grandfather grew up in Oklahoma, during what I refer to, as cowboy times, when the white man and the Indigenous Indians shared the same territory.  Tensions between the races were strained, to say the least. White people looked at the Indians as less than human and referred to them as savages. A white man seen with an Indian resulted in serious repercussions, even as severe as being outcast from town and the neighboring community and disowned by his family.

 

He was strong, vibrant, and every bit a cowboy. Having grown up building oil derricks in Oklahoma, his was a different time, when survival was raw and hard. It required fortitude, stubbornness, and a good life partner.  They brewed coffee on open fire.  They either grew their food or shot it. At the wise old age of sixteen, my grandfather married the Love of his life, a fifteen-year young, full-blooded Osage Indian. They lived on the plains in Oklahoma and raised seven children, one of whom was my father.

 

Some of my fondest memories were sitting by my grandfather’s side, looking at pictures of him and other cowboys at rodeos and riding horses, six guns at their sides.  He earned my trust, and I idolized him. He knew of my struggles with my mother and gave me wise counsel, which he learned from his wife. I listened intently and heeded his words.

 

He was a good father, from what I know.   He worked hard, often making compromises and sacrifices, but he found ways and made it work.  He didn’t leave or abandon his family, though others did.  He did make one big mistake, however, and shot a man in a bar fight.  He was sentenced to seven years in a territorial prison, leaving my grandmother to raise seven children and work the ranch by herself.  Upon his release, he made a promise to her that he would change his ways, so that she would never have to face that kind of hardship and trauma again. I will never forget when he told me her response.

 

“Good people sometimes make bad decisions. That doesn’t make them bad people, necessarily; it just makes it a bad decision.”

 

Soon after my grandfather shared that with me, I called my mother. We hadn’t spoken in years. This is how I opened the conversation:

 

“Hi Mom, you’re the only mother I will ever have, and—while I don’t understand why you did what you did—I forgive you for it, with no expectations or explanations needed.”

 

To be clear—before that day, I couldn’t have cared less for my mother. Our mother-son connection had been cut decades earlier.  I had no feelings for her whatsoever.  But the moment I told her that I forgave her for it, with no expectations or explanations needed, a huge weight and heavy burden was lifted off me.  I realized, for the first time, that the mountain of emotion I had been carrying wasn’t about what she had done to me or what she needed to do, fix, or change.  It wasn’t about her at all.  It was all about what I had created inside of me and allowed to grow within me.  I used to jokingly say that “I was the devil’s favorite child.”  The anger that I had carried and acted on for a major part of my life had been self-inflicted.  The moment I forgave her, everything changed for me, and in me. I felt freed for the first time. The elephant on my chest finally stepped off.

 

We have a healthy relationship now. It’s not perfect, but it’s a relationship, and it’s a better relationship than it ever was. She will very likely go to her grave having never given me an explanation, but that’s not important. By taking her off the cross that I had hung her on, I set myself free, and I learned something profound.

 

When we carry ill feelings within us, they take over our spirit, our identity, our present, and our future, without our knowing. We become a product of the feelings of resentment, anger, hatred, ugliness, and vengeance, because we have given them the power to stay alive within us, by not releasing them.  By holding back our forgiveness, we hold back our acceptance and Love for ourselves, as well as our ability to Love and accept others.  The holding back becomes a poison that not only taints and often contaminates our relationship with that person, but spreads and contaminates our relationship with ourselves and everyone.

 

We can do anything we put our minds to. We wanted to walk, so we did. We wanted to fly, so we did. We wanted to go to the moon, so we did. Knowing that we have the power to forgive is the first step to setting ourselves free.  We can do anything that we want to.

 

What about when you are the offender?

 

Though I made a decision in my later life to align with a Buddhist type of life philosophy and study the Tao de Ching, I had been a Christian and studied the Bible for some time before that. It is with that learning that I say that the crux of Christianity falls on one basic pretext—forgiveness of our sins by God. The story of the prodigal son is one of my favorite parables in the Bible, which people of faith use to demonstrate the example of forgiveness.

 

A wealthy man, by the standard of the day, had many sheep, as well as many sons, one of whom was anxious to be grown up. One day, he demanded from his father that he receive his inheritance early, so that he could make his way in the world on his own. The father knew his son was not ready, so he refused. The son persisted.  Though the father had great concern that it would not end well, perhaps even in death for his beloved son, he agreed to allow his son to go off on his own with his inheritance.

 

As expected, the son wined and dined himself into poverty and ended up as a tender for someone else’s pigs and ate his meals from the same trough. Eventually, he decided that he could live better as a servant in his father’s house than as a king on his own and sought forgiveness from his father by admitting his mistake.  He was gladly taken back into the fold of the family.  A party was thrown, and the father joyfully declared, “What was lost is now found!”

 

Their party and celebration symbolize the freedom that comes from seeing when you have done wrong, seeking to communicate with the person you have wronged, humbling yourself before that person, and admitting your mistake.

 

Did you notice I did not say that the celebration symbolizes forgiveness of the wrong?  What’s important in this situation is your action as the offender.  You must honestly come to a place where you can humbly admit that you were wrong, and you must speak the words, “Will you please forgive me?” aloud to the person you wronged.  Then, your part is done.

 

The gift and the power in the concept of forgiveness have nothing to do with receiving forgiveness.  They have to do with being honest with yourself and—with an open and honest heart, without excuses or justifications—admitting to the person that you were wrong and asking the person to forgive you. This releases you from carrying the guilt and shame inside of you for the rest of our life. On the other hand, saying, “I’m sorry you made me hit you” is not an apology.  Nor is simply saying the words “I’m sorry,” without feeling it.  Fake apologies are like dirty underwear. They stink, and no one wants to be near them.

 

Even if we are sincere, humble ourselves by admitting our wrong, and ask forgiveness, there are some who will not accept our apology, or forgive us. That is not our concern.  That is their concern and something they will need to look at, if they choose to, or suffer the consequences, if they choose not to.  The same is true if you are the offended one, and someone comes to you to ask forgiveness. If you say, “I can’t forgive you,” you really mean I won’t. And if you won’t, you will suffer the consequences. Carrying the weight of holding back forgiveness for someone—whether they’ve asked for our forgiveness or not—creates a scar on our heart and suppression of our energy, which is almost as great as the weight of being a wrong-doer holding back an apology.

 

Being unable, or unwilling, to forgive someone is a sign that you do not feel forgiven for something you have done in the past.  People who don’t feel forgiven have a difficult time forgiving others, because they have not forgiven themselves.  They are still waiting to be forgiven by the person they believe they have wronged, and until that happens, they do not forgive themselves.

 

We have two wolves that reside within us, a good wolf and a vicious wolf,

and they are always at war with each other.  Which one wins?

Whichever one you feed the most.

— Old Indian tale

 

What happens when we’ve done someone wrong and need them to forgive us, to release us from the guilt?  For some, this is tortuous. We put ourselves up on the cross. We crucify ourselves.  We carry the guilt and torture ourselves with it for years.  But that’s because we’re misunderstanding the problem.  We’re actually acting in martyrdom.

 

Many live with guilt. Some may feel guilty for something they may not have even done, but think they are responsible for.  Perhaps even living with so much guilt or carrying it for so long has taken on a life of its own.  Carrying this huge and ugly energy, they can’t fathom ever forgiving themselves.  Maybe this is you.  Maybe you live in emotional and mental pain.  Often, this emotional and mental pain manifests into physical pain or health conditions, creating more suffering.

 

Guilt is both a cognitive and emotional experience.  When a person believes that he or she has violated a moral standard, betrayed a deep trust, or acted against humanity, guilt becomes a psychological, mental, and physical experience. But guilt’s only purpose is to guide us away from injustice. When it no longer serves this purpose, and is lingering, growing, and taking up space inside of us, it becomes a poison that slowly sucks our life force.  Many suffer silently, sometimes for an entire lifetime.  Many take others with them, both consciously and unconsciously.

 

The origin of guilt is in the belief that we have failed in some way to meet a standard of behavior. This standard may be a standard that was imposed on us by society, religion, culture, community, family, or someone we followed or Loved.  Or, this standard may be one we have consciously, or unconsciously, created or invented, and imposed upon ourselves.

 

Pause to write.

 

Write a list of standards that you hold yourself to.  Leave some space between each standard.

 

Next to each of the standards you listed, write your response to each of the following three questions.  Respond from a place of inquiry and openness to discovery.  Imagine that anything is possible.

 

The first standard you hold yourself to________________________________________________

 

  1. Where does that standard come from? (Where, or from whom do you remember first hearing it, or repeatedly hearing it?)
  2. Is it real?  Or is it a perception?
  3. Is it something you truly, completely, and always believe is helpful, important, necessary, and valuable?  Or are you looking through glasses filtered by someone else, or some experience in your past that is no longer valid?

 

After writing your responses, look at each standard and your responses to it.  If you responded that it did not come from you, that means, that it is not your standard.  You can stop owning it.  If you responded that it is not real, that means that it is an illusion, a false perception.  If you responded that it is not a standard you fully believe is helpful or valuable to you in our life right now, that means that it is no longer serving your life.  It is no longer a measurement of who you are or who you should be.  It is time to let it go and release it from your thoughts and expectations.

 

Good people make bad decisions sometimes. That doesn’t make the person bad.  That makes the choice bad or wrong at the time. In our basic human form, we will always make mistakes.  We will always make choices that are not the right ones.  From that, we discover what is right.  That is part of the characteristic of being human. Forgive easily. Forgive others as you would have them forgive you.

 

Remember that we came from spirit, and in that Source, we are perfect.  We did not come here knowing how to feel ashamed or self-persecuting.  We learned that behavior.  We did not come here knowing how to hate.  We learned how to hate. We did not come here knowing how to hold onto resentment.  We learned to resent.  We did not come here knowing how to crucify.  We learned to crucify. We are still connected to that perfection that is our spiritual essence.  It is part of us, but we must connect with it.  If we tap into our heart space and that which makes us great, as the Tao says, we will be guaranteed that the good wolf wins.

 

 

Shame and guilt are illusions that help to bind us to those standards.

When we fail to meet them, guilt and shame are a system of punishment

enacted to encourage us to “do better” next time.

So, let go of those standards. Let go of guilt and shame.

Stop trying to be who and what you think you should be, or what others think you should be,

and start being who and what you really are.

Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench.

Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner.

— Tao de Ching Chapter 9 Verse 12

When everything seems to be going against you, remember,

the airplane takes off into the wind, not with it.  

— Henry Ford

 

 

Have you thought, I’ve been down some dark roads, and they’ve left scars?  Do you believe that the road you’ve traveled and where you’ve been makes you who you are, scars and all?

 

That was the habit of living as a victim before reclaiming the power you’d given away. Where you’ve been only reflects where you’ve been, not who you are, and not who you are becoming.  When you don’t have a strong sense of who you are, you say things like: “I’m just like my father;” “I’m just like my mother;” “Well, that’s what happens when you’ve been married for 20 or 30 years;” “That’s the way I was taught.”  How long can you use these stories to give away your power to be You? You may have learned the habit from someone else.  That doesn’t excuse your habit of diminishing your greatness.

 

How long can you carry the burden of that story to use as an excuse?  Yes, it is an excuse, to avoid making the shift that will change the story.  No one has power over you. Only you have the power to create who you are—and you have more power than you can imagine.  Every day, in every situation, and in every moment, you are making a choice. Words cannot hurt—even your own words, unless power is given to them to hurt. From the time we grew old enough to understand what “No” means, and speak the word, we have owned our actions.

 

 

A great nation is like a great man:

When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.

Having realized it, he admits it.

Having admitted it, he corrects it.

He considers those who point out his faults

as his most benevolent teachers.

He thinks of his enemy

as the shadow that he himself casts.

 ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

 

Nowhere in this famous quote does it say that when a great man makes a mistake, he feels blame, failure, worthlessness, defeat, or loss of self-esteem.  He has the realization that it’s a mistake or miss-step—one that took him to an outcome he didn’t want.  He owns the mistake and learns the value it has taught him, and he decides to do it differently next time.

 

I like to compare the road traveled to running. When I run, I run for the exhilaration, for the feel of forward momentum.  The road traveled is behind me.  In each moment of the run, I’m looking at what’s ahead.  If I spent my run connected to the path I already traveled, telling stories of my past, and thinking of myself as I used to be, I’d keep myself in the past, tripping over it, again and again.  Those roads were dark, not because of the villains that took me into darkness, but because the darkness was me before the light of awareness came on inside of me. Those roads are done.

 

 

Pause to Write.

 

Take a moment to make a small list—or a long one if you’d like—but a list. On one side, list where you have been, including your failures, your blunders, and your “oh shit” moments.  On the other side, list where you are today.

 

My Example:

 

I was homeless.                                                   I have a beautiful home now filled with Love.

I was broke.                                                          I want not.

I was unloved.                                                      I am greatly loved.

I never left my town.                                            I’ve been all over the world.

 

The idea is to briefly visit the past, just to see where you were, and then focus on the now, this very moment.  The direction of our focus determines the direction of our lives.  It’s ok to look over our shoulder for a moment to see how far we’ve come, but we can’t look backward.  We can’t hang out there.  We’re not going that way.  Don’t set yourself up for crashing, because you’re not looking ahead.

The world we live in is constantly changing. It moves at a rapid pace, and if we don’t keep up, we are left behind.  Without the proper resources, we won’t make it to the finish line.  Life is like a race, but not a sprint—a mega marathon.  Understanding it is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.

Like preparing for a mega marathon, you must be prepared.  You need the right equipment, and you need to know how to properly take care of that equipment to serve you and in case of emergency.  You need the right people around you, who are knowledgeable and willing to train you.  And you need to be ready and willing to be trained, learn, and change. You can only learn when you are willing and ready.  When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  Most of all, you need a reason to get to the finish line without quitting—a reason strong enough to quiet the voices in your head that make you want to give in.

In this vast world that moves so fast, we struggle to be relevant, influential, important, respected, Loved, and—sometimes, just to be seen. This inspired work is for you. I am the voice who shouts, “YOU MATTER!” because you do, more than you might know. Sometimes you just need a little help to point you in the right direction.

The Tao says, “When I let go of who I am, I become what I might be.”  I encourage you to be open to new ideas as you read these pages.  I encourage you to let go of your past self and start anew.

I have a saying: “If you don’t like something, change it.”  And remember, you are worth every ounce of effort and concentration that you put into yourself, because You matter…even if you don’t think so.