26 February 2013

Some thoughts on laziness

I suppose that lazy people may be getting the most out of life, but it's hard for me to imagine how. I can't imagine not having any drive or ambition to accomplish anything, and having the desire to engage only in passive activities, always being a spectator, never acting. Laziness, in many cases, leads to poor health, low self-esteem, lack of hope, and low self-confidence, among other things that I just don't see. It also robs a person of a sense of accomplishment, a sense of self-worth, and self-development. How are you going to learn anything or pick up a new skill or develop a talent if you're too lazy to get up and do something?

Many people are very harsh with lazy people, and I have to admit that my initial thoughts about laziness are usually rather judgmental. I know, though, that many people who seem to be lazy are just picking a passive way of dealing with fears or insecurities or frustrations--people with learning disabilities, for example, often seem lazy because of the high levels of frustration they encounter when trying to accomplish "simple" tasks. A person who's afraid of other people or of social situations may choose a passive approach to everything so that they won't have to take any risks. A slow learner may prefer appearing lazy to appearing stupid--if I don't do the work at all, no one will criticize my performance.

In addition, many people suffer from diseases or illnesses, many undiagnosed, that may deprive them of energy and make it seem as if they're being lazy. People with lyme disease or iron deficiencies or any other such ailments may appear to be quite lazy, especially if they forego activities that their friends and families partake in. These problems are especially troublesome if they're undiagnosed, for no one can see or know of a specific cause of a person's inactivity.

Of course, all of the possible causes (save the physiological) don't justify a life without accomplishment. Nor does knowing that you're being lazy because of fear compensate for what you miss out on in life because of your unwillingness to act. The key to dealing with laziness is taking action, and the key to taking action is finding the motivation to do so. What do we do, though, when a person simply doesn't want to be motivated to do anything? What do we do about the person at work who isn't willing to do his or her share of the current task? What do we do about the student who doesn't do the homework because he or she prefers to lay around, talking on the cell phone or watching TV?

And how do we define "lazy"?

My definition most certainly would be different than yours.

Of course, the answers aren't simple. Most people have heard the lectures and the begging and the pleading and the "it's your life--waste it in front of the tube if you want to" spiels, and there's not much more we can do. Hopefully, we can be understanding enough to help them to see just what they're missing in life, and just how things could be if they were to change their patterns of behavior. They're missing out on a lot in life, and many of them don't realize just what they're missing, because they've never experienced it. How can we motivate them? How can we show them just what their lives would be like if they were to take some risks, to act, to live their lives themselves rather than vicariously through entertainment media?

I don't know the answers to those questions, but I do know that if laziness is the determiner of your behavior, then you're missing out on much of what this beautiful world has to offer. Please take your place in the world and be a positive influence to others. Help to teach others of the beauty of living life and of being active in life, not the boredom and tedium of being lazy.

As a footnote, one of the greatest tragedies for me to witness is the effect of lazy parents on their children. I've seen many children growing up slovenly and lazy because they've learned the patterns from their parents. We need to be stronger role models to these kids than to some others--we need to let them see how much the world offers, and help them realize that they'll miss it all if they continue to emulate their parents. It's difficult, but for their sake, it's necessary.

25 February 2013

Negative Attitudes

A negative attitude is the result of many factors, but it's not an uncontrollable result. You do have a say in how your attitude is. Carry around a negative attitude and people will not want to be around you and may avoid you, thus adding to that never-ending circle. But show the world a positive attitude--even if that's not how you're feeling inside--and you'll start to see more positive things happening in your life, and soon that will be how you feel inside. Life's too short and beautiful to look at darkly and hopelessly, so do your best to see it brightly, and share that brightness with others, and you'll see how much of a change you'll go through. Nobody wants to see you be negative, but they also don't want to be dragged down, so they'll avoid you rather than help you. Please, be someone who lifts others up, not someone who drags others down.

20 February 2013

There's Something Wrong with Me!

So you've tried a few self-help books, trying to work your way through some of the problems that are in your life, and you've been astonished and dismayed to find out that most of them somehow make you feel worse!  Here's some woman or some man on a tape or in a book, giving you all sorts of wonderful advice on how to improve your life and make things better, and those upbeat and inspiring words are bringing you down.  It just doesn't make any sense at all--or does it?

I know from experience that trying to improve our lives by learning how to deal with life's curveballs and obstacles can be a rough road to follow.  Personally, I've had very positive programs that made a lot of sense to me act as a catalyst for depression, and I've spent many an awful day as a result of trying to learn more about what truly will make me happy.  As time has gone on and I've learned more, I've started to realize one of the main reasons for which this dynamic occurs, and here it is:

First of all, as soon as we start listening to a program that will help us to "improve" our lives, there's an obvious implication that we aren't doing something right, that there's something wrong with us.  After all, if there weren't anything wrong with us, why would we be listening to a self-improvement program?  While most of us are willing to admit that we aren't perfect and that we make mistakes, there's another aspect of who we are that doesn't want us to admit such a thing.  Many people refer to this part of our selves as our "false self," the part of us that's influenced by outside forces and that wants to please those forces.  

Once this false self gets the idea that we think there's something wrong with us, it goes into a defensive mode, trying to defend itself, for self-improvement is, in most ways, an attempt to dethrone this false self and to allow our true selves to live the lives they were meant to live.  And what's the most effective way to defend itself?  By drawing on those very feelings that make us feel that we need to improve our lives, by making us feel miserable and then blaming that misery on the very program we're listening to.

And how does it do this?  Through the negative self-talk that it's used so well for so long.  "What does she know about my life?"  "How can she tell me what to do to be happy--she doesn't even know me?"  "I'd like to think his advice is good, but he's so judgmental!"  "That may work for some people, but it wouldn't work for someone like me!"  "That's interesting, but it's so strange.  I've never heard anything like that before."  "Why is this guy telling me to change?  What's wrong with the way I am?"

You see, this false self doesn't want to change--it likes where it is, right there in charge of your life.  It can bring you down when it needs to by making you focus on petty, negative garbage, and it can keep you wondering why things never get better.  It can use feelings of self-righteousness, superiority, arrogance, selfishness -- all feelings that we intellectually despise -- to keep us down where it wants us.  It's afraid of change, for change means its end.

It's taken me years to figure out what's going on and how to work with it, and I'm definitely not completely there yet.  My personal false self is still quite strong, and it often keeps me feeling pretty low when there's no real reason for that.  But I am learning to recognize its voice, to take it for what it is, and to do my best to reject it as soon as I recognize it.  And it feels very good when I do so -- instinctively, I feel that I'm doing something right and advancing in my development as a person.

Deciding to improve oneself isn't a question of getting on a well paved highway and stepping on the gas and progressing at 150 miles and hour.  Not at all.  It's more like spying a beautiful clearing with a nice waterfall and gorgeous flowers and singing birds several miles away, and then seeing that between you and that clearing lie dark forests, fields of thorn bushes, people who want to stop you from reaching the clearing, wild beasts that are very hungry, and many more obstacles -- most created by the false self, who knows that it can't get to the clearing with you.  But the clearing is there, and it's waiting for you, and everyone can reach it if they just trust in their true selves and learn to recognize all that comes from their false selves.


14 February 2013

A nice essay from the late Louise Morganti Kaelin

Top Ten Principles to Live by--Plus One

Many years ago, inspired by Steven Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" I created a personal mission statement.  In order to fulfill that mission, I also developed a set of 'Operating Principles'.  I think of these operating principles as the yardsticks by which I know how closely I am living that mission.  Although these are very personal, I choose to share them hoping to inspire you to develop your own.

1.  I Recognize God in Everyone
I unconditionally love and accept others, and in so doing I unconditionally love and accept God and myself.  I respect, without judgment or reservation, the beliefs and decisions of others as well as their right to those beliefs and decisions.

2.  I Walk What I Talk
All of my actions are in harmony with my innermost beliefs and values.  I keep all commitments I make to myself and others.

3.  I Seek Excellence in All I Do
I approach every aspect of my life with the sincere desire to do the very best I can, using the appropriate combination of skills, talents and resources to produce superior results.

4.  I Inspire through Example
I use all of the love, talent and wisdom within me to maximize my potential and to experience life as a rich tapestry, full of love, joy, wonder, abundance and mystery.

5.  I Empower through Love
I use all the love, talent and wisdom within me to serve others by helping them uncover the wisdom, strength and power within themselves.  I give each person what they need in whatever form they are most comfortable receiving it.  I am able to impact ever-larger groups of people while maintaining time and space for me.

6.  I Alone Am Responsible for My Life
I gracefully accept the responsibility for everything present in my life today and graciously claim the power to create everything in my life tomorrow.  I employ my imagination, conscience, independent will and self-awareness to create a joyful, harmonious and integrated life.  I recognize my greatest power as being the freedom to choose, in every situation.  I consciously, proactively determine the best alternative and most appropriate response, basing my decisions on conscience educated by principles.

7.  I Embrace the Journey
I interpret all of life's experiences as opportunities for learning, growth and contribution.  I choose to move without faltering on an upward spiral of growth and change, improving continuously. I desire at all times to be free of limitation.

8.  I Honor My Spiritual Self
I am a clear and open channel for God's divine peace, love and light.  I carry the inner peace of being connected to God's abundance and energy into every moment of my life.

9.  I Honor My Physical Self
I am a radiant expression of God.  I am perfectly attuned to the needs of my body and joyously respond to those needs.  I nurture myself with healthy food, rest, exercise and relaxation. My life is full of grace, comfort and cleanliness.  I enjoy financial security.  I recognize that material abundance is a manifestation of the richness of my true self and does not represent a choice between having and being.

10.  I Honor My Emotional Self
In all relationships, I freely give and graciously receive love, nurturing and support.  Honesty is the cornerstone of all my relationships.  I enjoy a warm, loving relationship with a principle- centered person who cherishes me.  Our relationship is based on sharing, and choosing to share, our lives, our time and our space with each other.

11.  I Honor My Mental Self
I seek to constantly expand my knowledge and awareness of life by regular exposure to new thoughts, ideas, people and places.  I explore the world, joyously and without fear.
* * * * *
Louise Morganti Kaelin was a Life Success Coach who partnered with others to help them turn their dreams into reality.  She passed away in 2011.

11 February 2013

It's Your Life to Live

I love languages, and I love the ability we have to communicate simply by changing intonation.  I often look at sentences and think about the different implications involved in a simple shift in stress, a different way of pronouncing the same group of words.  The sentence that I'm using as a title to this column is one of the most important to me for quite a few reasons, no matter how we stress the words when we say it.

"It's YOUR life to live."  It's nobody else's life--we don't have to live to please others or to meet the expectations of others.  It's nice to want to meet those expectations sometimes, especially when we recognize that meeting them is in our own best interests, but we certainly aren't obligated to do so.  This is my life, and I have to do the things that I feel are right and best for me and for the people for whom I've freely accepted responsibility.  

For example, I have a wife and step-children, so I can't quit my job and go spend a year in the Grand Canyon, no matter how appealing that idea may be.  But even in the context of the family, I still must do what I feel is right and best for me.  In this case, I've accepted full responsibility for contributing to the well-being and support of my family, and it's in my best interests to live up to that responsibility and keep my word, for that's the type of person I am.  I can't pack up and go, nor do I wish to do so.

No matter what anyone else tries to convince me to do--enter this business, take this job, take these classes--I have to stay true to my vision of life and my conscience.  And since I'm fully aware of the implications of this way of being, I can't ask anyone else to do anything in their lives just because I think they should do it, or because I think it's what's best for them.  I have to tell them what I think and then back off and let go of all expectations, trusting that they'll do what's best or at least learn from mistakes.

"It's your LIFE to live."  You've heard it before--this isn't a dress rehearsal.  This isn't even opening night, with many more performances in the future.  This is the real thing, every minute of every day.  It's your LIFE.  It's an awe-inspiring thought for me--we've been given this wonderful gift of life, and we're living it every day, if we choose to do so.

We've all been given a wonderful opportunity to shape and craft this life we've been given into something useful, artistic, helpful, loving, magnificent.  But most of us get caught up in tasks--things to do and people to see and deadlines and contracts.  We forget to keep in mind that if we choose to do so, we can spend some of our time learning about LIFE, learning how to create a happy life with love and peace and hope.  I heard a wonderful short story on a tape program that I have--a preacher was driving on a country road when he came upon a beautiful small farm--tall rows of corn, produce gardens, a beautiful house--everything you could imagine in a small farm.  Spying the farmer, he approached him and exclaimed, "What a beautiful piece of land you have here!  God definitely has blessed you with a wonderful farm and a bountiful harvest!"  The farmer looked around himself and said, "Yes, I definitely am blessed with what I have, but you should have seen this piece of land when God had it to himself!"

"It's your life to LIVE."  A frightening thought--the absence of life in an organism that's been alive is death.  If you're not living, if there's an absence of life in your day-to-day routines, does that mean that you're dead?  In the film Harold and Maude, Maude, a 79-year-old woman who lives her life as fully as possible, tells Harold, an 18-year-old who's obsessed with death, that "A lot of people enjoy being dead.  But they're not dead really--they're just backing away from life."

Are you living your life, or are you existing?  Have you ever sat down and written out your goals and then worked to try to attain them, or do you just hang around and wait to see what each day will bring you?  Do you come home and do stuff you love to do, or do you just turn on the television set and let it "entertain" you while you sit there passive, not moving forward or adding to the value of your life?  Or are you so caught up in your 70-hour-a-week work life that there's no time for reading to your kids, for taking walks with your family, for writing letters to loved ones, for working on the hobby that you love so much but which you've been neglecting for so long?

It's YOUR LIFE to LIVE.  It's a beautiful thought, one full of awesome and glorious potential!

04 February 2013

How busy are we?

A few years ago, on a liner bound for Europe, I was browsing in the library when I came across a puzzling line by Robert Louis Stevenson: "Extreme busyness, whether at school, kirk, or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality." Surely, I thought, "deficient" is a mistake--he must have meant "abundant." But R.L.S. went merrily on, "It is no good speaking to such folk: they can not be idle, their nature is not generous enough."

Was it possible that a bustling display of energy might only be a camouflage for a spiritual vacuum? The thought so impressed me that I mentioned it next day to the French purser, at whose table I was sitting. He nodded his agreement. "Stevenson is right," he said. "Indeed, if you will pardon my saying so, the idea applies particularly to you Americans. A lot of your countrymen keep so busy getting things done that they reach the end of their lives without ever having lived at all."

Arthur Gordon