Caution: Life is Habit-Forming

Caution: Life is Habit-Forming

Days 33-36

Lent 2019

 

In this series entitled Lent 2019 we have been discussing self-knowledge.  Knowledge that is not used serves no purpose so what should we do with our knowledge?  The best answer I know is to use our knowledge of the world and ourselves to form good and positive habits. 

 

The American Journal of Psychology (1903) defines a habit as “A habit, from the standpoint of psychology, is a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience.”  Yikes!  That definition doesn’t leave much room for growth of thought.

 

Habits are simply those behaviors that we do routinely, often without conscious thought.  They are not responses we necessarily were born with but they have by virtue of repetition become automatic responses to repetitive stimuli.  Habits can be either good or not helpful.  Many people automatically smoke a cigarette after eating a meal.  They certainly were not born doing that.  An example of a good habit is washing one’s hands after using the restroom or before preparing food or eating.

 

Writer Charles Duhigg published a book several years ago entitled “The Power of Habit”.  In it he explored the science of habits and how marketing specialists use the steps in acquiring a habit to advertise and convince us to make purchases of their products.

 

While I might not like the above-mentioned definition of a habit in American Journal of Psychology, one cannot deny the psychology of forming habits.   Each habit we have begins with what is called the “habit loop”.  This is a three-step process and every habit we have developed went through all three steps.

 

 

First there is the cue or trigger.  Then there is the actual behavior or habit itself.  Then there is the reward which is how our brains remember the behavior.   Habits are formed in the basal ganglia, that section of our brain that also handles and controls emotions, memories, and – no surprise – pattern recognition.  A habit is a pattern we create because of the reward we receive.

 

Decisions are from a different part of our brains, the prefrontal cortex.  Whenever a behavior becomes a habit, we no longer need a decision to make it and the prefrontal cortex decision-making section can take it easy.  “In fact, the brain starts working less and less,” says Duhigg. “The brain can almost completely shut down. … And this is a real advantage, because it means you have all of this mental activity you can devote to something else.”

 

The modern way of describing this is to say you are able to “multitask”.  In other words, because frying eggs is a habit, you can talk while cooking; you can open a door or water your garden while dialing your phone.  “You can do these complex behaviors without being mentally aware of it at all,” Duhigg writes. “And that’s because of the capacity of our basal ganglia: to take a behavior and turn it into an automatic routine.”

 

A change of scenery can change that behavior, however.  People might park a certain way every day at the office but when they go on vacation, how they park will change because their location and environment is different.

 

Even what we hear can make a difference in our habits.  Sometimes we fail to realize that improving our self-knowledge might be a phrase often heard in real estate – location, location, location.  The people with which we associate as well as the environment in which “hang out” does and will have a great impact on our habits.

 

Conor Neill, an instructor at the University of Navarre in Barcelona, Spain, developed a list of personal habits he felt were necessary for personal success.  They included Goal Setting (Dreams to Goals to Actions); Time Management; Fit Mind and Body; Personal Vision (What on Earth am I here for?); ; Integrity – build trust; Personal Finances – getting them in order; Good Social Life; Strong Relationships (with partner, family and kids); Resilience (head in the sky, feet on the ground); Self-Motivation; Self-Acceptance ; Fun; Attracting and Using Mentors and Advisors; Being Open to and Seeking Coaching; Giving with Intention; Inspiring Others – gets others to do stuff; Reflection – setting aside time for reflection.

 

Some of these are things we have spent time discussing in this blog while growing a better self, a garden of spirit and soul through past Lenten seasons.  They are worth noting and discussing again because habits help define who we are.  Most of us can remember an adult that was influential throughout our lives and probably one of the characteristics we really remember about this person was a habit of theirs. 

 

The great thing about habits is that when one becomes unsuccessful for us, we can change it.  They are not cast in stone.  Life is about adapting because no two days are going to be exactly the same.  Too often we expect perfection of ourselves and we expect in instantly.  Life is a process.  When we allow ourselves time to develop and determine what works for us and what should become a habit, then we reap the harvest and reward of a life lived with intention, a life well-lived.

 

Living Lent with Purpose

Living Lent with Purpose

Days 30-32

Lent 2019

 

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday.  Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word “lencten”, which means “spring”.  Lent is a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego. This event is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic Churches. Some Anabaptist and evangelical churches also observe the Lenten season.

 

Spring is the period of time between the vernal equinox, which falls around March 21 each year, and the summer solstice, which takes place every year on or around June 21.  Spring is one of the four temperate seasons, following winter and preceding summer. There are various technical definitions of spring, but local usage of the term varies according to local climate, cultures and customs. When it is spring in the Northern Hemisphere, it is autumn in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa. At the spring equinox, days and nights are approximately twelve hours long, with day length increasing and night length decreasing as the season progresses. 

 

Two methods are most commonly used to define the dates of the seasons: the astronomical definition and the meteorological definition.  According to the meteorological definition, the seasons begin on the first day of the months that include the equinoxes and solstices: spring runs from March 1 to May 31; summer runs from June 1 to August 31; fall (autumn) runs from September 1 to November 30; and winter runs from December 1 to February 28 (February 29 in a leap year). 

 

The question which definition to use divides countries and regions around the world. For example, Australia and New Zealand use the meteorological definition, so spring begins on September 1 each year. In many other countries, both definitions are used, depending on the context.  Ireland uses an ancient Celtic calendar system to determine the seasons, so spring begins on St Brigid’s Day on February 1st. Some cultures, especially those in South Asia have calendars that divide the year into six seasons, instead of the four that most of us are familiar with.  In Finland and Sweden, the dates of the seasons are not based on the calendar at all, but on temperatures. Here, spring officially begins when the average temperature rises above 0 °C (32 °F). This means that the seasons within each county start and end on different dates, depending on the regions and their climate.

 

Seth Adam Smith wrote “Our lives are a journey. As we move forward, we will not only figuratively experience the geography of life: the exhilaration of high mountains, the tranquility of calm meadows, the isolation of treacherous canyons, but we will also experience the seasons of life: the hope of spring, the abundance of summer, the harvest of autumn, and yes, the darkness and depression of winter.”

 

In the book “Voyage to happiness”, Sanchita Pandey penned “Even nature has hidden lessons for mankind underneath its silent saga. The trees teach us to give without discrimination, the seasons proclaim that time keeps changing for the better and the vastness of the sky bears the amount of love we should hold in our hearts for everyone we come across throughout the day.”

 

In “The Seasons of Life” by Jim Rohn , the author parallels life and the changing seasons speaking of the importance in realizing that the seasons will change without fail and in what we can do to utilize each seasons to get the greatest rewards. It is basically based on the parable of the sower and the reaper: What to do in one season, to ensure success in another season; great for those who are going thru difficult times personally or financially, because it helps them see that this “winter” in their life will eventually give way to “”spring”.

 

Lent is often considered a time to sacrifice and it can be when that which is sacrificed has true meaning.  Others see it as a time for improvement.  Spring is a time of rebirth while, in the southern hemisphere it is a time for putting things to rest.  Perhaps the Lenten season is really both of those things – a time for new beginnings and a time of saying goodbye to things no longer needed.  Most of us hang on to beliefs and griefs far too long and are hesitant to try new things.  Perhaps Lent is the time for laying to rest the past and embracing the future.

 

If you are reading this, then you awoke this morning.  That is a simple fact but sometimes we need to be reminded of that.  We are present in today and we need to honor that with purpose.  We need to wake ourselves up and live the next twenty-three hours and fifty-nine minutes with intention, making those minutes and hours have a purpose.  Then our faith will have meaning, our living will bear fruit, and our Lenten season will bear witness to a brighter tomorrow.  When we truly live the purpose of Lent we will experience an Easter within our soul. 

 

Somewhere on Easter Sunday a small child will find a hidden egg and open it, marveling at the mystery of life and the joy of discovery.  May we all experience such a magical introduction to tomorrow.  That, perhaps, is the true meaning of Lent – not a time of sacrifice or self-denial but the first step on the true adventure of living a life of faith, joyfully and with confidence and intention in tomorrow.

That “E” Word

That “E” Word

Day 28

Lent  2019

 

I once went to a training seminar and the speaker introduced the next discussion topic by saying “Next we will discuss that hated “E” word.”  Most people guessed he meant education but the topic was evangelism.  “Whoa” everyone reacted.  We were not there to pass out tracts on some street corner nor walk around proclaiming the world’s end was near.  You might be thinking the exact thing right now.

 

I know what you’re thinking…Evangelism?  What does that have to do with mindfulness, better living (for those not interested in evangelical beliefs) and growing a better self?  In a word – harvest.  That which we reap from our being is our evangelism to the world.  Recently I heard a talk in which the speaker accurately portrayed the shunning many have for this word “evangelism”.  Evangel is the root of the word evangelism and while, like many words, it has had its metamorphoses throughout time, it means to “announce”.  For us today, in this context, it means how we are seen and heard.

 

Evangelism became the property of Christians when they began to define the word to mean the good news or gospel.  This occurred sometime in the mid 1600’s and still relates to the original meaning.  The speaker I heard said we needed a new word, a different synonym for the word “evangelism” that was less frightening and less denomination specific.  Some suggested “practice” while others simply wanted to forget the word existed at all.  It is a word that ranks in the lower forty percent of all words so clearly others would like to ignore it as well.

 

The problem is that we cannot ignore our personal evangelism.  It is how others see us and hear us and it is not based just on our appearance but more importantly on our actions.  This blog is not just for Christians nor is it devoid of spirituality.  We are discussing evangelism today because I firmly believe that evangelism is not the property of the faithful, any faithful.  I believe evangelism is dialogue and we all have that every day.

 

Adam S. McHugh wrote a book about introverts in today’s culture of extroverts.  “The verbal tool… is not confrontation or preaching but dialogue.  We subject ourselves to the same questions we pose to others, and as we traverse them together, we may arrive at surprising conclusions we could never have reached when simply trying to defeat one another’s logic.  The process is more important than an immediate decision.”  When we engage in dialogue, whether of the voice or of actions, we are participating in evangelism and sharing who and what we are.

 

Each day we live we “grow” our self-worth.  Every hour we live we should “water” that self-worth by increasing our knowledge, gaining understanding of self as well as wisdom for encouraging dialogue with others.   The biggest stop sign we have in our communion with others is fear.  We may think of it as hesitancy but it is fear, fear that we don’t really know how to proceed.

 

I really wish I could give you an owner’s manual for life but there just is not one.  Hindsight is definitely easier than trying to predict the future.  I have a notepad that states “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”  How do we create the future?  That is also not a certainty but we can have a better chance at creating a good future if we live what we seek.  If we want a more peaceful world, we have to live peacefully.  If we want a better environment, we have to be better stewards of our natural resources.  We have to learn from the past, practice in the present, and believe in the future.

 

Gardeners do just that when planting their gardens.  After all, it takes hope and faith in the future when planting a garden.  A successful gardener learns from past years and evaluates what worked and brought about a better yield.  They then apply those lessons to the current crop, believing in the potential of future harvests.  We should do that with ourselves and yet…we seldom do.

 

We need to plant our feet firmly in evangelistic soil, the territory of good news and positive thinking.  We all have had those “oops!” moments.  We all have had a time we stumbled or bumbled our way through something.  What we need to do is remember we are growing each and every day in the soil of those goofs.  Our very being here on earth is a story of hope.  We are the living embodiment of potential and survival.  That minute of great embarrassment or failure or even grief has already become history.  It is now evidence of survival and provides the seed for tomorrow’s success.

 

The best knowledge we can remember is that we are always growing.  For me the best synonym for evangelism is presence.  We need to always be present in our living, practicing what we believe and remembering that life is a learning experience.  When we are truly present in our living, then we will share the good news of our beliefs and our being, the presence of life itself. 

 

 

A Relevant, Relatable Life

A Relevant, Relatable Life

Day 20

Lent 2019

 

Not having been there at the time the Beatitudes were originally said, I do not know for sure why they were ever spoken.  However, I think it safe to surmise that they were felt to be pertinent and important for the audience to hear.  While they were uttered almost two thousand years ago, I do think they are still relatable.  Today, I am reposting a guest post, written by a college student several years ago.  In it this student explains why the Beatitudes are just as pertinent today as when they were first spoken.  Life was messy then.  Life is messy now, regardless of who we are, just as it was when I first posted this and when the Beatitudes were written.

 

“Sometimes I just can’t relate to the Bible. To be clear, I like the Bible. The stories are engaging, scandalous, and funny (well, if you can decipher 1st century humor), with good morals and memorable characters. So while I do like the Bible, I don’t always feel like I can relate to it. I have little in common with the authors: kings and prophets sent to inspire the masses with divine intervention when things got rough. I don’t know about you, but I’m no prophet.

 

“So while I do like the Bible, often when I read it I do so as though I would read a novel about Afghanistan or an article about outer space: an interesting story about a different world that I will never see. The story may be real, but it is very far away, the people are not like me, and the surroundings are not familiar—while I may have sympathy, I cannot have empathy. It is like a news report that I read, murmur a judgment on, and discard, already forgotten, as I move on to the next. However, in today’s passage from Psalm 44, the saints and martyrs with whom I have nothing in common are gone. In their place is a scared, lonely, confused individual, someone who is struggling to understand why God is so silent while they are suffering. This is a very human passage written by a very vulnerable human. This is a passage I can relate to.

 

“Lent is a funny time, but it is necessary. We spend so much of our lives pretending that everything’s okay, masking our pain and confusion, thinking that everyone else seems to have life figured out, so we should, too. However, I believe that it is in being truly vulnerable that we find our greatest strength. It is in letting others see just how scared, lonely, and confused we really are that we allow them to do the same. Once we let each other in behind the walls of confidence and brave faces only then can we truly begin to build each other up, to rely on each other. If you get a chance these next 40 days of Lent, be vulnerable. It’s scary, and uncomfortable, and takes far more faith than you would imagine. It’s what Lent is all about. Be vulnerable. After all, isn’t that something we can all relate to?”

 

Often in our daily living we try to pretend we are not vulnerable.  It is that very vulnerability, though, that makes us relatable and relevant to one another.  Nobody has a perfect life because… well, no one is perfect.  We all go through our daily chores and interests stumbling at times.  Like I said in the introduction today, life is messy.  It always has been and probably will be forever.

 

I think the Beatitudes are pertinent because they are words we can all relate to and understand.  They speak of misery, of pain, of unfulfilled goals and yet, within each of those things, there is hope and a reason to forge ahead through life’s messes.  Few of us are kings or queens and even fewer prophets and yet, we all get scared, lonely, discouraged.  By keeping our faith and focus on living a generous and compassionate life, we can find the strength to carry on with our living and discover success.  More on the treasure hunt of life in the next post.  Until then, be vulnerable.  It helps us relate one to another and live the best we can.  It is something we all find relatable.

 

From Victim to Victorious

From Victim to Victorious
Day 19
Lent 2019

Often to invading armies, the residents of the lands to be occupied are portrayed as potential enemies. They almost always are deemed to be threats to the continued existence of whatever regime has ordered the attack. The Romans probably had little idea of who they were conquering when they invaded Britain and Ireland. The Celtic and Druid culture centered on their pagan gods and goddesses and magic was an integral part of their beliefs, a magic that the Romans believed came not from good but evil. The Romans destroyed the Celtic and Druids’ religious sites and when Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, many Britons converted.

It was to this culture that a child named Patrick was born. He was born a Roman citizen to parents Conchessa and Calpurnius. The Roman Empire extended from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean and his home was not near Rome but in the Roman British lands. As a young teen he was kidnapped and forced into child labor by pirates. The life was hard and unfair – the makings for a deep need to extract violence as payback. The exact location is disputed but we know he was an aristocrat, his family second-generation Christians. Patrick was well educated. One fateful day he and his father’s servants were taken prisoner and his life changed dramatically. In an instant he went from living a life of luxury to that of servitude and despair.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the kingdom.” The first Beatitude seems contradictory and, let’s face it, a bit defeatist. Do I have to be in dire straits to win the prize? Certainly the millions who purchase lottery tickets might argue with that reasoning since seldom do any win. I know of no other human living or deceased whose life portrays this Beatitude better than that of Patrick, the saint whose day was celebrated earlier this month.

It is said that Patrick believed “If I have any worth, it is to live my life, so as to teach these peoples, even though some of them still look down on me.” His life is often celebrated worldwide with the wearing of green, symbolic of the country from which the pirates who enslaved him sailed and the country to which he returned to share his faith and spirituality.

Patrick wrote that he saw his escape in a dream and he did indeed escape and return to his family. He did remain in Britain, however. He would return to minister to the Irish and to share his creed for living. His life remains shrouded in mystery with many things attributed to him, including the banishment of all snakes from Ireland. What is known is that in the midst of his troubles and captivity, Patrick found solace in his beliefs and faith. “I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me: God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s host to secure me against snares of devils, against temptations of vices, against inclinations of nature, against everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.”

You might argue that someone with such conviction was never truly “poor in spirit” and I would understand that interpretation. I would offer, nonetheless, that there were days in which Patrick sorely felt downtrodden and exhausted and in that, his physical spirit did indeed seem poor. We need to recognize that we all have those days. We also need to recognize that other people have them, too.

Patrick of Ireland, as St Patrick is often known, serves to represent to me a living testament of how, although we might be victims of another’s cause, we alone control the effect it has on us. The man known as Saint Patrick, in whose honor many have celebrated with parades and parties, wanted us all to find strength in our faith and beliefs, not mugs of beer. We truly inherit the kingdom when we live with assurance and generosity to all. We also make our own environment by how we react with positivity. We all are victims, at one time or another, of something beyond our control. With conviction, though, we can write a life story that, like Patrick’s, will be victorious, not just for ourselves but for others. When terror strikes the world, it challenges our sense of security.

Value, Love, Intent

Value, Love, Intent

Day Four-Five

Lent 2019

 

What is the value of a human being?  Most cultures in the world, historically and those existing in the period we call now have been at some point in time enslaved.  This is inevitable when kingdoms overtake others, when greed propels mankind into “owning” as much as is possible.  During those periods of enslavement, humans have become commodities.  We may think we live in modern times with enlightened minds but people are still being sold as if they were a loaf of bread.  This is most especially true for females and children.

 

The general assessment for a human life has, for a number of years, been placed at somewhere around five million dollars.  Generally speaking, the cost of life or a life’s potency is the value assigned to a specific living organism based upon the preventative cost of said organism’s death.  However, this determined number is not exact and open to controversy.  For example, the Environmental Pollution Agency or EPA puts the value of a human life at $9.1 million dollars while the Food and Drug Administration or FDA places it at $7.9 million.

 

What I find troubling in all of this is first of all, we base the value of living upon the cost to avoid death.  No consideration is given to what that life might accomplish or the love it will share, spread, or encourage.  The algorithm is solely based upon the cost to society to sustain that life and the life’s contribution to society has no value in the algorithm.  The second troubling issue to me is that very few would or could even pay the five million dollars for someone.  Most people hesitate to donate five dollars to the homeless and yet, it will cost them over five million and maybe up to nine million dollars to keep that person from dying.

 

A reasonably well and mentally healthy person will like being alive.  Hopefully, we all love life but life can be messy and at times complicated.  Most of us love being alive but realize it comes with issues, complications, hurdles to clear, and bumps to survive.  Those alive have families.  After all, none of us was born by spontaneous combustion; we all had at the initial beginning, a mother and a father.  To some the value of a family member is great; to others, negotiable.  Sadly, the core of domestic violence is the fact that one person becomes more valuable and believes they have the power to do anything, no matter how harmful or criminal.

 

“You can’t simply say that every life is infinitely valuable,” said John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University whose work focuses on national security and risk analysis. “That’s just not the way the world operates.”  Mueller is the one, by the way, who arrived at the five million dollar amount for the value of a human being.

 

There are times, other than slavery, when the value of a human life becomes a matter for the courts.  After the terrorist attacks on the two World Trade Towers, monetary appropriations were given to the victims’ families.  Washington attorney Kenneth Feinberg managed the compensation funding for victims’ families of the September 11, 2001 attacks.  Using an algorithm determined by the courts and Congress, Feinberg wrote checks based upon the denied future of the victims.  This meant that a secretary’s family was paid less than a banker’s family, even though the contribution to the family of a mother is arguably more than that of a father who was only home six hours out of every twenty-four.  The same was true for the firefighters and policemen who rushed in to help and were killed for their heroic efforts.  Their salaries were much less than the insurance analysts so their life had less “value” although most had saved lives for several if not many years.

 

Feinberg has very definite opinions about the value of human life.  “In the case of Sept. 11, if there is a next time, and Congress again decides to award public compensation, I hope the law will declare that all life should be treated the same. Courtrooms, judges, lawyers and juries are not the answer when it comes to public compensation. I have resolved my personal conflict and have learned a valuable lesson at the same time. I believe that public compensation should avoid financial distinctions which only fuel the hurt and grief of the survivors. I believe all lives should be treated the same.”

 

We’ve discussed authenticity and accountability but it really all boils down to how honest we are with ourselves.  How truthful are we about ourselves when we are alone and no one is listening or watching?  One of the best things about our pets is their authenticity.  I really doubt my dog wants to be a cat and my cats – well, they are convinced they are at the top of the animal chain of command.  Why would they want to be something else?

 

Because they are authentic, our pets give us unconditional love.  It really is just that simple.  To be authentic has been called a “primal urge”.  Did Neanderthal man want something better than himself?  Well, yeah.  That is why we have made strides in living and why we no longer live in caves and eat raw food.  I honestly am not so sure that being authentic is a primal urge.  I just think animals are comfortable in their own skin and realize that they need to get living as what they are right before taking on something else.  In that way, they are smarter than we are.

 

We’ve all heard the phrase “Practice what you preach” ad infinitum and ad nausea.  What we sometimes fail to grasp is that we need to do it for ourselves in order to gain self-knowledge.  We need to live with intention in order to gain a better self, grow a better version of ourselves.  We need to continually and constantly update ourselves to stay current and effective in our own lives.

 

Lent is a time for intentional living.  You can just be true to yourself and then live with intention.  Oscar Wilde once said “Most people are other people.  Their thoughts are someone else’s opinion; their lives a mimicry; their passions a quotation.”  Live YOUR life today. Be yourself.  Walk your own path to personal fulfillment.  Let the voice you hear be YOUR voice.  I bet it’s gonna be beautiful!

 

During Lent we often engage in discussions of love and self-love.  Lent is a liturgical season for talking about “growing” ourselves.  Love is certainly the fertilizer and food that enables that process.  Our first step has been to discuss self-worth.  Your life has value, probably ten times any number that an algorithm can determine.  However, if we do not love ourselves and allow ourselves to be loved, then we are killing our garden before it has a chance to blossom.  I hope today you will love yourself today and have faith in the value of your living.

 

 

 

 

Engage and Touch

Engage and Touch

Day Two & Three

Lent 2018

 

I am a reader (and that is an understatement!) and as such, I connect with some of my favorite authors via social media.  I have always found the struggle they discuss to name a book interesting.  I never really understood the struggle they faced to find a title; that is, I never understood it until now.  In writing these posts I usually begin with a title and then elaborate on that title in the body of my work.  For example:  This post is part of a subset within a series.  It comes following a post discussing self-worth.  Its subject matter is supposed to illustrate how we use our perceived self-worth.  In other words, how we feel about ourselves determines how we act, how we engage others in our lives and the “touch” we make and leave on another.

 

I firmly and completely believe that the most important things we will ever do in our lives are primarily centered on how we treat people.  What we do is based on what we believe we can do.  Before we attempt anything, we must first believe it is possible and that we can achieve it.  The title above, “Engagement and Touch” seemed both timely and on topic as well as self-explanatory.  It met all of the criteria of a title and yet, I did not really like it.  Why?  I guess because I thought a better title would be that which describes what stops us from engaging with others and making a difference, touching others with our own self-worth.  However, this is the title I finally decided upon using.

 

When we feel good about ourselves, we feel powerful and capable.  The explorer is willing to begin the journey because he/she feels capable of surviving whatever may come.  A scientist is willing to work the experiment because he/she understands the process and the value in both success and unexpected results.  The carpenter understands the wood and his/her tools and that confidence builds and transforms a block of wood into a work of artistry.  The physician trusts his training and experience and so has no problem opening up one of the most complex systems known to man, the human body.

 

It is in living, though, that the real challenge comes into play – the challenge to live a good life.  We must reach out to “touch” our neighbors on this planet.  Sometimes that “touch” is a figurative touch that offers support and sometimes it is a literal touch that provides comfort.  It should never be a harmful or painful touch.  We do not fully live until we are engaged in living.

 

The Reverend Russell H. Conwell was once the minister at Grace Baptist Temple in Philadelphia, PA over a century ago.  The church at that time met in a cramped building and often more people came than could fit in the space available.  There were always more children who wanted to attend the Sunday School than the space could accommodate.  One of the children who often was left in the crowd outside was Hattie May Wiatt.  The Rev Conwell visited Hattie and her family at their home one day as a means of apology for their being unable to gain admittance to services.  During the visit he described his hope for raising funds to construct a building large enough for everyone.

 

Hattie May applauded this dream of a place where children could go to learn, the future Temple Sunday School.  She secretly began saving what pennies she could and looked forward to seeing the minister’s vision become reality.  Unfortunately, Hattie became ill and passed away.  The family gave the Rev Conwell a handmade purse they found among Hattie’s things.  Inside were fifty-seven pennies and a note: “To help build Temple Sunday School so more children can go.”  Rev Conwell showed his congregation Hattie’s fifty-seven pennies and asked them to believe as Hattie had.  Touched by the little girls’ endeavors, the congregation became engaged in the vision of a new building.  Hattie’s original fifty-seven pennies were sold.  Her fifty-seven cents became two hundred and fifty dollars.  The congregation took that money, converted it into pennies, and sold them.  They purchased land next door and the subsequent engagement of the congregation became not only a new church but the seed money for Temple University’s Hospital and School of Medicine.  Hattie believed in her own self-worth and that of Rev Conwell.  Look at what that positive self-worth accomplished and continues to accomplish today!

 

So why don’t we all make such great efforts?  Why my dilemma with the title of this post?  The answers are just one word…Doubt.  Doubt is our over-thinking; our enemy that manifests itself as worry.  Doubt is not a new human condition.  Buddha offered advice about it between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE.  “There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt.  Doubt separates people.  It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations.  It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.”

 

Today I invite you to take five minutes and list your most pleasant memory and then your happiest activity.  Each of those required skills.  Focus on those skills and talents and realize that they are things you have.  Celebrate that, please.  I am pretty certain you probably have another great memory or activity with even more skills.  Recognizing those increases and helps build your own self-worth.   You have much to offer and the world is waiting for you to offer.  We need you!  Turn your back on doubt.  It serves no purpose.  Focus on the positive and let your self-worth be the seed currency for a better you.  Engaging in life and touching the lives of others helps us grow and flourish.  Remember, we do not fully live until we are engaged in living.