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A Blog About Life

This is the post excerpt.

To most people, life is an enigma… an eternal mystery… an unsolvable puzzle. Ninety eight percent of the time, I’m one of those people. However, every now and then, God speaks to me. He seems to whisper things like, “Hey, Joel! Straighten up and fly right!” More often than not, though, I realize that I drifted off to sleep listening to my Nat King Cole station on Pandora, so it may not have been God directly talking to me.

So why, you may wonder, am I qualified to write a blog on life? Well, first of all, I’m a journalist and freelance writer — I’ve made my living as a writer since 1983 — so I that gives me some sort of literary license. It’s not exactly a document I can frame and hang on my wall, but it’s more of an “inner knowing” that, on any given day, I have the ability to construct a series of coherent sentences that almost always make sense and that don’t sound like the ramblings of a deranged madman!

The thing about writing a blog about “life” — a rather wide open topic — is that the only parameters are self imposed. The down side of that is that it’s all-too easy to go off on tangents, as if I was Robin Williams writing blog posts from that great standup stage in the sky.

However, it is my goal in life (and as a blog writer) to continually exercise my self-editing muscles. It’s not easy and it takes a lot of persistence and tenacity, but as many great philosophers, spiritual leaders, and successful entrepreneurs will tell you, “Before you can control the outer conditions of your life, you must first master your inner self.”

One of my core beliefs, which was inspired by the writings of Dr. Wayne Dyer, is that “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” It sounds counter-intuitive — as does the title of one of his books, “You’ll See it When You Believe It” — but sometimes the only way to produce positive change in your life is to look at your world through a different lens, and then be ready and willing to make adjustments based on that revised perspective.

That’s the daily challenge we all face.

How to Clear Your Mind of Negative Thoughts

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Everyone has negative thoughts from time to time, but some people battle them on an almost constant basis. If you happen to be in the second category (or anywhere near it) it’s probably necessary to seek out the help of a competent mental health professional. Sometimes you just need outside help to understand where all your negativity is coming from and how to curtail it.

My experience in controlling negative thoughts and cultivating positive ones is based purely on self reflection, trial and error, and reading inspirational books that helped fuel my optimism, self belief, resourcefulness, and positivity.

Thought Patterns

Perhaps the first step to improving the quality of your thoughts is to realize that thoughts are the building blocks of your life and that it’s possible to control them. Whether your thoughts tend to be positive or negative (construction or destructive) depends on how you perceive yourself, how you tend to react to people and situations in your environment, and the thought habits you’ve developed over time.

Thoughts that you think repeatedly tend to reinforce themselves and become stronger. That, of course, can work for you or against you. Becoming consciously aware of how you communicate with yourself, both out loud and silently, is another key step to overcoming negative thinking and becoming a more positive person.

Why Think Positive Thoughts?

Question: What are the benefits of becoming a more positive person? That’s a good question to ask yourself before proceeding any further. What’s in it for you?

The benefits are innumerable and are often life changing! In a nutshell, improving the quality of your thoughts can drastically improve your relationship with yourself and others. It can also help you become a more productive, effective, and organized human being. If you focus on positive thoughts every day, several times a day, your new thought patterns will boost your chances for attaining more happiness, financial success, inner peace, self acceptance, and love.

Becoming a more positive person is worthy of your time and continued effort.

While there is no panacea (that I know of) for instantly getting rid of negative thoughts and consistently replacing them with happy thoughts, here are a few suggestions, ideas, and personal development resources that I hope you’ll find helpful:

  • Practicing gratitude, which is also known as “counting your blessings,” can be a very effective way to lift your state of mind, improve your mood, and give yourself a heightening sense of well-being. There are a lot of books, free articles, and inspirational videos online that can provide you with specific techniques for listing and dwelling on things in your life to be thankful for and appreciative of.
  • Positive affirmations are statements you can write, say, listen to, or read that help make you feel more confident, optimistic, determined, talented, comforted, peaceful, loved, or motivated. (Note: Once you become aware of how you’re talking to and about yourself, you can begin replacing negative statements about yourself with positive ones. When it comes to self esteem and happiness, one of the worst things people do is to put themselves down and berate themselves — both mentally and when talking to others.)
  • Give yourself credit when credit is due! When you accomplish something, handle a situation effectively, create something worthwhile, help another human being in need, or make progress in some area of your life, you deserve to recognize that in your own mind. You might even want to reward yourself in some way or, at least, acknowledge and congratulate yourself in a written journal.
  • Identify and eliminate self-defeating beliefs and negative habits. In some cases, you may be holding yourself back in life by believing negative things about yourself which are either untrue or no longer true. If you take an inventory of all your self–imposed limitations and try to shine an objective light on them, you might be surprised at how many of them have no basis in truth or reality.
  • Seek support from others: To the extent possible, spend time with supportive and nurturing friends, family, and “significant others” who make you feel loved, appreciated, and special. It’s nourishment for your soul and self esteem.
  • Read inspiring books by Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Jack Canfield, Esther and Jerry Hicks, Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Joseph Murphy, Robert Collier, Debbie Ford, Russ Harris, Og Mandino, Robert Holden, Wallace D. Wattles, Charles F. Haanel, Maxwell Maltz, and many others. There is no shortage of worthwhile, inspirational books, and coaching programs that can help you became a more positive, joyful, motivated, accomplished, focused, and peaceful person. For many people, the Bible is a source of inspiration and renewal. My favorite biblical quote is “Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you.”
  • Exercise: If your doctor says it’s okay, then get yourself started on a regular exercise program — preferably with a friend or partner (You’ll stand a greater chance of sticking with it if you have someone who will hold you accountable… and vice versa!) Exercise is a proven way to reduce stress, clear your mind, infuse yourself with positive energy, and give yourself a feeling of having more control over your life.
  • Meditation and prayer: We all have a connection to a a life force — a source of energy, creativity, and love — that’s much bigger and more powerful than our individual selves. The famous “Serenity Prayer” written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) is an excellent one to reflect on, every now and then: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Note: These suggestions and ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to realizing your potential and overcoming negativity. If you want to take concrete action to achieve personal transformation, then consider a six-week coaching program offered by three leaders in the science of success and mental mastery.*

Allowing negative thoughts to wither away through disuse and redirected attention can help clear the way for positive thoughts to thrive. Being positive, happy, and optimistic is your natural state of being. The challenge is to eliminate or reduce all the mental clutter and “baggage” that is standing in the way of realizing your potential and enjoying life more.

When you find a way to feel good about yourself and your prospects in life, you instantly become more attractive and likeable to other people. By radiating genuine enthusiasm and positive energy, people are often drawn to you and, in many cases, are inspired to help you, hire you, befriend you, cooperate with you, follow your lead, encourage you, and/or collaborate with you.

So how do you get rid of unwanted thoughts and cultivate positive, life-affirming, motivating thoughts?

The short answer is: It’s a process and it requires a strong sense of personal commitment and follow-through.

I’m reminded of an old joke (or maybe it’s a riddle) you may have heard before :

“How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?”

The answer is “Just one, but the light bulb really has to want to change!”

Thanks for checking out my blog. Stay tuned for more thoughts, reflections, and observations on life in coming weeks!

–Joel

F.Y.I.: This blog features links to self-improvement books, online courses, and  other educational materials for which I am a compensated affiliate.

Things to Do For Good Luck

I believe that “luck” is just a concept that has little or no basis in reality. I will admit that some people do seem to be in the right place at the right time, but I don’t think they’re in possession of some magical quality that attracts good fortune.

In all probability, they were the fortunate beneficiary of random circumstances that worked in their favor. But isn’t that what’s commonly referred to as “good luck?” Hmm. Well, I suppose… but the word “luck” is just a label that’s rooted in superstition, wishful thinking, and childhood fantasies. When we’re kids, we’re told that different objects have the power to bring us good luck: a shiny penny, a four-leaf clover, or a rabbit’s foot. Magic, secret places, and buried treasure are favorite story elements in books and movies for children. Mystical ideas and possibilities like that helped fuel our imaginations and provide a glimpse into an alternate reality where anything is possible.

Being lucky or learning how to attract luck are exciting ideas! We all want to receive as much good fortune in life as we possibly can. If it’s your objective to increase the “magnetic power” you have over the things you want, then you’re probably on the right track. It’s doable, but it all begins with your thoughts, emotions, and inner drive. By cultivating optimism, faith, enthusiasm, charisma, productive habits, self discipline, a goal orientation, focused thinking, a desire for continual self improvement, and a strong belief in yourself, it’s almost impossible to fail.

Many people who tend to attract beneficial circumstances into their lives have adopted an attitude that enables them to believe in themselves and keep trying until they create the things that are important to them, whether that involves love, money, career advancement, fame, meaningful work, financial security, a satisfying social life, dynamic confidence, musical talent, technical skills, vibrant health, or a beautiful home.

How to Attract Good Luck (There’s that word, again!)

One of my favorite self-improvement/inspirational authors and speakers was Dr. Wayne Dyer. The two philosophies of his that resonated the most with me are the following:

  • When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
  • You don’t get what you want, you get what you are!

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle also hit the nail on the head when he said “Excellence is not an act, it is a habit!”

In a nutshell: The things you can do to change your “luck” or improve your luck are going to involve changing your thoughts, your attitudes, the way you communicate with yourself and others, and your daily habits.

One of the first and most important steps you can take to gain control over your life is to clarify your personal values and resolve to live by them. Russ Harris, the author of The Confidence Gap and The Happiness Trap provides a free set of worksheets on his website to help guide you through the process of clarifying and living your values.

To wrap up this topic for now, I’d say that good luck may appear to happen — but for the most part, it’s an illusion.

With very few exceptions, people became an “overnight success” only after years of working, practicing, persisting, studying, cultivating relationships, believing in themselves, practicing gratitude, and visualizing success.

In nine out of ten cases, successful people make their own luck. As far as the remaining one out of ten lucky people, we can only surmise how their good fortune came into being. Even though there may be a simple cause/effect relationship, their success seems like serendipity, happenstance, or just plain good luck. If you want to take control of your life, however, the best strategy for creating wealth, achieving success, and attracting love is to develop a plan, act as if you can’t fail, and persist until you succeed. Otherwise, you’re just leaving the possibilities of your life to chance.

How to Get Good Luck

It’s interesting that there are a lot of people interested in the topic of “luck.” The whole concept of luck is shrouded in mystery. Is luck an actual thing or can all events be explained by the law of cause and effect? In other words, does everything happen for a reason or do we live in a universe that is impacted by random events and serendipitous experiences? Seems like I have a lot more questions than answers! Truth be told: I have yet to offer any answers!

For the most part, I think luck is an illusion — maybe it’s completely an illusion! I think the first step to getting good luck or getting rid of bad luck is to examine your own thought patterns, self image, and expectations. Our thoughts and beliefs are tremendously powerful forces in our own lives, and we all tend to mold and shape the content and texture of our own experiences. Much of what happens in our lives is based on self fulfilling prophesies.

What’s fascinating and exciting about life is that, at any moment in time, we all have an infinite number of actions, thoughts, and directions from which to choose. One of the biggest illusions in life is the idea that “What you see is what you get!” In reality, there are better results you can produce and different real-life scenarios you can create if you only look beyond the illusion of what you see, what’s in your line of vision.

How to Improve Your Life

Most people have a natural desire to better themselves in one way or another. Some might say that we have been infused with a God-given drive to realize our potential, experience personal growth, and to continually discover more of what life has to offer.

Many of us are also conditioned by our parents, friends, and society to attract a mate, get married, advance in our careers, have kids, enjoy family vacations, send your kids to college, and create financial abundance for yourself so you can retire in comfort.

Although there are exceptions, most of the items on that list happen as the result of setting specific goals, pursuing them on a consistent basis, making plans, refining those plans, believing in yourself, and taking calculated, well-thought-out risks.

Good things do occasionally occur in our lives by happenstance and serendipity, but you can’t depend on that or base your life on the expectation of good luck. Good luck does happen, but it’s often the direct or indirect result of the following things:

  • a positive attitude
  • hard work
  • putting yourself out there
  • networking
  • cultivating relationships with people who have the ability to help you
  • continually looking for ways to be stronger, smarter, and more effective in everything (important) that you do

While it’s true that you can’t always get what you want, persistence, focused thinking, and self believe are guaranteed to help you get more of what you want — and sometimes, exactly what you want.

Life Changing Quotes

One way I come up with topics for this blog is by researching what people are searching  on the Web. That’s a technique I use to tailor my blog posts to what Internet users are interested in and want to know about.

Since this is a blog about life, my research often centers on phrases and themes related to that immense topic.

Today, I stumbled upon the fact that a lot of people are specifically searching for “life changing quotes.” That captured my attention because I am always looking for life changes ideas and philosophies, myself, but it never occurred to me to search for life changing quotes.

I find it fascinating that certain words and combinations of words can motivate, inspire, and embolden us to overcome our fears, take action, and realize more of our human potential.

Although the same words, ideas, and quotes don’t inspire everyone to the same degree, I’d like to pass along a few good quotes that I reflect on whenever I need to boost my self esteem or motivate myself to take action.

One of the more life-changing books I’ve read in the past decade or so was written by Debbie Ford. It’s called “The Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions to Guide You to an Extraordinary Life.” Although it’s a relatively short book, an easy read, it contains a wealth of wisdom, inspiring ideas, and — in my opinion — life-changing quotes. Here are a couple that are especially meaningful to me:

“Each of us has an internal flame that is the keeper of our life force. Each choice we make either adds to this force, making it stronger, igniting and feeding our flame, or diminishes the force, dampening our internal flame, reducing its power.”

In the book, she also provides readers with this “wake-up call”…

“This is not a dress rehearsal; this is your life. Either you will milk it for all it’s worth and manifest what you truly desire or you will go to your grave regretting that you didn’t make different choices.”

That reminds me of a powerful line in a song by Billy Joel: Vienna

“And you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want or you can just get old.”

It’s a harsh truth, but it drives home an important message about taking action and not putting off for tomorrow what we can (and often should) do today.

Speaking of compelling questions and life-changing quotes, one that has been repeated and repackaged for years, challenges you to imagine what success would feel like. The following question is a consolidation of a couple variations of the quote:

What would you do, right now, and what goals would you set if you knew you could not fail?

The original version is attributed to Robert H. Schuller, the host of the TV program “Hour of Power” and author of the 1973 book “You Can Become the Person You Want To Be”. The essence of that question also appeared a few years later in his syndicated newspaper column.

The reason I love that quote, as well as the many variations others have used, is that it inspires you to imagine for a few seconds what it would be like to succeed and get what you want. Once you’ve entertained that possibility in your mind for even a fleeting moment, you can’t help but feel at least a little more confident, motivated, and inspired to take action, pursue your dreams, and go after your goals!

Those are just a few examples of what I consider to be life-changing quotes. As I discover and remember more, I’ll pass them along in future blog posts!

I invite you to “follow” this blog for more life changing quotes, ideas, and resources.

Tackling Some of Life’s Big Questions

Finding meaning, happiness, and fulfillment in life is a tall order. Sometimes I’m convinced I have most of the answers to the mysteries of life; the next minute, I feel clueless!

Since there are countless ways people derive meaning from life — whether it’s from religion or promoting a humanitarian cause — then meaning must be a subjective experience. In other words, it’s all in our heads! While that statement might seem to trivialize worthy causes, religions, or spiritual beliefs, that’s not my intention.

What we often forget or lose sight of is the fact that we all live in our own individual realities — some would say our own universes. As Deepak Chopra says “Never forget that you are not in the world; the world is in you.”

Since everyone sees the world through different eyes, it seems amazing that most of us are able to work together, cooperate, form lasting relationships, and co-exist at all!

How and why is that possible? Well, I can’t say for sure, but in my opinion, most people are intrinsically good and possess an inborn desire to connect with others and be part of something larger than themselves.

When people can’t co-exist peacefully or refuse to do so, it’s almost always based on fear, misconceptions about others who are different than them, and a failure to recognize that we all come from the same Source.

So here’s what it boils down to: We can all do something, every day, to make the world a better place — or at least our corner of it — but we can’t fix it. The only things we (potentially) have control control over are our thoughts, our reactions to the outside world, our behavior, and the way we interact with other people.

There is no easy, guaranteed formula for happiness, but I think the starting point is to work on loving yourself, being kind to others, and expending as much energy as possible on being grateful for the good things in the world and in your life. The “Law of Attraction” states that the things you focus on become magnified and magnetic.

So the big question is: “Can we ever really master life and consistently feel like we’re in control of ourselves and every situation?” Well, as I see it, self-mastery is a never-ending process and life is always going to throw you curve balls — especially when you least expect it!

That being said, my direct answer to the question is “No, probably not, but we owe it to ourselves and others to keep trying and do our best! The good news is that we’re bound to make a lot of progress along the way!”

As Eric Clapton’s hit song “Change The World” (released in 1996) seems to suggest (to me): You can do a lot to change your inner world and your relationships, but changing the world-at-large is a Herculean task, if not an impossible dream!