The Ten Commandments for an Effective Life
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The Ten Commandments for an Effective Life
Brother Ron Barnes
I decided to call this work "The Ten Commandments for an Effective Life" for some very good reasons. I admit that these are not divine revelations. I did not receive them from a burning bush on a mountain. But these are solid principles used by effective business executives to conduct the business of some of the world's most successful companies. They are universal truths which are applicable to just about any situation.
These principles have been proven effective by some of the most successful people ever to grace a corporate board room. My idea was to take the concepts which have allowed people to form and operate successful business organizations and re-phrase them in terms which would help people live successful lives. If these principles have helped large companies make enormous profits, I figured they could help people accomplish their personal goals.
I must confess that I am not a professional clergyman. My background is in the fields of business and education. I claim to be nothing more than just another poor dumb sinner trying to find his way home. If you are looking for a charismatic prophet, you are looking in the wrong place. I have, however, helped thousands of people change their lives for the better over the past thirty years. So I do feel that I have some redeeming qualities.
Enjoy this material. I am confident that it will help you reach your personal goals. I also feel it will make you a more effective person as a parent, spouse, worker and all the other roles we must all assume from time to time. There is also one other benefit to be gained from this material.
After a couple of weeks, you will find yourself starting to feel better about yourself. Do not consider this as arrogant pride. You are simply starting to appreciate yourself for the great person that you are. You have always been a great person. The God who created you knew what he was doing. The material world, however, has a habit of trying to make us feel imperfect and unworthy.
Imperfect though we may be, we are still worthy of love and respect. God knows how imperfect we are and he loves us anyway. If I'm good enough for God to love, I'm good enough for me to love. That probably sounds like another one of those arrogant statements. In fact, it's just the opposite. If I love myself, I have no problem loving others. If I respect myself, I find it easy to respect others. Only those who do not feel worthy of love and respect need to find reasons to degrade other people.
I hope, after reading this, you will appreciate yourself more for the wonderful person you are and I hope you will be able to help others appreciate themselves as magnificent creations of the living God.
1-Thou shalt clean out thy attic
Cleaning out the attic is a chore most of us never seem to get around to doing. My wife and I have lived in our present home for over thirteen years. There are still boxes in our attic which have not been touched since the day we moved in. If I ever have to get up there and find anything besides our Christmas decorations, I may be in serious trouble. I know there is Wedgewood china, fine crystal and many other treasures up there. But they are buried under so much junk it would take me forever to find them.
A lot of us have the same problem with the attic between our ears. There are rare and wonderful ideas up there just waiting to be found. There are great deeds to be accomplished which would benefit all of mankind. There is love enough to light up the world. But it's all buried under ten tons of junk. In fact, your attic may be so full of junk. you've forgotten how much treasure you have stored up there.
Business executives have a slogan: "Do it, delegate it or dump it". This means you should take stock of the important issues of your life. After you have laid these issues out for inspection, deal with the ones you can resolve fairly quickly. If an issue requires assistance, secure that assistance and work with your assistant to resolve the issue. If you can't do either of these, forget it.
Actually, it's the forgetting part that's the hardest. This is where you take the useless emotional junk that's cluttering up the attic in your mind and hold one grand emotional garage sale. You may be harboring feelings of guilt, hate or shame against people who have been dead for years. This is especially true if the object of these emotions is a parent.
Our society tries to make parents responsible for all the shortcomings of their children. And we encourage the children to take part in the game. If the parent is still practicing counterproductive behaviors, this may have some merit. But if the parent (or spouse or boss or whoever) has been out of your life for years, why are you still carrying around this enormous box of obsolete feelings in the attic of your mind? Even if you could confront the person, you couldn't get them to go back in time and change the past.
On the other hand, this resentment toward events in your past is taking up valuable space in your head that could be used for future projects. Stop shoving it back to the back of your emotional attic and deal with it. Confront the person who has caused these feelings and let them know what happened and how you felt about it. If the person is no longer alive, do not let this stop you. Sit down and write them a long letter expressing your outrage. You see, the object of this exercise is not to change them. The object is to change you.
I find that most people want to do the right thing most of the time. Unfortunately, some people just aren't very good at it. Talk to any convict in the prisons. He will tell you he is a very rational person and had a very legitimate reason for the things he did. He can not understand why people are so upset about his actions. And the person you are so upset with would not understand why you are angry with them. They think they were doing the best they could with the resources available. And if you think about it, they are probably right.
People do not usually set out to do you deliberate harm. They just had other goals that may not have served your purposes. Unfortunately, we tend to take adversities as a personal insult. Many times, people do not know what you want from them. How many of us have always told other people what we really want from them? The common practice is to assume that the people who really love us know what we want. This is not always so. And sometimes, even when they do know what we want, they may not have the time, money or skill to give it to us. Sometimes people love us enough to give us what we need, not what we want. Sometimes God does the same thing.
But when we do not get what we want, we have the tendency to assume that we didn't get it because we didn't deserve it. Some people even carry this tendency into their prayers. God didn't let you win the lottery because you are a worthless sinner and he doesn't love you any more. And your parents didn't get you that toy for your sixth birthday because you didn't clean up your room. How absurd!
And yet we sometimes carry this feeling of unworthiness with us for the rest of our lives. When we try to accomplish something, even if the goal is worthwhile, that junk in the back of our mental attic comes back to remind us that we are not worthy of the recognition accomplishment will bring us. So we approach the task with less than full enthusiasm and lo and behold, we fail to accomplish our goal. This lets us remind ourselves that it's just as well because we didn't deserve to accomplish it anyway. It's time to take that garbage to the dump and leave it there.
Take your emotional garbage to the person you hold responsible for it. Tell them about what you think they did and how you feel about it. If you are unable to talk to the person, write them a letter. It doesn't matter if they now reside in another country or the cemetery. This is for your benefit, not theirs. It doesn't matter that the letter never gets mailed. If you can't talk to them in person, make a cassette tape of your feelings. It doesn't matter if they never hear it.
The important thing is, once the tape or letter is finished, it's finished. You have done everything you can do to communicate your feelings to this person. Hopefully, you will have a feeling of accomplishment and be able to take these useless feelings out of your mental attic and make room for some wonderful memories. If the first letter or tape doesn't do the trick, repeat this process until you get bored with it and decide it's time to move on with your life.
Once we get rid of feelings of inner guilt and inadequacy, we can accomplish great things. Many people do not do the things which will bring them greatness because they are afraid of rejection. They are afraid that people will ridicule them for dreaming too big or reaching too high. "After all (they say to themselves), I am just a poor weak person who does not deserve to strive for greatness". Once we put this attitude in the dump where it belongs, we begin to think and act like somebody who does deserve to accomplish greatness. With this confidence, I can dare to try new things because even if I fail, the failure only brings me closer to the success I know is waiting for me.
If you are afraid that people will ridicule you for your failures, let me share some comforting news. You are going to fail. In fact, if you try to accomplish magnificent things, you are in for some magnificent failures. Great! Good for you! Welcome to the club! You are now in the company of some of the finest people this country has ever produced. Let me introduce you to some of America's finest failures:
ABRAHAM LINCOLN-Defeated in numerous political elections, failed in business and suffered a nervous breakdown before being elected President.
THOMAS EDISON-Suffered over ten thousand unsuccessful attempts before finding the right filament for his new invention, the light bulb.
WALT DISNEY-Declared bankruptcy five times and was turned down by numerous banks for money to build a thing called Disneyland.
COLONEL HARLAN SANDERS-Rejected over one thousand times when he took his chicken recipe on the road after retiring at age 65.
BABE RUTH-Set all-time career and single-season major league records for striking out on his way to setting all-time career and single-season home run records.
The list is much longer, but we hope you get the idea. Each of these people had to endure the comments of people who wondered why they stuck to their dream in the face of such adversity. Most of the people making these comments were probably friends who only were looking out for their friend's best interests. And if these people had listened to their friends, they would have been forgotten long ago.
What is the worst thing that could happen to you if you had a dream and pursued it and asked other people to help you make your dream come true? They could say no. Then you would be no worse off than you are right now. On the other hand, they could say yes and you would be on your way to making your wildest dreams come true. Do you realize that professional baseball players make millions of dollars each year by missing nine out of ten strikes pitched to them? Lee Iacocca, who took Chrysler Corporation from the brink of bankruptcy to a profit level at which they were able to buy other automobile companies, admitted that at least two out of three of his ideas were wrong.
The only difference between these people and you is the fact that they do not worry about looking foolish if they fail. They simply see it as one more step to their eventual success, which is never in doubt. Neither is yours. The problem comes in defining success. I can not tell you what success means to you. Neither can your friends and family. The only person capable of judging whether you have been successful is you. Nobody else has to live with you every minute of every day for the rest of your life. And nobody else knows about your secret dreams and ambitions.
Since nobody else knows you like you do, nobody else has the right to judge your ambitions. So it really does not matter if the rest of the world does not understand or agree with your plans. As long as you are happy with yourself, nothing else matters. Once you understand this, you lose the fear of rejection and boldly go forth with your projects. You discover that enthusiasm is contagious and other people have been waiting for somebody to come along with your idea and make it happen. You find people and resources coming to you to make your dreams a reality. And the world is a better place because you decided, "What the heck. I don't care what anybody else thinks. I'm going for it."
But you will never be able to develop this confidence if you still have a lot of old garbage cluttering up the attic. Before you can move on to the future, you have to get rid of all that dead weight in your past that's hanging around your neck like an anchor and slowing your forward progress.
2-Thou shalt get the ball rolling
Here is a model to help you get started on your next great project:
DECIDE YOU ARE GOING TO DO IT
Every great project starts with a commitment. Form an idea of the result you want to accomplish. If you need to ask for permission, go ahead and ask. Don't worry about all the details at this time. All you are looking for is a commitment on the basic principle involved. If people tell you they need more information to give their final approval, get a specific list of the facts needed and set a timetable for getting the information.
But while you are getting the information, you need a commitment that the idea itself is worthwhile. If it's not, you don't need any further information. In fact, if people tell you they need more information, ask them if you can assume they approve of the basic idea. If they are still vague, maybe you have not explained the concept clearly enough. It is also possible that you are not talking to the right person.
If you are talking to a person who lacks the authority or the courage to make a decision, find the person with the authority and the courage. If you can not find anybody like that in your organization, find another organization. If you can't find one, maybe you need to start one.
There are millions of people in this world who spend their whole life hiding out. They have not learned what you know. They are afraid to take action or approve of your actions because somebody might disapprove. They do not realize that, while we may be able to hide from other people, we can not hide from God. Adam and Eve found that out the hard way.
If you have a good idea that can serve yourself and your fellow man, God knows of your idea. If you fail to act on that idea, God is aware of your fears. So what the heck. Go for it. People may think you are crazy, but your Father knows what you are trying to do. And if you are truly trying to serve Him, what man can stand against Him?
PLAN YOUR PROJECT
Obviously, you are never going to get anywhere if you don't know where you are going. But be careful not to get caught up in the disease known as "analysis paralysis". This is what happens when people get so caught up in planning an activity that they never get around to doing it. You can find abundant examples of this in any government office. People spend all day in meetings planning activities that take forever to get started. Sometimes these people have to have a meeting to plan the meeting to plan the activity. Then they discover a problem and have to have another meeting about that.
Planning is good. But you need to set a timetable for the planning to be finished. If you get enough people to pick at an idea long enough, somebody is sure to find something wrong with it. By the time you fix the problem, somebody will find another problem. This process will continue until everybody decides that the idea is too complicated and it dies from neglect. And everybody can say that it wasn't his fault (or yours) that the idea didn't work out. The only problem is that nobody got any benefit from what could have been a great project. But at least nobody get their pride hurt.
START THE PROJECT, NO MATTER WHAT
Disneyland in California was the world's first theme park. The day it opened was a total disaster. Some of the rides were not yet finished. Others did not work correctly. Traffic getting in and out of the park was a nightmare. Nobody expected the crowds that descended on the park, so ticket lines grew into mob scenes. There were not enough bathrooms. In short, just about everything that could go wrong went wrong.
But the people at Walt Disney learned from their mistakes. The next day, things went smoother. The day after that was even better. Pretty soon, the park was one of California's major tourist attractions. Today, Disneyland seems small in comparison to other parks which have expanded on the ideas which it pioneered. But if those people had not had the courage to open the park and learn from their mistakes, none of the other attractions would have been built.
When you start your project, you are going to find that some parts of it need to be revised. That's normal. You are also going to find that other people are going to help you work out the problems and make it happen. It may take a lot of trial and error, but you will eventually get it all worked out and running smoothly.
When you start planning your project, set a deadline for planning. Make a commitment that your project will start on a certain date, no matter what. Even if you plan everything down to the smallest detail, there will always be something that you didn't plan for. That's all right. The Lord is pretty resourceful. He will guide you to adjust and make everything work out.
KEEP ON KEEPING ON
Every successful person knows that the secret to success is perseverance. The person who is able to continue in the face of obstacles will triumph over those who are smarter, stronger or richer. You have a dream. You have decided to make the dream come true. You have planned your project and gotten it off the ground. Sooner or later, you are going to run into problems. Things are going to get uncomfortable. Keep going anyway.
When I was in the Marine Corps, they made us do some things that were pretty uncomfortable. At the time, I thought these people were a bunch of sadistic lunatics. I could not see any reason for the things they were making me do. Only when I got into situations where I needed conditioning and training to succeed did I begin to appreciate the strength and skills I had learned.
Overcoming the obstacles your project will face will make you and your organization stronger. You will gain strength and talents which you can use as your project continues to grow and affect the lives of those around you. You will eventually see rewards which will make you glad that you decided to stick with it.
FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED
Every long-term goal is reached by accomplishing short-term goals. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If you are starting a temporary project, it will be natural for you to set an ending date. Permanent projects need short-term goals to be accomplished by a certain time. This gives you a chance to step back, look at what you have accomplished and make whatever changes are needed. You also get periodic positive feedback from seeing short-term goals accomplished.
Finishing a project can be dangerous. In fact, many people will deliberately avoid completing projects. Once a project has been completed, it can be evaluated. People who feel inferior may avoid completing a project because they are afraid that people will say it's not good enough. This is natural. Man is an imperfect creature. Almost any project will leave room for improvement. So make creative suggestions and build them into your next project. Meanwhile, you can revel in your current accomplishments and they benefits enjoyed by the subjects of your recently completed project.
EVALUATE YOUR EFFORTS
Make sure all the loose ends are wrapped up, including any necessary paperwork and reports. Evaluate the efforts of the organization and people involved. Communicate these evaluations. Positive feedback is one of the strongest motivations on earth. You want the people responsible for the success of your current project to be willing workers for the next project. For many of them, positive feedback is their only reward for their labors. Make sure your people are properly paid.
Some of the people involved with your project may have made less than a remarkable contribution. But almost everybody had some positive input. Make sure that everybody involved gets recognition for their efforts, no matter how small the effort or its effect on the overall success of your program. Give the person a chance to share why they did not live up to your expectations. It may have been a temporary problem. If it can be fixed, these people may be able to help with your next project. You don't want to throw away a potentially good asset if you can save them.
This brings us back around to where we started. In wrapping up the current project, we clean out the attic to make room for the next project. By practicing this pattern on a consistent basis, we keep ourselves fresh and energized, ready for the next challenge.
3-Thou shalt love thyself as thy neighbor
We are taught from childhood to love other people as much as we love ourselves. This is excellent advice. But it only works if we love ourselves. If I do not love myself, where will I find the strength to show love to others? I hasten to add that this does not mean we should love ourselves more than we love others. Loving myself does not give me the right to condemn others or feel superior to them. After all, they were created by the same Father who made me. If God loves them (as he loves all of his children), why should I feel that my judgment should be more selective than His?
Loving myself gives me the energy to accomplish great things. I do not spend useless time and energy degrading myself for my failures. I have made mistakes in my life. Some people might even say that I have made more than my share of them. But I cannot go back in time and correct them. I can, however, use the rest of my life to do enough good to partially balance the scales. Loving myself gives me the energy to do this. Blaming and degrading myself only uses up this energy and leaves me less able to approach constructive projects with the needed enthusiasm. Not only do I suffer, the people I could have helped suffer as well.
There is never a shortage of people who will help you to identify your weaknesses. You need to take time on a periodic basis to identify your strengths. Make a list of one hundred things you have accomplished in your life. If you can make a list of two or three hundred, that's even better. You learned to walk and talk. Those are strengths. Write them down on your list. Don't worry about somebody finding the list and thinking you are ridiculous. The list is not for anybody else. It's for you. At first, you are going to feel ridiculous doing this. Do it anyway. It will help you build inner strength for the tasks ahead.
You accomplished certain things in school, even if you did not graduate. Write them down. You have accomplished things in your family, on the job and with friends. Write them down. As you do this, you will begin to believe that maybe the Lord knew what he was doing when He made you. You will discover that there are several very good reasons for you to love yourself. And if you can love yourself, maybe there are also several good reasons why other people should love you.
When you do this, you begin to radiate an inner peace. At first, people will wonder what you are up to. Some of them may even accuse you of taking drugs. Actually, you have found something better. Eventually, the thrill of these things wears off and they become just another addiction. But the high you get from acknowledging God's love for you and His wisdom in creating you lasts for a lifetime. And it's not illegal, immoral or fattening.
As I said, this will be an uncomfortable exercise at first. Most of us do not take compliments well. Our first reaction is modesty because we have been taught all of our lives not to "blow our own horn". In Sunday school, we were taught that, "Pride goeth before a fall". But we are not talking about the pride of the Pharisees, who had to make public gestures to receive the adoration of the crowd. In fact, as you grow to like yourself more, you will not need the crowd anymore. You will be content knowing that you have the love and respect of the two most important people in the universe: God and yourself.
Eventually, you will become strong enough to look into the mirror at night and say, "I want to thank you for accomplishing the wonderful things you did today". You will then tell yourself about all the great things you did. Tell yourself about all the great things you did for yourself, as well as the things you did for other people. These are things which strengthened your mind and your spirit. And after all, you are a great person. You deserve it.
The first couple of times you do this, you will feel like a total idiot. But after the first few times, you will begin to draw strength from you self-acknowledgment. You will sleep better and be able to accomplish more. This gives you more good things to talk to yourself about each night. And this experience becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that allows you to become the great person you deserve to be.
It is very important that you write the list down and say these things to yourself out loud. If we just do these things in our head, our mind does not believe they are real. When our eye sees the words on a piece of paper or our ear hears the words being said, they become part of the real world. They become facts which must be believed. The mind then will accept them as reality and you will begin to react to each new situation in a more positive way.
4-Thou shalt understand thy mission
We talk about people being "called to service". Exactly what does that mean? Have we been called to save the world? This is a very noble ideal. But realistically, there are four and one-half billion people in the world. If you spent the next fifty years trying to save every person in the world, you would have to limit your time to .003456 seconds per person. And you still wouldn't get the job done. Some people would die before you got to them. Other people would be born that you couldn't get back to. We have to define our mission in more practical terms.
Whatever your mission, you should be true to it at all costs. If you are not true to your purpose, you will not be completely successful at it. You may enjoy temporary financial success, but deep down inside, there will be a sense of not being complete because you are not being true to your purpose. This will keep you from enjoying what you achieve and deny you the true happiness you deserve.
If you prefer a more practical exercise, sit down and list two of your most unique personal qualities. If you need help, ask a friend what they think your most unique personal qualities are. Limit the list to two. After all, we are trying to focus on the qualities that will produce visible results as efficiently as possible.
Next, make a list of how you express these qualities when you are interacting with others. Use action verbs when you make your list. For example, you may enjoy inspiring and leading others. You may enjoy entertaining, counseling or other activities. The point is to define what you do when you are expressing the unique creation that is the real you.
Next, imagine that you live in a perfect world. What does that world look like. Create as much detail as possible. What are the people doing? What kind of community do they live in? How are their needs provided for? How do they feel about it? Keep your thoughts in the present. This is a world that exists now, not some time in the distant future.
Now combine these three elements into a single statement. For example, your mission statement might be "I express my love of teaching by showing people how to appreciate themselves and use every day to the best advantage". This will give you your personal mission statement.
Obviously, whatever your mission in life, you are going to need help. You will perform your mission with the assistance of an organization. What is the mission of that organization? Is it the same as your personal mission? If not, you need to find an organization that will allow you to do those things you do best and enjoy doing. If you have to start the organization yourself, do it. You will never be happy and effective trying to accomplish somebody else's mission.
5-Thou shalt put pressure on thyself
Once you know what your overall mission is, break this down into a series of tasks. You don't scale a fifty-foot wall in a single bound like Superman. You do it by building a staircase and climbing it one step at a time. What are the steps you need to take to get to the top of your mountain? Not only do you need to define what the steps are, you need to set yourself a schedule for building and climbing the stairs.
This is where things get really scary. If you never set a goal, there is no danger you will fail to achieve it. Once you define the task, you put pressure on yourself to complete it within a certain time frame. This is absolutely essential to accomplish worthwhile tasks. Everybody is going to do something some day. Only a select few are able to take this out of the dream world and say, "I am going to do this specific thing by this exact time".
I used to have a sign on my office wall. The sign said:
MANAGEMENT IS A SERIES OF INTERRUPTIONS
INTERRUPTED BY THE INTERRUPTIONS
Unless you impose some discipline on your time, you will always have people who have other ideas about how you should use your time. If you let yourself get distracted from your mission, you will look up one day and wonder where the time went. What happened to all those wonderful things you were going to accomplish by this time? The answer is simple. You let yourself get distracted. This is very easy to do. Perhaps it would be helpful to break your activities down into four categories:
The first category, Urgent and Important, is your disasters. These are things which have been neglected for too long and have now become blazing fires which must be extinguished immediately. They demand your immediate attention and have dire consequences if ignored. Some people live their entire life running from one disaster to the next. If you enjoy living this way, join the fire department. Otherwise, it is going to take some foresight on your part to deal with things before they become a towering inferno.
The Important but Not Urgent category includes all those things you would really like to do. These are important life goals, but you don't have any kind of deadline. This is the book you want to write, the improvement you want to make to your home and all those other projects which mean a lot to you, but are not emergencies.
In the Urgent but Not Important category we find ringing telephones, crying babies, the boss demanding another cup of coffee, the flat tire and all those ten thousand other things that keep taking up a major part of your time. They have nothing to do with the major goals in your life, but represent external parties demanding your immediate attention. They are a major reason why many people have trouble finding time for the things that really matter.
And finally, we find things that are Not Important and Not Urgent. This would include watching talk shows on television, gossiping on the telephone, doing crossword puzzles, playing computer games and all the other things which waste our time. Obviously, you want to complete your goals on time. But where are your going to find the extra time for the important things in life? If you look at the chart, you will see that the only possible answer is to take time from the bottom two categories.
This is going to take some real discipline on your part. Trust me on this. Montel and Oprah videotape their shows weeks in advance. This is not headline news. If there is a show you must see, put it on tape and use it as a reward for finishing your projects. You will be amazed how much extra time you save by fast-forwarding through the commercials. You can probably watch your favorite one-hour show in about forty minutes. Telephone answering machines are cheap and available. You own the telephone. It does not own you. Screen your calls. If it is a real emergency, answer it. Otherwise, let them sell the machine a magazine subscription.
Although many people see deadlines as a negative force, they can become a positive influence in your life. Imagine the thrill of making a deadline. In my work with JTPA and Department of Education projects, it was very satisfying to bring the project in on time, under budget and surpassing all goals. Try it with a small goal you know you can achieve. As you become more confident, work your way up to more demanding projects. Nobody expects you to conquer Mt. Everest if the tallest thing you've ever climbed is a stepladder. Don't try to wrestle alligators until you've pinned a few chameleons.
Deadlines also give you a good excuse to avoid those interruptions that keep messing up your day. People understand that you can not talk to them on the telephone because you are right in the middle of a project and you have a deadline to meet. They hang up the phone and nobody gets upset. Make the system work for you. You will be amazed how much time you have for the important things when you get rid of those things that are not important.
A funny thing happens on the way to meeting a deadline. You get so interested in meeting the deadline, you forget to be afraid of the project itself. All of those self-doubts that have kept you from writing or speaking or whatever are forgotten as you focus on completing the project on time. Only after the project is complete do you have time to stop and realize that you didn't have the talent to do it in the first place. But since it's done, that really isn't important any more.
Remember that the objective is to put pressure on yourself. You should not let other people put pressure on you. It is possible to have too many goals at one time. All of a sudden, you realize that there is no way you are going to get everything done you have promised. Now your self-esteem drops and you start feeling bad about yourself. Your energy level drops and you do not perform as well on any of your projects.
You are going to have to develop the strength to be a little bit selfish at times. Instead of worrying about the approval of others, worry about approving of yourself. This will help you set the right priorities to do the things which are really important to you. Of course, you can only do this if you have a positive self-image that tells you that you are right, no matter what others might think. How do you develop this type of strength?
6-Thou shalt talk to thyself and daydream
Some people believe that only crazy people talk to themselves. In fact, we all talk to ourselves all the time. Often, we do not realize that we are doing it. But self-talk is one of the most powerful tools you have in accomplishing your goals.
When you talk to yourself, you are not really talking to yourself. At the front of the brain are the frontal lobes. This is the part of your brain that does all of the logical thinking. This is where conscious thought occurs. This is where you think when you know you are thinking. At the base of the brain is a section known as the reticular activating system. You are probably unaware of this part of your brain because it operates at a subconscious level. But the R.A.S. (reticular activating system) is always listening in on the rest of the brain. So when you form a conscious thought in the frontal lobes, the R.A.S. is eavesdropping.
The R.A.S. is very gullible. It can not tell the difference between reality and imagination. It believes whatever the frontal lobes tell it. But it hears everything your conscious mind says and it never forgets. Long after you have forgotten an event and your reaction to it, the R.A.S. remembers. These memories form the basis for your self-image. So when you try to do something, your conscious brain checks with the R.A.S. to make sure what you are doing fits with your self-image. When you feel uncomfortable doing something, what you are feeling is the conflict between your conscious mind saying, "Go for it" and your subconscious mind saying "Wait a minute".
Affirmations are a positive type of self-talk. You are using your conscious mind to program the R.A.S. Remember what we said about the R.A.S. being gullible. It can not tell the difference between you telling yourself that you are wonderful and somebody else telling you how wonderful you are. So use self-talk to persuade the R.A.S. to support positive action. When you have persuaded the R.A.S. that you are a capable, worthwhile person, the next time your conscious mind says, "Go for it", it will check with the R.A.S. When the R.A.S. replies, "Yeah, go for it", you can now proceed with your efforts with the full support of your entire mind and body. You are now unstoppable.
The R.A.S. not only hears what you hear, it sees what you see. Again, the gullible R.A.S. can not tell the difference between what you see with your physical eyes and what you see in your mind. In one experiment, the University of Australia took a group of basketball players and divided them into two groups. One group spent a month practicing shooting baskets. The other group sat in the gym and mentally pictured themselves shooting baskets. At the end of the month, both groups showed almost the same amount of improvement.
Close your eyes and picture yourself doing what you want to do. Imagine yourself doing it successfully. Imagine yourself doing it successfully in a stadium filled with fifty thousand fans. Imagine as you finish your project, all fifty thousand fans jump to their feet and begin to scream and applaud. Do you feel the pride and confidence surging through your body? Although your conscious mind knew this was imaginary, your R.A.S. didn't. It experienced this image as a real event and imprinted it into your self-image.
As you practice self-talk and imaging, the R.A.S. builds these positive imprints into your subconscious memory bank. They stay there as a valuable resource, ready to provide you with confidence and energy for your next successful effort. The next time you need to give a speech, enter a contest or perform a stressful activity, your R.A.S. will be right there, cheering you on.
As you gain self-confidence, you will begin to notice more things in the world about you which confirm your new self-image. These reaffirming experiences have always been there. The R.A.S. filtered them out because they did not fit your self-image. This is a well-documented phenomenon.
Henry Ford said many years ago, "Whether you believe you can or believe you can't, you are right". People with a negative self-image live in a negative world. They constantly belittle people and situations they perceive as threatening. As your self-image becomes more positive, you can be more positive about your world. Life becomes less of a battle. And you realize that you no longer need to fight a constant battle with the world because the war is over. And you won.
There are certain rules for creating positive affirmations and daydreams:
PUT THINGS IN THE PRESENT
When you talk to yourself, don't say, "I am going to be a great leader". Say, "I AM a great leader". Don't create an image of yourself doing great things twenty years from now. Picture yourself doing great things now. Your R.A.S. may be gullible, but it knows what time it is. If you imaging yourself in another place and time, your mind will remind you what time it is. As the song says, "Yesterday is dead and gone and tomorrow's out of sight". Learn from the past but don't dwell on it. Plan for the future but dream about today.
KEEP YOUR AFFIRMATIONS POSITIVE
Your subconscious is not smart enough to handle a double negative. If you say to yourself, "I am not fat", the logical deduction is that you are thin. The subconscious is not logical. It just removes the word "not" from your statement and imprints "I am fat". Is it any wonder that 95% of the people who go on diets do not lose weight permanently? The affirmation "I eat only when I am hungry and only what my body needs" is much more powerful. If you say to yourself "I am not hungry", it is like saying "Do not think about elephants". Now all you can think about is elephants. With mashed potatoes and gravy.
BE AS SPECIFIC AS POSSIBLE
The more detail you add to your affirmations and images, the more powerful they become in guiding you to positive results. Imagine yourself coming to bat in a baseball game. What is the name of your team? What color are your uniforms? How big is the ballpark? What is the name of the opposing team? What is your record against this team?
You step up to the plate. What does the umpire look like? What color is the catcher's mask? Where do you stand in the batter's box? Are you using an aluminum bat or a wooden bat? What color is the bat? Does it have tape on the handle? How far apart are your feet? Do you hold the bat high or low?
You look at the pitcher. What does he look like? Is he chewing gum? What color are his eyes? How do you know that you are going to take the next pitch deep into the cheap seats? Does he throw a curve or a fastball? is the ball on the inside or outside of the plate? When you hit the ball, what does it sound like? How long do you watch it before you begin to run the bases?
The ball soars over the left center field wall. How far do the outfielders chase it before they give up? When the guy in the fifth row stands up and catches the ball, what color is his shirt? What are you thinking as you cross home plate? What do your teammates look like as they congratulate you? Is the crowd still cheering as you enter the dugout?
Hopefully, these questions have caused you to have vivid images in your mind. If the images were vivid enough, I would not want to be the next guy to pitch a baseball or softball to you. Did you feel differently inside? If you concentrated on the images, your breathing and posture changed while you were reading. You see, images are very powerful. But they must be used properly to produce positive effects.
THERE MUST BE CHANGE IN THE WAY YOU FEEL
The object of your affirmations and imaging is not the events themselves. The object is to produce a change in the way you feel about yourself and the world around you. How did you feel as you watched the ball sail over the fence? How did you feel as you heard the crowd cheering as you ran the bases? It is these feelings that provide fuel for your efforts.
KEEP IT SHORT AND SIMPLE
Remember what we said about the R.A.S. not being too logical. It also can't handle long sentences. Keep your images and affirmations brief and to the point. If you need to accomplish five things, use five short affirmations. Create five brief images. Why do you think they make television commercials last only a few seconds? They know that's all your subconscious mind can handle. And that's what they are going for. I have never heard anybody say that commercials featuring talking animals and talking toilet paper were logical. But they work because the R.A.S. remembers them.
KEEP IT PERSONAL
Your images and affirmations, like your goals, must be yours and yours alone.
7-Thou shalt make a pest of thyself
No matter how talented, intelligent or inspired you may be, you will need the help of others to make your dreams come true. The people you need are not telepathic. They can not look at you and tell you what you need to complete your project. They may have the resources that you need. They may agree with your purpose. But they will never cooperate with you until you ask them to. Here is the secret to success in twenty-five words or less:
ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK
You may be hesitant to ask others to help you. This is a result of your own negative self-image. If you are a worthwhile person and your cause is worthwhile, only a very selfish, short-sighted person would refuse to help you. Granted, there are a lot of those people in this world. But there are also some wonderful, caring people in this world. You may have to go through a few jerks to find them. That's life.
Asking for help is a skill you will have to develop and maintain throughout the course of your program. There are five keys to asking for help:
1.Be specific. How can people give you what you want if they don't know what you want? Don't beat around the bush. Be precise about what you want. Exactly what do you want? When do you want it? Where do you want it? Who do you need it from? How can they give it to you? Why do you want it? The more precise you are about describing what you want, the more you increase your chances of inspiring other people to give it to you. As you become more precise in describing what you want, you also sharpen your mental picture of yourself receiving what you want. This sharper image of success also increases your chances for success.
2.Ask somebody who can help you. If you need a million dollars, you should not ask somebody with no money. The person must have to resources to help you. He must also have the capacity to make a commitment. You are not going to get the help of a person who needs the permission of a committee, parent or supervisor. You need to talk to the person, committee or organization with the ability to make a decision.
3.Create value for the person or organization whose help you need. Nobody is going to give you something for nothing. You must first show them how your program supports their values and interests. There must be an emotional or financial payback for the help you need.
4.Ask with congruent belief. When you ask for help, you must believe that you will get the help you need. You have a worthwhile program. You know exactly what you want. You have done your homework and know that this person has the ability to help you. You can show this person how your program supports their interests. Of course they are going to give you what you need. Why shouldn't they?
But you must believe in yourself before you can expect anybody else to believe in you. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you are enthusiastic about your program, you will spread an epidemic of enthusiasm wherever you go. Other people will catch your enthusiasm and spread it to their associates. Pretty soon, you have total strangers calling you because they heard about your program from a friend of a friend and want to get involved. You find yourself with more help than you can use.
5.Keep asking until you get what you want. You may not be successful with the first person you talk to. Ask them who they would recommend. If they can't recommend anybody, go to the next person on your list. Keep repeating this process until you get what you want. You don't have to be intelligent or lucky to get what you want. You just have to be persistent. If they turn down your first request, find a different way to ask for the same thing. Maybe they didn't understand you the first time. Keep asking until they give you what you want or threaten to call the police and have you physically removed.
As your program grows and becomes more complex, you will need the advice of specialists in a variety of fields. There are two ways to get this advice. The first way, of course, is to pay for it. This has the obvious disadvantage of making a big hole in your budget. The other disadvantage to paying for advice is you will get only as much as you pay for. Your consultant may know additional information which would be very helpful to you. But since this is what he is selling, he is not going to offer you his expertise without being on the clock.
The other way to get the feedback you need to keep your program on course is to form a Board of Advisors. If you are affiliated with a sponsoring organization, they may insist on this. Consider your Board of Advisors as a valuable resource, not a necessary evil. Recognition is a more powerful motivator than money for most people. You will find your Board of Advisors ready and willing to donate time, effort and expertise in order to be publicly associated with a worthwhile endeavor. I have also seen advisors donate money, equipment and other valuable resources to a worthy effort.
Think of an airplane flying across the country. This airplane is off course approximately ninety percent of the time. It hits air pockets. It has to change course to avoid other aircraft and inclement weather. But every time the airplane goes off course, the instruments, air traffic control and the pilot make adjustments to get the airplane headed toward its destination. Your organization will also have to make constant adjustments due to changes in available resources, personnel and a number of other factors. The input you get from your advisors will be invaluable in helping your organization cope with these changes.
8-Thou shalt be stubborn as a mule
One of the most famous books in history is Dr. Norman Vincent Peale's "The Power of Positive Thinking". When Dr. Peale wrote this book, it was rejected by over thirty publishers. Finally, Dr. Peale got so frustrated, he threw the manuscript in the wastebasket and ordered his wife not to take it out. The next day, she brought a large package wrapped in newspaper to another publisher. When the publisher opened the package, he found the manuscript still sitting in the wastebasket. He read it, published it and the book had sold thirty million copies at last count. Obviously, Dr. Peale's wife had read the book.
When Dr. Peale started his magazine, "Guideposts", he had to hide under a disguise when he left his house or office to avoid the creditors who hounded him for payment at every step. But he kept on producing the magazine. "Guideposts" now publishes thirty million copies per month. Any successful person can share numerous stories about being close to financial ruin and a nervous breakdown. The average millionaire in America has gone bankrupt at least three times. Had they given up when everything went wrong, they would now be clients of the welfare or corrections systems instead of being leaders of their communities.
You don't have to be intelligent to succeed. You don't even have to be lucky. What you have to have is a dream that you are willing to pursue to its successful conclusion no matter what it takes. You have to be willing to ignore the pleadings of people who love you to give up this foolishness and get a regular job. You have to be a bumble bee.
Any aeronautical engineer will tell you that a bumble bee can not fly. Its body is too heavy, the wings are too small and they don't beat fast enough. Any engineer who submitted plans for an airplane based on the bumble bee would be laughed out of the office and possibly fired. Fortunately, the bumblebee has never been to school. The bumblebee has never read professional journals. Since the bumblebee is too stupid to know that it is impossible for him to fly, he flies anyway. If you want to succeed, be a bumblebee.
9-Thou shalt enjoy thy success
Eventually, your blood, sweat and tears are going to bring you the results you want. When this happens, do not be ashamed to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Take pride as you watch the results of your labor improving the lives of people and the quality of the community. Enjoying the effects of your project recharges your emotional batteries and gives you new energy to forge ahead with your next project.
This is not only desirable, it is absolutely necessary. Think of your mental and spiritual energy as gas tank in your car. Bringing your idea from a dream to a reality is going to take a lot of fuel. If you keep draining fuel out of the tank without replacing it, you are soon going to come to a stop. Replenish your energies by reviewing your efforts and the positive results those efforts have produced. This gets you fueled up and ready for your next achieve-ment.
10-Thou shalt be grateful to those who
made thy success possible
Just as you have a dream for your project, each of the people involved in your project has a dream for their life. Their dream may not be as grandiose as yours. They may not have the same commitment and burning desire that you have. They may not share your intelligence or access to resources. But their dreams are every bit as real as your own. When they help you to fulfill your mission, they have fulfilled their own as well.
Acknowledge their achievements, no matter how small. It doesn't have to be a grand ceremony. Sometimes a simple handshake and a smile can do wonders for a person's self-esteem. A personal letter acknowledging the person's contribution may mean more than money. One of the most fundamental concepts of psychology is that the actions which are rewarded will be repeated. Those behaviors which receive no reward are extinguished.
And remember to acknowledge every contributor, even if he was more hindrance than help. If his errors were due to lack of effort or training, he will redouble his efforts to make a better contribution next time. And if he was deliberately trying to foul up the works, a positive reinforcement will make him realize the error of his ways and resolve to be a part of the constructive effort next time so that he can enjoy the rewards of that effort without remorse.
Besides, there's a lot of truth to the old adage,"Love your enemies. It will drive them crazy".
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