Make 2019 the year you know yourself

Do you like who you are? Or do you feel a deep and enduring need to change?

Maybe you feel a little of both. Most of us, at some point in our lives, feel a desire to change some aspect of ourselves. We don't like how we look, or we worry that some deep-seated personality trait, such as a fiery temper or jealousy, will negatively impact our relationships with other people.

Where does the pressure to change come from? Is it the result of a positive attitude, an internal drive to improve ourselves? Or is it reactive, a response to something external? Does the distinction even matter?

Change is a Choice

Every change -- whether it's the hairstyle you wear or a major life-decision, such as where to live or whether to start a family, involves a choice. Other people might try to influence your decision, but you are the only one who can make it. You do this by considering the merits of the options in front of you, and choosing voluntarily to perform one of the options because it is offers better rewards or ethically is the right thing to do. You may choose to do nothing at all. 

What I'd like to point out is that we rarely make the choice to change for its own sake. We seek to change ourselves because we care for one another, and ourselves. We appreciate that other people have an essential place in our lives, and we want to do our best by them. We feel this intrinsically, deep in our hearts. Occasionally we receive a push or a criticism from someone else; this reminds us that we are not being the best person we could be. 

Changing ourselves is a selfless act. And by that, I mean that changing oneself demands going out of your way to help others. To eradicate the things that cause negative energy in your relationships. To bring positive energies to others. 

Shape your thoughts, shape your life

Changing yourself doesn't involve changing who you are. When someone calls you an idiot, they rarely mean that you are an idiot; they mean that you have acted without thinking, or spoken without considering the consequences of your words.

They are not criticizing who they are. They are criticizing how you are -- how you handle situations, and what you do.

You already have the capacity to be cheerful, loving, gracious, empathic, ambitious, influential and kind. Everyone does. 

But you may need help bringing out those positive characteristics. You may need to change the way you do things so that your actions align with your psyche. This isn't changing who you are. It's synergizing your personality and your choices, to reveal a more authentic you. 

The Assignment 

Here's a challenge. For one day, consciously choose to act in a way that reveals the very best you. In your interactions with other people, choose to be tolerant, choose to be resilient, choose to be kind. 

This exercise is hard. It demands introspection. It demands that you look within your mind and observe yourself thinking. Before you can make the right decision, you will need to figure out why you sometimes make the wrong decision -- what propensities, habits and motivations trigger certain emotions or cause you to act against your own best interests. 

If, by the end of the day, you have made authentic choices when in the past you didn't, you will realize that you can change, and have changed. You will know who you are, and you can start using your thinking, speaking and actions to create more happiness, success and fulfillment. 

I know you can do it!

Seed Faith

Everything in life begins with a seed—especially the things we receive by faith. In Genesis 8:22, God says, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest . . . shall not cease.” The law of seedtime and harvest, planting and reaping, giving and receiving is an eternal law. It will never change as long as this earth remains. Jesus compared faith to a seed being planted to get a result: “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

When we put our faith in God’s hands like a seed we plant, we are giving God something to work with, and He will send the miracle we need. No matter how small our faith seems to be, it will meet needs and solve problems that appear as impossible to move as mountains. This is because each act of faith is a seed planted and will be multiplied many times.

The Seed-Faith principle that we find in the Bible contains three keys:

  1. Recognize that God is our Source.
    Philippians 4:19 says, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” God will supply all our needs according to His riches, His love for us, His power to help us, and His wisdom to guide us. He may use many different instruments—a job, gifts, doctors, friends, family—to meet our need. But He alone is the Source, and He alone cannot fail.

  2. Give first, so that it may be given unto us.
    Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it shall be given unto you.” We must first plant a seed of faith so that God can multiply it back to meet our need. Jesus is talking about giving in the deepest sense of the word—the giving of ourselves to God. This includes anything we can give—love, time, patience, forgiveness, finances, prayer, whatever we have. Our giving reflects our trust in God and our thankfulness. It links us to God’s inexhaustible resources for our every need. There is no way we can give to God without receiving something back from Him, multiplied!

  3. Expect a miracle.
    Mark 11:24 says, “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” The moment we ask God for something—the moment we do our part and plant our seed of faith—we should believe God that the answer is on its way. It is important to expect our miracle so we can recognize it and reach forth to take it when it comes. And it’s also important to remember that God controls the time and method He will use to give back to us. We must keep trusting God and expecting our miracle, no matter how long it takes to reach us.

So, give God something to work with. No matter how little you think you have, sow it in joy and faith, knowing in your heart that you are sowing seed so you may reap miracles. Then start expecting all kinds of miracles! Remember, God always sends the right answer at the right time, in the right way. His timing and methods are always exactly right for our lives!

How To Be Happy On Your Own Terms (Even If It's Not What People Expect)

Do you feel tethered? Tethered to your job, your home, your debt, your gadgets, your shoe fetish? Tethered to the same old you every day, the one that's busy in a whirlwind of activity but ultimately going nowhere? Just like a hamster on a wheel, your life is not going to change direction. Unless you start doing things differently. 

Most of us play safe. Consciously or not, we urge caution, hunker down, evade pain. We grow up dreaming of being astronauts and ballerinas. We dream beyond the limits of the possible. But at some point along the way, we succumb to a life of commuting and cubicles. We don't listen to our hearts. We quietly endure the things that make us unhappy in the slow suffocation of the comfort zone.

The reason? We are terrified of falling short. None of us are perfect yet we set cruelly high bars for ourselves. We worry that stepping out of the comfort zone -- changing direction, taking risks -- will set us up to fail. So we carry on doing the same old same old,  just to show that we are good enough. Even if it doesn't make us happy. 

The pressure to assimilate can be overwhelming 

One of the problems is that many people listen to outside advice rather than following their inner voice. They treat as gospel a laundry list of "shoulds" -- should go to college, should be married by 30, should stay in a decent but ill-fitting job. Should is a dangerous word. It sets up a real dissonance between what others expect of you and the things that truly make your heart shine.

Yet there is absolutely nothing in this life that you "should" do. The route to happiness isn't fixed, but a series of forks in the road. Like Frost, you might take the one less traveled by. Or you may take the popular path. It doesn't matter, as long as you follow your heart at every turn. Do that, and you will arrive at a happy place. 

Guess what - it’s a different place for everyone. 

Would you like to know the real secret to happiness? 

The reason why some people find fulfillment, abundance and love is simple - they believe their happiness is important. They give themselves permission to be happy on their own terms. At the risk of sounding like a L'Oreal ad, they think they're worth it.  

Happy people truly feel worthy of happiness. They make choices that reinforce their happiness and they pursue those choices whole-heartedly. They don't make excuses. When someone asks them why they haven't bought a house yet, they joyfully answer, "because right now I'd rather start my own business/commune with nature/take time to be a mom."  

Your whole life can be happier

You deserve to face each day with something more than quiet resignation. You deserve to love your job, your relationships, your journey. You deserve to feel that your dreams count. Because they do. 

Accept that happiness is a basic necessity. Give yourself permission to want the things you know can make you happy - and then figure out how to get them. Here are a few nuggets of knowledge that will help you on your way. 

  • Make happiness a standard to measure your choices against. Any decision that frustrates your happiness is a poor one.

  • Consciously invest in your own happiness. This takes time and effort. But once you start exercising that muscle, it will get easier.  

  • Be as kind to yourself as you are to others.

  • Assume you will be just fine when you take a risk - you likely will be.

  • Learn to ask for help when you need it. 

  • Embrace the great things that happen in your life, no matter how small. These things don't happen by chance. They happen because you deserve them.

  • Who you are is enough. In fact, who you are is MORE than enough. Repeat as often as necessary. Smile broadly.