Sunday, September 7, 2014

Choosing Your Words, Creating Your Thoughts

Affirmation:  The words I choose affect every aspect of my life.  I choose mindfully.

The question I've been asking myself while preparing for the September 9, 2014 Barnes and Noble signing has been, "What makes you think you're someone who can inspire or motivate another to live an intentional life?"

Truth to tell, I am simply another human being probably a lot like you who is trying to live a rich, giving, compassionate life.  My mission statement for my life is, "I live a Christ centered life of love, peace, joy, hope, gratitude and compassion."  And, everyday I have to remind myself of it and of how I want to live.  I've written before of my desire to be loving, forgiving, nonjudgmental, non-grasping and compassionate.  It's a meditation.  It's something I have to keep in mind everyday, sometimes every moment.  Do I?  Of course I don't. 

I know I'm not an expert on human behavior.  I have studied it for many years and I've worked with a lot of people in many different capacities.  One of my first loves is a study group.  I facilitated my first study group at Barnes and Noble in Cary, NC around 20 years ago with another MSW, Jane Cook.  We presented the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  We had around 35 people participate for the twelve-week session.  I've either facilitated or participated in hundreds of groups since then.  From my observation I would propose that most people are trying to find a way to live a more fulfilled life.  What that takes is of course different for different people so I don't claim that I can offer everyone that opportunity but there are some basic skills available to most of us and using our words to shape our thoughts and therefore our lives, is a very powerful one.

I recently had a women ask me if I'd read Ten Percent Happier.  I have not.  She explained to me that the author's secret to a happier life was meditation and he shared that approach in his book.  He felt he became at least 10% happier because of his practice.  I believe it.  He therefore, felt a desire to help others find this same sense of well being.  I think we can definitely improve the quality of our lives by meditating but while it's simple, it's not easy.  It's takes practice.  It takes discipline.  It's no different than exercising the body.  It's exercising the mind.  In fact it's easier to exercise the body than it is to quiet the mind.  What I am proposing, however, is something that almost anyone can easily put into practice.  I don't mean for it to be a substitute for meditation, certainly not a substitute for prayer, but another tool to be utilized in the search for a better existence.

We are all talking to each other and ourselves all the time. With just a little effort we can start carefully choosing the worlds we use.  You know what I'm saying.  In fact, it's probably easier to shape the words we use to describe events and others than it is to shape those we use for ourselves.  We can be our own worst enemies.  I have a long list that I've collected of negative self-talk phrases.  Things I've heard people say to themselves or perhaps I read somewhere.  For example:  "I am so stupid!"  "I am such a klutz!"   "I just never seem to get it right."  "I just can't make any friends."  "I never have enough money, time, energy, etc."  "My right leg, arm, hip, etc. is my bad one."  The list I've compiled has about one hundred negative phrases.  Two others that don't sound negative but have that effect are, "I am right!" and "I can do that better."  Those two statements may be vey true but I'm here to tell you (and I know I'm right!) most people don't want to be around someone who has all the answers and who willingly will tell them how to do something better, even if they've been asked. 

So, I'm not here to give you any answers.  I am here to propose questions and to tell you what has worked for me with the same hope as the author of Ten Percent Happier.  I want to share the practice and the words that have made my life better, not perfect, but definitely better.  The positive affirmations I have created for myself and that I write about here and in my book, Creating Positive Affirmations, Living An Intentional Life, have improved the quality of my relationships, my health, my work and perhaps, most importantly, my faith.  They aren't designed to improve your life.  They simply serve as an example of what has worked for me and in case your searching, what may work for you.

My dear friend, Joanne Dawe shared her wisdom with me many years ago when we spoke about using positive affirmations.  "They have to work," she said, "I've been using negative affirmations for years and they've always worked."

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