Why be half empty when your life can be full?

Are you the type of person who typically views the proverbial glass of water in front of you as being half-full? Do you frequently wonder why the cards in the deck of life have apparently dealt you a bad hand? Do you suppose that because of a family history chart littered with a pattern of health issues you are predestined to a troublesome and unfulfilling life? I wish to speak to those who slow themselves down by carrying around a heavy load of pessimism. Pessimism is like unto a cancer. Initially, it might be almost undetectable. Nevertheless, silently it grows inside of you. If not discovered and treated quickly, it will utterly destroy all of those happy, hopeful, and optimistic cells in your body. “Your perspective can either be your prison or your passport. Your perspective will either become the thing that confines you to the way things are, or releases you into the way things can be!”–Steven Furtick

To you negative, self-defeating, highly self-critical, cancer stricken patients of pessimism I declare that “There are no hopeless situations. There are only people who think hopelessly.”–Windred Newman I immediately challenge you to plant a positive thought in your head. It, too, can grow as you feed it. It’s really not as difficult as you think. “No one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side!”–unknown The effect can often manifest itself instantaneously. An optimistic person is easy to pick out of a crowd. So, don’t think wearing those cool shades will serve as a clever disguise. I’ll recognize the change in you. “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”–Helen Keller With daily nourishment in the form of definitive, personal affirmations, that tiny seed of optimism will bloom. Your mental outlook can be transformed. You may soon become a glass half-full personality. The word optimism is, of course, originally derived from a Latin source optimum, meaning “best”. Cultivating an attitude of happiness and a spirit of optimism is the best approach to life. “Don’t be gloomy. Do not dwell on unkind things. Stop seeking out the storms and more fully enjoy the sunlight. Even if you are not happy, put a smile on your face. Accentuate the positive. Look a little deeper for the good. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eyes and a smile on your face, with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life!”–Gordon B. Hinckley

As a pessimist, you made a conscious decision to have a bad attitude. Difficult circumstances not withstanding, it was a choice! We all have struggles and trials. The optimist chooses to maintain a positive outlook in spite of those challenges or obstacles. An optimist is blessed with greater opportunities by giving greater effort. A pessimist misses precious opportunities that are offered for he or she doesn’t even see them. An optimist always gives his best effort and trusts that somehow, someway, someday things will all work out. A pessimist is more inclined to give a half-hearted effort due to a complete lack of faith in the future. Both can be highly contagious. Misery does love company, after all. But, wouldn’t you want to be the reason that someone else chooses hope over despair, abundantly living over woefully existing, that passport to peace and prosperity over the personal prison of pity? I think that you do. “We need not feel that we must forever be what we presently are.”–Marvin J.Ashton

Hard as things seem today, they will be better in the next day if you choose a positive attitude this day with your whole heart. This is good news, isn’t it? The message is that you can triumph over that “stacked” deck of cards you’ve been focused on so intensely. The message is to be not afraid of what others, even others in your own family have experienced. You can overcome a real or perceived predisposition for failure. You are not here to fail! Speak this truth to yourself every single day! Consider that “The enemy doesn’t attack apathetic people. He doesn’t have to because you’re sabotaging yourself.”–Steven Furtick  I leave you with words that have brought me great comfort. I share with you one more message which years ago enabled me to make the transformation from a pessimist to an eternal optimist. It is found in the 16th chapter and 33rd verse of the book of John in the New Testament. The Lord said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

What more could I possibly add?

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Stick to it.

Peanut butter has a delicious tendency to stick to everything on the inside of your mouth. Lint seems to want to cling to your clothes. Certain tunes have a habit of getting stuck in your head. Body fat has an unkind tendency of hanging on to various parts of your physique. On the other hand, you have a difficult time adhering to an regular exercise routine and a sensible approach to eating. While other things seem to be able to stick to you quite naturally, why does it appear so unnatural for you to stick to these lifestyle essentials? Many people the world over ask themselves the very same question when the struggles to hang on to healthy habits persist.

Hopefully, I can offer some reassurances that you may yet pull yourself from these sticky situations which disrupt your steadiness. The mistakes of the past often deflate the air from your wheels of wellness. Those times where you may have felt as if you have taken a step backward can actually prove to be for your good. “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”–George Bernard Shaw  It is easy to preach no matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up, and never give up, but hard to stay committed. You need not let this trouble you any further. “Our most significant opportunities will be found in times of greatest difficulty. It’s been said that opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”–Thomas S. Monson  So, I will preach again. I encourage you to keep getting up, keep getting dressed, keep showing up, and most especially keep working no matter what. “Try and keep on trying until that which seems difficult becomes possible and that which seems only possible becomes habit and a real part of you.”–Dieter F. Uchtdorf  Habits are not formed in a day or a week, but you lay the foundation for them each day and each week by working at them with a sincere desire and real intent. “Stick to your task until it sticks to you. Beginners are many, but enders are few.”–Thomas S. Monson  You can be an “ender”. You can be numbered among those who endure the vicissitudes of life. So, with a catchy song stuck in your mind pick up where you left off. The next time you get stuck in a traffic jam and are munching on a spoonful of peanut butter ponder the wisdom in these words by Will Durant. “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We are what we repeatedly do.” Have faith that you will repeatedly choose the right.

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Don’t Stop Believing

How does one effectively cope with stressful times in life? Sometimes, life throws you one challenge after another in rapid-fire succession. On occasion, the undesirable stressors are caused by events which are completely out of your control. Of course, there are those moments when, through your own mistakes, you are forced to deal with the painful consequences of your poor decisions. Whatever the circumstances, stress is spelled the same. It feels the same. It effects are the same. It is undeniable that a constant barrage of negative stress is detrimental to your health. Loss of sleep, increased anxiety, loneliness, severe feelings of depression, unusual bouts with anger, and deep despair are a few ways it can rear its ugly head.  These and other nasty symptoms need to be combated as quickly as possible before you spiral into a complete physical, mental, and emotional breakdown. “Every struggle in life will either make you bitter or better.”–Dave Willis  Everyone will be tried and tested. No one will survive without a few scars. But, you may be wondering, “How do I survive at all?”

I want to tell you about a good friend. His name is Ron. I first met Ron over three years ago. I still recall our very first conversation. He appeared down on himself and a bit lost. I commenced training him in my gym shortly after that initial meeting. What I have witnessed throughout these several years of working with Ron is nothing short of remarkable. He could be a poster-child for unwanted stress. I think he’d prefer the term spokesperson. Nevertheless, I have been so impressed with Ron’s ability to deal with an ever-changing landscape in his life. What are some of the most stressful experiences in life? All of the experts’ lists are pretty much identical: break-ups in relationships, job changes, getting fired, moving, and problems with one’s immediate family. Yes, Ron has gone through several job changes. He worked in an extremely high-stress environment. At one point, his position was “eliminated” due to “restructuring of his department”. That’s the gentle way of saying he was fired. But, Ron is resilient, and Ron has an extremely diverse set of skills. He was troubled, but not afraid of his future. When Ron’s occupation required him to start traveling each week, he did not freak out. He just worked out! Ron and I used to meet Monday through Friday. He could have abandoned his commitment to himself because he was tired and overwhelmed. Instead, Ron asked if he could train with me each weekend. So, we adjusted our schedule.

I remember when Ron called me to say his girlfriend had broken off their relationship. That phone call came while he was on his way to my gym. He wasn’t going to lay around and feel sorry for himself. Ron knew that training would help him through this episode of his life. Indeed, it did. Yes, he has dealt with the stress of moving, not once, but several times. Though annoyed and exhausted at the same time, he never missed an exercise session with me. All the while, Ron demonstrated a determination that is second to none. Though he is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, he has been very teachable. Ron always asks questions. He’s always been open to trying whatever varied exercise routine I’d throw at him. Ron loves to tweak his D.I.E.T. and experiment with food.  I suppose it helps that he graduated from Culinary school years ago. Although that in itself doesn’t guarantee any personal success regarding overall health and wellness, it surely has provided a great foundation. Throughout his ordeals of the past three years, Ron has not ditched his commitment to eating healthy. Ron loves meeting new people and exploring new adventures. He speaks three languages, but guess what. He is learning another. Ron is always moving forward with hope for a better tomorrow. He is an entrepreneur. He started up a couple small businesses. His mind never dwells too long on the past because he’s always looking to create something. Ron is a musician, an IT specialist, a voice-over artist, a web-page designer, a comedian–in short, he’s amazing! His resume reads like a novel with suspenseful twists and turns. He graduated from Michigan State University and also has a degree from the University of Southern California. He is a well-traveled man. He has spent time in the Dominican Republic on a missions trip. He loved it so much he’s returned many times.

So, what can you learn from my dear friend? Never give in to doubt! We are all going to face disappointments. Never give up! Life can and will be cruel to us sometimes. Don’t stop believing!  Well, he’s at it again! Ron is taking his talents to Houston, Texas. More potential stress on the horizon, but I’m not worried about him. He’s developed an ideal coping mechanism for stress: keep breathing, keep living, keep loving, keep serving, keep busy, keep exercising, and keep eating healthy. Hasta la vista, Ron, mi amigo. I am going to miss torturing you with my workouts and all of our stimulating and fun conversations.

High Hopes for the New Year

I hope that you find some value in these quotes!

“We must accept finite disappointments but never lose infinite hope!”–Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.”–Dale Carnegie
“There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.”–Orison Swett Marden
“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”–Vaclav Havel
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blest. The soul, uneasy, and confined from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”–Alexander Pope
“He who does not hope to win has already lost.”–Jose Joaquin de Olmedo
“To be without hope is like being without goals. What are working towards?”–Catherine Pulsifer
“Hope is the last thing ever lost.”–Italian Proverb
“Hope is outreaching desire with expectancy of good.” It is a characteristic of all living things.”–Edward S. Ame
“If we expect change, we must act on our hope every day until we have accomplished what we wanted.”–Christopher Goodman
“You can’t just wait until the last minute before you start to think in a positive way in hope of helping yourself out of a negative situation. It would be like waiting until after you are severely dehydrated before you finally start to drink water.”–David A. Hunter
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”–Helen Keller
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite the darkness.”–Desmond Tutu
“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”–Bernard Williams
“Hope is like the sun, which as we journey toward it, cast the shadow of our burden behind us.”–Samuel Smiles
“Let your hope, not your hurts, shape your future.”–Robert H. Schuller
“Survival was my only hope, success my only revenge.”–Patricia Cornwell

Two Questions

Reflecting upon the many conversations I’ve had already this year with prospective students, I wish to share one element common to each of my discussions. It is found in a couple simple questions which I ask of all I meet. After intensely listening to the individual stories which led these people to me, after engaging in detailed dialogue, after offering my guidance and encouragement, I ask these wonderful people, who have bared their souls to me, two things. “What are you willing to give up?” and “How hard are you willing to work for what you want?”

In addressing the second question, first, I stress this important principle. Every good thing in life comes about as a result of a specific action or series of actions. To a great extent, the nature of one’s desire for achievement of a personal fitness goal or an improved golf game is irrelevant. If I could measure desire on a scale or quantify it in some brilliant fashion, what value would that be to us?  Reaching your potential cannot be based solely on a reading of how badly you want it. It would just be a useless number. “Discipline, not desire, determines destiny.”–unknown.  You must work and must understand that “you can never  expect to succeed if you only put in work on the days you feel like it.”–Chad Hymas.

My intention is not to completely diminish the important role that desire does play in one’s life. For “desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our action. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming.”–Dallin H. Oaks.  But, there is that word, again, action! So, how can you increase the probability of acting with determination on your desires? To illustrate, I share the following story as told by Dallin H. Oaks. “Aron Ralston was hiking in a remote canyon in southern Utah. In the course of his hike, an 800-pound rock shifted suddenly and trapped his right arm. For five lonely days, he struggled to free himself. When he was about to give up and accept death, he had a vision of a three-year-old boy running toward him and being scooped up with his left arm. Understanding this as a vision of his future son and an assurance that he could still live, Ralston summoned the courage and took drastic action to save his life before his strength ran out. He broke the two bones in his trapped right arm and then used the knife in his multi-tool to cut off that arm. He then summoned the strength to hike 5 miles for help. What an example of the power of an overwhelming desire!”

When we have a vision of what we can become, our desire and our power to act increase enormously.

In regards to my first question, “What are you willing to give up?”, the call to change, out of which is born your burning desire, requires that you sacrifice. There is no way around this truth. If you truly wish to become better than you are today, dumping some ballast is the only way you’ll rise to the level of your best self. The things that are holding you back are certainly unique to your life. But, they are not uncommon to the human condition. So, others have done what it is that you need to do. Many have shared private details of their struggles, addictions, fears, imperfect family life, their strange circle of friends, unfulfilling job experiences, and the stress and anxiety which they carry. I am encouraging you to let go of the burdens that bind you to the present. “Those mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.”–Najwa Zebian. If you need a guide to climb your mountains, you can count on me. Obviously, I’d prefer if you’d take the courageous action to turn those mountains into mole hills. “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”–C.S. Lewis.  From there, our work becomes easier. Only you can make the decision to break the chains which imprison you in your current condition. Choose wisely. You do not deserve a life sentence. You are worthy of a new start at life. What are you willing to give up today? How hard are you willing to work right now?

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