Is courage the most important thing? Is it because without courage, how can we do what we need to do, and stand for what we need to stand for?

Without courage, how can we do what we need to do, and stand for what we need to stand for? Is courage the most important thing?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. J.K. Rowling

We don’t know when we will see people who show us what stepping up means. Examples are all around us. When we see others step up it encourages us to do it as well.

Last night at Toastmasters our Chair was performing this duty for the first time. She did a fabulous job. She did what Chairs are supposed to do; she brought energy and order to the meeting. She handled the business session with strength, humor, and leadership.

She is an example to all of us because sometimes we think only the experienced can run the business session well. In fact, many of us are relieved when “Orders of the day” are called at the beginning of the business session. We feel like we dodged a bullet, we didn’t, instead, we lost an opportunity to stretch ourselves, and handle a business session with strength and grace.

When we take the opportunities presented to us we grow as people, speakers, and meeting chairs. Aren’t the people we most admire those who step up? We sit back and think “I wish I could do that,” while they are out there doing it. We think in the beginning they must be more skilled or talented, but if we watch long enough we realize they are just braver.

Life is not for the faint of heart. People will cajole and plead with us to join in, in the beginning, but then they will leave us alone to sit back and miss the fun and growth of putting ourselves out there. The longer we hold back, the harder it is to drum up the courage to change the way we and others see us.

It is one of the reasons when a new member joins Toastmasters our goal is to get them involved in roles and giving their icebreaker speech as soon as possible. If we want to change, we need support, but we also have to be willing to get out of our comfort zone.

There are many clubs and organizations that encourage growth. Sometimes we need to acknowledge to ourselves we need to change something, and then we can find a supportive group. If being part of a group is not our thing we may be a lone wolf. Is change harder or easier as a lone wolf? We may have some solitary pursuits and some group ones.

Isn’t life more becoming than a contest of who wins? What if what we accomplish outside of ourselves matters less than the growth and development within ourselves? All the toys, investments, homes, property, businesses, etc, we amass over a lifetime will be left behind. All we actually carry with us at any time is who we are when we are naked and afraid.

Could this be one of the attractions of being a nudist? We are stripped down to only our self, no pretense, no fancy clothes, or high heeled shoes making us look like something we are not. When Hitler came to power in 1933 he initially outlawed nudism before bringing it under state regulation. Herman Goering said, “One of the greatest dangers for German culture and morality is the so-called nudity movement. What was the danger, they weren’t in lockstep with Hitler?

Do we sometimes need to go back and understand the danger of Dissident Groups? They were dangerous to whom, those who want to bend us to their will? Is there something to nudism that would lead to true equality, and we can’t have that? Ideas about liberalism, pacifism and natural health were brought to America by thousands of German immigrants in the years before World War Two. It is Mark Twain that said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

Those who would rise through the degrees of the holy mysteries must cast aside their clothes and go forward naked. Plotinus, philosopher of the ancient world.

George Bernard Shaw said, “I am strongly in favor of getting rid of every scrap of clothing… I know the mischief done by making us ashamed of our bodies.”

Saint Francis shed his clothes in front of his father to protest being disinherited. People have followed his example and used the naked body as a form of protest and to make a point. It may be one of the most eloquent ways to protest, one I can’t see being brave enough to do. Maybe, I’ve never believed in something enough!

Do we have the courage to stand up and be counted? Can we summon the courage to do what we know we must do to become who we really are? Sometimes it may be taking the podium, and sometimes it may be taking off our clothes. Whatever we stand for, whatever we think is important and right, at some point in our life we may have to make a stand. Will we have the courage?

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts. Winston Churchill

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Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone Hardcover – Sep 12 2017

by Brené Brown (Author) 4.5 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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Are single childless women really the happiest? What is the definition of happy?

What is the definition of happy? Are single childless women really the happiest?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

The most precious jewels you’ll ever have around your neck are the arms of your children. Unknown

Single women without kids are the happiest group in the world followed by married men.  I’m looking at an article by Harriet Minter and she says this is news that could only shock men.

I understand that the day to day looking after children is not liable to rate high on the happiness chart. But, the moments of intense joy one gets from our children can be had no other way.

We are told that expecting things outside of ourselves to bring us joy is the almost guaranteed way to feel disappointed. Unmet expectations make us miserable. Do no expectations make us happy?

I find it hard to believe that I would have a more happy and fulfilled life without my husband and children. This evening we will gather around the TV and watch what we hope is a winning basketball game. We will revel in laughter, togetherness, and the hope our team will end up champions.

Thinking of shared trips with our children across the country, and our daughter’s wedding less than a year ago. All of these great experiences would not have been possible without the sleepless nights of early motherhood.

Girls just want to have fun, didn’t we all dance to that song? Didn’t it ring in our hearts as part of what we wanted? Single childfree women have moments of doubt about not being married and having a family. There may be some mothers who also doubt the wisdom of their choices.

The hard work of motherhood brings the joy of grandparenthood, which childless women will never know. Holding someone’s baby is a joy, holding our own is without words, but holding our grandbabies I can’t even imagine. how that will feel.

The more we put into life the more we get out of it. Marriage and children are not for the faint of heart, it is not for those who just want fun and easy. It may not seem like joy when your day is filled with crying babies and dirty diapers. What these single childless women don’t know or don’t want to admit, is when they talk to their girlfriends who were part of their single childless club their girlfriends never want to go back to it. Yes, they miss the tidy life they had, where they could go tripping off wherever, with whomever. Yes, they might miss the candlelight dinners where men were trying to prove they were worthy of pursuit.

Some of courtship and weddings seduce us into something that if we knew the whole truth of, we might not dare to go. If we have a life with all its drama, messiness, sleep deprivation, and demands that don’t look on the outside as good as someone’s neat and tidy life it doesn’t mean it isn’t happy and fulfilling. In the stillness of our heart we know we have something worthwhile, something bigger than tidiness, and fun, something real, something of lasting value.

A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bankroll smaller, home happier, clothes shabbier, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for. Anonymous

It is with a degree of sacrifice we bring the next generation into being. Guess what, we will not still be svelte and firm even if we don’t have kids.  At sixty I can’t tell the figures of the women who’ve had children from those who haven’t, but there is joy in children and grandchildren you can’t buy at high-end stores or get from traveling to far-flung, exotic places. At sixty we can all be footloose and fancy-free. The heavy lifting of parenthood is over but the joy we get from it is ours forever.

If anyone is looking at their life of no commitments and fun, and wondering if they made the right choice, they probably didn’t. When you look at your children with their accomplishments or challenges it is something, and something is better than nothing.

Easy doesn’t make the best lives. Not having to learn how to live with someone doesn’t bring more joy into our lives. It may bring less conflict but conflict can lead to growth. Being married and having children is a growth experience.

Not having children to me seems a little like just living on the periphery of life. It doesn’t seem better to never take the chance to dive in deep, to feel deeply, to give more than you think you can, and to love with your whole being.

Is it happy in the moment, or deep joy, contentment, passion, and purpose that we want in our lives? I doubt the happiest people in the old age home are the ones without family. When I look at people who have lived good lives, they are proud of, they weren’t just easy and fun, they were doing the hard work of making society work, families work.

I can’t think of any women I know who regret having their children. Even relationships they are no longer in brought something to their lives. When we are on the outside of life and looking in, even if what we see is messy, and has its miserable moments, it is real. If we are going to accomplish anything in life it will have its messy parts, its miserable parts, and its times of unbelievable joy. We can’t just have the unbelievable joy.

Only when we are willing to live through all of life do we reap the rewards of a well-lived, productive, joyful, passionate life.

I’m waiting to meet the fulfilled single women without children of a certain age. Maybe I’m biased, I chose marriage and motherhood, and maybe I feel the need to justify my choice. Instead, it seems to me the justifying is by the single childless women, trying to justify why they are happier without love in their lives. Friends are great, but I don’t think they take the place of a loving partner and the depths of love we have for our children.

When we don’t create a family of our own we miss out on one of the great joys of life. We get our partner’s kooky relatives and they get ours. We are connected to people, and we form our own tribe.

It doesn’t matter how much I read about how great it is to be single and childless; unless at the moment I read it, the mess is overwhelming and the angst of motherhood and marriage overwhelming, I will always believe I made the better choice.

I think that enduring, committed love between married couples, along with raising children, is the most noble act anyone can aspire to. Nicholas Sparks

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The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion, and Connection  Audiobook – Original recording

Brené Brown PhD (Author, Narrator), Sounds True (Publisher)4.7 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Why bother? Haven’t we all thought why make the effort?

Haven't we all thought why make the effort? Why bother?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Our life is like a garden, our thoughts are the seeds, we can grow flowers, or we can grow weeds. Unknown.

As I walked my dog this morning, I looked at the blooming trees, flowers, the mowed and unmowed lawns. Some homes are lovingly tended, some are left completely alone, no plantings, and no flowers. The builder put in a tree and the City has planted trees, so it is not as bare as it could be.

In the park, there’s a baseball diamond and a soccer field, a play area for kids, and a new area of small trees have been planted.  The City is bothering to make a nice park and it gets used a lot. Most any night of the week in the summer we can walk and see a baseball game, soccer game, and children playing. Someone has to bother for all this to happen.

Someone has to bother to coach soccer and baseball. Parents have to bother to take their children to the park. We even have to bother to walk our dogs. When trees, flowers, shrubs get planted someone has to do it.

If we want to get more out of life, we have to put more into it, seems to be a truth. We can’t reap what we didn’t sow.  The spring and summer bulbs that didn’t get planted last fall were popped into the earth this spring. I think they will only be fertilizer. They don’t appear to be growing.

By not bothering to plant my bulbs last year I wasted money buying them, and they won’t add to my garden. If I don’t get any vegetables planted I won’t be reaping any later on.

I was listening to a talk on Sunday. The speaker was saying his mother always planted impatiens, and one year she called him saying something else was growing where she planted her impatiens. He looked at what he was pretty sure were corn plants in his mother’s flower pots. “I think you have corn growing. Tell me exactly what you did.”

“Well,” his mother said, “I didn’t have any vermiculite so I popped popcorn and used it in my pots.

“So mom, you planted corn. You must have had some unpopped corn and it grew. You got what you planted.”

Even when we don’t want to believe we planted it, a lot of times we get what we planted. We’ve sown the seeds of discontent, jealousy, strife, envy, greed. We might not have known it was what we were doing, but we did it, and we need to be careful that we plant what we want to reap. We can start by sowing kindness, forgiveness, understanding, encouragement, health, and fitness.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? If we sow strife, we will reap strife, and if we sow kindness we will reap kindness. If things aren’t working out in our relationships we need to take a better look at what we’ve been sowing. We may have told our self we were being kind, understanding, and empathetic but we were instead controlling. We may have thought we were sowing seeds of health and fitness but really we were belittling and criticizing. We may have thought we were encouraging but we might have made people feel small and insignificant because of our unrealistic expectations.

Once we figured out that we could not change the other, we became free to celebrate ourselves as we are. H. Dean Rutherford

We don’t always realize what seeds we are sowing. If we aren’t happy with the results we are getting we better take a closer look at what we are planting. Are we sarcastic, do our eyes roll sometimes, are we critical, are we defensive, or do we stonewall (emotionally withdraw from our partner)?

These seeds of criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling are the number one predictor of divorce according to John Gottman from the Gottman Institute. These actions are what John Gottman calls “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.”

If we take a good hard look at our marriage and realize some of these have grown in our own marriage, we need to start pulling these weeds before they take over.

Seven things we can to do to keep contempt in check.

Realize delivery is everything. It isn’t what we say; it’s how we say it. Contempt often comes in the form of eye-rolling, snickering, name calling, laughing at instead of with our partner. It erodes the trust and safety in our relationships and is like a slow death or water torture, drip, drip, drip. We need to be cognizant of the message we are delivering by what we say and what we do.

Ban the word “whatever” from our vocabulary. When we say “whatever” we are basically saying we are not going to listen to them. We are telling them they are not important enough to listen to. This isn’t the message we want or should want to send.

We need to stay clear of sarcasm and mean-spirited jokes. When we make jokes at our partner’s expense we are tearing them down instead of building them up.

Don’t live in the past. Acknowledge valid complaints our partner has about us. Often we start showing contempt because we have let little things build up. We need to deal with our issues, some of which we will never be able to solve. Sometimes we will have to agree to disagree.

Watch our body language. Rolling our eyes and smirking is a signal our relationship could be headed for trouble. We may need to take a break and then focus on the things we like, love, and respect about our partner.

Don’t ever tell our spouse they are overreacting. When we do, we are telling them their feelings aren’t important to us. We need to try and understand where they are coming from, they have those feelings for a reason and we need to find out what the reason is.

When we find our self becoming contemptuous we need to recognize it and stop it. We can take a deep breath. We can make it our goal to be aware of what contempt is, find out specifically what it looks like when we do it, and quit doing it. We can find another way to make our point. Contempt is a bad habit, a bad habit we need to break. If we are aware of it when we see it and when we are doing it, we can change it.

Can we sow the seeds we want to grow, and pull out the weeds we don’t want to spread?

Marriage is a mosaic you build with your spouse. Millions of tiny moments that create your love story. Jennifer Smith

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you will come back and read some more. Have a blessed day filled with gratitude, happiness, and love.

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Growing Hope: Sowing Seeds Of Positive Change In Your Life And In The World by [Thoele, Sue Patton]
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You Be You: Detox Your Life, Crush Your Limitations, and Own Your Awesome by [Canole, Drew]
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Are we are the change we need to see in the world? If we don’t do it, who do we think will?

If we don't do it, who do we think will? Are we the change we need to see in the world?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Be the change we want to see in the world. Gandhi

On Sunday I watched Church of the Rock Pastor Mark talk about prosperity. He believes in prosperity and says money is the most talked about thing in the bible. He doesn’t believe in the prosperity principles as taught by the Evangelical American Churches with their private jets, republicanism, and focus on consumerism.

We are given our daily bread and according to Pastor Mark, we are given seeds to plant. The problem we have is many of us “Eat our seeds.” Our forefathers went through famines and they still protected the seeds because they knew if they didn’t have anything to plant there would be no harvest, and all would perish.

Most of us have lived lives of abundance, even if not as much abundance as someone else. When is enough, enough? This morning I looked through my closet for a white sweater and even though I have a few, I didn’t have what I wanted.

Part of me wants to wander up and down the mall finding the sweater I don’t have. The one I think would be the perfect addition to my wardrobe. The one I probably won’t wear that much, or will it be the one I do wear? Most of us have closets full of clothes and yet we only wear a small portion of what is hanging in it.

I have never gone to a clothing store when I couldn’t think of a single addition I could make to my wardrobe. Buying never seems to be a problem; the problem is spending money that should be put somewhere else. This is the money I think Pastor Rick is telling us is “Our seed money.” The money that should be put to better use, if the money is invested it will grow, or the money, if given to charity, will help someone else.

Frugality used to be a virtue, now we call people cheap if they don’t spend. What kind of life would we have if we bought everything we needed, and we used what we bought? We replaced what was worn out, but we didn’t have a collection of the things we think we’ll use, only the things we do use, only the clothes we do wear.

Entitlement is such a cancer, because it is void of gratitude. Adam Smith

How simple can our lives become and still have everything we need, and use? People are downsizing or right-sizing as some call it. One of the things I wanted was a bigger yard. As I look out at my yard I think of the extra work a bigger yard would be, the one we have is not kept as well as we would like. I do think two hundred, four hundred, and six hundred square foot condos are too small. Yet people are living in them, thriving in them, and finding ways to creatively use their space to build happy, productive, lives filled with passion and purpose.

When did we get the idea we could only be creative in an abundance of space? We used to paint with a few well-chosen colors. From those few colors, we could mix any other colors we wanted. I look at the paints I have and many of them are drying up from lack of use because like my closet, everything is not being used. We paint more harmonious paintings when we use a limited palette. We have better wardrobes when we have limited items that work with each other, instead of lots of clothes that don’t go together. Every item can be beautiful on its own, but if they don’t work together we don’t actually have a wardrobe, just a bunch of individual items.

When we lament we don’t have enough, whether that lament is about lack of time, lack of money, are we focusing on the wrong things? Should we instead be focusing on what we do have, the abundance we do have, the opportunities, the gifts, the bounty and beauty of life?

If we get more of what we focus on, focusing on what we don’t want will give us more of what we don’t want. If we focus on what we do want, are grateful for what we do have, we will get more of it. Is this one of the reasons the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer? When we focus on our lack, we get more lack. We get more lack of opportunities, more lack of prosperity, more lack of time, and more lack of love.

If we focus on what we have to be grateful for, what we can do, changes we can make, how life can be better, do we get more of what we focus on? When we wait for someone else to do what needs to be done, who do we think will do it?  If we all look around and see what we can do, and do it. The change will happen, one small change at a time. That may be all it takes to take charge of our lives, future, and world.

If what we think the world needs is to plant more trees then shouldn’t we find a spot and plant a tree? If we all wait for someone else to do what needs to be done, we will get more of waiting for someone else, and it will never get done. If we all do what we can, everything will get done.

Is there something we know someone should do? Is that someone us?

Every blessing ignored becomes a curse. Paul Coelho

Gratitude is riches, complaint is poverty. Doris Day

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Good Days Start With Gratitude: A 52 Week Guide To Cultivate An Attitude Of Gratitude: Gratitude JournalPaperback – Sep 16 2017

by Pretty Simple Press (Author) 4.5 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Setting and meeting our goals. Are we being the best us we can be?

Are we being the best we can be? Setting and meeting our goals.

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom. Aristotle

This morning I did something I haven’t done in a long time. I walked my dog at 6:00 am. It’s a lovely morning, the crabapple trees are in full bloom, tulips and other spring bulbs are blooming. We forget what pleasures we forgo by not bothering. A simple morning walk can brighten our day. Reading some inspiring words can give us something to think about.

Sharing a little time with someone can gladden our heart. I like being up in the morning and seeing everyone off as they go to work. These are small little interactions; they may hardly seem worth the bother. This is our life and if we don’t bother enough, the missing interactions in our lives add up. I have heard the door close mornings I’ve come down late. My daughter was already off to work. With a sigh, I went on with my morning. I missed a little conversation, maybe a laugh and a smile. 

We may hardly realize what the people and pets that share our life add to it. It may sometimes seem that the kitchen is always a mess; the shoes are never put away, etc. Living is messy, cooking is messy, and pets are messy. Before our old dog Krypto a Scottish Terrier died at fifteen he had bathroom issues, eye issues, and could hardly walk. He couldn’t go through another hard winter, but the hole he left in our life we feel still.

We have a new dog that has been with us for five years. We love her, she is completely different from him which is what we wanted. We didn’t want to try and replace him with a new him, we knew that would be impossible. They are individuals and we have to appreciate their individuality.

Love and loss are part of life. We enjoy the fleeting moments of joy that come into our life, or we don’t. If we enjoyed them or didn’t enjoy them they are still gone. Was the sunrise spectacular this morning? I don’t know I didn’t look at it. I didn’t see last night’s sunset either. Small little experiences we can have, it costs nothing to enjoy the sunrise and sunset. We are unlikely to encounter such great beauty in the rest of our day.

Be willing to be a beginner every single morning. Meister Eckhart

No one will make us enjoy the sunrise or sunset. That is entirely our own decision. We choose how we see our life, not the circumstances necessarily but our reaction to them. We are as happy as we choose to be. We’ve all met people who seem happier than their circumstances appear to warrant. They aren’t happy because of their circumstances but in spite of them.

My mother often says, “I am as happy as if I’m in my right mind.”  Why do some of us embrace a dour, serious response to life and others a happy upbeat response to it? Is this the nature we were born with? Does it make a difference to our lives, or do we have to embrace who we are and how we see the world and our outlook is not better even if we are happier, we have a happy outlook?

I was watching a monk on a podcast last night being interviewed by a former monk. The monk being interviewed seemed not quite real; I hardly know how to express this. It was like he was self consciously trying to project what we think a monk should be. This same interviewer said on a podcast, “We are not what we think we are, we are not what you think we are, we are what we think you think we are.”

The more we try to be what we think someone else thinks we should be the farther we get from being our “authentic” selves. This may be one of the big problems politicians face as they try to be all things, to all people. We can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but we can’t fool all of the people all of the time. This is why our best bet is to be ourselves and let the chips fall where they may. Those who like us will like us, those who respect us will respect us, those who love us will love us, but most of all we can like and respect ourselves.

If there are things in our life we aren’t fitting in but would like to, decisions have to be made. A book that helps us do this is The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma. He tells us to “Own our morning.” and by doing this we elevate our life.

He tells us to do four things. Get up at 5:00 am, exercise for twenty minutes, write in our journal for twenty minutes, and read or watch something inspirational. By focusing on our own health, well being, and growth we have more to give to others. He tells us it takes 66 days to build this into a habit.

We can’t bring “more” into our life without finding time for it. The idea is the hour between 5:00 and 6:00 can be “our” hour. We have no one expecting anything from us so we can focus on our own growth, dreams, aspirations, health, and luxuriate in having time for ourselves.

If we want to be rich we are told to pay ourselves first. If we want personal growth we need to find that time for ourselves first. There is never money or time left over. If we are going to build our fortune on what is left it won’t be built. If we are going to build our personal growth on time left over there is none of that either.

Are we setting and meeting the goals we want in life?

Every morning we have two choices: continue to sleep and dream or wake up and chase our dreams. The choice is ours… Unknown

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The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning. Elevate Your Life. Hardcover – Dec 4 2018

by Robin Sharma (Author) 4.0 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Growth or development? What does it take to be above average?

What does it take to be above average? Growth or development?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

The comparison of others leads to disappointment. The comparison of self leads to improvement. Avina Celeste

We are told everywhere we turn we must aspire to be above average. That average doesn’t cut it. Even if we are exceptional in one area we are likely to be average or below average in another area. This may be what we need to accept and it may be the paradox of success that when we accept and embrace being average it is the first step to becoming above average.

Years ago I picked up a book called It Takes So Little to Be Above Average by Florence Littauer. I was reminded of it today when I thought about the training yesterday for Toastmaster Area Directors.

One of our goals is to bring the Clubs within our area to above average. Membership is the first thing we focus on– twenty paid up members or five new members from July 1st, to June 31st of the following year. This may be an easy goal in some areas and hard in other areas. There is also an encouragement to start new clubs, this may also be easy in high population areas and hard in low population areas. We may have to choose between having less high-quality clubs, and more low-quality clubs.

We may have to make these choices in our own life. Do we develop our self in one or two areas, or do we spread ourselves so thin trying to do everything that everything suffers and isn’t as good as it could be?

We may want to, but we can’t do everything. When I first joined Toastmasters I was about to get married. I left Toastmasters when I was about to become a mother. Something had to go. We need to make choices in our life about where we put our energy. We can focus on different things in our life at different times. During the heavy lifting of parenthood, there isn’t a lot of time for other things. Often work, home and our relationships are almost more than we can handle.

Now that child rearing is out of the way time for hobbies, interests, side hustles, etc open up. We still need to make sure there is time for our relationships. It seems like a good time for self-development when we still have the energy to pursue the things we put aside for responsibilities.

Sometimes becoming average is a huge leap from where we are. Becoming an average basketball player in the MBA is a huge goal. Becoming a midlist author is a huge goal. Becoming a mid-range artist is a huge goal. Creating an average successful business is a huge goal.

We sometimes look at average like it isn’t a worthwhile goal. This is where we sell ourselves short. Maybe even how we talk ourselves out of pursuing something we can accomplish.

I’ve heard music aficionados sneer at the “one hit wonders.” I’ve always wondered, where’s your big hit? Comparisons are odious, we need to do, and be what we can, to be the best we can be. We need to quit comparing the worst of ourselves to the best of someone else. We need to be willing to take the chance to fail, so we can take the chance to succeed at the things that are important to us. We can never get good at what we do not do.

We miss one hundred percent of the shots we do not take. Wayne Gretzky

We often look for the perfect opportunity, moment, solution, or decision that only paralyzes us. At some point, we need to start, and starting is half done.

A fellow Toastmaster said to me upon learning I was Area Director Elect, “You took on something you don’t know anything about?” Yeah, I will only learn about it by doing, this time next year I will know all about it.

What haven’t we done in our lives because we are waiting? Waiting for the right time, the right person, the right circumstances. We can waste our lives waiting, or we can jump in, we will sink or swim. We will succeed at some things and fail at others. Sometimes we will be average, above average, and below average. Or we can stand on the sidelines and watch other people take chances, risk success, and failure but at least they are living their life with gusto and sometimes their failures look better to us than our successes.

Achieving success is a destination, but being successful is a state of mind. Being successful is enjoying your journey. We have one life, how do we want to live it? When we can live our lives without regrets for what we have or have not done, that sounds to me like a well-lived life.

We might not be the ones to change the world. We might not belong to the few that “put a ding in the universe.” We might not be something the whole world would celebrate. But…In the little corners that we live; in the lives that we’ve played a part in, we should be nothing but unforgettable.
― Nesta Jojoe Erskine

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It Takes So Little to Be Above Average Paperback – Jan 1 1996

by Florence Littauer (Author)4 out of 5 stars 7 reviews from | Be the first to review this item

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Is the truth more important than perception? Will the truth set us free? Or is the perception more important than the truth?

Is the perception more important than the truth? Is truth more important than perception? Will the truth set us free?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Truth is the state or quality of being true to someone or something. True facts are genuine depictions or statements of reality.

Perception is detected by the five senses, not necessarily understood, also that which is detected within consciousness, as a thought, intuition, deduction, etc.

Having a discussion today and one of us believes the truth is the most important thing. One of us believes that perception is more important because often we will never know the truth. Even when we can’t know the truth there still is a truth and it is important. Even if we are accused of something we didn’t do, and everyone believes we are guilty, even the courts, the truth is still more important. When we are innocent we are still innocent even if no one believes us.

One of Thomas Jefferson’s sayings was “truth is not the truth, perception is the truth.” I am reading a blog by J.T.Wynn Stand for Reason, and he says in one of his college classes an assistant professor wrote on his paper, “You seem to want everything to make logical sense.”

When we say I am telling you the truth as I see it, it means that is our perception. Truth is the truth even if we only have a perception we think is the truth. We may never know the truth of some things but that doesn’t mean there is no truth. Sometimes the closest we can come to the truth is what we believe to be true.

We think when a jury or judge finds someone guilty it means they are guilty, it only means they are convicted, it does not mean they actually committed a crime. It may not make much difference to someone’s life who is convicted but is innocent than if they are guilty as far as sentence and circumstances of their life. I’m sure it makes a difference when you know you are innocent and are wrongly accused. Your innocence is a badge of honor, and your honor cannot be taken away by perception.

Some people believe perception and reputation is everything. Some of us believe that the truth is what is important. If someone can hide their indiscretions and look like a good person, some think this is what matters. Others believe even if circumstances make you look bad, but the truth is you are innocent and blameless of what your accusers think you did, that is what matters.

Perception is not truth – and sometimes it is a lie. It is false to facts. If we are to become awake, it is incumbent upon us to seek the truth. Unkown

Sometimes our perception of the situation is the problem. The truth may still be the truth but we can react in a positive or negative way. How we react and what we are willing to learn can make a big difference in our lives.

We can look at our life problems and rather than defining it as a symptom, disorder, or illness, we can search for its purpose, how can it serve us by solving a larger life dilemma? When we place it in the correct context, we can look at things through different lenses.

An eating disorder can be reframed as a hunger strike against demanding parents. Money problems can be reframed as an act of loyalty to parents who felt anyone who had money was morally questionable; a husband’s affair can be considered a misguided attempt to reclaim parts of himself, or as an attempt to get the attention of a distracted partner.

When we reframe our situation we can also look for better solutions. The girl with an eating disorder can discover starving herself is not the best way to rebel against parental authority. A cheating husband can discover while acknowledging that he has betrayed an agreement, he can find more successful ways to rediscover lost elements of his life. When we shift the definition of the problem, regardless of how complex it is, we can look at possibilities and choices that are more positive without undesired consequences.

There is the truth and there is perception. Our perception is not always true. When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change. Are we looking at things correctly? Is there a better way to look at things? Can we look with different lenses? Can we redefine our problem? Can we reframe the situation and find a solution?

Pain is inevitable; we all experience it at different times during our lives. Suffering, on the other hand, is a choice. With every negative experience, we can accept it as an opportunity to learn or we can bear it as a heavy cross. Rather than focusing on fear, jealousy, judgment or blame, we can instead reconsider our perceptions and embark on the journey to discover how a difficult experience can actually benefit us. Unknown

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Stepping up. Being the best we can be, for ourselves and the world.

Being the best we can be for ourselves and the world. Stepping up.

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you. Lao Tzu

Last night at Toastmasters it was election night and the word of the day was reluctant. Aren’t we reluctant to step up sometimes? People lead busy lives and often the highest most responsible positions in clubs are the ones we could easily get voted into and the smaller positions we might have to fight for.

Could it be possible that there is less competition at the top than we think? What makes people leaders? Is it a gift for leadership, is it a willingness, is it not knowing any better? It is easy to start our own company; sometimes it is easier to start our own company than get a job at someone else’s. Building a successful company is not the easy part, registering a business and calling our self “President” is easy.

We sometimes look at the candidates we have to choose from in leadership. Where are all the good choices we ask our self? They didn’t step up, and we are left to choose between who did. When we look at some of the great candidates that have been taken down by the media we might begin to understand why more people don’t stand up for such scrutiny.

We ended up with what I believe will be a great executive team even though many of the positions were won by acclamation. As one of the ballots counters my job was easier than it should have been.

Reluctance has been a big part of my life. I was reluctant to hang up my paintings in my own home until five years ago. I reluctantly started putting them on my blog when I ran out of flowers to photograph and was using stock photos instead. When I read some of the horror stories that can happen by using other peoples photos, even when we are told they are free to use, we aren’t always told the truth. It seemed a better practice to use my own photos or ones I have permission to use from people I know.

We hide our light under a bushel when we conceal our talents and abilities. Sometimes people hide their talents as a means of modesty or false modesty. Am I the only one that wonders what is bragging, and what is false modesty?

Humble means “modest, without an excess of pride.” A person who brags about being humble may have too much pride in being humble to actually be humble. We might say, “I’m just a humble person in search of…” We can probably imagine certain people saying this.

Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues. Confucius

When we think of humility we often think it is not thinking very much of our self. What if it’s more about a proper assessment or accurate assessment of our self, who we are, our character, skills, talents, gifts, grace, weaknesses, and accomplishments? Accepting this with gratitude and grace and being the best we can be. What if knowing our own limits, our strengths and weakness, morally or in all other ways is actually humility. That knowing our self and accepting ourselves, our good parts, bad parts, warts and all is actually humility. Not pretending we aren’t good enough, or actually thinking we aren’t good enough, it isn’t good to love other people but not ourselves. Who does that serve?

Humble people are thought to have the following traits.

They focus their energy on others.

Humble people tend to reflect inwardly, but focus their energy on other people. They put other people ahead of themselves. They have a real interest in others and their contribution to the world. They are not paralyzed by failure because they don’t feel they have to be perfect, this gives them the courage to try new things, to take new risks.

They are conscientious.

Humble people help out friends, are charitable and generous toward other people.

Their moral compass guides their decision making.

Humble people think about their values when they make a choice. They accept things with grace and stand by their decisions.

They see happiness as a journey.

We tend to achieve happiness when we aren’t actually pursuing it. When we aren’t only focused on ourselves, but giving to others is when we often find our passion, purpose, and meaning.

They excel as leaders.

Humble leaders give credit where it is due.

They know good things lie ahead – and they’re okay waiting for them.

When we live on the side of modesty, we are genuinely thankful for the opportunities and accolades we receive.

They have strong relationships.

Modesty and genuine graciousness towards others significantly strengthen social bonds.

Can we live our life, accepting ourselves how we are, own our talents, strengths, failures, and share our gifts with the world?

Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else. Judy Garland

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Humility: The Secret Ingredient of Success Hardcover – Oct 1 2016

by Pat Williams (Author), Jim Denney (Author)4.9 out of 5 stars 26 reviews from | Be the first to review this item

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Is giving the secret to a better life? When we give more, do we get more passion, meaning, and purpose?

When we give more, do we get more passion, meaning, and purpose?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the Second Theory of Thermodynamics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. Martin Luther King

Where would we be as a society without those who serve? The people who make things happen. The ones who make dinner appear on the table. The ones who worked for the money to buy the groceries that made the meal. The ones who make events happen we can attend.

Mothers, fathers, teachers, and volunteers make a lot of good things happen in life. We enjoy being members of clubs because of volunteers. Tonight is the election for our Executive team at Toastmasters. Everyone who serves on the Executive is a volunteer.

As I write this I’m looking at Hope + Me – Mood Disorders Association of Ontario volunteer speakers Program – “Peer Talk”. Successful applicants will gain 6 months of Toastmasters sponsorship. Until today I didn’t know this program existed. One of the things I’ve learned from Toastmasters and also from attending Al-anon with a friend is talking is the best therapy. When we tell our story, our truth it helps us put our lives in perspective, and when we help others, we help our self.

This is the secret that we often don’t realize, we don’t only help others when we volunteer, when we serve, we help ourselves build meaning and purpose into our lives. Is there a more serving pursuit than being a parent? Is there anything more meaningful than being a parent.

We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give. Winston Churchill

We have heard all our lives, it is better to give than to receive. This has been drummed into our head but have we thought of a deeper meaning than making sure we share our toys, dessert, money and time. Sometimes manipulators use our altruism to their advantage to get money from us, time from us, or support from us we didn’t want to give but felt guilted into. Do we need to be more discerning about where we give our time, money, and attention?

Through MRI technology, we know that giving activates the same parts of our brain as food and sex. Helping others may be the secret to living a life that is not only happier but also wealthier, more productive, and meaningful. It seems we can’t give without receiving more ourselves.

Psychologists distinguish between “hedonic” well-being (a sense of happiness), and “eudaimonic” well-being (a sense of meaning and purpose). Researchers found that having strong social connections was important for happiness and meaningfulness. However, helping others in need, and identifying oneself as a “giver” in relationships, was related to meaning alone.

It turns out that not all types of giving have the same effects on us. Helping others is especially effective when we see the specific impact our actions have. This may be a way to not feel guilted into giving to causes we do not embrace.

In relationships, men are seen as the givers, women as the receivers. Women aren’t only receivers, we are multipliers. We take sperm and make a baby. We take a house and make a home. We take groceries and make a meal. We take moments and build a life.

We all need to give and receive in life. There can be no givers if there are no receivers. We need to find balance in our relationships, personal life, and outer life. At times in our life just keeping our family going may be all we can manage. At other times we have the energy to give to the larger world. We need to live our life in ebb and flow, we give, we receive, and we multiply. We find meaning, passion, and purpose when we give to others, they find meaning, passion, and purpose when they give to us.

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody. Chinese proverb

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Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success Hardcover – Apr 9 2013

by Adam Grant (Author) 4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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The truth will set us free. We need to be honest with ourselves. Know thyself.

Know thyself. The truth will set us free. We need to b honest with ourselves.

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Everyone holds his fortune in his own hands, like a sculptor the raw material he will fashion into a figure… The skill to mold the material into what we want must be learned and attentively cultivated. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In his book, This Is How Augusten Burroughs says a woman in an elevator told him, “life couldn’t be that bad.” He didn’t appreciate her “just think better thoughts” positivity. He didn’t know why it bothered him so much, but when he got back to his hotel room he saw the following headline, “Self-help makes you feel worse.” Canadian researchers found those with low self-esteem actually felt worse repeating positive statements about themselves.

The reason for this is it seems is we are lying to our self when we try to tell our self we are what we are not. If we are not yet thin, rich, fit, happy, or accomplished we know this. Lying and telling our self we are what we know we are not is not helpful. What is probably helpful is if we ask our self how could we bring to fruition these things we want to be, have, accomplish, develop, or create? What can we do to bring our hopes, dreams, aspirations, and longings into reality?

When we ask ourselves the right questions, we get answers. We can choose to eat better, which is better than telling our self we are already healthier, thinner, or fitter. We can tell our self the truth, we are eating better, but we need to know better than what? Trying to fool our self into feeling better without changing anything does not work. Robin Sharma tells us “the smallest of applications is worth more than the grandest of intentions.”

We need to take charge of our life and live it with intention, courage, honesty, and truth. If we could just look in the mirror and say positive stuff like “I am a winner.” Wouldn’t that be great but our mind will talk back to us and say “winner at what?”

We need to create our affirmations with total honesty, “I am becoming healthier because most of the time I make better eating choices, and most of the time I exercise. Then, we also have to eat the better food choices and get the exercise most of the time.

If you knew how much work went into it, you would not call it genius. Michelangelo

If we tell our self we are a lovable person then we will have to be a loving person. What is our definition of loving, when do we show this, to whom? We are smart enough to know empty words don’t mean anything. If we tell our self we are getting healthier because we are taking long walks, but if we haven’t been doing any walking this is just a lie.

Affirmations of the truth – will resonate with our subconscious. If we have trouble believing we are something, let’s go with disciplined. There is no point telling our self we are disciplined when deep down we believe or know we are not. We need to find something we are; that we truly believe that makes us feel good. Then when we say we are focused on becoming disciplined there is the truth. We can feel good every time we say we are focused on becoming disciplined, and as we say it, and as we become more disciplined, it becomes a self-fulfilling promise to our self.

It isn’t that affirmations don’t work. It is that we are often told to put the cart before the horse. We think we should tell ourselves things we haven’t accomplished yet, instead of telling our self we are becoming who we want to be by accomplishing what we want to accomplish. We “aren’t” we are becoming, there is a world of difference between repeating things we know are not true but wish were, instead of repeating things we are in the process of making come true, by our thoughts, and actions. We need to put a how in there. Nothing happens until something happens, and we are the one who will make things happen in our own life. We can tell our self we live in a clean house, but if we don’t actually clean it, or pay someone else to do it, it is unlikely to be true.

When we can look at our lives with truth and honesty and see the things that are good, what can change, and what we just have to live with we can get on with making the changes we can make. There is no point telling our self we are young and fit if all we can be is fit. We can, however, get busy at becoming fit, and that will make us feel younger.

We may need to embrace hard truths about our self. We may never be some of the things we want to be. We may never have a full head of hair again, embrace baldness. We may never be beautiful, embrace being unique. We may never be rich, embrace simplicity, happiness, joy, and gratitude.

This is our life. What we do, and what we think builds our life. Are we building the best life we can?

Our excuses are seducers, our fears are liars and our doubts are thieves. Robin Sharma

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Dry: A Memoir by [Burroughs, Augusten]
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Dry: A Memoir Kindle Edition

by Augusten Burroughs (Author)

4.4 out of 5 stars    81 customer reviews

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