Recently when going into the notes app on my iPhone, I made an unexpected discovery. Please understand that I’m not in the habit of using this feature and will typically shoot myself an email or text when I need any sort of reminder. But for some reason, I opened the app and was surprised to find an entry from October of 2016.
First of all, I don’t remember ever adding the notes, to begin with. More interesting is the fact that I just purchased my current phone last Summer of 2019. In October of 2016, I was using an iPhone, however, it was issued to me by my employer at the time and I’m no longer with that company. So how did a note I made on another phone show up in my current?
Being the curious sort, I reached out to my local Verizon store and they had no idea. Who knows, it must have been stuck in the cloud. Anyway, the crazy thing is that I still don’t remember making the notes. Further, in writing this post, it’s clear that these insights came to me over the broad course of my life starting in early childhood right up to recent years. Ultimately, I am grateful and now compelled to share what I found, and hope this in at least some small way adds value to your life.
- Having a Spirit of Gratitude – From Andy Andrews
Andy Andrews has been a mentor to me for over twenty years through his books and other resources. I’ve seen him speak on several occasions and he’s truly one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever known. One of my favorite quotes from his book, The Traveler’s Gift, is “It’s impossible for the seeds of depression to take root in a thankful heart.”
This is a powerful statement. Whatever you give focus and energy to in life will be manifested. If you choose to place your focus on your doubts, fears, or any other negative situation, you will only make these things worse. But if you will have a spirit of gratitude and focus your thoughts and energy on the positive, you will inevitably live a happier, more hopeful, and fulfilled life.
And it’s a choice you make every day. You can choose to be happy with what you have or you can whine and complain about what you don’t have. You all know which is the better way to go. Be a glass half full person…not half empty.
The last thing I do before turning out the lights at night is to list the handful of things I’m most grateful for that occurred over the course of the day. It is a fact that we don’t think our way into action…we act our way into feeling. And I promise, if you will take a moment to list just a few things that you’re grateful for, you will go to bed with more peace in your mind, heart, and spirit.
- Accept 100% Responsibility for Your Life – From Andy Andrews
This is a big one and while I have to give credit to the late great Jim Rohn for first sharing this concept with me, it was Andy whose teachings had the greatest impact. It’s really simple…accept 100% responsibility for every area of your life. This means the good and the bad. You are where you are in life for the most part because of the choices and decisions that you’ve made. If you don’t like where you are, make different choices.
Now you might say, that it’s not your fault that you’re dealing with a certain negative situation. And that may be true and yet you always have a choice as to how you respond to any situation. When you place blame on some outside circumstances, you give away your power to affect change for the positive in your life. So regardless of what happens to you, choose to respond in a positive way. Be solution-oriented rather than problem-oriented and you will be all the better for it.
- Saying “Yes Ma’am and No Ma’am” – From Mom and Dad
Call it old fashioned, call it Southern, call it whatever you like. This is how I was raised from my earliest memories. Obviously Yes Sir and No Sir were equally expected. It is a sign of respect and giving honor to adults and it was drummed into my consciousness to the point that it will be forever an automatic response. Whether you agree or disagree, you can never go wrong in showing respect and honor to your elders.
- Saying “Thank You” and not just “Thanks” – From Jeffrey Gitomer
This may seem trivial and yet semantics are powerful. One of my favorite verses from the bible is:
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21
You literally speak your world into existence and taking the time and courtesy to say a complete thank you rather than just thanks will be appreciated. It may be a small detail, but I promise the little things do matter and really add up.
- Sending Thank You Cards – From Mom and Dad
In our current age of ever-advancing technology and instant communication, sending a handwritten thank you card is a timeless and lost art. There’s nothing wrong with sending a thank you text or email, however, if you really want to separate yourself from the masses, send a handwritten card or letter.
My parents taught me as a little boy that whenever I received a gift of any kind or was the recipient of some kind gesture, a thank you note was an automatic. It doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, if you really think about it, it only takes a moment to craft a few well thought out and meaningful lines expressing your feelings of gratitude, and yet its impacts can be both powerful and priceless.
- Doing Right v Doing Wrong – From Dr. Jack Graham
Dr. Graham has been my pastor now for almost 20 years and he’s fond of saying “It’s always right to do right and it’s never right to do wrong.” In good faith, Mom and Dad did a great job of teaching me right versus wrong as a child however in my adult years, Dr. Graham has been my moral compass. He is a bible scholar who teaches God’s word and he pulls no punches.
One habit that I’ve developed thanks to Dr. Graham is a daily bible study including a chapter from the book of Proverbs. For many years now, I’ve read a chapter a day which means I read the entire book once a month. I can’t tell you the difference this has made in my life. Proverbs is the book of wisdom and in particular, it teaches how important it is, to be honest, and ethical in every respect. It is a high standard and yet it’s my goal to strive to be above reproach in every area of life.
- Always Tell the Truth – From Mom and Dad
Trust is the foundation for any relationship and honesty is an absolute building block for creating trust. If there’s no trust, then there’s not much of a relationship. It’s interesting how the lessons we learn as children stick with us all our lives and telling the truth is certainly one of the most critical.
From the early influence of my parents to my daily study of God’s word, I do my best with this one and it’s always on my mind. Telling the truth is not always easy but it’s definitely always right. One lesson that I’ve learned the hard way is that telling a lie at the moment only seems to compound over time so that if you’re ever caught, the consequences seem inevitably worse than if you would have told the truth in the first place.
- Be Careful in Choosing Your Friends – From Mom
This is a saying we all remember as kids however some adults seem to forget the wisdom of Mom in choosing their friends. Your associations in life will make or break you so choose wisely. The late great Jim Rohn and John Wooden, both brilliant men, used to teach at great lengths about the importance of choosing your friends and associates.
If you’re up to the challenge, make of list of the top ten people you spend the most time with and remember that there’s no such thing as neutral or treading water in life. You’re either growing and moving forward in a positive direction or you’re regressing. Now carefully look over and consider whether the people you’ve listed are lifting you up or dragging you down.
Depending on what you find, you may have some hard choices to make. If it’s a negative work associate, do what you need to do to be loyal to your employer and fulfill your job. Outside of that, be very careful with how you spend your time. If it’s a family member that’s creating negative in your life, you may have to love them from a distance for the sake of your personal well being. Family situations can be tricky so proceed cautiously.
In any case, whether it be a friend, work associate, or family member, you really do need to guard your heart and mind by setting the appropriate boundaries. Life is too short to allow negative relationships to drag you down.
- Play Nice With Your Friends – From Mom
Getting along with people is a priceless asset and there’s definitely some skill involved. Dr. Gary Chapman in his book, The Five Love Languages, teaches that we’re all uniquely wired to feel appreciation and love through gift-giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and touch.
While the book is written for couples, the principles apply to all relationships in this way. If you don’t understand how another person is wired to feel appreciation, then you might as well be speaking a different language. That’s how far off our efforts can be to show appreciation if we’re speaking in a way that fails to connect with the other person. People tend to show appreciation in the way they want to receive it and unfortunately, this can fall on deaf ears.
If you want to be a better communicator and raise the quality of all the relationships in your life, study Chapman’s work. Learn how you’re wired and how to identify how other people are wired so you can target your communication in the most effective way for your mutual benefit.
- If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Don’t Say Anything at All –
From Roxanne Parks
You’ve all probably heard at least a version of this from your Mom as I certainly did. However, it was Roxanne Parks, a business associate, and friend from many years ago who did a talk that I will never forget. It was based on Philippians 4:8 which is another one of my favorite bible verses:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
One point that really hit home for me was the importance of focusing on the positive. Roxanne said to be very careful when making a negative statement…even if it’s true. In the spirit of Phil 4:8, if it’s not a positive statement in general or lifts someone up, why make the statement? She said you never know how your words may affect someone else in an adverse way.
Now it’s not a big deal, however, I still remember a co-worker in a team meeting of about 20 people speak very negatively about the game of golf in general and especially regarding watching it on TV. Now I love golf and I’ve spent my fair share of time watching it on TV…especially the majors. And again, this is trivial at best and yet here we are, roughly 15 years later, and I still remember her comments like it was yesterday. Imagine the damage that could potentially be done if it was something actually significant and important.
The second point Roxanne made that really stuck with me is that you can’t have a quality relationship with someone when you speak negatively about them behind their back. It will poison your attitude toward them and there’s no way you will be able to hide your body language when you’re in their presence. Plus you always run the risk of your words getting back to them. Can you say fraught with danger?
- Have a Spirit of Forgiveness – From Dr. Graham
Having a spirit of forgiveness is one of the hardest character traits to obtain and yet one of the most beneficial. Dr. Graham will often say that a root of bitterness is an acid that will eat its container…or your soul. That’s why when forgiving someone of some grievance, the person often most likely to benefit is…you.
From personal experience, I will say that the sooner you take action in asking for forgiveness, the better. The longer you wait, the more the Law of Diminishing Intent is going to work against you. Basically the longer you wait, the harder it will be to do what you know you need to do. You will be way better off to hold your breath, rip off the band-aid, and get it done.
Closing thoughts for my readers:
We are living in strange times, to say the least. I’m writing this at the start of my third week off due to the virus. When one of my best clients shared with me just a few short weeks ago that it had been declared a pandemic, I would have never imagined how much could change and how fast.
The best advice I can give is to trust that we’re going to get through this. Our government has the brightest minds in our country focused on figuring out how to best deal with the situation. One of my favorite quotes from Napoleon Hill is:
It’s the reason why my first point above is on gratitude which is directly tied to your attitude. This situation is beyond anything we’ve ever experienced, and yet there’s still a silver lining if you’re willing to look for it. For those who are with your family, value and cherish the extra time you’re getting to spend together. If you’re single with extra time, take advantage of the opportunity to reconnect with old friends.
The worst thing you can do is overdose on all the negative. Stay up with the news as needed but don’t binge watch it all day. That will only bring you down further and make an already horrific situation all the worse. Focus on the positive and expect only the best outcome from this and we as a nation and world will survive and ultimately thrive again.
Best of luck in your journey.