PAVING THE WAY TO SUCCESSFUL RESOLUTIONS

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‘Tis the season for resolutions. I’ve wrote previously about products that claim to work miracles and how alluring their ads can be when we have a daunting task ahead. But this year, looking to 2018, I’d like to go farther than warnings about products that are too good to be true. Instead we’ll discuss adding an extra step in your resolution making process to increase your chances of success.

Once you’ve listed your resolutions, read through them and start to brainstorm potential challenges you will face in order to achieve them. Start by writing down logistical issues (i.e. scheduling conflicts, not having necessary equipment, trigger points that will make you want to revert back to old ways, etc.). Some simple planning and preparation should take care of most of these issues. Next, go a step further and write down limiting beliefs that will thwart your plans. Rather than concrete items or situations, consider ingrained mind sets that will keep you cemented in old ways and block you off from new ones.

Limiting beliefs might include: I need cigarettes. I always have and always will be out of shape. I never have enough time. I don’t like healthy food. Learning new things is difficult.

The logistical / practical issues are easy to rectify. Limiting beliefs on the other hand will take repetitive attempts to overcome. You will need to be patient to reprogram the way you think. By bringing attention to these types of thoughts, you will not only get closer to your resolutions, you will create deep and lasting change so that those resolutions stick.

Good Luck & Happy New Year!

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FINDING MORE IN LESS: SLOWING DOWN TO GET SPIRITUAL

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In the average day there seems to be more work than time. This especially seems to be the case around this time of year. On top of the normal schedule bursting at the seams, we are to squeeze in additional family commitments, charitable work, special meals, memorable events, and take time to reflect on the reason for the season (whether it be Christ’s birth, the lengthening of days, or something else). I must wonder about the role of organized religion in our increasing busyness regardless of the time of year. Such pondering has left me with a chicken / egg scenario.

Is it our increasing busyness that has pushed organized religion to the fringes of society and individuals’ lives? Or has the lessening impact of religion simply left a void that our busyness has grown to fill and exceed? Do you have experience that supports either side of this question? The cause may vary based on the individual, but I don’t think the solution does. In this conundrum, the common factor and the easiest factor to alter is our busyness. If we desire to be more spiritual or grow closer to our faith we must cut down on our busyness to either consciously take part in more religious activities or free up more time to allow silence to pervade bringing equal parts of spiritual peace and passion.

It can be difficult to thin out the things you ‘must’ do. At the holidays especially, our choice to do so will often affect a wider circle of people that just ourselves, and you may have to have a good hard look at tradition. But do not be intimidated or give up. There is a definite need to slow down and experience the things that make life special and meaningful. When we do less, we may surprise ourselves and in fact discover more. We will allow ourselves to discover things that no amount of ‘doing’ could unearth.

RAISING CHILDREN WITH FAITH

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Children will inevitably bear witness to and perhaps inherit their parents’ religious inclinations and spiritual beliefs. This will occur due to the vast amount of time children spend with their parents, not to mention the huge amount of influence such a relationship holds. Further, parents can spend a good deal of time imparting faith on their children. Organized religions expect this transfer between generations to take place and they often set up safe guards that help ensure children will become members of their parents’ religion. For example, before allowing a couple to be married in the church, many Christian denominations require the bride and groom to sign a contract promising to raise any resultant children in the faith.  Parents make so many decisions for their children. Should the life-long faith children will grow follow be one of those decisions parents make on their behalf?

If parents devotedly raise children in their own faith, the child could accept and adopt it as their own or they could grow to reject it. Given the large absence of young people in organized religion, more seem to be rejecting than accepting their parents’ faith. Hopefully they leave the religion with only mild disinterest or disagreement rather than a major-blow out of anger and hurt feelings. Other than rejection, intense feelings, and the lasting effects of these on individuals, there are bigger consequences for what religions future generations are raised in.

Most ‘World Religions’ have mutually exclusive doctrines (they accept themselves as the one, true religion while all others are deemed illegitimate or even evil). While they often have an accompanying doctrine of peace and tolerance, elements of division and judgement are more frequently remembered and shouted louder than their kinder counterparts. In our global world this sets us up for conflict, discomfort, and pain. Is that what we want for future generations? On the other hand, raising kids with no spiritual belief system or with exposure to many systems but commitment to none may leave them feeling isolated. They will not have the same roots, history, or network to draw on. Not being immersed in a faith, they will miss out on meaningful knowledge and experiences. Children may grow up to have no sense of purpose or direction, or a splintered one at that. Both paths seem fraught with issues. It is a distressing situation for parents that just want the best for their children.

There is no easy answer. This, like so much in our world, falls within shades of gray. A parents’ beliefs will affect their child no matter what. You might as well raise them to believe what you think is right. But when what you’re teaching breeds judgement or division, you may want to rethink that belief system… for yourself and your child. It isn’t that we should all believe the same thing, but we should all have respect for each other’s freedoms. If you teach your children anything, teach them to live and let live.

A REASON TO CELEBRATE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

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As we get into the full swing of the Christmas season, it becomes inescapable. Which begs the question, in a secular society should one be able to go completely unaffected by religious observances and holidays? Freedom from religion rather than freedom of religion. Given the extreme limitations that would have to be imposed in order for this to become a reality, I think such a system would end more freedoms than it would create. Besides, I don’t think there is anything wrong with people being exposed to beliefs and practices outside their own faith system. It is a chance to learn, gain vital understanding for this global world, and perhaps have a new spiritual experience.

At Christmastime for example, you don’t have to be a Christian to find meaning in the holiday season. The emphasis on family and togetherness can inspire people from all faiths to return to and appreciate their roots. Christmas can inspire anyone to practice ‘goodwill toward men’, to give and be compassionate to those less fortunate. In all the twinkling lights we can be encouraged to seek out glimmers of hope in the darkest times.

Of course, this principle doesn’t apply to just Christmas. The themes of just about any religious holiday can transfer and be meaningful to those outside the related faith system. Rather than get offended by inevitably coming into contact with celebrations of a different culture or faith, find a point of meaning that impacts you. Find a way to make it ‘your’ holiday. With all the negativity and disappointment in our world, we should look for things to celebrate, not things to complain about. If you aren’t celebrating the birth of a savior, celebrate the lengthening of days, the warmth of family, or the innate good in humankind.