In our previous Wisdom Note, we began a series called The Cycles and Seasons of Life, and specifically, taking responsibility. This week we continue with guarding your mind. If you miss any of our Wisdom Notes, please go to the blog to read past newsletters.
Life is ever-changing and morphing from one day to the next. There are different phases and seasons that we go through. If we live wisely, we will have much to be thankful for and enjoy the journey each day. This does not mean that we will hike a smooth trail every day, but it does mean that we will be prepared for the rocks, limbs, washouts, and other obstacles that we encounter on our trek of life. If we are adequately prepared, then we will navigate life successfully.
One of the most important aspects of how successful you are in all areas of life is who and what you allow to influence you, especially what you allow permeating your mind.
You sometimes can accumulate a mixture of the people and situations of life, which, if not altered in some way, will assure that your future will be just about like your past. That could be either a positive or negative aspect of your future. Moving positively forward within your life does have its price, for each positive gain you make automatically produces a loss or a sacrifice in some other area of life.
With that understanding, even if you try to avoid it, you will be affected in a negative way by something each day. One of the great challenges of life is to have both the wisdom to recognize those sources of negativity, and the courage to cast them aside, if necessary. None of us would voluntarily drink a glass of deadly poison if we knew what it was, and yet each of us has friends, relatives, or business associates whose effect on us is just as deadly as the glass of poison.
The difference is that one form of poison kills instantly. Once consumed, the body recoils, weakens, and then all bodily functions cease. The other “poisons” that we receive from those we associate with kill hopes, ambitions, enthusiasm, and the thirst for achievement. The methods are different, but the ultimate result is the same. There is very little difference between one who has given up his life and one who has given up his hope.
There are those who will laugh or scoff at you when you read useful books, and yet there is little difference between those who cannot read and those who will not read—the result of both is ignorance.
There are those who will discourage you when you search for a better occupation or focus, and yet it is essential that you find your calling and purpose in life if true happiness is to be found. The interesting point here to note is that a calling and purpose does not have to be some grand or magnificent feat that changes the world. It can be small seemingly insignificant daily faithfulness that will change the life of someone in your world, maybe even your own.
There are those who will frown upon you if you set ambitious goals, and yet without goals, there can be no achievement. And without achievement, life will continue to be as it has been.
There are those who will gossip about you if you are doing well, and yet there can be no cause for rejoicing among those who are doing poorly.
There are those who will whine, cry, and try to guilt you if you take another trail in search of a better life, and yet you must sometimes turn away from those whose effect limits you—in spite of the tears and false guilt.
There are those who will hate you when you achieve an improved life, and yet there can be little happiness in poverty nor love between those who choose to endure it.
One of the disappointments of life is that friends will abandon you when you begin to change your life for the better, and yet those who remain behind will say, “You have forgotten us now that your life is improved.” You must flip this thinking upside down. It is those who accept their mediocrity who choose to “remain behind.”
When you do achieve a successful life in any or all aspects, it should be your desire to return to your earlier friends and embrace them in friendship and love, even if they did not treat you the same. It may be surprising, though, because of the jealousy among those who remain behind they will not be accepting of you. As harsh as it may sound, you have to realize their mindset is their choice, and you must keep moving forward, even when they choose not to.
As I am approaching 64 in a couple of months, I have come to realize that which you may also experience. It is often difficult to pause in the middle of your life for the purpose of sifting out the debris that you have collected throughout your years. If you are like most of us, you tend to accumulate and cling to ideas that limit your progress. You cherish friendships even though the friendships impede your personal growth. You allow yourself acquaintances whose conversation affects or destroys your attitude about life and people.
Sometimes you maintain business associates although those associates teach you immoral, illegal, or unethical practices. In the workplace, you may learn shortcuts for increasing profits while decreasing quality. In countless ways, you wander through life allowing people, their attitudes, and ideas to mold your character—people whose attitudes and ideas have brought themselves little progress, productivity, or happiness in life.
As unpopular as it may seem, you may be accumulating people, customs, attitudes, habits, opinions, and philosophies, which you very simply cannot afford to keep—if you seek honestly after an improved life. Friendships are indeed valuable, but so is the human life. And, it is foolish to fall short of your potential because you fear alienating a friend that may not be good for your long-term growth. I am in no way encouraging not treating others with kindness and love, but you have to be very careful of how much time you invest with those that are toxic to your life. The return on your investment may be devastating.
Here is an example of what I mean. You gather with a few business friends for lunch, which may be a common, everyday occurrence. If you are not careful, in one hour you satisfy your hunger for food, gossip, ridicule, and condemnation of those not present. You then repeat half-truths brought to you through hearsay. You find yourself complaining about government, politicians, management, coworkers, traffic, taxes, weather, and the “system,” while doing nothing to produce solutions and change for any of these situations. Even if the conversation does reveal solutions, you make no effort to communicate them to those who can possibly implement them, accepting things for the way they are.
If your attitudes, results, or happiness is to ever improve, you must exercise the painful discipline required for “weeding out” the garden of your life. Eating alone is better than mingling with those whose conversation is negative. Canceling the appointment is better than keeping the appointment with those whom will simply waste your time.
Changing the conversation is better than prolonging a conversation designed to degrade someone. Telling the whole, painful truth is better than a half-truth distorted to make yourself look or sound good. Saying “no” is better than saying “yes” to something you don’t want to do, or to someone you don’t want to be with. Being firm is better than being courteous to those whose caustic personality does not justify courtesy. The improvement of your personal circumstances means that you must learn to do what those who fail are simply not willing to do.
We have traveled a few paces on our journey this week, and there is much to consider. We will continue this trail in next week’s Wisdom Journal as we learn how to choose friends wisely, so don’t miss it. Encourage your friends and family to join us on our 5-day a week podcast: Wisdom-Trek, Creating a Legacy.