I am like a candle. My role as the wick is to stand tall and shine my light to all within my corner of the world, my sphere of influence. One candle doesn’t light up an entire room—much less an entire house—but it can light other candles, and has infinite potential if it just keeps burning. These lit candles have potential to reach the whole world, like the Olympic torch. 

The candle needs a few things in order to burn:

– First of all, it needs to be lit. It can’t start on its own volition. The spark comes from somewhere outside it. Our flame can be lit from other candles—when we’re inspired by people in our lives; or straight from the lighter—when our inspiration comes from God, our higher power. We must be close enough to—intimate with—others and God to catch the flame: we cannot be on the other side of the room.

– Second, it needs a fuel source: the wax, which must be continually pooled around the wick. The wax supports the wick and allows it to stand on its own rather than falling over. My wick draws consistently on this fuel source as it burns. I need to be constantly connected with people who fuel and support me. I receive what they freely give, and then I am enabled to give my light and heat to the world. The larger the circumference of the wick, the larger the flame, but the more fuel it needs.

– Third, a candle needs oxygen. If you put a lid over a jar candle, it’ll keep burning for just a second, then flicker and die. Oxygen can’t be seen but it’s constantly surrounding our flame and we feed on it, unless we cut ourselves off—which doesn’t mean it is gone, but that we can’t access it. The oxygen is spirit, God’s power, and the energy of the universe.

– Fourth, a candle needs to be trimmed. Sometimes parts of the wick get used up and must be removed. If not, the candle can still burn, but the flame flickers a lot rather than providing a steady glow, and the flame leans sideways. Trimming our wick is removing limiting beliefs and anything else that no longer serves us. The candle must be extinguished while the wick is trimmed, but can be immediately re-lit for a better effect. We have to take the time and effort to clean ourselves up and examine how we can be more effective.

Can you think of any other ways you may be like a candle?


Always Before Your Eyes

We’re now over a week into the new year. How is your goal setting coming along? Hopefully by now you’ve written down your goals. (If you haven’t, see the previous blog post in this series for  powerful tips.) What’s next? Maybe you’re like me and write goals from time to time in your journal or someplace and never look at them again. This hasn’t produced the best results. The essential next step is to review your written goals regularly. Keep them always before your eyes and you will achieve them.

A study by Dr. David Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, shows the importance of both writing down AND reviewing your goals:

  • 80% of Americans reported that they have no goals. (Huh, I really can’t even imagine having absolutely no direction in life! How sad.)
  • 16% said they have goals, but don’t write them down.
  • Of the remainder, less than 4% take the time to write their goals down. (If you’re reading this, I imagine you’re part of this group.)
  • Which leaves less than 1% of Americans, who write their goals and review them regularly.

I want to be part of the last group, and here’s why. Dr. Kohl analyzed the income generated by this small group across their lifetimes and found that they earned nine times more than Americans who didn’t have goals. 9X! That is huge! Now, I know that income is only one of many indicators of success in life, but for most people, it’s pretty important to be financially secure. If this study doesn’t motivate you to write and review your goals, I don’t know what would!

How often should you review your goals? Jack Canfield, successful author, recommends referring to your goals 3 times a day: first thing in the morning, in the middle of the day, and right before going to bed. Personally, I aim to review my goals twice a day, morning and evening.

Okay, that’s great, but HOW should you review them, to get the most bang for your buck? Try the following tips, some from Canfield and some from me, and see what works best for you:

  • Write your goals on index cards, keep them on your nightstand, and read them first thing when you wake up and right before you go to sleep. Doing this will help your goals to be on your mind throughout the day and prime your subconscious mind to work on how to achieve them while you sleep. (I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of being productive while I sleep!)
  • Put your list of goals in your daily planner or calendar system.
  • If you’re digitally inclined, create a popup on your electronic device of choice, or use your goals for the wallpaper image on your screen.
  • Write your most important goal on the back of your business card and put it in your wallet or purse where you’ll see it often.
  • Keep your written goals in your car, and whenever you are stopped at a red light, read one of your goals and think about it until the next time you’re stopped. (I’m going to start doing this when I take my kids to and from school!)
  • Mount a vision board on your bedroom wall, posting on it words and pictures representing your goals. Look at it morning and night. When you’ve achieved a goal, take the item off the board and place it in a “success binder.” (I’ll go more in-depth on vision boards in a future blog post.)
  • Create a “goal book” with a page depicting each one of your goals as though you’ve already achieved it. Review the book before bed.

No matter which method you choose to review your goals, be sure to also read them out loud from time to time, when you’re in an appropriate setting. Don’t just read them in a boring voice, but with energy, passion, and enthusiasm. If you really want this to be a powerful experience, incorporate gestures whenever you can.

Also, with each goal you read, take a moment to feel how you imagine you will feel once you achieve it. Jack Canfield writes in The Success Principles that doing this activates the structural tension in your brain, which increases your motivation, stimulates your creativity, and heightens your awareness of the resources you need.

Now go get after it! Make your selected method for reviewing your goals a daily habit, and soon it will become a near-effortless part of your life and bring you big results.

F.E.A.R.: Fantasized Experience Appearing Real

The story is told that on one occasion, a traveler asked a farmer who was seated in the doorway of his humble cabin, “How’s the cotton crop going to be this year?”

The farmer replied, “There won’t be any. I didn’t bother to plant it because I was afraid of the boll weevil.”

Upon hearing this, the traveler asked further, “Well, are you going to harvest a big corn crop?”

“It’s the same,” came the response. “I was afraid we wouldn’t get enough rain for the kernels to mature.”

The traveler pursued, “At least you will have a good potato harvest!”

“Nope. Not any; I didn’t dare plant them because I was afraid of insects.”

With frustration, and somewhat impatiently, the traveler then asked, “Well, what is it that you have planted?”

“Nothing, my good man,” came the answer. “I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

(as told by Angel Abrea)

The recent calamities and atrocities occurring across the world appear to have left many people paralyzed with fear. This fear consumes their energy and saps their motivation to move forward. They fear for their families, especially for their children. They fear to travel. They even fear to speak up about what they believe to be right. Cowering in their homes behind locked doors, they construct around themselves a false sense of security and safety.

This makes me sad for a couple of reasons. First, shutting yourself off from the rest of the world doesn’t actually keep you any safer. It’s all in your head. Second, in deciding to become stagnant in response to fear, you miss out on all the rich experiences that make life worth living. Because rewards in life only come after we take some risk, the greatest risk in life is to take no risks. Third (and this will have to wait for another blog post), remaining in the energy of fear for an extended time actually causes negativity to manifest in the physical world, since our outer physical reality is really a reflection of what goes on inside of us.

So how do we conquer the fear plaguing our hearts and our world? Through faith, because it is the opposite of fear. Author John Pontius has written, “It is fear that keeps us from manifesting what faith we have,” because, while faith leads to action, fear leads to inaction. I’ve observed in my own life that I can’t experience faith and fear simultaneously, but beyond that, I wasn’t quite sure how faith and fear are true opposites. But recently I read somewhere that fear is actually inverted faith. It is just “having faith” in something that is negative. We usually use the world “faith” to describe trust or belief in something positive without having physical proof. But how often do we dread something horrible happening to us, without any proof that it will actually turn out that way? Or even little things, like our fears of being embarrassed, inconvenienced, judged, or uncomfortable? All these fears are really just “faith” in something negative.

Each of the following statements, or thoughts, reflect fears that we’ve probably all had:

  • “I could lose my job!”
  • “If I speak up it will make things worse.”
  • “I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”
  • “I don’t know how they will respond.”
  • “I’m afraid that they won’t like me.” (a common one for people under age 30)

With each of these thoughts, we are imagining something negative resulting from our actions. The F.E.A.R. acronym–Fantasized Experience Appearing Real–is illuminating. We have absolutely no proof of the things we fantasize in our minds, but when we focus on something with intensity and repetition, it really starts feel like reality. We can get to the point that we see it as so real that it debilitates us and causes us to fail to take constructive action.

Some would argue that because in the past, something bad really had happened when they had taken a certain action, they now have “proof” to justify their present inaction. However, that was in the past and cannot be taken as evidence that it will happen that way again in the future. It is nothing more than their inverted faith working against them. Or some may argue that bad things really are happening in the world, so things like that will continue to happen, and get worse and worse. Yes, there is plenty of hard evidence that terrible things are happening in the world. Yet that is still not evidence for what may happen to you/ your family/ your country/ the world at a future time.

The important distinction is this: Bad things may happen in reality, but fear is always a choice. That said, faith is also always a choice. Instead of fantasizing a negative experience, make the small shift to visualizing a positive outcome instead. Do this with intensity and repetition, and your fear will disappear. Not only that, but positive outcomes will begin to replace the negative outcomes you actually experience in your life.

C.S. Lewis captured a fundamental human reality in the following quote. To make it applicable to our day, just switch out the references to the atomic bomb with ISIS (or cancer, or natural disasters, or terrorists, or zombies, or teenagers, or whatever it is that scares you into sleeplessness).

“We think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night… In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented…It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends…not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs.”

Life is too precious to be frittered away in the smallness of fear. So let’s live our lives to the fullest, no matter the threats to our peace or peace of mind. Let’s put our faith in the positive instead of in the negative. Let’s stop giving our power away to other people and forces beyond our control. Let’s focus instead on what we can control, such as how many times a day we laugh, how often we gladden the heart of a child, and the level of gratitude we feel for our wonderful lives and beautiful world.

Recognize Your “Awfulizer”

I was recently told that I have a tendency to go into “doomsday mode” at stressful times. After some reflection, I admit that is often true. I will see evidence of something I don’t like or experience unmet expectations, and then extrapolate my current reality way out into the future. At these moments, instead of taking things one step at a time and dealing with the present situation, I fixate on the bleak future of my imagination. Along with that comes anxiety and fear, and suddenly I’m desperate to protect myself from this dragon in my imagination that I totally invented myself. Do you think at these times I’m very pleasant to be around? Not one bit. This is one of my many self-destructive patterns that I need to reduce and hopefully eliminate. Is anyone else in the same boat with me on this?

I recently heard of the term “awfulize” in a class. It means to imagine something to be as bad as it can possibly be. This seems to fit what I just described about my doomsday mode. This verb has been made into the noun “awfulizer” to describe a person who does this often, but I don’t care for that usage because I don’t think self-destructive patterns should define a person. But many of us have an “awfulizer” in our brains that can hijack our rational thinking and send us into a downward spiral of horror and woe.

The first step to avoiding spiraling to doomsday is simply to recognize the awfulizer when it kicks in. Parents, especially moms, are likely to be victims of thought patterns like this one:

  1. My child lies and keeps lying.
  2. He will grow up to be a sociopath.
  3. He will end up in prison!
  4. And I will be a failure as a parent,
  5. And everyone will know!

As soon as you catch yourself obsessing over an imagined negative future, trace your thoughts back until you identify what the problem is in the present moment. In this example, it’s that the child has just told yet another lie. As frustrating as that can be, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he will continue lying until he is inevitably led into a life of crime. Instead of throwing your hands up in dread and fear, think about what you can do now to encourage your child to live more honestly, and take whatever steps are in your power.

The Awfulizer likes to hide its existence from us because its nefarious operations can only continue as long as we remain unconscious of it. But there are ways to bring it into the light. In Huffpost, Penny Love suggests that we ask ourselves the following questions the moment we recognize we are spiraling into a negative thought pattern:

  • Is this thought helping me?
  • Is it really true?
  • Am I overemphasizing the negative?
  • What’s the worse that will happen?
  • Am I jumping to conclusions?

Just being aware will open our eyes to the broad range of alternatives in front of us, allowing us to make a better choice than we would have, had we remained unaware of the Awfulizer operating so sneakily in our minds. Living mindfully in the present is the only place where we can have peace. The past is a place of guilt; the future is a place of anxiety. Both past and future are illusory. Only in the present do we experience reality; only over the present moment do we have any real power. I like how Eckhart Tolle expresses this:

“The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.”

How exactly can we create a more positive future through the present moment? First, make a plan and take action. Say you’ve already done that, though, or the situation is no longer under your control, and the future still looks bleak. There is something you can yet do. Visualize what you want to have happen! When in doomsday mode, I visualize a negative future outcome, and usually what follows is that circumstances conspire to move me closer to that. Instead, do the opposite. Fear dissipates immediately the moment we replace negative thoughts with hopeful and positive intentions and visions of our future. Author and healer Carol Tuttle has written, “The greatest power you have to avoid the worst is to intend for the best to happen.”

Everything that now exists started out as something merely imagined. Our imagination is truly an instrument of creation. It is powerful, so instead of allowing it to produce anxiety and stress, put it to work to add value to your life!