Monday, February 17, 2014

Know Thyself

Know thyself.

Those words, inscribed in gold letters on the temple of Apollo at Delphi, are probably the most important two-word phrase ever chiseled or written.

Know thyself is a process comprising two critical elements: self awareness and self understanding.

This two-part process is a critical and decisive first step on the Project You Life Journey. Without it, the journey will not only be bumpier and off-centered, but will also feel unnatural, contrived and artificial.

Self awareness is a heightened sense of continuous attention to one's feelings, emotions and thoughts. Self understanding is being aware of your thoughts about your feelings, emotions and beliefs and mindful of the impact these are having on your contemplated, intended or actual actions. When combined and integrated, these elements lead to self definition.

As American actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein wrote, it is critical to "accept no one's definition of your life, but define yourself."
More than anything, our book Project You: Living A Determined Life is for those desiring to become their true, optimal selves.
Those on a Project You Life Journey have several characteristics in common that effectively create the Project You persona:

  • Valuing the potential in themselves and others.
  • Exuding hope and optimism, even in difficult times and circumstances.
  • Willingly giving of themselves through sharing wisdom, resources, networks, contacts, ideas and, most important of all, hope and optimism.
  • Deep knowledge and understanding of themselves, combined with self confidence in their thoughts and actions.
  • Little or no need to seek approval or validation from others.
  • A love of life and a love for life.
  • A sense of urgency, without putting undue pressure or stress on themselves or others.
  • Believing that life-long learning is an integral part of who they are.
  • Willingness to give the benefit of doubt to others, realizing that everyone is simply doing the best that they can at the time.
  • A full understanding that they are a work in progress, based on the realization that they are developing A Determined Life by thinking of their self development and growth as a holistic project.
  • A desire to live and develop all seven aspects of life with vitality and in sync with both their human and spiritual needs.

As you embark on your own personal Project You Life Journey, it may be useful to start by embracing these quotations from three highly different individuals and philosophical beliefs:
Open your eyes to choices, but do not let go of your values.
The Dalai Lama
Be yourself ─ everyone else is already taken.  
Oscar Wilde
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Live your own life.
Steve Jobs

 After all, as Henry James wrote, "Now is the time to start living the life you dreamed."

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Purposely Forgetting The Actions You Have Forgiven

Our previous three posts have been on the gift, art and benefits of forgiving.
The next step after forgiveness is to purposely forget whatever actions, words, transgressions, or trespasses you have forgiven.

This is the only way to ensure that events of the past do not impact the present or your future.

Our brains are pretty good at selective memory and recall. When it comes to the people whose actions or words have done us harm, it is vital to bring this selective memory functionality into use.

It is said that time heals all wounds. That may be true (though often it is not for people are capable of holding grudges and maintaining anger until their deaths), but there is no need to wait for time to run its course to complete the healing process.
In order to fully benefit from the power of forgiveness you must store the details of the transgression in the deepest chambers of your memory and not allow these to surface unnecessarily.

Otherwise the transgression and its associated emotions of hurt and anger will repeatedly bubble to the forefront of your memory like some recurring nightmare. With it will come all the hate and venom you retain for the other person, thus negating the benefits gleaned through forgiveness.

Don't believe this can be done? How about all the trespasses and transgressions you have made against others over the years? Can you recall all of these? Not likely.

For the ones you do remember, you probably experience feelings of regret, sorrow, embarrassment, anger, or remorse. As these are uncomfortable feelings that you are unlikely to enjoy, you subconsciously or purposely repress the memories of your wrongful actions.

Since you are not likely to want to continue experiencing the painful feelings that come from recalling what you have forgiven, you need to consciously and purposely put into place the same memory repression of the transgressions and trespasses against you. Otherwise, the next time you encounter or interact with the person you have supposedly forgiven, these painful emotions and feelings will return and you will struggle to fight them off.

This is why previously married couples often remain angry with one another and spiteful to each other years after their divorce decrees have been finalized. As long as they continue to recall the past negative events or previous hurt feelings they associate with each other, they will maintain contempt for one another. Only by placing the past fully into the past and locking away their negative and detracting memories through purposely forgetting will they be able to get on with their lives and reap the benefits of forgiveness.

Until we achieve high levels of self actualization, we will all retain a tendency to allow ourselves to be hurt by the transgressions, trespasses, words, and wrongful actions of others. Remember, it is how we react to situations and people that cause us true pain and affliction, not the actual events or people themselves. 

Likewise it remains in our power to purposely forget these occurrences as we please, knowing that doing so will heightened the personal benefits we gain from forgiving others.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Benefits of Forgiveness

Sometimes, even when an act is not fully forgiven, people continue to co-exist with their relationships, though perhaps in a slightly altered form. Many couples stay in marriages even when a transgression by one has never been forgiven by the other. For whatever reason, the aggrieved party decides to stow away their feelings of hurt, despite not being able or willing to bestow the gift of forgiveness on their partner.

Here’s some advice from Juan L. Christian, a teacher whose quote comes without any additional reference information, “As you sojourn through life, forgive. No matter what has been done to you, said about you, or how painful it may be. In the end you will feel the warmth of the tapestry of love you’ve created.”

There is a North American Indian proverb that offers advice on not turning those you cannot forgive into enemies, “One foe is too many and a hundred friends are too few.

Of course, most of the time the people you are unable to forgive do not become your enemies, they are simply removed from your life through your own courses of action. Unfortunately, in doing so, you miss the opportunity to reap the personal rewards that forgiving others bequeaths.

Naturally, forgiveness is also a core component of true friendships. Moulton Farnham illustrated this as follows, “Our friends are those who know their own faults well enough to forgive us ours.

And, of course, forgiveness is a critical aspect of parenthood. After all, one’s children are a never-ending source for opportunities to practice and display forgiveness! From throwing tantrums to breaking things, and from violating the trust placed in them to committing foolish or illegal acts, children and teenagers require a great deal of forgiveness.

But there is another aspect of forgiveness and parenting. Being a parent also means at times asking forgiveness from one’s children. After all, none of us are perfect, despite our parental attempts and displays to prove otherwise. Kevin Leman, an author and speaker, has aptly written, “I believe the time we really look big in a child’s eyes is when we go to them and apologize for our mistakes and we say: I was wrong, will you forgive me?

Dr. David Simon has an entire chapter on forgiveness in his book The Ten Commitments, which is well worth reading and referring to from time to time. A highlight from this chapter is:

Forgiveness brings divinity to humanity. More than a mere mood or sentiment, it radiates from a heart that has released pain, resentment, regret, disappointment and guilt. Forgiveness is a practice. It has the power to release constrictions in your heart that inhibit your ability to love.

Practice forgiveness and you will find a higher level of inner peace and happiness.

Practice forgiveness and you will increase your ability to love on all fronts.

Practice forgiveness and you will become a better individual, partner, friend, parent, and even co-worker.
[This three-part series on Forgiveness is excerpted from the book Project You: Living A Determined Life.]
The previous two blog posts in this series were:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Art of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a prerequisite for inner peace," says Dr. David Simon, co-founder of the Chopra Center, who adds, “Holding on to grievances, regrets and resentments is a certain recipe for perpetual suffering.”

This extended explanation from Doc Childre and Howard Martin from their book The HeartMath Solutions sheds further light:

The incoherence that results from holding on to resentments and unforgiving attitudes keeps you from being aligned with your true self. It can block you from your next level of quality life experience. Metaphorically, it’s the curtain standing between the room you’re living in now and a new room, much larger and full of beautiful objects. The act of forgiveness removes the curtain. Clearing up your old accounts can free up so much energy that you jump right into a whole new house. Forgiving releases you from the punishment of a self-made prison where you are both the inmate and the jailer.

Forgiveness is a strength which, while giving comfort or solace to others, has significant recompense for the giver. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

And, as we wrote in our previous post, forgiveness is a gift that is a gift greater to one's own self than to the person you forgive.

Forgiveness is also a loving act as well as an act of love. What’s the difference? A loving act is a charitable one. This is how most people view forgiveness, as an act of charity that is given to another. But in reality forgiveness is a true act of love, the return from which flows more greatly to the giver than to the given, especially when the act eliminates or reduces the feelings of bitterness, resentment, hatred, or disdain in the giver.

William Arthur Ward, the author of Fountains of Faith, had many things to say about love and forgiveness, two of which were:

Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear, only love can do that. Hatred paralyses life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.

Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.

Does forgiveness mean simply forgetting the wrongs done to you by others? Not at all. But it does mean not letting the wrongs jeopardize the relationship that you have with another, especially if this relationship is significant or meaningful to you.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who deeply understood the importance of tolerance and forgiveness on the larger, social scale, had this to say, “Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship.
Practice the art of forgiving and you will find a higher level of inner peace and happiness.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Gift of Forgiveness

Hanging on to bitterness and resentment is like eating poison and expecting somebody else to die.

One critical aspect of your personal life to focus on is your ability and willingness to forgive others. You cannot embark upon the Project You Life Journey carrying the burdens of anger, hatred, scorn, resentment, or other negative emotions.

Rather, to benefit from this journey, you need to start by cleansing yourself of all  memories of past misdeeds, hurtful comments and wrong doings by others with the crystal clean waters of forgiveness.

Critical to this undertaking is acknowledging and understanding that, as life coach Randall Worley tells us, “Forgiveness is not an emotion, it’s a decision.”

In some respects, forgiving others their trespasses against you may be the most beneficial selfish act you can do. Confused? Let us explain.

Most of us think that forgiving someone is to the other person’s benefit. After all, when we forgive someone that person can now go on and live their life without carrying the burden of having harmed us. But think about it, do most people really care if they are forgiven? Aren’t they just going to continue living their lives in their own way, either with you or without you in their lives?

So who truly benefits the most from an act of forgiveness? It is most usually the forgiver rather than the forgiven.

Yes, the forgiven person is usually grateful and relieved when they are compassionately granted absolution or clemency for their misdeeds. And sometimes forgiveness, especially unconditional forgiveness, can be a life-turning event that causes the errant person to permanently mend their ways. But more often the receipt of forgiveness allows the offending person to close the book on that incident and move on without further ado.

However, for the forgiving person, this act has powerful internal paybacks of greater significance. As Robert Muller, who became known as the “Philosopher of the United Nations” writes, “To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”

Paul Coelho, the Brazilian author of inspirational novels, cites even higher rewards for the act of forgiveness, “The energy of hatred will get you nowhere; but the energy of forgiveness, which reveals itself through love, will transform your life in a positive way.

Hence, the gift of forgiveness is a greater gift to one’s own self than it is to the person you forgive, for forgiveness provides you with untold peace, happiness, energy, and a positive transformation of your own life.