Coach’s Challenge for 12/1/13, “Tips from Mark Twain”
Good day, team.
I’ve been fighting a cold all week, so I find myself in a foggy state of mind this morning — not a good place to be when trying to write a Coach’s Challenge. Fortunately, my sister Sally Black, sent me some wonderful words of wisdom from the celebrated writer Mark Twain this week. The following blog post, “Mark Twain’s Top 9 Tips for Living a Kick-Ass Life,” comes from This Page Is About Words, a website offering insights using words and ideas to enrich our minds and vocabularies. The tip that stands out for me is “Don’t focus so much on making yourself feel good” — an idea well worth exploring during this holiday season of giving. I hope you enjoy these slightly edited tips for your challenge this week.
1. Approve of yourself.
“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.”
If you don’t approve of yourself, your behavior and your actions, you’ll probably walk around most of the day with a sort of uncomfortable feeling. If you, on the other hand, approve of yourself, you will relax and gain the inner freedom to do more of what you really want.
Lack of self-approval can be a big obstacle in personal growth. You might have all the right tools to grow in a certain direction, but you may feel an inner resistance. You can’t get there.
What you may be bumping into are success barriers. We often put up barriers in our own minds of what we think we do and don’t deserve. These barriers that put limits on what we are capable of. They might tell us that we aren’t really the kind of person who could do this thing that we’re attempting.
Similarly, without self-approval, you may start to self-sabotage when you actually make headway in the direction you want to go — just to keep yourself in a place that is familiar.
Approve of yourself, and allow yourself to be who you want to be. Don’t look for approval from others. Dissolve those inner barriers and let go of any self-sabotaging tendency. But know that this is no easy task, and it can take time.
2. Your limitations may just be in your mind.
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
So many limitations are mostly in our minds. We may, for instance, think people will disapprove because we are too tall, too old or balding. But these things mostly matter when you think they matter — when you become self-conscious and worried about what others think.
However, people will pick up on your self-consciousness and may react in negative ways. Or you may interpret the things they do as negative because you are so fearful of a bad reaction and so focused inward on yourself.
If you, on the other hand, let go of things, then other people will tend not to mind so much either. And if you don’t mind, then you won’t create self-imposed roadblocks in your life.
It is seldom too late to do what you want to do.
3. Lighten up, and have some fun.
“Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.”
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”
Humor and laughter are amazing tools. They can turn any serious situation into something to laugh about. They can lighten the mood just about anywhere.
A lighter mood creates a better space to work in because your body and mind aren’t filled to the brim with negative emotions. When you are more lighthearted and relaxed, solutions to problems are often easier to come up with and implement.
4. Let go of anger.
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
Most of the time, anger is pretty pointless. It can cause situations to get out of hand and is often more hurtful to the person who is angry than the person he or she is angry with.
Especially when you hold on to anger for days, you are likely just hurting yourself. The other person may not even be aware that you are angry. Talk to the person to resolve your conflict or let go of anger as quickly as possible to make your life more pleasurable.
5. Release yourself from entitlement.
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”
When some people are young, they may be given a lot of things. As they grow older, they may develop a sense of entitlement. They feel like the world should just give them what they want or that it owes them something.
This belief can cause a lot of anger and frustration in life. The world may not give you everything you expect. This can be liberating, however, once you realize that it is up to you to shape your own life and work toward what you want. You are not a kid anymore, waiting for your parents to give you something. You are in the driver’s seat now. And you can go pretty much wherever you want.
6. If you’re taking a different path, prepare for reactions.
“A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”
I think this has quite a bit of relevance to self-improvement.
If you start to change or do something different than you usually do, people may react in different ways. Some may be happy for you. Some may be indifferent. Some may be puzzled or react in negative and discouraging ways.
These reactions are probably not so much about you but about the people doing the reacting. How they feel about themselves comes through in the words they use and judgments they make.
Most people are not likely to react as negatively as you imagine. Even if they do, they will probably go back to focusing on their own challenges fairly quickly.
Your worries about what other people say and think are probably just fantasy, but these thoughts create barriers in your mind that hold you back.
You may find that when you finally cross that inner threshold you created to hold yourself back that people around you may actually not shun you. They might just say, “OK.”
7. Focus steadily on what you want.
“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles … by the ears, by the heels or any other way you can manage it.”
What you focus your mind on greatly determines how things play out. You can focus on your problems and dwell in suffering to create a victim mentality. Or you can focus on the positive in every situation, determining what you can learn from that situation. Another approach is to simply focus your mind on something entirely else.
It may be “normal” to process your problems and spend time swimming around in a sea of negativity. But that is a choice as well as a habit. You may reflexively start to dwell on problems instead of focusing your mind on something more useful. But you also can build a habit of taking more control over where you focus your mind.
8. Don’t focus so much on making yourself feel good.
“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.”
This tip may be a bit counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to feel good about yourself is to make someone else feel good or to help someone in some way.
Helping others creates an upward spiral of positivity and an exchange of value between people. You help someone, and both of you feel good. The person you helped feels inclined to give you a hand later on because most people tend to want to reciprocate.
Positive feelings are contagious, so you may end up making even more people feel good too. And the help you receive from your friend may inspire you to help another friend. And so the upward spiral grows and continues.
9. Do what you want to do.
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Awesome quote. And I really don’t have much to add to that one. Well, maybe just a suggestion to write it down and keep it as a daily reminder on your fridge or bathroom door of what you can actually do with your life.
Have a good week!
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