A Better You 2.0

If you were expanding your business, looking to hire some new workers, or perhaps wanting to expand your circle of friends, what qualities would you look for in the candidates?

If you could build a clone of yourself and program it with any characteristics or habits, what would your list look like?

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More than once in my life I have faced the situation that my new boss was critical of my personality and skills-sets. At times, I have found myself looking for new employment.

I have come to the conclusion that it is better to inventory my habits and characteristics while employed, rather than during the desperate search for that perfect new job.

What would your list of Best Qualities include if you were hired to help me in changing so I could find employment?

I spent some time reflecting on that question, reading suggestions from others who have written on the topic, making lists and editing or discarding those lists, and have compiled my own list of Best Qualities.

What would I like to see in Me 2.0?

1. Inquisitiveness, Curiosity

A person who is Inquisitive is looking for new ideas and new knowledge. Such a person is probably a reader and is willing to change as (s)he learns new things.

Asks the questions Why? How? and seeks to understand.

(This characteristic was not the first one on my rough draft list. But it rose to the top as I edited and thought.)

2. Persistence, Stick-to-it-iveness

Seldom have I been able to read something or learn a new process from one session of instruction.

Usually, it takes several repetitions and a few mistakes before I have acquired the new skill.

A persistent person does not give up when success is difficult to achieve.

3. Punctuality, Careful with Time

Businesses and events open at a specific time. The habit of Punctuality is important. It can be learned by anyone. Those who are indifferent to starting time are often careless in other areas of performance also.

When I was quite young I was assigned the farm chore of getting the cows from the pasture into the milking room, ready for milking to start before 5:00 a.m. I soon learned that the cows were habituated to the schedule and would be waiting at the gate by 4:30. All I really had to do was open the gate and let them come inside.

My point is, if cows (who don’t have clocks or the ability to read one if they did) can learn to be on time, certainly people can learn to be punctual.

Now, I realize that not everyone has an accurate, built-in clock, an accurate recognition of the passing of time. But we have so many options to assist us in being punctual that there aren’t many good reasons for being late.

4. Humble, Respectful, Collaborative

Most Life Successes are the result of multiple people working together toward the same goal.

It takes a special person to recognize and acknowledge the parts that every person in the organization plays in the success of the unit. Know every member of the team by name and let them know the value placed on their work.

5. Principled, Self-controlled, Honest

It is vital that men and women have high standards and principles that guide their behavior in every part of their lives.

The principles of law and order, of integrity, of morality and respect, of equality, of the sanctity of marriage and family… result in a life that is blessed by God and men.

6. Reflective, Introspective

Take the time to think carefully about your life, your work, your mission, and acknowledge the mistakes that you are bound to make. Reflect on the circumstances of your successes and failures, to identify how you might be able to avoid future failures and apply the elements of the successes to other encounters in the future.

7. Amiable, Pleasant, Caring

I suspect that each of us has at least one relative or friend who is cantankerous, seldom smiles, and often complains. Don’t be that person.

Cultivate the trait of caring. Care for other people, consider their circumstances and their humanity, apply the principles of friendship to every encounter. Extend the caring to other parts of Nature: wild creatures and pets.

8. Sense of Humor

Almost everything in life is funny if you look at it the right way. Look that way as often as possible. Don’t make fun or treat a serious situation lightly so that others are offended. But actively look for the humor in life. Our homes and places of work will be much more attractive if laughter is common there.

9. Accept Failure as a Part of the Path to Success

As Thomas Edison is credited with saying, “I have not failed 1,000 times, I have succeeded in finding a thousand ways that don’t work.”

Don’t repeat them, but do build on failures as you work toward achieving your goal.

10. Confident yet Flexible

If you practice the 9 characteristics listed above, you will discover that you have more confidence in your efforts and the efforts of your fellow workers and family members. And you will be less critical of your failures and the failures of others.

Your home and workplace will be more flexible in allowing each person to achieve and grow at their pace. You will have less stress, fewer sleepless nights, fewer disagreements with family and fellow workers.

11. Pure in Speech

It has become popular to use quasi-swearing and sexual innuendo with expressions and gestures. No matter how abbreviated or camouflaged, God’s name and Character are to be held in reverence, not to be used in casual, careless ways. And vulgarity is always out of place with a gentleman or lady.

OMG is a common swear expression in speech and writing, often abbreviated, but also fully spoken. WTF is a vulgar, sexual expression. Some try to assuage their consciences by only saying the first part of these expressions by saying, “Oh, My…” and “What the…”

Choose to develop an extensive vocabulary so that you can express your thoughts and feelings with clarity and honor.

I encourage you to cultivate these 11 characteristics as you work toward a better tomorrow: You 2.0

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Habits: A Dilemma

I worked for a time at a business whose employees and constituents strenuously resisted change with the assertion, “This is the way we’ve always done it.”

I was the newcomer, so I was suspect. My ideas were suspiciously viewed as disruptive to the old way. Breaking an old habit of process seemed too radical for them.

Habit can be an ornery task master.

 

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Any behavior can become a habit.

Any thought pattern or emotional state can become a habit.

A process often repeated becomes a habit. Whether the process is physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or a combination of these categories matters not.

Getting dressed, taking a bath, walking from the bedroom to the kitchen to get that first cup of coffee. Applying the brake in the car when the traffic slows in front of you. Turning on the TV at certain times of the day. Smiling or frowning in response to en event.

Any human behavior or performance can be habituated. The formula is simple: Response over Time equals Habit.

Whether a physical habit or an emotional one, the one requirement to get it established is repetition over time.

I read ( long ago) that a Response repeated successfully over 21 days (Time) forms a Habit. It was stated in a Personal Development book written by a reputable author. So I accepted the premise and began applying the concept in my classroom. In general the theory worked.

Recently I have discovered an update to the Time factor. Some experts in this field of psychology are now stating a 60 day cycle is more accurate.

By the time a person is an adult millions of life-interactions are processed through habits, Each formed through the process of repetition over time.

Forming a new habit requires breaking or replacing an old one.

And, just like those suspicious co-workers of mine referred to above, your response to change might be, “But, this is the way we’ve always done it!”

Resistance to change is natural. So get ready to assert your supremacy over reluctant habits. It is, after all, your choice that determines your habits.

Habits work in the background

Interactions with family, friends, co-workers, or strangers, involve habits. The largest inventory of your habits relate to responding to life-interactions.

Once someone knows you, he or she can answer these next questions quite accurately:

How will Eldon (insert your name here) respond if some family member is not ready to leave on time?

How will Eldon react if Gavin (my grandson) comes in and asks for help when Eldon is reading or writing? (Or a favorite/important activity in your life)

Habits help to create a more predictable life for us, and for those who interact with us.

When I was teaching, my thoughts searched for new approaches to reach a struggling student, or rehearsed an important lecture, when, by all appearances, I was getting dressed, eating breakfast, and driving to work.

Making coffee, pouring a bowl of Cheerios, building a favorite sandwich – whatever has been habituated can be accomplished without occupying the full attention of your consciousness.

We generally spend very little time thinking about the habits we have. That’s the beauty of the beast. But, it’s also the ugliness of the beast.

Since we respond habitually to so many aspects of life, so many life-interactions, we often are unaware of the impact our habits have on those who are important to us: family, friends, colleagues.

Because habits occupy such a large part of our lives, they need to receive regular attention. It is to be expected that I’m unaware of some habits that are creating a negative result in my life.

But, is that acceptable? Should I give more attention to my habits? Should I be expected to break bad habits? Or should my friends just accept them – and me – as I am?

Take the time and make the effort to inventory your habits. This has to be a conscious choice with a specific plan for execution, because habits don’t typically occupy our attention.

I suggest the following steps to help you become more aware of the role habits have in your daily life.

Habit Inventory Plan

1. Notice the body-language responses of family and co-workers after you respond/interact with them.

I need reminders to make this happen. Write on Post-It Notes that you can place where you’ll see them to be reminded. Bedroom, bathroom, office or cublicle. It’s okay that your family and co-workers will see these notes.

2. Ask yourself, “Why did I do or say that?”

Set aside some Reflective Time in your schedule when you can reflect on your day’s interactions. Play that memory recording and ask the question often.

And don’t neglect to answer the Why question. The answer probably will take some serious time of introspection. It’s worth it. Invest time in yourself.

3. (For the Brave) Ask your spouse, or a friend, or a supervisor, to suggest one habit that he or she would recommend and assist you in changing.

This requires developing an attitude of humbleness and a desire to become the best you possible. Prayer helps develop these attributes.

4. Change what you have typically been feeding your mind.

Habits come from the mind. What we put in our minds helps to shape our thoughts, behaviors, choices – and habits.

TV programming feeds your mind with words and images that influence your interactions with others. It is my observation that TV is largely negative and counter to an honorable Christian life.

Read more; TV less.

Read books that feed your desire to be your best: Positive Thinking, Self-Help, Uplifting.

Music directly impacts your brain processes. It is either a positive or a negative factor. Most “popular” music is demeaning and degrading in the lyrics and the musicality. Certain rhythms and cadences, accentuated bass lines, lack of structure in the music itself, the lyrics, all affect your brain in ways that are amazingly negative.

Listen to a different genre of music than your usual choices.

We like what is familiar to us; we build familiarity by what we listen to and frequent.

Which means, you listen to music because you like it – and you like it because you listen to it.

You can use this propensity to cultivate new likes.

Classical music offers amazing neural benefits to the listener. Your brain is changeable no matter what your age is. The plasticity of the brain enables even old people to reap benefits from modifying the things we put into it.

Begin listening to classical music a little at a time. Choose one or two works of a composer like Mozart, Chopin, Hayden, or Boccherini. Listen to it until it is familiar. Once your brain begins to anticipate the next note or sequence, you will realize you’re enjoying the listening experience.

Your brain is growing. You’re smarter.

Repeat with other compositions, composers and listening choices.

Whatever your habits may be, with a plan and intelligence, you can break the negative ones and make positive ones.

Great things await you on this journey.

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How have you dealt with breaking bad habits or forming better, new ones? What other steps would you suggest for the list?

What would you like to tell me on this topic?

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What’s Your Choice?

During the daytime I taught high school English and History.

At night, especially on the weekends, I was care-giver to a male quadriplegic. He had fallen backward off an oil platform and broke his neck. There was very little he could do for himself except tell his attendants what to do and how to accomplish each detail.

My patient did not allow me to choose what channel to watch. I watched what he watched – mostly PBS. He introduced me to Masterpiece Mysteries.

Every detail of his care had micro-details attached to them. What, when, how, for how long, to what end. To be sure you understand, he instructed me how to brush his teeth, the direction the brush should move, and for how long, on each tooth. All bodily functions except digestion must be performed for him to his standards.

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Choice

I chose to do this work. It was not forced on me. It was my choice. Because it was my choice it was very important to me that I perform at the optimum level; excellence was the only option. This was my choice before discovering that it was expected of me, if I were to continue working for the family.

Fortunately, I had previously worked for my father in the hospital as a Physical Therapy aide. My father was very demanding in regards to the way work was performed in his department. There was only one acceptable level: excellence. He would show me how a task was to be performed one time, and I was to execute the maneuver that way ever after. I could take longer to do the work than he did – for a while – then I was to be up to speed.

I was physically adept and at least moderately intelligent, and I, too, believed in the goal of excellence, so I chose to work with him, helping the patients as he directed. I saw other workers who complained about the working conditions and demands placed on them. They didn’t last long in the department.

It occurred to me that I was different from them in that I had made a choice: my father was the expert, I was to learn and follow directions. It seemed only reasonable that I should strive to meet his expectations for quality. I valued his approval.

Looking back on this experience with my father, I understand what he accomplished in me. I learned to expect high quality performance from myself. Even when there were no external expectations for that level of work. This actually started in my elementary years of schooling.

My father would talk with me as if I understood words and ideas from the adult world: news, medicine, literature, world events. And I gained from that interchange with him. He also gained, because he had few friends with whom to discuss his ideas.

Influence of Choice

During 40 plus years of teaching I have observed the influence of choice on my students. I have also observed the influence of parents’ choices affecting their children.

I was blessed with insight into the process of learning that made a significant difference in my students. Those students who accepted the role of following my instruction and processes made significant advances in their academic careers. Students who were grade levels behind, according to the tests, would surge forward to catch up and surpass the requirements for their ages and grades.

For this to happen once could be called a fluke. But this happened over and over again, in multiple school locations across the USA.

The one commonality in each case was choice. Parents and students who chose to learn, did so, and excelled. Link to article on choice to learn

Of course, not every student responded with the choice to learn. Some chose to believe that he or she was not to be subjected to the expectations explained for them. When the parents agreed with the students, advancement stagnated and the students became unhappy, disrespectful, flagrantly refusing to comply with the classroom expectations.

From the vantage point of 40 years’ of experiences, the common thread can be distilled into one idea: choice makes a world of difference in the learning process. A student who chooses to learn, will learn, and often at an accelerated pace.

Learning is a choice.

Link to article on Learning is a choice

A decision or choice not to learn, or just the absence of the choice to learn, is an obstacle impervious to the skills of the teacher.

So where and when does a child make the choice – to learn or to resist?

Science and research indicates that a child will have had experiences by the age of 4 that will greatly influence – or determine – their future academic successes. Family encounters and events set the stage for learning.

Early-Life Choices

Parent and grandparent choices are of paramount importance during the first years of the child’s life.

What should these important people be doing during the infancy and toddler years of their children’s lives?

  1. Read aloud, with the child in your lap. Read at bedtime every night. Read the same books over and over until the child can recite it from memory.
  2. Talk with the child in a normal voice about all of the things going on around him or her. Talk about what the child is seeing and experiencing in the stores, in the car, in the home, in church.
  3. Work through decisions that you are making – outloud for the child to hear.
  4. Answer all their questions. If you don’t know the answer, say so, and add “but I know where we can find out.” and then find out.
  5. Play, explore, get on the floor, in the grass. Make tents and forts. Inspire and extend their natural curiosity.
  6. Listen to music together.

Do these things and prepare to be amazed by what your child or grandchild is able to accomplish.

Later-Life Choices

The photo of the rose at the top of this post is a great example of later-life opportunities available through our choices. This particular plant was scheduled for the dumpster of a Garden Center near our home. We happened by and my wife took pity on the sorry-looking thing. The sales person said we could have it.

It came home with us and we planted, watered, fertilized, pruned and otherwise pampered the thing. We even talked to it, encouraging it to grow.

It grew. Flourished would not be an exaggeration. It has bloomed over and over again. Each time we marvel at the beauty and perfection of the blooms at every stage of development.

If you have an older child still living at home, and you didn’t do these things, start now. Turn off the TV and introduce your child to the characters and events found in books. Read out loud for bedtime.

Talk with your child about the power of choice. No matter what was lacking in their infant years, their choice to learn now will go a long way to create a learner.

You can model the choice for them. You choose to become a learner of new things.

My quadriplegic patient taught me nuances of choice that I might never have learned without him.

Like PBS Mysteries. I’m still hooked. My choice now.

Exercise your power of choice by choosing to learn something new to you.

How to be a blogger has become my New-to-me choice to learn. You could participate in this project by choosing to Subscribe to the weekly email delivery of my blog posts. I’ll send you a nice thank-you and a gift.

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Think about choices that were made by others for you. How did they influence you?

Think about choices that you have made. What were they? How did the results measure up to your expectations?

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Why Give?

I came across a story happening now in Philadelphia. The news item received more than the usual 20 seconds of coverage. I caused me to wonder: What can a chef or a restaurant owner do to meet the needs of the poor, the needy, the homeless?

What can the average person do?

 

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I’ve seen photos of people digging through dumpsters in the back of a restaurant to get the left-overs, the remnants of food not eaten by paying customers.

I’ve seen images of kitchen staff setting food out by the back door where people can get to it without dumpster diving.

I’ve seen patrons take food out and hand the “doggie bag” to some person who looks like a homeless person, an underprivileged person, a beggar.

We might Give food, which they need, but don’t make any connection with a fellow human, which they also need. A grab-bag situation in which the giver is hurrying on his or her way.

These situations meet the momentary need of a person, but also tend to point out their condition: unable to meet their own basic needs. Needing to have hand-outs from strangers who feel sorry for them. Less of a man or woman than the giver.

It’s easy to give away food when your own tummy is full. It’s easy to hand a sack of food to a stranger when you know you’ll soon be in the safety of your car or your home.

Example of Giving

The Broad Street Collaborative is not like that. Their Breaking Bread program in Philadelphia, PA is open to anyone who walks through their doors.

A volunteer server guides each customer to a table, where they are seated in restaurant style. Table, table cloth, linens, flatware, glassware. Skilled servers move among the tables placing plates of chef-prepared cuisine for each guest. Five-Star appearing plates of food. Abundant servings.

Servers stop and converse with the guests, just like you’d expect in a quality restaurant, treating the guests like paying customers, with courtesy and attention.

Providing warm, friendly, human connections with a patron who probably spends his or her days being shunned by the people hurrying to work or shopping or home.

Wouldn’t it be great for every city to have such a place!

But, we don’t in my city.

What can I do?

I’m uncomfortable with the unknowns of the pan-handlers who walk the side of the road at almost every traffic light. Should I pass a dollar or two out the window to the person who appears to be in economic distress? To which one or ones? They are at almost every corner.

The local businesses that are focused on providing help to these citizens answer, “No. Not directly.”

The National organizations emphasize that many of these people are not going to be helped in the way that you might think, by giving them cash.

The best answer that I have found looks like this:

  1. Search for charities to determine the ones that direct at least 75% of their money directly to programs benefiting the needy. You might be surprised by how many of the National and International charities spend less than half of their donations on programs to help the needy, while their executives and directors receive salaries in the millions of dollars each year.
  2. Support local charities that provide for the needs of the poor and homeless.
  3. Volunteer to work with a local charity organization. In person.

A Giving Spirit is one of the characteristics of a Christian. Such a spirit is also advocated in the teachings of other religions.

Other Opportunities for Giving

My church prepares and delivers a meal through a local organization every Sunday. A group works in the church kitchen to get the food ready. Some members of the group deliver and serve the food at a local charity organization.

If your church doesn’t have an opportunity to serve, start one, or join one from another church.

Become a member of Kiva and make micro-loans to worthy projects around the world. Loans of $25 are made and managed by Kiva volunteers and agents. Click here for the Kiva website.

Systematic giving is the best way. Not a once-and-done effort. Build giving into your family budget.

“Freely you have received, freely give.”

I encourage you to give so that it makes the greatest possible impact.

Reasons to Be a Giver

A Giving Spirit gives back abundantly to the person who cultivates it.

A short list of 5 Benefits can be found here

1. It makes you feel happy.

2. It’s good for your health.

3. It promotes cooperation and social connection.

4. It arouses gratitude.

5. It creates a contagious ripple effect.

Other lists of 10 or more are easily found by searching the Internet. Example from Christianity.com

Choice

What will you choose to do to assist in meeting these needs?

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Share with me your experiences with giving and working with the needy in your community.

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Your Super Power

“Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

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I don’t remember how I came to learn about Superman. We didn’t have a TV in the house. The radio was closely guarded to monitor everything that might enter my little mind.

I remember when I was about 5-years old, running around with a towel tied around my shoulders, my arms outstretched, making zo-o-o-ming noises, pretending I could fly.

In my mind I was flying.

My mother read to us every day. Stories of heroes in the Bible who did amazing feats for God. Stories of animals that could talk – The Old Homestead Tales. I learned the joy in placing myself inside those stories. And the freedom found in directed pretending, or fantasy.

Years later when I first saw Christopher Reeve in the TV Superman show, I was hooked. I knew it was pretend. But, what a great pretend it was!

But adults seem to lose the skills of imagination, of creating events and abilities that include going beyond the literal world. The literal world seems to empty the brain of dreams and goals that reach beyond the facts of life in the right now.

My family was quite pragmatic. This is life; accept it and be happy, or at least be content. Other than the Future as painted in the Bible, don’t expect much from this life.

I was in my thirties when a friend introduced me to some revolutionary books. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

I learned that I did not have to accept right-now-life as the only option. Within my mind was power that I had never dreamed of having. It took me back to my childhood times when I could be anyone I wanted to pretend to be.

But now, some respected authors told me that “content” was not my only choice. I could change my life into whatever I dreamed for myself. Not Superman, of course, but dreaming of a life of abundance was okay for adults.

I read and re-read those books. I bought every “positive thinking” book I could find. Super Powers were within reach for anyone, everyone who would choose to awaken them.

Superman, Ironman, X-men – they are all make-believe, pretend.

But I have, and You have, true super powers.

(I am going to blur the distinction between pretend and reality to make a point.)

When Superman was growing up and first learned that he had the power to fly, he had to learn how to use that skill. He couldn’t just automatically fly like a bird or a plane. He crashed into things a few times – maybe a lot of times. He made mistakes. He messed up. That didn’t mean he wasn’t Superman.

New skills will take you some time to perfect. Practice. Crash. Practice some more. Repeat until the skills are smooth, natural.

But, one day, after enough practice…

Look! In the mirror! It’s not a bird or a plane… It’s Super You!

You’re a published, successful writer. You’re a counselor to thousands, sharing the secrets of wealth, influence, happy, healthy living. It’s your dream come to life!

Whatever your dream is, inside your mind is the power to accomplish that dream.

The name of the Central Power Controller is — Choice.

Make a choice. That’s the first step. That step won’t immediately put you flying high in the clouds. But, without that step, Your Choice, the clouds will remain out of your reach.

Choice reveals your Goal. What you want to achieve. Where you want to fly.

I remember that my father was not accepting of my dreams. He told me more than once to get my head out of the clouds.

You will have those friends, and maybe relatives, who give the same dream-beating advice; get out of the clouds.

Let me emphasize, You have the power. Negative words cannot take away your choice, unless you allow them to. Choice is a God-given gift. Claim it and hold on to it.

However…

You probably suspected that there would be a ‘however’ appearing somewhere in this article. Here it is.

However, Choice alone will not accomplish much. If Choice is alone, it probably will only serve to make you dis-satisfied.

Fortunately, God knew what He was doing. He didn’t give us just one gift.

A companion gift that He gave to each of us is commonly referred to as The Ability to Learn. With this gift you can gather knowledge to learn what you can about the Goal that is present in your Choice.

He also gave us the gift of Effort. Do. Work. Strength. It goes by many names. Action is my favorite name for it.

But, without Knowledge, Action is just a futile beating of the air.

And without Action, Choice is nothing but a fleeting dream, an indistinct Goal that taunts you from an unreachable distance.

Exercise your Choice, then gather Knowledge so that your Actions will be directed toward achieving your Goal.

Keep your Choice, your Goal, in front of yourself at all times. Pictures, Words, Reminders of the Choices that you have made and of the Actions that you have taken toward your Goal.

Your Choice, your Goal, and your Actions will combine to create in you Skills that make your efforts more effective, more successful.

Which leads us to the next Gift: Persistence. Stick-to-it-iveness.

This is the Missing Link in the story of those who fail to reach their goal. They gave up. They quit trying.

Persistence involves forward thinking with backward evaluation. Keep the Goal in view while looking at what you’ve done. Evaluate the skills you’ve developed and used to see how they might need honing, up-dating, tweeking.

If you can, find a Guide, a Mentor, a person who has achieved what you dream, that will travel this journey with you and offer counsel, then your Efforts will be more effective, and your journey more pleasant, and probably shorter.

To re-cap:

  1. Make a Choice. Identify the Goal.
  2. Gather Knowledge about Achieving your Goal.
  3. Take Action toward your Goal.
  4. Develop Skills that focus on your Goal.
  5. Be Persistent.
  6. Work with a Mentor.

One of my favorite quotes that I want to share with you:

“If you can change your mind, you can change your life.” William James

Your mind is “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive,” and able to solve mammoth problems that appear to be like tall buildings.

That’s You! Making use of your Super Power!

Recommended Reading

As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson
The Principles of Psychology by William James

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I would love to hear from you. What books would you recommend? What steps would you add or subtract from this plan?

Tell me about your experiences in achieving a goal.

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Comment or email me eldon @ eldonroberts.com

Thank you for reading.