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Emergency Lifestyle Surgery

This is a guest post by M.P. MacDougall

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

But for my entire adult life, that goal eluded me.

Rather than pursue my dream first, I gave in to practicality and accepted the mainstream idea of a ‘responsible’ career path. I served in the Air Force, learned a trade, and followed that trade to wherever promotions and pay raises beckoned me.

For more than twenty-three years, I’ve had a ‘real’ job to do, a career that has always, somehow, prevented me from taking my own dream seriously. Caught up in pursuing my ‘real’ job, I repressed my dream so far that I almost forgot it altogether.

Then I realized how unhappy I was. Continue reading

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Move the Mountain

I woke up with a jolt. Move the Mountain Cover

For a few seconds, I didn’t fully realize where I was. After several quick breaths, I rubbed my eyes to get my bearings. Moments later, those eyes began to fill with tears.

The nightmare had happened again.

It was a dream I’d been having for nearly a month. The problem was that the dream was something I yearned to be true, and every time I awoke from it, the pain of my reality set in all over again. I didn’t want to be in reality. I wanted the dream.

We often find ourselves facing dark times in life. It seems to be the way this reality works. One moment, we are standing on top of the world, celebrating, enjoying everything that is going right for us. The next moment, it all crashes down and we find ourselves wallowing in an ocean of self-pity, blame, fear, and hurt.

A few years ago, when the nightmares were hitting me hardest, I found myself in the darkest time of my life. If I couldn’t have the thing I wanted most, I felt like my life didn’t really matter. I fell into the abyss of depression.

The story of how I came out of that darkness may not be one that is made into a Hollywood movie. I didn’t go to war and come back blind or missing an arm or a leg. I wasn’t born with a debilitating disability. I didn’t face the odds and succeed in spite of them.

But it is my story.

Whatever your story might be, do not diminish it. It is yours, and no one else’s.

I often hear people say things like, “It could be worse. You could be that guy.” Then they point to poor soul who seems to have it worse than the recipient of their consolation.

Pointing out the misfortune of someone else may not be the best way to reinforce a positive mindset. More importantly than that, it diminishes the pain of the person in question.

You see, while we may look at someone else and say, “I’m having a tough time, but that poor fellow has it worse,” the funny thing is that they might be doing the same to you.

I know this to be true from a conversation I once had with a friend. We were on a walk, talking about the things going on in our lives, trying to give counsel to each other and work through the issues. It was during the dark time in my life when the nightmares were occurring.

My friend was going through something that seemed insurmountable. I couldn’t believe that he was able to walk and talk like a normal human being, much less report to his job and keep pushing forward. I thought that there was no way I could get through what he was going through.

As we strolled along, he listened to my story for a few minutes, and then stopped. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “I don’t see how you’ve done it.”

I asked what he meant and he replied, “Your heart has been torn out so many times like this. I couldn’t have done it. I would have probably killed myself if I were in your shoes.”

That’s when it hit me.

No one has it any worse than anyone else.

There are several scriptures that talk about this in various religions, but I’m most studied with the Bible so I will reference that. There is a verse that says, “You will not be tested above that which you are able.”

As we move along this life’s path, we will face challenges. There will be some that seem like they are insurmountable. They will appear to us as mountains standing in our way, keeping us from the reality we wish to have.

The truth is that we are the only ones who have the power to move those mountains. No one else. Whatever struggles you might be experiencing, take honor in the fact that you alone are the one that can handle it. I couldn’t. Your priest, or abbot, or an internet guru, or a great teacher from the past couldn’t. You and you alone are tasked with moving the mountains in your life.

The good news is that you can move those mountains. You can create a reality your heart desires, one that will be filled with love and happiness.

I know because I’ve seen it happen in my life.

There will be tough times ahead. That’s just the way this life goes. One minute, we are sailing along on smooth seas with the wind at our back and the sun on our face. The next minute, a storm has come and the waves seem as though they will sink us.

But the waves won’t sink us. We can make it, because we alone are capable of weathering that storm.

I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments below. If you want to share a personal struggle or triumph, feel free. The community strengthens itself by encouraging others will real stories. And if you want to read about my story and how I climbed out of the darkness, you can grab a copy of it on Amazon. It’s called Move the Mountain: How Mindfulness, Gratitude, and Love can Change Your World.

 

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Keep Growing

You screwed up. You know you did.

Your heart fills with a growing sense of dread. That terrible feeling in your stomach won’t stop swirling, taking you to the threshold of nausea.

Why did you do what you did? You knew better. But you went and did it anyway.

I felt like this recently. I expressed my opinion on something that ended up offending someone.

For the people who know me, I rarely walk on egg shells. I live my life as honestly as I can, and sometimes that means I say things that not everyone likes. I’m okay with that.

Except this time around, it got me a reprimand at work.

The opinion I expressed wasn’t bred from an evil nature or anything like that. It was just my thoughts on a subject. While I sat in my office, awaiting my punishment, the terrible feelings rolling around in my gut weren’t fear of losing my job. Rather, I knew that I’d disappointed a friend with the things I’d said, or rather, the way I’d said them.

My boss talked it over with me in a gentle manner. Being a good leader, he has a phenomenal understanding of situations like that. Being an opinionated person himself, his grasp is all the better.

When our talk ended, I still felt a little bad about offending the other person involved, but I knew that it was one of those learning moments from which I could grow.

We all experience those kinds of moments. There have even been times where I had to close the door and remind my boss of how to handle things, and that his initial reactions weren’t appropriate.

Not a single one of us is perfect. We are constantly growing, adapting, changing into more aware and, hopefully, wise creatures.

The trick is to identify those moments ahead of time.

Going back to my little story, the comments I made had been via email. You’re likely shaking your head right now. I know. Never put strong opinions in email. And if you do, don’t send the email!

The digital age has brought many amazing things to us. We are connected to each other in ways we never thought possible in the 1980s. With that connectedness, however, we have to be more aware of how our words look and feel. Moreover, we must understand that as soon as we put them out there, they can never be taken back. Plus, they can be easily shared.

As I stared at the email, I admired how I’d cleverly crafted my words. Many people know I can be quite the smart aleck, a trait that goes back to my childhood and got me in trouble on more than one occasion in school. My finger hovered over the mouse as I prepared to click the send button.

That was the moment. In those few seconds, everything slowed down. I wondered if my words were too strong, if I maybe should save that opinion for a personal conversation rather than email. I considered what the ramifications could be if the email got into the wrong hands.

Believing there was nothing bad that could come of it, I clicked send.

That moment led me to the reprimand with my boss.

In those moments, we must recognize what is going on. We have a choice to click the button or not. If I had looked at it from the perspective of the friend I offended, I would have not clicked the button. However, I do not regret the experience.

Everything we go through in this life helps us grow. Sometimes, we may not like the growth process. It can be painful and challenging in ways we would rather skip. In the end, if we recognize the experience as an opportunity for growth, we can become better, stronger people than we imagined.

In my upcoming book, Move the Mountain: The power of a moment, I talk about more examples of little moments like the one with the email, and the power we possess to change the course of our lives and the world around us. If you’ve had some learning or growth moments, share them in the comments. None of us is perfect. As long as we learn from our errant choices, everything’s going to be okay. :)

 

 

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Just Say Thank You

“Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy.” -Lewis CK

I love that quote. If you haven’t seen the Lewis CK interview with Conan where he talks about how we live in such an amazing time yet everyone complains, you need to check it out.

Many of us were promised jetpacks and flying cars when we were kids. People said that those things would be available by the year 2000. We were also told that trips to space would be common for everyone.

While some of those somewhat extravagant, and potentially disastrous things haven’t come to fruition, our world is still filled with so many wonders.

Here in the western world, we take devices like smart phones for granted. They connect us to people all over the planet in ways that would have been deemed impossible thirty years ago. Your personal communications device has more computer power than all of NASA when they sent a man to the moon. We have internet on airplanes. We’ve been able to set up supply chains to get fresh food to massive metropolitan areas in a short amount of time. Our cars tell us where we need to go with GPS system. We can connect with friends we’ve not seen in years through social media.

There are a million other things I could list here that make this time an incredible one to live in, but I won’t. You get the idea. Things are good.

Every time I turn around however, someone is complaining.

Critics talk about how bad movies are, complain about the things a smart phone won’t do, or tear apart a restaurant that actually has pretty darn good food.

One recent event sparked an enormous amount of criticism from a mass of people. Continue reading

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Dominate Your Anxiety

CrushYourAnxietyIt wraps its arms around you like a boa constrictor, squeezing you until you can’t breathe. Your chest feels there’s a one ton anvil sitting on top of it. Your mind races with a million things that you can’t control. And one terrible truth echoes in your brain over and over again.

You are helpless. There is nothing you can do to stop the stress.

Anxiety is a killer. From the research I’ve done over the years, I am convinced that it is the number one cause of disease, illness, and death worldwide.

Stress causes our hormone levels to change, sometimes for prolonged periods of time. It causes chemical imbalance. It makes us act differently in normal situations. And it wreaks havoc on our bodies.

The good news is, you’re not helpless. You’re not weak. And you can beat it. You can take back control of your mind, body, and life. You can dominate your anxietyContinue reading

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