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Life is my university, and I hope to graduate
At a renowned museum in Florence, Italy, you will find four partially finished sculptures. The famed sculptor Michelangelo had intended for each of them to be used on the tomb of Pope Julius. But midway through the project, he decided not to use them and ceased his work. Today anyone traveling to Florence can see the results-a hand protrudes here, a torso of a man there, a leg, a part of a head. None of them are finished.
If you stand in this great hall, looking at these fragmentary figures, you will sense the turmoil, the struggle embodied in these stones. It's as though the figures are crying to break free from their blocks of marble to become what they were intended to be.
Michelangelo called these figures "Captives." Study them for a time, and they are certain to stir up within you a deep longing to be completed yourself. Somehow these figures bring more consciously into your awareness the ache in your own soul to be free from anything that is holding you down and preventing the realization of your full potential. The incomplete figures eerily remind you of your own incompleteness. We know-both of us have stood there in that spot and quietly wondered if we were fully alive.
All of us, as humans, share a universal longing to be complete, to enjoy the fulfillment of realizing our God-given destiny. But like Michelangelo's captive statues, we are often frozen in our efforts to experience who we are really meant to be. We never learn the secrets to chipping away at what holds us back. We never discover the parts of ourselves that are still in captivity. The result? We suffocate our calling and remain imprisoned in the jail cell of unfinished work. We are incomplete-never truly loving the life we live.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT YOU
You may be single or married, young or old. You may have suffered unthinkable abuse or lived a charmed life. You may have a Ph.D. or be a high-school dropout. Whatever your baggage or background, we know at least one thing about you. Each moment of every day you are either moving away from or toward the person God designed you to be. And as a result, your inner self is either hemmed in and stuck, or it is quietly becoming a work of art. You are either maximizing your moments or allowing them to slip by without notice.
No matter our age, stage, faith, or career, all of us are searching for inner contentment-the kind that comes from being whole and complete. All of us want to love the life we live. This is exactly why we have filled this book with time-tested tools for seizing every moment of every day. We want you to learn the secrets of maximizing a simple moment in time by releasing the positive potential it contains for you and everyone around you. Once you begin to learn the simple skills we are about to teach you, the moments of your day will become consistently more meaningful, more exciting, until you realize you are growing. Thriving. Flourishing. You are becoming healthier, more complete. You are unlocking parts of yourself you didn't know you had. You are freeing yourself and your relationships to be fully alive.
Since you are reading this book, we know that something within you has been stirred to move more intentionally toward health and wholeness. And we are going to do everything we can to help you experience it deeply and consistently. We are convinced that it is only when you achieve a deep level of emotional and spiritual health that you can find enduring inner peace and long-lasting joy. If you want to feel good, deep down in your soul, you've got to get yourself solidly healthy.
HEALTHY TO THE CORE
When you achieve the level of health and wholeness we've been describing, you will begin to feel unusually good about yourself. Not the kind of good that is self-centered, but the kind of good that makes a positive, generous, caring human being out of you. Not only will you feel good, but you will be good. You'll catch yourself expressing all kinds of natural and free-flowing appreciation and love for others. And your newly found health will be so contagious that your whole community of friends and family-even strangers you encounter-will find their lives moving toward personal joy and self-giving love.
Goodness comes out of a solidly healthy inner place-and then it pours out of you in all directions. In the process of discovering new levels of personal effectiveness and fulfillment, you will inspire others to find those same new levels for themselves. As you learn to live serenely, above the grit of the daily grind, you will become committed to making this possible for every person you know. As you develop the skill of making wise decisions that define your life for the better, you will discover an inner passion to help others enjoy the same powerful and life-changing process. As you shake off your hurry-sickness and live in the now, being fully present for yourself and those around you, you will see the same thing beginning to happen for your dearest friends and family members. In short, as you love the life you live, this whole wonderful phenomenon will spread across the struggling society of eager human beings who make up your personal world.
IT'S EASIER THAN YOU THINK
If this is what you want for your life-a positive transformation of you and your relationships-here's the good news: You can have it! This is exactly the kind of life you can live. At the risk of sounding like two slaphappy psychologists who are seemingly out of touch with the arduous work traditionally required for authentic wholeness, living the life you long for may be less complicated than you think.
We believe you can reach your most cherished goals for loving this life by following a relatively simple path.
An easy path? Not always. But simple nonetheless.
How can two veteran psychologists who have spent their professional lives in the hallowed halls of academia and in the clinical offices of mental-health centers make such a bold and seemingly naive claim? Because we believe wholeheartedly that all the answers to life's most challenging questions are available in ancient, time-tested principles-and our confidence in these truths is bolstered by new and powerful research in the social sciences. A contemporary generation of researchers with a fresh perspective in the sciences has shifted psychology's primary analyses of misery to an understanding of wellness. Psychology used to think it was critical to focus on-and then eliminate-negative emotions. Now we know there is a better way.
YOU AND YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME
The new research reveals that you can't be happy simply because you aren't encumbered by depression, stress, or anxiety. No-you can't be happy without being healthy. And there's a lot more to health than not being sick. Emotional health is more than the absence of dysfunctional emotions. Emotional health is at the center of a life you can love living.
You'll never be content in your career, at least not for long, if you're not emotionally fit. You can't enjoy being single until you like being you. You can't have a winning marriage if you are psychologically stuck. You can't be a good parent until you understand -and appreciate-who you are. You can't be well-adjusted if you're constantly comparing yourself to others or equating what you do with who you are. And you can't look into the face of death until you optimize your spiritual health.
It is nearly impossible to exaggerate the profound impact getting healthy and whole has on every aspect of your life. So it is certainly no exaggeration to say you will never, ever love the life you live until you become profoundly new and reborn emotionally, mentally, and spiritually at your very core.
The professional community knows more today about how to live a fulfilled life, no matter what your circumstances, than ever before. That's why we felt compelled to write this book. As psychologists specializing in relationships, we have seen more than 5,000 people in therapy. We have spoken to more than 300,000 people in seminars and appeared on several thousand radio and television talk shows. And we've written more than a dozen books-all in an effort to help people improve their lives and relationships. We are passionate about helping you do this too. But rather than give you tips and techniques (for improving communication, understanding gender differences, and all the rest), we've learned that until you get yourself healthy, the tips and techniques are superficial. They eventually fall flat. Why? Because your relationships can only be as healthy as the least healthy person in them. For this very reason, we believe the most important goal you can ever accomplish is getting yourself healthy.
"Your life is like a coin," said writer Lillian Dickenson. "You can spend it any way you like, but you can spend it only once." The question is, how are you going to spend your capital? It is a question we have explored personally and thoroughly while writing this book, and because you are reading it, we know you want to make the very best investment you can. So in the next chapter, you will discover our plan for helping you become healthy and whole.
Excerpted from Love the Life You Live by Les Parrott and Neil Clark Warren Copyright ©2003 by Les Parrott and Neil Clark Warren. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted July 10, 2003