On a balmy summer evening, Mark Dale Miles headed home after work, unaware that his life was about to be irrevocably changed. That night he was attacked by a group of young men in a brutal home invasion. He was shot in the head at close range and left for dead. For seven days, Mark clung to life trapped in a dark, empty apartment, praying for an intervention. When he was finally rescued and rushed to the hospital, doctors informed him that he had permanent brain damage. He would never be able to work or live independently again.
But Mark was determined to prove that diagnosis wrong. He overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to reclaim his life, eventually earning two masters degrees and becoming a substance abuse counselor. On this long road to recovery, Mark developed a system for transformational living, which combines spiritual principles with the tools he learned in substance abuse recovery. The result is a step-by-step guide to becoming unstoppable in life.
According to Mark, the trauma we experience in our darkest times can be used as a catalyst to propel each of us out of an ordinary life into an extraordinary life. The tools that he shares in this book can help us all be transformed and renewed—able to experience our biggest dreams, our highest purpose, and a life that we love.
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Deadbeats, Beggars and Bums: Breaking away from limiting beliefs and the self-fulfilling prophesies of the past
My maternal grandparents had a total of 14 children but sadly two died shortly after birth. My mother was the oldest daughter and she had seven children of her own. Ours was a huge, close-knit family and we all depended heavily on our grandparents for support. All of the children and grandchildren would visit regularly and congregate at our grandparent's house for all of the different holidays and get-togethers and had a goodtime singing, eating and fellowshipping. But we also showed up when we didn't have anywhere else to stay. At one point, my family had been burned out of our home. So we showed up at my grandparent's door looking to be taken in. Several of the other children and grandchildren also took turns going back home when life wasn't working out for them the way they had hoped. Even my grandfather's mother-in-law lived with them for a time.
My grandfather was a hard-working man who bought a large, comfortable home in the white section of our town in Anderson, South Carolina. Then he built more rooms onto his house so the house had about five or six bedrooms altogether. He was proud that there was plenty of room for the family, but at the same time it angered him to see his children and grandchildren so unstable.
My grandfather worked at the local elementary and middle school as the groundskeeper and janitor. He was responsible for doing things like lighting the wood-burning stove to keep them warm during the winter. He also worked at the town's mill. On top of that, he was the head deacon in the church and was responsible for maintaining and cleaning that building, too. My maternal grandmother took care of the 12 children. But at times she labored outside of the home as a domestic.
Both of my grandparents valued hard work and discipline. My grandfather expected his children to contribute their incomes to his household once they were grown and working, for as long as they lived with him. They were raising a huge family in the years following the depression. Times were hard and everyone was expected to pitch in.
Eventually, when the children got old enough to think about getting married and starting families of their own, they rebelled. They wanted to keep their money for themselves so they could get out and make their own way in life. My grandfather became upset and bitter that his children refused to contribute their incomes even though they were living under his roof. And the ones who had left home already were constantly returning, expecting him and my grandmother to provide stability.
With twelve children and their families relying on him my grandfather changed. He'd lash out at whoever was around; telling anyone who would listen that his family was always begging and borrowing from him. We were so needy and useless. Even though he'd set the example of being a hard worker who was frugal with his money, he didn't seem to be able to pass those values along to the majority of his children.
Nothing could stop my grandfather from getting up and going out to work. As he grew older, he developed a physical disability that made walking painful. He eventually began to walk with a limp. Completing his job duties became increasingly difficult due to his physical limitations. But when he would call the children to come help him, quite often no one showed up except for one or two of the girls helping out with paying the bills and bringing the groceries as they got older. As far as he was concerned everyone expected help when they needed it but they weren't willing to offer help in return.
As a child, I remember hearing my grandfather constantly complaining. "They're all deadbeats, beggars and bums," he would grumble.
I do believe that my grandfather really loved us — particularly me because he allowed me to live in his basement when I returned home from college and needed to get away from my father just before a very bad addiction to drugs. But he couldn't get past his belief that we were all deadbeats, beggars and bums and would never amount to anything else. No matter what I did, it was seldom good enough. I loved to sing and was learning to play the piano and I was becoming good at it. But when I would go practice more often than not my grandfather would yell, "Stop that noise! Get off that piano!" He couldn't hear much good from me (or any of us) that countered his deeply held belief.
But constantly drawing a person's attention to his or her perceived shortcomings doesn't help that person to actually change for the better. Most of my grandfather's children and grandchildren continued to demonstrate the traits that he found so repulsive. After a while I stopped feeling anything about him and his tirades. I even stopped feeling an emotional connection to myself. I had no self-esteem, low or high. I became numb.
People can easily become affected by the words and beliefs of those around them, especially authority figures like parents and grandparents and teachers. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." (NKJV) But this also works in reverse. When you train up a child by steeping him or her in negativity, it's very difficult for the child to break through the limiting beliefs that have been instilled in the subconscious mind. In my family we were taught many lessons of inferiority, which we acted out as adults.
I first began to think about the differences between positive and negative reinforcement when I noticed an interesting trend happening with some of the families who married into our family. When children were born, sometimes the in-laws would become the driving force in raising and teaching the grandchildren instead of people from our side of the family. Over the years, those children grew up to do wonderful things with their lives. They were instilled with an entirely different set of core beliefs and self-talk. In contrast, the majority of people from my mother's side of the family didn't show any high levels of motivation or ambition. My family members were as bright, personable, talented and able to achieve as anyone else. So what happened?
A person's core belief system is a powerful predictor of performance levels and the ability to succeed. In other words, you get what you believe you deserve in life — not what you actually want or are capable of having. If someone set low expectations for you in the past, you will live out those expectations to the extent that you believed the person who set them. Sometimes we can even start to believe that our station in life is "God's will," or something that is completely outside of our control. Nothing could be further from the truth. But we must embrace our innate power to transform our lives into exactly what we wish for them to become.
One way to begin this transformation is by becoming aware of your gifts and talents and began developing them. For example, I loved to sing. So I joined singing groups, school choirs, church choirs and the 4-H club. I went anywhere that people wanted to hear me sing. As challenging as it was for me at first, I put myself out there. I got involved. One of the singing groups I remember singing with as a child was started up by my grandfather called The Baby Brothers course of which I was a founding member. Singing with that group was one of the rare times I was able to get acceptance and shown unconditional love from my grandfather. He was extremely proud of the young men he requited in the group and he demonstrated it by having us practice in his home once or twice a week and by providing snacks and drinks afterwards. More than 35 years later The Baby Brothers course is still intact and continues singing every Sunday night at my home church back in South Carolina.
Getting involved can be very difficult to do, especially if your belief in yourself as someone talented and good has been compromised. But try. The response that you receive when you earnestly offer your gifts to the world will change your life.
As you commit to sharing your gifts and trying new things, look for a mentor whose example can help you move in the direction that you wish to go. Ever since I was a young man, I sought out mentors to help guide me. Their presence in my life made all the difference. When my own family was full of stress, strife and negativity, these people showed me that I could move beyond my circumstances. One of my earliest mentors was the Bishop's wife at my childhood church; she gave me encouragement and spiritual teachings that help me to begin believing in myself. No one had ever done that for me before. She sowed seeds of wisdom and compassion in my heart that continue to bear fruit, even to this day.
Another very powerful technique for dismantling a limiting belief system is the art of journaling. You can explore in depth the things that may be blocking you and keeping you stuck. You can get clarity on where you want to go in life. Many times people who have low self-esteem, low expectations or feelings of unworthiness become just like I was: emotionally numb or even depressed. From that state of mind, it's difficult to figure out what one really wants out of life or which direction is the best. If this is the case, journaling can open the door to identifying your true feelings and desires.
For me, I was so far removed from my own feelings and needs that there was another step I had to take before I was ready to even begin journaling. I had to start by looking for inspiration outside of myself. I began to make friends with people who were moving in a positive direction. I actively sought out people who had embraced uplifting beliefs and worldviews. They set lofty goals for themselves and then did the work to achieve those goals. I watched them move through the world, learning what I could as their presence and demeanor shifted my own ability to see myself.
I would go and spend the night at friends' houses and watch carefully how their families engaged with each other; I noted all the ways that they encouraged and rewarded and even corrected one another. The healthiest environments were the ones where people communicated with love, acceptance and positive expectation rather than shaming or putdowns. The parents offered praise and appreciation for their children when they did well in school. They took advantage of opportunities to reaffirm their support in other areas of their children's lives as well.
For the first time, I realized how destructive my "normal" environment had been. As I watched my friends and their families, I began to feel how I wanted my life to look. It was no longer just an intellectual idea or a fleeting hope. I surrounded myself with positive energy until I was able to recognize and embrace the same flow of energy within me. Never lose sight of the fact that it can happen for you, too. You may not get this kind of connection from your family of origin, but there are other places and other ways of having these desires fulfilled.
But when you're living a negative, self-fulfilling prophecy based on someone else's idea of who you are there isn't much room for you to fulfill your deepest needs. Yet, we can still identify these needs by becoming present to the internal void that indicates what has been missing. Most people loathe confronting those empty spaces within, the fears and doubts that tell us what's wrong. But we must face our fears in order to embrace the insights on the other side of the void. Unfortunately, it can be much easier to point out what we don't want, rather than being able to explain what it is that we do want in life. At least in the beginning. But once you identify those driving needs, you can insert yourself into situations and circumstances where those needs have a chance of being fulfilled.
I had an undeniable need to honor my own greatness and my innate talents through my passion for singing. I fulfilled that desire by singing wherever I could. I gave my gift to others in order to feed my own burgeoning sense of self-worth. And even though my father and grandfather constantly discouraged me from performing, eventually my persistence was rewarded outside of my family.
As a 14-year-old boy, I was asked to sing happy birthday for President Ronald Reagan when he visited South Carolina that year. Reagan then invited me to Washington, DC to attend his inauguration. When that happened, my family was proud. But there was a whole internal process of self-revelation that was occurring, which allowed me to be brave enough to expose my most vulnerable areas. When I sang, I felt that I was fulfilling my life's purpose; I knew that I had something to bring to the table. I had worth and value. For the first time, I questioned whether the things that I'd always been told about myself were even true. Maybe I was capable of more than I'd ever dreamed.
The limiting beliefs that I'd been taught had been passed from my grandfather to his children, to his grandchildren, and later, to his great-grandchildren. His misdirected thoughts and energy become part of the family's emotional legacy. My father also created the atmosphere that allowed that emotional legacy to flourish. He used to tell me to my face that I was a mistake. He would regularly give me emotional, verbal and very severe physical beatings.
My father often said things like, "The more I try to teach him the dumber he gets." He never came to a baseball game or to hear me sing unless by the persuasion of my mother at occasional Sunday evening church programs. The only time he took part in any musical activity was the all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC that the family received for Reagan's inauguration. Aside from that, my father agreed with my grandfather's assessment that I couldn't do anything right.
My father was obviously a man in tremendous pain. I never knew what had caused that pain. I just knew that he tried to drink it away. There were things that he needed to deal with and never knew how to address. So his deep and painful self-worth issues were passed down to me. That was his legacy. In the same way that some families pass down money, heirlooms or family wisdom, my father unconsciously passed down his despair. Without realizing it, I took his issues on as my own. As hurtful as this was, I now realize that this kind of transference is an extremely common experience.
As we walk our path toward freedom, one of the key things that we must do is distinguish which thoughts and feelings are truly our own versus what we've inherited from our past, our families and our communities. As children we believe what we're told because that's what children do. By the time we grow into adulthood we tend not to question our deeply held beliefs, even if they don't serve our growth and happiness. Becoming conscious of these thoughts, trends and patterns can unravel the threads that have bound the generations together. Then we get to choose to keep what is life affirming while discarding those threads and beliefs that have held us in fear, doubt and feelings of worthlessness.
This is a difficult process. But part of our healing comes from knowing that we get to decide who we want to be now, in the present. We can deflect negativity by practicing positive self-talk and saying something like, "These negative beliefs are not who I am. I may have done some unhealthy things in the past but who I am now is a person of positivity and power and grace." If you can determine the source of any negative self-concepts that you have, that's great. It makes it that much easier to release them. But if you can't identify the source you can still dissolve them from your mental, emotional and energetic body.
One of the strategies that I used when I was trying to get away from the pervasive negativity surrounding me was to literally escape, to steal away from the energy so that I could re-create myself. It's very difficult to re-create yourself if you continue to be surrounded by the influences that helped produce a false sense of self in the first place. So take a trip. Apply to school in another state. Start a new career that you love. Learn some new skills. This process requires making a conscious decision about who we want to be, as well as feeling into the truth of who we really are — the talents, gifts and abilities that we were born to deliver. Allow your talents to manifest and your inner voice to direct your path.
Every new or latent talent that you discover will need to be cultivated. So you must not be afraid to invest in yourself. If you've lived with false beliefs or succumb to thoughts of unworthiness, it can seem selfish and counterproductive to start investing in your own joy and curiosity. But you must become present and committed to the things that matter to you.
Excerpted from "Alive! and Unstoppable"
Copyright © 2017 Mark Dale Miles.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Michael Bernard Beckwith, xvii,
Chapter One Deadbeats, Beggars and Bums: Breaking away from limiting beliefs and the self-fulfilling prophesies of the past, 19,
Chapter Two Looking for Love and Found a Bullet: Making choices that will change your life, 37,
Chapter Three There are No Mistakes: Releasing mental blocks and old beliefs to embrace new options, 52,
Chapter Four What Must Be Done: Following through on the spiritual truth about you, 67,
Chapter Five Prophetic Voice vs. Pathetic Voice: Making the big paradigm shift, 83,
Chapter Six Fear is a Racket: Letting go of excuses and negative coping skills, 98,
Chapter Seven Some Other to Win: Allowing your victories to push you toward achieving your next big goal, 116,
Chapter Eight Not Here to Get, But Here to Let: Helping others through giving, 132,
Chapter Nine Drop the Material, See the Spiritual: "Walking the bridge from reason to faith", 150,
About the Author, 163,