Finding Your Positives is a refreshing, inspirational way to learn to cope with life changing events along with life's daily challenges. The struggle is the day-to-day coping to begin to heal to a path of recovery. Learn to control your mind instead of your mind controlling you with confusing; conflicting emotions putting at risk your well-being and balance.
Your life changing events creates the choice of which path to choose to manage the struggle of your event. The illustration of choosing a path paints a picture to assist you with your decision.
Finding Your Positives couples with inspiration nurturing a mindset and igniting a flame in your heart for appreciation, empathy and compassion for others trying to cope with their challenge and hoping to achieve a healthy well-being and stable balance.
Follow the easy to use system to track your progress throughout your journey to recovery. A snap shot will emerge illustrating your progress of doing well or needing to focus more. No matter the state of your progress, do not give up, as today is important with tomorrow being more important for brighter days and a brighter future.
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Finding Your PositivesYour Personal Self-Help Plan for Overcoming Life's Toughest Challenges
By Steve Ward
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Steve Ward
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIdentifying Your Challenges
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. —Albert Einstein
Let's get started with the basics first. The most important thing to realize and really take to heart is that sometimes we let what are essentially nuisances blow up to become perceived tough challenges. It's natural to let this happen. We all puff minor annoyances way out of proportion from time to time. The trick is to tell the difference between a challenge and a nuisance, or what I refer to as a No Big Deal. As the saying goes, "Don't sweat the small stuff!"
How do we differentiate between challenges and a No Big Deal? On the face of it, the process is quite simple. A No Big Deal is no more than a vexing problem, an obstacle, or a nuisance. Sometimes our tendency is to overreact and dwell on whatever is bothering us for days, creating unnecessary stress. If you really get down and look at life realistically, you've got to admit that people tend to stress themselves out over the silliest things. You spill red wine on your nice new white carpet. The grocer shortchanges you at the cash register. You get a bad haircut and look simply awful. The septic system backs up, creating a horrible mess. The cable guy doesn't show up when he said he would. You get the idea.
Even though we definitely get ticked off about things like this, it doesn't mean we are facing a tough challenge that requires us to figure out how to cope on a daily basis for months or possibly longer. Intellectually, we understand that we're overreacting to a No Big Deal, but are we able to let the water roll off our backs like the proverbial duck? Those of us who can do that lead much less stressful lives than those who let every little thing send us into a tailspin. When you take a deep breath as you face a No Big Deal and tell yourself that the "small stuff" happens all the time, you'll reduce your stress levels in daily life, which in turn will lead to a more sustainable sense of inner peace. In short, you'll be happier. You'll also be better equipped to face the big challenges when they do come knocking on your door.
Many real challenges are pretty obvious when they hit. The death of a spouse or a child, for example, is about as tough as it gets. That's not the "small stuff" by any stretch of the imagination. The stress is real and natural. The pain and confusion and all the other emotions sweep you up into a whirlwind. But it's after the initial shock that the challenge really begins. That challenge is coping every day with what has happened. The struggle has an impact on everything you do; it threatens your mental balance and your sense of well-being.
Other challenges are less obvious, but they are every bit as real and as potentially disrupting. What all challenges worthy of action have in common is that they put your sense of well-being at risk every day. The negative and painful emotions surface constantly. You find yourself struggling to cope. If that's happening, you know that you are facing what for you is a challenge, not a nuisance or a No Big Deal.
Challenges can be physical, psychological, emotional, or a combination of all these things. Whatever the mix, you'll need inner strength, determination, dedication, discipline, patience, persistence, and perseverance to cope day-to-day with what has happened. This can be a demanding journey, but once you get through it, the rewards are substantial in terms of an enhanced sense of serenity, a bolstered feeling of inner confidence that you can handle whatever life throws at you, and a belief that you possess the courage and strength to change the negative to the positive in a systematic way.
It bears saying that many challenges are in the eye of the beholder. What feels like a challenge for you might be a No Big Deal for someone else. Your perception of life is as highly individual as we all are as human beings. Thus, it is important to understand that if you are finding yourself struggling to cope on a daily basis with a particular event or circumstance, it is likely a challenge you need to deal with even if intellectually you tell yourself that you're overreacting to a No Big Deal. Sure, you can get really upset if you spill red wine on your white carpet, but you would not be likely to struggle on a daily basis to cope with the event. But perhaps you would over something else. Be sensitive to your inner conflicts, longings, misgivings, fears, depression, and anger, and how your unmet needs and desires play into a mix of negative emotions that in turn end up becoming challenges in your daily life. Decide if you are actually facing a challenge. Ignoring your inner self is risky business. If something is bothering you, then even if you think it would sound like a No Big Deal to a neighbor or a colleague, it's a good idea to take a hard look at the nature of what's disturbing you and then take action to eliminate the negativity.
Let me cite an example from my own life that might provide some clarity on the issue of how challenges are often unique among people, differing in terms of degree, intensity, and emotional, physical, or financial impact. Back in 1995, I lost my job in home-improvement sales. I'd given nearly ten years of loyal service to the company, and I was let go just before extra benefits kicked in that would have made me more expensive to keep as an employee. I was the primary breadwinner for my family at the time. Losing the job made me feel betrayed and unappreciated, and like I had let down my wife and kids. I landed two jobs to generate immediate income, but I earned a mere pittance. I descended into despair and hopelessness. I was also angry. Obviously, many people these days can relate to my predicament in light of the millions of us who remain unemployed after being "downsized" during the Great Recession. I think we all would agree that job loss is a challenge. Some studies say losing a job is about as bad from an emotional standpoint as divorce or the death of a spouse, especially for men.
Ultimately, I was forced to make what for me was a hugely important decision, one I struggled with then and still occasionally feel guilty about all these years later. I had to move my wife and kids to a city roughly eight hours away from where we had been living, and where we had been physically close to my parents and my sister. Family is very important to me—it always has been. The idea of picking up and leaving just to pursue a better opportunity made me feel as though I was abandoning my loved ones. Losing the job, working for peanuts at two lesser jobs just to pay the light bill, and then being forced to move sent me into an even worse emotional state than ever. This was one of the darkest times in my life, and it was when I first began my inner journey to find a way to cope with my despair and depression. This was the time when the beginnings of my Finding Your Positives program took shape. I needed a way to fight off the emotional downward spiral. I needed to overcome the challenges and manage my emotions so that I could recover and find balance in my life again.
We moved, and life went on. I was able to cope with my guilt about leaving my parents and my sister ... eventually. Now, for many people, especially these days, relocating to find work is something that happens all the time. Indeed, many people who are unemployed would thank their lucky stars to have such an opportunity. For them, moving would not be a challenge at all. It would be a godsend. So there's an example of how a true challenge for me could be a No Big Deal for someone else. It's a reminder that as unique individuals, our challenges are often in the eye of the beholder. You'll know deep in your heart what is a No Big Deal and what is a true challenge for you. Also, when you start considering what is impacting your daily emotions and sense of well-being, you may discover that memories of past events continue to challenge you today in terms of clouding life with fits of negative emotion that arise from those memories. We moved long ago, but memories of that time still surface, requiring me to get out the Finding My Positives playbook.
Below are some other challenges I have faced during my life. Take a close look. You may very well find some that you would not call a challenge, such as having a great job that pays well but requires extensive travel. As I said, I am very close to my family and don't like being away from them. Being forced to travel is a big challenge for me, one I have to work hard to cope with nearly every day. Making friends may be easy for you, but you'll see that making new friends is on my list of challenges. As I've said, a challenge can be unique to you as a person. Once you identify a challenge, you can then go to work on dealing with it. I've been dealing effectively with mine for years with the Finding Your Positives self-help plan.
My Past and Present Challenges
Naturally, the list below doesn't reflect every challenge I've faced, but it does show you some of the bigger ones. It's important to note that identifying your challenges and then writing them down is an essential component of the Finding Your Positives self-help plan. The act of writing is assertive. It embodies affirmative action, whereas simply thinking about your challenges is passive. Passivity is the essence of inaction, and inaction won't lead to positive changes in your life.
Wife's miscarriage Mother's dementia
Mother's breast cancer Putting mother in a nursing home
Father's prostate cancer Making new friends
Father's heart-bypass surgery Assault of a close friend
Father's death from pancreatic cancer My cancer
Suicide of close friend My heart attack
Moving eight hours away from Car accident of close friend family quadriplegic
Past job losses Deaths of mother- and father- in-law
Job requiring travel – away from family
Some Universal Challenges
The list below presents some universal challenges. Fortunately, most of us won't experience more than a few of these challenges throughout our lives. However, it is helpful to see just how many types of challenges exist, and to be mindful of how these challenges will vary in terms of how much they will affect your life if you happen to face one or more of them.
Facing a disease Physical trauma due to accident
Helping a loved one face disease Psychological trauma due to abuse
Caring for elderly parents Offering help and support to traumatized friends and loved ones
Supporting adult children or Anxiety about career, grandchildren retirement, medical expenses
Growing old Losing a job
Death of spouse, child, or family Bankruptcy and/or foreclosure member
Death of a friend Being a victim of violent crime
Divorce Witnessing a traumatic event
Battling substance abuse Living with long-term guilt
Loved one with substance-abuse Suffering from dementia problem
Comforting loved one or friend who Giving care to a loved one with is victim of violent crime dementia
Dealing with physical handicaps and Facing sexual harassment at disabilities work
Coping with loneliness Feeling underemployed/ unappreciated
As I've said, the impact of a challenge and the intensity of emotions it fosters within you will be deeply personal. Do not judge your reactions and your struggle to cope against those of other people. Yet, in addition to identifying and writing down your challenges, it can also be very helpful to talk with others who have experienced the same or a similar challenge. You can learn from talking with people who have been through what you are facing. Seeking support groups for grief or substance-abuse counseling are good examples. Individual therapy is another example of how talking can help. There really is comfort in sharing your challenges with others.
To recap, challenges are very different from No Big Deals, which are basically nuisances or minor problems. Challenges will vary in terms of degree, intensity, and overall impact. The death of a spouse will obviously hit you harder than having a hard time making new friends, for example. Memories can pose challenges years after the initial event or circumstance. Challenges can be new ones in the present or old ones from the past that you haven't dealt with yet. Taking the time to get in touch with your inner self can help you identify challenges you might have ignored or been unaware of. Deciding to take action to deal with your challenge will lead to a happier life.
Beyond Positive Thinking
A word on the power of positive thinking is in order here as we consider challenges. In 1952, Norman Vincent Peale published his famous book The Power of Positive Thinking. Ever since, the idea that you can change your outlook by thinking positively has remained embedded in American culture. The idea indeed has merit. People who walk around thinking negative thoughts and fuming about their lot in life are bound to have a pretty unhappy existence, more stress, fewer meaningful relationships, and even less-successful careers. Optimists live longer and happier lives. Numerous studies over the years bear this out—and besides, you don't really need some postdoctoral paper to tell you what should be common sense anyway. However, while positive thinking is certainly a good thing, it isn't exactly what I have in mind with the Finding Your Positives self-help plan.
Positive thinking means having favorable thoughts and is more an attitude than an action. An example of positive thinking is, "I can do this!" Or, "I won't give up!" Or, "There's always a silver lining in every dark cloud." Or, "It's always the darkest before dawn." You get the picture. My contention is that it isn't enough to simply think positively to adjust your attitude from the negative to the positive. My sincere belief is that thinking about a challenge from a positive viewpoint won't necessarily lead to positive change. You need to take affirmative action to effect change. You can't just sit around thinking about how positive things would be if you made that change, or that thinking good things will itself lead to change.
It isn't enough to say, "I can do this!" You actually have to take steps that will lead to change, and bring about your ultimate victory over whatever challenge you happen to be facing at the moment. The Finding Your Positives self-help plan is a method of accountability that includes self-reflection, evaluation, implementation, and self-review to focus in on achieving your healthy well-being and balance. The Finding Your Positives plan nurtures a state of mind for clear thinking and positive action. The plan is a process, a sort of compass to point you in the right direction as you continue with the struggle of coping day-to-day with your challenges. The goal is for you to achieve a destination of freedom from negative emotions. You can accomplish this through concrete action, which we'll discuss shortly. Thinking with your heart to control your mind can restore and preserve your mental well-being and balance, and if you actively pursue this method in a step-by-step process, you can achieve your goal of working toward a happier life with your challenges put behind you.
Chapter TwoImplementing Your Positives
The secret to life is to have more beginnings than endings. —Dave Weinbaum
Now that you've identified your challenges, it's time to learn how you can actively work to overcome them. At the core of the Finding Your Positives self-help plan is an easy and brief process designed to help you control your mind, which in turn will enable you to better control the negative emotions associated with your challenge. There aren't many steps, but each one is important. Action is needed to go beyond feeling bad, or to go beyond trying to think positive and coming up short. Believe it or not, it's easier to wallow in the negative than it is to work hard to find the positives and subsequently keep them at the forefront of your mind every day. Yet once you get started, the process will become second nature, a sort of daily habit you don't even realize you have.
Excerpted from Finding Your Positives by Steve Ward Copyright © 2012 by Steve Ward. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. 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
Chapter 1. Identifying Your Challenges....................1
Chapter 2. Implementing Your Positives....................11
Chapter 3. Your Positives Every Day....................27
About the Author....................41
Appendix A. Positives Worksheets and Samples....................43
Appendix B. Measuring Your Positive Progress....................49