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STRIVING FOR GREATNESSLIVING THE GOOD LIFE INSIDE OUT!
By JESSE M. GRIFFIN III
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Jesse M. Griffin III
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMOVING FORWARD
When you inherit life, you inherit all of its counterparts as well—its highs, lows, pleasures, and pains. As a product of your ancestors, you already may understand that you retain select genetics of those individuals. What you may not know, however, is that in being their descendant, you also are the bearer of consequences that resulted from some of the decisions they made in their lives. For instance, this may entail the poverty stricken community you reside in—being that their lack of ambition and quest for better living circumstances has left you with no choice. This, as another example to give, may entail risk factors that have been conditioned into your DNA that can contribute to you developing perilous physical conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure because of the type of lifestyle they maintained—being a poor diet or lack of exercise.
In spite of this reality, nevertheless, you do not have to be confined to many of those conditions they arranged. You can change those conditions and shape them to be whatever you want your children, grandchildren, and the generations to follow to inherit. But you first must possess and maintain the proper qualities that will allow you to do so. One of those qualities is the ability to move forward.
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."
The hardest part of dealing with a difficult situation is accepting its harsh reality, but there is a reason why people were created with eyes in the front of their heads and not in the back.
Aphorisms, such as "Life goes on" and "It's going to be all right," are often unpleasant for a person to hear when he or she is dealing with a crisis. They are hard to accept because the pain the heart is feeling does not want to allow the mind to conceive the thought. It rejects it because of the overwhelming effects that sorrow produces, such as grief, guilt, or emptiness.
Sorrow is a difficult emotion to endure—maybe the hardest of all. Most commonly experienced when you lose someone, or suffer a disconnect from someone with whom you have a strong, positive emotional connection to, sorrow can also be triggered by other instances, such as the loss or theft of a sentimental item, making a poor decision, or disputes with family, companions, or friends. In spite of sorrow's apparent dismal nature, nevertheless, it can have both negative and positive effects.
Self-pity is the product of being immoderately sorrowful. It is a person's excessive, self-absorbed discontent over his or her troubles and misfortunes that make him or her wish they could rewrite a few pages in their life's history book. Sometimes people become so consumed by self-pity that they never realize it is the reason why some of their circumstances are what they are, and let me illustrate how.
Self-pity, in many cases, takes away all enthusiasm and blocks potential positive action because it surrounds the mind with negative thoughts that fuels negative emotions such as insecurity, anger, or depression. These types of emotions tend to encourage people to ignore logic and base much of their actions off of how they feel—and this is the reason why a majority of a self-pitiful person's behavior and decisions become irrational. The compilation of irrational act after another, therefore, is what dictates the unfavorable circumstances they are subjected to deal with.
I personally find it ironic that many people allow self-pity to play a big role in their lives, but they do not want to be viewed as having the one thing it represents the most: weakness. Many people want others to recognize them as mentally strong; as in being confident, emotionally intact, scholastically intelligent, and street smart—but in truth, however, being a slave to self-pity can only make them the opposite of these things.
They cannot have a high level of confidence, because their obligation to feel sorry for themselves causes them to develop and employ introverted tendencies that makes them feel inferior, such as insecurity and bashfulness. They cannot be mentally strong, because their sorrow, which consumes them, makes them emotionally unstable, causing them to be inconsistent with making rational decisions. In addition, other effects that can stem from self-pity—such as ignorance, or defiance—can cause them to seem somewhat incompetent or inept, even if they happen to be very cerebral.
When sorrow is moderated, however, it actually can have positive effects. It keeps a person on their toes and makes them understand that he or she is human, just as everyone else is. That person may realize that no matter how good things get, he or she shouldn't become arrogant or complacent about their fortune. At the same time, it also can reinforce to that individual that although what he or she is going through is bad, it could be worse—especially since they may have knowledge of terrible things that others have endured. And this breakthrough is what may make him or her a little bit more grateful that their situation is not as critical.
Moving forward means letting go, and a big part of letting go is forgiveness. To forgive means to excuse or pardon someone for a fault or an offense they have committed against you, but society has developed an interpretation of forgiveness to be that you approve of or accept something offensive or disrespectful that another person has done to you. This, however, is far from the case. Your forgiveness is never for the benefit of the culprit by letting him or her "off the hook." It always is for your emotional and physical benefits. When you forgive, you no longer immoderately dwell on things that have been done to you, over which you have no control or ability to change—and begin to focus on doing things to help you improve your present circumstances.
Forgiving yourself, as well as forgiving those who have committed ill will toward you, can also be physically and emotionally beneficial to people who have nothing to do with your experiences. It prevents you from using those people as outlets for your anger, which can, in turn, prevent them from developing negative emotions due to your distasteful actions towards them.
Revenge is a component of unforgiveness that may feel good during the heat of the moment, but is only a temporary fulfillment. It is not a permanent solution for dealing with self-pity, because after experiencing revenge's jubilation, you can still be stuck in the emotional trap that you have allowed your unfortunate experiences to put you in.
Now, of course you are not required to forgive; the choice to do so will always be yours. There are a couple of things, however, that you should understand about forgiveness. The first thing is that forgiveness is the first aid for healing many of the open emotional wounds that you may have developed from your life's experiences. Forgiveness is about relinquishing self-bondage, only to acquire self-liberation. Holding on to resentment or grudges, therefore, only prevents you from obtaining self-liberation, and forces you to become a prisoner of your own mind.
The other thing you should understand about forgiveness is that your blessings, future, and destiny are all tied up in how much you forgive. I can definitely attest to this fact, because my forgiveness of people toward whom I had felt bitterness has helped me care less about what was and see more of what is, so that I can understand what it could be. It has allowed me to clear the space in my mind that was consumed with bitter and resentful thoughts, which handicapped my creative abilities and thus limited my potential. It is because of forgiveness that I have been able to revive those abilities and also gain new interests and, as a result, develop new skills. It is because of forgiveness that I was able to make this blessing known as Striving for Greatness a reality.
"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love."
—Martin Luther King Jr.
1. Accept what is reality.
The first step to moving past a crucial experience is to accept it. In this life no one is spared from the experience of harsh reality. So understand that whatever it is that you are going through there is someone else out there in the world that is also dealing with a similar or worst situation. With time, however, comes healing, and with every succeeding day, it gets better.
2. Confront all negative emotions.
Never ignore or bury your negative emotions, no matter what they are or where they come from. Sometimes you have to let go of shame or pride, and talk to someone you can trust—someone who is honest and impartial that can help you see things clearly or comprehend things you would have not been able recognize on your own.
3. Be optimistic.
Consistently survey your surroundings and understand what things in it are good and bad for your mind. Then expunge all things in your life that are unhealthy for it, whether it is the places where you hang, the people with whom you associate, or even the activities in which you partake. If you cannot naturally think positive, consistently speak positive things to yourself literally, and eventually your mind will program it and incorporate it into your natural thought process.
When you do these things you place yourself in a position to see and hear positivity and inspiration as much as possible. And when you begin to eat, sleep, and breathe positivity, you will begin to create many more positive situations for yourself.
"I've always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative."
—Sugar Ray Robinson
Exercise is actually one of the most important practices you can use to help you alleviate sorrow. In addition to the many great physical benefits exercise renders, such as lowering blood pressure, decreasing risk of heart disease and cancer, and increasing bone and muscle strength, exercise also lifts your mood. It increases endorphins, which are chemicals in a person's central nervous system that respond positively to stress and pain, in particular. Therefore the more you exercise, the better you will benefit psychologically.
So devote some time out of the day, week, or month to exercise. Choose fitness activities that you enjoy, and switch up routines to make it somewhat interesting, because just as the body needs to be exercised, so does the mind. This, along with the physical and psychological results you get from it, will be what encourages you to stick with it.
"Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity."
—John F. Kennedy
5. Stay appreciative
There is always something about which to be thankful, even in the midst of the worst situations. Reflecting on your past wins will help you get through your losses. Think about a time when you fared well in a critical situation, and then imagine that it had turned into the worst-case scenario possible. Now understand that you are blessed to have come out on top of that situation, because there is someone else that has dealt with the same circumstance but did not.
Every bad experience is a blessing and a gift of knowledge, wisdom, and humility that will make you better going forward. So appreciate those dire situations and find the lessons to be learned in each.
THE GREATEST GIFT
This Thing Called Love ...
Clear your mind and then think about what you would do in the following situation:
You get to start life over, but you must live it one of two ways. One way is that you will live to be one hundred years old and will maintain good physical and mental health. You also will be granted a billion dollars and any material possession of your choice. You cannot, however, be loved by anyone any longer. Those who you love now will no longer recognize you, and no one you meet will genuinely care about you.
The other way is that you will live to be one hundred years old and have good physical and mental health, but you will be poor and have only the things you need to survive. However, you can receive love from everyone you care about, and you will be able to bond with anyone you meet.
Which way of life would you choose? What would be more important to you—the pleasure of having riches or the emotional benefits of being loved?
If you feel that it would be more fulfilling to be rich and have every material thing you ever wanted over love, then my opinion is that you made the wrong choice. The experience of love is the most fulfilling that anyone can have. You could love those material things, but those things cannot love you back. You might have everything you have always wanted, but you would live a miserable life.
Material things are nothing when compared to the love that you give and receive from people. You can learn to live without things, but you cannot live happily without loving and feeling loved by others—this is why I support the old adage that says money does not buy happiness. Money can help you put yourself in a joyful situation of course, because with your money you can afford to buy material things to help you live more comfortably. When it comes to achieving true happiness, nevertheless, you can only do so if you love and feel loved by another person.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves. Love never fails. But where there are prophesies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be satisfied; where there is knowledge, it will pass away."
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Before you can love anyone else, you first have to love yourself. Loving yourself means accepting and appreciating your own individuality—your interests, talents, and physical appearance. Loving yourself also is about treating your body in the best way possible.
If I were to ask everyone in the world, "Do you love yourself?" I would guess that most people would say yes, they do love themselves. I also would guess, however, that maybe half of those people who said yes are those that actually show it. Consider some facts that I researched to support my claim:
Tobacco use and obesity are the two primary factors that contribute to heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in America. More deaths are caused by heart disease each year than from all other diseases, including HIV, cancer, drug or alcohol abuse, motor vehicle accidents, homicides, or suicides. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2010 that the number of tobacco smokers increased by 21.8 percent, which means that one of every five adults in the United States is a tobacco smoker. The CDC also reported that more than one-third of adults and approximately 17 percent of children in the United States are obese. Comparing year-to-year results, dating back to 1980, obesity rates have doubled for adults and even tripled for children.
It is clear by these facts that many of us do not care about ourselves, even if we say that we do, because for an individual to proclaim that they love themselves, he or she must prove it to themselves by losing their detrimental and unhealthy habits and incorporating ones that are conducive to good health.
I began smoking cigars at age twenty. It started off as casual experimentation, but it eventually led to an addiction, as I began to depend upon smoking daily. I had adopted the conventional belief that smoking would help relieve the stress I was experiencing, but I was obviously wrong. It was through my own personal intervention, however, that I was able to manage this addiction.
Excerpted from STRIVING FOR GREATNESS by JESSE M. GRIFFIN III Copyright © 2012 by Jesse M. Griffin III. 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.
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