Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Do You Need a Pep Talk?

Are you a “cup-is-half-empty” kind of person or “cup-is-half full?”

I have found that the person that I’ll refer to as the “Half-Empty” tends to be more negative, more critical, more depressed, and often is more of a perfectionist.

Just about everyone knows that if we focus on the negative, we tend to feel worse. Conversely, if we focus on the positive, we feel better. So if it were that simple, then none of us would be “Half-Empties,” right?

Obviously, it’s never easy to change the way we think and respond. If our pattern is to trouble-shoot or over-analyze and find all the flaws, then taking a step back and looking for the good in our situation, ourselves, or others can be challenging.

After all, patterns don’t develop randomly. Often negativity has had a “positive” purpose in our lives. It provides the “Half-Empty” comfort in the familiar. It often gives the “Half-Empty” a feeling of vindication or righteous indignation. Many times, the “Half-Empty” approach is reinforced by others who applaud the perfectionism that has driven it. But what I see most often in others, including myself, is that the “Half-Empty” gains a sense of control. (Yes, I very often can be a “Half-Empty” with “Control Freak” tendencies. It’s actually the worst kind!)

So how do we change a habit that is so ingrained and reinforced?

  • First of all, we need to realize that the pay-off isn’t as good as the rip-off is bad. In other words, we may get what we want by being a “Half-Empty,” but we will pay for it dearly in the end, and the middle, and the beginning, well, actually all along the way!
  • Second of all, we need to replace the bad habit of being a “Half-Empty” with the good habit of being a “Half-Full.” That means we need to intentionally look for the good in our lives. We need to be thankful every single day, even in the bad things knowing that God will ultimately use those to bring about good in our lives.

Here’s my challenge to you (and myself): Begin a Prayer/Gratitude journal that focuses on prayers of thanksgiving for the good things in your life. Then stretch yourself to try to see how some of the bad things in your life did or will someday evolve into good things as you persevere in the situation and trust God to bring about His best.

Let me know if you plan to take this challenge with me. And in a future post, I hope to give you an opportunity to let everyone know about some of the good things that you focused on and how it made you feel more hopeful and encouraged.

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:4-6 (NLT)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV)

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Marriage Mistake #5 – Negative Focus

Have you ever tried to tend a garden? If you don’t have the plastic weed barrier firmly in place, then you might as well resign yourself to a long-term battle with your finger on the trigger of Round-Up—aiming to kill.  In the same way that weeds can take over a flower garden, I allowed “weeds” to invade my marriage garden.

In the early years of my marriage, I tried to avoid dealing with conflict, (Marriage Mistake #3). Often when this is the method a person chooses, it comes out somewhere.  The person either complains to friends and family about the offender, or complains internally. I did both, but more often than not, I did the latter.

At the time, I thought that this was a great way to manage my anger. I was able to dwell on all the bad things I thought my husband was doing, enjoying the rush that comes from feeling justified and indignant, and I never had to face his anger.  Well, at least that’s how I thought it worked.

Actually, the negative thoughts, like weeds, began to take over and warp my view of reality. I began to think my husband was the biggest villain of all time, and I was his poor pitiful victim—strapped to the railroad tracks and all! This approach not only made my anger grow, but also my defensiveness, since I couldn’t imagine that my bad attitude had anything to do with me!

When I look back on it now, I’m embarrassed to admit that I believed that all that garbage could remain underground.  Eventually, the weeds of my mind made me an angry, bitter woman who could get ticked off by the slightest provocation. It was at that point, that I went down that path of “fighting fire with fire,” (Marriage Mistake # 4) another ridiculous strategy.

Thankfully, God intervened in my madness. He convicted me that my negative thoughts were not benign little contemplations that I could pull out and play with like evil Lincoln Logs.  So I began to train myself to notice when those delicious, but very destructive, thoughts wanted to surface. And in those moments, I made a choice to focus on the positive.

Almost immediately I felt a difference. I didn’t feel as angry or irritated. And there was an added bonus for my husband, who didn’t feel as defensive or rejected.  With consistency and time, I knew I had found an important strategy that clearly improved the love and positive feelings within my marriage. Now, every once in a while I notice that I’ve let one slide under the radar undetected, but believe me, it doesn’t stay alive long.  I “Round-Up” that thought and aim to kill!

So, what’s on your mind?

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

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Powerful Thoughts

“But what comes out of the mouth . . .

gets its start in the heart.”

Matthew 15:18 (MSG)

Don’t ya just love the way The Message version of the Bible says things sometimes?  It’s almost like a great rap lyric or commercial slogan or a saying on a magnet that you want to hang on your fridge. Okay, okay, it may seem like I’m making light of this verse, but I really think it packs a punch.  In fact, it hits me right between the eyes!

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the power of what I think. I know that what I think doesn’t just stay in my brain like radio static. Once I dwell on it, consider it or mull it over, it seems to take on a life of its own.

So I’ve decided I’m going to ask myself a question whenever one of those run-away-train thoughts courses through my brain: Will this help me or hurt me? Sure that sounds easy, but it’s really quite tricky because we can rationalize away our thought-life. For example:

You might reason that to go “window shopping” won’t hurt you . . .

But if you know that you might give in to the temptation to buy something you don’t have the money for, then suddenly that idle shopping trip can take a big hit to your budget.

You might decide that to think about how miserable you are with your boss won’t hurt you and might even relieve some frustration . . .

But if you feel worse about him after you’ve ruminated all day on his badness, then before you know it, you won’t be able to stand him or even look him in the eye.

You might feel that dreaming about your good-looking co-worker only passes the time and actually puts you in a good mood . . .

But if you start having feelings for that same guy, even though you have a ring on your finger, then in a flash you’re tormented by a frustrating fantasy life or you’re breaking your vows because you decided to make your fantasy a reality.

Thoughts are powerful. They “get their start in the heart.” And they never remain limited to the confines of our brains.  If they’re left unattended, like little gremlins, they will always find a way out.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

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Just a Thought

“We’ve been raised with a false belief: We mistakenly believe that criticism leads to failure. . . Nobody says, “Yeah, I’d like to set myself up for some serious criticism!”  And yet . . . the only way to be remarkable is to do just that.”

–Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow

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