What am I thinking? Are you enjoying life to the fullest?

Are you enjoying life to the fullest? Are you realizing your potential? Before you can answer this question, you have to know what I mean by realize, or live up to, your potential. To live up to your potential is to be inspired by your own accomplishments, to take delight in every decision you make, and to live with exuberance and joy.

Moreover, it is to do this despite any chaos that may be swirling around you, despite any hurdles thrown your way, and despite any irritants and pain that may be forced upon you. No, let me reword that. It is to find life exhilarating not in spite of any difficulties you may face, but BECAUSE of them. For they provide the opportunity to express courage, acceptance, patience, perseverance, determination, and strength.

It is your problems that allow you to prove to yourself and the world that you are powerful. After all, they provide you with the chance to experience victory. Victory over your own thoughts. For it is your thoughts and their accompanying feelings that lead to your actions. The unfoldment of your life is nothing more than the consequences of your earlier actions.

For example, if every time I steal, I’m thrown in jail, and I don’t like to be in jail, the solution is simple: I need to stop stealing! The next time I’m tempted to steal, the next time I think about stealing, I need to stop and W.A.I.T. That is, I need to stop and ask myself, “What Am I Thinking?” For if I don’t like what I’m experiencing, all I have to do is change my thoughts, which change their resultant feelings, actions, and consequences. Here’s what Catherine Ponder has to say on the subject: “Thoughts of your mind have made you what you are and thoughts of your mind will make you what you become from this day forward.”

When we stop and W.A.I.T., when we stop and think before we act, we are both experiencing and controlling life. But when we act without thinking, we become automatons, robots, muddling through life, unaware of our destructive actions and bewildered by their painful consequences. Isn’t it time we discovered the enemy is not ‘out there,’ but within? The enemy is in our head; it is our thoughts, our limiting beliefs, our negative interpretation of events, and our false conclusions.

Whenever we feel unpleasant, we need to stop and W.A.I.T. Discomfort and pain are signals that we’re doing something wrong. When listened to, we can change course and regain a firm footing on the right path. Sometimes the change we have to make before we can move on is not a change in the situation, but a change in our thinking, a change in our perspective. After all, many times we are better off accepting discomfort than avoiding it. Ironically, the more accepting of unpleasantness we become, the more pleasant life becomes. Conversely, the more we resist unpleasantness, the more unpleasant life becomes.

So, it makes sense to learn to live with discomfort, for the higher our threshold of pain, the greater the likelihood that we can remain happy under all circumstances. On the other hand, those who get upset at the slightest irritant, find it impossible to enjoy life. Here is a little story of a monk who did not let pain get in the way of his purpose and the enjoyment of life.

Two monks were washing their rice bowls in a stream when one noticed a scorpion had slipped off a leaf and was now drowning. The monk reached out, plucked the scorpion from the stream, and gently placed it on the bank. While doing so, he was stung. Moments later, the scorpion fell back into the stream. Once again the monk rescued it, only to be stung again.

“Master, what are you doing?” asked the junior monk. “Don’t you realize that it is the nature of scorpions to sting?”

“Ah,” replied the master, “and it is my nature to help those in need, even if it causes me pain.”

Here is another story to illustrate today’s lesson, which is to stop and W.A.I.T. before acting.

A group of young mothers were chatting in the park. A man that was strolling with a baby carriage, left the path and sat down on a bench nearby. After awhile, his baby started crying. The man got up, picked up the baby, and could be heard gently saying, “It’s okay Charlie, everything will be okay. Calm down, Charlie, everything is fine.” After a short time, the baby stopped crying and was placed back into the carriage.

The women marveled at the man’s patience. So, when the baby started to cry again, one of the women walked over to the baby carriage, and while tenderly patting the baby said, “It’s okay, Charlie, everything will be okay.”

The man than said, “That’s not Charlie. His name is Tommy. I’m Charlie.”

Here is a third story to remind us of our unlimited potential and the power of thought.

In medieval Japan, a mighty general had a final battle to wage. His troops were greatly outnumbered by the enemy that waited less than a mile away. Yet, the general believed that his and his followers’ superior fighting spirit would lead them to victory.

When they came to a shrine, the general stopped to pay homage. Then, facing his troops outside, he reached into his garments, pulled out a coin, and held it high. “This coin will forecast our destiny,” he shouted. “I will flip this coin. If it is heads, we will be victorious. If it is tails, we will be defeated. Yet, heads or tails, we shall proceed to battle and fight valiantly. Do all agree?”

“Yes!” roared his band of followers.

“Well, then,” the general yelled, “I flip the coin and seal our fate!”

There was a great silence as the coin soared high into the air, glittering in the sunlight. After what seemed like many seconds, the coin finally landed in the gravel with a soft clink. Everyone circled the coin, and as the small cloud of dust cleared, they saw it was heads!

There was a great uproar as they all eagerly charged into battle and easily defeated the enemy.

After the battle, a lieutenant whispered to the general, “No one can change destiny.”

“How right you are.” the general said, showing the lieutenant the coin, which had heads on both sides.

You see, destiny is not something that happens to us, but something we create. We carry a coin with us. The coin most people carry has heads (positive thinking) on one side and tails (negative thinking) on the other side. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to carry a double-headed coin. We can choose to always look at the bright side. But some are so blinded by the light they cannot see it. Yet, if we always look for the good and live with the premise that all people are decent, we will win every battle.

Don’t let the behaviour of others annoy you, for half the time it is caused by their personal problems and weaknesses and the other half it is caused by your misperceptions. Consequently, people are worthy of our compassion, not our anger. When you allow yourself to become upset over someone, you rob them of their dignity and rob yourself of peace of mind and happiness.

Finally, keep this in mind, if we have to struggle through life, why struggle and lose? Why not struggle and win? Whether we choose victory or defeat, the price is the same!