According to Jenna Bush Hager, George H.W. Bush believed that “No life can be defined as successful that does not include service to others.” He communicated that belief beautifully in a 1988 campaign speech written by Peggy Noonan in which he pledged to, “…keep America moving forward, always forward—for a better America, for an endless enduring dream and a thousand points of light."
The points of light in the speech referenced individuals and organizations providing volunteer service to others. Gorgeous imagery, beautifully written and stated, despite current administration comments to the contrary.
Being in service to others was always important to me, and was a huge part of our family’s focus prior to divorce. We were involved with Habitat for Humanity; we ran a soup kitchen one night a month; spearheaded a project at church to provide soup for AIDS patients; we volunteered other ways at church and in schools and countless other places. I was pretty much a professional volunteer for most of that marriage, and I miss being able to do that.
When I finally became divorced after twenty-six years of marriage and had to get a full time job, all volunteering and community involvement stopped. Besides the new pressures on my time, I was too depressed to even think clearly, I certainly couldn’t get myself together to knit another hat for someone else’s preemie.
If you are depressed or feel somehow isolated, most experts indeed recommend that you get involved with a volunteer organization. And yes, it is well known that helping others in your own time of need does have a positive effect on your own well-being.
That is so true. But who wants to? We find all kinds of reasons why we can’t help anyone else, stating the classic, “I’m the one who has been hurt, WHO is going to help ME?”
And that isn’t what this post is about. Although I am a big believer that volunteer service indeed does make you feel better, what I’m talking about here is a little bit different.
When 41 passed away a few of weeks ago, I found myself thinking about his 1000 points of light statement. Of course, I thought about it in relation to divorce- (what did you expect from me?!) I could write a post and call it something like, “1000 Points of Fright” which could seem pretty accurate. It could be about all the things that are scary and horrible if you are going through this process, especially if your ex-spouse was the only one who wanted the divorce in the first place.
Or, maybe I could look at it from an energetic standpoint- “1000 Points of Blight” and refer to the ripple effect that the negativity and pain of divorce puts out into the universe?
Well, those are sad scenarios. Maybe with some truth to them, but not really aligned with President Bush’s original message of hope and love. How could I add some RillPOWER to this?
This is the time of year when we are setting goals for ourselves- “an aim or desired result.” And, if you are going or have been through a divorce, you certainly have an open door to creating an entirely new existence, especially when you combine setting goals with committed action. Transformation is a big buzz word after divorce, don't let yours come with a side of comfort zone.
Our potential is so limitless- (see my Limitless Potential post, November 2017.) We have unlimited chances to be our best self, to create the life we want and to shine as we were meant to. So, why don’t we reach the wattage we desire?
The average person thinks about 12,000-60,000 thoughts per day. Studies show that 85% of those thoughts are negative and 95% of those negative thoughts are repetitive, meaning that we’re thinking the same negative thing over and over. “…I’ll never find someone… I’ll be alone forever…I’ll never get in better shape…” Sound familiar?*
Let’s say you average 40,000 thoughts per day. That means 34,000 of them are likely negative and 32,300 of those are repetitive negative thoughts.
What if? What if you took even 1000 of those thoughts and pictured someone giving you a smile, a hug or a dollar bill every time you re-framed them in a positive way? Pick whatever motivates you- wouldn’t it be cool if each time you turned a negative thought around someone handed you a dollar? You’d probably have quite a pile by the end of the day, because of the serious incentive to keep changing for the better.
A typical thought pattern might go something like this: “I’ll never get in shape because people are always bringing donuts to the office. I might as well eat one since I’ll be overweight forever.” That could become: “I’m taking committed action towards being in better shape, so I’m choosing to bring an apple tomorrow.”
OR EVEN: “I am committed to being in better shape, and I can decide to eat this donut because I can treat myself and not let it derail my whole day.” That attitude of self acceptance builds a life that holds you accountable safely.
The Security Blanket of Negativity
Negative thoughts that swirl through our brains usually go unchecked and unaddressed- we don’t even register them as being negative. They’re just thoughts, right?
For every person out there auditioning for a play or running for school board president, there are probably many times more people who wanted to do so but talked themselves out of it. “What if I couldn’t remember my lines?” or, “What if I win, but mess everything up?” We even say these types of things out loud, in our “humble, self-effacing way” because THAT is really how we should be, right?
Humble and self-effacing feels more polite and relatable. “Oh, you know me, I’d make my entrance stage right and trip and fall down in front of everyone." Cue some nervous laughter.
There are a couple problems with this. One is that this cute little anecdote about our imaginary bumbling self becomes the ingrained story that we really end up living out. Makes a nice warm little blankie for our comfort zone though. Next time you’re tempted to make some cute put down about yourself- don’t. What do you want to do so badly that you keep trying to talk yourself out of doing? Now do that thing.
The second is that it could be, what we're really looking for is some praise and encouragement. We hope that when we say we wouldn't be good at something, people will vigorously protest that of course we would be AWESOME at it. We demur, but inwardly hope they will keep heaping on the praise. Accolades that we have to manipulate others to get really aren't authentic.
Naturally we all like to be complimented. But being vulnerable and saying, "I'd really like to audition for a play, but I'm honestly a bit scared that I would mess up," is far more real and could become a jumping off point for an open and honest conversation.
Resolving to simply recognize negative thought patterns is a great place to start. Every thought you make each day is a chance to launch, to soar, to imagine a goal and keep moving towards it. It can be either a point of light in your day, or just another negative thought taking up space in your brain.
Sign up HERE for the FREE 5 day 1000 POINTS OF (F)LIGHT CHALLENGE. We’re going to think about what we’re thinking about and train our brains for greater success in 2019.
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