According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million people over the age of 18.1 I am one of those 40 million people. As far back as I can remember, anxiety has dominated my life. Being anxious is part […]
First impressions are critical in life and in business.
A good or bad first impression can decide whether or not that date will turn into a relationship, you get the job, join a particular church, or vote for a certain political candidate.
All of us are guilty from time to time of making snap judgments about people and situations. We judge someone’s character just by looking at them. We tune out a song or speech after the first verses or sentences. We don’t like something new because it’s not as good as the original. We overuse such phrases as “It’s the best/worst ever.” After making the determination about someone or something’s value, we look for confirmation bias:
“I got stuck in traffic this morning. I knew it was going to be a bad day.”
After the news is announced that a particular actor was cast in a movie yet to go into production and be released, “That’s going to be terrible. Worst casting choice ever!”
“This country is going to hell in a hand basket. I miss the good ol’ days.”
What if I told you that you can manage your impressions and starve your inner troll at the same time? You can. Everyone of us has the ability to control our responses to any situation. As individuals, we have the right to think for ourselves, thus we can move away from doctrine, party, and the same talking points which will never convert your opponent anyway.
I am a firm believer that life is fraught with difficulties and we should anticipate problems, but we should not live in fear of them. What if we were to take a few moments to step aside and assess the situation? You received a bad diagnosis from the doctor? You can always seek a second opinion. You can examine your life and make changes concerning your health. In the case of a terminal issue, you can even make the most of the time you have left.
In Epictetus’ The Art of Living, the Stoic philosopher discusses how our view of situations, including death, can be more damaging than the situation itself:
“Things themselves don’t hurt or hinder us. Nor do other people. How we view these things is another matter. It is our attitudes and reactions that give us trouble. Therefore even death is no big deal in and of itself. It is our notion of death, our idea that it is terrible, that terrifies us. There are so many different ways to think about death. Scrutinize your notions about death- and everything else. Are they really true? Are they doing you any good? Don’t dread death or pain; dread the fear of death or pain. We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.” (italics mine).*
When the alarm goes off to signal a new day, don’t sigh or allow yourself to be filled with dread, because you’ve been given a second chance. Take the time to talk to the person you dismissed and maybe you’ll find some common ground or become friends. In order to manage our impressions, we must be fluid and adaptable to whatever comes our way. Don’t expect to have the same beliefs at forty that you did at twenty. As we experience more of life, the more knowledge and wisdom we attain in order to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. We must also realize that life is not all bad and it’s not all good, as there will be difficulty. Change your perception of the situation and you will chance your response to said situation. And please, stop feeding the trolls. God bless.
*Epictetus, The Art of Living, interpreted by Sharon Lebell. San Francisco: Harper Collins (1995): 10.
By Michael W. Raley
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Every triumph, every setback, heartache, failure,
And every victory are lessons learned in life’s classroom.
This is why you did all that work,
Faced your fears,
Prayed the prayers and meditated on the outcomes.
You anchored yourself during the storms
And held on with everything you had.
It all has brought you to now,
This seminal and transcendent moment in time,
Which has the potential to transform life as you know it.
This is the only life you get,
Give it everything you have and don’t hold back.
No matter the place of employment, there’s always a chance there will be food in the break or conference rooms. In the United States, this free food often involves, pizza, donuts, bagels, birthday cake, other baked goods, catered food such as fried chicken or sandwiches- all of which are off limits for someone with […]
Another week is here whether or not I’m ready for it. I’ve been very uninspired and angry while trying to get through this maze we call life. “Now what?” is the operative question floating around in my head. You ever reached a point of mental exhaustion where all the faith, philosophy, and self-help motivation isn’t going to help? I’m there.
I try to take care of myself concerning my celiac disease and my overall health, but I keep hitting walls and having setbacks. I’m emotionally spent, as my discouragement has sank me back into depression. It’s hard to find the bright side when it’s a dark and cloudy night. Everything I try is another dead end. I’m trapped like a rat on a sinking ship.
As I stated at the beginning, I’ve been angry about the way things have turned out. I know my reaction is under my control, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating when you have to watch yourself and the ones you love struggle through undeserved trials. Deserve- I’ve been dwelling a lot on that word. Maybe life isn’t about what you deserve, it’s just dealing with what you get and you get through it the best you can. My faith teaches me that there is a plan for my life and everything will work out, but who knows what this plan is? None of us seems to know and we just go through life attributing events to “God’s will.” I just wonder why doesn’t the Almighty make it easier for us mere mortals to figure out this plan?
Maybe I’m jaded because I have suffered loss in the spirituality department or maybe I’m more discerning and deliberate in my forties, but I’ve reached a point where I’m not falling for the vague promises of someone on the campaign trail:
“It’s a great plan. I can’t get into specifics, but it’s going to be good.”
Wouldn’t God be better served, both literally and figuratively, if He was more forthright as to what we are supposed to do? Why do I have to die to find out how it all fits together? I have to live this life now. I cannot sacrifice enjoying the present for some vague promise of what’s to come. I know some Christians would question and abhor my skepticism, but I need facts, I need data. I am a man of reason, this must be reasonable if I am to make an informed choice. I have neither the time nor the inclination to play the spiritual equivalent of the game “Guess Who?”
I must be intellectually honest with myself or I’m going nowhere. My faith is a struggle and I have a hard time believing. To use a human analogy: If you were in a relationship with someone- a significant other, friend, or family member, and they repeatedly allowed you to be hurt or disappointed, how would you feel about trying to start over? If you’ve read this far, thank you for allowing me to get this off of my chest.
By Michael W. Raley
A cup of hot tea
Is just what I need
To unwind from this day.
The sun has set, no longer shining its rays.
The sky is dominated by the moon’s glow.
Soon I ‘ll reach for my copy of Thoreau
And off to Walden Pond we will go;
The secret to the simple life I yearn to know.
I grow weary of the daily shuffle and bustle,
As I try to stay a step ahead of the hustle.
I seek to hear nature’s rapturous song sang by the birds,
Accompanied by the melodious thunder of a distant herd.
I would gladly trade this busyness and strife
For the deliberate, thoughtful life.
By Michael W Raley
Hard times, whether in the future or past,
Help shape the mold from which we are cast.
Will we become a vessel refined
Or be relegated to the scrap pile of time?
The hard times teach us what we don’t know
And show us how we are to grow
Into the person we can and should be,
Thus, helping to forge our destiny.
Just as gold goes through the fire,
So will we, as we learn to quell our bad habits and desires.
When our time in the fire is done,
We shall be as sharpened iron on display for everyone.