Living With Disabilities

I asked the question on social media, “What topic would you like to read about most?” The majority of people asked me to write about business, but there were a good number of respondents who requested I write about living with disabilities. I should note, I’m hesitant to state that I have a disability. There are so many millions around the world who have much more restrictive afflictions than me. I don’t consider my life to be restricted by my disability, however, that does not mean I do not have to cope with incredible discomfort, pain and mobility issues all the time because of autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are very prevalent today. Over 24 million (or 7% of) Americans suffer from an immune system disorder and there are over 80 autoimmune diseases that have been identified, including Lupus, Type 1 Diabetes, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I live with a form of reactive arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis in which my joints, my spine and hips in particular, are plagued with long-term inflammation and pain. This disease can lead to fusion of the vertebrae as well as damage to the eyes, bowels and heart in some cases. Most people that live with this condition have terrible back pain, stiffness and fatigue almost every day. The limited mobility of many sufferers of this disease can lead to vascular disease and reduced life expectancy is severe cases.

This disease, which I think is fair to call a disability, used to control my life. After my diagnosis, I used to take anti-inflammatories daily in addition to other painkillers. (An interesting side note, I did not do this before I was properly diagnosed. I used to just deal with the pain.) The quality of my life from medication had decreased significantly. I was depressed, I was angry and I felt like a zombie. Moreover, my pain did not lessen. My rheumatologist recommended I take immunosuppressant and chemotherapy drugs, and to never lift weights or work out with any sort of intensity. Based on how I was feeling just from painkillers and over the counter medications, I decided against taking these to further to modulate my immune system. To be frank, part of this decision was based on sitting in a waiting room full of people on these drugs who looked tired and miserable. I decided I did not want to further alter my immune system and instead I turned my life’s work to exploring how to ease my pain with diet and exercise. Funny story, after the doctor suggested that I not engage in sports or lifting weights I told him that if I was going to be disabled, I at least wanted big muscles so I could push myself around or pull myself up if need be. Fast forward 14 years and I’m now a professional bodybuilder who still plays sports, plays with my kids, and obviously lifts weights. I still have pain and stiffness, but it is nowhere near what it used to be. My mobility is decent (could be better) and I have more than enough energy to get through the daily activities of life and the demands of physical training. I get questions on how I have been able to carry on a normal life without the aid of prescription drugs. I believe there are a few decisions I made that have allowed me to persist which I will share here.

I made the decision to not let my disease or disability define me as a person. In fact, I rarely even think about my condition. Even when I’m feeling pain or stiffness, I focus on how to get myself into the physical state needed to accomplish what I need to get done. When I think about myself, I don’t think about a man with a disease. I refuse to give anything that much power over me.

I made the decision that I would exercise all the options within my control to ease my symptoms. I believe that we always have choices available to us. In fact, I believe that it’s not what happens to us in life that defines us. Rather, it is how we choose what to do about what happens that defines us. For me, I knew there were a number of choices available to me that I could control including diet, physical therapy, supplementation and physical exercise.

I made the decision that I would always try to feel my best rather than focus on how bad I am feeling. I knew this meant that I had to go full tilt with my physical training because I always feel great when I am lifting weights and my muscles are pumped up. Lifting weights makes my body feel powerful and that gives me an emotional high. Motion is the root word of emotion. When I’m in motion, my emotions are positive and this allows me to think clearly. Even when I’m in pain, I make the decision to move something. I have found there is always something I can do to feel better.

I became obsessed with researching ways to alleviate my symptoms. It’s the body that is responsible for all the healing that takes place. I knew that whatever was wrong with my immune system, at the end of the day I had to give the body what it needed to facilitate healing. This is why I consider myself fortunate. Despite my affliction, I still have the ability to aid my body in healing itself through movement, diet and supplementation. Others with disabilities do not have this option. By remembering this, I remain grateful. By the way, what has worked for me may not work for you, but I suggest you research all options available to you. There are often more options than we can initially conceive.

I decided to never, ever, ever give up. Living with a disability or battling a disease is a scary proposition. When I was diagnosed I decided that my best option was to take action and try to heal myself to the best of my ability. I knew that I was going to deal with this disease for the rest of my life in one way or another. Given that prognosis, I believed this meant I had to fight daily to live the life I wanted, rather than become comfortable in a life I didn’t want. Some days this battle is harder than others. I still deal with pain, stiffness, fatigue to a certain degree, but this simply means I have to take more action to achieve what I desire.

I decided that I could become a better person because of this disease. Having spondylitis has allowed me to learn a great deal about what I am capable of and what type of person I am. Sometimes we don’t really know who we are and what we are capable of until we are faced with incredible adversity. All growth comes from discomfort and perhaps the greatest discomfort in life is being afflicted with a disability. As strange as this sounds, I believe my disease has become an asset for me. It has forced me to examine my life in new ways. It has reminded me daily that I am mortal and I can be hurt. This alone has put much in perspective and inspired me to live better. Spondylitis has helped me to empathize with others in pain. It has also allowed me to meet and even help others that live with similar diseases. Lastly, I changed the direction of my life from entertainment and communication to health and fitness. This led me to become a personal trainer, bodybuilder and eventually open a successful health club chain that helps thousands get stronger daily.

This disability is something that I will live with forever, but it does not define who I am. Again, I am usually hesitant to even acknowledge that I have this affliction. Not that I want to live in denial, but I find it a waste of mental energy to even think about it. I have it. I can’t magically make it disappear. All I can do is what is in my control to design my life the way I want. So I focus on what I can control and try to keep my mind off of what I cannot. I think it is worth repeating what has worked for me may not work for you. There is no guarantee my current actions will even work for me in the future. Things change over time and I may have to adapt and evolve my methods for living. I suggest you research and find what works for you and decide to keep on taking action daily to design the life you like. That’s all we can really do! Life is a battle for us all, especially those living with disabilities. Keep on fighting and live an incredible life.

In Heath,

Sean

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The Magic Formula

There is one concept, one idea available to anyone that almost guarantees someone to achieve what they want in life. It sounds ridiculous. It sounds impossible. It sounds like a scam or get rich quick scheme, but countless men and women have used this formula knowingly or unknowingly to achieve incredible success. This concept is the very basis of almost every self-improvement book and so much has been written about this topic that I hardly feel I have anything to add to the discussion. I will however, for the sake of those who have not come across this idea, present a brief overview of the Master Key system. It is simply this: Be, Do, Have. Just three words can, if you act upon them, transform your life forever. Here’s how:

BE-

If you want to become a certain person, whatever it is: a nice person, a rich person, a smarter person, or a bodybuilder, you must first believe you already are that person. Possession begins in the mind. You must state over and over again that you are rich, nice, strong, whatever it is because your mind must believe that you are capable of being that type of person. Saying, “I hope I’m rich one day” will do nothing. Instead, “I am a rich person.” This has nothing to do with deluding yourself or tricking your brain. It has everything to do with convincing yourself that you are capable of being such a person so that…

DO-

Once you’ve established what kind of person you want to be, and the mind believes it, you can now do what that type of person would do. If you wish to be rich, think about what a rich person would do. How do they act to acquire wealth? What investments or careers do they have? Now you can see that first you have to figure out what you want to be, and then you will realize what to do which will lead you to…

HAVE-

Once you have decided who you are and what actions to take, now you may begin to have what you want. You cannot have what you desire until you take the correct action to acquire it, and that cannot be done until you decide what type of person you want to be. If you act first without establishing who you want to BE, you may find yourself toiling away at the same jobs for years or even decades without ever achieving your desires.

I cannot stress enough how important the order of this formula is. Thinking about and deciding upon the person you want to be is vital. That will give you the answer as to what actions to take so that you may have whatever you like. Let’s say you start out by saying you want big muscles. Okay fine. That doesn’t tell us anything about what you need to do or who exactly you want to become. “I am a bodybuilder,” you say. Very good. What does a bodybuilder do everyday? See, now you have an action plan, a set of habits and behaviors to follow that will lead to you becoming a bodybuilder. After that, you will have big muscles. What about money? “I want money!” you say. Fine—go rob a bank! They have money. See, this is why you must first decide what you want to be. If you’re a bank robber, you may have money but not for long. If you decide to be an entrepreneur or investor, on the other hand, you will now have a roadmap to follow so that you can achieve financial wealth and help others along the way.

So there it is. The Master Key to getting anything you want. Believe it or disregard it, the choice is yours. All I’m trying to do is present it to you here. It has worked for me, but let me warn you, we live in a universe where sometimes the best don’t win, tragedy befalls good people, and a hailstorm can wipe out your entire crop. That’s just the way things are. So, I would remind you that in order to truly BE anyone, you must also have perseverance and the desire to keep pressing on until you are who you want to be and have what you want to have. Most don’t. Most people quit after a few defeats. BE. DO. HAVE. And remember to keep moving forward until you actually are the person you want to be. At that point, you won’t need to remind yourself who you are and you won’t have to tell other people. Your actions and all you’ve achieved will speak volumes.

When Is Enough, Enough?

WANTING MORE VS. BEING GRATEFUL

As I get older, I find myself in a curious spot. I am truly grateful for so much in my life, yet I feel that I have not lived up to my potential. Frankly, I’m not satisfied with where I am because I know I can do more. I realize the big irony is that my dissatisfaction is causing me to have anxiety and fear about what actions to take next to in regards to business and lifestyle. Worse, I find myself looking at my wonderful family and remembering the experiences I have had and I feel guilt over wanting more. Is it wrong that I should strive to want more considering that I have so much more than millions suffering from ill health, poverty and want? Perhaps, but it’s in my nature to strive for more. I don’t think I’m alone in this desire. After all, progress is happiness. It doesn’t matter what you used to do, or make, or bench press, if you find yourself slipping backwards, it can be devastating to the psyche. Conversely, if you set a goal which causes you to make progress from your current position, you will have a sense of achievement and worth. I have to remind myself of this constantly. If you find yourself in a similar mental situation as myself, let’s explore the following together…

WHAT DRIVES PROGRESS-

All human progress stems from dissatisfaction. Period. If man were perfectly content with his lot in life, there would be no reason for innovation, increased production or investments. The desire to improve lifestyle, length of life, financial position and physical capacity is what underlies our entire economy and society. It takes millions of people working to increase their value to others which leads to advancement and the creation of new wealth. Without this desire, which is unique and inherent to mankind, the free market and all its benefits would not be available. Society would not exist as we know it today. Life would be a very different experience for us without the need for self improvement. Therefore it’s reasonable that we should all want to do more, produce more, be more valuable so that we may help others as well as improve our own lives.

PURPOSE OVER HAPPINESS
I stated before that progress equals happiness, but happiness is overrated. I’ll say that again; happiness is overrated. Perhaps “progress equals fulfillment” would be a more appropriate statement. Happiness is too vague a term. It’s fleeting and it is not a dependable nor accurate barometer of how ones life is progressing. Yet too many people look to how happy they are currently as a measure of how they perceive their life. Happiness can be a bar of chocolate or a smile from an attractive person. It can be a past memory that comes into your consciousness. It doesn’t last. Happiness is a feeling and feelings don’t last. Happiness will flee anytime you fall ill, become stressed, experience pain or a change in fortune. We look at happiness as a destination, but it is not. This is the reason so many are drawn to television, sports or foods and drink that bring about a change in mental state. We are pursuing happiness in the form of a change of consciousness. We are seeking happiness by doing these things. We all know that spending time with certain people can be a great source of happiness. It can also be a source of anxiety. According to many studies, our relationships with others is the greatest indicator of how happy we are. I would suggest however, that the focus not be on happiness, but rather purpose. Who am I? Why am I here? What do I want? These are the three questions according to Stanislavsky that we need to answer in order to fulfill our purpose. By shifting your focus to answering these questions instead of wondering what will make you happy, you may just find true fulfillment, which is much more important than happiness.

FINDING BALANCE

Of course purpose and fulfillment cannot occur without reflection of your current situation and where it stands in relation to your goals. This requires one be both mindful of what is going right and what needs improvement. It’s not possible to get an accurate reading without considering both the positive and negative of your situation. If you are only focussed on what is lacking, without taking into consideration what you have accomplished, it will become impossible to get into an emotional state that will allow you to take the action needed to progress towards your goal. Once you achieve that emotional state that causes you to dream about what you want and jump out of bed early in the morning to get it, remember that what you’re doing is transforming into the best version of you. It’s not about what you’re getting, it’s about what you’re becoming. It does no good to ask, “What am I getting?” Instead, “What am I becoming?” If the answer is you are becoming more because you learned more and have more to give, you are on the right track. Therefore, no guilt should be associated with wanting more from life, so long as we don’t lose sight of all we have to be truly grateful for. And therein lies the difficulty. Balancing equal time on focussing what you have to be grateful for, with planning and taking action on how to become more and fulfill your potential. There must be balance or neither will happen and anxiety will ensue. It is a tricky task to balance, but I think it will be worth it in the end.

To becoming more!

-Sean

Why I Write

Getting Out Of Your Head

I think often about why I write. Writing is something that I’ve been doing since age eight, the age at which my father made me write an essay every day after school about what I had learned that day. Although I may have hated it at the time, looking back it was one of the best chores I ever had as a kid because it became a lifelong habit that I continue. The ability to communicate, especially through the written word, has served me well in my time here on this planet. The most important aspect that I like about writing, as opposed to other forms of communication (my college major), is that writing allows me to clear my head of the noise caused by thoughts. In a way, it’s my preferred form of meditation. The added bonus is that when I write, often I’m able to share my ideas with others. However, make no mistake, I write as much for myself as for anyone else. It’s my therapy. It can be yours as well. What follows are my suggestions for anyone looking to start writing.

1. Keep a journal. This doesn’t have to be a diary, but at least some sort of book or binder that you can use to collect your great ideas, experiences and insights. I use legal pads as well as The Five Minute Journal, which gives prompts on various topics to write short answers. Collecting your thoughts in physical form is a great way to clear your head, and it provides you with something to pass on to others. Indeed, some of the great ideas and philosophy have come from the journals of incredible individuals.
2. Try to write at least one long paper, and a few short articles. The ability to write is something that needs to be exercised often to ensure it remains effective. The greatest advantage of college, in my opinion, is that students are forced to produce long form term papers. The ability to construct such documents is greatly advantageous in life, especially for scientists, authors and attorneys–the livelihood of which depends on their ability to read complex documents and produce them. However, short, concise articles can be just as effective to communicate with others.
3. Start a blog or write letters to the editor. Communicating your ideas to others with the purpose of influence is vital to furthering discourse in society. While you don’t have to hold strong opinions on all subjects, nor should you if you’re not informed, it is highly useful to present an argument in writing and back it up with facts, logic and reason. Any argument will do, from why Disneyland is the best theme park on Earth, or why “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the greatest Christmas movie ever, to more serious subject like politics or the economy. It doesn’t really matter what you think, only that you’re able to convey it well!
4. Write for yourself, but understand your audience. As a former newsroom editor, I’m used to writing very short, easy to read sentences in the present tense. This is done so the writing is easily read by the on air talent and it sounds like they are speaking directly to you. If you notice, on television and radio, most of the dialogue is very short and to the point. However, I also like to read very dense literature like philosophy, biographies and so on. I also love poetic literature and plays. While I would love to write in this style, and I may do so in the future, I understand that short articles are more read and easily understood than most long form content. I know that may audience is busy and usually wants me to get to the point, so I keep most of my work short and I even use bullets and numbered paragraphs to make it even easier for them to follow. (I do hope this helps.)

In closing, I suggest writing a little something every day (other than a social media post), so that you may refine your skills of written communication. More than that, writing and note-taking can be the best form of therapy you ever undergo because it allows you to take the thoughts in your head and “dump” them onto paper. It can be a form of organizing your thoughts and clearing your mind. You may even use this to write down and keep track of goals you set for yourself. Whatever you do, just remember to WRITE!!!!!

In Health,

Sean

Guard Your Mind

Volumes of literature have been written about the impact that your thoughts can have upon your life. Although you are not your thoughts, (you are the one producing them) you certainly can become what you think about most of the time. Our thoughts influence our moods and therefore our actions more than anything else. But where do our thoughts come from? How and why do we produce the thoughts we do? Certainly some ideas and notions just “pop” into our head—the product of billions of neurons in our brains making connections without us consciously trying to cultivate such thinking. These random thoughts serve as a great reminder that we are not our thoughts. Our brain is producing them but we get to decide whether we “listen” to them and subsequently if we act of them. I believe that given the fact the brain/mind produces thoughts, it can be likened to a factory. Think of it as sort of a mental factory if you will. How do factories work? They take raw ingredients or inputs and work to turn them into a more finished product. Therefore, it is fair to say that our minds produce thoughts largely in part to the input it receives. Which leads me to this point…

BEWARE OF WHAT YOU FEED YOUR MIND!

If you find yourself having predominantly negative, unproductive or sad thoughts, or, if you find yourself in the same situations you have been facing for sometime without progress, it may be useful to examine what ingredients are going into your mental factory. Consider the input that you are giving your brain day after day, year after year. How many hours of television, social media, or movies is your brain being “fed”? What type of media is it being fed? Dark fictional stories? Negative news programs? What people do you most associate with? Whose ideas do you let influence you? These are all questions that should be answered periodically. If your mind really is a factory, it would be wise to make sure the ingredients it uses are purely appropriate. Can you imagine trying to make a delicious chocolate bar with rocks and dirt? I firmly believe that is what most people are trying to achieve on a daily basis. They would like positive, happy thoughts and emotions—they want the chocolate bar. But they are baking with the wrong ingredients, which leads them to producing negative thoughts and emotions. If it’s true that you become what you think about most of the time, and I believe it is, it’s clear to see how important it is to give your brain the right inputs so that you may have happy, productive thoughts and actions.

IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE THE BAD INGREDIENTS COME FROM

One of my favorite stories to listen to is businessman and author Jim Rohn speaking to a room of school children. He asked the kids, “What would happen if my worst enemy put sugar in my coffee?” The kids replied that he’d be okay. Jim goes on, “What would happen if my best friend accidentally put strychnine in my coffee?” “You’d be dead!” the kids said. Jim says, “That’s right! Lesson one: life is both sugar and strychnine and it doesn’t matter if it’s your worst enemy or you best friend that drops the poison in your coffee. And that brings us to the next lesson: watch your coffee!” I love this analogy because it’s so simple and easily understood. Even if the people you trust and love were accidentally putting negative ingredients into your mind, the outcome would be as if your enemy was doing it. It’s important to understand who and what is influencing us and that we constantly guard our mind against those who would do it harm, even inadvertently. That doesn’t mean we should necessarily cut people out of our life, although sometimes I firmly believe it is necessary. It would be wise to understand how our brains work and that our minds are constantly being fed information and opinion and images. Sometimes we are receiving information and ideas from people close to us, and those inputs are not serving us. Don’t just let anything into your mind without analyzing it first! It could be strychnine that is poisoning your thoughts without you even realizing it.

In closing I’ll leave you with this Jim Rohn quote. It would do us all well to read it daily:

“Every day, stand guard at the door of your mind.”

Perspective During the Holidays

Things To Keep in Mind This Season

I love the Holiday Season as a time for reflection on the past year as well as an opportunity to spend time with loved ones. If I’m being honest, I could do without the cold weather and smoky fires and Christmas trees (I have asthma and all three of these aggravate the condition.) I remember countless Christmases and New Years being sick as a kid. In fact, I’m sick while writing this. All that said, I still get overjoyed and excited around this time of year because of the spirit of giving and love. I love seeing children go to church to celebrate their religion and learn about giving to others. I also love giving children presents and watching their eyes light up as they open their gifts. However, I know the Holidays are not all positive for many, including myself. Even with all the issues I personally have with the Holiday Season, I look forward to it all year. I know others do as well, despite the fact that millions report stress and anxiety during this season. To keep stress at a minimum, there are some things I like to remind myself of during this time of the year. I’m going to share them with you in the hopes that it helps you realize some wonderful experiences.

The Power of Anticipation/ Momentum- While most tend to take their foot off the gas and coast through the Holidays and into the New Year, I use this time to anticipate the coming year to really work hard so that I can build momentum heading into January. This is especially true with my physical training and business preparations. Being in the fitness industry, it’s vital that I build momentum heading into the New Years because those who join the gym during before the end of the year are more likely to stick around after those who didn’t realize their New Year’s resolutions drop off. I also like to kick up my training a notch so that I’m able to use the extra food I consume at parties to build muscle rather than store fat. By increasing the intensity of my training, I also have more energy for all my employees and family. Momentum is very important although most underestimate how valuable it can be. Use the Holidays to build momentum and absolutely drive pedal to the metal into the New Year.

Unrealistic Expectations- I have been guilty of having unrealistic expectations of what Christmas and New Years should be like and have suffered disappointment when my expectations were not met. I think that so many of us are like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation; we have a grand vision of what should happen during the Holidays and how it should happen and then catastrophe occurs because we become so attached to this vision. Now, I’m not usually one for lowering standards, but trading expectation for appreciation is really the key to happiness during this time of year. If we are more appreciative of the time we have with family and friends and less attached to the expectations in our mind, I guarantee less stress and more positive feelings.

What’s Under Your Control- Along the same lines as having unrealistic expectations, it’s important to remember, as always, what is under your control and what it not. You may fall ill during this season. If that happens, it happens! It’s not in your control any longer. You may wish there was a different outcome, but that will not affect the reality of the situation. You also may not receive the present or bonus you wanted. These are also not in your control. Certain family members may not be present at your get-together. Again, this is not in your control. The only thing you can control is yourself and how you act to external events. Therein, lies a big choice. You can choose to be happy and appreciative despite what is happening, or you can let yourself be overcome with stress, grief and disappointments. How? You can always choose to use reason. That is under your control. Everything else is not.

The Importance of Your Health- The stress of the Holidays, the financial stress, the stress of expectations, and the physical stress due to poor food choices and excessive alcohol consumption are very real. Heart-related deaths increase by 5 percent during the holiday season. Fatal heart attacks peak on Christmas, the day after Christmas, and New Year’s Day, according to a national Circulation study. People may also tend to put off health care during the holidays, leading to potentially fatal situations. My advice? The holidays are a time to enjoy the health of you and your loved ones, not ignore it. ‘Tis not the season for gluttony and alcohol abuse. Enjoy the treats and parties, but remember that health is a very serious thing. We tend to forget this until we experience a near death experience or have a family member pass away. Don’t ignore your health this season. Improve it.

What Is Really Important- Lastly, remember what is really important about this time of year. Faith, family, friends, traditions, health- these are all the things that should be celebrated during this special time, not material things. I love to give as much as anyone, but I realize now the most important thing I can give is my presence not my presents. (I know that’s a cliche, but indulge me.) I will say there is one caveat to this; if your family or work parties are not conducive to improving your spirits and health, as in they are blanketed with negativity and excess libations, I suggest it best to skip them and focus on reflecting over the past year and planning where improvements can be made. This may sound harsh, but in the end, you are the most important person in your world because you are the only one in control of you! So make sure the Holidays bring out the best version of you so that you can be a joy for others.

So there you have it. These are the five things I like to remind myself of during this time of year. I think it’s important to reflect them so that the Holiday will be filled with positive emotions rather than negative ones. The Holidays, like another other time of the year is what you make them. I hope this season will be the best one yet for you and your family and loved ones.

In Health,

Sean

The Dirty Little Holiday Secret

WHAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT DURING THE CHRISTMAS SEASON

There is a dirty little secret that no one likes to admit about the holiday season. It’s well known that millions suffer from additional stress and anxiety during the period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. Some of this anxiety is due to the additional financial stress from the feelings of guilt about purchasing presents for everyone in our lives. Household credit card debt spikes during the holidays leaving a lingering money problems for millions heading into the New Year. Then there is the stress about traveling and seeing all the members of your family you feel obligated to see. Let’s be honest, we all have some family and friends that require us to consume copious amounts of alcohol just to feel comfortable around. For millions others it’s the time off work that becomes a problem. If you are lucky enough to be paid for the time off, great. If not, not only do the stresses of additional purchases come into play, but also the loss of income. For some, all of the issues listed above are applicable. These, however are not the dirty little secret I’m referring to.

What We Think the Holidays Are

The holidays can be many things to many people. Whatever story we tell ourselves about the meaning of the holidays will become reality. Therefore it is very important to consider what you are telling yourself about what the holidays are. Are they about family? Are the holidays about your faith? Do the holidays mean giving to others? Are they about stressing out? Watching movies like Christmas Story or Die Hard? All of these meanings may be great and they may apply to you, but let me suggest to you what the Holidays and all other days are about. In fact, the Holiday Season is not unlike any other season in what it means for all of us. How can this be? If you look at what we really have control over in our lives versus what is outside our control, the answer is clear. You cannot control external events such as how people act at family parties, what movies are on TV, whether or not you come down with an illness or how much stress others have during this season. You only have control over one thing, your mind and how you decide to take action with it. The special feelings and rituals we have during this season are not exclusive to this time of year. Moreover, the positive lessons of the season are not meant to only be learned and remembered during winter. So the question then becomes, “how do we control our minds an keep the lessons of the holidays all year?” In a word, reflection.

What the Holidays Are Really About-

The Christmas season is considered the “season of miracles”. I think the greatest miracle is the human mind and what it is capable of. In the Bible, Jesus states “the kingdom of heaven is within you”, meaning all of us are capable of cultivating heavenly thoughts and therefore a wonderful life. We can also choose to ignore the miracle of our minds and allow ourselves to be overcome with negative emotions. One advantage of having Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and any other special holidays near the end of the year is that we are able to reflect on our actions and thoughts over the previous year. I believe that’s what the Holidays are really about- reflection. It is a time to look back at what we have learned, who we have met, what opportunities have come our way, what we are grateful for. This is not just about New Years. The emotions connected with all the Holidays this time of year can sometimes cloud our thinking, but strong emotional environments can also be useful for internal reflection. Sometimes is takes strong emotions for us to realize what is important. It’s important to reflect on what is in our control and what is not. By reflecting on the past year, we can learn much about ourselves and how we responded to things outside our control. For me, I like to write down situations that I was proud of how I acted as well as the times I am not so proud of. Also, what things were in my control that I maybe neglected? What do I need to work? See, the Holiday season is truly a time for miracles, a time to reflect on the miracle of life and our minds. The fact that humans can self-reflect is itself a miracle. We can choose our values and actions- choice is a miracle.

WHAT NO ONE WANTS TO ADMIT- IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU
So here’s the dirty little secret- the Holidays are really about the most important person in your life…you. Every day is about you. We like to think what we do is for others, but we cannot control others or how they react or feel. We can give all we like, but it’s still for us. We can only control ourselves and our minds. You are the most important person in your life because you are the only one who can control you. If you want to help others this Holiday season, fine, but understand why you are doing it. You are doing it for because it fits with your values and fulfills a need you have to contribute. There’s nothing wrong with that. No reason to feel guilty about it. In fact, it makes you a better person, a better you! Everything you do, even if it’s for others is still for you. Reflect on that this holiday season. Reflect on how you can do more for yourself so that you may help others. Consider what is in your control and what is not so you can live a life with less anxiety and allow yourself to grow. Reflect on what you are grateful for, especially your mind. Reflect on how important you are. To others, to the world, to your loved ones. You are the most important person in your world. So take care of yourself so that you may help take care of others.

Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!!!!

Sean