Be the Captain of your Soul.

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How would you like to become the “captain of your ship, the master of your destiny”? If this question resonates even in the slightest with you, then perhaps it’s time to actually own the notion that you are a soul having a human experience, that it’s up to you to determine the quality of experience you have as you navigate this life.

You may not get to choose all that happens to you, but you can choose how you respond. What happens to you in life is not the issue; rather, how you respond is the real issue.

The power of this simple advice comes down to an inarguable basic truth: While many events will occur throughout your life, how you go through what happens to you is your choice and yours alone. Now, of course, many will choose to argue with the inarguable, but then that’s their choice as well. Over the years of sharing God’s words to other people by applying the approach of “teaching what I most need to learn” and having observed through working with people, I have come to learn of the obvious that, in life, what you resist, you remain stuck with. If you will, allow me to share the lessons I’ve learned.

I have learned that I can complain, blame or generally be upset with what happens around me or to me, and the more upset I get, the more resistant I become, the more things remain the same. Curiously, the more I have surrendered to the fact that I’m the one choosing my reactions to the apparently negative events in my life, the fewer negative events seem to occur. It could be that the same kind of situations keep showing up with the only real difference being one of learning to make lemonade out of the lemons.

If you wish to argue with the obvious truth that you’re the one choosing how you respond to what happens, then you get to stay stuck with the quality of experience you are having. If you like the experience you are having, then there’s no need to change a thing. However, if you find yourself complaining, blaming or getting upset with what’s happening around you, perhaps it’s time to consider that you do have a choice.

You are the Captain of Your Soul

William Ernest Henley wrote an intriguing poem first published in 1875 that offers some profound wisdom and insight into how you can choose to navigate life’s currents.  The poem sums up a courageous view of dealing with life’s challenges in its concluding stanza, again underscoring that we have choice in how we experience what happens to us:

Out of the night that covers me, 
      Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
      For my unconquerable soul. 
In the fell clutch of circumstance 
      I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
      My head is bloody, but unbowed. 
Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
      Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
      Finds and shall find me unafraid. 
It matters not how strait the gate, 
      How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate, 
      I am the captain of my soul.

There are many versions of these truths, and yet they all come down to the same basic elements: what is, is. How you choose to experience what is has nothing to do with the events and everything to do with your own choices about how to respond. Of course, it’s pretty hard to make good choices if you don’t have a goal in mind. You might find it useful to take a break from everything and explore the deeper aspects of who you truly are to move past your self and spend some time listening to your soul.

What would your soul have you experience? Listen closely and you will become captain of your ship, master of your destiny. Turn a deaf ear to that quiet inner voice of your soul, and you may wind up shipwrecked instead.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this subject. How have you taken the helm? How have you guided your own experience of life? Please share in the comment section below.

Your Word is your Bond

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Do you think before you make a promise to someone? What if you can’t deliver on your word? Does it really matter? The world isn’t going to come to an end, is it? Well, actually no, but have you considered . . .

Many people are pretty casual about making promises. As a result, promises are frequently made at the drop of a hat with no real intention of keeping them. “Let’s do lunch,” “I’ll call you later,” and “I’ll be there in five minutes” are all examples of throwaway promises that are frequently made but seldom kept. However, this casual attitude can have real consequences.Think about it — when someone else breaks a promise to you, or gets caught in a lie, doesn’t that make you feel violated or cheated?  You can’t help wondering whether you were wrong to ever trust that person.

There was a time when keeping your word held special significance. We took great pride in being of good character. Personal integrity was both expected and valued. That was a time when everyone knew each other’s family, and you wouldn’t do anything that would cast a shadow on your family’s good name. It was a time when integrity was instilled in children at a very early age and was viewed as instrumental in achieving success. The truth is, our world may have changed, but the importance of integrity has not. While we may not know everyone in our own town, the world is still smaller than you think. Create some bad news and you’ll learn this for yourself.

Every time you give your word, you’re putting your honor on the line. You’re implying that others can place their trust in you because you value integrity and would never let them down. It goes without saying that if you don’t live up to your word, you may end up tarnishing your credibility, damaging your relationships, and defaming your reputation. Most importantly, you’ll be letting yourself down.

But . . . when you operate with complete integrity, what you say will be taken at face value, your intentions will be assumed honorable, and your handshake will be as good as a contract. Most importantly, you can take great pride in the standards that you’ve set for yourself and sleep well at night knowing that your conscience is clear. As for others . . . just when they think they’re fooling the world, they’ll realize that they’re only fooling themselves. A promise is a promise after all.

What do you think? Are people too casual about making promises?

 

Invest in Life. Invest in Experiences!

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” - Mark Twain

It’s everywhere in the media

The Lamborghinis on Wall Street, the Louis Vuitton bags that celebrities wear, the mansions that “successful” people live in. The list goes on. 

We’ve fooled ourselves into believing that the sole recognition  —  no, definition  —  of success & happiness comes from the type of cars we own or the number of zeros in our bank account. We’ve put the notion of material success on a pedestal and convinced those around us to adopt the same beliefs.

In a society that idolizes the pursuit of happiness, carrying out a life where one’s destination is to find joy through material goods is not only ineffective, but it’s a never-ending journey. 

The key to happiness is not spending our time & money acquiring goods.
The key to happiness is spending our time & money experiencing life.

It’s the priceless experiences in life that makes us happy at the end of day.

Experience defines us

We live in a society where tangible things appear more valuable because we can feel, hold and touch the materials we purchase. Above all, it’s because tangible things are tied with currency that places a price of its value in the marketplace.

There’s no way to physically feel the experience of trekking up a mountain trail on a Saturday morning with our closest friends. Nor can we “sell” the experience of our first fight with our partners. It’s the same reason why we can’t put a price value on a human being. 

“If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we’d all be millionaires.” -Abigail Van Buren

We are the accumulation of everything we’ve ever seen, heard, smelled, tasted and felt. It’s experience that teaches us not to take that 8-5 cubicle job again, and it’s experience that will lead to that next big breakthrough idea for our businesses. 

In other words, experiences come with life lessons
Materials come with nothing but a bill.

Experience stays with us

When we think back to our fondest memories, what are they?

For me, it’s not the gifts I received for Christmas or my birthday. It’s the context surrounding the gifts  —  the people at my birthday party, the smell of the hot chocolate on Christmas morning. It’s the first time I learned how to ride a bike with my dad, and the time I went on my first (awkward) date. This is what puts a smile to my face to this day. 

Here’s the main caveat to investing in materials  — they have expiration dates

Experience can be relived. Experience has emotional longevity. It can be improved in our minds as we continue to grow and progress in life. It stays with us and they are lessons we can use everyday for as long as we live. Experiences bring us happiness not just when we’re having the experience, but also when we simply think about them.

Here’s how my wife and I try to live out our experiences.   

Change budget priorities.

Let’s be truthful, we are not all born with silver spoons in our mouths and everything is freely and abundantly handed out to us to use and abuse, so, if we want to start living a life of experiences, we need to prioritize our financial budgets to accommodate the adventures we’ll undertake. This is the first consideration we make.

Learn to be prudent when purchasing materials, because salvaging those few extra dimes could lead to the experience that could change your life. 

Say “yes” more.

Growing up, we were taught to make decisions with calculated risk assessments by carefully thinking things through. If we want to start fulfilling more experiences in life —  we need to unlearn these principles.

The best adventures arise from moments when we least expect them. 

Filling our mind with “what ifs” is only going to keep us on our couches watching other people live their lives. Before we know it, our “what if” will turn into “should have.” 

Learn to be present in the moment. When the next opportunity for experience appears, ask yourself this simple question.

Will I regret not taking this opportunity?  Tomorrow, next week, or even next year? 

If the answer is yes  —  or even maybe — your immediate response should also be yes.

The future will always be uncertain. That’s never going to change. But you can control how you shape it by thinking less and taking action. 

Start with the small (and cheap) adventures.

Are you the type of person that watches the same movies over and over again, takes the same walking route to the office, and eats at the same food joints or restaurants? 

You need to break out of your regular routine.

Opening our mind up to new experiences needs to start with the small decisions and interactions we have in our daily lives. Instead of going to that same fastfood joint or restaurant near your office because you know it’s a safe decision, go somewhere new. 

The most fulfilling experiences don’t have to cost a lot of money. Often times, it’s right next door. We just need to know where to knock. 

Start taking the small risks in life. You’ll be surprised how far it takes you.

If there’s anything to take away from this article  —  take away this. 

We are all going to die one day, whether you choose to accept it or not. Towards the end of our lives, we’re going to ask the same questions.  

Did I live?
Do I have regrets?
Did I experience everything I wanted to in life?

Ask yourself if you want your existence to be defined by the type of car you owned or the adventures and freedom you led in life. 

Invest in something that will bring you lessons rather than a bill. Become rich in experience. 

Because experience will win  —  every single time

P.S. If you learned something valuable from this post, please let me know on  the comments below.

If You’re Missing your Mom this Mother’s Day

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FOREWORD: My family and I loss our beloved Mom in September 2, 2016 and this is the first Mother’s Day that we’ll be missing her. This post is also for those out there who are missing their  Moms during this occasion. 

The love of a mother is irreplaceable, and doesn’t die, even when she does. And today, in this part of the world is Sunday, and also is, Mother’s Day. A time to honor and celebrate your mother. While it is a great day and a wonderful opportunity to make your Mom feel special, it can be a hard day if your Mom has passed away. It’s a reminder of the loss you feel and carry with you everyday.

Many people have dealt with the grief of losing a parent or loved one, and they are very familiar with the foreshadowing of pain that usually follows Mother’s Day.

It’s difficult to convince yourself to celebrate this day the same way, since many people (myself included) have since considered themselves to be “motherless.”

In the past, this day was always one for admiration and love; it was a day that encouraged you to show your gratitude for the woman who brought you into this world.

But after you lose a parent, it almost seems as though the day’s only purpose is to remind you of your loss.

You see, the hardest part about all of this is the idea that she really will miss everything.

Family gatherings, holiday celebrations, special occasions such as Mother’s Day,  first child and all those other silly moments you never noticed were important until you couldn’t anymore share them with her.

All of these tribulations make it easy to resent a holiday like Mother’s Day; a day where others are filled with love, comfort and happiness.

It is a day many people take for granted because they no longer revel in it with the same contentment.

As time passes, however, you learn to cope with these emotions and although no amount of time could fully heal a wound so deep, it does allow you to find strength.

Strength that will heal you in more ways than you could ever imagine. It allows your pain to reinforce you, not define you.

And although this process is very different for many, strength allows some of the beauty in life to creep back into your view.

It transforms your grief into serenity, fear into assurance and hopelessness into promise.

For those lucky ones who still have their mothers at their side, I ask that as you rummage through the aisles of stores for the “perfect gifts” to give to them, you remember that you are the best one they could ever ask for.

Spend those last few extra moments on the phone with her; fold the clothes on the dryer (or any household chores) the first time she asks you to; listen to her terrible music because you know it makes her happy.

My deepest regret is that because I was so blindsided before, I didn’t know my last conversation with my Mom would be just that: Our last. No one is guaranteed another day, so remember to make it count.

To all of those who have lost a mother, parent or loved one, know this: They are not lost, and we are not motherless.

Celebrate this day even more so than before, for both her and you. Rejoice her life, her light and your fondest memories of her.

Remember she has a front row seat to your life and know she wouldn’t dare miss even the slightest instance of it.

Lastly, to my beautiful and courageous mother: Happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for contributing so incredibly to the person I am today.

You have given me more strength than most could ever hope to attain in a lifetime, and I am forever grateful for that.

We all hold a very special place in our hearts for you that will never be replaced. You always promised me I had guardian angels watching over me, and I’m more sure of that now than ever before.

I love you so much, and I look forward to the day I can see your smile and hear your laugh again.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers out there!

Enjoy this day with your loved ones. You deserve it.

Building Connections that Matter

 

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Everything in life begins with connection. In each moment, we are choosing to join or separate – to connect or disconnect – and the person to whom we’re speaking feels what we have chosen regardless of our words.

What makes relationships challenging often comes down to one factor – we build the relationship from the outside in, believing something we want is not happening because of someone else who is outside of us. We must learn to connect first with ourselves and create a relationship from the inside out. These are what I believed in: building heart-to-heart connections is that even though it takes two people to create a relationship, the responsibility for connecting starts with you; and that everything depends on your level of awareness.

Relationships begin with being at peace with yourself – having a connection with yourself that nothing can break from the outside. Other people become a reflection of the loving, kind, peaceful relationship you have with yourself. You cannot receive what you cannot give. The scenery out there reflects the situation in here. Working from the outside in, more often than not, will fall short of the ideal, and leads to frustration, conflict and lack of fulfilment in the end.

We can choose to connect with another person or not, but we cannot choose to disconnect with ourselves. Many people are uncomfortable with this truth – they spend vast amounts of time trying to escape themselves, with all kinds of activities, work and distractions.

For many, their sense of self is ego-based. Individual egos have self-centered aims, tastes, desires, opinions, likes or dislikes. The very construct of the ego brings with it a built in conflict with other egos. If you think about it, it’s surprising that separate egos, each with their own set of rules and agendas, ever get together in the first place. When they do, their connections always risk unravelling because each ego is primarily tied with what it wants. 

To my opinion, the true self is a state of awareness, not a thing, mood, sensation or feeling. All it takes is a shift in awareness to discover that love, peace and lack of conflict exist inside of us, and have the power to change any situation. Indeed, the values you most cherish are not something to seek out and find. They are something that have always belonged to you. The only thing you need to do is recognise them.

Photo source: business2community.com

Friendship Demands Truth

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These past few days, my wife and I had been making plans to meet up with some friends we haven’t seen  for quite sometime now. Trips are already booked. We are (I mean, my wife is) finalizing the plans once we get to the place of one of our friends whom we are visiting and we’ll be staying with during said trip. Purpose of the visit: to catch some time together and rekindle the fires of friendship that had gone cold over the years of limited communications. How time has swiftly passed us all, leaving us missing each other and the memories of the times we’ve shared together. 

There are friendships that serve as wallflowers and there are those that remain true no matter what. This post is dedicated to one of the basic truths about friendship. Forget about the sweet, soft and cheesy ones for a while, let’s take it to the core and talk about the  bones — the hard stuff that holds friendship stand steadfast and strong — Truth.

What does it mean to be a friend — to be kind to another human being? We are taught in this culture that being kind means not making another person feel bad. We are conditioned to believe that it is virtuous to hide our strengths to save another from experiencing their weaknesses, to deny our blessings so that another avoids feeling their sorrows. Is this kindness? Is this friendship — to put away our truth so as to save another from experiencing their own truth — which might be sad? If this is true friendship, it is of an odd sort — true friendship that does not include the truth. Hiding the truth may keep a relationship going smoothly, but going smoothly is a paltry goal for such a precious and profound entity as friendship. When we choose smooth sailing over truth, we underestimate the weight that friendship can hold; we dishonor the very substance from which friendship is made. Are we so afraid of suffering as to be willing to sacrifice even friendship in order to avoid it?

To be a true friend is not to pretend that we don’t have different experiences in life, don’t receive different blessings and challenges. It is not to pretend that life is fair. A friendship that creates a shared experience at the lowest common denominator is not a friendship, but rather some kind of hiding place from life. We don’t need more hiding places. What we need are more foxhole buddies, true friends who can keep us company in the truth, and in the hard parts, where life isn’t okay or fair.

In truth, we do not need more ways to skirt the sorrows that are part of life, more strategies for keeping the waters smooth. What we need are friends who can accompany us through the bumpy and different truths of life. True friendship is about meeting in the place of truth, and loving and supporting each other there. Anything else is just a paler shade of polite.

I guess that’s where our (my wife and I) relationships with our friends was grounded and has grown over the years.

What are your thoughts about friendship?

Photo credits: quoteslife101.net

The Beauty of Screwing Up

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The Philippines, being a country with Christian-majority populace, is entering a religious period worldly-known as Holy Week. It [Holy Week] is the annual commemoration of the Passion of Christ. It’s not just another religious tradition. We aren’t celebrating the fact that the Son of God suffered and died, but Christians (particularly Roman Catholics) are recognizing and honoring His sacrifice, accompanying Him spiritually and physically, as if we had been there with Him, two thousand years ago.

In other words, Holy Week is when Christians observe the anniversary of the last days of Jesus’ life on earth: His passion, death, and resurrection. (Source)

For me, Holy Week usually reminds me of the grace of God shown on the cross as atonement for our sins. But, in a way, it likewise has me thinking about regret and guilt — you know, the usual suspects when it comes to feeling shameful about yourself because of your wrongdoings and shortcomings as a person.

During the duration of the celebration, Catholics take the time to somehow atone for their sins, to clean the slate, to clear their conscience, and to generally make things right, while some fast for hours, others even allowed themselves to be nailed on a cross, as payment and punishment for the year’s past misdeeds or sins committed in their lives.

Sad but true, when it’s all over, most people go back to hiding their flawed selves again, burying their shame and wrongdoings as deeply as possible, never to see the light of day until they bring them out again next year for reflection and renewal.

I say atone it AND own it. Not just for one day, nor within the duration of a certain tradition’s celebration, but for LIFE.

SOMETIMES THE WRONG CHOICES BRING US TO THE RIGHT PLACES

Looking back, maybe you did some things in life that you’re not proud of; maybe you made some poor choices or unwise decisions; maybe you did some major screw-ups that sabotaged you or hurt others; maybe you acted impulsively, or didn’t act at all when you should have.

In other words, you screwed up. Join the club, we’ve all been members at one time or another.

But rather than beat yourself up for it, is it possible to accept your screw-ups with respect instead of regret? Is it possible to take your failures and mistakes and see them not as liabilities, but as assets that gave you more character, depth, and soul?

You may have screwed up big time, but you’re not screwed out of luck: the wrong choices you made yesterday could very well be taking you to the right places today.

EMBRACE YOUR PERFECTLY BEAUTIFUL IMPERFECTIONS

Instead of letting your screw-ups get the best of you, why not make the best of them? I say embrace your perfectly beautiful imperfections, and make peace with your flaws because chances are, they made you who you are today: someone who’s smarter, wiser, stronger, and more resilient.

This is why screwing up can be beautiful. It gives you incredible gifts of insight and clarity, as well as opportunities to put your guilt and remorse to good use: like making positive changes in your life and staying on the path of right action.

YOUR PAST WAS NEVER A MISTAKE IF YOU LEARNED FROM IT

Screwing up will test you, tease you, torment you, and ultimately teach you things about yourself you never knew. The key is learning the lessons. You never want to waste a perfectly good mishap by not learning from it (nor would you want to ruin one by repeating it).

I’ve had some good doses of screw-ups in my day: I squandered time and opportunities; I either wasn’t thinking, wasn’t aware, or wasn’t paying attention; I missed the boat, took my eye off the ball, and made unforced errors. I wish I could go back in time and do it over, but I can’t. I can only be thankful for the lessons I learned and the wisdom it gave me.

In other words, I screwed up, therefore I am.

Everyday we have a chance to make things right, to repent, to make amends, and to do things differently. And of course, every day we have a chance to practice FORGIVENESS: screwing up’s best friend.

Just remember, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” To actually do this is pretty much awesome.

I’m fairly certain that screwing up makes one a better person. We’re all a work in progress, and the learning process never stops. Trial and error, live and learn, you know the drill. The challenge is to remove judgment and condemnation from your path so you can turn self-loathing into self-loving.