Understanding and Taking Action

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Earth Flag by David Gross

Life’s journey is full of fantastic and memorable moments as well as hardship, and frustrations. Often we feel unable to see where our next step should be. We may be facing challenges and issues, which appear to be overwhelming and where we are unable to see a solution.  The solution is to become a person of action.

Here is the method of ACTION that I have been using in practice and in lectures since 1990. This powerful little presentation has several videos.  It should easily take up a full 50 minute class period.

Helping Young People Discover Strengths of Character which Lead to Real Action

“You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way.” ~ Richard Bach (Author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull)

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a story of Action.  It is a little book for everyone who yearns to fly higher and is determined not to scuffle along following the footsteps of others. It is about the courage to follow your own heart.

Jonathan is tired of the boring life in his sea-gull clan. So he begins to experiment with new, always more daring flying techniques. He finds that Action is different than acting.  The ways of his flock which seem so dull are not for him.  Since he doesn’t fit in, the elders banish him from the clan. So he sets out to discover the world beyond the horizon in a quest for wisdom.

Like Jonathan, if we are to live fully, we must resolve to find our own passions and choose follow them every day.  This is what Real Action is all about.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k028-NETGOQ

Becoming a Person of ACTION

“What will you do to change the world for the better today?” ~ Eunice Shriver

This question was posed by the parents of Maria Shriver and her four siblings at the breakfast table every morning.  Each of the kids had to have an answer to the question and each of them was expected to explain how they carried out their mission at the dinner table that night.  What a tall order.  Of course, the result was that all five children grew up to be people of Action.  They are admired for their dedication and continual contributions to our country and our world.  Wouldn’t you like to become a person of Real Action too?

Here is an acronym that could help you to become that person of Real Action who lives up to his or her potential and makes a difference in the world.  I hope that it guides you as you grow toward who it is you dream of becoming.

A ~ Affirmation.  An affirmation opens the door. It’s a beginning point on the path to change. Fundamentally, you’re saying to your subconscious mind: “I am taking responsibility. I am aware that there is something I can do to change.” When I talk about doing affirmations, I mean consciously choosing words that will either help eliminate something from your life or help create something new in your life. There is a great book called Affirmations: Words with Power.  It is well worth a read.   How do affirmations work?

  • They motivate.
  • They keep the mind focused on the goal.
  • They influence the subconscious mind and activate its powers.
  • They change the way you think and behave, and this can bring you into contact with new people, who can help you with your goals.

Positive affirmation statements make you feel positive, energetic and active, and therefore, put you in a better position to transform your inner and external worlds.  Here are some examples:

  1. I am loved.
  2. I listen to my heart.
  3. I am safe.
  4. I have lots of friends who love me.
  5. My dreams are coming true.
  6. I am helpful.
  7. I am friendly.
  8. Every problem has an answer.
  9. I am kind.

The idea of affirmation is to choose to think positive and happy thoughts.  If you are to become a person of Action you must make this choice.  Nobody can do it for you.  Your life won’t turn around overnight, but if you’re consistent and make the choice on a daily basis to think thoughts that make you feel good, you’ll definitely make positive changes in every area of your life.

Affirmation cannot be selfish.  It requires that you pass it on by addressing the good things that you see in another person.  It is much more than a compliment which says something nice about the outsides of a person.  Affirmation is the process of addressing the insides of someone.  We are talking about changing the way that we see someone and offering this perspective to the other.  (Example: A compliment says something like…”You did a great job at the swim meet” an affirmation says “You really are a star!”)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcRfwzcxBKw

C ~ Courageous Compassion.

In the face of cruelty, we will choose compassion

Action requires courage.  But courage alone is not enough.  I have found that Courage, Compassion, and Persistence cannot be separated. For when these three team up something amazing will always follow. They are at the foundation of a fearless heart.

So what does that all mean.  Simply, courageous courage is a special inner strength that motivates you to help others despite the consequences. Dr. Michele Borba, Educational Psychologist, explains this in her book, UnSelfie, Why Empathic Kids Succeed In Our All-About-Me World.  Courageous Compassionate kids have good morals and will always take the risk of standing up for what is right.  She says, “Morally courageous teens are true UnSelfies: quiet, unsung heroes who don’t expect accolades and trophies, but act on their concern for others out of beliefs.”

Dr. Susan David gives a great TED talk about emotional courage (or courageous compassion).

https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_david_the_gift_and_power_of_emotional_courage?referrer=playlist-how_to_make_compassion_thrive

People who are courageously compassionate are kind…even towards people who hurt them…for it is so much easier to inflict anger and judgment than to stop and consider what might be causing the harmful actions and behaviors of others.  Martin Luther King, Jr. once told us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This is compassion.  This is courage.  This is the spirit we want to embody.  When young people are persistent in their courage and compassion, they will empower other teens.  You can build a world through the action of your compassionate courage in which you can thrive.

T ~ Trustworthiness.

“The highest levels of influence are reached when generosity and trustworthiness surround your behavior.”  ~ Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

Being trustworthy is the third character asset of Real Action. Trustworthy people keep their word and honor their commitments. It feels great when somebody says “I trust you.” Have you ever thought about how you get someone’s trust? You can’t just tell them you are trustworthy. Trust is earned one trustworthy deed at a time, but it can be lost very quickly.

Trustworthiness means:

  • Being reliable by doing what you say you’ll do
  • Doing the next right thing by living up to your values
  • Being loyal by sticking with your friends
  • Being honest by telling the truth even if no one else is doing it
  • Not deceiving, cheating or stealing

This quality of trustworthiness is complicated but it is essential to meaningful relationships, long-lasting friendships, and successful associations in school and in the workplace.  Spend some time thinking about how trust is earned and why it is so important and then write a paragraph about one of these questions:

  • How do you know when you can trust someone?
  • What part does trust play in your relationships with your friends and family? How would these relationships be affected if you found out someone was lying to you?
  • Can you imagine starting a friendship with someone you didn’t trust? What would that be like?
  • What are the benefits of being a trustworthy person? How do you benefit from the trustworthiness of others?
  • What does trusting somebody mean?
  • What do you look for in someone so you know you can trust him/her?
  • What makes a person trustworthy?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Adw8NOYyFLI

Becoming a person of Real Action requires that you become trustworthy and stay trustworthy.  If people don’t trust us, nothing we do will be respected.

I ~ Involvement.

“You were saved not by work, but for work. Do it till all is done. By your Inventions, Innovations, Initiatives, Improvements, Involvements, Imaginations, Information, Interventions and Inspirations… Go the extra mile and dare to do it.”  ~ Israelmore Ayivor

The way to become a person of Real Action is to jump in and get involved in something you think might be important in your community.  Being involved in the will help you become independent, develop new skills, and will really help others too.

Here are 10 easy ways to volunteer without making any long-term commitments from TeenLife:

  1. Search your closet to find items in good condition that you’ve outgrown or don’t wear anymore. Take them to your local GoodwillSalvation Army, or shelter. It’s also worth a call to schools and shelters in your area—most plan several clothing drives throughout the year.
  2. Pick up some non-perishables to donate to your local food bank.
  3. Certain shelters, fire departments, and foster parent organizations, alongside organizations like Fashion Delivers, welcome new or slightly used toys and stuffed animals. Whether you have a horde of Beanie Babies collecting dust in your closet, or you have some spare time to pick a bundle up, this is a quick and easy way to spread a little joy.
  4. Buy some prints from a local nonprofit that empowers young artists. Your room looks great; teens in your community get to develop their talents. A true win-win.
  5. For your next birthday, ask that people give donations to a charity of your choice instead of gifts. When you drop off the donations, ask about volunteer opportunities.
  6. Send a package or cards to deployed troops, veterans, wounded soldiers or first-responders through organizations like the NROTCor Project Gratitude.
  7. Create or join a campaign through DoSomething.org. You can choose the cause, the amount of time you have available and the type of service in which you want to participate (donations, face-to-face, events, taking a stand, etc.). For example, you can work to stop friends from texting and driving; raise awareness about domestic violence; or create activity books for children in hospitals. DoSomething is a great way to volunteer on your own schedule, at your own pace, and flex your creative muscles while you’re at it.
  8. Collect children’s books and other reading materials for shelters, libraries and schools, then ask if they need volunteer readers.
  9. You know how everyone always says “write a letter to your senator?” Write a letter to your senator. Find out when your senators or representatives are holding public meetings; attend them. It’s one of the easiest ways to make sure the issues you care about getting to the ears of the people who can fix them. If this develops into a passion, consider attending a social justice summer program  that shows you how to add power to advocacy.
  10. Offer to rake leaves, shovel the driveway, or do housework for someone in need. It sounds a little Norman Rockwell, but it’s a great way to volunteer without even leaving your block. And people, it turns out, are pretty interesting! You might discover something fascinating about your neighbor or unearth a network of connections that was quite literally just around the corner.

Nothing is going to happen unless you make it happen.  Make some time and get involved.  Start today.

https://www.ted.com/talks/natalie_warne_being_young_and_making_an_impact

 O ~ Optimism and Owning Your Victories.

“Look for small victories and build on that. Each small victory, even if it is just getting up five minutes earlier, gives you confidence. You realize that these little victories make you feel great, and you keep going.” ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger 

You can only be effective as a person of Real Action if you give yourself proper credit.  This requires a sense of optimism that comes from owning your victories.  Every time you make progress toward your goal the building blocks for success are being laid.  Understanding that each step forward should be recognized is essential.  You need to recognize your strengths and contributions…otherwise you are missing the whole point.

You can give yourself more energy and increase your passion if you pat yourself on the back once in a while.  Remember the commercial about the kid who thought he could be the greatest hitter in the world? His optimism led him to ACTION.  This is the big idea.  Never let the heaviness of a task in front of you weigh you down.  You can do it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFZaCHJCkyc

Optimism is the conviction that things will work out well in the end. This character trait is the touchstone of resilience and is essential if you want to succeed.  The world needs more optimists. And people who are optimists have better lives. Research shows that people who believe they are going to succeed (optimists) are in fact more able to do so. They are less likely to get depressed, get fewer illnesses, have longer relationships, and live longer.

Optimists see opportunity in unlikely places. Without a dose of optimism, we’d never try anything new, and our lives would remain forever stuck in the same place.

Here are 5 ways for you to become more of an optimist.

  1. Before You Go to Sleep at Night, Think About What Things Went Well During the Day. That pesky little voice who lives in our subconscious minds will go over the last thoughts we had before going to sleep.  This inspires our dreams and even influences how we think and feel when we wake up in the morning. So spend a few minutes reviewing everything that went right for you that day. What did you enjoy? What felt affirming? This habit will help you program positive thoughts and images into your minds for the night. You might even have a better sleep and awake more ready to face the day.
  2. Start Every New Day by Focusing on Your Goals and Positive Expectations. As soon as you wake up, start thinking about what you want to accomplish with the expectation that it will actually happen. Visualize your goals.  Think about yourself at the end of the day having achieved everything on your list and more. Spend a couple of minutes repeating long-term goals to yourself.  You are on the way to accomplishing your mission and your purpose in life right now.
  3. Practice Gratitude. The most successful optimists never forget what they have to be thankful for. While striving to reach our goals and achieve more, it’s important to feel grateful for what we have in the present. I keep a gratitude notebook where I record at least 10 things that I’m grateful for. It helps me keep positive and gives me comfort knowing that I have a wonderful foundation to build on every day–no matter what happens.
  4. Always Look for Solutions First. Every time a problem shows up we have a choice to make. Where are we going to focus our thoughts and efforts? Optimists don’t waste time looking for people to blame or worrying about the details of the problem or the issue. They just start hunting for solutions.
  5. Surround Yourself with Optimists. Optimistic people don’t have the time to hang out with negative people. Those people zap our energy. It’s like being around Eeyore.  Find positive-minded, motivated people to be with. Bounce ideas off one another. You’ll soon find out that optimists attract other optimists.  These are the people who will offer you support and encouragement which will boost your own optimism.

Owning your victories and being an optimist will help make you a person of Real Action.  It allows us to believe that the future will be better than the past. We will look forward to what’s coming next with excitement and anticipation.

N ~ No Negative Thinking.

We just covered owning your victories and optimism.  But the ‘N’ in ACTION is just as important.  All of us have negative and self-defeating thoughts.  They bring us down and clip our wings making it impossible to soar to new heights! The truth is that we just do not have time for this thinking and self-talk. Very little good can happen when we are sitting in a mud puddle.

Here is a cool little poem by Walter Wintle that always helps me put negative thoughts in perspective:

“If you think you are beaten, you areIf you think you dare not, you don’t,

If you like to win, but you think you can’t

It is almost certain you won’t.

 

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost

For out of the world we find,

Success begins with a fellow’s will

It’s all in the state of mind.

 

If you think you are outclassed, you are

You’ve got to think high to rise,

You’ve got to be sure of yourself before

You can ever win a prize.

 

Life’s battles don’t always go

To the stronger or faster man,

But soon or late the man who wins

Is the man WHO THINKS HE CAN!”

The problem with self-talk is that when you hear it, you act as if it were true. The best way to get rid of negative thinking and negative self-though is to confront it.  A great way to do that is with a three-step process called NED… Notice it, Externalize it, and Dispute it (NED). You can teach yourself  the NED process:

Notice Negative self-talk. The first thing you have to do is realize that you are putting yourself down or telling yourself you can’t.  One thing I do when I notice I’m doing it is to playfully wag my finger at it in my brain.

Externalize it. Treat it as if it were said by an external person whose mission in life is to make you miserable. (Some kids actually call him by the name NED.)

Dispute it in the same way you would an external person. We generally have the skill of disputing other people when they make false accusations, and we can learn to do so with ourselves as well.

Tony Teegarden has shared a video in which he shows how to get rid of negative self-talk once and for all with a simple question to ask yourself, “Would you talk that way to a five-year-old?”  Not a bad approach to adopt for any of us.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYaqdRLHqq0

So, stop beating yourself up.  Get rid of negative thinking.  Get busy with positive Real Action.

Conclusion

https://www.ted.com/talks/natalie_warne_being_young_and_making_an_impact

We are living in a world where inaction and passive action are ruling the day for lots of people.  Folks are huddled around screens and staying inside now more than ever.  Let’s all take the Jonathan Livingston Seagull challenge.  Let’s never be satisfied with what the flock is doing.  Let’s become people who soar.  Let’s become people of Real Action.

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