Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Best Gift to Give Yourself and Others

by Jim Rohn, Master Coach

I’m often asked the question, “How can I best help my children, spouse, family member, staff member, friend, etc., improve/change?” In fact, that might be the most frequently asked question I receive, “How can I help change someone else?”

My answer often comes as a surprise and here it is. The key to helping others is to help yourself first. In other words, the best contribution I can make to someone else is my own personal development. If I become 10 times wiser, 10 times stronger, think of what that will do for my adventure as a father... as a grandfather... as a business colleague.

The best gift I can give to you, really, is my ongoing personal development. Getting better, getting stronger, becoming wiser. I think parents should pick this valuable philosophy up. If the parents are okay, the kids have an excellent chance of being okay. Work on your personal development as parents—that’s the best gift you can give to your children.

If you have ever ridden in an airplane, then you might have noticed the oxygen compartment located above every seat. There are explicit instructions that say, “In case of an emergency, first secure your own oxygen mask and then if you have children with you secure their masks.” Take care of yourself first... then assist your children. If we use that same philosophy throughout our whole parental life, it would be so valuable.

If I learn to create happiness for myself, my children now have an excellent chance to be happy. If I create a unique lifestyle for myself and my spouse, that will be a great example to serve my children.

Self-development enables you to serve, to be more valuable to those around you; for your child... your business... your colleague... your community... your church.

That’s why I teach development skills. If you keep refining all the parts of your character (yourself, your health, etc.) so that you become an attractive person to the marketplace, you’ll attract opportunity. Opportunity will then begin to seek you out. Your reputation will begin to precede you and people will want to do business with you. All of that possibility is created by working on the philosophy that success is something you attract by continually working on your own personal development.

Reproduced with permission from Jim Rohn's Weekly Newsletter. To subscribe, go to All contents Copyright © except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide.

Who Knows?

By Linda Riley, LMFT

When King David took Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, God told him through the prophet Nathan that because of this great sin, the son born to them would die. After this the child became ill. David pleaded with God for his child. He fasted and spent the nights lying on the ground praying and refusing to eat. The child died on the seventh day. David’s servants feared telling David, as he may do something desperate. But when David heard the news, he got up, washed, changed his clothes and worshipped God. Then he requested food and he ate. His servants were puzzled by his behavior and asked him; "why did you fast and weep when the child was alive and get up and eat now that the child is dead?" David’s answer is interesting; he responded “while the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, WHO KNOWS? the Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live. But now that he is dead, why should I fast, can I bring him back again? I will go to him but he will not return to me." Then David comforted his wife and God gave them another child. This story implies several things: fasting and prayer can change God’s mind, sinful behavior brings bad consequences and lastly we can ask God for anything, but we must accept His will in all things.

Have you ever thought, WHO KNOWS, God could do this or that, when you pray? Living the Christian life means always looking for God’s footprints in our circumstances yet always accepting those circumstances and moving forward in faith. Perhaps we should ask ourselves this question more often when we petition God and lay our hearts desires at His feet. The question implies that although we don’t know what God will do next in our lives, we recognize that He could do anything and isn’t that where faith begins? Is it possible that we often don’t even recognize that “ all things are possible for those who believe." I like the story of the father who brought his son to Jesus to heal him and he says; “If you can?" And Christ challenges this and states that everything is possible for those who believe. The father then says to Jesus, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief." Would our prayers be more effective if we actually remembered when we pray that nothing is too hard for God.

I encourage you to pray big because God is infinite. Cultivate an attitude of, I can not wait to see what you will do God! God created us to have a sense of awe and He knows we enjoy thrills and need highs once in awhile. Is it possible that our insecurity often overwhelms us with fear and doubt, resulting in never actually asking God to do something awesome? Other times, we just focus too much on the hopelessness of our circumstances rather than focus on the Majesty of Christ. Another obstacle that possibly prevents us from praying big is our sincere awareness that we don’t really deserve it. We need to remember that victory isn’t about what we deserve but who we serve.

Jesus clearly told us while He was here on earth that whatever we ask for in prayer, believe it and we will receive it. Oswald Chambers defines the spiritual discipline of perseverance as more than endurance. He says, “it is endurance combined with absolute assurance and certainty that what we are looking for is going to happen." Do we hesitate from asking for our hearts desires because we don’t want to give Jesus a chance to disappoint us, or as Chambers puts it, "our fear is that the things Jesus stood for, love, justice, forgiveness and kindness will not be an attainable goal for us. "

Shouldn't we be frequently asking, WHO KNOWS, and therefore living our lives in a constant state of anticipatory excitement. We will never know what God will do next in our lives but we must know that He is always present and He is interested in all the littlest details of our experiences. Expect Him to show up in real ways continually. He cares about our hopes and our dreams and if we are faithful and willing to wait for His timing, He will fulfill them. WHO KNOWS, what He can and will do for you if you seek Him in total faith.

Written by: Linda Riley, A Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Sex Counselor who has counseled family's and couples for over 22 years. Her focus has been with enriching relationships and understanding relationship dynamics.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How to 'Freak Yourself Out'

A formula to Steal Motivation

By Dwight Bain, Certified Life Coach & Nationally Certified Counselor

Have you ever watched someone ‘freak themselves out?’ If you aren’t familiar with this expression, (which I learned from our teenagers), it means to be so totally stressed you can’t think or function normally. So, back to understanding why people ‘freak out’ since this self-destructive process steals motivation and makes life miserable. Why would people do things to make their life seem worse? Even more importantly, are you doing things that steal your energy and rob you of the motivation? Let’s find out fast if you are living the ‘freaked out’ formula so you can enjoy today, instead of just enduring it.

The ‘Freak Yourself Out’ Formula

First understand there really is a process to create a ‘freaked out’ experience where life goes from bad to worse. It follows a series of predictable steps. ‘Freaked out’ people have conditioned themselves to follow a pattern of behavior that makes every day chaotic and every situation a catastrophe.

They never allow themselves to relax and count blessings because their total focus is on their problems. They don’t actually have good days, just less miserable ones where nothing goes right because they are always looking for the worst possible scenario. It’s like the old saying, “Cheer up- things could get worse. So I cheered up and sure enough, things got worse.”

If the only things you are searching for are more problems, then you can be sure that you will find more than enough to stay stressed out and afraid. Here are the basics of the ‘freak yourself out’ formula and remember the more elements of the formula you have in place, the worse you will feel- guaranteed.

Spiritual Strategies to create Significant Emptiness-

1) Ignore God and anything that would inspire you to see beyond yourself. No Bible reading, no prayer, no journaling or meditation about the blessings of your life, which would stimulate gratitude. Avoid any type of function that takes you out of your own world or that might make you aware of the greater needs in the rest of the world. Just focus on yourself and ignore everyone else.

2) Skip going to any church or concert where you might find inspiration, and make sure to skip any activity that places you around positive or prayerful people. This includes any form of shared music or ministry, including helping the homeless or reaching out to other families who may be facing tough times. As long as you stay focused on yourself and your problems you can feel empty, afraid and alone.

Media Messages to steal Motivation

1) Focus on the evening news and current events, especially big tragedies you can’t do anything about. This approach is guaranteed to discourage you with negative media messages which often are full of depressing images that discourage you with a continual flood of bad news.

2) Make Hollywood celebrities your main focus, especially if they have multi-million dollar lifestyles that you could never hope to obtain. Keep up with the drama of every tiny detail of their lives; in fact spend more time studying what is happening in the lives of famous strangers than you do in studying what is happening in your own life or anyone in your family.

Physical Steps to Feel Miserable

1) Ignore your own health. You can do this faster by neglecting to get enough sleep. Push your body to the limits and never sit still to take quiet times to just sit and rest. Follow the rule that ‘burning out is better than rusting out.’ (Forgetting that either way- you are just out)

2) Stay idle. Sit still and watch TV or the Internet; but never exercise or move around. In fact, stay inside most of the time and never allow yourself to see sunshine or feel the wind on your face. Nature is to be considered evil because being outside often reminds people of the beauty of creation. Use amusing entertainment to replace all forms of physical fitness.

3) Eat anything you want, especially large portions of comfort foods followed by soda with lots of sugar and caffeine. Remember the rule - the worse the food is for you, the worse you will feel. Avoid anything healthy or nutritious if you want to always feel freaked out.

Emotional and Financial Methods to Ruin your Day

1) Keep all your fears inside and never take time to release pressure in healthy ways. No journaling, no mapping out insecurities on paper to prevent feeling panic. And make sure to never set goals that would give you a positive point of view in facing the future. Stuff your stress to make the day worse.

2) Don’t ever budget or create a realistic financial plan – in fact, just let your financial obligations pile up until you feel like you are drowning in debt and financial fears. Not having any idea where you stand financially is sure to make you feel worse.

3) Never tell anyone what keeps you up at night, in fact, avoid any coach, counselor, pastor, family member co-worker or friend who might be a safe person who could help you process your fears to find greater strength. Go it alone to improve your chances of feeling miserable.

How do successful people ‘snap out of it’ to find new energy?
Have you ever felt beat up by life? Can you relate to feeling overwhelmed, undervalued, empty, lonely, unloved, stressed, depressed or afraid? Then you have likely followed the ‘freaked out formula’; but don’t feel bad because I’ve been freaked out before too.

Some of my worst days were spent with a dark cloud of moodiness overhead that I made worse by following the formula. I suspect the same is true for you because everyone feels overwhelmed at times and everyone has been too stressed to face the day.
Successful people have learned to identify the ‘freak out’ formula so they can make rapid adjustments to feel better fast. The real problem is when you feel so exhausted and beat up by life that tomorrow looks worse than yesterday. So what about you -do you wake up refreshed to face a new day with positive energy or do you live ‘freaked out’ day after day?

The Secret to Positive Energy is E-MOTION

The bottom line secret to feeling stronger to break out of the ‘freaked out’ formula is to remember that emotion really could be defined as E-MOTION. This is because when you drift through life with no positive movement, you always feel worse. When you learn to get up and get moving you always feel better and stronger.

Try this simple exercise sometime. Start marching in place and repeat three times, ‘I feel Good’. I know it sounds silly, but if you look in a mirror while marching and swinging your arms in rhythm you can’t help but smile. Just creating movement and motion will improve your mood and fire up your motivation. In other words, you have a lot more control of your mood and motivation than you ever thought possible.

Moving from being ‘Freaked Out’ to Feeling Good Again

Successful people take positive action to break the ‘freak out’ formula. Everyone faces challenges and tough days but some face them with strength by doing the opposite of the formula listed above. I’ve tried it both ways, and in fact ruined some days because of being so moody. Thankfully there were people around me who could say, ‘snap out of it’, ‘get on track’, ‘you were meant for more than this.’

Do you have someone who comes alongside to challenge you with positive steps to break the ‘freak out’ formula? On your worst days do you go it alone, or allow safe people to come close and help? If you don’t have those people know that my purpose in life is to add value to others, so until you believe in you, I’ll believe in you. God placed you on this planet for greater things than you could ever imagine!

Please let today be the day you break the ‘freak out’ formula to really embrace feeling good. No matter what you are facing today, you will face it better by doing the opposite of the formula listed above so you can develop spiritual, emotional, financial and physical strength. You really do have the power to change and make today better. Choose to break the formula and when you do, tell others what you learned so they can break out of the ‘freak out’ formula too.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2010), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"

About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Stirring Stratosphere of Stories

A World That Transforms Us

By Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC, CSOTS

Have you ever wondered why we love stories so much? I mean, really……here in America…..we LOVE stories. As kids we cannot wait for bedtime stories or story time at school. As adults, we flock to go to the movies, DVR our favorite programs on TV, and buy the DVD’s that we love the most. But why? Why do stories capture our attention at such a high level?

I think it’s because we connect to stories. When we watch great stories, I mean stories that inspire us, it is often because we can connect to the characters or the story. Perhaps it is because stories go beyond our intellectual thinking and go straight for our hearts. They cut right through our defenses and hone in on the most intimate hopes, fears, and desires that we harbor in our soul. They touch us……and deeply.

I look at the stories I have loved:

• I love the first Rocky movie: Who doesn’t relate, at some level, to being an underdog…..someone who has to work hard to find success. Who DOESN’T want to overcome the odds in life and rise above hardship to success? I relate to being a late bloomer and someone who wishes he had a “Mickey” in his life years ago. I mean, c’mon…..who doesn’t want their spouse to be in their corner leading a chant of our name as we fight to rise above our circumstances? Rocky grabs our hearts….and our attention.

• I love the Lord of the Rings movies. I can relate with Frodo in how the burdens of life can sap us of our innocence, tempt us to go down the wrong paths, and that there are times we don’t even want to go on. Yet, something pushes us onward. Something in us wants to do something great for the people we love and so we keep going. I relate to Aragorn, who ran from his calling for years because he feared he could not live up to such a responsibility. I relate to that! Many men run from success as much as they do failure because, deep down, we’re not sure we have what it takes to carry that mantle.

• I love Good Will Hunting! Something in my masculine soul longs for a person, like Robin Williams, to believe I’m worth investing in, even when I’ve screwed up so many times. Even when I try to hide my deepest insecurities through a false sense of bravado.

I could do this all day!

• I love the book and musical, Les Miserables, because it powerfully shows the power of grace in changing hearts and lives; the way the grace of the bishop changed the life of a hardened criminal like Jean Valjean….forever! And the contrast of Javert, the legalist, who will not believe in the power of grace but hunts Jean Valjean to fulfill the letter of the law. THAT MOVES ME because I know how God’s grace has transformed my life, even if many who knew me “before” don’t believe it.
Okay, I’ll stop. But think about it! Stories are powerful to our hearts. Why do you think Jesus OFTEN used stories to make his points? He knew that stories cut through all the religious and intellectual barriers and went straight to the heart of the matter.

Stories change us! They inspire us! They take us to greater depths of introspection and greater heights of motivation!

So…….what about you? Seriously, I have two challenges for you, reader.

1. I invite you to send me the movies and books…..the STORIES…that have affected you in powerful ways and why. I’m thirsty to hear about what characters you related to and why you related to them. I’m eager to read about how stories have taken you to greater heights in your life. I hope you’ll email me these stories at

2. What about YOUR stories? Seriously, I would be so honored if you would take a moment and email me parts of your own story…….stories of heartache and discovery, stories of triumph and despair, stories where God showed up and changed your life in amazing ways. I’m dying to hear YOUR STORIES. You may think your story would mean little to someone else but the truth is that God has written your story so that you could be an influence to others; that others could learn from wisdom you gained through failure or success, that the way God has worked in your life might be a beacon for the rest of us. Don’t underestimate how your story might convict the hearts of the rest of us. Again, email me at

Remember, there is power to stories. Don’t ignore yours. Even if you don’t email me a thing, take another look at your story. Discover the themes God has woven through the tapestry of your life. These are clues to how He wants to use you now and in the future. Stories are catalysts of change and transformation…even yours.
Aaron Welch is a licensed mental health counselor, nationally certified counselor and certified sex offender treatment specialist. He strives to fight for the hearts of his clients and empower them to build a legacy that impacts the world. He is part of a team of experts at “The Lifeworks Group, Inc”. For more information about Aaron or Lifeworks, please visit or

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2010), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Laid Off, Propped Up, and Pressing Forward

By Barb Waldron, Student Intern

On December 29, 2009, I received a year end “gift” in the form of a layoff from my employer of 19 years. I was four months shy of my 20th anniversary with the company. On the surface, it was shocking, disarming, and unwelcome, but much deeper below, and higher above, God was working out a greater plan for my life. Now, a few weeks removed, I am better, not bitter, and write this article with the hope that my experience can offer some practical insights to help you, or someone you know, cope with being terminated from a job. This was my second time being laid off and I had once before been fired. Each separation was hard to handle at the time, but they all brought me a “gift” that changed my life.

What about you? Are your hands clenched in fists of anger, torturously cupped over your face in disbelief, or perhaps sorrowfully placed at your side; or are your hands held open to receive this news that allows you to begin a new chapter of your life? Allow yourself to move through the grief process. That is important. Most likely, you will experience shock, denial, anger, bargaining, and will finally arrive at acceptance. Take the time you need for each stage, but be careful to be a “visitor” not a “resident” so you don’t get hung up there. The more energy you place on accepting your layoff, the quicker you will be able to rebuild your life. You will learn not just to survive, but thrive, by implementing some valuable tools and using helpful resources. The strategy I used follows. I hope this information can help you or someone you care about.

One of the best resources you can secure immediately is a downloadable book called “The Layoff Survival Guide,” by Nancy Collamer. Nancy is a career consultant who compiled the resource after her husband was laid off. Go to Be sure to click on “what to do in the first 72 hours.” Everything from filing for unemployment compensation to how to tell your family, Nancy has designed a highly practical, resource-rich volume which will guide you well. Be sure to visit her career coaching blog and sign up for her free e-newsletter at

It is extremely important to create a vision for what you want your new life to look like. Even if it is etched on your mind through tears, come up with an image of yourself doing work you love. Then you can begin working toward that. Focus on your possibilities, not the limitations. Develop confidence in yourself and don’t give in to fear. Surround yourself with people who encourage and believe in you and who can cheer you on. This sets the stage for success. Write down your vision and post it everywhere within eyeshot.

In terms of chronology, the first activity I engaged in after my layoff was physical exercise. I was let go at 5pm and by 7pm I was at the gym at a Pilates class. One of the best decisions you can make after a layoff is to take care of yourself physically – eat well, keep your energy up, and get the exercise and rest you need so you can handle the mental and emotional requirements you are about to undergo.

A quick note on the physical impact of a layoff - take your time as you move through your daily activities. You may feel awkward and uncoordinated physically. Your mind all of a sudden has shifted into a panic/fear-type of overdrive. The body reacts to that stress. My complexion broke out in painful acne and I even stumbled sometimes while I walked. I was disoriented! Breathe deeply, think positively, and allow yourself to recover. Hold a simple statement in your mind which eases your thoughts, such as “keep things simple,” “what’s good about today?” “what’s possible now?” “discard the unnecessary” - whatever works for you! A good resource to help you is a “Choice Map” created by Dr. Marilee Adams, author of “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life.” Look it up at

Keeping a daily routine is important – otherwise you could get lodged in depression. I found myself sleeping more than usual, but I had been sleep-deprived for several months. Working a full time job while doing a counseling internship, going to night school, and serving in ministry at my church all required time and energy. While all of these activities were important, I was exhausted. The layoff afforded me time to rest. Be sure you get up in the morning, create a new routine while you look for work, and get to sleep at night. You may have heard it said, “Finding your new job, is now your full-time job.” It’s true! Use your time well. I started my job search by visiting local companies in the same office building where I worked. This may not be right for everyone, but it was comforting to me in a way. I enjoyed finding out about local businesses who had been my “neighbors” for so many years while I didn’t even realize it. Get out there and meet people! Research companies online and even consult the phone book to find companies that do work you believe in. Ask if they are hiring. You never know what possibilities lay beyond the “traditional” job search methods. Join local networking groups. I became active in New Beginnings which meets the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month at Deer Run Country Club (look up New Beginnings CFL on Facebook), and the Christian Chamber of Commerce ( Find organizations which share your values and can help promote your career.

Another good book to help you is “Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring: Take Charge of Your Career, Find a Job You Love, and Earn What You Deserve” by Ford R. Myers. If you look this up on, you will find a short video by Mr. Myers with 5 valuable job search tips. I also came across a book entitled, “The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure, and Bounce Back from Setbacks” by Dr. Al Siebert. Check it out!

There are numerous FREE online career assessments to help you discover your strengths. Some of these include;;; Some of these offer free e-newsletters which may help you with your job search.

If you are considering starting your own business………….check out Florida Barter (

Connect with your new leaders. What circle are you in, or do you aspire to be a part of? As a graduate student intern at The LifeWorks Group, contacting the founder of our agency, Dwight Bain, was a critical first step in my first day of unemployment. Dwight met with me, offered valuable advice, a heartfelt prayer, and a promise of his support. It was like a “changing of the guards” in my life. Out with the old (12/29/09), in with the new (12/30/09 and beyond). What leaders do you need to get in touch with, or mentors would it be valuable to connect with? If you have no one, this is a time to find someone! Make that a priority for your first week. It will set the tone for your future.

Re-discover what brings you pleasure. Most of us expend a great deal of personal and psychological energy at work and don’t realize how drained we are. Fill up again! What do you enjoy? Sports, music, baking, cooking, hunting, target practice, reading, taking a class? Even taking a drive to somewhere you’ve never been, or going for a walk and really noticing nature and breathing in the fresh air, can be rewarding.

Check out your conversations with your loved ones. My husband was immensely supportive during this transition. But I found myself misinterpreting certain things he said, due to my own fears. For instance, he said something about taking a couple of days off, then moving ahead. I zoned in on the “move ahead” piece and did not think he trusted me to get back to work fast enough. Foolish me! He was emphasizing the need for me to take a couple of days to really experience this loss. Do yourself a favor and keep clear communication with your loved ones.

One of the greatest and simplest tools to help you bounce back and begin creating your new life is to write! Start journaling. Write about anything! There is a therapeutic benefit of release when we write. If you’re not sure where to begin, write about what you learned and contributed at your last job and where you envision yourself going from here. Just write!

Identify what you are missing and/or mourning. For me, it was the loss of influence. I was a trusted employee who inspired others to give their best each day, and demonstrated an interest in employees’ families and lives outside of work. Fortunately, simultaneous to this career in corporate America, I was also doing a counseling internship at The LifeWorks Group. Therefore, I was able to continue being an influence in other people’s lives. Give yourself an avenue to continue giving what you do best. If your self-image is broken, find a book to build you back up and put your life back together. When I was fired from a job in North Carolina in 1987, after moving to Florida with my husband’s job relocation, my supervisor at The Orlando Sentinel gave each of the employees in the classified advertising department an abridged version of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” by Norman Vincent Peale. I would cling to those pages each morning and literally “read back into my being” my self-worth and self-esteem. I still carry a copy of it in my purse, and share this resource with clients often.

One of the greatest and kindest things you can do for yourself is to watch a few funny movies. Whether you rent, already own, or borrow from a friend or the library, get a hold of at least 3 good, funny movies the week you are laid off. It will clear your head of saturating self-thoughts.

Find new ways to shop. In early December, we donated a TV to Goodwill. I now shop there. I also started clipping coupons immediately. Look for coupons online! There are tons of ways to save money. ALDI is a new discount grocery store in our area. Shop for needs, not your wants. This downshifting can actually be quite liberating. Try bartering with your friends and neighbors. How can you help each other? Get creative! You will save money and build relationships in the process. You can even hold a garage sale and make some extra money.

Your thought life. This is where the battle is won or lost for your future. If you wake up in the morning and your mind is flooded with emotions and thoughts, such as “I could have done,” “I should have said,” (I did this for a while) - you are focusing on regrets. Allow yourself to shift into some possibility thinking, such as, “Today I will do….see….become….discover….etc.” You fill in the blank. Keep it present and future-focused. With my layoff the truth was, my time was up. In the words of a gracious associate at our local Cracker Barrell who explained how she got through her divorce: “Why fight something that isn’t there?” I cannot emphasize enough: limit your negative thoughts and condemning self-talk inside your head. Notice how much time you spend in the “negative thought zone.” What percentage of your day? If it is 50%, cut that down to 25%, and concentrate it all at one time, saturating your mind by dwelling only on the negative. The other 75% of your day is dedicated to positive. Cut that 25% down gradually to 20%, 15%, etc. Turn over the greater percentage of your day to focusing on what’s possible and/or what’s positive in your life. Intentionally replace negative thoughts with positive ones and reprogram your mind to work FOR you, not against you! Caution: it is crucial to evaluate the influence of people around you in your life, especially at a time like this. Are they mostly negative and berating, or are they uplifting and encouraging? Are they naysayers or overcomers? I heard it said one time, if you want to know what your life will look like in 5 years, just take a look at the people you associate with. Your life will become what theirs is now. Think about it!

Hold at bay any bitterness toward your employer. Business decisions are made. You now have the power to make new decisions for your life. Focus on that! Intentionally keep yourself from commiserating with or socializing with employees from your former company who have a negative attitude. That is destructive. My layoff came during the holiday season, a tremendous time of giving and forgiving. I chose to view the decision makers in my termination as “change agents” helping me launch a new future. Those leaders were my “flight crew” at one time. That flight arrived at its destination at 4:58pm on 12/29/09 and I disembarked. There is another adventure in the making and a new career taking flight. Let go of the past, make peace with your present, and embrace your new destination (even if you are still, so to speak, in the airport terminal, wondering which flight to board and discovering where your next connecting flight will take you!)

Develop a network of future connections. Based on your areas of interest or job search criteria, find out what networks are available to you. The photographer who did my professional portrait for counseling referred me to New Beginnings, a bi-monthly business building luncheon. Get out there and meet people whom you can help and who can also help you.

Look for meaning in the messages coming your way. We still had a trickle of Christmas cards and thank you notes for gifts received coming to our mailbox the first couple of weeks I was newly unemployed. Those positive messages were all-the-more treasured and significant to me. A group of friends from work wanted to have lunch with me. Eight of them came and I was thrilled. They circulated a farewell card at the office so I had numerous employees’ contact information to stay in touch.

Harvard professor and social psychologist Dan Gilbert created a 6 hour miniseries for PBS called “This Emotional Life” which discusses what helps us find happiness. The overwhelming conclusion is: social connections – having people to share life with makes us happy. Get in touch with people who matter to you.

Most companies have a mission statement, vision, and core values. You left behind a belief system at your employer. Wake up with a new personal creed resonating in your mind and carry that thought throughout the day and into this next chapter of your life. Start with some keywords such as: “I believe…I stand for…I will fight for…”

Take a step back – what is this layoff affording you to do? For me, it became a time of focus, strengthening, studying, connecting with leaders, business owners and community members, and learning how to be successful as a counselor. I am deepening my relationships with my husband and family. I am getting closer to God through prayer and reading the Bible in a year (3-4 chapters daily). I am changing! This is priceless. The layoff is enabling me to exercise more, go outdoors during the day, do teleseminars during the week, attend business-building lunches and make connections with people who can help me launch my new career. This is prep work, pure and simple. We all need it. Think of your layoff and losses that come with it as training for your future.

My employer laid me off, friends and family propped me up, and now I am able to press forward into a new life of possibilities and adventure.

Tomorrow is my one month anniversary of the layoff. I plan to celebrate by having dinner with my husband and another couple we enjoy spending time with, followed by going to Phantom of the Opera at our local theater. It’s important to savor time and make new memories. Find a way to celebrate this new life of yours – even if it’s a simple peanut butter and jelly picnic while enjoying a free concert. It’s all what you make it. Make the best of it, and you will have no regrets.

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Embracing the Wilderness

The Way to Spiritual Maturity

By Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC, CSOTS

Why do we prefer slavery in Egypt over following God in the wilderness?
In more practical terms, why do we tend to gravitate back to former sins or unhealthy situations rather than draw near to God through the hard times of life?
Why do we try to take control of life by digging our own cisterns (broken ones) instead of submitting to God and letting Him lead us through life?

Why do we resist God’s way of purifying us through pain and hardship and turmoil? Instead, we often choose to do our own thing which actually delays our maturity and STILL leaves us feeling empty, lonely and beaten down.

I cannot speak for the Christians abroad as God has not taken me onto the mission field at this point. However, I have lived my entire life in and around the American Church. I grew up, the son of a preacher and elder. I preached my first sermon around the age of five. I attended five years of Bible College and, later, another five in Seminary. I’ve preached in several churches. I’ve attended several churches. I’ve been blessed to counsel hundreds of Christian people. Truly, God has put me in and around the American church for my entire life. And I am left to wonder, as I ponder the Church and ESPECIALLY my life…why don’t we just embrace the deserts that God puts us in?

I know many of the answers to this question:
• Because the desert is barren and hard
• Because the desert leaves us dry and thirsty
• Because we lean towards what is comfortable, whether it is healthy or not
• Because we are NOT good at waiting and that is often what the desert is about
• Because the desert forces us into uncomfortable places
• Because the desert reveals the worst parts of who we are

I know these answers. In fact, I don’t just KNOW them, I have thought about them. I have LIVED them. The desert is no fun. Let’s just be frank and admit this truth. The wilderness of life is difficult. Wilderness times steal our laughter, break down our confidence, and brings out our anxieties over how we are going to make it through life. The wilderness leaves us worrying about our bills, our future, and our families. Most of all, it is in the wilderness that we often wonder the most about God…and maybe that is the main point.

Doesn’t God use the wilderness to test our limits? To find out if we’ll trust Him even when things look hopeless. Moses outlined some of God’s reasons for “wilderness-walking” in Deuteronomy 8 in talking to the Israelites, right before they entered the Promised Land:

“Remember every road that God led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that He would know what you were made of, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He put you through hard times. He made you go hungry. Then He fed you manna, something neither you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would learn that men and women don’t live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from God’s mouth. Your clothes didn’t wear out and your feet didn’t blister those forty years. You learned deep in your heart that God disciplines you in the same way a father disciplines his child.”
Wow…….why can’t we GET it? Why can’t I get it? God’s purposes in the wilderness are to:

• Push us to our limits: Hard? Yes……..but the only way for us to grow.
• Test us to see what we’re made of: He is refining us…..making us stronger for our journey.

• Test to see if, even in the wilderness, we will keep His commands or go our own way: OUCH! I can’t begin to mention the times I have gone my own way, whether turning to sin for escape or just trying to “grab the bull by the horns” instead of being patient so God can do His work in my life.

• Put us through hard times only to then provide what we need. The Bible says that God humbled the Israelites by MAKING them hungry…..only to show His provision by giving them manna; feeding them. See, God wants us to rely on HIM for our needs, not our own strength. Why can’t we LIVE in this?

• To teach us to trust Him and Him alone. I love where Moses reminds them that their clothes never wore out and they didn’t even get blisters on their feet. In other words, God took care of them even in the wilderness.

• To discipline us: God wants to teach us lessons, just like a father does a child. Lessons about trust, humility, pure living, waiting, and so much more.
And so, as I reflect on the wilderness, my spirit cries out, “I embrace it God! I WANT to grow in You, mature in You and be the man You want me to be” while my flesh screams, “God, why have you forsaken me??? Why are things here so hard? Why can’t life be easier? Why are finances so tight? Why is marriage so difficult? Why is parenting so painful? Why can’t I just WORK my way out of this wilderness?”

And God answers, “Because you’re my son and I love you. I love you too much to leave you to your own passions and ways. I love you too much NOT to pursue you and hone you and humble you. Because, Aaron (place your own name here), I don’t want you to settle for the pleasures in Egypt (sin and self-reliance) where slavery also abounds. I want you to be READY for the Promised Land….for what I have in store for you that is infinitely better than you could imagine. But you must wait, and endure, and learn to trust in Me…..not in your own strength.”

So, my goal is to EMBRACE the wilderness. It is a goal that I fail in more often than I succeed. And yet, that is my goal. See, I know that the pleasures and luxuries of this world offer nothing in the long run. They are a dead-end street. So, what I really want is to see the Promised Land, whether that is here or in the world to come…or both. I want to learn to trust, even when my bank account is overdrawn, even when I fight with my wife, even when my kids push me to the point of insanity…even when life is hard. I want to learn what it means to lay it all at God’s feet, not just in word but in action, so that I can see the ways in which God shows up, so that I can let God’s hand mold and shape me into who He designed me to be, so I am ready for whatever He has in store.

So, that is my challenge to you as well. Instead of fighting against the deserts that God puts us in, instead of complaining to Him about how hard everything is, instead of taking matters into your own hands before the Lord gives you the go-ahead……EMBRACE the wilderness. Set your face like a flint and move forward, turning your eyes to God instead of your own ideas. Embrace the lessons God wants you to learn:
• Trust Him instead of you
• Be humble instead of proud
• Be alert to how HE shows up and provides

Most of all be malleable to the blows of His hammer. Bend to the shape He wants to make of you. Rest on the anvil of His work, trusting that He is preparing you for the joys that lie ahead. I promise you, HIS land of milk and honey is WAY better than the pleasures and slavery of Egypt. Don’t you agree?
Aaron Welch is a licensed mental health counselor, nationally certified counselor and certified sex offender treatment specialist. He strives to fight for the hearts of his clients and empower them to build a legacy that impacts the world. He is part of a team of experts at “The Lifeworks Group, Inc”. For more information about Aaron or Lifeworks, please visit or

How to Survive Life When It Gets Miserable

Sometimes our lives fall apart or at least they seem to be falling apart and at these times we realize how little control we have in fact over our circumstances. One day life can look great and we can feel in control and on top of the world and the next day we are miserably aware that we have no control at all. Seasons of perplexity and trials are part of the Christian life and used by God to help us grow spiritually. The key is often in our ability to discern meaning and purpose in painful life events. God often permits suffering because it is a great tool for spiritual transformation. My favorite biblical example of this is Joseph who experienced 13 years of misery that began with his own brothers wanting to kill him over their jealousy and ended in slavery and prison. All the great and faithful characters in scripture have endured great suffering; most noteworthy is Christ himself. But as we read and study their lives and experiences it is plain to see that God always kept His promise in Romans 8:28 of all things working out for good in our life.

We are admonished by both Paul and Peter not to be surprised when trials come into our lives but rather understand and accept that hardships are part of the Christian life. Here are some reasons for this suffering:

1. Satan has brought evil into this world which results in random suffering
2. We suffer as a result of our own wrong or bad choices
3. We suffer as a result of someone else’s bad or wrong choices
4. God uses suffering as a form of discipline to enable us to mature spiritually

Christ’s mission in life could only be accomplished through suffering and sometimes that is true for us as well. We all have only two choices to make when we are experiencing adversity. We can turn towards God and seek his strength and ask for His healing and help. Or ,we can turn away from God which results in anger, resentment and bitterness. For some, hardship ends up being a blessing for both themselves and others; but we can also become stuck in a mental and emotional crucible and never fully recover. Tribulation should make us acutely aware of our dependence on God.

The only way to experience great heartbreak and not become bitter or mentally and emotionally damaged is to have faith in the sovereignty of God. When we have this confidence that God is in control of all of our circumstances it enables us to endure our trials with patience and hope, rather than resentment. We can forgive others and ourselves and let go of the past and emerge stronger in the present.

There are many verses in Psalm’s that tell us God knows how to rescue us from our trials but admonishes us to “wait patiently on the Lord”. Waiting patiently to be rescued isn’t easy but has many spiritual benefits.

1. It keeps us focused on God
2. It gives God an opportunity to heal our wounds over time
3. It helps us clarify our real desires
4. It strengthens both our relationship with God and our faith

The challenge of affliction is to believe that God is leading even when you don’t understand the direction His leading is taking. Accept the circumstances of your life, have faith that God is in control and surrender your dreams and desires trusting in His timing and purposes. Allow God to guide you through life’s trials and tribulations.

Written by: Linda Riley, A Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Sex Counselor who has counseled family's and couples for over 22 years. Her focus has been with enriching relationships and understanding relationship dynamics. Promoting personl growth and building healthy self-concepts to help her clients achieve maximum results in their personl and professional lives.