Tag Archives: self-improvement

MARCHing on to 2019

You know the songs that just seem to represent your life perfectly? Where you relate to 90+% of the lyrics and you think to yourself, did this artist write the song just for me? I have been thinking about that lately. One song that has come to mind is “Beautiful” by Eminem. In fact, many of Eminem’s songs really strike a chord with me, that is why he remains to be my favorite artist.

These past three months have been probably the craziest rollercoaster ride I have ever gone through. Not probably: it has been the craziest rollercoaster ride that I have ever gone through. Within the past three months I have loved a lot, have been heartbroken a few times, and have cried even more (much more than I’m comfortable in revealing actually). For those of you who do not know, I recently was in a relationship, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the most intense relationship that I’ve ever been in, but for reasons I’m not willing to discuss here, we have gone our separate ways.

Although I’m not going to discuss why our relationship ended, I do want to talk about the benefits of relationships in general, and how, perhaps, one can look at them in the future.

First and foremost, every relationship is an opportunity for growth. When you realize that, I think it makes the breakup a little bit easier to cope with. If you do not see relationships this way but as a “waste of time” then perhaps you were not in a good relationship to begin with and may need to go back and reevaluate yourself, your principals, and your criteria for what makes a relationship a relationship.

  • This relationship made me grow in unexpected ways. One of our biggest issues was communication; I think that was the reason we broke up to begin with. But, I couldn’t let it end like that. I was taught by my ex that people deserve the Nth chances, and I like that philosophy quite a bit. Not everyone deserves a second chance, but some people deserve three or four or even five chances depending on how they make you feel and the type of individual they are. I definitely didn’t want this relationship to end the way that it did, so I read a couple self-help books on the advice of others. If you haven’t read them I highly recommend, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and 3% Man by Corey Wayne. (The latter is more for guys).  While reading them, I realized how comments I made had affected our communication, how actions that I did took a toll on her, and, in general, I found I was more culpable than I first thought for why the relationship ended the first time around. So, I decided to change myself. Not for her, necessarily, but for us. I wanted to become better not only for her but for myself as well because you have to recognize your self-worth and take every opportunity you can to increase it. And, in February, we had gotten back together.
  • Of course, I’m not completely changed; I’ve only started this road of self-discovery and self-introspection, but I can say that I am more confident in myself now than ever. And that is good. For that, I am very thankful for this relationship as it helped me recognize my self-worth, potential, and the value that I can add to the world.

Secondly, with this growth, like I mentioned before, came cognizance of my self-worth. If you are in a good relationship, or even a toxic one, I think that knowing your self-worth is crucial. It’s vital to your emotional stability, your mental stability, and in some cases, your physical stability. How much can you put up with before saying “I’m worth more than this. I don’t need to be treated this way.”

  • Early in the relationship, I had found out about the caliber of my exes past relationships. That was a shock for me. I had moments of self-doubt, for they seemed to be way out of my league and my category. What could I bring to the table that these people hadn’t brought? Why did she like me? These questions placated my mind for a little while. She didn’t like that. And, why should she? No woman wants a man who is insecure of himself. They want someone assertive and determined and who is truly comfortable in his own masculine core. So, I decided to stop comparing myself to them, or I thought I did, although sporadically, I suppose, I dipped into this mood before we ended things the first time. Again, these books kind of helped me and in February, and even now, I feel like a new man, a revitalized, driven, and focused individual. I don’t care what others have or don’t have, I know what I have and what I can offer to the relationship and any future ones that I happen to find myself in.
  • It would be not fair of me to tell you that it were only these books that helped me. So, during this second time, while I had been bettering myself and just becoming more of the man that I knew I could become, tragedy happened in the form of dejavu and we were torn apart again (for some of the same reasons that had ended the first time we were together). It was unfair.
  • So, I took a look at myself and the relationship. I recognized who I was as a person, what I wanted and needed out of a relationship, and I decided that this individual could not meet some of my most needed pillars. There were disconnects on too many levels, and I knew continuing the relationship would be harmful for my psychological and emotional health, so I chose to walk away. Not only for myself, but I also felt that I couldn’t offer her the support and love that she needed (we had been a long-distance relationship). Sometimes, if you truly love somebody, you need to let them go, and you want them to be find someone else who can make them truly happy. That is what I wanted, and I still want that, but I cannot keep in contact with this individual anymore because I found some of her words and actions to be too hurtful.
  • Actually, this revelation occurred after I had a recent spiritual encounter with God and I heard his words through prophecy at this church in Shanghai. God had encouraged me to recognize my self-worth, and I did so, and now I am on a new path in my life. It’s exciting and fun and I’m instilled with this sense of drive and passion and determination that I have never experienced before. Her ability to not only open this idea of self-worth to me, but also to help me recognize it (in good ways and in bad) is something that I am grateful for, and I think any relationship should provide you with this sense of feeling, and I hope it does.

The third thing that I think relationships should do for you is to provide you with a sense of purpose. This relationship did that. I had dreams of spending forever with her, and she had told me the same thing. There were barriers in my way between this, however, so I tried to come up with plans on how to make a life with her work. A book that really helped me discover this idea of purpose actually is the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This was a book that my ex had given me and, again, another just outstanding thing she did for me in the relationship—helping me grow and recognize that true potential we are all meant for. I think this is part of “active support” and one of my six pillars (I’ll discuss the six pillars of a relationship in a totally different blog post to come), but in some ways she had “active support,” however, in most other ways I didn’t see this as much.

  • Anyway, I knew my goal, but I’m remiss to say that I could never achieve that goal. Suggestions that I offered hadn’t been good enough for her, or those closest to her who seemed to always be keen on giving relationship advice to us. But, when we broke up the second time, a light bulb turned on, and I knew that the trajectory that my current life was on would never be able to support her lifestyle, and perhaps a future with a different person as well. So, now I’ve rescripted my future and am pursuing a new path and I have never felt more energized and motivated before. I’m sad that this could not happen with the ex, but we were caught in the unfortunate predicament of timing (another of the six pillars). I wasn’t where she needed me to be yet, and she was (and still is as far as I know) pursuing her life goals and dreams. I, too, now have realized that I should focus on myself and pursue my goals and dreams. In fact, the 3% Man mentions this idea as well, and how women love a man with drive and determination. Of course. I’m not saying that I didn’t have that before, but in many ways, I felt like I was trying to force a life with her, rearranging things and schedules and priorities when the same wasn’t reciprocated.

So, now, I’m taking some time for myself and to truly put into practice all of the things that I have been taught in the relationship and this journey of self-introspection. Along that journey that I’m on now, a song has been put on repeat. “Beautiful” comes to mind because there are a few lyrics that really have spoken to me recently and I’ll list them here:

“I’m just so fucking depressed, I just can seem to get out this slump
If I could just get over this hump but I need something to pull me out this dump”

  • How I’ve been feeling recently (off and on) since the relationship ended, and sometimes even through the relationship, dealing with problems of emotional stability. This message from God and recognizing my self-worth, however, has pulled me out of this slump.

“I know some shit’s so hard to swallow
And I just can’t sit back and wallow
In my own sorrow but I know one fact, I’ll be one tough act to follow”

  • Of course, I’m remiss that the relationship didn’t work out. I truly loved this woman. Absolutely loved her, and I still do. I gave it my 100%, that I am sure of, and that is all I can do. I got to see a side of her that not many people see, and so I hope whoever is next can get to see that same side, when her walls are down, there is no façade, just the raw-naked truth that I got to experience.

I’ll be you, let’s trade shoes
Just to see what It’d be like to
Feel your pain, you feel mine”

  • This is something that I learned to do during the relationship quite frequently and what I think I have gotten better at. I try and see things from other people’s point of view and not be so narrow-minded. This is crucial for any successful relationship to function, and I’ll admit that perhaps this is another of the reasons we failed. But, even more so, as the fallout happened (and continues to happen via social media) many people only see or perceive one side of the story and don’t understand everything. And, that’s okay. No one besides those involved should know the whole thing, but I think it’s an important life maxim to understand that: “For every heads, there is a tails.”

But don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
They can all get fucked. Just stay true to you
Don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
They can all get fucked. Just stay true to you

  • Probably the most telling words of the song, and that is why it is repeated twice throughout each chorus. This perfectly describes finding that intrinsic sense of self-worth. When you realize how valuable you are, you learn to realize what you will and will not accept in any of your relationships or situations in life. You, yourself, are unique and beautiful and shouldn’t have to change for anyone unless if you want to. Sometimes these changes are needed. Sometimes they are perceived as being needed. I don’t regret changing; I enjoy it. When change acts on you in a positive way, that is good (for example, prompting you to be more organized or tidier). But, you, who you are as a person, your values in life, those I don’t believe need to change for another for that person, whoever he or she is, should love you unconditionally. And if a value or an act that you did in your past is totally abhorrent then they need to learn to accept it (for it was a past version of you, and doesn’t reflect who you are now) or stand firm in their true morals and know that it is something not acceptable to them. Staying true to yourself is the biggest thing any relationship can teach you because if you try to not be yourself, you’ll eventually get called out.

We gotta take these cards ourselves
And flip them, don’t expect no help
Now I could have either just
Sat on my ass and pissed and moaned
But take this situation in which I’m placed in
And get up and get my own

  • Sometimes life throws you punches. Sometimes they are taps; sometimes they are gut-wrenching uppercuts, but life will definitely test you. But, when push comes to shove, will you roll with the punches, or stand there and continue being pummeled? After the relationship ended the first time, I couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t let things end the way they did. So, I took the situation and I flipped it on its head (well, tried to salvage it as best I could). The situation pushed me to grow in different ways, to really learn more about myself, and I had a vision and sense of purpose (which was sadly never realized).

But I already told you my whole life story
Not just based on my description
Cause where you see it from where you’re sitting
Is probably 110% different

  • This, again, is the theme of the song, and many times, the theme of many stories. It’s an important lesson to keep in mind: There are always two sides. Sometimes what is portrayed online is simply a façade. If stories only told things from the hero’s perspective, we would never understand the villain. And that isn’t life. Life isn’t so black and white. Villains, too, can be good guys. The example that comes to my mind is Dexter (a serial killer who kills bad guys). Is the act of him killing others deplorable? Or is the fact that he kills only other deplorable human beings an act of virtue? People like Dexter are complex, and complex characters are fantastic to analyze. No matter who you are, you may always be an antagonist in someone’s story. The question is, do you have the ability to separate yourself enough from the situation to see things objectively and unbiased? That is definitely a hard thing to do; I know I definitely have my own biases. It’s a character flaw. I think everyone has bias, and sometimes it’s our pride that gets in the way of looking past our ego.

And to the rest of the world, god gave you the shoes
That fit you, so put em on and wear em
And be yourself man, be proud of who you are
Even if it sounds corny,
Don’t ever let no one tell you, you ain’t beautiful

  • Finally, Eminem ends on a positive note by telling us to stay beautiful and to not let anyone tell you differently. He resays his theme one more time. This is very much a lesson I’ve always held highly for myself. I don’t care much for the opinion of others; I try and stay true to myself as much as I can. In fact, many times in the relationship the “trolls” of the internet definitely tried to sabotage me (and they still do, to be honest), but I don’t pay them much attention. This is having that strong sense of self-worth that relationships should help you build. This is actually the very first of the seven habits discussed in the book by Stephen Covey. The idea of “Response-ability” the ability to choose our response. What matters is our Circle of Influence, things that we can control. And we can certainly control how we feel and react and respond towards others. We can let it affect us, or not. So, choose not to let it affect you and move on, for they want a reaction. But, in fact, silence, in itself, is a reaction and a strong one at that. This line also mentions about having shoes that fit us; I think that also is symbolic of having a sense of self, a sense of value, and a sense of purpose and mission. I am honest enough to say that although I thought I had this, I have only really recognized many of these things during the intensity of this relationship and the aftermath that followed. I am thankful for that most of all.

Do you have any theme songs that could describe your life or a journey that you went through? Are there any more qualities that a relationship can add or build? Surely there are, these are just the first three that came to mind. I’d love to hear your comments below. Remember, no matter what, MARCH on ahead, don’t look at cracks in the ground, keep your head up, your chest out, and stiffen up that upper lip, you’re beautiful.

Thank you for reading.

Michael E. Thies
Author of the Guardian of the Core Series

Goal-Setting for 2017

New Years. It is a time to spend with family and friends. It is a time for partying and staying up late (at least until midnight.) And, finally, it is a time for New Year’s Resolutions. It is a time for change, to break the monotony of your current life. But, many people make the resolutions and then they fall flat and fail within months of trying to do them. The best example of this is the ever popular “I’m going to get in shape this year” resolution. If you are a gym-goer you know how crowded your local gym gets in January and even February but by March it has returned to the same status quo. So, what then makes a good goal? What are good goals?

Let’s examine that first. Here are a few things that I recommend that have worked well for me in the past. If you have ever heard of “S.M.A.R.T Goals” you will find similarities here, as that is how I have always achieved my goals.

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goal setting concept presented on blackboard with colorful crumpled sticky notes and white chalk handwriting

Tip #1: Only create one or two goals, definitely no more than three.

Reason: When you clearly have only one or two things to achieve, you can focus on them that much more. It is the same as multi-tasking essentially. You can get one thing done faster and more completely if you only focus on that one thing versus trying to handle multiple things at once. So, with only one or two or three goals, you shouldn’t be so overwhelmed that you quit.

Tip #2: It is not enough to have a goal, but a plan of action.

Reason: Many people can create a goal like, “This year I will get in shape.” You may ask, what is the problem with this? Well, it’s vague. There is no plan of action. Create one. Let’s use the above example. “This year I will get in shape by eating more fruit and exercising more at my gym.”

Tip #3: Be as specific as possible.

Reason: It is one thing to say that you will get into shape this year, but what does that actually mean? Does that mean you will get the six-pack you’ve always dreamed of having? Does that mean dropping two pants’ sizes? Or does that simply mean losing one pound or one kilogram per month? What is it? Define it. And then, come up with a plan of attack for doing it. So, taking the example above, we could say something like: “This year I will lose two pounds per month by exercising more at my gym and eating healthier foods like fruit in order to get into shape.” We have a goal, a plan of attack, and we are specific. This is how you should make your resolutions, and write them down. I always feel as though writing down your resolutions commits you to it more than just saying it to yourself.

– While all of this may be good now and you feel as though you are ready to go, you aren’t. –

Tip #4: Have an incentive.

Some may ask, “Isn’t the incentive the feeling you get by losing two pounds per month? Isn’t the incentive getting into shape or looking better?” My response is, NO. Those are results, not incentives.

To have a good example, let’s put it into the context of bodybuilders. A bodybuilder may say that they want to gain 5 lbs of muscle this year, albeit it will actually probably be a lot more. So, they will eat more meat, increase their protein intake, and get jacked for lack of a better phrase. But, there has to be some sort of incentive pulling them along. That incentive is a cheat day. Every bodybuilder or athlete I know has one. Maybe it’s one day per week, one day per month, but it’s a day where they abandon their rules in order to give into their carnal desires of maybe that bag of potato chips, or a scoop of that ice cream they have been salivating about. By creating some sort of incentive throughout your resolution, or at the end of your resolution, that you ONLY do if you complete it will make you work that much harder for it. The key here is that you have to be true to yourself and ONLY give it to yourself if you earn it. That will make it be that much better.

In the example above of getting into shape. Maybe one plan of attack is eating healthier so you cut out your love of buffets. Well, perhaps an incentive then is you treat yourself to a buffet at the end of each month or every two months.


Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at some of my resolutions for 2017.

Resolution 1: I will successfully pay off all of my credit card debt by putting at least half of my paycheck aside each month.

Resolution 2: I will finish writing the first draft of my third novel (title still undecided) by the end of the academic school year (July 2017).

Resolution 3: Assuming I complete the first two resolutions, my third resolution will be to publish my second novel, The Curse of Pirini Lilapa, by the end of 2017 in both e-book and paperback forms.

Resolution 4: I will begin work on my 3-year Professional Development Plan (PDP), in order to move from a probationary to a professional teaching license by the year 2020.

 

Okay, many of you are probably wondering, what gives, I have already disavowed my rules of no more than three resolutions. To that point I say, I haven’t. Although there are four, resolution three can truly only happen if the first two are complete and then resolution four is an ongoing one, to be started this year but not completed. Also, I know that my first resolution will be complete as of February or March this year, so my only huge resolution that I’m focused on is number two.

To an extent, I know that all of these are within my grasp if I choose to really go after them. I am confident I can get these done. Also, I have an incentive. Something I want to do if I accomplish all of them (especially number 2) is to take a grand vacation in the summer of 2017. I will want to take a break from writing for a little while, hence the reason I want to finish it before I go. And then if I do manage to publish my second book by the end of 2017, then I can take a nice winter vacation in 2018.

And while all of these are great, this is only just the beginning. In my next post, next week, I will tell you how to plan for your long-term goals as well. But, first, focus on what you are going to do this upcoming year, then come back and see how you can build upon it for later in your life.

Have a happy New Year’s everyone. Stay safe and have fun.

Sincerely,

  • Michael E. Thies