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To the extent that each Christian grows in holiness, he or she will bear greater fruit for our world. Do not be afraid to set your sights higher, to allow yourself to be loved and liberated by God. Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Here I would like to mention two false forms of holiness that can lead us astray: gnosticism and pelagianism. They are two heresies from early Christian times, yet they continue to plague us.

In our times too, many Christians, perhaps without realizing it, can be seduced by these deceptive ideas, which reflect an anthropocentric immanentism disguised as Catholic truth. An intellect without God and without flesh. Certainly this is a superficial conceit: there is much movement on the surface, but the mind is neither deeply moved nor affected. Still, gnosticism exercises a deceptive attraction for some people, since the gnostic approach is strict and allegedly pure, and can appear to possess a certain harmony or order that encompasses everything. Here we have to be careful.

I am not referring to a rationalism inimical to Christian faith. It can be present within the Church, both among the laity in parishes and teachers of philosophy and theology in centres of formation. Gnostics think that their explanations can make the entirety of the faith and the Gospel perfectly comprehensible. They absolutize their own theories and force others to submit to their way of thinking. A healthy and humble use of reason in order to reflect on the theological and moral teaching of the Gospel is one thing.

Gnosticism is one of the most sinister ideologies because, while unduly exalting knowledge or a specific experience, it considers its own vision of reality to be perfect. Thus, perhaps without even realizing it, this ideology feeds on itself and becomes even more myopic.

It can become all the more illusory when it masks itself as a disembodied spirituality. When somebody has an answer for every question, it is a sign that they are not on the right road. They may well be false prophets, who use religion for their own purposes, to promote their own psychological or intellectual theories.

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God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises. We are not the ones to determine when and how we will encounter him; the exact times and places of that encounter are not up to us. Nor can we claim to say where God is not, because God is mysteriously present in the life of every person, in a way that he himself chooses, and we cannot exclude this by our presumed certainties.

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If we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit rather than our own preconceptions, we can and must try to find the Lord in every human life. This is part of the mystery that a gnostic mentality cannot accept, since it is beyond its control. It is not easy to grasp the truth that we have received from the Lord. And it is even more difficult to express it. A dangerous confusion can arise.

When Saint Francis of Assisi saw that some of his disciples were engaged in teaching, he wanted to avoid the temptation to gnosticism. Gnosticism gave way to another heresy, likewise present in our day. As time passed, many came to realize that it is not knowledge that betters us or makes us saints, but the kind of life we lead. But this subtly led back to the old error of the gnostics, which was simply transformed rather than eliminated. The same power that the gnostics attributed to the intellect, others now began to attribute to the human will, to personal effort. This was the case with the pelagians and semi-pelagians.

Now it was not intelligence that took the place of mystery and grace, but our human will. Ultimately, the lack of a heartfelt and prayerful acknowledgment of our limitations prevents grace from working more effectively within us, for no room is left for bringing about the potential good that is part of a sincere and genuine journey of growth. That kind of thinking would show too much confidence in our own abilities. Underneath our orthodoxy, our attitudes might not correspond to our talk about the need for grace, and in specific situations we can end up putting little trust in it.

Unless we can acknowledge our concrete and limited situation, we will not be able to see the real and possible steps that the Lord demands of us at every moment, once we are attracted and empowered by his gift.

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Grace acts in history; ordinarily it takes hold of us and transforms us progressively. In order to be blameless, as he would have us, we need to live humbly in his presence, cloaked in his glory; we need to walk in union with him, recognizing his constant love in our lives. We need to lose our fear before that presence which can only be for our good. God is the Father who gave us life and loves us greatly. Once we accept him, and stop trying to live our lives without him, the anguish of loneliness will disappear cf. Ps In this way we will know the pleasing and perfect will of the Lord cf.

Rom and allow him to mould us like a potter cf. Is So often we say that God dwells in us, but it is better to say that we dwell in him, that he enables us to dwell in his light and love. He is our temple; we ask to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our life cf. In him is our holiness. The Church has repeatedly taught that we are justified not by our own works or efforts, but by the grace of the Lord, who always takes the initiative. The Fathers of the Church, even before Saint Augustine, clearly expressed this fundamental belief.

Saint John Chrysostom said that God pours into us the very source of all his gifts even before we enter into battle. This is one of the great convictions that the Church has come firmly to hold. It is so clearly expressed in the word of God that there can be no question of it. Like the supreme commandment of love, this truth should affect the way we live, for it flows from the heart of the Gospel and demands that we not only accept it intellectually but also make it a source of contagious joy. Still, some Christians insist on taking another path, that of justification by their own efforts, the worship of the human will and their own abilities.

The result is a self-centred and elitist complacency, bereft of true love. Some Christians spend their time and energy on these things, rather than letting themselves be led by the Spirit in the way of love, rather than being passionate about communicating the beauty and the joy of the Gospel and seeking out the lost among the immense crowds that thirst for Christ. Not infrequently, contrary to the promptings of the Spirit, the life of the Church can become a museum piece or the possession of a select few.

This can occur when some groups of Christians give excessive importance to certain rules, customs or ways of acting. The Gospel then tends to be reduced and constricted, deprived of its simplicity, allure and savour. This may well be a subtle form of pelagianism, for it appears to subject the life of grace to certain human structures. It can affect groups, movements and communities, and it explains why so often they begin with an intense life in the Spirit, only to end up fossilized… or corrupt. Once we believe that everything depends on human effort as channelled by ecclesial rules and structures, we unconsciously complicate the Gospel and become enslaved to a blueprint that leaves few openings for the working of grace.

To avoid this, we do well to keep reminding ourselves that there is a hierarchy of virtues that bids us seek what is essential. The primacy belongs to the theological virtues, which have God as their object and motive. At the centre is charity. In other words, amid the thicket of precepts and prescriptions, Jesus clears a way to seeing two faces, that of the Father and that of our brother.

He does not give us two more formulas or two more commands. He gives us two faces, or better yet, one alone: the face of God reflected in so many other faces. Indeed, with the scraps of this frail humanity, the Lord will shape his final work of art. Surely these two: the Lord and our neighbour. These two riches do not disappear! May the Lord set the Church free from these new forms of gnosticism and pelagianism that weigh her down and block her progress along the path to holiness!

These aberrations take various shapes, according to the temperament and character of each person. So I encourage everyone to reflect and discern before God whether they may be present in their lives. There can be any number of theories about what constitutes holiness, with various explanations and distinctions. Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy when he gave us the Beatitudes cf. Mt ; Lk We have to do, each in our own way, what Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount. It expresses the fact that those faithful to God and his word, by their self-giving, gain true happiness.

The Beatitudes are in no way trite or undemanding, quite the opposite. We can only practise them if the Holy Spirit fills us with his power and frees us from our weakness, our selfishness, our complacency and our pride. Let us listen once more to Jesus, with all the love and respect that the Master deserves. Let us allow his words to unsettle us, to challenge us and to demand a real change in the way we live.

Otherwise, holiness will remain no more than an empty word. We turn now to the individual Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew cf. Mt The Gospel invites us to peer into the depths of our heart, to see where we find our security in life. Usually the rich feel secure in their wealth, and think that, if that wealth is threatened, the whole meaning of their earthly life can collapse. Jesus himself tells us this in the parable of the rich fool: he speaks of a man who was sure of himself, yet foolish, for it did not dawn on him that he might die that very day cf. Lk Wealth ensures nothing.

In this way, we miss out on the greatest treasure of all. That is why Jesus calls blessed those who are poor in spirit, those who have a poor heart, for there the Lord can enter with his perennial newness. In this way, he too invites us to live a plain and austere life. These are strong words in a world that from the beginning has been a place of conflict, disputes and enmity on all sides, where we constantly pigeonhole others on the basis of their ideas, their customs and even their way of speaking or dressing.

Ultimately, it is the reign of pride and vanity, where each person thinks he or she has the right to dominate others. Nonetheless, impossible as it may seem, Jesus proposes a different way of doing things: the way of meekness. This is what we see him doing with his disciples. If we are constantly upset and impatient with others, we will end up drained and weary. But if we regard the faults and limitations of others with tenderness and meekness, without an air of superiority, we can actually help them and stop wasting our energy on useless complaining. Paul speaks of meekness as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit cf.

Meekness is yet another expression of the interior poverty of those who put their trust in God alone. Indeed, in the Bible the same word — anawim — usually refers both to the poor and to the meek. At times they may, but so be it. It is always better to be meek, for then our deepest desires will be fulfilled. In every situation, the meek put their hope in the Lord, and those who hope for him shall possess the land… and enjoy the fullness of peace cf. The world tells us exactly the opposite: entertainment, pleasure, diversion and escape make for the good life.

The worldly person ignores problems of sickness or sorrow in the family or all around him; he averts his gaze. The world has no desire to mourn; it would rather disregard painful situations, cover them up or hide them. Much energy is expended on fleeing from situations of suffering in the belief that reality can be concealed. But the cross can never be absent.

Such persons are unafraid to share in the suffering of others; they do not flee from painful situations. They discover the meaning of life by coming to the aid of those who suffer, understanding their anguish and bringing relief. They sense that the other is flesh of our flesh, and are not afraid to draw near, even to touch their wounds. They feel compassion for others in such a way that all distance vanishes.

Hunger and thirst are intense experiences, since they involve basic needs and our instinct for survival. There are those who desire justice and yearn for righteousness with similar intensity. Jesus says that they will be satisfied, for sooner or later justice will come. We can cooperate to make that possible, even if we may not always see the fruit of our efforts. Jesus offers a justice other than that of the world, so often marred by petty interests and manipulated in various ways. Experience shows how easy it is to become mired in corruption, ensnared in the daily politics of quid pro quo , where everything becomes business.

How many people suffer injustice, standing by powerlessly while others divvy up the good things of this life. Some give up fighting for real justice and opt to follow in the train of the winners. This has nothing to do with the hunger and thirst for justice that Jesus praises. Mercy has two aspects.

It involves giving, helping and serving others, but it also includes forgiveness and understanding. The yardstick we use for understanding and forgiving others will measure the forgiveness we receive. The yardstick we use for giving will measure what we receive. We should never forget this. We need to think of ourselves as an army of the forgiven. All of us have been looked upon with divine compassion. This Beatitude speaks of those whose hearts are simple, pure and undefiled, for a heart capable of love admits nothing that might harm, weaken or endanger that love.

The Bible uses the heart to describe our real intentions, the things we truly seek and desire, apart from all appearances. God wants to speak to our hearts cf. Hos ; there he desires to write his law cf. Jer In a word, he wants to give us a new heart cf. Ezek Jn Certainly there can be no love without works of love, but this Beatitude reminds us that the Lord expects a commitment to our brothers and sisters that comes from the heart. A heart that loves God and neighbour cf. Mt , genuinely and not merely in words, is a pure heart; it can see God.

This Beatitude makes us think of the many endless situations of war in our world. Yet we ourselves are often a cause of conflict or at least of misunderstanding. For example, I may hear something about someone and I go off and repeat it. I may even embellish it the second time around and keep spreading it… And the more harm it does, the more satisfaction I seem to derive from it. The world of gossip, inhabited by negative and destructive people, does not bring peace. Jesus himself warns us that the path he proposes goes against the flow, even making us challenge society by the way we live and, as a result, becoming a nuisance.

He reminds us how many people have been, and still are, persecuted simply because they struggle for justice, because they take seriously their commitment to God and to others. In living the Gospel, we cannot expect that everything will be easy, for the thirst for power and worldly interests often stands in our way. As a result, the Beatitudes are not easy to live out; any attempt to do so will be viewed negatively, regarded with suspicion, and met with ridicule. Whatever weariness and pain we may experience in living the commandment of love and following the way of justice, the cross remains the source of our growth and sanctification.

Here we are speaking about inevitable persecution, not the kind of persecution we might bring upon ourselves by our mistreatment of others. The saints are not odd and aloof, unbearable because of their vanity, negativity and bitterness. The Apostles of Christ were not like that. Persecutions are not a reality of the past, for today too we experience them, whether by the shedding of blood, as is the case with so many contemporary martyrs, or by more subtle means, by slander and lies. At other times, persecution can take the form of gibes that try to caricature our faith and make us seem ridiculous.

Holiness, then, is not about swooning in mystic rapture. Given these uncompromising demands of Jesus, it is my duty to ask Christians to acknowledge and accept them in a spirit of genuine openness, sine glossa. If I encounter a person sleeping outdoors on a cold night, I can view him or her as an annoyance, an idler, an obstacle in my path, a troubling sight, a problem for politicians to sort out, or even a piece of refuse cluttering a public space. Or I can respond with faith and charity, and see in this person a human being with a dignity identical to my own, a creature infinitely loved by the Father, an image of God, a brother or sister redeemed by Jesus Christ.

That is what it is to be a Christian! Can holiness somehow be understood apart from this lively recognition of the dignity of each human being? For Christians, this involves a constant and healthy unease. Even if helping one person alone could justify all our efforts, it would not be enough. The bishops of Canada made this clear when they noted, for example, that the biblical understanding of the jubilee year was about more than simply performing certain good works.

Ideologies striking at the heart of the Gospel. I regret that ideologies lead us at times to two harmful errors. On the one hand, there is the error of those Christians who separate these Gospel demands from their personal relationship with the Lord, from their interior union with him, from openness to his grace.

For these great saints, mental prayer, the love of God and the reading of the Gospel in no way detracted from their passionate and effective commitment to their neighbours; quite the opposite. The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist.

Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.

We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue. That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian, for whom the only proper attitude is to stand in the shoes of those brothers and sisters of ours who risk their lives to offer a future to their children.

Can we not realize that this is exactly what Jesus demands of us, when he tells us that in welcoming the stranger we welcome him cf. Mt ? This is not a notion invented by some Pope, or a momentary fad. We may think that we give glory to God only by our worship and prayer, or simply by following certain ethical norms. It is true that the primacy belongs to our relationship with God, but we cannot forget that the ultimate criterion on which our lives will be judged is what we have done for others.

Prayer is most precious, for it nourishes a daily commitment to love. Similarly, the best way to discern if our prayer is authentic is to judge to what extent our life is being transformed in the light of mercy. Here I think of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who asked which actions of ours are noblest, which external works best show our love for God. For he does not need our sacrifices, but wishes them to be offered to him, in order to stir our devotion and to profit our neighbour. Those who really wish to give glory to God by their lives, who truly long to grow in holiness, are called to be single-minded and tenacious in their practice of the works of mercy.

He depends on us to love the world and to show how much he loves it. Hedonism and consumerism can prove our downfall, for when we are obsessed with our own pleasure, we end up being all too concerned about ourselves and our rights, and we feel a desperate need for free time to enjoy ourselves. We will find it hard to feel and show any real concern for those in need, unless we are able to cultivate a certain simplicity of life, resisting the feverish demands of a consumer society, which leave us impoverished and unsatisfied, anxious to have it all now.

Similarly, when we allow ourselves to be caught up in superficial information, instant communication and virtual reality, we can waste precious time and become indifferent to the suffering flesh of our brothers and sisters. Doing the mind guerrilla, Some call it magic — the search for the grail.

Love is the answer and you know that for sure. Love is a flower, you got to let it — you got to let it grow. We have come by curious ways To the Light that holds the days; We have sought in haunts of fear For that all-enfolding sphere: And lo! Deep in every heart it lies With its untranscended skies; For what heaven should bend above Hearts that own the heaven of love? If you believe in peace , act peacefully; if you believe in love, acting lovingly; if you believe every which way, then act every which way, that's perfectly valid — but don't go out trying to sell your beliefs to the system.

You end up contradicting what you profess to believe in, and you set a bum example. If you want to change the world , change yourself. There are three lessons I would write, — Three words — as with a burning pen, In tracings of eternal light Upon the hearts of men. Have Hope. Though clouds environ now, And gladness hides her face in scorn, Put thou the shadow from thy brow, — No night but hath its morn.

Have Faith. Where'er thy bark is driven, — The calm's disport, the tempest's mirth, — Know this: God rules the hosts of heaven, The habitants of earth. Have Love. Not love alone for one, But men, as man, thy brothers call; And scatter, like the circling sun, Thy charities on all. Thus grave these lessons on thy soul, — Hope, Faith, and Love, — and thou shalt find Strength when life's surges rudest roll, Light when thou else wert blind.

Before our lives divide for ever, While time is with us and hands are free , Time, swift to fasten and swift to sever Hand from hand, as we stand by the sea I will say no word that a man might say Whose whole life's love goes down in a day; For this could never have been; and never, Though the gods and the years relent, shall be.

Is it worth a tear, is it worth an hour, To think of things that are well outworn? Of fruitless husk and fugitive flower, The dream foregone and the deed forborne? Though joy be done with and grief be vain, Time shall not sever us wholly in twain; Earth is not spoilt for a single shower; But the rain has ruined the ungrown corn. I had grown pure as the dawn and the dew, You had grown strong as the sun or the sea. But none shall triumph a whole life through: For death is one, and the fates are three. At the door of life, by the gate of breath, There are worse things waiting for men than death; Death could not sever my soul and you, As these have severed your soul from me.

You have chosen and clung to the chance they sent you, Life sweet as perfume and pure as prayer. But will it not one day in heaven repent you? Will they solace you wholly, the days that were? Will you lift up your eyes between sadness and bliss, Meet mine, and see where the great love is, And tremble and turn and be changed? Content you; The gate is strait; I shall not be there. The pulse of war and passion of wonder, The heavens that murmur, the sounds that shine, The stars that sing and the loves that thunder, The music burning at heart like wine, An armed archangel whose hands raise up All senses mixed in the spirit's cup Till flesh and spirit are molten in sunder — These things are over, and no more mine.

These were a part of the playing I heard Once, ere my love and my heart were at strife; Love that sings and hath wings as a bird, Balm of the wound and heft of the knife. Make a list of what you need to do and what you want to do toward your goals. Assign numbers to the most important items, the ones with an urgent deadline, possibly alternating with a task or project or two that you can accomplish quickly. But only work on one of them at a time. Set aside a time when you regularly check messages and tend to emails, such as 10 a.

The rest of the time you should be focused on your action items, working them one at a time.

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You can do anything you truly want to accomplish, given a sound plan of action and the willingness and determination to see it through. But you cannot do everything — at least not well and not all at once. I love to poke around, peer behind the curtain of mystery, take the path less travelled. Maybe I got this healthy sense of wanting to explore the unknown from my father, although my mother was equally instrumental in encouraging me to test my skills and satisfy my need to know.

It never goes stale. Take painting, for example. I took an art class in high school as a way to test if I had any artistic ability at all. With other classes more pressing in the need to qualify for a good college, my curiosity about and love of painting shifted to the background for a while. But I returned to it later with vigor. Could I paint like the artists whose work I enjoyed? I tested that as well, copying images from magazines.

When others began to comment on the finished paintings and inquire if they could buy them, I knew my curiosity was satisfied.

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  8. I regard curiosity as an essential ingredient in a happy, fulfilled and purposeful life. My recommendation to everyone is to embrace your curiosity. Do something about what piques your interest. In fact, how do you think any discovery came about, if not for determined individuals willing to challenge the status quo, to turn a deaf ear to contrarians and unleash their creativity?

    We can be creative in so many different ways, not the least of which is figuring out unique and previously untried solutions to recurring problems. How can you tap into this vein of creativity and make it work for you? Here are some suggestions. These lessons are far and away indelible imprints, much more momentous than the plans that preceded them and which you may still follow. Undergoing physical therapy, trying to make sense of what happened, you overcome bitterness and disappointment and find yourself drawn to a different life path.

    Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you vow to use your abilities and intelligence to forge a life worth meaning. Making a new recipe, figuring out how to install cabinets in a tight space, learning how to perform household repairs yourself and countless other lessons are the by-product of actually doing something. Far from it. What it does mean is that a willingness to glean as much as you can while you are actively involved in doing will greatly assist you in leading a full and purposeful life.

    One that you enjoy. One that you create for yourself and work to fulfill. One that you can readily see benefits from all the lessons you have learned in the process of doing. Are you fearful of an outcome, doubting your abilities, worried about making a mistake? These are normal human emotions that only become problematic when not addressed.

    Being so caught up in fear, you might be blinded to reality. Only you can find out. What about feelings of insecurity? How can they be a doorway of opportunity? Consider that everyone compares themselves to someone else. But insecurity has its origins in the same place as fear — and it can provide similar motivation to brush it off and keep moving forward.

    Will you be successful in your ventures? Will you achieve your goals? Those butterflies in your stomach signaling uncertainty are excellent fuel to motivate you further. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. Use the fear, insecurity and uncertainty you feel today to spur you to action. Opportunity awaits and often springs from these emotions — if you allow it. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this is the lengths to which you will go. Based on conversations with and observations of dear friends, family members, co-workers and those spotlighted in the media, here are just a few things people are prone to do regarding happiness:.

    As humans, we have a right to determine our own destiny, to seek out opportunities to enrich our lives, to bathe in the warm glow of happiness, to share it with others, and to live our lives to the fullest. The other side of those negatives is a set of positives.

    And happiness is right up there among them. Jackson Brown, Jr. Hunger makes you think about satisfying that need. You do have a reservoir that you can draw on, though you might not be fully aware of them. These three are love, prayer and forgiveness. And they are very powerful indeed. When you most need a friend, turn first to yourself. You know yourself best. And you should love yourself more than anyone. Self-love is not to be confused with selfishness.

    The net effect of prayer is that it takes away current troubles and allows you to dwell in a calmer plane for the time being. That may be all you need to summon your other reserves and resources. The best part about the three resources of love, prayer and forgiveness is that you always have them available to you. They never go out of fashion, become extinct or lose their value. Treasure them and use them freely, for they will nourish and sustain you at all times. This is right to the point.

    Time is not only limited, but precious. Good manners, respect for others, taking care of my obligations and so forth are all in the mix. Speaking of doing your own thing, the vistas encompassed are vast, indeed. OK, then get on with what so inspires you and do your own thing. And you have to go into it being as fearless as you can. It does no one any good.

    But you might still want to keep reading, since fear can sneak up and take anyone unaware. Just like an earlier post on the benefits of failure , fear has important lessons for each of us to learn:. How do you train yourself to be fierce and fearless when confronting fear? It takes practice and determination. I'm not saying that I know how to fix everything when the going gets tough, but I do know this: when the going goes tough, you don't quit. And you don't fold up. And you don't go in the other direction.

    Do you quit because the going gets tough, do you crumble under pressure, do you run in the opposite direction? How do you implement it when you feel choked up, unable to find your voice, are backed into a corner, confused, angry, alienated, misunderstood or alone? Here are some suggestions that just may help get you moving forward instead of backward or stagnating in one spot. To be happy, rest like a giant tree in the midst of them all. Granted, we know that strength is important, and we hopefully have that in common with a giant tree. But strength can be acquired through determination, practice and the earnest encouragement of others.

    We also know that the buffeting winds of loss and pain, of success and celebrity, of riches and poverty are unpredictable and quixotic. What may strike us leaves the next person untouched. If you want to trust another person, you have to be ready and willing to do so.

    Consider that no one knows everything about another person. You could get burned, as in getting cut off by that driver. But likely not. Trust is also a two-way street here, pun intended. Otherwise, chaos would ensue on the roads and highways. What about in interpersonal interactions, such as meeting someone for the first time, striking up a conversation, finding you have some things in common, and taking the preliminary steps toward friendship? How does trust work in this situation? The foundation of any lasting relationship is trust.

    Trusting another means you open yourself up to some extent. In most cases, your trust turns out to be valid. If it goes the other way, your choices are to put some distance between you and the untrustworthy person, confront that individual, or accept that what that person says and does is not going to be worthy of your trust. Put succinctly, you trust and remain aware.

    This is a little like the glass half-empty versus the glass half-full. You can be willing to trust others, believing that most people are honorable and decent, or see others as deceitful, manipulative and dishonest. Which would you rather be, the one who is positive about humanity or negative? Thinking makes progress from one place to another; worry remains static. Of all the negative things you have to deal with in life, worry is one of the least productive.

    We feel inundated and overwhelmed when confronted with a difficult problem or hurdle. We know that we need to arrive at a solution or a workable approach, but we feel anxious, ill-prepared, fearful of failure and unsure of our ability to do the right thing. Mentally going over images of bill collection notices, having the utilities shut off, not being able to afford gas for the car is a waste of time. These are your best attributes, the items on your resume you should highlight. You have a better likelihood of making progress when you initiate action than if you stay where you are mired in worry.

    No, when you think of your best or closest friend, it's more likely to be someone with whom you share values, dreams, lifestyle pursuits, common goals and more. It may take years to develop a really good friendship, or it could happen relatively quickly. If you want to have a really good friend, you have to be willing to be a good friend, with all that entails. When you are ready and willing to be that person, all you need is a couple of really good friends in your life.

    Everyone else is either an acquaintance, a neighbor, co-worker, or something else. The more you hear about change, how change is constant, that you should embrace it, that it inevitably produces something other than the status quo, the more you might feel like running away. If it felt good to just barge into the unknown, there might be a lot more accidents or missteps.

    You need good judgement, a solid plan, and a careful weighing of strengths and capabilities before you venture forth. Amy, the public relations manager for a small company, was tasked with creating a PR campaign for a new product the company was about to launch. The advertising was all set. Nervous, knowing her stature in the company was on the line, Amy was a little reluctant to offer some stretch recommendations for getting additional free exposure.

    She knew from past experience with her previous company that you need to take measured risks in order to achieve results. She put together her presentation and delivered it to the company president. At first, his reaction was inscrutable. Amy thought her proposal was dead. Amy left the materials with him and went back to her office. Granted, she had taken a risk, going beyond her comfort zone — and, likely that of the company president — but she presented her plan with confidence and authority.

    The outcome of this scenario was positive. The company president approved the PR plan, Amy put it into effect, and the resulting free publicity helped boost awareness and recognition in concert with the advertising campaign. The situation was uncomfortable at the beginning — for Amy and the company president.

    But pushing past that stage with a solid plan meant driving change. Another scenario involves a young married couple with a new baby. The wife feels overwhelmed caring for the infant and misses the personal attention she used to have exclusively with her husband. For his part, the husband feels a little left out of the equation, with his wife spending so much time with the baby — whom he loves dearly.

    Definitely an uncomfortable situation. Both husband and wife have issues and concerns. They decide to talk openly about them, feeling their way through the awkwardness by discussing their emotions calmly, respectfully and with love. They reach a compromise where each feels their concerns were attended to and they emerge with a stronger bond and enter a new stage of their lives: parents. As for how you move past feeling uncomfortable in order to drive change, here are a few suggestions:. As someone who loves small treats, this quote really resonates with me. For me, nothing is too small to count.

    It took years of experience, learning from mistakes, close brushes with tragedy and death for me to appreciate the little things — which add up to the big things, as in life itself. What constitutes a small treat to you? To qualify, it has to have some meaning. Does it make you smile or laugh? Do you treasure the relationship or bond and the expression of your caring or love? Looked at in this way, treats can encompass just about anything. Perhaps the bigger issue is your willingness to allow yourself treats in the first place.

    Life presents each of us with myriad challenges. Are you looking to find meaning and joy in your life but find daily distractions get in the way? Whether you learn and grow from experiences or stagnate and continue to make the same mistakes is entirely up to you.

    Somewhere in the process is a vital step: connecting to what matters. Where is the well-being and internal peace here? Is it lost for the moment? How can you recapture it and weather the distraction, annoyance, problem or issue? Remind yourself that this latest disruption, as with most things, is temporary. You can get through this by concentrating on doing the best you can in the moment.

    First, know what matters. Keep this foremost in your mind at all times. Refer to it as necessary. The beauty of connecting to what matters is that this is an ongoing learning experience that builds and sustains well-being and internal peace. There is no downside to this process.

    You can be beat up by failure and become stuck where you are or pick apart the failure and learn the lessons it holds.

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    First, you have to get past the sting of failure. And it most certainly does hurt.

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    No one enjoys failing, not the first time or the th time. Only time will do that. When the smarting begins to subside a bit, the next step to getting past a misstep a nicer word for failure is to figure out where you went wrong. This is a critical step, one that too many people avoid or rush through without careful analysis.

    Why put yourself through analyzing your failure? If you want to avoid repeating the same mistake, you have to learn the lessons failure has for you. After you failed, the last thing you want to do is go back through your steps to find where the plan faltered. But you do need to work on something. Most of us have gears we never use. Do you know what you are capable of?

    Have you tapped into that rich load of potential lately? Are you like the bicycle, stuck in only one gear? In order to take action, you have to figure out a plan, marshal your resources, and push beyond your current comfort zone.

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    Yes, it will sometimes be challenging. But you will learn more about who you are and what your strengths are in the process. That alone should come as a revelation. It should also motivate you to step it up a bit and go for another gear. Heading downhill, upshift to a higher gear. On a flat surface, you may be able to glide. But, suppose you challenge yourself to add exercise to your schedule?

    For another, you learn that the exercise helps you become healthier, more filled with energy and motivated to tackle the other things on your agenda. Furthermore, a side benefit is that you think clearer, have more ideas, and get to engage in social interaction. All this contributes to a deft mining of your potential. What do you hear? Is it a faint hum of white noise, the sound of computer keys tapping, the overhead whine of a helicopter, kids playing outside, someone arguing downstairs, the yard service mowing your lawn? Or, is it silence?

    If you think otherwise, just do this exercise where you are right now. On the other hand, you can do something to entertain solitude, to prize the sweetness of silence and find yourself some moments of private time. You have to want this, however. Furthermore, you have to put yourself in the mindset to receive solitude, silence and privacy. Many find this through meditation. The truth is that we are surrounded by too much noise. I call it noise pollution. Much of it is repetitious, distracting, even painful to hear. Research has found that noise is associated with sleep disturbance, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive impairment.

    Just being together is a joy. No words need be said. It sounds crazy, but can it be true? Can you really get what you want simply by letting go of the want? We are, by nature, filled with wants. We want to be rich, famous, to snag that promotion, win the affections of a certain other, have our kids respect us, move to a bigger house, have a nicer car, and so on. We want to lose 10 or 20 pounds, get our nose straightened, have a clearer complexion, do something different with our hair or wardrobe.

    We want to have more friends, to tell a joke effectively, to be the go-to person for advice, to be considered the wisest, smartest, most admired person in the room. Take the example of Thomas Edison. He definitely wanted to invent a number of devices — and did. Before he was successful, however, he experienced countless failures. Look at it from this perspective. He was motivated by his desire to create, to invent, to find solutions to problems and offer new ideas others would find useful. He lived in the moment, fueled by his insatiable curiosity, propelled by his genius.

    He enjoyed what he was doing while he was actively involved in it. But we do have relationships. We have experienced the heartache and pain of wanting someone we care about to reciprocate. If we backed off, took a more laid-back approach, and stopped wanting love so desperately, we may have been surprised by the result. We got what we wanted when we stopped wanting it. It may not have been with that person, but it happened with someone else.

    The outcome is the same. This approach is certainly worth considering the next time we think of something we truly want. If the old saying is true that opportunity knocks, the question is, do you recognize opportunity when it presents itself? Furthermore, are you ready and willing to do something about it when it does? Frankly, many a person can relate examples of times when a good thing came along and they failed to take advantage of it. Sometimes that was due to laziness or inattention, being too involved in other duties or projects.

    More often than not, however, a certain complacency had set in which prevented the person from being able to know opportunity was available. On the other hand, take a look at what happens when you do see and recognize an opportunity. You want to know more about it to gauge whether or not this is something worth your time. Second, after a cursory review of the available facts further ignites your interest, you start to get motivated. You begin to envision what and where this opportunity may take you.

    This spurs you on to the next step, which is taking action. It does, however, mean that you make a conscious decision to do something, to act upon the opportunity and turn it to your advantage. You could, for example, conduct research, line up allies or ask for assistance to complete the project or task, knowing that it requires a coordinated effort. This is still taking action, still seizing the opportunity.

    This is also taking action and seizing the opportunity. Without opportunity, what kind of a future will you have? With opportunity, imagine the possibilities. You can dream and see yourself succeeding in this endeavor, project, activity or pursuit. It may even motivate you more. When you can see your future as affected by this opportunity and the actions you take, it makes life that much more worth living.

    You have a purpose and direction. You know what you want — or at least what you want now. The outcome may lead you to discover yet more exciting new opportunities that you can seize to make your life richer, more fulfilled and productive. Other people may imitate it. Where in all this is the magic that allows you to actually do something that you could classify as wonderful? The truth is that each of us possesses this ability, but few of us recognize we have it or use it to its fullest. How can you get started?

    The most important part of doing something wonderful is to do what gets you jazzed and excited. Call it the contagion effect. It really does work. But they do see it. It does have an impact. They will remember what you did and how it seemed to lift you up. They just might try to imitate this sense of well-being later on. As an added benefit, when you pursue what truly motivates and inspires you, the horizon keeps moving forward to allow you to glimpse even more exciting possibilities.

    In fact, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said it best when he advocated building on the new. While everyone wants to succeed, some are unwilling to let go of reminders of past failures or get past current less-than-stellar outcomes of tasks or projects initiated. Instead, many get bogged down trying to rewrite the past. Why do we resist building on the new? Why do we cling to the past, trying to rationalize, deny or minimize what went wrong or our part in it?

    One word applies here: familiarity. We know the past all too well. Living in harmony is a pleasant thought. Yet is it really that difficult? Can you teach or train yourself to feel a sense of stasis or harmony?

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    4. It might actually be easier than you think. But first, you need to let go of some preconceived notions. You are going to project and make happen what you most convincingly believe. On the other hand, if you envision a more positive future, the actions you take will be motivated by this hopeful outlook. Rectify what you did, if at all possible, and then move on. The only sensible course of action is to change your behavior, having learned a painful lesson, and try to do better.

      What if your life is a lot of making amends? You might find inspiration and peace in prayer or meditation, for there is none among us who is free from fault, grievous or minor. While you are making amends and changing your behavior to be more positive, selfless and healthy, also allow yourself some small moments of pleasure, savoring how good it is to be alive and have the opportunity to live life on your own terms. Dissonance creates conflict and that robs you of harmony.

      Strive to have accord in your thoughts, actions and words. Do what you say and say what you do. Eliminate negative thoughts by acknowledging their presence and allowing them to dissipate. Look for the positive in all situations and in all people, for it is there. When thoughts, words and actions flow from the same source, they and you are in harmony.

      And harmony leads to happiness. Life has a way of delivering the unexpected — often at the most seemingly tranquil times. A perfect example of this is the unfortunate — but, thankfully, not permanently serious — accident suffered by Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder. The activity was part of his training for the upcoming Virgin Stride Challenge. Fortunately, he managed to escape death and suffered a cracked cheek and cuts and bruises to his knee, chin, shoulder and body. While I know we all wish Sir Richard a speedy recovery, what this incident points out is just how much life can be changed by the unexpected.

      It magnifies the importance of living life well, never taking anything for granted, doing the best we can at all times and maintaining hope despite any and all mishaps, slips, failures or lost opportunities. There is no guarantee of anything in life except one: It will one day end.

      Like the flowers in the field, the birds and animals and all living things, there is a time to live and a time to die. We can live life to the fullest, maximizing our enjoyment of its riches, helping others to realize their potential, working to achieve our own dreams and being grateful for each day we have on this earth. Live life with purpose. Live it vibrantly and with passion. Strive to do good in the world, to see the best in others and to find the best in ourselves.

      But work, far from being the boring and dreaded task many regard it as, can be the best part of your day — or, one of the best ones. Going home to your loved ones, engaging in pastimes and pursuits you really enjoy qualify also. Career is a better one. When you embark on a career, you come with a sense of enthusiasm and motivation.

      What others view as challenges; you see as opportunities. When disappointments occur, you figure out ways to overcome them or find new avenues to pursue. Take the field of medicine and the career of an orthopedic surgeon. Granted, this is a small percent of the population, but the analogy works. The doctor has put in many years of study, residency and practice to get to this point. He or she is able to use talents and skills to make the lives of those suffering better. Beyond repairing herniated discs and spinal stenosis, to name just two diagnoses, the surgeon mends lives, gives hope and mobility to patients who may have lost both.

      The latter, by the way, is generally considered the least interesting part of any job. See everything you do as a steppingstone to the career you desire. Network, pursue further education in the field, find ways to advance your career incrementally. Regard each small success as bright green blades of grass beginning to fill in the field.

      We are, it seems, a nation of searchers, always looking for something else, something better, something to make us more than we think we are. The truth is that each of us already has what we need. We can see, taste, touch, smell and hear. We do more than just survive. We thrive. We have everything we need to live — and then some. Inherent abilities — some that we know about, others we have yet to discover — characterize our uniqueness.

      While we may not have tested our capabilities, we can and do rise to the occasion when necessity or opportunities arise. Of course we do. Everyone does. We might, indeed, wander from room to room in search of that thing we know we had somewhere but misplaced. Before going off on a tangent, spinning needlessly and getting nowhere, consider your strengths, abilities, history of successes. This determination, ingenuity, resourcefulness and intelligence comes from within.

      Keep mindful of their existence and make full use of them, for they will always serve you well. Plunged into the darkness of failure, despair and pain is not a place anyone wants to be. Yet many of us find ourselves wandering through a labyrinth of shadows at one time or another. Life, however, offers infinite opportunities to elevate ourselves, to inch up and out step by step and scale difficulties we never thought possible.

      Sometimes the depths constitute being labeled or considered a failure, or when nothing attempted ever seems to result in success, when tragedy strikes, when a sense of helplessness and hopelessness sets in and is cemented by resignation. It feels like it lasts forever. There is a way out of the pit. The stars you aspire to reach are figuratively within the realm of possibility.

      For some in perhaps a distant future, that could be literally true. For now, if despair and depression are a constant burden, seek professional help to overcome these negative and life-sapping emotions.