Wednesday, April 23, 2008
"Happy face, Comrade! Happy face!"
If you're coming to the RKC this weekend in St. Paul, be prepared to hear Pavel (and a few of the rest of us) speak those words to you. But before you blow it off as some glib comment, you'd better know what the hell's behind it.
It's VERY easy to get caught in a negative spiral. You name the situation, and the spiral exists. Whether it's "poor spending habits" leading to "the inability to save money" leading to "debt" leading to God knows what else, OR it's a "bad relationship" leading to "drinking & drugs" leading to "violence" leading to "incarceration", there are all kinds of ways that lead down the road of ruin.
"He talks, but he's never been through anything really challenging himself."
There've been a few times in my life that I dealt with less-than-ideal situations in a less-than-ideal manner. Here's just one snapshot... At one point, I was putting away a full bottle of Bacardi Silver and smoking 1.5 packs of Camels or Marlboro Reds a night! I was in the process of ending a very bad relationship and had a temper that's far worse than anything I've exhibited in the last decade. If there was a fight to pick, I picked it. If there was a drink to down, I'd slam it. If there was a bad-boy behavior, I'd either revel in it or try it out.
Dark, brooding, angry, depressed... call it whatever you want, but the bottom lines looked like this:
- Bad grades, on the verge of failing my way out of UCLA
- Horrible relationships, although plenty of pretty girls
- No steady income stream
- In danger of incarceration almost any given night for fighting
- Constant bad mood and generally dark outlook on life
- And less-than-healthy habits, although I was training like a maddog back in those days.
Sometimes I wonder how I made it out of that period of my life without ever doing hard drugs or ending up dead.
What made all that change?
A simple decision... Instead of going with the "life sucks" crowd and just "living in the moment" as I had been doing, I started trying to live life forcefully in the direction of what my highest ideals were.
It's not like I made a total 180 right there on the spot. Not even bloody close. It's been a slow turnaround, and it's still in progress. But that turnaround begins and gains momentum each time you have a choice to do something that is not in keeping with your highest ideals and you consciously accept responsibility for your actions, for your words, for the look on your face and act in accordance with your ideals.
You train yourself to live life with greater integrity. Then you prune your network and surround yourself with those who will truly bolster you towards those goals you set. You create a support system with social synergy - like-minded individuals pushing themselves and each other for a goal. That network reinforces your mindset and makes it easier and more rewarding each time you make decisions and act in a positive manner.
So the next time you reach for the six-pack, the ice cream tub, the rolled-up dollar bill, or the next time you make a snide remark, mumble away some complaint, flip someone off on the freeway, pass gas in a co-worker's cubicle, or do anything less than what is really positive, ask yourself "What benefit did I create for myself or anyone else by doing that?"
If you can't give a sincere answer where there is true benefit, then choose otherwise. Life is about choices. Failure is about allowing ourselves to make excuses. Success is about choosing responsibly.
So at those moments when life gets hard, relax your face, focus your mind, engage your body, and kick some arse!