success principles

We Have Met The Enemy and He is Us!

pogo quoteWe Have Met The Enemy, and He Is Us! “If you’re going to be successful, you have to have thick skin! You know, that ability to withstand criticism and hurtful comments about who you are and what you do.”

That statement is from a blog I recently wrote called “Grow thick, armor-plated skin.” And I discussed ways to deal with the barbs, criticisms and judgments directed toward us from others.

However, I realized there’s another, perhaps even more important, truth related to growing thick, armor-plated skin. We need to protect us from us! Or, as the cartoon strip “Pogo” declared in 1970: “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us.”

We can be our own worst critics, thinking and often saying things like:

  • “I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, fit enough, talented enough, etc. Basically, “I’m not good enough.”
  • “It’s not going to happen for me, no use in trying.”

Examples of this type of thinking go all the way back to Biblical times. Moses was chosen by God for a special task—to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. And one of his first tasks was to confront Pharaoh. But Moses said, “since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?....O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  Basically, he was saying: “God I can’t do that. I don’t have what it takes.”

But Moses had a job to do and God wasn’t going to let him talk himself out of his assignment – he needed to speak up and lead the Israelites to the Promised Land!

We, like Moses, have something to do here on earth, a purpose for our lives. And we must not let those inner voices, fears or doubts stop us!

Lisa, a young lady in one of our counseling training classes, declared she was very shy and privately let me know that she could not speak up in class. She kept saying she had stage fright, she wasn’t good with people, etc. (She probably identified with Moses!) While I respected her wishes and did not call on her, it was interesting to see what began to happen. She came to every class, sat quietly and absorbed every word.

Gradually you could see her becoming more comfortable and then one day it happened! She raised her hand and made a comment!

From that day forward, she began to come out of her shell like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. She responded to the class challenge to “step out of your comfort zone” and today, she is teaching in a foreign country, a confident, well-spoken ambassador for God and the US. She has developed thick, armor-plated skin for herself!

Let me share some of the principles Lisa learned in class:

  • Stop Comparing Yourself With Others

Albert Einstein stated: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Steve Furtick, Christian author, puts it this way: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

When you compare yourself with others, you are indeed acting as your own worst enemy.

Instead, celebrate you and your unique assets, abilities, strengths and gifts. Write down five of them right now to get started! You can also study what God says about you in the Bible. I have a list of 38 scriptures declaring who you are. If you’d like a copy, send me a note.

  • Think and speak differently

Here are three declarations I make each morning:

“This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

“I feel happy; I feel healthy; I feel terrific!”

“Every day in every way I’m getting better and better!”

  • Declare your progress, not your limitations

“When I read or hear something new that will help me, I write it down and practice it as soon as I can.”

“I’m developing networks in my field.”

“Maybe it didn’t work this time, but I’m going to keep trying.”

“God, I’m going to do the best job I can do, then leave the rest to you.”

When you (1) stop comparing yourself with others, (2) think and speak differently and (3) declare your progress, not your limitations, you will certainly develop thick, armor-plated skin for yourself.  As you do, it will change how you deal with adversity, set-backs and discouragement.  Instead of being “your own worst enemy” and feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless, you start becoming “your own best cheerleader!”

            Decide today that even if long ago someone made you feel “not good enough,” you are determined to meet the enemy and defeat him.  If Moses and Lisa can do it, so can you!!

Turn The Ship Around! Part II - Invest In Yourself

ship in storm“Turn The Ship Around”

If you looked in the dictionary under “angry man,” you would likely see a picture of the man in my office who sat across from me. His body was uptight, he wore an intense frown and with clipped words began to list all the reasons he was entitled to be angry.   “I have never been appreciated,” he announced. “I’m the one who’s always being blamed for things not my fault.” As he continued to catalog all the wrongs in his life, it was clear this man believes the world is against him and to say he has a negative mind-set is an understatement!

As he told his story of a troubled childhood, failed relationships and difficulties keeping a job, I could quickly see the impact of all that negativity on his life! As a counselor, I knew he needed to feel a little bit of hope! Therefore, before we started probing into the reasons for all that anger, I acknowledged he must feel like he’s all alone on a ship in the middle of a storm. However, I went on, “Even in the midst of a storm, you can turn the ship around!”

He quickly and loudly declared he wasn’t just in a storm; he was in the middle of a tsunami! And, he wasn’t so sure about his being able to turn anything around. He, like so many people, felt certain his circumstances needed to change; that others should treat him differently, etc. That belief, of course, left him feeling helpless and out of control. No wonder he was so angry!

I then shared some good news with him:

Many years ago, the philosopher James Allen penned these words: “Order your thoughts and you will order your life. Pour the oil of tranquility upon the turbulent waters of the passions and prejudices, and the tempests of misfortune will be powerless to wreck the ship of your soul.” In other words, this man’s life can be transformed by the renewing of his mind - Romans 12.

“Angry man” will surely benefit as well from the teaching found in Philippians 4:8: “…think on things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report. If there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”

I was also able to inform him that medical science is now offering proof of these Biblical truths. Indeed, as Proverbs declares: “As a man thinketh, so is he.” As we think, we change the physical nature of our brain. Dr. Caroline Leaf talks about this process: “As you think, you choose and you cause genetic expression to happen in your brain. This means you make proteins, and these proteins form your thoughts. Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate.”

Because I know the importance of these scriptural and medical truths, I asked him to think of two or three things he might be grateful for, even now.  As you might imagine, however, he struggled to come up with even one! His thoughts had for so long been ones of depression and disappointment, it was clear that changing their direction would be like turning a big ship around in the middle of the ocean!

While most people won’t likely sink to the level of despair as “angry man,” it is the rare person indeed who hasn’t struggled to follow the scriptural principle to renew your mind and think on things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report….If there is anything praiseworthy, think on these things.

Have you ever thought of turning off the TV as an empowering action for your mind? A way to “renew your mind?” In this age of constant broadcasts as close as your phone, rest assured you will most often hear what’s wrong with the world. It’s difficult to trust God for your healing when you’re regularly instructed to buy the latest pharmaceutical miracle medication because otherwise you will surely be struck with some horrific disease! There is certainly a place for modern medicine and medication, thank God! I’m just saying we can set ourselves up for all sorts of problems when we primarily hear about all the brokenness in the world and we neglect the renewing of our minds.  

When, however, we regularly invest in our minds, there are wonderful benefits! One excellent way to renew your mind is to practice gratitude. Psalms 118:24 instructs us to declare: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Interestingly, as soon as you start to feel grateful for what you already have, more good things will come your way. That’s because our mindset begins to change. As we practice gratefulness, we train our brains to move in positive directions. And good things are found in positive directions!

Similar to the advantages experienced by breathing deeply for your body’s benefit, let’s look at the medical benefits of gratitude for your mind’s benefit.

  • Being grateful 15 minutes a day raises antibodies.
  • Grateful people are less vulnerable to clinical depression
  • Expressing appreciation instead of anger, frustration or worry improves blood and heart rate.

One woman expressed those benefits this way: “I began to put into practice the

idea of saying that this would be a good day the minute I woke up. And I can positively say that I have not had a bad or upsetting day since then. The amazing thing is that my days actually haven’t been any smoother or anymore free from petty annoyances than they were, but they just don’t seem to have the power to upset me anymore. Then every night I list all the things for which I am grateful, little things that happened during the day which added to my happiness. I know that this habit has geared my mind to pick out the nice things and forget the unpleasant ones. The fact that for six weeks I’ve not had a single bad day is really marvelous to me!”

I think she learned to turn the ship around! You can too! I challenge you to declare in the morning, “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Then, at the end of the day, think of at least three good things that happened that day. You will start to feel the difference, see the difference and you will find your mind on a different course – you’ve turned the ship around!

The hurricane principle

pizza quote

Psychological principle:   What you focus on gets bigger.

(or how I like to think of it -- the Hurricane Principle)

This principle can work for you or against you. You keep worrying, fretting, obsessing on why you're not yet successful or what's wrong in your life and, per this principle, those thoughts keep swirling in your mind, getting bigger and bigger until the fear of failure becomes the fact of your reality!

Conversely, when you begin to pay attention to, recognize and praise small steps of achievement, like a hurricane gaining momentum, you too can become who you want to become!