The Price Tags of Life

PriceTags of Life

Price tags

Everything in this life has a price tag. It’s up to you to read it correctly and decide whether you want to invest in it or not. You are the one who does the buying and selling. There are no special bargains or half-off sales. You reap all the profit or loss. Nature never fails. It always has and always will reward you for your right choices and punish you for your wrong choices.

What I’m talking about are The Price Tags of Life. What this means is that everything we do, every habit that we have, every action we perform, has a price tag attached to it. If you think about it and examine your actions and habits closely you will discover what their price tags are. We need to examine the price tags of life and see what it really costs us to do the things that we do. After we count what it costs and add up what we gain and then strike a balance, we can see if we are coming out ahead or not.

Smoking Example

There are many different examples. Let’s look at smoking. Let’s suppose you smoke. To determine whether you should or shouldn’t you need to determine what it is costing you. You take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle from top to bottom. In the left column write down all the benefits that you gain by performing this habit. Then in the right column write down what doing this habit is costing you.

You could do this with any number of habits or behaviors. One would be getting up every day and running. One could be the improper use of drugs such as painkillers. It could be an addiction to pornography. You can take any of these things and examine them closely and write the benefits and the costs and strike a balance. It helps you see clearly the price you are paying for that particular action or habit. Then you can determine whether or not it’s worth it. Some may be obvious but it’s still good to look at it because we may not realize what it’s actually costing us.

Drug Abuse Example

For example, let’s suppose you were a person who uses painkillers improperly. So you would write on the left-hand side of the page the benefits of using the painkillers. The benefits may be that whenever you use painkillers it gives you a sense of wellbeing. It just makes you feel good all over. You feel calm inside. It takes away the pain, not only physically but emotionally. That’s what a painkiller does – it removes pain. Other benefits perhaps are when you don’t feel good or are tired or don’t feel like doing something you could take a painkiller and after a while you feel pretty good. I can’t think of any other benefits of taking painkillers but if there were more you could list them.

Now on the right side of the page you start writing down what it cost to use painkillers. First of all you jeopardize your health, knowing that the painkillers are not good for your body. They’re not good for your heart. Every time you indulge in this habit it is damaging your body. Of course there are the actual costs. Somehow or another you are either buying these painkillers or are obtaining them in some other illegal way. So you have the actual costs in money. Another cost would be the risk that you take because what you’re doing is illegal. So you’re taking a legal risk every time that you take these painkillers. Another cost is that it impairs your judgment. When you think you are thinking clearly and you think you are acting rationally you may not be because the painkillers are affecting your mental state. They are impairing your ability to reason. Another cost is that you’re putting yourself in danger when you drive a car or operate any equipment because your reaction time is impaired. Another cost is that after a while you need more of the painkillers to get the same effect. So you need something more or harder to get the same effect. It becomes an addiction and you need to increase the dosage. Another cost is that usually this kind of a habit is done in secret. Your children, your spouse and the other people around you don’t know because you go to great lengths to hide it and conceal it from them and you always have the worry of being found out. This costs you two things: one is the constant worry of being found out and two is the real cost of being found out and losing the trust and respect of those who are close to you – your loved ones, your children, your spouse, your friends.

As you go through this and add up the benefits and add up the costs and then strike a balance you can see if what you’re doing is really worth what it’s costing you. You may want to put a value or weight on each of the costs and benefits such as a scale from one to ten. Some costs may be small and some may be great. Same with the benefits, some are small in value and some are large. So put a value on it so you can more accurately see what your habit or behavior is costing you in relation to its benefits.

Exercise Example

You could do this same thing with exercising each day. The benefits would be increased health, more energy and stamina, living longer and so on. The costs would be that you have to get up early in the morning. It requires effort. It’s not enjoyable. It takes time. You list the costs and benefits and determine if it’s worth it.

Relationship Example

Another example would be a relationship that you’re in and what it’s costing you. I’ve worked with people who are in relationships that are very damaging to them, to their whole wellbeing, to their future, and yet they stay in that relationship. They give reasons like, “he’s such a good friend, he’s always there for me, he’s so understanding.” Yet this supposed good friend, this understanding friend, is using them and taking advantage of them and in some ways abusing them and yet they don’t see it. They see the small benefit they gain and yet they fail to see what it’s really costing them such as their future opportunities in life or their future happiness.

Pornography Example

Another example is when I work with individuals who have a problem with pornography. On the left side of the paper you list the benefits such as the ecstasy, the pleasure, the release of stress they get when they view pornography. Then you start adding up the costs on the right side such as the warping their sense of what a true, loving relationship should be. They risk their job. They risk going to jail if they are into child pornography. They risk losing the love and respect of their spouse, their children, their community or their church. They risk losing the things they hold dear as far as the spiritual aspects of their life such as their relationship with God, knowing that they are offending God and distancing themselves from Him. They risk affecting their ability to commune with their creator by indulging in these things that are clearly offensive to God. Other prices they pay are stealing time from work if they indulge at work. There is the cost of simply wasting hours and hours of time looking at pornography and wasting what you cold have accomplished with that time. Those are the prices you are pay.

Review the Price Tags Every Day

Once you have done this little exercise then read these two lists every night. Don’t just read it over but review and think about each item on the list. See what it’s costing you and determine in your mind if it’s worth it. Do this on a daily basis. I am aware of people who have done this and within three weeks have made startling changes. They experienced no more desire to indulge in their habit. By bringing to their mind every day what it was costing them they were able to make that mental adjustment. They gradually gained self-mastery over their habit.

So my message today is to examine your life and look at the things that you may be struggling with and examine the price tags attached to them. Count the costs and determine if the benefits are really worth it. You may be surprised what you find out. Resolutions seldom work. Promises to never do it again are rarely kept. But reading The Price Tags of Life can help you gain intelligent self –mastery and thus change the course of your life.

Thank you.

Master Yourself, Master Your Life

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson

Self-Pity – The ‘Luxury’ You Can’t Afford

Self-PerceptionTragedy and misfortune strike people every day. We open the newspaper and read about terrible things that happen to others. We ourselves are not immune to having bad things happen in our lives. As bad as these things are, there is something even worse than the tragedy itself. It is self-pity.

You can see how this can happen. People get immersed in a horrible experience and their energy is sapped and their defenses are down and it becomes easy to fall into the trap of self-pity. They begin to dwell on their hurts and hardships, whether real or imagined, and begin to enjoy talking about them and sharing them with others.

Self-Pity a Luxury?

Why do I call it a luxury? The dictionary tells us that a luxury is something we indulge in, is something we enjoy, is costly and is not necessary. Self-pity fits that description perfectly.

Wallowing in self-pity, like all habits, is hard to overcome once we become accustomed to it. We become comfortable with it and find that it’s hard to do without. We look for others to commiserate and sympathize with. But self-pity is unproductive. It causes us to be bitter and unforgiving and resentful. Self-pity doesn’t bring people together – it divides them. When you throw a pity party, you are the only invited guest.

Self-Pity and Self-Image

Self-pity allows us to feel that we are victims. It’s how we begin to define ourselves. It creates a distorted feeling of security. It gives us an excuse for not trying. It creates in us a “What’s-the-use attitude.” It’s been said that the nice thing about self-pity is that if you can’t get others to feel sorry for you, you can still feel sorry for yourself.

Self-Pity and Self-Destruction

I’ve known people who have been in horrible marriages. Maybe their spouse had a problem with drugs or gambling or is an alcoholic. They have experienced untold suffering. We know they have because of their constant complaining to others. They are continually looking for a shoulder to cry on. Their life seems to always be full of drama.

Strange as it may seem, when that person finally ends the relationship they are unhappy. They have nothing to complain about anymore. No one feels sorry for them anymore. They don’t get the attention they once had. They no longer have a crutch to lean on and are expected to live a normal life just like everybody else. This is a real blow.

Invariably the injured person goes out and marries someone as bad or worse than their first spouse. They find another drug-addict, wife-beater, alcoholic or gambler to marry so they can indulge in self-pity again.

It’s natural for us at times to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve all done it before and in reality it can help ease the pain of our trials. But when it turns into who we are and we continue to dwell on it and convince ourselves that we are victims and are in the hands of some uncontrollable fate, then it becomes detrimental to our well being.

If we permit ourselves to dwell upon our past hurts and injuries we are more likely to use them to justify our yielding to other destructive habits such as over-eating or drinking. We seem to think, “You would do the same if it happened to you.”

Self-Pity is for Losers

This may sound harsh but there are some who are losers because they want to be losers. They may not even be aware of it yet it is true. If things start to go well for them they get worried and concerned. They feel it can’t last. They then begin to self-sabotage their success. Why? Because they have become so used to feeling a certain way that the new feelings are uncomfortable to them. Since they have concluded that a loser is who they are then success is out of harmony with their self-image. They can’t stand that feeling.

It reminds me of a time when I needed to stop over at my church to pick up some papers. I was in my grubby work-in-the-yard clothes. I just needed to run in, grab what I needed, and leave. As I entered the church I realized there was another event taking place and everyone there was dressed in their Sunday best. I felt so out of place. I felt so uncomfortable. I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could and get back into the dirty and grimy environment of my yard work. I think that is why some people feel so uncomfortable when things start to go good in their lives. It is not compatible with the concept they have of themselves.

Overcoming Self-Pity

The solution is to realize that your unhappiness is caused by your self-centeredness. When you are continually focused on yourself it comes at the price of excluding all others. This self-absorption is like a fence around you that keeps out those who could lend you a hand. You have to take the focus off yourself and begin to see that there are those around you who also have trials and struggles in their lives and you can be someone they can lean on. And as you open up and reach out to help others, they in turn can help you.

Another way out of self-pity is through forgiveness – meaning your forgiveness of others. As you begin to forgive others of the perceived hurts and wrongs they have committed towards you, you can begin to heal and let go of the pain and self-pity. Is this easy? Not by a long shot. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

Helen Keller said,

Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything good in the world.

Let us rise above self-pity and use our efforts and energies for more fulfilling and positive endeavors. Thank you.

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson

13 Life Lessons from Running My First Marathon

The Finish LineI have run thirteen marathons so far in my life and each was an amazing experience in itself. However, none of the marathons I have run compares with the experience of running my first one. It was one of those events in life you never forget. I would like to share with you that experience and the life lessons I learned from it.

Many years ago I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish sometime in my life. On my list were things like traveling around the world, getting a pilot’s license, running a marathon, and visiting the pyramids of Egypt. I put the list away and promptly forgot about it.

A few years ago my wife found my list and was surprised to know that I had a desire to run a marathon. She stole my goal, trained for it and ran a marathon. I was totally amazed that she actually did it. In fact, I was so impressed I said to myself, if she can do it, so can I. And I did.

Running a marathon is no small thing. A marathon is 26.2 miles long or about 44,500 steps. To get a grasp of how far that distance really is, I suggest the next time you take a drive in your car to set your trip meter. Watch the miles tick off and when you get to 26.2 miles think about running that distance. Again, it is no small task.

Running a marathon is a unique experience. It is the only sports competition that I am aware of where the greenest beginner can rub shoulders with and compete with the elite athletes of the world. You don’t find that in football, or basketball, or golf or any other sport. But in a marathon, I was running with the Kenyans!

To train properly for a marathon you must begin nearly a year in advance. When I began my training I couldn’t run two miles. But week after week, month after month, with the training and guidance from my sweet wife, we gradually built up our miles. This means running 2 or 3 miles a day for four days a week, resting on Fridays and then running a longer run on Saturday mornings.

The Saturday morning training runs get longer and longer. Our final Saturday training run before the marathon was 24 miles long. On that training run we started at 5:00 a.m. It was pitch dark. On just that run we encountered many deer, a fox, a skunk, a mother raccoon and her babies, 2 owls, a rabbit and a snake. So after many such training runs totaling over 800 miles and wearing out a $75 pair of running shoes, we were ready for the St. George, Utah marathon.

We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon. –Emil Zatopek

I love that quote because it is so true. Running a marathon is truly a remarkable experience. I would like to give you a small taste of what that experience was like for me. This is taken from my personal journal.

My First Marathon Experience – from my journal dated October 1, 1999

What an awesome day! Lisa and I just ran the St. George Marathon. It went great. We got up this morning at 4:00 a.m., ate breakfast and then I shaved and took a shower. We got our running gear on and went out the door at 5:00 a.m. We walked to the busses at the park. It was still very dark. We boarded our bus and rode up to the beginning of the race.

The bus ride up was long and bumpy and by the time we got to the top I really needed to use the restroom. Luckily they had tons of porta-potties and I was able to go. That was a huge relief!

When they dropped us off it was pretty cold and we were wearing our sweats. There were huge lights lighting the whole area. Thousands of people were there to run the race. They had loud motivating music playing. It was an exciting atmosphere with everyone visiting and talking about the race. It was awesome!

To keep people warm they had lit a large number of campfires and for a while Lisa and I kept warm that way. But Mother Nature was not to leave me alone and before long I needed to go again. Now the lines at the porta-potties were very long. Since this time was not “big business,” I just went off into the bushes to go. I found myself surrounded (in the dark) by many other men and women runners doing the same thing. It was pretty weird. This was something I would never in my life imagine me doing and yet there I was sharing a moment of relief with a bunch of other fellow runners.

Well, before long it was near the time for the race to start. We took off our sweats bottoms and put them in a collection bag provided to us so we could get them back later. We met up with some friends who wanted to run with us. There was so much noise that we could hardly hear the starting gun go off, but it did. Soon we were off and running. It was still dark.

The others who were going to run with us were soon lost in the sea of runners except for Marilyn. I have to admit that I was a little bugged at first that she was running with us because I felt she was horning in on Lisa’s and my run. But her constant talking and conversation turned out to be a blessing as the miles ticked by much quicker than I had anticipated they would. She was a real blessing in disguise. She was also very spunky and pushed us enough to get us to do better than we had ever done before.

It was awe-inspiring as it got lighter to see the thousands of runners along the road like a big long snake in front of us and behind us for as far as we could see.

The Run

The water stops were every two miles and at each one I usually took one cup of Gatorade and one cup of water and mixed the two and drank it. At some water stops I took bananas to eat. They were cut up into small pieces. At two of the stops I took some of that goo stuff to eat. I think it all helped.

What an incredible experience – the whole thing from start to finish. The miles ticked off one by one. Veyo hill came and went. Then the long, gradual hill. At the top of it I wasn’t doing so well. I was getting tired and queasy in the stomach. I had a strong urge to walk. Finally after what seemed like an eternity of uphill we came to long downhills. We needed that. It was great to see down into the valley where St. George was.

Along the way there were small groups of people cheering us on. There was a helicopter flying low filming us along with a ground camera crew on four-wheelers. We tried to look good for the cameras.

Marilyn told us about her previous marriage and her family and her new marriage and her job. My, could she talk! It was interesting and kept our attention off our misery and pain and helped us pass the time.

At mile marker 16 we came to the road that goes to Snow Canyon. There were many people there cheering us on and giving us high-fives. Boy did that give me a boost.

On we went mile after mile. One of my biggest worries was my lower left leg. I had had so many problems on my training runs with my calf, my knee and my foot. Luckily my prayers were answered and I had no serious problems.

Finally we rounded the bend where you could see the city. Now there were more people cheering us on. It was great! At mile 23 Marilyn took off ahead of us. Lisa and I were slowing down. We did a lot of walking those two miles. Finally we rounded the corner to the final stretch. By this time both of my knees were starting to really hurt. We really had to push ourselves now even with the finish line in sight.

We were now at the final stretch. We were in what they call the chute where the street is lined with crowds of people on both sides. They were cheering us on. It gave us both such a boost of energy and we stepped up our pace. Then we came to the bleachers and saw our four little children cheering us on. With a burst of energy we sprinted for the finish, holding hands as we crossed it. Then we kissed each other. Wow! What a great feeling to cross that finish line! How can you possibly describe it?

The Medals

As we walked on through they put the finisher medal around each of our necks. We really earned them. And our time? Well, we told ourselves long ago we would be happy with anything between 4 ½ to 5 hours. Based on our training runs I was expecting closer to 5 hours. Well, we came in at 4 hours 29 minutes and 20 seconds. Wow, even better than we had expected. Everything went so well.

13 Life Lessons from Running My First Marathon

I hope that gives you some idea of what it was like. For the full effect you’re going to have to run a marathon yourself. Now, let me share with you 13 lessons I learned from that remarkable experience.

1. Anyone can run a marathon. I used to have a picture in my mind of what a marathon runner looked like – a wafer thin gazelle-type person from Kenya. After running my first marathon that image changed dramatically. I was amazed at the variety of people running the race. I realized that size doesn’t matter. A friend I trained with was nearly twice my weight and would consume what seemed like a gallon of Gatorade at each water stop and yet he was a much faster runner than I was. Age doesn’t matter. I can’t tell you how many old ladies passed me during that first marathon. Young, old, large, small, thin, wide, you name it, they were all running a marathon. It was amazing.

2. Coming in first doesn’t matter. Finishing does. In a marathon, everyone that crosses the finish line is a winner and receives a medal. That’s good because I certainly am not a fast runner. Just making it to the end is a major accomplishment. I think life is like that. To be successful you don’t have to have the most or be the best or the fastest – just make it gracefully to the end.

3. Make it through the trial mile. My wife and I have come to learn that the first mile of each training run was always the trial mile. It was the mile you had to get through before your heart and body warmed up and got into its rhythm. Basically you feel lousy during that first mile. But if you can make it through it you always felt better during the following miles. Some people never make it through the “trial mile” of whatever endeavor they are pursuing. So hang in there, it gets better.

4. Don’t skip the training. I have run marathons where I trained well and I have run marathons where I skimped on the training. You are so much better off when you properly train. The pain and misery and injuries that occur when you attempt something you haven’t trained well for are not worth it. Do the proper training.

5. Cheering really works. We’ve all been to sporting events and yelled and cheered for our team. I never thought it helped much until I was on the receiving end during my first marathon. It was amazing how much it increased my energy and drive when people were cheering me on. We all need cheering from time to time in our lives.

6. We need friends. Good company makes any journey more pleasant.

7. Don’t stop. Sometimes we have a tremendous urge to quit, to give up, to throw in the towel. Having the ability to overcome those urges and keep going makes all the difference in life.

8. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. When I first began training for a marathon I would start off running at a quick pace. I would do well for a mile or so and then run completely out of gas. My wife had to tell me I needed to slow down and take it easy. I had to pace myself. It wasn’t easy at first but I soon learned I couldn’t spend all I had during the first mile or I would never make it through the other 25.2 miles. In many other areas of life the same rule applies. Pace yourself.

9. You need a coach. I consider myself a fairly smart person and can figure out a lot of things on my own. But in looking back at my training for my first marathon, I can’t imagine doing it without the help of my wife who had the experience of training for and running a marathon herself. It was so great to have her lead me and guide me literally every step of the way. Don’t be too proud to let others show you the way.

10. The mind game matters. As much as we like to think that success in sports simply requires having a perfectly tuned and trained body, its much more than that. It is as much a mind game as a physical game. After all the physical preparation, much of your success has to do with what goes on in your head. And let me tell you, after 25 miles of running, some weird things can go on in there. It’s a constant mental battle that must be fought to succeed.

11. We need mile markers. In life, as well as during a marathon, we need mile markers. During the St. George marathon every mile was marked by a large silver mylar balloon. You could see it coming up from quite a distance away. If you thought about the finish line, it was so far away and seemed impossible to reach. But if you thought about just making it to the next mile marker, that seemed doable. So the immediate goal was always to just make it to the next mile marker. When you passed each one you felt a sense of progress and accomplishment. Then you would set your sights on the next one. In life, we need short-term goals to help us reach our long-term goals.

12. The more you do something, the better you get at doing it. Sounds simple enough and it is. Think about the first time you did any hard thing such as playing the piano, typing at the computer, or driving a car. They were all difficult at first and yet, as time went on and you worked at it every day, it became easier, almost second nature. Just because something is hard at first doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means you haven’t done it enough yet.

13. Be inspired by others. I had set a goal years ago to run a marathon. Nothing ever happened with it until I watched my wife Lisa do it. When I watched her come across that finish line I was completely amazed and inspired and decided right then that I would do it. And I did. Having a goal was nothing. Being inspired by a great woman was everything.

To conclude let me share with you one final lesson, the biggest lesson of all:

Life is like a marathon. You get out of it what you put into it.

Thank you.

Master Yourself, Master Your Life

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson

The Big Lie: “That’s Just the Way I Am”

DestinyToday I want to explore what habits are and how they get created. Each of us have things we do in our lives that we know aren’t good for us and are holding us back. We call these habits. There can be good habits and bad habits. Bad habits for some might be smoking or drinking or overeating or anger or swearing – it could be any number of things.

You hear people say, “That’s just the way I am. I was just born that way.” My response to that is – Baloney!

Yes, you were born with certain gifts and talents. But I don’t believe that an all-wise and loving God would implant in us destructive behaviors. Those behaviors or habits were learned after we came to this earth. The package we were born with did not include those items. Most of our habits, behaviors and personality traits were learned and I believe that anything that can be learned can be unlearned or changed.

What are habits?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a “habit” is described as a “constant, often unconscious inclination to perform an act, acquired through its frequent repetition.” So basically a habit is any action we perform so often that it become almost involuntary.

A habit is just your brain’s way of accomplishing a task easier or more efficiently. Once it learns a pattern or a habit, it can then repeat that action or behavior again with much less effort. It’s like a computer program which is simply a set of instructions for the computer to perform. A habit is just a set of instructions that your brain is given to do and then it goes on its merry way and does it. You don’t have to do much about it.

How are habits created?

These habits, behaviors and personality traits you possess are just a set of neurological relationships or pathways that have been created over a period of time. It’s like a trail in the wilderness. The first time over the trail you can scarcely see anything – a few footprints, a few bent blades of grass. But as you walk that trail again and again it becomes well worn. Every time you pass that way it becomes easier. After a while you don’t even have to think about it. That’s the simple explanation of how habits are created.

Let’s explore deeper how these habits are created.

Conditioned Response – Pavlov’s Dogs

We’ve all heard the story of how Ivan Pavlov trained his dogs to salivate at the ring of a bell. Every day, just before his dogs were given their food, he would ring a bell. The dogs made the connection in their minds that when a bell rang it was time to eat. It came to the point where he did this so often that when he rang a bell the dogs would begin to salivate even when no food was presented because they anticipated food was coming. It was a conditioned response. A habit.

Throughout our lives we have created thousands of conditioned responses in our minds. That’s how we live our lives and that’s how we were designed to be. When a certain condition is met, your brain responds in a certain way. That response was programmed into your mind. You weren’t born that way. Yes, there are some things you were born with. You came with some pre-set programs. But most of our behaviors and actions that we do now in our lives have been programmed into us. When a bell rings, we salivate.

Habits are neither good nor bad

These habits can be very useful for us in many ways but can also be very destructive in other ways. Habits are neither good nor bad in the same way that fire is neither good nor bad. A warm fire can keep you alive or a fire can burn down your house. A habit can make many daily tasks automatic and free your mind of the complex details of performing them. But a habit can also have a vise grip on your mind, causing you to perform destructive behaviors repeatedly.

Learning is the creation of habits

Sometimes we think learning is when you sit in a classroom and you learn facts and figures and information. That is part of learning. However, the real learning occurs in your physiological system, deep down in your nervous system.

You can attempt to teach someone how to swing a golf club in a classroom. You can show them pictures of it. You can diagram it on the blackboard and tell them everything there is to know about swinging a golf club. Your student can know everything about swinging a golf club but they still have not learned how to swing a golf club until they take that club in their hands and swing it over and over again. Only then is it programmed into their body, their mind, their nervous system.

Then, one day when this person is on the golf course and he picks up a golf club, his brain says, “Okay, run the ‘swing-the-golf-club’ program.” It brings back into his mind, into his memory, the software that has been programmed into his mind and he runs it. Now it’s not always perfect. You don’t run it exactly the same every time – but that’s what learning is about. That’s how we acquire these habits that we do every day. It’s a way of saving your brain from having to think about every little thing.

Sandwich Bag Example

Some time ago I had a simple little program in my brain that had to do with my kitchen at home. I used to get up every morning, eat breakfast, and make my lunch. At that time I liked to bring my lunch to work. For many years the sandwich bags had been in the second drawer next to the refrigerator. They had always been there and every time I made my lunch or needed a sandwich bag I would automatically reach for that second drawer.

One day my wife decided to reorganize the kitchen. When I went to reach for the sandwich bags I opened the drawer and there were a bunch of dish towels and I had to ask her, “Where are the sandwich bags?” She directed me to the third drawer, not the second drawer. So I got the sandwich bags out of the third drawer and made my lunch.

The next day I went to make my lunch. I reached automatically, without even thinking, for the second drawer. I was running my “make-my-lunch” program and my “make-my-lunch” program told me that when it’s time to get a sandwich bag to reach for the second drawer. I reached for the second drawer and there were no sandwich bags, only dish towels. I mentally berated myself for my stupidity and opened the third drawer, got a sandwich bag and made my lunch.

The next day I opened the second drawer for a sandwich bag, and did the exact same thing. This drawer has been changed now for several years and I still find myself from time to time automatically reaching for the second drawer when I need a sandwich bag. I have to stop myself and mentally tell myself to reach for the third drawer.

So why is it so hard for me to change that behavior? Well, first of all, I created that program long ago in my mind – the “Make-My-Lunch” program. The trigger is simple. It is simply the conscious thought that I need to make my lunch. The response is to reach down to the second drawer and grab a sandwich bag – I do this without even thinking! It’s programmed in. And when you’ve done that for years and years that program becomes stronger in your brain. Unlike a computer, your brain has the ability to strengthen a program and make it more powerful each time that it’s used.

Driving Home Example

Okay, another example, and I know all of you have done this. When you drive back and forth to a certain place every day, like your job, and you do it day after day for years, what happens? Do you have to think about how to drive home? Do you have to think about the speed limit? Do you have to think about where it is that you live? No! In fact, you don’t have to think about anything. You can think about something totally different the entire way home and you pull into the driveway and you may not remember anything about your drive home.

When you got in your car, that was the trigger or condition. Your external conditions told you it was time to go home. You looked at the clock. You saw you were getting into the car. You were at work and knew that every time you do that you drive home. So your conscious mind told your sub-conscious mind, “Take me home!” And your sub-conscious mind took over and you began driving home. You didn’t think about shifting gears, you didn’t think about anything. Your sub-conscious mind took over and it drove you home.

That’s why it’s so hard sometimes to break out of that pattern. You know what I’m talking about. My wife would call me at work and ask me to stop and pick up a gallon of milk on the way home. I say “sure” and when the time comes for me to come home I jump in my car and before I know it I’m home, with no milk! Then I think, “You idiot, you totally forgot the milk.” I let my program take over and off I went with my mind wandering in a totally different direction.

Driving Stick Shift Example

When you drove a car the very first time with a stick shift, how difficult was it? Remember grinding the gears, putting in the clutch, thinking “where’s the brake?” and then “oh my gosh, you mean I have to think about steering at the same time!” It was terrible! You thought, “How am I ever going to learn this?”

And now, after you’ve learned to drive, you jump in the car and start driving and you don’t even have to think about it. Why? Because it’s all programmed into you. You just run that program and you don’t have to think about it any more. Now your conscious mind is freed up to think about other things. You can be preparing a speech in your mind while you’re driving home. You can be thinking about your vacation two weeks ago. Your mind can be doing something totally different and your subconscious mind has taken over and is driving you home.

We are also programmed to feel emotions

I’ve talked about behaviors, about programs that get created in your mind that really have to do with actions. But aren’t we also programming our minds to feel certain emotions – not just actions but feelings?

Food Example

For example, is there a certain food that you dislike very very much? Think about that for a moment. Is there a food that you really dislike? Now think about that food and why is it that you dislike it. Other people, perfectly normal people, happen to like that food. Why? Why do they like it and you don’t? Why is it revolting to you?

More likely than not there was some time in your past when you had an experience with that food and that experience was not a good experience. Have you ever gotten sick and vomited up your dinner? You know, maybe you had, let’s be really grotesque here, macaroni and cheese with hot dogs in it and you got very sick. Your face turned green. You vomited it up all over your bed at night as a kid. Those slimy hot dogs covered with macaroni and cheese were all over you face and your pajamas and your bed. Not a very pleasant experience at all!

That is how you create a program very fast. You don’t have to do it over and over again because of the intense emotion you’re experiencing at the time. That is the fast path to programming your mind. It’s with emotion – intense emotion.

Music Example

Another example of programming your mind is with music. You may recall a time when you were driving along in your car and you were listening to the radio. A song comes on and all of a sudden you are flooded with wonderful feelings. It takes you right back to a certain time in your life when you were with that certain special someone. It could have been twenty-five years ago and you’re right back to where you were. That song – you love that song because of the way it makes you feel. It may not even be a very good song but it doesn’t matter. It’s what it makes you feel and experience that makes it such a special song. Whenever you hear that song it immediately sends you back to that wonderful time in your life.

Why is it that that song does that to you? How did it get programmed into your mind? Again, it’s the same thing. You were in a deep, powerful, emotional state when that song got programmed into your mind. You were in love. You were feeling wonderful feelings and that song came on the radio and you were with that special someone and it got embedded into your mind and linked up with that experience. That’s how your mind can be programmed in one step.

Smell – Cattle Yard Example

What about smell? Smell is another trigger. It is one of the most powerful triggers that we have of past experiences and emotions.

I have an example in my own life and it’s kind of strange. You know we smell certain smells and some are pleasant to us and some are not. We smell bread baking and it brings us back to when we were a kid at grandma’s house and so we love the smell of baking bread. It brings up back to happy times, good memories, Thanksgiving, etc. So a smell can be very pleasant to us.

I happen to have a memory or a program in my mind that is very unusual. Have you ever driven past a cattle yard? You know, you’ve been out in the country for a drive and you go past a cattle yard where there are hundreds of cattle in big pens and you smell that SMELL of the cattle yard as you drive by. It’s powerful. It’s made by cattle dung – piles of it. You drive by and you plug your nose and say, “OOOO, this is disgusting!” You roll up your windows and drive by it as quickly as you can. It’s not a pleasant smell to you.

Well, when I was a kid I lived out in the country. Every day on the way to school and on the way home from school our bus would drive by a large cattle yard. We would smell that pungent smell every time we drove by. Back then it was not a pleasant smell. None of us on the bus liked it. But that period of time in my life was a happy time for me. I had many great experiences during that part of my life. So now, when I drive past a cattle yard and smell that smell, what kind of feelings do you suppose it gives me? Strangely enough I love the smell of cattle yards because it takes me right back to that time in my life when I was 12 years old. So to me it’s a pleasant smell. I like the smell of cattle yards.

Now isn’t that strange? What makes a smell good or bad? What makes food taste good or bad?

You are the programmer of your mind

What I’m trying to get at here is this: there are conditions in your life that trigger certain responses. Some of your responses are behavior responses and some of your responses are emotional responses. Those were all created by you. Every day you are creating them. You create good programs and you create bad programs. You are the programmer!

It stands to reason that if you are the programmer of your habits and behaviors then the way you are is NOT just the way you are and always will be! If you are the programmer then you can control what new programs get created. If you are the programmer then you can erase and re-write old programs. Instead of allowing programs to be created sub-consciously without even knowing about it, you can now be the architect and designer of who you are! The malicious and obstructing belief that the way you are is just the way you are will no longer hold you back. You can put that belief away and move forward with your life. You can create a totally new YOU by reprogramming the software of your mind.

Thank you.

Master Yourself, Master Your Life

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson

Be Good to Yourself

Take care of yourself

There are some people who go to extraordinary lengths to take care of their car. They wash it, they wax it, they keep it tuned, they get it serviced on a regular basis and they keep everything in perfect working order. They have meticulous records of every oil change and rotation of the tires. Yet these same people neglect a much more important piece of machinery – themselves.

We see people all around us plodding along, making mediocre attempts in their jobs and their relationships. They are crippled in their attempts at success because the energy has gone out of their lives. When obstacles arise they don’t have the strength to rise above them. They are easily defeated. They go through life only half-awake!

When you burn a candle at both ends you will eventually get burned. Don’t squander and abuse the most incredible instrument you have – your body. Give it the care and attention it needs.

Shouldn’t our great aim in life be to preserve and keep our physical bodies in the best possible condition so we can experience and live life to its fullest? Why not make every occasion a great occasion? If this life is worth living then isn’t it worth living well?

In order to live life to its fullest we need to take care of ourselves both mentally and physically. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” What you think about yourself is manifested in your life and pictured in your body. If you are to make the most of yourself then you should never picture yourself as anything other than what you would actually want to be. See yourself as the person you wish to become. Your thoughts and actions are manifested in your body.

Everywhere you go you find people who are half-alive and barely awake. They resemble walking zombies rather than fully charged human beings. The world is full of them. They are the products of physical self-abuse and wrong thinking. They commit emotional suicide by killing every chance they have in life through neglect of their mind and body.

The saddest thing is to have an opportunity come our way and not be able to take advantage of it. Life passes us by because we aren’t ready to live it. We’re bogged down by poor health, fatigue, exhaustion and weariness. We’ve abused the instrument with which we live life with. When the conductor raises his baton, we are unable to join in the symphony. Our talents and gifts go unused. We are silent.

Too many of us overtax our strength and energy by pushing too hard. We live in an X-Treme world where it’s cool to push everything to the edge. We take risks. We eat too much. We stay up too late. Then we go to bed with sleep aids and wake up with the use of artificial stimulants. We have no time for true rest and relaxation. We are fooled by false economies, thinking we are saving time and accomplishing more. It’s a counterfeit sense of accomplishment. We’ve squeezed all the juice out of the fruit and are searching for more where there is none.

They say it’s a sin to be unkind to others. Isn’t it just as much a sin to be unkind to ourselves? Whatever you do in life, take care of yourself. Be good to yourself. Care for and protect your vitality, energy and strength because they are the tools with which you accomplish everything else in life. The person who does this and has no money is rich compared to the person who is wealthy and has squandered their vitality and precious energy. Whatever you do, protect and care for the most amazing machine – You!