My sons are very close in age: 15 and 17 years old. They seem to have this constant need for competition and they put each other down all the time. As their mom, it breaks my heart that they need to compete like this and that they can’t see the goodness I see in each of them. How do I stop the bickering and the constant competition and make sure my boys leave for college with healthy self-esteem?
Thank you for asking this important question. So many parents ask us this same thing — why is there so much competition between kids?
Realistically this is not a teen or child issue. This is a global issue we see in people everywhere. We see it within families, at work and even between neighbors.
Recently over the Fourth of July weekend, all our street was camped out on deck chairs on driveways lighting fireworks. It was beautiful; there were spectacular sights in every direction. But I overheard our immediate neighbor say out loud to his son, "Go to the truck and get the extra box, we must beat the Johnsons," who live on the other side of the street a few doors up. The question is, what is driving our need for this competition, even as mature adults?
Deep down every one of us, including your boys, is struggling with worthiness. The question they (and we) ask ourselves every day is, are we enough? Do I look good in this? Do my shoes match my earrings? Am I good enough to make the team? Will my score be enough on the test?
We all question every day whether we are enough, what value we have, and how we compare to others. This fear appears both consciously and subconsciously for our children. Every day they mix with other kids who are better, smarter, more capable and more talented than them, and this even happens at home. This is a reality in life, not just childhood, so we must help them build an "emotional resiliency muscle" — this is one of our greatest jobs as parents.
An emotional resiliency muscle is the aspect of yourself that is secure in your personal worth and value, that doesn’t have a need to compare yourself to others and feels secure in the knowingness that your life has purpose and meaning in every circumstance. We want to help you achieve this for yourself and teach it to your children.
Here are the steps to building an emotional resiliency muscle:
1. Remind yourself and your family that we all have the same value all the time and it never changes.
There is nothing your children can do to achieve or earn more value nor lose it. Your neighbor doesn’t lose value when he irritates you, and no one you know is better than you either. Human value is unchangeable and every person is a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable human soul that has infinite worth and value.
Therefore, when your child comes home with a 4.0 GPA you should celebrate their efforts, but remind them they still have the exact same value as their sister who only received a C on her math test, who tried just as hard and did her best.
When we truly show our children we celebrate their efforts, not only their achievements, they understand their value isn’t tied to appearance, performance or property, and they will feel more secure in themselves. For this to really work and improve their self-esteem, it has to be something you talk about daily — that no matter what you do you still have the same intrinsic worth as everyone else. You may not get the rewards that come to those who work harder, which is an important lesson, but your value as a human soul doesn’t change.
2. Teach your children to celebrate their wins and their losses.
This may sound counterintuitive, but when we place the same value on wins and losses and see them both as important parts of our development and growth, we teach emotional resiliency. We do this by highlighting the fluctuations of life and role modeling for them that every circumstance and situation, both the good and the bad, are here to serve us and help us grow. We can show children by example that they can feel safe in every circumstance and we can and do bounce back from failures.
It is important for your children to watch you show this kind of emotional resiliency with life’s ups and downs instead of panicking or becoming despondent. To achieve this, you may need to adjust your perspective to see life as your perfect classroom instead of a test that determines your worth. When you see life as a test, you feel enormous pressure to succeed and compete against life and others. You view it as a mountain that must be conquered, instead of a process of enjoyment where you will grow and be strengthened.
With your current level of emotional resiliency, you can show your kids a realistic picture of life, learning and growth or you can paint a picture of fear about the future and life itself. When we role model strength, wisdom and accuracy about the lessons of life for our children, showing them every moment of life enables us to grow and is here to shape us in some way, we are teaching them to see the universe as for them, not against them.
3. Detach from perfectionism.
Many of us can live lives attached to unrealistic expectations for ourselves, others and our lives in general. Idealism and perfectionism are one and the same, a toxic monster that can make us feel like we are failing constantly. How many times do you find yourself thinking, “If I just earned more money I would be happier,” “If I could just lose this baby weight I would feel better about myself” and “If my children were more obedient we would not be having these problems.”
Emotional resiliency and the happiness that comes from it require us to have correct expectations and intentions for ourselves and our lives. Do you set yourself up to succeed through setting these realistic parameters in which to measure your worth and success or are your children watching you crash and burn constantly because you are engaged in a game of perfectionism? You must show emotional resiliency and set expectations that are practical, logical and pragmatic so you can feel good about your efforts and model this for your kids. If this is hard for you, we recommend you find a coach or counselor to help you let go of perfectionism.
4. Teach your children to be compassionate people.
When we and/or our children put others down to make ourselves feel better, we are not being compassionate people. We must know our intrinsic value without the need to position ourselves as superior or above others to feel good. What you are describing with your sons insulting each other is just this projection of superiority our egos use to cover our insecurities and fear. This is very common for children, teenagers and adults.
Be mindful of your own behavior so you can catch yourself putting another person down, even about something small such as their cooking, housekeeping or ability to drive. It’s hard but important for us to notice our behavior when we do this. Most of this behavior is done subconsciously as our mind and ego play these tricks to make us less threatened in the world. Instead of trying to feel good by placing ourselves above others, we must celebrate our uniqueness and know no matter what others do around us, they and we have unchangeable and infinite value.
Obviously, the most important thing you can do for your kids is to work on yourself and make sure you are modeling confidence, compassion and resiliency yourself.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are the coaches behind Claritypointcoaching.com. You can get free resources on parenting and raising confident kids at http://www.claritypointcoaching.com/worksheetsdownloads
This was first published on KSL.com
I have noticed when I do something unkind or selfish, I have a tendency to explain the behavior away as someone else’s fault, which gets me off the hook. I don’t decide to do this, I just notice I’m doing it in the middle of doing it. So, it’s almost subconscious but not all the way. I can also get caught up in anger at a friend and start thinking about what’s wrong with our friendship, and the more I think about it the worse I feel. She says I am not seeing it accurately and it’s not that bad. I feel like a drama queen at times. How can I stop doing this?
Have you heard the warning, “Just because you read it online, doesn’t mean it’s true.” The same goes for the content of your thoughts. Just because you think it — and you feel horrible about it, depressed because of it, or upset about it — doesn’t mean it’s true either.
Your amazing imagination is constantly creating stories around everything you see, hear or experience. You are such a creative being it is almost impossible for you to see any experience as it really is, as just facts, without your imagination adding to it.
Your thinking patterns today are literally the sum of all your past experiences, and these experiences have created a lens that filters everything you see, hear and perceive. Some of you have a very negative lens, clouded by fear. You may see everything and everyone as a threat (even though it isn’t accurate). Your lens might make you create stories that constantly prove you aren’t good enough. You might see the world through a lens of criticism and blame, which means creating stories where nothing is ever your fault, or your lens might be prone to self-pity, anger or conflict.
A fear-clouded lens distorts the truth and leads your imagination to create stories that fit your biased ideas about the world. You will then confabulate reality to match your story, so you can be right about your negative perspective. Your confabulation helps you to believe your story and think it’s accurate.
In psychology, to confabulate means to produce a fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted view of reality, and we all do this, to some degree, every day. It’s therefore very important you don’t believe everything you think because a large portion of your thinking isn’t true and is creating self-inflicted misery in your life.
It’s hard to wake yourself up and out of these stories because your emotions (very quickly) get involved and they make you feel strong emotions about your story. You then believe the story must be accurate or you wouldn’t feel this way, right?
Your brain creates very real emotions around the perspective you end up with, and these emotions make you buy into the story hook, line and sinker, but that still doesn’t make the story accurate. Your emotions aren’t proof.
Feelings cannot be trusted any more than thoughts can.
You are right about how you feel though. You do actually feel the way you feel and no one can argue with that. But you may be completely inaccurate in the perspective or story you made up, which created those feelings, which means the emotions aren't warranted. (Read that again!)
It is time to grow up and become more personally responsible for your thoughts and emotions. It is time to learn to be mindful and consciously choose your perspective instead of letting your subconscious program choose it.
You deserve to learn this because a large amount of the suffering (you are currently experiencing) is unnecessary and self-inflicted.
So, stop it.
Step back from each situation and observe your mind at work confabulating, justifying and creating made up stories and emotions around it. You are literally creating your entire life in your head. Your life is not as it appears, it is as you are choosing to see it.
Everything is perspective and your perspective is in your control. It may not feel in your control at first because ideas do pop-up (from your subconscious) but once they show up, you have complete control over whether you embrace them and add emotion to them or replace them with something else.
You may resist believing this though, because it’s much easier to find some like-minded people who look at the situation in the same distorted way you do, who will validate you and tell you that you’re right. You will always be drawn to friends and co-workers who see the world with the same filter you have because you crave validation.
Have you noticed that like-minded people are drawn to each other? The complainers and blamers always end up friends. This means if you want to change your thinking and become more accurate and positive, you may have to change your friends.
Here is a procedure you can follow when you want to check your perspective, feelings and thoughts for accuracy:
1. Ask yourself this important question, "If I stopped feeding this story and thinking about it, and instead labeled it as inaccurate and dropped it, would the problem still exist?" Try it and see.
2. Own responsibility for how you are feeling, without any blame on anyone else. If you own it, you also have the power to change it. Wayne Allen, the simple Zen guy, says it’s an odd thing that people will be living in a pile of [crap] and still insist it appeared by magic, they had nothing to do with their being in it, someone else is to blame, and someone else should dig them out. If you live this way you will always be a miserable victim. Don’t do it. Own that you are creating your life and change your thinking.
3. Write down the facts of your situation without any emotion or story around it. You will be surprised how short, simple and benign the facts really are.
4. Write down as many perspective options as you can think of. Get creative and let your imagination go crazy with positive spins you could embrace. You are going to create a story around this situation anyway, so you might as well pick a better, less miserable story that makes you feel good, right? Pick a victor story that gives you a chance to rise to the occasion and be the person you want to be.
5. Feed positive mindsets by hanging out with people who see situations clearly and aren’t prone to drama or negativity. Feed your mind with good books and uplifting content that encourages you to create positive perspectives.
Most of us are unhappy because we don’t know another way to think about our experiences. We were never taught the skills nor given the tools to process life in a more positive way. They don’t teach this stuff in school or church (though they should), so where are you supposed to learn it?
If you have emotional reactions and often feel out of control or stuck in negative thinking, it's time to do something about it. Get some professional help. There are experts all around you who can help you learn these skills. I believe positive, clear, accurate thinking, free from fear, is easy to learn and teach. Our Get Clarity workshop might be a good place to start. My website is also filled with resources to help you get more clarity in your thinking and take control of your life.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
This was first published on KSL.com
My mother is extremely dramatic and easy to offend. She creates drama and problems in our family all the time because she handles things so immaturely. I can see that in some ways I’m starting to become like her too. But I’ve watched this my whole life and I don’t want to behave that way? How can I break the cycle and learn to handle life better than she does?
You are talking about being an emotional mature person, who responds to life appropriately with strength and wisdom. Some people were lucky enough to have emotionally mature parents, who taught them how to see situations accurately, process emotions logically and respond maturely, but it sounds like you didn’t get that, so you will have to find better tools, skills and techniques to help you break the cycle.
Your mother is doing the best she can with what she knows though, she just doesn’t know a better way to handle herself. She is running on autopilot with her subconscious programming running the show.
Neuroscientists tell us the 95 percent of our choices we make subconsciously. This means most of the time instead of consciously choosing our behavior, we are just unconsciously reacting. The scary part is that most of our reactions come from ideas, conclusions, procedures and rules we learned before we were 7 years old. They say from 0 to 7 are the formative years where we set our beliefs about ourselves, people and life. Then the rest of our lives we can react the way we learned as a child.
You can break the cycle of immature behavior, though, and learn how to respond more accurately and appropriately. You can develop what we call CLARITY (the ability to see yourself, other people and situations accurately). You can gain better techniques, tools and skills in the area of human behavior, but you might need some professional help to get you there.
You can download an Emotional Maturity Test on my website to see where you are and what skills you need to become more mature.
Here are 14 ways to strengthen your emotional maturity:
Set a small goal to work on one aspect of your emotional maturity each week. Put a reminder (as your wallpaper on your phone) to remind you. If you work on it one piece at a time, you will get there. I also recommend you find a coach or counsellor to help though. A little professional guidance goes a long way.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
I spend way too much time on social media. Every minute of down time I have to check what’s happening on Facebook, and I’m starting to feel that it runs my life. I should just cancel my account, but I get anxious when I even think about cutting back. I know it isn’t making me happier, and it’s probably adding to depression, since everyone’s life seems more fun and more successful than mine. Should I just give it up or is there a way to be part of it without it running my life? Also how can I be on it without feeling worse about myself?
You probably have what is now being called FOMO: the Fear Of Missing Out. A recent JWT survey said 70 percent of adults have FOMO, and it causes a serious amount of stress and anxiety. Researchers at Edinburgh University said that one out of 10 Facebook users admit the site makes them anxious (and they feel an unhealthy amount of pressure to come up with inventive status updates and stay up to date on everyone's lives). But in spite of all of this, most people refuse to cancel their accounts.
Facebook also makes many people feel depressed and inadequate. A study conducted by two German Universities found that Facebook created envy and an unhealthy level of social comparison in many users — yet we can’t stop looking at it.
Most of us started using Facebook because we wanted to stay connected with other people, but now it feels like a competition where we must constantly prove our value and define our existence. There is no doubt life would be less stressful if you canceled your social media accounts. You would get more done and spend less time comparing yourself with others, but we all get why you can’t do it. You might miss something — and the fear of loss is a powerful force.
The fear of missing out might show up in other areas of life, too. It may compel you to record every episode of your favorite show so you don’t miss it, even though your life would go on just fine if you missed it. You may buy things you don’t need if there is an amazing price for a limited time. You might even struggle with ordering in a restaurant, because you are afraid you might miss out on whatever you decide not to get. You may stay uncommitted on your weekend plans, because you want to check all the options before you commit. You might struggle with making all kinds of simple decisions because every choice means missing out on the other options.
This fear could also cause problems in your relationships. You may hesitate to marry this girl or that boy, because you might miss out on someone better who could come along later. But, if you don’t marry that person and decide to wait for a better one, you might regret that and wish you’d taken this one. (This is FOMO at work, and it can create anxiety everywhere!)
Here are a couple suggestions for easing FOMO and having a healthier mindset about social media:
You can do this.
(loved this - just wanted to share it.)
A Tandem Ride With God
I used to think of God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there, sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn't really know Him.
But later on, when I met Jesus, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Jesus was in the back helping me pedal. I didn't know just when it was He suggested we change, but life has not been the same since I took the back-seat to Jesus, my Lord. He makes life exciting. When I had control, I thought I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points.
But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at break-through speeds; it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it often looked like madness, He said, "Pedal!" I was worried and anxious and asked, "Where are you taking me?" He laughed and didn't answer and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into adventure. And when I'd say, "I'm scared", He'd lean back and touch my hand.
He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey, my Lord's and mine. And we were off again. He said, "Give the gifts away; they're extra baggage, too much weight." So I did, to the people we met, and I found in giving I received, and still our burden was light.
I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He'd wreck it, but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I'm beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus.
And when I'm sure I just can't do any more, He just smiles and says... "Pedal."
This was first published on KSL.COM
Our daughter recently told us that she no longer believes in God and hasn't for a long time. This came as devastating news to us. Although we were aware that she hadn't been attending church, we thought she was still a believer. I have read your article on When your child rejects your religion every day since and it has been helpful, but I am still finding myself having moments of great sadness, anger, and even panic. Your advice makes sense in my head but my heart is broken. I would like to understand how she came to this conclusion but don't want to put her on the defensive. The result is, I don't contact her as much, because I'm concerned my emotions will spill out. I am praying for her many times a day, as well as for the rest of our family. Any additional advice would be appreciated.
If you are still experiencing sadness, anger and panic, are pulling back and even struggling to spend time with your daughter — you are still coming from fear, not love. I understand why this situation is triggering this fear of loss and failure in you. I really do, but those emotions aren't doing you or your child any good and they may make the situation worse.
In the other article on this I explained why unconditional love is the answer when a loved one rejects your religion. The problem is that as long as you are entrenched in fear, you aren’t capable of love.
If you can’t change your perspective and get out of fear, your child is going to see you and your religion as unloving. It isn't and you know that you're scared because you love her so much, but your fear energy could make her pull even farther away. You cannot let your fear be bigger than your love.
You have to get you more fully in trust about this situation (and out of fear) so you are capable of showing up with real love, peace and acceptance towards your daughter. I encourage you to read and practice trusting the following idea every day for a while:
I am not a failure and neither is my loved one. We are here on this planet to experience all kinds of interesting and painful experiences so we can learn and grow, but at no time is our value on the line because life is a classroom, not a test. This means our value is infinite and absolute. It cannot change no matter what we do. None of us have anything to fear. My loved one may sign themselves up for some interesting lessons here, ones I would rather not have them learn. That is not about me. They are choosing their journey and they will find their way through it and in the end it will be OK. I trust their value and mine is secure and that this is the perfect classroom journey for both of us. I choose to trust God, there is nothing to fear, and every experience here is a lesson. I choose to let God's love fill me up every day so I can share his unconditional love with others. I choose to shine with pure love every day. I have the power to do this because there is nothing to fear.
(If you want to understand more about why life is a classroom not a test, read this article from December.)
Trusting these truths will show your loved one that your religion and your God are based in love. The God you believe in provided a way for all to return safely. He loves us all. Being fearless about this will show her that your faith in God’s goodness, your love for her and your strength are all bigger than your fear. This will earn her respect for you and make her see your religious beliefs as beautiful and inviting. Love is much more attractive than fear.
I also have a worksheet for frustrated parents on my website that might also help you with this situation. I encourage you to get it. It will ask you to identify your fear issues (that are really behind you being so upset about your child). You had fear issues about failure or loss (before this) and this situation with your child has just triggered them. This situation is therefore as much your lesson as it is hers. This is your chance to learn how to overcome fear and become stronger, more faithful and more loving.
So, instead of trying to fix your child, work on you. Trust God more and choose to act from love and fully accept her as she is, even being proud of her and never say anything negative, critical or guilt-producing. You can do this. You are a child of God (a being who is the essence of perfect love). You have the love inside you to overcome fear.
The worksheet will also ask “What does your child need right now?” The answer is your strength, faith, acceptance and love. She needs you to be strong enough to set your needs aside. (Your needs for her to fulfill your wishes, expectations and believe what you believe.) She needs to know you can let go of your needs and show up for her.
Spend time with her and (the entire time) keep choosing to trust there is nothing to fear. Spend every minute you have with her building her up. Look for the highest and best qualities in her, and tell her what you see. Focus on her goodness as a person and let her know you are proud of her. This is putting love first.
You can do this.
“Don’t speak to me about your religion; first show it to me in how you treat other people. Don't tell me how much you love your God; show me in how much you love all His children. Don't preach to me your passion for your faith; teach me through your compassion for your neighbors. In the end, I'm not as interested in what you have to tell or sell or preach or teach, as I am in how you choose to live and give." — Cory Booker
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
This article was first published on ksl.com
Next week I have a job interview for my dream job and a big raise. This job would mean the world to me and my family. But I’m so scared I won’t get it and I’m sure my fear and insecurity is going to come through in the interview. I get really nervous and intimidated, which doesn't impress. Is there any advice you could give me on calming down so I can appear confident?
You are right, fear and nervousness could sabotage your interview. When you show up scared, nervous or intimidated the other person can feel it and it's not attractive. Fear says you don’t believe in yourself and it makes other people doubt your abilities.
Here are a few tips for overcoming fear on the spot:
(These tips would also work before a big test, recital, game or performance.)
You can do this.
(There are many more articles about overcoming fear at work on my blog.)
This was first published on KSL.com
Every year I make a recommendation of a resolution you could make that would make the biggest difference in your life. (Look at past suggestions here — forgiveness, better communication skills, seeing all people as the same, etc.)
You have many great options, but this year I would encourage you to make one important daily goal — to trust God, the universe and the process of life more and fear and worry less.
If you trust the universe and life that they are always on your side, even conspiring to serve you and educate you every second of your life, you will see everything as a blessing and you will have more joy.
Right now, you may suffer daily fron a fear of loss, which is the fear of everything that could go wrong in your life. Right now, you may see life and the universe as random and chaotic (at least at the subconscious level). You may believe that because of free agency, we are all running around making choices that affect other people’s journeys and because of that you can lose things or opportunities you should have had. You may believe you can ruin your life or that others could ruin it. All of this leads to stress, worry, anger, distrust and misery, but there is a way out.
You could choose to see life as a perfect, divine, classroom where nothing can go wrong and you can’t lose anything you should have had, because you and the universe are always creating your perfect classroom journey, every second of every day. (When I say “perfect” I don’t mean that you are always going to like it though. I define perfect as: exactly fitting a certain situation or for a certain purpose.)
I believe the universe is a wise teacher and life is a perfect classroom. This means every experience is always the perfectly fitting lesson for each of us at that time. It means we can't lose anything unless it is our perfect classroom to lose it and if we trusted this we would suffer somewhat less.
But each of us must accept this idea as a principle of truth, for it to have power in our life, so let me explain why I believe it is truth.
Everywhere I look in the universe I see perfect order. I believe God is a God of order. I also believe his ultimate objective is the education and growth of us, his children. I believe God created this universe to be our classroom and this universe does nothing except conspire to serve and educate us, because that is its job.
I don’t believe in predestination though. I believe we have complete free agency and are co-creating our journey with the universe every day. I believe it responds to everything you think, choose, believe and do, and brings you the perfect lessons you need next.
I believe this is truth because I see so much divine order in the universe that it staggers my imagination. There are millions of coincidences operating with infinite precision all around us and they could be signs to us that a higher power is in charge. Let me give you some examples:
Myles Standish, a mathematical astronomer and a former professor at Yale University, said, "if the Earth rotated just a fraction of a percent faster or slower, or if it was just a fraction closer or further away from the sun, or if it rotated at a slightly different speed, or if the Moon were positioned differently or rotated and went around the Earth at a slightly different speed, life on Earth would not be possible."
But there is more.
Amir Aczel, author of the book "Why Science Does Not Disprove God," said, “The odds against a universe [like ours existing] with life and intelligence on it [as we are] are at most 1 to a number that has a 1 followed by 10 raised to the power of 117 zeros.”
I believe that a God, who is powerful enough to create a universe with this much perfect order, would never leave the thing he cares about most — your education — to random chance.
Do you really think he sent you down here to muddle through whatever chaos came your way, just hoping you would learn something of value from the battle?
Or do you think he is capable of creating a universe with the forces necessary to educate each soul in the exact way that soul needs to be educated?
God is the author of this whole thing, the universe, you, and your life. There are no accidents or coincidences, and we are safe in God’s hands the entire time. (At least this is a perspective you can choose to have, which will have an amazing and postiive effect on your life.)
You simply have two choices. You can see God as the author of all things and trust him, letting go of your fears, worries, expectations, attachments and misery. You can trust the universe and the process of life, go with the flow, expect amazing, interesting, educational things to come your way, and see whatever happens as perfect. Or you can keep trying to control things you can’t possibly control, resist what is and suffer a great deal.
It’s up to you.
Make a goal this year to see miracles everywhere, look for the perfect lessons in everything and trust God, the universe and the process of life that everything will work out in the end. This will make you less grouchy and less stressed, and much more happy.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
(This is my Christmas article 2015)
One thing I really like about your articles is that you say that life is a classroom and not a test. This is a wonderful idea. When I first read it, it struck me as true. I felt so liberated. But I'm not sure how to reconcile that with what I am taught at my church, that life is a test. There are lots of scriptures (in my religion) which say life is a test, so I am having a hard time with what is truth. I appreciate any insight you can give.
I’m presenting an answer to this question that is consistent with this person’s religious beliefs, so if you are reading this and don’t share a Christ-focused belief system — please understand this answer was directed to this individual.
The principles I share are universal though, and people from every religion, culture or life philosophy have the option to see life as a classroom, not a test, which would improve their self-esteem.
In order to explain why the idea that life is a classroom is consistent with religious doctrine, we must first ask a deeper question: Why are we here on the planet?
This is a crucial question, because it affects every choice, decision or plan you make. If you don’t have clarity around your objective, you will always be confused about what to do.
As a life coach, I have asked thousands of individuals (from every culture and religion) that question. What is the real point and purpose of you being on the planet? Their answers have surprised me. All of them, regardless of their backgrounds, have given me the same two answers.
Understanding this objective will change the way you see everything that happens to you. You will now see every experience as a lesson on loving God, yourself or other people at a deeper level. I wrote an article about this idea a few months ago you ought to read.
If we are on the planet to learn to love, it would mean life is basically a school. The question is what kind of school is it? Is it a test where you could fail or is it a classroom where you can only learn? Is your value in question when you make mistakes or can you erase and try again until you get it right? Is God more concerned with judgment or your education?
Seeing life as a test and God as judgment or fear may produce obedience, but it doesn’t come with peace or joy, because fear creates stress that distracts you from love. Fear makes you needy, defensive and selfish. It keeps you focused on getting reassurance and validation, which makes you less capable of focusing on other people. Fear is not God’s plan for you, love is.
The problem is your religion teaches this life is a test and any mistakes you make will prevent you from returning to God. So, it appears there is reason to fear.
This is what I believe, life is a test … but we ALL failed it. The test is over. Not a single one of us passed. We have all made mistakes.
According to your spiritual beliefs, God in his mercy, wisdom and love (and because his ultimate objective is to educate his children — not to get rid of them) provided a solution to this — a Savior. Christ turned it from a test into a classroom. Whew. You can now work on yourself, make mistakes and erase and try again every time, because your grades are off the table.
You can stop worrying about "not being good enough" and focus your energy on learning to love. You can stop trying to prove your value and spend more time lifting, serving and loving others. You can do this because you have nothing to fear. God is the essence of perfect love, mercy, wisdom and compassion.
In my articles, I talk a lot about the two core fears I believe are the root cause of most psychological and relationship problems. The first is the fear of failure (the fear that you might not be good enough). The second is the fear of loss (the fear that your life isn’t good enough), and the loss we fear most is death and losing those we love.
The amazing, wonderful, joyful message, which is at the heart of the Christmas season, is we have nothing to fear, because our value has been taken care of and death has been overcome. We have nothing to fear, because there is no failure or loss.
The most important message of Christmas was delivered by angels to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, and this message is one that should bring you peace every day: ”Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
Because of him, you cannot fail and you will get back all those you lose.
You have nothing to fear.
At least, you can see your life this way if you want to. If you choose to embrace this perspective you will have more capacity to learn and love too, because your fear won’t be distracting you. God also wants you to work on doing good, righteous things, but he wants you to do those things because you love him, yourself and other people … not because you fear him.
I hope this answers your question and brings you peace.
You can do this.
There are so many serious problems in our community and the world. Watching the news about puts me over the edge. The world is falling apart and I feel constant stress about it. It feels like the whole world is going down the drain. Why do all these bad things have to happen? How can I process all this and not let it affect me?
There are problems in the world, but you need to turn off the news and look at the larger picture. Statistics show the world is getting better, less violent, more healthy and more humane all the time. There are still more good people than bad and those good people are making a significant difference.
Don’t believe me?
I also want you to understand what really causes stress and fear. It is not the facts, the situations or the state of the world. It is not your bank account balance, your bills or your marriage problems. Stress and fear are not caused by external factors at all.
Stress and fear are caused by how you are thinking about all those factors and situations. They are internally created.
This is good news, because if you created them, you also have the power to change them. Here are a couple ways to start changing your thinking.
1. Understand your negativity bias. This refers to the fact that things of a negative nature (unpleasant thoughts, emotions, harmful or traumatic events) have a greater effect on your psychological state than do positive things. You basically enlarge the negative in your mind and discount the positive. We all do it.
Michel de Montaigne said this 500 years ago, “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”
Most of what you fear isn’t real or isn’t as big as you think it is. Most of your suffering is unnecessary and self-inflicted.
A powerful way to counter this is gratitude. Count your blessings and what’s right in your life (every day). This will remind you that the good always outweighs what’s wrong. Statistics even prove it. Studies have shown 85 percent of what you worry about won’t happen, and the 15 percent that does happen, you will handle better than expected and will teach you amazing lessons.
You might need to remind yourself of these facts daily.
2. Use the haunted house analogy to get accurate. In a haunted house, things (or people) who look scary are always jumping out in front of you. These things may initially scare you, but then you remind yourself it isn’t real and you calm right down. Most of the things you fear and stress about in your life right now aren’t going to be a problem either. You are just living in a haunted house.
It helps to remember who built this house you’re traveling through. God, in whose hands you safely lay all the time, built it. He built this house as your classroom and as such, it must provide some scary experiences, but the more you learn to trust the builder, the less fear you experience.
One of my favorite quotes from "The Course in Miracles" says, “No nightmare can defeat a child of God in his purpose.” Remember life was meant to look scary, but it is mostly a nightmare. Nothing God created can do anything but bless you at best and educate you at worst. The universe is literally conspiring to serve you.
3. Remember the real point and purpose for being here is to learn. Life is a classroom and every terrible experience comes with a lesson or a positive aspect. God is teaching us about both the light and the darkness. Bad experiences and horrific tragedies give each of us a chance to decide who we are going to be. When terrible things happen, there is usually an interesting increase of love in the world.
This week I’ve discovered a new depth of love for people in Paris and Beirut (people I don’t even know), and that love is deeper than I realized. We ache for those people, and it is a beautiful thing to feel the depth of our love for our fellow human beings. The reality of terrorism gives the opportunity to embrace the principles of peace in our religions and make a commitment to be tolerant of others.
You asked me why horrible things have to happen in this classroom.
My answer is, there is a reason, but most of the time, we aren’t supposed to know what it is.
We are better off not knowing. Right now you are truly, deeply bothered by these horrible events in the world, as you should be. If you understood the reason why this had to happen, if the mystery was solved and you got the answer, you might make peace with the horror of the situation. You might not be so appalled by it — and that would be even worse than what you are experiencing now.
Watching evil and not being moved by the horror of it, not questioning and feeling pain, would take away what makes you human.
Aron Moss wrote a wonderful article on this topic in which he explains, “Worse than innocent people suffering is others watching their suffering unmoved. And that's exactly what would happen if we were to understand why innocents suffer. We would no longer be bothered by their cry, we would no longer feel their pain, because we would understand why it is happening. When you have an explanation, the pain doesn't seem so bad anymore. We can tolerate suffering when we know why it is happening."
We are not meant to tolerate suffering and evil.
So the question isn’t why do bad things happen; it’s what do we do when horrific bad things happen?
We choose trust and love.
Trust God and the universe. They know what they’re doing. Choose to believe that even the things you can’t understand serve us somehow. Trust there are still more good people than bad, who are using all their creative powers to change things. Trusting brings peace.
Then, let these events make you a better, kinder and more loving person. Be one of the good people and use your creative energy to do good in the world. Instead of trying to answer unanswerable questions, turn your grief into a force for good in your home and community.
Speak out against injustice and cruelty more often. Love people more passionately and take action to alleviate suffering wherever you can.
Moss said, ”We don't really want answers, we don't want explanations, and we don't want closure. … We want an end to suffering ... but we [shouldn't] leave it up to God to alleviate suffering. … He is waiting for us to do it. That's what we are here for.”
You can do this.
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and is a
popular life coach, author and speaker. She was named
one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly
on local and national TV and Radio.