blog entries

How is Stress Affecting the Story of Your Life?

Have you been feeling the negative effects of stress from head to toe? Has it grown to become more than just that adorable little monkey on your back? Are you remotely curious to the point that you’ll listen to some counsel? “Sometimes you don’t feel the weight of something you’ve been carrying until you feel the weight of its release.”–Unknown

Do you need a serious “wake-up” call before you take steps to reduce your unwanted burden? If you were to receive shocking news today that immediately and drastically changed the landscape of your life, what action would you take? How would you choose to spend your time if for the first time you were forced to contemplate the meaning of time and how many days you have remaining?“Regardless of our circumstances, each of us has much for which to be grateful if we will but pause and contemplate our blessings.” —Thomas S. Monson  So, pause you must. Consider the day at hand. Yes, even today. Is it not loaded with countless opportunities? Would you not agree that it is chock-full of chances to do something wonderful and meaningful? Oh, I know that some bemoan that their days are already jammed with work, family, and other activities. These mistakenly believe there is no room available in their lives. They may as well carry a sign that reads “No Vacancy”. Deep down many desire something or someone who may help their lives to shine with a bright, new complexion. They may have even lost that loving feeling! There are those who despite the ever-present buzz of activity crave an injection which will fill their lives with greater purpose. “Don’t be afraid to give up the good and go for the great.”–Chad Hymes  Some things must wait. Some must be set aside for a season in life. Some must be discarded completely. “A year from now you may wish you had started today.”–Karen Lamb

So, you may be wishing for a new lease on life. Perhaps, you simply do not know where to turn. Lacking sufficient knowledge, or direction, or the ability to discern the truth of things as they really are could present a stumbling block. But, don’t wait until you blow some blood vessels in your brain or your back breaks from your insanely demanding workload. “Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. It means understanding that something is what it is and there’s got to be a way through it.”–Michael J. Fox  You’ve been stuck in neutral for far too long. A shift of perspective is called for if you are to extricate yourself from  the dangerous, cavernous rut. “Just because something isn’t happening for you right now doesn’t mean that it will never happen.”–Unknown  Do not assume that you are both helpless and hopeless. On the other hand, I suppose it might be sensible to remember that “just because you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.”–George Carlin

Your objective moving forward is to make each day special. “I have found that rather than dwelling on the negative, if we will take a step back and consider the blessings in our lives, including seemingly small, sometimes overlooked blessings, we can find greater happiness.”–Thomas S. Monson

In the world today, it is certainly  easy for the mundane to creep up on unsuspecting individuals. Lives become hijacked. You might be speeding down the runway every day or held up at the gate in a never-ending delay, but either way you are no longer in control of your journey. I have some practical suggestions. If applied, they may serve as a one-way ticket out of your predicament:

  1. Shrink your calendar. A “busy” body does not always produce a healthy body.
  2. Make changes that will be noticed. They are more likely to be lasting in nature.
  3. Live for yourself and your family. When someone says “You’ve changed.” It simply means you’ve stopped living your life their way.
  4. Become a peacemaker. Do not indulge in trivial battles over that which is entirely and eternally insignificant.
  5. Do not create drama. There’s only room for a few actors on your stage.
  6. Don’t hold grudges. They slowly poison you and your loved ones with their toxins.
  7. Don’t judge others. Every traveler in mortality carries baggage unseen by others.
  8. Learn to appreciate what you already have. Live on less and with less and you’ll live more fully.
  9. Live so as to always be ready, willing, and worthy of heavenly help.
  10. Do not fear. Only believe. Fear will add fuel to your stress. Faith will help you let it go.

“If you think of your life as a story, then you can think of any grief or stress you might be experiencing as just a few pages–and anyone can get through a few pages. You are the author of your own story, the illustrator of your own destiny. You choose the words and the lines that fill its pages.”–James A. Owen

Look Beyond the Chocolate

Wonka Bar

One of my all-time favorite movies teaches one of the greatest lessons to be learned in this life. Released on the 30th of June 1971, this American musical, fantasy film is a timeless classic. Actually, in great abundance we discover many tasty, teachable moments, but one is particularly golden. If I mention that the movie was based on a story by Roald Dahl and starred Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, and Peter Ostrum, I’m certain that you can guess its name. Ah, of course, it’s in your personal collection as well: “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”!

As you know this story is choc-full of commentary regarding the follies of the “natural man”.  The cleverly delivered messages are as applicable to us today as when it was originally made. The colorful cast of characters convey the preponderance of slothfulness, greed, the desire for instant gratification, a sense of entitlement, pure selfishness, rudeness in discourse, and outright disobedience. Surely, these are nothing new to the human experience. Wonka’s magical candy-land is the ideal battlefield to test anyone’s ability to wage the ongoing war against temptation. Each of us needs to discover the path to fight off our own demons. I bet you’re thinking about the Oompa Loompas! For sure, their distinctive look, creative songs, and hilariously choreographed moves are memorable! But none of the warning, instruction, or correction gleaned from their fun-filled, lovable lyrics is central to my theme on this particular day.

I am asking you to fast-forward to the end of this delicious joy-ride. Let’s bypass the luscious lollipops, mouthwatering mounds of marshmallows, the raging river of real chocolate, the eggdicator, and anything remotely scrumdiddlyumptious. I don’t want you to focus on the weaknesses of Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Mike Teevee, Violet Beauregarde, or even Grandpa Joe. Don’t think for a minute that you are completely immune from the obvious flaws in each of their characters. To do so would be pure imagination! Despite the extreme popularity of the movie, I believe that it is quite possible that many overlook a truly powerful message contained in one of the closing scenes. In fact, I would go so far as to repeat my opening statement. It is the preeminent lesson to be taken away from this production, and it has real life applications. It is the simple fact that you must look beyond the chocolate! It is the grand truth that your worth is infinitely more than just the chocolate.

Let me reset the stage for you so that you can more fully understand. Grandpa Joe and Charlie enter Mr. Wonka’s office. Wonka is sitting at his desk dutifully engaged in nothing in particular. You remember, “there’s so much time and so little to do!” Wonka was waiting and hoping for his vision to unfold. Wonka is not thinking about chocolate. His plan, after all, has really little to do with chocolate alone. But that doesn’t stop Grandpa Joe’s mind from being  firmly fixated upon that concept as tightly as the wrapping around a Wonka Bar. Completely engaged as such, he wishes to know when his grandson is going to receive his life-changing reward–the chocolate. He mistakenly believes the notion that a prize is due without truthfulness, without effort, without transformation, or without a change of heart. Charlie Bucket’s grandpa expresses his outrage at Wonka’s apparent heartlessness and sense of fairness. He calls Wonka an inhuman monster. Grandpa Joe vows to enact revenge upon Mr. Wonka for destroying a boy’s dreams. He cannot fathom why Charlie will not be the recipient of a lifetime supply of Willy Wonka’s chocolate creations. It is pretty straightforward, though, as the Candy Man lividly points out just prior to Grandpa Joe’s outburst: “Under section 37 B of the contract signed by him, (Charlie), it states quite clearly that all offers shall become null and void if , and you can read it for yourself in this photostatic copy, I, the undersigned, shall forefit all rights, privileges, and licenses herein contained, etc., etc., ….it’s all there, black and white, clear as crystal. You stole Fizzy Lifting Drinks. You bumped into the ceiling, which now has to be washed and sterilized. So, you get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir! ”

 But wait, in a moment that I hope we all reenact at some point in our lives, Charlie does not succumb to his Grandpa Joe’s misplaced anger! Charlie comes to a realization that he has let Mr. Wonka down. The look on his face is of pure sorrow and remorse. He is prepared to accept the consequences of his actions. He makes restitution by returning the Ever-Lasting Gobstopper. “So shines a good deed in a weary world, “ is softly spoken by the magnanimous Candy Man. Then, Mr. Wonka reveals his true intentions. “Charlie, my boy, you did it! Forgive me for putting you through this. I had to test you, Charlie, and you passed the test.” “The Master said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of the Lord.”–Matthew 25:21  He declares Charlie as the winner. Yet, there’s something more to it, isn’t there? Charlie, unaware of what awaits him, is still simply focused on the chocolate. He asks, “The chocolate”? Wonka, now beaming with joy beyond measure, appears to roll his eyes. “Yes, the chocolate,” he responds. “The grand and glorious jackpot! But, that is only the beginning!”

Perhaps, we, like Charlie, may not recognize our full potential. That is why we cannot see beyond the chocolate. An old proverb declares: “Be Humble, for you are made of earth. Be Noble, for you are made of stars.” Why do we settle for less than we deserve? Why can’t we see our true potential? Why are we afraid of change? It is crucial to know that “the task ahead of you is never as great as the power behind you.”--Brad Wilcox  Simply put, you will have help! To move beyond our “chocolate stage” though, we must become as sincerely repentant as Charlie. Any trial or adversity which prevents us from making progress must be met head on. To move forward, we must first accept responsibility for our current state. If you’ve gained back all the weight you had lost, please believe that all is not lost! However, you must lose the “I want it now” attitude of Veruca Salt. Reaching your worthy goal in the past took time. Recall, that you felt that it was worth the effort. More importantly, remember that you believed you were worthy of obtaining something important. For a while, you saw beyond the chocolate! You knew that your endeavor was surely more than just about the weight. Even now, what awaits you at the journey’s end is far greater than you can imagine.  You can still choose to do what is right and never, ever give up. Adherence to the commandments of exercise and healthy eating is your pathway to success. Charlie Bucket had no idea that he was to be Willy Wonka’s heir. My hope is that we recognize that our destiny is to be heirs as well. “And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; and he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.” Thus said the Master Chocolatier! “The Lord doesn’t put us through this test just to give us a grade; He does it because the process will change us.”–Henry B. Eyring  That knowledge, my friends, is the great lesson. Now, you may have a bite of chocolate!

photo credit: Crafting with Cat Hair Felt Wonka bar iPod cozy via photopin (license)

You Are Never Alone


Take a deep breathe, check your pulse, hit yourself over the head (Ouch!)…We have just determined that you are still alive. Maybe all is not well with you, but there are still plenty of reasons to rejoice in this simple truth. I’ll offer you just one. Perhaps, it is the single most important thing you need to hear right now. Despite how you may be feeling, you are never alone.

“When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark. At the end of the storm is a golden sky and the sweet silver song of the lark. Walk on through the wind. Walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone. You’ll never walk alone.”–from Carousel, written by Rodgers and Hammerstein

Whenever we are inclined to feel burdened down with the blows of life, let us remember that others have passed the same way, have endured, and then have overcome. History is replete with the experiences of those who have struggled and yet who have remained steadfast and of good cheer. The reason? They have made the gospel of Jesus Christ the center of their lives. This is what will pull us through whatever comes our way. We will still experience difficult challenges, but we will be able to face them, to meet them head-on, and to emerge victorious. From the bed of pain, from the pillow wet with tears, we are lifted heavenward by that divine assurance and precious promise: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Such comfort is priceless.–Thomas S. Monson

So, take courage, and walk on. Yes, go for a walk. As difficult as it might be to get yourself outside, I believe in you. If the obstacles seem too daunting to surmount, I promise you that if you but give whatever particle of effort you can muster, that effort will be met, matched, and surpassed by He who has vowed not to leave thee alone. “God did not remove the Red Sea. He opened it. He will help you find a way through your problems as well.”–Brad Wilcox

You seek peace from the never-ending agony of your mental illness. It has manifested itself physically, and you are further depressed with your body. You are in search of some remedy for both. Going to work is tough enough, I understand. Yes, I also get that you are not up to going out in public to workout. “When things get tough, find a reason to go on instead of a reason to quit. Both are easy to find, but the one you chose will change your life.”–unknown Therefore, walking is the ideal approach. Better still, how about venturing out early in the morning or late at night! These times of the day offer you just what you need. The absence of noise, due to the lack of cars and people on the streets, is perfectly conducive for a peaceful stroll around the neighborhood. Engage in some serious soul-searching while you are involved in some wonderful exercise. The calm and serene atmosphere can help you to recharge your batteries.

“Sometimes, carrying on, just simply carrying on, is the most superhuman achievement.”–Albert Camus Remember, dear friends, that you are never alone. “We see what we are looking for: burdens or blessings, weeds or flowers, and sometimes we need help from the ONE who sees all things as they really are.”–Ardeth G. Kapp “He can make us whole no matter what is broken in us.”–Paul V. Johnson

photo credit: Strevo via photopin (license)

Are You Moving at Cheetah Speed?

Would I be correct in my assertion that you are in a considerably more hurried state of mind than usual? I don’t believe that my eyes deceive me. Your confession isn’t unexpected. “I’m always in a rush to get somewhere no matter the season or the reason!” What does this perpetual racing mode say about your lifestyle? Are there any conclusions that one could draw from observing your behavior? Are you always running behind schedule? Do you suffer from the all too common ailment known as CPD, or chronic procrastination disorder? The typical rationalization for not addressing this serious condition includes the following: 1. You have way too many things which you absolutely need to do, and 2. There is never, ever enough time to complete your lengthy “to-do” list.

So, what is to be done? Is there a remedy for one such as you always in the fast-lane? I have a suggestion. Slow down! In fact, you need to stop! Isn’t it clear that the hustle and bustle of your daily activities is thrusting a tremendous amount of undesirable stress upon you? Please think about what you are actually doing to yourself. Neither your spirit, mind, nor body was designed to handle all the extra weight of your worldly concerns. What effect do you think your break-neck pace may be having on your family and friends? It is essential for your well-being that you begin to ponder the end result of all this chaos. This is not a game. The very last piece of advice that you might want to hear is what I’ve just recommended. You are always trying to push yourself harder and faster. Your entire universe revolves around speed. You’d like to make the jump from light speed to ludicrous speed. (See Mel Brook’s “Space Balls”) As detrimental as you believe that altering course and speed might be to your routine right now, for goodness sake, please use the emergency brake. Yes, the lever that reads “Never Use”. This is the time to do the unthinkable. You, my friend, are not unsinkable or indestructible. The damage done by immediately halting now will be nothing compared to what disastrous crash awaits you if you take no such measure.


In 2013, Ed Yong wrote about some interesting research which had been done on the running habits of the world’s fastest land animal. Alan Wilson from the Royal Veterinary College conducted the studies on the African cheetah. Most people are fascinated with this big cat because of its blazing speed. It can reach speeds of between 59 and 65 MPH! That’s some serious moving for sure. However, most of the time, even while dutifully engaged in their daily hunts, cheetahs rarely ever run as fast as they are capable. Alan Wilson observed that the average speed of these amazing creatures was just 33 MPH. This rate was actually only hit for one or two seconds during the course of their activity. Wilson hypothesizes that cheetahs don’t regularly push themselves to the extreme limits of their body’s capabilities in regards to the speed component in order to preserve their ability to use some of their more important skills. So, for cheetahs speed is not the most critical factor in their hunts. The research clearly showed that when cheetahs were successful in catching their prey they weren’t running any faster than when they botched their attempts. Not surprisingly, it is their unique maneuverability skill that really mattered most. To hunt very agile prey, like the Impala, cheetahs have to rely heavily upon their ability to dodge and weave.  This part of the chase is certainly more difficult to perform while moving at top speeds. Think about how much easier it is, not to mention safer, to turn your automobile at a mere twenty miles per hour as compared to sixty miles per hour. “If you want to catch something, you don’t want to go faster than you have to,” says Wilson.

So, what can you learn from these fun facts about your friendly, neighborhood cheetah? Plenty! Consider these life lessons:

  1. You will undoubtedly make better decisions when you slow down your pace. A clearer mind will be the result, and it will give way to inspiration and prioritization.
  2. Save some strength and energy for when it’s really necessary. Trust me. The time will come when you’ll need it.
  3. Despite seeming to defy logic and be totally counter-intuitive, your decision to pace yourself like the cheetah will prove beneficial. This will allow you to more readily tap into your own innate talents as they are required for specific tasks.
  4. Being able to successfully maneuver the quick turns that mortality can throw at you is important.
  5. Sometimes you will succeed when you are “hunting for something and sometimes you will not. Accepting this simple reality can mean that you’ll be less inclined to give up on the pursuit of noble goals.
  6. You don’t have to keep up with the cheetahs of the world. Find your own manageable pace and you’ll discover you’re more at peace.
  7. Don’t try to do that which is against nature. I dislike using the word impossible, but surely you must accept the truth that you cannot do everything. Did you know that cheetahs are the only big cat that doesn’t climb trees? I doubt that they stress out about this. So, rely on your strengths and do what you can. I implore you to ask for help when you need it.
  8. Speed kills. Your present pace will ultimately bite you as firmly as a cheetah’s jaws.
  9. “See that these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.” — (Mosiah4:27)

“Slow down, you move to fast. Got to make the morning last.”–Paul Simon, “The 59th Street Song” You certainly have deeds to do and promises to keep. Have faith that you will be feeling groovy and the good times will last if you but decide today to put an end to your racing. There will be more of life to love when everything is not a blur.

photo credit: Cheetah Run via photopin (license)

Two Questions

Reflecting upon the many conversations I’ve had already this year with prospective students, I wish to share one element common to each of my discussions. It is found in a couple simple questions which I ask of all I meet. After intensely listening to the individual stories which led these people to me, after engaging in detailed dialogue, after offering my guidance and encouragement, I ask these wonderful people, who have bared their souls to me, two things. “What are you willing to give up?” and “How hard are you willing to work for what you want?”

In addressing the second question, first, I stress this important principle. Every good thing in life comes about as a result of a specific action or series of actions. To a great extent, the nature of one’s desire for achievement of a personal fitness goal or an improved golf game is irrelevant. If I could measure desire on a scale or quantify it in some brilliant fashion, what value would that be to us?  Reaching your potential cannot be based solely on a reading of how badly you want it. It would just be a useless number. “Discipline, not desire, determines destiny.”–unknown.  You must work and must understand that “you can never  expect to succeed if you only put in work on the days you feel like it.”–Chad Hymas.

My intention is not to completely diminish the important role that desire does play in one’s life. For “desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our action. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming.”–Dallin H. Oaks.  But, there is that word, again, action! So, how can you increase the probability of acting with determination on your desires? To illustrate, I share the following story as told by Dallin H. Oaks. “Aron Ralston was hiking in a remote canyon in southern Utah. In the course of his hike, an 800-pound rock shifted suddenly and trapped his right arm. For five lonely days, he struggled to free himself. When he was about to give up and accept death, he had a vision of a three-year-old boy running toward him and being scooped up with his left arm. Understanding this as a vision of his future son and an assurance that he could still live, Ralston summoned the courage and took drastic action to save his life before his strength ran out. He broke the two bones in his trapped right arm and then used the knife in his multi-tool to cut off that arm. He then summoned the strength to hike 5 miles for help. What an example of the power of an overwhelming desire!”

When we have a vision of what we can become, our desire and our power to act increase enormously.

In regards to my first question, “What are you willing to give up?”, the call to change, out of which is born your burning desire, requires that you sacrifice. There is no way around this truth. If you truly wish to become better than you are today, dumping some ballast is the only way you’ll rise to the level of your best self. The things that are holding you back are certainly unique to your life. But, they are not uncommon to the human condition. So, others have done what it is that you need to do. Many have shared private details of their struggles, addictions, fears, imperfect family life, their strange circle of friends, unfulfilling job experiences, and the stress and anxiety which they carry. I am encouraging you to let go of the burdens that bind you to the present. “Those mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.”–Najwa Zebian. If you need a guide to climb your mountains, you can count on me. Obviously, I’d prefer if you’d take the courageous action to turn those mountains into mole hills. “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”–C.S. Lewis.  From there, our work becomes easier. Only you can make the decision to break the chains which imprison you in your current condition. Choose wisely. You do not deserve a life sentence. You are worthy of a new start at life. What are you willing to give up today? How hard are you willing to work right now?

photo credit: ThoroughlyReviewed Stretching Fitness Yoga Gym Workout – Must Link to via photopin (license)