Fortress Mentality—How You Can Keep Negativity Away in Your Life

Fortress

Growing up, I enjoyed constructing blanket forts in the living room or playing under the deck with my siblings in our dirt-laden bunker. Something about forts invokes nostalgia. Security and strength also are words that immediately come to my mind when I think of fort [and fortresses].

Over the past few years, I have noticed an increased anxiety, not only from myself, but from society as a whole. Americans enjoy the pleasure of living in a wealthy and free society—privileges not afforded in other places and times.

My aim here in this post is not to analyze the causes for the increased angst. That I will leave to professionals in psychology, medicine, and psychiatry. Instead, I am going to share a couple reasons why retreating to my cerebral citadel as opposed to actively engaging the stress inducers has worked for me for the past month.

Note: Please be aware, that while this approach may work for me I am in no way endorsing a fortress mentality being a miracle-cure method to fending off fretfulness for everyone.

Offense vs. Defense

Defense beats offense

Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote,“Negativity can only feed on negativity.” From personal experience, I know that negativity only grows when you give attention to it, too much attention will lead to negativity consuming your life. Fighting negativity with an offensive attack does not work. I came across this anonymous quote that stuck a cord on this subject, “When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the fire department generally uses water.

Different approaches are necessary when battling stress and negativity in your life. An image of a faucet comes to mind when complaining controls my life. Last month, I allowed my emotions to get the better of me: both at home and work. Frustrations about unmet expectations caused grievances which poured out like water running from an open faucet.

To combat my weaknesses, I simply went to source—my words and shut off the valve of verbal complaints. This month instead of vocally sharing my grumbles aloud, I created a laconic lock for my tongue. According to James 3, the mouth and tongue act as a gateway for various despicable behaviors. Keeping our words bridled is key to stopping negativity.  The Apostle writes in James 3:2-5,

If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also.a 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies. 4It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes. 5In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions.

 

Albert Einstein Quote

Fortifying not fleeing

The brilliant Albert Einstein once declared, “Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.” Sometimes turning away from the stresses and negativity going on in life gets equated with running from your problems. Withstanding the temptations to give into the negativity that surrounds you displays strength.

Known as fortitude, courage is the foundation upon which virtue and the ability to withstand the assault of pessimism is built on. Author Maya Angelou succinctly states, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” Shifting my mindset toward stoicism and fortress-like greatly helped me weather the storms of stress.

Becoming more self-aware of my vocal complaints, grumbles, and murmurings prevented me from stumbling into the sea of stress. Distancing myself emotionally from the “bad” or “negative” experiences I faced in the workplace or at home helped me to move more quickly onto the next task or event of the day. The image of a fortress best represents for me the virtue of fortitude and ability to block negativity.

Questions for reflection

  • Are you currently in a negative environment?
  • What steps have you done to change your situation?
  • Think of three things you can do to take action in the next week to decrease negativity in your life.

Quotes for further reflection

“But you, O man of God, must flee from these things; and strive for uprightness, godliness, good faith, love, fortitude, and a forgiving temper.” –1 Timothy 6:11

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.2 Timothy 1:7

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How To Be Authentic in the Age of Social Media

Authenticity

💡💡💡Be authentic. We hear that all the time on across the Internet. Life coaches. Bloggers. Podcasters. Everyone seems to have their two cents on this topic.

If you are like me you probably think: Of course be authentic, but what does that look like specifically?!”

This can be done using the following tips:

1️⃣ Don’t exaggerate your experience. It is good to use engaging language, but if you over exaggerate your story it almost becomes like a tall tale or a big fish story.

2️⃣ Use details in your content.

Over the past few weeks I have been reading Gary Halbert’s “The Boron Letters”. It is a fantastic read for anyone in the field of advertising or copywriting.

I came across this quote of his that actually inspired me to write this post. “Believability is one of the top most important ingredients of good promotions,” he wrote.

Share the details of your story! Today, my older kids are home from school. It is busier than usual. How did I find time to write this post?

I took my kids to the library and we are in a large playroom with tons of toys (play food and shopping carts) and I let them free play. This freed me up to write and read some of Halbert’s letters.

3️⃣ Share your triumphs AND your trials.

It is easy to filter our social media posts or blogging content to show only our wins. Who doesn’t like a success story?

However, the best stories involve overcoming a conflict or struggle. Those also happen to be the realest. Without showing your vulnerability and weaknesses a you run the risk of becoming unrelatable or stuff—one sided lacking dimension. Embrace the fullness of your life. Share your highs lows, and the in between times as well.

These simple tips will lead to being more authentic.

Do you agree with these tips? Let me know in the comments.

Thank you for sharing!

3 Tips to Guarantee You Will Overcome Adversity

Originally posted 09.16.2017


According to Thomas Paine in The American Crisis, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Written almost 300 hundred years ago, the American philosopher words remain fresh and relevant to our age as they did back in the time of the American Revolution. Facing deluges of stress, busyness, and changes in the workplace, I experienced difficulty in tough times. Last week the stress drowned me. I let anxiety overwhelm me.

Probably the best thing I did for myself [and my family] was to receive the Sacrament of Confession. Here I obtained the graces for a clean start, a theological re-booting of my system, and aid to face the adversity this week. Along with Divine assistance, I also had a counseling appointment where I received additional help to stay even-keeled as I boarded the “ship of life” and sailed out against the sea of stress. Below I discovered [actually re-discovered] three practical tips that guarantee you will overcome adversity.

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Seek Help

As a perfectionist I often struggle to admit I need help. My drive to succeed and do the right thing is both a blessing and a curse. In the storm of adversity, sometimes I am not able to keep afloat by myself. Jesus Christ said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Matthew  7:7). To ask for help means to submit yourself to the possibility that you may not have all the answers. Being uncertain about something or not a sign of weakness. Rather, seeking help demonstrates a powerful humility–a mighty weapon to wield in the face of adversity.

great power great responsibility

Own Up to Failures

Similar to the first point of asking for help and demonstrating humility, acknowledgment of my limitations provided another bulwark against adversity. According to Mahatma Gandhi, “It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.” His words carried real weight for me this week. Working for the banking industry involves balancing regulatory compliance with superb customer service to our clients in order to treat them with dignity and respect.

To be honest, I feel like an actuarial acrobat most of the week. A situation arose where I placed more priority on company risk prevention then serving a customer impacted by Hurricane Irma. I felt guilty–even though I really did nothing morally culpable nor illegal. Still, I realized I could have provided our client a better experience. So, I took initiative to actively solve the issue by simply calling him back to inform him of the complete breakdown of disaster assistance our company provides. Almost immediately, I gained a strength to persevere with mettle despite encountering other stressful situations that day.

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Learn, learn, learn

Albert Einstein once said, “A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.”  Despite, being a professional physicist, the German genius gave us profound philosophical wisdom in this quote. Throughout my life I encountered people I consider to be “learner yearners”. In other words, people who commit themselves to life-long learning and study. The common thread among “learner yearners” is that they seem to deal with adversity in a calm and controlled manner.

Adversity will always pester us and follow us in our earthly existence. The key is donning an educational attitude and seek opportunities to learn. Learning leads to perspective. Perspective leads to patience. Patience is the virtue that allows us to disable adversity’s assault.

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The great English prime minister Winston Churchill stated, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” More colloquially put, “With great power comes great responsibility,” attributed by Ben Parker [uncle of Peter Parker/Spiderman]. Facing turmoil and adversity head-on seems brings a sense of joy and peace. This seems counter-intuitive, but from my personal experiences so far that has been the case. A habit of seeking help, taking ownership of my failings, and continual learning leads to overcoming of adversity!

***”It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.”***

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3 Tips to Lead to a Mild (not Manic) Monday

Garfield Monday Meme

American cartoonist Jim Davis’ Garfield despises the start of the week. The cartoon cat repeated states, “I hate Mondays!” This Monday I definitely shared the same attitude as Garfield. Every single customer interaction proved to be grating, complex, tenuous, and stressful. I could not escape the negativity even during my lunch break! Unfortunately, I sat next to a couple cantankerous managers. They complained about everything: their team members, not getting the correct sauce for their chicken, waiting on work changes, and the list went on and on.

Certainly, it would have been easy for me to dive-bomb into a stress spiral for the remainder of the day. Instead, I choose to end the cycle of complaining. Maya Angelou’s wisdom immediately helps me in these situation. The American author wrote, “What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.” Change is not always easy, but it is absolutely necessary transform your mindset away from negativity—especially at the beginning of the week. I had to remind myself, yet here are three tips to make your Monday mild and not manic!

Recognize Your Struggle

recognize gif

I have found that if I don’t admit that I am having a tough or challenging day it makes it quite difficult to move forward. Honesty is the best policy. This is true whenever you experience internal struggles. Don’t get down on yourself in those times of trial. Recognize the times you need help and move on to tip two!

Appreciate the Little Things

Appreciate the little things

Along with identifying the situations that cause you chaos and grief, it is equally important to be thankful for the things going right. French 17th century mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote, “Little things console us because little things afflict us.” Manic Mondays usually occur when many little things add up that chisel away at our positive attitude. Gratitude is the best weapon to fend off despair and negativity. Where I struggle is I tend to think “big” where the “little blessings” suffice to defeat my woeful attitude. Grab a post-it note or open a notepad on your phone. List out 5 simple things, people, or situations that you are thankful for despite this hectic Monday.

Perspective Checkpoint

Checkpoint

In high school I ran cross country and track. The shortest race that I usually ran was 1 mile. Endurance always was a key factor in the success of every race. I had to pace myself accordingly in order to finish the race effectively. Making checkpoints throughout the race helped me pace myself without running on fumes. The analogy of a life as a race always reminds me the importance of forming checkpoints.

Amid the stress of today I strategically took a break after a series of angry customers or confusing situations. Taking a quick break from the situation truly helps to prevent the stress from compounding. American author Bruce Feiler stated, “Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.” If you lack the ability to own a turtle still pause and gaze at the world in its stillness. In the workplace you need not spend an hour in mediation, but a few minute pause every hour will enhance your ability to gain a different perspective—it helped me get my manic Monday in line.

you got this friends

If you struggle weekly with a hyper start to the beginning of the week don’t despair. Identify your struggle. Be thankful for the little blessings in your life. Take frequent perspective checkpoints throughout the day. You will be surprised how a manic Monday could turn mild.

Thank you for sharing!

3 Valuable Lessons Takers Can Teach You

Last week I talked about three valuable lessons that we can learn from givers. This post will focus on the reverse side of the giver/taker coin—taking. While givers tell us what to do takers will help us know what to avoid. We will focus on three specific lessons.

Don't Be Fake

Don’t be fake

Nothing frustrates me more than dishonesty. People who are takers camouflage their intention under the guise of “helping.” In reality, takers seek elicit a quick, immediate, short term relationship in hopes for a quick reward. Authenticity requires diligence, honesty, and integrity. Those virtues don’t normally lead to quick results. St. Mother Teresa stated, “Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.”

Creating a facade may give you a sense of strength. That is a lie! It only leads to a fleeting, temporary strength. Eventually the truth with catch up to you.

Don't be greedy gif

Don’t be greedy

Another motivation for takers is seeking money and power. A natural fruit of inauthenticity is the need to compensate for any failures. I am reminded of the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Three servants are provided varying amounts of talents (5, 3, and 1) by their master. He expects them to be fruitful with them and provide a return upon arrival back from his journey. The servants with 5 and 3 talents used them wisely and shared them—as a result they received double the portion. Greedily the servant with 1 talent hoarded his without a thought about helping others. The master chided him saying, “His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!” (Matthew 25:26).

Takers don’t care about others they selfishly hold onto best practices, advice, or help (unless they get a GUARANTEE of a return). Giving does not lead to loss—in the long-run. You only receive. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during his November 16th, 2008 Angelus declared, “the parable places a greater emphasis on the good fruits brought by the disciples who, happy with the gift they received, did not keep it hidden with fear and jealousy but made it profitable by sharing it and partaking in it. Yes, what Christ has given us is multiplied in its giving! It is a treasure made to be spent, invested and shared with all” Don’t be greedy. Share your talents with others!

Don't rush things

Don’t rush things

Along with avoiding dishonesty and greed, takers teach us to the value of patience. According to Jason Vana in his Linkedin video on Givers vs. Takers the latter seeks to hook you with short term trick such as an instant promotional message upon connecting or spamming your inbox. Takers seek out the short-cut, the easy way, the path of least resistance. While the path of least resistance brings success instantly, life is not a 100 yard dash. Instead, it is a marathon. Some days it feels like a mega-marathon!

Saint Pope John Paul II wisely wrote, “Young people are threatened… by the evil use of advertising techniques that stimulate the natural inclination to avoid hard work by promising the immediate satisfaction of every desire.” I would add that all people struggle against the temptation to take the easy road, the “lazy way”. All good things take time to grow in order to flourish. Be on the lookout for takers falsely promising “instant success”.

Even if you personally are not a taker you still can learn what (NOT) to do. Avoid taking advantage of others because inauthenticity and greed do not provide long term success and health. Promote a giving mentality—not for notoriety, but because it is the right thing to do. I guarantee you that would be blessed beyond measure if your heart is in the right place!

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3 Valuable Lessons Givers Can Teach You

Anne Frank wrote, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”  Over 70 years since her death, the Jewish diarist’s words still ring true. Generosity is not only a virtue, but a practical skill that increases your lifestyle. Jason Vana’s video on “Givers vs. Takers” inspired me to write on this subject. Today, I will focus on things givers can teach us. Givers do not have an ulterior motive. In respect to social media, Jason tells us “givers” do not place value on numbers such as follower count. Takers on the other hand seek to “use” people as a means to their end. From takers we can learn WHAT NOT TO DO. Givers teach us WHAT TO DO. Let’s look at three valuable lessons we can learn from givers.

Giving Frees You from Yourself

free at last gif

American author Maya Angelou wrote, “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” The ego prevents you from fully investing in giving best practices to your colleagues or devoting your full time and attention to your spouse. In my post 2 Effective Weapons to Defeat the Sin of Pride, I said, “Because God created humanity to live in communion, the sin of pride isolates individuals from others. Relationships strain, fracture, and eventually die if pride is left unchecked. Humility and gratitude attack and defend effectively against this sinister sin.” Pride leads to a taker mentality. Giving leads to gratitude and humility.

Giving Leads to Joy

joy of giving

 As Jason Vana saliently stated in his Linkein video on 05/23/2019, “Real givers do it [comment, post, like, message you] without expecting anything in return.” If the motivation behind giving is completely selfless the result is not fame, fortune, or money. Sometimes givers receive those things. However, I have discovered that the times I am an authentic giver—to my wife, kids, friends, co-workers, or my neighbors—the result is joy!

St. Francis of Assisi reminds of this truth in Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace. The Italian saint says, “For it is in giving that we receive.” Experience proves this and my faith confirms this reality. Now, don’t simply turn into a giver to get the reward of joy. You will only remind a clandestine taker. Love others truly and fully. Expect nothing in return. Only later will you receive the joy [from others and the Other].

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

slow and steady wins the race

Along with providing freedom from the sin of pride and leading to joy, the third lesson givers teach us that life is a marathon. The official length of a marathon is 26.2 miles! Even as a former high school cross country runner, and someone trying to get back into shape, a marathon sounds like a lot of work. The same is true of a giving mentality. Giving without expecting anything in return rarely produces short-term benefits.

I am reminded from the fable The Tortoise and the Hare when listened to Jason’s series of videos on giving/taking. Giving is not something you simply do for a short period of time. You cannot increase your giving exponentially, but only for a limited time and expect to receive in return. The taker mindset views short-term successes whereas givers see their approach as a lifestyle (a long-term). Slow and steady allows you to cross the finish line. Do not be that person who exerts all their energy in the opening miles only to peter out and fail to even complete the journey.

give and greatness

Be a giver. Share. React. Comment. Not only on people’s posts who would benefit you. Instead, give without expecting ANYTHING in return. Help those most in need of advice and reassurance. I am grateful for Jason Vana’s videos and his humble message. I hope this post will help someone else in return as well!

Thank you for sharing!