Saint Gianna Beretta Molla said, “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.” Ingratitude is a cancer that destroys the best of relationships, all previous successes, and precedes despair. In preparation for the season of Lent, I am focusing on developing a better daily habit– that of more graciousness for life both good and bad.
Find Joy— Make a Great (Grateful) List
Let’s do an experiment. Get a timer for look at your watch or clock and time yourself for a minute.
During this 60 seconds list out all of the various things in your life that you’re grateful for. You can type this out or jot it down on a piece of paper. At the end of the minute look at the various things that you’re grateful for below are a list of my items.
Note: For the sake of transparency I listed the things in the order that they popped into my head. The ordering is not a reflection of the priority of gratitude!
Whether your list is larger or smaller than mine does not matter. What I am certain of is that you could certainly think of at least ONE person or thing you are thankful for.
This exercise took only 1 MINUTE!
Imagine performing this simple test of thankfulness every hour of the day. Aristotle once wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Start your life anew with developing a sense of gratitude.
Develop a sense of thankfulness no matter what happens in life. Happiness and peace will soon follow!
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Thank you for reading and hope you have a blessed day!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”***
Perhaps the most difficult phrase a person has to hear in life is: You need to wait. Whether you renewing your driver’s license and have to wait at the local DMV or waiting for a job interview or searching for your vocation in life, waiting can be tough. St. Paul wrote about the importance of patience. Perhaps his most famous, and arguably his most timeless passage, 1 Corinthians 13:4, the great evangelizer ever reminds us, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated” (emphasis mine).
Wait it Out
My natural tendency leans towards impatience. Busyness and speed dominate my daily life. Whether this issue began as a child, as I was diagnosed with ADHD or if my fast-paced work environment and reliance on technology is a factor may be debated. Regardless, at the end of the day, I am in charge of choosing to slow down, to pause, and to reflect on my crossroad events in my life. Certainly, today it seems is a turning point in my life. Earlier this week, I learned about a fantastic job opportunity within my company that would be a perfect match for my skills. Excitedly, I discussed this chance with my manager. Needing permission from senior management to apply—as I am still only a few months in my current role, my manager informed me that I needed to wait for a year from when I was hired in my current role.
Failure as a Learning Opportunity
Disappointed I took this time to focus my efforts into working diligently. Focus. This word permeated my thoughts today. According to the great Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Oftentimes, courage is associated with quick thinking. However, sometimes the courageous thing to do involves waiting—patiently. That is what I did today. I paused and assessed my frustrating situation. “I am stuck in a position where I am not happy. It is not a good fit!” I initially told myself.
After inwardly reflecting I realized that waiting is not necessary a bad thing. The American author Joyce Meyer poignantly put it, “Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” Taking time to reflect on my apparent failings gave rise to a mantra that helped re-focus my attitude—F.A.I.L= Focus+ Assess + Inward=Live
Live life to the fullest. We are called to a joyful life. This does equal a life free from suffering—today certainly proved that with my disappointment about the job opportunity. Nevertheless, any cross, big or small, presents us all with an opportunity—to run from it or to embrace it. Today, I choose the latter! St. Therese of Lisieux encountered suffering most of her earthly life. The wisdom gained from accepting her crosses was profound. The French saint stated, “For one pain endured with joy, we shall love the good God more forever.” Love is patient. God is love. Therefore, God is patient. May the Holy Spirit grant us the virtue of patience and ability to transform apparent failings into fruitful joys!
Mark Twain once wrote, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” We seem to within the age of advanced metrics, statistics, and quantification of nearly all aspects of life. Within the workplace it is likely that you may be evaluated based off an array of statistical categories and metrics. As an avid football fan, I noticed a great increase in the amount of time and column space that sports agencies such as ESPN and network sportscasters spend on discussing [mostly debating] who belongs in the “elite” quarterback conversation in the NFL. Needless to say, statistics have become part and parcel of our daily life over recent history—the same is true for blogging.
Dating back to my high school years I developed a strong interest in gathering various information and analyzing it. For a time, I seriously contemplated going to college to become a professional statistician. The analytical side of me naturally ogles and takes glee in the statistics that I have available through WordPress. Are we to be measured by our accomplishments or by the attitude that we put into our work? The world makes external successful paramount in determining our self-worth, however, is this a healthy way to live? More importantly is this approach to determining dignity of a person actually true? I hope to address these concerns in today’s post.
Depending on your worldview and upbringing it may be debatable as to whether the achievements that we accomplish through our career and hobbies act as the defining feature for a person’s self-worth. What I want to discuss today is that measuring your success as a blogger solely on statistics and viewership is not the entire picture. Below are five reasons to support this claim.
Why are you writing?: This is the first question that you should constantly keep on the forefront of your mind when blogging. Are you writing to gain notoriety or as a means to improve yourself and others? Put another way is the purpose for blogging ultimately self-serving or for serving others? St. Thomas Aquinas once stated, “The things that we love tell us what we are.” I continually need to remind myself that I write to better myself and to help others find joy in this life—not to amass high stats!
2. Consistency is King: Although the world is a constantly changing reality, humans still hold a strong desire for stability. Possessing a consistency of character, will, and an even-keel of our emotions is a strong indicator for success. I struggle with keeping my emotions in check at times. What helps me during low points in my writing journey is to continue to focus the reason that I write–to help others find joy! I found this superb yet simple quote from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson helpful. He said, “Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.”
What has continued to provide me assurance and sustained me through periods of writer’s block is to always remember to focus on consistently writing and not worry about the popularity of my articles. Consistency is preferred over flashy statistics or outlandish blog topics.
3. Quality over quantity: Following closely with the previous point, it is good to remind yourself that while it is important to write on a consistent basis focus on the caliber of your post instead of the number. When I stray away from this principal I generate haphazard articles that are sloppily put together. Although I am able to get an immediate satisfaction from publishing that day, when I reflect on previous blog posts I tend to have a regret about hitting the Publish button.
4. Self-worth not determined by external measurements: According to the Catholic Church, the dignity of all human persons is not measured through our social, political, and monetary accomplishments. We are born with an innate dignity. The Second Vatican II document Gadium Et Spes [Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World] declared,
According to the almost unanimous opinion of believers and unbelievers alike, all things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown.
But what is man? About himself he has expressed, and continues to express, many divergent and even contradictory opinions. In these he often exalts himself as the absolute measure of all things or debases himself to the point of despair. The result is doubt and anxiety. The Church certainly understands these problems. Endowed with light from God, she can offer solutions to them, so that man’s true situation can be portrayed and his defects explained, while at the same time his dignity and destiny are justly acknowledged (#12).
The key phrase that jumped out to me is that when we place ourselves at the center of attention–the result is doubt and anxiety! Focusing on how popular you become as a blogger will have an initial rush of confidence and feelings of happiness, but these sensations will pass. Believe me, each time I hit a benchmark goal that I set for my writing career [i.e. landing a columnist opportunity, becoming a managing editor at an online magazine, and even an article published in a print magazine] I experience short term pleasure, but if I continue to judge my worth as a writer on these external accomplishments I soon fall into despair.
Pridefully, I fell into the trap believing that it is possible to achieve success all the time and when I hit periods of drought anxiety soon follows. Please do not falter in the same with that I struggle with frequently. Your self-worth as a writer is not to be determined by the amount of followers you have.
5. Writing as a Tool to Help Others not for Self-glory: Dovetailing from the last point and also circling around to reiterate the first reason, it is important to remind yourself that writing is supposed to be a tool to help others, not an avenue for self-glory. The Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho appropriately stated, “Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions.” Use your platform on WordPress [or other sites if you reading this elsewhere] to promote your writing as a way to bridge the differences in the world and be an advocate for truth!
I initially wrote this article as a means to help temper my addiction to checking my WordPress app over twenty times a day—I thank my wife for confronting me about this issue. Over the course of writing this article, I realized that others may struggle with this similar obsession. I focused my efforts in trying to be as articulate as possible in assuring any of my readers that are also writers. Please do not despair if you experience a lull in your blogging hobby/career. Please feel free to share this article to any of your friends that may struggle with similar issues of self-doubt or those who have hit a thick wall of writer’s block! Thank you again for all of my followers, readers, and advocates that have supported me throughout my journey.
British author J.K. Rowling declared, “The wonderful thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting. The terrifying thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting.” Writers since the beginning of time faced the double-edged sword the joy of creation from words and the fear of writer’s block. Some days it seems that words cannot be typed quick enough as phrases, sentences, and paragraphs already exist in your mind. Other times crafting a mere word or phrase is as painful as getting a tooth pulled at the dentist!
Whether you currently are in a state of inspiration or at a standstill in your writing here are three tips to enhance the ability to write more naturally and effortlessly.
Read, Read, Read— Feed Your Mind: The great American author William Faulkner advocated for the importance of reading, “Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out.” From my own experience, I have learned that the most fruitful periods of writing, and writing that comes naturally without really any strain, occurs during times where I read a lot! Just like the body requires a balanced meal for good nutrition, so too does the mind need a steady stream of information. Along with frequent writing variety is equally important. Making a habit of non-fiction and fiction will only help to expand your ability to write from multiple points of view and in diverse ways. Currently, I am reading Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men comics (to fill my creative side) and Dialogues of Catherine of Siena and Heresies by G.K. Chesterton (to satisfy my more spiritual and intellectual side).
2. Reflection: Another tip to develop more natural and effortless writing is to make time to reflection on the stuff you read. The Greek philosopher Aristotle purported, ““Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Without proper time to examine yourself and the ideas that you read about it gets difficult to organize them into coherent thoughts. Among the best times for reflecting on a post that I want to write about occurs in the car. Using the minutes between drives to work, the grocery store, or other errands I ponder how I want to organize the essential points of an article that I am working on. Even a few minutes of reflection helps me write at a quicker rate and with less resistance!
3. Passion and Purpose: After feeding your mind with plenty of information and reflecting on the material that you want to write about the third tip I use to make my writing more effortless includes a passion and clear objective. Why are you writing? Is it for an increased amount of exposure and social media fame or is your reason deeper?
My own particular desire for creating The Simple Catholic blog was (and still is) to discover the joy in life on my pilgrim journey towards Heaven. As the great Catholic write Flannery O’Connor wrote, “I write to discover what I know.” Through my faith I know that truth that freedom from sin and death exist by way of following the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A secondary goal flowing naturally from my first is to help people discover joy in this life (and hopefully the next as well!). Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God with your whole self and that the second greatest commandment— love of neighbor— flows naturally from the first command (Matthew 22:34-40). Putting God first, others second, and myself last not only helps my writing, but also infused joy into all facets of my life. This kind of joy cannot be contained and I do not want to keep this gift all to myself—it need to be shared with others, you my readers, and in turn I hope you share with your friends and family!
Filling my mind with a variety of ideas, taking time to analyze that information, and remembering my original mission for becoming a writing has all contributed to helping me write more naturally, more honestly, and more effortlessly. I hope that these tips help you in your writing endeavors as well. Please feel free to share these tips to your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.
“All for one and one for all”—Alexander Dumas
“No one has ever become poor by giving.”—Anne Frank
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”— Mahatma Gandhi
According to American author Anthony J. D’Angelo, “Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign it.” The continual focus on progress, change, movement, and improvement dominates 21st century humanity. Continued desire to improve on limiting stress, furthering personal and career goals may be inherently good; however, a person reaches a point when the trajectory of progress cannot ascend any higher. Ernest Hemingway wryly wrote, “Never confuse movement with action.”
Throughout history and literature, quick and unbridled progress poses the danger for a quick fall back to mediocrity and a starting at square one. The Great Depression in the 1930s happened on the heels of an epic economic boom, Greek literature warned of Icarus soaring too close to the sun—and eventually his wax wings melted and he fell to his doom. Personally, I too notice that whenever I experience a successful season in my life I have to be wary of being puffed up too much with pride. I start think too boldly—leading to the error of becoming a braggadocio!
As a Catholic, my faith plays a strong shaping force in my world outlook and daily life. According to Lumen Gentium the primary goal of all faithful is to grow in holiness, the Council Fathers declared, “Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive (no. 42). I never truly pondered it before, but I recently realized that Jesus’ parables and teaching examples often included planting, gardening, and farming references because plant growth takes time—it is slow, but steady. Likewise, our growth in virtue and moral excellence needs to be watered with essential elements. The growth need to be natural, steady and sure for the progress to be permanent. Ascendency towards one’s goals whether that be moral, work, or exercise related poses a threat of a great fall. To avoid any backpedaling, it wise to return to the fundamentals of success. Below are three basic activities that helped me limit stress, decrease my negativity, and improve my relationship with others.
Prayer: Saints wiser and infinitely holier than myself, always proclaim the importance of prayer. Perhaps no one else discussed the importance of prayer more plainly than St. John Chrysostom, “It is simply impossible to lead, without the aid of prayer, a virtuous life!”
Over the past couple of months, my wife and I committed ourselves to a regular, steady prayer routine. Before putting the kids to bed, we pray a decade of the Rosary. According to St. John Paul the Great, “The Rosary is the storehouse of countless blessings.” His words ring true with crystal clarity—the graces I received have been immeasurable. My manager noticing the changes in my demeanor at work told me, “Matt, you have had a tremendous month. I notice a great calmness within you over the past few months.” I almost was tempted to pull out my scapular—strong Marian devotion—to show my manager that what has changed did not occur on my own power. To cite John Paul II again, “Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history.”
Exercise: Along with daily prayer, renewing my focus on regular exercise greatly helped sustain the progress I made. Because of the changing of the weather, I have get creative with my workouts. Actually, not truly that creative, I just call upon Shawn-T with his T-25 fitness program that I watch through the Beach Body channel on my Roku. Jabbing, hopping, and twisting my arms, legs, and core in my living room I feel replenished with energy after the under half-hour workout session. Not only does exercise help with the body, it reinvigorates my mental capacity and energy for the rest of the day.
Reading Renaissance: Those of you that have followed The Simple Catholic will be aware that one of my strongest passions and loves in this life consists of the written word in the form of books. The only hindrance for me from purchasing and amassing more and more books is because I would either have to buy more bookshelves or take time away from reading to make a bookshelf myself. It is quite the predicament!
In all seriousness though, reading, and specifically reading good books from good authors, reignites my desire to become a better person. Late American essayist E.P. Whipple wrote this beautiful description for books, “Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time.” Reading books, especially the classics, allows the reader access to the thoughts, intellects, curiosities, and inquiries of history’s greatest minds. The foundation for all success is being humble to realize someone else is always smarter and wiser than yourself. After reading Fulton Sheen’s Remade for Happiness and C.S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy, this fact was reaffirmed. Surrounding yourself with the wisdom and insights of those men and women before you will only enhance your ability to become the best version of yourself.
Progress is not bad, in fact, it is necessary in an ever changing world. In order to survive and flourish, you need to learn to adapt to changes. If you have found strategies or things that have already proven to help you develop into a healthier, stronger, and more virtuous version of yourself keep doing those things! Go back to the basics as often as needed. My revisiting of my basics—prayer, exercise, and reading— continues to provide me stability for a successful [and hopefully sanctifying] life!
Author Chris Tiegreen wrote, “Thankfulness is difficult to express when one starts with an attitude of entitlement.” From my experience, I noticed that whenever people claim to deserve everything– I am including myself as the prime perpetrator of this attitude— rarely do things work out. Since my family starting praying the Rosary on a nightly basis, my attitude and approach to situations outside my control began to change.
After several months in a row where I went into work with high expectations, I quickly discovered rarely did the reality match my ideals. Anger, resentment, frustration and negativity came forth from my unrealistic anticipations. Falsely equating high expectations with my desire to be entitled to high production metrics and quality scores caused me to dive into a den of despair. Oftentimes, I came home from work with these feelings still churning inside me. Lacking patience, I lashed out at my family whenever the kids made messes or my wife made excessive requests for help. I sought to control all facets at home in hopes to gain a sense of control in the workplace. Ironically, by expecting everything oftentimes I gain nothing but disappointment and distress.
With my wife being pregnant with our rainbow baby, we viewed this child as a total and completely free gift from God. Moving away from the entitlement mindset, I am able to embrace, ever so slowly, this gift of the sustained and healthy pregnancy. St. Therese of Liseux declared, “I understood that love comprises all vocations – that love is everything, and because it is eternal, embraces all times and places.” Without love all else in life ultimately is moot. Humanity truly deserves nothing. Nevertheless, the Creator of the Universe granted life and even became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Since my move away from my selfish, entitled, greedy mindset, I seek to thank God for the blessings in my life. I ask the Holy Spirit for the graces to continue with this mindset and I pray for you to encounter the same joy that gratitude brings as well!
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” –G.K. Chesterton
“Gratitude comes naturally when you take so much responsibility that you expect nothing except what you’ve earned through hard intelligent work and always see where you can improve.” –Anonymous