Testing Your Mental Health

1. What do you think it means to have good mental health?

2. What do you do to help your mental health?

3. What do you like about yourself?

4. What helps you feel happy, excited, satisfied? What kinds of people, situations, things help you feel good, help you be emotionally positive?

5. When do you feel unhappy? What kinds of people, situations, or things get you to feeling afraid, angry, sad, confused, or feeling emotionally negative?

6. Sometimes our negative emotions get out of balance and sort of take over. When this happens, we sometimes have problems with our behavior and adjustment. When your emotions get a little out of balance and the negative emotions take over, what kinds of problems does it cause you with your behavior, your adjustment?

7. Our feelings are okay. This includes feeling afraid, angry, or sad. How we deal with our feelings makes a difference, though. How do you deal with it when you feel angry, when you feel afraid, when you feel sad?

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You’re Just Going Too Slow

“Are things out of control?” This is a most interesting question. You likely ask yourself this question sometimes and experience pronounced anxiety as you consider the answer. The problem is, of course, if things are out of control, there is no predicting the outcome. The possibility of a huge crash is out there and the prospect is somewhere between alarming and terrifying. Even if things are out of control, odds are that the outcome will be acceptable; but…. Perhaps Mario Andretti had a thought worth remembering, “If everything’s under control, you’re going too slow.”

You have both experienced this existential anxiety and have thought about the intense level of uneasiness associated with it. It’s indeed uncomfortable and evokes feelings of self-doubt, frustration, and a sense of helplessness. At times, these feelings can be overwhelming and nearly paralyzing.

If you run this issue by Sparky (a local guru on the topic) you may be quite taken aback to learn that the question itself is a product of retrograde thinking. Sparky will point out that the question is based on an invalid assumption. It assumes that things should be in control and that control is a desirable state. Not being one to stop with a brief comment and a few fries, That Sparky will probably go on to point out that most everyone has been in environments where control was the central priority and the major goal of those in charge.

Did you like that? Was that anymore comfortable? Is controlling the right thing to do? Do you want things to be controlled by you or anyone else? At that point, you may want to tell Sparky to take those fries and….

Once you’ve had a chance to settle down some, asked Sparky a different question. “If having things in control is not what we want, then what do we want?” As you might expect, Sparky says, “Now, there is a great question,” as he gets up and goes out to find some more fries. Giving a great impression of Columbo, he pauses and adds, “I doubt if it is having things in control, though.”

Perhaps the right question is actually, “Are you getting better and better at getting better and better, one issue at a time?” That question is easy. You certainly are, even though you lose the perspective once in a while as you see that you are not yet nearly as good as you need to be, as you are going to be. Still, you are a lot better at it than you were last month and much better than you were last year. When the anxiety comes, and it will, just think about how good you are going to be at it this time next year; and keep in mind what Lao Tzu said, “He who controls others may be powerful but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.” Now there is an awesome thought! It also goes very well with fries.

Now you know so there you go.

With Style, All the Time, On Purpose

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity. – Christopher Morley

You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. – Doug Floyd

The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself. – Rita Mae Brown

Sticking to the high road can be quite challenging. Even so, the associated lessons all have two things in common. First, they usually are not particularly complicated. It certainly can sometimes take a while to get it; but once you do get it, the lesson is normally straight-up and to the point. Second, and here is the rub, the lessons invariably are a “So now you tell me!” kind of thing. Oh sure, hindsight is 20/20, live and learn, no one is perfect, and you are only human. Nonetheless, having learned your lesson is not much consolation once you have already missed important opportunities to stick to the high road. Yes, you may do better the next time; but your chance to get it right the first time has passed and will not return. Much better is to get it right, the first time, on time, every time.

It’s certainly true that no one is perfect, you are only human, and things only work out just the way you want them to in the movies. Life can be a real bear sometimes; but fortunately, you do not have to take responsibility for life. You are only on the hook for who you are and what you do. Here is a suggestion worth taking to heart. Start with developing a personal style that sets you apart, that lets everyone know that you are a class act. Think about people you know who stand out from the crowd, people who are certifiable class acts. They have three techniques down pat. First, they are originals. Their style and approach with people and situations are their trademarks. Second, they are not on-again, off-again. They are always uniquely themselves. Third, and here is the key: it is no accident. They usually make it seem easy and natural; but take a closer look and you will soon understand and appreciate how hard they work at it. They consciously and purposely do everything they do, with style, all the time, on purpose, one situation at a time, one person at a time.

Now you know so there you go.

Failure May Not Be Necessary

Most people are more comfortable with old problems than with new solutions. – Author unknown

All the mischiefs in the world may be put down to the general, indiscriminate veneration of old laws, old customs, and old religion. – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Stubbornness does have its helpful features. You always know what you are going to be thinking tomorrow. – Glen Beaman

The relationship between trial and suffering is a common theme in the success and motivation literature, although “failure” usually replaces “trial and suffering” in the equation. For example, Benjamin Disraeli said, “All my successes have been built on my failures.” The famous Anon. said, “Failure is a better teacher than success, but she seldom finds an apple on her desk;” and Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, said, “Most success springs from an obstacle or failure.” Maury Povich joined in too when he said, “There’s got to be a glitch along the way, or else you lose touch with reality.” Robert Louis Stevenson took the concept to the extreme, “Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits;” and Winston Churchill echoed the theme, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Now isn’t that just dandy. It’s enough to make one get out there and fail just to get firmly on the path to success; and the bigger the failure, the better. “Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success,” according to Napoleon Hill. Perhaps a good measure of trial and suffering would also be a terrific addition to one’s optimal success strategy.

Interestingly, simply failing is, by itself, not sufficient. One must develop the right attitude toward failure. Reggie Jackson suggested, “I feel the most important requirement in success is learning to overcome failure. You must learn to tolerate it, but never accept it.” Dexter Yager said, “A winner is one who accepts his failures and mistakes, picks up the pieces, and continues striving to reach his goals.” It’s a get back on the horse kind of thing. Denis Waitley puts it this way, “Forget about the consequences of failure. Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.”

At least Norman Vincent Peale didn’t buy into the negative approach to success, “We’ve all heard that we have to learn from our mistakes, but I think it is more important to learn from our successes. If you learn only from your mistakes, you are inclined to learn only errors.” The conclusion here is simple. Fail if you absolutely can’t avoid it. If you fail, don’t quit. You can’t succeed if you don’t try. Having said that, success is always more fun than failing and there is never any shame in having fun. The key is to do the right things right, the first time, on time, every time. With that as your personal standard, you won’t always have fun but the odds will definitely favor your proactive approach to success.

Now you know so there you go.

Pass It Along

Pass It Along

“If you will think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself. Character is a by–product, and any man who devotes himself to its cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig.” –– Woodrow Wilson

As you think about what you ought to do for other people, passing your character along to your children and to other kids with whom you have contact is both a responsibility and an opportunity. Children don’t come into the world with their character pre–packaged. Rather, it develops and evolves through their early years. Character is learned and thus, is taught. Yes, some kids learn faster and more completely than others; but learn they do. William J. Bennett clearly understood this teaching/learning process when he said, “If we want our children to possess the traits of character we most admire, we need to teach them what those traits are and why they deserve both admiration and allegiance. Children must learn to identify the forms and content of those traits.”

First, do you know what character is and are you passing it on? It was passed on to you when you were a kid; and now it’s your turn. The youngster may live at your house, deliver your paper, be playing across the street, or just walk by; but pass IT on you do. Are you warm and gentle, friendly and accepting? If so, it feels like acceptance and being valued, inclusion and being important. If you are cold and indifferent, detached and suspicious, it feels like…; well, you know how IT feels. That is why you need to pass your character on very carefully, especially to young people.

When describing character, Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Your responsibility is to guide and nurture the growth of the tree of character in your children so it casts a clear, stable, unambiguous shadow in the child’s world. Both the tree and its shadow need to incorporate the values, beliefs, priorities, and choices that you have passed on. This is, as Plutarch suggested, not an event but is, rather, something that builds, day to day. “Character is simply habit long continued.” The same point was also echoed by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The force of character is cumulative.”

Next, as you pass character on to your children, remember that you are the model. To be a great model, you have to walk the walk, talk the talk, have all the right moves, and amaze your fans. If you have kids or hang–around with someone who does, you have already got an enthusiastic following; and follow you they will. Given time, they will walk your walk, talk your talk, and your moves will be theirs. You are the model and they are your work–in–progress. How is your creation coming along? If you don’t have it quite right yet, it will help to know that you need to give more emphasis to being a better model for kids than to molding them. They will do as you do. As the famous Anon. reminds, “The acorn never falls far from the tree.”

. . . . .

As you think about what you ought to do for other people, passing your character along to your children and to other kids with whom you have contact is both a responsibility and an opportunity. Children don’t come into the world with their character pre–packaged. Rather, it develops and evolves through their early years. Character is learned and thus, is taught. Yes, some kids learn faster and more completely than others; but learn they do. This article shows you how you are key to their learning process.

Greatest Leadership Principles

ockell, Leslie and Adrienne Avila. The 100 Greatest Leadership Principles of all Time. New York: Warner Business Books, 2007.

Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage, and discipline.

A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others see. – Leroy Eimes

The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.” And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I.” They don’t think “I.” They think “we”; they think “team.” They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’ sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit … This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done. – Peter F. Drucker

A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not. – Anonymous

Nobody rises to low expectations. – Calvin Lloyd

A community is like a ship: Everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm. – Henrik Ibsen.

Smart Luck

Sure, some lucky ducks were born with silver spoons in their mouths; and in life’s great poker game, some people get better cards than others. It’s enough to make you just sit down and cry. The old law-of-averages certainly doesn’t apply to you. If luck were really a lady, the world would be a fairer place. Even if it weren’t, at least you would get better cards. Maybe your luck will turn; but then again, maybe not. In the meantime, you will need to simply go with the cards you are dealt.

Okay, you get it; but it’s still a roll of the dice and you can’t do much about that fact of life; but, maybe you can. A friend tells this story. “It was bright-and-early one morning when Grandpa found an exceptionally fine sea shell on the beach. I flippantly commented, ‘That was just dumb luck, your finding that shell.’ He smiled and replied, ‘Yes, it was dumb luck for a guy who was already on the beach and looking before 6:30.'”

Sure, luck and maybe even dumb luck at times play a big part in a lot of things. Things happen and you can’t control everything; but you can make a point to be on the beach before 6:30 and can make the extra effort it takes to improve the odds for your success. The old-timers call this “smart luck.”

Thomas Jefferson also supported personal responsibility as an important key to good luck. “I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” The famous Anon. added one more key to unlocking luck’s door, “Luck is when opportunity knocks and you answer.” It really is just like R.E. Shay said, “Depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will, but remember it didn’t work for the rabbit.”

Now you know so there you go.


Are you old enough to remember Ozzy and Harriet? If so, you will recall that only the children argued and then only in the most considerate and polite way. Everyone was thoughtful and, well, nice.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just think about how well you think other families get along with each other when they get together for a summer barbecue or a winter holiday. If you think they get along great or at least better than your family does, you have bought into what we might call the Ozzy and Harriet syndrome.

If that doesn’t work for you, take your imagination along with you to work. Picture a workplace where everyone is positive and in an up mood all the time. You and your coworkers are always thoughtful, considerate and, well, nice. It’s always a pleasure to go to work and a joy to spend time with your coworkers.

If you are still struggling to get up to speed with all of this, focus on your relationship with your parents, your significant other, your children, your friends or maybe even your neighbors. It’s an Ozzy and Harriet world. Everyone gets along just fine with everyone else and that is especially true for you. You are always easy to get along with and are a joy to be around. Ozzy and Harriet could have picked up some being nice pointers from you.

Alas, it’s not an Ozzy and Harriet world, at least not in any world I know about. I doubt that it’s an Ozzy and Harriet world in any world you know about either.

Let me ask you this. In situations from coworkers to neighbors, from children to siblings, what do you want to change? What would it take to turn each situation into that Ozzy and Harriet world we all secretly think may actually be possible?

If you aren’t sure what it would take, I definitely know the answer. Everything would be much improved if my coworkers would just be more cooperative, if my children would just be less childish, if my neighbors would just be more neighborly, if my friends would just be more considerate, and if everyone would just shape up and get with the program, my program of course.

What do you think? Would that work for you too – with your program instead of mine of course?

You are probably thinking that I’m going to be giving you some advice now. It would likely have something to do with you being more thoughtful, considerate and patient with other people. Perhaps it would include the caution not to be too reactive or quick to criticize. It might even include a few tips about how not to get pulled into conflicts or controversy. I’ll bet it would definitely include the advice my mother gave me to mind my own business and not to stick my nose into other peoples’ business. As she like to put it, “It’s a full time job just taking care of yourself.”

No, I don’t think so. Not this time. I’m going to give you some advice but not the useless advice you are expecting. Since I have no intention to shape up and get with your program, I think your best choice is to shape up and get with mine.

Now you know, so there you go.

Be the Change We Wish to See

The idea that excellence is a product of training isn’t surprising. Athletes, musicians, and those who achieve preeminence in other areas requiring superior personal performance are well-aware of the necessity and value of continuous training. The point that may not be as obvious is that training and habituation are prerequisites for areas of excellence beyond developing physical skills and individual talents. They are necessary for emotional excellence, moral excellence, interpersonal excellence, as well as intellectual excellence. The point that may be even less obvious is as Aristotle said, “Training and habituation are prerequisite to virtue. People have the capacity to be virtuous but become virtuous people only through training and habitually acting rightly. One becomes virtuous by acting virtuously.”

How does one act virtuously? Cicero advised, “It is our special duty, that if anyone needs our help, we should give him such help to the utmost of our power.” Confucius said, “To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue… gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.” Although how one practices “gravity” is less than obvious, the other four requirements need no explanation. John Wesley was even clearer when he said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” Now that leaves little room for doubt or negotiation.

The message has not changed over the millennia. Dante said, “He who sees a need and waits to be asked for help is as unkind as if he had refused it.” Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Is virtue the path to personal joy and fulfillment? Probably not. George Bernard Shaw said, “Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.” Why? As George Eliot put it, “Our deeds determine us as much as we determine our deeds.” Remember Aristotle’s message, “We are what we repeatedly do.” The choice is to habitually act rightly or to act wrongly. At that level, it’s not much of a choice. The key is remembering that acting virtuously is an essential part of one’s ongoing excellence training.

Now you know so there you go.