Struggle to Success

(Master’s thesis, 2016)

You are seated in a court room.  On one side sits the offender  –  Heartaches, failures, disappointments, fear, self-pity, guilt, sorrow, anger, perfectionism, obstacles and tribulations  –  and on the other side is You.  The offender says that things will never get better, you are a failure and you are a mistake.  You reject the offender’s statement and you have God as your witness.  God gives a different testimony.

As the trial unfolds, it’s only when you take a good look in the mirror that you see you are the only one standing in the courtroom.  There is no offender, just you and your mind.  It is then that you have a choice to make.  Will you let life knock you down?  Will you fall victim to falsehoods that your mind or the world tells you, or will you find victory and happiness from struggle and listen to God?  It all starts with the mind … It all starts with you.  The verdict is in your hands.

Struggle is a part of life and is crucial to self-growth.  It is okay to struggle in life, but it’s never okay to quit.  In life, roadblocks are unavoidable.  You can’t drive down a highway or roadway without stopping at a stoplight or a stop sign, getting stuck in traffic, accidents, or encountering road construction.  Maybe the roadway you’re traveling has more bumps than expected.  If you are a registered driver, you know that sooner or later you will run into these obstructions, as they are a part of life.

In these situations, like most people, you most likely remain in your vehicle and continue on your mission to reach your destination, despite a brief moment of road rage.  It’s all about overcoming roadblocks and setbacks in life in order to reach the final destination.  God didn’t ensure that your journey will be short and sweet.  If we remain patient and stay on our set path, we will reach our ending point.  Sometimes the car ride just might take a while.

As human beings, we don’t like change or discomfort.  Neither does the mind.  We want familiarity, comfort, and belonging.  However, it’s only when you step out of comfort zones that you truly begin to live.

Mark Twain once said,

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sail.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”

Maybe stepping out of your comfort zone is sharing with others your story and how faith is shaping you as a human being. Faith is not always easy nor comfortable. We will encounter people who don’t share the same outlook as us and who don’t “get it,” but that’s okay. Continue praising God. When we’re under the pressures of everyday life, it’s important to continue to work hard, be faithful, diligent and responsible.  Yes, maybe you can’t deal with a problem on your own, but with God, you can.  Problems, people, and the pressures of life all build character and teach us to trust in something larger than ourselves.  If life was easy we would never have to trust God and our character would not flourish.  What we believe matters and what we listen to determines how we live.

But sometimes the mind is our own worst enemy and the source of negative thoughts.

Sean Stephenson, public speaker, author and therapist, understands the dangers of falling victim to the mind.  Stephenson was not supposed to live.  He was born with a disability, and due to a rare bone disorder that stunted his growth and caused his bones to be extremely fragile, he was confined to a wheelchair.  Doctors predicted that when he was born, Stephenson would be dead within the first 24 hours of his life.  Thirty-five years later, Stephenson sits proudly in his wheelchair as he tours worldwide and shares with others the message to never believe a prediction that doesn’t empower you.  This 3-foot-tall man has an important message to share, and he pushes others to choose strength over self-pity.

As Stephenson said about his own experiences, life is not easy.  You may think you have it bad or you can’t go on, but remember that there’s always someone who has it worse than you.  It is then that we see life in a different light and begin to feel gratitude.

In a world of self-destruction, Stephenson said “the worst drug to ever hit the human race is self-pity” because self-pity freezes an individual’s potential.  Even handicapped and confined to a wheelchair, Stephenson is loud and clear when he tells others, “You are not your condition.”  No matter what you’ve been through, or you’re current state of mind, you are not your condition.

Stephenson said the only disability is one’s refusal to adapt.  “You should adapt to whatever environment you’re in,” he said. “And what does adaption look like? Celebration.  When you meet people who are celebrating their life you want to be around them, you want to learn from them, you want to hire them.  It’s an attitude.  It is a belief in yourself that you bring value to the human race no matter your current condition, position, title, or stature is.”

It is your choice.  Although it may be easier to surrender to a disability, handicap, self-pity, or negative mindset, Stephenson said that we must choose a different outlook and not let our circumstances define us. Stephenson chose strength and to be a leader.

Stephenson also said, “When we feel like we’re not enough we chase external validation … external objects to tell us we’re enough.”  However, when God takes the stand he tells a different story.  You are enough.  You are more than enough.  It’s up to us to think it, believe it, and imply it every single day.

Stephenson described how being in prison or jail doesn’t even begin to relate to something more dangerous … the mind.  “The real prison is not surrounded by barbwire fences, the real prisons do not have guards.  The real prison is your mind,” he said.

Stephenson closes his message with the importance on finding freedom in life.  “True freedom is dropping down out of that mind and into your heart,” he said.  “Your heart is doing more than just sending blood to the extremities … what is it doing?  It’s sending emotional possibilities, infinite possibilities of choice, in our behavior, in our life, in our attitude … When you love yourself whether you’re sleeping on a prison cot or in a mansion … when you learn to master your emotions, then and only then are you free.”

But, what about purpose?  Without purpose, life is meaningless, dull, repetitive and unpleasant.  Even with all the money in the world, without purpose life is empty.  Adam Leipzig, CEO of Entertainment Media Partners, helps others discover their life purpose in five minutes.  His curiosity came about when he made a shocking discovery at his 25th college reunion.  More than 80 percent of his college friends that he spoke with were unhappy with their lives.  Leipzig said this group of people shared that they felt they wasted their life and didn’t know their purpose or what life was all about.

Leipzig and his former classmates graduated from Yale University, a prestigious college.  While others graduated with doctor and lawyer degrees, Leipzig choose theatre and producing.  While Leipzig caught up with his former classmates at their reunion he realized one thing.  “The people I was speaking with were privileged, highly educated, financially well off and in positions of power,” he said.  “And yet that 80 percent was unhappy with their life.”

Leipzig said he then spoke with the remaining 20 percent of his former classmates who shared that they were happy with their life.  Why?  Leipzig said these individuals “knew who they were, what they did, who they did it for, what other people wanted or needed from them, and how other people changed as a result of their passion or teachings.”

According to Leipzig, in order to find life purpose, we must follow these five steps:  Who are you?  What do you do?  Who do you do it for?  What do people want or need from you?  How do people change or transform as a result of what you give them?

Why is Leipzig’s formulation so powerful?  “Out of all those five things only two are about yourself,” he said.  “Three of them are about other people.”

Instead of looking inward, we need to be looking outward.  “The most successful people in any field always focus most on the people that they serve rather than how they serve themselves,” Leipzig said.  “Happier people make it a point to make other people happy.  If you make other people happy, life teaches us that we will be taken care of too.”  This former Disney Executive found success from his happiness, which turned into great achievements such as supervising the famous hit movie, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.”

You see, we will always experience struggle. It is a part of life and God allows it. Why? Because it builds and strengthens our character and helps shape the person we are to become. Find happiness. Break free of limitations, comfort zones, and live freely.  Never forget that you have to make a choice to succeed and you have a purpose to fulfill.  You are more than enough.  Speak this to yourself every day if needed because God is not through with your story yet.  Never ever fall into your own prison and remember, someone out there in the world is wishing they had what you had.

Finally, always be hungry and ask yourself, how can your gift or talent be a positive contribution to society? You will have to struggle to grasp a hold of success. As Christian singer Matthew West said,

“When you look at a gravestone you see two things: the day someone is born and the day they died. But what most people don’t see is that small dash in-between. These stories —yours and mine—  they are that dash. Everyone of us is living that dash right now. It’s up to us to make an everlasting impact.”  86,400 seconds are in every day. What will you do with that time?

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