Self-improvement can happen in 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

We live in a world of intense communication, in essence besieged by our cell phones, laptops, text messages and on and on.

There is a tremendous amount of informational input involved and we are indeed influenced by societal and perhaps political pressure to conform to certain modes of thinking or acting.

This often is reinforced by an avalanche of informational outlets, such as talk radio, cable and network television and myriad internet sites. It is possible to be buffeted, influenced and perhaps even guided by these exterior forces.

One result of this contemporary trend is to place us into conveniently labeled categories, often isolating us from one another through superfluous and artificial divisions. This may seem desirable to some individuals as it takes away the sense of personal responsibility and accountability.

That concept is at odds with a clear reality -- ultimately, the more important question is how we conduct our individual lives on a day-to-day basis.

That focus was the subject for a Dear Abby column this week which deals with what we all can do to improve ourselves and, in reality, make life better for everyone with whom we come in contact.

Perhaps the most important step to take is the conscious effort to be happy on a daily basis. We firmly believe there are people who choose to be happy and, of course, the opposite. All of us know, and encounter, both types.

Here is what Abby's advice is on that subject -- "I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away with sunshine."

And then to take it one step farther -- "I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I will not speak ill of others...I will refrain from improving anybody but myself."

That last concept flies in the face of the pressures and categorizing referred to earlier. It places the responsibility firmly in our own hands for facing our own shortcomings and taking positive action -- while not worrying or focusing on others.

This also leads to a broader view that should be the next step in our development -- "I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things I can correct and accept those I cannot."

These are simple words of wisdom for life. They change our focus from the external to the internal. They ask us to take responsibility for our own lives and quit fretting about issues that either do not seriously affect us or even concern us.

What a great vision for approaching 2011 -- make a conscious decision to be happy on a daily basis, look for the good in others and treat people with respect. Accept reality as it is and only tackle those issues for which there is a clear and direct sense that one can make a difference.

Best wishes to you all in the coming year.