"Your past is not your future; you have the power to make new decisions for your life starting today."
- Deb Sofield

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Keep Your Eyes on the Stars and Your Feet on the Ground

Recently I came across two different accounts of people who have come to realize that their hero wasn’t what or who they thought they were. So, with truth in hand, these wise (albeit hurt) folks walked away. Not bitter, not really angry; mostly hurt and embarrassed that they fell so fast for the ideals that were portrayed to them as truth, but in the end, they realized that empty promises are just that–empty–so it didn’t matter what was offered since it was nothing but words without meaning.

Those stories stirred me. I realized that although I admire many people, in the end, it is my responsibility to make sure that, while I may consider them stars, I must be aware enough to know when I am being snookered by the bright lights versus the grounding truth of who they really are and what they really stand for. Not easy to do when we’re all looking for a hero, but necessary if we want to emulate someone who has purpose, value and significance.

It was Teddy Roosevelt who coined the phrase, “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground,” and I am going to take that idea as my theme for today.

I have been reading commencement speeches from this graduation season for some clients to use as practice pieces, and the common theme this year seems to be to climb, fly, or lift off from where you are (school) to where you want to go (world). Now, most speakers never got around to telling the graduates how to get there, but their soaring rhetoric to leave a pleasant thought in the minds of the kids who persevered through years of college and to their parents who are proud and yet anxious about what the future holds is what reminded me of my theme for today.

I am sure at one time most of us wished for and dreamed of having great things happen in our lives. We believed that if we worked hard, persevered and didn’t give up, the world would be our oyster, and for many, that is exactly what happened. They landed great jobs with companies they love, or they found their road less traveled and that has made all the difference, but for the rest of our classmates, that is not how their story has been written out.

Let me explain. You know I speak a lot about choices in life–your choices are your destiny–how good decisions today may result in opportunity tomorrow; poor decisions today, may affect you for the rest of your life. You choose. Argue all you want about the stars aligning in one’s favor, but in the end it is a tossup between the hand you are dealt and the decisions you make that will be your final resting place.

That being said, I believe with all that is in me that we need to be a hopeful people. And to maintain that bit of hope, I find it reassuring to keep my eyes on the stars and my feet on the ground.

Quick story: A while back I was in the Middle East working in my hotel room, which overlooked the Mediterranean ocean. One evening as I walked on the boardwalk, with the cafés on one side of the street and ocean on the other, I could see above the crashing waves of the water the deep blue sky with the twinkling lights of the stars and planets above. Although we see it every night, when you are miles from home, it is a comforting sight to acknowledge. While I am drinking coffee in a café over here, my family is at home looking up to the same sky and can see what I am seeing (within time zones). I am not sure why that thought is so vivid in my mind. Perhaps it’s the loneliness of international travel and the desire for the comforts of home that seem to meet in the middle, but I am never far from the realization that no matter where I am in the world with my feet planted on the ground, all I have to do is look up and see that I am as close to those I care for as an evening wish upon a star.

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground is a good reminder that being hopeful is one of the best cultured skills that will most likely be learned the hard way, but it will pay dividends for a lifetime, whether you are a student graduating or someone who is currently in the work force or even retired. The other options are not very encouraging, so keeping a positive attitude with a drive and persistence to succeed is not only a good idea but also very much needed today.

Beyond being hopeful, I am going to add that keeping a positive attitude has benefits that will add years of joy to your life.

I was re-reading a book by Mark Batterson called “If,” and one of the ideas that I really liked is the story of Dr. Wilder Penfield, a pioneering neurosurgeon who performed brain surgery on 1,132 patients. Although the versions of the story are varied, I am going to paraphrase the one in the book.

During Dr. Penfield’s many surgeries, he would remove the top of the patient’s skull while they remained conscious, (under local anesthesia) and they would talk to him when he administered a “mild electrical current to stimulate the different parts of the cortex.” What the good doctor noticed was that some patients experienced flashbacks to earlier times in their lives, and they could vividly tell him minute details of their past life that were all but forgotten. This led him to surmise that “every sight, every sound, every experience, every conscious thought and subconscious dream is recorded on our internal hard drive, the cerebral cortex.”

I am not interested in debating the fine points of neurosurgery, since I know nothing about it, but I am fascinated by the idea of memory, and I simply want to point out this impression to remind you that the words you say to yourself when you look in the mirror are etched into your mind–every idea you think, every word you say, every thought you allow.

For some reading or listening today, that should scare the pants off of you when you allow yourself to speak and think so unkindly to yourself. Friend, if you aren’t okay with you, how on earth do you expect others to be? My friendly advice is to get a grip on yourself, and seriously take a look at all the good things you have done in your life, thinking all the way back to childhood. And if your past is thin with good deeds, then get going with what you have while you can. None of us have time to waste.

Please hear me and stop with the negative talk. You deserve better–seriously, you do. You need to keep a hopeful attitude with a positive spirit, all the while being grounded in your life’s purpose, whatever that may be. This issue of self-talk and belief might be the missing piece for some of you who are struggling with your purposefulness on this earth. Don’t believe the lie that you don’t matter–you do. You always have, and if you have to give yourself a second chance to be who you were born to be, then go ahead. The world has time for you to grow where you’re planted.

The key to your success and sanity is to keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground. Look for the good in the world, and stop inhaling the barrage of negative messages that are online, in the air and in print. Just take a break from the battle until you are well enough to take care of you first and the world later. (Trust me it will still be here.)

I want to add a third point, which is that through it all, for you to survive the journey, you must find a bit of joy.

Joy – (noun) a feeling of great pleasure and happiness:

delight · great pleasure · joyfulness · jubilation · triumph · exultation · rejoicing · happiness · gladness · glee · exhilaration · exuberance · elation · euphoria · bliss · ecstasy · rapture · enjoyment · delight · treat · thrill…and I could go on and so should you.

“Why?” you might ask. Well, your other options will not lead you to emotional success, so give the idea of joy a chance.

Here is the key. You make your joy. You make your joy by doing the things you like to do with people you like to be around. It is required of you to make something happen. Don’t wait for others to bring you joy. You find it, make it and give it freely and then watch the return on your investment pay joyful dividends.

Trust me, it is not as hard as it seems, my friends, but it is a daily mental decision to be hopeful, positive and joyful. And the funny thing about it is this; no one can do it for you. You must step up and etch into your brain’s memory bank the thoughts, words and pictures of your life that are hopeful, positive and joyful. And you must think, say and imagine these things over and over until the memory trace “gets inscribed deeper and deeper, until it’s literally engraved on the surface of the cerebral cortex.” That is how you will learn to keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.

What other choice do you have for your amazing life?

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As long as you're going to be thinking anyway, think big. - Donald Trump