1. The Feel Good Handbook by Dr David D Burns MD
I first read this book when I was 16 and struggling with severe depression after a suicide attempt (yes I’m making something known that has been kept a hush hush secret for one reason that those who may be in that boat right now might find encouragement and hope). I used to have the most negative self image of myself and an extremely low self esteem. I was the artsy fartsy type, more into drama and drawing then football and basketball. I didn’t seem to attract the attention of the ladies either. While I don’t claim to be Brad Pitt I don’t think I’m that hard on the eyes either but still I didn’t find myself to be garnering that much attention from the opposite sex (albeit I did have two girl friends but they both broke up with me due to my peculiarities) . Plus I didn’t start shaving until I was 18, my voice didn’t change until I was about that age either and I looked and sounded like a girl from the time that I was 14 until I was 16. I’ll never forget the time I went to buy flowers for a girl I had crush on in high school and florist said, “Excuse me miss, how may I help you?” I quickly left the flower shop in tears to be consoled by my mother, who incidentally enough gave me this book which I will whole hardheartedly tell you changed my life. You see, again I had the most negative thoughts going on inside of my head (on top of it I had so much anxiety and paranoia it was mind boggling). I would look in the mirror and hear such overwhelmingly negative thoughts such as “You’re so ugly!!” “Nobody Likes you!!!” and “You Should Just Kill Yourself!!” That it was almost at times too much too bear.
I remember one time I was at work stocking shelves and the boss came up to me and said “Matt, you’re doing a really good job here” however after he left the conversation that went on inside my head was “He’s lying to you! He just wants you to slow down so that he can fire you! You suck! Go faster!”
Anyway, for some strange reason my mother gave me this book, and I started to read it and I’m glad I did. It was extremely liberating. There is a verse in the Bible which states, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Well the truth’s that Dr. Burns shared in this book that I did not have to listen to these thoughts and that I could even shut them off did indeed set me free. I learned that I was minimizing the positive and maximizing the negative about myself and that many of the thoughts that I had were unfounded truths. To this day I remember one illustration that Dr. Burns used of how we take a telescope and use it to look at things far away and in the same way look at our positive traits and minimize them and on the other hand we take our negative traits and turn the telescope around and like a magnifying glass we enlarge them and make them out to be more than they really are. I immediately realized this and stopped doing it, albeit it took a bit of time.
I also took his advice and went to see a movie by myself. You see, it was a way to break the self consciousness and the paranoia. In my mind, I figured that if I went to a movie by myself, people would be looking at me, staring, laughing and pointing. However, it was just the opposite. I have no idea what movie I went to see, but when I was standing in line, no one looked at me, no one laughed at me and no one made fun of me. It was extremely liberating and freed me (albeit some would say too much) to actually be able to go and see a movie on my own, without having to wait on someone else to be around to do so.
I’ve never met Dr. Burns in person and have never even written to him to tell him about just how much his book has impacted me but I will probably do so in the next few days or so.
2. Awaken the Giant Within – By Anthony Robbins
I know that some might consider this an over the top book as Anthony Robbins has been portrayed as an Alien in Men in Black for his enthusiasm and different approach to life. However his book radically changed my life. I remember reading about the power of words and how the words that we use can cause our feelings or lack there of for that matter. For instance. how often do you find yourself feeling “Okay.” Instead of fantastic. Probably because every time some one asks you how you are doing you respond with “Ok” Trying responding with “Fantastic!!” or “Awesome!!” next time someone ask’s how you are doing and then see how you feel. The Bible says “in the beginning was the word” as well as that “life and death are in the power of the tongue”. Indeed words do have power and you and I should be more mindful of the words that we use. The words we speak to one another, the words we speak to our friends, family and even complete strangers can be a blessing or a curse and as for me I would much rather be a blessing.
Another thing that Mr. Robbins book taught me was to be resilient. He wrote that if you wanted to be good at something, such as tennis or basketball or even chess for that matter, find someone who is already good at that very thing, learn from them and then do it twice as much. This very concept has stuck with me my entire life (and I’ve been criticized by some for it, for not being an original thinker) however the way I see it is, why plow right beside where someone has already been when you can follow in their foot steps and possibly exceed them that much quicker. Which is one of the reasons I’m going to be enrolling in a course by Duane Marino on how to sell cars, as Duane was a successful Car Salesman and put together a training course to teach others to do the same. (For those of you who don’t know I’m currently working at a Mazda Dealership in Edmonton, and while it is not my life’s calling nor purpose I am at the present moment enjoying it and using it as a time to learn some sales skills and put some green in my jeans. As well as other things but I won’t get into that now.
The point that I am trying to make is if you want to be good at something, go and find a mentor, pick up a book, or even ten books and read as much as possible about the one subject or skill that you want to be good at and then like Nike says just “do it.”
3. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
In grade 5 I was given a worry wart award for being a very anxious kid (it even came with a bottle of Compound W). Indeed I was anxious, had an extreme problem with anxiety and didn’t know why (however I have discovered what the root of that was but will save it for another time). The thing is that I started reading self help books and went to the book store and stumbled upon this particular title and knew that I had to read it. In this book, the late Dale Carnegie shared so many stories of how to overcome worry and anxiety that it was extremely liberating. For instance, he talked about how we need to live in day tight compartments. Not worrying about the past nor being fearful of the future but living in the moment and living for today. He used the Bible as a basis for what he was teaching based on Jesus famous sermon on the mount:
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:25-34.
He talked about how ships are built with water tight compartments so that if one compartment is torn or broken while out on the sea the other compartments will not fill up with water and the ship will not sink. (Of course only if one or two of the compartments are not damaged but I think you get what he’s talking about)
And so it began that I started to live in day tight compartments. Not beating myself up over mistakes of the past nor being fearful of what might happen in the future but simply focusing on one day at a time and I still do this to this day (although some days are easier than others).
4. The Bible
I first began to read the Bible when I was 17. You see I grew up being told I was a Christian but I had no idea what that meant. All of these self help books seemed to quote the Bible so I figured I should at least get one, give it a good read and see what it was all about. I started off reading the NIV version of the New Testament and read it over three times over a three year period. I have to confess to you that at the time I had very little understanding of what I was reading, and even found it confusing, but this “still small voice” kept saying to me “keep reading, keep reading” and keep reading I did. But it wasn’t until 1998 that I came to really understand what I was really reading. You see while I grew up in a traditional church, went through confirmation and communion I had very little idea or knowledge of whether or not I was going to heaven or if God even existed at all (I know there are some who doubt his existence but I’ll leave that for another day). Yet from a young age, I would say as early as 12 I wanted to know if there was anything to life beyond what we can see, feel and touch. I remember when I was 14 and my Uncle was at my house for his Birthday I looked at him and said “Is this all there is to life? All we do is grow up, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids and then die?” I’ll never forget the puzzled look on his face to this day as I think I caught him off guard and he didn’t have an answer. But that being said, it was on one glorious day in November of 1998 that I found the answer to my question. I was in my grandmothers basement listening to a song by a contemporary Christian band named “Jars of Clay” called Worlds Apart and by all means I truly felt and thought that I was Christian (however I have since come to terms with the fact that I was at that time a cultural Christian and not a Spirit born Child of God). Anyway, as I was listening to this song, I had this cross around my neck and I held it up to the sky and said “Jesus, are you real? God are you really real? Why am I singing this song?” with no one around me, preaching to me nor influencing me the room suddenly filled with a presence and I was overwhelmed with love, joy and peace all at the same time. It was so overwhelming that I couldn’t stand on my feet and went on the ground as I started to cry from the overwhelming sensation of love, joy and peace all at the same time. It was if someone had opened a tap over my head and was pouring out liquid love, joy and peace to the point that I couldn’t stand it any longer. I now know that that was God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Bible, Old testament and New answering my question and revealing himself to me. He is real. He does exist and He’s crazy about me (as well as you)
I haven’t been the same since I got off the floor that very life altering day but I have come to realize four things; God is real. He loves me. Has a peace which surpasses all understanding, which I enjoy to this day and he has a plan for my life. Which is one of the reasons why I’m writing and sharing this with you. You see, before I was knit in my mothers womb God called me to preach and proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, That you can not only know Him, but enjoy a personal relationship with him and be 110% certain that on the day that you die that you will wake up in the light of His glory in heaven with the angels and sing and proclaim his goodness forever.
Now some of you may be reading and thinking who is this religious nut?!? I will confess that over the last 8 years or so I haven’t been as vocal about my faith as I was beforehand. You see, I’ve been in the desert. What the Bible calls the Wilderness. Like Moses, I was called to do something but because of a painful life experience I went the other way, running from the calling and instead focusing my time and energy on other things. To be totally transparent and truthful with you, I’ve been angry with the Almighty. Yes, I’m publicly stating that I have been angry with God for the crucibles that he put me through. Now some would say that the reason for my crucibles was the “chastening” of the Lord however I was walking in the perfect (well as much as possible) will of God when I was in inadvertently and unknowingly exposed to an illegal prescription drug called Estazolam as a result of the Chinese lacing an “all natural herbal sleep aid” that I took to try and cope with a temporary sleep disorder. For those of you who don’t know, Estazolam is a drug that is a part of the Benzopiazepine family of drugs, similar to Valium but way more addictive. In fact it is so addictive that it is easier for a heroin addict to get off of heroin than it is for someone addicted to Benzopiazipines to get off of them. And if you quit “Bennies” cold turkey you can die. It took me three years to go from 10 mg of Valium to 1.5 mg and it still took a miracle and the power of prayer to completely set me free. I’ll share more on that at another time. The point I am trying to make is I’ve been through some stuff. Things that a lot of people had no idea I was going through and while I didn’t understand it in the moment, and I was angry at the Almighty (which lets face it, is pointless) it has made me a much better and stronger person (not that I would wish it on anyone of you reading this that is for sure)
Now again some of you are probably thinking or wondering why I am sharing this and where this is all coming from. Indeed again over the last few years I haven’t been shouting it from the roof tops nor have I been sharing my faith quite loudly but have been in the Lord’s “secret service” as they say, simply trying to keep to myself and avoid having to talk about the One whom I have been so angry with. But it is time for that to stop. Time for it to come to an end. Not that I plan on preaching from the roof tops mind you (I’ll save it for the pulpit and itunes) but its time for me to come to terms with the fact that even though I went through some pretty difficult trials and tribulations as the Bible teaches, it has all been for my good. Its time for me to forgive God, those who have hurt me and move on.
Like the lost son of Luke 15 I have come to my sense and decided to come home.