Life 101: 21 Practical Personal Growth Principles for the 21st Century

Life 101: 21 Practical Personal Growth Principles for the 21st Century

by M.Ed. LPC Ashley Anne Connolly


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Life 101 is a handy companion for seekers of the digital age who expect information to be presented to them in a concise, practical, and useful manner. If you have ever been disappointed by a long-winded boring self-help book or have purposely steered clear of that section of the book-store, but are still interested in helpful tools for living; Life 101 is for you! In this concise yet wisdom packed volume, Ashley provides 21 Principles for Living, including:

• How to Manage Your Thinking
• How to Get Self-Esteem
• How to Manage Difficult Relationships
• How to Still Your Mind
• How to be the Happiest and Best Version of You!

Happiness and wellness are not as difficult as the world would have you believe. You can attain peace of mind by incorporating these 21 principles into your life. This is the book that will show you how.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504344869
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 12/18/2015
Pages: 110
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.26(d)

Read an Excerpt

Life 101

21 Practical Personal Growth Principles for the 21st Century

By Ashley Anne Connolly

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2015 Ashley Anne Connolly, M.Ed., LPC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5043-4486-9


Principle 1

Thoughts Are Everything!

"Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds to be."

-Abraham Lincoln

From New Age books, academic psychology journals, to Western and Eastern spiritual traditions; the message is the same – pay attention to your thoughts, and then choose good ones. The basic premise behind nearly all effective 'self-help', spiritual or psychological programs is the very basic idea that 1) our thoughts create our emotions, 2) that very often these (negative) thoughts are not true, so 3) to change the way we feel we need to change our thoughts.

The key is to examine our thoughts and to become conscious and aware of their content. Is your inner dialog kind? Do you speak to yourself in a loving manner? Honestly look at whether the ticker tape in your mind is a ticker tape of love or one of fear. Your self-talk ultimately determines your self-worth. Tell yourself you are beautiful, funny, joyful, happy, abundant, loving, good, worthy, satisfied – even if at the time you don't necessarily believe it. Change the inner dialog.

If you feel that your thoughts are not necessarily representative of self-love, complete this simple exercise. Choose three or four sentences from the list below (or write your own) and commit to memory. Any time you notice negative thoughts, stop and repeat your personal mantra out-loud or internally, even if at the time you don't believe it.

I am lovable.
I am beautiful.
All is well in my world.
Life is good.
I am joy.
Joy overflows in my life.
I love life.
I love me.
I am happy.
I love everyone and everyone loves me.
I am love.
Love is everywhere.

My personal mantra is "All is well. I am blessed. Life is good. Thank you God."

Positive thinking and reducing negative thoughts should not be construed to mean that you will never experience negative emotions. Sadness, grief and anger will still be experienced in small appropriate doses. The key is to make sure your thoughts are not distorted, and that what you are feeling is an appropriate response to a given situation. For example, 'I am feeling sad because my dog died.' is an appropriate response to loss. Telling yourself; 'I am the worst dog owner and I will never ever find a dog like Scruffy again and I will never ever feel better again because he is gone' is an example of an unhealthy thought process.

Your thoughts not only influence how you feel about yourself, but they also may have a very real impact on the outcomes that manifest in your life. Research is beginning to demonstrate that our thoughts may actually have creative powers. Whether or not if you think about your dream house, dream job, or dream man long-enough and with enough conviction, you will manifest it; is, in my opinion, beside the point. As far as I'm concerned, creating positive outcomes with our minds is simply a better way to spend an afternoon than worrying about outcomes. And it leads to optimal mental health! Creating specific outcomes may just be an added bonus. Worry is simply using your imagination to begin to create things you don't want.

Spend some time each day in your creative corner. Decide what you want, visualize it and start creating a whole fantasy world around this idea. Use the down times in your day: lines, traffic jams, computer starting up, teeth brushing, or showering to enter your own personal creative corner.

Thoughts are things. Choose yours wisely.


Principle 2

Do Esteemable Things

"The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself." - Bill Gates

To get self-esteem, do 'esteemable' things. I should actually just end the chapter after that three word sentence; as that sentence really encompasses the very simple and effective means of increasing your self-esteem. It is a common, albeit, trite saying floating around self-help groups, that "To get self-esteem, do 'esteemable' things."

What does that mean? Basically it means acting with integrity and living your life so that your actions are aligned with your values. It means doing the right thing instead of the thing that feels good. It means helping others. It means taking time out of your day to reflect. It means conducting yourself in such a manner that your God would be proud of you. It means living your life in such a way that you wouldn't be afraid if the town gossip had access to your daily affairs.

A recipe for low self-esteem is to continue to do things that make you feel guilt and shame. Low self-esteem is a result of conducting yourself in a manner that you know, at a deep level, is not morally, ethically, spiritually or emotionally sound. It is awfully convenient and tempting to blame our low self-esteem on other people. Your parents were mean to you, nobody gave you unconditional love, your spouse yells at you, your boss berates you, you were teased in kindergarten; the list could go on and on.

And yes, there is some validity that we are programmed consciously and unconsciously with the messages we received at an early age and that we continue to hear. Don't give your power to others. You no longer have the luxury of blaming your problems and your low self-esteem on other people. You are in charge of your thoughts now.

The solution remains the same – start doing esteemable things. Be a good person. Give to others. If you remain in a relationship that reinforces your negative self-worth, you have the luxury and freedom of terminating the relationship. As they say in a co-dependent self-help program, "If you want to stop being treated like a doormat, get off the floor."

Get off the floor, let go of blame, and take responsibility for the content of your thoughts about yourself. The best way to feel good about yourself is to do things that make you proud of you. Often times people mistake trying to increase their self-esteem by doing things that feel good. For instance, having four glasses of wine, engaging in an illicit love affair, buying an expensive car, watching a mindless TV program, eating a bag of chips; these activities may feel good at the time but ultimately will not enhance your self-esteem. Conversely, running a marathon, helping a stranger fix a flat tire, sitting with a dying friend, donating money to a great cause, or volunteering for a non-profit, might not necessarily feel good in the moment, but will ultimately enhance your self-esteem.

This principle for living, doing what is good and not just what feels good, is a cornerstone for a happy life.


Principle 3

People Are Difficult

"Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" – Plato

Let go of expectations of others. Accept the fact that most people in this world, including ourselves; are emotionally fragile and very often wrong. We are all wounded in some way, shape or form. The problem lies in the fact that most of us expect other people to behave as psychologically mature, astute, reasonable and loving beings. Unfortunately, that is usually not the case. People are doing the best they can with the often limited emotional skills they possess.

Expectations are premeditated resentments. Expecting certain things from people ultimately leads to disillusionment and dissatisfaction. I don't recommend adopting an utterly pessimistic attitude about humankind, but a empathic and realistic assessments of others allows for fewer disappointments. Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised by the graciousness of someone's behavior, instead of constantly let down.

In terms of other people's behaviors; as they say in co-dependent groups; you didn't cause it, you can't control it and you can't cure it. Detach with love. Allow others to make their own lives. Live and let live. Give your loved one the opportunity to grow from their mistakes. Enabling unhealthy behavior keeps them from ultimately experiencing the lesson they need so they don't have to repeat the pattern in an unhealthy way.

For the truly toxic relationships in your life, it is important to do some housecleaning. Those individuals who have continually shown you their brokenness and none of their graciousness - it is time to release those relationships with love. You need to value yourself enough to stop accepting unacceptable behavior. You teach people how to treat you. Sometimes the lesson for them is that people will no longer tolerate their unhealthy behavior. As Maya Angelou and Oprah preach, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

Accept that other people may very often be wrong, but know that the ONLY thing you can do about it is to look at your part and clean up your side of the street. Twelve step programs encourage members to focus on "their part" of any given resentment. Where were you selfish, dishonest, self- seeking, unkind, or unloving? What would you do differently if you had to do it again? Do you owe an amends? How can you make things right in the relationship?

If you decide you want to mend a relationship and have accepted your part in the conflict, despite the fact that you have been wronged, these five sentences work wonders in healing.

I am sorry.
I was wrong.
Please forgive me.
What can I do to make it up to you?
I love you.

Do not allow the opinion of an emotionally unstable person influence your self-worth. If a psychotic and delusional mental patient told you that you had were purple and that you were a covert alien spy, you would not let that assessment bring you down. Similarly, you should not allow the judgment of an equally mentally handicapped person impact your self-worth. As Don Miguel Ruiz states as one of his agreements in his classic book The Four Agreements, "Don't take things personally." The majority of what other people think of you has very little to do with you and everything to do with them.

Finally, I would like to provide you with an easy strategy to employ when in the presence of a difficult, demeaning and unkind person. Visualize a white light surrounding them and repeat internally over and over, "May you be filled with loving kindness. May you know peace. May you be filled with loving-kindness. May you know love." It may not make them more peaceful, but it certainly will bring more peace into your own heart. But I believe (and have seen it work many times) that on some level they will feel the energy behind your intention and their attitude toward you will soften. I have been astounded to literally see energy shift in someone's demeanor when I mentally employ this tactic, shifting from distrustful to trusting, fearful to open, angry to conciliatory.

We are all beautiful and broken. Accept the brokenness. But know you don't have to live in it. Embrace the beauty.


Principle 4

Act As If

"You can't think your way into right action, but you can act your way into right thinking." – Bill Wilson

There is a saying in the 12 step and psychotherapy worlds known simply as 'Act as if.' 'Act as if' you didn't feel depressed, anxious, guilty, tired, angry, or any of the myriad negative emotions we can become attached to. Act as if you were happy, content, peaceful, satisfied, loved, serene and joyful. Sounds simple? It is.

The premise behind this notion is to lead with our actions, not our feelings. So you wake up feeling down and just want to stay in bed? Instead of following your feelings which tell you to pull the covers over your head, lead with your actions. Allow your feet to guide you into a better feeling mood. Get up, dress in a way that makes you feel good, get outside, take a walk, exercise, visit a friend. In short, do anything but what your sad and anxious feelings are telling you to do. We are not at mercy to our feelings.

Sometimes you really have to do some creative work to put this principle into action. Pretend you are in a movie and that you are cast as the lead; a person with a shiny, optimistic and sunny disposition. You can even give this alter-ego a name. Play with the idea. Get creative. You are allowed to be anything you want to be in this life. Why not choose to be a hero or a shero?

There is a secondary notion similar to 'acting as if' known as contrary action. The principle behind this is to act in the opposite manner of how we are feeling or what we are telling ourselves we should do. A great Seinfeld episode details this notion hysterically with George deciding to act opposite of his natural instinct. This idea is only useful if your previous actions have been harmful to your well-being. So if you feel like drinking, smoking, over-indulging, yelling, isolating or staying in bed all day, determine to do the opposite.

While I am not minimizing the very real stressors people may have in their life by not allowing for indulgences in self- pity, this idea is simply one more tool to add to your self-help tool-box. (For those suffering from clinical depression or any other severe disorders, sometimes self-help is not enough and professional help or God-help is in order – more on that in later chapters.)

'Act as if' prescription = Picture yourself as the happiest person in the world. Then conduct your business of the day as if you were that person.


Principle 5

Be Your Own Best Friend

"It's not your job to like me. It's mine." -Byron Katie

Be your own best friend, therapist, sister, brother, mentor, mother, spouse, father or God. Think of the people in your life who absolutely love you unconditionally (and please note that the above mentioned people may or may not be people that actually do love you unconditionally). Then think about what they would say about you in terms of your good qualities or what advice they might give you in any given situation.

Whenever you are in the midst of internal emotional abuse, stop and reflect upon what your loved one might have to say about your assessment of yourself. Would they say those cruel things about you that are running through your mind? Probably not.

We need to see us as Unconditional Love sees us. So the best eyes to view through are the eyes of those people who love us. If you have a relationship with a Higher Power or God, think about how your personal God views you. The Divine Mind or Unconditional Love is probably a lot more compassionate about your mistakes and your perceived physical, emotional and mental flaws then you are.

We can also use these relationships in our lives to have imaginary conversations with ourselves to solve any given problem, or if you can't actually solve the problem, then to change your negative self-talk about the situation. Learning to step outside your mind and to become a witness to your own life is one of the highest forms of psychological functioning.

Often, when a friend presents us with a problem, we are pretty clear of the solution, and if we have unconditional love towards this person, we also see how their negative self-talk is futile. For instance, imagine if your best friend, whom you love and support wholeheartedly, comes to you crying. She states that her boyfriend just hit her and locked her out of the house and is crying about how she is unworthy, unlovable, stupid and unattractive. It would be awfully easy to provide her with the verbal reassurances to counter-act the negative self-assessment.

The key is to be that kind to ourselves! Maybe the situation won't be quite as dramatic, but after a poor work evaluation and not getting a promotion you feel defeated, disappointed and worthless, try being your own advocate. Put yourselves literally in the mind-set of your favorite cheerleader and actually think about what they would say to you. Find a few phrases they might use and begin repeating them internally.


Excerpted from Life 101 by Ashley Anne Connolly. Copyright © 2015 Ashley Anne Connolly, M.Ed., LPC. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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