Chapter OneIMPROVING YOU, YOUR LIFE, AND YOUR RELATIONSHIPS-FOREVER
Life is my university, and I hope to graduate
from it with some distinction. Louisa May Alcott
At a renowned museum in Florence, Italy, you will find four partially
finished sculptures. The famed sculptor Michelangelo had intended
for each of them to be used on the tomb of Pope Julius. But
midway through the project, he decided not to use them and ceased his
work. Today anyone traveling to Florence can see the results-a hand
protrudes here, a torso of a man there, a leg, a part of a head. None of
them are finished.
If you stand in this great hall, looking at these fragmentary figures,
you will sense the turmoil, the struggle embodied in these
stones. It's as though the figures are crying to break free from their
blocks of marble to become what they were intended to be.
Michelangelo called these figures "Captives." Study them for a
time, and they are certain to stir up within you a deep longing to be
completed yourself. Somehow these figures bring more consciously
into your awareness the ache in your own soul to be free from anything
that is holding you down and preventing the realization of
your full potential. The incomplete figures eerily remind you of yourown incompleteness. We know-both of us have stood there in that
spot and quietly wondered if we were fully alive.
All of us, as humans, share a universal longing to be complete,
to enjoy the fulfillment of realizing our God-given destiny. But
like Michelangelo's captive statues, we are often
frozen in our efforts to experience who we are really
meant to be. We never learn the secrets to chipping
away at what holds us back. We never discover the
parts of ourselves that are still in captivity. The result?
We suffocate our calling and remain imprisoned
in the jail cell of unfinished work. We are
incomplete-never truly loving the life we live.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT YOU
You may be single or married, young or old. You may
have suffered unthinkable abuse or lived a charmed
life. You may have a Ph.D. or be a high-school dropout.
Whatever your baggage or background, we
know at least one thing about you. Each moment of every day you
are either moving away from or toward the person God designed
you to be. And as a result, your inner self is either hemmed in and
stuck, or it is quietly becoming a work of art. You are either maximizing
your moments or allowing them to slip by without notice.
No matter our age, stage, faith, or career, all of us are searching
for inner contentment-the kind that comes from being whole
and complete. All of us want to love the life we live. This is exactly
why we have filled this book with time-tested tools for seizing
every moment of every day. We want you to learn the secrets of
maximizing a simple moment in time by releasing the positive potential
it contains for you and everyone around you. Once you begin
to learn the simple skills we are about to teach you, the
moments of your day will become consistently more meaningful,
more exciting, until you realize you are growing. Thriving. Flourishing.
You are becoming healthier, more complete. You are unlocking
parts of yourself you didn't know you had. You are freeing
yourself and your relationships to be fully alive.
Since you are reading this book, we know that something within
you has been stirred to move more intentionally toward health and
wholeness. And we are going to do everything we can to help you
experience it deeply and consistently. We are convinced that it is
only when you achieve a deep level of emotional and spiritual health
that you can find enduring inner peace and long-lasting
joy. If you want to feel good, deep down in your
soul, you've got to get yourself solidly healthy.
HEALTHY TO THE CORE
When you achieve the level of health and wholeness
we've been describing, you will begin to feel unusually
good about yourself. Not the kind of good that is
self-centered, but the kind of good that makes a positive,
generous, caring human being out of you. Not
only will you feel good, but you will be good. You'll
catch yourself expressing all kinds of natural and free-flowing
appreciation and love for others. And your newly found health
will be so contagious that your whole community of friends and
family-even strangers you encounter-will find their lives moving
toward personal joy and self-giving love.
Goodness comes out of a solidly healthy inner place-and then
it pours out of you in all directions. In the process of discovering
new levels of personal effectiveness and fulfillment, you will inspire
others to find those same new levels for themselves. As you
learn to live serenely, above the grit of the daily grind, you will become
committed to making this possible for every person you
know. As you develop the skill of making wise decisions that define
your life for the better, you will discover an inner passion to
help others enjoy the same powerful and life-changing process. As
you shake off your hurry-sickness and live in the now, being fully
present for yourself and those around you, you will see the same
thing beginning to happen for your dearest friends and family
members. In short, as you love the life you live, this whole wonderful
phenomenon will spread across the struggling society of eager
human beings who make up your personal world.
IT'S EASIER THAN YOU THINK
If this is what you want for your life-a positive transformation of
you and your relationships-here's the good news: You can have it!
This is exactly the kind of life you can live. At the risk of sounding
like two slaphappy psychologists who are seemingly out of touch
with the arduous work traditionally required for authentic wholeness,
living the life you long for may be less complicated than you think.
We believe you can reach your most cherished goals for loving
this life by following a relatively simple path.
An easy path? Not always. But simple nonetheless.
How can two veteran psychologists who have spent their professional
lives in the hallowed halls of academia and
in the clinical offices of mental-health centers make
such a bold and seemingly naive claim? Because we
believe wholeheartedly that all the answers to life's
most challenging questions are available in ancient,
time-tested principles-and our confidence in these
truths is bolstered by new and powerful research in
the social sciences. A contemporary generation of researchers
with a fresh perspective in the sciences has
shifted psychology's primary analyses of misery to an
understanding of wellness. Psychology used to think it
was critical to focus on-and then eliminate-negative
emotions. Now we know there is a better way.
YOU AND YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME
The new research reveals that you can't be happy simply because
you aren't encumbered by depression, stress, or anxiety. No-you
can't be happy without being healthy. And there's a lot more to
health than not being sick. Emotional health is more than the absence
of dysfunctional emotions. Emotional health is at the center
of a life you can love living.
You'll never be content in your career, at least not for long, if
you're not emotionally fit. You can't enjoy being single until you
like being you. You can't have a winning marriage if you are psychologically
stuck. You can't be a good parent until you understand
-and appreciate-who you are. You can't be well-adjusted
if you're constantly comparing yourself to others or equating what
you do with who you are. And you can't look into the face of death
until you optimize your spiritual health.
It is nearly impossible to exaggerate the profound impact getting
healthy and whole has on every aspect of your life. So it is certainly
no exaggeration to say you will never, ever love the life you
live until you become profoundly new and reborn emotionally,
mentally, and spiritually at your very core.
The professional community knows more today about how to
live a fulfilled life, no matter what your circumstances, than ever before.
That's why we felt compelled to write this book. As psychologists
specializing in relationships, we have seen more than 5,000
people in therapy. We have spoken to more than 300,000 people in
seminars and appeared on several thousand radio and
television talk shows. And we've written more than a
dozen books-all in an effort to help people improve
their lives and relationships. We are passionate about
helping you do this too. But rather than give you tips
and techniques (for improving communication,
understanding gender differences, and all the rest),
we've learned that until you get yourself healthy, the
tips and techniques are superficial. They eventually fall flat. Why?
Because your relationships can only be as healthy as the least
healthy person in them. For this very reason, we believe the most important
goal you can ever accomplish is getting yourself healthy.
"Your life is like a coin," said writer Lillian Dickenson. "You
can spend it any way you like, but you can spend it only once." The
question is, how are you going to spend your capital? It is a question
we have explored personally and thoroughly while writing this
book, and because you are reading it, we know you want to make
the very best investment you can. So in the next chapter, you will
discover our plan for helping you become healthy and whole.