It’s no secret that 2020 has been a challenging year for many people. A lot of folks are hurting physically, financially and mentally because of the pandemic, and yet, Giving Tuesday 2020 was a huge success. GivingTuesday.org estimated that 34.8 million people worldwide participated, an increase of 29 percent compared to 2019. In the US alone, giving increased from $1.97 billion to $2.47 billion—25 percent!

It seems that when things get hard, people get generous. A few years ago, I was invited to go to San Diego to get filmed speaking to be included in an app that was being created as a resource for self-improvement. I was happy to go and did my talk about paying it forward. I love that concept from the 2020 movie, Pay It Forward—the idea being that when someone does something nice for you, you pay it forward by doing something nice for someone else.

There are many ways to pay kindnesses forward and they don’t have to involve money. People volunteer for worthy causes. They give their goods, time, money and voice to share the wealth. Someone close to me told me how she started to talk herself out of giving this year because 2020 had been too difficult. She had just about convinced herself there was nothing she could do when she remembered that things were a lot harder for some other people. She decided she needed to give because this year was so hard, and unlike so many others, she and her husband still have their jobs. She wanted to be part of the solution instead of staying safe and doing nothing. No matter how bad off you might be, you can always find someone in worse condition to help.

One of the ways I like to pay things forward is with education. I received the best gift ever in 1987 when I was first exposed to William Glasser’s concepts of Choice Theory. I learned that I was 100 percent responsible for every choice I ever made in my life, even the things I didn’t know were choices. I learned that I was also responsible for meeting my needs—no one else was. I learned I didn’t have to be a victim of anything unless I decided to be. I learned I had the control to make things better by either changing what I wanted, changing how I was trying to get it or changing how I looked at it.

From John Demartini, I learned that each event in our life is perfectly balanced with positives and negatives, just like the elements in our naturally occurring world as evidenced by the periodic table of elements. From this idea, I developed the ability to always find the GLOW, not just in my life but in the lives of my clients, too. Whenever you live through a painful experience, know that there is an equal amount of positivity in that experience represented by GLOW—gifts, lessons, opportunities and wisdom. Knowing it’s there will help you look for it. Once you find the balance, you are no longer hostage to the pain because you know it also brought benefits.

During my Choice Theory education, I met my good friend, Sylvester Baugh. Sylvester is a Black man living in Chicago and we were both studying Choice Theory. Based on our visible characteristics, there was no reason to expect us ever to be friends, however, we connected on the things that made us who we are—our likes, interests, work, spiritual beliefs, and Choice Theory to name a few. We learned we were more alike than we were different. From that experience, we began working together. We wrote a book about diversity and continue to teach workshops to help others understand the value in getting to know individuals rather than classifying them into categories and believing those categories tell us about the individuals—that’s prejudice. Education like this, helping people connect with themselves and those around them, is the kind of thing I like to pay forward.

Applying Choice Theory in my life for more than 30 years has given me untold benefits. Learning the concepts is easy; applying them in difficult times is the challenge. I realized I can’t get people to do the things I want them to do or be the way I want them to be, but I also learned no one can control me. I learned everything is a choice. I may not control the things that happen to me, but I can definitely control my response to those things. I didn’t control the fact that my husband died at 37 years old, that I became a single parent raising two strong-willed teenage boys, that the youngest of those boys spent two tours in Iraq in combat circumstances, or that I broke both my ankles in a hot air balloon accident and spent two months in a wheelchair. I didn’t ask for, or plan, any of those things, but I was able to find the GLOW in all of them and, consequently, continue to live a happy life.

Because of all I’ve learned and how much it’s helped me, I like to pay it forward by sharing the things I’ve learned with people who want to learn it too. I have put together something beyond what I learned in Choice Theory called Mental Freedom, because that’s what it gives you. You can learn Mental Freedom techniques, gain control over your circumstances and find peace within all the situations in your life, especially the frustrating and painful ones.

Every time I run a Mental Freedom group, I will scholarship one deserving person into the group. If you would like to be included in our next group, please go to www.therelationshipcenter.biz, click on “Pay It Forward Mental Freedom Scholarship” and complete the application. One winner is chosen for every group.

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