Magic only happens when you create your own

The title of this post was one of my very first “Insights.” (These are the 500-plus affirmations that have come to me over the years, which I’ve used to encourage myself and others.) Today it’s one of my favorites, because the longer I live the more convinced I become of its truth and importance.

To illustrate, I’d like to share with you that I’ve been a volunteer at Vista del Mar Children’s Center since the early 1970s. This organization, which started as an orphanage more than 100 years ago, has grown to provide residential and off-site services, including education, counseling, foster care, and adoption, for children with mental health, behavioral, developmental, trauma, abuse, or other special needs.

Over the years, I’ve met many children who have started their lives with disadvantages so profound that you might think them “destined for failure.” Yet I’ve witnessed many of these children take deeply to heart the support they are offered and, against all odds, set their lives on a trajectory for success.

Conversely, I’ve known people with every social advantage, who nevertheless flounder, doubt themselves, and fall into despair. Some are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Others fail one relationship after another. Many do little to share their good fortune with others. Some have even committed suicide.

It seems that living presents us with plenty of material with which to write a tragedy, a comedy, or an uplifting story of comeback or triumph. Ultimately, which of these stories we write is up to us.

There probably has never been a best-seller that could be summarized, “She was born to wealthy parents who loved her very much, was pretty and popular, succeeded at everything she tried, and lived happily ever after.” That’s not how life works—and it would be pretty boring if it did!

To live a magical life, you have to create it from the circumstances you are dealt. I believe that at the core of all magic is a seed of self-love. Even if this seed is seldom watered by others—especially if it is seldom watered by others—this seed will flourish if you nurture it yourself.

Of course, many of us doubt that we are deserving of love—even self-love. If that’s true of you, it’s OK. You can start there; just don’t stop there.

Here are some tips for nurturing the seed of self-love and creating magic in your life:

  1. Talk kindly to yourself. There’s no one we listen to more than the voice in our head. Teach it to be a good coach—one who builds you up, not tears you down. One way to do this is by reading and repeating my own daily Insights or other positive affirmations. (Consider downloading the Murad “Better Every Day” Inspirations app.)
  2. Do something thoughtful for others. (Regularly.) This is one of the fastest ways to “earn” your own approval. I once watched a group of disadvantaged kids volunteer at a race, handing out water as runners ran by. After an hour of being told “Thank you! Thank you!” by runner after smiling runner, these kids were smiling themselves. They felt great. Their self-esteem had been boosted. They’d put some joy in another’s life and were rewarded with joy of their own.
  3. Set small goals and achieve them. This is a shortcut to building trust in your ability to follow through. Rather than set a goal to “Lose 50 pounds,” start small. Strive for something just beyond your comfort zone—say, “Eat four servings of vegetables today.” Then gradually increase your goal so that you build a track record of success.
  4. Remember that misfortune comes to everyone. We all will experience heartache, disappointment, setback, and loss at some point in our lives. Rather than take it personally, realize that our own losses can build our empathy for others. Try to make a habit of reframing adversity as a challenge: How can I overcome this? Your resourcefulness and resilience may astound you.
  5. Take stock of all the challenges you’ve already This is your own personal list of the magic you have created in your life thus far. If you’re still living, you’ve doubtless overcome quite a few challenges. Give yourself credit!
  6. Practice gratitude. Research shows that there’s no more effective means of increasing long-term happiness—in our own lives and in the lives of others. For example, participants who completed a four-week gratitude contemplation program reported greater life satisfaction and self-esteem than control group participants (Rash, Matsuba, & Prkachin, 2011). Gratitude helps you feel better about your circumstances, which can lead to feeling better about yourself.
  7. Acquaint yourself with the triumphs of others. When we read or watch the stories of people who have overcome tremendous adversity in their own lives, it reminds us of just how much human beings are capable of. We may not be able to succeed in the same way that a Jackie Robinson or a Helen Keller did, but we can make magic in our own lives by overcoming our own unique set of challenges. And we can borrow the courage and persistence of those who have gone before us—until we become an inspiration for those who come after.
  8. The ball is in your court. Whether you were “born with a silver spoon in your mouth,” or with no spoon at all, the only one who can take action in your own life is you. Make it magical!
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