My teenage daughter just reached a new milestone of happiness that had previously approached such heights only when her Language Arts teacher got sick on test day. Of course the circumstance that brought her such joy can be understood by anyone who’s had his or her mouth in a cast for an extended period of time.
This last week, Alana got her braces taken off her teeth. In heaven, angels rejoiced (to hear Alana tell it).
My heart lurched a little when I saw her smile, sans metal. Alana is the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen, with or without braces. It was bittersweet to see her smile at me.
“Um…” I stammered. “I want you to put on your Facebook status ‘My dad’s got guns,'” I said as I flexed my biceps.
“Dad,” Alana shook her head. “No.”
“‘…And firearms,‘” I added. “Say, ‘My dad’s got guns and firearms. And baseball bats,'” I concluded. “Put all of those things on your status update, please,” I asked.
My daughter has no sense of humor about some things.
Anyway, I took BEFORE & AFTER pictures surrounding the visit to the orthodontist.
It occurred to me that there are many parts of my life where my image…or my thinking, my habits or my emotions…could serve as a BEFORE picture as well as a warning to others. Some of my BEFOREs I’ve worn on the outside; many of them were buried deep out of view. But the flaws were there, and many of them still remain.
But here’s my point. If and when you move from BEFORE into AFTER, something else needs to change along with your picture. Your mindset must undergo a change, too.
Here are some simple tips for making the most of the journey from BEFORE into AFTER:
Know that success is within reach. Maybe you’ve lived in the BEFORE for so long that you’ve given up hope on ever reaching the AFTER. But look at you! You’ve been transformed. How did you do it? Likely, it took a plan, discipline, hard work, encouragement from others and faith. Remember those lessons long after the initial joy of your AFTER picture fades. You will need to use those same steps each time you wish to transform another part of your life.
Think long term. Along your journey, don’t expect instant results. Rather, ask yourself on each step along the way “Is this going to help me on my goal, or is it going to take me farther from reaching it?” Short term thinking says, “I WANT PIZZA!” Trust me, I’ve said that for years. Long term thinking says, “Pizza will feel good for a few minutes. But the pounds from that pizza will stick with me long after that good feeling fades.” Long term thinking keeps your mind fixed on your goal instead of short term pleasures or diversions.
Don’t forget where you started. Ever notice how some former (insert word here: I’m going to use this one) SMOKERS are the most non charitable people when it comes to people who haven’t yet managed to quit? It happens all of the time. When a smoker stops smoking, the grips of his addiction shrinks at the same rate as his intolerance grows. Humility. Always practice humility by saying “There but by the grace of (insert deity here) go I.” Even if you’ve come a long way, don’t believe your own press that you did it on your own, that it was easy or that you reached success overnight. Humility and gratitude will fuel you to help others on their journeys as you offer them support and encouragement.
Pass it on. If you made it, others can make it, too. You don’t have to go door-to-door like a religious missionary. But you can take an opportunity to answer any who ask you how you did it by answering honestly and eagerly. Who knows? Your AFTER picture might be the encouragement for someone stuck in the mirror of BEFORE thinking.
Don’t curse your BEFORE picture. Use it to live in the AFTER one, and use it to help others.