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How Can We Get the Life We Want?

06/29/2015 12:34 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2016

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I had a mental image of myself as a single parent where I was standing in the basket of a hot air balloon while my sons were on the ground holding thick ropes tied to the basket. Without them, I would float away. And with them, I was grounded.

The first year after my divorce, we lived in a house where the only source of heat was a wood stove. I would sometimes arrive home late, pick each of my sleeping sons up from the car and carry him upstairs to bed. And then I would head back outside to chop wood so we could have heat. I have great memories from that year, but chopping wood late at night -- cold, exhausted and alone -- was often a low point.

How did I make it work? I believed I could do it. And I always knew it was temporary, that this was not how it was going to end. I had a vision of a better life and an inner-knowing that this was just another stepping stone on the way to something great.

Henry Ford said, "If you think you can, or if you think you can't, you're right." Jack Canfield said, "Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them."

Our daily lives are determined by what we tell ourselves about life. And what we see around us always proves us right because life is the result of what we believe.

If we say, "The world is a troubled, dark place, getting worse every day, and nothing can be done about it," we're right. If we say, "We're living in an exciting time when the world has more potential than ever before to grow positively," we're right.

We may not be getting what we want, but we're always getting what we believe.

One winter when it snowed, I woke my sons in the middle of the night and told them, "Come with me." We dressed warm, gathered all the boogey boards, headed out to the sand dunes, and spent the next hour sliding down the snow banks, squealing and laughing. I always encouraged my sons to remember that, even though we didn't have all the stuff that other families in our affluent neighborhood had, we had great fun bordering on magic.

I used to tease them that when they died the Big Dudes of Karma would ask them what they had accomplished, so it was important to figure out what matters most in matter -- what's of real value. Their answer could be: "I spent years developing a talent, and I worked my butt off building a career and gaining awards and prestige, and I acquired a really big house full of pricey objects, and I finally got that car I always wanted." Or they could say: "I had a blast, earth was amazing, and along the way I helped a few people feel better about themselves."

This post was originally featured on The Good Men Project.