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Facing a Life Challenge? Try The A.P.P.L.E.-a-Day Plan

Posted: 06/ 2/11 08:27 AM ET

The apple. The versatile apple. Used as the logo for an innovative computer electronics company. The name of actress Gwyneth Paltrow's first born child. New York city's nickname. A symbol of beauty and sensuality. Found in the Garden of Eden, Eve ate one from the forbidden tree. It's healthful and a sign of freshness and life.

The image, the myth and the lore imbue the apple with a mighty force and sense of vitality. Used as an acronym, the letters of the word "apple" spell out a system that can become your secret to creating a sense of self-worth and personal happiness, no matter what is happening around you.

Truth is, you can't choose what happens to you. We comfort ourselves thinking we have control over our circumstances, and for periods of time, we just might. But life cycles and things change, and we upset the apple cart. That's a given.

You don't have to look far to find examples of abrupt change. Watch the news and you'll see people standing in the rubble of what once was their home, now victims of a natural disaster. Our unstable economy has caused thousands of people to lose their homes due to foreclosure or financial crisis. You can probably name three national or international public figures who are revered one day and reviled the next because of personal scandal.

People face challenges every day that threaten to ruin their sense of self-worth and personal happiness. And yet some survive and in many cases thrive. Why?

The secret is that they've learned how to control what they do about what happens to them. And you can, too. You might say they're on the A.P.P.L.E.-a-Day plan. Let's break down the acronym so that you understand the components:

Attachment: A feeling of belonging. Whether it's in a romantic relationship, a close-knit community or group that supports and nurtures us, we trust them to have our back.

Purpose: A reason to be. The ability and willingness to recognize that your life has meaning and that you are an important and integral contributor to your family, your social group, your job, your community and the world. For example, when people have been devastated by a natural disaster, the survivors redefine their purpose, band together and rebuild their community. A sense of purpose improves self-esteem and gives you energy for living.

Play: The pursuit of enjoyment. Whether it's extreme sports, going to a movie, walking, reading books or collecting stamps, play makes the brain manufacture dopamine. And dopamine is the neurotransmitter that enables feelings of pleasure and allows us to focus and concentrate. Play helps you to experience enjoyment and literally enables you to think and work better.

Love: The intense feeling of deep affection. Giving love and receiving love is the most fulfilling and motivating force in life. No matter what happens, if you have love, you know deep within that somehow everything will be all right. It's true: love does conquer all.

Enough: A sense of contentment. Those who have enough relax into the moment. They surrender to circumstances without feeling victimized. They recognize you can choose to be happy whatever life brings.

Now that you know the components, let's put them together and see how it all works. The A.P.P.L.E.-a-Day plan involves slowing down and living your life in a more considered way. It asks for thoughtful self-reflection. It helps you identify a circumstance without being in the middle of it. You become your own person, think for yourself and are less easy to control and manipulate. Over time, the A.P.P.L.E.-a-Day plan becomes a part of you.

If there are any parts of the A.P.P.L.E.-a-Day plan that seem unclear or confusing, ask yourself a few key questions from each category.

Attachment:

  • If you don't have a support group, ask yourself why not and what your role is in preventing this from happening.
  • If you do have a support group, who do you become when you're with them, and do you like that person?

Purpose:

  • Do you take pride in who you are and what you do? If not, why not?
  • Do you look for ways to better your own life and the lives of others, whether it's serving on a nonprofit board or picking up trash in your community?

Play:

  • When and with whom do you have fun?
  • Is it constructive fun?
  • How do you express yourself creatively?
  • If you are avoiding having fun such as taking a vacation or celebrating life in some other way, why are you doing so, and what are you going to do about changing your behavior?

Love:

  • Are your love relationships nurturing, mutually respectful and supportive? If not, why not?
  • Can you give and receive love in equal measure, or do you find this process to be a little lopsided? If so, what are you going to do about it?
  • If the love in your life is not satisfactory, what is your role in keeping it this way, and are you prepared to do things differently?

Enough:

  • Do you have a sense of satisfaction in your life?
  • How much is "enough" for you, with regard to money, possessions, etc.?
  • When people get married they promise to be loving and kind to one another in good times and in bad and for richer or poorer. Have you made that commitment to yourself? Are you prepared to be happy no matter what your job title or how much money you have in the bank?

If you asked yourself these questions and have given the answers thoughtful consideration, you'll discover you're either already on the A.P.P.L.E.-a-Day plan or you've made some important realizations that will make you an A.P.P.L.E.-a-Day pro in no time.