Category Archives: Self help

The Law of Success: A Definite Chief Aim by Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed., RCC

“You can do it if you believe you can.”

– Napoleon Hill

Recently I have begun reading a book titled The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill. It is an excellent read, as it is known as a classic book in the fields of business, economics and psychology. Napoleon Hill wrote this book based upon his interviews with over one hundred American millionaires across nearly twenty years. When this book was first published in 1925, it was released as a limited edition of one hundred twenty copies, and was given to America’s most successful individuals. For awhile, this book wasn’t available in print because many influential people were threatened by the secrets revealed in this book.

I want to write a series of posts on my blog based on this book. After all, we learn best if we write about and explain to others what we have learned. So for those of you who are interested, I invite you to join me on my journey of learning more about the principles of the Law of Success and see how these principles can be applied to achieve success in your life and in mine.

Law of Success: Principle #1: A Definite Chief Aim.

Many people drift aimlessly through their lives with no particular purpose. They repeat the same actions every day of their lives. They accept their fate for what it is. They let things happen by chance. They give up the moment they encounter obstacles. They see temporary defeats as failures. In sum, they blame their inability to achieve success on others, or on their challenges, adversities or perceived lack of opportunities…

Let me share with you an example of not having a Definite Chief Aim. While studying in university, I knew of a man that I’ll call John. John changed his career goals every few months. His career possibilities ranged from clinical psychologist, pianist, statistician, book keeper, holistic nutritionist, linguist, to name a few. John was very smart. His marks in almost all of the courses he took ranged in the 80th or 90th percentile. He was very articulate. So much so that whatever new career path he decided to pursue, he could convince others, myself included, that it was the best career choice for him. Conversely, a few months after, he could also convince you that a particular career choice wasn’t the right one for him for many reasons.

In explaining his inability to follow through with his various career goals, John attributed it to his mental health issues, his physical aches and pains, his poverty and his emotionally unavailable mother. Yet he received psychological support in the form of ongoing counselling free of charge throughout his study in university and after his degree completion. His mother, even though she might not be the most emotionally affectionate and available person, nevertheless has helped John in many ways. Every time John moved to a different place, which happened quite often, his mother was there to help him move all of his heavy furniture. When John wanted to take an online course, her mother loaned him the money. The last time I talked to him, John had to move back to live with his mother. Yet, he absolutely resented his mother for various reasons.

Eventually I realized that our approaches and attitudes in life were just too different. By blaming his lack of success on external factors, John failed to take any personal responsibility. I believe that many of us struggle today because of our past traumas and current challenges. Yet equally important, I believe that we can rise above those adversities to be what we want to be, do what we want to do. And at best, we can give back to our society and contribute to others’ lives.

“If you can run a losing race without blaming your loss on someone else, you have bright prospect of success further down the road on your life.

– Napoleon Hill

According to Napoleon Hill, there are some important steps in being able to achieve your Definite Chief Aim. These steps are:

  1. Have a burning desire to fulfill a particular dream/vision.
  2. Crystallize that burning desire into some clear plan to work towards your dream.
  3. Take actions to work towards your dream.

“Success travels in the company of very hard work. There is no trick, no easy way.”

– John Wooden

  1. A burning desire: Ask yourself, what am I really really passionate about? Or what do I really want to get in life? Or, what do I want to become? In other words, what is your Definite Chief Aim without infringing on the rights of others?

Many of us think we want something based on social pressures, parental expectation and so forth. Let your burning desire be truly yours and not anyone else’s.

I remember growing up, my family had different ideas about what I should become as a person who is blind — a pianist, a nun, an information specialist… At some point, I thought I would pursue my education in the field of business as many other Asians did.

Eventually I realized I have a burning desire to help others emotionally, to make a difference in their lives. I wanted to be able to do something very useful with my education. Unfortunately many individuals who are blind in particular and who have disabilities in general are unemployed, even though they might be educated. So I vowed to myself that my education will have a positive impact on my life and the lives of others.

As a parent, avoid telling your children what they should do and who they should become, even if you think it’s good for them. Let your children discover their passions or their burning desires by themselves. Achievements that are heavily influenced by others such as parents’ expectations, suggestions, recommendations and so forth cannot go too far or last too long. Even if such goals can be achieved, they still cannot reach their highest potential. And at worst, it can result in depression, dissatisfaction, emptiness and more.

2. Crystallizing your burning desire into plans. Make a plan for your dream. You might not be able to make a detailed plan initially. But at least write down an outline of your plan. It’s important to have a clear plan to help you achieve what you want. It’s also equally important to be flexible so that you can respond to inevitable changes and setbacks while working towards your dream.

In order to make a difference in others’ lives, I decided to become a therapist. I realized that although I might not be as good helping others with their physical needs, I would be good at helping others with their emotional needs. I also loved the idea of being able to find out what’s in another person’s mind in order to help him/her.

While making plans, pay attention to your negative self-talks, self-doubts and self-limiting beliefs. You might catch yourself thinking, “I can’t do that!”, or, “That’s impossible!”. We can be very good at talking ourselves out of something. I used to tell myself, “But my English is not good,” or, “But I can’t see other people’s body language,” and so on. However I reminded myself that my English would improve over time, and that I would find other ways to learn about people’s emotional struggles without looking at them.

At first, your goal may seem very overwhelming to you. It’s like you standing at the bottom of a mountain, looking up and seeing how impossible it is to walk to the top. Hence in formulating your plan, you may be overwhelmed by the number of steps required to achieve your goal.

For example, to become a therapist, I knew I had to improve my English, complete a B.A. degree in psychology, get accepted into a graduate school, which can be extremely competitive, complete a Master’s degree in counselling and then finally convince my future employer to hire me as a therapist who is blind. All of this seemed very overwhelming to me initially. However, I reminded myself to take one step at a time. I knew that as I take each step, I will learn the skills and gain the resources to proceed to the next step. I had faith that I would get there somehow one day, although there were times I didn’t know exactly how I would get there.

Remember, as you take each step towards your dream, you will gain sufficient skills and resources that will help you to take your future steps. As a baby, we didn’t start out with the ability to run. We had to learn to crawl on the floor. Next, we managed to stand up trailing along furniture. Then we learned to walk with our hands being held by our parents. After awhile, we then were able to walk freely without support. Finally, we gained the ability to run.

AUTOSUGGESTION: One of the key principles of success. According to Napoleon Hill, AUTOSUGGESTIONS are suggestions that you repeatedly make to yourself. The ability to impress your Definite Chief Aim upon your subconscious mind, so much so that it starts to guide your actions and choices and it attracts you to people who can directly or indirectly help you work towards your dream.

AUTOSUGGESTION can work for you or work against you. You either believe you can, or believe you can’t. And either way, you are right. For example, I used to believe that people thought I was a helpless and dependent blind person. My belief must have been quite strong in that it affected how I acted around others — speaking softly and without confidence, engaging in a closed body posture, bending my head downward, and so forth. I found myself feeling more and more disempowered in most social settings.

As I’ve become more confident and comfortable with who I am and begun to believe in my own capabilities, I now find myself much more effective and happy in different social settings. I express myself freely. I smile easily. I talk to people with ease and listen to them. Now, I rarely feel disempowered in social settings. I feel respected and liked by others, even by people I barely know.

Once you have a Definite Chief Aim, tell yourself daily, over and over again, that you can do it. Write it down on a card and stick it onto your fridge. For example, “I will bring out the best in my spouse every day.”

3. Taking actions: The difference between successfully achieving a dream versus merely wishing is ACTION. Take appropriate steps towards your Definite Chief Aim. The key is continuous, unyielding and persistent efforts. Don’t give up, despite how discouraging things can be at times. Look at obstacles, setbacks and challenges as temporary defeats, not as failures. If you haven’t been successful with the conventional ways or methods that you have used to achieve your dream, be open to unconventional ways. Remember there are different paths to one destiny. Try new paths. Try new methods. Approach your dream from a different perspective or a different angle. Whatever you do, don’t give up, even when yourself and others tell you to do so.

While pursuing my goal of becoming a therapist, I’ve encountered many setbacks and challenges. First, my English wasn’t good enough to go to university right after high school. So I resigned to study at college first to improve my English. Then when I first applied to university, I got rejected because my grade point average was not high enough. So I waited one semester while working on improving my marks. The second time I applied, I got accepted into McMaster University.

While studying my B.A., I had to take courses in biology, neuropsychology, statistics and calculus, all of which were very visual. A disability advisor suggested that perhaps I should change my goal to being a social worker rather than a therapist. Initially I entertained the idea. But then I realized it didn’t ring true for me. So I disregarded his suggestion and continued with my plan.

There were other discouraging factors when I was in university.  Textbooks were frequently made available to me one month after each semester started, which made it very difficult for me to catch up. I had to take the bus to school when it was as cold as minus 20 degree Celsius outside. Sometimes while waiting for the bus in the snow, my guide dog would get snowed on and would look like a snowman. I had to write tests and exams differently from my sighted peers. I had to write in a special room using a computer. Sometimes I needed extra time to complete my exams. Some professors thought that was unfair to my other classmates. More often than not, professors didn’t have a clue how to teach blind students effectively. So rather than taking four years to finish a B.A., it took me six years.

But what was most discouraging were comments made by other people. Some of my relatives thought what was the point of studying so long when I would just end up being unemployed, as many people with disabilities are. Some of them even joked saying that I seemed to be in school forever! A few people shared with me about someone they knew who pursued psychology for years and still had a hard time being gainfully employed. Others thought that psychology was not a practical degree.

Whenever I heard these comments, I told myself I was pursuing this degree out of my true passion. I was doing this just for myself and not to please anyone or make sense for anyone else. What really helped was the support that I got from my immediate family and close friends and their belief in me.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Avoid those who are critical, skeptical or just plain rude. If you can’t avoid them, at least don’t take what they say to heart.

One of the biggest blows for me happened when I was doing my Master’s degree. I had to role-play being a counsellor to my classmates while being videotaped. For various reasons, I was terrible playing the role of a counsellor. One untactful professor told me after watching one of my videos, “If I were your client, I wouldn’t come back to see you.”

I remember feeling as if my dream was collapsing on me. I cried, something which I don’t often do. And for the first time, I started to truly doubt my ability to realise my dream of becoming a therapist. I thought that this was just a dream and not a reality. I felt sick thinking that my hard work during the last eight years or so might result in nothing. I hated the idea of being a failure — a failure to others, but more importantly, a failure to myself.

However another kind professor comforted me and gave me encouragement when I needed it most. She said that she believed I will become an excellent therapist one day. She reminded me that those who encounter challenges at first tend to come out the strongest in the end, if they don’t give up.

As Winston Churchill stated, “A kite rises highest against the wind, not with it.” If I didn’t encounter those challenges or setbacks, I wouldn’t have realized how strong my burning desire to become a therapist was. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to ask myself again and again, “Why do I really want to become a therapist?” and, “What can I do to be the best therapist possible despite my lack of sight?”

Ask yourself today, What do I want to achieve in life? Then do something about it, even if you have to take one small step a day. Go and live your dream, don’t just dream it!

“Do not tell the world what you can do. Show it.”

–          Napoleon Hill

I will be showing more in the next post by writing about another Napoleon Hill’s principle of the Law of Success – Self-Confidence.

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Foster Your Sense of Self-Worth By Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed, RCC

Losing my complete sight at the age of two, I wondered for a good part of my life what am I really capable of. What is my sense of self-worth. Learning to foster my sense of self-worth has been a life-long journey for me. And I am certain that this journey is yet to complete.

Growing up in Vietnam, I got messages – implicit or explicit — from a very young age that blind individuals are helpless, useless, dependent and ultimately not very worthy. As a child, I remember encountering some blind people begging and selling lottery tickets on the street in Vietnam. When I went to a school for the blind in Vietnam and studied there from the ages of seven to nine, I remember many of the blind students in that school were abandoned by their families. Their parents dropped them off at the school and disappeared from their lives. As a child, I often felt pitied by others whenever they realized that I was blind. They would often comment “Oh poor girl. She is very pretty. Too bad that she is blind.”

Perhaps up until I was about thirty years old, I often felt anxious, disempowered, invisible, unimportant and ineffective. Certainly my life did not change overnight when I turned thirty. It had been a gradual process. I remember I often felt awkward, uncomfortable and anxious in social situations. I wasn’t confident that people would enjoy being with me or interacting with me. I didn’t know what I had to offer to people. I also often assumed that people were prejudiced against me because I was blind. From time to time, I felt discriminated against. More importantly, I didn’t see how I could learn to perceive my blindness as a unique gift in my life. I didn’t have a clue what were to become of me.

I didn’t know that one day I would become a psychotherapist, empowering many others and helping to transform their lives. I didn’t foresee that one day I would speak to hundreds of people sharing my life story with them. And certainly, I didn’t know that you would be reading what I have to share in this writing. More importantly, I didn’t know that I would feel happy, fulfilled, empowered and optimistic that I do today. I didn’t know that my life would one day be filled with love, joy, support, rich learning, meaningful connections and more.

As I will get married to the man I love in two months, I have been reflecting on what factors have had a positive impact on my self-worth. What has helped me to build my self-confidence so that I can be passionate and confident in what I believe in, what I dream of, and ultimately what I have achieved as a result of these dreams and beliefs.

Family Influences

I strongly believe that one important factor that has had a positive impact on the development of my self-worth is my family. Although everyone in my family has annoyed me or frustrated me at one time or the other, they nevertheless have represented a very solid foundation of my sense of self-worth. As long as I can recall, they have consistently helped me to feel loved, cared for and special.

When many parents of the students at the school for the blind neglected them and left them with the staff at the school, my parents believed in taking me home everyday so that I didn’t have to suffer staying in the school’s residence. They believed that the food provided by the school wasn’t good enough for me.

Every morning, my dad would get up early – around seven o’clock, got me a good breakfast, and then drove me on a scooter to school, which took about forty-five minutes to get there. He would also buy me lunch so that I didn’t have to eat the unpleasant lunches provided by the school. And every evening, he would come to pick me up and bring me home. If he was busy, he would always send one of his workers out to get me home.

Many Asian families, including Vietnamese families, often believe that having a disabled child is very shameful. One of the beliefs in Buddhism is that you get what you did in your previous life. Hence having a child with a disability is believed to be a curse in the family. For this reason, many parents either hide their children with disabilities, or view them as their least favourite children.

A friend of mine told me that his parents would ask him to go hide in the bedroom whenever guests came to their place. My friend is blind and his family was ashamed of him.

My maternal grandparents’ family is another example. My maternal grandparents had six daughters and four sons. Among two of their sons, one had Down’s Syndrome and one was deaf. They were my grandmother’s least favourite sons. I remember that the son who had Down’s Syndrome was often neglected and ignored. He was seen as a nuisance.  I can still remember him as a very gentle and quiet boy who was hanging around his house aimlessly. Ironically my mother and my grandfather were the only ones who always made sure to care for him. He died at the age of eighteen.

Another uncle of mine was deaf. He too was also not my grandmother’s favourite son.  Whereas my grandmother doted on the other two sons, giving them money, encouraging them to do what they wanted in their lives, my uncle who was deaf got none of these things from my grandmother. I however have some very fond memories of this uncle. He showed me lots of affection, even though we couldn’t really communicate with each other. With him being deaf and me being blind, we didn’t understand each other’s languages. Yet the affection was mutual between us.

Unlike my grandparents, my parents have taught my sisters from a very young age to love me and care for me. When my mom was very sick on the boat during our escape from Vietnam, she reminded my older sister, Amy, to take care of me if she died. When my mom was aware that my future would be very bleak as a blind person growing up in Vietnam, she was determined to take her children out of the country, risking our lives. As she later on explained “I wanted to  find light in the dark, find life in the threat of death.” If it weren’t for my mom, I wouldn’t be here today. When the pirates were invading our boat, sexually assaulting some women, robbing our valuable possessions, my mom would hold me close to her to protect me. She tried to make me very small and invisible to shield me from the pirates’ touch.

I never felt I was an embarrassment or a shame to my family. They have always made me feel that I am a unique and special person. Unlike my friend’s family who hid them from guests, my parents often seemed proud to introduce me to their friends and acquaintances. They were quick to tell others about my talents and uniqueness.

When we lived in the refugee camp in Indonesia, my mom and my older sister, Amy, always tried to make my life as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. Amy would bring home water that she carried from wells that were far from home. In the blazing heat of Indonesia, She would iron my old ragged clothes so that they were not so wrinkly for me to wear.

My mom didn’t like how I had to use the public bathroom and toilet, which were often very dirty and smelly. So when she got some money, and with the help of others, she wanted to build a simple bathroom and toilet for us to use. During the four years living in the refugee camp, I couldn’t go to school. So my mom would teach me some of the English that she knew. She would read to me so that I wouldn’t be bored.

As a psychotherapist, I have provided counseling to hundreds of individuals. One of the phenomena that I am often puzzled by is the compromised sense of self-worth that many of my clients have. One of the commonalities that I notice these clients share is some form of abuse or neglect in childhood. They may have lived in fear because of the physical pain that their parents or caregivers inflicted upon them. These individuals may have experienced neglect or some forms of emotional abuse, such as name calling, constant putdown, abandonment, and so on. These individuals may have also been sexually abused or violated in their childhood. As a result, these individuals’ sense of self-worth is either very low or severely damaged.

Later on in their adulthood, they somehow inadvertently repeat the abuse cycle by ending up with very abusive partners or spouses. Or they constantly encounter people who disrespect them or take them for granted. Or they struggle a great deal in their career because they are not sure what they are truly capable of, what their highest potentials are. In general, these individuals are feeling unhappy, unfulfilled, empty, lonely, dissatisfied and are not at peace with themselves. They may be quite successful in some areas in their lives, such as their career or their social lives. But ultimately, these individuals feel as if something very important is missing. That there is an ever emptiness that they often feel that no amount of materials can fill that void.

If you realize you are one of these individuals, ask yourself are their any unresolved issues that I have with my family or in my childhood that may be in the way of my happiness and peace? Is there anything I could do today to clear away those long-standing emotional baggage’s that have accumulated from my upbringing? If someone has wronged me, what can I do to undo their impact on me and my life? For as long as you have anger towards someone, whether it be one of your parents, or a sibling, or a relative, that person continues to have power over you and your life.

If you felt hurt, abandoned, betrayed, neglected or unloved by someone in your family, honour those feelings. Acknowledge those feelings with deep compassion and understanding. Then when you are ready and the time is right, give yourself the permission to slowly begin to let go of those feelings and gradually heal from the scars of your childhood. Allow yourself to release the toxicity of those feelings from your mind and your heart.

However, if resolving these issues on your own is too overwhelming for you, seek help from a therapist. Wounds that are untreated, particularly those which were caused by your family or in your childhood, can form deep unhealthy roots for your emotional tree and will continue to spread until the tree dies from the impact of infectious unhappiness, emptiness or dissatisfaction. Such unhappiness and emptiness may lead to addictions, very unstable relationships, poor career choices and, at its worst, suicide.

If you are a parent reading this, remember how your love and encouragement are so important to your children or child. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to buy your children expensive toys, take them for expensive outings, get them brand-name clothes or things alike. What’s most important across times, generations, cultures and religions is your relationship with your children and the love that they feel you have for them.

Different parents have different languages of love. Some parents are very good at doing things with their children. Some parents give them encouraging words and tell their children that they love them. Some parents work hard to afford things for their children, such as education, clothes, toys, etc. What’s important is that your children understand your language of love. Do you know what your children would feel loved by? Do you know what makes them happy?

I have worked with dozens of parents over the years in different capacities and have noticed that one of the sad things is that children don’t understand their parents’ language of love. Many parents work extremely hard to afford different things for their children and their family. The cost of living increases each year. Technology has made expensive things very desirable to many people, including children. Children seem to want things. Hence parents believe those things would make their children happy. Yet this is a serious trap for both parents and children.

Again, the key is the love and attention you can communicate to your children and that they understand it. Remember, clothes, toys and other items can run out of fashion. Piano lessons and expensive outings can be long forgotten. What will always remain in a child’s heart is the loving words, the gentle and affectionate touch, and the encouragement and faith that you demonstrate towards your children. As Maya Angelou stated “People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you made them feel.”

In the next section, I will talk about instrumental support and emotional support from others that can positively impact your sense of self-worth.

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