Jim Stovall
The Ultimate Gift
by Jim Stovall

The Gift of Laughter

It has been said that laughter is good medicine. Our world is desperately in search of good medicine to heal recent wounds and current conflicts.

When you think of the good times in your life and the special people you have known, those precious memories that you can recall most likely involve laughter. There are some memories that are so strong that just recalling a certain time and place can cause you to smile or laugh, even years later. These times are what I call 'making a deposit in your memory bank.'

If you doubt the power of laughter, I would refer you to Norman Cousins book The Anatomy of an Illness. In this book, Cousins recounts his own story of overcoming a terminal disease through the power of laughter. It is not simply Pollyanna or pie in the sky, there are clinical, physiological benefits to laughter. But, more importantly, laughter improves the quality of the lives we live.

Kelly Morrison is the marketing director for my work on television, books, speaking engagements, and these columns. She is also a very talented singer and songwriter. The best song she has ever written, and one of the best that anyone has ever written, is entitled Laugh a Little. The song is about two friends whose lives are taking them in separate directions. The parting advice is to always find a way to bring laughter and joy into every situation.

Find ways today to bring joy and laughter into your life and the lives of those around you. You will be healthier, happier, and a much more desirable person to be around. Particularly in times of stress, be sure to keep on hand: books, videos, and your ever-growing memory bank to give you an instant deposit of laughter and joy.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Gratitude

An attitude of gratitude is essential to any lasting success. We must have the ability to look forward toward great triumphs, but, at the same time, look backward toward all of the people and events that have made success possible.

Several years ago, I lost a dear friend of mine, Dr. Harold Paul. In addition to being an influential college professor, who gave me a passion for writing, Dr. Paul was a mentor of mine for 25 years. He had the unique ability to be both an encourager and a challenger at the same time. Every time in my life I reached a milestone, he would celebrate with me, but, he would also challenge me to even greater heights. He gave me an expectation of even greater possibilities in the future.

I am grateful for so many things in my life, and the passing of Dr. Harold Paul prompted me to stay in that attitude of gratitude for the things and people that have made so much possible for me.

Think of the things and people who have made the good things in your life possible. Take some time to reflect on them and, where appropriate, to express your gratitude. No one among us stands alone. The success you enjoy today and the vision that you have for tomorrow only exists because you have been privileged to stand on the shoulders of giants.

Take this opportunity to express your gratitude and to dedicate yourself to being an impactful person in other people's lives as a tribute to those who have given so much to you.

The Gift of Gratitude is just one of the twelve gifts making up my book The Ultimate Gift which is now out as a major motion picture from Twentieth Century Fox starring James Garner, Brian Dennehy, and Abigail Breslin. I hope you will learn to give and receive gratitude as an integral part of success, and I hope you will invest some time and energy today into reflecting on and expressing your gratitude.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Love

Since the beginning of recorded history, human beings have struggled with the basic question, "Why are we here?" I'm not sure there is any perfect and final answer to this ongoing search for purpose and meaning.

The very best answer to the question, "Why are we here?" that I have heard comes from a treasured friend of mine. My friend explains that we are here to "learn how to love." At first glance, this might seem to be an over-simplistic explanation, but when you really focus on it, you will understand that learning how to love encompasses every area of our daily lives.

Love is probably one of the most misused and overused words in our vocabulary. Many languages have multiple words to describe the various emotions that we lump into one four-letter word --love. During the course of a day, you will hear people say: I love my children; I love hotdogs; and I love my new big screen TV. While all of these are legitimate emotions, they are certainly not the same; therefore, it is understandable why there is some confusion when we try to act out of love in our daily lives.

Think of people in your past who have most often demonstrated the ability to act out of love. It may be a grandparent, a special teacher, or a dear friend. It is easy for us to have warm, loving thoughts toward these people. The real challenge in learning to love is to react this same way in situations where we don't feel loving and with people who are far less lovable.

When people attack us out of ignorance, fear, or hostility, our initial reaction might be to respond in kind. Even if justified, our non-loving response will continue the destructive cycle; however, if we can learn how to love and always respond that way in every situation, we can create a new environment around ourselves, and we will find that other people will begin to respond to it in a spirit of love.

I hope you will begin sharing the gift of love along with all of the gifts as you make today a special day.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Giving

Recent world events have forever changed the way we live, the way we feel, and the way we think. We have seen the very worst of humanity. Evil deeds have altered each of us, but not all of the changes have been bad ones.

There has been an emerging culture of giving that has brought renewed hope to anyone who is a consistent observer of the human condition. People have given money in unprecedented amounts. They have given their time, effort, and energy as volunteers and, when nothing else would do, they have given their own blood to assist victims that, in most cases, were unknown to them.

At its core, giving affects the receiver by virtue of the gift itself; but giving affects the giver in a much deeper and more lasting way. In the aftermath of an act of giving, the receiver has a new gift and the knowledge that someone cares deeply; but the giver has a new identity. He or she now has feelings of abundance, benevolence, and a sense of being able to make a difference--or at least communicate caring feelings.

Often, the greatest gifts are ones that cost very little or nothing at all. Just because something did not carry a sizeable price tag doesn't necessarily mean that it won't be treasured forever by the person who receives it.

You have heard it said that, "It's the thought that counts." This phrase is usually uttered after a gift has been given that may or may not be appropriate. In reality, whether it is the best gift ever or a useless trinket, it is, indeed, "The thought that counts." A gift communicates that I thought about you, I care about you, and I wanted to share something with you.

As you go through your day, find special and unique ways to give to those around you. It will show them how you feel, but more importantly, it will change the way you feel about yourself. The Gift of Giving is just one of the twelve gifts being offered in my book "The Ultimate Gift" which is now a Twentieth Century Fox movie. I hope you can enjoy the message from the movie as my gift to you. When it's all said and done, the best gift any of us have is the gift of this day and how we share it.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Dreams

Dreams are the stuff that make up our lives. We are either in the fortunate group of people who are living out our dreams, or we are those restless, wondering individuals who are living the proverbial lives of quiet desperation.

I am not talking about daydreams or fantasies. We all have those fleeting glimpses of ourselves playing center field for the New York Yankees or the St. Louis Cardinals, as the case may be, in the final game of the World Series. I am, instead, talking about dreams as a future visualization of how our lives could be or should be.

As young people, we all had those things we wanted to be or do or have. They were the dreams of our youth -- the visualizations of our destiny. By the time we are an adult, functioning member of society, most of us have diminished our dreams or forgotten about them entirely.

Young people formulate their dreams as the choices among all the possibilities in the world. As we get older, we narrow our dreaming capacity to those things that we currently have the ability or the wherewithal to achieve. It is important to realize that the biggest dreams we ever had in our lives are still alive and well, and within the realm of possibility.

I always take the week between Christmas and the new year to reconnect with my dreams and goals. Often, throughout the year, it is hard to get away from the day-to-day rush and really think about the things that are important. We are so busy making a living we forget to create a life. The life we're living right now is not a practice game. This is the Super Bowl and the World Series and the Olympics all rolled up into one. If you do not feel that kind of power and passion each day of your life, this would be a good time to dust off those old dreams and find your unique and fulfilling place in this world.

The Gift of Dreams is just one of the twelve life gifts in my book The Ultimate Gift, now out as a major motion picture from Twentieth Century Fox, starring James Garner, Brian Dennehy, and Abigail Breslin. I hope you will begin to explore each of the gifts and embrace your life as The Ultimate Gift.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Learning

My book 'The Ultimate Gift' is being released by Twentieth Century Fox as a major motion picture starring James Garner, Brian Dennehy, and Oscar-nominee Abigail Breslin. Each time I write a book or even one of these columns, I am struck by the irony of the situation. As a blind person, myself, I realize that this column you are reading has been written by someone who can't read it, or at least not in the way you do.

When I could read with my eyes - just as you are doing at this moment - I don't know that I ever read an entire book cover to cover. This is not something of which I am particularly proud; however, it is the truth. I had not yet come to understand The Gift of Learning. Now, as a totally blind person I read a book every day, thanks to the National Library for the Blind which provides books on tape and a high-speed tape recorder. Having read 365 books a year for the last 18 years, I have experienced a myriad of changes in my life and in my world.

The wisdom of the ages, the answer to any questions, the ability to be informed, entertained, and educated, is as close as your nearest bookstore or library. The greatest men and women of all times are available via books to share with you their greatest secrets.

Start a list of all the books you want to read. Keep updating the list constantly. When someone tells you about something they have read or you hear about a new book in the media, make a note of it. Your lifelong reading list will become a constant companion. You will always be adding new titles and marking off ones you have completed.

When I began to read consistently, I started to grow in every way. Prior to becoming a reader, the idea of authoring multiple books or even writing this column seemed absurd. You will never know the hidden strength inside of you or the hidden treasures within books until you make an effort to become a reader.

In the beginning, like any new habit, it will seem awkward and difficult. After several weeks or months, you will find yourself quite anxious to get back to your reading each day. I hope you will enjoy my book, The Ultimate Gift and the new movie, and many other titles throughout the rest of your life. Every day is an opportunity to grow and learn.

Today's the day!

The Gift of a Day

You may recall the old song lyric, 'What a difference a day makes.' Recent events such as September 11, Katrina, and war in the Middle East have reminded us all that one day can change our lives and our world forever. While there was nothing good about the tragedy that happened on September 11, we have all seen the goodness of humanity emerge in the aftermath of such evil deeds.

A day can transform everything that comes after it. If you will think of your past and the days that have been pivotal to bring you to where you are now, you might think of your wedding day, your graduation day, the day you started a new career, etc. Some of these pivotal days simply happen, and others we plan and work on for many years. In our society, we have come to call a 'normal day' one in which nothing pivotal happens. However, it's important to note that if you are on the right course, pursuing the right destiny, these 'normal days' are important.

Like me, you can probably recall an exciting basketball game coming down to the wire. In the last few minutes, the two teams battle back and forth and, in the final second, a shot goes in the basket to win the game. That shot will come to be known as 'the winning shot.' In reality, any basket scored from the opening tip-off till the final buzzer would have won the game. We simply choose to focus on the final basket.

There are days when we cross the finish line, reach the goal, or pass the milestone. These are special days, and we should enjoy them. But don't ever forget the ancient Chinese proverb, 'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.' Every step along the way is to be experienced, enjoyed, and savored.

Today's the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author, columnist, and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082, or by e-mail at JimStovall@aol.com. Visit http://www.jimstovall.com for additional information.

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Copyright 2007 by Jim Stovall. All rights reserved.

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