What are the best choices we can make in life?
According to psychotherapist, motivational speaker and best-selling author Wayne Dyer (Your Erroneous Zones), they are "any choices that bring us to a higher awareness of God and our self."
"When you can see the unfolding of God in everything and everyone, and when you can devote yourself to a higher calling, then you have made the best choice.
"If you are focused on yourself and what you can acquire _ money, power or prestige _ then you have made life's worst choice," he quickly adds.
"Life's Best Choices" is the topic Dyer plans to discuss at a day-long seminar Nov. 3 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. He will share the program with another acclaimed motivational speaker, Florence Littauer, author of Personality Plus and Silver Boxes: The Gift of Encouragement.
Dyer's path to international recognition was a long, rocky one. The obstacles, rather than the breaks, developed the philosophy that has made his books and motivational tapes record-breaking sellers and his lectures wildly popular.
In a telephone interview, he discussed how his past helped form his philosophy on life and living.
Born in Detroit during the Depression to a very young mother, Dyer was the youngest of three boys. His father disappeared shortly after he was born.
"My father was not a nice person," Dyer says matter-of-factly. "He was a con man and a thief. He was alcoholic, very abusive, and he spent years in prison for stealing. He did some pretty abominable things. His abuse put my mother into the hospital several times before he disappeared from our lives. And we learned years later that he did this to five other women."
In Dyer's very young years, the boys were moved from foster home to foster home as their mother struggled to support herself working as a dime-store candy clerk for $17 a week.
"Now I look upon those years as a wonderful opportunity for learning about life _ that's my approach to all obstacles," he says.
His mother regained custody of her sons when she remarried, the year Dyer turned 10.
"I'm convinced that life is a series of final exams. If you don't pass them the first time, you're destined to keep taking them, over and over again, until you get them right," he says. "My mother made the same mistake choosing her second husband, who was also alcoholic and abusive." After six years of marriage, she divorced him.
"My philosophy is that all petty tyrants _ and my stepfather was a petty tyrant _ are really gifts that teach us great lessons," Dyer says. "We must rid ourselves of the victim mentality. We're put on this planet to move up to a higher level of awareness. And I've always found that a move up is always preceded by a fall. The energy that we generate from that fall is what propels us to a new level."
After high school ("I barely graduated"), Dyer served with the Navy for four years, absorbing another great lesson, he says.
"You have to experience what you don't want in life in order to determine what you do want. I lived with people who drank a lot and read comic books for amusement. I decided I wanted more from life than that."
He started reading _ anything he could get his hands on _ and writing _ novels and essays, primarily. By the time his four years were up, he had read 770 books. As he read, he underlined every word he didn't know. Each night, he turned to the dictionary with his list of words and wrote their definitions.
He managed to save 90 percent of what he earned as a chief petty officer in the Navy, and while still in Guam, he enrolled at Wayne State University. He was the first member of his family ever to attend college.
In 1965, he earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and English literature, found a teaching job and immediately began studying for a master's degree in counseling psychology.
He married, fathered a daughter, and divorced in the late 1960s. In 1970 he accepted a professorship at St. John's University in New York City.
His classes began attracting growing numbers of students _ as well as their friends and friends' friends. He decided to start a Monday night program that would discuss "self-development and higher consciousness," based on his own experiences.
Within 18 months, 1,200 people were gathering once a week to hear what the professor of psychology had to say. His career as a motivational speaker was launched.
In 1974 Dyer ended his lifelong quest for his father.
"I had carried so much hatred and bitterness for so many years," he says. "I learned that he had died of cirrhosis of the liver at 49. When I stood and looked at his grave, I was finally able to forgive him."
After moving to Boca Raton in the late 1970s, he wrote Your Erroneous Zones. The book led the New York Times best-seller list for 27 months and made Dyer's name a household word.
"The success of that book didn't happen by accident," he says. "I bought the first three printings of the book myself, put them in the back of my car and drove across the country, promoting the book and my philosophy about life."
Success only comes when you conceive a picture of what you want out of life _ and then do what you need to do to achieve that goal, he maintains.
"I believe that it's possible to make your own miracle, to do anything you can conceive of. The problem is that most people can't conceive of themselves being successful."
In 1979 he met his second wife, Marcie, whom he calls "a soul mate." Together they have eight children: the daughter from Dyer's first marriage, two children from Marcie's first marriage and five children together, ranging in age from 4 to 13.
Since leaving the classroom, Dyer has produced a string of books whose titles reveal his theory on life: The Sky's The Limit, What Do You Really Want For Your Children?, How to Pull Your Own Strings, You'll See It When You Believe It, Real Magic Gifts from Eykis, Everyday Wisdom. Next spring, Your Sacred Self: Making Decisions To Be Free will be released by Harper Collins.
"What thoughts do I want to leave with my audience?"
Dyer repeats the question, then says: "There are five crucial points."
One: "If you don't have a story, you don't have to live up to it. ... If you don't like your past, erase it and start over."
He uses the analogy of a fast-moving boat with a wake. The wake represents the past, but it does nothing to propel the boat forward.
Two: "Banish the doubt.
"There is a great difference between what you believe (which you can get from others) and what you know (which comes from within). If you can conceive of something in your mind, you can create it."
Three: "Cultivate the witness. Focus on the invisible, divine part of your nature.
"An Indian saint once said, "In my world, nothing ever goes wrong.' That's the way we all should live," Dyer says. "When you live as a spiritual being, nothing goes wrong."
Four: "Learn to shut down your inner dialogue. Get quiet. Go within yourself. Melville said, "God's only word is silence.' Get to know that word."
Five: "Tame your ego. Let the higher part of yourself triumph in your life. The real you wants peace, truth, integrity, love and divineness. It's the ego that wants more, more, more. It's the ego that forces you to consume, to wage war, to promote dissent. Tame that ego."
AT A GLANCE
Wayne Dyer and Florence Littauer will discuss "Life's Best Choices" during an all-day seminar Nov. 3 at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Tickets, $49.95, are available through Banther Consulting at Suite 172, 210 S Pinellas Ave., Tarpon Springs, FL 34689; telephone (813) 938-8927, fax (813) 938-9852.