Need to jump-start your spiritual life?

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Some things you just know. You know when your attitude has changed over time, when you've become accustomed to thinking there's not much in your life to feel really happy about and that maybe things now are as good as they're ever going to get. You feel something unhappy and unhealthy is taking hold, and you're worried that you've run out of options.

Taking a deeper dive into how you feel may uncover something else you know, intuitively. You've neglected your spiritual life.

That's not to say there is any shortage of inspiring ideas available to give you the direction and happiness you're missing. The question is: What do you do in order to apprehend and benefit from those ideas?

Many years ago I spent several stress-filled months pursuing an answer to this problem. I talked to others about it, did a lot of reading and a fair amount of praying. I figured if I couldn't find an answer on my own, I would welcome whatever help I could get — including divine help.

That made the biggest difference. I can't say it came in a dramatic moment where everything suddenly turned around. But I can say that throughout those months of trying to get my life in order and on a more spiritual track, there was a larger change for the better going on. It was evident not only in my attitude and my career, but also in my sometimes unhealthy life. A gradual life overhaul was taking place.

This about-face came about nearly three decades ago, but I've never forgotten some key lessons learned.

Beware of gazing in the rear-view mirror. We all know how tempting it can be to keep looking back, to ruminate over decisions you wish had been smarter, behavior you regret, opportunities you let get away -- as though there's some need to keep taking inventory of any reasons why your life can't improve. After a while, you realize what a non-starter self-condemnation can be, and that it should be stopped.

Feeling a need to re-direct such downward thinking could have been Paul's motivation when he told the Colossians back in Biblical times: "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth." It wasn't an argument for escapism from daily life. It was encouragement to have higher aims and, in that way, to transform daily life.

Safeguard who you are. I remember hearing a live interview with Shirley Temple Black many years ago on a public radio station. She was there to talk about her work as the then U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. But the interviewer kept asking her questions about her roles as a child star. While that's not surprising, Black insistently steered the conversation back to her current work. Finally the interviewer asked why she was reluctant to say much about her landmark years in film. She answered politely but firmly that it simply wasn't her! She explained that she was now an ambassador and as such had a different purpose in her life and very different responsibilities to fulfill. As wonderful as those years in film were then, she said that it isn't her now.