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Posted: 13 Jun 2010 04:00 AM PDT

By Greg Fullerton

Back in the days when it was okay to smoke on airplanes, I was traveling like crazy, doing seminars for Franklin Quest all over the country.

Back then I weighed 340 pounds.

I was trying to get back to Salt Lake from Chicago, and I had given up my seat hoping to get an upgrade.

They called me and said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Fullerton, first class is full. You're in the B seat on the last row, which is the smoking section right by the bathroom."

So I dragged my big butt back there and huffed and puffed my way into that seat. There was no one next to me and I thought, "Oh, if that thing stays empty, there is a god." I mean, this would be just unbelievable.

So they're about ready to close the door, and I'm smashed into this seat. Suddenly, a lady with the biggest afro I've ever seen comes barreling up the aisle. And she's not too dainty, either.

Her afro was swaying as she walked. I mean, this thing was monstrous.

And I know where she's going because there's only one seat left on the whole plane. She comes down and sits down right next to me.

So we take off and the "No Smoking" light goes out, and she reaches in her purse to get her cigarettes out and I'm going, oh, good heavens. So she gets this cigarette out and she puts it in her mouth. She lights her lighter.

The cigarette falls, she reaches down to get the cigarette and shoves this lighter right in her hair. You could hear the thing explode — WOOF! Just like that, it's a giant, hairy ball of flame.

All hell breaks loose. She's hollering "Lordy, Lordy!" and flight attendants are pouring out of crevices and compartments.

One stewardess rushes in with a towel and starts smacking her head with it, and there are bits of flame-charred hair floating all over the place. They finally get it put out.

And stink? Oh, my heavens. It was so stinky it moved up the airplane. It would hit people in row 35 and you could hear them choke, "Ooohhh," then it would hit row 30 and you'd hear another round of disgusted exclamations, all through the plane.

I bet they had to burn that plane. I think I had a $2000 suit on and I had to burn it, it stunk so bad. I never could get the stink of hair out of it.

She sat there with a wet towel on her head and she had one clump of hair left. The shocking thing was... Have you ever seen a shaved poodle? When they come in, they're huge, and when they leave they're just teeny.

This lady she sauntered onto the plane looking like an orange on a toothpick, but after the afro exploded into ashes, her head looked like a pin.  

I couldn't believe it! I sat there for the whole time just looking. How does that happen? I swear to you that head couldn't have been bigger than a softball.

So she's sitting there with a towel over her smoldering head. And guess what she does? She lights up another cigarette!

"Oh, I gotta give these things up," she muttered.

Oh, do you think?

Now, if you've got a shred of funny bone left in you, you're laughing. But believe it or not, there is a serious lesson to be drawn from this story.

All of our destructive habits and beliefs and baggage we carry around with us that we're to afraid and addicted to let go of are no laughing matter.

Human beings are like that — we can hurt ourselves and others so much but still hang on to things we know we shouldn't.

The problem is this: We become to self-identify with our bad habits and beliefs. "That's just who I am," we think.

And the only way to break the chains of poor self-identification is to change your perception of yourself. Here are three excellent tools to do that:

1. Meditation
Don't complicate this. To me, meditation simply means making time to sit and ponder with my eyes closed. I'm sure there are lots of techniques from meditation gurus, but just taking the time is more important than anything.

This creates space in your life that can be filled with insight and inspiration to lift you beyond your current limitations. I recommend that you meditate at least 15 minutes every day.

2. Reality Statement
A reality statement is five or ten sentences detailing your ideal self that you read religiously three times a day. It helps you to break old, limiting mental patterns and create new ones.

Here's a simple example:

"I choose love over fear. I am confident, positive, and proactive. My happiness is a choice, not a product of circumstance. I surrender all fear and negativity to God. I seek opportunities to serve and bless others."

Take time to identify who you'd like to become, then write it down in an empowering reality statement. Then read that statement three times daily without fail.

3. Good Friends, Mentors, & Books

It's often said that who you'll be in ten years will be a product of the books you read and the people you spend time with.

Your circle of friends has a gravitational pull. If they're pulling you down, you need enough thrust to break out of orbit and find new friends.

Choose friends and mentors carefully and consciously. Spend time with people who build you up and make you want to be a better person. Don't waste your time and talents on books unworthy of your potential. Fill your mind with uplifting, empowering, and enlightening material.

Whatever it takes, you're worth it. It may take catching your hair on fire in an airplane, but that's a small price to pay to unveil the greatness you hold inside.

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