An elegant and stylish model in her 80s walks into her kitchen to reveal her personal message to herself. On her floor in large, beautifully scripted letters are the words, “Rise Above It.” She tells the interviewer, “That’s how I stay young.”

What type of world would we live in if everyone lived by that simple message? We’d live in a more peaceful, healthful and productive one. Then why don’t we?

It could be that the adrenalin rush from drama, regardless of the stress it causes, is a convenient high and even addictive. I know people who thrive on stress because it makes them feel alive — that is, until a heart attack or another health issue forces them to change, or not.

A common excuse to avoid self-change is to blame it on heredity. “My dad has high blood pressure.” So what? You’re not your dad. You do not need to live your dad’s biological life. Perhaps you’ve adopted some of his behaviors or beliefs, or you’re angry at him and that is causing your high blood pressure. Umm …

Perhaps through the power of choice, new behaviors and responses you can lower your blood pressure. Is that too much work? Then down your medication and hope for the best. If you’re open to new ideas, read on.

Richard Francis, a writer with a Ph.D. in biology, traces the emergence of a different genetic paradigm in his book Epigenetics: The Ultimate Mystery of Inheritance. As reported in the Slate article “Goodbye, Genetic Blueprint” by Christine Kenneally, “Our DNA shapes who we are, Francis reports from the research forefront, but it is far from a static plan or an inflexible oracle; DNA gets shaped, too. He believes that the forces that determine our fate can’t be captured by anything so neat as a blueprint.”

While a research biologist at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., found that our “DNA is controlled by signals from outside the cell, including the energetic messages emanating from our positive and negative thoughts.” Lipton believes that our genes are blueprints but that we are the contractor who selects and modifies the blueprint.

Both studies share a common denominator; that our genes are not the dictators of our lives.

If there is any truth to these findings, then we need to take charge of our thoughts. That’s easier said than done because the negative ones are glued to us through our emotions. How do we unglue them?

It’s the feeling behind a thought that fuels it and gives it power. Think of the thousands of thoughts that race through your head each day. Most fall to the wayside, but those with strong feelings wrapped around them color your life — in a positive or negative way. It’s up to you to weed out the negatives.

Each of us has a tendency to adopt the emotional patterns and behaviors of those who influence us the most. Example: If you were raised by an emotionally volatile parent, you might express anger in the same way. Or maybe you habitually repress your emotions. Neither extreme is healthy. But with the awareness and willingness you can change your emotional pattern and, therefore, change the quality of your thoughts.

The quality of your thoughts will allow you to rise above the drama of life and the string of stresses that confront us daily. An added bonus is that you might be altering your genetic makeup in the process, giving you the power to walk away untouched by emotional upset and disease.

Bio-feedback, meditation, visualization, the power of thought — all of these tools at your disposal, have proven to generate positive, calming effects on heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and overall well-being. And naturally, when you’re healthy, you’re youthful.

Which will it be — victim or master? Instead of giving power to my biological past I’m going to focus on what I can consciously change in my present. The first thought I have is that peace of mind always trumps fear and anxiety.

My second thought is to pick up a paint brush and write on my kitchen floor.

Susan Ann Darley is a creativity coach, writer and author. Through coaching and writing, she specializes in motivating people to use their talents and market their creative projects. She offers a free 30-minute coaching session. For more information, click here, e-mail her at or call 805.845.3036.