Free Efren Orange Banner

Free Efren Orange Banner

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tragic crime made worse with Eliason verdict

The following letter was published in the Sunday (9/5/10) edition of the Herald Palladium in St. Joseph, Michigan.  This young man, Dakotah Eliason, was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole by the same court that sentenced Efren to die in prison 21 years ago.  Both youngsters were tried in Berrien County, as adults, with less than adequate defense, and a prosecutor who was determined to procure a verdict of first degree murder, even though they were only 14 & 15 at the times of the crimes.  We should look to other countries for guidance, as we are one of the only countries who treat our youth so abominably.


Every once in a while this community is confronted by a tragedy so great it’s hard to get your mind around it. Such is the case with the trial and conviction of 14-year-old Dakotah Eliason for the murder of his stepgrandfather. A family has lost a father and grandfather, a father is going though pain beyond description, and a teenager has lost all his chance at a future with meaning and promise.

In an excellent article Aug. 20 in The Herald-Palladium, Debra Haight reported the reactions of nearly everyone feeling the full impact of this situation.

Briefly, the victim’s daughter said it was a senseless crime that has torn apart a family with no reason why. She said her “Dad was the kindest man you’d ever meet.”

Dakotah’s father said he “couldn’t understand why his son was tried as an adult.” There is disbelief and anguish in his words. “They just ran him through the wringer to prove a point. He’s a 14-year-old juvenile who will never have another chance to live free.”

The defense attorney felt he had presented a good case for second-degree murder, but the prosecutor said, “This was cold, willful, premeditated murder. A verdict of first degree murder ...would be the correct one given the facts of the case.”

Twelve jurors watched a video of Dakotah made right after he was arrested and found they agreed with the prosecutor. I don’t know what you, the readers, think, but if you have a 14-year-old son, or nephew, or grandson, or neighbor, I would suggest you take a good look at him before you decide. Personally, I don’t think this society should just give up on a person that young. There are too many other options if we have the will, the hope and the compassion to try.

And, yes, there is one other voice that hasn’t been heard.

One that was silenced forever, if we let it be. But maybe those closest to him, his family, his friends, can tell us what he would say if he could. What would Dakotah’s stepgrandfather, Jesse Miles (the victim of this senseless crime and the “kindest man you’d ever meet,”) – what would he say?

Charlotte Holton St. Joseph

Friday, August 27, 2010

Justice--or Power Plays?

by Joyce Gouwens

Once again Mr. Cotter is playing to the grandstand. His recent attack on the Michigan Parole Board for releasing Donnell Williams was launched without checking the actual facts and figures, as was carefully pointed out in the Guest Column by Barbara Sampson, Chair of Michigan's Parole Board. Donnell was not released early as Mr. Cotter stated, and he could have requested that Donnell's release be denied by the board, but didn't. The Michigan Prison Re-entry program has made parolees much safer, and they become more productive citizens when they take part in making a careful plan for their release and are given a helping hand by the community. The longer a prisoner is incarcerated--especilly if in a maximum security prison--the less likely he or she will be to succeed outside the walls. The head of our federal prisons declared that after 10 years in a federal prison system few inmates returned to society without serious mental health problems.

Mr. Cotter has made not one, but two plays for publicity in the tragic case of Dakotah Eliason--a deeply troubled 14 year-old who was experiencing such intense anxiety that he vacillated between suicide and murder throughout the night. Mr. Cotter seems dumbfounded by Dakotah's statement that for five minutes after the crime his unbearable tension left him completely, but I believe that mental health professionals would find nothing strange about this temporary release, and certainly nothing sinister enough to rush the boy into adult court and then on to a life without parole. Why didn't he give mental health treatment in a secure setting a chance for several years before taking this drastic step. That would have given time to determine if this boy would be a threat to society. Crimes within a family usually are not a prediction of crimes against the general public. Spending money on extended treatment would have been a whole lot less expensive than his life in prison at $32,000 a year and rising. Try multiplying that by an expected life span of 50 years or so! And why did Mr. Cotter insist that the murder was premeditated when Dakotah's grandfather left a tempting gun out despite his wife's warning?

Boys in our prisons too often are claimed as "fresh meat" by older and stronger inmates, and are often bullied and beaten to amuse the other prisoners--and sometimes the guards, too. One 16 year-old Benton Harbor boy was beaten last year by three prisoners with a padlock tied in a sock, and has sustained permanent brain damage. If this jury had been able to talk with Michigan's 350 or so life-without-parole prisoners who were sentenced as juveniles to die in prison, they would have thought much longer over their final decision. No other nation in the world now uses this Draconian punishment for its youth, and no prosecutor should press the jury to approve it in order to prove his own power. The Eliason family had not given up on Dakotah. Why should we? They have now lost two members, not one. If Mr. Cotter thinks the public will praise him for this extreme sentence (now being made illegal in several states), I hope he will be greatly mistaken. We should all be outraged!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Says Youth Deserve Second Chance

By Efrén Paredes, Jr.

In a landmark ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion on May 17, 2010, ending life without parole (LWOP) sentences for youths in non-homicide cases.

The Court held that, ‘[A] State must …give defendants like Graham [a juvenile] some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.’ They further stated, ‘By denying the defendant the right to reenter the community, the State makes an irrevocable judgment about that person’s value and place in society. This judgment is not appropriate in light of a juvenile…offender’s capacity for change and limited moral culpability.’

Several states have pending legislation to end LWOP sentences for youths in homicide cases. Michigan is among those states. Last year Michigan’s House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Mark Meadows, (D-E. Lansing) convened two hearings on bills that would repeal the sentence. The bills have since remained in committee but are expected to receive a final hearing this month. According to a May 22, 2010 Detroit Free Press editorial, Meadows reportedly said the committee will probably approve the bills with amendments.

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision is great news for the 2,500 prisoners who were sentenced to LWOP when they were youths. Of that number, Michigan holds 350 of them in its prisons. The Court’s opinion is one important step along the road to removing the shameful stain on our nation being the last remaining country in the world that sentences youth to die in prison.

Not only will more states introduce legislation to end LWOP for youth in homicide cases, but there will also be new cases petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to end the sentences as well. If the Michigan House Judiciary Committee passes the package of bills, the next step will be for a vote on the bills from the full House of Representatives. The bills would then have to be passed by the Senate.

I am asking each of you to please visit an online petition we have asking your state Representative or Senator to vote in support of the package of bills that would end LWOP sentences for youth in Michigan. Please share the petition link with others and ask them to share via email, Facebook, and Twitter.

The bills will not release a single prisoner. What they will do however is make those prisoners sentenced to LWOP when they were juveniles eligible for parole after 15 years. It does not guarantee release, but it begins making release possible by the parole board.

I am encouraged by this news and look forward to seeing a positive outcome. Please keep my family and me in your prayers and join us, as we remain hopeful that the deplorable policy of LWOP sentences for youth will end in the foreseeable future.

Petition to end LWOP sentences for youth:

U.S. Supreme Court decision on May 17, 2010, in Graham v. Florida, No. 08-7412 ruling that LWOP is unconstitutional in non-homicide cases:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Incarcerated for Life at Age 15: Lessons From Efrén Paredes, Jr.

The inside of a cell will try to erase you. Efrén Paredes, Jr. knows that, just as his life sentence has also taught him how time can relentlessly add up each day, without any hope for release. Convicted for murder and robbery at the age of 15, Paredes's life should trouble us all. But the really troubling question isn't the nature of his crimes, but rather why — after two decades — he still sits inside a cell in a Michigan prison.

It's hard to imagine what that much time does to a person. Harder still to imagine how Paredes, incarcerated at 15, has in over 20 years of prison transformed himself into a passionate advocate for justice, a highly intelligent man and a skilled organizer. During his recent hearing before the Michigan Board of parole, over two hundred people testified — many attesting to his ability to serve as a community asset and to the man that he has become in prison. Others, by contrast, argued that he should remain in prison. Somewhere between these two perspectives, we have lost the idea of justice.

The death of Rick Tetzlaff, who Paredes allegedly killed, was tragic. There's no escaping the brutality of it. There is no escaping the impact of Tetzlaff's death on his family and on his community. But justice here shouldn't mean that a 15-year-old gets sentenced to life in prison without parole.

When I met Paredes, he'd organized a speaking engagement for me at his Michigan prison — the first time I'd been back inside a prison since my release a few years earlier. While reading there from my memoir, A Question of Freedom, I recognized something. Prison is a community all its own, and those confined must lean upon each other for support, understanding and guidance. Too many falter because there aren't enough prisoners who truly represent strength of character, conviction and leadership. Paredes, though, does.

Yet Paredes has recently learned that his petition for release has been denied by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. The question here is not about guilt or innocence. Yes, Paredes maintains that he is innocent, and the family continues to insist that he should remain in prison forever. But the question here is the sanity of sentencing a 15-year-old to life in prison without the possibility of parole. At what moment is a life sentence equivalent to a death sentence, and at what point is that sentence too much?

Paredes just watched his 37th birthday come and go behind bars. His case exemplifies the worst of what we do to juveniles in the name of justice. When he was sentenced, the judge issuing his sentence said, "I must believe that you can do good if you want to." Our system should be able to recognize this possibility — and offer a man like Paredes the opportunity to walk free in the world after years of doing good. Given the marvel of his accomplishments — all of which he has achieved without institutional support — his very life is an argument against juvenile life without parole. And his continued incarceration is a scar on our justice system.

Photo Credit: FriaLOve

R. Dwayne Betts committed six felonies at age 16 and served nine years in adult prison, a journey he chronicles in his recent book, A Question of Freedom.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Letter from Efrén

Dear Friends,

After careful deliberation and time to regroup from the news of the Governor denying my Commutation of Sentence Request, I have decided that before my family and I make any decisions about what next major steps to take, I want to first make a strong effort to ask the Governor to reconsider her decision and urge her to grant the Commutation Request. I am asking you to please support this as well and to invite others to join us.

There are 10 months remaining of the Governor's term. I know of instances that the Parole Board has asked the Governor to reconsider the denial of a Commutation Request denial, so it is not beyond the realm of possibilities. There are no guarantees our efforts will work, but what I do know is that I believe in the Creator and I know that in Him all things are possible.

What I am asking you to please do, is sign our new online petition at: and invite others to do so also. Please post the link on facebook, twitter, and ask others to do so as well. You can use the simple message, "Efren's Commutation Request was denied 3/8/10. Please sign our petition asking the Governor to reconsider and reverse her decision at:"

People can also use the text from the petition to print out and send a letter to the Governor at: Governor Jennifer Granholm, PO Box 30013 , Lansing, MI 48909.

Repost the message as often as you can and also please share via email. My family and I will also be working on other things in the meantime and making efforts to keep visibility on the campaign.

Some people may think this avenue will not produce any results. That may be true, but I know that doing nothing won't produce any for sure. There is a part of me that believes the power of people change the world. I believe in our will to thrive, to succeed, to live, to endure.

I am asking you to support this effort and make the decision to keep pressing forward. We still have time. If we use it wisely perhaps we can make a difference.

On another note, know that I am bouncing back from the news of the Governor denying my Commutation Request. It's been three days now and I am gaining more strength each day. I ask that you continue to keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I will continue to work fiercely on the campaign and doing what you have courageously and relentlessly done for me the past two years:  Fight for Justice.

Keep in mind the U.S. Supreme Court will also be deciding a case about Life Without Parole sentences for Juveniles any day now which could abolish the deplorable sentences nationwide. There are still a number of developments underway that could change the course of my Commutation Request and other things.

Thank you for your continued support. I'm back!

In Solidarity,


Monday, March 15, 2010

Could Facebook Save His Live?

By Leticia Miranda

Like many people in their 30s, Efrén Paredes Jr. has a lot of friends online (more than 3,400 on Facebook). Unlike most people online, Paredes is incarcerated at a Michigan state prison, and he has no access to the Internet.

Nevertheless, his Facebook account is frequently updated with links to news on youth incarceration, immigration and other topics affecting Latinos. His Twitter and mySpace accounts are equally active with tidbits on what he’s feeling in the moment. And his website and blog are brimming with information ranging from updates on his case to Latin American politics. In response, people across the country are now writing letters and signing online petitions on his behalf asking the Michigan governor to release him.

Read the entire article at:

Fighting for Their Lives

By Leticia Miranda

The Supreme Court considers whether it’s cruel and unusual punishment to lock up teenagers for life without parole.

Efrén Paredes Jr. was a 15-year-old honor roll student in rural Michigan when he was convicted of killing an assistant manager at the grocery store where he worked and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Today, he is one of almost 1,775 prisoners who were sentenced as youth and locked up for life without parole, according to a report released by The Sentencing Project, a prison reform research and advocacy organization. A staggering 77 percent of those youth are Black or Latino.

This June, the Supreme Court will decide whether young people can be sentenced to life without parole for crimes that didn’t result in a death. Separately, several states are also considering abolishing life without parole for youth.

The ruling will set a major legal precedent that may affect cases like Paredes’s. In the meantime, Paredes, who is now 36, is hoping that Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm will grant his commutation request by the end of her term this year and release him.

Read the entire article at:

Saturday, February 13, 2010


by Efrén  Paredes, Jr.

February 10, 2010, marked the third time in two weeks that the Warden at the Oaks Facility authorized the use of chemical agents to be sprayed on prisoners who are housed in the upper B wing of 4 Unit. This is a segregation unit.

During that time, one prisoner attempted suicide, one prisoner went on a 5-day hunger strike, and one prisoner was threatened to be shot by gas balls on the yard. These prisoners all were housed on the same floor. The magnitude of this is amplified by the fact that there are only 24 prisoners housed on this floor.

Rather than seeking to prevent the use of chemical agent attacks on prisoners, it appears the facility has instead increased its use in an effort to send a salient message. That message being, “We don’t care about your complaints or problems. Deal with it or we will use chemical agents on you.”

The use of these chemical agents is very dangerous and potentially lethal. Both prison staff and prisoners know this. When the chemical agent is sprayed, the staff who are in the area wear gas masks. The chemicals enter the air when sprayed and every prisoner housed on the floor is exposed to the harmful effects.

When chemical agents were employed on February 10, the impact was so powerful that after an hour of it being sprayed, staff were still wearing gas masks to walk in the hallway. Even the following day staff who worked 24 hours later were coughing in the hallway from the chemicals still lingering in the air.

For the prisoners housed on the floor the impact was much more serious. Many of them experienced severe chest pains, profuse coughing, sinus drainage, burning and water eyes, chronic sneezing, and some vomiting. They were also all forced to sleep in and breathe this unhealthy air until it cleared up. Several prisoners complained that they experienced serious breathing problems.

To illustrate the careless disregard for the seriousness of this matter, just before staff used the harmful chemical agent on February 10, a prisoner asked a staff member when showers would resume. The staff member responded, “No more showers tonight guys, you’re getting gas instead.”

While this is not the mentality of the majority of staff who work responsibly in the housing unit, it does reflect the view of those outside the housing unit with decision-making power. In one conversation with a prisoner before the chemical agent was sprayed on February 10, the unit sergeant stated, “I’ve been telling them about the [meal] trays being messed up. They don’t listen to me.”

Clearly if unit staff was being ignored by their superiors, prisoners who have grievances or problems have no hope of being acknowledged or respected.

I am housed on this floor with 23 other prisoners being exposed to the chemical agent assaults and I speak from direct experience and observation. I am also among the prisoners who were most severely affected by the February 10 incident.

While supporters of the use of chemical agents will argue that the assaults are justified, in none of the three times the chemical agent was used, did a prisoner harm himself or staff. One of the prisoners was threatened with a chemical assault for having paper partially covering his window.

Prison staff will argue that they are not putting any prisoners at serious risk because they remove prisoners from the unit who have documented conditions of asthma or serious respiratory problems prior to spraying the chemical agents.

The problem with this argument is that every prisoner who suffers from asthma or other respiratory problems may not have documentation. Some prisoners may be allergic to the chemicals in the agent used. It is not known how every person will respond to a chemical that they have not been exposed to before. It could be lethal the first time. One of the prisoners housed on the floor where the chemical agents were used only has one lung.

Rather than seek to justify the use of chemical assaults, prison administrators should seek to find out what is sowing the seeds of discontent among the prisoners and leading them to go on hunger strikes, attempt suicide, and risk chemical assaults.

On February 10, several prisoners on the floor refused to return their dinner meal trays because of ongoing problems with the size of the food portions served, missing food items on the food trays, and other issues with food. Some of the prisoners also refused to allow staff to close their door food slot until an administrator came to the unit to discuss their grievances.

Previously, the complaints of prisoners were ignored daily. Complaints about the very hot temperature of the shower water and cold temperature of the rooms continue to go ignored. It wasn’t until prisoners took matters into their own hands on February 10, that staff began to listen. However, it shouldn’t have had to go that far, and could have been prevented, if staff simply took the myriad complaints seriously.

Unfortunately, the reading level of most prisoners is below the fifth grade. This is a barrier that prevents many of them from articulating their problems or grievances verbally or in writing. Prison administration knows this, but they take no steps to try to communicate effectively. Instead, they attempt to silence prisoners through fear and force.

Trying to make problems disappear through the inhumane use of chemical assaults is a dangerous way to show prisoners about conflict resolution. It is no wonder that some prisoners leave prison feeling that using force or violence is a way to solve problems. It has been reinforced by what they have witnessed prison staff do.

This is an unacceptable manner to rehabilitate prisoners and make them productive members of society upon release. We are a nation that does not promote extremism, torture, or abuse of prisoners. This is the reason that the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons were ordered closed.

If it is wrong to employ terror, extremism, torture, or abuse on enemy combatants in prisons abroad, it is equally wrong to use these tactics against citizens imprisoned domestically. When complaints by prisoners are made, (particularly repeated complaints about the same issues) they should be investigated and resolution should be sought.

The psychological, emotional, and mental trauma caused by the use of this invisible violence must not be overlooked. These are scars that can go undetected for long periods of time. Some prisoners can experience post-traumatic-stress disorder by continued exposure to chemical agent assaults.

Violence in any form (including chemical agent assaults) is never the answer to conflict resolution. If that is the only answer administrators have to solving problems, then their professional judgment is seriously in question and should be the subject of House Corrections Appropriations Committee Hearings.

A few years ago, August 6, 2006, a prisoner died at the hands of staff at a prison in Jackson. Timothy Souder’s death completely changed the Michigan Department of Corrections policy about the use of restraints to strap prisoners to their beds in segregation units.

These restraints had been the source of many complaints for years for a number of obvious reasons. It wasn’t until a prisoner died, as a consequence of their use on him and a subsequent wrongful death lawsuit, that things changed.

This should not have to be the same case with the use of chemical agents assaults on prisoners. One day, someone will eventually die from their use or suffer irreparable health damage. It will have been totally preventable. A critical examination of this issue is necessary by outside agencies or legislature.

It is without question that chemical agent assaults are in direct contravention of the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a civilized society.

In simpler terms, it is synonymous with cruel and unusual punishment. A practice we can not afford to persist.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Message from Efrén Paredes, Jr. for Xicano History Month 2010

It is a pleasure to share this message with you as we give honor to the enormous contributions made by our hermanas toward the advancement of our beloved gente. Their selfless sacrifices cannot be underscored enough. Without them, there would be no Xicano comunidad.

The achievements of our gente are incomplete when we ignore any segment of our comunidad or attempt to elevate some over others. IT is imperative that we celebrate our collective contributions, not fragments separated by hollow voids.

It is a dated and discriminatory practice to establish and maintain societies that revolve around males. It is divisive and relegates women to positions of inferiority. Our focus needs to shift to one that emphasizes balance and equality.

As we jettison the antiquated philosophy of male superiority we will begin to create true mutual respect, heal our comunidad, draw from the best we all have to offer, and empower ourselves together instead of individually. We must reject any practice that is disrespectful to our mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, and other muxeres.

When we celebrate the Xicana this month, we are celebrating the full spectrum of Xicana/o History and Her story, culture, and identity. We are acknowledging the need to replace them with OUR story. It is also an acknowledgment of our genesis, our cradle of civilization and greatness as a people, and a rejection of foreign concepts that have besieged us and eroded our cohesion.

We must know that until we respect ourselves, and all Xicano gente we will never receive the respect of the world. And, until we stop treating muxeres as footnotes we cannot expect others to treat us any differently.

I ask that you also remember our incarcerated hermanas/os who languish in prison cages in Michigan and across the country. We must actively work to end society’s addiction to incarceration as the primary instrument of social control.

The abuses perpetrated against our gente are growing exponentially. In 2008, nearly 2/3 of the hate crimes in this country targeted Latino people. We are being treated as if our lives are disposable and without value. We can not allow our silence to perpetuate these injustices and suffocate our progress.

Xicana/o culture, history, and identity are illuminating the consciousness of Xicanas/os in society as well as behind prison walls. It is a liberating force that ignites the passion to change and to grow. It empowers us and gives us agency, meaning, and purpose.

This is why we celebrate it and honor each other each day. Xicana/o history is not a month, it is our lives.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eliminating Childhood Obesity, Rescuing Our Future

by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

First lady Michelle Obama launched “Let’s Move”, a campaign to help parents combat the national health crisis of childhood obesity. The campaign was announced February 9, 2010. It is available online at

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 32% of children and adolescents (25 million kids) are obese or overweight. A 2005 study found that kids today may live shorter lives than their parents by two to five years.

In 1965, 4% of children ages 6-11 were obese; today that number is 19.6%. In 1965, 5% of adolescents ages 12-19 were obese; today that number is 18%. Of the kids ages 2-19 who are overweight or obese, 29% are White children, 36% are Black children, and leading this epidemic are Latino children of which 38% are overweight or obese.

Two important areas Let’s Move will target are improving food and increasing physical activity in school. About 31 million kids eat lunch at school every day, and 11 million eat breakfast there as well. It is estimated that 30% to 50% of their calories are consumed in school, underscoring the need to make improvements in this area.

Let’s Move will also focus on promoting gardening, nutrition, more accurate food labeling, better grocery stores in communities that don’t have them, public service announcements, and making child obesity a national conversation.

I urge you to visit and share the vital information and tools available there to help us create a healthier future for our nation’s children. Parents and educators especially need to learn about this information and we need to engage other adults who do not have children to learn it so that they can mentor kids about the value of physical activity and healthy eating.

Talking about this crisis is a start. Taking active steps to reverse this danger to young people’s lives is what we each need to be doing. Action, not talk, is the key to making a difference.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Aid to Haiti Desperately Needed

by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010, the largest earthquake in more than a century devastated the nation of Haiti. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Latest reports from Haiti are that streets are lined with dead bodies, people are in desperate need of clean water, electricity, and medical supplies. Most hospitals, schools, roads, and homes have been transformed into piles of rubble. Undoubtedly the scale of the relief effort necessary will be one of the largest in recent history.

It is likely that more people could die form the aftermath of the earthquake than from the tremor itself. This painful reality has drawn support from countries and aid organizations from around the globe. It has already been reported that Dengue fever, Malaria, Measles, Typhoid and Meningitis are on the rise throughout areas that have been ravaged by the calamity.

Please consider making private donations which are critical to the relief effort. The lives of millions of people are depending on donations for immediate needs and the organizations contributing to the relief effort you can assist are:

The American Red Cross. People can contribute online at: or make a $10 donation by sending a text message with the word "Haiti" to 90999.

The United Nations World Food Program. Donations can be made online at:

Action Against Hunger. You can give on line at:

Project Hope. Provides medical supplies and health care services. You can donate online at:

Join me and others to help make a difference.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What will 2010 Bring?

by Efrén  Paredes, Jr.

As we usher in the dawn of the new decade many people will ask themselves, "what will 2010 mean to my life?" Some will respond with optimism, others will dread the unknown.

The truth is many of our expectations will be ones that we create ourselves. There are certainly some experiences that will occur beyond our control, but for the things that we can control, we should work to shape them the way we desire.

Believing that we are mere objects with no control of our lives invites negative experiences. It is dis-empowering and relinquishes all of our decision-making authority to other people and circumstances.

When we have a dismal outlook on life and negative self-image the laws of attraction bring toxicity into our lives. It drains us of energy and keeps us in perpetual darkness. People find it difficult to emerge from this state after prolonged periods of time. It is easier to be complacent than to exert the energy to change the tide that erodes our potential.

We can't be afraid to fail or try in life. If we are we will be paralyzed by fear and never progress. Rather than look at potential experiences as stumbling blocks, we need to view them as stepping stones towards something better.

No one experience defines us, whether good or bad. If it did it would always be the best or worst thing we did in life. It doesn't work that way though. We are the sum of our total experiences, not fragments of them.

Our perception will guide us along the way. If we maintain a positive outlook we will celebrate progress more often than failure. Perception colors an experience and defines it before it even manifests. It charts its course.

When we employ this approach into our lives we begin to discover that people and experiences affect us to the degree we allow them to. Nothing can compel us to experience a feeling we do not allow. We are never taught this though, consequently people find themselves looking for people and material things to comfort and satisfy them.

When we make the conscious choice to live a productive, happy life, we will see it manifest, not because it just transpires, but because it is what we want to see materialize. It is what we work towards and the energy we seek to attract.

We have to cease underestimating ourselves and embrace our enormous potential. In so doing we will empower our lives and create experiences we want, not the ones that "just happen."

The answer to what the new year or decade will bring into your lives is very simple. Most often it will bring what you strive for or invite.