One of life's great annoyances is the tendency of folks to ask you to perform an impossible task, list the issues they foresee and the problems that have plagued previous attempts -- and then admonish you to "think positive."
Wow! Does that mean you are so good that you can achieve what no one else has? Or are you being set up to fail?
Because I am an eternal optimist, I prefer to believe the first premise. Positive thinking is more than just a tagline. It changes the way we behave. And I firmly believe that when I am positive, it not only makes me better, but it also makes those around me better. I think that good attitudes are contagious. I want to start an epidemic!
A friend who also prefers to look for the silver lining suggested I Google "The Positive Pledge" by author and inspirational speaker Jon Gordon. Several promises stand out among the 15 in the pledge, including:
-- I pledge to be a positive person and positive influence on my family, friends, co-workers and community.
-- I vow to stay positive in the face of negativity.
-- When I want to be bitter, I will choose to get better.
-- When I meet failure, I will fail forward, toward future success.
-- I believe my best days are ahead of me, not behind me.
The full pledge is a terrific framework for a positive attitude because we know that positive thinking isn't always easy. Negative thoughts can creep into our minds -- and jump out our mouths -- when we least expect them. The trick isn't to fight them, but to manage them so they don't paralyze us.
Identify the triggers. When you have a negative thought ("This will never work ... I can't do this"), stop and ask yourself what's bringing it on. You may be tired or stressed out, or you may be affected by someone else's perspective. If you can locate the cause, the thought itself won't have as much power over you.
Focus on the now. Worrying about the past or the future isn't productive. When you start chastising yourself for past mistakes, or seeing disaster around every corner, stop and take a breath and ask yourself what you can do right now to succeed. Find something to distract you from destructive thoughts and reset your attitude.
Replace the negative. If you find yourself plagued by a recurrent worry, train yourself to think of something else. Memorize a short poem, phrase or meditation, and when you catch yourself in a negative thought, replace the negative with the positive. Your conscious mind can concentrate on only one thought at a time, and driving the negativity away will free you up to move forward again.
Years ago, I came across an essay that really solidified my commitment to positive thinking. It has been credited to several people, most often Robert J. Burdette or the ubiquitous "unknown." Regardless of who authored it, here is the message for you to contemplate:
"There are two days in every week about which we should not worry, two days which should be kept from fear and apprehension.
"One of these days is Yesterday with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back Yesterday. We cannot erase a single word we said. Yesterday is gone.
"The other day we should not worry about is Tomorrow with its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and poor performance. Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow's sun will rise. Until it does, we have no stake in Tomorrow, for it is yet unborn.
"This leaves only one day -- Today. Anyone can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities -- Yesterday and Tomorrow -- that we break down.
"It is not the experience of Today that drives men mad. It is remorse or bitterness for something that happened Yesterday and the dread of what will happen Tomorrow."
That's a difficult formula to improve upon, and perhaps even more challenging to practice. But I promise you, I'm positive you will be better off for trying!
Mackay's Moral: A positive attitude lightens your load and expands your reach.