Glowing pink is radiating up to the gray and purple morning sky, against the silhouette of distant rolling hills. The morning sun signals hope for the day. Gray-green broken branches fill the ground, in piles the size of houses, left over from last week’s ice storm. A brisk breeze shakes the trees as if to test the strength of the remaining branches.The sound of a flight to who-knows-where tumbles in the sky above for a brief moment.
Each day when I awaken, I start with hope. I hope it’s a good day. I hope I do good work. I hope I’m productive. I hope I am a good example to others. When I open my eyes, usually at the request of the whining dog in the crate on the other side of the room, I place my bare feet on the ground and I rub them back and forth. It’s a routine I’ve done for decades, and to me it’s like revving my engine. It builds my energy and sets the tone for the day. It launches me!
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Last week a friend commented to me, “You’re always happy. What’s your secret? Life can’t be that perfect.” It took me by surprise, because I’d never really stopped to think about it.
What is my secret?
Bad Days Bounce off Like Bullets off Armor
The reality is that life has its challenges. And they never really stop; there is always some drama somewhere. Yet rarely, if ever, does it faze me. Though I was severely rattled when my teenage son had a heart attack and nearly died, I remained fairly composed and calm.
If I had to come up with an answer, I’d say that I’ve spent far too many days in my life worked up, worrying, stressing, and it never seemed to make a bit of difference, other than making me feel unhappy. Now my answer is, “Trust God. Everything is beyond my control.” If I can control the outcome (rarely), I take the necessary action. Otherwise, I roll with it.
A Man-to-Man Talk
Years ago, I fell in love with a girl at a different high school. She was my first love, and we were inseparable for a few years. I grew close to her family and her dad. One day, he asked me for some of my time. We sat and he challenged me. He said, “Eric, you have everything going for you. You’re likable, you’re smart, you’re creative, but I don’t think you’re very happy. In fact, I think you’re very negative.” I was shocked because I’d considered myself a positive thinker. He went on to say, “I can’t support my daughter being with you if you continue down this path. And if you continue being a negative thinker, you won’t live as long as you should, and you won’t live a happy life.”
I was stunned.
He coached me about what he had observed and how I should consider overcoming it. He recommended that I read “The Power of Positive Thinking” and “Think and Grow Rich,” and he encouraged me to set out each day to think positively.
Keep in mind that I grew up with a positive-thinking dad, who had taught me most of these lessons. But it took an outsider to get my attention. And, that one “little talk” changed my life forever.
Meet Mister Negative
Earlier this week I met a guy who’d wanted to talk with me. I resisted because he had been negatively badgering me online. I don’t like to be around negative people. But, I told myself that I needed to talk with him, though I did not know why. The conversation started out negative. He told me all the reasons why things were bad, why his business was bad, what things were not going well. It was hard to hear, and I wanted to jump through the phone, grab him by the shirt, shake him and say “can’t you see that your life isn’t going well because you’re not expecting it to go well.?” But I was polite, I encouraged him, gave him some ideas, and ended the call.
That’s Easy for You to Say
I used to lecture my dear old friend Chris. I liked him, but I’m not sure why, because he was like that kid in the Charlie Brown comics that always had a cloud over his head. One of the most negative people in the world. I had countless discussions with him about his negativity, and things would change if he would just think positive. But he told me “its easy for you, you’ve had a great upbringing.” His pain from his past seemed too big for him to overcome. He was stuck in negative mud.
Are you stuck in negative mud?
Pay close attention to your conversations this week. Are you talking about all the things going wrong or all the things going right? Are you whining about things you have to do or celebrating all the things you get to do.
Focus on Strength
Author John Maxwell is the guest pastor at my old Florida church sometimes. He says that having a positive outlook on life is crucial for happiness and success. He encourages people to focus on their strengths and to see the good in every situation, instead of dwelling on negativity and failures.
As a recovering negative person, I know you have to retrain your brain, and it does not happen fast, and it feels uncomfortable because negativity makes negative people comfortable. They feel better about themselves when they can find problems with others. But to train your brain you have to resist negativity at all costs.
Don’t default to the grey cloud of problems. Seek the side of hope and encouragement.
My friend Bob is the ultimate spin master. No matter what anyone says to him, if it’s negative and even if the negative thing you’re saying is true, he finds a way to spin it in a positive way. He’s better at this than me. And it has served him well. Everyone loves being around him.
We almost never want to accept ourselves as being our own problem. We want to blame others, blame outside influences. I get it. But it does not serve you well to do this. So listen carefully to the tone and messages of your words. Listen to your thoughts. Are you sewing with golden threads of positive or black threads of negative? The choice is yours.
Don’t Beat On Yourself
I’m a pretty positive person but even I have wallowed in self-pity and negativity when things have not gone my way in the past. But doing so only prolongs the pain. I finally learned to move on, don’t look back, don’t beat myself up, and focus on the future and the good things.
What’s your spin?
I don’t mean to be flippant, or dismissive of your pain, your circumstances. Life is hard.
I once met an oncology doctor at a party, and I asked him the best way someone can survive cancer. I was surprised by his answer, which seems very unscientific. “The moment I reveal cancer to a patient I can tell if they will survive or not. If they have a positive attitude and say, I’ll beat this, they survive longer, and often beat it entirely. If they are negative, and immediately say they are not ready to die, they never last long.”
There are not a lot of choices in life. We can’t always choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we react and respond to them.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
PS: How did we get this far into the new year already? Time has accelerated it seems.
I’m really jazzed that I have the opportunity to introduce people to the plein air painting (outdoor painting) lifestyle and teach them how to do it. More people painting outside is a great thing. My next live online event is called Plein Air Live, and its happening next month. Hundreds have already signed up to learn from the great masters of our time. I’m positive you won’t be negative when you attend. 🙂 www.pleinairlive.com
Stay Positive you live longer
Excellent word. A great reminder of what I know in my heart, but sometimes forget. Thanks Eric. Thanks
Thank you so much for every words 🙂 The people think, that my life is very happy and easy. But not 🙂 I have a lot of thing, what I must solve, change, and if one problem arrive into my life, I am ready to do repaer it 🙂 I think, this is the secret in the life 🙂 So that’s why it seems my life happy and easy 🙂 Have a nice week 🙂
Thanks for reminding me of the good things in life. Sometimes it’s hard to see them. A good reminder for me.
Your mindset is an incredible encouragement. I admire your perseverance, tenacity, stamina and outlook. it goes without saying you are an inspiration and effect so many. Some in bits and pieces, others with much more.
With all the love I can muster to send your way,
Thank you so much Eric for this reminder! I have read and re-read this quite a few times today and it has really challenged me to watch what comes out of my mouth.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us all – it really makes a difference.
God Bless you – all the way from South Africa!
I have been following your PleinAir material for a few years now and wanted to try outdoor painting. I don’t have the gear and this has stopped me from having a go. I mostly paint seascapes from sitting and watching the ocean or swimming in it and painting from memory plus some reference photos. I took some drawing materials out with me on many occasions which was easy, but how do you manage your wet pallet, wet paintings and all your stuff. I recently watched the video with Kathleen Dun.. (sorry forget last name). I was so inspired, I thought great, Im doing this. I went out, 33 degrees, no umbrella, set up to paint the ocean. I just got started, the wind came up, but I was determined…Then I needed to go to the toilet. I gave up, packed up and went home.
How do you carry wet panels and a wet palette. I looked up some online from Kathleens equipment list, (Raymar) but it doesn’t seem to show how to do it. Also I noticed she doesn’t take toilet paper so I’m guessing she uses paper towel??? HaHa I live in Australia. Its so easy to be remote.
Have a great week Eric, and thanks for your kind wisdom.
As always, from our far away mountains,
What a great read today! You make a real (positive) difference in a lot of people’s lives, I’m sure. I know your philosophy affects me in an uplifting way. Thanks for taking the time to write these missives.
Once met the most negative person and gallery owner possible. he was capable of killing any deal no matter how good. He was however the most skilled buyer of sculptures and artifacts i have ever met, an eye for art that was absolutely amazing. !! To combat this negativity i would take clients to his gallery and not allow him to speak to them. indeed i paid him to go to lunch for an hour. While he was gone i would provide the buyers a tour of the fabulous art pieces he had [all priced far too low to match his beliefs of success] , prepare the sale and warn the clients of his challenging attitude. Once he came back from lunch i would remain until he processed the sale, pkged the art and handed it to the new owner who were thrilled to bits with their new artworks. Some even bought from him again just based upon the art available.
His gallery went under due to his nagativity which would within 5 minutes drive even the most ardent buyer out the door with 5 minutes shaking their head. The art ultimately went to auction being sold for pennies. he never changed!!
By contrast once hired a young lady to work in my gallery who had 0 art knowledge but loved people and helping them find what even they did not know they wanted. Being a single mother her little one was brought to the gallery and promptly introduced glowingly to all and sundre. Even the toughest client would melt like water. Tokk her 5 years of commissions to earn enough to buy a house and then devote her life to her daughters up bringing having along the way met a really great partener who cam into the gallery to buy some art.
Great reminder! Thank you! 🥰🥰🥰🥰
What an inspiring letter, Eric — thank you. It’s early morning here in California, and I can’t think of better thoughts to start the day.
Thanks for another wonderful Sunday commentary! It’s easy for me to dip into negativity. I feel trapped at home with a husband who has end stage dementia. But, whenever I start to feel bogged down, I remember Colossians 3:23 And whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord and not man. It makes his caregiving go so much easier and lightens my heart.
Eric, I really enjoy your Sunday chat. I always enjoy your “sales pitches” for art events. I do not attend those sessions for a variety of reasons not worth delving into.
I leave you with my favorite poem. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.” Rumi
Thanks for being there.
Thanks Eric. You continue to be a source for great hope!
Thank you !
This was a beautiful,positive article and I will try to live up to it.
I hope to keep this and re read it many times.
It is absolutely true and by re reading it ,it will boost my positive thinking ( in case I slip at times)
Thank you for your Sunday Morning Coffee emails. The subjects of all have been inspiring and uplifting. The most recent one has put me on watch about my negativity and about my still beating myself up over past mistakes and failures. God bless you.
Good morning and happy Sunday! Many thanks for wise words, concepts and ideas you have time tested. In the mornings many concerns for the day can creep in before feet hit the floor. When this happens I reroute my thinking and a great Scripture for this is, This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it” , PsLm 118:24. It’s a game changer if you dwell on that wonderful bit of news😊
You’re wonderful, I have started to paint about two years ago love it, I’m 80 years old and feel young have a slight heart problem but all and all great health. My husband passed away year ago miss him, we must carry on and be happy I never was very spiritual but since painting I think God has helped me paint . Every time I think this painting isn’t going well God comes to thought and I find the answer why. You brighten my day
Thank you for being you.
I look forward to these every Sunday!
Thank you for sharing your wisdom, your humor and your faith-very courageous! Thank you for the wonderful workshops, podcasts and magazines. If only there was more time and money!