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