Of facts and attitude is everything

In keeping with the recommendation that I solicit outside opinions to improve my attitude at work, I picked up Growing The Positive Mind by Dr. William K. Larkin. The gist is you can train your brain to feel good and be positive most of the time. He gives exercises to help modify one’s outlook and interaction with the world.

I tend to associate “positive” with “perky”. I’m not sure where that connection came from, but it’s what makes me get a little squicky when someone suggests I “be more positive”. What the book is slowly introducing is you can be positive / optimistic / happy without getting out the pom poms and cheer bows. It doesn’t even have to be spoken. It’s a way of looking at the world and seeing the light rather than the dark. Positive is looking forward using what you’ve already learned. Negative is looking behind you, dredging up the past, and going over it repeatedly. It’s awfully difficult to be optimistic about what’s in front of you when you’re too busy looking behind you at everything that has gone wrong.

The hardest part about the past is it’s both always with us because it’s what brought us to where we are now, but something that we need to accept is behind us and, therefore, unable to change. Getting upset over something someone said yesterday is a waste of time. Getting upset at myself for something I did five minutes ago is a waste of time. “What If” are probably two of the worst words you can use, up there with “should”. I need to write that in giant letters over my computer screen or on my bathroom mirror. Or both.

One of the important parts of the book are 4 things you need to stop doing in order to succeed. They are:

  • Stop Being Critical of Yourself and Others (guilty x 1000)
  • Stop Blaming Others for Your Problems or Any Problems, for that matter (guilty)
  • Give Up Being a Cynic or Critic of the World (guilty)
  • Be very, very picky about what you watch on TV, especially the news (I got this one! Yay!)

I freely admit that I mask cynicism as “realism”.

“But I had all this crap happen! Why should I believe that it’s going to improve? That’s not reality!” [Shut up, Hailey]. Yes, shit happens. Bad shit happens. Shit I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. The whole point of this blog is to take the shit that happened to me and learn what I can from it. What did that situation teach me? What does any crap situation teach me? How can I apply what I learned in another part of my life? Can this lesson help someone else if it doesn’t serve me right now? There are facts – which can be proved empirically, then there’s reality. Reality, especially when there are two human beings involved, is pretty damned subjective. Have two people observe the same set of circumstances and you’ll get two different answers for “what did you just witness?”. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but I get caught up in my own reality very easily. My reality is someone else’s theory. Someone else’s reality could just be a theory for me. All facts are realities, but not all realities are facts.

I end this entry with a little anecdote. When my dad was going through his cancer treatments the first time around, his oncologist shared something with my mom. He said that what he’d observed in his patients was the ones with a positive outlook did worlds better than those without. If you believe that you’re going to get through it, that’s a huge step in success. If you just give up, sign your own death certificate, and wait then you’ll get exactly what you signed up for. That was something that always stuck with me. Even in a literal life or death situation, if you believe you can live, then you’ve got a start.