Granted, making the negative stuff take the back seat and letting the more positive stuff ride shotgun is much easier said than done. Our experiences shape us. They influence our behavior and how we view the world. For example, my childhood wasn’t ideal and I’ve had a lot of unfortunate things happen in my adult life. As cliché as it sounds, I decided that I had to make those experiences become life lessons, take what I learned from them, and move on – hoping that I’d be wise enough the next time and make different choices or not repeat my mistakes. Obviously, I’m not always successful, but I don’t want to wallow in regret and bitterness about things I can no longer change.
How I view the world is a choice. It is possible to see what’s wrong with it without allowing that to block out all that’s right. Recognizing the bad helps me appreciate the good, so while I do acknowledge the bad, I also look for the good. Since focusing on the negative only manifests more negative, the trick is to take the negative and find a way to make it a positive. Again, easier said than done. Or is it? Isn’t it just as easy to say peace is beautiful as it is to say war is ugly? It’s all about perspective.
In that respect, it’s also possible to see the good in a person even if they’re behaving badly. Love doesn’t disappear because someone does something I don’t like or that makes me angry. Their rank on the old likeability scale might take a temporary nose dive, but the love remains. I’m not talking about abusive actions; that’s entirely different. Disagreements, bad habits, personality quirks, and bad decisions are all part of everyday normal living. Still, we can choose to ignore it, work to improve it, or dwell on how bad it is. It’s all about choice.
The same principle works on a bigger scale, too. Whenever possible, I choose to view the world as if I’m seeing it for the first time through the eyes of a child, to see the wonder, to feel the joy, to experience the curiosity. Leo Buscaglia recommended doing that in one of his books that I read years ago. He also said, “Change is the end result of all true learning.” It’s difficult to learn when your eyes, your mind, and your heart are closed. Being open is the first step to learning and learning is the first step to creating change.
I’ve always wanted to try this experiment and maybe I will:
Place two large glass jars next to each other. Label one “Positive” and the other “Negative.” Make sure they’re out where you can see them on a regular basis. Have a small note pad and a pen next to them. Each time you experience something wonderful, write it down and how it made you feel. Fold it up and put it in the positive jar. Do the same when something happens that makes you angry, sad, enraged, insulted, offended, etc., and put it in the negative jar.
At the end of one year (or a shorter amount of time if they fill up quickly), take out the notes from the negative jar first and read them aloud. Then do the same with the ones in the positive jar. Compare how many are in each. If one jar has more than the other, examine why. Pair up the negatives with the positives, the ones where you took a bad situation and made it better. How many of those are there? If there are more bad than good, find out why and figure out what you can do to change it.
With that being said, I’d like to share some of my favorite positive things that I’ve experienced throughout my life. Maybe I’ll write them all down in a journal one day, but here are just a few of those memorable moments, in no particular order:
- The day my son was born.
- The day Frank and I brought our new baby home from the hospital, laid him in his crib, watched him sleep, then turned to each other and said, “Now what?”
- My 50th birthday party at Steve’s and Linda’s house.
- The first time I saw Mount Rainier as I was driving south on I-5.
- Arriving at the Frankfurt airport for the first time when I was 11 years old and taking the train to Heidelberg from there.
- The German frankfurter with mustard and a roll that my grandfather bought for each of us as a snack before getting on the train to Heidelberg.
- The view of Toronto from the observation deck at the top of the CN Tower.
- The breathtaking views of the valleys and mountains from a ridge at Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado.
- The smell of a freshly mowed lawn.
- The smell of rain on dry earth.
- The sound of a baby’s laughter.
- The day I came home to find the new saxophone my parents had bought waiting for me in my room.
- The audience’s applause when my high school band finished playing “The Pines of Rome.”
- Watching my dad in slow motion as he ran over to catch me when I fell off a table (long story). Even though I broke my arm, it was still a remarkable experience – until I hit the ground, that is.
- The day I finished the first draft of my first book.
- The smell of my first printed book and the sense of accomplishment I felt when I held it in my hands.
What’s on your list. Don’t have one yet? I can’t think of a better time to start one than now.