CC BY-NC Jon McGovern
Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response. (Mildred Barthel)
I used to have this quotation up in my classroom – accompanied by the smiliest smiley you’ve ever seen! It, along with other quotations* would often prompt questions and discussion. A lot of students didn’t really understand what it meant until I explained it to them. Some adults too.
What it means is this: everyone has setbacks in their life. But it’s your reactions not your carefully-considered actions that show your character. I’m reminded of the story of the member of the congregation who followed the vicar around whilst nailing up banners in the church. “Why are you following me around?” enquired the vicar. “I want to hear what you say when you hit your thumb with the hammer,” replied the parishioner! :-p
So to be positive is a choice in life. Things are going to come your way that you could conceive of as being:
- a setback
Which is why you need to lean into life. Expect setbacks, have strategies for dealing with them.
The second way to be overwhelmingly positive (even when you don’t feel like it) is to focus on the needs of others. Selflessness actually has a massive effect on your own wellbeing and happiness. Think about it: our needs are actually very few; we often confuse what we desire with what we need. There are those around us with very real needs.
There are people who are lonely with whom you could spend some time.
People in mourning whom you could comfort.
Those struggling to make ends meet who you could help in cash or kind.
The list goes on. Once you take that step outside yourself, you’ll find it much easier to be positive. After all, you have to be positive in order to have a positive effect on others!**
* Such as my absolute favourite: “He who stops being better stops being good” (Oliver Cromwell)
** Just as with all advice on this blog, this is something I don’t claim to be perfect at. But I know that I’m in a state of perpetual beta. I’m actively *trying* to get better at stuff like this…