Tag Archives: positive thinking

Sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows… and the hills you choose

Standard

I’m often discouraged, envious, and bitter. And I’m not afraid to say that out loud. It’s not all rainbows and lollipops, and it’s not healthy to pretend or project that it is. You know that in your gut, right?

But I can’t help having a glimmer of hope sometimes that things might be better. That all of these bits and pieces of life and work experience will coalesce in just the right way, for one moment, into something… meaningful. For me, for my family, for the animals, for my community, for my country, for my world.

I’m taking the time this week to think about what I can do next to encourage this to happen. 

Erik of vegan.com is adept at pointing out things on his blog that encourage reflection by animal advocates. Today he linked to this post on Seth Godin’s blog: An endless series of difficult but achievable hills. Seth says that:

“achievement is often the result of stepwise progress, of doing something increasingly difficult until you get the result you seek. … Repeating easy tasks again and again gets you not very far. Attacking only steep cliffs where no progress is made isn’t particularly effective either. No, the best path is an endless series of difficult (but achievable) hills. … The craft of your career comes in picking the right hills. Hills just challenging enough that you can barely make it over. A series of hills becomes a mountain, and a series of mountains is a career.”

In spite of the business-speaky, positive-thinking  sound of Seth’s words, maybe there is something useful here. Maybe, instead of starting over, everything so far is a series of steps taking me where I need to be—to be the most effective—to be of use.

What hills are you climbing?

Advertisements

The wider the grin, the sharper the blade

Standard

A Year of Mindfulness: 52 Weeks of Focus – Week 27

Optimism. Mindfulness is all about the present moment, yet we often live our lives in the past and future. Since we cannot change the past nor predict the future, remaining hopeful seems the best course of action each time we are taken out of the present moment. For this reason, I spend time observing my thoughts. My outlook and attitude depends upon it. When we think negatively about things, more negativity occurs. When we think positively however, more positivity follows. Like increases like. This week’s theme is optimism. Optimism is all about our thoughts – having a bright outlook.

I’m all for being mindful—definitely something I’m constantly working towards. But don’t even get me started on optimism. A natural skeptic, I’m not convinced that it’s healthy or helpful to constantly try to think “positively.” In fact, it can be detrimental at times (think: cancer patients feeling guilty that they’ve made themselves sick or are not getting better because they have not been “ positive” enough).

Have you ever met a person who smiles all the time? Who you can describe as constantly cheerful? Don’t trust them. Don’t trust them to be honest with themselves—or with you. They’ll be the first one to have a mental breakdown—or to stab you in the back. Someone I was once close to used to say, “The wider the grin, the sharper the blade,” and for the most part, I’ve found that to be true. I did not realize at the time that he was essentially quoting one of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition: “The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife,” but it makes sense because he was a big Star Trek fan. (For the record, I’m an appreciator of Star Trek, but not sure I’d consider myself a fan, namely because I do not watch the movies and episodes over and over again, memorizing the dialog. Also, I’m sure the origin of the idiom goes further back than Star Trek.)

This does not mean that we all need to be full of gloom and doom, nor does it give us an excuse to be assholes to each other. Nor does it mean that I don’t appreciate that rare individual who has faith in humanity but has not lost their critical thinking skills or sense of humor. It does not even mean that I’m not sometimes hopeful. If I didn’t have a glimmer of hope to latch on to at times, I wouldn’t be here.


A god-awful lonely place

Standard

Bright Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich

From Barbara Ehrenreich’s, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America:

It’s a glorious universe the positive thinkers have come up with, a vast, shimmering aurora borealis in which desires mingle freely with their realizations. Everything is perfect here, or as perfect as you want to make it. Dreams go out and fulfill themselves; wished need only to be articulated. It’s just a god-awful lonely place.

Of course any mention of aurora borealis always makes me think of The Simpsons:

Chalmers: Good Lord, what is happening in there?
Skinner: Aurora Borealis?
Chalmers: Aurora Borealis? At this time of year? A this time of day? In this part of the country? Localized entirely within your kitchen?
Skinner: Yes.
Chalmers: May I see it?
Skinner: Oh, erm… No.

Related posts:

Positive Thinking: Pseudoscience, metaphysics, anti-Calvinism, workplace coercion, and the death of critical thinking

How do you put on a “show” of sincerity?

Missionaries for the cult of cheerfulness

How do you put on a “show” of sincerity?

Standard

From Barbara Ehrenreich’s, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America:

Bright Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich

The first great text on how to act in a positive way was Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, originally published in 1936 and still in print. Carnegie—who was born Carnagey but changed his name apparently to match that of the industrialist Andrew Carnegie—did not assume that his readers felt happy, only that they could manipulate others by putting on a successful act: “You don’t feel like smiling? Then what? Two things. First, force yourself to smile. If you are alone, force yourself to whistle or hum a tune or sing.” You could “force” yourself to act in a positive manner, or you could be trained: “Many companies train their telephone operators to greet all callers in a tone of voice that radiates interest and enthusiasm. The operator doesn’t have to feel this enthusiasm; she only has to “radiate” it. The peak achievement, in How to Win Friends, is to learn how to fake sincerity: “A show of interest, as with every other principle of human relationships, must be sincere.” How do you put on a “show” of sincerity? This is not explained, but it is hard to imagine succeeding at it without developing some degree of skill as an actor. In a famous study in the 1980s, sociologist Arlie Hochschild found that flight attendants became stressed and emotionally depleted by the requirement that they be cheerful to passengers at all times. “They lost touch with their own emotions,” Hochschild told me in an interview.

[Read about my experience with Dale Carnegie.]

In the same chapter, Barbara tells this story:

Julie, a reader of my Web site who lives in Austin, Texas, wrote to tell me of her experience working at a call center for Home Depot:

I worked there for about a month when my boss pulled me into a small room and told me I “obviously wasn’t happy enough to be there.” Sure, I was sleep-deprived from working five other jobs to pay for private health insurance that topped $300 a month and student loans that kicked in at $410 a month, but I can’t recall saying anything to anyone outside the lines of “I’m happy to have a job.” Plus, I didn’t realize anyone had to be happy to work in a call center. My friend who works in one refers to it [having to simulate happiness] as the kind of feeling you might get from getting a hand job when your soul is dying.

Related posts:

Positive Thinking: Pseudoscience, metaphysics, anti-Calvinism, workplace coercion, and the death of critical thinking

A god-awful lonely place

Missionaries for the cult of cheerfulness