Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of people engaging in what I call “ain’t it awful” conversations. Believe me, I understand that with things going on like the terror attacks around the world, the controversial Presidential campaigns in the United States, and even the weather, it is easy to slip into a negative mindset. But hand-wringing and downbeat discussions aren’t going to change anything. In fact, it can make things worse by taking all your thoughts into a downward spiral.
Now is the time for positive thinking. I always loved working with Norman Vincent Peale because he used to say “Positive thinkers get positive results.” That is such a powerful message, and we need to keep it in mind to be able to rise above the negative and focus on the positive. We are free to choose our thoughts—and thoughts guide our behavior. It is essential to keep uplifting messages in our head so that we are able to think more clearly, make better decisions, and approach life with a better attitude.
I don’t want to minimize the difficulties we all face in life such as illnesses, money problems, stress at work, and a hundred other things that can drag you down. But I know that a peaceful mind will give you more energy—and that will help you get through tough times. My wife, Margie, uses a gratitude exercise to help her focus on the positive. Each evening she writes down the top three positive things that happened in her day. Sometimes it is as simple as getting a much-needed rainstorm in our time of drought, or reconnecting with an old friend. The point is that she ends her day with positive thoughts and a peaceful mind.
Try it for yourself. I encourage you to think about it from two perspectives—your personal life and your work environment. I think you’ll be surprised how this simple shift in thinking will change your outlook on life for the better.
I was on the phone with my friend Phil Hodges the other day talking about contentment. Phil believes that contentment can only happen in the present, and I think he is right. Contentment doesn’t happen in the past by remembering the good old days. Having nice memories is pleasant but doesn’t necessarily offer contentment in the present. Also, contentment is not in the future because we don’t know what that will bring.
Real contentment, enjoyment, satisfaction, and happiness happen when we are fully present and living in the now. If you have a positive feeling that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing, then you experience true happiness.
Spencer Johnson, my coauthor of The One Minute Manager, also discusses this in his brilliant parable The Precious Present. In this story, an older man’s wisdom launches a young boy on a lifelong search for the precious present. Eventually the young man discovers what the old man was trying to teach him all along: what you have and what you do in the present is a gift. Living in the past can be destructive or demotivating and can hinder your journey to happiness. Likewise, planning for the future is good but it is impossible to live there. And if you focus only on the future, you miss opportunities right in front of you.
Living in the present allows you to focus on the important and to cherish the moment. I encourage you to consider moments when you were at your best. I’ll bet you’ll recall that you were right there in the moment, fully committed and fully present. If you dwell on what was—the past—or what will be—the future—you’ll miss the power of contentment, happiness, and success in the present.
This week brings one of my very favorite holidays—Thanksgiving. I love it because it’s not focused on gifts and things like that. It’s about what everyone brings to the table. You pass around the turkey and the dressing and all, and it’s a chance for everyone to really express what they are thankful for. I hope you’ll be able to do that.
I’m thankful that I live in this country. I’m thankful that I had a wonderful mom and dad who always lifted me up and a great sister who encouraged me constantly. I’m grateful that I met my wife Margie and she’s been my companion and my love and my partner for over fifty years now—it’s unbelievable. I’m thankful for our son Scott and our daughter Debbie and what they’ve brought to my life, and all of our grandkids who are all really special. I’m blessed to have a sweet little dog, Joy, who is a perfect example of unconditional love. I’m thankful for a wonderful God who loves me and loves you and loves all of us. I’m grateful that I’m healthier and in better shape than I have been in years. I’m thankful for everyone in our company. I think we’ve created a wonderful place and we want to continue to build on that as we go forward. We’re all in it together and we support each other.
I like to say, “Life is a very special occasion—don’t miss it.” Part of that is being thankful for the blessings you have. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t troubles along the way. But life is a very special occasion. Every day when we wake up we need to be thankful that we have another day to share and be with people and maybe make a difference.
So this week, reach out to the people you really care about and love, and tell them you care. I’m wishing you all the very best and I’m thankful that we all have an opportunity to make a difference in the world. Have a wonderful holiday. Recognize how blessed you are and reach out and tell people that you love them. Take care.