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Staying positive, on a serious tip

by HARVEY MACKAY
| May 14, 2023 1:00 AM

A small boy was auditioning with his classmates for a school play. His mother knew that he'd set his heart on being in the play — just like all the other children hoped — and she feared how he would react if he was not chosen. On the day the parts were awarded, the little boy's mother went to the school gates to collect her son. The boy rushed up to her, eyes shining with pride and excitement.

"Guess what, Mom?" he shouted, and then said some words that provide a lesson to us all: "I've been chosen to clap and cheer."

Not everyone gets to play the part they want, but a positive attitude like this little boy's goes a long way.

I am an eternal optimist. I firmly believe that there is hardly anything we can't do if we set our minds to it. It helps to be realistic — I know I am never going to pitch in the World Series, but I can be a player/manager of a top-notch company. I took a big gamble getting my company off the ground, but I've never looked back.

All the technology in the world will never replace a positive attitude. It's good to know that a positive attitude can be booted up anywhere, anytime, by anyone.

In these uncertain times, we are bombarded by bad news and human misery, criticism and pessimism, so it's understandable that we all get a little down from time to time. Fight it. I have never met a successful pessimist.

The mind can convince competent people that they are incompetent, or conversely that merely adequate performers are highly talented. Unfortunately, self-doubt and negative attitudes seem to have a more powerful influence on the mind than positive attitudes.

So, concentrate on developing a positive attitude. Here are some ideas.

• Savor pleasure. We are good about experiencing pleasure at special events like parties, but try and focus your attention on pleasant daily things as they occur. Celebrate the little things.

• Practice gratitude. It takes only two words to say, "Thank you." It takes only one word to say, "Please." It's so easy to say thank you, and it can have such a powerful impact. Gratitude should be a continuous attitude. Have you told the people around you how grateful you are for their roles in your life? You might be surprised at how they respond — perhaps because no one has ever told them they've made a difference.

• Emphasize the positive. Attitudes are contagious, and you will be a welcome carrier of this condition! A Harvard Special Health Report published in Positive Psychology found that older people tend to minimize the negative, accept their limitations and use their experience to compensate. The earlier in life that people adopt these practices, the better they sustain a positive attitude.

• Surround yourself with positive people. Negativity makes a person look at the land of milk and honey and see only calories and cholesterol.

• Try to make other people happy. Consider how you would like to be treated and try to put yourself in their place. Look for win-win situations where everyone can have a positive outcome.

• Listen to other ideas and give others credit. There is no "i" in team, but there are two i's in positive. It means that "I" must be positive to help my team be positive, and to perform our best.

• Focus on what you get to do. As the song says, "You can't always get what you want," but usually you can get some satisfaction. Focus on small victories as well as major ones.

• Practice handling rejection. If there is anything that can get you down, it's being constantly rejected. Rejection is a fact of life. It's going to happen. Don't take it personally. Learn from it, but don't wallow in it. Rejection doesn't have to be permanent.

It's like the old farmer who was celebrating his 90th birthday. He'd seen it all — the Dust Bowl, years of flooding rains and scorching heat, banks taking back mortgages on every farm in the county. But through it all, he'd remained positive and determined, even downright cheerful. His family and friends pressed him for his secret to maintain his optimism.

"It ain't so hard," he said with a twinkle in his eye. "I just learned early on to cooperate with the inevitable."

Mackay's Moral: Our minds are like a garden; each day you need to weed out the negativity and feed it positively.

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Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.