Being Positive

"You know what the difference between you and me is? You see the whale as half-empty; I see the whale as half-full!"  (Jonah: A Veggetales Movie)

I think we all know a positive person - someone who seems to be perpetually cheerful, who rarely talks down about people, who has an uncanny ability to cheer you up whenever you're around them; someone who avoids arguments and keeps the peace. Unfortunately, chances are likely that we know a negative person too. You know the type - someone who always has something to complain about or something negative to point out about the food or the movie or the people who are passing by; someone who assumes the worst in people and has a generally pessimistic outlook about life.

Which of these two people would you prefer to be around? Almost all of us would, without hesitation, pick the first person. After all, positive people tend to be easy to get along with and fun to be around. One thing that we might not perhaps realize, however, is that we will tend to attract people who are similar to us. Therefore, if I prefer hanging out with positive people, I first need to work on becoming a positive person myself.

How do you become a positive person? As I've been thinking about this over the last couple of weeks, here are a few things that came to mind.

Think positively. The first order of business is to develop some self-esteem. I'm not going to go into detail because there are already a lot of good articles on the subject of self-confidence, but let me just say that, in general, negative thinking makes for negative words and positive thinking makes for positive words. And, as the famous and very wise quote goes on from there, "Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become your character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny." If you want to be a positive person, start by viewing yourself and your world in a positive (though not narcissistic) light.

Find something nice to say. Your best friend just walked in the room wearing the ugliest dress you've ever seen? Your great-aunt made a casserole that you could barely get down? A classmate asks you to read and comment on a mistake-ridden paper he or she wrote? Find something nice to say. Tell your friend how much you like her earrings or the way she's wearing her hair today. Compliment your great-aunt on the accompanying vegetables or dessert. Tell your classmate that her topic was very original. A few tips: first of all, and very importantly, don't let your true reaction show on your face. If you do, anything nice you say afterwards will sound forced. And secondly, don't lie. Find something nice to say about something you actually think is nice. If you can't find anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Just smile.
Note: The time might come when your friend, great-aunt, or classmate actually desires your real opinion about something. If so, say something nice - and then share your true opinion gently.

Not all thoughts need to be shared. A sure sign of a negative person is someone who has to say everything they're thinking. Don't spoil someone else's enjoyment of a movie, sport, meal, song, etc. by sharing every opinion you have on the subject. If you have something positive to say, go ahead, but if it's negative, stop and check yourself. Is this comment helpful? Is this comment going to make someone else feel stupid for liking what I don't like? Does this comment add anything to what's going on?

Accommodate other people's quirks. Your brother hates bacon in his scrambled eggs, but you love it. When you make scrambled eggs for both of you, you have two options. Do you put bacon in the eggs and tell your brother to live with it, possibly starting a foolish argument? Or do you leave the bacon out and save it for when you're only making eggs for yourself? To avoid being negative about someone else's likes/dislikes and choices, the positive person would accommodate this quirk and choose option 2. This applies to a broad range of quirks, such as furniture arrangement, restaurant preference, movie or TV preferences, organizational preferences, and the list goes on and on. Accommodate other people's quirks and, every once in a while, let them accommodate yours. The more self-sacrificing you're willing to be when it comes to these little things, the more positive and pleasant a person you will be.

Turn your lemons into lemonade. I am writing this at a time when we have a very unusual 3+ feet of snow outside. Because of this, pretty much everything that was supposed to take place around here has been cancelled since last Friday. The negative person could look at this situation and begin to go on about how much they hate snow, how inconvenient it is, how much their back aches from shoveling, and why the heck can't we all move to Bermuda? The positive person could take several angles: being thankful for a week off school, appreciating the exercise that results from shoveling, pointing out how beautiful freshly fallen snow is. The positive person could also take positive action by helping a neighbor shovel their driveway, using the extra time to catch up on tasks, and spending more time with his or her family.

Give people the benefit of the doubt. If you want to be a positive person, you will not always assume the worst in people. This is a huge trademark of a negative person: "oh, so-and-so will probably be late. They always are." "I'm sure so-and-so forgot. What a waste of time for me to come here." This immediately casts "so-and-so" into a negative light and puts a damper on positive thoughts that anyone had about "so-and-so". As "Communication: Making Connections" by William Seiler and Melissa Beall puts it, "We are always trying to explain why people behave the way they do, and to do this, we must make assumptions...attribution error occurs when we perceive other as acting as they do because they 'are that kind of person' rather than because of any external factors that may have influenced their behavior."
There are almost always situations (that you will often know nothing about) that factor into a person's behavior - whether it be tardiness, forgetfulness, disorganization, and so on. A negative person is quick to jump to a conclusion and judge someone else based on past experience; a positive person will give everyone the benefit of the doubt, at least until proven wrong.

Take on a new perspective. Say you're about to say something about Nancy to your friend. If Nancy was in the room, would you still say it?
That's a challenging question. If I evaluated everything I said using that perspective, there's probably a lot of things I wouldn't say. But this is another factor in being a positive person. If you will take on this high standard and strive to be positive about people who aren't present, you will go a long way towards being trustworthy. You won't have anyone worrying about what you say about them when they're not in the room.
If a conversation comes up in which other people are saying negative things about Nancy, say something really positive. Knock their socks off and end the conversation. At the very least, it'll give them something to think about.

Don't take yourself too seriously. This is a pretty obvious one, but it still bears repeating. If you cannot try new things, and if you cannot laugh at yourself, your blunders, and unpleasant situations that you find yourself in, you need to lighten up. This is a huge aspect of a positive person. The negative person cannot see the humor in the fuel light being on in the car, tripping up the stairs in front of several people, getting temporarily stuck in a ditch, looking like a total idiot whilst trying a new game or dance, or accidentally dropping something in a quiet place - and boy, do they miss out on the fun.

Find ways to sparkle. 1 John 4:12 says, "No one has ever seen God; but if we love on another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us." The truly positive person takes positive thoughts and positive words and turns them into positive actions. One way to sparkle in other people's lives is through habitual "random" acts of kindness. Some of these might include baking cupcakes for one of your classes at school, making dinner for your family, donating old clothes and/or money to a charity, calling an old friend, leaving a card/balloons/flowers for a friend who's having a bad day, or helping an elderly neighbor with yard work. (More ideas can be found by Googling "random acts of kindness".) Try to meet people's needs in a practical way. Show love to people in personal ways. Serving others is the ultimate sign of a positive person.

Of course, there will be horrible, no-good, very bad days when absolutely nothing goes your way and you feel like screaming and tearing your hair out. There are times when it gets extremely difficult to be positive. On those occasions, either choose to be alone or to go to another positive person for relief. If you must vent, preferably do so in a journal. If you must vent out loud, be careful you don't say things you'll regret later.

Being a positive person is a choice. A lot of life has to do with your attitude, so strive for a positive one. Love on people in big ways and small ways, in life-changing ways and thought-provoking ways. And don't settle for being negative - anyone can do that. Stand out and be positive. It really will make a difference.

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