A short while after I started producing this programme for Music Radio 97—some 25 years ago—a listener wrote in and said, “A waste of time. It’s too positive. Totally unrealistic.”
I was much younger then and it hit hard. Then I thought, wait… too positive?
Ever noticed how some folks only focus on stories about how bad things are in the world? They do not raise a finger to make things better, but they will stand on the sidelines, waiting and praying that others will fail so they can shout, “I told you so.”
That’s the real world they say. “Things are just rotten everywhere.” If you present them with a creative way to solve an issue or point out positive steps being taken, they label it unrealistic pipe dreams.
We all have a choice. Pointing out what’s wrong is easy… there’s lots to choose from. But what are you going to do about it? We can choose to label all the negative stuff as reality, refuse to explore the positive options being put on the table, and proclaim that the situation is hopeless. Or we can see the challenges, admit they are pulling us down, but also embrace the fact that positive things are happening. Even though they are sometimes dim, rays of hope are present.
From that vantage point we stay focused on seeking solutions. A positive outlook does not blind us to reality, it sharpens and clarifies our vision, enabling us to see more possibilities.
There’s a tendency to put people we love and respect on pedestals, as if they are perfect. Parents, friends, children, colleagues, teachers and so called celebrities. We expect particular patterns of behaviour, speech, responses and achievements.
But notice what happens if at some point they fail to live up to our expectations and desires, if they should show some simple human failing, or choose to do something we do not understand or of which we do not approve. We are disappointed, annoyed or hurt. The faith, trust and respect is quickly replaced by distaste.
Is it really possible that the talents, and every good act of that person can be completely wiped out by one mistake, a small weakness or simply because they failed to live up to our expectations?
Human beings are just that… beings who are human. And being human means we are not perfect. We are making effort according to our own perception and beliefs, our own understanding of our role and according to our capacity at any given point in time.
Sometimes even heroes need a helping hand, some guidance, someone who will listen without judging, a shoulder to lean on.
We usually think it’s easier to follow the crowd, conform, because that’s what everyone else is doing and we don’t want to be left out. I mean, people might think we’re different.
Ah-ha! That’s the point, we are all different. When following the crowd, are you sure those in the crowd know where they’re going? More importantly, do you know where you want to go and why? If you choose to blend in with the crowd because you don’t want to appear unusual, you may be giving up your right to be all you can be.
Some people complain of feeling unfulfilled and bored, but instead of seeking new opportunities, trying new things and standing up for what they believe and what they know is right, they choose what they consider to be safe and familiar. Instead of taking the calculated risk, they opt for the mediocre and what they think will be comfortable.
You have the right to think for yourself, and if sometimes that means you have to be a little different, so be it. As they say, “The uncommon thought creates the exceptional individual.”
These are difficult times. Some express the view that we just have to accept that it’s all going to be downhill from here.
At a recent parenting workshop my wife asked participants what they were doing to help their children deal with society as it is today. The majority told stories of the supportive, nurturing strategies they are trying to adopt in the home. They want the best for their families and are doing what they can to make a positive impact on their children.
Many said they believe it is possible that by guiding their children to be law abiding, self reliant, caring individuals they were making positive waves that can spread beyond the household.
If we take the responsibility to contribute to an atmosphere that supports mutual respect, growth and development, that is a seed that can grow into something very powerful.
Many people imagine that the problems around them can only be solved by other people, usually people in authority. But nothing will get better unless we do something to make it better.
The home is a good place to start.
A car slammed into the back of my friend’s vehicle a few Saturdays ago. His 8 year old daughter was in the back seat. He said she began to cry, telling him of pains in her head and back. Hospital scans later revealed nothing was broken, just bruises. He took her home. He was scheduled to be in work on Sunday, but called and explained what happened and that he would be staying home to keep an eye of his daughter.
While making breakfast Sunday morning his mother, who lives in the same house, called out saying her chest was hurting “real bad”. He found her in bed sweating. He rushed her to hospital. The doctors said it was a massive heart attack and it was fortunate he got her to the hospital as soon as he did otherwise she would have died.
My friend told me if the accident had not occurred on Saturday, he would not have been home taking care of his daughter on Sunday, so he would not have been there to take his mother to hospital.
Bad stuff happens… but it might be just the opening scene in a movie that has a wonderfully positive ending.
So the line is drawn between what is allowed and what is not allowed, or what is right and what is wrong. And everybody is cool with that. But over time, some folks decide they want to operate very close to the line. Then, when no one is looking, they move the line. Just a little, but enough to give them an advantage or in order legitimise their actions.
Before you know it, everyone starts using this new line and gets comfortable with it. After a few years the process is repeated and the line keeps getting moved. Not only that, but because so many people are stepping on the line, it’s becoming faint, barely visible. So even those who want to do the right thing have difficulty knowing the boundaries. They don’t even know when they cross the line.
Seeing others moving beyond where lines used to be they ask themselves, “Well, if everyone is getting away with it, why not me?”
And so it goes on. Is there still a line? Do you see it?
It’s quite appropriate to accept the things beyond your control and not get overly upset about them, but it’s something else entirely to resign yourself to situations because of fear or laziness.
Most circumstances that cause conflicts for human beings are created by human beings and therefore can be changed somehow. But you will wipe out the possibility for change if you convince yourself there’s nothing you can do because you believe that’s just how things are.
By realizing that there is something you can do, all sorts of exciting alternatives open up. You’re then in a position to take action and make things happen.
Many psychologists suggest we are the products of what we choose for ourselves and we each have the capacity to make healthy choices. This can be done if we change our mind-set to what many describe as “creative aliveness”.
If you can improve your attitude and expectations about yourself, circumstances will likely take a turn for the better. Instead of simply reacting, you develop the habit of taking the initiative and getting down to business.
I went to the movies recently. It was a public holiday and the young woman collecting tickets obviously didn’t want to be working that day. I said something to my wife about the service at the place and the young woman started to quarrel with me as though I had been talking to her.
It caught me off guard. I tried to keep it together and told her that what I said to my wife was my opinion and there was no need for her to get involved.
The young lady turned up the heat and the volume. I told her thanks for her excellent customer service and walked into the cinema.
As I sat down I was still upset at the way she behaved. In fact, I remained fuming for about ten minutes before I realised… “Wait, I’ve paid to see this show. Yet I’m sitting here and allowing the woman’s hang ups to spoil my enjoyment. That can’t work. It’s like I’m paying money to get upset!”
Was I really going to allow this stranger to raise my blood pressure, tighten my neck muscles and crease my forehead? No way. I would not allow her bad mood to make me moody. I decided that her frustration belonged to her, not to me.
By the way, it was a great movie.
Chatting with some friends recently one said, “Have you noticed these days the world is moving in two directions? The negativity or darkness seems to be increasing, while humanity’s thirst for peace, love and harmony, the positive, is also increasing.”
Another friend said, “Supposing if all those seeking peace, harmony and things positive could cooperate and work together. Supposing if all those tiny lights realise they are not alone; that they have power; what would happen to the darkness?”
We fell silent as we embraced that thought and considered our personal responses to those not so illuminating periods in life – the times we felt the darkness closing in and forgot the power of our own light.
Occasionally we may feel as though we are in a tunnel with no possible way out. But a tunnel, by its very nature, has two openings. Therefore, there must be at least two ways out. The end of the tunnel may be a long way off, but it will eventually come into view.
When we lose hope, we also lose sight of the tiny speck of light way off in the distance. Why not focus on that glimmer of light up ahead. Even though it may be barely visible, as you continue to move towards the dot it increases in size, becoming more real with each step we take.
The more light we see, the more fuel is added to the fires of faith and hope. Protect the flame. Don’t let anyone blow out your light of hope and enthusiasm.
Some people take life so seriously they’re not able to see the natural humour and joy in what sometimes appear to be hopeless situations.
Students in my training sessions are often surprised with the laughter that accompanies the learning. I tell them that I enjoy what I do and am genuinely happy in sharing what I have learnt. Plus, learning often goes down easier when it’s fun.
A sense of humour is vital to all aspects of life. It doesn’t always involve laughing or being funny, but reflects an acceptance of life in all its weirdness. And you know things can get pretty weird at times.
We all seek out humour and laughter because it’s the one natural cure always available to us for removing boredom, depression or even panic. Laughs are free and don’t require a prescription from a doctor.
Have you laughed at some of your silly little mistakes recently? Try it. It will help you to lighten up and see things more clearly.
It makes good sense to develop and maintain a sense of humour.