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Staying Positive in a Negative World
As you become more aware of the world around you it can be difficult to stay positive. Wars in distant lands never seem to end. Social injustices and terror threaten people. Good people fail or experience bad things. You may even be seeing people around you in pain: a classmate who succumbs to drugs, a relative who loses his or her job, a friend suffering with a disease, or you yourself may even find the world challenging with difficult exams at school or trying relationships with other people.
Sometimes it can be enough to make you wonder if what you do means anything at all or doubt if you will ever overcome the huge challenges that the world creates as we grow older. High School. College. Marriage. Career. Parenting. It can seem very overwhelming and sometimes people consider giving up. Some even do.
So what helps people continue on, undaunted, even staying positive about the future? For some, it is the very presence of a challenge that keeps them going. Consider Lance Armstrong who overcame cancer and won the Tour de France or Grandma Moses who as an elderly person decided she wanted to pursue her dream to be a painter. While many people told her to go home to her rocking chair, she ignored them and continued on to be a celebrated artist. For these people, ignoring the naysayers was key to their success. They knew they were in control about how they acted and reacted to the world and that when other people were negative to them, they didn’t have to listen.
For other people, it is the presence of possibilities. Instead of looking at the world as a series of challenges, these positive thinkers see the opportunities that come from hard times. The person who sees the loss of a job as the chance to have a new and more satisfying career or the student who sees a failing grade not as a failure but knowledge about him or herself is thinking positively. Why did this happen, he or she asks. Could I have studied better? Am I just not interested? And then he or she strives to improve what has been done before for a better outcome.
Another way of staying positive is taking risks. Not jumping-out-of-airplane-without-a-parachute kind of risks, but healthy risks. Sending a poem into a contest or auditioning for a play. Doing something the person has never done before just for the experience of it.
Positive people also do not think in black and white terms. If their poem doesn’t win, it isn’t a failure just a learning experience. Learning how to lose gracefully and learning what could have been done better. And if the positive person is using many opportunities, there will come a time when he or she will also have the learning experience of winning.
Finally, positive people are able to learn to let go. They know that they can change certain things and work to do that. And that other things are outside their control. These things cannot be changed by just one person. Perhaps the positive person can gather other people to help change these things like forming a protest against injustices in another country or writing letters to legislators about an environmental injustice. But in the end, the positive person recognizes that maybe they cannot gather people or that even a group of people cannot change something and that he or she needs to learn to let it go and know that he or she did their best with what they had. Which is the most important part of staying positive in difficult times.
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