When the skies are brighter canary yellow
I forget ev’ry cloud I’ve ever seen,
So they called me a cockeyed optimist
Immature and incurably green.
I have heard people rant and rave and bellow
That we’re done and we might as well be dead,
But I’m only a cockeyed optimist
And I can’t get it into my head.
– South Pacific
I have often been told that I’m “too positive”. That I can’t see the negatives in situations, and I focus “too much” on what good can come from something rather than giving time for the unwelcome consequences to set in.
My response, out loud or just in my head, is that life is too short to dwell on the negative, and especially on negative things that are irreversible. I’ve been through enough in the last 25 years to realize that instead of spending energy worrying about the past, our lives will be much more effective – and almost always much happier – if we move forward and make the best with what we have.
That doesn’t mean pretending bad things don’t happen. Whether it’s spilling coffee on yourself (luckily, mine was iced this morning as it trickled down my arm) or regretting a mistake at work that takes time and effort to undo, or mourning the loss of a dear friend, crappy stuff happens to all of us. But from this, we should find ways to let unhappiness sink in, and then transform it into something that is actually meaningful. Double-check those lids from now on or just be glad it wasn’t not. Proof your work with a friend before sending it off to a client. And write letters and spend time with the other loved ones in your life because there are tons of people who will still benefit from your company, and the best you can do is to have no regrets next time. And now tell me – what would be gained from lamenting the past instead of learning new lessons?
I just read this article by Shawn Achor. He asks “Are happy people dumb?” and the short answer is “Nope, their happiness makes them more effective and more successful.” His article goes into the scientific reasons that happier people get more out of life, and his links offer tips on how to be happier. Check it out – the proof is there!
In closing, I want to draw your attention to the serenity prayer. When I was a kid, I had a fake stained glass representation of this prayer, and my aunt Lava taught me a tune to go with the words. Now, it pops into my head when I find myself getting stuck worrying about things I have no power over, and it reminds me to refocus. Here’s the version I think of:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Right there is my secret to happiness. My way to live each day and make it count, and the calculations I make when I determine that life is better as an optimist.