Don’t cast a shadow on the sunny side uppers
By Lisa Earle McLeod www.forgetperfect.com
I confess. I’m an optimist. You know, one of those annoying people who always looks on the bright side of life, believing that everything happens for a reason and insisting that a good attitude can turn around even the most miserable of situations. I sometimes camouflage my inherent cheeriness with slightly sarcastic commentary, but I’m ready to come clean and admit that, at my core, I’m a glass-half-full kinda gal. But the problem with being an optimist is that when you persist in seeing the upside, people often assume you’re an idiot. In fact, some people are so troubled by your obvious misunderstanding of, well everything, that they think it’s their job to remind you of just how awful things really are. Whether it’s the church budget, the prospects for world peace or the future of the big IT project, they just can’t believe that a person in full possession of the facts could be so cheery. And, being the keepers of all negative information, they see it as their moral duty to bring you down by filling you in on the “real truth.” Well, guess what, all you Negative Neds and Nellys out there? We Pollyannas aren’t as nave as you think we are. We do know the facts, and we’re just as aware of the potential problems as you are; we’ve simply chosen not to focus on them. Yes, that’s right. For whatever crazy reason, we’ve decided that spending our time dwelling on the negative isn’t a fun way to live. And what’s more, many of us believe that ruminating about potential disasters usually just creates more of them. Truth be told, we like being positive, and the only thing that gets us down is when you mistake our optimism for stupidity. We’re not oblivious to the bad stuff – we’re just sick of you harping on it. I know that sounds harsh. But how many times have you been in a meeting and had everyone all fired up about a project, only to have some wet blanket snuff out the enthusiasm by overemphasizing the possible pitfalls? Or worse, how often have you come home all jazzed up about a new opportunity, only to have a pessimistic spouse or parent suck the life out of you by giving you a laundry list of all the things that could go wrong? The naysayers often claim they’re doing it for your own good because they “hate to see you get your hopes up.” But if you’re one of those well-intended people trying to save someone you love from disappointment, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. We’re more disappointed by your lack of support than we are by the prospect of failure. We know it’s a long shot, but we like being excited about it and when you can’t get excited with us, it hurts. The reality is that, if you want something badly, you’re going to be disappointed if it doesn’t work out. But prepping yourself for failure won’t ease your disappointment. It just keeps you from enjoying the process of working toward your goal. And let’s be honest: Can you think of any endeavor where you increase the likelihood of success by not getting your hopes up? I know it’s not always easy to stay positive in the face of adversity, and many of us who have a predisposition toward positivity were probably born that way. But I also know that the brain is a trainable tool, and that some of the sunny-side-uppers are actually very smart people who worked for years to retrain their reflexes. You can breathe life into the people around you, or you can drain their energy with every word you speak. Being an optimist doesn’t mean ignoring the facts; it means holding onto your enthusiasm in the face of them. And if you can learn how to do that, your life will become positively amazing.
Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect” and “Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear.” Contact her or join her interactive blog at www.ForgetPerfect.com. .
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