Two hikers were camped out overnight in the mountains. A thunderous voice roused them from their sleep. The voice said, “This will be the saddest day or the happiest day of your lives,” then instructed them to pack up their belongings, make their way to the river, gather stones in their backpacks that they couldn’t look at until morning, and continue on their journey never to return to the river or the mountain again.
The hikers did as they were instructed and stumbled through the darkness to the river. They stuffed their packs with cold, wet stones and carefully trekked down the rocky trails that would lead them away from the mountain.
Shortly after sunrise they reached a valley and decided to set up camp to rest for a while. But first, they pulled out their packs to examine the stones they’d collected from the river. To their surprise, what they’d thought were river rocks were actually diamonds and rare gems. Both hikers sat in silence, overwhelmed by the bounty before them.
The first hiker said, “Now I know why this is the saddest day of our lives. We should’ve gathered more stones.”
“You must be kidding!” the second hiker said. “This is the happiest day of my life. Look at the wealth we attained by simply taking advantage of an opportunity that was offered to us.”
Therein lies the perfect example of what Winston Churchill meant when he said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Positive thinking alone may not ensure success, but it’s an important start. If you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll have a hard time persevering against the obstacles and setbacks you’re likely to encounter.
How you look at life can drastically affect how much you enjoy your life. Optimists expect the best out of life. Good news: It’s an attitude that can be learned.
Optimism is based on these tenets:
- Bad things happen in life, but they are temporary.
- Bad things in life are limited in scope.
- People have control over their environments.
Pessimism is based on these tenets:
- Good things in life are temporary.
- Good things in life are limited in scope.
- People have no control over their environments.
According to conventional wisdom, optimists and pessimists are both right about the same number of times, but optimists get to enjoy their lives more. Optimists help create some of the good they come to expect, so they are probably right more than not. And they don’t waste time worrying about what they’re not right about.
If you want to maintain the right attitude in the face of adversity, start by telling yourself you can change. Think of how you’ve changed throughout your life emotionally. You’re probably a different person today than you were five years ago, so don’t assume you can’t evolve further.
Use positive language. Replace words and phrases like “impossible” and “I can’t” with words that emphasize strength and success: “challenging” and “I must.”
Create the right environment. Listen to music that uplifts you. Watch inspirational movies and shows. Read motivational books. Don’t spend too much time on downbeat material. Mix it up, with a leaning toward the positive.
Appreciate your life. Take some time to enjoy what you’ve already achieved with your life. Think about what you did to get where you are, and use that as a reminder of your capabilities.
Let go of mistakes. You’re bound to fail at some things. Learn what you can and move on instead of beating yourself up over and over.
In the autumn of 1994, animated film studio Pixar was in trouble. According to “Likeonomics” by Rohit Bhargava, Pixar was deep in the red, due in part because its upcoming movie “Toy Story” was way over budget. Microsoft had expressed interest in buying the company to gain access to some of its 3D graphic design software. The deal fell through, and Pixar’s prospects were shaky in advance of the movie’s release.
That didn’t deter the team, though. As they were putting the finishing touches on “Toy Story,” the filmmakers met for lunch to discuss possible new projects.
The three ideas they came up with? “A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters Inc.,” and “WALL-E,” all of which became blockbuster hits. Despite their financial uncertainty, the “creative types” retained their optimism about the future.
Do you suppose they ordered their food “sunny-side up”?
Mackay’s Moral: It’s just as easy to look for the good things in life as the bad.
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