One of the things I have discovered over the years is that point of view is one of the key factors in determining quality of life. Not everyone will agree with me, but I have to say that a positive outlook beats a negative outlook every single time. Some may say a negative–or cautious– attitude is a necessary tool to protect ourselves and keep expectations realistic. Having been on that team for many years, I can attest to the fact that a negative attitude can be a safety mechanism. It also limits the amount of happiness you allow yourself to feel on any given day.
Some people are optimists by nature. They see the best in people and always seem to find the silver lining behind that dark cloud. Then there are the people who like to believe they are optimistic, but their words and actions tell a different story.
While we were in Palm Springs last week, I bought a couple of bunches of daffodils for the table. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a vase that would fit the flowers. The only thing we had was an empty pasta sauce jar from the previous night’s dinner. It wasn’t my first choice but it worked. In fact, I thought it was pretty charming. Over the next couple of days the flowers opened to create a beautiful mound of brilliant yellow blossoms. They made me smile every time I passed by the table. They were the perfect addition to the room.
One evening we had some friends over for dinner. When one of the guests noticed the flowers, she remarked on how lovely they were. Another guest commented it was too bad we didn’t have a proper vase. The daffodils were in full glorious bloom, but the only thing she could focus on was the pasta sauce jar. You can probably guess that the first guest is an optimist by nature. The second guest likes to think she is an optimist. She says she looks for the best in everyone. Now, that may be true but she never seems to focus on the positive aspects of a situation. The flowers were a great example. Instead of simply enjoying the cheerful arrangement, she was stuck on the jar and the lack of a traditional vase.
One of the important elements of optimism is perception. How we view the world has a direct connection to how much enjoyment we receive from it. Perception also plays a vital role in how resilient we are in the face of adversity. Those who consciously look for a positive aspect to a difficult situation are much more likely to consider themselves happy than those who focus on the negative aspects.
We have the choice of where to direct our attention in any given situation. Sometimes it is as easy as choosing to look at the flowers instead of the pasta jar. Sometimes we can even appreciate the humor of using a pasta jar. Other times things are a bit more complicated. How could you possibly find the positive when you lose your job? Or face financial difficulty? It may not be easy but it can be done.
Perhaps losing your job gives the opportunity to explore a new career. Perhaps you may be able to create a new life and follow your passion. Financial difficulty can force you to look at what is really essential in you life and what are things that no longer hold a true value. Whatever the situation, how you look at something determines how you will benefit from it.
How we view the world is fundamental to our happiness and contentment in this life. The good news is we have a choice. It is up to us as to where we focus our attention. Having played on the it’ll-never-work team for years, I am pleased to say that the look-on-the-bright-side team is much more beneficial. And a lot more fun.
Do you tend to see positive or negative in things? I’d love to hear how you find the best in a difficult situation.