It's no fun to go through life being negative. Now I’m not talking about simply the power of positive thinking. I’m not talking about ignoring reality and psyching yourself up to be happy when you feel like being sad. That’s a whole different thing. Now this isn’t mystical; it’s not just psyching yourself up. This is a particular skill that’s as real and definitive and tangible as any of the other techniques or skills you could learn.
I’ve heard lots of motivational speakers talk about looking into the mirror and saying, “Okay, I’m going to be the best I’ve ever been today,” and things of that nature. Those might be nice and they might help you and other people to a certain extent, but that isn’t what we’re looking at here. You are going to achieve your impossible dreams, and you’re not going to achieve them just by psyching yourself up, because it won’t work. This is skill building here.
Zig Ziglar is without a doubt one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. And what I like about Zig’s teaching, is that when he teaches about becoming more positive, he says, “Hey, you have to develop the skills that go along with the positive thinking.” In fact, some of the things I’m going to mention here, I’m going to tell you because of Zig’s influence on me. I love listening to Zig. Most positive person I’ve ever met.
As you become a positive person, with these skills and techniques, your children will end up with a much more positive outlook on life. It can literally change their lives. Your spouse, the people you work with, the people you work for, how you go through business. The effects of this are just like a stone thrown into a calm lake; the ripples go out farther and farther, and they just keep going.
Let’s consider the three ingredients to becoming a positive person. Now, I use the word positiveness; you won’t find it in any dictionary. I don’t care that it’s not in any dictionary because it’s a great word, and we’re going to use it. So, the first ingredient to positiveness, or the first step to becoming a positive person, is taking charge of your attitudes.
Now, it sounds easy, but, let’s face it, we live in a very negative world. Do you realize that by the time a child is a teenager that for every pat on the back he or she has received, he or she has received at least 17 criticisms on average?
How do you become a positive person in a very negative world?
Well, what we normally do is we normally let negative circumstances or situations take control of our attitude. If a man cuts you off on the freeway, you don’t instantly sit back and say, “Oh, that’s nice.” No, you want to react; you want to get mad. Our nature is to react to negative situations, negative circumstances.
Now, Zig Ziglar gives a wonderful example. He says, “What’s the difference between reacting and responding.” He says, “You go to a doctor’s office; you’ve been on a medication that they wanted you to try. If the doctor looks at you and says, ‘Uh-oh, your body’s reacting to the medication.’ That’s bad news. If, on the other hand, he says, ‘Wow, your body is responding to the medication.’ That’s great news.” Just one word difference, reacting versus responding.
Well, as we go through life, our natural inclination, our norm, unless we choose otherwise, is to normally react to any negative situation. With so many negative things in the world, in both our immediate world as well as the world in general, nobody lives up to our expectations. Nobody does everything the way we would do it. Nobody realizes that we want to be appreciated and praised and encouraged and all those things. It’s just the opposite. People are focused on themselves. And consequently they throw lots of negative stuff our way.
Well, it’s normal and natural for us to react. But, when we react, we are letting those people, those circumstances, those situations control our happiness. And we want to take control of our own attitude. Take charge of it. And there’s a way you can do that.
The key to taking charge of our attitude is realizing that even though a negative situation changes our focus, it’s our choice to either leave our focus on that negative situation or move it away. And that’s step number one in taking charge of your attitudes — resetting your focus. I can reset my focus in any given negative situation. I don’t have to let it rest where it wants to rest.
I was on a video shoot a while back in New York, and I spilled coffee onto my computer. And of course, it fried the keyboard; it just destroyed it. And here I’m at a video shoot where I’m writing scripts, and all of a sudden I have a computer that won’t work. Now I can let it bum me out for the whole shoot. That’s one choice. Here I was shooting with the main actress that day, the principle celebrity, and man, it could have wrecked my whole day. But I just decided, hey, it’s only a computer. We’ll get it fixed, or I’ll get a new one. It’s okay. I can pull hard copies of the script from somebody else’s computer. I’ll be okay. And I chose to reset my focus and not let it distract me or turn me into a negative, bad-mood director that day. That would really not do anyone any good, and it would really be counterproductive. Who needs that? So, I reset my focus. I went into the shoot real positive, upbeat, and we had a great shoot and it was a fine day. I later replaced the computer. But once again, we have to choose where our focus rests.
Martin Luther put it the best way. He said, “You can’t stop a bird from landing on your head. But you can stop it from building a nest.” We can’t stop a negative situation from coming our way, but we don’t have to let it wreck our day, our hour, our minute, because we can instantly reset our focus.
Perhaps one of the single most powerful elements in becoming a positive person is learning how to become a grateful person. And this involves, oftentimes, resetting focus. A good friend of mine while I was in college was a man by the name of Dan Duffy. Dan had an incurable disease, and the disease had left him blind as a young child. I used to walk along with Dan and kind of help him get from classroom to classroom on occasion. And Dan was just the most wonderful person.
I remember one time — I was being kind of quiet — he sensed something was wrong, and he asked, “Steve, what’s wrong?” And I said, “You know what, Dan? I just feel so bad.” He said, “Why?” I said, “Because there’s nothing I can do to help you out.” I said, “I wish you could see. It’s such a beautiful day, and I wish you could see it.” And he instantly grabbed my shoulder, and he said, “Steve! You’re feeling sorry for me?” And I didn’t answer him.
He said, “Look, I can’t see. But look at what I’m doing. I’m going to college. How many kids in my place get to go to college? I’m learning, I’m hearing, I’m experiencing all sorts of wonderful things.” He said, “I can play my guitar, and you know how much I love to play the guitar and sing, and I can do that.”
He said, “Let me just say the real reason why you never have to worry about me not seeing. You see all the good, but you also see all the bad. You see the smog on a smoggy day, and you see bad things, too. Do you realize that the very first thing that I am going to see in my lifetime will be heaven? And the first face I’m going to look at is the face of my Lord and Savior. And the first street I’m going to see are the streets paved with gold.” He said, “Don’t feel sorry for me! You have to endure all the things you see. I don’t have to endure any of it. And the very first sight I have is going to be a glorious sight and a wonderful sight.” And I just… wow! How do you answer that? And that was Dan Duffy.
Dan later passed away from this disease, and it was a bad disease, but I know how he went into the next life. And I know when those eyes were opened, it was the most glorious day he had ever experienced, and a day filled with joy. But Dan was that positive, all the time. Dan was just an amazing guy. What a great attitude he kept.
So, what is the key to gratefulness? The key to gratefulness is discovering that everything that is good in my life was given to me by someone else or by God. You don’t have to take credit for anything and say, “Wait a minute! Who gave me all this?” Now this is where we can get in trouble. A friend of mine, Jim, who used to be my pastor at church, told about a time when he went up to Washington state, and he went to see a certain family. And the husband and father in this family was a man who was a multi-multimillionaire. And he was a man who was just miserable. People hated being around him. He had kept his marriage intact, miraculously. His children didn’t like being around him; his wife didn’t like being around him. And his employees — he had 3,000 of them — man, they were fearful of even seeing this guy in the hallway. That’s how negative he was.
And so Jim asked him a question, he said, “Let me ask you a question. How did you get where you are today?” And the guy said, “I did it all myself!” He said, “I put myself through school. Nobody gave me anything. I didn’t get a scholarship, I had to go out and work my way through college. And then I had to bust my butt on job after job until I started this business. I did it and nobody,” and then he clenched his teeth, “nobody ever gave me anything.”
And Jim looked at him, and he said, “You know, that’s really interesting. Can you just answer a couple questions for me?” And the man said, “Sure.” And Jim calmly said, “Who changed your diapers? Because I know if those diapers don’t get changed, your butt had to get awful sore as a baby, to where you were probably just miserable all the time.” He said, “No, no. My mom changed them.” “Oh,” Jim continued. “Well, who fed you? Because I know you had to get food. I mean, obviously you grew up into a man. Somebody had to feed you as a baby.” Again, he said, “Well, that was Mom and Dad.”
“Oh, okay. Who took you to school?” “Well, nobody took me to school. I had to walk. They didn’t even drive me to school.” “Oh, but you got to school anyway.” “Yeah.” “Well, who taught you? Did you just learn everything yourself?” “No, I had teachers.” “Oh, so what you learned you learned from teachers. Now, who gave you your first job?” “What? Nobody gave it to me? I earned it.” “Oh, really. So you were the only one applying for the job?” “No, there were other people.” “So they gave it to you. Who trained you? Who spent time with you?”
“Let’s fast-forward up to the present. Can you tell me who cooks your meals?” The man said, “Well, at home or at work?” “Okay, let’s go at home.” And he said, “Well, our cook.” “Well, how about at work?” “Well, the people in the cafeteria.” “So you don’t cook your own food? Well, I know you use the toilet here at the office. Who cleans that? Because I know you wouldn’t get onto a smelly, dirty toilet.” And he said, “Well, the janitors.”
Oh,” Jim said and paused. “I’m starting to get a whole different picture here.” And Jim said that all of a sudden the guy’s eyes just opened wide, and he said, “You know what, I can’t think of one thing that I did without the help of other people.” And Jim looked at him, and he said, “Now, you finally figured it out.”
This guy’s whole life changed. He went from being a negative person to where he literally began a campaign of writing letters. He evidently wrote thousands of letters to people tracking down past teachers, tracking down friends who had spent time with him, tracking down ex-employers. He wrote letters to every single employee in his organization thanking them for all that they contribute to his happiness and to his life.
He later retired, and he spent the rest of his life working with charities. He became a man whom everybody wanted to be close to, including his grandchildren, his children, his wife, his employees. Everything changed! He went from being a negative person to a positive person literally in one hour. All he had to do was realize that other people and God were responsible for the good things that were in his life.
His health alone! The fact that he could breathe, that his heart worked and that his lungs worked and his muscle system worked, everything worked just fine. That was a gift. He didn’t do anything to earn it out of the womb. He was given it, and all these other things.
Responding rather than reacting, resetting your focus in any situation, and being grateful — what a great way to go through life!