The Power of Positive Thinking

“Optimism is the most important human trait, because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow.” ~ Seth Godin; American author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker.

Bad things do happen to good people.  Family members get sick, people die, jobs are lost, young sons and daughters go off to war--some don’t come back, those who do are injured in mind, body and/or spirit and their lives change forever.

Every day, somewhere, someone is having a bad day; that’s inevitable. What’s also inevitable is how they handle it, how they handle the pain. It is really a matter of choice. “Being miserable is a habit; being happy is a habit; and the choice is yours,” says Tom Hopkins, an American author, master sales trainer and lecturer.

Helen Keller once said, “I have for many years endeavored to make this vital truth clear; and still people marvel when I tell them that I am happy. They imagine that my limitations weigh heavily upon my spirit, and chain me to the rock of despair. Yet, it seems to me, happiness has very little to do with the senses. If we make up our minds that this is a drab and purposeless universe, it will be that, and nothing else. On the other hand, if we believe that the earth is ours, and that the sun and moon hang in the sky for our delight, there will be joy upon the hills and gladness in the fields because the Artist in our souls glorifies creation. Surely, it gives dignity to life to believe that we are born into this world for noble ends, and that we have a higher destiny than can be accomplished within the narrow limits of this physical life.”

Keller (1880 -1968) was an American author, political activist and lecturer; and she was severely handicapped. She was the first deaf and blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree. She was born and grew up in a time that was not so tolerant of deaf-blind people; and women generally didn’t go to college in those days. There wasn’t an Americans with Disabilities Act. 

She did it on her own. How? 

I call it the power of positive thinking. That’s not a new term and I didn’t invent it. The term has been around a long time. But how many people really give it due consideration? I really don’t have an answer to that question. I don’t pretend to know the feelings of all but a few of the billions of folks on earth and even those I think I understand I probably don’t.

However, if I was a betting man, I’d bet that only a fraction of the earth’s people think positive thoughts when under dire circumstances. In all fairness, a large percentage of people are in such dire straits that it is no wonder they can’t derive any positive outlook on life.

However, there are people who can overcome extraordinarily tenuous events in their life and still, somehow, remain fiercely positive.

I have previously mentioned a niece of mine who has been battling thyroid cancer for more than three years now. She has been through every test known to man, through every procedure and therapy modern medicine can impose--and still she has not been declared cancer-free.

But I have marveled at her ability to maintain a positive attitude, to see the silver lining around every cloud life threw at her. Others--myself included--may have given over to negative feelings. Not her. She has become my hero. If she can do it, I think I can do it.

“We can’t escape pain; we can’t escape the essential nature of our lives. But we do have a choice. We can give in and relent, or we can fight, persevere, and create a life worth living, a noble life. Pain is a fact; our evaluation of it is a choice.” So says Jacob Held, a professor of philosophy at the University of Central Arkansas. 

Pain can come in many forms. There’s physical pain caused by injury or illness. Emotional pain can be caused by many factors including loss of a loved one, loss of a career, loss of a direction life. Spiritual pain is even deeper as it brings into question the very meaning of life itself--why are we here? What is our purpose?

One of my favorite sayings is, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” My wife has pretty much banned me from using that phrase around her; I guess you can get too much of a good thing.  However, prohibition of the saying doesn’t diminish its message. 

Pain--especially the emotional and spiritual type--can’t be kept inside; it needs to get out, to find an outlet. Again, it is the individual’s choice whether that outlet is positive, or negative.

You hear every day about those who choose the extreme negative route; random shootings, school violence, assaults, etc. Just think if all those people who channeled their frustration at life into a negative act would have decided instead to do something positive, something good for someone else.

Even our candidates for president and other political offices choose to--or are coerced into--choosing to break bad on their opponents. As we have all observed, that never leads anywhere good. Negative begets negative. If I were advising a candidate I’d suggest that they never say a negative word about another candidate, even if provoked to do so. 

Staying positive, or at least neutral--in response to negative antagonists takes the wind from their sails. 

So I guess the message of this missive to Weekenders is this: On this day, from this day forward, stay positive. Send yourself and others positive messages, glass half-full messages, it’s a beautiful cloudy day with a smile messages.

Who am I to give this advice? Nobody, really; I don’t have a Ph. D. to back me up. It’s just my observations and experience after a few years of life, nothing more. In my experience, a positive attitude, even under negative circumstances, has generally led to a better outcome.

Author and sales lecturer Augustine “Og” Mandino (1923-1996) perhaps said it best:  “Welcome every morning with a smile. Look on the new day as another special gift from your Creator, another golden opportunity to complete what you were unable to finish yesterday. Be a self-starter. Let your first hour set the theme of success and positive action that is certain to echo through your entire day. Today will never happen again. Don’t waste it with a false start or no start at all. You were not born to fail.”

In other words Week-Enders, tap into the power of positive thinking and pass along that infection to everyone in your life.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Bay Minette, AL; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email