There is a fable which says that God called his special angels and gave them seeds and told them to scatter them over the earth. The Evil One, hearing about the seeds, called his little special demons, and gave them dirt. He instructed them to go out and cover up the seeds to stop them from growing.
But the "obstacle" didn’t work in the way the Evil One had planned. Instead, the dirt helped to grow into sturdy, healthy plants. They never would have been able to reach their full maturity without the dirt.
So it is with people. Our failures and disappointments can help us to grow. Our setbacks can make us reach higher; but only if we look at them with a positive viewpoint; only if we use the obstacles in our way as stepping stones, and not ‘stopping’ stones.
Adopting the positive view point does not mean ignoring the problems that confront you, and pretending that they do not exist. But it does mean facing them squarely and asking yourself, "What can I do about this?" And then going ahead and following constructive thought with constructive action.
The negative thinker, when presented with an obstacle or problem, let his mind become so filled with thoughts of self-pity that he has neither the incentive nor the energy to do anything to solve his problem. He is too busy trying to solve the riddle of Why did this happen to me? As long as he continues to try to figure that out he will be going in circles and digging a deeper negative rut for himself.
People who are successful have reached that success not because life was without its problems, but because they viewed those problems with the positive approach. Their problems helped them to grow into success, just as the dirt helped the seedlings to grow.
Several years ago, as a member of senior high school class, I visited the Dow Chemical Company in Midland, Michigan. The class was given a grand tour of the thriving company’s buildings. I didn’t know then about the positive spirit on which the company was founded.
Herbert Dow had discovered a way of obtaining potassium bromide from brine by using the electrolysis method. This discover had great potentialities, but it needed perfecting. The bromide made by this method had too many impurities. As a result, few sales were made, and the company failed financially. Within a short time, however, Dow formed another company, with the idea of perfecting his original discovery.
But one night an accident happened that proved to be the turning point for the company. An employee was supposed to be watching the kettles to see that the liquids in them did not overflow. However, when he learned that something was wrong in the engine room, he went to check, leaving the kettles unguarded. When he came back the liquid had boiled so long that there was only fused salts in the bottom of the kettles.
Mr. Dow, hearing this, could have fired the employee or become angry or wasted time in self-pity that this had happened to him. But he did none of these. Instead of berating the employee for the accident, he immediately asked about the results. What did the residue in the kettles show?
He checked samples from the kettles and found that they had the purity for which he had been searching through many experiments! His positive approach to difficult situation led him to success.
Such an open mindedness often leads to new opportunities. You will not be able to see the opportunities, of course, if you rivet your thoughts on the negative aspects of a situation. In worrying and complaining about a situation you don’t like, you are using precious energy and time that could be used in finding a solution to the problem.
We have to work at being positive-minded. It is often a test of faith to look through a problem or situation, knowing that somewhere there is a solution, even though the appearance for the time being is to the contrary. It is also requires persistence, especially when you are in the company of negative thinkers and talkers. Not long ago a woman said to me, "Oh, I could keep my viewpoint lifted if I were around positive mined people. But this family of mine – honestly they’re always talking down, and I catch it from them."
Thoughts are contagious. Other persons’ thoughts and words can uplift or downgrade yours. It is well to be with positive minded persons as much as you can, but like the woman quoted above you may be frequently in the company of negative thinkers. What then?
You can learn to immunize yourself against negative mental contagion. Here again mental discipline must be practiced. You can deliberately attempt to keep your thoughts on the positive side; you can deliberately try to see the good of the situation, regardless of what the other person is thinking or saying.
Alphonse Karr has said, "Some people are always grumbling that roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses."
Try to make it a habit to be a positive thinker; Whether you are a positive or negative thinker is largely a matter of habit. It is the way you habitually see things, so why not try to see them in their best light?
The English writer Samuel Johnson wrote 200 years ago: "The habit of looking on the best side of every event is worth more than a thousand pounds a year."
You may not be able to become a positive thinker overnight, but you can work daily at the "becoming" and see improvement. Your faith in God and in good is your greatest bulwark against negativity.
As your faith becomes stronger and your mental discipline becomes greater, others’ negation will have less and less affect you. Their gloomy words and views will no longer have the power to pull you down to their level. In fact, in many cases you will be able to draw them up into a higher level of thought and freshen the atmosphere.
I have a friend who is a master at this. She not only refuses to be drawn into a negative conversation but exerts her own exuberant personality and joy so that anyone who is with her is lifted up mentally and spiritually.
The positive minded person refuses to respond meekly to the negative. Instead of reacting passively to it, letting the problem or situation have the upper hand, he does the acting on it. He takes the initiative. He does something about it, either to improve or solve the problem.
Lydia O’Leary was born with a problem. She came into this world with a large red birthmark on her face. Surgery could not help her. For many years Miss O’Leary reacted negatively to this birthmark, and became immersed in an inferiority complex. But later, she began to act on the problem. She worked with a chemist to try to find a special cosmetic that would cover the mark. They eventually discovered and developed a preparation that completely covered birthmarks and other skin discolourations. the cosmetic could not be detected, not would it rub off.
This was Miss O’Leary’s positive answer to her own problem. Her life was changed because of it. To help others who were afflicted with similar skin discoloration she began to manufacture her cosmetic.
She was requested by doctors to demonstrate her product in hospitals. Many war veterans and others found that her discovery was an answer to their own particular problem.
So often when a person reacts positively to his problems others are helped of benefited in some way. Lovers of Beethoven’s music would never have had that to enjoy of Beethoven had reacted negatively to his deafness. He would not let deafness be the master and keep him from composing music. He was the master of the situation.
In June 1952, the play "Wish You Were Here" opened on Broadway. The critics were blunt about their lack of enthusiasm for it, and for the first month the play lost money.
This was a blow to its producer Joshua Logan, but he didn’t sit and mope about it. He recognized the problem – the play did have low spots that, no doubt, had dampened the critics’ views.
Then he acted to remedy the problem. He called the author Arthur Kober and the composer Harold Rome and the three of them worked out revisions, which improved the play greatly and made it a hit.
"It’s never been done – remaking a play after the opening." Joshua Logan said, "but I decided to do it – and it worked."
The positive approach has "pulled many chestnuts out of the fire" and solved many problems. The negative approach has never accomplished anything, and had only caused headaches, ulcers, and general misery. The choice is yours as to which approach you will take.
If you choose the positive your home, your work, your entire environment will reflect a lighter, happier atmosphere. Your faith in life, your belief in the good, will enrich not only your own life but the lives of others.
(Written by: Aldrich Wake Ford)