It has been suggested to me that I write a Self-Help book. Apparently I’m an upbeat and positive person. Who knew! But the suggestion has gotten me thinking about what I’d say to people who are so desperate for guidance that they’d turn to me.
Many self-help books offer lists:
10 Ways to Improve Your Posture
10 Tips for Better Gardening
10 Times Your Pet Mouse Can Make You Money
I’ve never done a Top Ten list, but I watched Letterman for years, so here goes…
#1. Dump Negative Nouns
People, places and things that make you unhappy, depressed, or just uncomfortable are not helping you become upbeat or positive. Stay away from as many of them as you possibly can. Yeah, I know some are unavoidable, but if you can get rid of any of them you’ll have that much less strain on your goal.
Once upon a time I had a job I really liked. There was a great group of folks working in this office, and the boss was a dream. Then Mrs. Boss decided to work there. Staff members started dropping like flies. I tried to tell Boss that his missus was the problem, but he wouldn’t believe it. He told me that one person had quit to go back to school and another had moved out of state. I told him that’s what they’d said because they didn’t want to hurt his feelings. (I had no such qualms!)
I tried to “wait it out” since Mrs, Boss had come from a long line of short-term jobs and I hoped this one wouldn’t last either. Her mother was a Real Estate Agent, so Mrs. Boss had become one, too. But Mom (who’d been at this for 20 years) wouldn’t do things the way Mrs. Boss said to, so that job fizzled. Her sister was a teacher, so she tried her hand at that, too. Took several years of classes to get her certificate, but then the principal of the charter school where she got her first job wouldn’t do things the way she told him to, so there went that career, too.
We had high hopes around the office since her brother was a long-distance trucker, but unfortunately, Boss gave her a lot of freedom, so she didn’t go on the road. She’d waltz around the office loudly announcing, “I’m the boss, too!”
My opinion is that if you have to tell people you’re in charge, you’re not.
I found myself walking on eggshells every day, trying to avoid setting off one of Mrs. Boss’ tirades (I’d heard her yelling at two very young workers, telling them they were doing everything wrong and they were stupid for doing it that way, not listening to their explanation that Boss had told them how to handle the project. They both quit within the week.). She had a tendency to slam her palm onto a desk and yell, which was not what I considered a Good Management Practice.
Eventually I had to submit my letter of resignation. I didn’t want to leave, since I’d liked the job up until she’d come along, but it became obvious that she wasn’t leaving, so I had to get out of there. I took a job that’s less interesting but pays better, and now I can breathe while I’m at work.
It was a difficult choice, but sometimes you have to get away from mean and disruptive people for your own peace of mind, even if you face a short-term cost.
#2. 180° – or at least more than 90°
If there’s a negative noun you’re stuck with, try to turn it toward the positive. Go all Pollyanna on it!
One night I was walking with a neighbor across the condo complex where we lived. We were headed to a meeting of our HOA’s Board of Directors. My neighbor was upset about an issue that was bound to come up, and she was going on and on about it as we walked. Finally, I put a hand on her arm and stopped. She turned to see me gazing at the moon, which was shining on us from between a couple of palm trees that were swaying gently in the breeze. It was maybe 73° out, clear and quiet. I said, “Look at that. We live in one of the most beautiful places on this planet.”
She was silent for a moment, then said with tears in her voice, “This is why I hang around with you. You always know how to make me feel better.”
Once the meeting started she was able to handle her issue more calmly because she’d arrived in a better frame of mind.
#3. Start From the Positive
A guy at work was in my office one day looking at paperwork for a project that had him stressed. I don’t even remember what I said, but suddenly he looked up, stared at me for a minute, then asked, “How can you be so goddamned happy all the time?”
I smiled and replied, “’Cause I get to work with people like you!”
He stared for a couple of beats longer, then mumbled, “I don’t believe that for a minute.”
I patted his back and said, “When you do, you’ll be happy, too.”
Approach new experiences expecting them to be pleasant. A smile on your face or in your voice will lighten the mood of everyone around you. If you go into a situation planning to be downtrodden or even just unhappy, you will be.
#4. Do Things That Make You Happy
I’m a big fan of karaoke. I don’t know who invented it, but if I ever meet him I’m gonna shake his hand and give him a chocolate bar. Yes! Karaoke makes me happy enough that I’d even share my chocolate!
I don’t get to karaoke every day, but I go a couple of times a week – usually to the same places, but sometimes I try out a new one. I’m a pretty good singer, and one of my favorite parts is when people I don’t even know come over to tell me that they enjoyed my song. I also like when they applaud, but honestly my very favorite part is when people are sitting around, chatting and eating and laughing, then I start to sing and they Shut Up And Listen. That is an incredible rush! I can pull upbeat and positive vibes off that for a week!
Which brings us to #5. Make Upbeat and Positive Comments to Other People.
Some of the folks who “do karaoke” can’t sing. They’re dreadful. Tone deaf. Sure, some are just “not very good,” but others are truly pathetic. You’ve seen American Idol auditions – oblivious to reality, these people think they’re great. They’re not. But they’re trying! It isn’t easy to stand in front of a roomful of people and perform when you’re good at it – these folks face the added strain of being painful to their audience.
My mama (and yours, too, I’d bet) always says, “If you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all.” I was never a quiet kid, so I had to find ways to talk around people’s lesser qualities. When a bad singer walks past me to return to his or her seat I’ll say something like, “That’s a beautiful song.” or “I haven’t heard that song in ages.” This person has been through enough of an ordeal just getting up there; I don’t want to insult the poor soul for trying. I also don’t want to lie, so I avoid actual compliments.
My policy at karaoke is this: I applaud for everyone. Sometimes because they were good, and sometimes because I’m glad they’re DONE!
Well, that seems to get us a Top Five List, rather than Top Ten. We could look at this as not getting the whole job done, but we’re going to refer to Point #2 instead, and turn it around by saying that I finished my list in only half the time!
And now that you’re done reading it you have extra time, too. Spend it on putting these points into practice.
Smile at people.
Say upbeat and positive things to them.