Friday, February 26, 2010

Creating a Beautiful Day

One of the interesting (relatively speaking) features of my job is hearing all the different sorts of things people record for their outgoing message on their answering machine.  I've heard some interesting things, sometimes in content and sometimes in tone.  One thing many people say is, "Have a blessed day." Today, I left a message for a client whose recorded voice instructs the caller, "Create a beautiful day for yourself." When she returned my call, she was a pleasure to talk to and called me "Miss Michael" several times. I would venture that she's nice to talk to because she practices having a good attitude about things.

I'm a little ambivalent about the idea of thinking positively. On one hand, I complain a lot. My boyfriend thinks I'm happy when I complain and while I'm not sure that's true, I admit I complain frequently. I knew a girl that was planning to go for a month without complaining because she thought it would change her life.  That's just the sort of hokey crap that turns me off. (As a side note, I never got the follow-up story from her so I don't know if she succeeded).  This person also believed in the law of attraction, and I just can't believe in that sort of thing, personally.  I don't believe in the power of prayer or that the universe will grant a person what he or she wants just because of his or her thoughts. Actions matter. In my opinion, the concept is completely ludicrous and I'm always surprised when otherwise logical people live by it.  This is why I've been wanting to read Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-Sided ever since I saw her promoting the book on The Daily Show. From what I've seen and read, in the book she points out that thinking positively can lead to delusion and examines its effects on an individual and national level.

While I don't live by the idea that thoughts have the power to change your life, I do believe in making the best of a situation.  Despite my complaining, I try to enjoy my life.  I think the advantage of thinking positively is much more direct than the "power of attraction" suggests. On a basic level, if one goes into a situation with a good attitude, the pleasantries of the situation will be more evident.  On the other hand, if one goes into a situation with a bad attitude, one will find things to be unhappy about. I know this from personal experience because I've definitely been guilty of it at various times in my life (I'm looking at you, teenage-Michael). A while back, I went through a period of depression, and it felt like even when I tried to be happy I couldn't.  A friend told me I needed to fix my attitude, and while part of me resented the idea, he had a point.  There's a Rilo Kiley song called "The Good That Won't Come Out" with the line, "You say I choose sadness/that it never once has chosen me/maybe you're right."  This song was particularly meaningful for me during that period.

I have experienced many life changes since that period in my life: I have a better job, a great boyfriend, and I live in a neighborhood more suited to my lifestyle.  I can largely thank these changes for the end of my depression.  However, I still try to remember that line, and to remind myself that there is an upside to thinking positively. I do think it's possible, in a limited sense, to "create a beautiful day."


  1. Hi Michael! I'm enjoying reading your blog and this got me thinking as this idea of positive thinking has been preoccupying me. First, I wanted to mention this article that was posted on Twitter recently: This sounds like what you mentioned about how if you approach things with a good attitude, you'll see the good side of the situation. I also think it is really important to trust our intuition as mentioned in the article. A lot of the frustrating things that have happened to me happened when I went against my intuition.

    I also complain a lot, and people have been very hard on me throughout my life about it. The biggest lessons I learned from that is that if I don't like something, I either need to do something about it or endure until it's over. I've sent myself into months of depression agonizing over bad decisions and how unhappy I was with how it turned out. Now I do try to approach this from a more positive angle, and that's self preservation at work. It's helped me appreciate the small stuff more.

    I struggle with wondering if the law of attraction/positive thinking can make good things happen to you. It's funny, when I've worried about things (like my recent job scenario, which I predicted), I now wonder if I "created" those things with my thoughts or if I was just picking up on reality. I feel brainwashed by it all, especially reading all these blogs where people talk about manifesting their dreams, etc. (I always wonder if the people who tried this and failed have blogs, too, haha.) But I do think there's a problem when people get sick and then blamed for whether they get better or worse based on their attitude. There's this sick justification of "you deserve what happened to you because you have a bad attitude" with the positive thinking doctrine.

    The most important thing I've learned is to turn challenges into opportunities. I think you're right that reliance on positive thinking obscures the point - it's just a matter of being aware on good things in a situation and deciding what you want and moving towards it. Now I try to avoid being depressed when things don't turn out how I want. It doesn't always work, but I guess I realize I'm not entitled to controlling the situation and that maybe some good can come of it. It makes it easier to get through the hard times.

  2. That's a great article, Kim. Thanks for the link! (And thanks for reading!)