Avoiding Dirty Laundry

positivityThe other morning I was driving to work and that Luke Bryan song came on where he sings about how he believes most people are good.  I’m not a big fan of country (even though my playlist may prove otherwise), but that song resonated with me.  Instead of following the theme of his lyrics, I found myself wondering about how much negativity, criticism, and finger pointing are in the world today.  I couldn’t get my mind off of how the good in the world is constantly buried under a growing pile of negativity.  The news, the internet, and social media seem to be dominated with complaint, cynicism, and devastation.  Where are all the good people?  There is more than that out there, right?  In his song “Dirty Laundry,” Don Henley basically calls us out on how much we love sensationalizing the drama, the grief, and the painful spectacle.  Are we really like that?  Is that actually what we want or is that just what we’re fed?  It feels like the world is constantly filtering us towards the disapproval, the hatred, and the unconstructive tension.  What if – instead of piling on and feeding the negativity – we became known as beacons of light and positivity?    

I know, I know.  It sounds like sitting around the campfire and singing kumbaya, but hear me out.  Imagine if people saw us as a source of encouragement, grace, and promise.  It’s ideal to visualize, but it won’t happen by accident.  Intentional positive thinking is more important than ever because we are already up against so much.  Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”  Simply put, the world needs our positivity and our courage to stand by our convictions.  Being positive is more than being in a good mood, reciting optimistic mantras, or posting inspirational quotes on Instagram.  It’s about a deeper faith in a vision of a world where we lift each other up, find the good in each other, and purposefully utilize the good that is in each of us.  We don’t have to set out to change the world, just start with the world around us.  Whether it’s mental health, influencing others, or maintaining good relationships; being intentionally positive can score victories. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I have negative thoughts, daily doubts, and plenty of things that test my patience.  However, I can confidently testify that being intentional about my positive thinking enables me to consistently overcome the negativity.  As an educator in a middle school where I work with at-risk students, I must renew my focus on positive thinking every single morning.  As a husband and leader of my family, I can’t successfully guide my most important people without dedicating myself to intentional positive thinking.  My struggle with OCD and anxiety would absolutely consume me if I didn’t harness the power of intentional positive thinking.  It’s possible that my societal influence is negligible, but my convictions will carry my positivity even if it only impacts a few.  Whether you’re looking for ways to be more intentional about your positive thinking or you are just plain curious, here are 5 principles that I use every single day to power mine:            

1.  All things are possible.

When we live from a positive frame of reference we are more likely to overcome obstacles.  Will we accomplish everything we dream of?  Maybe not.  Will life be perfect just because we have a positive outlook?  Definitely not.  But will we find success?  Will we grow?  Can we get better?  The answer is yes.  At the first sign of an obstacle, our character takes over and it helps determine the outcome.  If you’re weak, you’ll run.  Weak people give up or even pretend it doesn’t matter.  If our character is strong, we will dig in and try to find a way.  The reality is that positive thinking can strengthen our character.  For me, this has been a powerful weapon to overcoming obstacles. 

2.  Peace generates power.

It’s impossible to accomplish even the simplest of tasks when we are struggling with inner conflict. Anger, yelling, and pitching a fit will not get us anywhere.  It is extremely important to find peace.  When we are at peace, we have a greater ability to focus and to utilize our resources. Peace enables us to move forward from a position of strength and confidence.  I taught 3rd grade for 17 years, and amidst that patience-testing environment, never once did I yell.  Peace is powerful! 

3.  Prayer changes things.

Maybe your beliefs are not the same as mine.  My daily walk with Jesus is what empowers and sustains me.  Prayer can be an effective practice that adds strength, confidence, and peace to any experience. The idea that “prayer changes things” is rooted in the positive affirmations of literally millions of people. It makes practical sense to tap into the power that created the universe. God doesn’t require a membership card; God simply listens.

4.  Happiness depends on you.

When we begin to understand that other people are not responsible for our happiness, we are freed to experience more satisfaction, meaning, and happiness than ever before.  Setbacks and obstacles may frustrate us, but our character must be strong enough to overcome them without impacting our long-term happiness.  Obviously, seasons of struggle may require us to lean on others for encouragement, support, and advice.  However, we can’t blame the world for our unhappiness and we certainly can’t wait around for others to make us happy.  We must find our own happiness and be strong enough to maintain it.    

5.  Expect the best.

Regardless of the circumstance, we tend to get what we expect. Pessimists and optimists both tend to confirm their points of view. When we expect the best from our experiences, our challenges, our day-to-day lives, then we will experience more positive outcomes than going in with a negative attitude.  The same environment exists around us, regardless of how we choose to see it.  We make ongoing choices about how we interpret our environment, and those interpretations are based on our attitude.    Our attitudes really do determine the outcome of the experiences in our life. 

Positivity 3Intentional positive thinking is not only an avenue for enjoying a more peaceful life, but our positive choices also impact those around us.  My wife’s boss recently told her that she is a blessing to have at work.  This compliment goes so much deeper than being told she’s a good employee, a knowledgeable professional, or even simply a nice lady.  If we are to be a blessing, it requires intentional positive thinking.  We would all like to be considered one of the good people Luke Bryan sings about, but we are only one choice away from being included in Don Henley’s dirty laundry.