Thursday, 13 March 2008

How to stay positive ...

How can you stay positive in a world where everything seems to be going wrong? The war in Iraq, the Sub-Prime lending crisis, looming recession, famine and war ravaging parts of Africa, the plague of terrorism and an oil price of over $100 a barrel and global climate change have all contributed to an increased sense of gloom and doom. We are confronted with these daily through our television screens, the Internet and newspapers. But for every bad event, for every negative news story there are a multitude of positive things taking place around the world! These are just not reported. Whether we remain positive or negative in our approach to life depends on two main things. Where we choose to focus our attention, and how we deal with the negative events that gain our attention.

An ancient Talmudic teaching asks “Who is rich?” The answer is “one that is content with his lot”. Quite simply, someone that is satisfied with what they have is rich. Someone that feels that they are lacking is not.

We tend to focus on what we don't have. I drive a small old Toyota while my neighbour drives a Jeep. Every month we struggle to meet our expenses. The neighbour’s kitchen has been improved and modernised while mine is rather primitive. It can become quite easy to feel sorry for yourself when this is your focus. Is there any reason for me not to be negative?

On the other hand, if I focus on what I do have, things look very different. I own my own house, and there is ample accommodation for everyone here. So far, we have three cars in the family. We eat very well. We have a maid and a gardener that tends to our garden once a week. The family is well educated and the children have grown into principled and responsible young men, set to achieve much in life. Millions around the world would see us as being rich. Why shouldn’t I be positive about it?

My rabbi advises that when it comes to evaluating what we have we should always look down. There are many that have less, and we should be grateful that we have been blessed with more. When it comes to spiritual matters we should look up. Look at those that study regularly, that give charity and that are more observant. These can provide inspiration to us.

The other main reason for negativity is the state of the world. Events over which we have no control. Crime, war, political strife and recession all contribute to us gaining a more negative view. There are stories of those that danced while Paris burned. I am not advocating that. It is necessary to recognise the bad. But actively engaging in whatever we can to make the world a better place should be enough to keep us positive.

1 comment:

morrisonbonpasse said...

One thought for happiness:

H = R - E
(Happiness Equals Reality Minus Expectations)