Staying Positive When Circumstances Aren’t: A Pessimist’s Perspective.


Staying positive when circumstances aren’t is one of the hardest things to do. For some of us, it’s hard even when everything is going great. It’s one thing I love about Phineas and Ferb. (Pardon my frame of reference. I have an 11-year-old.) Phineas is an eternal optimist as well as a child genius. No matter how hard his sister tries to “bust him,” he acts like he doesn’t even notice, keeps loving her, and continues on with his brilliant plans for the day. I may have missed out on the genius part, but I can still work on the optimist part.

For example, at this very moment, a voice in the back of my mind is saying, “Lots of crazy stuff happens in cartoons that doesn’t work in real life.”   Along with “Why are you writing a New Year’s Resolution type of piece at the end of February?” And finally, “Why would someone as pessimistic as you attempt to write on THIS topic?” But that’s really why I’m doing it. I need it. So I am choosing to ignore that voice, and coming up with my very own Pessimist’s Tips For Staying Positive: 

  1. Cover the basics. Get enough sleep. Eat right. Exercise regularly. You know all those things “they say” you should do? Give them a try. You’ll be surprised what a difference it can make. I’m not 100% sure who “they” are, but that’s OK. Whoever they are, they’re smarter than me, ‘cause this stuff really works.
  2. Garbage in. Garbage out. What do you watch on TV? What movies do you see? What books do you read? Or in some cases, it might be better to ask—do you read? Obviously, this blog doesn’t count (in spite of its greatness). The images and information you take in will affect your choices and attitudes. If that weren’t true, the advertising industry wouldn’t exist.
  3. Join a gang. Just kidding–at least not that kind of gang. Even the strongest leaders can’t avoid being influenced by the people around them. Are you hanging out with people who encourage or even inspire you? I know we can’t avoid some people, like the brother-in-law you’re stuck with at every family gathering. That’s different. Just choose your friends wisely.
  4. Start right. What’s your morning routine? Do you roll out of bed after hitting the snooze button ten times? Or do you give yourself a little time to get your head on straight before you face the world? A few minutes to intentionally funnel good thoughts into your head first thing can impact the rest of your day.
  5. Keep a journal. It’s easy for me to say because I’m a writer. I do this on my day off.  But Madeleine L’Engle  said, “What you put down in your journal, you don’t take out on your family and friends.” Sometimes in the process of journaling, I start by writing something that’s bothering me, and by the end of the page, I have a solution. In fact, it happens pretty often.
  6. Hug someone. You don’t have to be David Parsons and go for a world record.  Just hug someone. Anyone. Obviously, make sure it’s someone you know well. Family members, friends, even co-workers. (Apologies to those of you stuck with less than loveable co-workers. We can’t all work at SWIRE).
  7. Finish something. My mother-in-law is a great woman. (Keep reading. Don’t finish off your mother-in-law.) She’s so great, someone is writing her biography. What’s not so great is that she asked me to read a draft of the work in progress—six months ago. Every time I thought about it, I felt guilty. Finally, I just sat down yesterday, read it and sent her some notes. No more guilt. She’s happy. And when your mother-in-law is happy with you, your spouse is happy with you. I know this for a fact.
  8. Gotta’ serve somebody. You can always find someone worse off than you. Go serve them. Do an evening at a soup kitchen. If you have the time and resources, visit a third world country. But frankly, there are enough hurting people close to home, you shouldn’t have to go that far to get a reality check.
  9. An Attitude of Gratitude. My wife loves to quote this one to me. Technically, I don’t think she loves quoting it to me. She’s probably tired of repeating it. But she’s right.  We may have to look for it aggressively, but we can always find something to be thankful for, regardless of our circumstance
  10. You tell me. Seriously, I want to know. And I don’t think I’m being overly pessimistic in assuming I’ll probably need your advice at some point this week.

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  • http://twitter.com/mgallizzi Matthew Gallizzi

    Great stuff, I really can’t think of anything else to add. My biggest thing is hanging around people that inspire me in several different ways and are positive. And maybe they call me out when I start slipping. :)

    • Alan Josey

      Thanks Matthew. Glad you liked the list. I have friends like that I get together with regularly. They’re invaluable.

  • http://www.goswire.com/ Steve Seybold

    This is a great list. I’ve been trying to keep a journal for years but have so far been unsuccessful. The fact that you can resolve something that is bothering you and eating you up makes me really want to take the process seriously. Thanks Alan!

    • Alan Josey

      You’re welcome, Steve. I encourage you to try it. It’s one of the most powerful tools on the list.

  • http://about.me/swire Zack Swire

    Alan, love this and love having you a core part of what brings SWIRE to life. Your the most positive pessimist I know ;)

    For the app lovers out there, get “Day One” to check off step 5 above. It will even remind you to do it each day.

    Or, do as I recently started with my family at bedtime. On one sheet, list everyones initials and list down the other side one through five. Then, each person has to write five things that they are grateful for. I didn’t come up with this, but I’m loving it. Seeing my kids and wife’s grateful list is one of those things that just warms your heart and makes you feel good. Nice way to go to bed and a good habit for your kids and you too.

    • Alan Josey

      Thanks Zack. I’m starting the grateful list at bedtime this weekend. Once again, you’ve inspired me.

      • http://about.me/swire Zack Swire

        love it :)