His words hold answers to mysteries, they cause me to stop and wonder and then make me smile. I feel encouraged.
Sometimes a phrase causes me to take a breath – stop – and give thanks.
This is one of them.
Courage, dear heart.
Encouragement has the word “courage” embedded. Undeniably, reading with a positive focus will encourage you, and ultimately cause you to feel courageous.
That’s why I like “children’s” literature. Most times authors write with a bent toward encouragement. It’s rare to feel discouraged after reading a child’s book. Have you noticed? Pull out a few of your childhood favorites, and experiment…
The quote above is from C.S. Lewis’ book “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” in the Narnia series. There are 7 books in the whole story about the land of Narnia. And it’s just as relevant for adults as it is for children. Never, ever, feel like you’re too old to read a child’s book. We’re all children at heart!
Specifically, I like to read this series in chronological order – but everyone has their favorite way to read. C.S. Lewis wrote and published them differently from the land of Narnia chronological order, and expected us to make our own choice in where to start. Wise man.
Aslan in Narnia
If you step back from the Disney movie versions of these movies and read the original book series, you’ll realize, eventually (or possibly very quickly) that Aslan is special.
Ultimately, discovering why that’s so will be a beautiful adventure, should you choose to accept it…
In the meantime:
My wish for you today is to hear that small, still voice whisper…
Learn how to be optimistic. Basically, you aren’t required to be born a positive person – optimism can be learned. Don’t give up just because you’re not good at it! Because there’s a way to…
Learn how to be optimistic.
But how, you ask?
If I’m being candid with you, (and my husband, Rob, can attest to this,) compared to some others, I am not naturally a positive person.
Did I really say that?
Yes, I did. I’m a learned optimist.
It’s a choice.
I believe anyone can learn how to be optimistic, and with deliberation, choose to act that way.
If so, then all of us can take action in a strategically positive way.
In all areas of our lives:
in how we think about ourselves,
as we talk to ourselves (our inner dialogue),
how we make choices in our life,
when we interact with people,
in our business world, church world, and family,
as we pursue our side-hustle, our hobbies,
and/or entrepreneurial life,
while setting and embracing our goals – large or small
and everything else life holds!
Here’s the path – with 4 aspects – on how to learn to be optimistic:
1 – Begin with love.
Start by feeling love for yourself. (Yes, it’s a journey.)
Firstly, I believe I was born on purpose and for a purpose. As were you! No person is an accident. Everyone has value.
For all those mothers who long to get pregnant, and parents who are trying and trying to conceive a child, this concept of a child being born on purpose is real. (As is the heart-wrench and ache when a child dies before you can hold her or him in your arms.)
Plus, as a Christian, I believe God loves me. He loves you. There’s a plan for us. As a great example of true, perfect love, Jesus, the Son of God, gave up His life in a horrible death for no reason other than He loved me. And you. And everyone. All people. Regardless. (If you’re looking for a romance story, the Bible is the ultimate one.)
Maybe your life thus far hasn’t shown you much love. If that’s the case, I just want to tell you:
It’s not the end of the story!
You can feel loved. There’s time.
Just as you have time to love others. It’s a journey.
Gratitude is so much more important than the world around you wants you to believe. Being thankful is a special sauce, a magic formula, the ultimate elixir on the way to being positive.
How do you track your thankfulness?
Being aware of what you’re thankful for is one thing. Because of this, it’s powerful when you see all the items concretely logged with writing or images.
Whether you use an app, a journal, a planner or a plain old notebook, keeping an ongoing list of all the items you’re thankful for on a daily basis is important!
Did you hear that?
I can’t think of another way to state it. Make it a habit at the beginning, middle or end of a day to list what you’re thankful for. Begin recording your thankfulness.
I challenge you to start with a list of 100 items. A while ago Rob and I did an exercise like this together and it was so much easier than it seems… From this, we realized that the greatest to the least little item provides many, many reasons each day to give thanks.
” Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Therefore, you can learn how to be optimistic if you use gratitude as a tool!
So, being loved and being thankful. Right.
And after that – what’s next?
3 – Being encouraged and encouraging others helps you to learn how to optimistic.
Thirdly, what is encouragement?
“Encouragement: words or actions that give someone confidence or hope and words or actions that help something to happen.”
~ from MacMillan Dictionary
To learn how to be optimistic means you understand the importance of encouragement. Encouragement is an action. It’s having hope for the future. People who are positive-focused know how to help themselves and others make something happen – something good for the future.
Optimists are confident that if they keep trying and continue to persevere, regardless, there will be an improvement.
And once an optimist is feeling hopeful, then…
4 – Optimists take action.
Lastly, some of the skills on the path to learn how to be optimistic are the ability to make a plan, work the plan and take action on the goals that’ll get you to the finish line of the plan. Does this sound familiar?
What if things don’t work out? Failure is part of the plan – it’s gonna happen, and optimists who take action have contingencies at hand to fail forward.
So, if something doesn’t work out, the optimist finds another way.
Above all, it’s about taking action – not getting stuck in inertia or analysis paralysis. Equally, if a positive person does get stuck, they look for help from another encouraging person! Do you have someone like that in your life?
Are you someone who takes action? Is there a chance you’re also a learned optimist?
Being Positive on Purpose
All in all, life isn’t always what you expect. There are curveballs…
It’s important to realize there are days, weeks and even years where being optimistic is hard. At times it feels almost impossible. I get it. I really do – due to circumstances we all encounter, I’ve experienced it and it’s difficult to be optimistic when in crisis. (Especially if others around you expect optimism from you and you’re feeling like you’re running on empty.)
What can you do when it’s hard to be optimistic?
Actively seek support. To clarify, surround yourself with people, activities, and resources which will support you in practicing:
loving yourself and others,
being thankful – in all circumstances,
accepting encouragement and giving encouragement,
and taking action.
To be transparent – that’s why this site was born. I needed something to keep my focus on remaining and then growing in being positive. So, that’s what PostiveThanksLiving.com is for… it’s for me and you!
On the positive side, there’s no end in learning to be optimistic.
You just get better at it. Certainly, it takes ongoing practice, but the benefits of practicing optimism impact everyone around you for the better.
Indeed, it’s not going to hurt anyone if you learn how to be optimistic… in fact, it’ll help make the world around you a little better!
If so, it’s important to be flexible, and stay positive and thankful because big goals take many turns.
Some are a gentle arc, and barely noticed. Those turns are easy.
Other turns are like the Tail of the Dragon – 11-miles of twists in Tennesee that car and motorbike aficionados use to challenge their driving skill. Sometimes a challenge can be exhilarating.
Regardless of the severity of the turn or turns on the way to that big goal, what thinking skills do you need to navigate your way? These intangible skills will work for the easy turns and the challenging ones alike. And along the way to your goal you’re going to need these skills!
Navigating the turns in Big Goals
Traveling with our 5th-Wheel up and down the coast, into big cities and across expanses, required many different skills compared to zooming in a little car to the store.
Rob often talked about thinking in 3 dimensions – not just length and width, but also height as we navigated through our RV-ing adventures.
Big Goals also need a different style of thinking from everyday duties.
Here are some I’ve practiced and seen others do along the way to a big goal.
Clarity. What do you really want? If you know what you really want, then at every turn you’ll be able to choose the way forward.
Focus. Make a plan to get to your goal that includes all the turns you can imagine. Follow the plan.
Review. Goals need a plan and those huge goals are probably made up of many smaller plans and goals. Review it all regularly, because there are going to be turns you haven’t anticipated on the way to the win.
Flexibility. Be ready to shift. You may be in 1st and 2nd gear for a long haul before you get to that open road where you can let all the power out!
Thankfulness. No matter what turn you hit, be aware of the good stuff and express your thankfulness.
Optimism is going to be the overarching need, regardless of all the different skills when navigating the turns in a Big Goal.
Have you encountered a turn on the way to a big goal? What did you do to navigate that unexpected shift?
Making a Plan…
Plans and goals go hand-in-hand. Rarely will someone reach a goal without one. So, how do you record your plan? How do you keep track?
I currently use notebooks – just the dollar-store kind – to keep track of what I’m working on. I even decorate the cover because I’m playing with paper these days. But I have tried other planners. Some just had the months and weeks listed. They worked just fine. And then on my way to seeking a change, I used this planner for 100 days. (I wrote about it here.)
Planning for a bigger goal requires some reflection. (The kind of thinking included in the above 5 ways.)
I found what I needed to do some reflective thinking with the Happiness line of planners. If you’re interested in what I’m speaking about, there are downloadable printables to do some reflecting and planning. Click here to see – they’re free!
If you wanted an undated planner for 365 days, take a look at this one. (Why undated? Because it’s rare that we start a big goal at the obvious beginning of a year. Life usually isn’t that simple.) This kind of planner is much more – it’ll work toward getting you from where you currently are to your big goal. If you want to, download a free PDF of a page of its style to see if this planner will work for you.
No matter what you choose – notebook, regular dated planner, or something else – your Big Goal will need some way to capture all the twists and turns. I urge you to take the thinking actions first!
Happiness is fleeting. In my life, the feeling of being happy shifts like the weather – the only surety is a change in and out and in again of happiness.
I’m imagining you might relate? It’s rare for anyone to be happy every day. (By-the-way, being joyful is a different story from the average happy moment. Read some thoughts about JOY here.)
Most of us merely want to have more happy days than we’re already experiencing.
Just like choosing to live in one part of the continent with more days of sunshine, than a different part of the continent with fewer sunny days, we do have the choice to structure our lives to experience more moments of happiness.
Is every day sunny? No. Will every moment be happy? Of course not. However, you can…
Structure your happiness – 100 days experiment!
Just so you know, I don’t think you need a special book, app or planner to take action toward structuring more happiness in your life. Purchasing something isn’t necessary. You could design your own map, print your own tracking pages, or just use a plain notebook to make notes.
The idea is to have a plan and then track progress over a period of time.
I ordered the 100-day Happiness Planner for my birthday a few years ago. It was during a hard time. No tragedies – just life.
During this time I felt like I needed to take strong, decisive steps to structure my days to include opportunities to feel happy. I looked at many programs, considered creating one of my own, and then – for my needs – I decided to invest in the 100-day Happiness Planner.
This resource provided certain properties I needed:
a short period – 100 days is just over 3 months – to try new ways to structure my days/weeks and experiment with specific goals
no particular dates (undated) so I could write in my own dates and begin/end as I chose.
opportunity for reflection – questions and room to journal my thoughts
planning space for daily and weekly events
space to record thankfulness every day/week
a way to track what I was learning via Scripture and actively listening in church services
positive affirmations (although, I replaced some with God-honoring statements for the ones I didn’t like.)
This site, PostiveThanksLiving.com grew out of my time working in the 100-day Happiness Planner.
What do you need to structure happiness into your life?
More happy moments may not happen all by themselves. Sometimes we need a boost, a trigger, or a tool.
I hope this site, which grew from my time of reflection, can be a boost and trigger for your life. My goal is to provide positivity and gratitude prompts so we all have what we need to add some happiness into our life.
What other tools to structure happiness could you use?
Maybe you need to focus on adding some healthy boundaries to your life? This is a good book to learn how to do that.
Perhaps you feel it’s time to pursue deepening your marriage.
Rob and I talk about this book with couples all the time. It’s practical and easy to implement, no matter in what state your relationships exists.
Have you ever done a “vision board”? In simple terms, it’s a collection of photos/images of what you’re working toward pasted or printed onto one paper. (I couldn’t find a resource to link to here, so I guess I’ll be creating one in the future!)
What other tools do you need?
Leave a comment – what has helped you find more happiness in your life in the past?
Caroline Webb, Economist, and former McKinsey partner says,
“Acknowledge the constraints, then identify the wriggle room within and around them…”
This process is what she calls realistic optimism.
What is the ideal?
What’s the first step toward to ideal?
where have you succeeded before – use that!
how and what have you learned from past endeavors that you could translate to this?
who could help you get a step toward your ideal?
Optimists (realistic optimists according to Caroline Webb) get into discovery mode once they’ve acknowledged the constraints…
In which area do you need to enter discovery mode?
In which areas could you get out of your fight or flight mode and into discovery? Where can you identify the constraints and move on toward the ideal situation? Leave a comment!
On a personal note, perhaps one of the reasons I found this interesting is because of my values. Rob and I have identified three shared values as a couple: Loyalty, Optimism, and Discovery. We use our values when we make decisions. If you’re interested, you can read more about this idea of shared values and our value of discovery HERE.