Oh please. Not even a pathologically optimistic Coach could find the bright side in the state of the world today, could they? Scathing analyses of the year 2016 are all over the news and social media and the emotional waves of anger and frustration are washing over us.
Well, I’m certainly not going to downplay the challenges. What I am going to do is make a case for the necessity of being positive, of love, optimism, and connection in a world which seems laser-focused on separation, spite, and gloom. I’m even going to show how these are absolutely rational feelings, and how to cultivate them in the adverse climate of fear and anger everywhere.
How to be both positive and realistic
Being positive does absolutely not mean to be out of touch with reality. Viktor Frankl wrote Man’s Search For Meaning based on his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. It’s where he gained crucial insights about the purpose of his own life. He took something very valuable out of the experience, but do you honestly think this made the concentration camp a good thing? Of course not! Frankl never denied that the camps were horrific and should never have existed.
The point is, since they did exist and there’s nothing he could do about this fact, he focused on the positive that was also happening: His insights, his experience of compassion and cameraderie amongst inmates, etc.
The granddaughter of a good friend of mine has been battling leukemia since the age of 2. I can’t even begin to describe the horrors this family has been through. When the girl’s mother says that this experience has taught her belief in humanity because of the overwhelming support from friends and all the community including complete strangers, both in spirit and financial donations, she doesn’t for one second imply that her little girl’s suffering is a good thing or justified. All she does is accept the inevitable and find whatever is positive and uplifting about the experience.
Why this is so important
I don’t believe in anger because it creates barriers and distance and the world really doesn’t need any more separation. What it does need is openness, fearlessness, an absence of barriers. We don’t heal through hate, we heal through love.
Here’s where the title of this article comes in. Being relentlessly positive doesn’t mean lying down and letting bad politics, separation, violence and discrimination walk all over you (and other people). On the contrary, it means using the most effective weapon of all: The spreading of love, understanding, and communication. Wherever the situation looks bleak, invariably it’s these qualities that are missing, and those who are strong enough are called upon to provide them.
That’s right: It’s not weakness to focus on the positive. It takes a lot of strength to swim against the tide of negativity and refuse to give in to its pull, and instead radiate love, forgiveness, and understanding.
What it means in real-world terms
All these words sound beautiful, but what can we actually do?
I’ll give you some examples. If you…
– …are heartbroken over the fate of fugitives, or the homeless, volunteer for one of the organisations supporting them. You may find the extent of the suffering overwhelming, but remember: If you can provide just one child with a new toy or feed one starving person, it’ll make all the difference to that person. This is not insignificant “in the grand scheme of things”; indeed, one heart at a time is how change works. There are no shortcuts.
– …fear for the safety of immigrants / LGBT people / people of colour, reach out to them. Make them feel safe. It’s an incredibly lonely feeling to be fearful and on the constant lookout for potential aggressors; a word, a gesture, a friendly face mean so very much.
– …are worried about the situation in other parts of the world, find a reputable organisation (do some research first) or charity working there and donate money. Make it a small but regular donation. Even five or 10 quid a month make a difference.
The conclusion from all this is that positivity can be a conscious choice and an incredibly brave act of rebellion. It takes a lot of energy to uphold and often feels like pedalling a bicycle uphill, all the time. However, this conscious choice is vital to our world. As for your personal well-being, do not focus on things you can’t influence and rather spend your energy on what you can change. You will be surprised at how much you can do.
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