Talking about "the power of positive thinking" doesn't do much for me, as I've indicated before. The whole idea strikes me as a bit hokey--a little too much like BS, to be frank. What: you flip some switch in your brain--some flip I personally cannot always find--and once you do that, it effects real change? It suddenly helps you find the man of your dreams, happiness, meaning? Por favor.
my friend Amy makes a pretty convincing case about the concrete changes that optimism can bring about--and also offers some handy suggestions about how you can FORCE yourself to be more optimistic.
As a way into her advice, Amy tells the story of a Univeristy of Michigan professor, Colleen Seifert, who'd been working so hard--for six years--to get tenure that she'd become VERY alone in the world. At 34, she got her tenure, celebrated her triumph with ONE co-worker ... and the next morning, felt pretty depressed. She'd finally achieved her big goal, but where was the fulfillment she expected to feel? Without someone she cared about to help toast her triumph, it didn't seem terribly meaningful.
Seifert had been overweight her whole life. "I've always struggled with rejection," she says, in Amy's book. And when it came to romance, she notes, "I don't think I hoped enough."
But after the dispiriting tenure experience, she made a conscious decision to add more human interaction to her life. "I decided that when I started to talk to someone ... I was going to take a breath, listen to what they were saying, look them in the eye ... just try to be present in that moment of meeting them."
Later that day, she stopped at the dry cleaner and tried out her new resolution on the cute gut working behind the counter. When he asked for her number--to put on the dry cleaning slip--their conversation had gone so well that she felt bold enough to say, "Are you going to call me?" He did ... and that Christmas Eve, he proposed. They recently celebrated their ten-year anniversary.
Seifert says: "Talking to people you normally wouldn't means that opportunities will be open to you that wouldn't be there otherwise."
She adds: "A friend and I go to the same cocktail parties, and while I always end up with the boring academic in the corner, he always finds the fascinating person who used to work for the CIA or some such. His motto is: 'I think you can get an interesting story out of everybody, and it's our job to do that.'"
With all that in mind, here are some suggestions--from Amy and me--about ways you can FORCE yourself to be a little more optimistic ...
1) Make an effort to have real conversations with as many people as possible this month. And I don't just mean the members of the sex you're attracted to. Engage all the people who cross your path. Okay, okay, you don't have to chat up every single person in the subway car with you, or on the crosstown bus. But if you're in the elevator and someone else pops in, ask him or her how her day is going, which company she works for, etc. Or, if you're on line at Trader Joe's, ask the person behind you if that Cream of Tomato soup is any good. Ask the guy at the bookstore about the best book he read recently. You never know what it might lead to--an invite to some club where your new acquaintance is DJing, or a good business connection ... or a date.
2) Say "yes" to all the invitations you receive this month. Go to your block association meeting, your lame colleague's Lonely Hearts Valentine's Party, and that museum event some friend of yours keeps trying to talk you into. Or agree to go salsa dancing! When you're not just following the same old routine, the chances that someone new might stroll into your life your chances are much higher.
3) Take a different route home from work for a month. And while you're literally going out of your way, figuratively go out of it too: Talk to the guy standing next to you as you wait for the light to turn. Stop into that cute new coffee shop, and get a cup of tea, while asking the attractive person sitting in the window how long the place has been open. Ask someone walking a dog if you can pet the pooch. If it doesn't go so well, what's the worst that can happen? You'll go back to your old routine in T-30 days!
4) If you're single, make sure you have an active profile on a dating site. Why? Because it'll take you maybe an hour, tops, to put that profile up ... and if you don't have one up, there's basically NO chance you'll meet any of the thousands of people on that site. It's so easy--why not avail of such a huge pool of single people?
(I've had a bunch of relatively successful relationships--as successful as I get--thanks to the Interweb. So, it works, people!)
ps: Check out my Fbook page if you want to get a little more up close and personal with me.
-DC: Ha! Maybe I am too nice. In some situations. Though it's been a while since I've agreed to trek around, looking for some hidden Manhattan gem ... not quite as long since I've agreed to Mexican.
-Staci: I'm glad yesterday's post struck a chord! I'm the say way--or I used to be: I'd bottle things up and then explode in tears. I like to think I'm much better about communciating on a play by play basis, these days.
-And Barbie: I think you're right. Better to be yourself at first--and always.