This week I was called a Polyanna. It was meant as an insult, but I took it as a compliment and thanked the giver warmly. A few years ago, when I first heard the term, I had to ask for clarification – I think it’s a US expression more than a UK one – but it basically means that you always look for the good in any situation. Polyanna was a girl who looked for something beautiful, positive and happy in all the things that happened to her. This, to me, is a wonderful way to live.
Many of us have been brought up with the message that purely positive people are somehow a little ‘flaky’. “Life’s just not like that”, is a phrase that I have heard from so many different people from all walks of life, before they moan about the latest thing that has just happened in their lives.
But one thing I have learned over the past fifteen or so years, is that life can be like that, if you choose it to be.
It was a huge breakthrough to me when I learned and really absorbed that it isn’t what happens to you in life that matters, it’s how you choose to respond or react to those things that happen.
We all have things that happen in life that we’d rather didn’t – a job loss, the death or serious injury or illness of someone we love, or ourselves – but rather than think of those as ‘bad’ things, I have been trying to put them into a perspective of ‘things that happen’ rather than ‘bad things that happen’. The word ‘bad’ is a subjective term, in the same way that ‘good’ is. We attach those words to circumstances and that reflects how we react to them.
If we realise that we have a choice as to how we react through the choice of words that we use to describe them, then we give ourselves a certain amount of power. If we try to see the positive impact of something that initially appears detrimental, then we give ourselves energy and power to work through it with a positive attitude. If we select the negative descriptor, then we drain ourselves of energy and will-power to deal with the problem that is there.
It was a conscious decision on my part to try to learn to harness the positive potential of every situation – even something as heartbreaking as the death of my mum – and it works, for me. It allows me to break through potential paralysis of emotions and respond by moving forward, accepting there are no bad things in the world, but only my perception of what happens.
I have learnt to see situations from differing perspectives, which is really helpful in trying to understand another person’s view, but it does mean I’m not very good in arguments, as I can nearly always see and appreciate the other views….!!
So, to the person who sought to diminish my enthusiasm and love of life with the ‘Polyanna’ comment, thanks for reminding me that it is every person’s choice how they wish to approach life, and I choose the positive. Your choices too will give you what you wish for.