Deborah's Foreward for Think Positive
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive
Deborah Norville's foreward:
Change your thoughts and you change your world .
~Norman Vincent Peale
I can’t remember how long it’s been since I first heard those words. “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” It’s a simple enough phrase, but wow -- those words are packed with power. They have been something of a lifelong mantra for me. Change your thoughts and you change your world. When times are tough, when I feel so frustrated by disappointments and not reaching my goals, I repeat those words in my head and make a conscious, almost physical effort to change course, recalibrate, and steer my little ship of self in a fresh, more positive direction.
The other day I was speaking to a group of women in the financial industry and one woman asked to what I credited my long television career. I had to think for a moment. I have been blessed in the television business. I started working at the CBS station in Atlanta when I was still in college and interviewed then-President Jimmy Carter on live TV when I was only nineteen years old. (I don’t know which was more exciting: Interviewing the President or having ABC’s White House Correspondent Sam Donaldson asking me afterward what he said! You could have shot me and my tombstone would have read, “She died happy.”)
Even when my career took some unexpected tough turns, I somehow managed to pull myself and my career back together, pick up the pieces and start over. But what was the secret to my long and still successful career? As I pondered the question, I realized there were probably three qualities that have worked in my favor -- and the good news is anyone can develop them. I have an extraordinary capacity for hard work, an insatiable curiosity, and a (sometimes) ridiculous ability to look on the bright side. All of us can work hard, put in a few more hours at work, and try a bit harder to master a challenge. Contrary to the old saying, curiosity didn’t kill the cat or anyone else. Learning new things, exploring topics about which we know nothing -- that’s what gives life its zest. But finding the bright side? Well, how does one do that when you’ve lost a job, gotten a dire diagnosis, or seen your personal life shattered?
For me, finding the silver lining in life’s clouds was something of a coping mechanism. As a little girl, my mother battled chronic illness. I remember when school was dismissed, I’d hear other kids see their moms’ cars in the pick-up line and complain their playground time was cut short because “Mom is here already.” I was thrilled when my family’s station wagon was among the cars. It meant Momma was having a “good day.” Later when she died (I was twenty at the time), I was able to find gratitude in the knowledge that she was no longer in pain.
When I started my television career before I graduated from the University of Georgia, I had to deal with plenty of naysayers. How would you respond to a woman who said to you, “You have no business being here and are taking away a job from someone who is qualified?” I will never forget that moment in front of the vending machines at Channel 5. I stammered out a reply along the lines of “Well, the boss is giving me this chance and I hope to prove him right.” I also resolved to make the most of the opportunity as long as it lasted. Who knows, the boss might be persuaded the female reporter was right!
Later when my career was derailed, I discovered that while I couldn’t control what happened in my life, I could control how I let it impact me. The Greek Epictetus said it quite elegantly, “Ask not that events should happen as you will, but let your will be that events should happen and you will have peace.”I must confess I only made that discovery after wallowing in depression and self-pity for a time.
It is NOT easy to do. How many times have you not gotten the job? Haven’t you felt kicked in the teeth when denied opportunities, been frustrated when someone not nearly qualified enough got the green light instead? Maybe health problems have rearranged your family’s life. It just isn’t fair! I know I’ve felt that way. It isn’t fair. But here’s the thing. I’ve given birth to three children and at no point was there ever anyone in the delivery room looking at that newborn and saying, “Kid, from here on out, it’s all fair.” Life just doesn’t work that way.
Some people don’t seem to be affected by that. Just as there are those who can walk through a field of poison ivy and never have the slightest discomfort, there are some people who can be hammered by all of life’s negatives and still remain unscathed. I am not one of them. Deny me entry to the club, and part of me wants to sob in the corner wondering why I’m not good enough. But the bigger part of me has realized it’s no fun going to a pity party. The better I get at resisting the temptation to give into sorrow, frustration, or stress, the more successful I seem to be both personally and professionally.
Was this real -- or was this something I was imagining? I have spent the last several years researching these kinds of values: gratitude, respect, resilience, and faith. What is it that makes some people more resilient? How are some people able to let the difficulties of life roll off them like water off a duck’s back? Why do some people just seem stronger? The answer is in this book’s title -- Think Positive. Recent scientific studies have proven that a positive attitude actually has measurable benefits. Grateful, positive people report they have better lives and more positive memories. People who can recall positive events have been proven to be more resilient, even in the most difficult of situations. People who keep track of the “good things” in their lives are healthier, more active, more productive -- and held in higher regard by those around them. There’s peer-reviewed proof of this!
What’s more, people who are able to “accentuate the positive” are smarter, better able to make cognitive associations and connections. They solve problems faster and more correctly. Kids who summon up positive memories do better on tests.
But how do you summon up positive memories when you’re in a really tough spot? Plenty of people are right now. The collapse of financial markets wiped out jobs and life savings. Retirements have been postponed and homes foreclosed upon. Terror scares have changed the way we travel and the way we look at people from other countries.
Change your thoughts and you change your world.
Let’s face it. It isn’t always easy. When things aren’t going your way, those peppy little sayings -- Count your blessings instead of sheep,When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and If you see it, you can be it -- are just plain annoying. Maybe they make good needlepoint pillows for the family room couch, but somehow when you’re in the midst of a really difficult situation in life, trite sayings just don’t help much. But this book will.
This wonderful new volume of 101 inspirational stories, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive is filled with the experiences of real people living everyday lives with real problems -- yet they’ve found the inner strength to overcome those challenges or just ways to make their lives more meaningful. Their examples can help you find the keys to think positively, enhance your own life, and provide that little bit of motivation that will help you get over the speed bumps of life.
In fact, the tale of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series is a great example of thinking positively. I fell in love with the series when it debuted years ago -- but I love the story of how it came into existence even more. I cite it often in speeches as a great example of perseverance. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were convinced their little collection of inspirational stories had the power to make a meaningful difference in the lives of readers. Trouble was -- they couldn’t find a publisher who agreed with them. They took their book to publishing conferences and literally hundreds of publishers ignored them. Finally they found a small publisher who would print a few thousand books for them and they started selling Chicken Soup for the Soul from the backs of their cars as they drove around making speeches and doing book signings. Eventually the book, that wonderful “little engine that could,” turned into a worldwide bestseller and Chicken Soup for the Soul became a publishing phenomenon, one of the most successful lines of books in history.
You just gotta believe. Like JB, the foster kid in the movie Angels in the Outfield. Every night the little boy went to bed with the hope that tomorrow would be the day he found a family. “It could happen,” JB would say as he snuggled under the covers. In true Hollywood form, the movie ends with JB being adopted by the baseball coach George Knox, played by Danny Glover.
JB never gave up hoping that “it could happen.” The founders of Chicken Soup for the Soul never gave up on their dream of changing lives through inspiring stories. George Patton said “Courage is fear hanging on one second longer.” I like to paraphrase General Patton by saying “Success is failure trying one more time.” Most of us don’t succeed because we give up too soon. Did you know the average customer has to be pitched five to seven times before he will make a purchase? The average salesman gives up after two or three attempts. Want to read the ultimate tale of persistence? Pull out your kid’s copy of Green Eggs and Ham. Count up how many times Sam I Am offers up that plate of green eggs and ham. Sixteen tries! As we all know, when he finally gave it a taste, he liked it after all!
It could happen for you too. You just gotta believe. The stories that follow will help you summon up that extra bit of energy and positive attitude that you need to help you reach your potential. They already have for me.
Change your thoughts and you change your world. I didn’t know until I did a computer search that those were the words of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Did you know he too suffered from self-doubt? After his manuscript for The Power of Positive Thinking was rejected for the umpteenth time, he tossed it in a wastebasket, where it was retrieved by his wife Ruth. It went on to publish 20 million copies in 42 languages. Ruth Peale, who died in 2008, was quoted as saying of her husband, “I don’t have as much self-doubt as he did.”
You’ll love James Scott Bell’s story of how the now-bestselling author first met the “father” of positive thinking. Bell tells how meeting Norman Vincent Peale influenced his life and helped him get through the anxiety of being a lawyer turned author.
Got a dream you want to pursue but afraid to give it a shot? Just do it. When unemployment hit both her and her husband, Debbie Acklin was terrified to start a new business but circumstance had backed her into a corner. Starting from scratch, she made up flyers advertising computer training, rented out a space, and fielded enough clients to launch a successful new business. Her example has me strategizing how I can extend my own fledgling yarn business into something more.
Health issues are something every family must confront but it’s not always easy to see the blessing in such unfair adversity. My cousin Dan has fought a long, painful and incredibly brave battle against multiple sclerosis. His repeated hospitalizations have cheated him of many of the experiences a young man in his twenties should get to enjoy, but it hasn’t robbed him of his ability to make a positive difference in the lives of others. His most recent hospital stay was a tough one, prompting friends, many of whom now live far away, to visit and share reminiscences of Danny’s impact on their lives. The mom of one friend recalled how even during sleepovers, Danny would always say his prayers before going to bed. What a blessing for his family to know their son’s sheer “goodness” was apparent to all. The chapter “Health Challenges” is filled with similar stories in which unforeseen medical misfortunes changed lives but also offered opportunities. People like Shawn Decker, a hemophiliac who contracted HIV from a childhood blood transfusion. Instead of turning bitter, Shawn is upbeat and grateful for life. Now a leader in the HIV community, he’s coined the term “positoid” for people in his situation.
Sometimes the magic is in the moment. Surveys show nine out of ten of us say we are “extremely pressed” for time (and the other ten percent were too busy to talk to the pollster, I bet!) The stories in the “Every Day Is Special” chapter remind us that sometimes there’s nothing better than an average mundane day. Elaine Bridge used to treat herself to a special coffee on Fridays and always had an upbeat attitude on those days. Then she realized she could have that fancy coffee and that positive attitude any day of the week. Why not make every day a special day?
Heather Gallegos had gone to the local track a bit reluctantly for her morning run when she was confronted with an incident that underscored how an ordinary day can turn out to be anything but. When a man collapsed on the track in front of her, she administered CPR compressions for eleven minutes until paramedics arrived. As she put it, it was “Enough time to save his life. Enough time to change mine.”
They say God never gives you more than you can handle, but you have to marvel at the strength and resilience of the people who share their stories in the chapters called “Role Models” and “Overcoming Adversity.” Are you living the life you were meant to live or does something feel “not quite right?” Shannon Kaiser was a young woman who seemed to have it all -- except she didn’t feel that way. In the “Moving Forward” chapter she describes how she dissected every aspect of her life and really honed in on what she felt would give her live the meaning it lacked. You’ll be stunned at just how incredibly fate intervened and helped her reach her goals.
You all know the emphasis I put on gratitude and giving thanks. Jane McBride Choate’s story on how a gratitude journal helped when her husband’s business hit on hard times will probably encourage many of you to try the technique. As I’ve written in my own books, weaving gratitude into our daily lives empowers us to lead happier more productive lives. This powerful book ends with a chapter on “Gratitude,” with inspiring examples of how the power of “thank you” can make an incredible impact.
As you read along, dog ear the stories that particularly resonate for you. You’ll want to refer back to them on those days when you’re feeling like “life” is getting the better of you. I also I suggest you keep a pencil and paper handy to jot down the questions you might find yourself asking of you. Each of these 101 stories has a lesson of unique benefit. What you take from the stories might be different from what I learn or what a friend might discover from the story. As you go through the book, you’ll begin to see a pattern to your scribbles. The questions you write -- and the answers you offer to them -- can provide a template to help you live your own life more authentically and more fully.
Are you living the way you feel you are meant to?
What are the benefits that come from your own adversities?
What blessings have happened this day, this week?
Who serves as a role model for you? Have you told them?
How can you celebrate the mundane and the ordinary?
What is it your life lacks that would give it greater meaning?
Share this book with family and friends. Give a copy to someone who needs a boost. And when you need a reminder that life is filled with blessings, benefits, opportunities, and joy return to this book. You’ll find you’re looking ahead with grateful, positive happy eyes that recognize all the good in your life now -- and to come. I’m just positive of it!
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