Think Negatively, Act Positively

There’s a slogan that goes, “think globally, act locally.”  The idea is that we should orient ourselves based on big-picture priorites–even planning to be a small part of a larger movement or community–but be sure to behave and perform with a pragmatic focus on our immediate surroundings.  It’s not a bad motto for keeping your heart in the clouds rather than your head, and your feet on the ground instead of in your mouth. 

As I start a new chapter in life in a position at a different school, I’ve been working on tempering my pessimism with charity.  I like that I’m skeptical, even cynical at times; I think it insulates me from deception and ineffective actions.  However, it also makes me slow to charity and compassion.  As I noted in an analysis of the Book of Mormon once, we’re not supposed to become emotionally calloused. 

Excessive negativity also has another down side: it doesn’t help.  It might be comfortable, but it does little to actually produce results. 

So this week I’ve developed a new philosophy that I want to guide me this year: think negatively, act positively. 

I think this is how the strong people I know must operate.  I’ve known plenty who are ruthessly realistic about the nature of life, but who face every situation with the sunniest disposition possible.  I still want the tools of cold, hard reason to rule my thinking, but I also want to be an agent of more happiness in the world.  I’ve been practicing this, and I think I’m getting better.  And best of all: unflagging, energetic optimism does something.  You can see it in how instantly it improves things.  Positivity get results.  And for a cranky, old-fashioned curmudgeon, isn’t that what matters most?

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6 comments on “Think Negatively, Act Positively

  1. thanks for your interesting post. i’m happy to hear you’re finding a way to channel your skepticism into positive action! i hope more people follow your example :-)
    my challenge to you would be to ask if you need to ‘think negatively’ or rather understand the reality – which may not be a bed of roses, but perhaps isn’t a bed of nails either.

  2. In a Stake Conference recently President Eyring called your new approach, ‘Wise Optimism.’ I like that phase.

    Interesting enough I made a similar course correction 5 or 6 years ago. While I’ve fallen off the wagon more than a few times, as you have experienced first hand, the approach has tempered my reaction to our countries economic and diplomatic challenges and how I approach others who have views different from mine, allowed me to be a beacon of hope to my family through many trials including the birth of a very premature grand daughter (she celebrates her 18 month birth day tomorrow!) and afforded me an opportunity to be a voice of clarity, charity and hope in my community.

    I’ve enjoyed my trip thus far Jamie. God speed on yours.

  3. Thanks for the support, all!

    Another iteration of what I’m shooting for: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16

  4. It’s difficult to think positively sometimes. I like that “wise optimism” thing. Pres. Hinckley also was very optimistic, and let people know it, too. He wasn’t “innocent” in the way that he wouldn’t have known about some problems, but he had the right attitude, I think.

    I have also had a change of heart during the ‘oughties’. One of my “revelations” came from King Benjamin’s address. “[C]an ye say aught of yourselves?” Esp. <a href="http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/4.16-20?lang=eng#14&quot; title="Mosiah 4:16-20" target="_blank")Mosiah 4:16-20 has made me think twice before not giving because I am seriously wanting to have mercy at the last day. A lot of people talk about Justice, but I’d say we all want mercy at the last day; none of us is worthy of Celestial glory; we all come short. Perhaps some will be closer than others, but for our Saviour that doesn’t matter so much, for he wants all who possibly can be there. And it’s not our place to speculate about others’ position whatever the case.

    Thank you. A good thing to think about. Got me thinking after the political hack job of my previous comment… wasn’t very charitable, was it?

  5. Shoot, wordpress changed my double quote after the href into an ampersand and quot; so the link will look wrong. Or did I put the closing tag in a wrong place after all? I thought I put a slash-a inside html brackets? Oh well, you get the link anyways. Just erase the ampersand-quot-; characters from there and you’re okay…

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