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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Twelve Things That Give Me Hope

I’m negative.  I excuse it as pragmatism, as refusing to stick my head in the sand, but when you’re trying not to look at the world through rose-colored glasses, there’s such a thing as putting on sunglasses so dark that things just get distorted the other way.

In accordance with a goal I have of being more positive, here are some things that make me glad and give me hope for the future:

1. High school blood drives.  The fact that they come back each year means that the blood they collect is mostly useful, which means most teens donating blood (and there are a lot) are living healthy enough lives to give good blood.

2. Americans are spending less.  Apparently, in hard times, we have some financial maturity after all.  Some are reporting this as bad for the retail sector, but the overall effect here will be greater fiscal stability all around.  Just as we drove less last year when gas prices peaked, we are now holding back some of our profligate ways.  Good for us.

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Twelve Things That Give Me Hope

I’m negative.  I excuse it as pragmatism, as refusing to stick my head in the sand, but when you’re trying not to look at the world through rose-colored glasses, there’s such a thing as putting on sunglasses so dark that things just get distorted the other way.

In accordance with a goal I have of being more positive, here are some things that make me glad and give me hope for the future:

1. High school blood drives.  The fact that they come back each year means that the blood they collect is mostly useful, which means most teens donating blood (and there are a lot) are living healthy enough lives to give good blood.

2. Americans are spending less.  Apparently, in hard times, we have some financial maturity after all.  Some are reporting this as bad for the retail sector, but the overall effect here will be greater fiscal stability all around.  Just as we drove less last year when gas prices peaked, we are now holding back some of our profligate ways.  Good for us.

3. Christianity is growing at an amazing rate in the developing parts of the world.  Scholar Philip Jenkins has written about this (for example, page 120 here), and it’s a heartening trend.  More Christians in the world will inevitably lead to greater dissemination of education, greater social justice and stability, and even improved governmental and economic engines, as they always have. 

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