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Positivity: How I Look on the Bright Side

I’ve always been an optimist, even when life wasn’t very kind to me. Sometimes positivity was all I could rely on when everything around me seemed to uncontrollably crash and burn. My attitude was the only thing I could control, and I chose to be an optimist. From growing up as a latchkey kid in the 90s, dodging street violence in the San Francisco Bay Area, to addressing heads of state in the nation’s capital during times of crises in the US Navy, I viewed every hardship as an opportunity for growth.

But this optimism wasn’t born overnight. There were plenty of “why me” moments in my life – finding positivity was a journey. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way that have helped me stay optimistic -- even in the most difficult times. It’s my hope that you may find them useful, too.

Enlist Help from Others

My professional development began the first day I joined the US Navy. When I was in boot camp, my division of shipmates was always at odds with our drill instructors, even more so than all the other divisions we’d encountered. The physicality was expected during training, but became the norm as punishment for what seemed to be constant failures. Burpees and Mountain Climbers beat us to hell as we waited to be awoken in the dead of night to shovel snow pilling around our barracks from another harsh Great Lakes winter storm.

Eventually the recruits came together as a group and decided that if we were going to get beat like this anyway, then we might as well try to enjoy it for what it was. So when our drill instructors told us to drop and give them 20, we did it with a cheer, trying to enjoy the pain with the knowledge that we were getting stronger even though our bodies wanted to give away with each rep.

It wasn’t long before we were commended for the enthusiasm. The plan had worked, but probably not to everyone’s liking. The physical punishment was no longer effective. Instead it was replaced by having us make our beds over and over and over. This was fine by me. I found that making my bunk became a very meditative routine.

Be Open to Practice

I had an ache in my heart when I was still transitioning careers with a need to express the creative side that was suppressed in my day-to-day work regimen. So, I joined an improv community in West Hollywood. One of the first things they teach you is the idea of “Yes, and...” The simple idea is that you go along with the suggestions you are presented with instead of saying “no.” This is something I try to keep in mind, on and off the stage.

Use the new challenges that you are presented with as opportunities to think positively. Being positive comes more naturally to some people, but it’s still a choice. Some people are more natural at running, but they still have to work on it to keep up their endurance. Think of these actions as exercises without the sweat. So share a smile, look for opportunities to say “yes” and learn something new about yourself!

Learn By Example, but Don’t Compare

I’ve met a lot of people with tremendous joy in their hearts and great attitudes, but who experienced more hardship than one person should ever have to endure. These people are shining stars in the dark, illuminating positivity to all those who are fortunate enough to encounter them. These are the people I want to emulate as examples of undeniable positive energy. Maybe you know someone you can learn from as well?

However, one of the hardest things to do is to stop comparing yourself to others. Everyone’s life journey is unique, and their hardships can’t be compared apples to apples. No matter how big or small the struggle is, as long as you come out stronger and brighter, consider it a victory.

Don’t Give Up

Positivity doesn’t equate to happiness. It can be a challenge to prevent negativity from seeping in. It’s also important to note that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to see clear paths and the helping hands around them when everything appears to shrouded in darkness.

There’s also the fear of failure. It hangs over our heads waiting to strike us down and destroy our confidence. So while it may feel easier not to try at all, you need to get into the mindset that it’s okay to fail. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t let that failure ruin who you are or who you’ve built yourself up to be.

Trust in yourself. Be open to the possibilities life can offer in unexpected places. Use the strength and wisdom of those around you as an unstoppable resource of growth. It may be difficult to keep going, but never let negativity prevent you from great destinations.

Like a car out of gas, running out of positivity can leave you stranded on the road of life. Whether the tank is half full or half empty, it can always be refilled.

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