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Cultivate A Positive Attitude
By Rev.Dr. Valsan Thampu

Story is told of two salesmen, representing two shoe companies in the UK and the USA respectively, who went to Congo several decades ago to promote the sale of their products. On arrival there, they noticed the natives walking barefooted. This made them rush to the local telegraph office and send two contrasting messages to their managers. 

The message of the British salesman read, “Natives barefooted. No market. Returning home.” 

The message of the American salesman was, “Natives barefooted. Market limitless. Rush supply”. 

What is decisive is not the prevailing situation, but the attitude we bring to bear on it. It is through our reactions that we reveal who we really are. And our destiny is mostly a matter of how we choose to understand and respond to the possibilities and problems that come our way.

There is something strange about human nature; and we must take note of it right away. We long intensely for opportunities, but the moment they arrive we become indifferent or negative to them. We have little value for what we have, but are full of grievances about what we do not have. We sleep over the great things we have, but weep over the little things that are denied to us. Because this streak of negativity is almost universal, we need to be vigilant against it. It is in our power to cultivate either a negative or a positive attitude. 

There are at least two major problems with the negative attitude:

First, it gets us fixated on what we do not have; and so suppresses the spirit of gratitude. 

Second, it makes us blind to the scope of the given situation, including our own talents and aptitudes. We invent problems where none exists as well as exaggerate the magnitude of the problems that do exist. At the same time, we make light of the opportunities and resources that are available to us and fail to make proper use of them. This attitude is an enemy of our progress and fulfillment. It is a sure recipe for mediocrity and misery.

Having a positive attitude is one of the greatest blessings in life and cultivating one is the best service we can do to ourselves. It is a wearisome thing to be with one who is habitually and compulsively negative. The very presence of such a person is felt as oppressive and burdensome. On the other hand, it is a joyous and enjoyable thing to be with someone who is positive. Such a person embodies the goodness and sweetness of life and becomes, without even knowing it, a source of inspiration for others. They enable us to realize that life is a blessing and not a burden.

How come, you might well ask, most people are negative; whereas some people are so refreshingly positive? Is there any way I can get out of the prison of negativity?

How do we know if we are negative or positive? That is not all that difficult. Ask yourself these questions:

bulletHow do I respond to opportunities? 
bullet Do I have the tendency to invent excuses and dodge responsibilities? 
bullet Do I resent the need to do serve or assume responsibility? 
bullet Do I feel unhappy when someone excels in any field? 
bullet Do I feel lethargic and unwilling to respond to anything other than routine requirements? 
bullet Do I feel tempted to flee from difficulties and challenges? 
bullet Do I sustain my interest in any area of work or activity for a period of time, or are my interests fleeing and short-lived? 

Depending on your answers to these and similar other questions you will know if you are negative or positive in your outlook.

Negativity prevents us from fulfilling the promise in us. It robs us of the enthusiasm it takes to excel. Nothing valuable or great in this world is achieved without immense enthusiasm. In respect of studies, negativity breeds restlessness. Our patience with studying a particular subject depends to a large extent on if we are positive or negative towards it. If you like Mathematics, for instance, you will want to spend more and more time studying it, simply because you enjoy it. Negativity kills enjoyment and turns the study of a subject into a burden. The problem is not with the subject as such. It is with our attitude towards it. 

Next time you feel like avoiding your class work in respect of a particular subject, you should be able to know why this happens. You should also know that the right way forward is not to neglect but to study that subject all the more so that your attitude towards it changes from the negative to the positive.

A negative attitude corrupts our personality and leads us to less than honorable practices. Take cheating at examinations, for example. The need to cheat arises out of having neglected one’s studies, which resulted from one’s negativity to studying. Those who are positive in their academic outlook do not think of examinations as a pain, but as an opportunity to excel. They look forward to it.

Negativity disables us from making the best possible use of the given opportunity. There is a story about a poor man on whom Parvathi, the (Hindu) goddess, took pity because this man was a devotee of Lord Shiva (Hindu God). So Parvathi pleaded with Lord Shiva on his behalf that, through a divine blessing, he be made a rich man. 

“That is impossible,” said Lord Shiva, “If it were otherwise, I would have helped him a long time ago. He is negative and not even gods can help one who is negative.” 

But Parvathi persevered in pleading on this man’s behalf. 

“All right,” said Lord Shiva, “You will see it for yourself.” 

She was shown this man walking along a road and Lord Shiva caused a bag of gold to be placed on the road ahead of him so that he could come upon it and have it for himself. 

The poor man came long, and a few meters from where the treasure was kept said to himself, “All my life I have walked with my eyes open; and it is precious little that I have got for it. From now onwards I shall walk with my eyes closed.” And he walked past the treasure!

That is the problem with negativity. It makes us walk past the treasures of life, with our eyes closed.

Positivity makes the difference between heaven and hell. There is a Korean story that illustrates this. 

Once upon a time there was a little boy who used to pray to God for an opportunity to see heaven and hell so that he could make up his mind on where to go. One day his prayers were answered. God deputed an angel to guide the boy on his excursion to heaven and hell. 

He was taken, first, to hell. What he saw there was different from all that he had heard about hell. He found a huge dining table piled up with excellent food and people sitting around the table looking famished and miserable. The reason for this was that they had to eat their food with chopsticks and they were given chopsticks bigger than walking sticks, with which they could not feed themselves. So they were all sitting in front of tasty and appetizing food, tortured by hunger but unable to eat. 

The boy decided then and there that hell was not the place for him. So he was taken to heaven. On arrival there, what he found truly astonished him. He found the same enormous table, the same fabulous menu and even the same huge chopsticks. But there was a glorious difference; the people sitting around the table were looking visibly happy. This surprised him no end. Then, in a moment, the difference dawned on him. Unlike the people in hell, these men and women were feeding each other across the table with the long chopsticks.

In simple terms, they had the capacity to respond positively to each other and to the given problem. The huge chopsticks were a problem only in respect of feeding oneself, but they were a blessing in respect of feeding their neighbors sitting at a distance. Heaven, in short, is a place where people respond positively to each other.

Barring a few glorious exceptions, most people are tinged by negativity to varying degrees. But the good news is that there is something we can do about it. The function of spirituality is to help us change from negativity to positivity.

The main purpose of worship, for example, is to become positive towards God, and not only to extract material favors from God. The real blessing that all of us need is deliverance from negativity and empowerment for positivity. The primary level of positivity is our positivity towards God. That is because God is unlike us. It is not difficult to be positive towards those who are like ourselves. That is not genuine positivity. 

Positivity is proved by our responses to those who are different from us. God is more different from us than any other human being in this world. Through worship we learn to be positive towards God. That makes our personality itself positive, which then leads to a host of blessings in life. Those blessings do not come directly from God, but from the positivity that godliness imparts to our personality. The function of spirituality, which is different from religiosity, is to nurture positivity in individuals and societies.

It is all the more important for us to understand this today, because religion is being degraded by the merchants of communalism into an epidemic of negativity. This is utterly contrary to the purpose of spirituality. Any religious tradition, practice or ideology that breeds negativity is a curse on its practitioners. 

Parents in particular need to wake up to this serious danger that their children are facing today. The communally charged atmosphere in which their children grow up is sure to infect them with negativity and undermine their welfare as students and cripple their growth as human beings. They need to make a special effort to ensure that their children –indeed all children- are protected from this religious epidemic.

Communalism is an academic roadblock, a personal affliction and a collective disaster. Communalism is the outbreak of negativity in the sphere of religion, which is meant to be the nursery of positivity in a society. If children get infected by it, and become negative in their personality orientation, they will remain negative towards everything else, including studies, relationships and human potentialities.

The secret of being a good student is nothing but the spirit of positivity. Parents and teachers have to work in partnership to ensure that the human and intellectual formation of their children is enlivened and empowered by positivity. The larger goal of education is to nurture a culture of positivity; and no one should be deemed educated unless that person is imbued with a positive vision and outlook.

See Also:

Keeping an Attitude of Gratitude
When was the last time you stopped to acknowledge all the good things in your life? Very often, when we're focused on a 'big' goal, or just caught up in day-to-day living, we often forget about the things that bring us joy.

You Can Choose: Is Today Going to be a Good Day or Bad Day?
Every day you have a choice: Will it be a good day or a bad one? It really IS up to you. You can't control the external circumstances of your life but you can control your response to them.

Optimism: How to Avoid Negative Thinking
Have you ever wondered why some people feel down and defeated when faced with difficult situations, while others feel challenged and hopeful? Or why some people get all worked up and angry over small inconveniences and disagreements, while others respond more positively?

Turning Obstacles Into Blessings
In almost every part of daily living, there are obstacles that prevent you from accomplishing your goals. You have to get above it, over it, under it, or around the obstacle.

Source: Christian Light of Life Magazine

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