Thinking Makes It So

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More Reasons to Be Optimistic About Everything, Even Math!

I'm no rocket scientist, but I'm happy.

If you want to read more about optimism, here are two links for you to peruse: nytimesjaneebrody and positivepsychology.

Both articles show the practical implications of a positive attitude. The New York Times article is especially interesting because the author, Jane Brody, not only cites a recent study on optimism, but also shares her personal experience. For me studies are like statistics -- sometimes they are good, sometimes they are helpful, and sometimes they are manipulated and manipulative. But anecdotal information has always resonated for me. Because life is a lot more subjective than objective. So when someone tells me about something that has worked for them, I listen.

In my own life I’ve seen the value of optimism, of expecting good, which is not the same as outlining a result. Deciding that you need something - or someone - to be happy is usually a short cut to unhappiness. Which leads to pessimism. But the expectation of good in any shape or form is kind of like a magnet, it tends to attract good things into your day. Sometimes the trick is just learning now to notice them. Gratitude helps. So does humor.

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Gratitude magnifies good. Humor gives life a lighter touch; it also diffuses fear. It’s awfully hard to be afraid when you’re laughing. Try it sometime.

Here’s my anecdotal evidence on the power of optimism: I was a terrible math student, not for lack of trying. But there’s the point. I kept trying, and kept expecting to get it. In 7th grade I took a standardized test that measured both your so called intelligence potential and how close you were living up to that potential. The goal was to have the lines close together, your score almost matching your ability.

A week after the test I was called into the principal's office, with my parents. Looking back it now occurs to me that he may have been trying to find out if I’d cheated on the test. Because the principal showed me the test results, which was a graph that had two lines on it -- one showing my so-called math potential (the lower line on the graph) and the other one showing how I did on the test (the higher line on the graph). He said he’d never seen anything like it before -- I’d done much better than I should have! Go figure. Well it made sense to me, even back then. Like the girl in “South Pacific” I’m guess I’m just a cockeyed optimist.

And today, am I a math whiz? Nope, but I have high hopes. And a spread sheet to prove it.

Madora Kibbe is a Christian Science practitioner and writer who lives in New York.

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