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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Lees

Here's How to Stay Positive: Consider Everything and Stay Focused

I wanted to start with this video to show that bad news does seem to stick with us longer.

If you just watched the video, it makes sense. It's a lot easier to fixate on things that went wrong. Then, it's easy to feel down or have a defeatist attitude. It's a lot easier to ignore what went right.

I've gone through a lot of my life like that, where I only focused on the negative. And multiple and even minor setbacks can temporarily trigger this kind of thinking, even if you have made some headway and changed your thought processes.

Personally, I always feel a bit more down when the sun starts to disappear with the seasons. But on top of that, I recently started to feel like I wasn't getting the effort I put into my career. I was putting in all this time and work--applying to jobs, pitching stories, etc. and I just wasn't getting anything back. I had some interviews, but none of them ended up turning into jobs, and I started creating this "failure" narrative. I waited too long to really properly start my career in writing and journalism. I was too old. On top of that, I was turning 35 soon, and on a personal level, I had lots of relatives pushing me to get pregnant. "You're running out of time. Your clock is ticking."

On some level, I felt like I was living my life through other people. And I felt like I had lost the chance to really succeed in the ways I wanted because of outside forces when I was younger and because, in all honesty, I didn't take it seriously enough. So I had felt depressed the last few weeks and had some ugly cries.

I love my job as an ESL instructor at night. (It is a part-time position, but I'm lucky to work in something that I want to. I know a lot of people can't do that and just have to work a job no matter what.) But I didn't feel entirely fulfilled. Regardless, I knew I couldn't wallow in self-pity forever.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Book and Personal Workbook)

I want to introduce this book. (And if I was still in my 20s, I would never have thought i would be someone who's into self-help books. I thought those were just for hyperactive WASPS. But turns out, they're really for everyone.)

My dad gave me a copy of this set in early college, which I lost. He gave me another copy in graduate school, which I also lost. And he gave me another copy in my 30s, which I finally started looking at.

No, it's not my favorite book, but I do look at it multiple times a year because it gives me a reality check in a logical but uplifting way. It is not religious at all, but it is very transformative. It is in no way perfect, either, but it's cheap and it's a reliable source of material despite that it's over 30 years old.

Begin with the End in Mind

This is my favorite thing about the book, and I still struggle with this today. However, it's such a good thing to consider. Never throw anything away, figuratively speaking.

"Imagining what you want as if it already exists opens the door to letting it happen." -Shakti Gawain

This part of the book asks you to define the imagined vision of yourself. What are you gravitating towards? Who do you want to become and do your current ideals measure up to that vision? What can you do right now to help achieve your vision?

Writing that down and keeping things in check always helps me. Though my vision has remained relatively consistent, some parts have changed. And it's helped guide me in becoming a better version of myself.

Creating a Personal Mission Statement

Who do you want to become?

This is even bigger than where you see yourself in life as far as your career or personal relationships. It's how you want to be seen each day. This part of the book asks you to describe influential people in your life and what they saw in you that was important and inspirational, things you would like to change in and grow, and how you would like to see yourself everyday.

Would you like to be more outgoing? Cultivate peace and harmony in the things you do? etc.

Developing Proactivity

This is always especially hard for me, because so much of the time, I fixate on things I can't control. (An example might be if I feel that someone was unfair to me. That feeling will boil inside me, and I'll obsess over it for hours or maybe days and weeks.)

In this portion of the book, it discusses what's in our "circle of concern" and "circle of influence." What other people do is really under your "circle of concern." For instance, you can't do anything about what someone else did, which typically has more to do with them than yourself.

On the other hand, your circle of influence might be what you do with your day (like going to work, putting gas in your car, paying your bills, etc.)

Of course, this book doesn't address anxiety and depression, but I think these two groups are good things to consider, even from the standpoint of cognitive behavioral therapy. Because we can't control a lot of things that might bother us, and it's better, if mentally possible, to accept that and continue on with our lives.

Shortcomings of this Book

Like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, this book does not address anxiety or depression or any kind of mental health issues. It sort of has a gung-ho approach to proactivity and life circumstances. Obviously, living that way is not always so simple.

If you're super depressed, it's not so easy to just turn off that part of your brain when things enter your "circle of concern." I completely understand that. From an economic standpoint and mental health standpoint, this book won't work for everyone.

There's a part I find particularly annoying in the middle of the book where it talks about how if you wanted to live in a foreign country, you should start making a plan right now and it questions why aren't you?

What is stopping you? (Hm... probably lots of money? Time? Connections? Or maybe that's just my defeatist attitude talking? Nah... I think THAT part is kind of unrealistic.)

So, again, the book isn't perfect. But there are helpful exercises in it. It's helped me recently, and it may help you. I've read a few self-help books here and there, particularly in my 30s, and this is the one I seem to keep coming back to. It's logical, it's uplifting, and it's not religious. (And it's a workbook!) If you're feeling a bit down, go ahead and check it out.

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