Our children and grandchildren from Israel are visiting us and we plan a special Sunday outing for the entire family. After much discussion, we decide to purchase tickets to the 9/11 Museum in New York City for the 1:30 PM tour.
We wake up to a beautiful day and pile into our van making sure to leave with plenty of time to make it to the city. What I did not realize is that this was the day of a major parade. Avenues are closed and streets are blocked off. The highway is bumper to bumper. Waze is showing heavy red lines and traffic not moving in every direction. Each time we try a new turn the ETA becomes longer. What was supposed to take an hour and then some becomes a 2 and ½ hour ride. Our legs are cramped and folded. We are starving. We cannot imagine finally reaching our destination.
But the magic moment arrives. My husband and I jump out of the van and run ahead to try and secure our place despite the late hour. The kids drive on, looking for a parking garage. The museum guard can’t promise us but thinks it is doable. As we wait the line starts growing. I keep an eye out for the kids checking in with the guard every few minutes. I spot them. They are running, breathless. Excitedly I motion for them to come close and show a thumb’s up. The guard instructs us to stand in line.
A few moments later a security officer checks our tickets. “I’m sorry,” he says. “You are 15 minutes too late for us to honor your tickets.”
I look at my husband. I look at my kids. Days of anticipation, 2 and ½ hours in the car, running with the promise that we will make it, and then at the end of the day – nada. There is no trip. I don’t know what to say.
Would we allow the moment to overcome us or would we conquer the moment?
This is the moment when we learn the truth about our capacity to see life through a positive eye. We find ourselves facing the disappointments, the rejections, the frustrations, the planning that goes up in smoke. Yes, some situations are bigger than others, but for each person their moment of frustration is a test. Now what?
We have a choice. We could spend the rest of the day grumbling and complaining. Or we could try and find another activity to fill the time.
My husband and I knew that our children (both adult and younger) were observing our reaction. Would we allow the moment to overcome us or would we conquer the moment?
This became much more than an outing that didn’t go as planned. This became an incredible opportunity for us all to seek out the positive. True, we anticipated our trip to the city, sat in endless traffic, and ended with disappointment. But we also shared lots of laughs, joked about how nothing seemed to go right, and realized that despite the long day we all had each other. And what a wonderful feeling that was.
When I returned home I thought about our ability to turn a situation from negative to positive, or the opposite, all through the power of our mind. The situation is the same, nothing has changed; instead it is the way we view the events that can make all the difference in the world.
That day taught me a lot about living with a more optimistic attitude. I jotted down six ways we can each put positive thinking into practice.
1. Think Gratitude
We can find something to be grateful for in every situation. It may be difficult to discover, but once we realize where to put our focus, we shift gears and turn ourselves towards a positive direction. Let’s begin by challenging ourselves to ‘work out’ our gratitude muscle. Even in a trying time, we can think about a devoted friend, a loving relative, a sweet child in our life, or the strength that faith brings and realize that appreciating these gifts opens our eyes to a world that would’ve remained obscured.
2. Begin Each Day with a Positive Thought
Many of us wake up each morning and the first words that pop into our minds are “I CAN’T”. “I can’t take my life, my job, my spouse, my kids, or my pressures…” – you fill in the blank. If these are the thoughts with which we start our day, of course we become negative individuals. Judaism teaches us to say two words the minute we open our eyes: “Modeh Ani” – “I thank You God.” I thank You for another day, another opportunity for life, another chance for me to touch others with a moment of kindness. How can I make today better? These are the positive thoughts that will allow us to begin each day with a sense of encouragement and hope. Gratitude is again expressed to help mold us as we interact with the world around us.
3. Stop Catastrophizing
When we exaggerate or tell ourselves that the situation is unbearable, we talk ourselves into anticipating the worst. Some people make even the smallest incidents into catastrophes. One thing happens and we think that nothing ever turns out right for us. We must stop magnifying the disappointments.
4. Find Positive People In Your Life
The people we surround ourselves with definitely influence the way we think and feel. Decide to make a conscience effort to encircle your life with friends and family who are supportive and helpful. Don’t waste time speaking to the naysayers who shoot you down with their words. Negative people cause you to doubt yourself and dislike your life.
5. Practice Healthy Self-Talk
The Hebrew word for speech is ‘dibbur,’ related to the word ‘davar,’ an actual thing. We create reality through our speech. Don’t knock yourself. Don’t put yourself down. Instead of saying ‘there’s no way this will work’ say ‘I’ll try a different way’. Catch yourself when you begin to speak negatively, and replace the words with a more encouraging twist. Boost yourself through your words.
6. Don’t Look for Someone to Blame
When things go wrong we instinctively seek out a person to blame – including ourselves. What a waste of time! My father would tell me to stay away from these three words: could’ve, would’ve and should’ve. Instead learn from the experience and move on.
Although we won’t change ourselves overnight, we can adopt just a few of these strategies and find ourselves less critical of the world and people around us. Most importantly, we will start enjoying our lives more and grow optimistic and more capable at handling life’s stresses.
Slovie Jungreis-Wolff is a freelance writer, and a relationships and parenting instructor. She is the daughter of Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, founder of Hineni International. Slovie has taught Hineni Young Couples and Parenting classes for more than 15 years. Her book, Raising A Child With Soul, is published by St. Martin's Press.
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