I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of winter. This has been a particular trying winter here in Atlanta. We have had multiple snowstorms, major rain (I’ve had my offices and house flooded several times) and it’s just been cold for what seems like an eternity.
But yesterday was a beautiful day, and a reminder of things to come…spring. Spring is absolutely beautiful in Georgia. It is breathtaking to see the shedding of “brown,” and the explosion of green and the blossoming dogwoods. I’m reminded of one of my favorite childhood songs, “I looked out the window and what did I see? Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.” I love spring. It fills me with light, happiness and joy, but most of all it fills me with hope.
I think, for the struggle we’ve had in the flooring industry for the last several years, we need a dose of spring; we need a dose of hope. I know there are many out there who are discouraged, or worried about the future, especially when we hear that we may have a double-dip recession and our government is taking us deeper into debt.
Remember, worry is the misuse of the imagination. It does not make us feel better unless it causes us to take action with some sort of contingency plan. Worry (most of the time) causes us to feel helpless and so we just sit there and do nothing. Worry usually makes us miserable.
However, hope is like a shot of springtime. It makes us feel alive. It helps us believe in the future. Hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life. And that belief moves us forward. It helps keep us going. Hope powers persistence.
We know that in medicine, placebos often work. Belief in the future fuels healing. Dr. Howard Spiro, Yale University professor of medicine, urges physicians to focus on their patients’ feelings of pain and anxiety as well as on physical symptoms. He also suggests that patients and their doctors be receptive to the emotional relief that may be obtained from hope.
Dr. Spiro tells how people can be helped by a combination of alternative and mainstream medicine-a treatment of mind, body, and spirit that energizes patients, strengthens their expectations, and starts them on the road to feeling better. He encourages physicians to talk and listen to their patients as much as they look and measure, to treat the whole patient and not just the disease, and to integrate a scientific approach to medicine with alternative approaches that may alleviate pain and suffering. I believe what the doctor is suggesting is that part of any treatment for a sick patient should include a double-dose of spring. A sick business needs a dose of spring as well.
I am a member of IPPA, the International Positive Psychology Association. It is an organization of researchers, doctors and academics interested in what make people flourish. It was started by Dr. Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania. Instead of studying sick people, the members of the association study people who flourish; who are happy; who live life to its fullest, despite difficult and stressful circumstances. Doctor Seligman was one of the first to identify hope as a key ingredient in flourishing people. His research found that hope or the lack of hope is self-inflicted. He found that hope is a paradigm of the mind or a product of how we think.
Dr. Seligman’s research has shown that hope is a product of the words we say to ourselves. It reminds me of the African proverb that says, “It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your mind.” The research indicates hope is a skill and can be learned. He says that changing the destructive things we say to ourselves when we experience failures and setbacks that are part of life is the central skill of hope.
As a child, my mother taught me to say to kids that said unkind things to me, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But words do hurt, especially when they are generated within ourselves.
When bad things happen to hopeless people, they hear mental chatter in terms that are permanent and pervasive. Let’s suppose you get fired from your job, your mind’s chatter may go like this: “I just got fired. I’ll probably never get another job. That means I won’t be able to feed my family, so my wife will probably leave me and we might lose our house. Since I won’t have any money to buy food, I will probably die, but I won’t get buried because there will be no money to bury me…” Do you get the idea? The mental chatter can make us feel worse. Hopeless people give up more easily and get depressed more often. All of us carry our own weather.
Hopeful people carry spring around with them. They brighten up whatever room they are in and wherever they are. When bad things happen to hopeful people, the words they hear are: “This is just a temporary setback. This is an isolated event.” Hopeful people are unfazed by defeat. They perceive it as a challenge and try harder.
Hopeful people flourish. Hopeless people are usually depressed and feel helpless. Hopelessness is self-defeating and is associated with poor physical health. As Horace said, “Rule your mind or it will rule you.” You can change your life by changing the way you think and the way you talk to yourself.
Yes, these are times that try men’s souls, but we don’t have to listen to the negative words of our inner self-talk. We can change those words. Say to yourself, “This is only temporary. This is an isolated event.” Hearing those words may bring spring into your mind. Our futures don’t have to be held hostage by the past or the present. Say the right words and get a dose of spring.