Five Questions to Help Maintain a Positive Attitude

Let’s face it, sometimes unpleasant unexpected things just happen through no fault of our own.  This could be anything from a job loss, to a bad diagnosis from a doctor, to the unexpected death of a loved one.  As challenging as these things may be, we still have the luxury to choose our attitude as we navigate scenarios like these.  Here are 5 questions we can ask to help maintain a positive attitude through a difficult situation:

  1. What were the positive aspects of this scenario before I received the bad news?

It is so easy to let your mind think of all the negative aspects when we receive bad news.  In fact, our minds seem to go there automatically, unless we decide to focus them elsewhere.  With this in mind, choose to look back with an eye on the positive.  Think about experiences gained or relationships formed.  The positives are there, we just have to look for them.

  1. What can I learn from this?

This may sound cliché, but there is something to be learned from every situation.  Think about what you have learned or what you can learn from this situation.  At first, it may seem like there isn’t anything, but if we’re paying attention, we can learn some valuable lessons we might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn.

  1. What does this make possible?

This is my favorite question!  There is something about an unexpected situation that alters what has been normal for us, be it temporary or permanent.  In that alteration, that “new normal”, there are opportunities for us that didn’t exist before.  Identify what they are and how you can take advantage of them to improve your future and your definition of “normal” moving forward.

  1. What am I thankful for?

Even in light of a bad situation, we have much to be thankful for.  Don’t lose focus on what those things are.

  1. How can I use this experience to help others?

Life is more fun when we share the journey with others.  No matter what you’re going through, someone else has gone through it before, or will be going through it after you.  That’s cool on 2 different levels!  First you can find others who have gone through a similar circumstance and seek guidance from them.  Second, after you’ve gone through it, you will be poised to help someone else in the future who is going through a situation you’ve already been through.  What a blessing to be a source of encouragement to someone during what is a dark hour for them.


Yes, unexpected and unpleasant situations really stink.  We could go as far to say they really suck.  But how we come through them, and how our future is impacted by them, is largely due to the attitude we have while were in them.


Let’s be mindful of this powerful choice we have and decide today, and every day, to keep an attitude that is positive instead of letting a negative attitude take root.  The choice is ours.  Let’s choose wisely.

Enjoy what’s in Season

It was bound to start happening, and it did a few weeks ago. I’m beginning to see subtle changes hinting at the imminent end of summer.  However, the most notable change:  it’s starting to be dark dark when I wake up in the morning.

I normally wake up at 5:30am and one of my favorite things about summer is getting up in the morning and being greeted by a bright sunny morning.  A cool, sunny, summer morning in the early hours just after dawn is hard to beat!  I love going for a walk or heading off to some outdoor adventure on mornings like this!  The air is still and cool, the temperatures haven’t become too hot yet, the colors are so vibrant from the light cast by the sun that is low on the horizon, and not many people are up and about yet, especially on the weekends.  They don’t know what they’re missing, but I don’t mind.  It makes me feel like I have the whole morning to myself.

So for me, it’s always a little disheartening, to see the first few dark mornings in the waning days of summer, because it reminds me that winter and its dark, rainy, cold mornings is not far behind.  Those first dark mornings also remind me of something else:  to enjoy and appreciate each remaining summer morning as much as I can, before the season is over.

There are a lot of other things in life that we only have the opportunity to enjoy it for a season like:

  • Living in a specific neighborhood, city or state that we really enjoy, but eventually decide to leave for other opportunities.
  • Good friends we enjoy spending time with, who move away or whose life circumstances make it more challenging to spend the time with them that we once did.
  • Children, who eventually move out to attend college, join the military, or to follow other pursuits.

While it can be tough to experience the loss of relationships, places, or things as we’ve always known them, I think it should also remind us to be mindful about enjoying and appreciating those people, places, and things that make us happy and bring a joy…  while we currently have them.

Enjoy the time you spend with those people most important to you and actively engage with them.  Really experience the places you love to visit and the things you love to do. Be present.  Be grateful.  And take nothing for granted.   That way you’ll feel like you took full advantage of the time and experiences you had… in the season you had them.

Make it Your Own

The only limitations you will ever have are the ones you put on yourself.”


No matter how often I hear this quote, or any variation of it, it always resonates with me.  It reminds me that anything is possible in my life and that the limits I face are usually the one I place upon myself.

One thing I like doing with a quote I find especially inspiring is to make it my own.  I do this by changing the pronouns so the quote speaks specifically to me.  For example, I could replace all the pronouns with my name and come up with:

The only limitations Scott will ever have are the ones Scott puts on himself.”

 That’s a little better, but it still sounds like it could be written for anyone in the world named Scott.  A better variation would be:

The only limitations I will ever have are the ones I put on myself.”

That’s powerful!  When I read this version, there is no mistake that it is directed specifically at me.  However, there’s one more thing I can do to unleash the full power of this truth in my own life, and that is to speak it, out loud, on a regular basis.

When we read a quote or principle like this out loud, we’re not just reading the words; we’re also speaking them and hearing the encouraging words in our own voice.  Great things begin to happen when we begin speaking encouragingly to ourselves.  We don’t need to wait for others to encourage us, we can begin encouraging ourselves today.

What are some of your favorite quotes of encouragement, success, or inspiration?  (If you don’t have a favorite, check out the book of Proverbs.  It’s loaded with enough great principles and quotes to keep you supplied for a lifetime!)

Take the steps below to cause the encouraging words of others to hold specific meaning for you:

  1. Identify or discover 1 or 2 of your favorite quotes or principles.
  2. Determine how you can re-word them to make them your own.
  3. Put the re-written quote somewhere where you will see it every day.
  4. Every time you see the quote, say it out loud to yourself.

Try this for a few weeks.  You’ll be encouraged by a message that’s written just for you.

I’d love to see how you’ve re-written your favorite quote to make it your own.  Place it in the Comments section of this post and share your encouraging words with others.

Continue to Dream

What do you dream about?  A better question might be, “Are you still dreaming?”  When you envision your future, do you think of your dreams and all the possibilities that lie before you, or do you have thoughts about opportunities lost, time squandered, or the feeling that it’s too late to pursue your dreams?


Here some really great news:  there’s’ no such thing as being too old to dream!  We’re not required to jettison all our unrealized dreams when we reach a certain age.  Nor are we restricted from picking up new dreams after a certain birthday has passed.  We are free to dream and pursue those dreams as long as we have a pulse.  That is so encouraging and inspiring to me!  It’s encouraging because it reminds me that life is an adventure to be lived until our very last days, and inspiring because it causes me to realize that each of us should, at all times, have at least one dream that we are actively pursuing.

Dreams give purpose, excitement, and direction to our lives when we are actively thinking about and pursuing them.  The mere acts of having and pursuing our dreams make us interesting as people both to others and to ourselves.  How boring it would be to just drift along without any dreams or ambitions to help guide and direct our lives?

Perhaps you’ve had dreams at one time that you’ve neglected, or maybe you’ve never really given much thought to a dream you have buried inside of you.  If you’ve been distracted from your dreams, reconnect with them today.  If you don’t have any specific dreams, spend the next several days, or even weeks thinking about what you’d like to accomplish with your life.

Once you’ve reconnected with, or defined your dreams, think about them every day.  See yourself working toward your dream and ultimately achieving them.  Then, with this vision in mind, begin making progress every day toward the pursuit and fulfillment of those dreams.

Begin living an interesting life by identifying, visualizing, and finally pursing your dreams.  Today is the perfect time to start.

Remember Your Good Samaritans

Can you remember a time when you were assisted by a Good Samaritan?  Perhaps you were stuck, lost, in need, or even scarred, and someone came by and offered the very assistance you needed at the very moment you needed it, and they didn’t want anything in return.

I think we’ve all had a moment, or moments, like that.  For me I can think of more than once when I was helped by Good Samaritan, and each time I felt a strong sense of gratitude.  I’ve attempted to show my thanks with some dollar amount, but I’ve always been turned down.  These people just helped me out without expecting, or wanting, anything in return.

I was reminded of the good Samaritans in my life recently when I got to play this role, along with several others, for 2 people who had got their car stuck in some gravel at a trailhead.  We all got together and pushed their car out and they were on their way, extremely grateful that some good Samaritans were there to help them out.

That incident also reminded me of the ability we all have to be good Samaritans in the lives of others.  After we helped the 2 peoples get their car unstuck, I thought about how grateful I was to the people that helped me in the past and felt that in some way, I was paying back their kindness to me by helping someone else.

Try something this week.  Think about the Good Samaritans in you past and be aware of opportunities to honor them by freely helping out someone else in need.  Not only will it make you feel good, you’ll probably encourage them to do likewise for someone else in their future.


How to Get Out of Prison

Would you ever volunteer to spend several years of your life in prison?  Think about that.  Would you voluntarily decide to sacrifice, say, 10 or more years of your current life for that of a prison inmate?  My answer to that question is, “Are you kidding me?!  Who in their right mind would do something as stupid as that?!”  However, I think that every day, many people voluntarily send themselves to a prison of frustration, despair and under achievement.  And it’s not a judge, jury, or court that sentences people to this prison.  What sends most people to the prison I describe is the conviction of their own thinking.

Just this week, I was talking with someone who was telling me how bad everything in their life was going.  During our conversation, they unknowingly gave me glimpses into their thinking through the language they chose to describe their situation.  It was negative and self-defeating and stripped them of any ability to change their current situation.  Their thinking had made them hopeless, and the more hopeless they became, the further their thinking deteriorated.

I left that conversation frustrated, because I knew that, although their situation was challenging, it wasn’t as insurmountable as their thinking made it out to be.  With some minor changes to their thinking, they could easily attain a more hopeful outlook, and even restore a degree of joy about life again.  Instead, they chose to extend the sentence they have placed on themselves by the thinking they continued to employ.

When the conversation was over, I felt like I had just left a prison after visiting an incarcerated inmate.  It was a heavy feeling, knowing that they could begin to free themselves from their self-imposed sentence by simply changing their thinking, but realizing that that wasn’t a choice they were going to make.

Is there any area in your life where you’ve sentenced yourself through the court of your own thinking?  What negative thoughts about people, situations, or circumstances are affecting you outlook in a negative way?  Give some thought to these questions this week.  When you discover an area where your thinking is imprisoning you, cause something to happen by determining alternative ways of thinking about the situation that improves your outlook and restores hope and confidence in the future.  (If you need a source to help you change your thinking for the better, I’d recommend reading the book of Proverbs.  It is filled with great wisdom and principles that will have a profound impact on your thinking.)

Don’t spend another day in a prison of your own negative thinking.  Decide today to improve your thinking and set yourself free.

Pay Someone

It seems like we’re always paying people.  Perhaps it’s the grocery store for our recent purchase, or maybe it’s the waiter or waitress at the restaurant.  We pay the utility company, the bank, the cellphone company and many other people and organizations as part of going about our daily lives.  Regardless of that, I’m going to suggest that you cause something truly beneficial to happen this week by finding additional people to pay.

I can already hear the response, “The only thing finding more people to pay is going to cause is me going broke!”  Don’t worry.  I’m not suggesting you find new creditors to send monthly payments to.  Far from it!  In fact, I’m not even suggesting there be a monetary exchange at all.  What I am suggesting is that you find people to whom you can pay a genuine compliment.

Most people enjoy receiving a sincere compliment.   I know I do!  So why not leverage our capacity to brighten someone elses’s day with a sincere compliment by looking for opportunities to do so?

We can all think of someone we know who has done a good job for us, or whose work we admire.  Perhaps it’s someone with a remarkable skill or attitude.  It can be a colleague we work with, someone whose services we use, or even a friend, family member, or a total stranger we witness doing something good.

I had a chance to do this with my veterinarian this week.  He recently was successful in treating our cat for a condition she had been suffering from for quite some time.  His logical, methodical approach impressed me as much as the immediate results we that saw in our cat.  So when we ran into him at the store this week, I told him.  I told him how impressed I was with his methodical approach and how much I appreciated the results of his efforts.  After I paid him this compliment, he was all smiles.  Now I’m not saying that my compliment was the highlight of his day, but based on his response, I could tell that he really appreciated hearing it.

Be on the lookout in the days ahead, and every day for that matter, for people to whom you can pay a genuine compliment.  When you find them, be generous with the currency of your kind words.  Let them know specifically what they’ve done, or what they do, that sparked your compliment.  Also let them know what that means to you.  Not only will it cause them to feel good to be paid a sincere compliment, it will also make you feel good to share some kind words with someone else.

The New Normal

I like change.  Change can bring opportunity, new experiences, and adventures that shake up our daily routine.  Although, I think my thoughts on change are probably like that of most people, as expressed in the following quote:

“We all like change, to the extent that it makes what we’re already doing even better.”

I certainly like change when it benefits me, or improves what I’m already doing.  However, sometimes events occur that change our lives in a way that we do not desire or that we would not have chosen for ourselves.  These could be things like a severed relationship, the loss of a loved one, an unexpected illness, or a host of other events.  As a result, our lives can be changed forever.  The way we once knew things, will never be again, and the future implications are yet to be determined.  One thing we do know is that the future will look very different from our recent past.  This difference is what will become our “new normal”.

Here’s the good news about the new normal:  we have the opportunity to largely determine what that new normal will look like.  We can shape it by deciding what we want it to consist of, and taking steps to bring about that future we envision, thus creating our new normal.

Sure, the situation that caused this change is still present, but that doesn’t mean it has to be what defines our future.  We can spend all of our energy bemoaning our misfortune and focusing on the event that caused this new normal.  We can also squander our ability to define what normal will be and leave it up to others or circumstance to define for us.  But I don’t believe any of those options will yield the results we’re looking for.

If you find yourself facing an event that includes the promise of a new normal, and after you’ve had sufficient time to grieve, get angry, mourn, etc, begin to envision what you want your new normal to look like.  Think about all the things you’d like it to consist of.  Then, when you’re ready, cause something to happen by taking action to turn your vision into the reality of your new normal.

Your future-self will thank you.