I never realized how positive my father truly was until the day he was diagnosed with stage four cancer.
He was 72 years old at the time, and while the rest of us were falling apart and devastated by the news, my dad was the one who kept us sane.
While he fought tirelessly for his life, and thank God succeeded, I knew that a huge part of his recovery was due to the power of positive thinking.
He has always been the rock in our family. Growing up, my dad taught me many things, but most of all, he taught me how to be positive. No matter what happened, dwelling on negativity was not an option.
I often wonder how my dad became such a positive human being. Life is hard and can be extremely challenging and dark. I wonder, is it because my dad grew up with a Depression-era father who worked his way up selling appliances at Sears? Or was it his four years serving in the Navy, seeing the world in the 1960s as a young, impressionable man? Or was it all the P.M.A (positive mental attitude) reading he did as a salesman? Books like The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino with its words of wisdom like, “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” Were these books the secret to his success not only as a salesman but as an extremely positive-thinking person? Or is it just something innate within him? Was he born this way?
Positivity and positive thinking are a way of life, and for many of us, a challenge every single day. When something bad happens, it is easy to fall down the path of negativity and darkness. But what I’ve learned over the past 50 years is how harmful negative thoughts can be if not dealt with properly. Years of mindfulness and deep reflection have taught me not to suppress difficult emotions, especially when I’m anxious. It just gives those difficult thoughts more power.
For me, this has been a lifelong challenge. But fortunately, all the hard work on perfecting this skill—because it is a skill that must be practiced daily—has helped. I may not be at the level of positivity as my dad, but I’ve improved dramatically, and for that I am grateful.
So here are some of the lessons I’ve learned about positive thinking from my dad. Sayings that he has said over and over to me that have guided the highs and lows of my life.
The world is your oyster.
Carpe Diem! Seize the day!
Dream. Don’t dwell.
Turn that frown upside down.
Never give up.
Look forward, not back.
Turn the negative into a positive.
Go for it.
Have higher lows and lower highs.
And best of all, when someone tells him to have a good day, he simply replies, “You have a better one.”
While I confess these lessons from my dad are never easy to follow, especially now as I enter an entirely new path in my life—one that both thrills and terrifies me at the same time—I won’t beat myself up when I fall backward. I will get myself back up on my feet and never let these powerful words of wisdom go.
In fact, they will empower me to “keep moving” as my dad gently reminded me this morning. Instead of dwelling on an unpleasant work-related rejection, I got on my sneakers and went for a run.