When I arrived at the coffee shop Paddy was already there, reading a paperback. As I sat down I saw that the book was The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.
“Is this the first time you’ve read that?” I asked him.
“No,” he answered, “I read it about fifty years ago.”
“Why are you re-reading it now?” I queried.
“Because you have a whole chapter about it in your Success book.” he said.
“Not really,” I contradicted him. “Although the chapter is titled Norman Vincent Peale Certainly Had One Thing Right, the chapter is actually about the importance of attitude, not about the book itself. There are parts of the book I don’t agree with, but I do agree that having a positive attitude contributes to a more enjoyable existence.”
“Well,” Paddy said, “when things go awfully wrong it’s pretty hard to maintain a positive attitude.”
“Sure,” I agreed, “but even the depth of despair is determined in large part by a person’s mental attitude. Bad luck and setbacks are inevitable, but being miserable is usually a choice.”
“What’s that catch phrase you like to use about your attitude?” Paddy asked.
“You mean that our mental attitude is the only thing in life over which we have complete control?” I asked in turn.
“Yeah,” Paddy said, “that’s it. You had a couple of examples in your book to back up that statement. Do you remember them?”
“Sure,” I said. “You can control your health to a considerable degree by exercise, diet, not smoking, and using alcohol in moderation; but even apparently healthy people suffer heart attacks. You can control your career to a considerable degree by acquiring skills and knowledge and by working hard; but it’s not unusual for someone to be forced to change jobs or locations even when they don’t want to. Events may be beyond our control, but we can control our attitude toward them”
“Don’t you have to be born with a positive attitude?” Paddy asked.
“I think perhaps we are,” I replied. “Anyone who doubts that being curious, positive, and happy about things is our natural state should watch kids at play for a while. I think bad attitudes are developed over time.”
“Are there things we can do to help maintain positive attitudes?” was Paddy’s next question.
“Of course,” I told him. “One of my favourites is to remain positive until ten o’clock in the morning. When I achieve that, the rest of the day seems to take care of itself. It’s also important to have interests that you are enthusiastic about.”
“Speaking of enthusiasm, you’ve got another of your famous catch phrases about that don’t you?” Paddy remarked.
“Actually it was Dale Carnegie’s” I told him, “and it particularly applies to attitude.”
“Now, I remember,” Paddy interrupted, “Act enthusiastic and you’ll be enthusiastic, right?”
“Yes,” I said, “and I’ve never seen it fail. If you genuinely act enthusiastic about something, after a few moments you will actually become enthusiastic. And another thing to remember about enthusiasm is that it’s as contagious as the measles, which is still another reason to keep a positive attitude.”
“What else,” Paddy prodded.
“All of the very positive folks I know have an innate interest in people and a deep curiosity about events.” I told him. “Those two characteristics go a long way to maintaining a positive attitude.”
Paddy put the book in his pocket and then challenged me, “Give me the best example you can of turning a lousy attitude into a positive one.”
“Easy,” I told him. “When the phone rings at three o’clock in the morning, and it’s a wrong number, don’t be angry; be thankful.”