Recently, I wrote about Pollyanna’s decision to play “The Glad Game” (www.uncommoncourtesy.com/PlayTheGladGame.htm). This week I had the opportunity to play the Glad Game myself. My son, who tends to bring home more than his fair share of viruses, was sick again. One of my daughters was sick as well. That left my husband, my other daughter, and myself all in the line of fire to catch a nasty cold. The bug seemed to be going around my daughters’ school, and I couldn’t help but notice that the variety of responses to the prospect of being ill by those around me. A negative thinker in the bunch used it as another occasion to complain about yet another cold being passed around, as well as other aspects of her life that she viewed negatively. My husband, who is very easy going, adopted a “What will be, will be” type attitude about the possibility of being infected by my germ laden son. The ever enthusiastic optimist in the crowd, that would be me, tried to act as if the illness did not exist and kept mumbling, “I am not getting sick. I am not getting sick. I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow,” while consuming heavy doses of a variety of vitamins and supplements.
As I thought about the spectrum of reactions, I began to also think about the glasses that each of us wears. No, I am not referring to corrective lenses. Perhaps you recall the phrase “seeing the world through rose colored glasses?” It is very much like Pollyanna’s decision to play the Glad Game even when presented with the possibility that she might never walk again. Well, you, and everyone around you, view the world through a set of glasses. Your “glasses” are the outlook that you have adopted toward life. They dictate how you respond to any given situation, and your overall perception of reality. You may not have voluntarily chosen the glasses you wear. That is, you were born with a particular temperament. Then you spent years being part of a family that lived life in a certain manner. These “family themes” are sometimes easier to recognize in other families than in your own. Consider what we know about the famous Kennedy family of Massachusetts. The children in that family were taught to take risks and have high aspirations. Now consider the type of themes that your parents indoctrinated into you as a child. Were they positive themes (e.g., you can be successful) or negative themes (e.g., don’t make a mistake or you will fail)? Were they enabling or disabling? Finally, consider whether you have incorporated those themes into the outlook that you have as an adult.
As you think about the theme that you live with and by, note how those around you employ themes in their lives. For example, consider how you, your family members, your boss, your employees, and your friends might react to a particular situation. Imagine being stuck at a railroad crossing waiting for a long freight train to pass while you’re enroute to see a movie. If there are several people in the car, there will undoubtedly be a wide variety of reactions. Some people will be angry that they might miss the movie. Their theme focuses on the unfairness of life, or that life can become negative at any time. Others will see the same situation as a good excuse not to sit through all of the trailers that are shown before the main feature. These are people whose theme helps them to adapt or “go with the flow” of life. Still others will begin looking through the newspaper to see what other movies are available or even suggest just stopping off for coffee and dessert at that new restaurant in town. These are the individuals who view any situation as an opportunity to have something positive happen. Each of these individuals is reacting differently to the situation, in part, because of the theme that they have chosen to adopt. It is clear that each one of these people wears a different set of glasses.
No doubt, you’ve read many articles about how your unconscious attitudes or themes affect your life. However, I would like you to consider two ways in which the glasses that you have chosen to wear affect your life. First, they impact how those around you function. Second, they also impact how others choose to view you. In order to explore these ideas further, allow me to introduce you to two imaginary individuals who wear very different sets of glasses: Ned (the negative thinker) and Oscar (the optimist).
Ned is a nay-sayer. He can find the negative aspect of any situation even if it requires looking all night long. Ned even found a negative point about winning the state lottery when he said, “imagine the taxes, the financial planning, and all the additional telemarketing telephone calls that I’d receive night after night.” Ned views the world as a dark and dangerous place. Every decision is monumental. Each life choice must be painstakingly scrutinized. Consequently, Ned spends much of his free time worrying about the 1001 bad things that might happen to him at any time. Ned’s brother was surprised when Ned actually had no reaction to a newspaper story that an asteroid might strike Earth within the next 100 years!
Oscar, on the other hand, is an optimist. He sees each day as another opportunity to be successful and help others. The idea of doing something new and different excites Oscar because he likes to contemplate and explore all the interesting possibilities in life that are placed before him. He views life as a journey. Even the setbacks that Oscar faces now and then are nothing more than life lessons that will ultimately help him to become more successful.
It may seem obvious to you how the glasses that Ned and Oscar wear impact how they function and perform in life. What may not be so obvious is how others react to Ned and Oscar because of the glasses that each one has chosen to wear. Ned and Oscar are supervisors at the same company. Each is responsible for managing a large group of employees. The people who Ned supervises don’t often approach him with new ideas. They know that he wants to “stick with what works.” He leads with an iron fist because controlling others gives Ned a feeling of security. He sometimes micromanages situations and instills fear in his staff. Ned’s entire work group has adopted his tentative attitude and is constantly concerned about the possible pitfalls that may result from their decisions. While Ned’s supervisor views him as a dependable employee, she also sees him as a bit of a “stick in the mud.” She has given up on passing along motivational material to Ned because she knows he will only see the negative aspects of the information. At home, Ned’s family is well aware of his penchant for negativity. His constant ruminations and worrying cause unnecessary tension and anxiety at home. His wife is afraid to tell him about her problems because he will become upset. His children have learned that he will be unresponsive to them as he lies on the couch and considers his negative fate.
There is quite another atmosphere in Oscar’s house. Oscar’s offspring can’t wait for him to get home. He always has a great story to tell them and has time to help them work through their problems. Oscar and his wife enjoy talking about things that they would like to do in the future. They also try their best to enjoy each day as well. Oscar is like a beacon of light at work. His outlook inspires his employees to do their best. He is interested in new ideas, strategies, and technology that will help his employees to meet and beat anything that their competitors might be doing. Oscar has a plaque on his desk that reminds him of the benefits of persistence and a positive outlook. Oscar’s boss doesn’t bother giving him motivational material either. However, unlike Ned, motivational material is unnecessary because Oscar is always bursting through her door with motivational material of his own to give to her. Oscar’s employer sees him as a go-getter who will someday be running the whole company or forming an innovative company of his own!
As you can see from this example, the glasses that you put on every morning impact how you view the world, and how you will function in it. Additionally, the glasses that you wear directly impact how those around you behave and react to you. Consider the overall impression that your boss, your spouse, and your friends have about you. Are you a fun person to be around? Are you always down in the dumps? Do they think of you as one of the most energetic people in their lives? Have they written you off of their “people who like to try something new” list? If you wear glasses that are similar to Ned’s, you may not realize the opportunities that you have missed, the relationships that have been damaged, and the potential successes that have not been realized merely because you wear a negative set of glasses much of the time. Although everyone has a “dark glasses day” now and then, it is up to you to choose to wear the clear and sharp glasses of an optimist. It is those glasses that will help you to see the opportunities around you and seize success in your life at home and work.
Today is the day to step back and examine how you view the world. Ask others how they perceive you. Evaluate how your actions communicate your view of the world to others. When you get up tomorrow morning, make the choice to put on the bright sunny glasses that Oscar wears. Then, go out there and have a great day! Oh, how did I choose to play the Glad Game? I decided to be thankful that I did not get nearly as sick as my kids!