Every time I read the news or check Twitter or Facebook, I am inundated with words and images that would have me believe everything is awful and degraded, and that the currencies of participation in these apparently awful and degraded times are cynicism, fear, fatalism, and hatred.
And then whenever I log off, I find a litany of reasons to look forward to a bright future for humankind. Part of that, to be sure, has to do with the fact that I enjoy a steep measure of blessing and privilege, both in what I have and who I am. But part of it also has to do with something I learned a number of years ago, at the tail end of a time when, like now, I had everything I needed to be happy and healthy, but, unlike now, was not.
The lesson was simple and profound: One of the only things—perhaps the only thing—under our control in this world is our manner of approach to it.
To be clear, I am not implying that a good attitude will cure all suffering or illness. A positive mindset will not render you impervious to disappointment and sorrow. One cannot gratitude-transform a jackass co-worker into a new best friend. A hopeful outlook will not solve all your problems.
So, fine: attitude is not a magic bullet. But it exerts tremendous influence over our lives nonetheless; it affects the way we interpret our lives much the same as lenses might affect the way we see. For example, if you approach your life with a determination to learn from your experiences and the people and ideas you encounter, then that will be the principle that guides you forth. In that scenario, and with that metaphorical compass, you will indeed learn and grow, simply because you will continue to seek the lesson until you find it. See? Simple and profound.
I refuse to buy into the paradigm of bad news and unkind treatment of other people. I want to seek a better, more hopeful world, and I think I have the ability—I think we all have the ability—to help create it, one moment, one conversation, and one day at a time.