The Real Ball and Chain . . .

This past week, I had the “pleasure” of being sick. Following the progression through our household, both my wife and I believe she caught a bug teaching in her new job, and then brought it home to share.

I’m about better now, and she is starting to get better too, but with this experience, I have had a great reminder about a core truth of life:

 20 Spend time with the wise and you will become wise,
but the friends of fools will suffer. (Proverbs 13:20 NCV)

24 Don’t make friends with quick-tempered people
or spend time with those who have bad tempers.
25 If you do, you will be like them.
Then you will be in real danger. (Proverbs 22:24 – 25)

Being sick has reminded me to be careful about being around other “sick” people — mentally sick people. You might know a few.

They are the ones who are always “being realistic” while pulling others down. They could never begin to picture a glass as half full of anything, much less admitting there may be a positive view to life. These people seem to enjoy offering others a healthy dose of pessimism whenever there are optimists and/or motivated dreamers present. I know what they look like; I use to be one of them.

Replacing My Associations

The change happened in my life in three phases. The first phase was spiritual — I went to an amazing Christian counselor and learned how to let go and forgive the past. Like everyone, there have been things in my past that have hurt me deeply. I learned the only way to really move forward spiritually is to face and forgive the past.

The second phase was limiting who I would pay attention to. Instead of focusing on avoiding, I chose to crowd out the negative with positive material. I began increasing my intake of positive information. I accomplished this through two areas: reading good books (I began with several Brian Tracy and Dan Miller books); and by listening to positive podcasts (the first two podcasts I selected were Dave Ramsey’s radio show and Dan Miller’s weekly podcast). Between books and podcasts, I began crowding out the negative influences in my life. (This was also the time when I met my wife-to-be.)

The third phase was turning off the TV. Following the advice of numerous successful people, I turned off the TV at home. To clarify what I mean, we simply stopped watching. Coinciding with this event was a writer’s strike that was going on, and the one show I followed that was “in season” ended at such a perfect place that it was easy to simply disengage from the storyline. Another show had not started its season yet so it was easy to simply not pick up at the beginning of that one. Most everything else was reruns, and that helped lessen the urge to watch.

With the TV off, I could focus on projects that were stuck in the planning phases, and I could also spend better quality time with my fiancé (and now wife).

What if?

Perhaps you have heard numerous times that you should be careful who you associate with, that you should distance yourself from negative people, or that you must dump some of your “friends”. I am making the same suggestion.

At work, for several years (and still regularly today), I will have earphones in as a way to engage my brain, and limit what I focus my mind on. This won’t work for everyone, and some extreme situations might call for a job change. This is what happened for my wife. She now has a 2-3 times longer commute to her new job, but it’s worth it because she is now in a more supportive environment.

What if something horrible happens in my community that I need to know about? People in your community will tell you. I have learned second hand information from others who watch TV and catch the news. If it is pressing in my mind, the Internet has the most up-to-date information and it is only a search and few clicks away.

If you are struggling with this, may I suggest that instead of trying to focus on what you are trying to limit, try to crowd out the bad with the good. Listen to mind-stimulating podcasts, read quality non-fiction books, take a walk outside, and dream again.

What are other ways you have used to become more positive? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!