The quote above from the father of positive thinking, Norman Vincent Peale, has long been one of my favorite phrases. I even have a leather wrap bracelet with the saying printed on it over and over! But it is a philosophy I have had a long standing struggle with for most of my life. I have always felt that circumstances and events dictated my thoughts and not the other way around. When I was feeling negative about a situation, trying to change those feelings to something positive felt like a betrayal of my true emotions and a lack of attention to reality. How was this supposed to work? If something bad happens, it’s just bad, right??? Aren’t you just fooling yourself to try and think of it as good?
This summer I was faced with a situation that in hindsight, as is often the case, really smacked me over the head with the truth of how this really CAN work.
One day my boss came in and told us they were selling our office space and we’d have to move to a different location. We loved our office, the people we worked alongside, and we were all being split up. To add insult to injury, I was being put in an entirely different department with a new boss after 9 years! I was devastated and really, really mad. How could they do this to me?
Then … I went to look at my new office space. I was going from a large office with big windows to a small, dim office space with one small window. Think tiny, think closet, then think tiny closet. It actually was a large hallway that they had put a wall up in the middle of to make an extra office. My negativity went into full blown overdrive! I saw red. I complained and whined to anyone who would listen to me about how bad my new office was, how small, how ugly, how much I was going to hate it and how miserable I was going to be.
And to you brave souls, my friends and family who listen to me no matter how much I complain, here I must say … I’m sorry!!!!! I was wrong. SO WRONG!!!
A change in thought here really WAS a change in my world. Once I had tired of complaining (which believe me can be QUITE a long time as I’ve had years of practice!), I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be in this office and I better start to figure out a way to be happy about it. I started to look upon it as an opportunity to do something I love – DECORATE!! I decided to turn this small and dingy office into the cutest, the coziest, and THE best office it could be!
Since I was going to England a few weeks after I made the change and my husband and I had been dreaming of trips to France, Switzerland, and Italy, I went with a travel theme. I found the most amazing 6 ft. high wall decal of Big Ben to put in one corner. I already had some cool photos of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe and I bought some cool NY City, London, and Paris canvases on Amazon. I used contact paper to cover the top of my desk, recovered two lamps I already had at home (I love being crafty!), and found a fun white shag rug at a local discount store for a bit of whimsy. These along with some awesome Jane Austen novels and a few things I already had at home and my office was transformed!
Ok, so I admit (*insert shameful look here), now I absolutely LOVE this office that I had been complaining was the worst thing next to pond scum. Everyone who comes to visit me thinks it’s the cat’s pajamas and so do I.
Soooooo, this begs the question …
Now do I think that circumstances control my thoughts or is it the other way around? Definitely I am in control of how I think about a situation whatever that situation may be! The event of moving into the office was exactly the same all along, the office never changed. But my perspective, my attitude and my thoughts towards it were what had changed. The reality became what I decided it would be.
I could have saved myself (and admittedly others!) a lot of grief had I just given myself permission to look at the new office in a different light. After this experience I have definitely tried to start reframing how I think of what appear to be problems, but could really turn into opportunities!
Have you ever had a time where you looked back and realized that what you thought was going to be totally awful actually turned out great? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!