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Positive Power

By Sonavi Desai

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness, or sometimes, to stumble towards the nearest cobbler than lament a broken sandal. I repeated this to myself, as, dismayed and stranded, I dragged myself along until I spotted my saviour at the far end of the road. It turned out to be a rewarding experience – my sorry sandal received a new lease of life and I, a most unexpected lesson in philosophy.

My cobbler-philosopher chattered cheerfully as he worked the leather. When asked about a guarantee that the errant strap would not give way again, he said, “Life itself has no guarantee, then what of this wretched piece of leather?” Then grinning up at me he sagely counseled, “Be positive, memsahib, the mind must not have negative thoughts.” Wise words indeed!

We have all often been told to be optimistic, to think positive things. How much do our attitudes really influence the result of our actions? The mind-body-action principle has been expounded in both ancient scriptures and modern psychology. A classic case is that of Arjuna facing the Kaurava army, beset with doubts and confusion, and consequently unable to think objectively. Sri Krishna explains to Arjuna the necessity of being balanced and facing life with equanimity. When the mind is clear, one is able to sail through smoothly. Any unfavourable situation can be turned around to one’s advantage if faced with a positive attitude.

Dr. Martin Seligman, well-known author and proponent of the positive psychology movement, talks of promoting the competence of individuals by nurturing positivity. He says, “We have found that there are human strengths that act as buffers against mental illness: courage, optimism, faith, work ethic, honesty, perseverance, to name several.” Mental well-being has a direct effect on our behaviour, which in turn influences the outcome of our actions.

There are three factors that determine our success in any endeavour – ability, hard work and optimism. Whether trying to get an edge at the workplace or tackling a tennis opponent or in personal relationships, we are often faced with a lot of challenges and frustrations. Embracing events in a focused way augments our productivity and actualizes our potential. Engaging with life increases our capacity to love, forgive and appreciate. By opening ourselves to positive thoughts and experiences, we are able to fully enjoy life – including misadventures with frustrating footwear!