As I begin to write this, the seventh article in this ten-part series about personal foundation, I think it is a good time to review why building a strong personal foundation is important at all. Some people would argue that it is possible to be successful without having some of the elements of a personal foundation that I have been talking about. Some people might be able site examples of people who have been very successful and yet may not have had integrity, or, as it relates to this article, they may know people who have achieved success and yet seem negative or pessimistic. The thing I want you to know about a foundation is that when it is in place it serves to support or sustain that which has been built on top of it.
I have used the following metaphor before, but I think it is a powerful one. The size of the foundation you build needs to be proportionate to the structure you are building. A tent doesn’t need much of a foundation, a two storey home needs a strong foundation and a skyscraper needs a deep, strong, solid foundation. If you are building a small life of little consequence you may not need to spend a lot of time on a foundation. If you are set on building a big life, one of consequence, whether that means building a career of excellence in an industry, building wealth, being an amazing parent or building strong relationships, foundation makes a difference in supporting what you have built.
Developing the ability to see the positive side of things that happen in our lives is an important part of building our foundation. You may already think that you are a person who has a very positive outlook on life and to a certain extent you may be right, but some would say that a positive thinking person is a person with a positive veneer on top of a lot of negative programming. Think about that. As we grow up we are bombarded by negative beliefs. If as a child there was a television in your home and you watched the news you were seldom told about the incredible feats and accomplishments of mankind and were more often told about the worst attributes of the human experience. We learned through this medium what doesn’t work. We learned what we shouldn’t do. We were taught to come to conclusions about groups of people based on the actions of a few. We were taught that when we were truly expressing ourselves it didn’t fit into what someone had decided was the way we should be. I am not saying we didn’t have many positive influences but I am saying we had many negative ones. I am sure that everyone reading this article has experiences each week with someone who is not happy with their life and who will try to share their misery with you. You can get sucked into the misery or you can focus on the positive side.
If you are one of the readers of this article who has used me as your coach you may recall a conversation about the present being perfect. The essence of this conversation is that whatever happens in our lives is perfect or what was meant to happen. The real perfection is that everything that happens is a lesson that we need to learn from, if we can see it that way. If you lost your job it is hard to see the perfection in it, but the lessons available are numerous and can take your next endeavor to new heights if the lessons have been learned.
My experience working with extraordinary individuals who create amazing results is that they spend a lot of time with possibility. Their ability to see the positive side of a seemingly negative event is obvious and they stand out.
Spending time with positive thoughts increases energy. The people with energy to move forward, to do the things that most people won’t do or don’t have the energy to do, are the ones who achieve great results. They use their ability to focus on positive things as fuel. It seems too simple to say, but there are a lot of people operating on tanks that are near empty.
Spending time with positive thinking encourages creativity. I love the scene in the movie “Apollo 13” when Gene Krantz (played by Ed Harris) says “Failure is not an option”. When failure is not an option, creativity exists; when failure is expected, energy and creativity diminish or disappear.
As I observe people whom I admire, I notice that they are very grateful. Their expressions of gratitude are frequent and sincere. This is a stark contrast to people that we come in contact with who are always complaining about their lot in life, complaining about what is wrong at their country club or being a victim of some unfortunate circumstance that they had some role in creating. The people I admire are extremely grateful for everything they have, even if it isn’t much. Try spending time in a third world country if you would like to learn about gratitude.
Here is the main point I would like to make about this topic. We have, whether we know it or not, an incredible ability to create our own reality. If we choose to see the immense possibilities of our lives, if we choose to see the opportunities that are in front of us and if we realize that our choices are what have taken us to where we are and given us what we have received we can create whatever we believe is possible.
Gene Krantz was in a room filled with bright, intelligent professionals who were becoming resigned to the fact that three men in a command module in outer space were going to run out of oxygen forty hours before they made it back to earth. One man’s conviction of the positive allowed them the energy and creativity to exhaust every resource to find a solution. The three men lived.
Where do you need to see the positive? How can you thicken the veneer?
Kevin MacDonald is the coach for CMAA. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.