“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 (ESV)
“Most people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” (Abraham Lincoln)
When my oldest grandson was not quite two years old I would say, “Andrew, we can chose to be…” and he would respond by throwing his hands up in the air and shouting, “HAPPY!”
“That’s right,” I would continue. “We can choose to be happy. So what do you choose to be today?” Again, he would shout, “HAPPY!” and we would laugh and laugh.
My wife and others were convinced it was a purely Pavlovian response, but I never doubted that he knew exactly what he was saying. In fact, the first time he did it I promise I did not prompt him.
One day when he was not quite two, I was riding in the backseat with him as he was at near tantrum level and needed a serious attitude check. His mother was driving the car and he was about to drive her to distraction. I leaned over next to him and, as was our custom, I said, “Now Andrew, we can choose to be…?” to which he immediately responded, “Not today, Papaw. Not today.”
I could not just let it end there. So I pursued, “I guess that means you choose to be unhappy, right?”
“Well, if you choose to be unhappy, that must be what you want to be. So if being unhappy is what makes you happy, then go right ahead and be unhappy! Does that make you happy? That’s fine with me as long as it makes you happy.”
It took about 15 seconds for him to ponder that idea before he began to break out in a reluctant grin that spread to full-blown laughter as we got silly with the idea of getting happy by choosing to be unhappy.
I admit that I am not always pleased with the way others act. The world does not always operate in compete accordance with my idea of perfection—the world according to me. I cannot control all the circumstances and events that come into my life. I can, however, control my response to what happens around me or to me. It is more than a conditioned or controlled reaction. It is a conscious decision to be in control of my emotional and mental health. I refuse to let someone else have that power over me.
(By the way, his younger sister and brother both gave the same response by the time they were two as well.)
Hint to the Leader: You really can set the mood for your family, team, department or the whole organization by choosing to show a positive attitude.
Hint to the Follower: You might not be able to control your initial reaction to a negative circumstance, but you can choose how you will respond. Even if you feel powerless in the organizational structure where you live and work, you have the power of influence. By choosing a positive attitude, you can start a chain reaction of joy that is contagious and will influence an unlimited number of people.
© Copyright Dr. Larry Gay, July 2014"Lessons on Leadership and Followership"