Happy thinkers lead happy lives

By Jon Carvalho

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You look down at yourself and realize your shirt is inside out, your arm is burned from the coffee you spilled earlier and you’ve forgotten an important paper that’s already late. Let’s face it: every so often, maybe once a week, we have what is collectively referred to as a “bad day.” Maybe you only have them once a month, or never. Maybe some weeks it feels like every day you got up on the wrong side of the bed. On days like this, we’re prone to continue on in agony, complaining or worrying about everything that has and can go wrong. Bad idea.

Ever seem like the more you think about bad things you don’t want to happen, the more they end up happening? The more you focus on the bad, the more bad you’re dealt that day? After we expect a lousy day to get even lousier, it often does. It can be pretty discouraging.

I recently rediscovered a book that deals with this very subject, one that I hadn’t read or thought about for at least a couple of years. Rhonda Byrne’s bestseller, “The Secret,” has sold  millions of copies across the globe and been translated into over 40 languages. What it boils down to, essentially, is positive thinking. Not just wishful thinking, but a purposeful series of thoughts about what we want from our day, our month, our lives, rather than concentrating on everything we don’t want.

While I’m generally a skeptic of this sort of self-help manifesto, I remembered that when I had last read The Secret, the book actually seemed to be filled mostly with basic truths and techniques that proved helpful in everyday life. Several years after its original publication, there’s already a sequel called “The Power” and another on the way this spring, titled “The Magic.” Okay, so maybe Rhonda Byrne is going a little overboard, but can you blame her? She’s using this ‘secret’ herself, and getting richer every day by doing it.

The secret of “The Secret” isn’t much of a secret, though, and Ms. Byrne readily admits that. She got the idea for the book, which came following a movie version she produced in 2006, after a particularly trying time in her life.

Byrne found herself struggling with money, poor relationships, and the recent death of her father. Coming across a book called “The Science of Getting Rich,” by an early 20th-century writer named Wallace Wattles, Byrne realized that the most successful people in society and throughout history seemed to have something in common: they all knew just what they wanted, and determination led them to achieve just what it was they wanted.

After more research into the theories of positive thinking from Wattles’ book, Byrne connected with a network of other people who had learned about how powerful positive thoughts can be. Together with these sources, she compiled her book, and used their opinions to point to examples of the effects of positive thought. Interestingly, several of these sources are quantum physicists who, while sometimes skeptical themselves, agree that thoughts become things. Basically, good and bad thoughts are equally powerful, and whichever we choose to concentrate on is what we get. Think of things we don’t want, and we get them. Think of things we do want, and we get them, too.

It’s a pretty simple rationale – what we give out to the world is returned to us. That is, if we keep giving out nothing but negativity, it’s all we’ll get back. Give out only good thoughts and more good will come your way. This isn’t a new concept. Leaders and philosophers throughout history have told us that animosity and contempt breed more of the same, just as peacefulness and love create more of themselves. Buddha, Jesus and all the other big spiritual guys taught this kind of stuff. But it can be practical, too. For example, if you constantly worry about not having enough money, chances are that won’t help you to have enough money. Complain about someone who annoys you, and they tend to frustrate you even more.

The secret sounds kind of corny, and not everything is curable just by thinking it away. But if we try to turn our bad thoughts around and look for the positive side of situations, it can feel like a weight lifted off our shoulders. I can often be cynical and dismissive almost instantaneously when I hear an idea I don’t like. But, strange as it is, making an effort to be open-minded and look for the good in things actually feels better.

Don’t read into all of it too heavily, either. Not everything you think is going to manifest itself, instantly or otherwise. Some things are impossible; physical reality has its laws, and its limitations. But the Law of Attraction – that like attracts like, which The Secret is based off of – has its obvious merits too. It’s easy to see where our good and bad thoughts just attract more of the same.

Try it. Spend a whole day looking for the positive side of things. I can’t guarantee anything, but I have a feeling all it can do is help. Avoid thoughts about what you don’t want, and think about what you do want and what you do love. Your mood is probably going to improve, at least a little. Visualize what you hope for, instead of what you dread.

It reminds me of a quote I’ve heard, which goes something like this: “You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” Take advantage of that ability.

Jonathan Carvalho is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]