“Happiness is a state of mind,
it is simply the way we see the world”
In late December, prior to his inauguration, then President-elect Joe Biden said, “One thing I promise you about my leadership during this crisis: I’m going to tell it to you straight. I’m going to tell you the truth. And here’s the simple truth: Our darkest days in the battle against Covid are ahead of us, not behind us.” I wish I was his speech writer, because I would have said it differently, “Our greatest challenges in the battle against Covid are ahead of us, not behind us.” You see, most of us struggle in the dark, but when faced with a challenge, our focus is sharpened and our resolve strengthened.
The quote that began this post is derived from the words of the world’s greatest dreamer, Walt Disney (“If you can dream it, you can do it!”). Disney was a dreamer, he was also a realist. He knew that dreams don’t just come true, and that there is a difference between dreaming with purpose and pure fantasy. Ten months ago, our American dream became a nightmare. We awoke to the reality of a virus that robbed us of loved ones, crippled our economy, and contributed to the divisiveness that still plagues our nation. Recently, bad news has become the norm. Transmission of the virus, brought on by extensive holiday travel combined with a failure to follow masking and social distancing guidelines, has resulted in January’s spike in cases and a projection of even more deaths in February (“our darkest days). However, the good news is also out there, one simply needs to look a little harder for it.
On December 14,2020, the injection to Sandra Lindsay’s arm at Long Island Jewish Medical Center made her the first American to receive the coronavirus vaccine outside a clinical trial. Since then, 31.1 million shots have been given, according to a state-by-state tally by Bloomberg and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the last week, an average of 1.35 million doses per day were administered. The President’s goal is 100 million doses by April 24 (100 days). Are there problems in the availability of vaccines and scheduling? Absolutely, but when one considers the speed with which the vaccine was developed and approved, and the efforts now being made to improve distribution, I see a little more light in these darkest days.
I also see lights returning to businesses that were closed either through government order or the decision of owners. Last week, three local businesses in our community announced their reopening, two local banks reported record earnings for the fourth quarter of 2020, and the stock market, which is the home to so many 401k’s, has steadily recovered from its March “Coronavirus Crash). In fact, the Dow hit an all-time high of 31,188.38 on Jan. 20th. Not bad when one considers that the Dow closed at 23,553.22 on March 11.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to take an online course taught by Dr. Martin Seligman, Founder of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of PA. Positive psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. It is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, cutivate what is best within themselves, and enhance their experiences of love, work and play. During one of his presentations Seligman recounted an “epiphany moment” created through a discussion with his young daughter. While weeding a garden with her, he became upset with her approach to the task. She was laughing, dancing and throwing pulled weeds in the air. He shouted at her, “Nikki, get to work!” Startled, she began to walk away, but then turned and addressed her father, “Daddy, can I talk to you?” He nodded and she continued, “Do you remember up until a few weeks ago I was a whiner? I whined everyday!” He smiled to himself, as he had pointed this out to her. He nodded and she continued. “Have you noticed since my birthday I don’t whine anymore?” Seligman nodded again. “Well it’s because I decided I can stop whining, and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And if I can stop whining, you can stop being such a grouch!” Seligman was startled, not by her words, but from the realization she brought about. He realized that perhaps his success was not because he could see every flaw (an attribute to his “critical intelligence”) – but in spite of it. His book, The Hope Circuit: A Psychologists Journey from Helplessness to Optimism chronicles that voyage.
Our state of mind is fueled by how we see the world. We can complain about everything which is not working, criticize that which needs improvement, and curse those who would differ with our thoughts. Likewise we can be grateful for efforts being made, help where we see the opportunity, and/or listen with an open mind to those who differ with us. The world is our canvas, how we use the paints is our decision, but ultimately the final product is of our making. How will the world you paint look?