Maybe you’ve heard this joke before, it’s been floating around for a while.
A man prays to God every day, “Please Lord, let me win the lottery this week.” But as each PowerBall drawing takes place, the man’s prayers go unanswered and he is not a winner. So the man prays harder and more often.
“Please Lord, let me win the lottery this week.” And again, “Please Lord, let me win the lottery this week.”
Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and months turn into years. Finally, one day as the man has just finished his prayer, “Please Lord, let me win the lottery this week,” the heavens open, a bright light shines down and a booming voice replies, “Just meet me half way and buy a lottery ticket…”
This joke illustrates an attitude I see in people these days—Just do nothing and things will work out for the best. Is that really an attitude we want to pass on to your younger generation?
Recently D.A. Wolf wrote a thoughtful piece called Reality Check: The Power of Positive Thinking found on the Daily Plate of Crazy where she referenced an article by Oliver Burkeman. I love this quote from Burkeman’s article, The Power of Negative Thinking, which appeared in The New York Times:
And telling yourself that everything must work out is poor preparation for those times when they don’t. You can try, if you insist, to follow the famous self-help advice to eliminate the word “failure” from your vocabulary — but then you’ll just have an inadequate vocabulary when failure strikes. ~ Oliver Burkeman
We all know that failure does strike. This entire website is dedicated to divorce, the failure of a marriage, and sitting back letting things just happen is a fast track to disaster. If waiting patiently without action was in our best interest, advice-filled articles such as 21 Things to Do Before Asking for a Divorce, Ten Things To Do If Divorce Is Imminent, and 5 Things to Do During The Divorce Process would never get written. Yet, articles such as these tell us what to do, who to tell, and where to go when our loving relationship fails miserably and we no longer are part of a “couple”.
Instead of being in the glass half full or the glass half empty camp, a healthy balance is needed.
…imagining that you might lose the relationships and possessions you currently enjoy increases your gratitude for having them now. Positive thinking, by contrast, always leans into the future, ignoring present pleasures. ~ Oliver Burkeman
It’s OK to be positive and upbeat. It’s also OK to be negative and pessimistic. Both attitudes serve us well when they are tempering each other. Without our internal belief that we can succeed, we would never try anything new. We would never attempt to dream beyond our current situation. And yet our experience and history tells us that not all dreams are attainable, not all attempts will be successful. It’s that past failure that teaches us resiliency…the act of falling down doesn’t keep us down. Rather, we have the drive and positive attitude to get back up, get knocked down again, and get up once again. It’s not the easiest road to take, but it is the one that teaches us to be the man in the arena:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. ~ Theodore Roosevelt
I can dream about winning the PowerBall lottery and rolling around in millions of crisp $100 bills but my pessimistic reality tells me that my chances are extremely low and I shouldn’t quit my day job just yet.
But the only way to have a chance is to go out and buy the ticket.