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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Accentuate the Positive

Every so often I like to experiment with software utilities. For example, today I installed a free extension of OpenOffice Writer. The extension is called “Bookmarks” and allows for all types of nifty operations while in the word processing program. The utility allows one to easily load programs, execute commands, open folders and files, or run macros, among other awesome things. While playing with it however, I ran across a minor bug that I confirmed after doing a little research of the issue in Google. When I came upon the problem, I immediately dropped all progress in other areas and spent hours trying to get this minor feature to work – all without success. In other words I completely took focus and effort off the 99 things the utility did well and fixated on the one thing it didn't. Rather than exploiting the many opportunities the utility laid out before me, I concentrated entirely for hours on this one fruitless endeavor.

Suddenly it hit me that such focus on the negative has tended to hound me again and again. For example, rather than focusing on my assets while growing up, I would be devastated with a sense of inadequacy and mope about what I wasn't good at rather than developing and excelling in those things that I could do well. Rather than developing my talents, I lamented my limitations. While such focus on the negative can have its place – as when my doctor focuses on a potential health problem – it surely indicates a spiritual problem if such a practice dominates my life and makes me feel like an unrelieved victim and not someone blessed and full of exercised gratitude. The practical result is that I in fact become less productive than I have any right to be, and thus begin to take on the characteristics of selfishness rather than generosity.

I look to the kitchen for analogies. Should I stop using my refrigerator because, unlike the range, it cannot cook dinner? Surely it is incumbent upon me to consider what each appliance can do well and not what it cannot do at all. If I feel depressed and victimized because my life seems devoid of purpose, this may well indicate dead-end expectations. I should stop focusing on what I cannot do and focus instead on what I can; for, in light of the positive, something is always doable.

Sue Keller on piano playing Accentuate The Positive (1944) by Johnny Mercer & Harold Arlen

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