People that don’t know me see my level of success and my positive happy demeanor and draw the conclusion that I am happy because I am successful. My close friends and family know the truth. They know that I am successful because I am happy.
My loved ones have witnessed the failures, the struggles, disappointments and suffering I have endured. They have been amazed that through it all I kept smiling, laughing, persevering and continuing on. When the doctors told me, “No. You’ll never be able to get a driver’s license,” I simply did not listen. I petitioned a panel of seven doctors, submitted to all of their exams and research of my medical history and appealed to my state legislature in their denial of my license. At the age of seventeen I challenged a medically biased law and got my driver’s license.
When doctors later told me, “No, you cannot scuba dive,” I laughed and said, “We’ll see.” I searched until I found a professional scuba instructor willing to train my traveling companion and I not just in scuba certification, but also in search and rescue should anything go wrong when the two of us went diving on our vacation. I wasn’t asking to become a lifetime professional scuba diver. I just wanted to experience a Caribbean vacation excursion when I went on vacation. My loved ones held their collective breaths for an entire week. No one was surprised when I arrived home healthy, whole, and with fabulous pictures and stories of an underwater adventure.
When I discovered the surprise that I was pregnant and the doctor told two bewildered people I could not survive a nine-month pregnancy without my medication and the medication would cause severe birth defects, there was no question in my mind that I would have a healthy baby and survive to be a mother. The unspoken insinuation of abortion the doctor was clearly conveying was utterly rejected. Detoxing from almost twenty years of being dependent on anti-seizure medications and mood stabilizers was one of the hardest things I ever did. When I look at my son who is a promising young man now, I know it was all worth it.
My proudest moments in my life were the moments of persevering with a positive attitude despite well-meaning experts telling me my dreams were impossible. This pattern of behavior in how I respond to disappointment and discouragement by simply pushing through is not isolated to only myself. Many successful people have similar tales. Is there any science to positivity and success? Or, is it simply that we are stubborn people who refuse to accept being denied what we want?
Professors at the University of California in Riverside have concluded a study on the links of happiness and success. They report that happy people tend to experience more job satisfaction, work better independently, are more supported by peers, are more likely to find employment and remain employed, and usually are physically healthier and live longer. So, no, I don’t think my success is an accident. I think it is very closely linked to my positive, happy disposition.
One psychologist explained that this could be because positive, happy people engage more with others in ways that result in opportunities for growth. Happy people are also more emotionally resilient which translates into bouncing back quicker no matter what obstacle life puts in their path. Such happiness and positivity results in a self-confidence that enables happy, positive people to take risks and manage difficult situations that often results in higher productivity.
Happiness and a positive attitude are not just life skills for sappy, hippie-type New Agers. This philosophy can be traced back to the Spartans of ancient Greece. These warriors were renowned for physical and mental strength. Their ideology was, in a nutshell: Commit to your goal and never give up until you can say ‘mission accomplished’.
Once a goal is formed in my mind, I reject negative thoughts and hold fast to encouraging thoughts until I achieve my purpose. That doesn’t mean I never fail. I often fail. But, rather than give up when I fail, I analyze the failure. When I discover what I lacked, I press forward once again. Eventually, I will arrive exactly where I want to be.
I also refuse to listen to Negative Nellies. There are many people with bad attitudes. Sometimes these are people I love very much. I thank them for their concern and move on. I accept that they think differently than I do. Their life experiences and perspectives are uniquely their own. I do not have to adopt these ideas. I do not have to entertain their worrisome fears of “what if”. I move forward because this is my life and I must live it according to my own convictions so that this one life I’ve been given does not end with a laundry list of regrets, but, rather, in peace, satisfaction and happiness.