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Which Dog Will You Feed? Choosing Our "Reality"

by Kimberly M. Wiefling, M.S.

In 1995 I decided to embrace optimism as a strategy for creating possibilities. It wasn't a rational choice, it was an intuitive leap of faith. My many years of education as a physicist had taught me to ignore my intuition, but logic was insufficient to overcome my exuberance. You see I'd just had my eyes opened by a truly gifted coach who'd helped me discover that the person holding me back my entire life had been myself. Once I recovered from the shock of that revelation I made a decision to use my enormous power to shape reality to create a more hospitable environment, starting with my own attitude.

Immediately, I encountered resistance from those who had benefited from my negativity in the past -- namely everyone. My negativity was a comfort to others who were convinced of the darkness in the world. It confirmed their own belief system. And, of course, they were loath to believe that I'd truly changed. After all, I'd been thoroughly convincing as a naysayer, so they rightly assumed that I was just shining them on, and would return to my old patterns of behavior momentarily.

But I didn't. Instead I changed jobs, took classes, got a coach, practiced tarot card reading, took meditation classes, and joined a mastermind group, and simultaneously embraced numerous paths to enlightenment. Honestly, writing this I think, "What a nutcase I must have seemed!" (Remember, I am a physicist by education, and do have an abiding respect for logic and rational thinking.) All of this was one grand experiment to me, the result of which I couldn't possibly have guessed at the outset -- the power to create so-called "reality."

Nearly 20 years later I find that I'm not so impressed with myself. It turns out that my journey is a familiar one -- many more famous and articulate people than me have "discovered" that we have the ability to choose our attitude in any circumstance, and thus shift our perception of that which we call "reality." Since then I've been practicing using optimism as a strategy for creating a better future, and I'm very grateful that I had this epiphany while there was still time for myself and others to benefit from it. I've been able to start my own business helping organizations transform into more life-affirming work environments where individuals can contribute their highest and best, and coach many people to have the courage to define, pursue, and achieve their dreams. Along the way there have been many times when I thought, "This truly is impossible, and what a crazy waste of time to even pursue it!" -- not just about my own ridiculous fantasies, but about those of the people I've helped. But I've staunchly refused to judge anything "impossible," preferring to think of outrageous goals as "merely difficult" puzzles that have yet to be solved.

"Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so."Noam Chomsky

Unfortunately my commitment to optimism has been tested repeatedly in the past several years. Of course there are always incidents that test ones faith in a better future -- greedy business people, corrupt government officials, individual acts of hatred. The primary attack on my optimistic outlook has come from the news media, which is notorious for reporting bad news far out of proportion to good. Why do I bother to watch the news, read the news, follow the news? It's been proven that people who follow the news are more depressed than those who abstain. Well, for one thing, BBC is the only English channel I can easily get during my frequent business travel to Japan, and sometimes I just can't resist some native English dialogue, especially with an exotic (to my ears) British accent. But the most insidious threat to my peace of mind has been the conspiracy theorists among my family and friends.

What conspiracy? You name it! Limitless free power would be available to us if only the power companies didn't purposely squash access to breakthrough inventions. The ultra-rich control most of the wealth in the world, and democratic governments are merely a front for a well-concealed elite determined to profit from us the way farmers profit from raising dairy cows. Five families have purposely enslaved the human race through monetary policies implemented through the world's banks. And, yes, JFK was murdered by his own people, and the 9/11 attacks occurred with the full cooperation of the US government. Stop the world, I want to get off!

Honestly, I don't know whether any or all of these purported heinous allegations are true. How could I possibly know? Some of the people who hold these beliefs seem very well educated and have an army of evidence to back up their claims. But I do know that living under such a cloud of cynicism and skepticism does nothing but sap my will to make a positive difference in this world. Suppose the worst of it all is true? Then what? I seem to be pretty much powerless to do anything about it besides add my voice to the masses via social media or decrying it all loudly at my local pub. What's a sensible person determined to make a positive difference on Planet Earth to do?

A story that has given me guidance goes like this: "There are two dogs inside of me -- one positive and helpful, and one negative and destructive. Which one will grow? The one that I feed." I'm not stupid. I know that there are terrible people in the world. I realize that terrible things happen, both as a result of human beings and natural disasters. AND . . . I choose to focus my attention and energy on hope, possibility, and what I can do to move courageously in the direction of a better future. I don't judge the negative people in my life. They're mostly attempting to avoid the disappointment that inevitably comes with optimism. I just wish they'd stop trying to protect me from disappointment by shattering my own hopes and dreams for the future. Disappointment? I can handle that. What I can't handle is the feeling that there is no hope -- that there is nothing I can do that matters. Even though my logical mind tells me that this is most probably true in the long run, every day I make it a practice to do something that lights a candle in the darkness for at least one person. Sometimes that's by facilitating a conversation for possibilities with a group of future business leaders, and other times it's as simple as being friendly and patient when waiting in line at the airport. Whether or not I change the course of history isn't the point. I change my own reality by daily contributions to making the world a better place.

Daily Practice: Pretend who you are and what you do and say matters in this world. Act accordingly.

There are two dogs inside of each of us. Which dog will you feed? I'm determined to keep the destructive one on a starvation diet.

This article originally appeared on WholeLifeWellbeing.

Kimberly Wiefling Kimberly Wiefling is the author of Scrappy Project Management, published in Japanese, and the executive editor of the whole series of 5 "Scrappy Guides." Her favorite is Scrappy Women in Business, a collection of the stories of a dozen scrappy businesswomen. She works primarily with globalizing Japanese businesses, traveling extensively in the US, Europe and Asia.

©Copyright 2001-2012 Wiefling Consulting. All Rights Reserved.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

Kimberly, Bless you for articulating something that is essential to overall Wellness and so hard to maintain on a daily basis! I stopped listening/reading the news 20 years ago when I started to learn how to take responsibility for myself. I could see no value whatsoever in discouragement. In the context of managing projects we face regular disappointments, but without hope and a resolute positive attitude how can we lead and facilitate others into future achievements?
Keep up the energy and positivity - Namaste /\ Julia

Bravo!! I completely agree and have also made up my mind to practice optimism and hope. I believe I live a much more pleasant and contended life as a result. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks for the article, Kimberly - it struck a chord with me, because my recent work situation has brought me to a similar point to the one that you describe. I resolved (and started) to spend more time helping others through the unprecedented change our organisation is going through, and less time complaining about my own lack of success getting up the career ladder. I have consequently found a new source of adding value to the organisation, and a new source of fulfilment in my work. My work reality now feels better than it did even three months ago, and helping others does feel good!

This article is what I need at this juncture of my life. Thx for your words of wisdom

Kimberly, thank you so much for your article, I too have stopped watching or reading the news about 12mths ago - if its big news someone will tell you anyway - and have noticed my optimism in the world climb. I do believe everyone can make a difference in this world - perhaps not to change the whole world but definitely to change the world in which they live. I truly believe the world is meant to be different because I was here, and every one has that same opportunity should they take up the challenge on a daily basis, expect there will be disappointments but rise above them. What more could you hope to achieve in a lifetime? Thank you for your fabulous article.

I'm so delighted you all are so appreciative of this article! My commitment to optimism as a strategy is tested frequently, most recently today, and reading your responses to this article was just what I needed to re-commit to keeping hope alive. Woooohooo! Thanks! - Kimberly

Thank you, Kimberly, for the reminder that (to own your point) it's up to me, every day, to keep hope alive.

Ya, ya right! Just remind me when I forget!

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