The Sunflower

Many humans become more jaded as they age.  The culmination of life experiences often has a way of making all of us a bit cynical. 

For me, aging has made me more realistic in my expectations. Ironically, age and experience also have made me much more of an optimist.

Due to nature and professional training, I always have viewed myself as a “pessimistic optimist.”  I prepare for the worst and expect the worst, but a tiny part of me always hopes for the best. I never let go of that sliver of hope. 

It may be partly due to that sliver that at age 52, I intentionally try to choose a positive mindset.  Like all of us, I have had plenty of failures and disappointments.  And I spent years (and sometimes decades) beating myself up repeatedly. I can be a champ at self-loathing, holding a grudge, and dwelling on negativity. Then almost two years ago, I decided:  I did not want to live this way anymore. 

After half a century of a default negative mindset, I consciously chose positivity. I am not talking about being “fake cheerful.”  I mean, I try to see the positive in situations and the world and not dwell on the negative.  Age and experience have taught me that not “everything” has to be a “something.” Life, indeed, goes on.

I try to be less judgmental. I try not to make assumptions. I try to find empathy. I try to allow others and myself moments of grace. And often, I still fail.  Negative thoughts creep into my mind all the time. Some of that time, negativity is warranted. There are some days I ultimately give in to negativity.  I suspect we all share this experience.  We are human. Breaking a lifetime pattern of behavior is complex.  All we can do is try our best.

But when my mind is in a negative spiral, I remind myself why I chose positivity. Because it makes me happy, and when I am happy, I can put down my shield and cloak of cynicism.  A more positive mindset allows me to engage more fully with the world and people around me and truly experience the joys that life has to offer. And that makes me even happier and more energized.

I also have discovered that intentionally choosing to see the positive makes me more genuine and honest.  I am not faking it because I am choosing it.

Helen Keller once said, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. It is what sunflowers do.”  And it is true.  My life became much more fulfilling and enjoyable when I became a sunflower. Defaulting to a positive mindset has changed me.  Positivity is helping me turn into the person I was always meant to be.

Summer yellow flowers growing up towards sun in blue sky