Is the world a friendly place?

Earlier this week I had the fortune of hearing a masterful speaker and inspiring person: John Carpenter Dealey speak on his passion. For those not familiar with John, he is globally known as “Dr. Mastermind” and a renowned thought leader on the creation of mastermind groups based on Andrew Carnagie’s principals. He has a tremendous reputation as a wildly successful entrepreneur. In fact, John started his first business at the age of nine, and became self-made millionaire by the ripe age of 27. He was, also, a founding member of the Transformational Leadership Council (TLC)  – alongside Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul. What a life he has led up to this point!

The rich, soulful content of his talk cannot be given justice in this post; however, one question he posed to the group I want to focus on today. He asked:

“Is the world a friendly place?”

He did not take a show of hands; and actually left the question for us to ponder and come to our own conclusion. (He voiced his opinion – which I will save for the end).  I have always believed the world is a friendly place. It has never occurred to me that the world, in its entirety, was evil or even unfriendly. What do you think?

Anyway, this question got me thinking. What does our answer reveal about each of us and the ‘whole’ of us as a society? How or what does our answer manifest in our lives? Does it even matter?

To me, yes. I absolutely believe our answer to this question effects what manifests in our lives. This actually goes back to my post last week; “As a Man Thinketh,” when I discussed the fabulous work of James Allen.  I received a number of comments relative to this piece, and most of you agreed that ‘attitude’ was a strong indicator of our successes and/or failures in what we attempt to achieve in life. In fact, research has shown there is a direct correlation between heightened performance and positive attitudes. This fact has been proven in sports performance, business successes, cancer treatment effectiveness, among many other scenarios.

So, if we know this to be true, how can we carve out even a small boost of positivity in our lives? Gosh, we are all being hammered with financial pressures, fears of global terrorism, healthcare concerns. And there are more pressures on the home-front: the holiday shopping craze, holiday house guests, traffic and erratic drivers rushing to get to the mall, year-end business pressures…

Let’s face it this time of year can bring out the best (and the worst) in all of us.  Here a few thoughts on keeping that positive attitude and ‘friendly spirit’ despite all the added pressures:

1. Change the frame.

Many of my clients (and friends) have heard me use the phrase: ‘let’s change the frame’ when trying to tackle an issue, resolve a personal dispute, make sense of what appears to be an unjust decision.  This is simply changing our perspective from the ‘half empty’ lens to the ‘half full’ lens.  Let me give you a few examples of how simple this can be for us to integrate into our daily thinking.

A friend of mine recently was laid off from his position at a non-profit agency in Texas. It was completely unexpected, and as you can imagine during this time of year, a horrible blow. The situation was not due to lack of performance. His agency’s budgets were cut (as so many are in this economic climate), and he was the employee most recently hired and thus, given tenure was tremendously valued in this agency; he was the ‘first to go’.

After the initial shock dimmed, we were challenged to change the frame of the situation. He is an incredible example of how to do this with grace, integrity, and strength! He proceeded to reach out to every board member with hand written notes;  thanking them for the opportunity to serve them and their joint cause, voicing his ongoing solidarity to their agency as a community servant, and stating that 2010 would be a new chapter of self-discovery and growth. He was wise enough to believe that once he publicly declared this attitude and embraced the ‘high road’ – his internal perspective would increasingly change toward the positive. Sure, this is hard – come on – he was laid off during the holidays during the worst recession we have seen in our lifetimes. However, what a powerful approach! This sure beats hosting your own pity party! And imagine the impact these sincere, heartfelt hand-written letters could have on these Board members. Who knows where this could lead, right?

Here are a few other examples of ‘changing the frame’ in our daily lives:

You are stuck in horrible traffic – take the extra time ‘given to you’ to catch up on books on tape, calling your parents or long-lost friends or just ‘organizing your thoughts.’ (This time of year I just plug in my Christmas carols and sing loudly).

Financial times are tough this year and you can’t afford to give the gifts you really want to give – give to a charity a small donation in their name, write a poem, give a ‘rain check’ for dinner in 2010 when times are better. I believe your friends and family will appreciate these heartfelt gifts as much, if not more, as we have as a society changed our frame on this front as well.

You are in a job search and you continue to turn up empty handed with opportunities which are a good fit for you. Consider this a great time for tremendous skill set building, meeting new people, gaining greater self-awareness, learning what you really want to do in your next role. Again, this is not hard. It is just a matter of ‘changing the frame’ of how we look at the picture we are seeing.

2. Laugh… a lot!!

I come from family who reads the funnies every day….every day! When I was home over Thanksgiving I could hear my father laughing so loudly downstairs only to hear him say to my mom. ’Did you reach Lockhorn’s this morning?!’ This is a ritual that they play every morning. Given they are in their 80’s and in perfect health there must be something to it!

Research has proven that laughing – large scale belly laughing – can decrease blood pressure, boost endorphins, increase the immune system, decrease stress, and protect the heart!

So, surround yourselves with funny folks! Read the funnies. Go see Billy Crystal or Robin Williams! Go rent “Best in Show,” “Animal House,” “Auntie Mame” (the original with Rosalind Russell), “BirdCage” – or whatever tickles your funny bone.

After all, laughter is the best medicine.

3. Keep it simple.

A million books have been written on this topic – my favorite: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff sums up the basics perfectly. So, suffice it to say, we would probably all benefit from embracing the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) for all the obvious reasons. When we are frustrated because the lines at the post office are so long or our holiday cards are not going out until after Christmas; just ask yourself if this will matter to you when you are on your death bed. Enough said.

4.  Make it personal.

We spend so much of our lives interacting with what I will call the ‘invisible people.’ These are the folks that brush up against us in our lives, provide valuable services to us; yet, often, we never even know their names.  So, during this holiday season, let’s make it a little more personal. Let’s try looking these folks in the eyes, calling them by name, wishing them a Merry Christmas, or simply smiling at them.

Let’s celebrate the season by simply being friendly.

These points may seem a bit Pollyanna-ish (or Kristin-ish); so ‘take the best and discard the rest’ if these examples don’t work for you. The intention was to simply shed light on how easy it can be to change the frames in our lives.

So, back to the question: is the world a friendly place? This is totally a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

If we believe the world is friendly – I would suggest that it will be friendly.

By changing our frame and believing it to be true – the world will be a friendly place. As once again, it comes down to our attitudes, our perspectives, and our choices. If we are friendly, by making it personal, spreading laughter, keeping it simple and not getting strung out on things that are simply not that important – we will spread friendliness. And, naturally, the inverse is true. If we believe the world is not friendly – this will probably be manifested in our lives, as well.

So, what did John Carpenter Dealey offer as his opinion? I think you must know the answer by now: he, too, believes the world is indeed a friendly place. And, I can assure you his life is rich, full, and incredibly inspiring on many levels. We each have that same opportunity.

So, this holiday season, let’s do our part to create a friendly world; as I am 100% convinced ‘friendliness’ in contagious.

Wishing you all a safe and blessed holiday.