I was looking at the obituary notices the other day, and came across one that struck a chord with me and not just because I'm a golf junkie.
Gay Brewer was one of the top golfers of the '60s and '70s and won the 1967 Masters golf tournament. The year before he lost the Masters in a playoff with Jack Nicklaus and then lost the following week's tournament in a playoff with Arnold Palmer. Those losses made Brewer realize that he needed to pay more attention to the mental aspects of golf.
That's when he turned to Norman Vincent Peale's book, "The Power of Positive Thinking," which I consider one of the top motivational books ever written. I had the privilege of playing in a pro-am with Brewer some years later, and he told me how he even scanned sections of the book before winning the 1967 Masters.
A positive mind anticipates happiness, joy, health and success. Whatever the mind expects, it finds.
Dr. Herbert H. Clark, a psychologist from The Johns Hopkins University, discovered that it takes the average person about 48 percent longer to understand a sentence using a negative than it does to understand a positive or affirmative sentence.
This is confirmation of something every successful person knows: The secret of good communication is positive affirmation. It is not what you can't or won't do that interests people, but what you can or will do.
The famous inventor Thomas Edison used to say his deafness was his greatest blessing -- a blessing because it saved him from having to listen to reasons why things couldn't be done.
Once upon a time a man watched two masons working on a building. As he worked, one of the masons continually frowned, groaned, and cursed the nature of his labors. Asked what he was doing, he replied, "Just piling one stone on top of another all day long until my back is about to break."
On the other hand, the other mason whistled as he worked. His movements were swift and sure, and his face wore a glow of satisfaction. Asked what he was doing, he replied, "Sir, I'm doing far more than just making a stone wall -- I'm helping build a cathedral."
Notice he said "helping." He wasn't trying to do it on his own, but he was putting his best effort into a project for which he would eventually get very little personal credit. No one would ever really know which stones he laid. Yet it was important for him to see his role in this enormous venture. A positive attitude translated into a spectacular building to him.
One of my favorite aphorisms goes like this: Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
This gives you a choice, a positive or negative path. Clearly, the positive path will lead to a more rewarding, more contented life.
What that means to me is that if you think positively, you will be more inclined to speak positively. Your positive words will spur you to positive actions. If you get used to behaving in a positive way, you will form good habits. And your habits will help define the kind of person you are. That will lead you to your destiny: what you will eventually become as a person.
And isn't it enough to be yourself and believe in your own powers and be willing to risk failure to put those powers to the test? You may think of a thousand reasons why something is impossible; it only takes one reason to decide it's worth a try.
By all means, surround yourself with positive people; support each other when the urge to be negative threatens.
As author John Gardner said, "We need to believe in ourselves, but not to believe that life is easy."
There once was an old man who had many troubles. Life seemed to hand him one difficulty after another, but he faced each obstacle with a smile and a cheery disposition. An acquaintance of the man's finally asked him how he managed to stay so happy despite his hardships.
The old man quickly answered: "Well, the Bible often says, 'And it came to pass,' but never once does it say, 'It came to stay.'"