Let me start this off by saying something I should have said years ago: Dad, you were right. You always gave advice, but there are just a few tips that have stuck out through the years, and there is one thing you always told me that will forever be the best advice you’ve ever given me:
“If you act enthusiastic, you’ll be enthusiastic.”
I would be lying if I said that these words didn’t haunt my childhood, at least to some extent. To be honest, I was a pretty unhappy kid. I was sick almost all the time and I didn’t know why. I wasn’t diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease until the January of my 8th-grade year. Though I have repressed most of the pain, sleepless and frustrated nights, and other negative moments, when I think about the past, a plethora of similar memories come to the forefront of my consciousness.
I can picture myself standing in the kitchen in front of the off-white refrigerator covered in magnetic poetry and miscellaneous magnets. I stared at them as I complained about how my stomach hurt, that it was the worst day ever, that I didn’t want to go to school, and how miserable I was. My dad stood behind me and said, “Marci, it’s completely up to you. You can look at the glass half-empty like that, or you can look at it half-full.” I grimaced and replied, “It’s half-empty.”
Half-empty — that was my standard response. I would say that I can’t ignore the discomfort, and it’s all that I can focus on. My dad would then say, “If you act enthusiastic, you’ll be enthusiastic.” I hated it. My mind was closed. I was miserable and I didn’t realize how easy it was to change that. I would drag my feet and go to school and continue to be miserable. I resented him for giving such a simple sounding solution to my complex and adolescent angst-assisted problems. I’d like to say that I wish I had put away my stubborn attitude earlier. But the truth is that I don’t wish that, because then I wouldn’t be where I am today. And I like where I am today.
It was a simple “change your attitude, change your world” realization the summer before my junior year in high school. A combination of growing maturity and, for the first time in my life, feeling healthy, with my Crohn’s Disease in remission, gave me the clarity of mind to focus on other things besides my illness. Namely, making positive change. At this point, I was still rather apathetic and pretty average at everything, similar to many 16-year-olds. Not a lot of passion and destination-less drive. In a snap decision, I chose to test out my father’s standard words of advice. I started small. I said to myself, “Marci, if you tell yourself you like to read, you will like to read like you used to.” On top of that, I said, “If you want to be a better writer, pick up a notebook and write every day about anything.” I kept this journey to myself, until now.
Six years later, I am a walking example of how powerful this little motto my dad used to bug me with can be. The results went beyond making life bearable. I gained the strength to live in the moment, to find importance in each new hour, and to recognize the patterns of success that followed acting enthusiastic — or making the most of any given situation. It’s simple psychology, really. There’s some science behind it. in 1938, B.F. Skinner coined the term Operant Conditioning, a theory which basically states that a behavior is modified based off of the positive or negative consequences which follow it. By practicing this positive mindset and having positive outcomes, slowly but surely, I trained myself to live enthusiastically. Thoughts lead to feelings, feelings lead to actions, which swing around back into thoughts, and begin the cycle over again.
Acting enthusiastically is the beginning of the physical manifestation and the emotional development of having confidence in yourself. Putting that smile on your face leads to having confidence in yourself and/or the value of whatever is in front of you — a job interview, a final exam, a talent show, etc. Exuding enthusiasm radiates outwardly around you permeates into how others feel, and comes back around to you, lifting you up to continue pushing the cycle of positivity.
I am writing to, once again, pose a challenge. I challenge you to try it for a month. Push yourself to act enthusiastically and take note of the results. It doesn’t happen overnight. As I mentioned earlier, it is a cycle. With each rotation, the effects grow stronger.
Thank you, Dad, for teaching me to see the glass half-full. Happy Father’s Day.