In a recent Reader’s Digest article in which Jean Chatzky, author of the books “Make Money, Not Excuses” and “The Difference” was interviewed, she was asked whether she thought the poor can learn to be as optimistic as the rich, she said of course they can. She suggested doing a simple practice: In every of the coming three days, take note of five good things in life. After three days, you will see that life is full of good things. And as you keep paying attention to the good things in life, a virtuous cycle is formed. You become more optimistic, and optimism is the magnet for wealth.
I tried the practice, and I think I tried too hard at first. I was looking for something that happened that was really special, and after a day or two came to the demoralising conclusion that there are not too many things like that happening on a daily basis. Well, not in my routine life anyway. But I soon saw what I failed to see at the beginning, and that is if we really pay attention, we can see that life is full of blessings and miracles. We just don’t appreciate them because we think they are our entitlement. But even small things like being able to make use of our five senses or even to breathe are full of wonders and should not be taken for granted. With this realisation my list of good things started to grow.
It was at the same time that my reading of Don Piper’s “90 Minutes in Heaven” took me to the page which said that during Piper’s long hospitalisation, somebody gave him a magazine article about a young man who lost his sight. The blind man was incredibly bitter and depressed. A friend who cared enough about him told him that he just needed to get past that and gave him the practical instructions of making a list of all the stuff he could still do. The following is what followed:
“Now what kind of a list would that be?” the angry blind man asked.
“Just do it for me. You can’t write it, obviously, but you can get a tape recorder and dictate it. Just make a list of all the things you can still do. And I’m talking about simple things like ‘I can still smell flowers.’ Make the list as extensive as you can. When you’re finished, I want to hear that list.”
The blind man finally agreed and made the list… When the friend returned, the blind man was smiling and peaceful.
“You seem like you’re in a much better frame of mind than the last time I saw you,” the friend said.
“I am. I really am, and that’s because I’ve been working on my list.”
“How many things are on your list?”
“About a thousand so far.”
“Some of them are very simple. None of them are big, but there are thousands of things I can still do.”
This lovely little story ended on a positive note. Not only did the blind man realise that there were so many things he could still do, he also decided to do all the things he could. That, I suppose, is the optimism Jean Chatzky refers to. When the optimism is transformed into action, the action will help change the fortune. In that sense, Chatzky is right in saying that optimism is the magnet for wealth.