December 21, 2012

‘Bust through blues’ with positive attitude

Maj. Evelyn Schumer
Commander’s Action Group deputy director

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) — At the end of each day, I ask myself: Is the universe a happier and better place because of my existence?

I’m sure we’ve all had an experience like the one I had last week. I was waiting in line at the grocery store behind someone who was extremely rude to the cashier. When it was finally my turn to checkout, the cashier was in a crummy mood and started taking it out on me.

I had a choice: I could allow the rude cashier to upset me and be rude back, or I could choose to suppress my rising blood pressure, put on my best smile, and show the cashier some compassion for having to put up with rude customers.

So, with the sweetest smile I could muster, I said, “I’m sorry you have to put up with customers like that. I hope your day gets better.”

With that simple statement, which took less effort than it would have to be rude back, the cashier was back to her cordial, friendly self.

In moments like these we all can make a difference and make our environment a more positive place. As an instructor at the Academy, I saw how easily and quickly the negativity of one cynical person could spread throughout an entire classroom. It seems, from my experience, that it takes less effort to merely go along with the attitude of those around you than to take responsibility for your own attitude.

If your goal is to make your environment pleasant, you will inevitably find yourself treating those around you with respect and compassion — which will set into motion a chain reaction of kindness and compliments.

When you treat people well, they will want to be around you because you reinforce their happiness. When you treat someone with respect and kindness, it boosts your own happiness as well. Try it: Give someone a genuine compliment and watch how they light up. Also, note the positive feelings you experience by being kind to someone else. The recipient of the praise feels more confident, is a bit happier, and is now more open to compliment someone else. The chain reaction has begun.

I use the compliment chain-reaction to help myself bust through the blues of a rough day. I’ve seen the power of compliments from the boss throughout my career: One positive comment can do so much for a worker’s confidence and attitude.

A positive demeanor can only make you more effective as a leader.I see proof of this everyday working in Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould’s office. Simply by popping his head into the office and saying, “Hey, guys, that went well,” he puts huge grins on all our faces and leads to high-fives being exchanged around the office. The boost spurs us to work harder for that next compliment.

People often gravitate toward a positive attitude and shun negativity. Leaders have the opportunity and duty to be role models and strengthen the resiliency of their troops.

Being happy and positive may take more effort on some days, but you can make being happy a habit. Something as small as how you interact with a complete stranger can set into motion a chain reaction of negativity or positivity.

We are masters of our own actions and emotions. We can make the universe a happier and better place.


Air Force photograph by Kenji Thuloweit

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