In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell reflects on the Law of Magnetism which says, “Who you attract is not determined by what you want. It’s determined by who you are.” He suggests that those drawn to us are similar in some key ways like generation, background, values, energy, giftedness, and attitude.
Birds of a feather flock together. Boomers hang with Boomers and Millennials hang with Millennials; and so do those of similar economic, religious, race, educational background, or common values; positive or negative. And people are drawn to leaders who are gifted and project talent, excellence, and success. They don’t follow the mediocre.
But attitude may be one of the greatest magnetic forces of all. And the more time people spend together the more their attitudes move from being similar to being the same. Attitudes—positive or negative—are contagious. And as leaders, if people around us have negative attitudes, we need to assess our own.
So, imagine my shock when my wife called me “Eeyore” recently. Eeyore? From Winnie the Pooh? To be “Eeyore-ish” is to have a negative, pessimistic, or gloomy attitude. So, I am by temperament a bit melancholic and admittedly prone to mood swings. I can go from upbeat to downcast in a heartbeat if something negative happens. But “Eeyore-ish”? I need to be more cheerful?
In The Hidden Power of Kindness, Laurence Lovasik suggests that we need to radiate cheerfulness. Cheerfulness is a virtue—a habit we need to choose to develop. Cheerfulness is a choice!
Thomas Aquinas equates cheerfulness with affability—a friendly, good-natured manner—and relates it to the greater virtue of justice, which encourages us to give another what’s due them out of duty or obligation. We have a duty to help, not hinder, those around us. We should offer others material assistance or advice, when they need or want it. But we are obligated to give them our kindness, pleasantness, and affability—our cheerfulness—all the time.
I must admit that, if I’m “Eeyore-ish”—glum or surly—I might make people uncomfortable. But when I’m cheerful, maybe uplifted, energized, confident, and hopeful.
So, why do I choose to be “Eeyore-ish”? It’s not constructive, and wallowing in self-pity, overwhelmed by how crazy the world is or how unfair life is, doesn’t solve anything. I’m naturally inclined to feel sad, but I don’t need to be governed by my feelings. I can rise above them and control them. I can choose to be governed by will rather than feelings. I can choose to model kind, affable, sympathetic, encouraging —cheerful—focused on what’s good and positive, all there is to be grateful and enthusiastic about, all solid motives for hope, fortitude, and patience.
“So, Jim,” she said, “stop taking yourself and circumstances so seriously.”
Take life in stride. Tackle your challenges with courage and hope which are also contagious. When you’re headed down, take action. Forget yourself and do good for somebody else. Start with a smile on your face and another in your heart.
Like Mother Teresa said, “Stop being ‘Eeyore-ish.’” No, wait! She didn’t say that. What she said was, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
Written by Jim Gernetzke, business/life coach and founder of Nos Lumine