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If You Think You Can’t Change Course… You’re Right

Valerie and her wonder dog,
"Cokie Roberts"

By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 182 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

You’ve heard the expression that some people see the glass as half full while others perceive the same glass to be half empty? I had the opportunity to see this difference in perception in action.

One summer, my father and I drove to the airport to pick up my some family members visiting from Florida. It was 100 degrees and muggy. "Knowing" there wouldn’t be any parking spaces close to the terminal, my father was inclined to head directly to the back lot where we’d be sure to find a space.

I, on the other hand, was inclined to start with the row closest to the terminal and work my way back. Since my father was literally in the driver’s seat, he reluctantly agreed to check out the last row in the front lot. If we didn’t find something there, he said, we’d proceed directly to the back lot. Not only did we find a spot, but as we were walking to the terminal we passed a primo front row space. His response? "It probably wouldn’t have been there when we were looking."

In other words, I prefer to think that things will work out. My dad presumes they will not. Not surprising, during his adult life, my father held two jobs. He was horribly exploited in his first job and left only at my mother’s constant urging. He stayed at his second job for over 30 years. In part, my father’s long job tenure has to do with that fact that he is a product of a time when there was a different set of rules regarding employer-employee loyalty. You got a good (or even a not so good) job and you stuck with it for life.

There is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with staying in the same job or town or anything else for an extended period of time. My mother’s family has lived in this same area of Massachusetts since the 1600s. My father’s family came at the turn of the last century. I love it here in what is known as the Pioneer Valley, and despite feeling tremendous pressure after graduating from college to go somewhere new, I have never had any desire to move any place else on a permanent basis.

When staying in one job or place too long IS cause for concern though, is when it is not driven by a sense of contentment but by the belief that things will not work out anyway, so why bother. A lousy attitude will kill a dream faster than just about anything else.

If you find yourself automatically driving to the back lot of life, maybe it’s time to do an attitude check:

  • Do you see yourself as deserving of happiness?

  • Do you think things will probably work out for the best and, if they don’t, do you see that as an opportunity to try again?

  • Do you see yourself as the director of your life or as a bit player operating from someone else’s script?

  • Do you think that life generally has it out for you and therefore it is hopeless to even try to change your life? Or do you see life as Helen Keller once described it as being, "an exciting adventure or nothing at all"?

Pessimists THINK a lot about changing course; unfortunately those with a negative attitude rarely ever act on their dreams. If you are prone to pessimism but really DO want to go after your dream of a more meaningful work/life, you may need to first practice viewing things from a positive perspective.

Moving from a pessimistic, hopeless view to an optimistic, hopeful one will not happen over night. It is a goal that must be worked on one day at a time. Start by taking one situation each day and trying to reframe it from a glass half-full perspective. Fake it if you have to. After a while you will find yourself readily being able to not only see the glass of life as half full, but enjoying a long, quenching drink from it as well.

When it comes to successfully changing course, attitude really is every thing. That’s because as Henry Ford once put it, "If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right."

There are 4 comments. Add yours.

  1. Louise

    For me, finding value in all things means, the backlot is a great chance for me to gain a little extra exercise during the day. So, I choose the back lot because of its distance from my destination, not because I don’t believe there won’t be a spot for me up front.

    Just another way of seeing the same thing from a different perspective.

    BTW — I enjoy your writings.


  2. Sandra

    “Attitude is everything” is so true! I have lived most my life(48 years)with low self esteem and have struggled with wanting/attempting to pursue more out of life and striving for goals but feel I’m my own worse enemy. Never having the confidence to even attempt change or a better life. It’s frustrating and has kept me from more satisfaction in life and a career. I read everything I can find on developing confidence and changing my “glass half empty” perception of life. Your articles are encouraging to me and I enjoy reading and getting a new perspective, giving me hope for a new and better future.


  3. James

    Just——————–thank you…for sharing/saying—what is on a large number of 40somethings minds—-can a person move, change, improve, grow with in the long held and ANTIQUATED beliefs that prevent us from enjoying life and the joy that comes from doing what one loves and being compensated for it….WOW…thank you…James in Alaska!

  4. Pat in Mississippi

    I can’t think of a better time for me to read this. I was just laid off my job and after the initial shock and tears I was reminded that like the words of Henry Ford- “If you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” I can act like poor little me or grab the next adventure and see where it leads. I am looking to sell some articles or research work if anyone has suggestions. I enjoy your blog. AND yes it helped. Thanks–pat


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