Saturday, August 14, 2010

I opportunity for change.

I want to thank my wife again for her inspiring words. In such a fragile economy, it’s easy to lose perspective and look at life negatively. It often becomes a downward spiral that we continue to feed – consciously or subconsciously.

Negativity is promoted everywhere. It’s evident in Facebook and Twitter status updates. The newspaper and nightly news broadcast horrifying stories. Commercials condition us to believe that we will get every disease unless we consult a physician about a new drug.

Even some of our most popular television shows are shrouded in negativity. These shows are so interesting to us because collectively we identify with the deeply flawed characters. Who doesn’t have a stressful life, or work-related problems, or not enough money? We even build up our real-life heroes into immortal role models, watch as they crumble under scandal, and then root for second chances. Why? Because we identify with their humanity. But, does “humanity” need to be synonymous with negativity?

I want to heed my wife’s words and put them into action – to really try to change the collective perception that life is a constant uphill battle.

I once read that the most powerful word anyone can say is the word “I”. Simply put, no person in the world can say the word “I” for you.

I am stressed.
I underachieve.
I am not wealthy enough.
I am not smart enough.

I probably use some of these phrases daily. But, why should I allow myself to feel that way? In reality, what I choose to put my emphasis on is what I am. If I say these things, I become these things.

If I want to change my reality and ultimately my perception of life, there’s a simple solution. I am committing to following the word “I” with something positive…always. This simple change can adjust my mindset:

I am motivated.
I am a loving husband and father.
I can help people.
I am happy.

If I can make this one simple change, even if I force it at first, I can create a better reality for myself and my family.


My sister recently sent me an article by Kristin Armstrong, a noted runner and author. As she was finishing up a hard run while training, she was struggling to get up that one last steep hill. As she was climbing that hill, she thought about all those people who don’t have the ability or opportunity to run that hill. Her change in attitude about the hill resulted in a shift in her overall perception. Instead of thinking, I have to run up that hill, she decided to think, “I get to run up that hill”. It’s a simple one word change, but it’s a dramatic shift in perception. She tried to apply her new mantra to everything in her life. She even passed it along to her peers.

We all have things we have to do. I have to wake up early with my son. I have to take my dogs for walk. I have to eat healthier. Kristin Armstrong’s point is simple. If we view life as an opportunity, we can create a more positive reality.

This behavior is contagious. At a recent race, Kristin noticed people wearing t-shirts that read:

I get to run today.

Once we change our habits that enable and empower negativity, we can replace those practices with productive ones. In a day, a week, a month, it can become commonplace – our new mantra.

Like those runners, as I think about my metaphorical t-shirt, it would read:

I get to be with my son today.

I implore every single person who is reading these words to leave a comment and tell me what your t-shirt would say. It won’t take much time and it doesn’t take much effort. Even if you think this is an exercise in futility, we can still carve out, at the very least, our own positive nook in this very tiny section of the world. So, tell me...what would your t-shirt say?



  1. Ever since I read the article, I really have been saying those 3 words to myself. . . "I get to. . ." It really has changed my perspective in dealing with my life, especially my children. I have always been a positive person, but sometimes I get overwhelmed when it comes to my kids. When they start being disobedient, it can put me in a bad mood quickly. They are really testing me lately and when I state those three words, "I get to", it really puts things into perspective. I feel my body and mind relax and I can deal with whatever situation I am in at that moment.
    Two of my 3 kids have albinism. Most days I have a positive attitude about it, but Brady fights me every time I put sunscreen on him. I didn't ask for him to have a disability, but he does and we have to deal with it. So my tee shirt would say: "I get to put sunscreen on my children." Because albinism isn't that bad!

  2. The funny thing is, just the act of being positive can make others uncomfortable.

    I have seen Facebook statuses and posts online that complain about people who publicly declare their love for their spouse. "I think it's great that they like each other and all, but they don't need to make such a public statement about it!"

    I wish everyone was not only more comfortable expressing THEIR love openly, but also with celebrating the love between others. It's so easy to focus on the negatives (he/she doesn't do this...doesn't do that...), but when that's what we're focusing on, aren't we losing sight of what is really great? Why wouldn't we WANT to hear about what makes people happy and strive for that happiness ourselves?

    So... my t-shirt would say, "I get to live with the amazing man behind A Life Unexpected!"

  3. I get to spend Saturday night with my family in our home.
    I get the luxury to read blogs.
    I get to cook & clean for people that love me.
    I get to breathe & dance & smile.

    Thank you. Lovely posts, always.

  4. I have been through many struggles in my life, but I have always tried to stay positive. This year was very hard on me emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually. With words of wisdom from dear friends and my family I realized that my positive outlook on life has prepared me for these hardships and made me a better person. I am now blessed with a baby boy due in November, a man who truly loves me,dear friends who are my family and a reconnection with my sister who I have seen for the first time in 10 years. I am truly blessed to have these wonderful people in my life!

    My t-shirt would say I get to have wonderful, loving people in my life who truly love me and make me happy!

  5. I get to be alive and healthy to spend my days with my girls.
    I get to stand by my husband while he puts his life on the line for others.

  6. "I complained I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet." :)

    Great stuff, Jay!


  7. Thank you everyone for posting your comments. They are all inspiring. Now, let's hear from the rest! Be brave...break the mold. Let's hear from you! Let's aim for 20 or more comments!

  8. I get to explore Rutgers Gardens today with a great person/friend and my beautiful family!

    I get to be amazed by the generosity of people who donated over 800 diapers for our diaper drive.

  9. I get to watch Dora and other "drive me crazy" shows with my son while cuddling on the couch!

  10. I get to smell, taste, see, feel and hear all of the wonderful things my 3 children get to do. jennifer , first time visitor of your blog

  11. I get to watch my 2 year old make up silly dances whenever she hears music. This instantly puts me in a great mood.

  12. I get to spend my days with my three beautiful children. Watching them grow, and learn. I get to experience true, unconditional love. I am lucky. Even with the temper tantrums, they are only young once, and they will be grown before I know it.

  13. I get to snuggle in bed early this morning with my daughter who managed to escape from her crib..
    I get watch how excited my son is now that he can walk..
    I get to see a bond form between my 2 children that i never imagined possible..
    I get to share my life with the most supportive husband-which i desperately need at this moment.
    Thank you again Jay for such inspiring words.

  14. The past three weeks have been extremely trying for me as I enter my second year as an educator. The school I teach at offers a difficult sitution for a new teacher or old teacher. After explaining what I go through on a daily basis, my mother (a teacher) offers her support from over 1000 miles away. I cried to her on the phone, feeling helpless, that I have to teach students I feel that I am not qualifed to teach.
    Most people in my position would say "I don't give a shit" about reaching every single student. And just go with the flow...Well I do give a shit, and after reading Jay's blog and Kristen Armstrong's article, i say, "I get to give a shit" and because I get too, I believe that I can reach every student no matter what.
    I don't have to teach them, instead, I say I get to teach them.

  15. After a particularly rough week, I was in a meeting with Patricia who mentioned your blog. This morning I decided to check it out. Your most recent post was exactly what I needed to hear. I get to do incredible work with incredible, committed people,some of the best on the planet, yet I despair when a grant fails to materialize. I get the privilege of being married to the most supportive, amazing husband, and I worry that I'm not holding up my end. Truly I get to live the life of my dreams, but still find ways to focus on what I believe is missing. It's crazy! Whenever I find myself in these dark places, my coach (I'm glad I'm smart enough to use one!) will ask me, "Are you willing to create a new, more interesting conclusion about this situation?" (Because we absolutely gather evidence for whatever conclusion we're focusing on at the time.) This simple question really helps me shift my focus.

    So thanks for the reminder and thanks for sharing your experience. I needed to hear it.

  16. Thank you for bringing everything back into perspective for me. This is so important for each of us as human beings to do each and every day.

    My t-shirt would say...

    I get to be a wife, daughter, sister, and friend today.


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