How do you choose to respond?

The power of a positive attitude

Most of us have nothing much to complain about. But, in all honesty, does even a day go by when you don’t find yourself moaning about something? Rather than being grateful for all of the gifts we have, we often let some relatively small thing, like a disparaging comment or a long wait, practically ruin our day. In reality, all we have is the choice about how we respond to life. Our responses reflect not only our own character, but have a ripple effect that touches everyone around us.

What brought this to mind was seeing David Sloan celebrate the winners of the 2014 “David Sloan ACG Cup,” which includes $10,000 prize money. The winning team this year was from DU’s Daniels School of Business. Several years ago, David was the visionary behind the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) case study competition for MBA students. But David can’t walk up on stage to congratulate the students like he used to. He’s slowly losing his ability to move in his battle with MS—and he’s proud as a peacock of his new wheelchair.

Formerly among the most successful merger and acquisition experts in the Southwest, in 2011 David Sloan finished writing his autobiography, “One Day at a Time,” using the pinkie finger on his right hand to type one letter at a time. How does he choose to respond to his debilitating disease? During the day, when the family is away at work and school, he plays games with Hank, the family dog, chasing him around the house in his wheelchair. He attends all of his kids’ school events and serves as their role model for maintaining a positive spirit. Personally, I have never seen David without a broad smile across his face: cheerful, interested in others, and delighted to see friends and former colleagues. David stays positive in the face of adversity that most of us can’t even imagine.

As if David’s outlook on life weren’t enough to spark my thinking about gratitude, a long-time friend just moved back to Denver from the East Coast, where she spent four years unable to work while she battled colon cancer and multiple surgeries by herself, without her family around to support her. Now in remission, she is as cheerful as she’s been all of the years I’ve known her and excited about looking for a new job.

The power of choice

All of us know people with similar stories, as well as people without much adversity in their lives. In both cases, we have the same power of choice. As Coach Lou Holtz puts it, “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”

If all of us choose to focus on the positives in our lives, letting the disparaging comments go by and joking with others standing beside us in the queue, the ripple effects on our families, co-workers and communities would mean more smiles and more happiness everywhere. I think we should call choosing the positive response, “The David Sloan Effect.”

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