I’ve been going through 25 years of back issues of Winning Ways newsletter to gather my favorite articles that I’m collecting for an e-book. I came across this one from 1990 and thought it was worth sharing here as well.

“April is the cruelest month,” mused T.S. Eliot. Obviously, he wasn’t around in October. While the weather had been magnificent, many people were not so inclined. For background noise there was the nightly news with an unrelenting stream of stories about war, recession and political nastiness.

Closer at hand were the two women who left their manners at home when they came to my English tea class and the burglar who removed the battery from my car.

Staying positive in a negative world is challenging even in normal times, but this felt as if guerilla tactics were in order. Here are some of the most helpful I’ve found for getting past negative times and creating positive ones.

° Bombard yourself with positives. Overcompensate. Sondra Ray has a wonderful affirmation that goes, “Every negative thought immediately triggers three more powerful positive ones.”

If things are looking dim, consciously create the opposite thought. Keep your favorite books of inspiration close at hand and read at random during crisis moments.

° Take a proactive stance—and keep it. Nobody does a better job of explaining proactive vs. reactive behavior than Stephen Covey.

In his classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he writes, “Proactive people focus their efforts on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying causing their circle of influence to increase.

“Reactive people, on the other hand, focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language and increased feelings of victimization.”

If you need more information about moving into a proactive position, revisit Covey’s book for practical suggestions.

° Indulge a passion. One year, I created two challenges for myself: to discover all the ways that chocolate and raspberries could be combined and to see all of the Monet paintings I could with my own two eyes. Both of these quests added hours of pleasure when I was traveling—and when I was not.

I highly recommend you give yourself a similar challenge.

° Catch someone doing something right and let them know. I noticed a woman at the airport in Chicago wearing a smart outfit. When she reappeared in Minneapolis, I walked up to her and told her I’d been admiring her clothes. She thanked me and said, “You can probably tell by my accent that you’d have to go a long way to get one for yourself.”

“Where are you from?” I inquired. When she told me London was her hometown, I said, “Oh, but I’m going there next month!”

I came away with a warm feeling and a great shopping tip.

° Take yourself on a mini-retreat. Sometimes the only way to diffuse negative energy is to move yourself completely out of it. So plan a day or two doing something you normally wouldn’t do.

Spend Wednesday doing the Sunday crossword. Watch the seasons change at a cabin at the lake. Have a massage at bedtime.

While you are so engaged, concentrate fully on what’s going on in front of you—not the situation that upset you in the first place.

° Discover the hidden gift in the problem. When my car was burglarized, I was mighty upset. Then one of the handsomest men I have ever met arrived at my door (wearing his police uniform) and things began to look a bit brighter.

We even managed to laugh about the situation when he asked me to check the car for further theft. I looked around and told him all of my music CDs were in place. “I don’t suppose that people who steal batteries would steal Mozart, would they?” I asked.

Negative times can be profoundly diminished if you have tools for dealing with them.

Abraham Maslow once described the self-actualized person’s response to chaos by saying they behaved “like a clock ticking in a thunderstorm.” It’s a picture I’ve tried to remember in crazy times and attempted to duplicate.

None of us is immune to life’s negative events, but it’s possible to minimize their impact. In the end, it’s really a matter of learning to starve our upsets and feed our opportunities.

 

In 1883 Claude Monet moved his family to Giverny. It remained his home for forty-three years until his death. This place became a daily source of inspiration for his life and his painting.

No detail was too insignificant for Monet. Besides overseeing the planning and installation of the gardens, he was equally involved in creating a beautiful home for his family, insisting that meals be a regular source of pleasure along with the visual delights of the indoor and outdoor spaces.

Not only did Monet’s talent grow in this beautiful environment, he also became a skillful entrepreneur marketing his work with the same imagination which he applied to his painting and his personal life.

Would Monet have become such a successful artist without GIverny? We can only guess at the answer.

One thing is certain, however: he became a more prolific painter after finding inspiration right outside of his door.

It isn’t just artists, of course, who are fueled by that mysterious force called inspiration. It’s a power that’s available to anyone willing to allow it to flourish in their life. It arrives when we create a welcoming environment for it.

Do you know what inspires you? What music? What books? What people leave you feeling happier and more confident? What movies make your spirits soar? Wise words? A favorite spot? Gardens? Babies? Needlework? 

Do you consciously create an environment that inspires you?

You can’t be inspired living on the spiritual equivalent of Big Macs. Inspiration requires grander material than that.

Inspiration isn’t vaccination, after all. We don’t get it once and expect it to last.
Like Monet, we need to set up our lives in such a way that inspiration is a daily event.

We must be brave enough to surround ourselves with those things, thoughts and people that lift us up. And we need to do it over and over again. 

People wo go beyond the ordinary have all made the commitment to bringing as much inspiration as possible into their lives. So can you.

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If you’d like to know more about inspiration and, especially, what others find inspiring, pay a visit to the Get Inspired Project where you can listen to interviews with dozens of people who share their thoughts on the subject.

And if you’re serious about integrating the power of inspiration into your business, join us for Inspired Livelihood in Sedona, AZ on April 15 & 16.

Look up from the computer you’re reading this on. What do you see? Reminders of places that inspire you? Books worth rereading? Does it matter?

You probably know what I think the answer is to that last question—and I’m not alone in thinking that it matters a great deal. In 1883 Claude Monet moved his family to Giverny. It remained his home for forty-three years until his death. Monet spent exactly one-half of his life living this place which became a daily source of inspiration for his life and painting.

No detail was too insignificant for Monet. Not only did he oversee the planning and installation of the gardens, he was equally involved in creating a beautiful home for his family, insisting that meals be a regular source of pleasure. While Monet’s talent flourished in this beautiful environment, he also became a skillful entrepreneur marketing his work with the same imagination which he applied to his painting and his personal life.

Would Monet have become such a successful artist without Giverny? We can only guess at the answer. One thing is certain: Monet intentionally found inspiration right outside of his door. 

Most of us will never live in as magical a place as Giverny, but we can set up our lives in such a way that inspiration is a daily, on-going event. First we must be brave enough to surround ourselves with those things, thoughts and people that lift us up. And we need to do it over and over again. After all, inspiration isn’t a vaccination. If you want to go beyond the ordinary, begin by bringing as much inspiration as possible into your world.

$100 Hour Idea: Welcome paying guests. Ever since I discovered At Home in London, I have given up hotels and stayed in private homes when I visit that favorite city. If you’re an empty-nester, why not turn the space into a profit center from time to time? A woman who lived near a college, frequently hosted visiting artists and professors in her home. Not only did she create a nice profit center, she met fascinating people from all over the world. She also loved the flexibility of opening her casual b & b when it was convenient. 

Explore More:  Alison Marks is the creative spirit behind Inside Out Design Coaching in San Francisco. Besides doing coaching, organizing and feng shui consultations in her area, she also offers teleclasses and lots of information through her Website and Dwell Well ezine. Read her 10 Things You Can Do to Turn Your Home Into a Haven.It’s full of great tips.

A strong imagination begets opportunity. ~ Michel de Montaigne