Monday, January 28, 2013

Chicken soup for the soul: Think positive (101 inspirational stories about counting your blessingsand having a positive attitude)

Chicken soup for the soul: Think positive (101 inspirational stories about counting your blessingsand having a positive attitude)
By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hanson, and Amy Newmark

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

I have been delighted with many of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, but not in the way many of those reading this review would suppose or imagine. My first goal in selecting this book was to find potential topics, themes, or ideas to write about on my own positive-oriented blog Life... And Then Some!

For the short, inspirational stories, of course, this is not unlike most of the previous books of this genre (although a number of reviewers at suggest this selection is not as strong as others).

There was an unexpected byproduct here, however, similar to the one I experienced in reading my father-in-law’s (Edgar E. Willis) book, How to be Funny on Purpose: Creating and Consuming Humor. What I discovered from reading the Willis book, because of its clear, accurate, and detailed explanation of how to create humor, I found myself engaged actively in the process of writing jokes. I had never written jokes previously nor did I think myself capable. What fun I had constructing them!

Well, in reading about "thinking positive," I went through a number of epiphanies. I couldn’t help myself. I thought, for example, about what a positive and pleasant life I have led, and why it has happened.

The life I have led, both by design and positive thinking, fortunate (and lucky) decisions I made along the way, and certainly circumstances that have provided opportunities I never dreamed could happen, has been challenging, exciting, rewarding, and incredibly satisfying. Many of the results of positive thinking occur because of good choices along the way!

Here is my conclusion regarding positive thinking. All of life depends on making good choices. So, if I were to give advice to anyone (as I have done to over 80,000 students during my teaching career), it would be this: Prepare yourself in such a way that you (not someone else) is in control over the decisions of your life.

Now, I fully realize this is easier said than done and, too, that no matter how much we prepare, we cannot be in total control over all the decisions of our lives. That is true, however, that should not be discouraging. The point is to prepare as widely, broadly, and thoroughly as possible—stretch ourselves in all possible directions—in order to give ourselves the edge, the opportunity, or the advantage in any decisions that affect (or impinge on) our lives. We do not (cannot) know what curve balls life will throw at us, but that does not mean we cannot prepare ourselves to meet them.

When you apply this philosophy to your life, you are always looking for ways to improve, expand, or extend. You never stop learning or, even more important, looking for ways to increase your knowledge and potential.

This is the philosophy, I believe, that best undergirds, reinforces, buttresses, supports, and strengthens positive thinking, or it is the most likely philosophy to bring positive results from positive thinking. Positive thinking alone is valuable, but it takes more than just positive thinking to bring concrete results.

I found this Chicken Soup for the Soul book useful and valuable in this regard. I realize that teachers seldom know the impact—long-range results—of their instruction, but if I instilled this single idea in any of my 80,000 students I taught over more than 30 years in the classroom and lecture hall, I would consider my work successful. It is more than just a positive message, it is a charge, command, or instruction that, when internalized and practiced, will send you on a mission to take responsibility for your life.

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