Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What's good in your life?

Most mornings, I awake at 6:00 am. I like to allow about 30 minutes, before my workday begins, to prepare my mind for the day ahead. I spend time meditating, and then review my schedule for the day, to ensure that I am organized and that I get things done in the most systematic way.

It is not unusual for me to get a phone call during this time of preparation. It is nearly always from the same person. This woman is very near and dear to my heart, but as soon as I learn the caller's identity, I wish I hadn't answered. Why? It's the voice of doom and gloom. If there has been a disaster in the news, that's usually the opening topic, complete with warnings that I need to be sure my daughters are safe, even if the disaster occurred in China. "Don't go out at night!" "Watch for any strange cars on your street!" "Don't go to that store. It's dangerous there!"

The disaster report and the warnings are generally followed by a list of her current aches, pains and illnesses, followed by a similar list for nearly every friend and relative. Then I am admonished to "be careful, because things are really bad in the world."

I listen to all her problems, complaints and warnings, and try to offer a voice of calm and reason. The dear one who called lives alone, and television, with all of its negative news and warnings, has become a major part of each day. I feel it is important for me to listen to her, and to try to calm her, even if she doesn't always listen to me.

After this call, I take a deep breath, or two or three, and return to preparing for my day. I take a few extra minutes to think of the good things in my life and to focus on the positive. This is an essential activity for me.

In the 1980's, I was working at The College of Wooster. Being the daughter of a coach, I began attending a lot of sporting events at the college. One day, a friend suggested that I join Downtown Rebounders, the booster club for the college basketball team. I had heard of Rebounders, as it was more commonly known, often. All of the businessmen in town were members. It was a great place for networking, and from all reports, the speakers at the Rebounders' meetings were worth every penny of the membership fee.

One of my father's friends, Ernie Infield was the founder and organizer of Rebounders, and I asked him if there were any women members. He said there were two others (out of a membership of over 200), and that he really hoped I would come. I told him I would be at the next meeting.

At that meeting, the speaker was Jim Dennison, from the University of Akron. At that time, Mr. Dennison was in the national news. As head football coach of the Zips, he had established himself as the "winningest" coach in Akron football history, with a 13-year record of 80 wins, 62 losses and two ties. He was the first and only Zip football coach to win ten games in a season, to play for a national championship, and to be chosen Ohio Coach of the Year and Kodak National Coach of the Year. You may think that was the reason he was chosen to speak at Rebounders, but it wasn't.

Actually, at the peak of Coach Dennison's success, he was fired! It seems that the university had hopes of being moved to a higher division (more prestige,) and they felt that Coach Dennison wasn't well known enough to influence the "powers that be," so they fired him as football coach, and brought in Gerry Faust, who was quite famous as the football coach of the prestigious University of Notre Dame. In an apparent effort not to appear heartless, the University offered Coach Dennison the job of Assistant Athletic Director.

Sports writers and fans across the country were appalled. They were sure that Dennison would refuse the offer. Surely, other schools would move quickly to hire him to lead their football teams. To everyone's amazement, Jim Dennison accepted the University of Akron's offer with grace and a positive approach. He refused to complain or to become angry.

This was why he was asked to speak at Rebounders. He was a quality individual. He spoke about the rules by which he lives his life. He called it PMA, which stands for Positive Mental Attitude. He told us how in the days that followed his firing as coach, he had felt hurt and angry, and then he remembered that he had always told the young men on his team, that anger does not win in football games, or in the game of life. Instead, it is important to always have a positive mental attitude. He constantly reminded his team to focus on a positive mental attitude. When mistakes were made during a game, he would look at the player(s) involved and simply say, "PMA." No ranting, no demands, just a reminder. And it worked. His players respected him and gave 100% of their effort to do what the coach suggested.

As Coach Dennison struggled with his challenges, he remembered how he had told the players PMA was important in every part of their lives, and now he knew it held the key to his future. He grabbed a pad of sticky notes and wrote PMA on each one. He put them on his bathroom mirror, on his closet, on the alarm clock, on his desk, on every door in the house and inside his car. Everywhere he looked, he was reminded, that he needed to develop a positive mental attitude toward what was happening in his life. And he accomplished that.

He became a very successful Assistant Athletic Director, and soon was promoted to Athletic Director. Although, the Akron football team did not flourish under Coach Gerry Faust, Jim Dennison became the first athletic director in the nation to move a university football program from Division 1AA to 1A. The university had fired him because they thought he would hinder them, and instead he took what he was given and accomplished the goal. According to Mr. Dennison, it was all due to PMA.

Mr. Dennison, recently retired from the position of Athletic Director at Walsh University in North Canton, a position he had held since retiring from the University of Akron in 1993, after 28 years of service. He says he wants to devote 100% of his time to coaching Walsh University's football team. The football players on that team are fortunate. Jim Dennison is one of those rare coaches, who cares more about the integrity and personal development of his players than he does winning or losing a game.

Coach Dennison's speech made a huge impact on me that day at Rebounders. It is something that I remember to this day. During difficult times, I often follow his example, and post sticky notes, with the letters PMA on them, in places I will be sure to see them. I try to make an effort to focus on the positive.

When you are homeschooling, you will have days that are challenging, but if you can focus on the positive, you are on your way to overcoming the challenge.

It is easy to be drawn into negative thinking, or to become angry or hurt when things are not going the way we think they should. Learn how to develop a positive mental attitude and share it with your family.

Take a few minutes at the beginning of your day to focus on the positive, and to develop one of Coach Dennison's other teachings: an attitude of gratitude. No matter how many challenges you have in your life, there are still things for which you can be grateful. Focusing on those things can make it far easier to attain a positive mental attitude.

How do you see your family? Maybe there is someone in your family who complains, or "pushes all your buttons." They may annoy you, but I know that person also has positive qualities. Think about those qualities when you think of your family. Compliment your family members on the things they do well. Will things improve overnight? Maybe not, but if you maintain that positive attitude, they will improve.

Think about these questions: How do you face challenges? How do you see your home? How do you see your community, your country, the world? Are you seeing mostly negative things in any of these areas? Look for some things that are positive and focus on how you can help to expand the positive, instead of how you can fight (or just complain about) the negative.

If things seem really tough, think of something kind you can do for someone else. This may seem odd, but helping someone else, is a huge step toward developing good feelings and a more positive outlook.

Think about what you are saying. Is it negative? How can you change it? I recently read a suggestion for a conversation starter. Instead of the usual, "how are you?" ask, "What's good in your life right now?" Many people are surprised when you ask them that question, and most will take a minute to reflect upon it, and then tell you something good. They walk away from your conversation with a smile on their face, and with a more optimistic attitude, just because you helped them to remember that there is good in their lives. If you happen to ask someone the question and receive the answer, "Good? Not much good in my life," it will be your opportunity to help them find something positive.

Right now, it's bitter cold outside, but I am sitting in my warm home, sipping a hot cup of coffee, with both of my daughters nearby. Life is good!

So, tell me... what's good in your life?



"If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it." ~Mary Engelbreit

"I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains."
~Anne Frank, "The Diary of a Young Girl"

"Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day."

~Author Unknown

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