Watching the daily news, it’s easy to become a cynic. The media follows an “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” mentality, emphasizing the worst of what’s happening in the world around us. National tragedies are covered in real time, to a sometimes unnecessary degree of repetition and detail. Thanks to technology and the Internet, this steady diet of negativity is available to us around the clock.
Such a gloomy bias can drive self-fulfilling prophecies. That makes it all the more important to balance the negative facts of the world with positive ones. Technology and the Internet, for example, are changing lives for the better in many ways. We have more choices than ever before (remember when television meant three network stations and maybe PBS?). Knowledge is more widely available than ever – and knowledge is power. The desire for freedom and democracy is spreading around the world. Capitalism has spread into places we once hardly could have imagined, such as the former Soviet Union. In China, the power of markets has led to dramatic economic growth and social change. The adult literacy rate increased there from 78% in 1990 to 94% in 2010.
In America, these changes mean vast new opportunities for business, investment, travel and more. We are fortunate to live in a country that was built on optimism and that, even in down times, offers more opportunity to more people than probably any nation on earth. Things that people in other parts of the world are just beginning to grasp, like freedom and democracy, have been ours for a long time.
Recognizing opportunities in life requires open-mindedness, optimism and looking to see what lies beneath the surface. Some of the most positive developments in life can come disguised as negatives. For example, a decline in the stock market can become a buying opportunity. A job layoff can become a gateway to a new and more exciting career.
Sometimes, the simple exercise of counting your blessings can be the first step to cultivating a positive attitude and taking proactive control over your future. When we are mindful of blessings, the brain-clutter clears, the sharp edges of worry soften and we begin to see possibilities.