Do people who are 100% happy and positive thinking all the time really exist? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
I had a boss, once, who was a relentless fountain of positivity.
I'm not like that. I found it annoying. We were definitely a bit of an odd couple, but it worked really well.
We spent lots of time together, traveled around the world together, and genuinely became close friends -- he was always positive, and always happy.
I only saw him crack once, when I said something negative about another super-positive co-worker of ours. He got really angry with me, and asked why I always talked like that. I was so taken aback that I apologized, which I wasn't in the habit of doing back then. Then he went back to being happy.
Years later, over breakfast, we talked a bit about how he's always positive and happy. He leaned in close to me and said, "It only matters that everyone thinks you're positive all the time, Jon."
I was stunned. Was all of this -- everything he did, his entire way in the world -- just a long con?
He really is an optimist (as am I, oddly enough, despite being crotchety about a whole slew of things), but he also understands that the way you are viewed by other people is what makes your reality, and how you view yourself doesn't matter all that much to your worldly success. So he'd spent years building on his natural optimism, and constructing this relentlessly positive person for the world to see. It's his character, or mask, or whatever you want to call it. It's real, but at the same time, it's not wholly him. It's awfully close, though.
He worked at it. He wants to make sure that people come away from meeting him, and think that he's just one of the most positive people they'll ever meet. And it's true; that is the way you feel when you meet him, and it stays that way for as long as you know him.
I'd spent a lot of my life thinking that it was important that people viewed me as exceedingly competent, which I think I accomplish most days. But I hadn't cared at all about how people viewed that competence, or me personally. I figured that my friends liked me, and that's what mattered.
He and I used to have lots of arguments about this, mostly because I viewed him as decidedly incompetent in doing a lot of the heavy lifting, where I excelled.
But then I started to realize something: people took him more seriously than they took me, even though that they knew I had done all the work. And they did that because he was so very good at making them feel good about themselves, and their decision to trust him. He was able to reflect that positivity that he always had, and use it as a boomerang with other people. Like, just being near him made people feel like they were making a good decision.
It didn't work on everyone. It didn't work on me, for example, and there were some executives that viewed it as BS. But, for the most part, it worked, and it worked really, really well.
Once I realized that, I stopped arguing.
I started taking notes.
I'm still far from someone who is positive all the time, and I think that's not the right path for me. Part of growing up means that you have to figure out which paths you want to walk down, and which ones are worth the massive effort. Because they're all a massive effort.
There's aabout this:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego."
He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
I can excel at something different from my old boss ---- which actually has the same net effect of making people feel valued and loved that my old boss was able to do with his relentless positivity (although he's also a good listener). This is because I'm genuinely curious about other people's points of view, and I'm naturally patient -- I can wait to hear my own voice. I can also excel at being . And combining those two things is something that makes me very happy, although not all of the time. Plus, there's , and that makes me unbelievably happy each day. But I'm still not happy 100% of the time, and I don't really expect to be.
There are lots of people who are relentlessly positive because it serves them well, and they'll feed that wolf, and it'll eventually become indistinguishable from who they think that they are, deep down inside. Since I figured out what was going on with my old boss, I see it in other people all the time.
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