Perspective: It’s Funny How Things Change

Have you ever heard of Norman Vincent Peale? This Ohio-born preacher became one of the most influential clergymen of the 20th century, and even if his name doesn’t ring a bell, the title of the most popular of his dozens of books surely will: The Power of Positive Thinking. Published in 1952, the book is one of the all-time-bestselling self-help guides out there, with more than 20 million copies sold in 40-plus languages.

A well-circulated anecdote about Peale involves a man who phoned him one day, deeply depressed and looking for help. Peale invited the man to his office for a chat, during which the man told him he had nothing to live for anymore.

Peale smiled sympathetically at the distraught man sitting before him. “Let’s take a look at your situation,” he said, taking out a sheet of paper and drawing a line down the middle of the paper. He told the man on the left side they would list the things he’d lost in his life, and on the right, the things he had remaining.

“We won’t need that column on the right,” the man said. “There’s nothing in my life left to live for.”

So Peale asked the man when his wife left him. “She hasn’t left me,” the man replied, a bit taken aback. “Somehow, she still loves me.”

“Well, that’s a good start – ‘Wife Not Left,’” Peale wrote in the right-hand column. “Now, tell me, when did your children go to jail?”

“What?” the man asked, surprised. “My children aren’t in jail!”

“Great!” Peale replied, making more notes. “Then we’ve got another addition for things you haven’t lost – ‘Children Not in Jail.’”

After a few more questions along those lines, the man finally saw Peale’s point and even allowed a small smile. He said to Peale: “It’s funny how things change when you think of them that way.”

Learn to re-frame how you look at various situations and it is amazing to see how your perspective can change.

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