BethAnn Telford is an inspiration to anyone feeling like they can't do something. AFTER being diagnosed with brain cancer, having two surgeries and being told she had a 90% chance of never walking again...she participated in several marathons and Ironman competitions. Get off the couch and go for a run...now.Read More
The Dalai Lama has been someone I've admired for a long time. He's written several books, given many talks, on various topics and continues to work tirelessly for the poor, disaffected and displaced. All while living in exile. The Dalai Lama remains positive even though he's dealing with these issues on a daily basis.
Time Magazine did a 10-questions piece on him in 2010. I've included the video portion of it, and I'm struck by how candid he is. I think many of us would be guarded and reserved, What's been most impressive to me about the Dalai Lama is how joy pervades him. I've never seen a picture of him looking exhausted, defeated, indifferent. He is genuinely curious about all around him. His knowledge is vast, as he is guided by his curiousity. He's also extremely optimistic. Here's a question-response from the Time article:
How do you stay so optimistic and faithful when there is so much hate in the world? —Joana Cotar, FRANKFURT
I always look at any event from a wider angle. There's always some problem, some killing, some murder or terrorist act or scandal everywhere, every day. But if you think the whole world is like that, you're wrong. Out of 6 billion humans, the troublemakers are just a handful.
If you are interested in knowing more about his perspective, you can read his book, The Art of Happiness. It's a relatively quick read and is focused on human happiness, not religious doctrine. He's able to separate out his religious perspective and discuss the science of happiness.
William Kamkwamba is proof that one person determined to bring change can be irresistible. At the age of 14, because he was faced with terrible famine and drought in his home country of Malawi, he had to drop out of school to help provide for his family. As William says in the video, "this is a future I cannot accept." Rather than despair and face this future, he went to the library and found a book called 'Using Energy' and decided to build a windmill so he could provide light and energy for his house.
William's family thought he was crazy. The villagers thought he was crazy as well. 'Here we are in a drought and he's building a windmill?!' This didn't stop him. Lacking materials, William gathered what he needed at the scrapyard across the street. Using the diagrams in the book as a guide, William used a tractor fan, wood scraps, and a bicycle to build the windmill and help realize his dream.
After building the windmill, William figured out how to wire his house and power 4 lights and 2 radios. Villagers were soon lining up to power their cell phones. Then reporters showed up and William started gaining attention not just in Malawi, but in Africa, then the world. By the age of 19, William was on the stage at TED Global in Tanzania talking about his creation. In that video, a very visibly nervous William says the next one he builds will be to pump water for irrigation.
William builds the second windmill and is overjoyed because it means that his family will no longer have to travel to get water. They have water at their house. All of this without the utility companies we have here, realized by a teenager who believed. He did the hard things. Having an idea is easy, but making it come to life is definitely the hard thing. You will have detractors, you will have naysayers, but they are only short-sighted and become believers because of you. William realized this.
The story of William Kamkwamba should serve to inspire any citizen in the US to action. We live in a country where resources are easily available for us to do anything. William's family was in a life or death situation, as they faced drought, starvation and a very bleek future. But, as William said, 'This is a future I cannot accept.' He was determined. He remained positive and focused even though people were dying around him. What he built was a different life, not only for himself, but for the villagers. They now have water and electricity, two things we take for granted on a daily basis.
A villager in Malawi, who knew no world outside his village, has become recognized as a thought leader and inspiration to others. Here are some of his accomplishments since first building the windmill:
- Spoke at TED Global
- Spoke at Maker Faire Africa
- Presented at classes at many colleges, including MIT
- Spoke at TED in the US
- Wrote a book about his experience
- Went back to school and finished high school
- Now attending Dartmouth College in NH, class of 2014
William's life is completely different than if he'd resigned himself to his fate. Amazing! Looking at what William has done makes it really hard for us to say, 'If only I could...' The power is in you. You just need to get out of its way. Thank you, William.
Our toughest critic is ourselves. We can be unforgiving, relentless, and mean when we are faced with daunting challenges. Negative self-talk can pervade our every thought, leaving us stuck in our tracks, unable to achieve what we are capable of. How do we break out of this?
Ode Magazine featured an article on the power of positive thinking late last year. In it, they discuss how to work toward changing your thoughts from positive to negative:
How does one change one’s thinking from old negative tapes to positive, healthy thinking? Placing positive affirmations in plain view is a great way to begin. Tape some affirmations to your bathroom mirror, refrigerator, car, and office. These affirmations are reminders that you are in control of your thoughts—and thoughts can be changed. Be aware; watch your thoughts throughout the day, knowing that you are more than your brain, and in fact, are the one in the driver’s seat.
Positive affirmations can take different forms, but I prefer to always keep them framed in the positive, present tense. “I am” statements are wonderful! “I am” strong, beautiful, confident, smart, creative, etc. Fill in your “I am” statement for the areas in your life where you wish to consciously shift your thinking patterns.
This can be a very challenging task. After all, you’re trying to change the way you think by thinking about it. To help get you started, Ode offers up some starter affirmations. Here are my three favorite:
- I value who I am.
- I accept responsibility for all decisions I make in life.
- There are beautiful things happening in my life daily.
If you’re a parent, a great benefit of this exercise is that you are modeling positive thought and action for your kids. How do you think Jessica, in the video above, came to do this affirmation? She speaks of love and appreciation for all those things around her. If a 4-year-old can do it, why can’t you?