Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, was the most devastating pessimist in English literature. He was so sorry that he had been born that he wore black and fasted on his birthday; yet, in his despair, this supreme pessimist also praised the great health-giving powers of cheerfulness and happiness.
Dale Carnegie talks about this in his book, “How to Develop Self Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking.” Carnegie poses the questions, “Would you sell your eyes for a billion dollars? What would you take for your two legs? Your hands? Your hearing? Your children? Your family?” Add up your assets, and you will find that you won’t sell what you have for all the gold in the world.
In his book, Carnegie quoted Schopenhauer, who said, “We seldom think of what we have, but always of what we lack.” This type of thinking is the greatest tragedy on earth, and has probably caused more misery than all the wars and diseases in history.
Carnegie also tells the story of John Palmer from Paterson, New Jersey. After returning from the army, Palmer started a business and worked hard day and night. But when the business ran into trouble, he changed from a regular guy into an old grouch and nearly lost his home. Then one day he was chastised by a young, disabled veteran who worked for him, who told him he ought to be ashamed of himself. Even if his business folded, he could always start up again when things got back to normal. The young veteran pointed out how much Palmer had to be thankful for and said, “Look at me … I’ve got only one arm, and half of my face is shot away, and yet I am not complaining. If you don’t stop your growling and grumbling, you will lose not only your business, but also your health, your home, and your friends!”
The man’s remarks stopped Palmer dead in his tracks. They made him realize how well off he truly was. Palmer resolved then and there that he would change and be his old self again—and he did.
Remember this the next time your troubles and challenges rear their ugly heads. Let your good fortunes pull you up out of your doldrums and remind yourself of all you have to be thankful for.
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