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Gray Cloud Or Silver Lining?

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty”. – Winston Churchill

Driving out of a parking lot after an event one morning, I saw a car with a vanity license plate that read “YOU FAIL”! Wow, really? My day had started around 5 that morning. The event I attended was great. I met a group of positive, productive people at an educational seminar. I remember I was in a pretty good mood as I backed my car out and saw the words – YOU FAIL! Nice.

After shaking my head in disbelief, the first thing I did was pick up my phone and take a picture of this one-of-a-kind license plate that I hoped I’d never see again. I still could not believe that someone would go out of their way and spend all that time to order custom license plates to then say something like that. Yes, people have the right to say whatever they want anywhere…even on their license plate, within reason and in 7 characters or less, but it costs nothing to be nice. That’s just me.

Twitter has it down with their 140 characters or less thing going for them. But even on a simple license plate you could spread cheer, hope and optimism rather than be negative, mean or rude. In 7 characters or less you could say SMILE, LOVE, HAPPY, JOY4YOU, BCOOL, YOU WIN, PLAYFUN, PRAY, FAITH, HUSSLA. There are an infinite number of things one can say to lift someone up. Why spend time, energy and the money to bring them down? And in this case someone who just happened to share the same parking lot as you, owner of the “YOU FAIL” license plate – What did I ever do to you?

Optimized-Optimized-richa car

I am all for self-expression and really, this license plate irritated me more than bother me or hurt my feelings. I just thought of it as a wasted opportunity to actually have a positive impact in the world. Even in 7 characters or less you can leave someone feeling better. So why not?

There are people who find the good in life, no matter what. And then there are those that mostly see what is not working, what’s broken and how everything is soon going to fall apart because of it. I call these people the “gray clouds” behind my “silver lining”. When you are excited about going to see a concert these gray clouds complain about the traffic, noise and crowds. When you share how much you are looking forward to your beach vacation, these gray clouds complain about the sun, heat, skin cancer and that there’s too much sand on the beach (true story). When you are enjoying a delicious meal these gray clouds remind you how the ingredients might raise your cholestrol, blood pressure and give you a heart attack one day.

The gray cloud syndrome is like a pre-existing condition that can be cured. It is a default mechanism where one is pre-wired to react a certain way on auto-pilot. (This is me giving the gray clouds the benefit of the doubt, like they can’t help being that way and if only they knew better!) There’s a friend of mine, who no matter how much I tell her she is beautiful and vibrant, will call herself old, willy-nilly-silly, slow-poke etc. I finally said to her, “don’t talk about yourself like that, that’s someone I love!”

In fact, studies are now showing that people are “hard-wired” for negativity and it takes work and awareness to re-circuit. Accumulated stress, world-weariness and resignation tend to “make” one lean towards being more of a gray cloud. Sarcasm and cynicism are quite acceptable as the norm where intelligent wit and humor once ruled. 

Seeing the not so fortunate aspect in events, people and things comes from an innate sense of fear. What if things go wrong despite my best foot forward? Often we make negative statements that begin with, “I’ll never…”, “But that’s too..”, “There’s no way…” just reinforcing the self-doubting mind, the self-negating inner dialog. And around and around and around we go. Until we choose differently, consciously, intentionally.

When we pause to choose our reactions, when we pause to choose our power, presence and poise, when we pause to choose our words and how we show up in this world not just for others, but most of all for ourselves, we make a profound difference in the world. Our random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty create the stuff that legacies are made of. So why wait?

At the end of the day it comes down to choice, doesn’t it? If given the choice (which we always have) to choose between being a silver lining or the gray cloud which one would you pick? What could you say in 7 characters or less to inspire, cheer or lift someone up? That someone could be you! Please share your 7 or less with me in your comments below and let’s churn up more peace in the world.

As always, thanks for reading and sharing this blog with your friends and family…



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