Today, I’d like to share a story from my experience on the Fourth of July that I think has some broader lessons for all of us. Enjoy!
Every Fourth of July in Boston there’s a huge celebration on the Esplanade, which is a long, beautiful park that runs along the Charles River. It’s a really fun event that’s capped by a great concert featuring the Boston Pops and of course a huge fireworks show. And it’s 100% free admission.
This was the first year that our son was old enough to go and actually enjoy himself. On top of that we have our 6-year-old niece staying with us right now who is just about the perfect age for this kind of thing. So about a week before the Fourth my wife suggested that we pack a picnic dinner that afternoon and head down to the Esplanade early to enjoy everything. I wholeheartedly agreed.
Focusing on the negatives
When the Fourth actually came, I started having doubts about our plan. The main hesitance was that the night before had been a late night for everyone. We had spent it at a friend’s house and both our son and niece went to bed about 2 hours later than normal. We then all woke up at our normal time, meaning we were all operating on less sleep. That morning we went to a parade and by the end of it we were all a little hot, sweaty, tired and cranky. I knew that if we went down to the Esplanade that night and actually stayed for the fireworks, we’d be getting home at 11 at the earliest, again way past normal bedtimes. It would also be hot and somewhat crowded, it was a bit of a hike to get there and back, and I started getting visions of everyone falling apart and my wife and I schlepping 2 crying kids back home before we ever even got to enjoy ourselves. So I mentioned to my wife that we might want to think about skipping it and instead take it easy at home.
Switching to the positives
The concerns above certainly had some validity to them, but were they the only way to look at the situation? Of course not. There were plenty of positives to consider as well, which my wife was more than happy to remind me of:
The event is very kid-friendly. We would be outdoors, and though it was hot out it was also beautifully sunny. There’s a really cool playground that we could try to sit near so the kids could have something specific to do. The concert is very family friendly. And of course there are the fireworks. What kid doesn’t love fireworks?
First chance to experience it with our son. Our son is 15 months old right now and running all over the place. He’s now at the age where he can really enjoy things like this and it would be a lot of fun to experience it with him.
Potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience for our niece. Our niece lives in Florida. She might never again get the chance to come to this event. Should we sacrifice that experience for her just because we’re worried about a little crankiness?
My wife had planned for it and really wanted to go. This alone was a good enough reason. When added to the others, the decision became a no-brainer.
What actually happened?
I got over my worries and we headed out to the Esplanade. We found a perfect spot right next to the playground, within easy walking distance of the concert and with a great view of the fireworks. Thanks to my wife, we had an awesome picnic dinner of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Our niece spent most of her time on the playground, running around, making friends and teasing boys. Our son got to run around all over the park and spent a lot of time practicing his waving at total strangers. We got to watch some beautiful fireworks. And both kids were total troopers even though we didn’t get back to our apartment until just before midnight. It couldn’t possibly have been a better night.
Although my initial tendency was to focus on the potential negatives, with a little help I was able to get past that and ended up with a truly memorable experience. To me, this is a lesson that can apply to many things in life. We often have a tendency to focus on the negatives of a situation, to see all of the reasons why something might be difficult or why we might fail. We let those thoughts stop us before we even start, never giving ourselves the chance to succeed at something truly important.
Think about it. Have you ever decided not to pursue a potential romantic interest because you were afraid of rejection? Have you delayed investing because you thought it would be too hard to learn? Have you had a cool business idea that you’ve failed to pursue because of the potential for failure? Whatever it is for you, the potential negatives are certainly there, but the potential positives far outweigh them.
So let me hear it. What’s something you’ve avoided because you’ve been focusing on the negatives? What are the positives you could focus on instead? What is one step you could take right now to make this thing happen? If we can all start acting from a place of hope and excitement instead of fear, we can all make our world a much happier place.
Image courtesy of Leann Bailey