The Power of Thinking Positively

The New Year begins allowing us to re-set.

Re-set? Yes, on January 1st we have 356 unknown days ahead of us. Sure, some are predetermined such as holidays, birthdays, vacations, and such, but the actual content of those days is not yet set in stone.

When we were kids the passing of time seemed so slow! Then as we grew older, time seems to be slipping by too quickly!! There never seems to be enough of it to finish projects, to relax, or to spend time with others.

Or, is it we are really allowing time to slip through our fingers? The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to re-set our “clocks” and start respecting the passage of time and work on what is really important.

I have been a sketch journal keeper all my life. I have collected quite a few! Inside you will find thoughts jotted down, sketches of cool things or ideas I have, notes taken of places I have seen…and lists. The most famous one was “By the time I am twenty I will have accomplished the following…”  

I revisited that list five years later and scratched out age 20 and put in 35. At the time I was depressed over the fact I could only scratch off one item on that list. I felt I had failed to do what I had hoped I would. When age 35 rolled around, I tried to look at that list in a new way. A lot happened to me between age 20 and 30 and 35 such as unexpected things and other important tasks that could not be pushed aside. So what was I going to do? I scratched out the age again and upped it-being ever hopeful. The difference this time was that I laughed at myself. Those goals were pretty high! And I obviously did not allow enough time to do them what with jobs, little children, volunteer work, aging parents, etc in the mix.

This brings me to The Positivity Project!

I want to help you accomplish your goals. I want to help you stay positive and focused to get there and not feel disappointed. Let’s do this together!

Step One: Ask Yourself, What do I Want?

What are your lofty goals?

Remember that annoying job interview question? “Where do you see yourself in five years?” In the interview you usually give them the answer you think they want to hear. Don’t do that for this exercise: I want you to answer truthfully. But, Wait! Yes, there are rules to setting your lofty goals.

Under Positivity Project Rule 1.1: You can’t say in five years I want to be rich and famous. Why? Because it is a hollow goal. It lacks feelings and substance. It lacks a plan. It lacks positive vibes. If you set yourself up for goals like those, you are just inviting disappointment, trouble, and negativity in your door. Think of those who are so desperate to be noticed or get rich quick, they allow themselves to forget their ethics and values to commit bad behavior, or to fall prey to those who will take advantage of them. No, no, and no. Be patient. Be true to yourself.

Instead of the above, set a lofty goal that has purpose and personal meaning to you.

Say something like this, “I hope to be making enough money to support myself and my loved ones with left over to buy some cool stuff.” Or… “I hope to have completed a book/painting/song that I can get paid for and people will enjoy.”…Or… “I hope to have enough free time to do X-Y-Z that I have always wanted to do.”  These are realistic and attainable lofty goals. And they can be broken down into smaller steps.

Here were mine: “I want to complete as many stories and illustrations that I can before I can’t, and share them with at least one person that will be inspired, or entertained by them.”… “I want to continue to be helpful to my family and friends without sacrificing my health or my dreams.”

On the surface those are HUGE personal goals, yet, not far fetched. The good part is they can be broken down into many small steps. Small tasks that can give me feelings of positive growth. I hope you can see those in your lofty goals. If not, be more specific in what you want to try for.

Step One complete: Now we begin the real journey! Moving onto Step Two.

Step Two: Let’s Get Real.

Once you have your unique lofty goal or goals, write then down on the first page of a journal, or in your electronic device of choice, or on that big dry erase board on your wall. That is the title of your personal adventure story! Now lets start plotting a path.

The first thing you need to do is get into a positive frame of mind and practice it. You need to be your own cheering section.

For the next few weeks in the month you are in now, write down every positive step you make toward your goal. Put every big or little step down. Once a day would be great. Try to at least sum up each week. Yours might be… “I thought about buying something, but I didn’t. I instead put that money into my travel fund.” Or “while waiting for my son to come out of school I did research on my phone for….” Or …“Today I stopped and watched a flock of birds fly over head and noted their movement and the color of the sky. It made me think about a line of a poem.”..Or..”I watched a video on how to upload a pdf.”  Write down those simple positive steps that you can re-read later and be proud of yourself.

As the weeks go by, continue to add every little positive thought or action you did. Even if you didn’t complete it, put it down as forward motion. At the end of the month look at your list and I bet you will be surprised at how much you accomplished.

Next you will make a summary of that past month from your list.

If your list doesn’t seem that long, DO NOT beat yourself up. Instead think about the reason why you couldn’t get to what you hoped to. Sh*t happens. There is nothing we can do about it. Maybe you got sick, or your kid/parent/friend got sick and you had to put off your own plans to help him/her/self. It happens. Don’t be mad: consider it a positive. You were showing compassion. Put that down in your list. Maybe your washer broke, or they wanted you to work more hours at your job. Nothing you can do about that. Don’t mope about it. Move on. Look forward.

BUT, if you see that you got distracted by something that really had no purpose or meaning, you can learn from that, too. Why did you wander off your path? Or is there a hidden step you are not aware of? Now would be a good time to think that through and make a change or get some help. My biggest time sapper is when I feel stressed I often just zone out in front of the TV or my tablet. And we know how that goes. One show can roll into the next, or that movie got good, and before you know it, hours have gone by. Same thing can happen when you sign into social media. So what can I do? I need to admit the stress and replace that activity with something I enjoy and that has purpose toward my goals. Something that will only take up a short amount of time. Something that requires me to use my hands.

You heard me right. New studies are showing that when we focus on a task that makes us use our hands, we relax, decrease stress, and our brains wake up. Hey, maybe that explains why I always get good ideas in the shower or when I am driving or when I am doing the dishes. With these kind of tasks we zone out allowing ideas to flow in. Recently I read how many past great writers and artists would fit a walk into their day. They would quietly exercise, observe, relax. With all that in mind, I am going to my quiet workroom and paint, or mess around with building something or take a walk instead of falling onto that sofa! Okay, I will TRY to do that.

Back to your monthly summary.

Take a good look at it. Congratulate yourself for what you did. DO NOT think about what you didn’t do. That is Positivity Project Rule 2.1 – avoid negative and self- defeatist behavior.

Once you are done admiring the courage and creativity to get done what you got done, consider what you can do in the next month. It may be just to re-do some of the tasks you listed in order to perfect them, or not forget how to, or you can make an effort to build on them. When I say build, I am saying baby steps. Avoid looking way ahead and thinking I will never learn/accomplish that so why bother trying. Replace that negative thought with how will you take your next small step toward your goal.

Be patient. “Get rich quick” schemes never work out. When you deliberately work hard to accomplish a goal, you are giving yourself a huge reward. It will also gain you respect from those around you.

Keep going with your “Positivity Journal’ each month. When you are done with the summary of the third month, make a bigger summary taking into account everything over the past three months. How did you do? I would guess after the first and second month, you are moving toward a more positive way of thinking about your future. That is great!

For me, the three month summary was an eye-opener. I realized I was spending more and more time on research for my article writing and keeping up with social media, than I was on new fiction writing. Wow, that explains a lot to me. With that new information, I can relook at how I spend my time and on which projects. Wait, I think I just made another goal for myself! See…life is fluid and we need to be ready for that.

 And don’t forget:

Positivity Project Rule 1.1: Avoid hollow goal making.

Positivity Project Rule 2.1 : Avoid negative thinking.



This article is copyright © N.A.M : Atwood 2018,2022. All content and images are copyrighted unless otherwise noted. Please do not use in any form without request of author. Links to our articles, short quotes with credit, and associated links are allowed.

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Recently I discovered my mother had saved a folder of book reports I completed when I was in the 4th Grade. What am I going to do? I’m going to read those books again and see if my opinion has changed. Would I have outgrown what I thought was entertaining?

4th Grade was a weird year for me. I don’t remember much. I can’t even conjure up the teacher in my mind, which is odd, seeing I can rattle off every other teacher’s name, from the one who use to lock me in the coat closet for being disruptive, to the teacher who let me tell wild stories at “Show and Tell”, to the teacher who sent me out to do puppet shows for younger kids because I probably exhausted her.

Hmm, seems to be a theme growing.

4th Grade must have been a calm year. So calm I forgot it. I did learn from former classmates our teacher was nice.

Here we go


(I am going to use the same format my 4th Grade Teacher gave us to fill out.)

Title: Henry and the Clubhouse

Author: Beverly Cleary

(I didn’t have access to the original book I might have read. Hopefully the one I bought is close to the same version)

First Observation: I was happy to find out I actually read the book in 4th grade. I don’t remember reading any fiction books as a kid. I could say someone else read it and told me about it, but the way I expressed myself, that says I read it. Maybe I was bribed.

Why didn’t I want to read fun stories? It was tough for me as a dyslexic kid with ADHD to put that much effort into sitting down and reading.

Write three good sentences telling about the book:

I wrote: “Henry was the youngest paperboy. He started to build a clubhouse too. He had troubles and problems all thought the book. The book was very funny”…”When Beezus and Ramona get into action which causes Henry’s trouble.”  Seems my teacher had issue with those sentences, she circled “telling about” in red pen. Hey, I was just warming up!

Second Observation: The funny parts my 4th Grader self pointed out, were still funny. My adult self would want to add the main character riding downtown in a bathtub to that list.

I learned the story has not been updated like they have done to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, even though the cover has. I am not sure kids today could relate to his being a paperboy and what is involved, or the fact he had to search all over for a phone, etc. Adult me found those elements nostalgic and the life lessons of hard work and tolerance were good to see.

Tell about one interesting part of the book:

Third Observation: The life lessons the author was trying to point out, went right over my 4th grade head. Stuffed owls scaring dogs and dogfights seemed more interesting to me back then.

Tell where you found the book, if you liked or disliked the book, and why you liked or disliked the book:

Fourth Observation: WHOA, slow down there Teacher! That is a three part question! How did my brain handle that?

I wrote: “I like the parts when it was around Halloween. Mrs Peobody’s dog Ranger was in the fight with Ribsy”  (Ribsy is Henry’s dog) “When Henry came to the door Ranger ran under the chair and wouldn’t come out. He was scared of the stuffed owl Henry was carring. At last he came out.”…and this is my favorite line, bringing it all home…“Mrs. Peabody bought a paper from Henry.”  Now doesn’t that just want you to read it to find out why he had a stuffed owl and she bought a paper from a paperboy? I thought so back then.

I said I found the book in the library. I don’t remember going to the school’s library. Did it have one? Now I have to find out. (sending message to a classmate who actually read books in school-she said yes.)

Ouch on the red pen circling the word their..or as I normally like to write it, thier. Hey, I wrote it correctly this time. I would see a lot of red pen in my school years. Two vowels together was always a popular tripping point for me. I could never “see” how they worked even after someone sang me that rule about “eyes after eees except after seas…” Hmm, why didn’t she red pen all the other misspellings? Must have been the compelling story I was weaving.

Back to the if I liked it: “Some parts were funny.” “There were not many sad parts.” There you have it. I liked upbeat stories!

Would I recommend this book to a child? Yes, for sure.



Title: Skip (I found the vintage book on-line)

Author: Aileen Fisher

Write three good sentences telling about the book:

I wrote: “The book is about a girl named Krissy and a dog named Skip. The story tells the troubles that Krissy had to get her dad to now that Skip was a good dog even if he is blind. Krissy had trouble keeping the secret.”

First Observation: I seem to be getting better at writing them.

Second Observation: Now I know why in the first book report I added “There were not many sad parts”. This book is full of suspense and should have been titled: “What animal on the farm is Dad going to kill next?”

Tell about one interesting part of the book:

When I saw the author of this book I did get excited. She is one of my favorite poets. Her poems are full of her love of nature and are soft and sweet. That comes through in this book when she describes going up into the hayloft (the mow): “The mow smelled good-dry and fragrant, as if a piece of summer had been hidden there away from the snow and cold.” Having played in haylofts as a kid, the author’s description did bring back memories. And look, I did mention the mow in this section of my report, so it made a good impression on me back then, too.

“I like the part when Krissy ordered Skip to come down from the mow. Skip tried to come down he missed the step and fell to the ground. Luckily Krissy grabbed skip in time and held him on the third step.  That is when she found out Skip was blind.”

Tell where you found the book, if you liked or disliked the book, and why you liked or disliked the book:

“I found this book at the school library.” Guess I did go there a few times!

“I liked this book because Krissy always feels bad for Skip. She was the only one that was helpful to Skip. There were many places that was sad and happy.”

My 4th Grade self seemed to like this book. My guess because it was relatable.

Third Observation: As for the whole storyline, sweet is not the author’s main direction. Would the events talked about be shocking to a kid of my generation, or a kid who grew up on a farm? No. The father character could have easily been mine. My Dad started out in life as a poor farm boy who understood animals had their place which meant they either fed the family or worked on the farm. My Dad had no issue with the circle of life and I suppose I didn’t either. That is why in my report I focused on the relationship between the farm dog Skip who went blind and the main character who loved him and tried to make him look useful to her father so he wouldn’t get rid of him.

Would I recommend this book? Looking at the story with a present day child in mind, no way would I put this on the shelf of a library. (I also would not let kids of today read “Where the Red Fern Grows” for the same reasons.)

I like how the story shows kids being personally responsible for chores, animals, siblings, to their parents, and keeping the family afloat. I’m scared those values are slipping away. The first book I posted about also did that, but not in such a harsh way.

According to my 4th Grade self, it does have a happy ending-if you can get there!

What fun it has been reading these old book reports. Or should I call them book reviews, because that is really what they are. As we all shelter in place these days, go ahead and grab a book from your childhood and read it for the pure simple joy of it. The words won’t be difficult, the pages will fly by, the fun will be silly, and you will find yourself relaxing.

Until next time, take care and stay safe!


This article is copyright © Atwood/N.A.M. 2020. All content and images are copyrighted unless otherwise noted. Please do not use in any form without request of author. Links to our articles, short quotes with credit, and associated links are allowed.

For more childhood book memories, please check out my previous article on “Nancy Drew: Then and Now” , and “Wonder Woman: Then and Now”.

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