Article Date: 7/1/2003

lessons learned
Attitude of Gratitude
Happiness is a matter of perspective.
By Jack Runniger, O.D.

At the Wednesday night country church prayer meeting, members were being called on to testify about the things for which they wished to thank God. An elderly man stood up. The whole congregation was thinking, "What can old Joe be thankful for? He's ill and suffering, his wife just died, his children ignore him and he's lost his farm to foreclosure."

"Y'all know I ain't got but two teeth -- one up above and one below," said Joe. "I just wanted to thank the Lord God that the two he left me do meet!"

What's the secret?

I thought of this old story when I recently read an article about academics studying what makes people happy. "They look at optimism, goal-setting, satisfaction," said the article by columnist Marsha Mercer, "and what they find is hardly earth shattering: Be glad for what you have and don't worry about what you don't."

"We'd be a whole lot happier if we did as good a job forgetting our problems as we do in forgetting our blessings," is the way I once heard a preacher state this principle.


Learn positive thinking

"Attitude of Gratitude Is The Key To Happiness, So Quit Moaning," was the all-inclusive title of the article. Because the purpose of your practicing optometry is as a source of enjoyment and satisfaction as well as of income, it's a principle that deserves your attention.

"But how," you may ask, "can I have an attitude of gratitude when Mrs. Mal Content makes my ulcer flare with her constant complaining?" Simple: Be grateful she doesn't have a twin sister.

"Happiness depends on one's outlook and perception -- not on external events," says a sociologist at the University of California at Davis.

"Cooperate with the inevitable," said psychologist Murray Banks (i.e., learn to accept things you can't change and adapt to them as best you can).

Remember this advice?

If you're old enough, you may remember the popular song, "Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative." Good advice, except you can't always eliminate the negatives. So you must accept them as best you can with a sense of humor.

"Laughter is like changing a baby's diaper," said one sage. "It doesn't solve anything permanently, but does make things more acceptable for awhile."

"When people consciously practice grateful living, their happiness will go up and their ability to withstand negative elements will improve," says Robert Emmons.

You can spread happiness

You can also make your practice more enjoyable when you help patients and co-workers become happy and satisfied. They'll like you better. The article mentioned previously also stated: "A psychologist at Cornell, Alice Isen, confirmed through research that people get a thrill when they receive a free sample. People who get a free sample or unexpected gift feel more generous, friendlier and healthier."

It's something to remember in building good patient rapport. Maybe it's because I have a tendency to be a cheapo, but I've found that my opinion of physicians is elevated when they give me medication samples.

For husbands

Another admonition as a key for happiness for optometrists who are husbands from a bumper sticker I saw recently: "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"

Jack Runniger, our consulting editor, lives in Rome, GA.  He's also a past editor of OM.


Optometric Management, Issue: July 2003