Afterword, Amy Newmark

From Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition

Afterword

The overarching theme in this book is positive thinking. You’ve read story after story about how people have used positive thinking to navigate difficult situations, reorient their lives, and improve their personal relationships. We all want to go about our days with a positive outlook — but we don’t always know how to do it.

It’s our job at Chicken Soup for the Soul to focus on finding stories for you that are positive and uplifting and helpful. Before I became publisher of Chicken Soup for the Soul five years ago, I spent six months getting to know the company, and I read 100 of the old titles. After reading all of those books and tens of thousands of stories submitted for our more recent books, the thing that has struck me the most is the resilience of the human spirit. We try to show you that in all our books.

I’ve learned how strong people are and how tough they are, and I’ve read about them overcoming challenges and moving on with their lives, even after horrible things have happened. It’s inspiring to be in my job and read all these stories from people just like us — regular people — who’ve done extraordinary things that I couldn’t imagine doing. All those powerful new thought leaders who contributed the bonus stories to this 20th Anniversary Edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul were ordinary people at one time — they became extraordinary due to events in their own lives... and because they used their positive thinking!

What I’ve learned is that we are all capable of handling a lot. And our ability to handle things seems to expand when we need it to.

Norman Vincent Peale said it best: “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” Now that makes a lot of sense, because the world you see is colored by how you see it. I find myself acting a lot more optimistic and grounded today than I was years ago, and I think it’s because of the good examples I see in our books — stories from people from all walks of life showing such can-do spirit, such resilience, and such a positive attitude despite their circumstances. I see ordinary people turning into extraordinary people, and I see how we all have that capability inside ourselves.

I’ve picked up some great advice from the thousands of stories that we have published about living life in a positive way, and I’d like to share seven tips with you:

1. Pursue at least one of your passions. If you have a job that just pays the bills, okay then, that is just your job, but that doesn’t have to be what you do. Find some time to do what you actually love to do. I’ve heard that you should think back to what you loved to do when you were 10 years old and you should try to do that now. For me, it was two things: reading, and hiking in the woods behind our house. And now I do just that — I read for work, I read for pleasure, and when the weather and time permits, my husband and I go hiking on the trails in the nature preserve in our neighborhood.

2. Do something that has meaning to you and gives you purpose. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Make yourself necessary to somebody.” You lift yourself when you lift others. We have hundreds of stories from people who found that doing some kind of volunteer work practically saved their lives — it turned everything around for them to be giving back, to feel valued by other people, no matter what their own circumstances. Doing good for others is incredibly good for you.

3. Count your blessings. We get more stories than we could possibly publish about people who have purposefully turned their attitudes around by keeping a journal. Some people write down one good thing that happened to them each day, even if it’s something like “there was no line at Starbucks this morning.” Other people make themselves write down three good things that happen to them each day. It may sound hokey but it works, and we hear about these gratitude journals all the time. It’s been scientifically proven that people who keep track of the “good things” in their lives are healthier and more productive, and they get along better with other people.

4. Smile at everyone. No matter what kind of day you are having, smile. We have countless stories from people who tried this, including one woman who saw herself by accident in a mirror and wondered who that grouchy lady was. She had an epiphany when she realized she was looking at her own reflection and she resolved to start smiling no matter how she felt inside. She started getting smiles back, people treated her differently, and she started acting like the non-grouchy person who she wished she really was.

5. Keep learning. Have you ever noticed how energized you feel when you learn something new? Of course, you are already doing that by reading this book. My parents are in their eighties, and yet I see them reading books to learn history, traveling, and watching documentaries on television. They never stop learning, and they talk about what they have learned with great enthusiasm.

6. Take the long-term view. Think about your legacy, not the day to day. No matter what is happening now, what are you leaving the world. What has been your contribution? For me, that legacy is our children, despite the fact that my name is on the front cover of dozens of books. No matter how hard I work, or how much I enjoy it, my most important lifetime achievement will always be the two children I gave birth to and my two stepchildren. Our four amazing fully-grown children (and their fiancés and even their dogs) are what really make us happy. I know that my face glows when someone asks about the kids, no matter what else is happening during my day.

7. And finally, take some time for yourself. Sometimes, I don’t get home from work till eight o’clock and I’m dead tired, but before I go into the house to start what I call the second shift, I just sit in the car for an extra minute in the garage, listening to the end of an interesting news report or a song. Or I go for a walk on the weekend, with no iPod, and I listen to my thoughts instead of music. That’s “me” time. No matter how tired I am, or how late I go to bed, I take 10 or 15 minutes to read. That’s “me” time too. You’ve already given yourself the gift of some “me” time by reading this book. While you read the powerful stories in this book, you recharged your batteries, gained perspective on your current issues, and remembered what you’re grateful for in your life.

~Amy Newmark

Publisher, Editor-in-Chief, and Coauthor

Chicken Soup for the Soul

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