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Sincerely Enthusiastic

--by Gretchen Rubin (Feb 16, 2015)


I wanted to laugh more, I wanted to show more loving-kindness, and I also wanted to be more enthusiastic. I knew that it wasn't nice to criticize but it was fun. Why was it so deliciously satisfying to criticize? Being critical made me feel more sophisticated and intelligent — and in fact, studies show that people who are critical are often perceived to be more discerning. In one study, for example, people judged the writers of negative book reviews as more expert and competent than the writers of positive reviews, even when the content of both reviews was deemed to be of high quality. Another study showed that people tend to think that someone who criticizes them is smarter than they are. Also, when a person disrupts a group's unanimity, he or she lessens its social power. I've seen people exploit this phenomenon; when a group is cheerfully unanimous on a topic like 'The teacher is doing a great job' or 'This restaurant is terrific,' such a person takes the opposite position to deflate the group's mood. Being critical has its advantages, and what's more, it's much easier to be hard to please. Although enthusiasm seems easy and undiscriminating, in fact, it's much harder to embrace something than to disdain it. It's riskier.

When I examined my reactions to other people, I realized that I do often view people who make critical remarks as more perceptive and more discriminating. At the same time, though, it's hard to find pleasure in the company of someone who finds nothing pleasing. I prefer the company of the more enthusiastic types, who seem less judgmental, more vital, more fun.

For example, one evening, as part of a surprise birthday party for a close friend, we went to a Barry Manilow concert, because my friend loves Barry Manilow. Afterward, I reflected that it showed considerable strength of character to be such an avowed Barry Manilow fan. After all, Barry Manilow is . . . well, Barry Manilow. It would be so much safer to mock his music, or to enjoy it in an ironic, campy way, than to admire it wholeheartedly as she did. Enthusiasm is a form of social courage. What's more, people's assessments are very influenced by other people's assessments. So when my friend said, 'This is terrific music, this is a great concert,' her enthusiasm lifted me up.

I wanted to embrace this kind of zest. I steeled myself to stop making certain kinds of unnecessarily negative statements: 'I really don't feel like going,' 'The food was too rich,' 'There's nothing worth reading in the paper.' Instead, I tried to look for ways to be sincerely enthusiastic.

Gretchen Rubin is an American author, blogger and speaker.[1] She is author of the best selling The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun,

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On Feb 22, 2015 Rebecca M wrote:

How often do we see the negative side of things! Even though we don't really want to add more negativity to the world, we seem to do it. How foreign it seems to look for things to be positive about. The media is filled to the brim with bleak news, global warming, failing economies, GMO's,  chem trails, war, killings and murde, child abuse... ...listening to it evokes fear, anger, self righteous indignation in us, is it any wonder that we look at the negative when we are constantly bombarded with how bad things are? We are taught, from the start, to look for the negative, to react negatively. How can we change this? The world is full to the brim with positive things, but for some strange reason we gloss over those things. We fail to celebrate the sheer joy of existence, which if embraced, would be something that would add so much to our lives. Nature teaches us the lesson of beauty, of abundance, of birth, of renewal, of grace yet we ignore those lessons in our hast to criticize,  See full.

How often do we see the negative side of things! Even though we don't really want to add more negativity to the world, we seem to do it. How foreign it seems to look for things to be positive about. The media is filled to the brim with bleak news, global warming, failing economies, GMO's,  chem trails, war, killings and murde, child abuse... ...listening to it evokes fear, anger, self righteous indignation in us, is it any wonder that we look at the negative when we are constantly bombarded with how bad things are? We are taught, from the start, to look for the negative, to react negatively. How can we change this? The world is full to the brim with positive things, but for some strange reason we gloss over those things. We fail to celebrate the sheer joy of existence, which if embraced, would be something that would add so much to our lives. Nature teaches us the lesson of beauty, of abundance, of birth, of renewal, of grace yet we ignore those lessons in our hast to criticize, condemn and complain. If we do not learn to embrace these lessons, if we don't somehow replace negative thinking with positive, it is not only we who suffer, but the whole of humanity. The whole Earth cries out for our joyful embrace. Enough of our criticizing, condemning and complaining! Let us look for and find that joy, together, moment by moment, let us embrace what is good, both in ourselves and in others.

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On Feb 17, 2015 Michelle Dugan wrote:

I have always been one of those "over the top" enthusiastic people who love easily, trust easily, but face difficulty when it is time to hold back and disengage.  So it was reassuring to read that others find enthusiasm to be life-affirming. I do notice that "opposites attract" so that often more "low-key" or even critical individuals are attracted to my joyful approach.  At the same time, people can be threatened by it and seem suspicious of the genuineness of my enthusiasm.  Particularly when I was young, I was met with the reaction, "You can't really feel so loving -- you must be a fake" -- and in fact, when I was young, my enthusiasm tended to blind me to the perspective of others. Those who have not been loved well and generously are often the ones who turn to criticism as a mode of social survival.  I just loved the Barry Manilow story!  Here's to enthusiasm for every human enterprise that celebrates what is good and loving and joyful in life!  See full.

I have always been one of those "over the top" enthusiastic people who love easily, trust easily, but face difficulty when it is time to hold back and disengage.  So it was reassuring to read that others find enthusiasm to be life-affirming. I do notice that "opposites attract" so that often more "low-key" or even critical individuals are attracted to my joyful approach.  At the same time, people can be threatened by it and seem suspicious of the genuineness of my enthusiasm.  Particularly when I was young, I was met with the reaction, "You can't really feel so loving -- you must be a fake" -- and in fact, when I was young, my enthusiasm tended to blind me to the perspective of others. Those who have not been loved well and generously are often the ones who turn to criticism as a mode of social survival. 
I just loved the Barry Manilow story!  Here's to enthusiasm for every human enterprise that celebrates what is good and loving and joyful in life!

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On Feb 17, 2015 jon madian wrote:

Nipun, this is an interesting little essay... thank you  :)) What the author may miss is that if we feel a lack of power,  being critical can be a compensation a kind of narcissistic self-inflation...   enthusiasm,  to be filled with the spirit, is, happily, the opposite of being critical   to see the beauty, the goodness, to be optimistic may requires that we have the capacity  to be vulnerable and also to transcend  our vulnerability...    I "think"...   See full.

Nipun,

this is an interesting little essay... thank you  :))
What the author may miss is that if we feel a lack of power, 
being critical can be a compensation
a kind of narcissistic self-inflation...
 
enthusiasm, 
to be filled with the spirit,
is, happily, the opposite of being critical
 
to see the beauty, the goodness,
to be optimistic may
requires that we have the capacity 
to be vulnerable and also to transcend 
our vulnerability... 
 
I "think"... 

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On Feb 17, 2015 Sundi wrote:

 A few yrs ago I caught myself in this exact negative mindset after taking a trip with an acquaintance who found fault with absolutely everything.  I suddenly became aware that I surely bring others down on occasion in much the same way.  I now make the effort to follow criticism with praise. You can find the positive in everything and everyone if you stop and think. And thinking positively has definitely improved all aspects of my life. 



On Feb 17, 2015 Sister Jenee wrote:

Wonderful article!  I strive to be sincere and come from a place of truth and love in everything I do and say... Frequently i fall short and slide into the group of venting-a.k.a-hate speech.  It is easy to do.  And if I stay sincere and positive, I have been shunned or mocked.  But over time, I get stronger and persevere and those people who get it, stick around and the others just seem to fade into the background.  Stay Sincerely Enthusiastic People!!  Spread the LOVE!!!!



On Feb 17, 2015 Peggy Dean wrote:

 Because I enthusiastically engage in life I am sometimes called "blindly optimistic" or naive.  Whatever you may call it, when I embrace life fully, I am open to its teaching.



On Feb 17, 2015 Regina Noela Chambers wrote:

 
I loved the line about how enthusiasm and embracing something is riskier...and harder...because I really feel the truth of this....receiving gifts wholeheartedly means opening ourselves to the moment and expressing our joy and love...



On Feb 16, 2015 Anil Paranjpe wrote:

Not strangely but actually accurately, the root of Enthusiasm is En + theos -- from God....apt, no?!



On Feb 15, 2015 david doane wrote:

For me, being sincerely enthusiastic means being genuinely enthusiastic.  I'm sad to say I've often been critical, negative, and judgmental in my life -- it's never occurred to me that such people be it myself of others are more intelligent or discerning or perceptive.  I have thought such people be it myself or others are unhappy and angry.  I'm happy to say I have become more accepting and positive.  I can be genuinely enthusiastic about some aspects of what a person is doing, for example their enthusiasm, their hard work, their success, and not comment on aspects that I don't like or agree with.  What's helped me become more sincerely enthusiastic is for me to remind myself of what my wife says to her fifth grade students and to me, ie, "say the best and save the rest."  Realizing that we are one and becoming  more compassionate has helped me to be more sincerely enthusiastic.  Learning that being positive is a happier way to live also helps  See full.

For me, being sincerely enthusiastic means being genuinely enthusiastic.  I'm sad to say I've often been critical, negative, and judgmental in my life -- it's never occurred to me that such people be it myself of others are more intelligent or discerning or perceptive.  I have thought such people be it myself or others are unhappy and angry.  I'm happy to say I have become more accepting and positive.  I can be genuinely enthusiastic about some aspects of what a person is doing, for example their enthusiasm, their hard work, their success, and not comment on aspects that I don't like or agree with.  What's helped me become more sincerely enthusiastic is for me to remind myself of what my wife says to her fifth grade students and to me, ie, "say the best and save the rest."  Realizing that we are one and becoming  more compassionate has helped me to be more sincerely enthusiastic.  Learning that being positive is a happier way to live also helps me be sincerely enthusiastic.  I don't think it takes courage for me to be more sincerely enthusiastic -- I think it takes becoming a little wiser.

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On Feb 13, 2015 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

I feel fortunate to live in this world every day. Friends have termed me "slightly exuberant" and I am grateful to be in such a space. I have always somehow retained a childlike sense of wonder, that is not to be confused with childish; big difference. Being sincerely enthusiastic means embracing the world around us, seeing with childlike eyes the beauty and wonder that is everywhere. It is being excited about sidewalk chalk hopscotch and leaping in and playing it when you see it. It is blowing bubbles and sharing them with strangers (which I do every week somewhere) It is carrying a Free Hugs sign everywhere you go and using it. Being sincerely enthusiastic means watching a group of people play music in a temporary band they formed with whom they rehearsed 4 or 5 times and singing praises to them and enjoying their courage to share their music in a passionate way even if it is slightly out of tune. It is loving Barry Manilow because he's Barry Manilow; so funny you used that referenc  See full.

I feel fortunate to live in this world every day. Friends have termed me "slightly exuberant" and I am grateful to be in such a space. I have always somehow retained a childlike sense of wonder, that is not to be confused with childish; big difference. Being sincerely enthusiastic means embracing the world around us, seeing with childlike eyes the beauty and wonder that is everywhere. It is being excited about sidewalk chalk hopscotch and leaping in and playing it when you see it. It is blowing bubbles and sharing them with strangers (which I do every week somewhere) It is carrying a Free Hugs sign everywhere you go and using it. Being sincerely enthusiastic means watching a group of people play music in a temporary band they formed with whom they rehearsed 4 or 5 times and singing praises to them and enjoying their courage to share their music in a passionate way even if it is slightly out of tune. It is loving Barry Manilow because he's Barry Manilow; so funny you used that reference, I am a huge fan! Please allow yourselves to be sincerely enthusiastic for those around you and for yourself. Hugs from my heart to yours as I fly off to perform at a Storytelling Festival in Iran where yes, I will be sharing bubbles :)

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