Reasons To Be Cheerful

Image oftupical Zimbawean primary school

I’ve been a bad mum. I shouted at my son because he was crying about not having an electric guitar, only an acoustic one.

“Some people haven’t even got a normal guitar,” I said “and even if they do, they can’t have weekly guitar lessons at $30 a pop. Some people haven’t even got electricity. Some people haven’t even got fingers to play the guitar. Some people haven’t even got arms to pick one up. Some people are blind and can’t even read music. Some are deaf and can’t hear it.”

I went over the top and there’s no excuse for that or for shouting but I stand by my message. We all need to focus on being positive and seeing the cup as half full, not half empty.

How the Other Half Really Lives

This morning a friend told me about his recent trip to Zimbabwe and how dire the situatiuon is there. You probably know Zimbabwe’s been sinking into an ever-decreasing spiral of poverty caused by inflation and corrupt leadership for decades.  My friend told me that in the capital city of Harare traffic lights don’t work and electricity is intermittent so most people have generators. Running water is unreliable too so new businesses have popped up delivering water.

That probably sounds bad but I know that in the rural areas of Zimbabwe the situation will be even worse. When I lived there in 1992, teaching in a local rural school, most of the locals didn’t have electricity or running water even then. Food was cooked on an open fire and water pumped from a bore and carried home. The villagers where I lived were subsistence farmers and growing enough food to feed the family was a struggle. There was a drought that year and if crops failed then people would die of starvation. And they did.

International aid companies sent food to Zimbabwe during that time but the government administered it in a work for food scheme whereby only those who turned up to work on specific projects, like road improvements or building, would get the food. If you’re starving with no access to transport it’s hard to get to work so aid never reached most of the hungry people who needed it.

If you were HIV positive, as an estimated 25% of Zimbabweans were in 1992, then you would probably die of related complications eventually and your friends and family would never know what struck you down in the prime of your life because you couldn’t get to a hospital or afford treatment. It’s safe to say these problems haven’t gone away and more likely that they’re worse now.

My friend said the Zimbabwean people are still cheerful, friendly and charismatic despite their terrible circumstances.

I feel sad about this and guilty because I know that while me and my family are thriving some of the kids I taught when I was in Zimbabwe, who are now in their early thirties, are struggling to survive. Some have already died. I feel guilty because Coca Cola are treating me to a trip to Shanghai as part of their Live Postitively initiative and I’m not always positive. Right now I’m feeling sad and angry about the injustices in the world and I feel bad because I’ll be flying business class and the cost of my trip would probably feed an entire village in Zimbabwe for a month.

Why Your Positivite Attitude Makes a Difference

But Coca Cola have chosen to take me on this trip because they want to learn more about how to talk about serious issues in a postive way and that’s what I do. I’ve noticed that when I’ve written articles for popular blogs like Problogger and Copyblogger my articles seem to be the most popular ones that week. I’m basing that on the number of times people retweet the posts and the number of comments.

I can’t be sure why that is but I have a theory that’s based on fact and my training and experience as a teacher. People learn more when they enjoy themselves. When I write I want to make people feel uplifted and inspired. When they’ve finished reading I want to leave them feeling motivated and ready to take on anything, confident that they can succeed if they put their minds to it. Everyone wants to feel more positive and everyone deserves too.

If I know one thing about being positive it’s how important it is to have it and how easily it spreads.

We all have moments of negativity and please do indulge them briefly. It’s totally normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Have a quick moan because you don’t have an electric guitar, you’ve lost your job or haven’t had a vacation for four years then get over it. Then get back to thinking about what you do have: electricity, running water, a roof over your head, a brain, a bright idea and the determination to put them to good use.

We have to be grateful for and appreciative of everything we have. We have to look after ourselves first. If we teach ourselves how to be happy and fulfilled, that positivity spreads naturally.

We mustn’t waste time and energy feeling guilty about how lucky we are compared to other people either. We need to focus on how we can use our skills and experience to make a positive difference in our own lives first and then spread that knowledge and positivity wherever we can.

So I’ll be enjoying my trip to Shanghai, the business class perks, the excesses of the World Expo show and the luxurious food and accommodation. I’ll be focusing on how to get the most out of that trip and make the most of this opportunity to make a difference and find out how to spread the message on the power of positivity better, further and faster. If my business goes well I dream that I can one day revisit Zimbabwe and use a portion of any profits I make to help Zimbabweans rebuild their country.

[tweetmeme] So son please forgive me. I shouldn’t have shouted but do try to always focus on the positive and be grateful for what you have got. Life’s a hell of a lot better for everyone when that way and it’s one small thing we can all do every day to help make the world a better place.

What have you got to be cheerful for today?

Please Subscribe

Thank you for reading Get In the Hot Spot.

If you’re new here make yourself at home and check out some more articles. I hope you’ll like what you see and take a moment to subscribe to Get In the Hot Spot. It’s a brilliant way to stay motivated and inspired plus it’s totally free.

Subscribe now by email or to choose the RSS Feed for updates in your feed reader.

I’d love it if you take a moment to use the hand tool below to add this to Stumble, Digg or Delicous because that will help me get more readers. Thank you friends.

Find Out More About Zimbabwe

To learn more about the situation in Zimbabwe or help by making a donation please visit Zimbabwe Benefit Foundation. Even just talking to other people about what’s going on there will help by raising awareness about Zimbabwe and what’s happening there. According to the Zimbawe Benefit Foundation website 95% of schools in Zimbabwe have shut down. Imagine the implications of that for parents, children and teachers ~ the effects of having a generation of children with no access to education is unthinkable.

For a lighter story about Zimbabwe read Lessons From an African Witchdoctor, one of the many strange and funny things that happened to me while I was there.

More Articles

>> 5 Instructions For Better Writing and Living

>> Funny Search Engine Terms

>> Why Do We Love To Travel?

>> How To Bounce Back From Rejection

>> What To Do With Your Life If You Don’t Know What To Do With It

>> Live Your Dream In a Material World

>> 5 Secrets For Avoiding an Average Life

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!


  1. Robin Dickinson May 4, 2010 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    Hi Annabel,

    Negative thinking can be very useful if it’s used to jet-propel the positive.

    Personal tragedies aside, life would be dull without the contrast that the positive-negative polarity of thinking brings.

    The trick is of course to harness the negatives and get them working *for* you, rather than get run over by them!

    You’re a star!

    Best, Robin :)

  2. Annabel Candy May 4, 2010 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    Robin – True enough, life definitely has it’s good and bad bits but the trick is to make sure the positives outweigh the negatives. Some people are brilliant in making negatives into positives, a skill definitely worth practicing:) It’s true though, life would be blah if it was all up all the time but that doesn’t seem to happen anyway!

  3. Cate May 5, 2010 at 6:17 am - Reply

    Gran always used to say every cloud has a silver lining – and she had been through a bit in her life. Stuff happens, and some of it can be super bad at the time (I know, I’ve been there) and sometimes it can be hard to see what good can come out of bad situations – and, if we’re honest, sometimes we just can’t. I’ve come to accept that being positive isn’t about pretending everything is great all the time – it’s like you said, acknowledge it and try to move on. Not always easy, but a better way to use what little energy you sometimes have.
    A fabulous post, Annabel, as always. So much good thinking to share!

  4. Gip @ So Much More May 5, 2010 at 6:19 am - Reply

    Nothing exists without it’s opposite. You can’t understand up without a concept of down. And rich has no meaning unless poor exists as a contrast. (Read the Conversations with God book series by Neale Donald Walsch to find out a lot more about that.)


    I wouldn’t care to be the person who is poor so someone else can comprehend rich. I’d much rather understand poor as a hypothetic concept, something that once existed and has now been overcome.

    Ultimately, the world has enough resources for us all. Fear keeps some of us from experiencing that.

    I feel a blog post of my own coming on…

  5. Steve May 5, 2010 at 6:56 am - Reply

    You make being cheerful sound like a duty we all should take up. I will try to be more cheerful!

  6. Leon Noone May 5, 2010 at 7:41 am - Reply

    G’Day Annabel,

    As they say,”a timely reminder.” As a kid year” ago, I had an autograph book. Some sage uncle or someone like that wrote ‘I thought I was unfortunate to have no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

    By the way, if the worst thing you ever do to your son is yell at him, he’ll be doing OK. Suggest he reads Les Paul’s life story. If he doesn’t know who Les Paul is, he doesn’t deserve an electric guitar.

    Survive the Winter invasion!



  7. Teresa May 5, 2010 at 7:55 am - Reply

    Funny as I just read something this morning…It was from ‘Awaken the Giant Within’ by Anthony Robbins…One of the things I ‘suffer’ with is frustration….I have very high highs and then I find when my adrenaline runs out I am left with frustration….Anthony writes that any emotion can be turned into a positive one if you just underand it…frustration is merely thinking you could be doing better. The good thing is that this thing is normally within easy reach, hence the frustration. Kids get frustated as they go from getting everything they desire by crying to having to ‘earn the right to have it’ in adolescence….I must admit I was brought up with ‘you have it better than most’ but I think that can lead to guilt in adult life when you do have more than a lot of people in the world. Enjoy whatever you have in life, I am not saying don’t be aware of others predicaments but let the guilt go and ENJOY!!!!

  8. Annabel Candy May 5, 2010 at 9:31 am - Reply

    Cate – When you’re really going through the bad bad stuff it becomes impossible to see the possibilities of positive outcomes but going through bad things does make us stronger and more resilient in the long run.

    Gip – Yes, once you start philosophizing about these things it’s hard to stop. Hope you manage to write about it more in your own post:)

    Steve – That’s funny. I suppose I do think of it as a duty to be positive, upbeat and concentrate on doing things that make you happy. We owe it to ourselves don’t we?!

    Leon – Thanks for joining us. Loving the ammunition for my son. I really try not to spoil my kids but feel guilty for being mean compared to other parents who do get their kids what they want. It’s possible they’ll understand it when they grow up but equally possible that they’ll be in therapy discussing what a miserable childhood they had because all their friends had an electric guitar and they didn’t… We are all spoilt in the western world. Lucky us.

    Teresa – Absolutely, we need to realise how lucky we are and make the most of it. I hope you can channel that frustration into something productive:)

  9. Jennifer Barry May 5, 2010 at 9:39 am - Reply

    I guess I’m a bad person because I laughed when I read your rant at your son! :)

    What do I have to be cheerful about? Well, I have a great husband, 2 cats, and my own business.

    I think that’s a great idea to take your guilt about your trip and harness it to motivate you to help others. I love your dream about giving back to Zimbabwe in the future. One person can have huge negative effects (i.e. Mugabe) but that also means just one person can have large positive effects. It reminds me of this story where a college student helped a poor family to grow a garden and and send kids to school in Swaziland:

  10. Annabel Candy May 5, 2010 at 9:51 am - Reply

    Jennifer – Brilliant, I was hoping to stand by my word by spreading a bit of cheer while raising a serious issue:) Thanks for the lovely feedback. Oooh, I want cats. Love them. I’ve been longing to return to Zimbabwe for years. Now I’m focusing on building a business and making money I hope I’ll be able to do that and donate regularly in the future or return. I want to make that one of my business goals. Obviously a business needs to make money but the point of money is to help you live your dreams and for me that means family travel and being able to support Zimbabweans in some way.

  11. Sandra Lee May 5, 2010 at 11:04 am - Reply

    Annabel, I love this article because it is so passionate! Thank you for taking a moment to remind us of the inequities in this world, which are totally unnecessary. I choose to live simply, so that others can live and so as not to muck up the planet any further.

    A big hug for you and your son too!

  12. Annabel Candy May 5, 2010 at 11:16 am - Reply

    Sandra – Thank you for saying that. This blog has provided huge opportunities and personal growth for me. I’ve gone from being a secret writer to a writer with 1000s of happy readers all over the world. I’ve gone from playing it safe with numbered lists and How to posts to mixing it up and adding some personal stuff. The blog is getting richer and more vibrant because of the readers, the many comments that have encouraged and supported me during my blogging evolution.

    I started my blog as an experiment, hoping to help other people and could never have imagined what a positive effect it would have on me. I am basking in your warm embrace. Thank you! Hugs all round I think:)

  13. Paul May 5, 2010 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    RAnnabel this post is such a great reminder about ‘one half’ lives, while the other half continues to enjoy the comforts of their acquired lifestyle. Many of us could do to print this post off and re-read when we feel like we’ve been hard done to.

    I don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad mother, just different styles informed by different experiences. It’s the same with many other things in life, it’s what happens and we deal with it.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.


  14. Sandrine May 5, 2010 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    This article really does show why it’s a good idea for you to go to Shanghai! It’s so much harder to be positive about things when you know in detail about all the bad things that are happening in the world. Yet you manage it and show us all how to do the same! Have a great trip!

  15. Annabel Candy May 6, 2010 at 8:58 am - Reply

    Paul – Great to see you here! Thank you for reading it and commenting:)

    Sandrine – Thank you! Got to go, time to board the plane:) Will update you all asap.

  16. Bee May 6, 2010 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Hey Annabel!
    Half full – half empty, ying yang etc. I’ll take it upon myself to point out the brown and fizzy elephant in the room with Coca Cola taking you to Shanghai… it’s the minor issue of integrity… well somebody’s got to :)
    You are a very health conscious person and you like to eat and feed your family well. The benefit for Coca Cola in spending some minor marketing bucks on a positive blogger like you is clear, and I guess so is the benefit for you getting to see the world expo and perhaps having opportunities to make a difference in making complex issues more palatable. But at the crux is – and I have been dealing or not dealing as it were – with this often myself – just how bribe-able (or is it corrupt?) are we?

    Is it that how we make our choices within these opportunities that we will make a difference overall? Or is this just an excuse for our own hedonistic choices?

    How much fame and mileage could you have potentially gained from “Obesity has overtaken smoking as number one killer – Blogger declining bribe by Fizzy Drink Giant to go to world expo.”

    And hey, you deserve tons of fun and I’m happy to write this, since you are already on the way. Go girl, Love ya, Bettina

    What Happens To Your Body If You Drink A Coke Right Now?

  17. Connie May 8, 2010 at 4:01 am - Reply

    I needed this today. You are my intellectual guardian angel Annabel.

  18. Annabel Candy May 10, 2010 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    Bee – Haha, I’ve been considering these very issues myself and wondering what would have happened if one of the companies who I consider to be the root of all evil had proposed to me in such a way. I think I know what’s going on here and am determined to make it work out well for all of us. Surely I’m not dreaming that this can be a win-win-win-win for Coca-Cola, me, you (my readers) and consumers in general. For example, I’ve already raised my concerns to them about labeling, recycling and other issues. They write down what I say. You can comment here on what you would like to see them do and they will read it and maybe do something about it. Businesses make money by keeping their customers and the communities they live in happy so our goals are aligned in that way. Coca-Cola produces a range of drinks and if no one wants to drink unhealthy drinks any more they will produce healthy drinks. It’s freedom of choice.

    We all know some drinks, foods etc are unhealthy. If you like them then it’s fine to drink/eat them in moderation. If you can’t you’ll have a health problem. Some people spend too much time on the Internet (mentioning no names here) but they can’t ban it just because some people abuse it. Same thing with unhealthy food.

    Thanks for raising these issues, it’s great to have a healthy debate and I look forward to many more of them:)

  19. Bee May 10, 2010 at 10:49 pm - Reply

    I am really extremely gagging for an ice cold coke RIGHT NOW!

  20. Annabel Candy May 11, 2010 at 9:29 am - Reply

    Bee – Lol, I knew you’d see the light:) Maybe I’m naive but I hope they can help improve the world. They genuinely want to and I think hope lies with big companies like them with heaps of money. They’re keen to bring about positive change and that’s definitely a cause worth supporting. So go ahead, enjoy that can of coke and help save the planet:)

  21. Kim May 13, 2010 at 1:47 am - Reply

    Hola Annabel, when I looked at the title of this blog I thought,”I don’t have to read this one, I am already cheerful!” Then I saw that you yelled at your son and I thought woah this must be something and it was- What an incredible message for children and adults. Your words are inspirational, charged and real. We can’t be appreciative and thankful enough for all of our gifts. My husband just reminded me this morning that 99% of all people are good in the world. Those who live simply are often more upbeat. I will have the girls read this blog and then we’ll go out and spread the good cheer!! Love to all

Leave A Comment