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Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

August 17, 2010

Donna Peek

Donna Peek

This week, guest blogger Donna Peek shares a valuable lesson she learned about happiness and whether it’s a choice or chance?  Donna is a practicing alliance professional with over 27 years of experience in the high tech industry, including over 15 years managing alliance partnerships.  You can read more from her in her Peek Performance blog.

In 1984, the answer to that question for me was decidedly “No!”  Why?  I was living under the spell of limiting LIES.

I was 22 at the time and working for a large high tech company in a small town.  I’d started at the company in 1983, ten days after graduating from college with a degree in engineering.  Before too long, I was experiencing culture shock – as a native New Yorker, the social and cultural scene was not what I was used to. The national economic downturn affected our business, so work was slow and I was bored.  I fell into a funk and I became unpleasant to be around.

One day, my long-suffering cube-mate, Bill, about 20+ years my senior and a volunteer with the Optimist Club, invited me to be a judge for a speaking contest sponsored by the Optimist International. We were to judge 4th and 5th grade students speaking on the topic – “Destiny: Choice, Not Chance!”

I agreed to do it, thinking I was doing him a favor. Ha! Little did I know it at the time, but that night would literally change my life.  I was given the favor of an eye-opening experience that helped me see how my choices were stopping me from being happy and successful.

At the end of the evening, after listening to those very articulate students talk about life choices, attitude and personal power, I sat there stunned. I was humbled and I was ashamed.  These 5th graders schooled me!

You see, I had allowed my mind to become a garbage dump of negative thinking. My mind was filled with limiting LIES. I had ceded all of my personal power to my circumstances and had started playing the blame game. Those kids made me realize that if I was unhappy with my life, then I had the power within me to change it. I resolved right then and there to take control of my life, starting with my attitude.

The first thing I trashed was the self-pity I had cloaked myself in. I wrote down personal and professional goals. I put positive affirmations on my bathroom mirror. I cleaned out the garbage dump in my mind! And you know what? My changed attitude determined my new altitude. Within in one year, my entire professional situation turned around. I received a performance award, was promoted to a management training position, and, most importantly, I became more positive and pleasant – someone people wanted to be around!

Optimist International gave all the judges a little wooden plaque of The Optimist Creed. Since that night in 1984, I showcase that little wooden plaque in every office I have occupied.  It reminds me of the truth that helped me turn my life around.

Today, I have a great career, a wonderful family, and a fulfilling life thanks to the lessons I learned from those 5th graders that fateful night!  Through their example, they helped me challenge the LIES I was living.

Which person or circumstance has entered your life to challenge your thinking and teach you how to be more optimistic and as smart as a 5th grader?

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