Category Archives: Life in the office

Keeping a positive mental attitude in a manure crisis

“In 50 years every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure”
The Times 1894

We all know the importance of having a positive mental attitude. Even as a confused, dyslexic child I knew that PMA was a good thing, PMS a bad thing. All self-advancement books, gurus and successful people cite the power of positivity; how wealth, work promotions, harmonious relationships all come from seeing the world through an open and optimistic viewpoint. Those with energy and enthusiasm stand out from the crowd, and we’re naturally attracted to their positivity. Yet I can have days when I bounce out of bed (well perhaps bounce is a little strong) and before I know it I’ve stumbled in the face of negativity be it an unwelcome email, listening to the news or talking to someone with a strong Negative Mental Attitude. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to take much to pop my balloon and this can be especially true in the office when we are surrounded by people, projects and deadlines that can make a serious dent on even the most dedicated PMAs. So perhaps the question that we should be asking is how do we hold on to positivity when we are barraged by negativity? Is it any surprise that we feel less ‘bouncy’ when surrounded by global warming, peak oil prices and a printer that keeps jamming?

Well firstly we have to acknowledge that staying in the PMA zone does take some effort on our behalf. Napoleon Hill who first came up with this concept in 1937 said, “Your mental attitude is something you can control outright and you must use self-discipline until you create a Positive Mental Attitude – your mental attitude attracts to you everything that makes you what you are.” Admittedly, activating this self discipline can be hard work if we are surrounded by challenging circumstances and work colleagues, yet when we do make an effort to focus on the positive then the negative seems to naturally fall away. This idea was reinforced by a lecture I went to this week by Roger James Hamilton, the creator of Wealth Dynamics. One of the points he made was that often we use up our resources worrying about ‘old issues’, be that global threats or personal issues when we should be looking to where we want to be in the future and focus on creating that solution. The example he used was the “great manure crisis” of 1894, which was reported by Stephen Davies in The Freeman:

19th Century cities depended on thousands of horses for their daily functioning. In 1900, London had 11,000 cabs, all horse-powered. There were also several thousand buses, each of which required 12 horses per day, a total of more than 50,000 horses. In addition, there were countless carts, drays, and wains, all working constantly to deliver the goods needed by the rapidly growing population of what was then the largest city in the world. The problem of course was that all these horses produced huge amounts of manure. A horse will on average produce between 15 and 35 pounds of manure per day. Consequently, the streets of 19th Century cities were covered by horse manure. This in turn attracted huge numbers of flies, and the dried and ground-up manure was blown everywhere.

In 1894, The Times reported that in 50 years every street in London would be buried under nine feet of manure. Not only that, but as the number of horses grew, even more land had to be devoted to producing hay to feed them (rather than producing food for people), and this had to be brought into cities and distributed by horse-drawn vehicles. It seemed that urban civilization was doomed.

Yet the issue of being suffocated by horse manure, a very real fear for our ancestors of the 1900s, naturally fell away as the world evolved and cars were introduced. Global warming is a current example that can send us from a Positive Mental Attitude to a Negative state of mind. Yet it was only forty years ago that we were preparing for global cooling and the threat this coming ice age would cause to the human race.

I’m not saying that we should ignore current issues and avoid anything that can bring us down but rather for us to hold onto our PMA, I believe that we need to make time to step out and observe the bigger picture to see where we want to go in our lives. The media and fear-mongerers among us seem to relish creating a sense of doom and dis-empowerment which, if we believe their words, can create a negative mental attitude as we stay connected to problems rather than creating solutions. As the great manure crisis showed, many things that we negatively focus on never happen. By remembering that world is constantly evolving we can empower ourselves to create a future that we want to live in, which will activate and strengthen a positive state of mind. Although there are things outside of our control, we are not powerless players in our lives – we just need a healthy dose of self discipline and a dash of courage to make the changes we want to see.

Mark Twain once said, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened”. Many of our biggest fears inside and outside of the workplace will never materialise, so by channelling our efforts into positive thoughts people not only enjoy being around us more, but we enjoy being ourselves more.