There are two kinds of people in the world: those who want their birthdays to disappear, and there are people like my sisters and I, who want our birthdays to be a big deal.

I spent so many years with my ex-husband wanting my birthday to be important. Inevitably, on that day I was always let down. I realize now this was unfair pressure to put on another person. If our expectations are too high, no matter what happens, they will feel like they weren’t good enough. Eventually, after many disappointments, I adopted a new attitude. I was not going to make my birthday a big deal and, surprise surprise, I had fabulous birthdays year after year.

Somehow over the last decade I managed to slip back into my old ways. This year, my birthday came along and, maybe because it is the start of my next decade and a new stage in my life, but my expectations were high. The disappointments started immediately. My two dearest friends both weren’t around on my day. I must say, I felt upset and I couldn’t let that emotion go. After that, the bizarre circumstances continued: a friend couldn’t come because of a tragedy (how could I possibly be upset about that?), there was a huge snowstorm, there was traffic, I had to work late. Needless to say, I felt disappointed and let down.

A few days later, I was going to meet one of my close friends for lunch. When I arrived, to my great surprise, all my other friends who had missed my birthday dinner were there too. At the end of a wonderful meal, they brought me out a cake and candles and sang me Happy Birthday.

At that moment, I decided to make a mental change. I decided to use the other side of my brain to look at things in a more positive manner. Instead of staying in that dark and angry place, I reminded myself of all the years my friends had been at my birthday, all the presents I’d gotten over the years, the cards, the flowers, how people went out of their way to celebrate with me. I reminded myself of all the wonderful things I have and, from that, came an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness. If you are grateful for what you have, how can you ever be unhappy?

Since then, my year has continued to get better and better. I owe those changes to my positive attitude. What I’ve learned from this experience is: when I was feeling down because things weren’t going my way, I changed my mindstate into a more positive attitude. From that moment on, this year has been happy every day.

Changing my attitude has been effective not only in my personal, but also in my professional life. I’ve had to have meetings with some of my staff. I felt angry going into the meetings. However, after changing my attitude, I thought about all the positive traits of that person. I came out of those meetings feeling happy and my staff has not disappointed me. They have produced effectively. Not only have they shown up, but they have gone above and beyond.

Going forward into the year, there are two things I want to say to you. The first is something I always say and it’s also a reminder to myself, let’s be grateful for everything we have. When you feel disappointed, try to remember the things you have instead of what you don’t have. The other thing is, if you put unrealistic expectations on people, your friendships and your relationships will suffer. Make everyone’s life a whole lot easier by not expecting people to produce for you. Instead, why don’t you look at your friends and loved ones and see what you can do for them?

Have a great year, and if we all follow these two simple rules, I know it’s going to be just that.

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