Life can't be all sunshine and flowers. Can it?

Sometimes it frustrates me that people think I only pretend to have a fairy tale marriage, like when they urge me to “get real.” I have an online friend named Nan[1] who is also part of a couple who makes you want to puke, and she feels exactly about this.

“I’ve ridden the drama train before,” she says.  “So has my husband.  We are striving for peace.  Our life is real and not without issues, but our marriage truly is wonderful. Part of why it is wonderful is that we always look for the best in each other, and we talk nice about each other.”

This resonates with me.  And not just because I like Nan, who is an ordained minister as well as a writer and a friend. It resonates with me as a human, and as someone who has made it their life’s work to enter problematic workplace situations and help diagnose and fix problems between  people.  Through this, I have come to believe in life that if you look hard enough for something, you will find it. In everything. If you think people are out to get you, you’ll find “signs” that they are. If you believe things aren’t your fault, you’ll “see” the fault of others. If you think others are belittling you, you’ll discover “evidence” of belittling attitudes.


Don’t believe me? Try it. Just for today, make a list of all the things the most important person in your life does right. All of them. Big and small. Even the ones you take for granted. Look hard. Make that list a novel. Notice the things they do in all aspects of their life. Did he get up on time and make it in to work? Did she obey the law on the way? Did he let you know what his plans are this evening? Did he kiss the kids goodbye on his way out the door? Call her mother? Put her plate in the sink? Smile at you? Remain married to you despite your many faults? Bring in the mail? Practice good hygiene? Not leave the cap off the toothpaste? I mean it. List them all.

But don’t let yourself look for ­any negatives, not for a single second. Today is a “gathering positive evidence” day. Reject critical interpretations. Banish thoughts about faults. Refuse to look for sins and omissions.

Nan reminded me that the Bible says (Philippians 4:8) “focus your thoughts on what is true, noble, righteous, pure, lovable or admirable, on some virtue or on something praiseworthy.” I remember hearing this verse in church when I was younger, and I always interpreted the accompanying sermon differently than I do now. I thought I was supposed to surround myself with only virtuous people (although I didn’t, HELLO, Eric! j.k.) and I believed I was told that I should strive toward those traits, which I sometimes did, others not so much. I am looking at it with new eyes, today, thanks to Nan.

What if we applied this teaching to how we think about others? Our spouses, sure, but even our co-workers, boss, kids, friends, and neighbors? It’s harder to find the “goodness and light” in some of them. I have a few folks in mind as I type that. But don’t take the easy way out on this. Look harder.

What you look for, you will find. What you focus on is what you see. Your thoughts become your reality.             Today, I am filling my thoughts with positive interpretations of my husband, and my “others.” Will you join me? I mean, what do you have to lose, right?

Here’s the start of my list:

Eric took Clark to school and texted me from work that he loved me.

Clark got up the first time I asked him to.

Susanne fed the animals without a reminder.

Liz sent personal thank you’s for all her Christmas gifts.

See how easy that was? Thanks, Nan.  Now, everyone out there, it’s your turn.


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47 Responses to What are you looking for?

  1. LBDDiaries says:

    Wow amazing post! I love how you take a single statement, cleaned it up, added wisdom to it and created something I can take to heart. That shows me I sit at the feet of a Master (smile). I thank you from the bottom of my heart for including me in your amazing post. I have to get my coffee, sit down and make a list of all the things Alpha Hubby does right. It’s going to take awhile because I am that blessed. Oh Pamela, this truly is an significant post. Powerful. I could write a book here praising this post but I will stop for now and go start my list. I can only say this – thank you for being my friend.

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks for making me think. Eric and I talked about this for a LONG time the other night, to his chagrin, as we were riding bikes on the trainer, watching the Arkansas v Ohio State game (oops THE Ohio State University, my bad), and I had the benefit of having read your post and email, and just blurted my thoughts and tried to drag him in. However, he was an awesome sport, and we ended up talking about it for an hour after we got off the bikes. And ended up laughing and silly and happy. Because it made us think about the positive, and apply it to our own thoughts, as opposed to telling the other person what they messed up on or what they should do more of in how he thought about me. We do a good job on this most days. But the focus, the focus on the positive, it’s POWERFUL.

  2. BlairForce1 says:

    GREAT idea…and since I’ve been battling negative SELF thoughts lately, I’m going to make a list for my Incredible boyfriend AND MYSELF. What are the things that I do right every day? What do I appreciate about myself? Thanks for the “assignment”. Can’t wait to get started!

    • Pamela says:

      Blair, that’s a PERFECT spin to put on it. What you look for you find, even about yourself. I’ve been awful to myself lately about how I look (old, fat), my condition (out of shape), my writing (I suck), etc. I’m going to do the same thing! Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Heidi Dorey says:

    What a great entry.
    It was good of you to pass this on.
    My husband’s birthday is Saturday (though the party is tomorrow)
    and I think, as a gift, I will make one of these lists for him…about how awesome I am.
    Okay, so for real…a list about him for him.
    He’s getting plenty of things to unwrap, but I’m thinking he’ll like this one the most.
    Thanks, Miss Pamela!

    • Pamela says:

      I think he will. I will email you something I did for Eric as an anniversary gift last week. I do it annually. Part of it may spur further ideas.

      And, this is a precursor to next week’s post. Maybe you would like to even chime in with a few words or a post on how it goes with the birthday list! (No pressure though; some things are private, to some people anyway, ha ha)

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by LBDDiaries and PostDivorceCoach, PamelaFaganHutchins. PamelaFaganHutchins said: What are you looking for? […]

  5. Heidi Dorey says:

    Well, I’m up to 40 already!
    Yeah, I have no problem sharing how it goes,
    though it might not be long enough for a blog entry.

  6. Firstly, I love Nan for all the same reasons listed above. My observations are purely from her writings and emails, of course, but I believe she is the real deal……unique, caring, loving AND in love! Pamela, your idea to make a positive list is something I need to do, and soon. When you’ve been with your significant other for many years, you (and by you, I really mean me) start to take certain things for granted and not appreciate them. I am so guilty of this. So I need to make this list.
    Nan and Pamela………two awesome women. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Eric Hutchins says:

    I am out of time today aside from saying that I beleive this is at the foundation of a great relationship, and if and when it is lost there is little hope of recovering. People talk about relationships being hard work, to me that in itself is a negative conotation. It is a lifes work, it should be at the center, and the “hard” part is to force yourself to A. look in the mirror, and B. Look for the good instead of wallow in the bad.

    I am lucky and I am grateful, AND sometimes I stub my toe, act like an idiot and forget how great I have it. And I also try hard to get back to reality as quick as possible. And reality is GOOD.

    • Pamela says:

      Looking in the mirror instead of pointing the finger is one of the hardest things, I find, for a lot of us, me included. How much easier to blame someone else or to demand someone else provide something to you. But it all starts with “me”.

  8. I love your post and I’m a true believer in all that you wrote about. What I am looking for is a life comprised of spending each day as follows:

    75% Fun times with my Family
    15% Cycling
    10% Fun Work

    Financially Free and positive interaction with all that I meet.

    Love It.


  9. Heidi Milton says:

    I love that verse– one of my favorites, and one I meditate on when the going gets tough. Which it does. Not often, but still. I find it easy to focus on the positive with my husband and my kids. My step kids can be harder…hate to admit it, but it’s true. I have to work at it sometimes. But when I do, I’m a much happier person. And the payoff is big.

    Great post, P :)

  10. kassie says:

    This is such a great way to think! I’ll try it today. I definitely tend to focus on the negative things, but If i focused on the positive, I would be much happier.

  11. Thought-provoking post. I’ve always been a firm believer that people will always live up — or down — to your expectations. I’ve also always been a firm believer in what God has to say about it all, so the verse you cite is a good one to remember. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Pamela says:

      That “live up to or down to your expectations” part is powerful AND dangerous, isn’t it? Nan and I have talked a good bit about that, too. Thanks, Lisa.

  12. Well, darlin’ your timing is impeccable. How do you do it? As I type, I am long in my 4 y/o’s bed as he slumbers in mine. I have no qualms about this. Your timing comes in relation to my recent feelings toward our oldest, who is actually my step-son. I think, though, for the sake of brevity, I will send the rest of my comment to you in an email.
    Just wanted to say thank you. Again.

  13. This is a great reminder. I often fail to see the little things. This is wonderful!

  14. Irene says:

    I read Nan’s blog post and thought how rude of this person to call her out on a such an issue. There’s always a pessimist.

    I think alot of us are more fortunate than we think. Everyone loves a pity party sometimes. But it gets old being the only guest at it.

    Great post Pam! In conjunction with Nan’s, it’s a fantastic way to stop for a minute and say “hey, it’s no so bad”. And count your blessings.

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks, Irene. Yeah, sometimes people can be such poops, especially for some reason with the distance and anonymity “online” gives (even people “close to home”, right?).

  15. Ann Brennan says:

    Absolutely perfect post for me. Things have been rough the past few days and I am sure I am more negative than normal (which is saying something) so this came just at the right time. Thanks for the reminder.

  16. Rhonda says:

    oh wow. I don’t have time at the moment to read all the responses but this really resonates with me. I don’t really know when it happened but I tend to be a negative person out of fear….fear if I believe the best I will be disappointed. My marriage has been down some really tough roads, and now that it’s good, I keep waiting for the ceiling to cave in. My hubby is being very patient about that, but I know it drives him crazy! :)
    As for applying it to ourselves as well, my husband once told me (years ago)instead of stressing out about everything I don’t get done everyday to start looking at everything I DID get done. His heart softened toward me when he realized that while I had high expectations and could be hard on him or the kids, that I was even harder on myself. I had never looked at it that way. This posts reminds me of that. Well done, Pamela, oh wise one!

    • Pamela says:

      You are SO hard on yourself. (And Eric and I had a similar discussion, once, about him realizing I was “even” harder on myself than him — doesn’t make it easier, but stings less to him as a result of the realization). And, Rhonda, perhaps if you remember that no human will be perfect, but if you look to the positive or at least lack of negative in their intention when they (he) slips from the pedestal, you can temper the disappointment a bit. You and I are a lot alike, chica. I think you need a list for you and a list for Tim :)
      I am so glad to hear you guys are doing well. I saw he sent you flowers. Ahhhhhhh.

  17. Rhonda says:

    PS> I have made a few lists for Tim throughout the years when our relationship needed a kick-start. I’ve made some really long lists with humor weaved in and some real sentiment as well. I praised things I’d never before even mentioned. One day when I was doing closet clean-outs I ran across a rubber-band bound stack of cards I’d sent him, and every one of those lists. He saved them. It meant more to him than I realized. (Like most men, he’s not typically very sentimental).

    • Pamela says:

      Occasionally I will write Eric a “all the reasons I love you and am proud of you” note, and I think to myself, “but i’ve said all this before,” yet, every time, it touches him like it is the first he has heard of it. And hearing the “same old thing” from him is like food to a starving person for me. It does mean more than we can know. Hearing we are awesome never seems to get old, especially from who it means most coming from. Heidi Dorey said she is writing a fresh list and giving it to her hsuband for his birthday. :)

  18. Rhonda says:

    Yes, I definitely need to do the lists again, and include myself this time. The flowers were awesome and the timing was perfect. I’d had a week full of tears over the stuff I last emailed you about and it was making me feel negatively about EVERYTHING. The flowers were a total surprise…he doesn’t do things like that very often. It brightened my whole week! That will probably be the first thing on my list!

  19. Susie says:

    Best post yet. I like the posts where we are challenged.

  20. Grace says:

    I love this. I’ll have to visit our friend Nan and read her post.

    In November 2004, I was in Destin, Florida, celebrating Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. My husband and I took a walk, and during he walk, he suggested that it was time for us to split up. I suggested that rather than tearing up the family we spend the next month doing what you suggested in this post — looking for the best in each other. “For the next 30 days,” I said, “let’s just focus on what we love about one another.” He agreed, and I began to happily work on our little project.

    I’d love to say that it worked and that we’re still happily married. But the truth is that he’d already checked out of the marriage. He was already looking for his newest affair. I still think this is an incredible concept and that it can turn a good relationship into an incredible one.

  21. Heidi Dorey says:

    Here’s my update!

    I’ve done sweet things for my husband before.
    Poems, surprise gifts, etc.
    But I have never made a list of all the things I appreciate about him.
    I typed out the first 60 I could think of.

    He loved his birthday party and his presents.

    Afterward, I gave him his List.
    I started dogging myself thinking it’s not long enough,
    maybe he wouldn’t laugh at #58, etc.
    He’s awesome so I really had nothing to worry about.

    He stood quietly with one arm around my waist
    and read through it, chuckling every so often.

    When he was done, he thanked me and gave me a big hug.
    That means I did good. I thought he might hand it back,
    set it on my desk, or maybe file it.
    No, instead…he pressed it into the shredder.

    I’m kidding. Though we both have dark senses of humor
    and I would have laughed at the ridiculousness of that, he took it with him.
    He did the one thing I didn’t expect.
    He locked it in his safe where he keeps his collection of silver and gold.

    I think I nailed it, folks.
    Thanks, Pamela

    (Number 58: If I really-really wanted to, he’d let me put make up on him.)

  22. Daria says:

    I have been really trying to keep this approach too. It’s amazing how much happier I am when I am successful at recognizing the positive and ignoring the negative during my day. I also feel more energized when I come home, versus drained. So, in reality, I suppose that means I am thinking well of others for totally selfish reasons! :)

    Thank you for stopping by Mim from the Monday Mingle Blog Hop! Glad to see you and very glad you are enjoying the Executive Image Series!


  23. O. M. G. What a great post!! I’m adding your link to my sidebar tonight for sure! I have a post somewhere about appreciating my husband (here –, it was fun to write!!

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks :) I thought we were on a very similar wavelength on this issue. I’d also recommend Little Black Dress Diaries — it’s linked in this post, Nan’s blog.

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  25. This post really hits home for me because I have been really trying to look for the good in others lately. I am one of those people who gives over of herself so completely in every interpersonal relationship that, when someone lets me down, it is sometimes earth shattering. This has been particularly true for me at work lately. It seems like everyone at my job has a hidden agenda and it is very disappointing to me. Perhaps you are right and I can somehow will them to be better people if I believe that they still have some good in them. I will definitely let you know how it goes…

    • Pamela says:

      That’s tough! Keep us posted. I’ve definitely had people in my life that the list of things done right was short and ultimately how much they were allowed in my life was limited accordingly

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