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Positive Reinforcement

Tuesday, December 02, 2014
By John Goetz

Ferguson, Missouri, Bill Cosby, a lack of a nuclear agreement with Iran, the rise of ISIS in the Middle East, and the threat of Ebola to name few of the ongoing local, national, and worldwide crisies and scandals. One might be tempted to see the world as a place of struggle, conflict, and crisis where the strong attempt to dominate the week, the 1% profit from the 99%, and the majority imposes their will on the minority. Maybe it is the approaching winter solstice or the conventional date for celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, but it occurs to me that we might be in need of a reminder of a different point of view. 

The serenity prayer teaches me to have the courage to change the things I can, so what do I have power to change? I have the power to change me. To change my thoughts, my actions, and my feelings. I propose for your consideration that during these 4 weeks of December, here at the end of the year, we take action individually to create change. In the words of Pope John the XXIII, “Look at the good there is, and try to encourage it as much as possible. That itself will lessen then bad”. If I encourage good wherever I find it, then I am acting on my power to create change. In psychology we call this positive reinforcement, using the most powerful tool at a person’s disposal, our attention. Yes, your attention to others is the most powerful reinforcer of human behavior. So simple it is hard to believe! 

Lennon-McCartney said, “All you need is love”. The Vedas states, “the doer of good becomes good, the doer of evil becomes evil”. All of which may be true, but too often it becomes only nice quotes followed up with little action. Personal power comes from your choice to act. Encouraging good where ever we find it is a brilliantly simple action based on the psychological principle of positive reinforcement. It is easy to become a little depressed as winter grows and daylight shortens, but action is a remedy for depression. Who knows? Maybe as the days lengthen around the 24th and 25th, and the sun shines, we might follow up by doing some good on our own which may encourage someone else. (Year-end giving is a vital part of Edmond Family Counseling’s funding. We are NOT supported by your generous gifts to the HOPE center and do not benefit from the Samaritan’s giving drive. This year will you consider supporting EFC with a donation? We appreciate all forms of community support. www.edmondfamily.org. All donations are tax-deductible.)

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