Preface to More Enthusiastic Ideas

Here is a fresh, new book of daily readings focused on words that are good for us to think about. In a previous book, Enthusiastic Ideas, I tried to show how words can give us hope and courage, one day at a time. In this book, More Enthusiastic Ideas, I am offering a new year’s worth of similar readings.

Like its predecessor, this book is what the older writers used to call a “daybook.” It consists of a single reading for each day of the year. The idea is to use each day’s reading as the starting point for a brief, but profitable, meditation. The readings are short enough that they can be read by busy people (as most of us are these days), but don’t let their brevity fool you. The readings are highly concentrated, and I hope you’ll find them “provocative” and “suggestive” in the highest sense. If this book sends you off down a lot of good trails in your own thinking, then I’ll be pleased. That’s what a daybook is intended to do.

These two books would be placed in the “positive thinking” section of the library, I suppose. I don’t mind that, although I fear that being put in that category means the books will not be taken seriously by some people. Unfortunately, books about “positive mental attitude” have a reputation for being fluffy: nothing more than cotton candy for the mind. Whatever the reasons for that reputation might be, I don’t believe the situation has to be the way it is. A writer should be allowed to address the issue of positive thinking at a deeper level.

If we happen to be living our lives in a less than wonderful way, the last thing we need is for someone to make the situation more palatable by pouring “positive mental attitude” syrup over the facts. The positive thinking we need won’t come from dreaming or ignoring reality; it will come from the (sometimes painful) alignment of ourselves with principles of proven validity in human character and conduct. So as a speaker and writer, I get in people’s faces and challenge them to change in significant ways. There’s nothing fluffy about it, believe me.

If you look over the Index for these two books, you’ll see a number of words that are related to one another, sometimes very closely. For instance, remembering, remembrances, memories, and mementos each get a page of their own. This is no accident. Nuances can be very important, and it’s helpful to think about shades of meaning. As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

Together, these books include 732 different words to think about. That’s a lot, but there are still others that could have been included. Perhaps I left out a word you would like to hear discussed. If so, write and tell me. There aren’t any plans for a third volume of these readings, but you might convince me to take out one of my words and include yours in a future revision of the existing books.

As I explained in the Preface to Enthusiastic Ideas, this project began as a short list of “gifts” that one person might give another. I called them “gift words” back in the beginning. Eventually, however, the list widened out and came to include many good words of a more general nature, which I decided simply to call “positive words.”

Even if you don’t usually think in terms of “giving yourself to others,” Enthusiastic Ideas and More Enthusiastic Ideas are books that will challenge you to improve your “self” anyway. These good words would be worth contemplating even if you lived in a hermit’s cabin way out in the woods somewhere. Being all that we can be is the right thing to do — even if no one else knows or cares or thanks you for it.

But now that the project has come full circle, I’d like you to come back with me to the idea of “gift words.” We do need to see character improvement as a process that builds a better connection to others. It’s not only important to be people of strength and honor, but also to give ourselves to others as people who have that kind of character.

As you think about the words in these books, see them as qualities in which you can grow. Those who deal with you each day would be delighted to discover that you’ve grown in qualities like hope, courage, and joy. I believe that if you’ll think of your personal character growth as a gift you can give to those around you, you’ll be more highly motivated to grow. So what kind of new “you” would you like to give to your friends and family? I have a few suggestions . . .

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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