The Power of Positive Thinking: Helen Peterson (Transcript)

Helen Peterson

Following is the full transcript of interior design professor Helen Peterson’s TEDx Talk: The Power of Positive Thinking at TEDxDhahranHighSchool conference. This event occurred on February 28, 2015.


Listen to the MP3 audio while reading the transcript: The Power of Positive Thinking by Helen Peterson @ TEDxDhahranHighSchool


Helen Peterson – Professor of Interior Design (Prince Mohammed University)

Thank you very much.

When I was first considering whether I should accept the opportunity to give a TEDx talk, I spoke with a friend about how a surprise to be asked. After all I’m not globally influential. I’m not famous. I’m really just an ordinary unremarkable person.

And to my surprise, he became quite angry with me and spent quite a bit of time telling me just how foolish I was to be thinking that way.

However I was still stymied by what I had to say the rest of the world needed to hear. And it wasn’t until about three o’clock one morning when I realized I was thinking about it all wrong, that given the opportunity what would I tell my three young adult children and my students, what would I want to describe to them that would improve their lives. And after that, it became very simple and very easy and devious really because ordinarily they wouldn’t listen to me but they’d have to watch my TEDx talk.

So what I want to say – what I want to talk about today and everything I say will tie back into this, is that it is important to recognize the power of positivity.

About 10 years ago, our family experienced a health problem that changed life for the worse really as my husband and I and my children knew it. And it was really a very difficult situation. And for me it was personally devastating, and to me everything had changed for the worse or so it seemed.

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And so I found I was faced with a choice. I could sit around and complain about how bad things were. Or I could put the most positive spin on what was a difficult situation. And I realized that people who complain end up making themselves and everybody around them miserable.

And so I chose to select and work with the positives that I could find and build — rebuild my life based on that.

One of my brothers who knew of my situation commented on how he admired my coping skills. And I told him at that point of my decision and he said, “Wow! Took me years of therapy to realize that.” To me it is seemed pretty simple and I apply it everyday to my life.

This is my third year in Saudi Arabia and I’d like to use a few examples of my experiences here to illustrate what I mean. One of my favorite quotes and has been very helpful here in Saudi Arabia is by Wayne Dyer. And it says, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Good example. Our compound quite often would — we get up in the morning to try to go to work and there would be no water. And we were getting pretty tired of having to heat water every other morning or so to get ready for work and there were lot of complaints on the bus.

About that time, I was researching water conservation for my design sustainability class and came across the statistic that many people in Africa exist on the average of 3 liters of water a day. And that’s for everything. Double-checking that statistic for this talk, I found that the number might be higher but not by much.

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