Remaining With The First Thought
I see him every day as I walk down the corridor on the way to retrieve my lunch out of the refrigerator. Without fail, he greats me warmly with a HUGE smile. Never once is he ever in a bad mood - never once in the two years since I have known him.
One day I finally asked "Eddie" if he had always had a happy disposition and positive outlook. He confessed that he had not, and that it had been something that he worked on himself for years to attain. Eddie then advised that his secret was to force himself to wake up first thing in the morning with a feeling of extreme happiness and gratitude for another day of life. He mentioned that this obviously does not come naturally but if a person is persistent and practices this on a daily basis his happiness will begin to grown exponentially.
After talking with him, I walked down the corridor and reflected how this African American man's advice was identical to that of the Baal Shem Tov in Tzava'as HaRivash 25:
"The following is an important principle: Remain all day with the thought with which you rose from your bed, and no other thought."
I then resolved to incorporate their advice each morning by saying Modeh Ani with a renewed and perhaps exaggerated joy rather than a mumbled sluggishness. Amazingly, I have found that looking forward to a "super fantastic" day ensures that I start the day off on the right foot and prevents me from immediately thinking about the first opportunity that I will have to return to the comfortable warm blankets.
Postscript: Months later, the Sudilkover Rebbe gave me advice identical to that from Eddie. The Rebbe told me that the Tzetel Katan from Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk advised that a person should wake up each morning and say Modeh Ani with with a joyful heart.