What if today you were suddenly removed from everyone and everything you knew and loved…your favorite foods, your cozy bed, your family and your privacy. Sounds scary right. How do you think you would react? Would you be able to maintain a positive attitude and not allow that to break your spirit?
This unbelievable story became a very real reality for one man, Anthony Graves. He endured six thousand six hundred and forty days, that’s eighteen and a half years, living in a cold concrete cell with no human contact, no sunshine and no freedom. Not because he deserved it or committed any crime but because he was innocent and no one believed him.
Eight years ago I watched his episode of 48 hours mystery, the story itself was unimaginable but the character of the man who lived through it stuck with me for years. I was in awe of the way he handled his terrible ordeal. It made me question myself, I wondered if I could have maintained the same mindset as Anthony. I promised myself that someday I would get to meet him, I had to learn more…
Recently I was honored to fly to Houston, Texas and interview Mr. Anthony Graves in person. When I interview guest speakers for my Positive Forward Motion Podcast there’s always a powerful lesson to take from each individual story. Living my life with a positive attitude is something I practice every single day. After interviewing Mr. Anthony Graves, I learned how he held on to Infinite Hope and I again asked myself, “could I really live through what he did with a positive attitude?”
Could a positive mindset be your shield, a strong defense to guard you from becoming overwhelmed by life’s most challenging circumstances?
Let me give you some insight on how this nightmare began, one ordinary day his life was changed in the most devastating way. Anthony was brought in for questioning by the police about a local homicide and didn’t return home for almost two decades. An innocent man accused and convicted of a crime he had absolutely nothing to do with, Anthony spent over eighteen years of his life on death row in a Texas prison because of a wrongful conviction. Anyone would agree that he had every right to view his situation in a negative way, to be angry at the system and his accuser. That’s not what happened. Anthony didn’t allow something that awful to take his mindset down a negative road, he upheld his innocence and had faith that he would be exonerated.
What Anthony taught me is finding a positive outcome among chaos is a choice we all have the ability to make. He reminded me that we might not be able to control what happens in life, but we can control how we feel and respond. Choosing a positive attitude will help us direct our energy to find a solution rather than focusing on the problem. No matter what life throws at us there is always a lesson to be found. A lesson that you can take with you, learn from and share with others.
“Life is neither good or bad, its our perception that makes it that way.”-Anthony Graves
No matter how terrible his future seemed Anthony held on to his own truth. He knew in his heart he was wrongfully accused, even if he reached his execution date before proving his innocence he was still on a positive path to heaven. He no longer feared the future or death because his mindset was focused on finding the good. Anthony believed that his time in prison was a lesson that he would transform into a blessing. He focused on what would happen when he was freed and sent home, not if… but when. He trusted that one day he would share his story with the world and help others understand that the justice system isn’t perfect, his goal was to help people that were also wrongly convicted.
After years of holding on to his faith, he was found completely innocent and cleared of all charges. Anthony is now a free man, released in October of 2010. Since then he’s written a book, started a foundation to help others and continues to spread his message of positivity and forgiveness.
Learning about Anthony’s story helped me to put a lot of life’s worries into perspective. Anthony explained to me when we met that, he knows hundreds of people on death row that would give their lives to have just one day of our average complaints. Anthony’s attitude was everything, he made a choice to look at the positives and find a higher meaning in what happened to him. All of us could take a second look at how we approach difficult events in our lives and flip our mindset to find a more positive meaning no matter how unfair life may seem.
Take the time every day to identify what you can control and let go of the things you cannot change.
Every day we are faced with challenges, remind yourself that you have a choice in how you want to respond. Allow a positive mindset to become your shield, it will help you to weather the storms in life and find meaning and a lesson during tough times. Finding the good in every single situation takes practice, awareness and a shift of focus. When we commit to transforming our mindset, the future is filled with optimism and hope.