With Michelle Burford
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From the beloved host of Good Morning America and New York Times bestselling author Robin Roberts, a guide to instilling hope and optimism into readers’ lives, infusing their days with positivity and encouragement.
Over the last 16 years as the esteemed anchor of Good Morning America, Robin Roberts has helped millions of people across the country greet each new morning, gracing our screens with heart and humility. She has sought to bring a bit of positivity into each day, even in the most trying of times. Now, she shares with readers the guidance she’s received, her own hard-won wisdom, and eye-opening experiences that have helped her find the good in the world and usher in light—even on the darkest days.
Drawing on advice and knowledge she gleaned from conversations with loved ones, spiritual practices, and life experiences, Robin offers a window into how she feeds her own mind, spirit, and soul and invites readers to do the same. With a deeply personal touch, she explains that just like any skill, optimism requires practice and demonstrates how we can shift our mindsets and give ourselves permission to let our best intentions take root and be true.
Full of profound insight and the compassion to meet readers wherever they are on their journey, this contemplative and uplifting read is a breath of fresh air that will bring a dose of joy into your daily life.
I have my tribe to thank for Brighter by the Day. For seven months during the pandemic shutdown, I broadcast Good Morning America from a makeshift studio in my basement. Like a lot of folks, and maybe like you, I found myself craving connection. So each morning on social media, I read a short inspirational passage from a devotional and finished with a prayer. My tribe chimed in. “Wow, so it isn’t just me feeling this way,” many wrote in the comments section. Or: “This just speaks to me. How’d you know what was on my mind?” I didn’t, but the Universe did. And truth is, I needed those pick-me-ups as much as those who heard them. Whether the topic was grace or contentment, compassion or resilience, I loved the reassurance that, in spite of the circumstances, brighter times were ahead.
Those social media posts started in my kitchen, with my longtime girlfriend, Amber, working the camera and our dog, Lil’ Man Lukas, barking his amens. When I eventually returned to the studio, my tribe spoke up again. “Please don’t stop the morning messages!” some wrote. So I began posting from my dressing room, often including my glam fam, the crew that works its magic to get me ready for the show. The boards lit up. “Where can I read your messages?” many asked. They’d come to rely on the a.m. boosts as much as I had and wanted them in written form. That is what inspired this book.
“My future starts when I wake up every morning,”1 jazz great Miles Davis has been quoted as saying.
That’s how I feel when my lids slide open—not on all days, but most. By nature, I look for the good in things, yet I’m no Pollyanna. I’m not walking around handing out lollipops, singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” I recognize that life can be difficult, that we all go through times when we feel defeated.
Yet here’s what I believe: Optimism is a muscle that grows stronger with use. Think about it. If you’re an athlete who wants to improve your performance, you train. You do your planks and push-ups. Back when I played basketball, I’d get in the gym and shoot a hundred baskets. It’s not by chance that we get better, faster, more fit. It happens because we do the work. We condition ourselves. The same is true with optimism. Embracing the bright side is a choice. One setback and situation at a time, we intentionally shift our viewpoint. Then when life throws us obstacles—and it will—optimism is our default. It’s a habit we’ve formed over years.
Now, I can hear some of you saying, “Robin, this’ll never work for me. I’m a pessimist.” A handful of folks around me feel exactly that way. Believe me, I’m not here to tell you how to act, nor am I up on some holier-than-thou perch. I don’t have all the answers, or even most of them, but hear me out. Not everyone naturally sees silver linings, but we can challenge ourselves to spot them. Many don’t tend toward a sunny-side-up perspective, yet we can each use a dose of strength and hope. And that is, in a nutshell, how I define optimism—as hope. It’s believing that no matter how high the hurdle, we’ll find a way over it. It’s trusting our own tenacity in the face of hardship. It’s having the courage to dream and the passion to pursue our goals. And through it all, it’s holding tight to the belief that no matter how bleak things get, nature’s lights will come on tomorrow.
Brighter by the Day, I hope, will be your fresh start, a little light after a mighty tough season in our world. The last couple of years have been challenging for sure, a period unlike any we’ve ever experienced. We’ve made it through by lifting one another up, by realizing we’re all in it together. What you’ll find in these pages is more of that sharing, a conversation meant to remind us of what we already know—simple as that. As you read, imagine the two of us on a porch, swapping our best stories over kombucha, no sanctimony allowed.
I’ve organized the book into three parts, starting with “The Joy Mindset.” In other words, how do you create a happy headspace? Stay with me. In “Positive On Purpose,” we move our take on optimism—faith, bravery, fortitude, and boundless confidence—from principle to practice. And last, “Stronger Than You Know” is both a nod to our capacity—we’re far more powerful than we may realize—and a way to make optimism a long-term lifestyle.
That said, this framework is just a guide. Skip around if you’d like. Flip to the chapters you think will resonate, and take what works, leave what doesn’t. I see this as a volume you might pick up in the mornings, or before you rest your head on your pillow at night. Or maybe you’ll page through it when you’re looking for a lift, when you need a word of encouragement. My only prayer is that after you close it, you feel more connected and less alone. That’s what I believe we all want.
When it comes to recharging my own batteries, Key West is my happy place. Just thinking about my safe haven is enough to lower my shoulders and lift my mood. When Amber and I arrive there for a weekend, we do a ceremonial drive down Duval Street, the town’s main drag, and then we stop at a gas station for Dion’s fried chicken before heading to the house. There’s no agenda beyond that. We settle in, read, or sit out back by the pool, and mostly do nothing (except plan which of our favorite restaurants in town we’ll go to next). The following morning, we’re up early for the highlight of our stay, the island’s spectacular sunrise. It never disappoints.
Word has gotten around about the magical daybreaks there. A group of locals who call themselves the Sunrisers gather daily on the pier to witness the splendor. A half hour before dawn, we hop on our rickety bikes, load Lil’ Man Lukas in a front basket, and screech over to our favorite Cuban coffee spot. Moments later, we’re out on the landing, chatting with neighbors as our dogs greet. But once those rays peek over the horizon, a hush descends. In stillness, we gaze out at the skyline, marveling at the miracle before us, soaking in the moment. My heart fills with gratitude for the chance to begin again.
Of the many dawns I’ve experienced on Key West, no two have ever been the same. On cloudy mornings, the golden rays streak through and paint the sky gold. Other times, the heavens are clear blue, reflecting the waters below. And always, there’s that wondrous moment when light pushes away all darkness, when all remnants of night are dispelled. As I leave the pier, in awe once again of God’s handiwork, I exhale and think, I wonder how life will surprise me today. That’s not only my favorite line of lyrics from a song I once wrote with India.Arie. It’s also how I approach each fresh round of sun. What will be different this time? What will I learn? In what new ways will I be stretched? However my day or yours unfolds, the gift is just having another. Let’s cherish it.
The Joy Mindset
Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.
—Helen Keller, Out of the Dark
Happiness vs. Joy
Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy, and keep choosing it every day.
—Henri J. M. Nouwen
Happiness and joy are kinfolk for sure, yet there’s a fair amount of daylight between the two. Happiness arises because of our circumstances. Joy sustains us in spite of them. Happiness is fleeting, a high note that slowly fades. Joy is the space between the notes, the flow that holds the music together. Happiness is a pursuit. Joy is a choice. And when it comes to shifting our mindset, that’s where it all starts—with choice.
I thought of this while playing Angry Birds, my go-to way to chill. (And a shout-out to my friend Sam Champion, the beloved weather anchor, for introducing me, many moons ago, to the ultimate in escapism.) Amber recently chuckled when, after I’d delayed our dinner plans for “just one more round” of the game—did I mention it’s addictive?—I found myself stuck at the same level. Three days and a whole lot of fuming later, I finally switched up my strategy, and within minutes, I’d won and moved up a rung.
That’s when it struck me: Angry Birds, silly as it may sound, is a powerful lesson in making progress. Why do we keep doing the same things and expecting a different result? Psychologists call that insanity. I call it a reminder that we make no headway until we do.
I’ll let you in on a secret: If your goal is to move toward a sunnier outlook—and I’m proud of you for even considering that act of self-love—you have to want it. Period. That goes for me as much it does for any of us. We can talk about optimism till the cows come home. We can pray, hope, and wish all year long. But unless we’re ready to pivot—and then recommit to our new intention every day—it won’t happen.
I once made this point during a speech, one my mom was there to hear. She must’ve thought I sounded full of myself, like I was implying that I’ve become who I am on my own, because during the ride home, she read me the riot act. “Think of all the people who’ve contributed to you,” she said—and she was 100 percent right. Maybe I could’ve been clearer at the podium that evening, but here’s what I was trying to say: Yes, I acknowledge that the tribe I was born into and the people I love have shaped my perspective in countless ways. I’ve had encouragement. I’ve had resources. I’ve had Good Samaritans and guiding lights along my route. And above all, I’ve had the stellar examples of my parents, Lawrence and Lucimarian Roberts, who made sure I believed anything was possible. Yet at the end of the day, I’ve had to want to see the good in the world, in others, and even in the most excruciating experiences. Those around me may have desired that for me, but only I could choose it. That’s true for all of us.
I’m not on a soapbox, friend, but I am here with a gift. I’d like to pass on to you the gem my parents once gave me: You already have everything you need to forge a new path for yourself. I know you’re fierce, because it takes chutzpah to consider a new course. And I’m betting that you’ve got hope that tomorrow can be better, ’cause otherwise, you probably wouldn’t have picked up this little tome. And if we’re going to take this journey together, the first step toward a positive outlook is—wait for it—readiness. It begins with saying to yourself, I’m really going to give this joy thing a shot.
By joy, I don’t mean some sugarcoated version of reality. This isn’t about faking your way through the day, masking despondency with a smile. Life is filled with disappointments and detours, losses and letdowns. I’ve lived through some myself and also mourned with others enduring tremendous heartache. The kind of joy I’m referring to is steeped in truth. It doesn’t bury the low moments; it sees and accepts them. It doesn’t disregard grief; it recognizes grief’s place and purpose. When sadness creeps in for me, I think, Okay, you’re here, and though I’d rather not deal with you today, you have my attention.
I’ve learned to honor the dark times as much as I do the bright ones, knowing that both will pass. What remains is what I still work to cultivate: a belief that, even as I navigate the peaks and valleys, God cradles me in His palm. I will be okay even if the situation isn’t. That’s an assurance I rest in. That’s a confidence I carry with me. And that is, as I see it, Joy, with a capital J.
My mother, who was full of mommy-isms I’ve loved sharing over the years, had her own phrase for a joy that acknowledges sadness. She called it “happy sorrow.” In 2004, when my beloved father passed, our family lost its rock—and my mother lost her husband of more than fifty-five years. I’ll always be grateful that some of my GMA colleagues, among them Diane Sawyer, Charlie Gibson, and Tony Perkins, made the trip to Mississippi to attend my father’s homegoing service, held at the Triangle Chapel on Keesler Air Force Base. It was such a moving tribute to my dad’s life and heroism. Afterward, with palpable sadness in the air, my mom and the rest of us filed out behind the casket as the choir sang the old gospel song “When We All Get to Heaven.” What happened next still makes me smile.
Mom faced the choir, thrust her arms high in the air, and began directing. “No, no!” her voice rang out as I looked at her sideways. “More upbeat!” And just like that, the singers quickened their tempo, turning a somber refrain into one of jubilation.
Later, Mom told us why she’d done that. “Yes, your father is gone, and we hurt,” she said. “But think of the joy he brought us. Think of all our wonderful memories of him. You can have sad sorrow or happy sorrow”—and she chose the latter. She did so not just on that day, but over and over throughout her years.
That idea has stayed with me. I even have a little placard that says HAPPY SORROW. Every time I glance at it, I chuckle at the thought of Mom directing that choir, and I also remember her wisdom. In our times now, none of us are walking around with a plastic grin, and we shouldn’t be. No one’s pretending all is well in a world gone topsy-turvy. There’s uncertainty. There’s vulnerability. There’s sadness at times. And yet even when sorrow pays us a visit, it can take a seat alongside joy. The two can coexist.
In fact, joy and sorrow are interconnected. We can appreciate one only because we’ve experienced the other. When I think of my parents, both of whom have now gone home, I still well up. The loss pains me. But I choose not to dwell in that place, but rather to relish the good. I honor their legacies and give thanks for the many decades I had with them. Tears of joy are exactly that—grief and rejoicing in unison.
While I’m constantly striving for uppercase Joy, I also embrace its lowercase cousin. Happiness—the sheer bliss of, say, accomplishing a goal, or even just the tiniest of thrills—can bring us much-needed levity and laughter. We need to play, to lighten up and have some fun. Just seeing a colorful paper beach umbrella in a cold beverage makes me smile. That’s such a small delight, but it instantly lifts my mood.
Music is another source of happiness. I grew up with my mother at the piano, with all of us gathered around singing. I still love it when my sister Dorothy visits and takes to the ivories the way Momma did, belting our mother’s favorite hymn, “Blessed Assurance.” And to this day, when I hear a favorite tune, it transports me. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was my theme song during cancer treatment—and, boy, did its lyrics get me through. When “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire comes on the radio, I’ve been known to break out dancing. I enjoy contemporary artists—Beyoncé, Adele, Taylor Swift, John Legend, the list goes on—but nothing gets my foot tapping like some old-school Motown and R&B. And Stevie Wonder? Any song by the musical master snaps me right out of a funk.
Our daily pleasures, however momentary, are cause for celebration. When happy feelings rise and recede—when our circumstances waver—joy is what anchors the soul.
- "Heartfelt and encouraging. Fans of Roberts and newcomers alike can benefit from the continuation of her message as they begin forging their own paths."—Kirkus Reviews
- On Sale
- Nov 7, 2023
- Page Count
- 240 pages
- Grand Central Publishing