How to look on the bright side of life

Learn how Annette Benjamin stays positive, even when life is tough.

As for most people, life is not all good times and gumdrops for Annette Benjamin, a certified billing coding specialist in the DMU Clinic. She’s experienced divorce and has raised her teenage daughter, Gretchen, without her ex-husband’s support or involvement. But at DMU, Benjamin is known as one of the most infectiously sunny and friendly people on campus.

A member of the University’s community service committee, Benjamin has volunteered to help staff United Way events, physical fairs and the DMU booth at the Iowa State Fair.

“We’ve had various requests for help from the community in which Annette has been able to share her insights from being a mother who’s worked her tail off to make a good life for her daughter,” says fellow community service committee member and DMU communications associate Courtney Tompkins. “She is a true inspiration and a woman I’m proud to call a friend.”

Benjamin has served for two years on the faculty/staff campaign committee, which encourages employees to support the University’s annual fund; that inspired her to join the DMU President’s Society, which honors donors of $1,000 or more annually. She enjoys taking her parents to DMU’s annual Senior Health Fair and promoting other outreach events DMU offers.

In other words, in her three years on the DMU Clinic staff, Benjamin has enthusiastically embraced the University community. Below we summarize her perspectives on positive living.

Count your blessings

Bad things happen to everyone – the rent is due, the paycheck is short, the toilet’s overflowed, the teenager in your house is troublesome or worse. For most Americans, though, rarely is everything going wrong. Maintain a positive perspective by focusing on family, friends, career, art, hobbies, pets – whatever aspects of your life that bring you joy.

“Everything is about attitude,” Benjamin says. “We have the power to create our own – good, bad, happy or sad. Choose happy.”

Take chances, but with caution

Benjamin had worked as a certified coder at a local clinic for 11 years and thought she’d never change jobs. She carefully considered the job at DMU and has since “loved every minute” of it.

“My supervisor, our human resources staff and the University leaders all remember on a daily basis we’re not only employees with careers, but we each have a life,” she notes. “We get both, and that’s huge.”

Embrace change by planning for it

This year, Benjamin’s daughter will graduate from high school and enroll in cosmetology school in another city. “I’m preparing her to take the next step, and for me to do so, too,” Benjamin says. “I want her to be strong and independent, while my career can become my focus.”

Connect with others by communicating

In any gathering, Benjamin looks and acts like someone you would want to meet – smiling, welcoming and open to sharing her experiences and yours. She actively listens not only to be friendly but also because she knows it helps avoid or manage confrontation.

“At the first full-time job I had, when I was 21 years old, my boss told me, ‘The customer is not always right; sometimes they are just misinformed.’ That’s when you need to be calm and listen to the situation to make it right.” Addressing the misinformation rather than attacking the other person is key.

Make yourself happy by helping others

Benjamin’s family and friends know that any time they need assistance, she’s their go-to with gusto. “It’s one of the silliest things I get the most excitement and happiness from,” she says. “If someone needs help, a coupon, an idea on how to do something – all the way down to the little girls on my niece’s softball team – I’ll do whatever I can. It puts smiles on their faces and mine, literally for free.”

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