Some people are confused about the nature of positive thinking. Among other things, they believe positive thinkers are pollyannas wearing pink colored glasses who engage in wishful thinking. The critics also go on to say those so-called positive thinkers live in a mindless dream world and suppress their negative emotions because they cannot face the harshness of life.
But what are the facts? It is the negative thinkers that practice wishful thinking! They love to complain about the misery they're in and do nothing about it, other than wish someone or something will come along and rescue them. They live in denial, refusing to accept responsibility for their lives. They resort to the blame game to avoid facing the facts that worthwhile goals require effort and persistence to achieve.
Positive thinkers do not suppress their negative emotions. And, unlike negative thinkers, neither do they wallow in them. Instead, they face them and learn from them. They realize that emotions are simply messengers meant to guide our behaviour. If I'm feeling great (experiencing positive emotions), I realize that I'm doing the right things and continue doing so. But when I'm feeling bad (experiencing negative emotions), I realize it is because I'm doing something wrong. So, I stop, analyze my behaviour, learn from my mistakes by changing my ways, and move on. In a word, positive thinkers are guided by reason, common sense and the consequences of their actions.
Also, positive thinkers realize that it is not about whether the glass is half full or half empty. Rather, it is about whether the glass needs refilling. You see, they are action oriented. They get things done. Their mode of thinking is life affirming. Also, rather than waste time endlessly repeating, "I can do it! I can do it! I can do it!" they examine what is blocking their way, look for ways to overcome the obstacle, make an action plan, and proceed. It's all about attitude or perspective, isn't it? Yes, it's true, our outlook shapes our outcome.
Positive thinkers are winners in good times and survivors in bad times. So, if it's obvious that thinking positively is superior to thinking negatively, why don't negative thinkers change? It's not easy. First, after years of negative thinking, it becomes a way of life. Negative thinkers grow to accept their outlook as normal. They come to believe that it is the world that needs to change, not them. How can we blame a blind man for stumbling on a rocky path? Negative thinkers are blind to the truth. Also, their way of thinking has become habitual. It is automatic. To change it now requires effort and persistence, both of which negative thinkers are inclined to resist. On the bright side, there are some preventive measures we can take to avoid sliding into the quagmire of negativity.
1. Don't identify with your failures or mistakes. You are not a 'failure' or 'stupid' just because something didn't go according to plan. You are merely someone experiencing a temporary setback. How can you develop your analytical, coping, and problem solving skills without obstacles to practice on?
2. Let go of anger. Resentment, anger, and rancor are thorns. Embrace them not, for they puncture the heart, causing grievous pain. Release them and heal your wounds with the balm of forgiveness.
3. If you catch yourself thinking that you 'have to,' 'must,' 'ought to,' or 'should' do many things, rephrase your thoughts in a positive manner. You see, those words create stress and guilt, weighing you down. They also remind you of being forced to do things as a child, so they create resistance. Don't let such words paralyze you. Instead, replace 'OUGHT TO with 'WANT TO' + BECAUSE + SO. In other words, instead of saying, "I OUGHT TO lose weight," say, "I WANT TO lose weight BECAUSE I will feel better, look better, live longer, and grow in confidence, SO I will join a fitness club and eat properly." Rephrasing your thoughts places the focus on the BENEFITS you wish to receive and prepares you for action.
4. Avoid thinking, "I CAN'T" because that expression is a dead-end street; it doesn't lead anywhere. Instead, say, "I WILL" + "IF." For example, rather than saying, "I CAN'T lift that weight," say "I WILL be able to lift that weight in three months IF I increase the weight I now lift by ten pounds each week. While "I CAN'T" brings you to a screeching halt, the "I WILL + IF" formula forces you to look for, find, and implement solutions. Summing up, success comes in cans, failure in can'ts. With a little bit of practice, positive thinking becomes a habit, and as Frank Crane wrote, "Habits are safer than rules; you don't have to watch them. And you don't have to keep them either. They keep you."
5. Don't get suckered into the false belief that events or other people cause you to feel the way you do. The only one in charge of your emotions is you. People, or events, cannot make you upset, frustrate you, or disappoint you unless you allow them to. It's a choice you make. If someone were to insult you, for example, you could abandon reason by reacting automatically and growing hostile. On the other hand, you could pause long enough to consider the situation and grow compassionate by wondering what would make someone so insecure that they need to provoke you. Compassion makes a lot of sense. After all, people need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed. And you can play a part in that.
6. Don't be sensitive; be strong. Don't interpret your boss' glance as a look of disapproval. Don't imagine that the guy who just cut in front of you on the highway did so because he disrespects you. Don't think a rude remark made by a stressed out teen indicates that he doesn't like you. The unpleasant feelings you have at the time of the above experiences is not caused by the events themselves, but by childhood memories that they have triggered. So, my boss' glance, for instance, may trigger childhood memories of my father's disapproving look. And the same feelings of insecurity and fear that I had as a child, well up into the present moment. So, let go of the past and live in the present. You are not a child; you are an adult. It is not your father; it is your boss. And you are doing a good job, so what are you worried about?
Finally, the following poem may help to guide us on the path to positive
Fear less, hope more;
Whine less, breathe more;
Talk less, say more;
Hate less, love more;
And all good things are yours.
© Chuck Gallozzi
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