Do You Make These 5 Common Mistakes When Switching to a More Positive Attitude?

by Henrik Edberg

Image: / CC BY 2.0

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice”
Wayne Dyer

“For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else”
Winston Churchill

If you are reading this then there is good chance that you agree with me that positivity is pretty awesome. But it is not always easy to adopt a more positive attitude and there are some pitfalls. So today I’d like to share a few mistakes that I have made in this area and that I think are fairly common.

1. Thinking 100 percent positivity.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that when you adopt a positive attitude then it’s just on. Like when you flick a light switch. And that would be nice and simple, wouldn’t it?

But in my experience you improve gradually with a few bigger leaps from time to time. For example, today I stay positive for about 80 percent of the time. Four years ago or so, I was probably positive for about 30 percent of the time.

So I have made big improvements in this area. But it has taken years and lots of exploring and work to have a more consistently positive attitude. And the work continues. Mental fitness is like physical fitness. If you let things slide then you get out of shape and then you can’t do the things you used to do.

I think it is very important to be aware that nothing will ever be perfect. Striving for perfection can be pretty dangerous. Because you will never feel like you are good enough.

Even though you may be positive 90 percent of the time you still feel deep inside like you aren’t OK. No matter what you do. You have set the bar at an inhuman level. And so your self esteem stays low even though your results may be very good.

So I think it’s better to just focus on gradually being more consistent instead trying to be perfect.

2. Thinking it’s just about your thoughts.

One good way to become a more positive person is to ask questions that empower you instead of making you feel like a victim. If you are in negative situation you can for instance ask yourself: what is the hidden opportunity in this situation?

So one part of a positive attitude is about learning to think in more helpful way.

But it’s not just about your thoughts.

I have found that one of the best ways to turn around a negative mood or just to remain positive and strong is to work out. After you are done it sometimes feels like you are different person. Doubt and worries just seem to fall away or at least become a lot smaller.

This nice thing about this is that it works kinda automatically.

Because sometimes you just can’t pump up your own enthusiasm or motivation. Or see things from a positive perspective. When working out you don’t have to think or push through such inner resistance. You go and you work out. And most of the time it works like pushing a stress and tension release button in yourself.

Being in pretty good shape and working out a couple of times a week is to me one of the most fundamental and effective things you can do to improve your attitude and life.

You may discover that if you improve this area of your life then many of the tips for how to think in more positive way become a bit superfluous.

3. Can’t let go of the benefits of your current attitude.

At some point you have to make up your mind. Will you go for the benefits of adopting more positive attitude? Or will you stay with benefits of a negative attitude?

Because there are benefits to both of them. It’s not like a negative attitude is something that is just stupid and something people do without any reason. A negative attitude can for example give you this:

  • Attention and validation. You can always get good feelings from other people as they are concerned about you and try to help you out.
  • No risks. When you are negative you can find explanations for why nothing will work. And so you don’t have to take action and have to risk for example rejection or failure.
  • A feeling of being smarter and right. A common attitude of very negative people seems to be – and it was in my case – that you think you are smarter than other people. They do, fumble and fail. While you can judge and analyse life and them from a safe distance. It’s not hard to feel smarter than most people when you are always on the sidelines. But it’s not clever. In the end it’s just sad.

So there are a few benefits and quite a bit of pleasurable feelings to be drawn from a negative attitude. But I have found that a positive attitude – although it may sometimes be harder to keep up – is more helpful and just makes life a lot more exciting and fresh.

To be able to have a more consistent positive attitude you will probably have to let go of the negative attitude and those benefits or you’ll get stuck at a certain level. You can find some of the best reasons to adopt the positive attitude and how to do it in this article.

4. Swimming in a sea of negativity.

If you are trying to change your attitude then it’s not very helpful to live in a world where forces try to drag you back to your old mindset each day. It makes it very hard to change.

What you allow into your mind will have a big effect on you. So be selective. If you’re hanging out with negative people all the time then that can really drag you down. It’s not easy to stay optimistic when pessimism is the default mode in your world.

Another part of this is getting hooked on the news and prophecies of the sky falling. The sky is probably not falling.

Consider spending less time with negative voices. Cut back on – or cut out – seeing negative people. Cut back on watching the news or even more spectacularly negative TV-shows. But don’t forget to replace that old stuff you cut out with something more positive instead. If you have a vacuum in your life then you are more likely to revert back to your old habits.

You can for instance replace reading the newspaper in the morning with listening to personal development CDs, watching something fun or just having a good conversation with someone.

5. Confusing positivity with trying to please everyone.

Positivity isn’t about being nice and trying to please everyone. Or accepting everything that people do to you.

Being nice is wonderful thing. But letting people walk all over you and accepting it with a smile and a positive attitude won’t help you.

We do to a large extent choose how we want to be treated. How you expect people to treat you can have a big effect on how you allow yourself to act and how people around you view and treat you. If you start creating a role for yourself where you always let people do what they want to you then you may create some pretty destructive and negative things.

  • You may create an identity for yourself where you get used to always taking whatever anyone doles out. You create a kind of victim identity where you may look happy on the outside but don’t feel so good on the inside. But since you have gotten used to it after a while you may accept it and think that: this is just who I am.
  • You may create a concept in the minds of the people around you that it’s OK to treat you this way. Either because you seem so positive despite what they are doing so they think it’s OK. Or just because you aren’t saying no and some people may take advantage of that.

Look, you can’t please everyone. I think both Eleanor Roosevelt and Buddha have mentioned something along the lines that whatever you do there will always be people who don’t like what you are doing. And that’s OK. That’s normal.

Going around trying to please everyone at your own expense isn’t healthy though. Or even a realistic thing to attempt. It eats away at you both mentally and physically.

So be nice. Be positive. But make sure you set your own standards, rules and limits too. Combine the positive attitude and smiles with assertiveness and with being proactive. And remember that you might as well do what you want because there will always be critics.

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Regis Hadiaris October 29, 2009 at 2:58 am

Hi Henrik – couldn’t agree with #4 more! That’s why I’ve made a conscious decision as to what news I expose myself to.

I’ve found that the “conventional wisdom” that says I should read the New York Times and Wall Street Journal every day is just silly.

Instead, I’ve found very specific news sources and blogs (like yours!) to feed my mind with. Nothing specific against the major news media, but their negative focus can be overwhelming.

Positively Present October 29, 2009 at 3:08 am

Love this post! It really addresses some of the key mistakes people make when they’re trying to have a positive attitude.

Ninette October 29, 2009 at 4:42 am

Thanks, Henrik. I REALLY needed to hear this: “So I think it’s better to just focus on gradually being more consistent instead trying to be perfect.”

Tristan Lee October 29, 2009 at 8:16 am

I think many people who try to do become positive go about the wrong way. For example, if they’re in a bad mood they might “force” themselves to develop a positive attitude.

“I am positive… C’mon, I’m positive… Think positive now!”

As a result, they become more frustrated because it doesn’t work. To add onto the tips mentioned above, I think being positive begins to happen when one can learn how to absorb the state of negatively first, rather than trying to escape it through logical thinking.

When you can align your emotions into harmony, you’ll be more at a neutral, peaceful state, and from there, it will become easier to have a positive attitude.

Michelle @ Following Your Joy October 29, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Hi Henrik,

Wow, you are right on! Fantastic post. As I work with my clients on the power to “choose” that positive attitude, I am reminded here that there are so many aspects to it. Thank you for sharing your great wisdom and insight. I will definitely pass this one along!

Dayne | October 29, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Henrik, this is a really great post indeed. I think you hit on 5 of the biggest mistakes as well. Always a pleasure to read your work here! :)


Daniel B. October 30, 2009 at 12:58 am

“Cut back on – or cut out – seeing negative people. ”

This has become more apparent in my life since I’ve adopted more of a positive lifestyle – yet the friends I’ve grown to love since I was a kid have fallen behind. How can we neglect the ones we adore because of their repetitive negativity? You try to uplift them when you can, however, sometimes your efforts still come up short, which then brings you down. It’s tough to cut out those out who have established an importance in your life. How would you approach this situation?

By the way, this was a fresh article, and angles we all need to observe on our way to positivity.

stevanny October 30, 2009 at 8:39 am

like this post..

Baker October 31, 2009 at 6:21 am

Yeah I think that being consistent with your positive thoughts is sufficient enough. Also trying to make everyone happy doesn’t work, because everyone has different personalties likes and dislikes. I think it’s just important to bring out your positivity in your own natural way. Not really “forcing it” so to speak… Nice post!

Alex Lim October 31, 2009 at 10:13 am

Everyone has a choice and having a positive attitude is one of the best choices I had in my life. Although there would be some things that wouldn’t go my way, rather than being pissed of, I just look at the brighter side as much as possible. I think the key to be a positive person is to be simple and appreciate the simple good things that happen in your daily life. By that, you will have a better perspective and disposition towards life.


John Duffield October 31, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Hi Henrik. There was one interesting part of your post that struck me as particularly insightful. Namely, where you pointed out how being negative can also be positive. (Makes us think we’re smarter, keeps us from taking risks & failing etc.). In a sense, this points to a potent “key to positivity”. Something about the world that’s always true. Here’s what I mean. Imagine “positivity” is being able to see the half-full glass…rather than its half-empty twin. Now let’s think about that glass for a moment. Say I’m staring at the doggone thing bcause it’s half-empty. I’m feeling down because it’s half gone. I’m in the dumps because I’ve lost half my water already. Then you come along and tell me something about that half-empty glass. Like what? It’s ALWAYS half-full. The half-full glass never goes away. All I have to do is look for it. Or ask other people to help me find it. So? All it takes is effort or help…..and it’s mine. That half-full glass is always RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF US in fact…..all our lives. The world is put together in a “Yin Yang way” that makes this forever true. That doesn’t mean the tough, hard, or bad things don’t show up on us now and then. It just means this. If you can’t “see the half-full glass” where you’re at right now…..find a few people who KNOW it’s there somewhere and dig it up. It’s always there to be found. At the very least I’d say that was a hopeful thought. Ciao Henrik. John Duffield

Sibyl - alternaview November 1, 2009 at 3:47 pm

This is a good topic and post. You are so right that there are mistakes we can make when seeking a positive attitude and we should be on guard for them. Your point about not expecting to be in a positive mood 100% of the time immediately was an important one and very helpful. I think we definitely need to decide we are going to do all we can to look at things with a good outlook and maintain a positive frame of mind, but then we have to release any expectations for perfection that are contributing to us feeling not successful. It is not that we condone or believe that uncontrolled and unproductive thoughts are okay, but rather that we realize that good old truism, “everything proceeds by an orderly sequence of growth”. And, in time, if we are committed and do what we are supposed to, our ability to maintain a positive frame of mind will grow and be exactly what we want it to be.

Nea | Self Improvement Saga November 1, 2009 at 8:08 pm

I really enjoyed this post. You did a great job of addressing common traps that people fall into.

Matt November 2, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Another good thing to do for immediate positive attitude is to play music. Everyone can hum or whistle. Don’t worry if the pitch, tempo, rhythm is correct; just sit back and enjoy the sound.

Dayne | November 3, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Excellent post and you really hit the nail on the head on many mistakes. I actually saw myself in a few of them. :) Thanks for this great post!


AndreiF November 4, 2009 at 12:37 am

Dear Henrik,
Maybe this is an off-post message. I was reading your posts for almost a year. I just want to thank you. I’m above and beyond high… with the most powerful drug on the market, which is life in itself.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
A positive attitude is valueless if you wont add action. Just do it! plus Yes, we can!
For this fantastical twist into awesomeness I’ve also put in some great readings from Austrian psychotherapist V. Frankl.
Thank you once more.
Have a great day and many many more great posts.

Jon Mills | Adventurer November 4, 2009 at 12:59 am

A nice well rounded post Henrick. Working out is definately key to staying consistently upbeat

Sue November 8, 2009 at 12:17 am

I love this post.
If everyone tried as hard to achieve mental fitness, as they do physical fitness, the world would be a much better place.
Habits are very hard to break – and that is what negative thinking is – a bad habit which needs to be broken.
It also helps to surround yourself with positive people, and eliminate (as far as you can) negative people, and negative actions from your life.

Good Vibe Coach November 10, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Great post, Henrik! Thanks for sharing the payoffs in #3. I think lots of folks don’t realize why it’s so challenging to release a negative attitude – but once they see the payoffs they’re getting, it makes more sense and becomes easier to handle.

Your #5 is an excellent one, too! I’ll be sharing this post with clients. :)


Camille November 14, 2009 at 1:56 am

Yep! Love #1 – When I started changing and becoming more positive, I felt bad when I wasn’t feeling 100% great. But, like you, I realized that positivity is a journey. There will be things that bring you down. The key, for me, was to realize that I could bounce back easier than I could when I was a negative person (hope that makes sense) – I simply don’t dwell on the bad things as much, I have more of an inner strength now. Feeling good about myself and my live most of the time is great, great progress for me. Thanks, Henrik.

Rhys Wilkins November 14, 2009 at 9:26 am

Mate you hit the nail right on the head. I am consistently making every single one of these mistakes and I didn’t even realise it, you have helped me gain some new insight, thank you very much!

James Chapman November 19, 2009 at 2:40 am

Having a positive attitude can make a significant difference to your physical health, your mental health and your overall well being.

When you adopt a positive attitude, you feel good, look good and are more friendly with other people.

By removing as many negative thoughts as you can you will make more room for the positive thoughts.

Helen November 24, 2009 at 1:01 pm

1. The image you chose is very suggestive :P .
2.#5. It’s a good idea not to try to be a “Yes Man”.
3.#4. That’s a very bad idea, indeed.
4.#3. It’s better to be realistic (not negative!!!). It makes you feel prepared to confront bad situations.)
5.#2. That sounds like a good idea.
6.#1. Great advice(s).

Jason March 18, 2010 at 10:06 am

Love it, Actions do help your positive attitude, don’t be afraid to dream no more sidelines!

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