We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
– Anais Nin
I think that one of the most effective ways to improve your life is simply to think in a more positive way.
This is of course nothing new and not that simple. If it was, well, then at least most of us would already be doing it.
So, why aren't we more positive? I can think of a few reasonable reasons.
We think it is like it is.
It's easy to confuse what has happened to you, the story of your life, with now and the future. The past does not necessarily equal the future. If you believe it does then it does. But if you don't if you believe it does then it doesn't. If you change your way of thinking you can change your behavior, habits and your life.
A big reason many think that things are like they are and will always be that way is because no one ever told them that there was an alternative. The school, newspapers and other influential forces tells us we have a life and an identity that is us throughout our lives. And at least in much of the media, negativity is the normal filter to view the world through.
We hear this every day when we are young and very impressionable. Then we continue believing it and it becomes a part of our sense of self. And we continue our lives on that path.
Lack of energy.
Changing the many negative and neutral thoughts in our day to day life to positive ones can take quite a bit of energy. If you are stressed out by work and your personal life, if you aren't eating and sleeping well and don't take time to exercise there will be a lack of energy. And with that lack it's easy to just feel too damn tired to change your thoughts, to just give up and revert to the familiar way of thinking.
Too reactive and mindful of what others may think.
You may think, if I change and become more positive, what will other people say? That I'm weird, hyper, over-compensating or unhappy on the inside? Will they laugh, mock me and question this change in outlook on life?
Or perhaps, they will actually like it and it will give me new opportunities down the line. Maybe it will bring success and my relatively comfortable life will be shaken up and change. Yeah, such worries can be some scary thoughts.
Lack of motivation.
Not knowing exactly what's in it for me on a personal and beneficial level.
Wanting to be right.
Most of us have an ingrained sense that what we believe is right. Even though a belief we have might not be that useful. Or makes our lives out right miserable. It can be hard to give up a belief because then we have to give up being right.
We tried but failed (once or twice).
Throughout our lives, in school and society we are taught that we should not fail, that it is bad. This can make us very reluctant to take chances and keep trying beyond the initial attempt.
A lack of knowledge/too much disempowering information.
You will most likely fail several times at first. You will make mistakes. You may be met with negativity or disinterest. It may take more than a weekend to get the success you envision. It may take longer than you think, perhaps months. And that is ok, that is normal.
Not knowing how the world (most of the time) works can discourage you.
And the information about how the world works that you get from media, the people around you and society may not always be that accurate and effective. Instead, seek out relevant information for yourself to set your expectations to a reasonable level. Get information from a variety of different sources.
And get it from people that have experience and knowledge about what you are interested in. A good starting point can be your local library, bookstore or amazon.com.
10 reasons why you should become more positive
- You will create a better world around you as your surroundings will become affected and change due to your positive thoughts and actions.
- You will make better first impressions. Everyone stereotypes, whether they want or not. A positive first impression can mean a lot in many situations and have a lasting effect throughout your relationship with that person.
- You will focus on the good things in people. Not their faults. This will make things much better overall and improve all kinds of relationships.
- It's easier to become more successful when you stop laying obstacles in the middle of the road in the form of negative thoughts.
- Work becomes more fun. Everything becomes more fun.
- You become more attractive. People like positive people. Positive people make other people feel good about themselves and they don't drag the mood down. Also, a positive attitude is an indicator – and source – of high self-confidence, a quality that just about everyone is attracted to.
- Being negative has very little concrete advantages and is not a very empowering way to look at life.
- It opens up your mind to focus on other ways of looking at things. Sometimes wonderful new ways you might not ever have thought about or experienced before.
- It puts the Law of Attraction to better use. The Law of Attraction basically says: whatever you think about you attract into your life. As you replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts you will start to attract more positive opportunities and people into your life.
- You'll waste less time. Negativity can be like a self-feeding loop. First you think one negative thought. It leads you to three more. And then you start examining your life in deeper detail through a depressing lens. When you get into a vicious cycles like this it can eat up hours, weeks and years of your life. It can drain a lot of your energy whilst trapping you in paralysis by analysis. And you probably won't become that much wiser in the process.
“Between stimulus and response is the freedom to choose.”
– Viktor Frankl
The Positivity Challenge is this:
For 7 days you will try to only think positive thoughts. Whatever happens to you will see the good side of it and what positive things you can learn and take away from it. By the end of the week you will have started to discover the very real benefits of a positive thinking, how much negative thoughts there are both in you and the world (you might be surprised) and begun establishing a new habit to replace your old, less constructive one. And then you can continue from there.
What I suggesting here is not a mindless kind of positive thinking where you pretend everything is OK whilst the house and your bed is actually on fire. Instead it's you noticing a situation or stimuli and then choosing a positive and useful response to it instead of reacting in a knee-jerk way.
It's you focusing on what could be a more positive and useful solution for you. Or even better, what could be a win-win situation if the situation involves other people (which many important situations in our lives do). A win-win solution is more often an even more satisfying and beneficial solution than the one where only you win.
Now, how to go about it? Here are three tips for the first week.
Cut the negative threads quickly.
Only allow yourself to go on a negative thread of thought for a set time-period, perhaps 30 seconds or a minute. Then just cut it off, drop it and think about what positive things you can get out of this situation. Don't feed the negative thoughts with more energy or you might trap your mind in a downward spiral of overthinking and anxiety for quite a while. If you start going down a negative thread of thought it is important to cut it fast.
Realize that it is possible to choose what you think about and how you react.
You don't have live your life in reaction. Being reactive to everything is not very empowering. You have a choice. But it might take some time to make this click in your mind. Even though I understood this intellectually pretty fast it took a longer time to understand and accept it emotionally and on a deeper level.
Focus on the gap between stimuli and reaction. The more you think about this and try to use it by consciously choosing, over time (for me it was months but it can surely be achieved quicker) the gap will appear larger and larger and that will make the process easier.
Accept your feelings, don't deny or refuse them.
Although it's often possible to just quickly cut off negative thoughts sometimes it might not be enough. Negative emotions can build up within you over time or you might feel be overwhelmed by a certain situation. Then you can try the counter-intuitive way and not keep the feeling out by fighting it.
Instead, accept the feeling. Say yes to it. Surrender and let it in.
Observe the feeling in your mind and body without judging it. If you just let it in and observe it for maybe a minute or two something wonderful happens. The feeling just vanishes. It sounds weird but give it a try.
In addition, here's a bunch of other suggestions – some of them you might not be able to use fully within a week but instead over a longer time-span – to make this challenge easier and improve your life.
Get the physical fundamentals down.
If you don't have time to sleep a healthy amount of hours, eat properly and get exercise then you need to reprioritize. If you don't do this it will be harder to become and stay positive. If you do reprioritize, your general sense of well-being will increase, you will feel stronger and have more energy.
Act as if.
Smile to feel happier. Move slower to relax. Use positive language. Act as if you are a positive person and you will start to feel and become more positive. It might feel weird at first, but it really works.
Start your day in a better way.
Check out these five tips for a better beginning to your day.
Limit your time with really negative people.
Some people feed on negative energy and whatever you try it never pleases them or changes their sour minds and moods. If nothing you do works then finally you might have to cut them out of your life or at least limit your time with them.
Model positive people.
Find positive people in your surroundings or anywhere in time and space (through documentaries, biographies etc.) and learn from them. Find out how they handle everyday life, problems, setbacks and compare it to your own thoughts and how you would handle similar situations.
Focus on the now and future, not the past.
A lot of people spend a lot of time thinking about on the mistakes they made in past. A better way is to think about the mistake you made and what you can learn from it. Then stop wasting your time and shift your focus to the present and the future where you can actually make a change.
Redefine “failure” and “proof”.
You don't have to learn much about successful people to realize that one of their key-strengths is that their way of looking at failure is widely different from more common one in society. As Michael Jordan said:
I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
Also, in a similar vain, thinking one example represents the whole world might not be the most helpful belief to hold. Yes, someone may have cheated on you, treated you badly at work before you were fired and your first business venture may have gone down in flames. But applying one or two bad examples to the whole world and the rest of your life will cause suffering for you long after those hurtful events happened. And could set you up for even more pain and disappointment through self-fulfilling prophecies and the Law of Attraction.
I don't think these all these words are the truth about how the world around you and me works. Just as a pessimistic (or realistic) view of the world is not the truth either. I don't believe there is one truth, but rather that the world changes due to the beliefs you have about it and the actions you take based on your beliefs. I do believe that this is a more useful model of how to view and interact with the world than a pessimistic one and that it's a more enjoyable way of thinking. It is a way of thinking that increases happiness and joy in life. Something I think just about everyone wants.
“Though I might travel afar, I will meet only what I carry with me,
for every man is a mirror.
We see only ourselves reflected in those around us.
Their attitudes and actions are only a reflection of our own.
The whole world and its condition has its counterparts within us all.
Turn the gaze inward. Correct yourself and your world will change.”
– Kirsten Zambucka