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Take the Positivity Challenge!

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.

Social programming. 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

  1. You will create a better world around you as your surroundings will become affected and change due to your positive thoughts and actions.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. It's easier to become more successful when you stop laying obstacles in the middle of the road in the form of negative thoughts.
  1. Work becomes more fun. Everything becomes more fun.
  1. 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.
  1. Being negative has very little concrete advantages and is not a very empowering way to look at life.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Awesome! Has made me think a bit more about positivity now. =]

  • Wow – I’ve read this blog earlier, and put it in my favorites, but not until this week did I really try to be optimistic and joyful of life. I came across on this article again, and I realized that this past week I was actually following your advice!

    I’ll try to keep your words to heart – being positive about my day and all that I’m blessed with is truly making my day better. I keep telling myself to don’t sweat the small stuff and to feel grateful despite challenges and demands of life. Instead of being boggled down by the stresses and worries of life, I will face them with joy and courage and gratitude.

    Keep writing those great articles for personal development!
    – LK

  • vivek

    It’s really great to have read this post! Now I can really input my positive thoughts into actions. Being optimistic in a way does make you positive, but to find the head and tails on where you’re going with that positivity is sometimes challenging to find. Thanks Henrik for the enlightenment!
    Cheers

  • Michael

    Only one thing wrong with your challenge and (for me) it is in the first sentence “For 7 days you will try to only think positive thoughts.” I beleive that trying is not doing. Don’t suggest someone merely try to think positive for he/she will surely fail at the attempt. I have found that good reasons for all that happen come to me eventually. I can find myself anywhere at anytime thining “now I know why…”. Sometimes the positive just takes a bit of time to fight it’s way past the sorrow of loss, the pain of suffering, and the feeling of futility. But if one can climb out of the emotional darkness, the light of life will shine even brighter.

  • I got lucky today, and stumbled upon your positivity blog! I found you through Googling [ overcoming fear ]. I’ve always thought of myself as a positive person, but recently lost my husband of 25 years, and, in this time of weakness, some negative thoughts have surfaced. But I’m going to begin to see things differently, and you’ve helped me already!

    Thank you for sharing your gift of insight with the world!
    Always me, Janee

  • Sushil

    Probably, I was a very negative mind in my previous birth and therefore took this birth in a negative family. I really need positivity more than anything else now.
    I did like your post.
    Thanks,
    Sushil

  • I know you posted this ages ago, but MizFit just posted the link to it a few days ago – PERFECT timing for me as I work to get my life back in balance! Thanks SO much for condensing all of this positive energy in a nutshell. I’ll be sharing your post with some others, too!

  • Jason

    Marvelous!

  • komil

    Awesome article & comments.

  • Lynda

    Your article(s) are very informative and I’m happy to have stumbled onto your website. I subscribed to your emails as well so I’m hoping it helps. I’m such a negative person but will “act” positive until it “kicks in”. Negativity takes my energy. I don’t like the person that I’ve become. I don’t like disliking myself.

  • G.T.H.

    Nice post bro, it would be awesome if more people whould just channel the negativity out and replace it with good and happiness. We’d see a greater world.

  • Anonymous

    bloody awful – the worst week of my life x

  • Brett

    Your thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated and easily accessible.

    For those with reservations, remind yourself that this is a life long endeavor that starts one-day-at-a-time, but keep your eye on the prize. The initial rewards can be great, but the long term rewards do require struggle. The reward for that can be salvation from a world of suffering.

    For those that need more, I suggest examining Buddhism. It’s less accessible to the Western mind and is laden with terms that confuse, but eventually one will see that many of the concepts above are contained within.

    What’s more, Buddhism has thousand’s of years of focused thought and analysis and so it may provide answers to those that struggle to stay true to their western rationalism, polemics, dialectics and critical analysis.

    I have not found Buddhist philosophy to be incompatible with rationalism, science, Church or many treasured aspects of our culture. What it is, is a deep examination of the human condition and how we can train our natural minds to reveal our better nature (Buddha nature). To answer skeptics, it is not an intellectual lobotomy.

    One might dismiss it because you can’t relate to many of its practioners. That was my problem with all undisciplined American spiritualist. I came from anger, hate and self-destruction and had a belief that my Mensa IQ was the answer. I am still struggling, but I have finally started to retrain my thinking without losing myself. On the contrary, I found a better self hiding under it.

    Perhaps you can start with books by the Dalai Lama. He does not live in a vacuum and his accessible lessons are tied to deeper codes (Dharma) that, when studied, may answer some of the hesitation that I sensed in some responses. Just remember, you’re not going to find it in one book.

    Buddhism is creating a framework to place experience in perspective and examine life’s struggles with a mind that accepts life’s pain, but rejects turning to hate and mortification.

    To close with a more accessible analogy, a football player can take hits that we mere mortals cannot. That is because they dedicate themselves to strengthening their bodies. Strengthening our minds is no more easy. Start with a 7 day goal, but know that it is a life choice that will prepare you for what life offers.

    I wish you all luck while I look forward to loving and smiling more.

    Best regards,

    Brett

  • Very good article.

    Did you studied Emmett Fox’ little booklet “Seven day Mental Diet” (1935) and/or Anthony Robbins “Ten day mental challenge” (Awaken the giant within).

    You have written a very useful article. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

    Jack.

  • stuti

    great challenge
    though i found it so tough even to be positive for a week, i would surely try for that
    because for happiness now or later i ll have to be possitive which i am not