I’ve had some interesting conversations recently about positive thinking so I thought I’d try to clarify some classic misconceptions that people have. It seems to be a function of those who subscribe to the kind of “magical thinking” made popular by books such as The Secret and the Abraham Hicks phenomena, that they believe that constantly “being in a happy place”, telling everyone things are wonderful when they clearly aren’t and telling themselves that “everything in the universe is in its rightful place”, or that “everything happens for a reason” is somehow going to make them more successful and get them what they want in life.
Sorry to burst your bubble guys, but it won’t!
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of optimism! I think going about having the belief that things can and will get better is one of the most certain ways, if not the only way, for them to get better. And here’s why: if you believe that things will get better you will most likely be willing to take the actions that will make them get better. At the very least you will set about looking for solutions and will start to formulate in your mind what those solutions might look like.
But the very first principle of positive thinking is being honest. You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. So forcing yourself into feeling happy about a life that is falling apart is not only stressful, its actively unhelpful. Tell your mind often enough that you are happy in this miserable place and one day it might just believe you! And once it does that, why would you bother actively looking for solutions. So acknowledge the situation you are in, get very clear about it and most importantly get very clear on how you have created this situation. Because like it or not, you have. And even if it isn’t all your fault (the world economy, deadbeat partners, useless parents, physical challenges or whoever else you’re trying to shift the blame onto), its still 100% your responsibility to change it if you don’t like it. No one else is going to change it for you.
The second principle of positive thinking is to learn to think in terms of solutions. Believe there is a solution and as much as possible look for evidence that there is. Read biographies of your favourite successful people, I can guarantee most of them have been in messes as big, if not bigger than yours! Its always heartwarming to discover that your biggest heroes are just as fallible as you, but more importantly, its inspiring to read about how they got out of them! Find yourself a mentor, join a good networking group and ask for advice from people you trust. You don’t need to take all of the advice offered but do take action on the advice that makes sense to you. But don’t try to do this on your own. Create empowering relationships with people who uplift you and make you feel strong and capable and dump those who make you feel small and inadequate. There are loads of people out there willing and able to help you if only you learn to keep asking until you get an answer that is useful to you.
The third principle is be open to admitting that you’re wrong! This is the hardest part. The thing is, if you’re in a situation you don’t like, there’s a good chance it’s a result of some bad decisions you made at some point. Accept this, but at the same time be kind to yourself. Let’s face it, if you’d known better you’d probably have made better decisions and all decisions carry with them learning. But if you want things to get better you are going to have to change what you’re doing, what got you here is not going to get you where you want to go!
Change is difficult and the biggest problem is that most of us want change, but we don’t want to change. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get fit without having to exercise, lose weight without having to cut down on chocolate, earn huge amounts of money without having to work harder or smarter? Change is not easy, it’s not meant to be. It’s about growth, it’s about challenge and it’s about becoming the amazingly powerful and abundant human being that you know you are.
Your positive thinking needs to be about asking yourself powerful questions about what actions you can take right now to make things better. There are few things more empowering than finding yourself on the other side of a huge challenge and realising how much you have grown as a result. That’s positive thinking!