Category Archives: Positive Thinking

ON PERSPECTIVE

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I do have a friend who would usually be mistakenly identified as me. There were many instances that  people in the university where both of us are teaching called me by his name and him by mine. Why? I am not a dead ringer for him but very likely that our  similar built, height and rounded face would make people commit that mistake.

Seemingly bemused, he asked me one time, “Why would they think I am you? Do I look as old as you are?” I paused for a while, smiled then told him jokingly, “No, I think I just look as young and handsome as you are.”

As my friend laughed at my response, I thought that the contrasting way we looked at the issue has opened an opportunity for me to revisit the topic “perspective.”

That (perspective) is one of the most amazing things about us humans – our tendency to look at the same thing differently.

Anything in this world can be viewed from different perspectives. We get to decide at what angle we would look at circumstances, problems, events and even objects using lenses that are uniquely ours. We tend to measure the value of those things using our own sets of standards and label and define them according to our beliefs.  Those standards and beliefs are shaped by the way we were raised by our parents, trained by our  teachers, influenced by the people around us, and conditioned by our culture.

The sum total of the experiences we accumulated since birth and the amount and quality of information we gathered through the years from different sources are the factors that contribute to the kind of perspectives we develop as persons. Our way of viewing things depends on the belief system that those experiences and information impressed upon us.

Each person is entitled to embrace a particular attitude towards something. There are no specific measurement to determine the rightness and wrongness of perspectives. Only the consequences of a person’s action (or the lack of it) as a result of embracing certain perspectives could perhaps be labeled as right or wrong.

When we are about to take a perspective it’s like we’re positioning ourselves in the number scale and decide whether to go north or south.  We can either be positive or negative with our perspective. Those are the only directions we could take when we look  at issues and circumstances confronting us. It’s a matter of choice.

Perspective is said to be like a coin, it only has two sides. We flip the coin and choose either “head” or “tail.”

Our perspectives affect the decisions we make. They inform the things we think, say and do. Thus, while we are entitled to have any kind of perspective, in the same manner that we are entitled to our own opinions, we have to understand that we will bear whatever consequences there may be for embracing the perspectives we take.

We also need to understand that we could not assume that what we believe or see is definitive. Different people have different ways of looking at things. The perspective of the world that dictates the lens through which we see it is not the same for everybody. We need to develop the ability to see things from another’s viewpoint.

Perspectives can either be broad or narrow.

Having a broad perspective means being able to see the bigger picture.  `

I once had a conversation with  another friend about working conditions. He bewailed the fact that a truck driver in his country earns more than what he is earning in a year as an expat teacher. After listening to his litany, I told him to pause for a while and dig deeper into his comparison and consider other factors like number of required work hours and the physical demands for the job. When computing the number of hours, I reminded him that we as teachers are not actually working during winter and summer breaks but we get paid in full by the university as stipulated in our contracts.

He realized at the end that his pay per hour is actually higher than the truck driver and his working conditions are much better.

It is not really hard to train the mind to look at the bigger picture. It is easy to look beyond the obvious if only we’re open-minded. It does not require a special kind of training. All we need is common sense.

There are a lot more that could be explored in the discussion of perspective. At the end, the thing that matters is the answer to the question, “How do our perspectives affect the way we live?”

If the lenses we are using to view the world have brought us success and happiness, why change them. We’ve been told many times, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But what about if those lenses are seemingly broken and  have caused us nothing but failure and misery?  Is it time to visit an OPTIMIST?

SELF-DOUBT: The Unknown Sin

self-doubtLust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride are referred to in Christian teachings as the “seven deadly sins.” These, to the Roman Catholics, are the cardinal sins. If a person commits any of them, he is believed to be cut off from God’s grace.1

Actually, the Bible does not specifically mention the concept “seven deadly sins.” But in Galatians 5: 16-19,  fifteen acts of the sinful nature are identified – sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and orgies. Perhaps St. Gregory the Great, during his reign as Pope (590 – 640 AD), wanting to be concise,  shortened that long list of capital vices.

All Christian faithful are being called upon to not commit those acts of the flesh. St Paul said that believers are free but he implored them not to use their freedom to indulge the flesh. That, definitely, is easier said than done.

I think  St. Paul (who wrote the Galatians) and St. Gregory  may have overlooked another human frailty that should have been added in the list of sins. There exists another spiritual infirmity which I believe should be considered equally harmful as any of the deadly sins. It’s called self-doubt.

My proposition (that self-doubt be classified also as sin) may not be considered seriously.  Many might even say it’s absurd.

Is it?

Is self-doubt just an ordinary flaw in a person’s character? Is it really a bit too much to consider it a sin? Is it not a serious offense – something that when committed could ruin a person’s life?

Allow me to argue my assertion that self-doubt is a sin.

For the purpose of this essay, we will define self-doubt, strictly, as “the feeling of not having confidence in yourself or your abilities.”2  The DOUBT being discussed here does not refer to that philosophical function “to cast doubt.”3

The definition above (the one before the disambiguation) makes self-doubt sound harmless – not something immoral or demonic that would make the moralists and bible scholars (both past and present) look at it as a sin. That’s probably the reason no religious movement, Christianity included, classified such human inadequacy as a sin.

Self-doubt, however, is not as simple as it seems. This impotence of the human spirit has grave consequences not only to the person having it but  to the family where he belongs and to the society where he lives. A person plagued by it will be less-productive or not productive at all and is definitely not going to contribute anything for his family and society.

In arguing that self-doubt is a sin it is important to review the nature of sin in the philosophical standpoint.

Sin is said to be a moral evil.4 This brings us to another question – what is evil? St. Thomas defines the word (evil) as a privation of form or order or due measure. Evil implies a deficiency in perfection.4

Self-doubt is clearly an imperfection. It indicates the absence of confidence which is considered essential for a person’s well-being and is a requirement in the pursuit of what Abraham Maslow refers to in Psychology as “self-actualization” or achieving one’s full potential. Sin is a diversion from the perceived ideal order of human living.5 A person doubting his capabilities veers away from becoming the best that he can be and reduces his chance of living life to the fullest.

It could be argued that there are lot of other negative human characters that may indicate imperfections. But none is as damaging to the person as self-doubt. Something is wrong with a person if he lacks confidence and has very low (or  no) feeling of self-worth. These are conditions that  may lead to failure and unhappiness.

In addition, philosophical or moral sin is a human act not in agreement with rational nature and right reason.5

It is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience. 6 It is unreasonable to doubt one’s capabilities. It is a person’s moral obligation to believe in himself. It is not right to think one would fail even without really trying. He needs to have faith not only in God (if he happens to believe in one) but also in himself.

Allowing self-doubt to reign is depriving the self of discovering one’s potentials. When a person decides to doubt himself, he eradicates his ability to fulfill his goals and to achieve his dreams.

Failures are indeed impossible not to happen. But even if one fails in several attempts to succeed he should decide not to stop trying. There’s a long list of famous personalities (like Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, J.K. Rowling, Bill Gates, Walt Disney and Henry Ford) who had their share of failures but  never gave up.

Sin, also, wounds the nature of man.6

Thalk emphasizes that self-doubt destroys the heart, mind, body and soul. It is one of the major obstacles to living the life that people truly deserve. This unhealthy food for the soul drags down a person’s spirit, crushes his ambitions, and prevents him from achieving all that he can.7

Doubt impedes a person’s development. It is the biggest roadblock to self-actualization. Self-doubt prevents people from becoming the best they could be, from realizing their full potentials, and from achieving their dreams. Shakespeare stressed, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” Suzy Kassem added that doubt kills more dreams than failure ever did.

Some degree of self-doubt is generally held to be normal. It can be helpful in some cases, as it often leads to introspection and enhanced performance. But it may require medical help when it becomes debilitating, affects daily function, or impedes performance at work or school.8

There’s no immorality committed when one doubts himself. Why should it be then considered a sin?

This brings me to  the last among my arguments to convince you that self-doubt is a sin.

A sin may either be a sin of commission or a sin of omission. Sins of commission are sins we commit by doing something we shouldn’t do and sins of omission are sins we commit by not doing something.9 The seven deadly sins are all sins of commission except sloth.

Sloth, which is excessive laziness or the failure to act and utilize one’s talents,10 is considered a sin of omission. I think self-doubt belongs to that category. If sloth made it to the list of the deadly sins, self-doubt should be there also. 

“Self-doubt,” is just as  damaging (perhaps more damaging) to a person than this sin called “sloth.”  Actually, in some instances, a person’s failure to use his innate talents starts with his inability to believe what he is capable of thinking.

*****

In overcoming self-doubt, it is important that a person traces the root causes. He should know what factors trigger his self-doubts and learn how to overcome them. If it is lack of knowledge and skills then he must exert efforts to learn and acquire those that he perceives he lacks. There is a possibility that the ones causing him to doubt himself and his capabilities are people… sometimes his own friends. Then by all means avoid them. Equally important it that he must surround himself with people who bring the best in him.

It may be easier said than done but it is important that a person maintains a positive outlook and thinks that there is nothing he cannot achieve or do if he wills it.

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References:

  1. http://www.deadlysins.com
  2. http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/self-doubt
  3. http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Rowlands/Philosophy_as_Doubt.shtml
  4. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14004b.htm
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org
  6. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_ccs/archive/cathecism/p3s1c1a8.htm
  7. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-cynthia-thaik/self-doubt_b_2960936.html
  8. http://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/self-doubt
  9. http://www.revelation.co/2015/07/21/sins-of-commission-vs-sins-of-ommission
  10. http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/what-are-seven-deadly-sins

Where Has “Positive Thinking” Brought Me?

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“Positive thinking” as a concept is like a narrow street that seemingly leads to nowhere. When you embrace it and take the first few steps forward, it would make you feel like you’re not going anywhere.

Consider that normal. When you venture into the unknown and leave your comfort zone, it’s normal to feel iffy. It is your old negative mental programming taking control of your thought processes. As you take a few more steps forward, doubts would start to set in and you’ll be tempted to go back where you came from. That temptation to abandon the journey just beginning would become stronger when people around you start saying how crazy you are to even believe that “positive thinking” works. But should you succeed in conquering all the negative chatters and take the courage to just keep on walking you would soon hit the main road.

The main road that narrow street called “positive thinking” leads to is “personal growth and development.” That was what I personally discovered.

When I decided to dive deeper into “positive thinking,” I realized that it is but the tip of the iceberg. “Positive thinking” is not the main thing. “Personal growth and development” is.

My journey to “positive thinking” started with my accidental discovery of a “self-help” film. I stopped by a stall selling old (pirated) DVDs of old movies. The label (title) of the one of the DVDs – “The Secret” – caught my attention. It intrigued me. So, I picked it up thinking that it’s either a mystery-thriller or a sci-fi movie.

I described in full that encounter with “The Secret” in my essay entitled “Beyond Positive Thinking.”

It is that “self-help” film that got me into positive thinking. For me, anything that advocates positive change is worth my time and worth trying. I though I had nothing to lose but everything to gain when I decided to give it a try.

When I watched that film for the second time, I took off my “critic’s hat” and emptied my mind of all those philosophies that tried to filter all the information the film conveyed and was leading me to analysis paralysis. Anyway, all of those philosophies – all of those isms – which I previously learned were seemingly not leading me to what I want to be and what I want to achieve. Honestly, at that point in my life, I was not even so certain of what I really wanted to be and what I really wanted to achieve. That “self-help” film offered me an option, an opportunity to try another system of beliefs that might help me have clarity of purpose.

I really thought then that my PhD would transform me into the best version of myself. I was wrong.

So, I took a leap of faith and embraced “positive thinking.” I walked down that narrow street that seemingly led to nowhere. I struggled but succeeded in overcoming doubts, in shooting down skepticism, and in turning a deaf ear to the internal and external negative chatters.

And I don’t regret that decision I made.

Then I probed deeper. I read existing literature about “positive thinking” and watched lots of videos about it. That’s how I came to discover that it (“positive thinking”) is the narrow street that leads to the maid road called “personal growth and development.”

“Positive thinking” is the springboard to “personal growth and development.” The former is the key to unlocking the latter. I strongly believe that only when a person develops dispositional optimism, when that person expects good things to happen, and when that person hopes that he/she could be a better person and live a better life  that he/she would become open to the idea of undertaking the necessary steps to venture seriously into growing and developing further as a person.

When I reached the end of that narrow street of “positive thinking” and got to the main road of “personal growth and development,” I confirmed that indeed it (“positive thinking”) is just the beginning of the journey. The road ahead is long and winding. There’s much to be done. After the “thinking” comes the “doing.”

I discovered that in order to experience meaningful growth and development as a person, it would take more than “positive thinking.” There are other requirements aside from having a positive mindset. There are other things that ought to be done and these are what the gurus of “personal growth and development” commonly describe as the practices and habits that made extremely successful people who and what they are. These people became the best versions of themselves and had found the happiness, good health, and wealth they sought because of such practices and habits.

These practices and habits are actually very practical ones. They are not magical and out of this world stuffs. They are as follows: knowing your whys; embracing a solid belief system; goal setting; short and long-term planning; managing time effectively; developing self-discipline; practicing mindfulness; being purposive; becoming self-sufficient; and living a balanced life.

These are the things that Brendon Burchard, Tom Bilyeu, Jim Rohn, Wayne Dyer, Les Brown, Joe Dispenza, Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Simon Sinek, John Maxwell, Mel Robbins, and the like, recommend to people intending to maximize their potentials.

The above-mentioned experts in the field of “personal growth and development” pointed out also that extremely successful people have a common hobby – reading. They also practice meditation.

What I consider as the most significant among those practices or habits of people who reached the pinnacle of success in their fields of endeavors is “living a balanced life.”

“Balanced life” is a concept difficult to define definitively. It is so because people have different priorities and live different kinds of life.

But when I sifted through the works of advocates of “personal growth and development” I saw a common pattern about living a “balanced life” that made me understand what the concept is. And it is not rocket science.

Firstly – as people work hard to achieve what they want in life – money, degree, fame, and what have you – they should not disregard their health and relationships. Not disregarding health means eating the right food, getting enough rest, and exercising regularly. Not disregarding relationships means not forgetting that you have a family and friends needing your attention too.

Secondly (and lastly) – become a well-rounded person. Becoming a well-rounded person means bearing in mind that you are a physical, intellectual, emotional, and a social being (insert spiritual if you happen to believe in God). You should strive to develop in all these areas.

This is how far “positive thinking” brought me – to the discovery of these “personal growth and development” practices and habits. They seem to be simple, but believe me, they  are easier said than done – especially if you have a fixed mindset and you keep looking at life and the world using a negative perspective.

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