Some people say that positive thinking is nothing but a delusion. It is… to them. Yes, only to them. To them who think that positive thinking is just a fantasy, it is. What we think things are – they are. Our thinking shapes our truth. It is the brush we use to paint our reality. It doesn’t mean though that what we think about something is correct and is the absolute truth. The reality that our brush called thinking painted doesn’t apply to everyone.
To them who think positive thinking doesn’t work, it won’t. They’d better not try it because their efforts are deemed to fail. It’s unlikely though they would try, given the kind of mindset that they have.
Those who consider positive thinking as a crap also think of people who embrace it as not attuned to reality. Reality? Whose version of reality have the positive thinkers failed to tune in to? Have the idealists, realists, pragmatists, and existentialists (insert more “ists” here) already settled their disputes as regards the nature of reality? What I know is that the debates on whether reality is absolute or relative have not ended conclusively yet.
It’s so tempting to ask the question, “Is reality real?” Well, I just did but I will no longer explore that topic. Let me just share how Ran Zilca describes reality. He said, “Reality is not outside of you. It only exist in your mind, and you view it through your own unique lens, filtered by your senses, your memories, your mood, and by your thoughts. A different person would look through his or her own perspective, and may describe a vastly different reality, as if the two of you are at not all in the same place and time.”
So, nobody should force on anyone the version of reality informed by his or her personal experiences and created by his or her own brand of thinking.
But is it really necessary to run the gamut from classical to contemporary philosophies to discuss and argue the essence of positive thinking? That is tantamount to analysis paralysis. Positive thinking is not an issue to be resolved but a decision to be made. Accept it if you think it works. If not – reject it.
There is no need to argue the rightness and wrongness of positive thinking because it is not a moral issue? Positive thinking does not involve a difference of belief but it is a matter of preference. There’s no moral dispute.
If for example I chose to be optimistic, hopeful , and cheerful, I am not disagreeing with the pessimists. I am merely exercising my right to decide which mindset I would bear. My decision to embrace positive thinking would not affect the pessimists. It would not harm them. Would it harm me? How in the world could a mental attitude that expect good results and a successful future harm the person having it?
Critics better not say that positive thinking has no academic credibility, that no empirical evidence could be provided to prove that it works. They are probably ignoring the latest findings in the field of brain science and are not seeing how practices related to positive thinking, like meditation and mindfulness, have been gaining wide acceptance. There are lots of studies conducted to establish a scientific foundation for this idea.
Evidence proving that positive thinking works are difficult to ignore, unless the critics are intentionally turning a blind eye. A website called “The Pursuit of Happiness” published an article entitled “Review of Key Studies on Mindfulness and Positive Thinking.” The said article is a list of links to several studies conducted in the areas mentioned in the title (of the said article).
Simply type “studies on positive thinking” in any search engine and you’ll find a lot articles and studies conducted about it.
Positive thinking is more than the “Law of Attraction” – the basic idea of the controversial 2006 documentary film “The Secret.” The principle “like attracts like” is not the be all and end all of positive thinking. The former is only one of the many ideas associated to the latter.
One strategy that advocates of positive thinking suggest is “fake it till you make it.” The critics call it absurd. But it is only one of the many strategies available for those who want to try positive thinking. If it doesn’t work – abandon it and try other available methods.
Who knows it might work to some. Remember that Alfred Adler, the Austrian medical doctor and psychotherapist who founded the school of Individual Psychology, developed a therapeutic technique that he called “acting as if,” a strategy that gave his clients an opportunity to practice alternatives to dysfunctional behaviors.
The more we really try to dissect the essence of positive thinking using all the isms of intelligent people as lens the fuzzier it becomes. It is but a simple concept.
In Psychology they simply call it dispositional optimism.
Let’s simplify it further in a way that even the modest of minds could understand. Let’s call it hope.
It is as simple as this – Positive thinking is expecting that good things, rather than bad things, will happen… that success is attainable. Positive thinking is always trying until you get (and you become) what you want. It is a refusal to have limiting beliefs. It is deciding to choose only the positives in the different frames of perspectives.
Don’t get me wrong though. Yes, I have asserted (a few paragraphs back) that positive thinking is a simple concept. But making it work is difficult.
Positive thinking has been misconstrued as just that – thinking. It is not. It is not as simple as you close your eyes, take a deep breath, think about the things you want – money, good health, good relationship, peace of mind and what have you – think you have them, as hard as you could then when you open your eyes you’ll have them in front of you served hot in a silver platter. NO! It doesn’t work that way. That is not positive thinking but rather wishful thinking.
Positive thinking is just a springboard. Nothing happens if a person just thinks and doesn’t act. Isn’t that common sense?
In another article I wrote about positive thinking, I posited, “Positive thinking without positive action won’t work.” A plan of action is required – a plan of action that should be executed and vigorously pursued.
Thinking precedes action. People are (supposed to be) rational beings and whatever decisions they make, whatever course of action they take, they should think about it first. And which would be a better launching pad for the decisions we make and corresponding action we take – a positive frame of mind or a negative one?
Believing that good things are bound to happen and that success is attainable would lead people to know their purpose in life. If people have no limiting beliefs they will be prompted to define clearly their goals and frame a plan of action to attain them. The process will help them develop self-discipline and become self-sufficient, organized, and focused.
Positive thinking is not as simple as it seems. Let me reiterate that for it to work, a corresponding plan of action is required. And that would entail a lot of hard work, dedication, and discipline.
Actually, the believers and critics of positive thinking are both correct. It works and it doesn’t. Confused? Consider this – “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right. That’s from Henry Ford. And here’s from Virgil… “Possunt quia posse videntu” (“They can because they think they can.”)
Mindset refers to the general attitudes of people and the way they think about things. It is what informs whatever decisions they make (or don’t make). It is what controls what they say and do. Their mindset is also the lens they use when evaluating the issues and events happening around them.
Factors related to family, school, and environment are considered determinants of the kind of mindset that people display. How such elements affect them as they grow older could be gleaned from the way they behave, think and talk.
A person’s mindset could be affected by the culture he/she has grown into and it could either be positive or negative. Studies done on mindset have established a strong correlation between mindset and achievement and happiness. Needless to say that people with a positive mindset are more successful and live a stress-free life. They have either a flourishing business or a rewarding career (or both) and their personal lives are amazing.
A positive mindset can be cultivated if anyone wants to. But it’s easier said than done. It would require self-discipline and a very strong determination for it to happen. It will entail hard work. The rewards people with a positive mindset are reaping are not being handed to them in a silver platter. Those are the fruits of the seeds of hard work they have sown.
We need to make a choice between having a “fixed mindset” or a “growth mindset.” Dr. Dweck explained that, “In a fixed mindset students believe their abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence.”
Learning is a lifelong process. We never stop learning. We never cease to be students. The question is, “Which kind of student are we – with a fixed mindset or with a growth mindset?”
I tried to cultivate a better mindset too. It is an ongoing process and I am happy with the results. How I wish I have started doing so when I was younger.
My journey to changing my mindset for the better was (and is) not easy. It made me completely overhaul my way of thinking that was programmed by the environment I have grown into and the kind of education I had. It is equivalent to getting out of my comfort zone because I have to change habits and routines that I got accustomed to.
I have in this part of my website the articles I have written on the subject of positive mindset. I want to share the lessons and insights I learned from motivational speakers whose books and videos on YouTube have given me the blueprint on how to restructure my way of thinking so I could live a better life.
Some people would say that “life sucks.”
I adhere to the dictum that “Life is what we make it.” I believe then that when people say that “life sucks” it’s because that’s the way they made it to be. The kind of life we live is defined by the mind-set we have. It is one’s way of thinking that would make life suck. It is the negative attitude towards life that make people fail in their undertakings – it is what makes them unhappy and dissatisfied. It’s in the midst of all their failures, sadness and dissatisfaction that they say “life sucks.”
People are seemingly not sold on the idea that their way of thinking affects the way they live life and would determine whether or not they succeed. It is hard for them to accept that it is their innate responsibility to examine their way of thinking and ensure that it doesn’t stand in their way to happiness and success. This is something I learned so late in life. How I wish I had learned so when I was younger.
I have heard a lot of things about positive thinking before but it was only around 2009 that I started digging deeper into the idea and it took a few more years before I really became serious about it.
I realized that there is more to positive thinking than veering away from negative thoughts and shedding off negative attitudes.
It all began when I watched a film entitled “The Secret.” I saw the DVD of the movie by accident. The store owner mixed it with regular movies. When I bought it, I had no idea what it was. There was no synopsis, not even a brief note explaining anything about it. That was it… everything was what the title suggests – SECRET.
I thought it was either a mystery-thriller or a sci-fi movie. When I played, it I found out that it was some kind of a “self-help” film. It was technically a documentary. I have to admit that at first I considered the ideas presented as preposterous. Things I was seeing and hearing from the beginning of the film were like lifted straight from the pages of a science fiction book… but at the same they also tickled my curiosity.
So, I continued watching and tried to be open-minded and thought of the information in the film as tips for personality development. I have always considered anything that advocates positive change as worth my time and worth trying. I watched it a few more times after that and even shared the ideas I learned to my students whenever I would see a connection to the contents of the topic we’re discussing.
Then I decided to do an internet search for one of the speakers in the documentary who impressed me the most – Bob Proctor. That internet search led me to his (Bob Proctor’s) motivational videos on YouTube and to links to information and videos of other motivational speakers such as Wayne Dyer, Les Brown, Jim Rohn, Joe Dispenza, Brendon Burchard, Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Simon Sinek, Tom Bilyeu, John Maxwell and Mel Robbins.
I watched the videos of the said speakers and searched for electronic copies of the books they have written. At first, it was like once a week that I would play their videos on YoutTube until such time that I started doing it everyday – in the morning and at night. It became part of my daily routine.
I found out later that Napoleon Hill, Earl Nightingale, and Earl Shoaff came ahead of the motivational speakers previously mentioned. My constant browsing of the internet intended to quench what has seemingly become an insatiable thirst for ideas for personality development led me to the works of one of the “pioneering figures of modern inspirational thoughts” – James Allen. His most famous book – “As A Man Thinketh” – set straight everything I learned about positive thinking.
Dr. Joe Dispenza’s book “Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind” provided enough science into the positive thinking paradigm that wiped out whatever doubts I had about it. I love the way Dr. Wayne Dyer incorporated Asian philosophies into that paradigm and the infusion of practical wisdom and humor to it by Jim Rohn and Les Brown.
Then John C. Maxwell made me think the way I think. His book “Thinking For A Change” reminded me of the value of effective and creative thinking. His suggestions on how to be more focused and creative in the way people should think are very practical but tremendously effective.
I didn’t take everything I read and heard from motivational speakers hook, line, and sinker. I always had my filters and my critical lens ready when I listened to talks and read books. I analyzed their ideas carefully and (without judging and doubting) tried to see which ones work for me and which writers and speakers make sense.
The one thing those motivational speakers succeeded in doing was to change my mind-set. They taught me how to look at things using a positive perspective. They had confirmed what I believed all along that whatever we become is the sum total of all the decisions we make… that a person is in-charge of his own destiny. It is a personal belief I started forming after reading W.E. Henley’s “Invictus” way back in college.
The process of my personal transformation was rather slow and I got to observe things in my life changing for the better only in 2013.
When positive thinking succeeded in changing my perspectives on life, things in my life improved, particularly in the areas of relationships, health, work, and finances.
One day I just woke up and realized that things are the way that they are. People are who they are. They talk, behave and think the way they want, whether I like it or not. I can not change them. I can not change the system of the government, the policies in my workplace, the attitude of my co-workers, the character of my friends and loved ones. The only things I could change are those that I could control directly – my words, actions, and my thoughts. It is my perspective that must change. I need to have paradigm shift as Bob Proctor would put it.
I did exactly that. I changed my perspective and it is continuously evolving. I’m not saying that everything in my life now is perfect. One thing I could say though is I am happy with who I am, what I have, and where I am. Perhaps the life I live now is what Brendon Burchard would describe at the end of his videos as – “a charged life.”
I fully embraced self-sufficiency and personal accountability.
People wrongly think that positive thinking is just that – thinking. It’s merely the springboard. Great things happen to people when they start changing their mindset – from negative to positive. What would make positive thinking weave its magic is the corresponding positive actions you undertake.
Positive thinking without positive action doesn’t work. Brian Tracy added one more to the equation – “One must have an organized plan of action.” He added that action without planning is the cause of every failure, underachievement, frustration, time wastage, anxiety, and stress.
So, it’s not just a person needing to think positively and that’s it. Action and planning are needed.
All motivation gurus advocate the setting of goals. They strongly suggest that people should have their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals… on top of their long-term goals. They also identified two qualities that a person must have in order for positive thinking to work – self-discipline and self-sufficiency.
For me, self-discipline is the most difficult obstacle to hurdle. Old habits die hard. It’s true, but somehow I am succeeding in slaying the bad ones – albeit slowly.
I know it’s not easy to change one’s perspectives on anything especially if such perspectives are already deeply anchored in the person. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Right? Allow me to be literal on that idiomatic expression and let me add this – “… but people are not dogs.”