[B+] Be Positive

Being positive doesn’t ensure success, but being negative almost guarantees failure. Leverage a positive attitude to be your best you, in each and every thing that you do.

“Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them.” — Jack Canfield

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” — John Wooden

“The only place where your dream becomes impossible is in your own thinking.” — Robert H. Schuller

Just a “Feel Good” Thing?

Over six decades ago, in 1952, Norman Vincent Peale authored one of the most famous self-help books ever written: The Power of Positive Thinking: A Practical Guide to Mastering the Problems of Everyday Living. As the title of the book suggests, Peale believed there is power in positive thinking. By nature, most of us probably agree with the idea that “being positive” is a good thing.

But many also think positive thinking is one of those “feel good” concepts that lacks real substance or value beyond the superficial.

Confessions of an Eternal Pessimist

Full disclosure: I’m one of those people.

Or at least I was one of those people.

I’m a bit cynical and negative by nature (OK, I’m a LOT cynical and negative by nature), and – until recent years – I was never a huge believer in this principle.

It’s taken me several decades of living with the results of my innate pessimism as a fully formed adult to finally get to the point of truly understanding just how much damage I was doing – to myself, to the people around me, to the level of my success, etc. – as a direct result of my negativity.

That lesson having been learned, I developed the following thought that I use to help keep me on track with respect to staying positive:

Being positive doesn’t ensure success, but being negative almost guarantees failure.

Assuming that thought is accurate – which I know for certain it is – if we want to have a fair, reasonable shot at succeeding, we simply must eradicate negativity and replace it with positivity.

We must choose to be positive.

In everything.

All the time.

The Very Real Benefits of Being Positive

Beyond my personal experience and my subjective opinion, are there real, tangible benefits to being positive?

Is there actual “power” in positive thinking, or is it all just emotional smoke-and-mirrors? What, exactly, are the benefits of thinking positively? And are any of the benefits actually supported by, you know, science?

I researched the answers to those questions, and some of the findings surprised me. Perhaps they will you as well. Here are the more powerful benefits of positive thinking:

  • Superior physical health. As reported by Harvard, “an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death.”
  • Superior mental health. Research performed on clinically depressed patients discovered that 12 weeks of cognitive therapy, which focuses on changing a person’s thought process, worked better than drugs.
  • Longer lives. As reported by Harvard, a 2019 study showed that optimists live longer lives.
  • Greater achievement. According to research performed by Martin Seligman, more optimistic sports teams performed better than pessimistic one.
  • Better recovery from disease. Studies have shown that optimistic breast cancer patients had better outcomes than pessimistic patients.
  • Less stress. Research has shown that optimists tend to experience less stress than pessimists or realists, and they tend to be more proactive in managing stress.
  • More resilient. Research has shown that optimists typically look at what they can do to fix the problem. Instead of giving up hope, they marshal their resources
  • More skills. Positive thinking provides an enhanced ability to build skills and develop resources for use later in life.
  • More luck in love. Optimists also appear to fare better than pessimists in relationships.
  • Better self-care. Positive thinkers are more likely to keep their bodies healthy by taking measures such as eating well, having safer sex and taking vitamins.
  • Lower blood pressure. Research has shown that optimists tend to have lower blood pressure than pessimists.
  • Higher pain tolerance. A study discovered that optimists tend to have a higher tolerance to pain than their progressive counterparts.
  • Healthier heart. Harvard researchers concluded that optimism reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, despite factors such as age, smoking habits, or obesity.
  • Decreased loneliness. A study showed that positive thinking decreases feelings of loneliness.
  • Increased resistance to the common cold. Being an optimist helps boost your ability to fend off the common cold.

That’s quite a list of benefits, right? And that’s what science says.

There’s actually more (quite a lot more, in fact) in terms of that kind of scientific research. I stopped listing the additional benefits I discovered because I think the list above speaks for itself in terms of the power, and the direct, tangible benefits, of positive thinking.

Our Own Experiences

Above and beyond what scientific research shows, stop and think about your own life experiences for a moment:

  • Isn’t it fairly universally understood and accepted that positive people fare better than negative people…in almost every area of life?
  • Don’t you personally prefer being around positive people?
  • Think about the most successful people you know; don’t they tend to be more positive than negative?
  • Think about the most well-liked people you know; don’t they tend to be more positive than negative?

As I mentioned earlier, I was born a cynic. Most of my life, I’ve viewed things through a slightly-to-more-than-slightly pessimistic lens. It really wasn’t until fairly recently, after I started reprogramming myself for positivity, that I started to understand how damaging it is to have a negative outlook.

I have turned my attitude around and am now enjoying the fruits of a more positive and optimistic point of view. Honestly, the difference is night-and-day. I only wish I had started sooner!

Programming for Positivity

Perhaps you’re a bit like I was. Or maybe you realize you could benefit from an increase in positivity in your life. Here are 12 things you can start doing to move in the direction of a more optimistic way of living your life:

  1. You’re In Control – Nothing is inherently “positive” or “negative.” We assign those judgments ourselves…to literally everything that happens to us. That is to say, positivity – exactly as is the case with happiness – is a choice. Circumstances don’t determine the degree to which you are positive – YOU do. Make up your mind to be positive, period.
  2. Morning Routine – When it comes being positive, we can “auto-program” ourselves by starting each day with a morning routine that can have a remarkable effect on how we think and act the remainder of the day. My morning routine consists of writing in a daily journal, documenting the things for which I am grateful, wishing happiness for specific people, and reminding myself of various things that help to keep me happy and positive (positive affirmations, favorite Bible verses, remembering the best moments of my life and reminding myself that many more will follow, etc.). Over the last four or five years, I’ve even developed a one-page form – called DFI: Daily Focus and Intentions – I complete every morning that makes this process quick and easy. Having that daily discipline has worked wonders in terms of maintaining a consistently positive outlook.
  3. Master Self-Talk – The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis suggests that the structure of language affects our view of the world and the way we think, and, per the Mayo Clinic, there are many other benefits of positive self-talk. Positive self-talk is one of the best ways to maintain a positive attitude.
  4. Leverage Language­– This is similar to the prior item, but the focus here is on external language, vs. the internal language of self-talk. But the idea is the same: the words we use impact us far more than most realize. Always use the most positive language possible when communicating in any and every situation.
  5. Focus Pocus – What we focus on expands. Focus on the positive – in everything. Even when truly bad things happen to us, at a minimum, we gain valuable experience. Find the silver lining in every situation.
  6. Leverage Gratitude – I have found it nearly impossible to be negative when I am actively focused on gratitude. Keeping a simple “gratitude journal” is a great way to keep a positive perspective on things. As noted above, I include this as part of my morning routine, and it’s amazing how much differently I feel after documenting a handful of things for which I am grateful.
  7. Avoid Negative People – They say your income will be the average of the incomes of the five people you spend the most time with. I think this is also true of attitudes. Attitudes – both good and bad – are viral. Avoid negative people at all costs.
  8. Think Positive Thoughts ­– Buddha said this: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.” This is another area where keeping a daily journal (say, as part of your morning routine), in which you document positive thoughts and the good things that happen in your life, can prove invaluable.
  9. Take Action – An absolute I’ve discovered through simple trial-and-error experience is this: attitude follows action. When I’m feeling negative, my number one quick fix is to get up and do something – anything – positive. Even things as small and mundane as vacuuming, emptying the dishwasher or taking out the trash can have a dramatic impact on my attitude. Feeling down? Just get up and do something!
  10. Stop Complaining – This is straight out of Dale Carnegie’s “Three C’s” playbook: never condemn, criticize or complain. Complaining is, by definition, negative. It is impossible to complain and be positive at the same time. But wait, there’s more. When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone is beneficial for situations where you actually need to go into a fight-or-flight mode, but it’s not something that you want released into your body on a regular basis. Cortisol can cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and can even increase your chances of having a stroke.
  11. Leverage Endorphins – It’s long been known that exercise causes the release of endorphins, which lead to feelings of wellness and positivity. I have been working out consistently my entire life, and I can tell you beyond any shadow of a doubt that this is true. When I am feeling down or negative, going to the gym or doing a quick workout at home works like magic in terms of instantly shifting my attitude in a positive direction.
  12. PIPO ­– You know the saying “garbage in, garbage out” (GIGO), right? Same deal with positivity: PIPO. Instead of consuming things that are inherently negative (e.g., 95% of what the mainstream media spews forth 24/7/365), ingest things that lift you up and make you feel good. Even if you do nothing else but eliminate (or at least reduce) the amount of toxic news you absorb on a daily basis, you will have taken a great first step in this direction. If you’re looking for sources of consistently positive information, I’d recommend connecting with two people who consistently share positive, uplifting thoughts and messages in social media: John Moscillo and Sean Carpenter. These are two of the most positive people I know.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Change can be difficult, and it almost always takes time.

Just Take the First Step

The key is to decide that you want to become more positive, and to begin the process of making that happen.

You won’t be perfect. You may not be consistent.

You may feel as if you’re not able to do this.

But – trust me – if I can do this, anyone can.

Just decide to become more positive, and make up your mind that you’re just going to keep trying, no matter what.

Five Things You Can Do Right Now

Condensing from the list above, here are five quick, relatively easy things you can do right now to take that first step toward becoming a more positive version of yourself:

  • Start a Journal – Start a daily journal in which you begin documenting things for which you are grateful, positive things that happened, and positive things that you want to have happen. The mere act of writing things down has a deep psychological impact that will change you over time.
  • Eliminate Negative People – Take a quick inventory of the people with whom you spend the most time, and eliminate anyone who consistently evidences a negative attitude. This may not be easy for you, but understand how important it is to eliminate consistently negative influences in your life.
  • Actively Reprogram – Monitor your thoughts and your self-talk and begin to move them in a more positive direction. When you find yourself being negative, actively begin to reprogram your mind by thinking about something positive, focusing on the things for which you are grateful, or taking positive action of some variety (work out, write positive things in a journal, clean something, etc.).
  • Monitor Complaints – Every time you complain about something, write it down. This will bring quick self-awareness to the degree to which you are inherently focusing on negativity. Also, by focusing on the elimination of complaining, you’ll begin to positively redirect the neural pathways in your brain in a more positive direction – and you’ll improve your health as well.
  • Take Out the Garbage – Stop (or at least reduce) the flow of negative information into your mind. I stopped watching the news on TV sometime in 2016. That alone improved my attitude dramatically. We’re all unique, but most of us expose ourselves to more negative stimulus than we realize. Identify the things that don’t make you more positive and seek to actively eliminate, or to at least reduce, them.

For some – certainly for me – being positive is not natural.

It is not the norm.

It is not easy.

Worth It

But it’s worth the effort.

And the hard reality is this: even if we don’t really care that much about being positive, we dramatically reduce our chances for being happy, successful, happy and healthy if we are not positive.

Sorry, I realize that was a negative way of telling you to be positive.

Clearly, I am still a work in process! LOL 🙂