A Practical View of Positive Thinking

I have always been interested in positive thinking literature.  What follows are a couple of my own thoughts on the subject.  I understand that when some people hear the term “positive thinking”, they throw up a little bit.  You might imagine a bubbly, and smiling person being interviewed in the aftermath of a natural disaster and they are trying to spin it in a positive light.  I am interested in a more pragmatic approach to positive thinking. Not denying reality but understanding the impact of a positive outlook.  I will start with sharing a phenomenon that most people will be able to relate to.  Before buying a car of a certain model and color, you don’t notice very many of them on the road. As soon as you buy one, it seems everyone is driving a car like yours.  Before you bought the car your mind wasn’t focused on this particular color and model of car.  Once you bought one, you took mental and physical ownership.  In a similar way practicing a bit of positive thinking will help you to notice more positive things and opportunities. Putting more positive thoughts in your mind, will also help you to notice some of the unconscious negative thoughts that can come to mind regularly. If you are spending time everyday thinking intentionally positive, when a negative thought comes it will create a contrast that will help you to recognize it. One of the most valuable things I learned so far through my counseling and life coaching education, is that we are not nearly as conscious and deliberate in our thoughts as we think we are.  If you purposefully notice your thoughts, you will find that the majority of them rise in your mind without any intention.  Most of your thoughts are not an act of conscious will, it is just your brain on autopilot. The act of consciously planting positive thoughts in your mind is like buying that car. It will create a hook that will help you to become more conscious of your negative thoughts, which will allow you to catch yourself in the act of self sabotage. Let’s go back to the car buying experience. When you bought your car, it was a big decision. Maybe you weren’t completely comfortable with the amount you spent on the car or the monthly payment. Maybe your salesperson was applying pressure that made you uncomfortable. Spending that much money is uncomfortable for most people. A lot of people will blame it on a high pressure salesperson, but your resistance to buying the new car is just as much that your mind doesn’t like change. You have done the numbers and you know you can make the payment, but you act as if you are unsure you can afford it. After a few months you get accustomed to the payments. You like the car just fine, and life goes on. Starting to think more positively can be like that car buying experience. It feels good thinking about it, but your brain will resist and try desperately to get you back into your old thought patterns. You don’t like change because your brain doesn’t like change. Starting a practice of positive thinking can be as simple as writing out the goals or the life you want for yourself, and thinking about what good that will mean for your life. Just as important is to stop thinking about the things you don’t want. Toward the last third of the video below Brian Tracy talks about a study that the University of Pennsylvania did on positive thinking. It is interesting what successful people thought about vs, what some less successful people thought about. Negative thinking is something that I have struggled with most of my life. I know what limitations it can put on you, and there are no easy shortcuts.


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