Ten years ago, when I decided to start writing more, I wrote a post called Put On Your Positive Pants. As I was cleaning through some of my old writing recently, I came across that post and decided to re-examine the concept of living a positive life.
In the original post I described a pair of imaginary pants – the pants I’d wear in my mind when life threw challenges my way. The positive pants I described were a beautiful deep purple color with gold sequins. I mentioned how they made me feel "super-snazzy", and how putting them on in my mind was my way of making a commitment to being positive, open minded and strong all day long, no matter what.
It’s great to hear the words “be positive” but first, what does that even mean, and second, how do you do it?
Positive Thinking is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as: The practice or result of concentrating one’s mind affirmatively on the good and constructive aspects of a matter so as to eliminate negative or destructive attitudes and emotions.
First, let’s be honest – we face less than ideal situations everyday. Living a positive life is not about pretending everything is perfect, locking the negative away in a secret vault that only you can see. Instead, the key to living a more positive life lies in your approach to situations and experiences, both good and bad.
Remember, positivity isn’t something that merely happens. It is a daily practice. It takes focus and effort, like a sport. The good news is, with good training, putting positivity into play in your daily life becomes easier, and easier, the more you do it.
So how do we do that? Let’s look at three simple and mindful changes you can implement daily on your path to living a more positive life. These three points are not the be-all end-all of living a positive life, but they are great starting points to help you start shifting your mindset in a more positive direction.
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
There are positive and negative sides to all situations, but how we look at a situation makes a world of difference. I’ll illustrate this using weather as an example, because it’s still a chilly winter where I am! Let’s examine the following conversation:
Person 1: “Hey guys, it’s a bit warmer outside today and the sun was out all day!”
Person 2: “No kidding, it’s been way worse this year, I’ll take the sun any day!”
Person 3: “Yeah, but it’s still cold out.”
Person 2: “Cold, but not as bad. I didn’t even have to wear my toque today.”
Person 3: “Yeah, but it’s awful, regardless.”
In the above example, there are two varying perspectives on the cold weather. Person 2 chose the positive approach. They made a choice to accept and embrace the fact that, while the situation isn’t ideal, it is better, and that is something to be grateful for. Person 3, on the other hand, chose a more negative approach, dwelling on a situation they cannot control (weather!) and using harsh words like awful to further illustrate the perspective.
USE POSITIVE SELF TALK
I am a firm believer in self talk. Our inner narrative greatly impacts our well being. We need to train our brains to flip our inner words from the negative to the positive. Making simple changes like:
Stop saying I Can’t and start saying I can if.
I can’t run that race with you, I’m out of shape can easily become I can definitely do that race with you if I get in shape. Let’s train together and be each other’s support system.
Eliminate Blame because even though blame seems easy, it isn’t a solution.
Our team would have won if Jimmy didn’t miss that last-second goal. He sure can’t handle pressure situations can easily become We’re a team. We need to work together. I’m good under pressure. I should see if Jimmy wants to get together and practice so he can make the goal next game.
Remove unrealistic fears that are blocking your road to positivity.
I want to audition for the lead role, but I’m afraid I won’t get it. Forget it, I won’t audition at all can easily become I’m going to audition for the lead role. It’s worth a shot, and even if I don’t get the lead, there are lots of great roles I can still play.
FIND LESSONS AND OPPORTUNITIES
Whether you’re having a good day or a bad day, every situation we face teaches us something, and in every lesson lies a new opportunity. We don’t always see them right away, but they are there.
I always ask my students, whether you win or lose, what did you learn and how can you grow from it? Maybe a negative – like missing out on a promotion – can become your motivation to improve your status quo. You start taking some courses, and become more involved in the work place, improving your skills and connections to increase your chance for securing a future promotion. You can also learn from your mistakes, by examining where things went wrong. By learning from your mistakes, you can re-group and approach similar situations in the future with an improved plan for success.
I’ll leave you today with, what I feel, is a very real quote: “When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control how you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is” (Unknown).
You can’t control everything. But, with practice and commitment, you can shift your mindset to a more positive approach in dealing with life’s twists and turns. In turn, you’ll be able to tackle stress and disappointment more easily, you’ll learn to better love and appreciate yourself (and those around you), and you’ll let more happiness and opportunity into your life.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make today the day you put on your positive pants and shift your mindset (and your life) for the better!