Dr. John Townsend

October 25, 2019

In general, a lifetime’s worth of a positive attitude will result in more success and fulfillment than a lifetime’s worth of a negative attitude.  People who believe in the good in others, in themselves, and in their situations, will generally do better in their endeavors. So let’s look at a few tips to help you develop this capacity for yourself.

Determine your “why.”  Positivity requires some thought and effort, so you have to have a reason to make the effort worth it.  Being positively positive so you can be positive is…weird.  So what is a good reason?  Here are a few that really matter to us: 

  • Motivation: Being driven to do something intentional about your life or situation.
  • Resilience:  Being able to bounce back from a loss or failure, and move ahead.
  • Energy:  Having the wherewithal to take effort.
  • Creativity:  Being able to access new ways of looking at life, relationships and opportunities.

So think through these, and realize that positivity will help you get what you’d like in life.

Journal your positive and negative thoughts every day for a week.  When we journal we are able to notice patterns. And patterns tell us a great deal. Just spend 10 minutes remembering the events of your day, and what positive or negative thoughts you had about them. You may find that you tend to be especially negative at work, or at home, or when you have a challenge, or even a win, because sometimes we devalue our wins so that we won’t be disappointed.  

Discover what tends to happen that causes negativity in yourself. From that journaling, focus on the areas in which you find yourself the most negative, and dig into the reasons. You may have had failures in the past, or have disappointed yourself.  

Tie in power to positivity. A great deal of positivity comes from knowing we are not helpless in life. When we don’t think we have choices, we enter what psychologists call a state of learned helplessness, and it is very difficult to feel positive. You don’t have to feel like you are Superman or Wonder Woman, with almost unlimited power. But realize you always have a choice somewhere, and use it.

Embrace, don’t avoid, the negative. I know people who are addicted to total positivity, 24/7. It’s almost as if they must see the half full cup at all times, and have a huge smile doing it. The problem is that these people are actually less committed to reality than to positivity, but the truth is that reality is the only place we should live. So move toward the negatives in your life. Admit them, bring them to supportive people, find solutions and accept what can’t change. The most successful people I know have this mantra:  accepting the positive and the negative, but with positive being dominant. In other words, give a little more focus to the positive, in the end. 

Be with people who have realistic belief in you. The right people are a significant source of positivity. When you don’t believe in yourself, spend some time with an individual who sees you more positively than you do yourself. Neuroscience research says it’s almost contagious. Just make sure their belief is realistic, and not “I just know you’ll play in the NFL and then be President of the United States”…unless that is actually realistic!

Be with people who can “go there.” Ironically, we also benefit from those who simply understand our disappointments and being overwhelmed. You would think those individuals would make us more negative. But what really happens is that we don’t feel alone. We feel connected. Being with someone who can be “in the well” with us, as I describe in my book People Fuel, might be the most powerful positivity enhancer of all.

Develop the capacity of a positive attitude.  It really makes a difference.



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