“Life is a mystery to be lived. Some people hear ‘life is a misery to be lived’. That is up to you. To me is it a mystery” Osho
Positive thinking is rarely something you inherit from your family
I grew up in a family where pessimism was the rule and there was always caution in the air about ‘what the future will bring’. Right out positivity about life and its events was by no means something I drank with my mother’s milk. Although personally I was never a born pessimist, I did have to teach myself to look at things positively because such an outlook on life was simply not included in the family tool box that was passed on to me. As the years went by and the number of people I met increased, I realised that my family was not unique. In fact, I have rarely come across people who grew up in naturally positive families that always walk on the sunny side of life. To this day I can count these people on one hand; two if I think real hard. Our society, the Western society, which so sanctifies intellectual and mental capabilities, is a fear-based society. Cautious pessimism is king. To think positively, especially through major life crises, is to ‘not be realistic’. The negative thinkers always know best.
Positive thinking is something you teach yourself
Something must have gone wrong in my DNA because somehow I was a relatively more natural positive thinker than the rest of my family. I say relatively because it wasn’t born optimism, it was more of a tendency, and if I wanted it to thrive, I had to cultivate it with some good investment on my part. When I started applying positive thinking mindfully, my life took on a whole new spectrum of colours. Pretty quickly I realised that life was not so much what was happening to me, but rather the way I perceived what was happening to me. And if I could change my perception and look on the bright side of things, then I was the main winner. Frankly, positive thinking is a beautifully selfish act. You end up feeling so much better… and it costs nothing. Now that sounds like a good deal to me!
Positive thinking is not a denial of the downsides of life
Positive thinking is not about denial – of circumstances or events or characteristics or anything, really. This is a common mistake people make in relation to positive thinking. ‘Oh, you look at everything through pink-tinted glasses and life just isn’t like that’. When people say this I think to myself – ‘well, it may be true for you, but it’s not true for me’. I do not deny that there are unpleasant, sometimes even horrible circumstances, events, acts and people. I fully accept that they exist. But I don’t immerse myself in them. I don’t wallow in misery. If my feet stand deep in mud, I accept they do, but I’ll do my best to get out of the mud while looking up to the rainbow the whole time. Chewing up misery – talking about it endlessly, complaining about it, thinking about it, stewing in negative juices while feeling sorry for yourself – that gets you nowhere. No one feels happy by chewing up negative cud and no one moves forward by moaning all the time. You want to help yourself into misery? Carry on ranting and complaining. You want to lift yourself up? Recognise the negative and use a positive mindset to do something about it.
Positive thinking starts with awareness
It all starts with awareness, as so many good things do. If you find yourself complaining a lot, stop. Next time you complain about something, even if it’s only a thought, put 1 euro aside. How many euros will you end up with on a typical day? If you’re the average person, then you’ll probably end up with anywhere between 50-75 euros in your pocket, because that’s how many complaints we lodge in our head on a typical day. Do you regularly tell yourself how shitty the weather is, how dirty your car is, how the traffic gets worse every year, how annoying your boss is first thing in the morning, how many emails you have to deal with, how foul the coffee is in the coffee machine in the office, how useless your colleague is, how expensive lunch is at the canteen, how you’re always asked to do more while you get paid less, how demanding your customers are etc etc etc ad nauseum? Do this 1 euro exercise for just one single working day. You’d be amazed how un-positive the mind can be.
It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed
The good news is, everything you think and perceive can be turned around. It’s up to you to decide if life is a mystery or a misery. You don’t have to play the old songs over and over again. How about having a day where you turn things round and start finding brownie points everywhere? How would you feel just being happy that you have a car to begin with and don’t have to depend on public transport to get to where you need to get to? How would you feel if you blessed your job that pays the bills – and the company that employs you – when others are unemployed and struggling to find a job? How much better would you feel if you started noticing how helpful some of your team members are? What would your day look like if you made a list of all the nice words your customers said to you that day? How would you feel at the end of the day if you congratulated yourself on having dealt with 25 urgent emails even though there were still some left for the next day? And what if you could name a few positive things about your boss, or colleague, or partner? Every person has something good about them! Chances are, you’ll feel a lot happier and, more importantly, have a lot more peace of mind. And peace of mind is a great place to start if things are that bad that they really do need changing.
Positive thinking is a gift to yourself
When you change the way you look at ‘reality’; when you reframe your thoughts; when you take a different, more positive angle – you are the one who stands to benefit most. You are the master of your own mind. You can choose what you focus on – mystery or misery. You can choose your words and, believe it or not, you can even choose your thoughts (more on that in another blog post). If you look around a bit more carefully, you’ll discover that happy people naturally look at the bright side of life. Naturally happy people make no effort at looking at things positively; most of us do have to make an effort to rewire our brain for positivity. But the payoff is great. And the time to start is right now.
I’m the master of my mind.
I use my words and thoughts as tools
that shape my outlook on life.