post written by: Marc Chernoff

The Productive Art of Positive Thinking


The Productive Art of Positive Thinking

This guest post was written by Nea, author of Self Improvement Saga.

A common misconception I’ve heard repeated over and over is that positive thinking depends on one’s ability to “fool the mind” into believing something is better than it actually is.  For those who hold this belief, positive thinking may seem like a bunch of hogwash.  After all, who wants to waste time with self-induced brainwashing?

If positive thinking was nothing more than a ploy to pull the wool over your own eyes, I wouldn’t bother.  But it is so much more.  So I want to share some facts about the value of deliberately guiding your thoughts and the best way to do so successfully.

What positive thinking is all about

Positive thinking means choosing thoughts that feel good rather than allowing outside elements to control the caliber of our thoughts.

It’s about choosing to look at life experiences from a pleasant perspective and harnessing our power to seize the best in any circumstance.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
- Henri Matisse

What positive thinking is not

Brainwashing is defined as “a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas.”

Unlike brainwashing, having a positive outlook should never make you feel like you’re forcing yourself to believe lies or to give up ideas that are important to you.  The purpose of positive thinking is not to distract you from the truth, but to refocus your attention on beautiful truths that you may often take for granted.

How to effectively apply positive thinking

Our lives are filled with a variety of experiences, circumstances, people and things.   Some trigger pleasing thoughts and feelings within us while others set off a downward spiral of negativity.

You may be wondering how positive thinking can be implemented when faced with something that is undeniably negative.  There are two basic options:  focus elsewhere or focus differently.

1.  Focus elsewhere when you’re able
Focusing elsewhere means you take your attention from the troubling subject to something that feels better.  There are times when this is clearly the best choice.  Here’s an example:

You’re with a group of people who are discussing political hot topics.  The discussion gets extremely heated as everyone defends their views on abortion, health care, prayer in schools, gay marriage, immigration and even President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize win.

The tension gets high and the words get ugly.  You feel yourself becoming extremely angry and frustrated with some of the outrageous comments, personal jabs, senseless views and put downs.

In such a situation, you may simply decide not to be a part of the conversation.  Sure, others may take offense or respond negatively if you walk away.  So what!  What’s more important?  Doing what others think you should or doing what you know is best for you?

Bottom line:  If you can’t change the subject of discussion, just leave the room and find something else to do.  Your attention to political differences is unlikely to change someone else’s mind.  So, why bother with something unnecessarily distressing when you can put your focus and energy elsewhere?

2.  Focus differently when you can’t escape the situation
Although it’s not always possible to avoid an unpleasant experience, we can decide to bring our conscious awareness to a different aspect of it.  In other words, we can focus differently.

You don’t have to focus on the clouds just because it’s a rainy day.  You can focus on what the weather was like yesterday or on the day of your wedding or at some other time when you felt it was ideal.  You can even focus on the benefits of the rain and all the purposes it serves.  The flowers, grass and trees are surely pleased to have their thirst quenched.

If you lose your hearing, you can waste your life away feeling sad about the sounds that you’re missing out on.  Or you can celebrate the heightened state of your other senses.  You can appreciate and follow in the footsteps of Ludwig Beethoven, Marlee Matlin, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller and other famous hearing impaired people who achieved great success because they didn’t let their disabilities foil their outlook on the possibilities that lay before them.  Neither positive nor negative thoughts will spontaneously restore your hearing, but one type of thought leads to healthy living, while the other encourages endless misery.

A real world example of positive thinking

Positive thinking is most effective when you choose thoughts that your mind easily accepts as reasonable.  Hearing loss is a bit extreme, so how about a more practical example for using positive thinking in everyday life?

Let’s say your car breaks down.  It is unlikely that any thought will change the fact that the car isn’t working.  So while you could try to imagine that it’s running perfectly, it isn’t a very productive practice unless you have magical genie powers.

So as you put the key in the ignition and notice that the car won’t start, you can be angry, anxious and sad as you focus on how terrible it is that your car is broken.  You can gripe about the money it will cost, the time it will take, the inconvenience it will cause.  You can go on and on like this until you’ve taken on enough stress to raise your blood pressure to stroke level.  None of these thoughts will change the situation, but they will ensure that you feel horrible.

On the other hand, you could choose to think of the sexy (or skilled or nice) mechanic who will get you back on the road.  You can think of how reliable the car has been up to this point, the games you can play on your cell phone as you wait for a tow truck, or the funny hat that the lady is wearing in the car next to you.  None of this changes the fact that the car is not working, but at least you’re choosing to think in a way that is likely to attract an unexpected opportunity rather than a massive coronary.

Conclusion

You see, positive thinking is not about fooling yourself.  It’s about changing your outlook to a different side of reality.  As an avid believer in the Law of Attraction, I apply positive thinking to almost everything.  Notice I said almost, because I have my down-in-the-dumps moments like everyone else.

So, what about you? When you’re faced with something upsetting, do you find comfort in guiding your thoughts to a more positive outlook?  If not, why not?

Nea is the author of the Self Improvement Saga, a blog where she shares her passion for writing and personal development.  Her goal is to help others manifest improvements in both their daily lives and relationships.  If you enjoyed this post then consider subscribing to her RSS feed.

Photo by: Tourist on Earth

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28 Comments

  • I struggle with this to be honest, but I like this angle, ‘cos yes, to me, positive thinking did always seem to be a bit fake but this is a different take. Cheers!

  • Brilliant! I totally agree. Positive thought is about reframing a situation, about looking at things in the most positive light possible. It’s not about teaching yourself to believe something that is not true. And yet, I can use positive thought to imagine reaching my goals, making that putt, finding a parking place. That works too!

  • “positive thinking is not about fooling yourself. It’s about changing your outlook to a different side of reality”… I can’t tell you how much I believe in positive thinking, I actually try my best to pass on this practice to others that are close to me, Great article, I absolutely love it!!!!

  • This is a wonderful inspiring article.
    We all need to remember what is truly important to us.

  • Wow! I really loved this post (of course!). It’s such a great write up of how important positive thinking is. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  • Thanks for such a well written guest post, Nea. Your advice is practical and easy to follow - kinda like a ‘Positive Thinking 101′ crash course.

    ;-)

  • Really nice article, Nea. I totally appreciate the way you laid it out, like Marc said, “kinda like a ‘Positive Thinking 101′ crash course.” There is way too much negative energy floating around these days. Our positive thinking and attitude can help offset it.

  • This is a great post. As a skeptic with an engineering background, it is really easy for me to slip into negative thinking. However, I am fortunate to have a strong faith and an awesome marriage and family life that help me see the best that life is offering each day.

    Life is truly what we make of it!

  • Positive people gain more friends and do more with their life, period.

  • Great post and a very important topic. As cliche as it may be, perception really is reality. Although we should definitely not be in denial and we also should accept the situations we are confronted with, there is always a way that they can and should be viewed that will be more helpful and allow us to better position ourselves to address any challenges.

  • I’m so glad you all enjoyed the article. It is truly amazing how much your thoughts can change your life.

  • Very practical! I really enjoyed the article. Reading it actually helped me too.

    Keep up the positive work!

  • Interesting post. Positive thinking is great when you see a failure as a success. That’s why your second option is really great. :-)

  • I really enjoyed reading this post. To me, I don’t necessarily focus on positive thinking…I try and cultivate positive FEELINGS. I think it takes me much further in life.

    Thanks!
    Dayne

  • Nice article. I really enjoy it when i see people around me feeling good about themselves and noticing the full part of the glass. I always thought that by seeing the positive part of the issues you will surely have something to win, learn, and achieve.

  • Being passionate about some subject yet remain open minded about opposite view, that is true balance, which I am working on it.

  • I agree that positive thinking is not brainwashing. Its more about paying attention to thoughts that make you feel good.

    Great post.

  • Positive thinking is fantastic, and the article is well-written. Still, why do people still “believe in” the law of attraction. It’s like believing in astrology or unicorns, it doesn’t make it true. There are enough real benefits to positive thinking without making up some magical “energy” that will draw the things you think of to you.

  • Nea’s post is both beautiful and quite practical. I’d like to comment on the last paragraph.
    One of the reasons we have difficulty in directing our thoughts to the positive side—particularly when we are down—is that we have been trained (association psychoanalysts would say “wired.”) by the educational system, our society, and the media to see the glass “half empty.” Therefore, when we don’t feel like being edified, we just want to be entertained, we will probably reach for something—a novel or TV show—that contains the wrong message.
    So, I’d like to be part of a shift wherein writers provide engrossing yarns that display the right message. To that end, I’ve written a novel that is good entertainment and portrays people addressing challenges with the mindset in Nea’s post.
    The name of the novel is “The Kitten Burglar.” It is available through Amazon, B&N, and Chapters.
    Scoop about the novel is on my blog, johnaburnham.wordpress.com

  • This is a great reminder, especially now for me. I’ve spent the last week pretty much decimating a year+ of hard work and well-earned savings… Well, for a fairly good cause — moving forward with my project car build. (My only expensive hobby, pictures & writing are free for now, or fairly cheap. ;))

    I’ve been feeling really down about the whole thing, because more has been going out than coming in… But I need to keep positive. I should be excited! And keeping positive will make it easier to see all the opportunities I will surely have to replenish my funds. I shouldn’t fret so much, I suppose. Bad habit. (:

  • Great article… Great that you mentioned about hearing loss, especially the names of well-known deaf people… I’m culturally Deaf and I’d rather you to call us deaf instead of this term, hearing-impaired. Let me give you these links on why you should start using this politically correct term, deaf:

    Deaf writer’s experience: http://www.i711.com/my711.php?tab=2&article=12

    National Association of the Deaf: http://www.nad.org/issues/american-sign-language/community-and-culture-faq

    Bottom line is that ‘deaf’ or ‘hard of hearing’ both are considered positive while ‘hearing impaired’ is offensive given the ‘impaired’ part. This implies that we’re incapable of doing anything, or in other words, damaged goods. We’re fully capable of doing anything except hear and we prefer to be viewed as whole persons, not based on our ‘broken’ ears.

    Hope this reaches to a large audience and that someday, everyone would use ‘deaf’ to describe us.

    Again, thanks for the inspiring article.

  • We are resisting things that seem so simple.
    We resist eating less so we could be less obese?!
    Changing thoughts can be seen as simple and yet nobody gets called on how difficult it is to keep our thoughts in check.
    What if we stopped running to gyms to change our physical habits and instead would run to AND attend mind gyms to change our fearful mind into a positive mind?
    What if we stopped just reading and start asking people around us to support a change in thinking?
    What if we stopped eating bad information and start eating healthy thoughts?

  • Gratitude is a form of positive thinking. When you give thanks for the people, places and things that are blessings to you, it lifts your spirit. It forces you to see even more positive things in your life for which you’ve taken for granted.

  • Happiness is a choice. It starts with what you decide to focus on. If I learn to focus and give my attention to the opportunities that present themselves in what appears to be a misfortune I’m more likely to take advantage of them.

    On the other hand, focusing on the misfortune and how miserable it makes me I’m guaranteed to emerge bruised and exhausted.

    Let go. Understand that there are somethings in this life that are just beyond your control and that being angry at them only hurts you. Focus on how to transform negative experiences into opportunities.

    No one, even those who teach this, succeed each and every time in applying it, but the act of trying and training is what keeps you on the road while you journey through life.

    “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” - John Lennon.

  • cool advice :) Keep writing!! :_

  • I see success is the result of our own thought .

  • Great article, keep up the good work :)

  • Nea, what’s great about your post is that it’s true: it’s not wishful thinking based on unreality. Rather, it’s shifting our focus, and we have a choice over that. You’ve provided some great examples of how we can do that.

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