Thoughts on Positive Thinking
Are you a positive thinker? You may say yes, no, or sometimes…the latter I would guess is likely most accurate.
Taking the glass half-full or half-empty approach, we could contemplate, well, if I’m a positive thinker, it’s half full; if I’m a negative thinker it’s the latter – but what is this positive thinking stuff all about anyway and does it even matter?
To answer this last question, everything we do has an impact on the outcomes and circumstances of our lives, so in the spirit of this – yes of course the quality of our thoughts matter. However, I think that ultimately, in a cause and effect reality, it’s the choices we actually make because of our quality of thoughts that are impactful.
I have heard life coach Tony Robbins say that even he, himself, “is not a positive thinker”. I thought hey Tony, what do you mean? You’re a life coach!? But he did explain. He said that it would be like looking at your garden and saying,”There’s no weeds, there’s no weeds, there’s no weeds!!!”- meaning, say you did have a garden, and weeds started to grow; would the weeds go away by your positive (or negative) thinking alone? What if you were negative and cursed the weeds? Told them to BURN IN HELL! Would that get rid of your weeds? What if you visualized your weeds being gone and positively visualized your garden weed free and flourishing? No matter what type of thoughts you’re thinking, positive or negative – if you want those weeds gone – a good choice to get rid of them is to pull those suckers out – or at least invest in some weed killer! Now, can you come to that decision to take action by either one of those thought choices above? Sure – so what I hypothesize from this example, is we will think both in positive or negative terms about a situation or outcome, but the positive outcome gets determined by the choice to take action, whether it’s motivated by positive or negative thinking. I think we need both the good, the bad and the ugly, if you will, or as Tony puts it, the pain and the pleasure. Furthermore, from experience, I have seen negative thoughts or the fear of pain motivate positive action more frequently than positive thoughts. Fear of some kind of pain does seem to unfortunately be the ultimate motivator.
Again, of course these are some massive generalizations of how someone could react to a situation, but in the end, to reach a positive outcome, I can see where both thinking in a negative way or a positive way can lead someone to get either positive or negative results. I’ve experienced this recently with my youngest son, who is 10 years old. A few weeks back he was playing a video game and was very frustrated. He told me “dad, I’ll never beat this game. I just can’t do it – it’s too hard!” I didn’t say a word to him. However, about 45 minutes later he came back and said, “dad, I finally beat it!” Now what the heck happened in 45 minutes that took my 10 year old’s negativity into a positive outcome? I thought about this for a while and I noticed something that taught me a good lesson. While playing that game, he experienced all types of positive and negative thoughts and emotions, probably too many to count. So what made the difference for him? What kept him going until he beat the game? Even though there was some despair, it had to be mixed with some sense of accomplishment, even though he was making small progress. Maybe it was just enough to keep him going? Maybe that’s all it takes is for us – to see some progress, or the possibility of some good – to help us go on. Anyway, I know there was a lot of frustration over beating the game, so I said to him, “I thought you would never beat that game?” He said, “it was really hard, but I figured it out.” I was like, that’s it? It was hard, but I figured it out? I thought to myself – wow – how about that – “10 year old discovers the secret to success!” ** It was hard, but I figured it out. ** Positive thoughts and negative thoughts all played the part – but it was the final vision, the thought of the undiscovered promise of beating the game that made the difference. I guess the takeaway here is, as long as we have a vision and keep at it, we increase our chances of realizing it.
Finally, I think our thoughts will never be purely positive or purely negative and it’s by design. We look for that which makes us feel best in each moment of our lives – and life’s not always how we want it to be at all times – so there is always going to be conflict in the way we see things – in the end we need both positive and negative to know that either one exists. Luckily, we can choose our behaviors towards our thoughts and consciously change them if we go to far in either direction.