Have you heard about positivity? People often ask me: “Why are you trying to see positive things?”. Others say: “I’m sick of this positivity bullshit”. And then we have Grumpy Cat.
Now I am here to defend this almost magical technique of changing life in a logical way. You are in the right place because in this article I will explain the concept of positivity and will give the guidelines for positive thinking.
If you want to learn how to transfer your ideas to action, at first you need to learn how to have positive ideas worth that action.
Let’s start with the definition.
Views of the world
Usually, positivity is confused with optimism. To clarify everything, we must define terms. Suppose we have two types of situations – good and bad. Now we can have two reactions to each situation – to pay attention or not to pay attention. In the table below we can see four possible types of people.
|Good situation||Bad situation|
|Optimist||Pay attention||Not pay attention|
|Pessimist||Not pay attention||Pay attention|
|Realist||Pay attention||Pay attention|
|Zen master (?)||Not pay attention||Not pay attention|
As you see we have no positivity in this table, so positivity is another dimension than optimism. To have positivity, we must add a perspective of the future. Again, suppose we have good and bad situations. What do we think about future then?
|Good situation||Bad situation|
|Optimist||It will be even better!||In the end, it will be good|
|Pessimist||In the end, it will be bad||It will be even worse!|
|Opportunist||How can I make use of it?||Avoid! Run!|
|Positive||How can I make use of it?||How can I change it?|
Positivity comes when we see the opportunity and think how to make use of it. Also when we see no opportunity (the bad situation) and think how to create one. Or how to move out of this bad situation. Or how to change it.
Positivity is not only about the way we see things, it is also about action. As you noticed, optimist and pessimist in their pure form do not take action, they believe, that things will change by themselves.
What is positivity?
Now we know enough to define positivity. There are 4 main patterns of positive thinking.
1) We notice good things and pay attention to them.
A common misconception is that we try to invent good things in negative situations.
“Why are you trying to see positive things?” people keep telling me. “Let’s be realists!”
I can beat realists easily: just ask them if the glass of water half full or half empty? Each realist will give you a different answer. So where is your reality, if everyone defines it differently?
You don’t need any effort to see positive things when they are there. How to see white color in the snow? This task usually does not take much effort, since the snow is naturally white. (We might encounter different colors of snow such as yellow, but if you keep digging I guess that chances of eventually finding the white snow are high).
But what about seeing red color in the snow? In school we were taught, that white light consists of all other colors, so I guess a good physicist with some lenses could show us the red color of the snow. Or maybe we can mix the snow with some blueberries? If you know the way – you can do it. If you don’t, you can call yourself a realist and state the fact that it cannot be done.
Another simple example – check the euro and dollar exchange rate graph. What are the opportunities to earn money today? Do you see? No? There are opportunities, lots of people will make lots of dollars for themselves because they have knowledge about graphs.
To notice good things you need knowledge.
OK, we found red color in the snow. But how about finding blue color in the grass. Is it possible? Is the one who is looking for the blue color in the grass insane or crazy? Grass supposed to be green, isn’t it? The clue is two paragraphs above. Did you get it?
Sometimes the answer is not obvious, but if you have the knowledge and you know what are you looking for, chances of noticing it will increase.
So, did you get what is the blue color in the grass? It’s blueberries. If you know that there are blueberries in the forest, and you want them you will notice them quickly.
To notice a good thing you need to know what the good thing is.
What if you have bad sight and you cannot see things?
There are people who were born with natural ability to see positive things, but others need to train (check my other articles about positivity below the article for exact methods). Eagle can see a rabbit from high above, but humans need binoculars.
You may need to improve your knowledge or you may need to define better what is good for you, but you may also need to learn to concentrate your attention and observe.
To notice good things you need to be good at observing.
And the last point – you cannot find blueberries in the forest if you do not go to search for them. Also, you cannot see red color in the snow if you do not bring physicist with lenses. You must make a movement and take some action to reveal those positive things.
To notice good things you need to take action.
Now let’s see the next pattern of positive thinking.
2) We notice bad things and pay attention to them.
A common misconception is that we try to ignore bad things or pretend that everything is ok.
Positivity is seeing the opportunities to improve the situation and trying to go for it. It is not pretending or trying to convince oneself that everything is ok. If you feel that the situation is unpleasant, first you need to acknowledge that, and then think how to change it.
I believe it is better to try solving the problem, than leaving it. To acknowledge the bad situation is a very important step.
3) We believe that we can improve the situation.
A common misconception is that we hope, that the situation will improve by itself.
Positivity is trying to make the best of each situation. If it is good – enjoy, if it is bad – change. But it is not a passive surrendering when we fear that good situation will not last forever and suffer when it finally becomes bad.
Many people, be it optimists, pessimists or even realists claim, that they know how everything will be. (They say: relax, everything will be alright. I know it. Or: relax, you cannot change anything. I know it.) If you know the future, and you are sure about it, of course, no more action is needed. You just wait and accept. Positivity is not knowing everything in advance, it is a belief that you can do something and that might change things.
4) We try to notice or invent ways to improve the situation.
A common misconception is that we try to notice and invent good points in bad situations. Or that we already know that everything will be ok.
What positive people do – they notice good points in bad situations. I have described this before. But if we do not notice anything good – it is time for creativity. But not for inventing good points. For inventing ways how to move.
It is a nice practice to ask yourself: What is good about this situation? What did I learn from this situation?
But the next question should be: Is there anything to improve? How can I do this?
It may seem that positive people are not happy with the here and now, they always want to change something. It depends on the person, it has nothing to do with positivity. One might say: life is great, and let’s make it better! And the other might say: life is like shit, let’s make it less bad. One is an optimist, the other is a pessimist, but both are positive.
Steps of positive thinking
These are three simple steps of positive thinking.
1) We understand what situation are we in. (Realizing)
Without pretending that everything is ok, telling yourself honestly: “How do I feel in this situation?”.
Without trying to console yourself, telling honestly: “What are the good points?”.
Without trying to scare yourself, telling honestly: “What are the bad points?”.
2) We understand what we want. (Dreaming)
If the situation is already good, how can we enjoy it, how do we want to feel in it?
If it is bad, then what is the good one?
3) We create the way how to move from 1 to 2. (Planning)
A realist would say: “This is a good situation”.
I suggest saying: “This is a good situation and I will make use of it to prepare for bad times that might come.” Or: “This is a good situation and I will enjoy it while I can, without thinking of bad times that might come.”
A realist would say: “This is a bad situation”. I suggest saying: “This is a bad situation, but how can I change it?”
Here ends positive thinking, and starts the positive action.
But tell me, which situation never changes itself? Even the sun – it will explode one day. Everything is changing every moment. The situation changes, your wants change, you learn new things on the way. That means you must always adjust your ways. And that means that you repeat this pattern again and again:
Realizing > Dreaming > Planning > Action > Realizing > Dreaming > …
What if we have a ticking nuclear bomb beside?
Imagine yourself by a nuclear bomb counting down last minutes until the explosion. You don’t know how to dismantle it, and you cannot call to your friend who knows.
There are situations in life like this nuclear bomb when you cannot do anything. You know the night will come. You know the winter will come.
What is positivity then? Do we need to pray to someone, that bomb would not explode? That the night would not come?
Sometimes it is a good idea to accept the situation, and don’t worry about things you cannot change. Your state of mind is also part of the situation. Let’s make use of each moment of the life you have left, adjust your state of mind. Let the bomb tick, and I will go and … (what do you enjoy doing the most?)
What would you do, if you know that you will die after one year? Will you tremble of fear in the corner of the room? Or will you take all your money to the last trip around the world? Or will you write the book you always wanted to write?
If you are still alive, you can live. The Buddha said a nice thing to illustrate this thought:
If I gain only six, five, four, three, two days or one day, or one hour or one moment in which I breathe in and out, I shall make effort and practice the Way.
Let’s move forward!
I am naturally positive, but I believe, that many people are not. So I will continue the series of articles about positivity and will share exact techniques how to increase it.
- Positivity is useful. It’s irrational to think otherwise
- How did I learn to think positive? 365 positive days challenge
- The ultimate tool to increase positivity. And you already have it