Are you a positive person? I mean, do you generally look at life optimistically, or are you more pessimistic or realistic or even—gulp!—negative?
If you’re not sure, you can test yourself with the glass-half-full analogy. Picture a big glass with a small amount of water in it. In your mind, is that glass “half full” or “half empty”? Was there more water in it before and now some of it is gone? Or is the pouring just not finished yet and there’s more to come? On the other hand, maybe you think the glass should be even bigger. Or nicer. Or full of something other than water. Or maybe you’re grateful to even have a glass, no matter what’s in it.
Some people are born optimists, while others are just naturally more negative. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you can’t change and become more positively focused. Although the world these days seems to encourage pessimism and negativity, it doesn’t mean you have to be that way, and it doesn’t mean you have to stay that way if you are pessimistic by nature.
A friend of mine bought a new condo about a year ago. When we went to see it—and it was beautiful—he pointed out everything that was wrong with it, and what he didn’t like. Instead of focusing on the things that were good about the condo, he focused on the things that were bad.
Being positive does not mean you have to be Suzy (or Sammy) Sunshine all the time. You don’t have ignore the dark part of the cloud, and be sickeningly sweet all day. It does mean, however, that you default to seeing the positive, or are able to get yourself to see (and believe) that positive things can happen to you.
I see a lot of people who are negative about their job. When I ask if they like their job, most people don’t gush about all of the great things. They don’t say, “I love it! It’s so close to home; the boss is so pleasant and easy to work with, they give us free coffee and a fair bit of flexibility.” Instead I hear, “It’s pretty good, but I do have to work overtime, which I’m not paid for. And I’m at the bottom of the list to get my vacation-time approved, which means I never get prime time off like Christmas or summer, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get promoted here.”
They focus on what is wrong with their job, not what they like about it. The same way my friend, Phil, did with his new condo.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
-author Anaïs Nin
A few years ago, my husband, Warren, starting working with me in my business. Warren isn’t negative, but his nature is somewhere between generally optimistic and generally pessimistic. If I am going to spend my life and my working day with someone, I need them to be positive and optimistic.
I am a naturally positive person. That doesn’t mean that I’m happy and smiling all the time, but it is my default position. I choose to see what is right about my life instead of what is wrong. I’ll bet you want to see that too, but don’t always know how. It doesn’t always come easy, but with a few changes in your daily routine, you can program yourself to be positive too!
In the moment, most people do not think they are being negative. They think they are being honest, or realistic, or humble. However, once you start focusing on finding the positive in every situation you may notice that your outlook has not been as positive as you once thought it was.
Warren would never have agreed that he was negative or pessimistic. Since we’ve been focussing on the power of positivity at least once a day, he realizes now how it has improved his outlook and his day-to-day life.
When I pointed out to Phil that he was focussing only on what was wrong with his new condo, he said he wasn’t trying to be negative, he was being humble. He didn’t want people to think he had a perfect life, a perfect home.
Now, just so you know: no one really thinks your life or your job is perfect. You don’t have to point out to other people what is wrong with your life. We all know that the lovely, perfect images we see on Facebook aren’t a well-rounded look at your life—or anyone’s for that matter.
And to Phil’s point, it’s true that we shouldn’t brag about what we have or what we do, either. I wouldn’t want Phil to say, “This is the best condo in the city. It is far better than your house, or anyone else’s.” Any more than I would want a friend to say, “My company and my job are better than yours.”
Choosing to look at the positives in life isn’t always easy, but it is something most of us can work on.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”sdl56″ via=”yes” ]Choosing to look at the positives in life isn’t always easy, but is something most of us can work on.[/ctt]
1. Force yourself to find one positive thing for every negative thing you naturally see. For instance, if you are frustrated that you are on the bottom of the list to get your vacation approved, find something positive about that, like the fact that an off-season vacation would be less expensive and less crowded. If you don’t like that your workspace cubicle is in the open, you could, instead, focus on the fact that that allows you to create better relationships with your co-workers.
Recognize when you say something negative, and force yourself to find something positive too. Some of your answers will make you laugh, and some you won’t believe, but it will help you get in the habit of seeing the bright side of things.
2. Keep a positive environment. There is so much negativity in the world these days that it can be very hard to stay positive. Someone is always complaining about the weather, the government or the price of gas. Spend time with positive people and have positive conversations. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Are you spending time with people who are positive and who see the good things in life, or are you spending time with negative people who seem to be stuck in the muck?
Ask yourself who the three most negative and three most positive people in your life are, and consider how much time you spend with them. Are you with more positive people than negative people or vice-versa?
Think about where you get the bulk of your information (social media, online news, television, etc.), and really examine it to see if your news feeds are sending you more negativity or positivity. Remember that Twitter and Facebook have “mute” buttons that allow you to cut back on the negative news and/or people in your feeds.
3. Learn to breathe and refocus when things go wrong. Catch yourself when you stray, take a deep breath and refocus to be more positive.
Traffic is something that many people find frustrating; drivers often have a hard time staying positive when they’re in the middle of a traffic jam. You may find that you are listening to the (typically negative) news while you’re driving, that you’re frustrated because you’re not going the speed limit, and that you’re worried you’ll be late to wherever you’re going.
Take a deep breath. Forgive yourself for starting to panic. Refocus. Find a positive in the negative: traffic is slow because of construction, and that construction will soon make your route much better. Also, construction is a lot better than someone having had an accident—at least no one got hurt and everyone is going home tonight.
4. Every night, as you are closing your eyes and about to go to sleep, think of three things that you are grateful for, or that made you happy that day. It’s that simple. Anyone can (and should) do this at some point during the day. I prefer the right-before-sleep idea. Warren and I do this together every night after we turn out the lights. The first couple of times it seemed a little forced and a bit goofy, but now (and this happened in less than a week), it seems natural and a great way to end the day.
My three things from last night were:
– I was able to see my grandson on video and he makes any day better;
– I had a restful night of sleep (being 55 has taught me not to take that for granted any more); and
– I was feeling really good after our workout that day and was pleased that I had given it my all.
I smiled as I shared these silly things, and I had some good endorphins floating through my system as I went to sleep. I felt generally better and certainly more optimistic.
Most of us focus on our to-dos before we go to sleep, which creates stress and negativity. The power of positivity ensures that we are thinking positively when we sleep (which creates a more positive sleep as well).
[ctt template=”3″ link=”ouiBY” via=”yes” ]Staying positive, even in negative situations, won’t always be easy. Having a positive lens on life is a choice.[/ctt]
Staying positive, even in negative situations, won’t always be easy. Having a positive lens on life is a choice. You can choose to see what is working well, or you can choose to see what isn’t good enough. So why not choose positivity?