Have you ever had well-meaning family or friends tell you that you just need to think positively about a situation and everything will work out ok?
If you’re not feeling positive and you’re finding it hard to see the positivity in the situation, it’s easy to feel like rubbishing their advice. After all, they’re not you and they’re not the one going through the difficult time. In extreme cases, you might even feel angry that they are giving seemingly flippant or frivolous advice that probably won’t help you and that they just don’t get it!
Certainly, there have been many books written in the last few decades that have preached about the benefits and the impact on your life of thinking positively. I’ve read many of them by many successful authors, but one title in particular has become a clichéd expression that you hear referred to frequently, often by people who may not have even actually read the book but are aware of it. That’s ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ by a minister named Dr Norman Vincent Peal. It’s a classic that I recommend everyone to put on their reading list and bear in mind that it was originally published in 1952, way before Rhonda Byrne’s ‘The Secret’ of 2006, and long before the coaching boom in the last decade that has brought a plethora of self-help books.
My point is that there is a difference between thinking positively and thinking in an empowered way and you can train yourself to do it, more often and more effectively.
In every aspect of the Universe, right down to atomic level there are opposites: good and evil; black and white; love and hatred; positive and negative; risk-taker and risk-averse. They are always there…somewhere.
So, if you choose to only see the positive or to only think the positive, there is an inherent danger – you are simply ignoring, or even denying the existence of the other part of the equation. But why is that potentially dangerous you ask?
Have you ever had an experience that seemed really bad at the time, like a lost job, a failed marriage, a business setback or something that you feel you missed out on?
Has that seemingly disastrous situation ever turned out later on, with the benefit of hindsight, to be one of the best things that could ever have happened?
In other words, the thing that you were convinced with all your being was a negative, later turned out to be a positive.
Here’s the key point in what I’m proposing here: In every situation, big or small, there is always a seemingly positive aspect and a seemingly negative aspect. The difference is not just in whether you choose to think positively or negatively about it; the important question to ask yourself is, ‘How can I turn this (situation) into an empowering outcome for me and for the people I care about?’
I’m saying that in many cases that which is seemingly positive can also be empowering, but so can that which is seemingly negative.
Let’s take some examples:
- You lose a job…
- Positive thinking: You might think positively and say to yourself, “There are other jobs out there – a better job will turn up.”
- Empowering thinking: ‘I don’t know yet if losing this job was a ‘positive thing’ or a ‘negative thing’, but either way I’m going to empower myself to improve my life. How can I do that? Maybe, I’ll start a business, or maybe I’ll do some study, so that I’m more qualified. I’ll conduct a personal review and decide what job I’d really like to do. I’ll learn from this experience and I’ll turn it into a positive outcome.”
Your relationship breaks up and your partner leaves you…
- That’s pretty much the same as the first example – substitute the word partner for job.
“Now, hold on a minute!” you might protest…” That’s easy to say, but what about your emotions?”
Of course that’s important. We’re human and things do get to us. There are processes we often must go through, like shock, denial, fear, anger, distress and grief. These are very real and everyone has different thresholds for what they can stand. Yet all of us know that we have suffered setbacks throughout our lives, but that somehow life goes on. It may take time, but we can recover.
You probably know some people who feel they can never get over something that has severely distressed them. Yet there are always other people who have encountered that same experience or similar set of experiences somewhere else, yet they found it within themselves to bounce back.
The key difference then is probably the action that you take. Positive thinking may help you cope with a setback, but it doesn’t make the negative go away and it doesn’t necessarily lead to a positive outcome. Empowering thinking leads to a decision to change something – to change yourself, to change a situation, or at least to change your approach to it. Empowering thinking leads to adaptation, to innovation, to change and to new directions.
So, when something seemingly negative happens, don’t just ask yourself, “What’s the positive in this?” and “What’s the negative in this?”; rather, ask yourself…
- “What would be an empowering way of looking at this”
- “What can I learn from this?”
- “In what way can I change, grow or improve myself?”
It’s a subtle shift in the way we choose to look at things, but when you want a better life, it starts with asking yourself better questions.
If you doubt your ability to do this, then let me ask you this in closing. “Will continuing to doubt you can do it, empower you or dis-empower you?”
If you’d like to meet for a curiosity catch-up about how strategic, empowering thinking can benefit you, feel free to contact me via this site or on the numbers below.