The Ideas and Concepts Mastermind (Facebook Group)
Rethinking Positive Thinking.
There is a sector of the positive thinking crowd that is almost cult-like, and this is an unfortunate side effect of the effectiveness of personal development. The misconception is positive thinking is all about just being happy all the time, if something negative is happening you just have to shift your thoughts into a different space and believe that everything is going to be all right. This is the Facebook-posting world that pretty much states that if you’re not happy, something is wrong. And it is detrimental to the process of personal development.
I make my case as to what positive thinking really is.
Do you ever want to do some kind of self-improvement, but find yourself getting annoyed by all the overly positive people who seem to be saying the same things over and over again? People who seem almost too happy? Me too! And that’s what I’m here to talk about today – what is positive thinking, and do we need to change the name? I’m making a case for you today in 5 4 3 2 1
Welcome to the Second Mix Podcast where creatives go to reflect, revise, and remix their lives and find the mindset they need to thrive without conforming. Nobody’s better than you, nobody’s smarter than you, and you don’t need anyone’s permission to succeed! My name is Matthew Bennett, and I was a miserable fool until I discovered all this stuff, changed my life, and now I’m passing it on and paying it forward. At the end of this episode, there’s going to be a call to action – to take some little step to remix your life – take advantage of these exercises and watch things begin to change for you.
There is a sector of the positive thinking crowd that is almost cult-like, and this is an unfortunate side effect of the effectiveness of personal development. The misconception is that positive thinking is all about just being happy all the time, if something negative is happening you just have to shift your thoughts into a different space and believe that everything is going to be all right. This is the Facebook-posting world that pretty much states that if you’re not happy, something is wrong. And it is detrimental to the process of personal development.
My belief is that the first doses of positive thinking feel so good, that people are thinking “everything will be okay, just put your chin up, smile, fake it ‘til you make it.” I’m going to take a stand right here and say that is NOT positive thinking. I’m going to lay out my case for you, and let you decide. If I can’t convince you that positive thinking is different than what the easy crowd thinks, then I’ll probably have to come up with a new term, so that the two kinds of thinking aren’t confused.
Author Dave Gray, in his book Liminal Thinking, used this term to describe what I’m going to lay out here, but my definition isn’t entirely in line with his, so I can’t just adopt that term. I will go ahead and recommend the book though – it certainly gives you a lot to ponder, including ideas that will change your thinking and change your life. Trevor Moawad also wrote a book about Neutral Thinking, but that’s a few books down in my list so I can’t promise that my definition aligns with his either.
Positive thinking. There is a very narrow definition, and a much wider definition, and I will always see it as the latter. It comes down to the scope. There is a common meaning and intention to the concept, and most people would say, that positive thinking is describing the thinking you are doing right now to make yourself feel better, and happier, more enthusiastic and energetic. Getting pumped up to do something. This might have its place, but I don’t consider it positive thinking.
Where everything is happy, everything is good. I will tell you with complete honesty, that although I’ve never been caught up in this movement, I have given terrible advice to people who were going through some hard times. I’ve tried to convince people that all they need to do is think about things differently, and life wouldn’t be so difficult. It actually got frustrating when they wouldn’t just BE HAPPY. But there’s a time and there’s a place. There’s a time to teach, and a time to simply be compassionate. Hopefully I’ve learned my lessons to meet people where they are, and not where I think they should be.
And the scope of this kind of thinking is limited to your thoughts, actions, and words RIGHT NOW. Just be happy, just act happy.
In this definition, the word positive is describing the effect on the current emotions surrounding a situation right now.
But I disagree that this is positive, and in fact the net effect of this kind of thinking in the long term is negative. It can be harmful. A dramatic example is that if there’s a guy walking around your neighborhood at dusk dressed in all black, wearing a ski mask, carrying a black bag and a crow bar, that’s bad news. Positive thinking in the widely accepted meaning would be to say, “well, he’s not going to break into my house. He’s probably not going to do anything bad. I don’t need to handle this situation in anyway, because it’s all going to be fine. We don’t need to call the neighbors or ask the police to drive by.”
That is not positive thinking. Positive thinking is saying, “that’s not right, I’m going to call the police, and call a couple neighbors to come over with me and talk to this guy, see if everything is okay. Because I see negative, I see something that is potentially bad” Positive thinking is handling the situation that looks negative before it can actually become negative.
If the word positive describes having happy thoughts all the time, that’s not good and it’s definitely not positive. BUT if you are taking the long view, and the word positive describes the results in your life based on your thinking, then the meaning of positive thinking shifts.
And in order to have positive results in your life, you’ve got to think negative thoughts. My weight is going up. My bank account is going haywire, I’ve bounced three checks in the last year and I don’t want to live like this anymore. If you’re hoping they don’t start foreclosure proceedings, or hoping that work will put up with you for being just a few minutes late every day, or you’re hoping that that pain in your side that’s been there a few days will just go away. That is not in any way good, that is not positive.
Positive is when you say, “where are my current habits taking me? If I keep up all of the things that I am doing right now, where will I be 5 years from now? 10 years from now?”
It is absolutely positive to say, “If I keep smoking cigarettes, it is going to kill me. Or at least make it very hard to breathe if when I’m 72. It’s also eating away a lot of money.” That is positive thinking. That’s it – when positive is the net result of your life because of the way you were thinking.
My definition and the wider way to view positive thinking is to take the long view. How are my thoughts shaping me – my attitude, my life, my actions. Unfortunately, people confuse the two. I might have to come up with my own word for it. If I do, you as listeners will be the first to know. Maybe it’s my mission to change what is meant by positive thinking. I don’t know. Maybe that’s why I call it personal development, or self-improvement. It’s smart thinking. It’s intelligent thinking. The mindfulness movement touches on these ideas, but usually in terms of self-compassion.
Although I am a huge fan of consistent positive input – it is this intelligent input that I am talking about. People who make you question your life, question your decisions, and lead you to the things you really want out of life. This isn’t just a feel-good ra ra ra moment that will fade in a couple of days and be gone completely in a couple of weeks unless you go to another seminar to get a recharge.
I want to hear your thoughts about positive thinking, and I really want to know what kind of thinking you do to advance – to push forward. In your journal tonight, write down all of your habits good or bad, and reflect on where they will take you in 5 years. If you lived every day like today, figure out where you’ll be in the future. Join the Facebook group Ideas and Concepts and jump into the conversation – the link is in the show notes. I’ll be here every Monday and Thursday until blues music stops making me so happy.
Thank you for listening to the Second Mix Podcast, once again I am Matthew Bennett. If you are on Apple please give me five stars and leave a review – whatever platform you use you can subscribe to hear the latest episodes of the show. I answer every email sent to [email protected] and I love to hear from listeners. If you know of anyone who will find this show helpful or useful, please share this with them – I can’t reach them without your help. Take steps that will make your week incredible – and keep reflecting, revising, and remixing your life. I’ll see you soon.