On Becoming A Positive Thinker

I have a confession to make:  I am not the greatest proponent of positive thinking.    In fact, I used to detest the whole idea.

Why do I have to ‘think’ positive?

In some ways, I still feel that way.   I never really want to close my eyes to the negative.    That seems like an Ostrich – you know how they bury their heads in the sand and leave the rest of their bodies exposed to what they are trying to escape?

Maybe, their predators thought they were a bush or tree when they did that?  I guess it is possible that strategy somehow served them over a period of thousands of years.

For people, I think it is not the same.  We simply cannot hide from what is around us.  We have to be forward and outward looking.

However, there is a problem with too much of that, you can easily become confused or befuddled between what is real and what is perceived.

Too much thinking can drive you crazy.   We must know when to draw the line and to say: No more!

We Have Been Trained

All of us went through a school system.  It was designed to teach us to be ‘critical thinkers’.

Critical thinking IS an important skill to have.  We need it.  We need to know how to look outwards and avoid potential problems.

But, we were never taught that we could run into danger if this way of thinking is over utilized.

No one told me when to STOP being critical.  And I bet they didn’t tell you where the boundary line between critical and negative thinking rested either!

There IS A Line – What Do You Do When There Isn’t Enough Information?

I am a very critical, even logical thinker.  So much so that I can get stuck in that mindset.  This is the danger for me personally.

As people, as human beings, we have limitations on our awareness.   We simply do not have enough ‘data’ to figure out everything.

We were taught to just keep thinking and thinking until we come to an answer.

To recognize that you simply don’t have enough information to form a conclusion is a skill that most of us were not taught, in my opinion.

The temptation is to keep digging for more information.  With the Internet that is an easier thing to do than ever before.

But, when do you stop trying to find an answer?   A difficult question to ask, isn’t it?

At some point, you have to say: That’s enough!

Belief or Faith Has A Place

When you don’t have the answer, you simply have to accept it.   There is no other option.  You could go insane trying to find an answer to a question that you simply cannot answer.

In the movie, A Beautiful Mind, John Nash looks in vain for pieces of an answer from various magazines and newspapers.   He takes it way too far and begins to find correlations that do not actually exist!

At some point, you have to say, “I cannot answer this question (dilemma, situation, etc), I simply don’t have enough information”.

Then there is nothing left to do, but have some kind of faith.  Perhaps it call comes back to that point where a parent tells you: “Everything is going to be alright.”

At some point we have to just simply believe that.

Positive Thinking Is About Stopping The Negative

We have to be positive to stop the negative.

Being positive just for the sake of it, is what I used to rebel against.

It isn’t until life’s problems become overwhelming and difficult that you begin to realize that the idea of positive thinking is to stop the negative thoughts.

In fact, there is nothing new in this.  The satyr, Candide, by Voltaire sums this up almost perfectly.

Our hero in that story has a penchant for positive thinking when everything is going wrong.  Things get worse and worse but he keeps thinking positive.

It is not until the end that Voltaire gets to the point.  Then you realize that that Positive Thinking is not about creating a false picture of reality.

Instead, it is about removing the unduly negative from our minds.

Voltaire seems to be saying, “Your mind is a garden and you have to constantly pull out the weeds in order to have a beautiful harvest and place to enjoy.”

How is your garden doing today? 

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1 Harleena Singh

It’s all in the mind David!

So it is said :)

if you think and feel positive about something, you tend to remain positive. Similarly, if your thoughts about a particular thing turn towards the negative side- you start believing it to be negative.

Your negative thoughts become positive when you will it and want it, and make efforts to turn them into positive ones.

Thanks for sharing :)

2 david

Thanks Harleena! that’s good insight. staying positive can truly be a chore sometimes. there are many times when I feel that I am ‘not up to the task’.

3 Ekhym Wethered

David,

A couple of observations. First, strangely enough, given the distribution and durability of the adage about ostriches burying their heads in the sand, they don’t do that. Just like lemmings don’t really commit mass suicide by running over cliffs into the ocean/lake/whatever.

Now on to your post.. I think the greatest proponent of positive thinking, Norman Vincent Peale, was both right and wrong in his opinions regarding this matter. Positive thinking can be, as you point out in your gardening analogy, a way to clear away the obstructions and objections in one’s viewpoint.

However, it can also be a way forward. Positive outlook can help you see that roadblocks can just be clues to redirect efforts in a different direction. You can also use such an attitude to reach beyond the limits that you can currently see (some of your faith argument) to a place where we can see the way forward towards our goals.

4 david

Hi Ekhym,

That’s interesting. I never checked on the Ostrich behavior, I thought it was true based on the fact that we have all heard it over and over again.

I ran into an Ostrich at a drive thru zoo park near Dallas. He was ferocious at pecking at the window with a very angry look in his eye. They didn’t seem timid at all. Thanks for the insight. As I was driving today, I found myself wondering how it could be that way. That just wouldn’t be a good defense behavior.

Here is another one for you: At the time of Christopher Columbus NO ONE believed the world was flat. That is an example of another false story that has been perpetuated and commonly accepted.

I wonder how many other things we think are true that really are not true?

Good points on positive thinking. Both strategies can be valid. I tend not to use it as a forward progress mechanism because I think it is a bit like pop psychology – but maybe I should rethink my opinion.

Thanks for dropping by Ekhym, your thoughts are always welcome here!

5 Kevin Martin

Too much thinking, especially about things that you don’t have the answer to, is always bad for one’s mental health.

6 david

Hi Kevin, you are so very right. And there are many things that we do not control unfortunately. Thanks for stopping by – you are welcome anytime.

7 Andrei McBreak

Think positive. One thing I remember and relate to this is, “if you don’t have the best thing in your life, make the best thing out of it”. I forgot who the speaker in this video is, but as far as I remember the person has no arms but he is still full of hope. He is thinking the positive things, and hes not letting the negative things take over him. Nice article David.

8 david

Hi Andrei, that certainly does sound right. I think I saw the video too. He was from England I think and he is now a motivational speaker who goes around sharing what he has learned and inspiring people.

It’s good that he has that attitude. I could see where it would be easy to fall into despair in that situation. Thank you for helping me to see it in another light.

9 Andrei

My pleasure Dave. Glad to hear that you saw that video too.

10 david

yes, it was a good video particularly for anyone who ‘thinks’ they have too many challenges.

11 Max Kovat

Nice article! It surely contains a problem/question that could take thousand of posts :)

In my opinion, positive thinking is needed only for one little thing – Not Give Up. When you keep on fighting, inventing or simply acting, you still have the chance to win whatever you want.

Plus, a positive mind gets better and faster rest; which is essential for every being (not only human).

12 david

Hi Max. thanks for sharing your insights. It seems that you are right about that. Negativity can take on a tangible form that actually seems to attack us. Does that make sense?

13 Alice

Being too much negative is bad! Surely yes because I’ve experience it on my own. I became a pessimistic person that all of the things happening to me are all negative then I came to realize what I was doing wrong, I do not need to be stack here, so I change on how I see things. I started talking about positive and up building talks. Now, I’m glad I’ve change for the better!

14 UK Web hosting

It is really hard to become a positive thinker among all but it is possible if one try to make it possible.

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