“You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.”
– Joyce Meyer
It was a typical July day in the Midwest. Hot. The previous night my wife Emily and I had returned home from a short trip to see my parents. My father, just ten days previously, had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
The phone rang, it was my mother. She said, “It’s dad…” and in the background I could hear something was going on; people talking and scurrying around. Then I heard my mother say to whomever else was there, “he wants to live!”
He didn’t live past that night. But he did live for 65 years. Which is more than some get.
How Do You Stay Positive no Matter What the Circumstances?
In pondering this question what first came to mind was: No matter how bad you think your circumstances are, someone else has it worse.
I hate that saying. It’s suggesting that our feelings don’t matter. Regardless of how you feel or others think you should feel, your feelings and emotions are always valid–to you.
We know that the power of positive thinking works, but how do you stay positive even when the circumstances are shitty?
Before we can stay positive, we have to get positive. And we can only get into a positive mindset if we know what our current mindset is and learning how to change it if needed.
Here’s 5 tips on how to stay positive:
1. Learn How To Change Your Mindset
In order to change your mindset, you first have to recognize what language and from what perspective your mind is speaking.
That inner-voice that’s telling you life sucks. It’s feeding and driving your attitude, which is your mindset. Listen to it, what’s yours saying to you?
Here’s a few ways to learn where your mindset is at:
- Look in the mirror, that’s a good way to get it’s attention. What do you hear?
- Someone you know just got married or started an amazing new job, how does that make you feel? Do you feel jealousy or happiness for their good fortune? (I’ll admit, this is a tough one). But if jealousy or resentment is more often the feeling you have towards others good fortune, your mindset may be one of scarcity.
- What’s your attitude or feelings before you go to bed at night or first thing when you wake up in the morning?
To change your scarcity or negative mindset to a positive one, you’ve got to learn how to love yourself. Self-acceptance and self-love means we need less external validation. Which translates to less comparison of ourselves to others. The less we compare ourselves to others, the more we can concentrate on our basic needs.
If you’re reading this right now, chances are your basic needs are met. Food, water, shelter.
The feeling of scarcity or negativity will diminish as we realize we have everything we need. Moreover, now we can identify the difference between our wants vs. needs.
Realizing your needs are met, you can start using your wants as motivation. Setting and reaching goals, no matter how small, will bring a positive mindset.
2. Learn How to Think Positive
What does it mean to “think positive?”
Thinking positive is comprised of 2 parts. First, you’ve got to stop thinking negatively. Duh. Then learn how to think positive.
Of course you have to become aware of your thinking patterns first. Which we covered in # 1. It’s like anything else, once you’re aware of it, you can bring it out into the light. See it for what it really is and go to work on it.
One simple way to teach yourself to think positive is by setting small achievable goals for yourself. There’s nothing quite like building self-esteem by accomplishing something. Each time you accomplish a goal, you’ll be more likely to think positively about a task in the future. This can also apply to going through tragic events and coming out on the other side in one piece.
When my father passed away suddenly, I certainly wasn’t thinking very positive at that specific moment. But I also wasn’t consumed by grief either…. At least not at that moment, that came later.
The following weeks after my father’s death, I would say there were times I was depressed or not happy, but still deep down inside, there was still this flame of positivity. I was able to keep my life as a human in perspective and thus hold on to some gratitude.
There is scientific proof of a gene linked to optimism and self-esteem, but even in those cases, for those that lack the positivity gene, scientist still believe that one’s environment has a large role to play in this area.
“Some people think genes are destiny, that if you have a specific gene, then you will have a particular outcome. That is definitely not the case,” says Taylor. “This gene is one factor that influences psychological resources and depression, but there is plenty of room for environmental factors as well.” – Gene Linked to Optimism and Self-Esteem
It’s important to realize that environmental aspects can affect your outlook and thinking, so it’s important to surround yourself with positive people. Even though we’re talking about staying positive “no matter what the circumstances”, you have to take some ownership of who you surround yourself with. It’s just going to be more difficult to think positive surrounded by constant negativity.
3. Don’t Take It Personally
If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest The Four Agreements, it’s an amazing book about how to create happiness and love in your life by practicing four princples. Principle number 2 is Don’t Take Anything Personally, an except from the book and principle 2:
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
Simply put, it’s not about you so get over it. Accept the fact that everyone around you is thinking about how their perceived or viewed.
I need to remind myself of this one daily; especially with my work/
The more responsibilities we have professionally, the more pressure we feel to deliver. It’s important to have a clear understanding of what we can and cannot control. To lay our head down at night and know, that even though something didn’t turn out ideal for someone else, we did the best we could.
4. Realize It’s OK to Feel Like Shit Sometimes
I don’t believe everything happens for a reason. We need to learn how to feel like shit so we know what happiness feels like. It can be empowering to get to your lowest point, or feel like shit and rise back up again.
Its unrealistic to expect to have a positive attitude 24/7 365.
In your quest to stay positive, don’t let a few crappy hours, days, or weeks get you down more. Give yourself a break and just accept it. It helps to set a limit. I use seven days. If I haven’t gotten out of my funk by the seventh day, just decide that on day eight I’m going to be over it. At that point I may use what I call a God box. Basically it’s a small wooden container I write down what’s bothering me, drop it in and let it go. If I’m still not over my issue, then I’m into suffering and that’s optional. However, at this point I would consider seeking outside help for the issue.
5. Act As If
It’s said that where the mind goes, the body follows. But it also works the other way.
This one is pretty simple. If you’re feeling negative, get up and do something positive. Act like a positive person. You’d be surprised at how powerful this is.
As Francine Ward says, “Self-esteem comes from DOING Esteemable Acts.”
To Stay Positive No Matter What the Circumstances, try one or all of these:
- Learn how to change your mindselt
- Learn how to think positive
- Don’t take it personally
- Realize it’s ok to feel like shit sometimes
- Act as if
Photo credit Ken Douglas