Positive Thinking

A few years back, I was asked to present a series of workshops to some high-school seniors on the subject of Positive Thinking.

It’s a subject that’s near and dear to my heart, but I approached the assignment with some trepidation. The idea of leading a group of seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds for fifty minutes was for some reason more challenging than speaking to adults.

What Exactly is Positive Thinking?

Why is it important? How do you develop it? How do you keep a positive attitude in the face of negative circumstances?

And these kids expected answers. It caused me to do some real soul searching as to what I think a PMA (positive mental attitude) is and how to apply it in our lives.

To me, Positive Thinking means a “can-do” attitude—an attitude that allows one to see the best in all circumstances. It means facing a given situation and looking for the opportunities that almost always lie within. It’s really a matter of focus. It’s a little bit like when you’re buying a new car and you notice all the cars on the road like the one you’re buying. They were always there before, but you just didn’t notice them because you weren’t looking for them. When you’re looking for good, you’ll certainly find it. That’s Positive Thinking.

Positive thinking is not Pollyanna Thinking. Being a “Permagrinner” is almost as bad as being a negative thinker. It’s an unwillingness to see things as they are and ignore the things that could present a danger to us and our well-being.

We need to be realistic and address the problems with which we’re faced. If you’re tending a garden and ignore the weeds, you’ll find your garden over-run by them. You have to be aware and take care of problems. Positive Thinking is definitely not avoidance.

Negative thinking is all too common. It doesn’t take any effort to be a negative thinker. I call them “Stinking Thinkers”—people with Mental BO. You know the kind of people I’m talking about—the kind of people who brighten up a room—by leaving. They’re cynical and depressing to be around. They complain too much and offer too little, if any, help.

Positive Thinking is infectious. Unfortunately, so is negative thinking. Emerson wrote, “A man becomes what he thinks about all day long.” What do you think about? Where’s your focus? Do you dwell on your problems, or do you focus on the way you’d like them resolved? It’s your perspective that determines whether the glass is half full or half empty.

Our attitude affects people more than we may realize. When we approach problems with enthusiasm and high expectations, and when we share our optimism, we cause others to look at things in new and more optimistic ways. We help shift their perspective.

When I’m hiring someone, I place more weight on their attitude than on their skills and knowledge. Skills and knowledge can always be learned. Positive Thinking can be learned too, but I find few people willing to develop it. The belief is often, “that’s-just-the-way-I-am.”

How Do We Develop a Positive Attitude?

One way is to associate with positive people. We may have to change our environment and even choose new friends. This may seem drastic, but you can’t afford to be with people who drag you down. In order to be successful, you have to have a supportive atmosphere.

We can also read good books. You might want to start with Norman Vincent Peale’s classic, The Power of Positive Thinking. He coined the acronym and phrase “PMA.” Any book that is encouraging, inspiring and positive will do.

No matter how good your PMA might be, it takes constant attention. You eat every day, don’t you? Your attitude is like your body; it needs to be nourished. You need to feed it with good, healthy food—positive people, good books and an inspiring environment. Just like you go to work every day, you need to go to work on yourself every day. If you do, you’ll build and maintain a Positive Mental Attitude.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Angier is founder and CIO (Chief Inspiration Officer) of SuccessNet--a support network helping people and businesses grow and prosper. For a free subscription to "SuccessNet Strategies" along with you free copy of "10 Keys to Personal Effectiveness" go to http://SuccessNet.org