Do you look at glass half-full people and wonder how they do it? Perhaps you just think they are delusional and reality will eventually settle in. There is probably no one more irksome than the coworker that is way too cheery for a Monday morning. So what’s their secret? How do you build a positive attitude?
This may not be the first time in your life that you have tried to change your attitude for the better. If that’s the case, you may be expecting me to talk about positive affirmations or the Law of Attraction. I will not be talking about those things. I’m not saying they are not effective or helpful because they are, but they are just tools for you to use along your journey.
The thing that has helped me out most in regards to having a positive attitude has been a complete change in perspective. Instead of looking at most things as good and bad, I leave out the judgment of being good or bad, positive or negative. This is much easier said than done, because these judgments lie mostly in our subconscious which makes them more or less immediate.
For example, I am taking my friend to see a spinal surgeon today to discuss options to fix his fused vertebrae. The first thing he said to me was, “I’m not looking forward to today.” That attitude will influence his entire day. He has already judged today as being a bad day. I suggested that he look at the appointment as an opportunity to gather information. This information will be helpful to determine what steps he should take in the future to move towards better health. Without this information, it could eventually turn into a circumstance that is not correctable.
Reserve Judgment Until All the Facts Have Been Analyzed
There is a common saying that hindsight is 20/20. There have been numerous instances that I was anxious or upset because of something I perceived as tragic occurred in my life. Looking back at these now I can see how all of them helped me to get to the very spot I am supposed to be today.
Of course I still get anxious and judge circumstances, but now I am able to use these moments to free myself of these limiting beliefs. By analyzing the current situation and reminding myself of the numerous instances that turned out much better than expected, I am able to reframe my perspective. I know that it doesn’t help me in any way to judge the situation without gathering all of the facts.
For each situation, there are a lot of facts to look at, including those that you will not even know about until well after the situation has come and gone. There are going to be external and internal facts that you need to put together. External facts must be able to be proven. Emotion needs to be separated from the cold hard facts. Emotions are still very much part of the whole picture, but need to be separated in order to determine if emotion is changing the meaning of physical facts.
An example would be losing your job. There are a lot of emotions swirling around when you lose your job suddenly and each of those emotions affect how you are looking at the situation. For many this is going to cause severe anxiety and a gloomy picture of the future might be forming in their mind. The following is going to be the process I use to sort my mind.
The first thing I do is to inventory all of the facts that I know and edit out any emotion. In the loss of a job example, I would acknowledge that I do not have any income at the moment. I would look at how much money I have currently, and revisit my budget to make sure I know how much I am currently spending monthly. I know from past experience that I have the ability to search for and obtain a new job.
Having the facts written down or typed out, I am now ready to look at the emotions. I noticed that I have been worried about the future and my stomach is swirly and pushing and pulling. Now I compare this emotion to the facts. The future that I am worrying about is unknown. I’m worried because my expectation of the future is bleak. I know that the worst-case scenario is improbable, but I continue to entertain the thought about the scenario, which continues the feeling of anxiety.
The picture above is how I would describe my worst-case scenario thinking visually. The meteorite would represent my vision of the future and the rest of the picture would be just the facts.
I wish here were a switch that could just be flipped to turn that thought off, but since there isn’t I needed to develop a method to stop dwelling on it. I take my list of facts and add a section with 2 columns. The left column contains unhelpful thoughts and the right column contains a “new” thought that I intend to replace the unhelpful 1 with. I would write, “I continue to envision a future that involves me losing everything and being homeless because I lost my job.” My reframed thought would say, “My future is uncertain because I lost my job, but I will put in my best effort to find a new one.”
I have found that just trying to convince myself that the worst-case scenario is not going to happen does not stop the thought from popping in to your mind. By creating an alternative thought, I am able to replace the doom and gloom thought with the more realistic thought. We are going to contemplate the future. That is a given. Does it serve us better to be hopefully realistic about the future or to just daydream about the worst you can conjure up?
Practice and Patience
Like most of the self-empowerment work I discuss, this one is no different. It is going to take practice to become more proficient at it. It is going to take patience while you practice. You can get a simple worksheet sheet I use for this here: Reframing Worksheet
I like to work with 2 or 3 of these worksheets at a time. Anytime I observe a new emotion that uncovers a deep-seated limiting belief I make sure I go through this worksheet. I keep it active for at least a month, but it can be a lot longer. I set a time aside daily to review them. I finally throw them away with a ritual when I am confident that I have changed the automatic thoughts to the more constructive thoughts. I express gratitude that the thoughts have helped me get to where I am and release it as its usefulness has run its course.
Everything I have discussed so far is to help you build a stronger foundation for your overall attitude. By reserving judgment, the need to “fake it til you make it” is not necessary to maintain a positive attitude. It’s more about removing the automatic thoughts that manifest as negative or unhelpful.
At this point, when you want to take your life to the next level, you can begin using “positive attitude” tools like affirmations. With a lot of the mental blocks out of the way, you may find these tools to be highly effective. Even if you tried them in the past and did not see results, I encourage you to give them another try now that you have your perspective changed around.
If you have questions or comments, please drop me a note below.