Positiveness means maintaining a state of positive expectations about people and situations, including a positive state of energy in your thoughts and emotional patterns. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking, was published over 40 years ago and it continues to sell well because it contains such a universal truth: the attitudes we hold help to shape the reality we experience.
Having a positive attitude isn’t something you just tack on to your old personality. That positiveness isn’t external like a new suit. It comes from deep within you. It has to or it would get wiped out with the first sign of a countervailing negative force. Positiveness is built on having your own positive life philosophy, on knowing what strengths you have, and on surrounding yourself with other sources of positiveness.
Many of us haven’t taken the time to consider what our own life philosophy is. If you haven’t, it doesn’t mean you don’t have one. You’re just operating from it unconsciously. By life philosophy, I mean, in simple terms, something like: I know I’m here to live up to my potential, make a contribution to society, and have a good time. Someone else might say: I’m here to serve God through being of service to my fellow human beings. Another philosophy might be: I’m here to show others that despite physical handicaps, you can lead a productive life and enjoy what you have.
Your personal philosophy can contain a vision such as: I’m here to save the planet from environmental destruction. Or, I’m a valuable member of a company that’s improving the way human beings communicate with one another. Your philosophy acknowledges who you are and what your purpose is for being alive. A truly positive philosophy, one that’s motivating, encompasses more than just you. Again, if you haven’t formulated one, your unconscious personal philosophy might sound something like: “I’m here to make it through the day, day after day, until I die.” Or, “I’m here to grab as much as I can of material possessions and thrills, because you only live once.” Having a well-articulated personal philosophy gives you a sense of purpose and it can help you get through rough times as well.
The second aspect of positiveness comes from knowing what strengths you have to build on to achieve that life philosophy. This involves taking a personal inventory about your talents and skills and also what you like to do. Ideally, we’d all like to make a living or spend our time doing what we love. The people who come the closest to that are those who actually take the time to figure out what they love doing. Then you figure out what skills you have and which ones you need and take a step closer to matching your ideal life’s work with the reality of your work life.
Having a positive life philosophy and knowing what strengths you have to build on will only get you so far. The third aspect of positiveness is surrounding yourself with other sources of the same energy. Occasionally we hear stories of people who struggle against great odds, prove the naysayers wrong and achieve the nearly impossible. They turn around a defunct company, they stop a highway from going through virgin land, they bring out a new product line in record time, or they beat the odds on terminal cancer.
By definition, they had to have had a positive philosophy to get them there and they had to know what they could do themselves and what they needed to get from others. Those stories rarely mention the fact that those people always had some other source of positive energy outside themselves that kept them going. Most probably it was other people they could rely on for support. Other people who were also positive about their ability to succeed. Perhaps they were also motivated by the example of some historical figure. Perhaps they drew strength from a spiritual source. The point is, they didn’t do it alone. They needed to be embedded in some sort of supportive, positive context that recharged them when their own batteries were running low.
Ideally, you surround yourself with the kinds of people who exhibit the positive traits we’re talking about. Avoid the two-dimensional folks who tend toward the negative traits we discussed earlier – the ones who see things as either/or, right or wrong, and don’t care to entertain any other thoughts. These people don’t help recharge, they drain you.
Ever since Dr. Peale introduced his formulation of positive thinking, we’ve been hearing the notion of “having a positive attitude” from every motivational book and speaker you could name. It’s not that we don’t need to be reminded once in a while to get out of a negativity rut. We do. But the way “positive attitude” is sometimes presented is like buying a new outfit or getting a haircut. Just go out and do it. How?
I hope in this brief discussion I’ve given you the beginnings of a deeper understanding of the How. It begins inside you with a positive life philosophy, a positive sense of who you are and what you bring to the table of life. And it requires that you embed yourself in a context of positiveness – to tap sources beyond yourself. If this trait isn’t already in your repertoire, then begin here. The trait of positiveness is so attractive, other people will be drawn to you.