Sometimes in our culture, positivity gets a bad rap. Somewhere along the way we started equating positivity with naiveté, as if the only way to be perceived as intelligent, experienced, or successful, is to be a cynical or pessimistic person.
Here’s the thing though: That type of thinking is complete nonsense!
In fact, success and happiness are not mutually exclusive. What if I told you that positivity could be the wellspring from which all of your strength lies. That despite modern perceptions of positivity, it is actually far more likely you’ll get ahead if you cultivate optimistic habits in your life.
So you can either let someone else tell you the type of story you need to write for yourself--from a place of cynicism and negativity--or you can draw from the words of author Ryan Holiday when he says:
“There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”
In this way, we can choose frame our decisions, outlook, and overall disposition from a place of positivity. It is wholeheartedly our choice!
Now, it is a fact that human beings have learned to looked at the world through negativity biases for millenia now. And this tendency towards negativity has a lot to do with the anatomy of our brains--which will process a negative input much quicker than a positive one due to the part of the brain called the amygdala (that famous fight-or-flight area).
But if we know that we’re hard-wired to be negative, we can fight against it.
The more we know this fact about ourselves and pay attention to our tendency towards negativity, the more we can stop and deliberately work to turn our thoughts positive.
As is suggested by the best-selling book The Secret, there’s a lot of good that can come from actively focusing your thoughts on a positive outcome, instead of dwelling on the negatives that occur.
“There is no such thing as a hopeless situation. Every single circumstances of your life can change!” - Rhonda Byrne (The Secret)
Instead of letting the negatives take over your brain and override your decision-making process, confidence, and ambitions, you can drastically improve the quality of your life by balancing the negatives with the far more powerful positives!
If we let our natural tendency towards negativity take over our brains, we run the risk of never really striving for greater things.
Embarrassment is a negative emotion; failure has very negative connotations that can prevent us from even trying in the first place; fear is a very negative sensation. The list goes on!
When considering how negativity prevents us from knowing our full potential, there’s an apt quote to remember:
“Someone once told me the definition of hell; on your last day on earth, the person you could have become will meet the person you became.”
Because we are often chronically self-critical and many of us suffer from impostor syndrome, we all run the risk of continually meeting the person we could have become in life. We need to prevent this from happening by actively cultivating positivity in our professional and personal lives.
Here are a few simple tips for doing so.
To truly practice positivity in your life, there are many things you can do. Some of the most crucial are the following:
1. Frame negative emotions like fear, failure, embarrassment, and stress, in a positive way. This means that if we are afraid about a particular life decision, it’s more than likely just our brain activating its self-defense system. That’s all. Remember that if you are nervous, it just means that you care. So, if you can learn to welcome uncomfortable feelings as a necessary step towards succeeding, than you will ultimately be a much more positive person.
2. Acknowledge and recognize others. There’s nothing like a little gratitude and praise to help your team members, friends, or spouse, feel a positive emotion. And through this habit you can start to experience life in a much more positive light because. Focus on the positives and you’ll become positive.
3. Remember the words of Napoleon Hill: “Every adversity, every failure, every heartbreak, carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” Your failures do not define you but are actually blessings in disguise.
4. Don’t let others bring you down. By standing on guard and choosing to be positive, even when everyone surrounding you is not, you are actively expressing a desire for positivity. Often times you can lead by example, and those around you will look to you for leadership and guidance.
With all of this said, you don’t have to embrace negativity to be a successful person. You don’t have to substitute being nice with working hard. And you can have a positive outlook on life and be wildly more successful than those who don’t care for others’ wellbeing.
The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
The Reality of Impostor Syndrome: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/real-women/201809/the-reality-imposter-syndrome
Are You Afraid of Success?
A fear of success might sound counterintuitive, but it’s very common, and it doesn’t have to consume your life.
It’s simple. A lot of us are qualified, capable, and driven enough to keep learning and furthering our skills, but a fear of the unknown paralyzes us whenever opportunities present themselves.
Maybe your reasons for not starting a business or pursuing a career path that interests you are completely justified though.
It could be that you have worked really hard at striking a healthy balance between work and time with family, and a new position threatens to take that away from you.
Or maybe you are just unsure of the next move to make. That’s pretty normal after all.
This is where you need to be really honest with yourself and ask the hard questions like:
Is my decision not to pursue my passion in [insert job title here] the result of fear in one of its many forms?
Am I willing to be miserable in the known versus momentarily terrified in the unknown?
Am I afraid that this position will show me how little I actually know about my profession?
Am I afraid of working hard? I mean, to be successful one has to work hard after all.
The point is this: be extremely honest with yourself and ask the questions that you need to ask to break yourself out of self-deception mode.
Oh yeah, and one more thing...quit trying to control what you can’t control, already!
Don’t Stress About What You Can’t Control
First of all, let’s assume your passion in life is something that you can’t really control. You have interests and passions that were cultivated by myriad genetic and environmental factors, and you couldn’t turn those interests off if you wanted to (why would you want to!?)
In that sense, why fight them? Why purposefully move away from what you love to do? Why not follow that stream and see where it takes you?
Yes, financial reasons. Yes, circumstances and responsibilities and family and friends...those are all extremely valid things to consider.
But let’s say you have decided you’re miserable where you’re at. You are financially stable enough and ready to move. Yet you are too terrified to surrender to the unknown because it makes you uncomfortable...it’s something that you can’t control.
My advice is to let yourself relinquish control. Stop trying to have a neat explanation and answer to every little outcome and just follow your passion. Use your passion as an example, a guiding light that you can lean on whenever you’re terrified and life throws obstacles your way.
Once you’re ready and have the means, there’s no excuse. It takes practice and courage on a continual basis, but you’ll eventually get comfortable with not being in control.
Beating Impostor Syndrome
Impostor syndrome is that voice in your head telling you that you aren’t good enough for a promotion or position. Or that at any moment someone is going to stand up at a meeting and point to you, loudly proclaiming that you have been pretending to work since day one and that you don’t belong with the organization.
Paradoxically, it is often the smartest, most talented people who suffer from impostor syndrome.
This doesn’t meant that you aren’t capable or talented if you don’t suffer from impostor syndrome though! Chances are you have learned the self-confidence and perspective needed to quiet the harmful inner-monologue that often runs rampant with negativity.
But for those who are still having a hard time quieting the self-doubt, just recognize it and understand that you hold yourself to a very high standard. This makes you better at your job but also means you are harsh towards yourself.
Keep the intensity that makes you such a hard worker, but at the same time, go easy on yourself and trust that you’re qualified to do what you do. A lot of people are faking it until they make it anyways! Cut yourself some slack.
And speaking of hard work. You really do need to work hard to be successful. And if the prospect of working intensely scares you, that is a very real reason why you are afraid to succeed. Because success often equates to hard work.
Hard Work: Get Used to It!
Yes, even your favorite activity in the world will feel like work. That quote about finding what you love to do and never working a day in your life is a nice sentiment, but not quite correct.
And that’s completely fine!
But telling yourself that one day you’ll find the time to get around to writing that novel or owning your own business is just you avoiding what you could have already started yesterday (most likely at least!).
Most people are just afraid of working hard. Don't’ be that person!
When it comes to your future, you need to invest the time and effort into it, whenever you have the free time to give (which is more often than you might be aware).
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