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Positivity is practically a buzzword these days, with self-help aficionados and spiritual communities alike claiming to have the secrets to being more positive. But you already know that there is no secret. However, there is a difference between positivity for the sake of positivity and positivity that is genuine. Optimism that is inauthentic or strained does nothing for you, but you’re in a good place if your positive feelings toward life are rooted in awareness.
You don’t need to be naive or overly idealistic about life to have a positive mental attitude. In fact, this is no better than delusion. This is why it’s necessary to cultivate a realistic positive outlook. A healthy combination of idealism and realism will change your life in profound ways.
Once you have developed a realistic positive mental attitude, you will be able to set expectations that make sense for you and either meet or exceed them. You will feel a greater sense of peace and balance in your life, and you’ll forget why you ever bothered with being negative. Here are a few ways to cultivate a positive mental attitude that is realistic.
Stop Wasting Your Energy Worrying
What has worry ever done for you? Nothing but drain your energy and take up space in your brain. If you’re like most people, you have probably worried yourself senseless about something that ended up working out or at least not turning out as negatively as you feared.
But the mind just loves to wander. It can easily spiral a thought into fantastical daydreams or nightmarish scenarios, and it’s skilled at making mountains out of molehills. Worry is a natural response to stress or uncertainty, but you can actually change the way that your body and mind react to stress with practice. As Dale Carnegie outlines in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, stress can be a constructive tool that propels you forward or it can be a dangerous pitfall into worry, self-doubt, and misery—what you choose to do with stress is up to you.
Commit to pulling yourself off the brink of spiraling the next time you feel yourself having a negative knee-jerk reaction to stress. Pour more of your energy into imagining all the things that can go right rather than all the ways that something might go wrong. You don’t need to feel positive all the time, but a mental attitude that’s predisposed to worrying and overthinking will quickly wear you out and make you believe things about life and yourself that simply aren’t true.
When it comes to worrying, less is more. Dare to believe more often that things might actually work out and just wait and see what happens.
Take Control Over Your Circumstances
Fear and uncertainty can prevent us from being positive because it can feel like there’s no room for optimism. But even when you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or angry, there is room for positivity. If you can project fear, you can project positivity too. Take control over not only what happens to you but how you perceive it.
Let’s imagine, for example, that you are being considered for the promotion of your dreams. Are you going to just hope for the best or do whatever it takes to convince your boss that you’re the best candidate for the position? You’re obviously going to take control of the situation and give it your best shot, so what’s keeping you from taking control of your mindset?
Your life circumstances are under your control, even when it doesn’t feel like it. If you don’t like something, change it. If you want something, go get it. Anything is within your reach if you have the motivation to go after it. Positivity without purpose is useless, but pair positivity with intentional action and you’ll go far.
Embrace the Uncomfortable
Life is like a coin. Sometimes you flip it hoping for heads and you get tails, and sometimes you get exactly what you want on the first try. Without both “good” and “bad” experiences, life would have no meaning. When we don’t get what we want, we are reminded of how fortunate we are when we do. We are conditioned to perceive setbacks and failures as negative, but this is far from the case. There isn’t even such a thing as bad—it’s all in your head.
To quote Shakespeare, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” So change your mindset. Teach your mind to crave discomfort and do its best work when it’s up against a wall. When one door closes, another opens.
There is no growth without discomfort, and often we think bad things are happening to us when it’s really just growing pains. Failing is uncomfortable, but failure is as temporary as you choose to make it. Will you get back up after a fall or lie around feeling sorry for yourself? Will you give up when the going gets tough or puff out your chest and get going?
Every time you feel pushed or challenged is an opportunity to feel more positive than you ever have before. Together, your positivity and resilience get you through life’s most difficult, uncomfortable, and powerful moments. And even when you fail, know that you’ll always land on your feet and get to work turning that blank slate into whatever you want it to be.
Genuine positivity means that you’re realistic about life’s ups and downs, safe in the knowledge that you can navigate any of them. True positivity comes with awareness, not denial. Work to see the big picture with clear eyes and believe that anything is possible.