Hello everybody, welcome to episode 89 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and today we’re going to talk a bit about changing negative thinking patterns to be a little more positive. That may sound flowery to some of you, but I promise there’s some structure to it. So let’s take a look at a very introspective question we received, and see what we can do to help out…
QUESTION: “People always tell me I’m very pessimistic about things. I’ve heard this from loved ones for a long time, and I’ve begun to hear it at work now too. I tell them I don’t do it on purpose, I really don’t. I guess I don’t realize when I’m doing it. I call it being realistic and is that such a bad thing? I think I’m positive enough when being positive is the right thing to do. Otherwise, I feel like I’m lying to myself and others and it’s in everyone’s best interest to be a realist. Still, I’m starting to feel like people are distancing themselves from me here and there and it seems to be the people who tell me I’m thinking negatively. I guess what I’m asking is shouldn’t I continue to be me? I like these people, but it feels like lying if I start changing the way I think just to make them happy.”
Reframe Your Idea of Positive Thinking
All right, that’s a good question! I love the end especially because it sorta handcuffs me, doesn’t it?
You know we talk so much on here about bringing your truest self to your interactions so as to expedite the process of attracting the right, like minded people and dismissing those that maybe aren’t as compatible. You’re right, you should continue to be you and forcing some sort of change or selling out to appease others is not healthy and will only cause friction to come back down the road. But, hopefully we’re all humble enough to admit that sometimes change is good for us the changes others would like to see from us would actually be great for our overall wellbeing.
Whether or not you feel that’s the case for you, I think today our time would be best spent to reframe your idea of positive thinking, realistic thinking, pessimistic thinking, and so on.
I do think there’s a piece of the puzzle you’re missing so I’ll at least share my perspective on these things for you, and should you find yourself changing organically and seeing your relationships benefit because of it, then wonderful. If you like what I have to say, maybe you can at least try it on for size for a bit to test it out a little.
Make Room for Positivity and Negativity
I’ve talked a bit before about positive thinking being done wrong a lot of the time. I had one video called Are You Positive About Positive Thinking and another one called Get Real, both of which you can find on gregaudino.com.
Basically, the faith surrounding the idea of thinking positive is sorta fading and being seen as a hippy fad that ignores the realities of the world. Maybe the way it used to be preached, that’s true. But that really puts positive thinking in a box, and it’s unfair.
If you’re going to be realistic about things, you have to make room for positivity as much as you make room for negativity. Reality should not be synonymous with negativity, and that’s how it’s often portrayed. This kind of logic comes from misinformed people that have not learned how to properly cope with their problems and continue to see the world from the lens of their own troubles. Reality is vast and balanced – positivity and negativity are both there. Good things happen and bad things happen. Being a true realist requires the acknowledgement for either of these.
Negativity: A Front for Positivity?
And for the people I just mentioned who drag positivity down and recognize it as a front for impending negativity, it’s just as easy to lift negativity up and recognize it as a front for positivity – and that’s much more empowering to me. Hear me out:
There’s a great book called The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander.
On one page, they draw up cartoony images that represent two ways of thinking. One is downward spiral thinking. It starts with a circle and that circle begins to unravel going down and down and down. The thought equivalent would be “The reality is I have no friends. No one likes me and that’s that.” It’s acceptance, but it’s bad and uneducated acceptance. Where do you go from there? Nowhere.
Meanwhile, the other image represents would I believe they call thinking with possibility, and that one kind of looks like a spider. There’s that same circle in the middle, but this time it has arrows pointing out of it, like legs pointing in all directions out of a spider’s torso. Or midsection. Whatever it is that spiders have. In this model, you take a true, realistic thought, and consider what you can make out of it.
So you might have the same reality, “The reality is I have no friends,” but now you take that and you see what alternatives you’re presented with. “The reality is I have no friends, so maybe I can reach out to old friends and see what they’re up to. Maybe I can ask others if I’ve done anything to offend them. Maybe I can join a new club.” You see the difference?
Positive Thinking is Not A Fairytale
Positive thinking is not some sort of fairy tale. It’s really just having the courage, awareness and endurance to think more extensively about negative situations. For some people it’s harder to do if they’ve repeatedly run into roadblocks and failed attempts at making the most out of possibilities that have presented themselves. The only option to maintain power and energy is to keep exploring, and rightfully identify missed possibilities and more fuel for learning.
To think negatively or in this false version of “realistically” that I fear you may have fallen into is to basically render yourself powerless. No one likes that for themselves and it’s tough for others to be around.
Sure, many of these types of thoughts are rooted in probability, and I understand the desire to bet on that. Is it likely that you’ll get the promotion over someone who has been at the company a decade longer?
Not really. The odds say you won’t get it. This is no reason to be weighed so far down by this thought that you stop trying, however, and find unique ways to separate yourself as a good worker.
Acceptance and Change
We talk a lot here about accepting things, and accepting things is good. It’s necessary. But acceptance and change can co-exist. You can accept your situation and choose to use it as a springboard for a change you’d like to make. Wanting change is not necessarily the equivalent of being ungrateful for what you currently have.
If you’re constantly weighed down by the things you feel are likely to happen, and choose not to work with them, you’re leaving yourself unprepared for when it may happen in the future. You’re excluding the possibility that something different can happen- by your hand or by the hand of nature.
Should you be a false you just to bring some people back into your life? Sounds gross that way. Instead, phrase it as, “Can I learn from the experience of having these people distance themselves and be open to the idea of a new way of thinking that’s beneficial primarily for me, and will perhaps make others want to be around me?”. Don’t think of this episode as a set of tools to manipulate people getting back into your life.
See it as a learning experience, a possibility, a leg of the spider torso that is your situation. If you put it to use, you’ll improve your relationship with yourself and an added bonus may be improving your relationship with others.
Thank you again for a wonderful question, sir. Please know that I’m not here to hijack anyone’s way of thinking. Although I like to think these episodes give all you guys some healthy perspectives, again, where anyone is at mentally or emotionally is perfectly sensible given how the past has transpired. It’s like I said – you can be accepting of this but still look for opportunities to grow.
And I’m just here to hopefully show you all some of those opportunities. And if you’d like some of your own, you can email a question to us, a question about something you’re struggling with.
Email them to advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We’ll take your questions there and get them answered for you on the show like we did today. Thanks for tuning in, everyone. We’re done for now so I will look forward to next episode, and I hope to see you there. Until then.