11 Oct Positively Fine
Oct. 11, 2019
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As we know, bland positive thinking doesn’t work.
For example, telling someone who lost his job to “BE POSITIVE!” might get you punched in the neck.
And the puncher would have a case.
Being positive when the brain knows the circumstances clearly aren’t won’t change a thing.
Plus, being exclusively positive requires constant replenishment. Which is exhausting.
Furthermore, if the positive mantras peter out or if the positive mantras aren’t sufficient in the face of unexpected bad news, you could fall into a deep depression.
So, if tunnel-visioned positive thinking doesn’t work, what should we do?
Be sad all the time?
There’s something in between.
Fabricated happiness doesn’t work and relentless negativity doesn’t work. They both, of course, end up in the same sad place.
But we can control our judgments.
We can’t change the events that happen to us. But we can change how we interpret them.
Let’s look at an first example.
Our friend Bobby loses his job.
Telling himself to “turn that frown upside down!” won’t make him okay. The silly phrase and real life are in disagreement.
But telling himself, “This is awful and I’m never going to get another job” won’t help either. Only seeing the worst leads to prolonged sadness.
Ask the very important question: How much trouble am I in right now, right this very moment?
We’re almost always in less trouble in our immediate reality than our thoughts lead us to believe. We get depressed because we extrapolate potentially negative events far out into the future. We’re sad now because of what might happen down the line.
Right now, we’re almost always fine. Bobby may have some funds saved up. He may have a severance package. He may have low expenses because he paid off his car. He may have a partner that makes enough money to support both of them for the next few months.
And I’m sure he has enough money to go get a meal and have a roof over his head when he sleeps that night.
The immediate reality is not that bad. Being negative in this case is just as bad as being blindly positive. Neither represents the truth.
Once we answer the question of what our now looks like, we can then go one step further. We can make a reasonable judgment about a good thing that can happen next.
Going back to Bobby, he admits he’s not in trouble right now, so he relaxes for a second. Then he realizes that the job has been holding him back for a while. Or that he honestly would prefer living somewhere else. Or that he’s been ignoring a career in something else he likes more because the regular paycheck had made him lazy.
All of those judgments are true. Far more true than worrying about never getting a job again.
He’s taken a negative event and planted the seeds for something very positive. The path from unemployed to deeply fulfilled is actually possible. Maybe even probable.
How about a quick sports example?
You’re playing a big final and you’re serving for the match. But suddenly you’re down love-40.
Saying, “I can do it!” is not a great answer. First, nerves will probably tell you you’re lying. Plus, you may be tired from the battle. You may not have the energy for relentless cheeriness.
And if you say “I can do it!” and don’t do it…chances are your chances just dropped to zero .
Of course, saying, “I always lose matches like these,” won’t work either. Baseless positivity and pessimistic negativity both lead to losing.
But if you look at how much trouble you’re in right now, a good outcome becomes clearer.
Yes, you’re down break points, but you’re also up a set. If you lose serve here, yes, it stinks, but the match is still up for grabs. In fact, you’re still the favorite.
And even if you do drop serve, there’s a strong chance your opponent will be so happy to still be alive that he’ll lose concentration. There might be a great chance to break right back.
And breaking after being broken might just be final nail in his coffin.
There’s almost always a way out.
We just have to stay in the now and not give in to either extreme of the positive/negative spectrum.
Studies show, that’s how terrible turns into fantastic.
My book is called The Inevitability of Becoming Rich, and you can find that here.