By: Emily Garbutt
We all know the classic explanation of positive thinking. You have a glass with a drink of your choice filled to the middle; do you say the glass is half-empty? Or half-full? When you explain positivity in this way, it sounds easy. Surely it can’t be so hard to think of everything in the same way as the above-mentioned example. Yet, when you are in the midst of life struggles, sometimes you don’t even realize you are being negative. You might tell yourself you are being realistic, truthful, analytical.
When your company, startup, or project is facing challenges, and you think, “This is hopeless, the product is no good”, are you thinking realistically or negatively? You probably tell yourself the former.
At these times, when you are in the midst of adversity, you need positivity in your life more than ever. Yet these are the moments when practicing positivity can present the greatest challenge.
In general, when considering self-improvement and our personal growth, we understand learning positive thinking is important. Yet, how much concrete down-to-earth advice is available? There are lots of positivity quotes and theoretical ideas available online. But theory can easily fall by the wayside once we face a challenge.
If you are seeking some practical methods to learn how to practice and nurture positivity in life, then look no further.
#1. Say what you're thinking out loud
This might sound silly, but negative thoughts gain power when they are left unspoken. We often wrestle with our negativity in silence.
For example, imagine you’ve been pitching your startup idea to investors and you have not managed to secure the funds you wanted. You quite naturally feel disappointed and doubts creep in. After the rejection, you might begin to question your idea, your capabilities, and your dreams. If you did, you would be quite normal.
You might rationalize thoughts like, “My idea has no value”, “The product is flawed”, “I am not capable of running a startup.”
If you say those things silently in your head, they can seem quite realistic, truthful even. Furthermore, negative thoughts have a habit of running away with themselves. The good news is you can take control of what you are thinking. Now, try saying those sentences out loud.
Suddenly, the negativity stands out.
When you experience setbacks or failures even, it doesn’t necessarily mean these kinds of thoughts are true or realistic. The world is complex, as are the reasons things go wrong. Sometimes, the reason may be as simple as bad timing and nothing to do with you, your idea, or the product.
Use this quick test to separate constructive realism from negativity:
- Say your thoughts out loud
- Then ask, “Does this statement help me?”
If the statement has something positive in it, then it will be helpful.
Try to say something like this instead:
“My product is not selling as well as I want. I need to reassess our marketing plan / analyze our reviews / take the product back to the testing stage.”
You can see that these statements are helpful. They are positive and constructive because you are not making all-encompassing damning statements that simply chip away at your inner morale.
If the answer is “no”, then you have a negative thought on your hands. Anytime you get the “no” result on the test, tell yourself to STOP and REDIRECT. You can do this out loud or silently. When you first start, saying it out loud is most effective.
If you suffer from a lot of negative thoughts, have a look at The University of Michigan’s introduction to stopping negative thoughts for more ideas to get them under control.
#2. Get a second opinion
Sometimes, getting a second opinion can help you to separate your negative thoughts from realistic thoughts and turn your perspective into a positive one.
When you are in the midst of adversity, you can get swamped with internalized emotions, self-doubt, and negativity. Your personal growth can get stuck in a rut when you are in this frame of mind.
When you take some time out to seek a second opinion, you can gain a new perspective and reassess your situation from a positive point of view.
- Talk to someone who is neutral and not caught up in the problem.
- Look for someone knowledgeable. For example, if you are seeking investors, talk to someone who has successfully pitched to investors.
- Ask the person what they think you need to change or improve in order to achieve your goals.
- Test their statements; ask yourself, “Is this feedback helpful?”
- Keep an open mind – not everyone will think the same or suggest the same solutions. Listen and learn but keep a pinch of salt and come to your own conclusions.
The goal of this exercise is to help you to take a step outside your point of view and gain a better perspective on the challenges you are facing.
#3. Keep positive quotes posted around
Find some positive quotes, which speak to you personally. Then, write them out (by hand neatly) on some index cards (get creative with colored paper and pens if you like.) Post them in different places around the house and at your workspace, then read them whenever you pass by.
When you are training your mind to think positively, the act of handwriting helps your brain to better absorb the information you are feeding it. In the same way as when you write out notes at school, the act of writing helps you to retain the information.
Put your positive quotes in places where you spend time doing “mindless” tasks, like in the kitchen where you prepare food, on your mirror, or even in front of the restroom.
To keep your mind interested; make sure to change the cards positions around every now and then. Always stay on the lookout for new positive quotes to add to your collection.
When you do this, you build and reinforce positive thinking patterns in your mind. The more you use your mind in different ways to say or write positive things, then the better your mind will get at going down those routes, regardless of the circumstances.
- Write positive thinking quotes out by hand to further reinforce the statements
- Say them out loud as well as silently in your mind
- Change the positive quotes and their position around
Recent research on positive thinking, carried out in 2015, demonstrated when patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder visualized or verbalized something positive over the course of a month, their anxiety symptoms were reduced.
#4. Keep a daily planner
When you keep a daily planner, it can act as a positivity journal on one level. You can write positive statements and notes to yourself.
On another level, as you write down tasks you need to do and tick off what you have done, it will in itself help you to think positively about what you have been doing every day.
You will have a written record of all the tasks you have completed, and this can’t get clouded by negative thinking. The next time you say to yourself, “I haven’t got anything done all week and I’m exhausted”, you can have a look at your daily planner and see how much you actually did achieve.
Even if you didn’t get everything done that you wanted to, you can more easily look at the positive side. This is because you have a record of what you did, and you can better ground your thoughts in reality.
For example, you can adjust your statement to say something like this:
“I didn’t get all my tasks completed this week, but I did achieve x,y, and z, which is a lot.”
Furthermore, when you write out your to-do list, you can better break down large tasks, which seem daunting or impossible, into smaller doable tasks. This can help you think more positively about what you have yet to do.
Rather than thinking, “I have too much to do; I’m never going to get everything done,” you can adjust your statement to say something like this instead:
“ I have a lot to do, but if I follow my plan, I can get these tasks completed by x.” (insert day/date)
#5. Whatever happens, at the very least, you can learn something
No matter what problems you are facing, at the very least, you can train yourself to think of them as an opportunity to learn.
Even in the absolute worst circumstances, rather than thinking negative thoughts about yourself, your skills, your knowledge, your situation, your idea(s), ask yourself, “What can I learn here?”
Okay, the product bombed. What can you learn?
Okay, your pitch failed. What can you learn?
Okay, your sales are dropping. What can you learn?
Think of every set back as an opportunity to learn and then find a way to improve. Be patient; solutions don’t always present themselves right away. Once you can adjust your attitude, you may find your circumstances improve quickly. Not to mention how you feel about your experiences will change as you shift from a negative to a positive perspective.
Have a listen to this Entrepreneur.com podcast with Sam Sisakhiti as he talks about the 150 Venture Capital pitches he made straight, not once getting any interest, and how all this “failure” ended up as a valuable learning experience.
Your personal growth keeps you moving
As we move through life, building on our goals and our dreams, nurturing positive thinking can help us to keep going when the times get tough. Thinking positively can help us turn failures into learning experiences. However, when we encounter challenges, our positivity may try to desert us, and we need to practice positivity as much as we can before it will come naturally.
They say, “Practice makes perfect.” Whatever your circumstances, start your personal growth journey today.
Follow the 5 steps in this positivity article, and before you know it, you will become an unstoppable positivity machine.