I'm going to begin on a positive note, and with a couple of rather bold statements.
Each and every one of us possesses a positive attitude somewhere inside us. If you're not tapping into your positive attitude right now, and don't know where it's hiding, this article is going to help you find it! And, let me reassure you right away, I'm not simply going to twitter on about putting a brave face on adversity and smiling through the pain. Telling yourself, over and over, that "I'm OK" is pretty meaningless if you're not. I'll leave those sorts of recommendations to others, but not before I point out why they usually do more harm than good.
In my view, a positive attitude is not much use when it's applied like make-up, or like paint over a fragile eggshell. A positive attitude is something deep down inside you - in the core of your being - and it's there to be used, actively and wisely, to make your life better.
If you've looked around much on the Internet, you'll know that there is a "wealth" of advice about the power of positive thinking. But I find myself feeling compelled to enclose "wealth" in inverted commas, because a lot of it is worthless (not all of it, of course) and some of it is rubbish!
Isn't "rubbish" being a bit harsh? I have to confess, I did reflect on whether this statement was overly aggressive. I could have been more reticent and called it "questionable" or something like that. But I wanted to convey to you my personal frustration with any philosophy that is based on an avoidance of the truth. And I wanted to get your attention, because this is a critical statement: Pretending something isn't happening does not make your life better!
Let's look at this in a bit more detail... To clear the way for discussing a positive attitude that works, let's take a quick look at some recommended "positive thinking" that is flawed. You can find variations on each of these bullet-points all over the Internet, and you may even have heard one or two of them from your friends and others who would presume to have your best interests at heart.
A better way
I used to work for a man who would habitually classify people as "glass half-full" or "glass half-empty" types, according to how they would supposedly describe identical volumes of water. I'm sure you know how the "logic" runs: the person seeing a half-full glass sees an opportunity ahead, whereas the other is a defeatist who sees resources draining away to nothing. This always struck me as rather nonsensical. The truth is, you'd be perfectly correct in describing the situation either way, and the imagined vessel in the metaphor gives no clue as to whether you are likely to have more or less water in the future.
A person with a genuinely positive attitude looks beyond the "snapshot" situation, because he or she is always striving to bring the best out of whatever is going on in the real world. A genuinely positive attitude requires some understanding of a situation, so that informed choices can be made that give the best chance of a good outcome.
To have a positive attitude you first have to possess positive qualities that you can use effectively and in various ways depending on the circumstances in which you find yourself. The great news is that you already have these qualities, because they're a part of our basic human nature.
Using these qualities comes more naturally to some than others. That's partly because we're all unique and partly because our individual circumstances may have influenced (positively or negatively) our belief in our ability to affect our own lives. Certainly, if your self-esteem is low it is much harder to focus on the positive qualities that you possess, but help is at hand and that's one of the reasons I run "Self-esteem 4 Women"!
A positive attitude can become a natural habit for you, even if you don't consider that you've ever had a positive attitude in the past. You can learn how to achieve this, not by some sort of "act of faith" like repeating a positive affirmation over and over, but by taking practical steps in the real world.
Quite simply, you need to cultivate a number of your qualities, bit by bit, day by day, and there's help at hand if you need some "how to" advice. Here are five qualities I'd like to highlight for you. I chose these in particular because they each contribute significantly to a positive attitude and they're easy for you to remember because they all begin with a "C"!
Curiosity is what motivates us to find out about things, and if we find out about things we can make better decisions because those decisions have a sound foundation. Things usually become less frightening if we begin to understand them better, so allow and encourage your curiosity to let you try new approaches.
We all have an imagination, and we can all put it to good effect in examining possible ways to bring about an improvement in our lives. If thinking about the future frightens you, it's likely that your imagination habitually looks for negative possibilities. You can re-train it to look for positives instead. Just start with some gentle experimentation, and find opportunities to say things like "I have an idea...", "what if we...", or even "erm... there must be a better way, so let's look for it together".
If we allow our fears to overwhelm our desires then we can find ourselves freezing to inactivity while mentally running away, both of which lower our confidence and diminish our self-esteem. Courage is the key to overriding those fears and living life to the full, and the more you use it the easier it gets to use it again because you accumulate evidence to suggest using your courage is the right thing to do. Living in fear is often worse than a painful consequence that may arise from taking a calculated risk. When you're used to using your courage you can actually find that the amount of pleasure you experience rises, even if you occasionally fail.
Here's a simple example: if you're so scared of a visit to the dentist that you put it off until your mouth is in agony then you might live through months of fear, apprehension and foreboding, and still end up with lots of pain at the end. Whereas, if you kept a regular dental appointment, all you'd have to endure is a little nervous anxiety on the day. Tapping into your courage is the same as tapping into a source of pleasure, so have a go today - you won't regret it.
I chose this example because I was well into my adult years here in the UK before I discovered that not all trips to the dentist needed to be painful. Actually, I don't think it was courage that was my problem, but if I had used some curiosity and creativity at an earlier age, I might have decided to try to locate a more competent dentist!
Few things can bring about positive change more quickly than good communication. If you struggle to put your own ideas and feelings into words, or you sometimes suffer from misunderstandings, then we can help. A positive attitude can be infectious, and it carries most readily through conversation. So try to find opportunities to speak with other people whom you think have a positive attitude, and you'll find it boosts your own!
If you've got this far in this article, you've shown some commitment to making things better for yourself. Now you need to decide whether to go further and make real, sustainable improvements in your life by putting into practice what we've talked about here. Commitment can sound like a scary word, but it is actually your powerful ally. It will liberate you from feelings of self-doubt, because it will help you to bounce back, time after time on your road to improvement.
So, make some commitments now. Get off the pity-pot if you're on it, DO something actively to boost your self-esteem, and tap into that positive attitude deep down inside you by developing the core qualities I've listed above.