In my first post on positive thinking, I explained some of the perils of positive thinking: how it can lead to a lack of empathy and awareness about racial and class issues, as well as a solipsistic belief that what you think is what you attract to your life. In my second post, I explained how positive thinking could be a useful tool when combined with others. In this final post, we’ll explore how to implement positive thinking and still stay grounded in the realities of life.
Implementing positive thinking involves recognizing how you’ll apply it to the situations you are in. You don’t want to be overly optimistic, with a pollyanna view of life, but if you recognize that positive thinking can help you find the silver lining in any situation and keep you open to possibilities, then it can serve a practical purpose. The key to staying grounded in positive thinking, as it applies to your situation, is to recognize the situation for what it is. Don’t go into a situation with the idea that you can just think it better with positive thoughts. Recognize the situation, whatever it is, and your role in it. Then ask yourself what you want to get out of the situation. What actions will you take to achieve that result? What do you need to do to keep yourself open to opportunity? What can you learn from the situation? These questions are positive questions that help you focus on what you can turn the situation onto.
Positive thinking becomes practical when we focus on applying it to our own situations. It’s important to remember that we can’t apply it to other peoples’ situations without their permission. The last thing someone wants is unsolicited advice. Often times when a person goes to offer advice to someone else, all it emphasizes is the negative of the situation because the person dealing with it doesn’t need advice. What they need is someone who can acknowledge where they are at and what they are dealing with. They need someone who can be present with them, without judgment and without trying to make things better. If the person wants advice, they’ll ask, but until that happens, no such advice should be offered.
Positive thinking won’t solve all your problems. In fact, it won’t solve any of them. What it teaches you to do is look at your problems differently. When used right, positive thinking can actually teach you flexibility in how you think about and resolve a situation. You just need to make sure that you aren’t buying into the pie-in-the sky-version of positive thinking. While your thoughts do have power and how you think about a situation can affect what you get out of it, its also important to remember that thoughts alone won’t attract change. Stay grounded and recognize what’s happening so that you can adjust to the situations in your life and learn more about other people and their experiences.