Is positive thinking silly or science? This is what I wondered when I first started getting interested in Psychology way back in my twenties.
I remember people talking about self-fulfilling prophecies and couldn’t help but notice the amount of times that this theory seemed to be borne out. I became curious. I wanted to know if there was any actual science behind the statements and theories that I was hearing.
I did some digging, some research of my own, and some observations. This is what I found out…
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Have you ever noticed that there are some people who always look for the positives in life, and there are those who always seem to point out the negatives? I have noticed that negative people aren’t always in the worst situation in life either. Often they are far better off than the positive people. Why then are they so glum?
It turns out that they are programmed to be this way. In fact, we all are. We are programmed for negative bias. We are more attuned to things that go wrong in the world than the things that go right. Just look at the news if you don’t believe me. How much of it is good news?
If all you had to go on in life was what CNN or Sky or BBC news told you, you would think the world was a terrible place. There is nothing but doom and gloom, death and destruction everywhere you look.
It would have you believe that there is very little in the way of good deeds going on and pretty much no compassion or empathy with those who are worse off than we apparently are. But we know that this is not the reality of the world. Yes there are some bad things happening but there are far more good things happening and yet we don’t report them, we choose not to focus on these good things.
A long time ago I read a book by Napoleon Hill called Think and Grow Rich. It was amazing and it taught me the power of positive thinking. He explained how our mind works, and how we can change the outcome of our lives by focusing on what we want to achieve.
It was a game changer for me. From the moment I put the book down my life began to change for the better. If you want to read it for yourself, and I would thoroughly recommend it, here’s a link to where you can get a copy.
Okay, so it’s title is about getting rich, but in actual fact it is more about the power of the mind, and more specifically, the power of positive thinking. In other words, you get what you focus on, so make sure you are focusing on what you want and not what you don’t want.
The reason some people find it hard to achieve this positive state of mind is that they don’t know they can. They haven’t read the books I’ve read, they haven’t studied psychology like I have. They haven’t a clue that their lives could be turned around in the blink of an eye.
Once you know that something is possible, you are more likely to believe in it, and you are more likely to have a go yourself. I hope that this post (and Napoleon Hill) will prove to you that it is indeed possible to change your mindset.
Way back in the days when we weren’t at the top of the food chain, we had to be careful when were out and about. We needed to make sure that we weren’t eaten so that we could carry on providing for our offspring and communities. We needed to stay alive long enough to pass on our amazing genes so that the species carried on.
If all we saw while we were out were pretty flowers, fluffy clouds and cute little fury animals we probably wouldn’t have survived for very long.
To keep us safe, and uneaten, we developed an internal alarm system. If you walked along and saw a long thin thing on the ground you could think it was a stick or you could think it was a snake. If you thought it was a snake and it turned out to be a stick there would be no harm done. However, if you thought it was a stick and it turned out to be a snake you would probably get bitten as you were not prepared for its attack.
This, in essence, is negative bias. Thinking the worst was a survival mechanism. It helped to prepare us for the world around us. But things have changed. At least our environment has. We are no longer in fear of predation. We no longer have to be on the lookout for something that wants us for supper.
Unfortunately our brains have not evolved as quickly as our environment has. Our brains still think we live in the stone age. Our brains are still helping to keep us safe by making us think the worst in every situation.
To some extent it still works. By having a negative bias we are still protected from harm even in today’s environment. We are wary of strangers. We look before we cross the road. We read the dosage advice on tablets and medicine. We are constantly aware of the dangers that out world presents.
Changing outlook is as simple as changing our minds. We must choose to see the positives in life and focus more on those. We need to acknowledge that there are bad things, but we need to see the world for what it really is and not what it is portrayed to be.
We need to re-programme our brains so that they are not focusing solely on negative aspects of our life. This can be done by some very simple exercises. Remember, you have lived a long time with your mindset and it won’t want to be changed in a hurry. You will need to take your time and have patience.
The first thing you can do is to acknowledge good things that happen in your day. Stop for a minute or 2 and really think about them and appreciate them. It might only be something silly like someone letting you out of a busy junction. Still, it was a kind gesture and should be acknowledged.
Look around for things that make you smile. It might be the clouds, the rain, the sunshine, lambs in the field, the feel of your favourite material or the warmth of a fire. These are all wonderful things, nice things, good things, but when was the last time you gave them a seconds thought.
As with everything else we learn, the more you practice this, the better at it you will get. You will start to notice the good things in life more and more. You will then be able to start working on your mindset as it will now believe that the world is actually not such a bad place after all.
Napoleon’s book really brought it home to me how true this is. I remember a passage in there about poor people. He says that wanting to be rich is not detracting from the needs of the poor. He reminds us of the amount of aid, aid workers, money, shelters, refugee camps, food banks etc that there are for the poor. There is this massive focus on helping the poor. And yet there are still poor people in the world. Why? Because we are focussing on them being poor rather than focussing on how to make them richer.
I think that this was my light-bulb moment. This was when I thought sh*t, yeah he’s so right. I had never thought about it like that before. Maybe if we shifted the focus the problem would go away?
Although I can’t do very much about the huge poverty problem in the world, I thought at least I could do something about my own life. I could perhaps focus on more positive aspects of it and focus more on what I want to bring into my life and focus less on the things I don’t want.
I wanted to learn more. I was fascinated with the prospect of being able to manifest whatever I wanted (or needed) into my life. I started searching for other information and that is when I first discovered Anthony Robbins.
I read his book Awaken the Giant Within. It is packed full of scientifically proven methods that enhance what Napoleon Hill had said. There’s a link to that one too if you want to grab a copy.
Again, it changed everything I thought I knew about myself and my life. I had naturally presumed (because I had been told by my parents, teachers and peers) that my life would take a certain path. I never, not once, thought to challenge that belief. At least not until I read Tony’s book.
I think that just finding this book was proof of how this works. I was focussed on changing my life. This meant that I was looking around for something or someone to help me. I came across this book not by accident but by design. It was the result of the actions that I took.
Taking massive action is what Tony is all about and it was he who taught me this:
We all have potential. But for us to use our potential we need to take action. For us to take action we need first to believe that we will get the results we desire. If we get the results we desire from the action we took, this will increase our belief in ourselves which in turn will drive us to use more of our potential.
I was so blown away by the simplicity of this notion that I created this little diagram, and I have it on my office wall in front of me every day. It reminds me how important taking action is.
What do you think now? I know what I think. There is so much science to back up the power of positive thinking that it’s impossible to ignore. It seems we are born with a bias towards negativity but with a little practice we can become positive thinkers and change our mindset from one of doom and gloom to one of happiness and abundance.
Why not try out my little exercises for yourself. You will start to notice the difference in your life almost immediately. Tiny little changes like acknowledging all the good things that happen each day will make the huge difference to your mindset eventually.
Just remember this…
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