As I talked about “Why I love being an optimist” last week, I will tell you this week how I became a more optimistic person. In my opinion, there are three main aspects to become a more positively minded person:
- Have the right mindset
- Focus on thinking positively
- Do not downplay your successes
In the following, I am going to explain to you each of these points in more detail and enrich my recommendations with my own experience. With these words, let us dive into the first aspect.
Establish the right optimistic mindset
This little graph is a rudimentary representation of our thought process and how it should ideally be. Actually, there is no space for negative thinking when you adopt the right mindset. An optimist is convinced that s/he has the power and responsibility to take their destiny into their own hands. Optimists are not worried about the upcoming exam, product presentation in front of their boss or the first time they have to speak in front of a large audience. In fact, people with a positive mindset know that they are prepared for this moment, give their best and, therefore, have no reason to be negative about the situation.
In case you really cannot do something about your situation, the only way to deal with it is acceptance. When you want to be happier and you are often confronted with uncertain situations in which you feel powerless, the only way to manage them is to accept it. This will help you to make the best out of the situation despite the fact that you cannot do anything about it. Moreover, it helps you to obtain a positive mood since you can focus on positive aspects.
Failure is inevitable – it is part of humanity as oxygen is part of living beings
Another very important aspect to consider is that you should definitely come to terms with failure. Failure is inevitable. It is part of humanity as oxygen is part of living beings. Without failure, there is no evolution. You cannot learn to walk without falling and standing up again and again. You cannot write a great article without before you wrote a great number of bad sentences. You cannot achieve anything great in life without failing and trying again before.
Obviously, there are different “degrees” of failure. When you write your first exam in school, you might achieve a very good grade. When you try to play an instrument the first time, you might produce some very good tones and a nice melody. However, compared to what is possible after trying many more times, this first try can also be seen as a “failure” since there is always a lot of potentials to improve and compared to your 100th performance your first performance will always look worse. And this brings us to a very important lesson: Firstly, no matter how you define failure, the first try will never be as good as the 100th attempt. Secondly, you will eventually succeed, but before that, you cannot fail to try again and again.
Optimists are not afraid to fail, they embrace failure because they appreciate the lessons learned from failing and know that they will be successful sooner or later.
Focus on thinking positively
When you adopted the right mindset, you should start to concentrate on thinking positively. Begin by consciously identifying the type of inner dialogue or language you use daily. We all have one. What is yours?
Take a mental note about the negative words or phrases you use at the end of the day. For instance: I cannot, I do not know how, this is impossible, I always get this wrong, I am now able to do this, I will fail anyway, etc.
When you notice yourself saying something negative in your mind, you can stop your thought midstream by saying to yourself (or in your head), “Stop!”. Saying this aloud will be more powerful, and having to say it aloud will make you more aware of how many times you are stopping negative thoughts and where.
Now, dig deep down inside yourself and rethink your assumptions. Are you assuming something is a negative event when it is not necessary? Stop, rethink, and see if you can come up with a neutral or positive replacement. Example: Notice the difference between telling yourself you can’t handle something and asking yourself how you will handle something. Doesn’t the second thought feel more hopeful and lead to more creativity? Do not ask yourself whether something is possible, ask yourself how it is possible.
Do not minimize your successes
Unfortunately, many people have a habit of not fully appreciating their wins and downplaying their successes. I struggle with this one, too. People will praise me for writing very good grades, being very athletic or having a positive vibe. But I will just answer, “Anyone could do that.” This kind of reaction de-emphasizes all the small efforts we put in to make our lives a success. Anyone could do it – yes – but many did not and will not.
The same might most likely be true for you. Even reading this post all the way to this point means you are putting the effort in to improve your ability to think positive. Give yourself some credit for that. As you pursue positive thinking, happiness, or well-being – whatever your goal is – take note of your wins. After every small win, celebrate a little bit.