The most repetitive advice I received when introduced to personal development was to get rid of negative thoughts. All of the self-help literature referred to eliminating negative thinking as a sure fire way to have positive impact.
Unfortunately for me, I felt like a total failure when I tried to do it.
No matter how hard I worked to get rid of a negative thought, it never seemed to leave. In fact, the harder I tried to get rid of it, the stronger it seemed to become. I began to wonder if my mind was wired in a way that made it impossible.
My work environment reinforced my doubts. Any mention of negativity around the office sent people running like they were escaping an alien invasion. NO one wanted to hear or deal with negativity.
The longer I contemplated the idea of eliminating negative thoughts and living in denial that negativity exists, the more idiotic it sounded. I can’t remember who I heard it from, but one phrase hit me like a ton of bricks one day. What you resist persists.
By giving all of my energy to pushing negativity away, I pulled my energy from the positive things I wanted. But how could I reverse the trend? The negative things were always there. At that point I really began to consider the differences and realities of the optimist, pessimist, or realist? I’ve often wondered which one I am.
Optimists (I’m not talking about the civic organization) say they look for the good in life and think that things will turn out that way. In their estimation, pessimists are sad, pathetic people that only need a little sunshine in their lives to perk them up.
Pessimists claim they aren’t looking for bad stuff, but figure it’s going to turn out bad no matter what they do. To a pessimist, optimists are fruitcakes. Delusional Pollyannas who are entirely too perky and refuse to admit the world is a bad place, full of bad people.
Self-proclaimed realists, in my experience, are typically pessimists that don’t want to be labeled as extreme. They consider both ends of the spectrum to be undesirable and prefer the safe, luke-warm ground in the middle. Realists like to have access to the optimistic side of the wheel, but still reserve the right to be cynical of everyone’s intentions.
There has never been a more perfect example of how mindset determines your view of the world than these three groups. It almost sounds like a setup for a joke.
An optimist, a pessimist, and a realist walk into a bar. The bartender pours each of them a beer and sets each mug with the handle pointing to the right of the drinker.
The optimist says, “I’m left-handed and am so glad that you are encouraging me to develop my right hand’s strength by positioning the mug this way.”
The realist says, “I’m right-handed so the mug is positioned to my strength, but why should I be happy about that?”
The pessimist says, “It doesn’t matter which way it’s pointed. I’ll probably die before I can drink it anyway.”
Okay, I know it’s not a good joke, but it sets up my point. Everyone in the world can look at the exact same thing and get different impressions. Doubt me? Think of a political debate.
Two candidates. Everyone hears the same words. Then the pundits, analysts, and water cooler know-it-alls take over and deliver their take. I sometimes wonder if I watched the same debate. To make it worse, three people on the same show act like they all listened to something different. Everyone gets a different result. Why?
Knowing what you now know about mindset, you can see how this is possible. My mindset filters the input from the candidates and gives me the data I need to reinforce my internal picture of what is real. Yours does the same. Unless we are looking for the exact same things, our conscious minds will each receive different input.
This is why I say, good and bad are matters of perception. Every event has the potential to be good or bad. An event means nothing until we assign meaning. So what does that have to do with getting rid of negative thoughts? Everything.
First, you need to understand that you cannot get rid of negative thoughts. True story. Because everything has the potential to be either good or bad, every bit of input has both a negative and positive end. When the input hits our mindset, we have predetermined which end is presented to our conscious mind.
If you picture the bits of input as little batteries, you’ll see what I mean. A battery has both a negative and positive end. If I turn the battery with the positive end pointing toward me, I haven’t eliminated the negative. All I’ve done is focus on the positive.
You wouldn’t want to eliminate the negative end anyway. It is the interaction between the two that creates the flow of energy. Our thoughts are no different. Positive and negative mean nothing without each other.
In the well-meaning attempt to help, many self-help gurus have implored us to eliminate the negativity from our lives. Stop watching the news. Get rid of negative people. Bludgeon yourself when you have a negative thought until it goes away.
Even if this worked, it would be the lazy way out and leave you without the full experience life has to offer. This attitude of avoidance sets us up for a fall by reducing our world. I’m not proposing that we immerse ourselves in the doom-and-gloom or sky-is-falling rhetoric of the media or indulge our gossiping neighbors with our free time.
I am encouraging the active strengthening of our brains to filter what the world offers and find what we want out of it. Consciously decide what you want for yourself and program your mind to show it to you. That is the only way to enjoy the full scope of this one life.
- If the news doesn’t hold anything of value for you, your mind will tune it out and draw you to a more productive activity.
- If a major tragedy in the world can serve to strengthen your mission and deepen your compassion, your mind will tune you in and show you the reason why.
Don’t waste your time getting rid of negative thoughts. In doing so, you are still focused on negativity. You become so tuned to the negative that you cannot see the positive that is already there. The focus has to change.
Invest your time looking for what will further your life. Tune your mind to show you opportunity, not limitation. Negativity goes out of focus as a matter of law. It is still there, but no longer your focus or burden.
With all of the Elements of Personal Choice working in your favor, you see what you’ve asked to see. Your energy isn’t devoted to ignoring anything or resisting the idea of negativity. Your energy is targeted and amplified toward the fulfillment of your purposeful vision.
Be your best,