The self-help blogs and media are filled with useful information about positive psychology, becoming your best self, leading the good life, and the value and benefits of being optimistic, positive and hopeful. It’s next to impossible–from more than 3000 years of Judaism’s wisdom on happiness to Joel Osteen’s pulpit, from Abraham Maslow to Martin Seligman, from Sonja Lyubomirsky to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and so many others – to not have heard of terms like “the pleasant life,” “the meaningful life,” “engagement,” “flow,” “mindfulness,” “strengths and virtues,” “flourishing,” “PERMA,” and of course “happiness.”
I’d like to offer you 4 very straightforward thoughts to pack in your mental carryall that will serve as turbo-fuel for you if you are attempting to find your best self, live the good life, and build up your optimism mindset. Otherwise, why even continue reading?
I begin with thoughts because, well, that’s where happiness, positivity and wellbeing begin. Ever try to lift the spirits of someone who’s in a coma or unconscious? You can’t. Why? Because they aren’t processing and consciously thinking about external events to be able to be frightened, loving, anxious, depressed, angry, happy, calm… you get it. Unless and until you think, pending your ability to tell yourself something about an external event, there is no positivity or negativity. The link is what you think.
Here are my four essential links to positivity:
- Not everything is possible, but so what?
Who says certain outcomes MUST, OUGHT, HAVE TO, or SHOULD be possible? Give up the demand, insistence or expectation (D.I.E.) that life be a certain way and you’ve released yourself to enjoy what is, perhaps what was supposed to be, what may have been destined instead, what good may be hiding. Perhaps your belief that something MUST be possible is simply erroneous. The JV tell themselves, “Oh, it’ll happen if I work harder at it, but maybe not right now.” The Varsity tell themselves, “I can be happy and remain positive even if and when things don’t work out like I would have wanted or thought they would.”
- Focus on what’s going right and be grateful for it
I have a belief that is summarized in this acronym, EWOP: Everything works out perfectly! What could be “right” about getting fired from your job? What could be “right” about missing a plane? What could be “right” about a flat tire? What could be “right” about a relationship that went sour? What could be “right” about a life-threatening diagnosis? And be GRATEFUL on top of it?
Seriously, Michael? Yes, seriously. You know that new job you have? You know that person you met at the airport on another flight? You know that traffic jam you avoided? You know that new guy or gal you’ve just met? You know how many friends came out of the woodwork to show their love and support when they heard about your illness? What do you want to focus on?
- Change is always for the good
Many people believe, falsely, that change is always for the bad. When you hear yourself predicting the future based on the present, especially if that prediction is negative, you are actually “cursing your future.” “I”ll never pass this course,” “I’ll never lose weight,” “I’ll never meet the right person.” You are filling your mindset with a defeated filter through which you only see the sour in life, not life’s sweetness. We become comfortable with where we are, with our friends, our job and sometimes are afraid of change. Remember when Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, the company he started? He sure could have thought, “ Oh no this is terrible, this change is bad.” He moved forward with the belief that nothing happens TO you, but rather change happens FOR you. He started another company, learned new skills, grew the company until it was so successful that Apple bought it and re-hired Jobs—with a new set of skills and confidence that led him to create even greater impact on the world of technology and life. And of all of the quotes on seeing change as always positive, something better’s coming, is this one from Marilyn Monroe, “I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe in lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” The point is to accept and grasp change to move forward to your destination.
- Leave no room in your mind for anything negative.
Who is living in the vacant spaces of your mind? If you allow negative thoughts in, and don’t rid them quickly, you’ll find yourself overrun by the kind of voices and weeds that destroy any chance of the good life, happiness or optimism. Do you see yourself defeated, predict loss, see emptiness and sorrow ahead? Or do you visualize and imagine yourself happy, rising, healthy, peaceful, prospering, advancing, being promoted? If you can’t even conceive it, you won’t believe it. If all you read are lists of sad, depressive, negative stories, use only negative adjectives, science tells us that you’ll come to feel that way. What you put in and allow in your life, impacts you, just like the flavor you add to your coffee—chocolate or vanilla. It tastes like what you put into it. Yes, the link is definitely what you think.
Yes, the good life can be taught. That means you can learn, which means you are thinking differently. That’s where we began this, with thinking. Add these four powerfully positive thoughts to your mindset and watch the good life, happiness and satisfaction emerge. The power is entirely in the words you hear in your thinking, so start by changing those words, being positive towards yourself.