A Survival Guide For Uncertain Times Week #3: Give up Positive Thinking

American optimism and positive economic sentiment in the United States of America as a national government hope metaphor as a wiper clearing the gray dark wet clouds with 3D illustration elements.

It is the end of week three of Donald Trump’s presidential term, and this week my Survival Guide will address the pitfalls of positive thinking. I have spoken to many people who didn’t vote for Donald Trump and are now struggling with his daily tweets, executive orders and Cabinet appointments. I find that many of the people I spoke to are either completely negative about Trump’s Presidency or are trying to stay positive and failing miserably.

When you are completely comfortable with uncertainty, a positive outlook comes naturally. You are not rattled by new events or tweets and can sustain faith that life will work out one way or another. It doesn’t mean you are not concerned or active in your community, you just tend not to worry so much about the future. Most people, though, have some degree of fear of the unknown, and turn either to negative or to positive thinking to help themselves feel certain, while deep down they are really afraid. The problem is that the certainty we seek doesn’t exist. The more we try to lock into any perspective, the more pain and chaos we feel.

A person feeling negativity towards the Trump administration will feel pain most of the time because they are always projecting that whatever is occurring today cannot get better or that bad things are sure to happen in the future. The person Continue reading…

Why Is It So Difficult To Be A Positive Thinker?

A happy cartoon man with Positive thinking concept is on the paper.

I have spent most of my life trying to to be a positive thinker. Each morning, I’d wake up and try to put a positive spin on everything in front of me.  However, often times before I even got out the door, something unexpected happened and I would be thrown off course. It could have been as simple as spilling my coffee and I would start to feel the day was not going my way.  Still, I would take a deep breath and try to return to my positive thoughts; but as the day went on it became harder to hold onto this positive outlook. Sure, good things would happen to me each day, but also unexpected events would happen that I perceived as bad or “life not working out.”

As I started working as an attorney at a large law firm, life became more complicated and so did my struggle with positive thinking. I would still try to start each day with positive thoughts but it became more apparent that I couldn’t control the events around me. If a partner at the law firm did not like my legal memorandum or the firm lost a longstanding client, I projected what each event might mean for my job in the future. I worried that I might get fired or not get a raise. Sure, these were only possibilities, but these thoughts consumed me each day. My fear of the unknown and “what could happen tomorrow” seemed to have a more powerful effect over me than my positive thoughts. Ultimately, at the end of most days, I felt negative and fearful of what the future might bring.

Nevertheless, as the years passed, I persevered and continued my journey of trying to be a positive thinker. When I came across Norman Vincent Peale’s, The Power Of Positive Thinking, I was so re-inspired that I tried even harder to be a committed Continue reading…

A Simple Technique to Help Relieve your Child’s Stress and Worry

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My daughter came to me the other night worried about all of the obligations she had at school.  She wondered if she would get more homework than she could handle. She was also nervous about doing poorly on her history test the next day.  She asked if everything would work out and if she would be okay.

Many of us have had these moments with our kids when they become anxious and worried about the future or even just their homework. Our children can worry about everything from global warming, war and famine to exams and friendships.

The first thing I do is ask my child if she is okay in this moment. She usually takes a moment and says, “I think so.”

Then, I ask her to jump up and down, do some jumping jacks, push ups, head rolls and shoulder shrugs for a few minutes. This gets her a little out of her head and more in her body.

Next I ask her if she is absolutely certain that what she is worrying about will happen. She always answers, “no I am not absolutely certain.” Then I say, “Well if you are not absolutely certain then that means something else could happen. Maybe even something good. Maybe you will be able to handle your homework, and Maybe you will do well on your test.  Why worry that it will be bad when it also could be good!”

Then, I say, “And even if things don’t work out exactly as you want them to, the next moment will offer you Maybe once again. There’s an unlimited range of possibilities for your future!  

She responded “Mom, thanks! I feel a lot better. Maybe everything will be okay. And if it does not work out, with Maybe there is always another possibility. That feels good.”

It works like a charm every time!!

If your child is a little older it is sometimes effective to have them write their worries down on a piece of paper.  Then ask them to write the sentence, “Are you absolutely certain this will happen?” Usually the answer is no and then they can challenge their worries with a few Maybe statements such as:  Maybe my beliefs about my situation are not true;  Maybe what is happening is good; Maybe what is happening can get better; Maybe everything will work out fine.  Ask your child how these Maybe Statements make them feel?  Does your child feel more hopeful? Does your child see that the situation can work out differently than he or she was fearing? Try to review these statements with them a few times each day.  If you can, have them add more Maybe statements that challenge their stress and worry about the current situation.

Have them keep their attention on these Maybe statements the next few days and see what happens to their fears and worries. Maybe your child will be pleasantly surprised!

Why Is It So Tough To Be A Positive Thinker?

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I remember how I felt after reading Norman Vincent Peale’s, The Power of Positive Thinking.  I was so inspired that I made a commitment to become a positive thinker.  For days, I held onto my positive thinking so tightly; when a negative thought appeared I forced it away with positive thoughts.  I later learned that there was a problem with my new life philosophy.  I realized that we can’t push down a negative thought completely, because it stays inside of us and festers and grows. In fact, after a few days of only permitting positive thoughts, I had a horrible nightmare in which many people that I loved died.  I woke up petrified and when I fell asleep again I had the same dream.  I had never had the same dream twice in one night or a dream with so much negativity and loss.  To this day I believe these nightmares surfaced because I was not permitting my mind to be negative. I was suppressing my feelings and then the pressure became so great that my mind released a tremendous amount of negativity when I fell asleep and could not consciously control my thinking.

At first I was devastated that my positive thinking journey had failed. I still loved Peale’s book, but I realized that anyone with a great fear of uncertainty would have trouble staying positive. For example, you start a business with shining dreams and aspirations.  You feel so positive until sales are low, employees quit, or the economy staggers, and then you begin to worry.  You worry that things won’t get better. You worry that your dream is gone.  You want to stay positive but the present is terrifying and based on that, your future seems bleak.  Although some people can stay positive in such situations, those of us who fear uncertainty find it very hard to find hope in the unknown. When we don’t know how things will work out or whether they will get better, we feel distraught and hopeless.

When I found the philosophy of Maybe everything changed for me.  I realized that every situation has multiple outcomes and within those outcomes is the hope that whatever is happening, Maybe it can still lead to something good, Maybe my circumstances will improve or Maybe I will find a way to accept the situation and still be okay.  For me, it was the perfect combination; I could stay positive but with Maybe I could accept and dilute my negative thoughts.  Once I realized that life could unfold in infinite ways, I was no longer stuck in my negative projection of the future.  I began to live with the continuous realization that Maybe something else could happen other than the thing I feared most.

Since embracing Maybe I am now a much more effective positive thinker.  Negative thoughts hold no sway over me because I know they are just a limited view of all that can be.

Try incorporating some Maybe into your life!  Let me know if it helps you hold a more positive and hopeful outlook on life.