“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” ~Winston Churchill
I am constantly striving to see the positive in every aspect of my life. But it’s not always easy.
My dog is currently suffering from a disease from which she will never recover. My mind is still trying to adjust to my relatively new schedule of running Positively Present full time. My wallet is thinning out as I march forward on my entrepreneurial ventures. And, as I get older, I find myself moving in different directions from some of the people I’ve spent a great deal of time with.
My life—and all of our lives—is filled with challenges that make it very difficult to be positive sometimes.
However, I know that choosing to be positive has helped me the most in terms of becoming the person I want to be. Even when things are difficult, I know that being positive—and striving to make the best of whatever situation I’m in—really does make even the most challenging situations easier to bear.
More often than not, I find myself veering toward a positive attitude. (It’s something I never would have done years ago!) I firmly believe that this is because I’ve trained myself to be positive.
It doesn’t always come naturally for me—sometimes it’s a lot of work—but I’ve taken five steps that make it so much easier for me to see the good in life.
Step One: Believe a Positive Attitude is a Choice
This step was hard to take at first. I thought that people were either positive or negative (and I was in the latter category). I used to blame my negativity on all kinds of outside forces—fate, experiences, parents, relationships—but never really stopped to think that I could choose to be positive.
Teaching myself that positivity is a choice has been one of the greatest things I’ve ever done for myself.
Now when I find myself in a bad situation, I know that it’s up to me to find the good, to be positive regardless of what’s happening around me. I no longer point fingers and place blame. I realize that everything happens how it happens, and it’s up to me to choose how I want to feel about it. I am in control of my attitude, and no one can take that away from me.
Step Two: Rid Your Life of Negativity
If you want to live a positive, joyful life, you cannot be surrounded by negative people who don’t encourage your happiness.
As a negative person, I attracted negative people. When I decided to make the change to live a more positive life, I had to rid my life of the most negative influences in it. No one is perfect—and perfection isn’t the goal when it comes to positivity—but there were people in my life who were consistently negative, who constantly brought me down, and I had to stop spending so much time with them.
This, as you can imagine, wasn’t easy. It can hurt to distance yourself from people—even when you know they aren’t good for you or your current lifestyle.
In addition to removing negative influences from my, I also had to get rid of some of my own negative behaviors, such as drug and alcohol abuse. I had to take a step back and examine which behaviors were good for me and which were not.
I learned to focus on the positive things I was doing—such as working on my blog and cultivating new, positive relationships—and let go of the negative ones. This process was not easy and, to be honest, is still ongoing, but I know this: It’s hard to live a positive life when negative people and behaviors continually pull you down.
Step Three: Look For the Positive in Life
In every person, in every situation, there is something good. Most of the time it’s not obvious. We have to look. And sometimes we have to look hard.
The old me was content to sit back and just glance around. If I saw negative, I went with that feeling. I didn’t want to look harder or think too much about the good. I found it much, much easier to sit back and just accept what I saw (which was usually the bad).
Now, when I’m faced with a difficult or challenging situation, I think to myself, “What is good about this?” No matter how terrible the situation might seem, I always can find something good if I take the time to think about it.
Everything—good and bad—is a learning experience so, at the very least, you can learn from bad experiences. However, there’s usually even more to it than that. If you really take the time to look, you will usually find something good, something genuinely positive, about every person or situation.
Step Four: Reinforce Positivity in Yourself
Once I started thinking more positively, I realized I had to reinforce these thoughts and behaviors in myself so they would stick. As with any sort of training, the more you practice, the better you get—and, yes, you can practice being positive.
The best and easiest way to do this is to be positive when it comes to who you are. Tell yourself you’re awesome. Tell yourself you look good. Tell yourself you did a great job at work or raising your kids or whatever it is you do.
Be honest with yourself, but do your best to look for the good. And, whatever you do, don’t focus on the negative. It’s okay to not like everything about yourself, but don’t focus on what you don’t like. We all have positive attributes, and it’s up to you to remind yourself of them every day.
Step Five: Share Positivity with Others
Not only do you need to be positive with yourself for this training to really take effect, but you need to be positive with others. You have to share your wealth of positivity with the world.
The best way I’ve found to do this is quite simple and basic: Be nice to other people, no matter what. Tell someone s/he looks nice today. Tell someone s/he did a great job on that presentation.
Tell your parents or children (or both!) how much you love them and how great they are. When someone is feeling down, do what you can to cheer him or her up. Send flowers. Write notes. Don’t gossip. Be kind to all living things.
All of these things sound basic enough, but for someone like me, they didn’t come easily.
I never wanted to see the good in myself and, therefore, didn’t want to see it in others either. I used to be critical and condescending. Now I strive to be encouraging and supportive.
I try not only to treat others as I would like to be treated, but I also try to consider how they would like to be treated. People appreciate positivity, and the more you share it with others, the more you are practicing it your own life.
When you start feeling like the idea of being a positive person is daunting, remind yourself that all it takes is one small step in the right direction to move yourself toward a more positive attitude.
Believe in yourself and remember the most important lesson of all: A positive outlook is a choice that you can always make.