RE: How to Harness the Positive Power of Negative Thinking

Today’s Thought:

The optimist sees the half-full glass as ready to overflow. The pessimist waits for the water to evaporate and claims victory.

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CI came across an article titled “How to Harness the Positive Power of Negative Thinking” by Oliver Burkeman on UC Berkley’s Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life website. This is a well-conceived article promoting a book by the author that takes positive thinking to task. Burkeman’s book is apparently aimed at showing us how positive thinking is overrated and negative thinking is beneficial.

I left a comment about the article on the site, but I wanted to expand a bit on my response there. I encourage you to read the article before reading my response.

Response:

It is important to keep all things in balance – positive thinking included. Clearly the overzealous goal-setting and perfectionism, described by Burkeman, are a danger in our positive thinking. We can stress ourselves out in the constant pursuit for more, more, more. When we don’t get the desired results, we can feel disappointment and more negativity for a time. And certainly, there are people who cheat and cut corners to reach their goals. None of these, however, are indictments of positive thinking. They represent positive thinking misapplied.

Clearly, some of this go, go, go win, win, win mentality has been driven by some of the giants in personal development. Burkeman touts ancient Stoic and Buddhist philosophies as an answer. He points out that these schools of thought sought a less strenuous way to be happy without the constant pursuit of something. I agree.

However, Buddhism and Stoicism are both self-denying, and to some extent, world-denying philosophies. They were not designed to create achievement of goals in the world. Where I believe philosophies like that can contribute is in keeping us balanced and sane and as we make the necessary push required to “make things happen” in our world. If your goal is simple serenity, then by all means choose Buddhism or Stoicism. If you have goals and things you want to achieve in the world, these philosophies, while comforting you, are not the ticket.

When I read articles like this one, it reminds me why I work to move my own thinking in positive directions. For negativity is the human default setting and much easier to maintain than positivity. There is also this strain of thinking here that sees negative thinking as somehow more realistic than positive thinking. This line of reasoning goes that we live in a harsh world where disappointment is commonplace and we can protect ourselves by expecting little. The message is “play it safe”. Don’t risk your happiness, when it might end in disappointment.

For the dreamer, though, this will not do. He or she sees a bigger pie and possibility everywhere. He or she knows that avoiding defeat is not the same as victory.

When you risk, you do chance setback and disappointment. We live in a Universe where risk is the cost of reward. The dreamer accepts this as part of the game.

You don’t have to be stressed or narcissistic in the pursuit of those goals. You don’t have to harm others or think only of yourself. You see, real positive thinking wants not only the best for you, but the best for those around you and the best for the world. When it is selfish, it is misapplied. When it makes you tight and stressed about achieving a certain goal by a certain date, it is misapplied.

The real issue here boils down to this, assuming you don’t plan to retreat to a mountaintop and meditate yourself to Nirvana (a worthy goal in and of itself). You are going to need to act in the world to achieve your goals. When that action is driven by fear and negativity, success is rare. When it is driven by a positive outlook and the belief that something more, even though risky, is possible – success comes more often.

We can spend our lives steeling ourselves against disappointment and defining that aversion to setback as happiness. Or, we can spend our lives working to achieve our dreams and expanding our horizons about what happy means.

Follow your bliss. Experience your bliss. Become your bliss.

Ray

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Cancer and Positive Thinking – The Affirmation Spot for Thursday July 15, 2010

Few words – well let’s be honest – no other single word strikes as much fear into someone as cancer. I have been hesitant to tackle this topic on the blog because of its sensitive nature.

The noted author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a book last year titled Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America. In the book, Ehrenreich chronicles her own cancer experience and “be happy cancer is a blessing” message she encountered everywhere during her illness and recovery. She goes on to draw the broader conclusion that positive thinking is pandemic and delusional in our society. In various interviews, she has decried the added “burden” that being forced to think positively in the face of disease puts on the sick person.

“The Father of Motivation” Dr. Wayne W. Dyer was diagnosed with leukemia last year. He has taken a little different approach. He sees it as an opportunity to teach others – something he has spent a lifetime doing.

Watch Dyer Video from ABC News

Watch Dyer Video 2 from ABC News

Two very contrasting points of view from two very astute human beings. But cancer is not about philosophy. Cancer is personal. It is personal to the patients, the families, the friends.

A few years ago my wife lost a very dear friend to cancer at 49. She went through the radiation and the chemo and all the other treatments the doctors offered. After a hard battle, she lost the fight.

About two months ago I learned that my best friend growing up – really my other brother – had been diagnosed with cancer at 44. For the first 20+ years of our lives we were practically inseparable. After college, he moved to the east coast to take job, met the girl of his dreams, and started a family. We have seen each other and spoken only sporadically in the past 20 years, but time and distance cannot break the bond of brothers.

His battle has been up and down. Even from afar I can feel his courage and it is amazing. He is working with some of the best doctors anywhere, but they have not been able to agree on his diagnosis. He has progressed from radiation and surgery and now is headed for his first round of chemo.

I find myself daily thinking about his struggle and about the struggle we are all in the find meaning and purpose in this experience we call life.

So, obviously, I invest a lot of time and effort in promoting the idea of positive thinking on this blog, on Twitter, Facebook, and around the Internet. What is my take on this question?

First, I believe each person’s experience is her or her own and the evaluation of that experience is personal. Whether your challenge is cancer, an abusive relationship, poverty, loss, or some other life drama; you must be the one to put the meaning to it.

Can positive thinking, I prefer empowered thinking, cure cancer? I would answer that in the following way.

The evidence that positive (empowered) thinking makes a difference in life’s results when illness is not involved is overwhelming. Talk to as many great or successful people as you like and it will be a long time before you find one who is a negative thinker.

The NFL football team that goes out every week believing it will lose is not going to be your Super Bowl champion this year. This business person who doesn’t believe in her idea is never going to reach success.

It is clear that positive (empowered thinking) makes a difference in many spheres of life. It moves people forward, gives them the courage to try new things, and take the chances necessary to create new paradigms.

Negative thinking cannot and does not achieve any of those things. It holds people back. Destroys lives and limits horizons.

Let me ask you this. Do you think any of these facts change when you become ill? Does positive (empowered) thinking suddenly become a non-factor in outcomes? That does not make any sense.

Look, the world and our lives are a kind of game. Like any game, there are rules and parameters to the game that we cannot escape regardless of our thinking. We are going to grow old, we are going to get sick, we are going to die – all of us. Those are rules of this game and our thinking cannot alter them.

Positive (empowered) thinking is about how well we play within the game. As long as there is breath, you are still in the game. As long as you are in the game, there is hope. And, as long as you are in the game, your thinking is going to play a role in the outcome.

Does negative thinking attract illness? I don’t know. Maybe. Does positive (empowered) thinking cure any and every illness? No. Some cancers are so acute that they stretch the parameters of the game’s rules. Just as your thoughts will not protect you from a 500 foot fall off a cliff. There are rules to the game. There is no doubt that our thoughts can shift our realities, but they will not shift every reality.

Positive (empowered) thinking and negative thinking are not about blame or guarantees. They are about influencing the experience of your life in the game for as long as you are here.

The real question is which kind of thinking gives you the best quality of life for the next 90 days or the next 90 years? Spend a moment thinking about that and I’m sure you will quickly see which kind of thinking creates a better life for the healthy person and the sick person.

Stay inspired!

Ray

Time to Be Who You Came Here to Be – The Affirmation Spot for Friday January 2, 2009

Today’s Affirmation:

“This year I am absolutely committed to being the person I came here to be.”
(This is the official TAS affirmation for 2009. Click the affirmation to hear the mp3 version)

starfield2Unless you adhere to the most skeptical view of evolution, you probably believe that life has a purpose. There is a reason you – and everyone and everything that shares this planet with you – are here. Your very presence is a certifiable miracle.

Literally trillions of events in the history of this universe had to happen just right for you to be here. If any one of them had happened another way, then no you.

In my book, that makes your existence rather significant.

That begs the question. Why are you here? What are you here to be?

More than likely you know the answer to that question. It’s hidden or forgotten somewhere deep inside of you, but it is there. You’ve had inklings of it throughout your life. There are those things you just love doing and experiencing. There are places you just love to be. Perhaps at one time you dreamed of doing those things or being in those places.

Somewhere along the line your dreams and reality collided.  You gave up on the dreams to live in “reality.” “They” told you your dreams were not realistic and you bought it. My question to you is do your dreams and your reality have to be conflict? Can your dreams become your reality?

The great thinkers and spiritual teachers of our species have been clear and unequivocal in their conviction that our dreams can be our reality. Few things have been more universally taught.

That’s not to say that you can blink your eyes “Genie-style” and your wish becomes your life. It may take work. There may be challenges. You might have to make hard choices. None of the great sages ever promised otherwise.

Are your dreams worth it or not?

The joy and jubilation created by the new year will pass and “real life” will begin again. The momentum you need to make the changes you are promising yourself this year need to be boosted by something inspirational, if they are to survive.

Your dreams fit the bill perfectly. Suspend your disbelief and start walking in the direction of your dreams. As you get in better “dream shape” pick it up to a jog. By the end of the journey, you will be in full sprint towards your dreams.

Soon you will be embracing your deepest dreams and spending your days living your dreams instead of…well…dreaming about them. Belief and commitment are the only price of admission.

It’s time to “show up” and be the people we came here to be in 2009! Are you with me?

Stay awesome!

Ray

Happiness Is Contagious Study Finds – The Affirmation Spot for Friday December 5, 2008

Today’s Affirmation:

“Today I am making the radical choice to be completely happy no matter what.”
(click the affirmation to hear it in mp3)

It appears you can catch happiness as easily as the common cold. That’s the word from newly a released study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and The University of California, San Diego; happiness is contagious. The report says that happiness spreads through social networks like a virus and that your happiness can effect people you don’t even know.

Wow! That’s a big responsibility. The study also found that sadness spreads in a similar manner, but less efficiently.

Here are several of the best articles detailing the research.

WEB MD
Reuters
Live Science

Stay inspired and spread the happiness!

Ray

6 Ways to Add Intentionality to Goals and Dreams – The Affirmation Spot for Wednesday April 16, 2008

In my last post I talked about articulating your goals and dreams. Today we explore the concept of putting your intentions to achieve your goals and dreams out into the universe.

Dictionary.com defines intention as 1) an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result. 2) the end or object intended; purpose.

Intentionality is about thinking, speaking, and acting as though your goal is already accomplished. There is a certain assumptiveness to it. You don’t question your ability to reach the goal. You begin to embody its accomplishment. You hear phrases like “fake it ’til you make it” and “live as if…” used in motivational contexts.

If your dream is to be a great painter, you begin doing the things that great painters do. You devote time to your art. You begin mingling with other artists. You start living the life you want today and let your art follow you to the dream.

Be practical and responsible. If your goal is to become a millionaire, don’t go out and spend yourself into debt on the assumption you are about to become a millionaire. Rather begin making decisions about your life like a millionaire. Begin envisioning yourself in that position. Begin taking actions to get you there.

Intentionality is about putting a stake in the ground and committing your mind, body, and soul to reaching your dream. That requires a decision. The moment of decision is like the splash of a rock being dropped into a pond. The intentionality is like the ripples that stem from that splash. A decision to act displaces the configuration of the universe as surely as a rock hitting the pond displaces water. It creates movement in the world.

The strength of the ripples (your intentionality) is determined by the size of the rock (size of your decision). The bigger your decision and the more determination there is behind it, the more powerful the ripples will be in the world. You can augment your intentionality by continually dropping rocks (renewing and recommitting to your decision).

There are six things you can do to solidify your intention to achieve a goal or a dream. Each is important in creating the ripples and the movement towards accomplishment.

  1. Think about your dreams – don’t let the day-to-day struggle of life prevent you from focusing on your dreams. Keep them “top of mind”. Write them down and keep them in front of you.
  2. Share your dreams with others – there is additional power created when we share our dreams with another person. Sometimes others can support you creating a synergy of action that you cannot achieve alone. This also involves articulating your dreams – another important step in bringing them into action and reality.
  3. Pray or meditate on your dreams – ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened. In your quiet times ask, seek, and knock on the door of your dreams. Your quiet time is the time where you solidfy your intentions and handle the obstacles you encounter. You get recharged, re-energized, and refocused.
  4. Believe in your dreams – most great people go through a period on the way to their dreams when they are the only one who believes. You may face that and you need to be prepared to push forward.
  5. Act on your dreams – thoughts and words are the foundations of achievement, but action is the engine of it. If your thoughts and words are never translated into action, you will never achieve.
  6. Begin living as if the dream is already accomplished – be the person you want to be and live the life you want to have and let the reality follow the actions.

If you do these six things, you will create a powerful intention to see your dreams and goals become a reality.

Now go out there and make a big splash! Create your ripples and get on to achieving your heart’s desire.

Be positive Be peaceful Be prosperous!

Ray


The Power of Struggle in Our Lives – The Affirmation Spot for Saturday March 29, 2008

Thank you for visiting The Affirmation Spot. Your comments on the blog or this article are always welcome. What do you think? Please click here to comment on today’s blog.




ray_launchpad.jpgDownload 2 Affirmations, Get 1 Free!

Take your positive thoughts with you wherever you go. During the month of March Download any two mp3 affirmations from The Affirmation Spot.com and get a third mp3 affirmation free.There are no limits! Simply type the word “blog” into the coupon field at checkout. Thanks for getting your audio affirmations at The Affirmation Spot! Click here to view, hear excerpts, or download affirmations.Today’s featured affirmation is:

“It is not the mountain I conquer, but myself. I am reaching for the top of the mountain and my day in the sun is here.” (repeats 4 times)

“It is not the mountain you conquer, but yourself. You are reaching for the top of the mountain and your day in the sun is here.” (repeats 4 times)

Hear an audio mp3 version of this affirmation right now.


A brief article in this week’s People Magazine reveals that Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling once went through a bout of severe depression. The article, based on an interview by University of Edinburgh senior Adeel Amini, quotes Rowling as saying, “We’re talking suicidal thoughts here – not I’m a little miserable.” Obviously, Rowling was able to move through that difficult patch of life and move on to great things.

I live in Kansas. Our state motto is Ad Astra per Aspera – translated “to the stars with difficulty.” That really is the story of being human.  Struggle is a fact of life. Most successful people had to “overcome their demons” to succeed in life. It has certainly been the case in my own life.

I’m not saying that we should readily invite struggle and difficulty into our lives. Only that when we experience it we should remember that it presents an opportunity for growth, change, and self-improvement. The reason, I believe, struggle often is a precursor to success is that struggle is a point of decision.

We either give up and give in or we push forward. In the pushing, we often open new doors and new possibilities that would not have appeared in our complacency.

Struggle is a powerful catalyst that can transform us. It may be painful and our human nature is to avoid it or push it away. However, if we can find the strength to face it and seek its new opportunity, we may just wind up on our way to the next best thing.

Be peaceful Be positive Be prosperous!

Ray

Affirmations: Passive Listening – The Affirmation Spot for Friday March 28, 2008

Today’s featured affirmation is:

“Learning helps me achieve my goals in life.” (repeats 6 times)
“Learning helps you achieve your goals in life.” (repeats 6 times)
Hear an audio mp3 version of this affirmation right now.


multi.jpgLet’s face it. You live in a multi-tasking rich world. You juggle multiple projects at work or school. You have to get the kids to soccer practice and dance practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Tae Kwon Do on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Or is it the other way around? You care for your aging parents. You take the dog for a walk. You try to be a part of your community.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that you try to find time to better yourself and understand the meaning of this crazy world.

I understand. I live that life too. That is why I started The Affirmation Spot. I’ve written, recorded, and used audio affirmations for more than 15 years.  The reason I preferred audio affirmations over saying them or reading them is because I could listen to them wherever and whenever I wanted. With the advent of digital media that is more true than ever.

Over the years, I’ve found that passive listening is very effective. You’ve had the experience of hearing a song or a commercial many  times – without paying conscious attention – and suddenly one day you’re singing the song or saying the words to the commercial. That’s the result of passive listening. You have unconsciously learned it through repetition. That’s why advertisers run the same commercial on a radio station 20 times a day. That’s why they play Top 40 songs over and over. It’s to unconsciously put them into your head. Passive listening is powerful!

You can use your affirmations the same way. Put your headphones on and listen while you work or play them in the car on the way to Tae Kwon Do. You don’t have to really be listening to get the benefit. Your mind is absorbing them. Sometimes it’s even better than conscious listening because you’re not really questioning as much.

Pretty soon you’ll find yourself saying the positive words to an affirmation when a negative situation arises because, like the song, you have unconsciously absorbed it. Unlike the song, though, it brings real benefit to your life.

Be positive Be peaceful Be prosperous!

Ray