The Secret…The Law of Attraction…Winning Friends and Influencing People…Meditation can cure cancer…. Apparently every problem in the world can be solved and every dream you have can be achieved with a positive attitude.
I’m not sure whether this is optimistic, pessimistic or realistic, but you might also want to be prepared to exert some effort or do some actual work about it. I am concerned with the implication because these phrases and philosophies suggest that we are not just responsible for our reaction to difficulties or challenges – we probably CAUSED them with our negative attitudes.
Communication is now my business and I believe that words matter. A carefully chosen word paints a specific tone and one word can significantly change the meaning of a thought. If you are a person who chooses words carefully, you know what I mean. Those who blurt out thoughts (in words) without self-editing (insert name of any number of celebrities here) can find themselves in some hot water. The beauty is that communication can be learned. Even those with negative attitudes can learn to use positive words.
Are you positive that you’re positive?
Do you know any pessimists hiding in an optimist’s body? If we expect the best but plan for the worst, are we a) prepared, b) hedging our bets, c) subconsciously planning to fail or d) all of the above? If you subscribe to the fake-it-’til-you-make-it school of thought, does that make you authentically positive or are you training yourself to become positive? What if you take it too far? We all know plenty of over-the-top positive people who can barely be tolerated. Is that good for anyone?
Glass half full or glass half empty? (Mine is the glass with someone else’s lipstick on it).
It doesn’t matter whether the glass is half full or half empty – it is what it is. Our attitude determines what we do with “what is”. And (unless it’s wine in which case I DID probably cause the glass to be half empty), we most often didn’t create the situation that we must now react to or resolve.
It’s hard for a truly negative or pessimistic person to hide for long; sooner or later, the real feelings eek out. A famous quote from recently-deceased Maya Angelou reads, “When someone shows you who they really are, believe them”.
There are any number of reactions to a given challenge or situation, and it’s easy to tell which are positive/optimistic and which are negative/pessimistic:
1) Why me?
2) What are our options?
3)Who can I complain to about this?
4)How do we turn this around?
It takes all kinds of people to make the world, and some of them are going to be pessimists. If that’s you – own it. If you’re serious about an attitude adjustment, great: fake-it-’til-you-make-it might be the right program for you. If you are truly happily pessimistic, you may find the more positive people un-friending you, but you are likely to find your niche with the Debbie Downers of the world.
While there is a societal bias toward a positive attitude being the “right” one, there’s a clear argument to be made for authenticity. Whether you perceive the glass as half full or half empty, you’re right!