4 Steps to a Positive Outlook
I’m going to go out on a limb here.
We are lucky to be alive today. Unless you’re living in a war zone or a third world country, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Our homes are better, our clothes are better, our food is better. College for our children is a given. Most of us own homes. We plan on living well beyond retirement.
We’ve got it good.
Compare our time to any other time in human history and you have to admit: we are living like kings and queens.
There’s never been a better time to be alive.
But will we admit it? Nope.
We take it all for granted and focus on the negative. The smallest inconvenience can ruin our day.
Wake up, people!
Life is good. We have so much to celebrate. Let’s shift our focus to the positive and enjoy the many blessings of living right here, right now.
Obsessing on the negative
To hear people talk, you’d think we were approaching the apocalypse.
We’ve become fulltime pessimists and doomsayers, filling our conversations with the latest crazy crime-spree and ominous weather reports.
(In my home state of Minnesota, an obsession with the weather is a requirement!)
We’re a bunch of Debbie Downers, convinced that danger is everywhere and progress is nonexistent. It’s enough to make us all anxious and depressed.
It IS making us all anxious and depressed.
Call me Pollyanna, but I’ve had enough. I’ve got better things to think about.
You focus on your fears at the expense of your hopes and your happiness. You can’t control life, but you CAN control how you experience it.
It’s time to shift our focus. Follow the steps below to ditch the negative and embrace the positive.
Then you will also be able to say: these are the best of times.
Don’t get me wrong. I know there are problems, many problems, which require our urgent attention. I won’t list them here, we all know what they are.
But here’s the thing. There are also startling discoveries, glorious beauty, and sublime acts of kindness.
The ancient Chinese had it right. You can’t have the yin (dark/negative) without the yang (light/positive). Yet we’re feeding ourselves a steady diet of yin with no yang in sight!
That’s why a simple daily gratitude practice makes you feel so darn good. It’s why a sappy Hallmark commercial can leave you sobbing.
I am so hungry, so desperately hungry, for some good news.
Outside my window, the sun is bright, the snow is melting, and spring is on its way. In nature, as in all things, the destructive is countered by the creation and growth. The cold, dark days of winter must and will yield to lush, new life.
The same is true in our lives. It makes no sense to pay so much attention to the dark and ignore the light.
My proposal is simple. Stop focusing on the bad and start seeing the good.
Rule #1: Words Matter
We create our realities one word at a time
What you talk about affects you. Negative talk begets negative energy. It hurts you. It hurts others.
Throw your negative words out into the world and, like a boomerang, they inevitably come back to you. Along the way they touch everyone that hears them, painting the world in shades of grey.
The good news is that positive words will do the same thing if you let them.
Which brings me to rule #1: Substitute positive talk for negative talk.
The benefits of this are obvious: better relationships, less stress, more contentment, and, my personal favorite, happiness!
Simple, right? Yep, but not so easy to do.
Break the pessimism habit
Pessimism is a hard habit to shake. Just look at how pervasive it is in our conversation.
I think that’s because we can all agree on calamity. It’s a safe topic at a time when so many topics feel like hot potatoes.
It’s easy to commiserate on bad news. It’s much harder to talk about the important stuff. Sharing our hopes and dreams makes us vulnerable.
That’s a lonely, disconnected way to live.
When is the last time you had a conversation with someone about feeling inspired? Optimistic? Excited? When was the last time you looked around you and thought, “I’m doing great!”?
Have you ever thought that?
Focus on the positive
Your first assignment, young grasshopper, is to change this. I challenge you to share something positive every day.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal, I’m not trying to turn you into sn evangelist in rose-colored glasses. Just share a compliment, a joke, a happy story, or a positive observation that makes you and others feel good.
While you’re at it, think about how you talk to yourself. If you’re like me, your internal dialogue could use a positive-talk makeover! Reframe it to include the good as often as you can.
Once that’s a habit, challenge yourself to increase your positive interactions each day. The goal is to have the positives outweigh the negatives in both your self-talk and your conversations.
I predict you’ll notice a change immediately. It’s impossible to feel rotten when you just made someone smile.
Do this regularly and you’ll feel the weight of the world slide off your shoulders. You’ll also find you have more energy and more heart for pursuing the things that matter to you most.
Rule #2: Start a media diet
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. I would argue that this is true for information as well.
Filling your mind with negative news is like eating junk food. Your brain is full, but you feel depleted and diminished.
What you need is a mental feast that will nourish and rejuvenate your heart and soul.
That’s why your second challenge is to start a media diet, limiting negative content and adding positive content that makes you smile.
I promise it won’t leave you hungry. In fact, it should be fun and deeply gratifying.
Limit negative news
Lately, it seems the national news programs are pounding the drums of doom 24×7.
Close-ups of calamities from every corner of the globe stream straight into your living room. This happens over and over again as experts analyze each crisis in minute detail.
At the same time, you won’t find much in the way of good news. There’s not enough drama in it (unless it’s a giant Powerball jackpot).
The news surrounds us from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep.
There’s the radio on your way to work, headlines on your cell phone, the newspaper in the lunchroom, email newsletters in your inbox and TV programs throughout the day.
If you missed it from all of those sources, you can find it anytime on the internet.
It’s exhausting just thinking about it!
The news is everywhere and you really have to make an effort to avoid becoming a news junkie, desperate for your next update of information.
Reduce news time
For me, it’s just too much.
How many times do I need to hear about the latest wildfires, mass shootings, and scary new viruses?
Give me the facts, please. Don’t make me swim in a flood of endless updates and conjecture. And please, please don’t tell me how I should feel about them.
This unrelenting bombardment of negativity divides us and leaves us feeling helpless and hopeless.
Just stop. Turn the damn TV off.
I realized I don’t need an update on the world every hour. What I need is sanity.
My solution? I get my news once a day. It’s enough to stay informed without getting sucked into the 24-hour news cycle.
If the world is ending, I trust someone will let me know.
This simple choice has freed up so much time, time that I am happy to devote to other things. It can do the same for you.
Seek out positive information
Strive to consume information that makes you happy and helps you learn and grow. You’ll be glad you did.
There are thousands of stories of exploration, invention, creativity, and success popping up daily. We just don’t hear about them.
Look beyond typical news sources and you’ll find plenty to inspire you.
I’m always astonished by the stories and images I find in Discover and National Geographic magazines. Tiny microbes, far-off galaxies, unfamiliar cultures and beautiful glimpses of nature fill their pages.
There are also fantastic stories and thought-provoking reads at your local library at no cost to you. You don’t even need to drive there, digital loans allow you to grab your next great read with the click of a button.
How cool is that?
You can find an abundance of inspiration and information in podcasts and YouTube videos. I’m really enjoying exploring both. My commuting podcast playlist brightens my mornings, teaches me new skills and inspires me every day.
Now that’s food for thought!
What about you? What are you reading, watching or listening to that broadens your world or makes you smile?
Whatever your interests, a whole world of information is out there, just waiting for you to find it.
Rule #3: Take Action
Don’t waste time worrying about things you cannot change
There is very little in the news today that you can actually affect. That’s not pessimism, that’s reality.
Don’t fritter away your time fretting.
As much as I’d like to, I can’t stop the wildfires in Australia. I can send a donation. I can make my thoughts on climate change clear with my vote and my vehicle choices.
But no amount of worrying will change the fact that I can’t rescue a koala bear from the flames.
It’s always been that way.
I would bet the citizens of ancient Rome discussed the same things around the dinner table that we do today. “Did you hear about the volcano in Pompeii?”
Wars, disasters, injustice and crazy-making politicians are not new.
So why do we expend so much energy talking and thinking about things that we can’t affect or that don’t affect us? Things that will fade from view with the next news cycle?
Make an impact
At some point, you have to let the problems of the world go and focus on the things you can impact.
Volunteer, learn, invent, work, plan, build, give, vote – these are ACTIVE choices.
Engage, connect, create, invent, discover, smile, pay it forward – these are POSITIVE choices.
Clicking through the channels with your remote doesn’t fit in either of those categories.
Remember, actions speak so much louder than words. Your small actions, your positive actions, can change the world.
Every day you have a choice. Will you focus on the positive or focus on the negative? Will you act or observe?
I choose the positive. I choose action. There’s no time to waste if I want to become the best version of myself that I can be.
What will you choose?
Rule #4: Celebrate the good
I believe in human beings’ ability to transform, to adapt, to invent, to create, to unite, to prevail. We may fall, we may flounder, but eventually, we will rise.
The evidence of this is all around us.
Look at all the things that are happening right now, all the things we take for granted. There is so much to celebrate.
We are living in amazing times. Let’s make that a part of our conversation.
It’s miraculous, it’s a wonder, and it’s just beginning. The world will continue to evolve at a furious pace.
You and I will reap the benefits of many of these changes before we die. Our children will be living in a radically different world before they grow old.
I’m excited. How about you?
These are the best of times. Let’s focus on the positive and enjoy them together.