I have a cousin who’s a bit of a kook (which is why she’s my favorite of course). When the book The Secret came out, she was one of the first on line to get a copy. I’m not writing to talk about the actual book, but more about the debate it spawned about positive thinking, affirmations and wishing your life better. There seem to be two schools of thought about positive thinking: that you’re either boosting your morale and bettering your self-esteem or that you’re simply deluding yourself and blinding yourself to reality.
In my opinion, both schools are right. When you have lupus or any other chronic illness, the concept of positive thinking is almost laughable at times. Between endless tests and appointments, rising health care costs, little to no job security, social stress and side effects from medications…well, not much to be positive about, is there? But it’s precisely because the going is so rough that some level of optimism is essential. At the same time, it’s possible to use a sunny outlook to ignore real and serious problems.
What does “positive thinking” mean to you?
Try to talk to someone about “positive thinking” and chances are, you’ll get a range of responses. To me, being positive is about believing in a couple of concepts:
- I’m not psychic. You can guess how any given situation might turn out. You can evaluate possibilities based on your past experience. You can take polls, crunch numbers and analyze your little heart out – and most of the time, you’ll probably be right. Being positive is expecting the best result, while being negative is expecting the worst result. But, none of that is the same as knowing how things will turn out.
- I’m flexible.How many times have we fought to get somewhere, only to be disappointed with what we find there? We have these big, bright and shiny ideas about how we want our lives to be and are so stuck on those narrow images that we miss tons of other good things that might possible fill the same needs in us. Take myself for example, when I first started writing it was all fiction with some really bad poetry thrown in. I still like fiction, I would love to write a novel someday, but for now I get immense satisfaction blogging and writing articles. I love the possibility for variety and much quicker publishing time. I’m still gaining ground in my dreams of being a writer, but allowing myself to be flexible about how it works out.
- I’m willing to work for it. Believe it or not, a lot of people aren’t willing to work, really work, for their dreams. And by “work” I mean, learning everything about your goal that you can, being willing to keeping trying new techniques or angles until you make headway, being willing to invest in new skills and not giving up. If someone asks you what you are doing to accomplish something, do you mutter about how hard everything is or do you know specifically what you’ve tried, what worked and what didn’t?
What it all boils down to, is that I can achieve most if not all of what I want in life – if I never stop working toward it and let myself be flexible and enjoy whatever I can along the way. Whether it’s my health, my job or any other area of life, those rules are the same. For me, that’s being positive because as long as I’m still working at it, I haven’t been defeated and who knows what result my next idea might have.
How do you see being positive?
Being Positive Does Not Mean Being Naive
Of course, feeling positive about achieving something does not mean that it will be easy or that it will always be fun. Having lupus, a lot of normal activities are decidedly less fun for me then they might be for others. Monitoring my health is a full-time job with no paycheck and god help you if you get fired. But the end result – prolonging my life, bettering my health – is worth any frustration. So I keep working toward it. If I need to stop a day or two and just cry, I’ll get it out of my system and get up again. If I need to scream, I’ll scream. Those things don’t mean that I’ve failed or that I’m weak or that the cause is hopeless. It’s normal to be sad in sad situations, it’s normal to be frustrated when things are hard. It’s normal to think about throwing in the towel twenty times a day. But, in the end, it’s whether or not you get up again and keeping walking that makes the difference.
So be honest with yourself. If you’re really not willing to do whatever it takes, spend as much time as needed, make mistakes and risk failure to achieve something, then chanting a happy affirmation into the mirror every day really isn’t going to do much. Doing the grunt work and chanting an affirmation to keep yourself focused and motivated is a different story.
Now here are some more pictures and links to motivate you to reach for the stars in this coming year.
The WillPower Engine – Luc Reid goes into more detail about self-motivation then I even like to think about. But it’s incredibly interesting reading.