The Power of Constructive Thinking
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"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
- Herm Albright
As someone heavily involved in the life coaching and personal development industries you probably think I'm avowedly pro positive thinking, right?
Well, yes ... and no!
You see, positive to me is one of those words that implies polarization. If something is not positive then by default it must be negative.
All too often, those who adopt a positive thinking approach to life, see it as an 'all or nothing' strategy. They rigorously attempt to shut out any thoughts that don't fit their definition of 'positive' and, in so doing, lose the opportunity that such thoughts offer for healthy reflection and introspection.
A very good friend of ours recently fell prey to this two-dimensional positive thinking mentality.
Lindy (not her real name) has always been a bubbly, vivacious character, seemingly without a bad word to say about anyone or anything. Any discussion she was part of that threatened to veer off in the direction of what she regarded as anything remotely negative was quickly intercepted with a cheery "Don't be so negative. Look on the bright side, we're lucky to be alive," or words to that effect.
When Lindy got divorced, she remained outwardly buoyant and seemingly as positive as ever. But on the inside all was not well. Lindy had cut off her avenue for reflection about the difficult parting of ways with her ex, believing that such thoughts were negative and unhealthy.
The result? She experienced great inner frustration, confusion and anxiety that she felt unable to show.
Through coaching Lindy was shown how to alter her mindset from one of 'positive' thinking to 'constructive' thinking - and she has never looked back.
Pain and pleasure
We live in a multidimensional world where the primary motivators of our existence, at a basic level, are pain and pleasure. We are constantly seeking to avoid or minimize pain and attract or maximize pleasure (using the broad definitions of the words).
By trying to shut down our pain receptors and regard everything around us as being pleasurable and positive, we miss some amazing opportunities for personal growth that the so-called 'negative' or less palatable experiences afford us.
Personally I love to be in the company of people with a generally positive disposition towards life, but I feel uncomfortable with those who refuse to acknowledge the more difficult and challenging times and reflect on them for what they truly are.
Positive thinking is most effective when it involves introspection and an active attempt to build on the many 'negative', painful or less pleasant experiences that we are exposed to.
For this reason I prefer to talk about Constructive thinking.
By constructive thinking I mean having a healthy appreciation for the exquisite balance that exists in nature and the Universe and not being afraid to engage in self enquiry about how to make the most out of a situation or experience that may, on the face of it, seem undesirable.
Constructive thinkers know that all experiences, whether pleasurable or painful at the time, contribute to our growth and development as individuals.
Being able to reflect
The trick is being able to reflect on our life experiences in a way that helps us to determine and appreciate the learning, the message or the growth opportunity that is at the heart of both our 'positive' and 'negative' experiences - and then taking action to make the most out of it.
By the by...
This morning I received a request for our free report on life coaching where the person inquiring had listed, as the key question they want answered, the following:
"Will this help me to make a difference in someone's life in this harsh and cruel world we live in?"
It struck me that a constructive thinker would be likely to word this quite differently, perhaps like this:
"Will this help me to make a difference in the lives of others who struggle to see the wonder and beauty of this challenging world we live in."
Till next week...
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