“Learn to see the potential good in everything. Looking for the good not only boosts morale, it also is excellent for exercising your imagination and creativity.”
U.S. Army Survival Manual FM21-76
Thinking positive (or ‘positive thinking’) is something we hear about, over and over again. There are countless books written on the subject and a whole industry built around it… And with good reason! I believe that this one idea alone can hold the key to happiness. It certainly does for me.
I was lucky to be born into a family of positive thinkers, so some of their influence certainly rubbed off on me – without my even knowing it. And it really helped! If I look back on my life, I can easily recognise that thinking positive contributed to much of what I have come to recognise as my state of happiness. Apart from helping me maintain a generally sunny outlook on life, thinking positive really came into its own whenever times got tough and I faced challenges in life. The funny thing though, is that I benefitted so much from doing this one thing – even though I knew so little about it and practised it so infrequently and without really meaning to. Can you imagine the power and the leverage I can tap into by doing this more consciously and deliberately? Me neither! But I am just beginning to find out!
So what does it mean to think positive? Thinking positive means looking for the good in every person (this includes ourselves, but more on that in another post) and situation. We might be aware of the ‘not so good’ aspects, but instead of focusing our attention on those details, we decide to focus on the good stuff. To me this essentially means being an optimist. I really do feel that they are one and the same thing.
Next, a little bit about the quote… Out of all the quotes I could have used for this post, I decided to use the one above, because it contained so many gems of what I have come to recognise as ‘truths’ relating to happiness. I also wanted to use it because of where I actually came across it. Although I was initially surprised to find such a statement in a survival manual meant for military personnel, once I got over my surprise, it made perfect sense as to why an entire section of the manual should be devoted to thinking positive.
Anyway, getting back to the part that I have quoted above, I’d like to break it down into sections in order to share the many ideas and meanings this quote holds for me:
I like the use of this word because it shows that thinking positive is as much a skill (that can be learned and practised) as it is a habit or a way of being. So you can always pick it up or improve upon it, no matter where you are along the way. And, like most other things, the more you practise the better you get at it!
‘See the potential good in everything’
This is hugely empowering as it is an invitation to look beyond the obvious and be open to possibility. It reminds us to be optimistic – to remember that things CAN work out, no matter how bleak they may seem right now. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is for most of us to automatically see the potential ‘bad’ in everything. Not helpful! I’m sure you’ll agree that the other way round is far more helpful.
‘Looking for the good (not only) boosts morale’
This part describes of one of the biggest benefits of thinking positive: it boosts morale. It keeps you in a constant state of ‘I’m ok. Everything is ok’. I find that this brings a sense of contentment and security, which is a good place from where to figure out what to do next. Looking back at my description of what happiness means to me, I find that this feeling of contentment and security is what happiness often feels like to me. So I like it. A lot!
‘It also is excellent for exercising your imagination and creativity’
I am totally sold on the idea of living ‘deliberately’ and creating the lives we want for ourselves. Imagination and creativity are the things which allow us to do this and for that reason alone, I consider them invaluable. But add to this, their power to help us in overcoming life’s challenges and in solving problems, and you will see just how important these abilities are. Einstein wasn’t kidding when he declared that “Imagination is more important than knowledge” and I fully agree!
Now that I have shed some light on what I have come to understand as ‘thinking positive’ and how it relates to happiness, I’d like to share a little story that you might hopefully enjoy:
The story goes that once upon a time, there were two frogs who accidentally fell into a vat of cream. They both tried to swim off to the sides of the vat and climb out, but these proved to be too steep and slippery.
One frog, seeing no obvious way out, eventually gave up and drowned.
The other frog, most likely a positive thinker and an optimist (and possibly one who had read the U.S. Army’s Survival Manual) decided to carry on in trying to find a way out. After some time, his constant moving about and paddling began to churn the cream into butter. Eventually, the cream became so firm that he was able to walk on it and climb over the side and escape!
I can’t remember where I first came across the story and I don’t know its origins. I am also sure that I have given a shortened version (and perhaps one that has been slightly skewed to suit the point that I want to make). But I’m sure you get the picture.
To me, all of the above serves to illustrate the point that happiness is a choice. Every minute of every day we get to exercise this choice. We get to decide what we think and that, in turn, affects how we feel. So we get to decide how we feel – happy or otherwise.
Ultimately then, it is true to say that our happiness has more to do with the choices we make than the circumstances we find ourselves in. This is why thinking positive is such a powerful habit. It is pretty much a happiness generator that can run on ‘auto-pilot’. Because thinking positive is simply a willingness to choose the thoughts that serves us well and make us feel good about ourselves, our lives and others.