One of my goals is to reduce the amount of unnecessary negative emotion people endure. I have realized that much of the worrying I used to do, and much of the demoralization I felt after setbacks, and much of the frustration I felt because my aspirations kept petering out, all of this was unnecessary negative emotion. The bad feelings were a response to my thought-mistakes rather than a response to the real world.
I'm not the only one. So I'm going to do something about it. If you're reading this, you probably want to do something about it too. Can we make any difference? Can we make even one person more positive? A positive thinker would jump up and say, "Of course! We can change the world!" But that's just a kind of pumped-up certainty about something they're not really certain about. It's trying to make it so by saying it's so. It's phony.
Crushing pessimism is different than positive thinking. To successfully clear your head (or anyone else's) of pessimism (and ultimately make them more positive), you have to be dealing with the facts. What do we know for sure? The world is more negative and pessimistic than it needs to be. That's for sure. And we are motivated to change it.
That's all we need. We don't need false certainty. We don't need "belief." The truth is, we don't really know for sure if the world can become a less pessimistic place. But we can go in that direction anyway, and give it our best.
This is a great task in my opinion, and if you're reading this, you probably think so too. It might be difficult, and it might even be impossible. But it is a fight worth fighting. This is like all the best stories that have ever sent a tingle up your spine and brought tears to your eyes: We will pit our skills against the forces of darkness. Will we win? It depends on how well we do. It is not a certainty. If we knew we would win for sure, it wouldn't be a challenge, so it wouldn't be as fun. The fact that we can fail allows it to be engaging, challenging, and ... FUN!
As George Bernard Shaw said, "This is the true joy in life: Being used by a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one." Read the whole quote here.
So choose yourself a task. Give yourself a mission. What are you going to do today to help crush pessimism? Do one thing. If it doesn't work out the way you expected, and that makes you feel demoralized or lose motivation about this mission, undemoralize yourself and carry on. Learn from your failures. They are sometimes more instructive than the successes.
If you've ever watched movies of heroic battles, and wished you lived in such challenging times or had such a mighty purpose, wish no more. Crushing pessimism is a challenge worthy of your highest potential.
Turning Others Into Optimists
Norman Vincent Peale (who wrote The Power of Positive Thinking) and W. Clement Stone (who co-authored Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude) and his co-author, Napoleon Hill — these three men were some of the earliest pioneers of positive thinking. They made it popular, and the revolutionary ideas they taught have now entered mainstream culture. What many of us know about "having a positive attitude" and even how we define "positive attitudes" largely came from these bestselling authors.
Even if you've never read any of their books, they have influenced every generation of positive thinking authors for seventy years. And one of their principles might be called "acting your way into feeling." In other words, if you act confident, it often makes you feel confident. If you act happy, it can sometimes help you feel happy.
This is such a simple and direct method, and so easy to do under any circumstance, that many of us, including me, have used it far too much, and if you have tried it, you know it can devolve into putting on a smiling face to show others you've got a positive attitude. And that doesn't feel good at all.
Peale and Stone had a point that you can "fake it till you make it." If you do it correctly, and do it for the right reasons, your body posture, the look on your face, etc., can make you feel much better.
But when you're trying to change your attitude, the really important question is: What mood or attitude are you aiming for? For Peale and Stone, cheerfulness was the number one attitude to try for. But I disagree. My two favorites are determination and warmth (I don't have a good word for this, but it's a kind of open, affectionate feeling of kindness toward others).
But whatever favorite attitude you choose, you know for a fact that deceiving others by pretending to feel something you don't actually feel doesn't feel good, and people can somehow see through it anyway. Faking a good attitude will simply make you feel phony.
If you would like to make someone more positive, or improve the general positivity of the world at large, you're going to start by influencing the people you know. And most of your power to influence others to be more positive will come from people wanting to know what you know because they like your attitude and admire the way you deal with situations and interact with people. They'll want your attitude. For this to happen, your attitude has to be genuine. Pretending to be positive takes effort and isn't any fun, and nobody wants to emulate it.
To interest others in becoming more optimistic, it really helps if you have a genuinely positive attitude, which may be peaceful, earnest, open and affectionate, or any number of positive emotions besides smiley and cheerful.
If you aren't feeling that great and want to feel better, do something that will make you genuinely and authentically feel better. You have lots of options.
In your efforts to convert others into more positive people, you don't ever have to fake cheerfulness. If you know what you're doing, you won't need to put it on from the outside. It will shine through from the inside.
Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.