Slotralogy and Positive Thinking

Many people have told me they dislike trying to think positive because it feels forced and phony. They say things to themselves they don’t really believe and it doesn’t seem to make much difference. Saying these positive things doesn’t really make them feel any better.

I think cognitive psychology has made an important contribution to this discussion. They’ve come up with a kind of anti-negativity process. It is arguing with negative thoughts. Finding mistakes in negative explanations. This is what I've called The Antivirus For Your Mind.

And since you already feel negative when you start doing this, it is fairly easy to do something negative, like find mistakes in your negative thoughts, to criticize your thoughts, to argue with your thoughts.

On the other hand, it is exceedingly difficult to say or believe something positive when you feel so negative.

After doing a little antivirus for the mind, you have lifted some of your bad feelings, so you are in a better frame of mind to do something more positive, like practicing slotras.

Slotralogy is different than positive thinking, although, of course, there is some overlap. The thoughts you’re practicing don’t necessarily have to be positive or cheery. The purpose is not only to make you feel positive, but to direct your attention in a good direction. When Dougal Robertson said to himself, “We must get these boys to land,” he said it with a kind of grim determination, not cheerfulness or enthusiasm. He would have had to fake any enthusiasm, and it was unnecessary. Grim determination worked just fine and it was way better than despair.

Nelson Mandela describes himself as an optimist. Not a perpetually cheery person, but one who “keeps one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.” I like that definition. “There were many dark moments,” wrote Mandela, “when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lay defeat and death.”

Notice that he didn’t give himself up to despair, not because he was naturally buoyant. His refusal to sink into despair was a decision. He saw the practical implications of directing his mind deliberately, and used it. Most survivors of trying conditions, and most successful people do the same.

Al Siebert, author of the The Survivor Personality, puts it this way, “The will to live is different from hopefulness or optimism. The survivors I have interviewed have not talked about being sustained by hope.” They are sustained by their determination, grim or not.

One of the reasons optimism is so powerful is that it is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Or at least it has a tendency to become self-fulfilling. Assume something is changeable, assume you can do it, and you’re more motivated to try than if you assume you can’t or that it is unchangeable.

When Jim Carrey first decided to become a comedian, his father, Percy, helped him out. Percy played the saxophone when he was younger and dreamed of playing it for a vocation, but he gave it up to become an accountant.

Now he didn’t want Jim to give up his dream. Jim says of his father, “He taught me it’s better to go after something special and risk starving to death than to surrender.”

When he was only 15, Percy managed to get Jim an opportunity to try his talent on stage. In a Toronto comedy club, dressed in a yellow polyester suit his mom bought for him, Jim had his first experience entertaining people. It was a nightmare. The emcee made Jim the entertainment by making fun of him the whole time Jim was trying to do his bit.

Jim Carrey, who went on to become one of the most successful entertainers of his time, was so demoralized by this experience, he didn’t try again for two years.

“I have no idea what motivated me to try again,” he said, “I just felt like giving it a shot. Failure isn’t the end unless you give up.”

Although Jim may not realize what motivated him to try again, he reveals in that last sentence a principle, a statement, a belief that encourages persistence. It would make an excellent slotra. If you’re experiencing a setback, try practicing this thought: “Failure isn’t the end unless you give up.” Excellent.

Read the next chapter: Love is a Great Motivator

This article was excerpted from the book, Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought.

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