Why Positive Thinking Is So Difficult - A Personal Theory

Summary – Picture a black dot in your mind. Nobody notices the white background.

How many of you would have agreed with me that positive thinking is just one of the most difficult thing to do?

There are tons of books on positive thinking. Each and every one of them is describing the benefits of positive thinking with great details. Some even come with real life examples. No worries, I’m not going to relist the benefits here. If you are interested, feel free though to read about my other thoughts on positive thinking here.

Despite the wonderful benefits of thinking positively, why are we still find it hard to apply it in our life? If for example, you are retrenched from your job, and your girlfriend broke up with you, all at the same time. Will you be able to smile and still think positively? You can do it but it will require your strongest willpower just to create that glimpse of smile.

My Theory On Why It’s That Difficult

I personally believe that we have been trained to make positive thinking difficult since we were children.

Remember when we first learnt the ABCs? We were first taught the 26 alphabets and when we were able to read, we were asked to focus on the 26 alphabets on the books and nothing else. We were never encouraged to describe the white color of the page, and we were usually scolded if we use the book for things other than reading. Do you know that books can be used as cartoon animator? or an emergency fan?

For the record, I have no objection with the methodology of teaching. Children at that age can easily be distracted and allowing them to play with books without any serious attempt to make them read can lead to a sudden jump in illiteracy worldwide.

Unfortunately, the methodoly had indirectly make us more close minded. A book will always be a book to us.

An Accident Is NOT Just An Accident

This is how it affect us now. Take a car accident for example. For most of us, a car accident is just a car accident. While in fact it is so much more than that.

  • It is a reminder for you to be more careful next time.
  • It is a chance for you to finally learn how to claim for insurance.
  • It is a boost in confidence in driving if you manage to avoid the accident.
  • It is an experience that you can boast to your grandchildren.
  • It’s your chance to practice your emergency response skills like evasive driving.
  • You may have saved someone’s life.
  • You can finally learn the true value of life.

In short, we just need to learn how to see a book as something else besides for reading. Isn’t that what positive thinking really is? Looking at things from a different and positive view.

- I Wonder -
What else can you do with your books?

———— Summary ———–
It was night time and I was at a boarding school. My friend and I was beginning to get bored with our studying. There he was, another friend who was actually sleeping on the table. Being bored, my friend and I started to stack up books on his chest. It must be around 10 books altogether when he woke up and started mumbling at us.

He must be very sleepy since he believed that we were doing an experiment to determine the maximum force needed to be applied on the chest before a sleeping man wakes up. At least that’s what we told him. Good times. :)

Photo Credit – JustReenie

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This post has 12 comments.


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  1. 14 Mar 09 9:17 am

    A agree, a shift in perspective is essential. However, I’ve found that when I would try to set up some sort of positive construct in my mind, and hope that I could hold on to that when the water got rough, it never worked consistently. What worked for me was changing my actions, and over time, those positive behaviors permeated positivity into my thinking.

    The better mental space I’m in, because of living life with integrity, the better my thinking tends to be. When I am taking care of myself, I can get cut off in traffic and think “Man, that guy sure is in a hurry” and chuckle. Conversely, if I’m not sleeping enough, if I’m procrastinating or running late, that same event can cause a nearly apocalyptic response.

    Thanks for the post,
    Derek @ NüHabits

  2. banji
    14 Mar 09 6:01 pm

    Derek – You have a point. Positive thinking does come easier when you are in a better mental space like you said. When we are sleeping well, eating right or happy, everything in our life seems a little bit brighter. :)

    Thanks for sharing Derek. I guess we need to consciously produce that mental space everyday.

    p.s. Whenever I get cut off in traffic, I always tell myself that he must be in a hurry to go to the toilet. Immediately he is forgiven :)

  3. ummu alif
    30 Mar 09 12:02 pm

    ‘tetap optimis dalam mencari sisi- sisi positif terhadap “bahasa Tuhan” yang terungkap dalam setiap musibah yang melanda’ = positive thinking

  4. banji
    31 Mar 09 12:29 am

    Ummu Alif – Nice definition of positive thinking. Thank you.

    If you don’t mind I would like to translate that to English for our English speaking friends reading – “Positive thinking is the optimistic attitude in understanding the message of God in every downturn we encounter”

    Please correct me if I’m wrong

  5. 21 Apr 09 5:09 am

    One of the reasons why its so difficult to always be so positive is because there’s so much negativity around us. Turn on the news and there’s wars going on. There’s global warming etc. When I am the happiest mood but then start a conversation with a negative relative, that can really have an affect on me.

  6. 28 Apr 09 9:53 pm

    Office Rave – That’s an interesting point. It is always easier to see the negative things in life. Thus, affecting our personal quest to positive thinking.

  7. 31 May 09 4:32 pm

    Lets find a way to positivity through reframing
    our mentality.

    When your lover leaves you, you might say
    “Oh, this is the end of my life!”

    Somebody in the other place on the planet might
    says “Ah, this is an opportunity for me to get a better
    person as my lover”

    Hazwan

  8. 20 Jun 09 1:23 am

    Your first image about the black dot in the white background is an excellent in illustrating why it’s hard to think positively. I think that we are more used to noticing when we feel pain than when we feel good.

    I like your examples of re-framing a car accident into something not so bad. I think we should also be careful not to justify the bad things we do to not feel so bad about them.

  9. 28 Jun 09 7:36 pm

    Hazwan – That’s an excellent way to perceive things differently. There is always a two way of seeing things.

    I remember one story told by a friend. If you write the number nine on the sand, your friend who is standing directly in front of you will see the number 6, no matter what you told him :)

    Daryl Furuyama – I agree. We have to draw the line between looking at things positively and justifying the negative things we do. Thank you for the complementary thought :)

  10. lynn
    09 Feb 10 11:55 pm

    Positive thinking is about more than the thought that we have and it is an entire approach to life. It means focusing on the positives in any situation rather than the negatives and thinking well of our self and others. The most basic indicators of our positivity or negativity are our emotions. The more aware we are of emotional signals, the more we will be able to move our feelings from negative to positives. Furthermore, our thoughts and beliefs also influence us to be positive. The core strategy of positive thinking is to adapt our thoughts, emphasizing the positive and defusing the negative. Alter our thought and we automatically alter our emotion and redirect our action.
    ` To improve our approach to life, we must ensure every aspect of our behavior is positive. The key to real success in positive thinking are first, we must challenge our thoughts by rethinking our thoughts, checking the facts, reviewing our track record, being realistic, keeping things in perspective and looking on the bright side. Second, we must alter our mental images by making positive pictures, and tapping our unconscious. Third, we must using constructive language by choosing the right words, avoiding “should” and using affirmations. Forth, we must rethinking our beliefs by building positive beliefs, collecting the proof, setting up experiments, evaluating our attitudes, banishing fear and restructuring memories. Fifth, we must establishing self-esteem by rethinking the messages, setting our own targets and being kind to our self. Lastly, we must maintain our positive behavior by staying on track, using “as if” approaches and planning a positive day.

  11. Huey Laforet
    24 Jan 11 10:31 am

    This makes little sense when you consider the whole. We see a book for more than a book, and what we can see can be negative as well. It can be a blunt instrument used for murder. It can give you paper cuts. If you ingest it, the ink will probably make you nauseous, you may even choke on the paper. If you look at the totality of events, more things are negative than positive. How many trees were killed for paper? Positive events are only fleeting, subjective, and usually of little consequence. Events we consider negative have far reaching consequences.
    Even if your life is saved, you will still one day die. And that death is eternal. In that sense, the bad will always outweigh the good. Torture is far worse than the best feeling you could possibly experience, and humanity has limitless capacity for cruelty. All you’re really listing are cute defense mechanisms to fool yourself into believing a reality that isn’t so.
    You might ask if there is value in knowing or acknowledging a truth that can only be painful. I don’t know, but some large part of me thinks that as a being that can comprehend reality, it’s my duty to do so faithfully and truly.

  12. 13 Sep 11 5:06 pm

    THINKING POSITIVE ALWAYS HAVE A GOOD RESPON FROM OTHERS BUT WHY WHEN THINKING NEGATIVE ALWAYS HAVE BAD RESPONS FROM OTHERS.

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