What does having a positive mindset really mean?
It’s been a hot topic for the past 10 years or so, ever since a book called “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne was published.
I remember when Oprah made it into a big deal, and everyone read the book. Since then, the idea has survived surprisingly well, and it did seem to create a small paradigm shift in how the power of the mind is perceived, at least in Western society.
“If you are feeling good, it is because you are thinking good thoughts.”
There has been many other authors and motivational speakers that have ridden this wave in the past 10 years. So what is The Secret, and other books on positive thinking really about?
It’s said that there is a universal “law of attraction”. Our thoughts are energy, and both positive and negative thoughts have a direct influence on the world around us.
It doesn’t stop there. Some go as far to claim that everything around us is a product of our thoughts, and so we should both thank ourselves for our blessings and blame ourselves for our problems.
In other words, if we can just learn to think in the right way, we can live the life of our dreams. There are so many problems with this that I don’t even know where to start.
- How does it work with different peoples’ conflicting thoughts?
- How could we alone be responsible for our own surroundings, when the surroundings themselves are filled with people that have their own kinds of thoughts?
- Why do millions of people live in poverty, in war zones, in places wrecked by natural disasters? Is it because they have “bad thoughts”?
- How are some babies born with excruciating illnesses and debilitations, before they even have had the chance to think?
How could it make sense that everything that ever happens is because of just one thing, thoughts?
Lastly, I’ve always wondered at the focus on money and material things. Even though the theories acknowledge that people are different and have unique aspirations, more often than not, wealth is equated with being successful and happy.
I hope I’ll always be this suspicious when a book tells me to imagine having a fancy car, and then that will lead to my happiness.
I’m not saying that the law of attraction isn’t real.
I’m sure that there are still many things that are still invisible to us in the Universe, or that we just don’t understand.
It would be arrogant to dismiss the power of thoughts completely. In the same way, it’s arrogant to dismiss religious beliefs – it’s just that it doesn’t seem very likely that, at this point, the human race would have it all figured out.
Of course, the reason why the positive thinking theories are so generalizing and childish is that simplicity sells. The simpler an idea, the better. But just because an idea is easy to understand, it doesn’t mean it’s true.
With all of this said, there is much science on the benefits of positive thinking. To put it simply, it helps our brains see possibility instead of limitations, and a person who sees possibility is much likelier to succeed than someone who doesn’t.
It seems we should put some weight on the power of our thoughts. But how?
First of all, we should never try to force ourselves into a state of mind. We shouldn’t think that feeling sad or angry will have direct consequences, because then we will start to blame ourselves whenever we don’t feel our best.
There’s no point in trying to bury our true feelings. Instead, we should deal with them so that they don’t come back to haunt us later.
Positive thinking should be a perspective you adopt, kind of like putting on glasses with a different tint from the ones you normally wear. It’s not about trying to ignore bad things that happen. It’s about learning to find that silver lining in any situation, whether it’s that failure motivates you to do better or that you were in a bad situation, but you learned something about yourself.
We humans have an ability to create meaning for ourselves. This is a valuable gift in a meaningless world, where innocent people suffer for no reason at all, and where there is no simple solution to our problems.
I’ve read about people that lost their legs, but wouldn’t go back because now they appreciate life much more. I’ve read about parents that lost a child, and as a result, started a charity that saved the lives of many other children, so that others wouldn’t have to go through the same experience.
This shows what positive thinking SHOULD be all about. It’s not trying to create happiness, really. It’s not about telling ourselves that everything is fine when it’s not. It’s not pretending like a fancy car will make us happy.
It’s acceptance, perseverance and faith. It’s choosing to see what’s good, or what could be good.
Imagine if this is how we all lived.