Positive Beliefs: Life is a Wonderful Adventure

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When you allow more positive beliefs to your life and reduce the limiting beliefs to your life, your daily experience will not be the same, ever.

Yesterday as I listened the Awaken the Giant Within abridged edition (to my disappointment). I did pick up quite a few useful thoughts from there. Mainly there was this idea about beliefs as tables and then there are these stories that either give the table more legs or take them away.

With limiting beliefs, we ought to question them and take some legs away.

With positive beliefs, we ought to strengthen them and add more legs to the table (reasons to believe). The stronger the references, the stronger we will believe them.

Positive beliefs allow us to live more fully, we are not limited by the unseen any longer. We allow us to be something we can be.

It’s an incredible realization to see that what you believe supports your reality. I am suggesting you to become a bit positive lunatic, not completely though.

Optimism is in itself about having positive illusions about life. This makes life worth living, even if this is partially true. Optimism in itself can be dangerous too as I’ve written before.

Martin Seligman, one of the founders of the positive psychology field and also a person who has developed something he calls “learned optimism” – which can be helped to cure people who have what he calls ‘learned helplessness’. It’s very interesting concept, where he also warns of the dangers.

Stock market crashes and too overly optimism is not a good thing. Then our decisions are not based on the reality at all, but to our illusions.

With the positive beliefs, I believe we can though questioning find right mix of realism and joy of life. Life has more to offer to us than we think and we have more to offer to the life than we can imagine. That’s why we need optimism and positive beliefs.

Questions are a good tool to sharpen the thinking, and with this we can test if the reasons and references for our beliefs are true or not. By doing this the questioning exercise often enough, we quickly notice that the negative beliefs are not worth it. Positive beliefs combined with actual gratefulness makes life really joyful.

List your positive beliefs about yourself and the world.

Then make another list about the negative beliefs.

I did this exercise yesterday and  I noticed that most of the negative beliefs that popped up didn’t make much sense. I started writing right away reasons that these are actually causing more pain than any good to me and I started to distance myself to these thoughts.

At the same time, I started seeking more positive beliefs. In fact since my imagination was only limited, I could come up with a few good ones, yet I felt lacking something. Then I tried googling and right away for example this list of 100 positive beliefs comes handy, you can take a belief or two from there that really resonate with you and make it your own.

Life is a wonderful adventure,

Janne

Summary of Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin Seligman

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The Learned Optimism unfolds as story of how Martin Seligman’s understanding grew towards what is now known as positive psychology. There are some key concepts that click together, such as explanatory style (i.e. Optimism or Pessimism), helplessness and depression.

Helplessness, or a belief that there is nothing that you can do to change your circumstances appear to be strongly linked with depression. This is can be the downside of pessimistic thinking which optimists do not appear to have.

“Learned helplessness could be cured by showing the subject his own actions would now work.”

Pessimist strength that optimists do not have is however the more accurate sense of reality. It appears optimists are disillusioned, which can lead to trouble when left unchallenged. As example see year 2008 financial crisis, many banks and financial institutions were run by optimists alone and they were not taking action based on reality.

Each of the explanatory style has their faults. Optimists tend to think that “bad” events are only temporary while good events are permanent, where pessimists think that the bad events are permanent and good only temporary.

“What we want is not blind optimism but flexible optimism— optimism with its eyes open. We must be able to use pessimism’s keen sense of reality when we need it, but without having to dwell in its dark shadows.”

To achieve this, certainly pessimists can learn to become optimistic. This happens through set of cognitive skills, learning to dispute pessimistic explanatory style in particular. The change can be worked either alone or with the help of therapist.

“Much of the skill of dealing with setbacks, of getting over the wall, consists of learning how to dispute your own first thoughts in reaction to a setback.”


In the book there is a lot more about the method to learn a more healthy explanatory style. It also includes a test which is very helpful. There is online version of this test, which you might find even more useful.

Book on Goodreads, Amazon.

Advantage of Pessimistic Thinking Style with Emotional Awareness

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Life is uncertain, that is a given. Rational thoughts might not always help to convince the emotional thoughts to stop worrying, so what to do?

What has worked for me years really well is to have some time for quiet contemplation, where I can become aware of my emotions. Recognizing that what is that emotion or feeling really about, is the first step of taking action.

After a busy work week, I’ve had thoughts and emotions more than enough for the weekend. Now was Sunday morning and my head was still full of feelings not all of which were pleasant. So I decided to dedicate time for contemplation right in the morning, which was a great decision. With about fifteen minutes I discover these feelings of fear, worry and anxiety, which were mostly without rational explanation. As I start to label the feelings, my mood does start to improve. As I recognized fear for example, I understood okay I am afraid and then I ask myself what is it I am afraid? By learning the answers and then answering them, I began to feel a lot better.

When living a busy life, where our conscious minds do not have time and attention for various thougths, our emotional mind takes over the task and as result quickly and effortlessly stores these as simple emotions which might not be the best descriptions the reality. That’s why the emotions later come to haunt us; it’s like a mailbox that has to be dealt with consciously and manually.

Have time for quiet contemplation and emotional awareness, so these emotions do not build up. Only way to have time is to dedicate even a five minutes day to practice.

Seeing the world as it is

My mind is by default quite pessimistic, itself is not negative feature at all. It gets negative when fear, worry or anxiety cross threshold, and start to influence other people in undesirable ways. I would not want to that to happen, that’s why I’ve been practicing meditation daily for almost eight years now.

Advantage of pessimistic mind is that it can be trained for realistic thinking, where we see have better sense of the reality. When I started my journey of personal growth on 2009, I recognized that earlier I had not necessarily made right perceptions: I often overestimated the probability what will happen and how often I will fail. I feared a lot of ordinary things, even things that affected my health and wellbeing. With the realization that my perception of the reality might be wrong, I began to experiment and take more risks. I took action despite of my fear and decided to see what will happen, I didn’t have much to lose anyway.

Thanks to putting myself in to those situations, I begun a little by little to develop more accurate sense of reality. I also understood that the failures are overestimation from my part (pessimistic mind does not like failures, because its’ very loss averse), however I started to change the meaning of failure from actual failure to learning. In other words I learned to bet the kind of loss that I was completely comfortable of losing.  I think that we all need to live bigger and in order to do that we need to take chances in learning, i.e. take a risk that we can handle.

Where optimistic mind sees the chance for success despite the actual low odds, pessimistic minds highlights the high failure percentage. We can live and be successful with either setting, or then to use combination of these, whatever suits you best.

Personally I know that the pessimistic mind comes with the chance of depression and it is something I’ve gone through as well. To prevent that, we need to occasionally have more time to reflect, recheck what is happening on our emotional map and then revise the course accordingly.

Success Starts with a Choice, Repeat the Choice Daily and You Become That Choice

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When you learn to take the first step, taking the second step is just a matter of choice. Continuing the thought from yesterday with attaining the results we want from the life.

Excuses are easy way out, but once we have learned to take the first step, only thing that prevents us from taking the second is our own choice. We already know how, so then it’s merely matter of taking the steps until we reach our goals.

In theory that is, in reality there are limitations such as time and space in addition to our own beliefs and views of the reality. Here comes the big difference, about a really sensitive topic: optimism and pessimism.

As I’ve read and studied Martin Seligman’s book about Learned Optimism, I’ve also come to understand that it’s not necessarily solution to turn everyone into optimist, although there are certainly benefits when dealing with depression.

I’ve experienced depression and my natural thinking style has been quite pessimistic, or realistic as I would have put it myself even ten years ago. In fact, after reading the book the realistic observations seem to be right according to the book, although the explanation style in life is a major downside, which indeed has been a more limiting and depressing factor.

As I’ve become more aware of this internal dialogue and more importantly the explanation styles I’ve become also more relieved that with such minor adjustments I can find reasons to live fuller life.

When it comes to pessimism and optimism, we are talking inevitably about our relationship to time and space as well. Optimists seem to think good things last forever, while pessimists that they are very specific and temporary.

In the long process of life, I find it that having the belief to influence things and make life better is a very empowering one. What I know for sure, is that we have the tiny space of control: our decisions. Nothing in the universe can take that ability to make our internal choices away from us, we have that power.

Leveraging that tiny choice, power of decision we can create higher quality lives for everyone.

Quality comes through quantity, the more we do the more quality we are likely to produce. The more we do, the more feedback we are able to receive and through that we can improve.

Therefore once we first learn the first step. Second step is to keep on the repetition until we have mastered that one step. If we keep taking once step at a time and that becomes our nature, we will master whatever we desire in life.

Learning optimism might help, however it isn’t a requirement. Only requirement is the decision and keeping on to that decision every day.

Negative is positive

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Sometimes I am amazed at my mind’s capacity to produce suffering. Even after achieving what I initially wanted, I notice I am not happy for very long. Happiness is very fleeting emotion, quickly displaced by dissatisfaction of the new normal reality.

On other hand my mind has been quite resilient against shortcomings of life. I guess that’s the advantage of having mind tuned to a more realistic-pessimistic setting by default.

All things have two sides, and remembering this and being happy with what I’ve I always find the calm and satisfied sense of being.

Life follows ups and downs, there is always another angle to look at things, you can literally find something positive in anything. We just need to remember this lesson:

Negative isn’t separate from the positive, they are the same.

Accept what you have and find the positive!

Harnessing the dual energies of optimism and pessimism

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Out of two thinking patterns, I thought that the pessimism was doomed and optimism was the only way to go. A lot more recently I’ve come to understand that of course there are merits to both of the thinking patterns when used correctly.

We have our natural temperaments tuned to either one, however we can also train our minds to certain extent to see to world in a different light. One such way is priming your mind by journaling and finding three positive things from each day. Another way is gratitude meditation.

To try, to get to action the optimist spark is very useful. With gloom outlook we are rarely going to try anything if we do not think we have a chance to succeed.

Pessimist outlook is not particularly bright about the future, that’s exactly it has tremendous potential power to prepare for the worst cases, see the risks and minimize all the possible negative consequences.

What I suggest here is to channel both energies in where they are most useful. Worry can be turned into action of researching and thinking of the worst cases, the optimist spark into long term vision which can help us to handle the gloom times as well.

It is possible to have both of these gears, another option is to have people who have different kind of thinking tendencies than yourself and listen to that. Acid testing ideas with different mindset, and especially worst cases are a mature way of going about things. Once that all is done, we should light the candle of optimism and trust that the shelter we build for the fire is strong enough or even if it’s not we are prepared and competent to face the storms.