Seeing life with a positive outlook has nothing to do with the oft-invoked rose-colored glasses ascribed to those who don’t “see” reality. It takes way too much work to be positive to dismiss the effort as Pollyannaish or an exercise in denial.
There are several key things the positive-minded person does to remain on the plus side of things.
1. They choose to focus on the present moment.
Being present takes a Herculean act of will when it seems that all aspects of daily life are increasingly designed to confuse and distract as much as economically, politically, or spiritually possible.
Yet, in order to be positive, one must be mindful.
The ability to appreciate what happens within a moment, then the next, and the one thereafter focuses our random desires and brain musings into a state of mindfulness that prevents the buildup of plaque-like falsehoods.
Staying grounded, centered, and aware are vital to a positive mindset.
2. They choose to seek beauty.
The funk-soul band Earth, Wind & Fire had a talent for crafting lyrics that settled in the warmest part of the soul. “If there ain’t no beauty you got to make some beauty” from the song All About Love is one.
The world is an ugly place. It’s loud, it’s frightening, and very often deserving of tears.
But take a walk through any forest and you’ll see the world is an extremely beautiful place. A gentle place. And if you happen to cross paths with a stranger in those same woods, you might be fortunate to realize that person is beautiful and gentle too.
Beauty doesn’t block out the unpleasant, ugly aspects of life. That’s not its task. Beauty quietly, gently hopes to remind everyone that it exists alongside the lashing winds, brambles, and twisted barbs we tend to focus on as “real” life.
Deciding to see beauty places beauty right in front of us. And if by chance it’s still not found, we make it.
3. They choose to engage their creativity.
Ever notice that positive people tend to be creative?
The aunt who was quick with a laugh baked the best pies; the girlfriend from college who smiled with her entire being knitted scarves and gloves like they were going out of style.
Positive people make a choice to be creative at something. They’ll experiment with new foods in the kitchen, or perhaps mix beverage concoctions just to see if they’ll like the taste.
Often they’re readers, reading being the ultimate game of creative mental theatre.
The choice is made to find a creative refuge from the demands of home, work, family, even love. If, as a people, we can’t carve out a space to express “us,” we harden ourselves to joy and take a negative universe as a given.
4. They choose to face reality.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
We know this quote as the Serenity Prayer, originally written in 1951 by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.
It is relevant and important to the positive mindset because it illustrates a key facet of positive living: facing the world creates a particular power that willfully retreating never can.
It’s hard to be truly positive unless one lives an honest life. The positive person makes the conscious choice to face reality in order to remake the parts of it they can for the betterment of all, minus the angst and guilt of not being a part of the solution to everything.
5. They choose to look for “wins.”
Getting through a big copying job without a single paper jam: win.
Catching all the green lights during a relatively deserted drive: win.
Successfully teaching your child the concepts behind magnetic attraction and repulsion: win.
The positive person consciously seeks moments during their day to count as wins, because as humans, we need those pops of light to let us know we’re doing something right.
Big wins are great, but it’s the smaller daily wins that sustain us.
6. They choose not to dwell on the past.
Being positive doesn’t mean not experiencing (or not ourselves being the cause of) negative situations.
What it does mean is that the positive person chooses not to mire themselves in that past like doomed flies to emotional flypaper.
The positive person chooses to acknowledge the past and, if fortunate, learn from it, but draws the line at feeling constrained by it.
One can’t focus on the present or even one’s immediate future while simultaneously trying to live in the past.
7. They choose to be a beacon of light to others.
The weird thing about negativity is it causes people to be stingy at giving of themselves but greedy at making themselves miserable, leaving one’s entire life feeling slow and leaden.
Few things are more energizing, however, to the positive-minded person than seeing someone else shine, and if said positive person can shine their own light on someone else’s brilliance, they generally will.
8. They choose to listen more than they speak.
It’s been said we learn more with our mouths closed than open.
Even online, our first reaction to seeing something we think others might find noteworthy is to “speak” on it. If we’re not commenting somehow or other, a feeling creeps in: we’re fading from existence!
Harlan Ellison wrote a short story in the late sixties entitled “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream,” which presciently encapsulated the current tenor of 21st century life.
The positive individual knows they have both mouth and voice, but chooses their words sparingly unless they’ve genuinely got something to add to the discussion that will enrich all involved beyond the simple dictates of the ego.
9. They choose not to jump on the bandwagon.
Along the lines of listening, the positive person works to avoid most forms of bandwagon hopping, otherwise it’s far too easy to be swept along by the tidal wave of issues and outrages plaguing the world today, and regaining one’s safe ground becomes a constant drain.
This is not to say the positive person doesn’t make their voice heard or strive for change.
On the contrary, they have potent voices precisely because they aren’t constantly in someone’s ear, commenting on every post, or echoing the concerns of every hotbed issue.
People who are positive look for solutions, find those solutions, and share those solutions as necessary.
10. They choose to enjoy the physical life as much as the spiritual.
The positive person in your life may not be a specimen of physical perfection, but it’s a good bet they make a regular effort to get their bodies to do more than just move them from room to room.
It’s also a good bet they enjoy culinary delights. Also sex. And taking long baths. And very likely the unending joy of an itch scratched well and good.
Meditation and emotional engagement are lovely, but, rather than push against the pleasures of the flesh, there’s more positivity in appreciating the wonders that the billions of nerve endings and receptors we house have to offer.
11. They choose to bring in the reinforcements when negativity rears its ugly head.
Positivity can wane.
In order to remain on the plus side, the positive person will repeat these choices the next day, and the next, and so on, because staying positive amid combative, divisive voices is not easy.
They also have to endure dismissive voices, because “positivity” still carries the unfortunate connotations of being one part escapism, one part naivety, and one part deluded optimism.
But to be truly positive, one must not only acknowledge our omnipresent darkness, but see it, then decide to push against it.
The positive person chooses to reach out to other sources of light when in need of recharging: friends, lovers, teachers, all those seen as shining positive lights in their own unique ways.
Being positive is an act of valor, strength, and service to others. It’s what keeps the world from being nothing but thorns when we stop to smell the roses. If only all bouquets we approach could be that sweet.
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