The Elusive Positive Attitude: Why You Just Can’t Hold Onto It

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If you’ve come here in search of tidy tips on how to have a positive attitude, you’re in for a shock.

A lack of positive attitude tips is NOT the problem. Most of us know more positive attitude advice than we apply, right?

The problem is rarely a pure absence of positive attitude. It’s the overwhelming presence of a negative one. Without a tendency to lean into and nurture negativity, positive attitudes come easily and stick around naturally.

Negative attitude is nine times more powerful than positive attitude.
– Bikram Choudhury

It’s the pervasive inner negativity that has to be reckoned with. Then, all that positive advice can actually stick.

positive attitudeOf course, the most common thing most people do to overcome a negative attitude is attempt to drown it in positivity.

You must not allow yourself to dwell for a single moment on any kind of negative thought.
-Emmet Fox

You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.
-Joyce Meyer

So, you start inwardly insisting on being more positive. You read positive books and articles. You learn what to visualize and what to say to yourself. You try ‘your best’.

When this cover up attempt fails, you criticize yourself. Now, your positive attitude venture has backfired and somehow managed to spawn more negativity.

Alas, for many of us, the positive attitude self-indoctrination is short-lived and weak. It just doesn’t take hold. Why not? Because that damn negativity is so deeply rooted. It’s like planting a friendly little flower in a field of robust weeds. It won’t survive for long. The weeds take over.

Here’s the shocking part.

That field of wild weeds that eat friendly flowers for lunch? You’re the farmer. You’ve been actively growing the weeds of negativity – like it or not – for a long, long time.

And you love it.

That’s right. Be honest. Deep, deep down, you love it.

And this is what we’re up against, you and I, in our pursuit of a more positive attitude in life. We love that strangely delicious and painful negativity too much to give it up.

So, when the positive attitude self-indoctrination fails, we’re eager to move on, insisting that we ‘cannot’ change. We tried! Nothing worked. And then we get to indulge in the comfort of self-pity. Ah, safe again at last….

What now?

Luckily, there is a sane and effective process for slowly and surely rooting out negativity. You can eventually arrive at a more balanced place inside yourself. It’s possible to release your death grip on negativity. And you can do it at a pace with which you are comfortable. But, you won’t get there by planting a few positive flowers here and there. You’ll need to begin with a tractor and take a hard look at a field you’ve never wanted to plow.

I call this tractor the ‘AHA’ process. It really moves your earth. If you dare, you can hop on anytime and go for the most challenging and productive ride of your life.

Is it time for you to do something really different inside yourself? This is it!

Disclaimer: I’ll never claim to completely rid myself or you from negativity. I believe that those who make such claims – every single one of them – are lying. And setting us up for failure. Negativity is a natural and indispensable part of human nature. So, relax. You’re going for balance.

Here’s how to start developing inner balance that includes more positive attitude.

The first step in the AHA process is the one you’ve always resisted the most: confronting the  truth behind this whole mess.

Let’s deal with it.

You’re attached to inner negativity like white on rice.

You love to criticize others. You love to criticize yourself. You love to indulge in failure, self-doubt and even self-loathing. It feels – not good – but familiar. You’re so invested that you probably can’t even control yourself. Inner negativity just happens on autopilot, like breathing.

Transforming into a positive person seems:

negative attitude• Impossible
• Unnatural
• Unfair
• Boring
• Like you’d have to deny reality
• Like you’d have to become someone who isn’t YOU

In short, you’re afraid of change, even if the transformation toward a positive attitude is all the rage in the personal develop world; even if it’s what you really need to be happy. Besides, you don’t even know where to begin anymore. This thing seems bigger than you.

Bottom line: It’s inconceivable to give yourself up – to give up the ‘real’ you – in favor of some pollyanna positive attitude that doesn’t even feel right. And you don’t know how to do it.

Still, admitting the ugly truth is a necessary first step.

And the above line of reasoning, by the way, is irrelevant to Step One. Confess your strange and tormented love affair with negativity. That’s it. Don’t worry about changing anything yet. It’s way too early for that. Just see the truth. If you can get that far, you’re really onto something powerful.

Come clean. You’ll feel sober and sane and self-respecting.

Step Two

The first thing to understand about Step Two is that Step One is a true prerequisite. If you don’t get how deeply invested in negativity you are, then step two will be worthless. In fact, it could be even more depressing.

Step One should be a ‘painfully liberating’ AHA moment. If it doesn’t come – you may not be ready to balance yourself. Or, you may need help getting to a true Step One.

In my AHA System coaching, I do not move on to step two with my clients until they are ready; until they’ve actually experienced the painful liberation. If they don’t get step one, we keep at it until they do. Why waste people’s time and money in a coaching program that will ultimately turn out to be ineffective?

Step Two is to understand how your love affair with negativity is affecting you. How does it hold you back? Specifically, we are not trying to show how negativity holds you back, but how your love affair with negativity holds you back.

Negativity is a natural part of life. There’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, a pessimistic attitude is extraordinarily useful under the right circumstances.

If you’d like a refreshing perspective on positive thinking culture and philosophical solutions that balance our positive and negative tendencies, read The Antidote, by Oliver Burkeman.

Your problem has little to do with negativity itself, actually. It has everything to do with your pervasive attachment to it.

When you make the connection between your psychological attachment to negativity and specific, painful, and limiting results in your life; when you see how your love of negativity blocks your natural positive attitude, your motivation will awaken. You won’t even have to psych yourself up. No hype. No pump you up style coaching. A natural positive attitude will dawn on you without any effort whatsoever.

And when inevitable pessimism enters your mind, you’ll process it without feeling like you’re defective or a sinner, or helpless – or making other kinds of emotional investment.

Steps Three through Six are more common kinds of intervention that help you identify negativity triggers, desensitize them and move ahead in a more flexible way with your positive goals in life.

They’re very effective when accomplished in the right order, which is AFTER Step One and Two are firmly in place. In my opinion, most personal development effort begins under the assumption that the clients want positive change and nothing else. In reality, however, most of us are concealing a secret love affair with emotional pain and failure. Under these conflicted circumstances, progress is doomed before it even begins.

If all this makes sense, and especially if you’ve been moved in some way by these concepts, perhaps you’d like to work with me, personally.

If so, I recommend watching our free video:  Self-Sabotage – End It With An AHA!. If you get the full AHA Solution program, I’ll be thrilled to include a free 30-minute coaching session over the phone or Skype.

Here’s to ending our love affair with negativity, allowing a positive attitude to have it’s place, and to being normal, imperfect, mostly happy human beings.

If you like this article, then like Mike Bundrant’s Facebook Page to keep up with all his writing.

About Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is a retired psychotherapist, Master NLP trainer, and practicing life coach. He and his wife, Hope, founded iNLP Center in 2011. For information on coaching with Mike, please visit his coaching website AHA System.

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