Positivity Will Catch You – Honest

In conversation with my husband last night – after a long, long day for both of us – the topic of positivity and optimism came up. I described to him how hard it is, at times, to keep my thoughts positive and focused, and how easy it feels sometimes to let myself sink under the burden of ‘Why bother? This whole stupid writing dream is never going to happen, anyway.’ My husband, as he is wont, made a statement of such profound wisdom that I felt the need to share it with you all this morning.

Being positive is a safety net, he said. Think about that for a while.

Image: tayaradio.net

Image: tayaradio.net

Isn’t that a brilliant thought? Positivity will catch you, like a safety net. What he means is, of course, if you keep a positive outlook, little setbacks (like rejections, failed story-ideas, missed deadlines) will somehow not seem so bad. Being positive helps you to take things like that in your stride, and every time you choose to be positive in the face of a setback, it gets easier. There’s an added benefit, too – every time you choose to be positive when something relatively minor goes wrong, the easier it gets to stay positive when something more serious goes wrong.

Having said that, nothing serious (thankfully) has yet gone wrong for me, really. Things are, more or less, going to plan. But as anyone who’s been alive for longer than a few months is aware, nothing ever goes to plan for long.

Image: awaypoint.wordpress.com

Image: awaypoint.wordpress.com

Habits, like plans, are easy to form, and hard to break. This is not news. For example, I’m a person who’s notorious for chewing the inside of my mouth; I’ve done it all my life. Even though I know it hurts, it can lead to lacerations, and all that, it’s a habit I can’t break. I do it without even thinking about it. Heck, I’m probably doing it right now. Of course, this is a bad habit, and one I could easily do without, but because people are complicated little things, it’s always easier to form bad habits than good ones. They do have something in common, though – the more often you repeat an action (whether good or bad), the more habitual it becomes. The same thing applies to mental habits, and particularly to positivity. I do believe positivity is a mental habit, and I believe it can be practised and learned and encouraged to become habitual. It just takes a huge amount of effort, particularly for a person who isn’t naturally positive – i.e. me.

My mother spent my entire childhood telling me to develop PMA, as she called it – Positive Mental Attitude. I knew she was right, and what she was saying made sense, but for some reason I could just never do it. I allowed myself to be beaten by pessimism time after time, making silly choice after silly choice, giving up on dream after dream. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older, or more secure in my life and myself, or because I’m doing something I really, truly love and want to devote my life to, but being positive now seems like the only logical thing to do in a situation like mine. Mam, if you’re reading this: I finally learned what you were trying to teach me all those years. And – you were right.

As well as the benefits of trying to think positive, and taking the optimistic view in every situation, there’s also this to think about: the more often you succumb to negative thinking, and pessimistic choices, the easier that becomes, too. Every knock-back you get, if you’re in a negative frame of mind, puts you down so much that you just don’t have the time or energy to fully recover from it before the next one hits you. Then, you get put down again, and you sink even lower than you were before. And so on, and so on, until you reach rock bottom, and you’ve no further to sink. Negative thinking, like positive thinking, is a cumulative thing; every choice builds on the one before it, and forms the foundation for the one after it.

This is easy to understand in an abstract sense. It probably sounds quite logical (hopefully) when divorced from a context. When you’re going through something crushing or complicated or upsetting, of course, it’s not so easy to keep your thoughts positive. But, if you’re anything like me, once you start trying to do it, and you let the light in just a little, it begins to get easier and easier, until eventually – I hope – it will become effortless. Imagine what you could achieve if you just believed that you could do anything that came your way, and that you’d give it the very best shot you could. If you were enthusiastic about challenges, and met them with a smile on your face, instead of fear in your heart.

I hope it helps to remember my clever husband’s phrase – positivity is a safety net. He’s right, of course. Start small with positive thinking, and see if it doesn’t bloom throughout your whole life. It’s worth a try! I’m by no means there yet – positive thinking is still a conscious choice for me, a conscious turning away from the downward-pulling power of the negative. I hope eventually it will be instinctual.

When the knocks really start rolling in, and the challenges start mounting up, we’ll see how much progress I’ve made. I’m going to practise as much as I can in the meantime! And, of course, if I can do it, so can you.

7 thoughts on “Positivity Will Catch You – Honest

  1. Maurice A. Barry

    I’m ‘positive’ about this: if I visit Dublin in the near future I’m treating your husband to a stout as he’s obviously someone I’d enjoy listening to for a while :>)
    I’ve spent my adult life in search of…something I have had trouble figuring out. There was a time when I thought it was happiness; not the brief intermittent joy that makes us laugh but, rather the deeper more realistic thing that Aristotle referred to as eudaimonia. Over the past 5-7 years, though, it’s slowly, but powerfully, occurred to me how fluky and often unfair that life is and how unrealistic it is for anyone to expect to have that as an end goal in life. After all, life does have to include the things we’d rather not have–and we will deal with those things even when ‘life sucks.’ That said, with that thought fading a simpler one has becoming clearer and clearer: what I seek is not happiness but, rather, hope. And I do have hope…always. Doesn’t that make us very much alike, then, me and him?
    See–two stouts are in order.
    Cheers!
    Okay three, you can come too :>)

    Reply
    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      I’m ‘positive’ that if you ever do come to Ireland, you’d be made very welcome by my husband and I. (Thanks for letting me come join you guys for a stout, by the way!)

      What a lovely comment to find on my blog post. Well, all of your comments are lovely, Maurice. But this one is extra-special. I thank you – my husband thanks you. 🙂 Hope you’re having a wonderful Tuesday.

      🙂

      Reply
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  4. Salubri

    Of course he is right! I’m positive he knows what he’s talking about there! 😉

    Some people think that “get a PMA” and “be positive and it’ll be ok” are the buzzwords that will help you to do well in whatever you set out to do. Those of us in the know however (those who try something really challenging and who “get knocked down” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kS-zK1S5Dws from time to time) realise that positivity is the secret ingredient that forms the resilience that will keep you bouncing back.

    Positivity is what entrepreneurs need, to keep trying and succeed after as many failures as it takes; it’s what writers need, to write and deliver something that the world wants to read (even when they generally write things that even they don’t want to read); it’s what great athletes need, to set targets, measures and progress goals to achieve greatness – even when they don’t win every time!

    Positivity is what leaders need, to see the sparks in their team to nurture and develop; it’s what good followers need, to see the spark in their leader to follow; it’s the warm thermal that makes your kite soar but – as your husband says – it’s also the safety net that lets us get back up again! (In fact – even more importantly it’s the safety net that lets us try in the first place because we know we’re the kind of people who WILL get up again).

    Reply
    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thanks so much for this! Wow. Perhaps you should’ve written my post… 😀

      You’re exactly right. Positivity is a self-fulfilling thing, in a way; if you’re positive, you’ll feel okay about things whether or not you succeed. You’re better able to roll with the punches. Every small success feels like a huge achievement, and every knockback stings, but not enough to derail your efforts completely. The knockbacks don’t undo all the good work you’ve put in up to that point, and you’re still operating from a strong position – all of which may, hopefully, one day, in a prevailing wind, lead to actual success.

      Hey. Maybe we should write a book, Salubri. Whaddya reckon? 😀

      Reply
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