Positive Thinking and its role in Personal Development
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The Power Of Positive Thinking?

There is a wealth of literature in the pop-psychology field that recommends 'the power of positive thinking' as a way to motivate yourself. Personally, I believe that its value is overstated and that a more effective type of thinking is available to you.

Think of your mind as a garden bed; it has some flowers (positive thoughts) and it has some weeds (negative thoughts). If you spend your time looking at the flowers, the weeds will flourish while you are ignoring them. You need to look at the weeds regularly, recognise that they are weeds, and pull them out. It is only when your garden is free of weeds that your flowers can flourish.

Positive self-talk is fine provided that it meets two conditions: (1) it is realistic, and (2) that you believe it. If it is unrealistic, you will never get to believe it. It won't take long for you to realise that you're lying to yourself and then give yourself a hard time for the lies.

Rather than parrot untrue positive thoughts, in the hope that they will magically become true, try saying something empowering that is true.

For example, if you feel nervous in the company of strangers, instead of saying, "I am comfortable around all people," say, "I feel uncomfortable around some people. There's no point denying the way I feel, however there's no point exaggerating how bad I feel either. The main thing is that I can cope with these feelings. After all they're only bad feelings, they won't kill me".

A statement such as this empowers you to remain in uncomfortable situations until you learn that there really is nothing to feel uncomfortable about.

Some people find coping statements too long to remember. That's why many of them write the paragraph on a piece of paper that they carry with them. Whenever they feel anxious they consult the paper.

I use a shorter statement that I call 'exposing my but'. Here's how it works:

I recognise the truth (if there is any) in my negative thoughts, and then add a rebuttal. Some examples:

  • I don't like meeting strangers but it won't kill me.
  • People might look down on me but there is no law that says they have to like me.
  • I didn't do that task very well but that doesn't reduce my value as a human being.
  • Bob and Mary don't like me but that's not the end of the world.

The other point to bear in mind is that the words themselves are not as important as the message that they convey. You don't need to repeat the words over and over for them to be effective; you only have to believe the ideas behind them.

You can lie to yourself that you feel comfortable around strangers until you are blue in the face, but it won't ease your discomfort. In order to feel comfortable around strangers, you need to rid yourself of the negative thoughts that create the discomfort.

The example of approval-seeking that I provided above was just one example of how to use the 'expose your but' technique. The idea is to superimpose the technique onto your actual problem.

I have used the rebuttal technique with good effect to overcome procrastination. I say such things as:

  • I don't like mowing the lawns but it won't kill me.
  • I'd rather not do it now but once I've completed the task I won't have to worry about it again.
  • Doing nothing seems easy but getting the job done and out of the way will make life easier in the long run.

Procrastination often leads to self-downing. Again, the rebuttal technique can reduce self-downing and thereby increase self-esteem. Examples:

  • Once again, I have procrastinated but that doesn't make me a slob; it makes me a fallible human being, just like the rest of the population.
  • I wish I'd done it sooner but there's no law of the universe that says I must not procrastinate.

Why don't you start 'exposing your but' today?

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