Psychology Articles


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We wrote about how people often mistake peace for being a passive state when really it is the most active of states. In a similar vein, many mistake positivity for a superficial, blissfully unaware attitude, not in touch with reality, when really we have to be deeply aware of ourselves, others, and our situations to choose positivity, to choose the most life-affirming and Self-affirming path out of the myriad options available.

Many of us turn a molehill into a mountain, focusing all our time and energy on mistakes and on what is going wrong, mired in negativity. We make ourselves and everyone around us miserable. Why water the seeds of negativity when we can use this same limited water supply to help our best seeds grow and flourish, the seeds of happiness, productivity, compassion, love, and intelligence, for example. Choosing positivity in our lives does not mean we are ignoring the negatives, it just means we are refusing to water those seeds, refusing to let them grow into weeds that will threaten our beautiful gardens.

To err is human, and we all make mistakes in our lives. Why spend inordinate amounts of time focusing on these mistakes when we are doing so many things right too? By building upon what is going well we are actually using a method from behavioral psychology called training an incompatible behavior. Here is an example. A dog cannot be sitting peacefully in the corner and jumping up on house guests at the same time. He has to choose one of these two behaviors. You don’t actually have to discourage him from jumping up on guests to make him stop, instead you can train him using positive reinforcements like praise and encouragement to go sit peacefully in the corner every time he hears the doorbell ring, signaling that a guest has come over. The problem solves itself. It’s not that you weren’t aware that there was a problem. You saw the negative. You didn’t want him jumping up on guests anymore. You chose to solve this problem with positivity, using positive reinforcements, rewarding him for successfully accomplishing what you were after. The process made everyone happy, and the end result makes everyone happy.

In the same way, when we spend our time building upon the positives and keeping a positive attitude in spite of our awareness of the negatives, most of our thoughts and behaviors become positive and growth oriented. We pass this attitude on to those around us. When we see and encourage all of the positive behaviors and traits in ourselves and others, we water these seeds and help them grow. This is why it’s a waste of time to harp on the negatives, unless these negatives are life threatening or seem so important that saying nothing feels impossible. Otherwise we look for and find the good, fanning these flames until the bonfire is raging, using our energy for growth instead of for correcting mistakes.