12 Ways to Think More Positive and Achieve More

Friday, January 12, 2018
Fatou Darboe

To thrive and create opportunities for yourself in business, you must think positively. This statement has been made by several successful business people, including Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post.

In addition, positive thinking can give you more energy and confidence; and also prevent stress-related disorders like hypertension and depression.

You may think that the power of positive thinking is a cliché concept but it is a concept that has been backed up by numerous scientific studies, specifically psychology.

But does the power of positive thinking really mean?

Positive thinking can be defined as hopefulness, positive thoughts and imagery; or positive self-talk. But those are still vague concepts. If you want to effectively exercise positive thinking and become more positive, you'll need actual examples.

We’ve provided several positive thinking strategies to help you overcome negative patterns that have prevented you from achieving your goals in the past. Choose several that you feel will help you the most and incorporate them into your daily life.

But first, let’s take a look at how thought arises in general.

How Thought Arises

You may be thinking that the first step to thinking more positively requires you to reprogram your mind. That’s a common misconception. You do not need to reprogram your mind or anything else for that matter.

You just need to program it for the first time.

There are many patterns or circumstances that merge into automated thoughts and behaviours that people are not really accountable for. They come up automatically and just happen.

What you’re actually struggling with is how to master your mind in a more proficient way. And you can only come to grips with that when you understand how your thoughts are created.

Dual Process Theory

In psychology, a dual process theory explains how thought generates in two different ways or systems.

Those two different systems of thoughts are as follows:

System 1

This is your automatic, immediate thoughts and impulses that come from your body, that you are not aware or conscious of. Your brain tells you that you have gone through this before and that it is trying to protect you.

In System 1, your brain is trying to operate optimally. It does not like to overthink. So it asks itself two questions: What do we already know and how can we apply it to this situation?

For example, if you had anxiety or fear in the past and a similar situation is brought up, your brain automatically brings about those fears and tells you to run away.

Similarly, if you encounter challenges, your brain protects you by sending you a signal that it is worried and that you need to protect yourself at that moment.

However, those are rarely helpful thoughts. They are just automatic but not useful at all.

Your brain is simply trying to give you the simplest and fastest route to deal with that fear or challenge.

In order to become a more conscious, mature or progressive person, you need to take control of System 2.

System 2

System 2 is the conscious console of your mind. It gives you the ability to create, control and directly work with your thoughts in a given moment.

It does not depend too much on just the situations that come up.

Obviously, most of our lives are driven by System 1: we just go through the emotions.

However, the most successful people and the high performance folks disagree. They discipline their minds to support them when their brains come up with automatic immediate thoughts. They rely on System 2.

They train their minds to process positive, confident and resilient thoughts which lead them to make healthy and sound decisions.

You need to learn how to do that.

And one of the best and easiest ways to do that is to fully understand how thoughts can develop into automatic and strong thoughts.

People who have consistent negative thoughts only have them because they give more power and attention to those thoughts. The automatic and simple repetition turns those negative thoughts into persistent ones.

The relative weight they give those thoughts is heavy. They keep thinking about them and the repetition stamps it in the back of their heads. Their heads subsequently use those thoughts as easy ways out: they know them so they easily pull them forward.

The bad thing about that is that if you keep thinking those negative thoughts, your mind becomes automatically conditioned to bring them up without your control. The good thing is that you can use that same rule to put positive thoughts into your life.

How to Control Your Thoughts

You can achieve that by giving positive thoughts and approaches a lot of weight and importance in your life. Simply focus on them and give them a good amount of time over a long period of time.

They will get stamped in the brain as well.Your brain will know that it is easy and automatically think about positive things. It will automatically make you think of the best possible outcome in everything you do.

So, take control of your thoughts and trace where they are right now. Ask yourself these questions, repeatedly: What am I thinking of right now? Are my thoughts helping me or are they automatically coming out negative and self-protective in ways that are setting be back in life?

Ask them while you’re in a queue, car wash, in traffic, etc.

The more you notice what you are thinking about, the more you can interrupt what you’re thinking about. If it is negative and creating obstacles for you, redirect it.

That is where your personal power comes from. How can you redirect it? Find out what the opposite of the negative thing is and start thinking about that. Focus on it and repeat it to yourself. You can even close your eyes and visualize it.

When your mind wants to go back to the easy way – which may be the negative way – tell yourself that you’re not into the easy way at the moment. That you are conditioning your mind.
Perhaps this all sounds too philosophical. You may be thinking; how do I make this happen?

Well, here is a simple thing you can do to condition your mind. Grab a piece of paper and write down five positive questions (i.e., what am I grateful for right now? How can I have fun today?) you will ask yourself three times a day. Read out the questions and answer them.

They are simple questions but you are giving them a lot of weight by focusing on them three times a day. If you focus on them three times a day for a month, your mind will start to re-shift; and povide automatic simplicity in answering those questions. You will start living in that mindset versus a wandering and unconscious mindset.

Image credit: Buffer

You can also come up with three or five words that describe your ultimate self, like happy, bold, present, etc. Focus on those words three times a day as well.

Set them up as alarms in your phone to ring at three different times during the day. Even when you’re in a bad mood, when you look at it, you’ll be reminded as to what you want to be. That is who you are so go back to that.

It sounds simple yet people find it hard because it requires discipline.
It is not only thoughts that program our conscious and unconscious minds. Actions and behaviours do as well.

If you take action repeatedly, you will train your mind to do that. Just do things that are positive for you – be bolder and more confident for no reason at all. The more you take action, the more your brain is automatically conditioned to know what to do.

That’s a whole lot of psychology!

Let’s move on to practical tips you can employ to live a more positive life and consequently achieve success in a more efficient manner.

12 Ways to Think More Positive and Achieve More

1. Think About Possibilities

The likelihood of success is one of the biggest deciding factors in business. It is what drives venture capitalists to invest in companies; what drives pharmaceutical companies to invest in research; what helps restaurants decide what they will feature in their menus, etc.

However, the problem with basing decisions on probability is that it boxes you in.

Try basing your business decisions on possibility instead. That allows you to think outside the box, without following the set business and social constructs that you've been confined to.

Possibility is always there even when probability is low. So if you have an idea or want something in life in general, don't give up on executing or getting it based on the probability of you achieving the desired outcome.

2. Start Your Day with a Positive Affirmation

How you start your day/week sets the tone for the rest of the day/week. For example, have you ever had a bad dream and then felt like nothing good happened the rest of the day?

That is probably because you started the day with a pessimistic view or negative emotions from the dream and carried those feelings with you to the workplace.

Forget about the dream or whatever else went wrong that morning and start with positive affirmations. Look in the mirror and say (we know it sounds silly), “I’m going to have the best day today.” You will be amazed at how awesome your day goes.

But let’s be frank, there is no such thing as the perfect day. You may encounter minor challenges, but always focus on the positive aspects of them.

For example, if you are stuck in traffic, think about how you now have time to catch up on your favorite podcast or audiobook. If a restaurant is out of the food you usually eat, think about the excitement of trying something new on the menu. Who knows, it might be your new favourite meal!

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

As Arianna Huffington once said, “Failure is not the opposite of success but a stepping stone to success.” You sometimes have to hit a dead end in order to progress to the next step. Failure is simply part of the journey to success.

Indeed, wins and losses are what make up a wholesome career. We seek balance in all things: diet, exercise, family etc. A healthy professional career should also have balance and that balance comes with a fair share of wins and losses.

Failure also helps you to appreciate your successes. If you are not failing, then you are not taking risks and you consequently won't advance.

Accepting failure will help you think positively and make your successes all the more exciting.

4. Welcome Negative Feedback

You are not perfect. And negative feedback hurts. But you cannot avoid having weaknesses.

You can, however, choose to see the strengths in your weaknesses. For example, if you are critiqued for being impatient, you can take it as a compliment that you're proactive.

If you are critiqued for being bossy, you can take it as a compliment that you're in charge or that you like taking the lead.

Criticism only hurts when you let your weaknesses define you. On the other hand, if you choose to see the strengths and compliments behind the criticism, and as room for more improvement, you become more self-aware. And self-awareness can make you a more well-rounded and positive professional.

5. Be Kind to Yourself

It is highly important to be kind to yourself if you want to achieve success in any part of your life.

The first step to being kind to yourself is to not adhere to standards you wouldn't expect others to adhere to.

Simply aim to do your best but don't punish yourself when you fail. You will just end up in a vicious cycle and a life of “should haves”.

Live in the present and move forward. Give your subconscious a pep talk and tell it the amazing things that you have already achieved.

6. Avoid Exaggerating the Negative

In line with being kind to yourself, you should stop critiquing yourself constantly.

Negative self-talk is something we all do. In fact, it creeps up easily and is often difficult to notice. The problem with such thoughts is that they become internalized and might reinforce your perception of yourself.

When you see yourself doing that, stop and replace the negative sentiments into positive thoughts.

If you see someone hurling insults at someone else, you'd probably try to put a stop to it, right? So why hurl insults at yourself?

Your internal voice sometimes gives you negative absolutes like “I always rush into things” or “I'll never reach this goal in time.” Those are absolutes which mean that they're 100% true all the time.

Perhaps rephrase them to “In the past, I've often rushed into things. Now I'm better at easing my way into things.” That way, you can be in control of your thoughts and think more positively.

7. Stay True to Yourself

Try as much as possible not to compare yourself to others. Sure, you can have role models but you shouldn't compare your career to that of others.  

You are unique and you will achieve success in your own way, on your own terms.

Staying true to yourself will not only make you a more positive person but will make achieving success easier for you in business and in life.

8. Be Responsible for Yourself

Not everything is your responsibility. You are responsible only for yourself.

Sure, you can influence others in a positive way but you are not responsible for their thoughts and feelings. You should be helpful but shouldn’t feel obligated to do everything for everyone.

It puts too much of a burden on you and is also discourteous to those around you.

We are all in charge of our own happiness and emotions. So any time spent trying to make someone happy is wasted.

On the same note, don't expect others to make you happy either. You create your own happiness and make your own decisions. People may set the stage for your emotions but only you can dictate how everything plays out.

In other words, the opinions other people have of you can only affect you as much as you allow them to.

9. Say “I Apologize” instead of “I’m Sorry”

Do not blame yourself when something goes wrong or when someone has a problem. You can apologize and accept the blame if you are in the wrong. But learn to move on.

You however shouldn't feel responsible whenever someone is upset. In fact, you should remove “I'm sorry” from your vocabulary and instead say “I apologize.”

10. Laugh at Yourself

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Try to find humour in the lowest or trying situations.

You should remind yourself that you will probably be retell the story or crack a joke about it with friends over drinks later on.

Let’s say it’s dire, like you were laid off. Imagine the most ludicrous way you could spend your last day at the company. And think about the most outrageous and unusual job you could pursue next – like yarn graffiti artist.

11. Be Present in the Moment

Let’s say your boss is ripping you a new one. What in that exact moment is happening that’s so bad?

Forget the negative comments he made 10 minutes ago. Forget about what he might say in the next 5 or 10 minutes. Instead, focus on the individual moment.

In most situations, you will find that it is not as bad as you thought it to be.

Many of the sources of negativity come from memories of recent events or the inflated imagination of a probable future event. So it is advisable to always stay in the present moment.

12. Surround Yourself with Positive People

Positivity is contagious. When you surround yourself with positive and optimistic people, you will hear more positive affirmations, stories and experience more positivity in general.

The positivity will affect your own thoughts which consequently affect your words and actions. That positivity will also seep to those around you.

The difficulty lies in finding positive people to be around. You need to however remove toxic or negative elements from your life first.

Wrapping Up

Anyone, in any situation, can incorporate these tips into their daily lives and become more positive as a result.

Optimism is indeed crucial to a successful life and career. You have to be your own cheerleader – no one else can do it for you – and allow opportunities to come your way.

Write down these strategies and remind yourself to pause and change your way of thinking each time you find yourself being critical of yourself.

As you become more comfortable with each new way of thinking – for example, learning not to apologize or accepting blame for someone else's anger – add a new positive thought strategy to your list.

Finally, remember that you need to employ a carpe diem mentally in order to succeed. How will you seize the day today?