There Are Two Ways to Use Positive Thinking — Only One is Right
One thing all of society can agree on — water is good for you.
Surely, no one thinks water is bad, right? I hope not. Anyway, why am I bringing this up?
Even water can kill you if you drink too much of it at once. This happens to people who take ex or molly, get super thirsty, and literally drown themselves by drinking too much water.
Why am I talking about water poisoning? Because it illustrates the point that anything can be overdone, counterproductive, and even harmful.
Life is about balance, context, and nuance. The more black and white you think, the worse your life probably is.
Ok, what’s the point, Ayo?
I used these examples to illustrate the debate over whether or not positive thinking is useful.
My answer? It depends.
The Secret to a Successful Life?
I used to have a picture of a yellow Lotus Elise on my wall when I was a kid. I told myself, one day, I’d have that car. Now, this was just me being a kid with a pipe dream. But some people actually take this attitude literally.
Enter The Secret. According to The Secret, you simply have to think about what you want, add pictures of it to your vision board, and it will miraculously appear in your life.
You’d think most reasonable humans would take the idea with a grain of salt, but some, many people took it literally. Alas, odds are, they didn’t get their proverbial Lotus Elise or equivalent.
Remember what I said earlier, though — balance, context, nuance. When it comes to ideas like The Secret, I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is something to be said about the power of visualization, writing down goals, and trying to speak things into existence.
On some level, I could even be convinced of some of the more “woo woo” stuff because I do believe that humans probably can’t perceive all of reality.
That being said, all the manifesting in the world won’t do a damn thing without actual work. But when combined, it can be pretty powerful.
So, while my life is built on a bedrock of work — writing 3–4 hours a day for a half-decade, networking, learning new skills — I have a big ol bag of tricks to create the life I want:
- I write affirmations, daily.
- I meditate, daily.
- I’ve been journaling heavily for the past few years.
- I have a document with goals ranging from the next 90 days to the next 25 years.
- I keep a daily gratitude list.
- Although I don’t constantly consume self-help like I used to, I still read, watch videos, and listen to uplifting podcasts.
Now, why do I do all of these routines that may or may not work?
Simple, I have to.
Let me explain.
The Only Defense Against Chaos
“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.” — Marcus Aurelius
When you’re trying to reach a major goal and venture roads less traveled, you have to deal with a lot of B.S.
First, the society you live in wants nothing more than to make you feel weak, helpless, and outraged. And the arbiters of outrage pornography have mastered the craft of tickling your lizard brain and activating your amygdala on command.
Second, you have to deal with your own inner-critic — who takes the form of your own self-talk and also manifests itself in other people, the media, environments, etc.
Last, the literal steps you need to take to accomplish a dream are so daunting that they can quite easily break you mentally.
So, I use positive thinking to essentially brainwash myself.
I meditate because I know my monkey brain will run wild if I don’t. I write affirmations to focus on what I do want as opposed to what I don’t want.
My goals keep me grounded and focused — I’ve barely looked at the large 25-year goals document I wrote a while back, but I don’t need to. I know I’m guided by it and living accordingly.
Positivity techniques serve as a fortress against the negativity of the world and they help re-wire the way you think and behave.
I don’t know the exact science, but I suspect the things you say, the ways you behave, and the areas of your life focus on affect you at a deep subconscious level.
So even if something like affirmations don’t literally cause the outcome you want to happen, I bet they subtly alter your behaviors in ways that lead to that end, which is the entire point.
Watch, Manage, and Control This At All Costs
Again, I don’t know the science, but there seems to be a real energy force around us that we can’t see, per se but can feel.
Think when a gregarious confident person comes in the room. It’s as if they’ve swallowed the energy of the room into their body, literally.
Or imagine walking past a scowling meth addict smoking a cigarette. You can feel that darkness emitting from them, so much so that you try not to look as if doing so would turn you to a pillar of salt.
Think of how thousands of people become one in settings like a stadium — how the combined cheers of the fans can send energy down into the field and makes the players play even better.
So when you use positive energy, you send it out to others. What does that do? It changes the energy of people you interact with. I flash bright wide smiles at people all the time and it genuinely forces them to smile back as if they didn’t have a choice.
I try to be mindful of my own energy at all times and take it seriously, as if it affected me on some metaphysical level, because I think it does, even though I can’t prove it.
Again, the point isn’t to sit in your room and pray over energy crystals to magically become a millionaire, but rather the fact that your mental state matters much more than you give credence to. Being positive seems like the only obvious choice.
Being positive also increases your energy levels so you can be more productive and serve others. Negativity both seeks to suck energy from others and also drains you at the same time. Yet people are negative, why?
How to Escape Limbo on Earth
I watched a talk once that said people like outrage because it lifts them up from an even lower level.
See, many people in society don’t even have the energy to be angry. They’re zoned out. Glassy eyed zombies.
What do people stuck in apathy do? Rise to self-actualization? Often, no, at least not in a straight line. The next step up is anger. You can get angry instantly and it doesn’t require much work to do so.
I suspect people participate in these quarrels because they’re trying to jolt themselves awake.
I’ve wondered why people attach themselves to something as silly as politics. Then it hit me. People who get all into political outrage porn are, in a way, fulfilling a f***ed up life purpose, but a life purpose nonetheless.
We all need a mission, a religion, a path to follow. It’s killing them on the inside, but I bet people who deep-dive into that type of nonsense do feel their actions are worthwhile.
But, the inevitable occurs. Evil pours out. And evil has reared it’s ugly head more and more lately. When a tragedy happens, approximately zero percent of people want to discover the root cause of the problem. They’d rather fight. They don’t actually want peace. Sad.
The only way to counteract this energy? Focus on being a positive individual, influence people through your actions, build your true life path and let the chips of society fall where they may because you can’t do much about them.
The Life-Changing Magic of Purpose
In the beginning, I wrote for fun and sharing what I’ve learned. Next, I wrote to fulfill my own dreams and goals by sharing and learning. Now, I’m reaching the point where I feel like what I’m doing is truly important.
Not because of what I want, though. I feel like I owe it to the world to change as many hearts and minds as I can.
I’m trying to recruit my own troops for the culture war. But my team isn’t “left” or “right,” it’s “positive.” This is why, I know for a fact, my audience has people from both sides of the aisle.
There’s a level that transcends those arbitrary lines. I aim my positivity laser beam there, and all the sudden those “differences” melt away.
People are hurting, lonely, sad. We shouldn’t have so much tragedy, depression, suicide, etc as we do logically because we’re more prosperous as a society than we’ve ever been.
There’s the rub…materials don’t equal well-being. Focus. Mission. A positive and strong sense of self. Those are what we need.
Past generations were worse off materially, rights wise, and opportunity wise, but at least most people kind of knew their place in the world — “corporate man,” “house-wife,” “war-hero,” “factory worker supporting their family.”
Again, not morally judging those, but a sense of certainty of where you belong in the world goes a long way in terms of having a stable mental state.
Now, we suffer from the paradox of choice. The institutions and shared culture have been destroyed. Cronkite — and his balancing force — is dead. People are more lost and aimless than ever before in the freest society of all time.
Without a sense of purpose, positivity becomes more difficult. I guarantee you if a genie came down and transformed everyone into a person of purpose, who had a mission to fulfill, all the outrage and fighting would stop immediately.
People with a positive life purpose don’t post or get in fights over outrage porn. When I see people who do that, I see lost souls. Itching and clawing their way out of apathy just so they can feel something. Trapped in the rat race and venting their frustrations.
Instead, no matter how hard your life is right now, focus on positivity. There’s no other way.
The Inevitable Fork in the Road You Must Face
Some people scoff at self-improvement, but which seems better objectively?
Trying to improve your life and using some hokey methods that may or may not actually work, but can at least have a placebo effect?
Or creating negative self-fulfilling prophecies, diving into nihilism, and letting a fake air of nonchalance toward the world slowly kill your soul?
You have a serious choice to make, especially now.
The divide between optimism and pessimism is growing rapidly.
You might not think so now, but adding little deposits into your “negativity account,” can “accrue interest.” Negativity compounds and spirals out of control. But, so does positivity.
I’m not happy all the time. Not even close. But my general outlook on life is way better than the average person. I can tell because when people interact with me, my energy can startle them. It makes me sad that cashiers are taken aback when someone is nice to them.
That’s the world we live in. But your world doesn’t have to be that world.
Create a fortress for your mind. Or don’t.
I’ll check back with you in a decade to see how things shake out.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.