Is the glass half full or half empty? Almost a cliché question, but doesn’t make it provide with a less true message. The way we look at things very strongly influences the way we perceive things. The question to look at a glass being half full or half empty is a way of demonstrating that every situation may be seen from different points of view, depending on the individual mindset. In general, one could say that an optimist would regard the glass as half full, the pessimist as half empty, and the realist would say the glass contains half the amount to fill the glass completely. But what does this even mean?
Think about a situation where you left being highly disappointed or hurt. Not the most fun thing to go back to, but just do it for one quick moment. Was it really just the moment or what happened? Or was it because you had certain expectations of it?
Now think about another example. Think back to something you achieved when you thought beforehand you couldn’t. How did that make you feel? Would it have been easier, less scary or quicker if you truly believed you could from the start?
‘Change your thoughts and you change your world’ – Norman Vincent Peale
Yesterday on the Lev Instagram I posted a quote by the famous American minister Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993). Peale was a strong advocate for positive thinking, something on which he even wrote a couple very well-read books. In order to overcome inadequate attitudes and obtain a positive mindset, Peale set up 10 main rules:
- Picture yourself as succeeding.
- Think a positive thought to drown out a negative thought.
- Minimize obstacles.
- Do not attempt to copy others.
- Repeat “If God be for us, who can be against us?” ten times every day.
- Work with a counselor.
- Repeat “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” ten times every day.
- Develop a strong self-respect.
- Affirm that you are in God’s hands.
- Believe that you receive power from God
Looking at this list, I would say that some of the ‘rules’ are more important than others, or some might not even apply to you. Living in this current day and age, it is very likely that you personally are not religious, which would automatically rule out rules 7, 9 and 10. The remaining, however, I believe are pretty important to implement in your every day life. When you develop a strong self-respect, you automatically will become less influenced by other people’s opinions or acts. When you picture yourself as succeeding, you automatically will become more proactive in achieving your goals. When staying away from copying others, you automatically will become more true to your own wishes.
However, to also put a note of criticism on Peale’s work, to minimalise obstacles can only be done to a certain extent. And not everything will be within your own power. However that’s where also ‘rule’ number 2 comes into action: when dealing with a certain setback or obstacle, try to now use the power of a positive mindset and try to find the positive, as little as it might be, and hold on to that. And if you’re really struggling, reach out for help, to anyone: being a friend, counselor, or mental health worker. While in the meantime, try to continuously refer back to that positive picture of yourself.
That is really what positive thinking or a positive mental attitude is all about: it is about keeping optimistic in every situation, how hard as it sometimes can be, and to keep a positive internal focus to influence external factors. It is about finding greater joy in the small things, about living fully according to your own values and virtues, and to step passed your perceived limitations.
Of course, our perception is only one factor that influences broader things like happiness, being content, or peace of mind. However, it is one factor that we can actually influence. Certain life events will still happen and somethings we simply can’t avoid or can’t perceive in another way than it being hurtful or painful. But for many others we actually can. So next time you encounter a difficulty, try to realise your own preliminary perception and expectation. Maybe you could look at it in a more positive or self-assured way? Or, to refer to Peale’s words: try to think a positive thought to replace a negative thought?