Change Your Outlook, Change Your Life – Part 1
Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will. —Zig Ziglar
Is there a “Downer Dave” or a “Negative Nancy” in your work or home life? You know the type: no matter what happens, these people always have a negative outlook. They are frustrating and exhausting to be around, because their negativity drains the joy out of everything. If Negative Nancy receives an achievement award at work, for example, she complains that her manager’s congratulatory speech was boring or omitted some detail. And if Downer Dave were ever lucky enough to win the lottery, the first comment out of his mouth would likely be a grumble about the taxes he’ll have to pay on his multimillion-dollar prize.
Some people just don’t seem able to stop being negative. But here’s the thing: they are making a choice to do so. As sales legend Tom Hopkins put it, “Being miserable is a habit. Being happy is a habit. The choice is yours.” With that in mind, maybe some people are just in the habit of looking at things in a negative light. Fortunately, habits can be changed!
Make a Positive Change for Your Health
Don’t underestimate the power of positive thinking! For one thing, it can actually affect your health. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that a positive outlook can significantly contribute to the prevention of coronary artery disease, for example. A study (part of the long-running Nurses’ Health Study, which started in 1976) by researchers from Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital yielded similar results:
We found strong and statistically significant associations of increasing levels of optimism with decreasing risks of mortality, including mortality due each major cause of death, such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and infection.
Clearly, there are plenty of good reasons to be a positive thinker. So why are so many people stuck in negative thinking? How did they get there?
Origins of Negative Thinking
A negative outlook often stems from feeling unworthy—perhaps in response to being criticized or demeaned by parents, teachers, friends, or other influential people in someone’s life. Over time, that person internalizes those negatives and eventually makes them his or her own: the external negative comments directed at that person become a negative inner monologue, giving truth to the well-known phrase “You are your own worst enemy.”
What can you do to transform those limiting self-beliefs? How can you take back your power to think positively?
Take the First Step Toward Change
There’s a simple two-step process to achieve this goal. The first step is to stop accepting the status quo. Just because you have a habit of thinking a certain way doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it.
For example, if you notice yourself thinking, “Why even bother being positive? Nothing ever goes right for me anyway,” stop in your tracks and ask yourself this question: “Is that true? Have I never experienced positive moments?” I’m willing to bet the farm that you’ve had plenty of happiness and successes of all sizes in your life.
Last week you completed a project on time and under budget! On your last vacation you managed to take a beautiful photograph that was in focus and didn’t have your thumb obscuring part of the lens! Last month you watched a movie that you really enjoyed! This morning you the toast you ate for breakfast was just perfect!
See what I mean? When you keep following that train of thought, you’ll find all sorts of happy events and successes in your life—plenty of positive experiences. All you have to do is expand your thinking to challenge the assumption that negativity must be dominant. Then you’ll be well on your way to understanding that negativity isn’t how “things always are for me” and that you don’t have to accept it as the status quo.
Once you’ve accomplished the first step of your personal positive thinking project, it’s time to tackle the second step: when you realize that you aren’t stuck with the status quo, you’ll be ready to change it! Tune in in two weeks to find out how!
 Lisa Yanek et al. 2013. “Effect of Positive Well-being on Incidence of Symptomatic Coronary Artery Disease.” American Journal of Cardiology, 112(8):1120–1125.
 Eric S. Kim et al. 2017. “Optimism and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study.” American Journal of Epidemiology, 185(1):21–29.
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Question: I've been out of work for a while. Do I take a job offer if the pay is awful?
Answer: Yes, taking a job, sometimes any job particularly if you have not worked in a while is good not only for your paycheck but for your mental health as you search for the job you really want. There is no shame in accepting work for honest pay. You are in transition and you need to remind yourself of that and not feel bad if the job you have now or are considering isn't willing to pay you what you are worth. There will be a job out there that will and you need to use all of your resources available including interim work to realize your goals. Taking a low paying job in the meantime may bruise your ego but it won't kill your pride or your wallet.