When I hear the phrase “Be positive!” or “Think positively!” I imagine Jess from New Girl (Zooey Deschanel, we love you) with a giant thumbs up and a plastered-on grin pretending that everything is going to be okay. Because that’s what positivity is, right? Pretending that your situation is better than it is? Or at least that’s what it can feel like at times. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’ve decided that I equally love and detest this “be positive” sentiment, and here’s why: Deciding to change your perception of something from negative to positive is real; it works; it causes you to see things in a different light – love. However, it doesn’t really DO anything; it doesn’t push you to actively make your situation better – detest. Which is why I think that it needs to go beyond simply being positive, especially since no one can “be positive” all the time. There is a crucial part here that needs to be addressed, and that’s the doing. For these reasons I’ve recently decided that rather than a “be positive” mindset, I want to strive for a “be constructive” mindset. This is what that means:
1. Admit it. Acknowledge that you dislike a situation in which you find yourself. It’s okay to be dissatisfied with something. It’s okay to want different, or more, or better. There are times when we are dissatisfied or uncomfortable and it is simply our ego getting in the way of something necessary. But in times of genuine dissatisfaction, admit it. Don’t cover it up with a false sense of positivity. Be honest with yourself about what you deserve and what makes you happy. The first step in igniting change is realizing that a change needs to be made.
2. Problem solve. What can you do to make a constructive change in your situation? It’s not always possible to remove yourself completely. Maybe you have an issue with your coworkers or teammates, or even your family (too real?) – you’re kind of stuck with them, right? So what CAN you do? Problem solve. Maybe you can have a discussion with that person directly – sometimes an open line of communication is all it takes. Perhaps you need to take a look inside yourself and really examine if your issues are with that person, or if they are stemming from a personal bias within yourself. Maybe your issue isn’t with another person; maybe you don’t enjoy your job, or you’ve lost enthusiasm about your sport. Bottom line: If you don’t like where you are, then where is it that you would like to be? Once you’ve established that… How are you going to get there? What is ONE thing that you can do today/ this week/month/year? Put on your “constructive goggles” and problem solve.
3. Execute. If you’ve followed the first two steps, you should have somewhat of a solid plan forming. Did you identify at least one thing that you can do to make your situation better? Good. Now, are you ready? Because that was the easy part. Now is the time to follow through – do it! Create a timeline. Establish a date that by then you want to be able to look back and see a difference in your situation. Be realistic, but be firm. YOU are the one who must stick to it – and the only one who can truly hold you accountable. Remind yourself of what you’re leaving behind, so that you never want to let yourself get back to that place.
Remember that being positive is good and fine and dandy – there’s nothing wrong with choosing to be less critical. BUT some situations call for more than just a shift in your perception. Sometimes you need to face reality and decide that what you’re doing isn’t working any longer. In these instances, I encourage you to BE CONSTRUCTIVE.