Having a positive mental attitude doesn’t mean you feel good all the time. It doesn’t mean that you never experience setbacks, heartbreaks, and trauma. It doesn’t mean that you pretend that everything in your life is fine at all times.
Having a positive mental attitude means you adopt a mindset that’s going to carry you through the lows, appreciate the highs, and stay level-headed when you’re bouncing back and forth between the two.
It means you have an optimistic outlook on your life, as a whole, in the long run, regardless of what happens to you in the short term. You don’t have to become some cheery self-help robot to live a good life (these types actually turn me off).
But you want to avoid the following states no matter what:
These all overlap a bit, and they’re symptoms of living the way society teaches people to live. Not only does it appear to be okay to be negative and hopeless, but it’s also encouraged. You get cool points for it. But then you also have to live a crappy life.
Don’t fall for the trap. Use one of these strategies to maintain a positive mental attitude no matter what.
Sometimes you lose sight of just how many blessings you actually have. On the one hand, you can use gratitude and contentment as a crutch to excuse yourself from not achieving more. On the other hand, you do have a ton of things to be grateful for, and remembering those things keeps you from becoming one of those people who’s miserable because they take everything in their lives for granted.
For one, you’re alive. I just read a quote recently that hit me right between the eyes:
Every day of my life is important because I exchanged a day of my life for it.
Easy to get lost in the shuffle and forget how valuable it is just to even be here. Cliche, but true.
Also, consider the quality of the life you live right now and be objective about it. Do you only look up to those who have more than you? Or are you aware of people who are in much worse situations? This is a problem Americans particularly suffer from. We just don’t understand how good we have it compared to tons of other places in the world — a comparative cakewalk.
Regardless of where you’re from or what your life is like, it can’t be so bad that there aren’t a bunch of people who’d love to trade places with you. Always remember that and always be grateful for what you do have, even if you want more.
One positive upward spiral can change the trajectory of your entire life. I get how it feels to feel like having the life you want is simply not a possibility for you. It’s easy to dream. We all do it. But reality is harsh.
How are you supposed to feel like it’s possible to make a major change in your life when, for all of your life, you haven’t really done anything? How do you expect some magic light switch to go off in your head and inspire you to action?
Unlike most self-help writers, I’ll tell you the truth. Odds are, it won’t happen. Odds are you’ll die with a ton of dreams unfulfilled and a bunch of potential left on the table. But here’s the good news. You don’t have to be like everyone else. You can defy the odds.
But how do you do it? You keep going to the drawing board as many times as you need to until you get something to stick. Hold it in your mind that no matter how many times you fall short you just need to strike while the irons hot for a long enough streak to get life-changing momentum.
I pulled it off. I underachieved for the vast majority of my life until…one day I stopped. I’ve been down. I’ve been down bad. But even in those moments I always had this uncompromising level of hope. I knew I was smart and had the talent to win. I just needed to do something with it. You know you have talent, too. There can come a day where you will do something with it.
Some say hope is dangerous, but I’d rather be hopeful than permanently resigned to my fate. Never lose hope.
Only eight percent of Americans are millionaires, but there are a total of 20,000,000 millionaires in the country. Small percentage, huge number. Maybe your goal isn’t to be a millionaire, but there’s probably some dream out there that feels out of touch because only a small percentage of people do it.
My dream was like that. I have seen endless amounts of aspiring writers try to make a full-time living from it. Most of them get chewed up and spit out fast. I used to look up to certain writers and think “Damn, I wonder what it would be like to be at their level.” Now I routinely get mentioned in the same breath as those writers I looked up to.
I figured, most people don’t make a full-time living writing, but some people do. ‘Some’ was more than enough for me — a larger number than zero. I look at the steps those writers took and mapped out what it would take. They weren’t superhuman, they just wrote constantly for a really long time, so I decided I would do the same.
There will always be hierarchies in the world, in different fields, in different categories. Some people have to sit at the top of those hierarchies. Always a small percentage, but a high enough number that it’s feasible. Why not you? Such a simple thought that works so well. Why does it always have to be someone else who wins? What legitimate reason do you have for it not to be you? Screw it.
Be delusional. Based on the way most people live, it is irrational to believe you will separate yourself from the pack. Rationality is overrated. It makes you risk-averse and timid. Life’s too short to be rational. Have an irrational level of faith that you’re going to become one of the best in the world at what you do and it just might happen.
I had a mentor who was usually very tough and abrasive. His normal piece of advice was usually to just suck it up, work harder, and stop making excuses for yourself. But every once and a while he’d provide a bit of gentle reassurance. Here’s one of the strategies he taught me.
Take the time to sit down and write down 20 things you like about yourself. For some people, that might feel like too long of a list to create. But going through the exercise and forcing yourself to talk positively about yourself will help you develop a more positive mental attitude.
I’m about to hit you with a bunch of self-help cliches that sound corny but are actually true. You are more capable than you think. You’re stronger than you think. And I’m positive that you’re selling yourself short in ways deeper than you probably understand.
You probably do beat yourself up too much. I’m an advocate for being hard on yourself as a source of motivation, so long as you use it as a source of motivation instead of pointlessly beating yourself up.
It’s important to estimate both your strengths and weaknesses. Sure up the weaknesses as best you can, but you get ahead by going out of your way to turn up the dial on your strengths and the things you already like about yourself all the way up to 100.
As crazy as it sounds, you wouldn’t want to live a problem-free life. You wouldn’t want to live a life without challenges. You don’t want to be free of fear. The duality of life is what makes life interesting.
When life doesn’t go your way, embrace it instead of running from it. Stop thinking you’re always supposed to be ‘happy.’ Even when you’re not happy, you can be positive. Don’t focus on wishing your life was any different than it is right now. Face the way your life is right now with grace. Try to see what your challenges are meant to bring out of you.
I’m reminded of an insightful tweet I read the other day:
We magnetically attract what we need to confront
As well as this quote:
From a Hindu perspective, you are born as what you need to deal with, and if you just try to push it away, whatever it is. It’s got you. – Ram Dass
What’s my challenge? As arrogant as it sounds, I feel like I’m cursed with knowledge. I have so much of it I simply can’t be ignorant of where I’m falling short in life and I’m destined to be tortured by the things I know yet don’t execute on. I’m smart, but I’m naturally lazy and prone to back away from challenges I can’t coast through. My intelligence makes me hesitant in areas where dumber people are braver. I’m gifted in some ways and deeply challenged in others, some of which are very basic things other humans are great at.
God gives you something and takes something else away on purpose. Don’t be upset with that. Understand that’s the point of it all.
At the end of the day, all of my philosophy leads to one overarching philosophy that helps me have a positive mental attitude. All of this is just a game. You’re not supposed to take life seriously. Most people don’t achieve serious goals because they take life too seriously. When you take life too seriously, you make your life harder than it has to be.
People who work way too hard for money and penny-pinch always remain broke. They think money is real when it isn’t. Those who take the opinions of others too seriously never take public risks and always remain in the shadows. The more someone uses words like ‘realistic’ the less likely they are to break out of the matrix.
Once you understand that you do live in the matrix, you’re free. Everything is a scam. Once you know that you don’t care so much and just play the game. There are no ‘rules’ except for the ones you make up. Everything is a product of agreed-upon figments of imagination — money, laws, the economy, whatever. It’s all BS, which means you can just do whatever you want if you really feel like it.
Loosen your grip and just play. Treat your life like you’re in a video game just looking to level up all your attributes as high as possible for no other reason than you just want to. If you could snap your fingers and make your life any way you wanted it to be, would it be the way that it is right now? If the answer is no, that means you still have a game left to play.
There’s no point to this game, really. And you don’t get to take anything with you when you die. But shouldn’t you at least try to have a hell of a lot of fun along the way?