Would you describe yourself as an optimistic, pessimistic, or realistic person?
Glass half empty or half full?
Having a positive growth-oriented mindset isn’t just about being happy. A positive mindset sets you up for success — and there is neuroscience
behind why that happens. But first, why are humans wired to think negatively?
The Psychology Behind Negative Thinking
Unfortunately, many of us are conditioned to have an unhelpful mindset.
How does this happen?
Each of us learns how to relate to the world based on the following social agents — family, peers, culture, schooling, religion, the media, and work environments.
We come to unconscious conclusions about who we are, what we are capable of, our ability to learn and improve based on our social conditioning.
This means that much of what you believe to be true isn’t your belief to begin with.
Through decades of conditioning and repeated messages, we end up with beliefs about who we are which are meant to keep us safe. And safe is the opposite of success.
You may have heard of the ego or the unconscious mind. Your subconscious makes up about 90% of your mind and is responsible for your emotions,
habits, long-term memory, and beliefs.
Through learned experience and socialization, your subconscious mind has learned the beliefs that will keep you safe; these are doubt, fear, and scarcity.
Through these beliefs, the ego works to protect you and prove itself right. If deep down you believe you are unworthy of success, the ego will dissuade you
from any meaningful action in your career that might result in success.
Let’s say you want a promotion, but you’ve been conditioned to believe you are unworthy through decades of negative reinforcement about your abilities by
your parents. Even though you want the promotion and are qualified, deep down, you believe you are unworthy. Your mind will look for proof. That’s when
our negative thinking begins to take over. "I don’t deserve the promotion. I’m not good enough. I don’t know enough about budgeting.
What if I get the promotion and I’m not good at my job, and everyone thinks I’m an imposter?"
This is how the mind works. It protects you from the unknown by bringing up fear of rejection, ridicule, and failure and might justify those fears with examples from the past.
Our overly protective minds are ancient machines that thrived in the fight or flight times when we were being chased by large animals and might be killed by a storm.
In those times, our Palaeolithic ancestors needed the brain to be overly protective because everything was a threat, and the unfamiliar was dangerous.
In today’s modern age, we do not need the ego to keep us safe because most of us are fortunate enough to meet our basic needs.
Is it time to update your programming?
Now is the time to rewire your brain to be more positive. Time to re-programme your brain by creating new neural pathways.
This is a concept called neuroplasticity
How many of us grow up to believe that an old dog can’t learn new tricks? How many of us believe that our abilities, talents, and negative minds are fixed?
This couldn’t be further from the truth. When we adopt a growth-oriented mindset, we slowly rewire our brains to be more positive and unlearn negative conditioning.
Think of your brain as coming with a negative default setting—let’s upgrade.
Your Mindset is Your Biggest Asset
Now that we understand why most of us think negatively let’s take some time to dive into why having a positive mindset is important to achieve success.
We already know that the brain likes to prove itself right. Now, we can either be positive evidence collectors or negative evidence collectors.
Most of us spend our lives being negative evidence collectors.
What does this mean?
It means that you’ve gone around for decades believing your life is terrible, and every time something terrible happened, your mind said, “aha! I knew my life is terrible!”
Imagine what would happen if you told yourself your life is wonderful and went around looking for the positives in your life.
This is what would happen—your brain would start to look for more positives to prove this new story right.
And what would happen after that?
You would start to see opportunities to bring more of what you want in your life.
Most of us focus on what we DON’T want and are so fixated on the negative ideas that we never notice the opportunities because
our brain isn’t looking for them. It’s simply looking to reinforce the negative. Successful people have strong growth-oriented mindsets—their mind
isn’t holding them back from success and opening up the possibilities before them daily.
The Rising Tide Effect
This is how the sequence goes: more opportunities = more success = more happiness = more ease = a better life.
When you begin to work on your mindset, you start to see a ripple effect for the rest of your life.
Then something magical happens — just like a tide lifts all the boats in the harbor, your mindset lifts all the other areas of your life, making change in any area easier than ever before. It’s easier to have good relationships. It’s easier to stick to healthy habits. It’s more enjoyable to take care of yourself. It’s easier to take action in your career. Everything gets better.
Are you ready to change your mindset so you can change your ENTIRE life?
3 Strategies to Cultivate a Positive Mindset
1. Radical Acceptance
Most of us go through life resisting; we resist change, resist challenging situations, and resist the true nature of things.
By radically accepting a situation for what it is, even if we don’t like it (instead of fighting against it or resisting it), we gain peace.
Take this pandemic, for example: We can choose to rebel against the restrictions, complain about having to wear masks, and focus our
energy and attention on resisting something that we cannot change, OR we can choose to accept what is happening in the world.
We can choose to believe that although it's a terrible situation, we accept the pain. That's how we eliminate suffering—by accepting the pain.
Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Suffering comes from resisting pain.
When you resist something you cannot change, you choose to suffer, but if we let go and focus on what we can control, our perspective changes, and we free ourselves.
2. Repeating Affirmations
Our subconscious mind is responsible for our long-term memory, emotions, beliefs about the world, habits and impulsive urges, and intuition and creativity.
The only way we can rewire our subconscious mind is through repetition.
So while you may think it's silly to stare at yourself in the mirror and talk to yourself, repeating affirmations is a psychology-backed strategy that will dramatically
improve your life if you give it a chance. If we repeat the same thing over and over, we start to believe it. If we attach positive feelings to the new beliefs, our lives start to change.
Positivity and negativity are like muscles. If you work out the positive one, you'll end up with a strong positive mind. And if you don't train the negative, it will atrophy.
By strengthening the positive, you weaken the negative.
Try repeating positively framed affirmations with the words I am. By saying I am, you are attaching your identity to new truths you want to affirm.
Even if you think it's silly at first, repeating affirmations reprograms your brain to be more positive.
3. Reframing Thoughts
The third strategy will be a little challenging at first, but over time you'll strengthen your positivity.
This strategy involves doing mental push-ups or reframing thoughts. The more mental push-ups you do, the better and faster you get at them.
This is how we develop mental fortitude. When you have strong mental fortitude, it's like there is a force field around your mind, and negativity simply bounces off.
So how do we do this?
When we reframe thoughts, we first become aware of what we are thinking, quickly determine if this line of thought is helping or hindering us,
and immediately challenge ourselves to think three positive thoughts.
STEP 1: Become aware of your negative thinking
STEP 2: Determine if the thought is helpful or unhelpful
STEP 3: Immediately think of three positive thoughts and/or say them OUT LOUD
Neural plasticity indicates that we can reprogram our brain through these three psychology-backed strategies.
Though these are powerful strategies, it takes time and practice to cultivate a positive mindset, but the result is an overall better quality of life.
Your mindset determines your outcomes in life. If you want to be successful and live a happy life, you have to commit to bettering your mindset by
upgrading your unhelpful negative programming and creating new neural pathways.
Cultivating a positive mind takes time and practice, but the more you apply these strategies to your life, the more you will see a difference in the way you think, and soon, your external world will be a reflection of your internal world.