Stay Positive & Keep Going
“Who knows what it’s good for?” my great-grandmother Anna used to say. It was her deeply spiritual way of responding to setbacks and misfortune. Having lived through two world wars, as well as post-war East Germany, I can only imagine how challenged this positive mindset must have been at times.
And yet, Anna chose to think this way. As did Viktor Frankl, Auschwitz survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning. As did countless others who not just survived but stayed alive after calamity struck.
These people knew something highly adaptive – something that helped them cope and overcome. To paraphrase Frankl, they understood that no matter what happens to us, we always get to decide our attitude. It’s the one power we have that no-one can take away from us.
I’m not saying it’s easy. There are occasions when it’s especially hard, like after a traumatic loss. It may take a great deal of time and healing before we’re able to see anything useful coming out of our misfortune.
But the willingness to look for a silver lining in whatever we’re facing is one of our most powerful tools in calming anxiety, regaining optimism, and engaging fully in life.
When we find something of use coming out of our situation, we find motivation to cope. Hope that things will somehow work out. That what’s happening isn’t going to defeat us. That it might grow us or help someone else.
Channel the Power of Positive Thinking
So how do we go about developing a “what it’s good for” mindset?
- Keep your eyes and mind open. Don’t assume you know everything. No-one can say for certain how things will play out or what purpose your situation might serve. Think about developments in your life that you thought were setbacks, that afterwards opened up positive possibilities for you. Use these past examples to help you feel more hopeful and optimistic.
- Believe and trust in someone or something life-affirming. Let this faith give you a sense of security, encouragement and optimism about life and the course of things. Check out the How to Build Trust Wisely (technique 4) post for more on this.
- Look for opportunity in whatever you’re facing. Is there any takeaway in the situation that you can see? If so, great – stay focused on that. If not, be patient. Some benefits take longer to manifest. Allow that it may take time for you to get your answer. Also, that there may be more than one opportunity in store for you.
- Value personal growth and see how your circumstance(s) may be developing it. Patience, endurance, tolerance, courage, commitment, faith… all are developed in the crucible of adversity. We grow when we resist the temptation to do what we feel like doing in the heat of the moment (e.g. freak out), and instead choose to do the opposite (e.g. calm down or be patient).
Asking yourself, “what else could this be good for?” transforms your experience of what you’re going through. You’ll better weather whatever you’re dealing with. You’ll also be in a better position to adapt and make the most of any opportunities that do present themselves.
And used together, these five techniques (Mindfulness Meditation, Mind Control, Practicing Gratitude, Trusting, and Positive Thinking) are a potent intervention for anxiety and fear. So why not use them the next time you feel scared, out of control or overwhelmed?
Then enjoy the feelings of calmness and acceptance that come with being in the present. Of control over your mind and thinking. Of comfort and peace as you gratefully trust in what sustains you. Of strength, hopefulness and purpose in growing through challenges. And let me know how it works for you! I’d love to hear from you.
Identify how you’re tempted to think, feel or act in response to whatever you’re facing.
If the temptation prompts you to act in a way you don’t like or see as negative, then consider doing the opposite. Think of it as developing muscle, in this case spiritual or character muscle. You don’t grow stronger by avoiding. You grow stronger by pushing against resistance and developing what’s there, waiting to be developed further.
(For instance: Much as I wish it were otherwise, I develop patience by having my patience tested… then, when I’m tempted to respond impatiently, choosing to respond with patience instead.)
By resisting the negative impulse, and responding instead with it’s positive opposite, you’ll be developing the quality you’ve chosen to manifest further.
Resources for Success
Earlier posts taught the techniques of Mindfulness Meditation (Technique 1), Mind Control (Technique 2), Practicing Gratitude (Technique 3), and Trusting (Technique 4). If you haven’t read them yet, I encourage you to check them out.
Also, try this accompanying 13 minute guided meditation called Thankfulness, Trust, and Hope. Teaching spiritual practices that will help you develop a spirit of peace, confidence, and optimism, it’s the third in a 3 part meditation series called Let Go of Anxiety and Fear.
To listen, click play below: