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Published on February 13, 2019

How to Cultivate a Positive Mindset (A Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Cultivate a Positive Mindset (A Step-By-Step Guide)

There is so much material and content around us, spouting essential ingredients of how to be positive in order to gain the success in life you’re chasing. It’s actually overwhelming (not to mention a billion dollar industry!)

You might also have become tunnel-visioned to believe only the secret tips and advice prescribed to us by mindset gurus at sensationalized forums, seminars and conferences can help us. Such stage educators seemed so polished and poised that it’s hard to resist that we can change our thinking without their help.

The truth is that you don’t need to sacrifice your life savings with a coach to turn your mindset around. With this step by step guide, you’ll realize you already have all the ingredients within you and the opportunities around you to start cultivating a positive mindset today. (I’m not denying working with a coach can definitely help. However, you can take a faster route not to mention a less expensive one!)

1. Allow Yourself Feel Negative Emotions

Stop trying to be positive with everything. It’s exhausting, let alone an unrealistic expectation.

Stop listening to everyone’s advice on what you should think. Take back the reins on deciding how you want to feel about something.

Furthermore, you’ll start to be that person everyone wants to be around. To be positive all the time is trying to prevent yourself from being human. We are born with capacity to feel a full spectrum of positive and negative emotions because they all have value, meaning and guidance for us.

When you allow yourself time and space to feel the initial sting of unpleasant emotions, you will find their intensity lessens and their duration shortens. Then, you’ve got more space to start directing your thoughts and focus in a direction that better serves you.

2. Increase Awareness of Your Current Mindset by Seeking Feedback

From those who feedback you trust will be truthful and fairly objective, ask them about what positive and uplifting energy they might experience simply from you being you. Also ask if they can provide examples of how they feel your mindset hinders you rather than helps you.

Asking others for feedback can be a challenging step. By doing so you’re showing you’re considering change. Beware that friends and family can often be bulls in a china shop eagerly dishing you advice and criticism from every angle. If you’re not ready for this, your soft, tender emotional belly will become an unwilling punching bag.

Remember that regardless of who you’re asking, you’re not looking to solicit judgment or opinions. You’re asking them to share with you their observations and experiences. The exercise is purely to help you gain heightened insight and choose where you might start practicing making changes.

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If you do feel your feedback sources have misread the exercise as opportunity to stroke their ego, criticize you and lash you with an emotional cat-o-nine tails, don’t retaliate or respond. Thank them for their feedback, park it mentally into a box that you will go back to and review later.

Your after-thought might well be to simply empty the box! However, there also might be some truth the messages they’re giving too.

3. Recognize Unhelpful Thoughts and Language and Practice Reframing Them

Don’t hesitate to catch yourself mid-sentence and work on reframing your words and language.[1] Being able to catch yourself is a skill but you can become nimble with practice.

Go back to the unhelpful thoughts you came up with and see if you can make slight modifications to the hindering dialogue simmering in your head. “I can’t do this” might gently become “I feel like I can’t do this.” “That will never happen for me” might become “it hasn’t happened for me yet”.

Pay attention to the difference that different words make you feel. Notice how different sentences make you feel and look for the difference it makes to how others respond to you. Asking yourself if you would speak to a friend or child in the way you speak to yourself can draw incredible self-awareness of how your language works against you.

It can take a few training-wheel sessions with a coach or therapist to help you develop reframing techniques. Applying them long enough for you to start feeling and noticing a difference. The investment is well worth it. The benefit of this skill not only charges your positive mindset; it has a vicarious flow-on effect to those around you.

This guide on stopping negative thoughts maybe useful for you:

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts When You’re Overwhelmed

4. Carefully Choose Situations to Plant the Seeds of Your Positive Mindset

Keep it simple to start with. Only choose one or two contexts in your life where you feel you could practice more positive behavior and/or language changes.

Choose wisely, though. Be careful to avoid starting with situations where you feel – or have been told – you should.

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‘Should’ is a word weighted with expectation. It also implies you need redemption because you made a lower-handed choice in the first place. You knew what you could do, be or say and you chose not to. That’s heavy stuff! It’s actually not the best starting point to try cultivating a positive mindset from. Trying to develop from situations tarnished with the stamp of reprimand always feels harder.

Avoid trying to make a massive mindset turnaround in a short space of time. It’s likely you’ll be met with raised eye-brows and a label of being inauthentic. Not being annoyed when your mother-in-law comes around unannounced and stays for hours yet again, might be too big a mindset challenge to start with.

Like a tree seedling needs a foundation of good soil for it to have a fighting chance, a neutral situation will give you a good foundation to practice and grow your positive mindset.

Consider a simple situation that is likely to repeat itself in your everyday life:

  • Greeting people at work when you arrive.
  • Picking up your coffee at the same café each morning on your way to work.
  • You and your partner’s morning routine before you both head separate ways to earn your living.

Choose contexts where you are emotionally and mentally indifferent where you could – not should – test simple behavior or language adjustments. You’re looking for calm steady waters you can set sail on to test new positive mindset strategies, and then observe how people respond to your changes, without pressure and without expectation.

5. Examine Positive Mindsets of People You Admire but Set Your Own Goals

Now you’ve chosen your context to start practicing changes, you now need to decide what changes you’re going to make.

Brainstorming possibilities can be challenging from your current mindset. Make it simpler. Look outside yourself for clues and suggestions.

Whose books inject energy into your soul through their written words? Whose TED talks, interviews and podcasts make you nod in agreement? Who has inspired you to at least make plans to take action toward doing or being what you have always wanted to do? Who are those people? What is it about them that resonates with you strongly?

Study them. Observe their behavior, their language and how they respond to setbacks and adversity. Watch them closely. Now compare what they do to how you normally react in similar situations.

The comparison is to help you gauge what changes you want to aim for in your behavior, your communication and your thinking. Remember, you are not looking to copy these people. The world needs the best of you not a carbon copy of Oprah, Tony Robbins or Jack Canfield!

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Besides, there would be nothing more irritating than seeing a highly respected industry expert’s protégé start dressing the same way, trying to call everyone ‘pal’ because the expert addresses his or her trusted staff this way.

People see through copy cats. They are inauthentic and boring at best!

Taking the example of your greeting people in the morning when you arrive at your workplace, your current start to the day may unfurl follows:

  • You don’t acknowledge or talk to anyone in the lift.
  • You say ‘hi’ to the receptionist, Anna, en route to your desk.
  • You robotically say ‘Hi Mary, how are you?’ to your colleague without looking at her, put your bags down, place your suit jacket on the back of your chair and turn on your computer.
  • You sigh as you sit and think to yourself: ‘Same thing, different day; here we go again.’

Now, if you were to put an Oprah-like spin on this same situation, what changes might you aim for? What might feel most natural to you? What changes in your behavior, communication and thinking could you plant here? Let’s play the game again with two potential levels of change:

    Do the above mild and marked examples of changes sound and feel like you? If not, rework the possibilities.

    Turning up with a coffee unexpectedly for someone could be deemed creepy and very uncharacteristic of you. Changes you make need to feel like you can own them. They might feel strange at first but as people start to respond differently to you, you’ll want to keep exercising these features of your new positive mindset!

    6. Exude More Positive Energy Through Your Combined Thoughts and Actions

    Spending too much focus on trying to change yourself can derail you. It’s exhausting especially if you’re trying to exercise introspective reflection 24/7!

    Ditch that idea and once again, turn your focus outward.

    Look at those around you who you feel could do with an emotional or mental hand-up. You’ll not only be helping others, you’ll be greatly benefiting yourself.

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    In fact, researchers Naomi Eisenberger and Tristan Inagaki found giving can actually be more emotionally and psychologically satisfying than receiving. Their study examining neural activity via functional magnetic resonance imaging found that those who were in receipt of help experienced less stress-related activity, and higher reward-related activity in certain brain parts than those who gave the help.[2]

    Being generous with your thoughts and actions not only provides a time-out from your own cognitive swamp. It can kick start your momentum to feeling good about something to start with. When you’re on a roll, you’ll be in a better place to starting doing inward repair work.

    7. Be Wary of Unhealthy Co-Dependent Relationships

    Whilst it feels good to be needed, it can become dangerous to be needed and depended upon too much.

    Looking to sustain relationships where we fall short of experiencing the support, care and understanding fractures our self-esteem. We are prone to developing dysfunctional attitudes and patterns of thinking in such relationships, creating more opportunities to develop depression and other mental health ailments.

    Think of the girlfriend who rings up to whinge and complain yet again about how she constantly dates losers or the best mate who’s always asking to borrow $100. She knows you will always listen and will be the shoulder she can cry on, and he is eternally grateful but never pays you back.

    It’s one thing to be empathetic and supportive. It’s another to make yourself an emotional and mental dumping ground and enable yourself to be taken for granted. In fact, research has shown that sustaining negative relationships long-term can give rise to serious physical ailments.[3]

    If you find yourself more often than not to be drawing the short straw, that’s a hint the foundations of your self-worth and esteem might need a review.

    Starting to cull such dynamics in your relationships will feel difficult at first. However, a liberating feeling of freedom automatically clears for positive thoughts, ideas and possibilities to organically float into your mindset.

    The Bottom Line

    A positive mindset is not like a switch that you can just turn on and you suddenly become positive. Building a positive mindset is about taking baby steps in your everyday life.

    With this guide, you will be able to cultivate an unwavering mindset and tackle any challenge, obstacle or goal no matter how hard times may become.

    More Resources About Staying Positive

    Featured photo credit: Parker Johnson via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Helen D'Silva

    Performance Psychologist for Business and Entrepreneurship, Sport and Personal Development

    How to Improve Focus: 7 Ways to Train Your Brain How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious How to Manage Anxiety: Sound Advice from a Mental Health Expert How to Cultivate a Positive Mindset (A Step-By-Step Guide) How to Cope with Anxiety and Stress at Work: 5 Psychology Techniques

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    Last Updated on August 19, 2019

    How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

    How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

    We live in a world that constantly tells us what to do, how to act, what to be. Knowing how to be true to yourself and live the life you want can be a challenge.

    When someone asks how we are, we assume that the person does not mean the question sincerely, for it would lead to an in depth conversation. So telling them that you are good or fine, even if you’re not, is the usual answer.

    In an ideal world, we would stop and truly listen. We wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. Instead, when we answer about how we are doing, our mask, the persona we show the world, tightens. Sometimes even more so than it might have been before. Eventually, it becomes hard to take off, even when you’re alone.

    Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another.

    If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

    According to a Danish psychologist, Svend Brinkman, we expect each other to be happy and fine every second, and we expect it of ourselves. And that “has a dark side.”[1] Positive psychology can have its perks but not at the expense at hiding how you truly feel in order to remain seemingly positive to others.

    No one can feel positive all the time and yet, that is what our culture teaches us to embrace. We have to unlearn this. That said, telling others you are ‘“fine”’ all the time is actually detrimental to your wellbeing, because it stops you from being assertive, from being authentic or your truest self.

    When you acknowledge a feeling, it leads you to the problem that’s causing that feeling; and once you identify the problem, you can find a solution to it. When you hide that feeling, you stuff it way down so no one can help you.You can’t even help yourself.

    Feelings are there for one reason: to be felt. That doesn’t mean you have to act on that feeling. It just means that you start the process of problem solving so you can live the life you want.

    1. Embrace Your Vulnerability

    When you are your true self, you can better self-advocate or stand up for what you need. Your self-expression matters, and you should value your voice. It’s okay to need things, it’s okay to speak up, and it’s okay not to be okay.

    Telling someone you are simply “fine” when you are not, does your story and your journey a great disservice. Being true to yourself entails embracing all aspects of your existence.

    When you bring your whole self to the table, there is nothing that you can’t beat. Here’re 7 benefits of being vulnerable you should learn.

    Can you take off the mask? This is the toughest thing anyone can do. We have learned to wait until we are safe before we start to be authentic.

    In relationships especially, this can be hard. Some people avoid vulnerability at any cost. And in our relationship with ourselves, we can look in the mirror and immediately put on the mask.

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    It all starts with your story. You have been on your own unique journey. That journey has led you here, to the person you are today. You have to be unafraid, and embrace all aspects of that journey.

    You should seek to thrive, not just survive. That means you do not have to compete or compare yourself with anyone.

    Authenticity means you are enough. It’s enough to be who you are to get what you want.

    What if for the first time ever, you were real? What if you said what you wanted to say, did what you wanted to do, and didn’t apologize for it?

    You were assertive, forthcoming in your opinions or actions to stand for what is right for you, (rather than being passive or aggressive) in doing so. You didn’t let things get to you. You knew you had something special to offer.

    That’s where we all should be.

    So, answer me this:

    How are you, really?

    And know that no matter the answer, you should still be accepted.

    Bravery is in the understanding that you still may not be accepted for your truth.

    Bravery is knowing you matter even when others say that you do not.

    Bravery is believing in yourself when all evidence counters doing so (i.e. past failures or losses)

    Bravery is in being vulnerable while knowing vulnerability is a sign of strength.

    It’s taking control.

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    2. Choose Your Attitude in Adversity

    You can take control of your destiny and live the life you want by being true to yourself. You can start anytime. You can start today.

    You can start with one day at a time, just facing what happens that day. Most of us get overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of a big change. Even if the only thing we change is our attitude.

    In one instant, you can become a different person with a change of attitude. When you take control of your attitude, you become able to better understand what is around you. This allows you to move forward.

    Originally, you may have had a life plan. It could have started when you were little; you were hoping to become a mermaid, doctor, astronaut or all three when you grew up. You were hoping to be someone. You were hoping to be remembered.

    You can still dream those dreams, but eventually reality sets in. Obstacles and struggles arise. You set on a different path when the last one didn’t work out. You think of all the “shoulds” in your life in living the life you want. You should be doing this…should be doing that…

    Clayton Barbeau, psychologist, coined the term “shoulding yourself.’[2] When we are set on one path and find ourselves doing something different. It becomes all the things you should be doing rather than seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

    But in all this disarray, did you lose sight of the real you?

    It may be in our perceived failures and blunders that we lose sight of who we are, because we try to maintain position and status.

    In being who we really are and achieving what we really want, we need to be resilient: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

    It means that we do not see all possibilities of what might happen, but must trust ourselves to begin again, and continue to build the life we want. In the face of adversity, you must choose your attitude.

    Can attitude overcome adversity? It certainly helps. While seeking to be true to yourself and live the life you want, you will have to face a fact:

    Change will happen.

    Whether that change is good or bad is unique to each person and their perspective.

    You might have to start over, once, twice, a few times. It doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, but that you will be okay. What remains or should remain is the true you. When you’ve lost sight of that, you’ve lost sight of everything.

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    And then, you rebuild. Moment after moment, day after day. We all have a choice, and in this moment, that matters.

    You can choose to have a positive attitude, seeing the silver lining in each situation and, where there is none, the potential for one. Maybe that silver lining is you and what you will do with the situation. How will you use it for something good?

    That’s how you can tap into yourself and your power. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes on purpose. It can happen when we aren’t even looking for it, or it can be your only focus. Everyone gets there differently.

    You can rise, or you can remain. Your choice.

    When the worst happens, you can rely on your authenticity to pull you through. That’s because Self Advocacy, speaking up to let others know what you need, is part of finding the real you.

    There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Or sometimes, helping others can help us deal with the pain of a hurtful situation. You decide how you’re going to help others, and suddenly, you become your best self.

    3. Do What Makes You Happy When No One’s Looking

    Being the best version of you has nothing to do with your success or your status. It has everything to do with your Character, what you do when no one’s looking.

    In order to create the life you want, you have to be the person you want to be. Faking it till you make it is just a way to white knuckle it through your journey. You have the fire inside of you to make things right, to put the pieces together, to live authentically. And Character is how you get there.

    If you fall down and you help another up while you’re down there, it’s like you rise twice.

    Along with attitude, your character is about the choices you make rather than what happens to you.

    Yes, it’s about doing the right thing even when obstacles seem insurmountable.  It’s about using that mountain you’ve been given to show others it can be moved.  It’s about being unapologetically you, taking control, choosing your attitude in adversity and being the best version of you to create the life you want.

    How do you know what you really want? Is it truly status or success?

    Unfortunately, these things do not always bring happiness. And aspects of our image or “performance driven existence” may not achieve satisfaction. Materialism is part of our refusal to accept ourselves as enough. All the things we use to repress our true selves are about being enough.

    “Enoughness” is what we truly seek, but ego gets in the way.

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    Ego is the perception of self as outer worth. It’s not REAL self worth.

    Ego represses our true self with a new self— the self of chasing ‘“Am I ever enough?”’ questions. And instead of filling our true selves with self-love and acceptance, when we “should ourselves” and chase “enoughness,” we feed the ego or our image.

    It’s important to realize YOU ARE ENOUGH, without all the material trappings.

    Stanford psychologist Meagan O’Reilly describes the damage of not thinking we are enough. One of her tactics for combating this is to complete the sentence,[3]

    “If I believed I were already enough, I’d ____”

    What would you do if you felt you were enough?

    By believing you are enough, you can live the life you want.

    So many fake it to try to get there, and they end up losing themselves when they lose more and more touch with their Authenticity.

    Final Thoughts

    By being yourself, you are being brave. By acknowledging all you can be, you tell the universe that you can until you believe it too. The steps are easy, and you are worth it. All of it is about the purpose you are leading and the passion that is your fuel.

    Being true to yourself is all about mastering how to live life authentically rather than faking or forcing it. Having the life you want (and deserve) is about being trusting in yourself and the purpose you are living for. Both need passion behind it, fueling it each second, or you will experience burn out.

    When you are authentic, you can call the road you walk your own. When you live your life for you and not just the results of all your actions (faking it till you make it), you can let go of what you don’t need. This clarifies and pushes purpose to you, living for something that is greater than you.

    You will find that making decisions based on what will actually achieve your goals, will help you attain the life you want, and your success with each step, will allow you to enjoy the process. Good luck!

    More About Living Your True Self

    Featured photo credit: Ariana Prestes via unsplash.com

    Reference

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