Posted January 22, 2015

The Positivity Mindset and Goal Attainment

Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm – Winston Churchill

Where there is life, there is hope – Stephen Hawking

The other day I was training a client, walked over to some equipment to get something they would need, and bumped into a co-worker from head office who was in to do some reports. She asked how I was doing as is truly Canadian custom, and I responded with something akin to “It’s another day in paradise.” This caught her slightly off guard, and she stopped momentarily and commented on how amazing it was that every time she saw me I was always so positive.

I’d never thought of it before, but I guess it’s true. Positivity is something I always tend to go towards, not because of some delusions about what else is going on around me in the world through rose coloured glasses, , but just from a faint optimistic quality that makes me always think things are either not as bad as they seem, or are amazing simply all by themselves.

I think this kind of thinking is somewhat of an anomaly. If you think I’m wrong, check out Facebook for just 5 minutes and report back.

I’ve never seen the purpose to having a constantly negative outlook on the world. Some people tend to revel in it an always look for the bad in things so they can point them out instead of celebrating the amazing. Complaining is a way of life, and nothing is ever good enough. It must be terribly frustrating and demand a lot of their mental energy.

Bad things happen. Good things happen. Far more good things tend to happen in the majority of people’s lives than bad things, yet we seem to capitulate towards the negative on a routine basis.

Negativity and strife seems to be the norm in the world these days, even though we’ve literally never had it so good. Fewer people are being killed by oppressive societies now than at any other time in history. Fewer people are dying from easily treatable diseases fewer people are starving. More people have access to drinking water, education, shelter, and support services around the world than ever before. We have supercomputers more powerful than those used to land on the moon, and we take selfies with them. We have leisure time to watch sports being played in other parts of the world, the ability to complain about our governments, and the internet. THE INTERNET!!!! Is that not amazing?

Admittedly, people are still being killed, starving, catching previously eradicated diseases, and having a lot of turmoil, but compared to any other time in human existence, the rate is surprisingly low.

A common thought process you’ll find among some of the most successful people in any field, at any point in time, was an intense curiosity and wonderment about the work they were doing, and a desire to continue doing it even if seemingly insurmountable obstacles got in their way. This view was not supported by pessimistic thinking that they wouldn’t succeed or that there were too many obstacles to overcome, but that the end result would be worth all of the struggles, and that excited them.

Take for example the case of Stephen Hawking. I had a chance to watch The Theory of Everything over my Christmas vacation, and was blown away not only by the actors portrayal of someone with a degenerative neural condition (I’ve worked with a few of these clients, and he truly was eerily accurate in it, complete with directional foot drop), but with seeing how the character faced every challenge and found a way to succeed with humour and grace.

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After seeing what he had to go through to simply continue living, let alone formulate incredibly complex working theories on the inner workings of the universe, you will likely come to 2 different thoughts:

1. “That was a really sad story about someone who had so much in his way and everything fell apart for him.”

2. “That was an amazingly inspiring story of how someone faced incredible challenges and continued to do great things.”

This may come back to seeming like a “glass-is-half-empy” concept, but I strongly believe it has a huge role in how a person approaches their challenges and reaches their goals.

For example, a client and I were trying some progressions in her workout this week. Now this person has been through a lot with spinal injuries, lots of different stressors in her life, and some stumbling points that have lead to pain and injury. We went from using a short box to do step ups to a higher box. It was a challenge she wasn’t used to but I knew she could do it.

Her initial thoughts were that she wasn’t ready and would fail, resulting in injury. Essentially, she had the mindset of someone preparing for the catastrophic endpoint before even beginning the challenge and as a result her first step up was a half effort that didn’t get her on to the box. This is a very common concept for how many great ideas never get off the ground, many people never start a fitness program, and never see the achievement of their goals.

“I’m probably going to fail.”

After she told me her feelings on the exercise, we discussed it and I came back with her by asking is she trusted me to give her a progression she could handle, if she wanted to succeed in this new challenge I put in front of her, and if she wanted the positive outcome more than the potential of the negative outcome. The answer to all three was obviously yes, so she did it, easily, and then remarked at how easy it was, then did another 10 reps on each leg. Spinal injury be damned.

We’re all going to fail. If you never fail as a human, you’re not human, or you never tried in the first place. We’ve all fallen over and scraped out knee, but that doesn’t mean we don’t stand up and try it again. Experience teaches us, chicks dig scars, and sometimes the best injuries and moments of “Here hold my beer, this is gonna be cool” make for the best stories once you’ve healed up.

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If someone fears failure more than they desire success, they’ll never get started. Success means trying, even if the risk of failure is omnipresent, and especially if the risks are higher than not starting at all. Being positive means more than simply being able to see the silver lining and avoiding the darkness. It’s the desire for success, not letting small stuff derail you or wasting energy on stuff that doesn’t need it.

It would be easy to see everything that’s wrong with our lives and our world, but really tough to see the amazing things because we always compare our best to someone else’s best without really seeing their worst. Why in the hell do we care about celebrities and what they’re spending their time and money on, other than to judge and compare to our own lives? How is Kim Kardashian even a thing????

It’s easy to see how we don’t measure up, but more beneficial to see how we have it good. I have a job, a house, a wife, relatively good health, and live in a place where I can afford internet access and a platform to say what I want. I get to travel as I want, work with awesome people on a daily basis, and direct my life to do as I choose and enjoy. I really have nothing that would warrant complaining, especially compared to some who have actual obstacles and hindrances in their way, like genocide, famine, disease, or catastrophic injuries.

We can always find things that aren’t going well in our lives, but in many instances the most minor things tend to take up the most mental energy. We could very well spend more of our time being truly appreciative of what we have, and intently curious of what we could accomplish without any brakes slowing us down. Everything that has ever been done is from someone trying something new, failing, and finally succeeding.

Viewing the world with a positive light is the only way I could imagine someone could make discoveries, progress towards making a dream into a goal, and being able to look back over their accomplishments with a sense of pride. Failure gives more opportunities to learn, which ultimately leaves you further ahead than if you hadn’t even tried.

I tend to be more positive than negative, and even if I’m ever negative it’s most likely in jest. I don’t think this is something that should be considered abnormal, and if more people were to look at their lives with a sense of pride and accomplishment, and look at their goals with determination instead of finding every obstacle to stop their progress, we would have a generation that would accomplish anything it wanted.