How can I Live a Positive Life?

In my earlier post, I put you through a self-test to identify if you are a negative person. If you are (and you’ve to be honest with yourself about it), then it’s time to change. No, I am not calling for a humongous shift, but rather small and incremental steps to reduce the negativity quotient in you.

Before I can share my views on how you can live a positive life, let’s spend some time in self-reflection – Why are we negative? What experiences in our life’s timeline has made us negative? Were we born with the negativity inside us? When given a chance, why do we subconsciously choose negativity over positivity?

Tough questions, right? Let me tell you a story that we all can possibly relate to in life. It’s the story of Arnika, a young girl who was born to a middle-class family. Her family, although middle-class, was quite well off. Her father was a business man and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. Arnika had an older sister Adrika, who was 4 years older to her. As an infant, Arnika was a cheerful and bubbly girl who just couldn’t help but smile back at anything and everything. Ignorant about the world, she would lay down on her back, wide-eyed, and would smile at the birds outside the window, or at the gentle breeze that would blow the window curtains. She grew up watching her sister Adrika and tried to emulate her every time she could.

Scene 1 – Time went by flying and soon it was Arnika’s time to experience the world – her first day at the playschool. It was the very first time in her life that Arnika was away from her family and into a group of children whom she’d never met or seen. The place was new. It wasn’t home. Tears started to roll down her pink cheeks as she hugged her father with an intention of never to leave him. Her father gently wiped her tears, and turned her around, pointing his finger at some other children who were laughing and running around their parents’ legs and said, “Look at these children. It’s their first day here too. Are they crying?” Arnika stopped crying at that instant, somewhere she felt suppressed and her self-esteem had taken a hit the first time, something she wouldn’t understand at that young age, but nevertheless she stopped crying.

Scene 2 – Days rolled into months and months into years, and Arnika went from playgroup to kindergarten. At each stage in her life, she was constantly compared to someone and not herself – whether it was about how well the other kid on the block introduced himself or how bad her handwriting was as compared to her sister. This comparison was quite vocal and came from almost every person that Arnika associated with. With each passing day,  Arnika’s self-esteem was affected. She would no longer smile at free will, because her mom would howl at her for her random smiling saying that people would call her crazy.

Scene 3 – It was a new beginning in Arnika’s life. She would be going to a formal school – Grade I. The pressure was always on her to stay disciplined, stay polite, be well-mannered and do well. Over time, these pressures simply multiplied in dimensions, not just restricted to her schooling, but also to how she would dress for certain occasions, what post-school activities she could indulge in, etc. And in each of those dimensions, she was always compared – either to her sister, or to her neighbour’s kid or to her school mates. So much so that her self-esteem further diminished.

Scene 4 – Time flew by and Arnika was soon in Grade VI. One day, she came home from school and told her mom, “Mom, I got 86% in my test”. Her mom, turned around and asked her “Oh, who came first and how much did they get?” Another dent to her self-esteem.

Scene 5 – Arnika took to dancing and basketball in her school. And, she was good at it. It was her Grade X, her last year at school and soon she would pursue a discipline to suit her career. Her mom stopped her extra-curricular activities. “Did you see that Sonia, Mrs. Seth’s daughter?” said her mom, “She’s always been a topper in her class. She would do well in her life. And look at you. All your focus is just on that stupid ball game. It’s not going to get you anywhere. I am going to stop all your activities and have you concentrate on your studies.” And with that remark, Arnika’s mother put an end to all of her activities so that she could just study.

Scene 6 – Results were out and Arnika secured 83% in Grade X. She was happy with her achievement, but her family wasn’t. “I want to pursue dancing,” she told her parents. “Dancing?”, exclaimed her father, “What’s that going to get you in life?” Her mom added, “Sonia wants to become a computer engineer, and Kirti wants to grow up into a fine investment banker.” She continued, “Why them, just look at your sister, Adrika. She wants to be a paediatrician. And look at yourself. What will you do with dancing?” And so, Arnika was forced to pursue Science.

Scene 7 – And this continued. While at college and later at various jobs in her career, Arnika’s teachers, friends, bosses and co-workers constantly told her where she would fit and what she could do. “You are hopeless at physics,” a teacher would say or “Go learn this from Jerry,” her boss would yell. There was always a comparison of Arnika’s capabilities with others.

Arnika submitted to a mediocre life. Her life that at each stage was compared with others, and made to fit in with the society. Arnika was never allowed to dream. She was never allowed to explore. She was never allowed to pursue her passions. She was always tuned to have a comparison mindset. To go with the herd. She was made to believe that for her to succeed, somebody else had to fail. For her to look the best girl at the party, all others had to look ordinary. With all these beliefs conditioned into her, Arnika tried to fit into the society. She feared that she would be an outcast, if she did not behave like one of them. It became a part of her attitude. Negative thoughts and strong emotions seemed to tumble out of her automatically. There was no win-win situation. It was only win-lose.

How many of us can relate to Arnika’s story? How many of us have been grown up with this herd mentality? How many of us have already submitted to mediocrity? How many of us have grown with this belief system that for them to succeed, someone else has to fail? Even if you didn’t choose to be a negative person, you inadvertently became one. Why?  Because you haven’t been taught how to behave otherwise. It’s how we have been made to believe. They gave us this script. And so it became easier to stay negative than being positive. It became a way of life, in anything and everything we did.

With this self-awareness, I wanted to bring out one point. Being negative is not by design, rather it is by choice – one that inflicted upon us by the society we live in. It is by habit. And, if we want to, we can question this negativity and change into being a positive person. We can choose to purge all this negativity from our lives. It can be difficult because we have been tied to our belief system for years. But it’s time to put a stop to all this misery.

Are you ready for this change? Do you want to live a positive and content life?

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Don’t compare yourself with others. Be happy with what you are and appreciate what you have.
You will never find happiness if you keep looking outside. By comparing yourself to others, you only end up being miserable and feel like you are missing something in life. When you compare yourself with others, a feeling of jealously builds inside you. You are never content with yourself and keep longing for the things, experiences and achievements you see in others. Jealousy is a negative emotion. The sooner you get rid of it, you will start experiencing that inner bliss and contentment, which will ooze out positivity into your days and lives.

See the good in every situation. Look at failure as an opportunity in disguise.
Things aren’t always in your control. Situations happen. Sometimes a hasty decision could turn into an unfortunate incident. It’s okay to feel sad or even angry about it in that moment. However, don’t shift the blame. Take 100% responsibility for your life. Everything that happens in your life happens for a reason. There is a learning attached to it. And if we fail to learn the lesson from that situation, we end up taking it again… and again! The world is our teacher and we are all students of life. Stop playing all your victim stories and start taking ownership of your actions and acceptance of your decisions. Take the lesson from it. Be more resilient. Look at failure as a stepping stone to success. Success isn’t about doing better than someone else, it’s about beating yourself and improving. Think about what you need to do the next time differently. There is quite a profound quote in the Fast and Furious movie series about life. It’s from Han, a character in the movie, “Life’s simple. You make choices and you don’t look back.” Remember that growth does not happen inside your comfort zone. So it’s okay to get uncomfortable once a while. It only shows that you are growing into a being a better and positive person.

Create a bond with yourself.
Your relationship with yourself is the most powerful associations you can have. Spend time with yourself. Don’t confuse this as being lonely. Schedule time to spend with yourself and do the things that you like to do. Reflect on your values, your ethics, your principles, and your priorities. They act as blinders put on a horse’s eyes to help stay on track. Take the time out to engage yourself with uplifting conversations. Enjoy the sound of silence. Take a walk down the nature trail. When a negative thought strikes, nip it at its bud. Be honest to yourself. Be comfortable in your own skin. Accept yourself with what you are born. Love yourself. This is a very good exercise to increase your self-esteem. With a rock solid self-esteem, you will never go down the rabbit hole of negativity.

Surround yourself with positive people.
We are constantly surrounded by people – be it at home or at work and everywhere in between. What’s important is to pay attention to the kinds of people you surround yourself with. People attitudes and behaviors have a rubbing off effect on us. The more you surround yourself with negative people, the more likely you let them affect your thoughts. If you hang out with gossip mongers, you become a gossip monger yourself. If you hang out with sympathy gainers, you tend to seek sympathy from your network. It’s important that you analyze the people you spend time with and stay far far away from the negative kinds. Surround yourself with warm, genuine and happy people. Keep the positive and uplifting kinds close to your heart. You will be amazed at the effect they leave on you.

Avoid analysis paralysis.
One thing that we are good at is analyzing. But, we tend to overdo it all the time. Be it in a relationship, or thinking five steps ahead in a client discussion. We keep analyzing our past, our present and our future. We keep overdoing it. And because of this, we stay stuck. It leads to inaction. We never move ahead. We don’t see results. We don’t see outcomes. We don’t see where our lives are heading. We get overwhelmed. We complicate things. We never get an answer. It leaves us dejected. To be positive in life, you need to shirk this behavior. Listen to your gut, speak out your doubts, differentiate between big and small decisions, know your target, visualize the outcome and move on.

Stop regretting the past, worrying about the future, and start living in the moment.
How many of us actually live in the moment? Take Arnika’s story. As an infant, she was happy because she lived in the moment. She focused on things that were in front of her. That fueled her happiness. But as we all grow up, we start to worry. We worry about our future, our careers, our finances, our family and our retirement. We are so rushed in life that we forgot to take in the moment. Our kids grow up right in front of us and we are not aware about it. On a Sunday evening, you are worrying about the presentation with a client on Monday morning. Our thoughts are always overwhelmed by regrets about some past events or anxieties about the future happenings. Stop, Breathe. Your life unfolds in the present. This is where you live. So spend more time in it – in the moment.

Be open and acceptable to different ideas and perspectives.
Are you Mr. (or Miss) Know-It-All? Does your ego come in the way of your apology? You don’t like being disapproved of. If your answer is yes, you have a narrow-mind. It is a breeding ground for negativity. That’s not good for positivity, isn’t it? Set your ego aside. Be open to learn from anyone. People come from different beliefs and therefore will bring in different perspectives and experiences. Be open to them. Hear them out. More often than not they will have some valuable information and knowledge, which you could learn from. Or sometimes, you could end up building on different ideas and perspectives. By being open-minded, you become more aware of the things around you and tend to relate better with others. Think win-win.

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