never had someone come up to me and say, "I'm always
negative and it's working out great for me. I can't wait to
get up in the morning!" And yet, positive thinking
still has its skeptics.
Some people tell me that positive thinking doesn't work or
that it's "unrealistic," especially in today's
"Look around you," they say. "How can you be
so positive?" Well, let me ask you this:
can the world be lifted out of negativity by adding MORE
The truth is, there are certain things that negative
thinking will do for you. It will make you sick. It will make you very unpleasant to be around. And, it
will significantly limit what you can achieve.
Let's take a closer look at why negative thinking doesn't
serve us. For starters, we all operate under the Law
of Dominant Thought. Simply stated, we're always
moving in the direction of our dominant thoughts.
Most of us have heard about the "self-fulfilling
prophecy"-- that we get what we expect in life.
Expect negative results and, sure enough, you'll produce
As I'm sure you've found, negative thinking also causes you
to feel more stress and to have less energy.
Scientific studies have demonstrated that negativity weakens
your immune system. How many times have you gotten
sick during a stressful period in your life?
If you're still not convinced about the effects of being
negative, take out a sheet of paper and write down your list
of all the benefits you're getting from negative
thinking. I think your list is going to be very short,
if you come up with anything at all.
Let me make an important distinction here. It's quite
natural for a person to feel sad in response to a tragedy or
the death of a loved one. There's a period of loss and
grieving that differs for each individual, and we don't
expect a grief stricken person to be positive in the short
However, even a person in that situation will not be served
by holding onto their negative thoughts indefinitely.
(By the way, if you've suffered some trauma or have had a
difficult time releasing negative thinking, by all means get
counseling. That's not a sign of weakness. It's
constructive step to help you move forward in your life.)
What Comes Naturally
From everything I've observed, babies are naturally
positive. They're usually smiling and seem to be
enjoying life. I haven't met any negative, frowning
babies. That's why I don't buy the argument that
negative thinking is just natural.
Those who think negatively do so out of habit. They
have conditioned themselves to think that way. In Western
societies in particular, we've developed the tendency to
focus on minor irritations, even though these annoyances are
only a tiny part of our overall lives. We tend to
focus on the 5% of our lives that are going
"wrong"... instead of the 95% going well.
We'll sigh and tell everyone about the traffic jam or flat
tire on the way to work. Yet, we'll never comment
about the miracle of our existence--the billions of cells in
our body that somehow allow our brain to function, our heart
to pump blood or our eyes to see.
We don't appreciate that we have enough food to eat or that
we have a roof over our heads, while there are millions of
people who don't have these gifts. It's no wonder that
so many people think negatively.
The newspaper is filled with negative news. Television
and radio reports dwell on tragedies and crimes. How
often do you read or hear about people helping each other or
doing something positive? Hardly ever. If you do
nothing to counteract this bombardment of negativity, you're
going to think negatively.
At any time, however, you could take control of this
situation. You could stop watching and listening to
all of the negative news and read something positive
instead. You could limit your contact with
"toxic" people and make sure your life is filled
with positive inputs.
If you did that, your "natural" inclination would
switch and you'd begin to think positively.
I'll show you that you have much more control over your
thinking than you might believe. Try this
experiment. Right now, think about your favorite
movie. You might even get a picture in your mind of
your favorite scene in that movie.
Now, let's think about your favorite meal. What is
it? A fresh salad ... a juicy steak ... grilled
salmon? Whatever it is, just think about it. Now
that your mouth is watering, let's move on. Think
about being out in a snowstorm, with two feet of snow on the
ground. Can you see the snow and feel the cold on your
In each case, you were able to control what you thought
about. You could shift your thinking in an
instant. It has been said that positive thinking is
harmful because optimistic people ignore things that can go
wrong or are easily duped and taken advantage of.
In other words, if you expect the sun to be shining all the
time, you're just naive and are sure to be
disappointed. But positive thinking doesn't mean that
you ignore reality or refuse to consider the obstacles that
might arise. On the contrary, the positive person
expects a positive outcome but
prepares for overcoming obstacles.
For example, if a positive person is planning an outdoor
wedding, he or she won't use the power of positive thinking
to make sure it doesn't rain on the big day. Rather, a
positive person is prepared with contingency plans, focusing
on things that she can directly control, such as having a
tent available in case it does rain.
By this point, I hope that you're receptive to the idea that
negative thinking won't help us. So, the question is:
how can we change our thinking to become more
positive? The answer, simply stated, is that you must
change what goes into your mind every day.
Start by eliminating as many of the negative inputs as
possible. While you can listen to the news for a few minutes
to catch the important headlines, there is no need to hear
reports of the same murders and bombings over and over each
day. At the same time, replace the negative inputs with
Read positive materials on a daily basis. Listen to positive
audio tapes or CDs, or to music that inspires or relaxes
Here's another technique: monitor your everyday
language. When you find yourself beginning to complain
or talk negatively, switch immediately to something
positive. Say something like, "I really have so much to
be grateful for" and start listing some of those
Condition yourself to focus on constructive solutions to
challenges, rather than harping on problems or fretting
about things outside of your control. Make a commitment for
the next 30 days. Think about what you want instead of what
you don't want.
Think about what you're grateful for rather than what you
believe is missing in your life. Saturate your mind with the
positive. After 30 days, you can then decide whether to keep
focusing on the positive or to revert to your negative
thinking pattern. I think I know which one you'll choose!
Keller is the President of Attitude is Everything, Inc. For
more than 15 years, Jeff has delivered presentations on
attitude and motivation to businesses, groups and trade
associations throughout the United States and abroad. Jeff
is also the author of the highly acclaimed book, Attitude is
Everything. For more information, go to