The Power of Positive Thinking

Happy people naturally reinterpret events so that they preserve their self-esteem. Optimists are those who retain a sense of hope for the future and interpret life events in a positive way. One example, my friend and her parents went to a fancy pizza place, the food was great, but as she got home she had stomach problems. Later her father read her blog and was mocking her that she wrote it was a great dinner. My friend told him that to her the fact that she went out with her dear parents (both alive) to a very nice place and had a very tasty dinner outweighs that fact that she had stomach problems. That last part just wasn’t important enough to spoil her memory of that day.

Positive thinking is a mindset in which you recognize your blessings more than you pay attention to daily hassles. Research on subjective well-being and other psychological topics confirms that happiness is, to some degree, in your head. Not only it is easier to change attitude that it is to change your address, level of education or income, a shift toward positive thinking can often lead to more gains in happiness than a change of life circumstances. This is a big difference – focus not on how much you lose but on how much you have left. The other night after watching Red Dragon movie I thought about the blind girl in it. I imagined her living her life being blind and realized how much more we (not blind) can do now with our lives and how grateful we should be for it.

New research shows that with a little mental effort, recalling good events from the past can boost well-being. Psychologists have begun studying “savoring”, the process of active enjoyment of the present and of using active appreciation to enjoy a past success. Subjects are asked to spend some time reminiscing about a specific past event in a positive way, who report feeling happier.

Where we focus our attention has been shown to have a direct bearing on happiness. In research by Sonja Lyubomirsky, it was noticed that unhappy people had the tendency to ruminate on their own failings and character flaws. How did looking inward vs outward affect people’s moods? They found that focusing attention on oneself could make even happy people unhappy, and that directing attention away from the self had the power to make even unhappy people happier!!! Of course, some amount of self-reflection is probably healthy, even if it means small bouts of sadness or worry. But too much attention focused inwardly seems to drag down happiness over the long run.

Because there is always both plentiful good things and bad things a person can notice, the person with the habit of attending mostly to the bad inherits the problems of living in an ugly world. In contrast a person who develops the habit of attending to beauty, the small good works of others, and what is going right in life will enjoy a pleasant worldview. Ex. From forgiveness class, when you see someone angry and unhappy and view them as vulnerable and seeking help, it may change your attitude to that person…

When analyzing the power of positive thinking it is helpful to remember that we can have positive interpretations only of what we are attending to. We can only decide whether the glass is half empty or full if we are looking at the glass in the first place! Those who cultivate the habit of seeing life’s blessings and the beauty and goodness around them are happier. As Einstein said “I think the most important question facing humanity is, Is the universe a friendly place?”


Those, who don’t have the time for a whole week of audio course about Life of Purpose or don’t have the money to do Tony Robbins training, which I was told costs about 10K, but still want to learn about purpose and how to apply it to their lives, should try for free what I did last year at the Strategic Volunteering Workshop. It works!

It was one of those Mondays when you don’t want to get out of your bed, especially when you are not employed. I still made an effort and took the train to Downtown Crossing to attend Strategic Volunteering workshop at the Work Place.  I didn’t have any expectations, just signed up because I truly believe in volunteer work, to me  it means not giving something away but sharing and enriching ourselves and the world around us. I was curious to see what others have to say about strategic volunteering.

The instructor Mark McCurdy, also Founder and President of The Nonprofit Career Coach, delivered an interesting presentation to 10 participants. Main idea was to follow your heart, find what you love to do and focus on it… You would say that we all know this concept as it was mentioned in many philosophical schools, religions and books like The Alchemist and The Monk who sold his Ferrari, etc. True, but the twist is that you apply this concept to volunteering, meaning – not necessary leaving your current day-time job and switching to something else right away.

Volunteering is a way to connect you with your passion, which at the end may lead you to your perfect job you just don’t know how to find yet … As often we have one idea of what we want to do but in reality it may become  something different. As Tony Robbins said “Sometimes you need to lose your dreams to find your destiny”.

I also liked how Mark explained the process of finding what you love to do and implementing it, that is how to connect several elements which are  Passion+Purpose+Strategic Volunteering +Focus

Very often we only focus on passion or purpose but never connect both, never mind applying them to reality by doing volunteer work or seriously focusing on it. So here is what I got out of this workshop:

What is your passion/favorite hobby/interest or what are you good at? I like to ask questions and connect to people through conversation/story, also I’m interested in volunteering.

What community/population do you like to serve? To help unhappy lost people.  Because I was depressed myself in the past, I want to help unhappy people.

How do you think you combine the two into strategic volunteering?  Besides doing this blog and telling about volunteering, I may want to reach out to whole communities of depressed people and write newsletters for them about ways to get involved in volunteer work,  create workshops and events for them.

Focus on what you defined – narrow your goal and be consistent… I spoke to Mark that instead of general population I should focus on non-profits and groups that support communities of depressed people/victims of depression. Mark mentioned that “Collaboration is King” (not cash anymore). He also suggested doing video/audio interviews of volunteers/non-profits for, which is almost like TV show about volunteering world. All I have to do is to focus on these ideas and act upon them – be proactive and reach out to those organizations/communities and create samples of my work.

Imagine that you were at the same workshop, what would you come up with? How many people do you know who decided to do something they are very passionate about even though it was not their profession and they became very successful by eventually pursuing it?

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