I was interviewed this morning by Mark Parton from Canberra’s 2CC morning radio program, and we were discussing today being International Positive Thinking Day and the recent results of Australia being ranked in the top 10 happiest countries in the world.
Something Mark shared was advice from his father, and I’m paraphrasing, but basically it was we can’t control what happens to us, but we can choose how we think about it.
I’d like to explore this a little in this post, because the reality is sometimes thoughts enter our consciousness that we’d rather not have visit, but when they do, what can we do about them?
The Reality of Controlling Your Inner Voice
In the Intentionomics Blueprint of 9 inescapable truths for a prosperous life, inescapable truth #4 is to Control Your Inner Voice. The key to this inescapable truth is understanding the importance of being consciously aware of what it is that we’re thinking in any given situation… because unless we’re consciously aware of what we’re thinking, it will be difficult to take control with intentional actions that move us toward living more happy, flourishing and prosperous lives.
That doesn’t mean we need to enter into a mental battle with our inner voice when we realise that we are thinking negatively about something.
As I said, sometimes negative thoughts pop into our consciousness, even when we’d rather they didn’t.
However, a thought is just a thought, and a feeling is just a feeling, and despite times when you might have a negative thought or negative feeling about something, it doesn’t mean you necessarily have to respond with a negative action.
For example, many people fear or at least are apprehensive or uncomfortable with public speaking. Negative thoughts enter their heads, they start to feel physically uncomfortable and allow nerves to take over and they focus on their nervousness, and don’t enjoy the feeling and therefore, avoid public speaking as much as possible.
The reality is, and in my line of work I see evidence of this almost every week, where despite people thinking negatively, and feeling uncomfortable, they just get on with their presentation. In other words, they take control of their inner voice by taking intentional positive action, regardless of what they’re thinking or feeling at the time.
If you’d like to learn more about this concept, I highly recommend you to the work of Dr Russ Harris and two of his books in particular are The Happiness Trap and The Reality Slap. Russ outlines a scientifically proven mindfulness-based approach called ‘Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) that dispels the myth that we need to do battle with negative thoughts and expel them with the power of positive thinking.
A Positive Mental Attitude Isn’t Enough
So today is international Positive Thinking Day, and it’s easy to dismiss a day like today as just another way the optimists of the world can get under the skin of the pessimists. But the reality is, there’s more than enough scientific evidence of the positive impact that intentionally thinking positively, more often, in more moments will have on our overall sense of living a happy, flourishing and prosperous work and personal life.
But I need to make sure we balance the scale here. What I’m not saying is I believe in having a positive mental attitude 100% of the time, and I’m not saying I believe that you ought to feel happy 100% of the time. As Russ Harris points out in The Happiness Trap, “The fact is, we have much less control over our thoughts and feelings than we would like… However, we do have a huge amount of control over our actions.”
While pursuing the experience of a happy, flourishing and prosperous life, be prepared for and make room for some not-so-positive experiences every now and then. And most importantly, take some proactive and positive intentional learning to develop your skills and knowledge to be able to better manage those experiences when they do occur… because life isn’t always easy.