I was interviewed a couple of weeks ago by Radio 666 ABC’s Alex Sloan on International Positive Thinking Day, and during the interview, Alex referred me to Oliver Burkeman’s book ‘The Antidote: Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking’.

Alex suggested I would enjoy reading the book and while I’m only about a third of the way in so far, I can certainly report that ‘enjoy’ isn’t an adjective I can use so far to describe how I feel about the book.

It’s one of those books where I’m battling to suppress my reactive want to attack almost everything I’m reading because it challenges my personal beliefs, understanding, and validated extensive academic research findings around the value of intentionally realistic positivity.

Intentionally realistic positivity acknowledges the realities of life – the ups and downs, the positives and negatives. It is not about removing all negativity from one’s life, it’s about accepting that negativity can be part of our life, but ought not stop us from taking intentional action to move forward to live more happy, flourishing and prosperous lives.

This intentional realistic positivity is quite different to the more ‘hypey’ and unrealistic power of positive thinking that is the fuel for many self-help and motivational speakers.

So while at this stage I’m not enjoying Burkeman’s book because of the challenge it’s presenting to me, in a paradoxical way, I’m certainly intrigued.

The reason I’m reporting early on the challenge I’m facing with this book, (and I promise to give a comprehensive review when I complete it), is the challenge I’m facing is one that almost every one of us (or at least the majority of us) face on a daily basis… and that challenge is to be open to ideas, information and viewpoints that challenge our own understanding about our personal and business lives.

Something I learned from a video program titled ‘The Business Of Paradigms’ by Joel Barker many years ago was that our boundaries of belief and understanding can block us from discovering new ways to approach our various life roles.

While not always easy to do, what Barker taught me was to be constantly aware of when I reactively feel challenged, when I don’t agree with something, when I feel the need to defend my beliefs and position. The reason I try to be aware of these types of feelings and to become mindfully engaged in the moment, is there’s a strong chance that I am right at the edge of my boundary of belief and thought – and I may be my own worst enemy at that point and unintentionally either distort, change or ignore the new evidence or information being presented.

One of my research tools that I draw upon when reading (not when I’m reading fiction) is at the end of each chapter, I ask the following questions:

1. What have I learned or relearned?
2. Where’s the evidence in my own life of this?
3. What hasn’t been covered that might need further investigation?
4. What’s challenged me?
5. Why?
6. What lesson might I be missing because of this challenge?

You, me and every one of us have a boundary of belief or thought that if we unintentionally let it take control, can block us from seeing the world in any way other than our own experiences.

However, by being intentionally open to the lessons and experiences that others have had, that we may not have experienced, while challenging at times, can potentially be one of our most powerful learning tools.

When I wrote the book Intentionomics and decided to present the Intentionomics Blueprint of 9 Inescapable Truths for a Prosperous Life, I certainly never suggested that these 9 inescapable truths were THE 9 inescapable truths, in the same way I’m sure Stephen Covey wasn’t suggesting that the 7 Habits were THE 7 habits. While it’s easy to criticise those of us who might draw a line in the sand and arrive at a number of guiding principles, suggestions or summarise the research and evidence down into a number of key points, the reality is, it’s impossible to provide all of the permutations and combinations of what the research (and our personal experiences) validates will help us live more happy, flourishing and prosperous lives.

So with a big thanks to Alex Sloan for recommending I read Burkeman’s book, I remain challenged, but intentionally open to continue to explore this counterintuitive discussion on the perils of positivity.

Let me leave you with a rephrasing of the question in the title to this post. What beliefs do you currently have that could be so strong that they may be blocking you from seeing new potential to live an even more happy, flourishing and prosperous personal and work life?

To answer the question, keep a look out over the next days and weeks when you feel like you’re being challenged or that you want to defend your point of view… you may just be at the edge of a paradigm, a boundary of belief or thought that could be blocking you to discover what you might need to move forward.

More to come.