The Perception of Positivity

With the new year, it seems that everywhere you look, you encounter people trying to turn over a new leaf and start fresh, usually in hopes of incorporating something they learned in the prior year. It’s like January 1st is the psychological equivalent of the Spring season and physical renewal.

We all have heard that when something happens that is unexpected or not “ideal,” you should try to stay positive. I believe that the new year symbolizes the collective optimism of the human psyche trying to become better. That’s getting deep, I know.

But what happens during those times in life when you don’t know exactly how to change the way you think to bring about that positive attitude? Or those times when the attempt to stay positive, or even hear about staying positive, becomes part of the stress itself? Then what? Are you doomed? Of course not. Read on, my friend.

Lets face the fact that being negative at any time is by no means going to help your state of mind or the situation at hand. And, quite frankly, it’s draining psychologically and physically to both you and those around you. But sometimes, it just happens. You don’t mean to, but you go to, and sometimes get stuck in, that place of negativity.

You know what? If that happens to you, I won’t tell you to try to be positive. Instead, I will share some wisdom that was once bestowed upon me.

“Everything happens. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just happens. It’s how you perceive what is happening that makes it ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to you.”

Think about what that statement is actually conveying. Without sounding like a cliché and without ramming positivity down your throat, it actually helps you to look at the brighter side of things.

How?

When you use the concept that it’s your perception that causes your reaction toward, and how you ultimately feel about, a situation, you automatically start to change your perception about that situation.

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example.

You were driving and another vehicle cut you off. Your immediate reaction might have been to say a few choice words about the other driver. And then you started stewing over what just (almost) happened and what the other driver was thinking or doing (both of which you will probably never know). And then you had to talk (vent) to your coworkers about what happened. And the more you talked about it, the more irritated you got. And then you imagined all of the scenarios that you could’ve/should’ve done when it happened. You continued to hold on to all of those negative thoughts which, by then, had completely set your mood. And then, later that day, someone said hello to you and, instead of smiling and saying hello back, you glared back or looked away and ignored the person. And finally, that evening, you snapped at your spouse or your kids.

In this example, all that actually happened was that another vehicle got a bit too close for comfort while you were driving. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less. It caused a spike in adrenaline, but then your drive returned to normal for the rest of your trip. It was your perception of that one moment, what could have happened, and why (which, again, you will probably never know) that upset you. Instead of realizing all of this, and resuming your day as you normally would, you became fixated on this negative perception of the event and it went on to ruin your mood and your day and, honestly, probably wasn’t a picnic for those around you either.

Now let’s change it up and say that the same thing happened and you still said your few choice words (who wouldn’t?), but then thought, “Okay, that just happened. How do I feel about that? Well, it got my heart going because that could have been a bad accident. But, nothing bad actually happened. I’m lucky.” And then you forgot about it and went about your day as usual, talked with your coworkers, smiled and returned a greeting to that person later that afternoon, and enjoyed the evening with your spouse and kids.

Someone once told me that everything just “happens.” Whether you assign the “good” or “bad” label is a matter of your own perception. A lot of times, it’s just best to leave the labels blank and realize that accepting things as they happen, without judgment, is all that is needed to minimize stress and see the bright side of things in your everyday encounters.

Sure, there will be things (and people) you can’t control that will make you angry or upset or just plain stressed out. When that happens, apply this concept and take a step back to evaluate how and why you are perceiving things the way you are. Through practice, you may discover that it’s a nice way to find positivity, and even optimism, without even trying.

And to have a truly happy new year!