"Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy." — Norman Vincent Peale
Many people characterize me as a naturally positive person. I always seem to be able to find something good to focus on regardless of the circumstances or criticisms that I may encounter. This positivity doesn’t just come out of thin air, however. It took years of cultivation to engrain this ability into my Being. But the good news is that it can be learned. And the even better news is that it be learned in much less time than it took me because this book that you’re reading is filled with every idea, tool, and strategy that I sifted through to find the good stuff. Here’s how you can learn quite quickly how to be more positive: develop confidence.
A lot of people think that positivity is all about wearing rose-colored glasses, walking around ignoring reality and believing that everything is fine and dandy even when it isn’t. I don’t believe that’s positivity, though. I believe that’s ridiculous.
When I was fourteen years old I performed a magic act at my high school talent show. This would be my first opportunity to perform in front of the entire school so I was eager to impress them. I decided to perform a version of Russian roulette by doing a piece that I called Acid Roulette. Five test tubes were presented. Four of them were filled with water and the fifth was filled with hydrochloric acid. The idea was I’d be blindfolded as a member of the audience mixed up the test tubes, then I’d blindly drink from them, leaving only the test tube with acid untouched. That was the idea.
On the night of the talent show I was blindfolded, the test tubes were mixed up, I stepped behind the table, picked up the one of the test tubes, and drank it. And then I immediately spit it out, tore off the blindfold, and ran off the stage, because I had just drank the acid! I was positive that I was going to be able to successfully perform the stunt that night—because I had practiced it—so what went wrong? Turns out everything was wrong. Even though I had practiced the stunt, in rehearsal I didn’t actually use real acid (after all, why practice something that you can only afford to fail once?) So in rehearsal I used seltzer instead, and it worked fine—most of the time. Sometimes I drank the seltzer by mistake. But as the night of the talent show got closer and closer I was running out of time and was relying on this stunt to be the big closure of my act. I just needed it to work, so I just put on “positive attitude” about the whole thing, and went for it. Unfortunately this “positive attitude” ignored the reality of my circumstances—it ignored the fact that it was not a good idea. That’s not positivity; that’s ridiculous!
Having a positive attitude can be a good motivator because it gets us into the game, but there is something more to keep us in the game. This is why I believe that true positivity is not so much an attitude but rather more of a confidence. After all, when we say that we’re positive of something do we mean that we’re not too sure? Do we mean that we only think something is true? Or do we mean that we are confident of it? Of course the only true answer can be that when we’re positive it means that we are confident, and we’re confident because we are sure, and we’re sure because we know the truth. Therefore positivity can only reflect reality.
If we want to experience more positivity then a good place to start is by honoring what is true rather than only what we wish was true. If we do this, and follow-through with it every day, we’ll soon find that our confidence will grow as we develop into the person that we desire to be.
Have you been walking around with rose-colored glasses? What can you do today to more effectively honor reality so you can develop deeper confidence?
Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.