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Why is it difficult to maintain positive attitude?

Positive attitude is perhaps the most talked about topic in this world and there are numerous stories and jokes on the topic. I have been talking about positive attitude to people for the last twenty years and have realized that although everyone agrees that it is essential in order to become successful, it is very few who actually have it. It gives rise to the question that why is it so difficult to be positive? Why is it that people often slip back in the dark hole of negativity so easily? After a lot of thinking and seeing people’s behaviour during my career so far, I have come to the following conclusions.

“No” is ingrained into us: The first word that a child starts understanding in this world is ‘NO’. In the very early stages in life one hears a ‘NO’ so many times that it sticks. And it is only logical that while positivity is all about ‘YES’, we learn ‘NO’ since childhood.

Environment and conditioning: I feel that the society in general is negative. It is so easy to shoot down an idea, a thought, a feeling as compared to acceptance. Perhaps because acceptance requires further thought and work and it is human nature to take the path of least resistance which is to just say ‘NO’.

Frequent opportunity to slip back: Unlike many other things in life, positivity is not something which you need to use once in a while. Many acquired skills are put to use with some time gaps: however, positivity is perhaps put to use or test hundreds of times each day. It cannot be consciously reflected each time, it has to become the very nature of you and hence one who is trying to be positive breaks soon enough.

Let us now examine positivity in greater details. It is all about perspective, reactions, expectations, failures, successes, and point of view. People try to be positive in particular situations and it does not work at all. It has to be interwoven in the fabric of life. A positive person is positive always. Their positivity reflects from each action, each spoken word, and each reaction.

My mother, hardly educated, but with great wisdom, told me once that in life all negativity and stress starts from problems. But one must understand that all problems in this world can be divided in two types- problems that you can do something about and problems that you cannot do anything about. Now if it is a problem that you can’t do anything about, what is the point in getting stressed about it? And if it is a problem that you can do something about, then do something about it rather than getting stressed about it. It is so simple. Life is not about absence of problem, but it is about the way you handle them. In one class room I saw a poster put up by a student which said something very thought provoking. “You trust god because you have faith on god; god gives you problems because god has faith on you.”

We have all read in so many books and seen in so many motivational videos that life is all about how we take it. It is about our reactions to things that happen to us. But, alas! It just goes away the minute we close the book or when the video is over. I feel that one has to consciously attempt to check oneself regularly to keep reminding about being positive. One has to take actions which keep reminding that why one is taking those actions. I have often suggested to many students a simple approach. Every time someone asks you, “how are you?” instead of replying “fine” which is the norm, learn to use words like “great”, “fantastic”, “super”. Try it! It will make you feel good and you will be reminded always to be positive. In fact I heard one of my friends say something great once. Upon being asked in a conversation how his wife was he replied, “Oh, she is beautiful”. Now, be honest, if you hear something like that will it not inspire you?

I feel that one needs to start by bringing positivity in small ways and actions in life in order to make a big difference. They can slowly become a habit and that is what is required.

I cannot end this without telling one of my favourite jokes.

Two people were walking in a park when the negative one said, “I am sure that some bird or the other will crap on me as the park is covered with trees and there are birds everywhere sitting on trees.” His friend, the positive one said, “Why do you think like that? Park is half covered with trees so there is at best 50% chance and there are so many people walking here, why do you think it will happen to you?” As soon as he said that, the inevitable happened. A bird crapped on his friend. In an irritating voice the first person said, “Well, what do you have to say now?” Coolly the friend replied, “you can thank god that elephants don’t fly.’

I feel that this is as positive as you can get.

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