Credit: thanks to Jason Csizmadi. On CC BY 2.0.

Do you see yourself as a negative person or a positive one? A glass half full or a glass half empty. I find it’s not so black and White. I have been trying to run the rule over myself a bit lately and think that I am somewhere in between. Positive on some areas but certainly not about everything. I am critical of others from time to time as well as with myself especially when I see mistakes that could have been avoided.

So, I googled positivity and after reading several of the articles from the first page, I am starting to believe that I will have super powers once I apply a few of the simple tactics suggested in their conveniently bullet pointed pieces. Positive thinking will allow you to break through walls. Literally! Avoid cynicism as at all costs, that stuff will kill you.

From a slightly different perspective, I have also just read a few of Richard Dawkins fantastic books such as The Selfish Gene. I found them a pretty hard read. One of the points I got from his books is that it is best to be skeptical about everything. After all, (from his science point-of-view but also from that of design) if we don’t question everything, then we will never make any improvements. He goes on to say that we must always be the most skeptical about ones own motives if one wants to improve oneself.

So which of these two contrasting standpoints is the better and can the two coexist? A true believer in positivity is as much someone that is continually seeking a solution to a problem as opposed to someone that believes in being positive just in itself, will be the solution. I may believe that I can walk through the wall, but no matter how positive a spin I put on it, I will still brake my nose and have two black eyes through trying!

What about our observations? Our brain have in-built mechanisms for filtering and sorting all of the myriad information which we see around us each second. Through evolution it is this ability which has allowed us to survive for as long as we have. The ability to see patterns in this information in order to sense danger before it becomes obvious. But that also means, that naturally we’re continually looking out for bad things too. The flight or fight mechanism. In today’s world though, other than perhaps walking onto a Malaysian airways flight, this skill has a lot less relevance than it did a few thousand years ago.

This can have the additional effect that once we start to have something in our attention we then see it a lot more. I have begun to shop around for a Honda CR-V recently. I’d had it recommended to me by a few friends and could honestly say I didn’t know it at all before. Now suddenly they appear everywhere. This again demonstrates the principle that what you focus on, you will notice more and this can be in both people’s negative actions as well as positive good deeds.

So I would like to apply some of the points that I found, to my own life to see what effects, if any they have on me. So where to start? What are the main points to apply? What are the points to associate with someone who is positive? An infectious smile, a buoyant energy, enthusiastic when speaking about themselves and others or maybe simply, a general lack of fear.

I really don’t think I know someone that is 100% positive or negative. Most people that I know tend to lean more in one direction or live in that stodgy center ground a bit more like me. So after trawling the internet for a while here is a list of the points that I am going to put in place for myself, to get out of the stodge!

Take a Look in the Mirror

First of all, how about a bit of self-assessment. See where you stand now. Don’t necessarily judge yourself. There’s a tendency to be biased. Ask a loved one or a close friend. A work colleague or just someone you come in contact with on a regular basis. Ask them to be candid with you. An honest viewpoint.

What Changes to Make

Take their comments and make two lists. One for the negative and the other for the positive attributes. What are the negative/positive points? Body language? Tone of voice? Are you complaining a lot? Take a look at them yourself and work out if they are justified and if so what are the motivations behind them.

Decide your Direction

The majority of the ways people act are habits and habits can be changed just like anything else. You have done the first part by identifying what you want to change. The next is making the conscious decision to alter your behavior for a new direction.

As an example, if you find you are complaining a lot. Make the decision today to think through complaints differently. More logically. What is the reason you are complaining about someone. That person must have their own reasons for behaving like they are. Try and put yourself in their position for a minute.

Make a Declaration

When we make a declaration about ourselves this is one of the quickest ways to make change. For example you could say, “I am a positive person and I encourage others”. Research proves that those who think more outwardly about others as opposed to inwardly, are happier and more positive people.

Take a Deep Breath

Speak up, sit-up straight, look people in the eye and smile more. Your interactions with others are very important. People often mirror your actions to them, with their own reactions to back you. If people are down with you, then you are often seeing how you appear to them. This in turn can either boost your confidence or send you further on a downward trajectory.

The simple act of smiling increases the level of mood-improving endorphins in the body.

Reinforce the Positives

The reverse of complaining about people or seeing the negative in them is to notice when people do something you like. Build up other people’s confidence around you. Make the observation when you see it. Once you start to notice these actions in people you will keep on seeing them everywhere. Speak up when you do. What you will find is that they start doing them more. It becomes contagious!

While the act of complaining about other people may seem like you’re putting them in a bad light. It often does the opposite and puts you in a bad light instead. If you change your behavior now, it will have an immediate impact on others and also therefore a knock-on effect to boost your own. It has a contagious feeling and makes you be the person that others want to come to and be around.