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The Skill of Positive Thinking

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Abstract Thinking
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Abstract skills are made up of other skills. Positive thinking is a good example.

Positive Thinking is Abstract

In my last article, I presented a new definition for positive thinking. This definition has hopefully challenged the reader’s perceptions. The entire article is worth reading if you are interested in positive thinking, however the main point I made is that I consider positive thinking a skill. This is because I consider it an abstract skill that is actually made up of three other skills:

  • deciphering the best outcome to any situation
  • formulating a plan to get from where you are now to that outcome
  • executing that plan properly

Most people reading this article will probably recognize that these three skills have not always been in your toolkit. You had to learn them over the course of time, sometimes as a result of some painful outcomes. I think everyone can look back and see a situation where there was actually a much better outcome to a situation left on the table because it was just completely missed. It’s also easy to think of a situation where the plan formed was incorrect, or the execution of a good plan didn’t quite work out. We all encounter these situations, in some cases regularly.

If you’ve been wondering why it’s been such a struggle to be optimistic or think positively about the future, perhaps your focus has been on the wrong thing. Perhaps you’ve been working to build an abstract skill, one that doesn’t really exist, when you should have been focusing on building its different elements. To show you what I mean, let’s sit down and consider each of these elements, one by one.

Begin with Yes
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Deciphering the Best Outcome to Any Situation

This is probably the easiest of the three skills to associate with positive thinking, because it’s really what most of us think of when we think of that phrase. If you’re being optimistic about the future, naturally you’re thinking about the best outcome to the situation. I could win the lottery and retire to a tropical paradise filled with all my heart’s desires. If I just write one more article, I’ll wake up a millionaire. Maybe that hot girl/guy sitting across from me on the subway will want to talk to me if I don’t say anything to them.

This is all about deciphering the best outcome to a situation, right? WRONG! Keep in mind that this skill is about deciphering the best realistic outcome to any situation, not deciphering the best technically possible but would need a sample size of several lifetimes to happen outcome to any situation.

Sure, you could win the lottery, become a millionaire from writing one article or have people fawn over you without lifting a finger. If you can do those things however, you probably don’t need to read this article!

In our new world where positive thinking is a learned skill, this part of it represents your ability to look at a situation and judge what the best realistically achievable outcome is to that situation. This doesn’t mean you give up on your hopes and dreams. It just means that you learn their proper position in relation to your current situation, because that will make achieving them significantly easier.

The Importance of Planning
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Once you have your best outcome, the next step is to formulate a solid plan for achieving that outcome.

Formulating a Plan to Get from Where You Are Now to That Outcome

The thing about these three skills is that they build on each other. Once you get really good at deciphering the best outcome to a situation, it makes formulating a plan to get there significantly easier. If you’re still winning the lottery however, you’re not likely to do anything but buy lottery tickets. If you believe the next article will make you rich, your will to keep writing beyond that may not exist. If you believe that cute person on the train will come over on their own, you may not take the initiative to say hello and smile.

If you think that writing 100 articles a month will eventually allow you to earn $1000 a month however, you’ll know exactly how much time you need to put aside in order to reach that milestone. This is what it means not only to have mastered the first skill, but also to start working on the second one.

Formulating a plan is all about time and work management. Now that you know the best outcome, you can create a series of tasks that need to be accomplished to get there. You can then break those tasks down into manageable chunks of work. The work adds back up to the tasks and the tasks collectively form the plan to get from here to there. It’s easier said than done, but there’s no secret here aside from mastering the first skill.

Planning and Execution
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The strategic thinking used to win chess matches is very similar to the strategic thinking that will be required to properly formulate and execute a plan.

Proper Plan Execution

Once you’ve mastered the first two skills and are working on the third, you’ll discover something interesting. This skill is simultaneously the easiest and the most difficult to master. It’s the easiest because once you have a solid understanding of the outcome and a great plan in place, the game is really yours to lose. It’s the hardest because the game is yours to lose and if you don’t see your plan through to fruition, losing is easy.

If you’re still stuck on winning the lottery, forget about execution because you’re not even in the game with a proper plan. If your plan is to write 100 articles per month however, you still need to execute. If you don’t, you miss out on the critical third skill of this positive thinking trio.

Think Big
Credit: By stanjourdan from Paris, France [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Don't ever stop thinking big!

Dream Big, but Take Action

Some of you may be reading this and thinking how strange it is to talk about planning and execution in the same sentence as positive thinking. If you look at what all of the really successful people that have changed our world have to say on the subject however, you’ll see it has much more to do with these elements than the traditional pie-in-the-sky definition. I'll prove this point in subsequent articles.

This is not to say that you need to hand in all your dreams. If anything, you need to dream bigger. You also need to be aware of how much you can accomplish though and once you have those big dreams, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and take action. The most successful people on the planet all dreamed supposedly impossible dreams, but they found a way to make them happen.

This is why thinking about the skill of positive thinking as three separate and completely teachable skills will completely change your own outlook. Start working on each of those skills and you could completely change your life in the process.

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