Optimize Your LifeEpisode #22: The Power of Positive Thinking
Hello and welcome back to another episode of Optimize Your Life with me, Dr. Sharon Grossman. And today we’re going to talk about one of my favorite topics which is the power of positive thinking. When it comes to this topic, there are typically two main questions that I get. The first is does it really work, and if so…second question is how. So people are really interested in figuring out what is behind this. Is this really a power that they can latch onto that can help them in their life and if so what do they need to do to really cultivate more of it for themselves? And that is what I want to answer today in this podcast and what I want to share with you, first and foremost, is why I really think this is life transforming.
So one of the things that, as you know, I talk about a lot is the power of the mind and the reason for that is because we know that there is a direct relationship between the things that we think and our feelings. And so if you’re noticing that, for example, you are feeling really stressed out it is usually because you have some sort of a thought that leads to stress. You might interpret the situation that you’re in as being too much for you given the time or the resources that you have and so you see it as stressful and then you feel stressed out.
And the same goes for really any emotion. If you tell yourself a story, that story then aligns with a certain emotion. And I often tell my clients that they might have a number of thoughts for every one situation that they’re in which leads to a number of different emotions. It’s not that this situation is causing all of your emotions, but it’s you’re thinking about it. And that’s why it is so important for us to understand how this works and to use it to our advantage.
So let’s talk about what happens when we’re in a difficult situation. I was actually just being interviewed for a podcast with veterinarians and sometimes they go through some difficult situations and they are burning out. The question was, “If I’m going through something difficult, like let’s say I am operating on an animal and the animal dies, it is really sad. How can I have some positive thinking about this or how can I feel good about something that doesn’t feel good?”
And I think because so many of us actually don’t understand how to utilize this as a tool and how to really feel in control of our emotions, we try to run away. We try to mask our emotions. We try to not feel them in any way that we can. And what happens is that we feel like we’re always on the run and that we have to mask our feelings and we end up doing a whole bunch of different things that can get us into trouble, like overeating and over-drinking. overspending. What we want to be able to do, ultimately, is getting control of our thinking.
Now let’s go back to the example. Assuming that something really sad happened in your life, what we’re saying here is not to be all happy about it. Obviously that would be unrealistic and I don’t think necessarily that you would want to feel happy because if you take your job seriously and something negative has happened, you want to be able to take responsibility for it. You want to also be able to process the feelings that naturally come up for you. So one of the things that I’d love for you to understand is that all of our emotions serve a purpose. So if you are feeling sad when you experience a loss, that is part of being human. That is an absolutely natural phenomenon and your job isn’t to run away from those sad feelings. It is to have the experience of feeling sad so that you can process your loss and then ultimately what I am teaching is for you to not get stuck in any one emotion that feels really negative. So yes, we want you to experience the sadness, but then we want you to be able to get back on your feet, right? And when we talked about resilience we said that it’s really about bouncing back from adversity. The idea is — how do you bounce back when you’ve experienced a loss, for example? How can you possibly feel positive about this event?
So I would say a couple of things about that. Number one is: even when you experience that sadness as part of the natural part of being human, it is there for a reason and the reason is there, as we said, it’s for you to process the loss of whatever it is that you’ve lost. But it is not meant to be there forever. We all are going to lose things as part of life. It’s part of just the human experience. So we’re all going to lose our parents and we might lose our pets or we might experience the death of a friend or colleague. These things are going to happen naturally all throughout our lives.
So imagine if the very first time you lose somebody you never recover. Can you imagine what a detriment that is for the rest of your life? That’s not the point of sadness and so we want to be able to get unstuck from it once it is served its full purpose.
So you’ve grieved this loss and now the question is — what comes next? For some people it really isn’t a question. They just feel like they’ve completed that cycle of mourning and they’re able to just get back to themselves and it just happens naturally over the course of time. But if you’re somebody that feels like something’s happened to you and you just can’t release yourself of it, you’re stuck in negative emotions, or stuck in a whole bunch of negative thoughts, then we really want to give you something that’s going to allow you to free yourself of that.
So what I want you to understand is that there are some thoughts that are causing your emotions. And so of course we want you to be able to get back to who you were before this happened, if that’s even a possibility. And because it’s your thoughts that are leading to your emotions, we want to look at the power of your thoughts and how they are absolutely linked to your emotions right now. So just notice the stories that you’re telling yourself and see if those are serving you. See if they are telling the complete truth of the situation. See if they are aligned with how you want to feel. So there are all kinds of ways you can go about this.
Ultimately what you want to do is take back control of the situation and by that I don’t mean you’re going to change the outcome, but you’re going to change how you react to it. And the way that you do that is by managing your thinking.
And for some people to go from a place of feeling very negative to feeling really positive is too much of a stretch. And in that case, you just want to find some place in the middle that feels a little bit more neutral, which might, in the case of a loss, be around acceptance. I accept that I have lost this pet or this person in my life or I’ve lost my job or I’ve lost my spouse or whatever the case may be. Getting to acceptance is not about jumping up and down for joy. It is really just about acknowledging what is. That is a neutral place to start. And from there, you can expand even more and that’s really your challenge is to ask yourself additional questions such as “what is the positive learning of this experience for me?”
And sometimes when we put ourselves in that mindset, we can come up with things that would not have otherwise occurred to us. So for instance, when I was doing this exercise on myself, I was able to look at past events that were very challenging and was able to come up with a positive learning which was — I needed to experience that in order for me to develop empathy and be able to help other people who are struggling. So really think about what purpose this event has in your life and what you can glean from it. If it’s a mistake that you’ve made maybe it’s that you’ve now learned how to do your job better because you’ve learned what doesn’t work. If you’re in a bad relationship, it might be, “I know what kind of partner to seek out next time around.”
So that’s just getting from a negative place to perhaps a neutral place and maybe even a more positive place. But ultimately,I want you to understand that there is that direct relationship between the thoughts and the feelings and that you have control over that relationship.
But now let’s take it a step further and let’s talk about things that haven’t happened yet. And we can often feel anxious about the future because we worry about all the things that could go wrong and we try to plan for them and what I’m here to offer is that while that may serve you on some capacity, often times what it does is it shrinks you. It makes you avoid risks. It makes you really run away from situations or it makes you sit there and shake in your boots feeling sorry for your future self or worried about all kinds of catastrophic ideas. And by the way, the majority of those things that we imagine in our mind don’t ever happen so we’re wasting so much of our energy in this process. And what I want to offer you is this: you can use the power of positive thinking to create the future that you want. And I have a couple of really neat examples to share with you about how this can work.
Now there’s not, this is not a science. This is more of an art so there isn’t like a step 1 and a step 2 and this is a guarantee and if you do this you will absolutely get this result. But I do want to share this with you because this isn’t a pie-in-the-sky idea. This is something that can work some of the time and if you’re open-minded to it perhaps you might get some results and if you do I would love to hear from you. I would love for you to share what happened.
But let me share a couple of stories. One is of a client of mine. So this client was in a dead-end relationship. She could not see that there was something better out there for her because she was so in it. And this happens to a lot of us. We’re so used to what we got and we have this mindset that is very limited so we can’t see that there’s something else bigger, better out there. And then we become anxious about the unknown and we stay where we are because it’s familiar. Well, this client of mine was really frustrated with her relationship because it really wasn’t going anywhere and ultimately she broke up with her boyfriend after about six years.
So what I had her do as she’s really spinning out about not being with this guy, I had her take out a piece of paper and write down exactly what you wants to manifest in a future partner. Now, she wasn’t under any impression that she was going to get this guy, but I just wanted her to have some clarity. So kind of like we said earlier, when you make a mistake you learn what doesn’t work…when you’re in a relationship that’s not going anywhere, you learn very quickly about what you want instead. So I just had her name it. And she literally wrote down about 50 attributes on this piece of paper. And then she put the paper away and we got together about a year later and I said to her, “Wow! Isn’t it amazing where you are today in your relationship and in your life considering where you were just a year ago?” And she said, “You know, it’s so funny that you say that because I was just thinking about that exercise that we did and I can’t find my piece of paper but I remember I had like 50 things on there and my current boyfriend really meets all of those criteria. He literally fit the description of everything I had on that piece of paper.”
So part of positive thinking is being really intentional, as we said earlier on today, where you are trying to create that connection so that you can feel the way that you want to feel. So that’s where you’re asking yourself, “How do I want to feel on this situation and then you reverse-engineer it and you find the thought that aligns with that feeling.
But in this case when I’m talking to you about is a whole other thing, which is really about putting out what you want into the universe. And that requires some positive thinking because you have to believe that it is possible. It doesn’t mean that you know how to accomplish. It just means that you believe that you can have it if you put it out there.
Now consider this: thoughts are energy. If you’re not sure what I mean by that, think about how you feel when you’re happy. There’s a sense of lightness, right? because happiness is more of a high-frequency sort of feeling or emotion and so there’s this lightness that comes with it. Whereas, if you’re feeling depressed, it feels really heavy, doesn’t it? Where you just can’t get yourself up and you feel so stuck in your life. So think about how our thoughts and our feelings are all energy and so when we’re putting thoughts out into the universe, we are sending a certain amount of vibration or energy out there. And it’s not about control and it’s not about knowing how. It’s just about getting some clarity and putting her intention out there.
So my client did not know how she was going to meet this guy nor if she would ever meet this guy but she was just doing this exercise for clarity purposes and, what do you know? A few months later she was dating this exact guy.
I have another example which comes from my personal experience and that is that I decided along with my husband that we were going to move. We were going to relocate to another state and we knew exactly which neighborhood we wanted to move into but we didn’t have a house lined up and everybody was basically calling us and saying, “Aren’t you nervous? You don’t know where you’re going. What are you going to do?” And I said, “I’m not worried about it. I’ll find a rental at some point and I’ll move in. We’ll get a sense of where we like living in the neighborhood or what comes up on the market and we’ll take our time finding a house that we really love and then we’ll buy. Well, given all that and the fact that I knew there were three things when I was ready to buy that I was really looking for in a house was — #1: specific location.
One of the big attractors to this particular neighborhood was that if you are a resident of this neighborhood you get access to their Community Center. And this community center is off the charts. It includes a lap pool and splash park and water slides for the kids. It is like beach access and all these amazing things and you can only access it, almost like a private club, but it was only for this neighborhood. And so I really was very intent on getting into this neighborhood. But also I thought, “If I’m already in this neighborhood, let’s sweeten the deal and let’s be as close as possible to this Clubhouse.” And this Clubhouse happened to be on 93rd Street so I said, “I want a house that is on 93rd Street so that it’s only a few blocks from my house to the club house and to the beach.” And what do you know? As we are kind of organizing our lives and packing up our stuff and we’re not even looking for a rental yet because it’s too early, we’re just kind of having the conversation with our agent about — you know maybe in a few weeks we can start looking for a rental, literally the next day, my husband get the phone call from his friend who already lives in that neighborhood who says, “We have friends who are moving and they’re selling their house and I would never tell you to buy a house sight unseen but I know their house and their house is wonderful and I just thought you might want to know.” Well that same day we get on the phone with the owners. They give us a virtual tour of their house and by the next day we’re in contract.
And here’s what I want to tell you this house had the exact location that I was looking for. It was on 93rd Street. And the other two things that it didn’t mention that I was really looking forward to in a house in that area was that I would have an avocado tree and a mango tree cuz I thought that would be so fun. And it turns out they have a mango tree. Their next door neighbor’s house has three mango trees which they happily share because who can have so many mangoes? You go bonkers. And there’s also a wonderful avocado tree there.
So maybe it’s dumb luck or maybe it is the power of positive thinking. So like I said, there are no guarantees but I encourage you to embrace this concept and to put what you want out there into the universe without trying to control the process, without worrying about how you’re going to manifest it, but just knowing that you know clearly what you’re looking for and you’re allowing it to come to you. And when you find that you’ve manifested whatever it is that you want in this world or that you’re able to get yourself unstuck because you’re no longer focusing on the negative in every situation but are, at the very least, able to move yourself to neutral and from there to a more positive place, write to me and share your journey. I would love to feature your story on a future episode.
Until then check out my website www.drsharongrossman.com, where I’ve got lots of free resources for you including my Mindset Mastery Starter Kit and lots more I’ll talk to you next week.