Why Authentically Positive?

Why positive?

Our outlook on life is a key factor to our personal development. An optimistic viewpoint can influence our thoughts, memories and words and help us develop character strengths and result in greater happiness and satisfaction with our life.

authentically positive happiness running with seaguls

Simple exercise such as running with seaguls can promote authentically positive experiences

The 21st century has seen the emergence of positive psychology as a reputable scientific endeavour. It has also seen a growth in the interest of life coaching that seeks to apply many of these positive principles by not just asking people great questions but also by encouraging them to reach for their dreams – striving for the ideal rather than settling the adequate.

Why authentically?

I believe we are also seeing a growth in the need to be authentic. People are becoming more sceptical of hype. There is a longing to be able to be able to have authentic relationships where we can be open and honest with one another.

Martin Seligman in his book Authentic Happiness appears to strike a good balance on this which I find much more helpful than many of the earlier ideas of positive thinking that often fail to take this into account. For instance many earlier writers have emphasised having greater self esteem but in Positive Psychology ideas such as self control are also discussed.

Being authentically positive

In this blog I want to look at a number of topics related to our personal development in the light of these ideas. I want to bring an openness and honesty to them and yet still communicate hope and optimism. In each of these areas I want to tackle some questions that are relevant to everyday life and look at how in each of these areas we can be authentically positive.

  • How do can cope with stress? This is not just an awareness of stress such as what might cause it and what it does to our bodies but also some positive techniques to deal with it.
  • How we can improve our relationships? Generally with everyone we meet but also I want to particularly discuss romantic relationships.
  • How can we develop spirituality? I want to discuss some principles that will be applicable to everyone whether they are religious or not but ultimately I will be coming from a Christian perspective as that is my personal background and belief.
  • What is the impact on our outlook on our health – our mental health and our physical health? For example, how we can deal with depression and how can we control our diet?
  • How can we apply these principles to our parenting? For example, how today’s media affects our kids and how can we manage their behaviour?
  • How to develop our career and improve our job search.
  • I even want to include some thoughts about being authentic and positive about our money.

This list is not exhaustive. This can apply to every area of life. If there is an area that you’d like me to discuss please let me know in the comments below.

Can You Be A Positive Realist?

Have you ever considered that there might be such as thing as a realistic optimist? I believe there is. In fact I believe it is the best way to think.

Positivity can be good

Often optimist is something that we need to learn. It can take an effort to develop a more optimistic outlook. But we can drift a little more easily towards pessimism. Of course the pessimist may object that they are actually being a realist and making a sober assessment of the situation. Could there be something in that.

On one side there is an important value to being optimistic. Without optimism we may fall at the first hurdle and never try to do something. Optimism promotes happiness, mental health as well as strength and determination.Realist, pessimist, optimist

Positivity can be dangerous

It can be particularly dangerous if we fall for a glib sort of positive thinking approaching to optimism. As I mentioned in my previous post:

• It can easily be self deceptive. You might not be someone who would lie to other people so why lie to yourself?

• It can stop you being ready for the possibility of things going wrong.

• You can begin to think of you positivity as a kind of magic that will replace you taking the practical steps towards your goals.

So be a positive realist

Be positive in you demeanour but don’t deceive yourselves about the odds. Face the facts but still live in hope. Don’t just day dream but combine your hope with hard work and go for it.

Related Posts

3 Dangers of Positive Thinking
Barbara Enrenreich Exposes the Myth of Positive Thinking
Should we through away our vision boards?

Barbara Ehrenreich Exposes the Myth of Positive Thinking

Ehrenreich is a critic of positivity

Author and journalist Barbara Ehrenreich describes herself as a myth buster. In her book, published as Smile or Die in the UK and Bright Sided in the States, she ruthlessly criticises the positive thinking movement and from what I can see she does have a point. But I think it is unfair to lump in positive psychology with the ideas that she is criticising.

I agree that a positive attitude can be helpful in some circumstances but not when it is just delusional preventing you seeing dangers. This is why the authentic strand of positive psychology is so important.

As Barbara Ehrenreich points out, we can see positive thinking gone mad in the financial meltdown a few years ago. Of course we should be encouraging and I believe in hope and optimism but I must agree they do need to be doused in a good helping of caution and realism.

Poor people are not lazy

In 2002 Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a book Nickel and Dimed about her experiment of surviving for three months on the minimum wage working in a number of different jobs across America.

She showed that contrary to a lot of people’s opinions those living like this don’t do so because they are lazy and need to take some personal responsibility.

It is good to encourage people who want to steps to get jobs or start in business but I agree that it is cruel to suggest that hard work and a positive attitude will automatically result in success.

Don’t feel guilty for not being happy

In a recent article in the Independent Tim Lott commented that we have followed the American way of thinking that we have a moral duty to be happy.

However there appears to be an inverse relationship between being happy and being intelligent and having an accurate view of the world. His point is that we should not be made to feel guilty for being unhappy. Reciting platitudes such as cheer up and look on the bright side can be really unhelpful when people are going through it. It is important to allow them to be upset even if our desire is that they will get over it in the long term.

Lott refers to Barbara Ehrenreich as a counterblast against American positive thinking – the idea that every disaster or set back is an opportunity for moving on.

Undue pressure to think positively is unhelpful

A couple of years ago Ehrenreich’s own story of her experience with breast cancer appeared in the Guardian. There she tells of how she was transformed from an optimistic person to one who was outraged by the positive thinking culture that she met as a result of her illness.

She later found similar advice being given to those who had been made redundant “Exhortations to think positively – to see the glass half full, even when it lies shattered on the floor – are not restricted to the pink ribbon culture.” she wrote.

These ideas are also found in money management, she explains, where exhortations that a positive attitude will attract money appear to encourage you to start spending that money now.

Positivity doesn’t automatically make everything better

Positive attitude is beneficial to a cancer patient but the research shows that it does not always extend patients lives.

Barbara Ehrenreich’s concern is it can lead to the denial of understandably feelings of anger and fear. Also if the positive thinking fails and if the cancer spreads the patient who has been taught that they must be positive may then blame themselves for not being positive enough.

She sees her encounter with breast cancer as an agonising revelation of an aspect of American culture that encourages us to deny reality and ultimately blame ourselves for our fate.

However there is still a place for positivity

Positivity does have a place but it also has dangers as Barbara Ehrenreich outlines. But I don’t think it is fair to dismiss positive psychology because of the dangers of positive thinking.

In fact I would see that positive psychology largely takes these criticism into account. In fact it is because of this overemphasis of the positive at the expense of being honest with ourselves and others that I have called this blog Authentically Positive.

As a cautious optimist, I believe that as well as being generally positive we need to be true to ourselves and to others.