On March 17, 2013, I decided to quit thinking negatively. More accurately, I decided to start thinking wholesomely.
I immediately noticed two things. First, my life began to change in deep ways — conversations, professional work, relationships, attitudes about everything.
The second thing I noticed came as a monumental surprise.
Almost all my friends and acquaintances had negative thinking habits, too. I heard it in their enthusiastic complaining along a variety of topics laced with disrespectful tones that no longer interested me.
These people’s negativity surfaced, for instance, as fear of failure, fear of material success, reluctance to face conflict, pessimistic opinions about their body or brain, determination to give their clients or employers less than what they agreed to do in return for a check and a preoccupation with defending pet peeves.
Then I realized that these wonderful people considered me positive if I joined in their negativity. But I didn’t have it in me anymore.
My new outlook opened my eyes to many kinds of negative thinking that I had cherished my entire life. Here are a mere few of them.
Valuing people on the basis of how their ideas line up with mine. Do they like the current president? If so, they probably hate America and want to marry jihadists. Do they detest the current president? If so, they probably hate women and minorities and want to deport all immigrants.
The disgusting habit of slapping a label on anyone whose opinions don’t fall in line with mine comes out of an assumption that I am better than you because — thank God — I think better than you do.
When I’m that impressed with my passionate logic, it’s easy to assume God thinks exactly like I do. And, just imagine, political ideas are one of a thousand categories that negative thinking can hijack. Judgmental thinking always masquerades as righteous intelligence.
Keeping track of people’s faults. I don’t know the exact number, but I can put up with only so many imperfections in others before I need them to prove why they deserve my respect. And no, I’m not keeping track of my own faults, because nobody’s perfect, and I’m not trying to be a horse’s behind like some folks apparently want to be.
Expecting little good from others. I might think I’m minding my own business or avoiding disappointment, but low expectations of others often indicates a cynical mindset and an inability to see a brighter potential for myself or others. Daring to expect more of others is easier when I remember my own limitations and the many times people have helped me.
When I believe in others, I behave toward them in ways that increase the chance of favorable, even heroic, results. Also, getting in people’s way or preparing a critical commentary of them feels totally out of place when I choose to believe in them.
Preferring problems to solutions. Don’t we all want to get rid of our problems? Not really.
If we did, we’d have to give up our favorite vices.
How boring life would be if we had to quit feeling sorry for ourselves, quit worrying about expenses and investments, quit dissecting other people’s minds, stop micro-managing family members, stop picking on people we don’t like, or quit straining to get others to see things our way.
I used to enjoy meditating on my problems and complaints. How horrified I was when a veteran toxic thinker explained that I wanted my problems more than I wanted solutions, as she did before someone set her straight. She was right! I had cuddled up to my problems like a child with a thumb in his mouth and an inseparable teddy bear and blanky in the other hand.
Negative thinking is sometimes bold and obvious and sometimes camouflaged. As soon as you quit justifying your negative thoughts, your mind and your conversation change.
Thinking wholesomely, boldly, respectfully, constructively requires deliberate effort. It doesn’t come naturally, and it’s not something to attempt all by yourself. It’s a matter of intellect, spiritual discipline and reinforcement from people who are on the same, unending journey.
Max T. Russell writes for the international business intelligence community. You can contact him via his website, maxtrussell.com.