Beyond "Happy Thoughts" to True Empowerment
“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.”
~ Benjamin Disraeli
When you've been involved in personal development as long as I have, there are certain discussions that come up time and again. One of them is this idea of being happy and positive versus being "realistic."
I had this discussion with a young man on Twitter this evening. He was arguing for "seeing the world as it really is." He stated that was rational. Many people feel this way, but there is a built in prejudice in that statement that stems from a negative leaning disposition. The assumption is that positive thinking or seeing the best in a situation is somehow irrational and unrealistic.
What is the realistic, rational way to see any event? I mean, there are multiple ways to see practically everything we experience in this world. How should I view a beautiful sunrise? It may inspire one person, but to someone else it may represent the dawn of their first day without a loved one. The bottom line is events are not objective in that way. They are always subjective. If they are subjective, that means we have a choice in how we see them and how we allow them to impact our mindsets.
That's not to say there aren't harsh and evil things that happen. It's not to say that bad things don't sometimes happen to good people. It is to say that we have a choice whether to use an event as fuel or allow it to send us swirling down the drain of despair.
This all reminded me of an article I wrote almost 10 years ago on this very topic. I hope you'll find it inspiring.
The Affirmation Spot Blog - August 29, 2008
Many people equate positive thinking with naiveté. Thinking “happy thoughts”, they point out, in the face of tragedy or difficulty is unrealistic.
There seems to be a defensiveness in that line of thinking. It renders as, “If I let my guard down enough to think ‘happy thoughts’ when things are tough, I’m going to get hurt. So, I’m going to steel myself against that possibility by thinking negative (um, realistic) thoughts.”
I can’t think of a better time to think “happy thoughts” than in the face of struggle. The challenge is whether or not you can. It’s not so easy to face down injustice, sadness, depression, and hatred with a sense of peace and a wise smile. It takes incredible strength and fortitude to do that and we, this blogger included, often fail miserably.
Negativity (um, realism) is like a powerful gravity well sucking us into its depths. We become caught up in negativity (um, realism) and we find ourselves getting more negative (um, realistic) by the moment. A “happy thought” is a very good thing at that moment. it changes the perspective. After all, the overwhelming majority of stresses we feel in our lives are rooted in our thinking. Maybe, just maybe, changing your thoughts changes the situation.
“Happy thoughts” are beneficial, but only a beginning. Empowered thinking is the ultimate goal. Empowered thinking changes the dynamic from throwing “happy thoughts” against a stressful world to actually feeling strong enough to act for change.
Three elements of Empowered Thinking
- Thought aspect – you have to think positively. Belief and commitment are important in any endeavor. Positive thinking is imperative to maximize those attributes. Positive thinking is the basis for empowered thinking, but empowered thinking is more than just positive thinking. It incorporates two more elements.
- Knowledge aspect – you have to be informed. In achievement pursuits, know what you are trying to achieve and be informed on what is going to be involved in succeeding. Knowing that ahead of time can help you prepare mentally for it. When empowering your thinking to critically evaluate information (such as in politics) you need to know as many of the facts as possible. Positive thinking and a lack of information do not allow you to take powerful action.
- Action aspect – empowered thinking is more than just thinking and knowing. Empowered thinking includes action. We are empowered by action. If you have incorporated the first two elements, your actions can be motivated and informed.
While “happy thoughts” may provide you a kind of protective shield; empowered thoughts help you break out of your shell and move forward towards a better you, a better life, and a better world.