The power of positive thinking helps us ditch the self-limiting beliefs that keep us stuck in a cycle of negativity and creates a lasting sense of hope. Renowned psychologist Dan Tomasulo says it’s all about cultivating your best self.
Being psychologically positive should be at the very core of how you prepare for the future. You should develop a clear and upbeat mindset not only to bounce back, but to bounce forward.
In bringing this about, I believe traditional psychology has not quite hit the mark. It is only predicated on alleviating the suffering of people struggling with, for instance, anxiety, stress, confidence or depression. While there's nothing wrong with that, it is only half the psychological battle because – akin to modern medicine – once the suffering has been identified, much of the subsequent effort is all about reducing that suffering. There was never a science about how to thrive, have hope and optimism. That’s where the field of positive psychology comes into play by bringing the ability to bounce forward into the equation. Before positive psychology came into in the mix, there was a real sense that we were just dealing with what was wrong, not really dealing with what was strong.
Positive psychology involves a very different approach supported by ‘P.E.R.M.A.’ or Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationship, Meaning, and Accomplishment. Once you grasp that you need all these five things to really understand what wellbeing is like, you start to think of the kind interventions you may need on these five fronts.
The P.E.R.M.A approach also makes you meaningfully question how to really cultivate greater wellbeing. It is an acronym that’s as powerful as the five key pillars that underpin in. Of course, positive psychology is not a spectator sport. Partaking in the transformation supported by P.E.R.M.A. is the crucial part. You will get to see the world in a very different light only when you learn how to challenge and influence your beliefs with the power of positive thinking. The world is not fixed. It isn't the circumstance that determines how we'll respond. It's our belief about that circumstance that will determine how we respond. Hence, as an individual you need to know that transformation is true and possible, and manageable with confidence in often fast moving circumstances.
When you start to look at positive interventions and enabling transformation – there are interventions that deal with our past, present, and future. The real intervention should be about harvesting positive emotions from the past into the present, and subsequently leaning into the future in a powerful and unique way.
If you have the past and present all set, then you lean into the future with positive intentions, optimism, faith and hope. Such an approach will help you to change the way you think about who you are and the impact you can have in the future. It isn't merely about feeling good. It's about having a belief that you can control the future. Of course, it's not absolute control but rather the belief that you can control it. It will help you upgrade your leadership capabilities, bolster belief in yourself, and give you the motivation to really put in that extra effort whilst harboring the hope that your efforts are going make a difference.
You should believe in the concept of psychological capital which has four components – Hope, Empowerment, Resilience and Optimism, or H.E.R.O.
Hope is the first and foremost of emotions to really understand. It's about anticipating, having a belief that you can control in the future. Empowerment and self-efficacy imply that you have a sense of confidence. You believe that you can influence the future in a certain way, and you step into that space. Resilience is needed because we all take knocks, and need it not just to come back, but to bounce forward. How do you take a block, difficulty or struggle, and start to see it as an opportunity? I believe in the saying from the stoics: "What's in the way becomes the way.” And finally, its Optimism we need. It is all about having a very general positive attitude about possibilities in the future.
Negative thoughts metaphorically weigh like pebbles while positive thoughts are like feathers. The balance of that imaginary scale – and your mental wellbeing – materially changes when you can tip it in the direction of positive thoughts.
Research suggests that we have around 6,200 thoughts a day and 80% of those thoughts are negative. Of that 80%, around 90% are repeats from the day before. What it means is that once a negative thought or worry gets embedded in your thinking, it will duplicate itself. Evolutionary psychologists have determined that people who worry are the ones who survive. So, it's built into our genes to worry. The problem is we can tip that scale in the direction of worrying all the time. Positive psychology is about attempting, with hope, to balance that scale out. It not about trying to make people not worry as that would be ridiculous. The goal is to make sure that negative thoughts don't become so prevalent that they get in the way of everything else. What really works is being conscious and deliberate about your thoughts. So, when you move toward a conflict you adopt ‘micro-goals’ or break down your progress into very small goals. Then learn how to use micro-goals because hope and optimism are bidirectional. If you have passion for what you do, micro-goals are going to fuel your success. Achieve them through two primary means: (1) self-care, by taking really good care of yourself physically and emotionally; and (2) self-compassion, by learning how to nurture and soothe yourself of negativity or slip-ups and filling up your emotional fountain with positive thoughts so that you can radiate those out to others.