People have good intentions when they say that you should ‘think positive’, however there is an oft overlooked danger to having one’s head in the clouds – eventually you will come crashing back down to earth.
The good news is that we can still experience the view from the top without the associated risk of tumbling to our doom. It all comes down to bringing the right climbing equipment, e.g.: mental preparation.
Three Mindsets To Choose From
Almost every appraisal of a situation, past or present, can be boiled down to three classic approaches. Our approaches are expressed as sub-conscious frames of mind, inherit perceptions shaped by life experience and personality. Once you are aware of them, and with ample practice, you will be armed with the ability to choose the mindset you want to apply to the situation at hand.
The first is negativity. You may know people who default to a pessimistic approach to opportunities, the ‘why try… I can’t win’ crowd. These people are on the low road. The next path is that of positivity, whose members constantly reframe everything into a ‘wishful thinking’ context. You’ll find these people on the high road. Finally, we have people who fall somewhere in-between, walking the path of actuality. Neither high nor low, they walk along the mid road. More on that in a moment.
Why Positive (And Negative) Thinking Isn’t Ideal
If you approach a situation with a negative frame of mind, your outcomes are lose-lose. Let’s say you see a job opportunity, but don’t go for it because you think you are not the right candidate and would never have a chance at getting it, you’d be terrible at the job, etc. Congratulations! If you didn’t apply, you were right! And if you do apply and don’t get the job, you are also right! Hey at least you can tell people you are always right…
That example of the outcomes related to a negative mindset is fairly well known. What is less talked about are the negative consequences of a positive mindset. If in our example you approach the job opportunity with the mindset that you are so awesome that you will absolutely get it, you again set yourself for a degree of failure. Only, unlike the negative mindset, the emotional toll will be much greater because your elevated mood puts you in a much ‘higher’ position, and the fall will be greater. With a positive approach you run the risk of significant emotional pain if your idyllic fantasies to not materialise. To protect yourself from repeat pain you may develop cognitive dissonance, muted emotional affect or just defect to the negativity team.
Be An Actualist
The above two mindsets share a common thread, though their approaches and behaviours may differ. That common element is delusion. Both positive and negative thinking involves selling yourself a narrative, a personal ‘reality’. Once you’ve crafted your worldview, you will do everything to protect it, which will impact your cognition, behaviour and attitudes. You’ll either fight to remain low, or embark on flying high and dodging disappointment.
Once you’ve crafted your worldview, you will do everything to protect it, which will impact your cognition, behaviour and attitudes.
Instead, focus on the actuality of life – the objective reality that is not tied to personal stories, mental distortions or cognitive delusions. Actuality subverts all that ‘extra thinking’… it just is. Returning to our previous job example, if we now take the actual approach, two amazing things happen. Firstly, we are more likely to be humble and honest when constructing our resume, on interviews and even our own self-appraisal, because we are no longer courting negativity or positivity. Secondly, whether we do or don’t get the job… it’s ok. There is nowhere for us to crash down from, and we won’t be conforming to a negative bias either. In fact, we are more likely to keep applying for jobs with a consistent approach because we aren’t so sure we will get the job (thus stopping our search), or won’t get it (thus not applying for anything else). And if you do get the role? Awesome! Think how good you will feel, when without any preconceived notion or expectation a fantastic outcome emerged.
Actuality is about peace, calm, consistency and resilience. It’s a no B.S mindset that will set you up for success with all the right tools at your side. It affords you the mental clarity and space to celebrate unexpected wins and learn from losses, all whilst keeping a cool head and a smile in your heart.
Don’t be positive, or negative. Be actual.