Sometimes, when people tell me to "think positive," I go a little nuts.
I'm not saying that positive thinking doesn't work for some people. I know it does.
Just not for me.
For a lot of my life, people have told me that
- "You'll see it when you believe it!"
- "You're only limited by what you believe is possible!"
- "You can do anything if you just believe hard enough!"
- "You can't afford the luxury of a negative thought!"
- "Send out your intention, and the universe will bring it to you!"
...and so on.
But when I try to be positive, I find myself remembering all the times I've "thought positive" and failed anyway, and how devastating some of those failures have been.
If you're like me, you've tried "positive thinking," and you've whipped yourself up into believing that something is possible, only to have it all come crashing down...
...and, after a while, those failures make it really hard to "think positive" about your future.
Nowhere is this more true than when you are trying to get motivated about your health.
If you want to lose weight or take other action to improve your health, the conventional wisdom is that you need to get yourself into the frame of mind where you believe, with certainty, that "you can do it!"
I'd like to offer you an alternative to "positive thinking" that might work better for you.
I call it "neutral thinking."
The failure of positive thinking
"Positive thinking" is built around the idea that the universe wants you to succeed, and that all you need to do is ask, and believe, and the universe will support you in manifesting what you want.
That's great when it works.
But when it doesn't work, it's easy to starting thinking that the problem must be
You're not being positive enough.
You end up feeling like the universe is trying to give you what you want, and your negative thinking is messing it all up.
And that doesn't help you take inspired action.
If you've experienced a lot of disappointments in your life—for instance, if you've tried to lose weight or improve your health, and its never worked out—then hearing that "you're not being positive enough" is simply more shaming.
The thing is, if you're tried to improve your health and failed, you actually have evidence—your past failures—that the universe is not "for you" in your developing the health you want.
Positive thinking asks, "is the universe for you? Is the universe actively supporting you in achieving your goals?" If you can answer "yes" to that, you'll find yourself motivated to take action toward your goals and congratulations! You're a successful positive thinker.
However, if you've had discouraging failures in the past, you may actually feel like the answer to that question is "no." You may feel like the universe is not supporting you in achieving your goals—after all, if it was, you would have had more success in achieving them.
If your answer to the question of positive thinking is, "no, the universe is not for me," then positive thinking will do more harm than good.
The power of neutral thinking
Neutral thinking is different.
Instead of asking if the universe if for you, neutral thinking asks, "is the universe against you, and is the universe actively blocking you from achieving your goals?"
Rather than pursuing being optimistic (positive thinking), we are, instead, pursuing the neutral state of not being pessimistic.
After all, if the universe is designed to prevent you from achieving your goals, then you might as well give up now, and go eat a bunch of cookies.
But if the universe is simply neutral to you achieving your goals, then rock on! The universe is not actively trying to stop you. That would mean that achieving your goals is possible. That's a big difference.
Neutral thinking and improving your health
So let's look at neutral thinking from the point of view of your health.
Say you've tried to lose weight and develop the body that you long for, and that you specifically want to make better food choices. But you've failed a bunch of times in making that change, and you can't see a way forward.
The question you should not ask is the positive thinking question: "Can you count on the universe to help you make good food choices?" Because, if you've failed in the past, you already have evidence that the answer to that question is "no."
Instead, ask the neutral thinking question: "is the universe actually structured to prevent me from making good food choices?"
In fact, I suggest you ask the question like this:
"Is it true that the universe is structured so that I cannot make good food choices? Is it true that the universe is structured with gravity, and light particles, and elements, and galaxies, and solar systems, and [your name] is doomed to never be able to make good food choices? Is that really the way the universe is structured?"
What I've found is, upon looking at it from that perspective, people who can't be optimistic can at least stop being pessimistic.
Clients tell me things like, "Wait a minute. The universe, in its grand structure, doesn't really care if I succeed or not. It's not saying 'your wish is my command,' but the universe is also not saying 'no, you can't succeed.' There's nothing fundamental about the universe that says I have to make bad food choices. I actually can change!"
Going from failed positive thinking to successful neutral thinking is like going from thinking your problem is a bottomless pit to thinking your problem is a really deep hole. It doesn't matter how much you work to fill a bottomless pit, you're never going to see any progress. On the other hand, you can fill up a really deep hole. It may take work, but it is possible.
That's the power of neutral thinking: while it's not guaranteed that you can create the health you want (positive thinking), it's also not guaranteed that you can't (neutral thinking).
If you've been stuck in the dark side of positive thinking, then neutral thinking will be a huge step forward for you. You can stop trying to positive-think yourself into believing the universe is here to fulfill your desires, and start relaxing into the realization that the universe is not working against you achieving your goals.
Try it yourself
1) Choose a possibility you'd like to believe in. What is a goal or outcome for your life that you'd like to believe is possible, but you've given up on? Because this is a health-related blog, you may choose something about your health—not overeating, avoiding sugar, exercising regularly—whatever. But really, you could chose anything in your life where you've tried to be positive and failed to achieve what you want.
2) Notice that positive thinking isn't working for you. Let yourself acknowledge that you've tried to "think positive" about this area of your life, and positive thinking hasn't worked. In fact, it's left you feeling like the universe is not for you, in this area.
3) Ask the question, "Is it true that the universe is structured so that I cannot achieve [my goal]? Is it true that the universe is structured with gravity, and light particles, and elements, and galaxies, and solar systems, and [my name] is doomed to never be able to achieve [my goal]? Is that really the way the universe is structured?"
4) Open your heart to your best sense of the answer. If you've suffered a lot of discouragement, your mind might be convinced the universe is fundamentally structured to stop you, personally. Feel for the answer with your emotions, with your heart. Is it really true the universe is structured to fate you to fail?
5) Feel any new freedom that opens up. Let yourself feel any new freedom, or openness, or possibility that the answer might bring.
"Neutral thinking" has been an essential part of my succeeding at getting over my food compulsions and becoming more sane with food. Asking "is it true that the universe is structured with gravity, and light particles, and elements, and galaxies, and solar systems, and Dmitri always has to be compulsive with food?" has really helped me see that I do have a choice in my relationship with food. "Food-craziness for Dmitri" is not the fundamental structure of the universe. The universe doesn't care if I'm compulsive with food, or not. In that case, I can have the relationship with food that I want. And in THAT case, I really want to go for it.
I hope neutral thinking will help you too.
If you haven't downloaded it yet, click here to download my free PDF, "The 5 Big Mistakes People Make When The Try to Lose Weight and Improve their Health."