I Am Not (Just) A Positive Person

Ray Allen is one of the most prolific 3 point shooters in NBA History.  He has won multiple NBA championships and has one of the most beautiful jump shooting motions you will ever see.  He is (was) a Pure Shooter in the most wonderful sense of the word.  He made it look easy.  But when people say he was a “natural born” shooter, Allen would get frustrated.  Why?  Because by saying his ability was just “given,” it minimizes the thousands of hours of work that went into his craft.  It explains away the blood, sweat and tears that created his perfect shooting motion.  He didn’t earn it.  It came easy.

Making things look easy, often take a lot of work.

I was reminded of that story recently, when someone pointed out to me that I am a positive person.  They said “You always see things as glass half full.”  It was said (and meant) as a sincere compliment.  But every time someone describes me a “positive person,” it leaves me wanting to explain.  You see, I don’t think that I am naturally a positive person.  I don’t wake up every morning whistling dixie and I  have to fight off negative thoughts all of the time.  As a matter of fact, early in my career, I would guess that many of my co-workers would say I was anything but positive.  But over years of study, I have learned that most of us perform better when our brain is primed with positive thoughts.  If you want to dig deeper on this, the book Happiness Equation is fantastic.

I have worked to become more positive.  So why does it bother me when someone says “you are just a positive person?”

It minimizes the work.

I am hardly the Ray Allen of positive thinking.  But I do work at it.  A lot.  The idea that I wake up every morning with a blindly positive attitude negates the amount of work I do to put myself in a better state of mind.  This statement dismisses the lengths I have gone to create a morning routine that sets my day up correctly.  It explains away the exercise, the meditation, the discipline I have developed to work on focusing my mind intentionally.  I am not a naturally positive person.  I don’t know that anyone is.  The fact is, studies tell us that 89% of what we see in the world is negative.  If that’s the case, we all need to be diligent in how we focus our mind.  I am hardly perfect.  But I do that work.

It takes away their responsibility.

By simply saying that I am a positive person, many people let themselves off the hook.  Being positive seems like work, because it is.  If it just comes naturally to others, then they don’t have to put in the work themselves.

It is not (just) about positive thoughts.

While I strongly believe that putting positive thoughts in your brain help it perform better, the idea is not to be delusional.  It’s not that you don’t see the negative the world has to offer.  That is probably the thing that bugs me the most.  If nearly 90% of what we see is negative, then please don’t think that I don’t see the bad.  That is insulting.  I do see the challenges.  I don’t JUST see the challenges.  It’s not about having only shiny, happy thoughts.  As a matter of fact, some studies will tell you that people that only allow overly optimistic thoughts in their mind die younger!  Why?  Because they are unwilling to do the real work they need to do to prevent or improve their situation.

It’s not about having only positive thoughts.  It’s about having accurate thoughts.

Obviously, there is good and bad in nearly every situation.  My goal is to get an accurate diagnosis.  Then, with both the good and bad in mind, I want to see how I can best move forward to create the best outcome.

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Written by: Kirby Hasseman

Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing & Communications. Kirby hosts a weekly Web show called Delivering Marketing Joy where he interviews business leaders from around the country. Kirby has published four books. His most recent is “Fan of Happy.” His book, called "Delivering Marketing Joy" is about doing “promo right” and is perfect for people in the industry and customers. He also wrote “Think Big For Small Business” and “Give Your Way to Success. All are available on Amazon.