A negative attitude is an approach, feeling, or manner that isn’t constructive, cooperative, or optimistic while a positive attitude is a state of mind that envisions and expects positive results.
Here’s the thing. It’s easier to be negative than it is to be positive.
We have so many triggers to encourage negative thoughts—whether it’s:
- The news shaping our perspectives on war, distrust, sadness and horror.
- Parents that tell you that you can’t do anything, shattering your confidence from a young age.
- A toxic workplace with a culture of complaining and an absence of positive feedback.
- Or a dysfunctional relationship with a spouse that plays on your deepest insecurities.
These are just a few examples of many that we’re exposed to regularly. What I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to look too far to find negativity.
Think about how rare it is to find people with positive attitudes, almost to the point where positivity feels at times disingenuous, over-the-top, or downright cheesy!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told that I’m positive. While like anyone, I do have negative moments—it comes naturally to me to envision and expect positive outcomes.
But the incredible access to negativity makes it hard for even the most positive people to maintain their optimism.
Much like how positive people can pull us up, negative people can bring us down.
We need to bring consciousness and intentionality to practice positivity. That’s why, in this post, I share six actionable prompts to help you create an unbreakable positive attitude.
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Shift your perspective on what a positive attitude looks like
When you close your eyes and imagine someone being positive, what comes to mind? A motivational speaker like Tony Robbins? Enthusiastic smiling even in situations that don’t warrant it?
Unfortunately, most of what we assume of positivity feels unrealistic and excessively amped up.
If your vision of positivity is a vision you don’t resonate with, I can understand why you can’t see yourself acting in that way.
“It’s just not me” I hear you saying.
Luckily, these happy-go-lucky and motivational examples of positivity are not the only ones.
You CAN create an unbreakable positive attitude without being super energetic and smiley.
Your brand of positivity can be more channelled, laidback, inwards, relaxed. You can be soft-spoken, indirect, low-energy and still cultivate a positive attitude.
Think of a Buddhist monk or a gentle and encouraging grandparent.
Even if you’re brasher in your communication, you can still embed layers of positivity into your approach.
Being positive doesn’t mean you need to act in a completely different way. You can still envision and expect positive results while being yourself.
Replace “why” with “what”
As explained in her Ted Talk, Tasha Eurich and her team analysed thousands of survey results to discover how self-aware and positive people think.
They reviewed how many times respondents said “why” and “what” as they applied it to introspection.
For the respondents with strong self-awareness, they found that the word “why” was found less than 150 times while “what” was found more than 1000 times.
This may sound insignificant, but the use of these words can be the difference between a negative and a positive response to a situation.
Here are some examples of replacing “why” with “what”:
Change “why hasn’t my boss promoted me?” to “what can I do to show her that I’m the best person for the job?”
Change “why doesn’t the government do anything about climate change?” to “what can I do to reduce my impact on the environment?”
Lastly, here’s a powerful example from Tasha’s talk from an actual respondent.
Sarah, who’s an executive, got diagnosed with breast cancer in her late 40s, and initially asked, “why me?” But then changed her tone to ask “what’s most important to me?”
This helped Sarah to define what she wanted her life to look like in whatever time she had left, as opposed to feeling sorry for herself.
What a shift!
Now we don’t always need to replace “why” with “what” to create a positive attitude.
There are times where we need to ask why and to be critical of ourselves and others. Asking why is a great tool to dig deeper when seeking answers.
The challenge is most of us ask “why?” much more than we ask “what?”. The goal is to flip the ratio, and you’ll be well on your way to developing an unbreakable positive attitude.
Assume positive intent until proven otherwise
One of the critical characteristics of a negative attitude is assuming the worst in a situation prematurely.
The problem here is we fancy ourselves to be knowledgeable, and thus we make a lot of assumptions about things.
We make assumptions about genders, cultures, businesses. We all have a bias towards things, and our egos want to prove that our assumptions are correct.
This kind of thinking can be toxic as it promotes judgement and pride when it doesn’t need to be there.
By assuming the worst all the time, we also remove the chance for people to change for the better. We believe nothing will change, even if it does.
So my challenge to you is to assume positive intent in situations moving forward, even against your suspicions and against your intuition.
I say this because you’ve likely trained yourself to be sceptical so it will take some time to default to seeing the best in situations.
The principle, in theory, is simple—assume everyone is doing the right thing until they don’t. Then reassess when you have the facts.
I should mention that assuming the worst is also a very practical approach to protecting ourselves from potential threats. So I’m not suggesting you remove scepticism.
All I’m saying is that you instead react to negative facts and try to limit your negative assumptions.The key to being positive is to react to negative facts and limit your negative assumptions. Click To Tweet
Feed your brain positivity
A crucial strategy to cultivating a positive attitude is to surround yourself with positive influences. This could mean positive people, positive environments or positive content that you choose to consume.
Much of what we read, watch and listen is negative, which fuels our negative thoughts.
For example, you could have negative thoughts about yourself due to your perceived lack of progress when compared to others. Or perhaps you’re addicted to consuming negative stories and events through the news.
Maybe you’re engaging in nasty interactions where it’s expected to put others down, i.e. bitching and bullying.
Whatever the source, you need to fight for positive influences in your life.
For me, that means reviewing who I choose to spend time with, and consuming positive content every day. Even movies and TV shows, fiction or not—I’m looking for a positive and uplifting experience.
The bottom line is, you are what you consume, and when you start feeding your brain a steady diet of positivity, you’ll quickly realise just how much negativity you’ve surrounded yourself with.You are what you consume, and when you start feeding your brain with positivity, you realise just much negativity you’ve surrounded yourself with. Click To Tweet
Channel incredible optimism while being realistic
Optimistic people have been getting a bad wrap recently. They’re often pegged as delusional or unrealistic. It’s safe and culturally cool to be a “realist”.
However, I’d argue that being realistic is different from being pessimistic, but commonly, we mistake one for the other.
Being realistic is having or showing a sensible and practical side of what can be achieved and expected. Being pessimistic is tending to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen.
Pessimism is a negative mindset, and unfortunately, many of us have become excellent pessimists.
A pessimistic outlook usually means that we take ourselves out of pursuing potentially amazing opportunities. Pessimists say things like “I can’t do this because of X” or “that’s simply not possible”.
Optimism, on the other hand, is seeing the best in a situation or a person. To me, optimism represents hope, moving the needle forward, and emotional positivity.
Optimism also stems from being confident. Well, at least confident enough to challenge “realistic” expectations.
Well renowned professional basketball player, Derrick Rose, became the NBA’s youngest league Most Valuable Player at 22 years old in 2011.
Derrick was in just his third season and while he had a lot of talent, he wasn’t considered to be one of the premier players in the league.
At the beginning of the season, he told the media that he wanted to win the MVP award.
Everyone thought he was delusional and unrealistic. I mean, who is this guy to make such a claim at such a young age? But he sat on the podium with confidence, and said, “why not? Why can’t I be league MVP?”
Now you can read this pessimistically and see Derrick’s statements as cocky, or you could look at this optimistically, and recognise that he set the goal of being league MVP to push himself.
It was Derrick’s positive attitude and belief in himself that led him to make such a claim and then execute on it. If he instead decided to protect his expectations and choose to see the worst in his situation, he likely wouldn’t have won the award when he did.
The key here is being realistic about situations while having the courage and the audacity to be optimistic. It’s about swinging for the fences, while simultaneously understanding the risk.
Being both optimistic and realistic is a life-changing combination to get you on a path of consistent positivity. And like Derrick Rose, all it takes is asking the question, “why not?”Being both optimistic and realistic is a life-changing combination to get you on a path of consistent positivity. Click To Tweet
Adopt the “everything is figuroutable” philosophy
“Everything is figuroutable” is a concept I learned from entrepreneur Marie Forleo, which she later published a book on this very topic.
The premise of Marie’s philosophy is that no matter the situation, you can figure out the next steps.
Much of our negativity comes from not being able to deal with a situation. There’s a sense of helplessness when we’re met with adversity.
If we don’t know what to do, we spiral and lose our self-belief. But by merely believing that any challenging situation is figuroutable, implies that you’ll always default to what you can control, instead of focusing on what you can’t control.
That’s why we frequently see that positive people like Derrick Rose are also confident people. They’re confident because they back themselves to find a solution that they can control.
In fact, many positive people I know are mostly disinterested in uncontrollable things, whether it’s politics, leadership in the workplace, how you were raised, or a natural disaster.
Positivity in these situations is about quickly accepting reality and moving on to what can be done. It sounds simple in theory, but much harder to execute as there’s often emotion tied into how we process and accept adversity.
So that’s why a mantra of “everything is figuroutable” is a useful reminder to help us accept tough situations and focus on the next steps.
We can’t be 100% positive 100% of the time
We’re all human, and it’s unrealistic to believe that you can be positive all the time.
You’re going to experience hardship, and you need time to process it and feel what you need to feel at the time.
The thesis of this article is about building an unbreakable positive attitude. What I mean by this position is being positive most of the time — but also recognising when it’s okay to be negative.
All I ask is that you be negative with intentionality.
For instance, when I’m feeling down, sometimes I call a friend I trust, and tell them that I need to vent—and I need them to listen to me. I’ve found these interactions super helpful to get my emotions out of my system.
The delicate line we tread with negativity is that it’s easy and addictive. It feels almost effortless to complain, whinge, not try, or put others down.
So if you do need to be negative, do so, but do it with intentionality. Do it with complete awareness as to why you’re letting yourself go to that place. But do it also knowing that it’s temporary.
Are you ready to create an unbreakable positive attitude?
Whether you consider yourself to be primarily negative, positive, realistic, or neither, we could all use some more positivity in our lives.
People with a positive attitude bring an energy to situations that’s contagious. Imagine if all of us possessed this same vibration? No doubt the world would be a better place.
I’d love to know from you now, what part of this post resonated with you the most? Do you have any personal experiences you could share for cultivating a positive attitude? Share your thoughts in the comments below.