I have spent most of my life trying to be a positive thinker. Each morning, I’d wake up and try to put a positive spin on everything in front of me. However, often times before I even got out the door, something unexpected happened and I would be thrown off course. It could have been as simple as spilling my coffee and I would start to feel the day was not going my way. Still, I would take a deep breath and try to return to my positive thoughts; but as the day went on it became harder to hold onto this positive outlook. Sure, good things would happen to me each day, but also unexpected events would happen that I perceived as bad or “life not working out.”
As I started working as an attorney at a large law firm, life became more complicated and so did my struggle with positive thinking. I would still try to start each day with positive thoughts but it became more apparent that I couldn’t control the events around me. If a partner at the law firm did not like my legal memorandum or the firm lost a longstanding client, I projected what each event might mean for my job in the future. I worried that I might get fired or not get a raise. Sure, these were only possibilities, but these thoughts consumed me each day. My fear of the unknown and “what could happen tomorrow” seemed to have a more powerful effect over me than my positive thoughts. Ultimately, at the end of most days, I felt negative and fearful of what the future might bring.
Nevertheless, as the years passed, I persevered and continued my journey of trying to be a positive thinker. When I came across Norman Vincent Peale’s, The Power of Positive Thinking, I was so re-inspired that I tried even harder to be a committed positive thinker. I began to hold onto my positive thinking so tightly that, instead of battling between negative and positive thoughts as I had before, I now found I could force away the negative thoughts with positive ones.
I later learned that there was a problem with my new practice. I realized that we can’t push down a negative thought completely, because it stays inside us, festers and grows. In fact, after a short while of only permitting positive thoughts, I had a horrible nightmare in which many people that I loved died. I woke up petrified and when I fell asleep again I had the same dream. I had never had the same dream twice in one night or a dream with so much negativity and loss. To this day, I believe these nightmares surfaced because I was not permitting my mind to be negative. I was suppressing my feelings and then the pressure became so great that my mind released a tremendous amount of negativity when I fell asleep and could not consciously control my thinking.
After decades of struggling with the pain and pressure of trying to shape my perceptions, one day I heard a simple Taoist story that introduced me to the idea of Maybe. The very minute I heard this story all the experiences in my life immediately changed. I was struck with the realization that every situation has multiple possible outcomes and within those outcomes is always the hope that whatever is happening, Maybe it will lead to something good, Maybe circumstances will improve, or Maybe I will find a way to accept the situation and still be okay.
For me, it was the perfect combination; I could stay positive but with Maybe I could accept and dilute my negative thoughts. Once I accepted that life could unfold in infinite ways, I was no longer stuck in my negative projections of the future. I began to live with the continuous realization that Maybe something else could happen other than the thing I feared most. Since embracing Maybe I am now a much more effective positive thinker. Negative thoughts no longer hold sway over me because I know they are just a limited view of all that is possible.
As I held this mindset of Maybe and transitioned my work to become a business and life coach, I started to see how many of us struggle with positive thinking. In fact, most of us start each new endeavor with hope and a positive outlook that we will be successful. We start businesses, take new jobs, save our money for a new home, marry and much more. Then life throws us a curveball and something happens that we didn’t expect. The economy could change, we could lose a good job, our business’ profit might decrease dramatically or trouble might brew in an important relationship.
For many of us, when we don’t see the results that we had hoped for we worry and get stressed that things won’t ever work out or will get even worse. We create negative projections about what the future will bring based on what happened in the past. Because of this, some of us give up on our dreams completely or we live with tremendous stress and worry that leads to serious emotional pain and sometimes even physical illness.
With the mindset of Maybe we can hold on to our goals and just find new ways to achieve them. We can stay positive and open because we hold onto the realization that we are not “stuck” and that life can unfold in many ways. We are not “leaving things to chance” but instead we are expanding our minds to embrace all that is possible. In turn, Maybe shows us more opportunities to find the life we are seeking.
I hope you are able to embrace Maybe in your life. It is just one simple word, but MAYBE it changes everything.
To find out about Rose’s thoughts on how to live a happier life, click here