Down is Default: Developing a Positive Attitude

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down is default: developing a positive attitude

This is a guest contribution by Dr. Paul H. Jenkins, Ph.D., Positivity Psychologist

Down Is Default

Why can it be so hard to stay positive? Why is it so easy to get sucked into the negativity trap? Unless there is some force to the contrary, Mother Nature’s default is downhill. Mountains erode, buildings crumble, roads deteriorate, bridges eventually collapse. Rain falls, hits the ground, and flows downhill.

This is good. If water didn’t flow downhill, we’d never get rain and it would be pretty much impossible to irrigate the veggies growing out back. Water follows a course of least resistance down through a hoed row in a garden then down to a lower row, and so on. On its way down the row, water sinks down through the soil to the roots of the plants.

But what if your garden is uphill from the water source? How do you get the water to flow up? Change the default. Apply constant positive pressure to reverse the default and elevate the water. Water will flow uphill when we use metal or concrete pipes or otherwise contain it, and with positive pressure move it in a new direction.

Elevation requires lift. Lift requires positive pressure. Sustained positive pressure will get water to flow uphill. It’s the same with our marvelously malleable minds. Sustained positive effort will create the changes we seek.

This same concept is true in other aspects of life. What happens when we park our car on a hill and release the parking brake? Which way does it roll? What about with our health? What happens when we give up on our diet or stop paying attention to exercise? Which direction does it go? What happens when we remove the intentional effort toward savings or investing? Which direction do our accounts tend to go? How about our relationships? What happens if we ignore or pay no attention to our spouse, our children?

Consider the following mental metaphor.

As water which flows downhill without direction and pressure to do otherwise, our default reaction to life’s difficulties generally takes us downhill. Without intentional choice and mental practice our emotional reactions to adversity are typically, or at least initially, negative. We can change the default to move in a positive direction if we are willing to intentionally steer it in that direction. What would happen if everyone in our family, our company, our communities all had a positive reaction to even the most challenging circumstances? What can we accomplish in our own life when our initial response to everything we face is positive and constructive?

Like learning to speak a whole new language, changing our default requires lots of practice. Repeated practice provides the structure and energy required to make permanent this positive change in our approach to life and its challenges. Intentional positivity, repeatedly practiced with constructive focus and intent, provides the pipes and pressure to change our default from downhill to uphill. When we encounter challenges, and our gut response is, “This is hard,” we are probably on the right track. “Easy” rarely takes us to a better place. Light requires power, and elevation requires effort. Practice positivity!

Brad Mishlove