It Takes Grit To Be Positive
Positivity is not naivety. Not even close.
If you knew me even a couple of years ago, I'm probably the last person you'd expect to espouse the benefits of positivity. For most of my adult years, I was pretty damn melancholy, and I was not ashamed to admit it.
If there was one sure thing in my life, it's that there would be trouble. I didn't see any reason to believe otherwise. Perhaps other people could afford to be positive, but not me.
I couldn't get my hopes up like that.
Ironically, it took everything going to shit in my life to change my mind. When I couldn't stand to wake up even one more day with a pit in my stomach and a terrible foreboding in my heart, I decided to finally take a risk and dabble with positivity.
That decision changed my whole life.
Becoming a more positive person has been a real shock to me, but I've learned that the main reason I didn't believe in positivity was simply that I didn't understand it.
I used to think that positivity meant:
- Denying reality.
- Basking in naivety.
- Pretending you had no problems.
- Tossing around useless platitudes.
- Sticking your fingers in your ears and singing "la la la" at the top of your lungs.
Of course, positivity isn't any of those things. Not even a little bit. But plenty of people refuse to entertain the notion of staying positive all because they believe it's about living in a dangerous world of make-believe.
Over the past year, I've discovered that it takes much more grit to be a positive person than a negative one. Well, color me surprised. Positivity isn't about denying reality at all.
It's more about artfully surviving it.
How we react to anything and everything matters.
It takes grit to handle shit (in a positive way.) Grit to get up after a failure, dust yourself off, learn something, and try again with that new knowledge in tow.
But we can't get through all of the work to try again if we don't develop a positive mindset. Negativity keeps us stuck. It encourages us to blame other people or to focus on circumstances beyond our control.
Negativity says why bother, but positivity says why not.
Why can't I succeed if I just put in the effort?
Positivity asks, and even expects us to take some initiative.
How we frame our experiences matters too.
Positive people don't let disappointment bring them down because they know how to reframe negative circumstances to move forward. A person can move past virtually anything if they find a way to attribute meaning or even purpose to a traumatic event.
Using terrible experiences for our long-term good isn't about excusing bad behavior, glorifying misfortune, or letting anybody off the hook. To be honest, it is a lot like forgiveness―it's so much healthier for us to let go of the anger, blame, and negativity in our lives than to clench it so tightly against our chests.
And it's very much how Viktor Frankl explained human survival among even the most horrific of circumstances (like concentration camps during the Holocaust):
Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’. ― Viktor E. Frankl
A positive attitude is akin to focusing on your why.
All of this takes courage, determination, and perseverance.
In other words? It takes grit. A positive mindset is something you have to exercise and hone because it isn't as simple as looking at reality and saying, "I disagree."
Positivity is all about looking at reality and determining how to respond in a way that might help you grow.
A positive outlook doesn't fool you into believing that nothing bad is going to happen. Instead, it means you're confident that whatever happens, you will find a way to get back on your feet.
Positivity is an important skill for most writers.
I think most writers understand that it takes some amount of grit to keep writing past rejection or other disappointments. Even so, I see a lot of formerly gritty writers fizzle out because they began to lean more heavily on negativity and even pessimism.
In most cases, I think a lot of writers are worried about having unrealistic expectations, and they look at positivity as a symptom of the disease. But too many writers melt down into a pool of negativity because their expectations were so ridiculous.
They beat themselves up for failing to achieve worldwide recognition by the time they're 30. Or they get angry when a story flops. They let somebody else's success eat away at them until they've got nothing left to give their own art.
None of that happens from a positive attitude.
If you're weighed down by a series of failures or unmet expectations, your extreme disappointment is more likely a symptom of unrealistic expectations coupled with a negative mindset.
Positivity probably isn't what you think.
Keep in mind that creative mania and positivity are not the same things. Mania is all excitement, bravado, and lofty expectations without the gravity of reality to keep you grounded.
- Positivity celebrates the big and small wins.
- It is open to learning from failure.
- It allows for the possibility of success, rather than expecting success to fill some iron-cast mold.
- And it doesn’t give up when the work gets tough.
Positivity actually expects the hard times to come, but then expects us to get through it all in the end. Not because we're wearing our rose-colored glasses, but because we're doing the work to wade through all the shit that life brings.
Don't let misconceptions about positivity hold you back.
Look, I know it's tempting to think that positivity is stupid. Like it's all smoke and mirrors or some sort of willful foolishness. But the truth is that it takes an extraordinary amount of courage to foster a positive mindset in a largely negative world.
Our brains are hardwired for negativity. That's what comes easiest to most of us. And that's why, when you do choose to adopt a more positive mentality, other people may have a problem with you too.
Positivity isn't cool. Seriously. It's so much "cooler" to express displeasure or act like you don't give a damn about anything.
So your positivity rubs some folks the wrong way. It makes the cool kids and mean girls look at you and ask who the hell do you think you are?
It's too bad because they don't even know what they're missing. If they had the courage to adopt a more positive outlook for themselves, they might actually accomplish more than they ever knew was possible.
Instead of complaining about the supposed pitfalls of positive thinking, ask yourself what you might achieve if you believed that your hard work was worth doing and what you might learn from any defeat.
Give yourself permission to develop some grit before you quit.
It might be one of the best things you've ever done for your future.