What are the keys to a positive mindset? In this article, I’ll discuss four simple ways for improving efficacy and managing expectations, and as a result, developing a more balanced outlook.
Upon learning I’m a therapist, people like to ask for advice. “What do you think I should do about _______________________________?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer you’re looking for. And contrary to popular belief, a counselor won’t tell you how to fix your problems.
You are the expert on you. When you bring that expertise with you to therapy and begin to form a collaborative partnership with your therapist, that’s when the process of growth happens.
While I could provide you with a piece of advice, it wouldn’t be what you wanted to hear; counter-arguments would be forming in your head while I speak.
Instead of me telling you what to do, you decide what to do. Not only are you the expert on all things you, you hold the answers to all your problems; they’re just locked away. And sometimes, all it takes is a simple remark from your therapist for everything to click into place. You have a sudden epiphany or a lightbulb moment of clarity. You realize you’ve known what you need to do; it just took a bit of guidance and support to get there.
While particularly effective at generating lightbulb moments, therapy is not the only way. The “Aha!” moment can be anything, and it can happen in a classroom, while reading a book, at a concert, etc. Sometimes all it takes is a simple remark to change your mindset.
The following is a list of keys that clicked for me. They’re simple – yet lifechanging – keys to a positive mindset.
Four Keys to a Positive Mindset
1. Say what you mean.
How many times have you provided an explanation using partial truths? For example, you cancel on a friend, claiming a migraine. Your head may hurt, but at the same time, you’re embarrassed to go to the bar with her. She can’t seem to go out without getting obnoxiously drunk. Another example would be a wife who tells her husband, “I’m fine,” when she’s not. In both examples, truth is avoided.
When you don’t say what you mean, you deprive yourself. You’ll feel frustrated, and you may lose the chance to explore deeper issues. Your communication becomes second-rate. And if you find yourself saying what you think someone wants to hear, that’s not communicating; the point is to understand each other, not to mislead or appease.
Saying what you mean is one of the keys to a positive mindset; it’s freeing and it allows you to live an authentic life.
2. Just say, ‘okay.’
This is about not engaging with that one person who pushes your buttons (or with your own irrational thoughts).
I’ll use myself as an example. One day, I received an email from my supervisor, instructing me to complete a task ASAP… a task I knew I had finished three days ago. Initially, I panicked, second-guessing myself.
After some investigating, I found that I had indeed completed the task. So, why, why would he send that email? I started silently fuming to myself. How dare he?! Of course I’d completed the task… three days ago when it was due. What, does he think I sit around all day doing nothing? Why would he think I hadn’t done it? Crap… maybe he thinks I’m incompetent? And why wouldn’t he check before sending an email?
I was on an emotional roller coaster. In the span of 5 minutes, I went from panic to self-doubt to a brief moment of relief to self-righteousness to a sense of indignation and then fell to a state of irritation.
I typed and retyped my response to my supervisor.
Draft 1: “Yes, the task was completed three days ago when it was due. Had you checked, you would have known this.” (Too passive aggressive.)
Draft 2: “Thanks for the reminder, but it was completed on [date] at [time]. I can show you how to access the file to view it in case you don’t know how.” (Condescending.)
Draft 3: “Thanks for your email. The project was completed on [date] at [time]. Let me know if you need a copy.”
I asked a co-worker to look it over; I didn’t want my indignation to somehow spill over. (But I needed it to be clear to my boss that I had completed my assignment. On time. Without him asking me to.)
My colleague laughed and asked, “Why don’t you just tell him, ‘okay,’ and leave it at that?”
And she was right. I had allowed myself to get all worked up over something small. I allowed my irrational self (and insecurities) to take over, completely taking me out of my space. Why did I feel like I had to prove myself? The project was done, which is what mattered.
Another case for “okay” is the unhappily married couple who fight constantly. They argue to the point of shouting because neither wants the other to “win.” They can’t let the other have the last word because it would mean admitting defeat, that they were in the wrong. They have to prove themselves, no matter the cost. Instead of arguing every little thing, they could save their energy (and peace of mind – possibly, their marriage) by just saying, “okay,” and leaving it at that.
By linking your self-concept to how others perceive you, your identity is threatened by the idea of admitting defeat. (But you don’t have to live that way anymore!) Instead of feeding into the argument, especially when you’re provoked, just say, “okay,” and leave it at that.
Furthermore, if there’s a toxic person in your life, for example, an ex that you co-parent with, don’t respond to a provoking text or to a barb. You gain nothing by proving you’re right (other than maybe a self-important spark of satisfaction). In the end, you’re still the loser because you took the bait and allowed someone else to orchestrate your emotions.
Don’t sacrifice your peace of mind; just say, “okay,” one of the keys to a positive mindset.
3. This is nothing you can’t handle.
It may not seem like much, but this key lays the foundation for change. It empowers you. A seemingly unsolvable problem can be broken down into manageable solutions. A catastrophe becomes a challenge, not defeat. You don’t have to be a victim when you can be a survivor.
When faced with the impossible, we panic. Our emotional mind has all the control while the rational mind fades to the background. However, the rational mind can be coaxed back from hiding with guidance.
The next time you feel helpless and are thinking, “This is impossible,” remind yourself it’s nothing you can’t handle. This is one of the keys to a positive mindset. Once you’re in that frame of mind, the solutions will come more easily.
4. Always take ownership.
I’ve made many mistakes. It’s uncomfortable to admit when I mess up. Sometimes there are even consequences.
This fourth key is about owning your actions, especially when you make a poor decision. You’re going to make mistakes. Don’t make excuses. Admit fault and apologize when needed.
By placing the blame on someone or something else, you stunt personal growth. You’ll continue to make the same mistakes (because it will never be your fault).
You can’t live an authentic life without taking ownership, nor will you gain the respect of others. Be authentic; take ownership of your mistakes (and achievements!)
If reading about these four keys to a positive mindset “sparked” something for you, think about the changes you need to make in your own life to experience a positive mindset.
One thought on “4 Keys to a Positive Mindset”
I love this! Such simple concepts…. but so complicated for so many! After reading all four, I truly think the first one is my biggest downfall. Which was a bit surprising to me… I would think that the hardest for most would be accountability, #4. Thanks so much for sharing these truths. If they were talked about more openly, perhaps they would be practiced more often!