There’s no doubt that reading and watching The Secret in 2014 changed my life. I heard of the power of positive thinking and thought I was a positive person, until this challenged me to explore my beliefs. As it turns out, I had turned negative due to life circumstances at that point in my life (I do discuss this in Joy on the Journey), and realized that I had put myself in a vicious circle of negative expectations and negative manifestations. What’s more is that I had been under a therapist years earlier who told me most of these things, but I allowed myself to drift away from the power of cognition. And drifting is never good, because you wander to places you don’t want to be and don’t realize it until day to day life shifts so much that it takes effort to set it right again. That had happened to me.
So I went back and did the work to change my thinking again, and I saw results. I was happier. Better things did happen, and I found myself surrounded by better people. This went on for a while, and then recently things started to shift again. Not bad per se, but things I’d have rather not had happen. It made me wonder: was my change a result of my thinking, or was it a natural life cycle that happened to occur when I changed my thinking? Then Chloe died in that accident, and I really wondered. I never thought of her having an accident, or dying so soon, and yet it happened. How could this be? My pastor’s answer seemed the only one that made sense: we live in a fallen world, and sometimes bad things happen for no apparent reason. We’ll never understand how it fits into the “big picture” in this life.
Then is the power of positive thinking a load of crap? This is the question I’ve been wrestling with over the past few months.
I always refuted one thing in The Secret, and it’s that you can get on a high enough frequency to repel any bad thing from happening. It proved itself immediately when I got the flu twice in 11 months, despite having two flu shots and no worries or thoughts of getting ill. Viruses don’t know or care what I think, or know about energy and the law of attraction. They aren’t beholden to that and, it turns out, neither are many other things in life. This was confirmed in a book on prayer I read recently that expressed concern over people developing unrealistic expectations regarding the power of positive thinking. The world is imperfect, and there’s no helping that bad things will happen. Circumstances happen. People happen. Life happens, and we can’t control everything. The only thing positive thinking can do is help us to temper our expectations and reactions.
In other words, it colors our reality, and that in turn changes how we deal with it. The funny thing is that I put this disclaimer in a later chapter of Joy on the Journey, but forgot about it until I looked at it last week.
The truth is that bad things will happen. We’re imperfect people in an imperfect world, and that’s a side effect of it: crap happens to us all. What matters is that perception is reality, and our perception of a situation can change our thoughts and actions, which can influence reality from that point forward. That’s where the power of positive thinking can show power in our lives.
I’m listening to a course on The Mysteries of Human Behavior, and a recent lecture was on what makes people happy. The professor said that research indicates that our happiness is 50% genetic pre-disposition, 40% cognitive perceptions, and 10% circumstances. He said a lot of people are surprised that circumstances have so little to do with our happiness, but it’s that way because we’re adaptive, and we often adapt quickly to new circumstances (for better or worse). I was surprised because I thought, perhaps this means that the power of positive thinking really does work. Maybe not as much as New Age thinking would tell you, but significantly enough that it can have a profound impact on life. Half of my happiness is baseline personality (which is content), but 40% is completely within my control. I can choose how to perceive, which affects my actions, which can impact my circumstances (to a degree).
You have to acknowledge that we ask for some things, but not others. If you don’t pay the power bill, then the power company turns off your electricity. That’s on you. But if somebody betrays you, that’s a complex series of circumstances. You only control and are responsible for your part. Their part is on them. And that’s true of the consequences as well. The bottom line is that we need to exercise wisdom, discernment, and this power of positive thinking on our part of things. We have to be responsible. We have to be self aware. We have to have self discipline. We have to be internally motivated to do our best at all times, with all people, in all situations.
I can’t do anything about Chloe’s death, and I certainly do miss and mourn her. However, I choose to forgive myself for the accident that led to her death, and to move forward with healthy and good coping mechanisms. I can drown my grief in junk and negligence, or focus on doing my best to continue my role in my current reality as I discover what to take from this loss, and I choose focus. I want to get better and do better. I want to learn from that horrible experience, and to become a better person who can help others facing the same or similar circumstances. I want to remain strong and healthy so I can do my best for what I’m responsible for, and for the people around me. I hope I’ve learned some humility and forgiveness for myself and others along the way.
I also choose not to see this as a personal affront to my character. Anybody can have an accident, and I’ve heard of many people losing their pets in similar accidents. Bad things happening don’t mean we’re bad people, that we’re being paid back for something, or that we “need a lesson.” It’s the random crap of life. The truth is that bad things happen to everybody: good people, bad people, and all of us in the middle. It’s isn’t personal – in fact, it’s something we all struggle with from time to time. What’s personal is what we take from it, and what we choose to do with it.
I do still believe in the power of positive thinking. I don’t think it has infinite power like New Age thinking claims, but I do believe from a faith-based Christian perspective that it works together with all things in life for good. We can’t control everything, but having control over 40% is significant. It doesn’t change the entire world, but it’s enough to change your world. So go change it. And if life knocks you down, get back up in faith! If you’re alive, then hope remains, and you have stuff to do. So go do it.
That’s all today. Take care. Have a happy Friday tomorrow and a wonderful weekend.