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The 5 Myths of Positive Mental Attitude

Photo by Children At Risk Foundation
A positive mental attitude is the starting point of all riches, whether they be riches of a material nature or intangible riches. ~Napoleon Hill

Okay, so there’s no myth that I am a positive person, or at least striving to be one. However, I am aware that I’m not positive all the time. I am continuously working to become conscientious of my choices, thoughts and reactions. I frequently get asked about positive thinking, and I wanted to first clear up some points of confusion.

Positive people are not living like Pollyanna in some dream world with no hold on reality. Positive people may have an attitude like Pollyanna, but they are not necessarily unrealistic. Positive person are very capable of understanding the reality of a cynic. They just change their mindset to see the reality from a different perspective.

With so many myths about positive mental attitude (PMA), it’s important to separate the truth from the fiction. Let’s explore some of these myths and dive into the truths behind them.


Myth #1: Negative thinking is more realistic.

Have you ever heard a negative person say that they aren’t negative; they’re just being ‘realistic’? This myth keeps people locked in a negative reality of their own creation.

A person’s thoughts, whether positive or negative, do have an effect on their environment. If you think negatively, your mind will automatically seek out confirmation that the world is a terrible place. Seeing is believing, and your mind reinforces your belief that reality is negative. See how it’s a downward spiral of negativity? If you expect negative results, you are less likely to take risks and try new things. Negative thinking masks your impressions in fear.

Positive thinking works the same way. With a positive mental attitude, you’ll seek out positive choices and expect positive results. This helps you move past fear and try things that others may believe “can’t be done”. This typically end in positive results.

A person’s thinking helps determine their reality. Negative thinking is realistic for the negative thinker, but only because their thoughts make it true. Ironically, the positive thinking also sees reality, just in a different light. Both types of people see their own reality, and both consider it the reality.


Myth #2: People with a PMA expect moneybags to fall out of the sky if they wish for them.

Those who don’t believe in positive thinking imagine that positive thinkers expect that their desire will manifest itself if they simply think positively about it. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Everyone who accomplishes anything – whether it’s earning a million dollars or becoming an award-winning actor – accomplish it the same way: by taking action. Positive people have an edge because they believe the object of their desire is attainable. They come from a ‘can-do’ mindset. Their actions are not based on fear or scarcity, but based on possibilities. Thus, a positive attitude helps a person manifest their desires, not simply by dreaming about it, but by inspiring the person to take action.

It’s the action behind the attraction that makes the dream come true.


Myth #3: Positive thinking doesn’t change reality

People who believe this myth see a problem and believe that positive thinking will only ignore the ugliness of their reality. The truth is positive thinking doesn’t ignore the problem; it helps you see the problem in a new light. In fact, you don’t even see ‘problems’ as problems. Think about it; regardless of how you react to an external situation, the situation will still be the same. If being upset doesn’t change the outcome of a past situation, wouldn’t it serve you, and your health, to see the positives?

A positive mental attitude creates a mindset of abundance, enthusiasm, and solutions. Instead of thinking about what can’t be done, a positive thinker will not be constrained by ‘can’ and ‘cannot.’ A positive thinker is free to think of new ways to solve problems because they are not limited by fear of failure. When we are in a state of abundance, we provide a fertile ground for possibilities and making dreams a reality. We are in a state of allowance, openly accepting the gifts of life to flow to us. When I realized this principle and shifted my thinking habits, miracles started popping up in my life.

A positive mental attitude can – and indeed does – change reality by allowing a person to act in an entirely different way, thus harvesting entirely different results.

Successful men become successful only because
they acquire the habit of thinking in terms of success.

Napoleon Hill


Myth #4: Positive thinkers have no clue about the real world.

It’s easy to believe that people with a positive mental attitude have perfect lives and never dealt with real world hardships. Maybe people wouldn’t be so positive if they’d endured a few difficult times in their lives. But the truth is that this is really just a justification for negative thinking.

I don’t know a positive person who hasn’t had real and serious trials in their lives. They’ve faced disappointment, death of loved ones, physical handicap, and pretty much the range of human experiences we all deal with. The difference is that these people didn’t let those experiences change their outlook. A positive mental attitude means that you are in control of your own thoughts and feelings.

Responsibilities = our abilities to control our responses.”
– paraphrasing Steven Covey

Every person has sorrows and trials that test them to the core, but only some people have the courage to act positively and with grace. A positive mental attitude doesn’t mean a person has sidestepped a hard life. It simply means they choose to see and take part in the good things life has to offer, as opposed to only the negative.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl an extraordinary Holocaust survivor talks about finding happiness and purpose while in a Nazi concentration camp. In his book, he argues that “we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and freedom.

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning


Myth #5: People with a PMA are annoying and cheesy.

Okay, let’s admit it, some types of positive people are a little cheesy. We’re talking about the kind who spout platitudes and expect everything to be perfect no matter what. But truly positive people aren’t Tony Robbins infomercials. Positive people have real thoughts and have setbacks and discouragement just like everyone else, but they are also resilient and look for ways to stay positive. And that’s not cheesy, it’s just healthy thinking! And smart living!

Truly positive people do not expect perfection, but rather, they expect that every event is the best thing that could have happened in that moment. It is the only event that happened in that moment. Now that you’re considering the event, that moment has past. You cannot go back and change the moment, so you have to accept what happened was the best, and move on to the next moment.

Even in external circumstances that seem out of our control, we can always control is our internal response. In fact, it’s the only thing we have absolute control over.



Final Thoughts …

I genuinely believe that every moment is a gift, thus regardless of what is happening, it is perfect. There is always a gift, or lesson, to be taken away from that moment. I suspect that some of you are instantly thinking about death scenarios. “What is there to gain from death?”, you ask. Life is full of birth and deaths, this is reality. When death and change happens, we have to embrace reality, pick up and handle it to the best of our abilities. When this happens, we will gain different lessons due to our own stories, but perhaps the lesson could be:

  • a realization to spend more time with your family
  • to give people more respect
  • to realize that life is limited and that you should go after your dreams
  • [insert your own lessons and realizations]

Please note that when I speak about death, I’m not just referring to death of a person or animal, but rather death of time, of change. Most of us instinctively resist change and hang on to the past with dear life. If you think about it, we are experiencing birth and death constantly, every moment consists of them; with each new moment, it is the death of the last moment and a birth for the current moment. That’s it. Embrace it with grace.

Next time you perceive that something crappy is happening to you, instead of reacting with anger and frustration, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where is the gift in this situation?
  • What did I learn from it?
  • So what? What can you do now? (If the moment has passed, just accept it!)

What are your views on positive mental attitude? What are some myths you have about them? Share with us in the comments.

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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112 thoughts on The 5 Myths of Positive Mental Attitude

  1. i can’t believe how many people fall for this kind of stuff. it’s bluntly frightening how little control we seem to have over rational thought.

    1) positive thinking is declaring that a glass is half full.
    2) negative thinking is declaring that a glass is half empty.
    3) neutral thinking is noting that the amount of water in the glass is equal to 50% of the volume of the glass.

    there’s a huge difference between the realist thinker and the negative thinker, as much of a difference as between the realist thinker and the positive thinker. it’s simply dishonest to fold realism into negativism.

    what this article has done is present a false dichotomy between positive and negative thinking and then argue for the benefits of positive thinking by tearing down the straw man that it built up as it’s antagonist. this is practically the definition of dishonesty.

    if you take a little bit of time to study the effects of trying to force yourself into positive thinking, you’ll realize that the number one consequence of this is depression and suicide. we need to experience the full range of expectation and emotion to be complete as humans, otherwise we become mentally unstable and behave antisocially.

    don’t lose yourself in this pseudo-thinking and drive yourself insane in the process. gain the wisdom to understand the difference between what is possible and what is plausible, to reject the implausible as what it is and to focus your energy on a limited collection of tasks that are actually possible.

    the world doesn’t need more positive thinking. it needs more rational thinking.

  2. This post was an inspiration for me, thanks Tina. We have a lot to be positive for. Sometimes, we just have to stop analyzing too much, and think in simple terms.

  3. Amy

    Sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m sad, sometimes I’m angry, sometimes I’m mellow , etc…. At all times I’m human and I’m not a person of compassion if I label others emotional states in order to appear in mastery of my own mind at all times. It is arrogant to claim to have the mystery of life mastered.

  4. The author in this article in their “final thoughts” talks about life and death in each moment. It reminded me of a book a mentor of mine, Little Crow, wrote: The Sacred Hill Within: A Dakota/Lakota World View. If I remember correctly, In it he says something similar in that “with every breath we take, we are dying and being reborn.” It’s been a while since I read the book, whereas I lent it to a bus driver who I never saw again, thus the book is hopefully being shared again in the same spirit I lent it out in. Positive thinking has always been a struggle for me and I thank you for the article, It was helpful. Courage, Compassion, Strength & Wisdom to all! -C.P.Eiler

  5. Randy

    I love this article! It’s common sense logic as to why you may as well approach life with a PMA and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome…for any situation in life.

    Dghk: I’m afraid you missed the entire point. The point being that both good and bad hit us all in life, it’s all a matter of you choose to handle it. Everyone seems to want to define “reality”, well, reality is what you make it. In any situation in life there are 3 options. 1. Change the other person. – well, you can try, and good luck with that. 2. You can change the situation. – Get a new job, move to different state/town/neighborhood…it’s not really dealing with anything, but it makes you feel better. At least until the same set of circumstances arise and you have to flee again to avoid it. And 3. You can change yourself. – This one you actually have control over. You figure out how to deal with that obnoxious coworker, or that ornry neighboor. And once you’ve done that and succeeded, you now have method with which to deal with any similar circumstances in the future.

    But I think my favorite part was this: “don’t lose yourself in this pseudo-thinking and drive yourself insane in the process. gain the wisdom to understand the difference between what is possible and what is plausible, to reject the implausible as what it is and to focus your energy on a limited collection of tasks that are actually possible.”

    OK. So first of all, define “plausible”. Your plausible, or mine? The Wright brothers flew, the light bulb was invented, and countless discoveries were made because people had the courage to believe that something could be done when everyone around them said it couldn’t.

    “Whatever the mind of man can first conceive, and then believe, he can acheive.” Napoleon Hill

    If you believe it cannot be done and you try anyway, you will prove yourself right everytime.

    Good luck Dg.

    And Tina, Thank you for an awesome article!!

  6. gr8 thoughts…i am so happy… Thank u frnd..sharing this words of diamonds….

  7. princess

    Absolutely bookmarked this.

  8. Anna

    Being positive isn’t about ignoring the bad things, it’s about accepting them and choosing to look at them in a less destructive way which is exactly what you go on to say in your final thoughts section!! Look at negative things as a gift?? That’s totally PMA!!! Think
    About it x

  9. Julia Salmon

    I always try to look for what I can learn from a situation – and begin from a point as to what I can offer, rather than what I can take away. As a result, I have learned many things in my life. Those negative people I have met are psychologically draining to deal with – and I would not therefore choose to have a negative outlook on life.

    Where I would disagree with this article is that, having adopted a positive outlook, I have consistently found that this does not lead to a positive feedback to myself: people appreciate my diligence and conscientiousness (in work and on a personal level) – but I am then seen as instantly forgettable. Jobs do not come my way; friends not only ‘forget’ to invite me to events, but even believe I was there when I was not – such is the apparent memorability of my presence. There has been no ‘reward’ for leading a positive life, beyond being used by others, then dropped once I have served my purpose.

    Therefore, my lifelong experience tells me that people do not necessarily get back what they give out. It does not change the fact that I would not wish to become negative in my attitudes to others – but I now know that whatever I give, whatever support I offer, whatever good work I do, there is no payback to myself… beyond a clear conscience.

    As a result of leading a life where I have been motivated to live according to some form of moral compass, it has left me poverty striken and without prospects.

    My own view is that this is a reflection of the modern world in which we live.

  10. soshailakash

    This is so true People with positive mental attitude always have the edge over others in all situations, because they alway have something positive to tell, and that’s what everyone wants to hear, no matter how realistic a little hope and a positive look can always work, these are the kind of people who always end up on top, because people tend to like their pleasing personality i real this article many years ago it’s an eye opener

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