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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. Hmm… I know a lot of people that should read this! Interestingly they are the cheesy, out-of-touch positive people.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. reason

    Great post Tina!

    Regarding Myth#2 – I couldn’t help think of the The Secret and it’s promise of material things if you focus on them long and hard enough – especially the boy and the bike example, among others.
    I 100% agree with the idea that taking action is what creates opportunity, achievement, and/or accomplishment.

    There seems to be a precarious line between “Polyannic” people and true positive people. I believe it’s at the point of handling self-doubt. It’s such a powerful and inherent part of us (fight or flight) and is best channeled when accepted and managed vs. glossed over and ignored.

  3. Having a positive mental attitude isn’t about superstitions, magic or ignoring the facts. It’s about seeing the facts and CHOOSING to believe in yourself. It’s having the ability to not only see the problem, but see through the problem.

    The cheesy PMAers often times wrap themselves in wishful thinking. However, having a PMA isn’t about make believe, but again choosing on how you’ll act and respond to anything that life throws your way.

    Being negative is easy. It’s everywhere, but staying positive takes work. By choosing to remain positive it definitely becomes easier and easier.

    Tina, again great piece and like yourself I’m choosing to remain positive no matter what!

  4. I’ve struggled with who I am, in regards to whether I’m a positive or negative thinker.

    I would like to think that I’m a positive person in general. But there have been many (bad) events in my life that I just can’t help being a cynic or angry about sometimes. i.e. I was diagnosed with cancer a mere 10 weeks after my wedding; I was 24 years old. I had been healthy all my life prior to that, and suddenly the world crashed on me and it literally crushed me. Or when I miscarried a much longed for baby with no warning signs or explanation whatsoever.

    Yes I’m conscientious about my choices of reaction, but sometimes, those reactions are nothing but anger and hurt and depression (and those are hardly positive). I think in cases like these, time is extremely essential and crucial. Without time, there is no amount of striving and active thinking that would have helped put me in the positive camp. So for me, time has healed some of those wounds and I am now able to think more positively.

  5. What you write is true for those with a PMA that are accomplishing things. Unfortunately, I’ve also run into a number of people who fall into category #2 (probably as a result of #4). There are definitely those who think money will just come to them and it is with these ones that I get frustrated as all the conversations in the world around putting words to action doesn’t seem to help. Fortunately, this is quite a minority. Unfortunately, they’re also often the source of #5 in that they’re the ones talking about how important a PMA is but not doing anything else and it shows. In my experience, those with a PMA and are acting on it, usually aren’t talking about it, they’re simply living it.

  6. I applaud you for this article because I am one of those positive mental attitude types and all my life I’ve dealt with people’s misconception of my personal outlook on life.

    I do tend to approach things thinking “How can I make this work?” and because I have a pleasant demeanor, sometime’s people admit they are surprised I’ve dealt with what I have because I’m always smiling (lol and no, not at weird inappropriate times)

    Of course bad things happen, sometimes more often than others. Of course there are a negative side to things. But I don’t see how scowling at every face I see or approaching everything with “I Can’t” improves my quality of life.

    In fact, I think being the way I am helped bring some major opportunities, not to mention a solid growing network of good people.

    I am always looking to grow and increase my ability to utilize positive thinking for my life. Thanks for this post.

  7. Very nice, Tina. One of my favourite articles on your blog. Cheesy people – that cracked me up. Thanks for the laugh.

    Albert | UrbanMonk.Net
    Modern personal development, entwined with ancient spirituality.

  8. That’s an article that i really like a lot. :)
    I agree with what you wrote in it but let me tell you another point of view.
    This is all about perception, how you perceive things around you with the help of your senses and brain reactions. We have to take into account the fact that your subconsciouses “thinks” different than you.
    Some people see the bright part of live because of a native brain characteristic that other don’t have but could “get” one by teaching their brain to see things how they want to (auto suggestion and so on).
    I believe that the “gifted” people are indeed happier than the normal ones and than the pessimists, and i also believe that anyone with some medium intelligence could learn to be like that too.
    (This in short words..but i’m sure u understand what i said.)

  9. Wonderful article!

    What I have found is that a lot of ‘positive thinking’ is mere lip service. Like a rendition if repeated enough, could be believed. Scratch the surface and we’ll find a lack of emotional coping skills. An inability to cope with….”the negative”.

    Humorous really, on a quantum level. Radiating FEAR and expecting to attract something positive from it.

    Negative fields attract negative poles. Radiating FEAR of the negative, no matter the lip service, will end up attracting exactly what is feared.

  10. good work Tina– this is always a favorite topic of mine, and I suggest you read 7 Effective Ways to Implement Positive Thinking to take these ideas a step further! Thanks again!

    Todd Goldfarb
    We The Change

  11. My view on PMA stated very simply is “Happiness is choice.” I choose happiness.

  12. Good topic, and I think you generalize too much when you talk about positive people. Some are cheesy and some do believe if they have the right attitude the universe will reward them. But not all positive people believe that. You’re generalizing as much as the people who argue against positive thinkers. I happen to be a positive person and have pretty much your attitude towards life…and I believe it would be just as effective to say “I’m a positive thinker and this is what I believe” rather than saying “positive thinkers believe”.

    Except for that, it’s a well-written piece on the subject. Thanks.

  13. Excellent post Tina!
    Yesterday I was talking with some friends about luckiness.
    Does Luck really exist? Depends on us? or is it a parameter of life? This
    is a good analogy.

    Your post give us a new perspective of this question and maybe another good hour of conversation ;)
    What do you think about luck? Does it exist?

    Best regards,
    Ignacio Silva

  14. Great article, Tina! I’m one of those disgustingly happy people that always sees the glass as half-full. And life is good! Maybe that gets a little annoying to others sometimes … :-)

    I derive a lot of PMA from a couple of basic principles, that a. I’m the Creator of my experience (and I am!) and b. Everyone else is the Creator of theirs. And I cannot possibly judge anyone else’s experience as good or bad. Nor am I responsible for making anyone happy (as if that were possible) other than myself. And so I make my choices, knowing they create my experience, and try my best to honor the choices of everyone around me.

    What we label “positive” and “negative” are truly just that – labels. We attach values such as good and bad, but really everything is just a result, an experience, and everything has a purpose, even if we can’t see it from our present perspective.

    Thanks for this article!

  15. I consider myself as too much of a negative person. I sometimes feel that people with a postive attitude are a little cheesy, but I think that maybe because I am too negative. So in a way I am actually jealous.

  16. Great article! I used to be very negative and it can be really easy to focus on negative things so i really know where this article is coming from. Great read.

  17. I do believe that a positive attitude helps you feel better and think more clearly. It’s a proven fact that people with a poor attitude have more health problems.

  18. being positive won’t change the fact that you are going to die…alone.
    so no matter how much you put on a smiley face and pretend everything is just cheery and great, everything you do and say doesn’t matter. everything you think is great isn’t. it all leads to death and suffering. you can’t ignore that. that doesn’t mean you have to sit there and act depressed and bitch and moan. there is good, there is bad. there is life, there is death. everything is both. being a positive person all the time is naive to 50% of the facts of life! objective, perspective, rational logic is the only “positive way to live”.

  19. Great article. I’d add that people sometimes talk about positive and negative mental attitudes the same way they talk about “left” and “right” in politics. It’s taking a complex thing and simplifying it down to just one dimension. Professionals in psychology have invented various measures for personality, one of which is the Myers-Briggs personality test, which defines 4 unique dimensions of personality.

    Though “realistic” thinking is often an excuse of negative people, a positive thinker can also call for “realistic” thinking- it’s just another (different) dimension of thought. It’s one thing to let “reality” get you down, it’s another thing to accept “reality” and make the best of it, or maneuver around it. Labeling a “realistic” thinker a “negative” thinker would be a mistake IMO. Is Warren Buffet a realistic thinker? You betcha, he’s famous for it. Is he a negative thinker? Well, if negative thinking is what got him there, shouldn’t we all be a bit more negative? :)

  20. “Only vegetables are happy” –William Faulkner

  21. As a man thinks so is he.

  22. Seth

    “Myth #1: Negative thinking is more realistic.” is a myth.

    Pretty much any motivational psychological study examining the relationship between depression and realistic thinking will show you this: depressed people actually have a much more realistic and unbiased view of things than most people. They have better accuracy in judging their actual performance, self efficacy, how long time based tasks will take, etc…. However, what we’ve found is that it is healthy for people to have a biased view that suits them. Depressed = accurate. Not depressed = more inaccurate.

    Believing you have high self efficacy when you don’t (positive less realistic view) is better than knowing you actually have low self efficacy (negative more realistic view). Check out some of the references in Human Motivation: A Social Psychological Approach by Russell G. Geen. Plenty of juicy info there.

  23. John

    Great post…found it through digg.

    If you want to build on everything you wrote here, read “The T.A.D. Principle” (Google it). It helped change the way I think and subsequently my entire life.

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