Why and how to be positive in a cynical world
Your teachers insist that you get that degree to ensure you get a good job. There is no other way, they say. Your family and friends are telling you why you can’t suceeed at this passion project you have. TV programmes tell you how the rich are getting richer, the poor poorer and convince you you are completely helpless in the process.Your colleagues are discussing the boss’s foibles and why the company is doomed.
What makes us believe these things? What gives them the ring of truth? Could we be wrong? The truth is that we are all conditionned to think what we think.
Let’s deconstruct this and see how you can take more charge of what is happening in your mind.
We think what we’ve been taught
We think the thoughts we’ve been fed by people we consider of authority.
First, it’s our parents. They will give us our foundation. The language we speak, our self esteem, sense of identity and worldview are largely inherited from them.
Then there’s teachers. Then peers that appear to be more in the know than us. Then bosses and mentors.
We trust them to define or redefine what we think, but they are faillible, like any one of us. So they sometimes are wrong.
We’re not always taught right
People in authority can be sincere but wrong. Our parents can miss this innate ability we have, fail to nurture it and we in turn may not believe in it ourselves. Our teachers can omit to teach us things that are important and therefore unwittingly give us a warped view of the world.
For instance, it was instilled in me that becoming an academic was a sure fire way to success (that’s French culture for you). I enjoyed the process of learning but ended up frustrated with the prospect of a life filled with theory. It felt disconnected to reality, pointless in the long run. It seemed a bit like chasing the end of a rainbow. I stopped halfway through a Master’s degree. I wanted to experience life, not be a bookworm! And in hindsight, a degree has not been the success magnet it was supposed to be.
Add to that the decidedly mean parents and educators who may forcefeed us that we are useless, destined for failure and hardship. Such negativity in the foundation may be hard to shake off.
But here’s the thing: those we perceive as experts, or having authority can be wrong too, even in their field of expertise.
Entrepreneur, motivational speaker and author Les Brown was misdiagnosed mentally retarded in his youth, and this attracted the expected cruelty from peers. It took a discerning educator and conscious effort to shake off this misconstrued identity but the result well worth it.
You may have heard of Roger Bannister. He lived in a time where medical experts had established it was not humanly possible to run a mile in under 4 minutes. It had been tried and tested. But Roger Bannister proved the impossible possible. How? He did something different. He trained and ran with a team.
Experts in the last century said that there was nothing left to discover in physics. That was before the atom and DNA were discovered. They said that there was a worldwide market of about 5 computers. There are more than 2 billion PCs out there now.
Just imagine if we based our thinking solely on what “experts” said? There would be much less progress, much less innovation, much less fun. We’d all be cynics, taking one look at things and deciding we can’t do them, and be very articulate in the reasons why that is so. We’d be living our small lives, with small minds, with little joy.
Yet that’s what we tend to do. We internalise these expert voices without reflecting on them. We allow them to stiffle our potential, instill fear in us. We become living, walking self fulfilling prophecies.
The truth is, whether we think we can or we can’t, we are usually right because we will act accordingly. If we think we can’t, we will refrain from trying or stop early in the fight. If we think we can, we will not give up until we figure out a way to win.
I’m not advocating being fool hardy and ignoring common sense. Don’t jump off a cliff and ignore gravity believing you can fly. Obviously.
Think strategically. The Wright brothers defied gravity with the flying machine. They didn’t just jump.
What I’m suggesting is whenever you hear (whether it be from others or that little voice in your head) that you can’t do something that is close to your heart, ask yourself where that voice comes from and question it.
Why can’t you enjoy your work, start your own business, get healthier, get fit, write that book, be more, feel more, do more?
Is it because you were taught that you can’t? That it’s impossible for you? That it’s just a dream? Or that it will change you in the wrong way? Who taught you this? Experience or expert? Could you do / have done things differently?
You are in charge of your thoughts. Specific thoughts lead to specific beliefs, which lead to specific action or inaction.
Which path will you be making for yourself? You are more in control than you think. You can choose to be positive when the majority is cynical. It starts by monitoring your thoughts.
Monitor your thoughts
“That’s interesting…Who is speaking? Experience or expert?”
I’ll be doing that too.
In the next post I’ll share how to change your mindset beyond recognition.