How To Quit Your Addiction To Negativity

“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.”

Elbert Hubbard, 19th century author

Robert brought flowers to his departed wife’s grave once a week. On one such visit, he heard painful sobs from a nearby plot and was touched by the sight of a man crying unabashedly while clutching a tombstone saying, “Why? Why did you have to die? Why?”

Approaching carefully, Robert told the man, “Hello, you must love your departed one very very much. Was she your wife?”

The man looked up with tears in his eyes and replied, “No! My wife’s first husband!”

Obviously, the sobbing man was gripped in negativity rather than grief. And maybe you seem to be stuck in a difficult situation with a negative attitude. Well, you’ve got to STOP it. As my mentor Zig Ziglar used to say, “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”

And yet, you may be so mired in negativity that you can’t even imagine stopping your negative thoughts “cold turkey.” I understand that. After all, if you can’t go 24 hours without alcohol, you’re addicted to alcohol. If you can’t go 24 hours without a cigarette, you’re addicted to nicotine. And if you can’t go 24 hours without a negative thought, you’re addicted to negative thinking.

So I would suggest you take it easy, but take these steps. 

1. Start by noticing when you are thinking negatively.

You don’t have to do anything about it … yet. Just recognize what’s going on inside you.

2. Pause before you react.

When you notice yourself getting upset about something, tell yourself, “I’m going to wait two minutes before I react. I’m going to think about something else that is more uplifting for two minutes.” Eventually you can work yourself up to 3, 4, or 5 minutes … putting some space between your automatic reaction and your postponed response. You’re starting to take control of your attitude.

3. Declare some “negative-free zones” throughout the day.

It’s what authors John-Roger and Peter McWilliams advise. And I agree. Plan out several two-minute segments throughout your day in which you will not allow one negative thought to pass through your mind. And if a negative thought does slip in, immediately replace it with a focus on something positive.

4. Pick minor areas where you will no longer allow yourself to think about … negatively.

You could start with something as tiny as the disarray you see in someone’s office. Start telling yourself, “No matter how unprofessional her office appears, I refuse to get upset about it. If she’s getting her work done and pleasing the customers, it’s none of my business.”

Bob Newhart, the comedian, applied this technique to something tiny in his life … with modest success. He doesn’t like country music, so instead of getting upset about it, he said, “I don’t like country music, but I don’t mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means ‘put down!'”

Gradually expand your list until it includes all the nonessential … but sometimes irritating … parts of your life that could take you down the road of negativity.

5. Increase the duration of your “negative-free zones.”

Add a minute each day to your positive thinking periods. Eventually, you’ll arrive at the “tipping point” where your mind naturally and automatically begins to think more positively, more frequently, for longer periods of time.

Of course, the cynics wonder if all this emphasis on the positive isn’t a waste of time. Not at all. The positive response is almost always the better response. As one person noted, “Although at the moment they may be equal in their lack of a real answer, the man who replies ‘I’ll find out’ is much more valuable to his employer, his neighbor, and to himself than the man who replies ‘I don’t know.'”

6. Add more central areas of your life where you refuse to think negatively.

You may decide that you’ll do no more negative thinking about a particular relationship and then extend it to all relationships. Over time, add other key areas of your life … such as work, business, money, health, or whatever … where you refuse to fret about, worry over, or get all angry about.

That doesn’t’ mean that you live and work in a state of denial and ignorant bliss. That would be stupid. But instead of wasting your time on negative thinking, you switch over to positive dismissal and positive action. In other words, some things aren’t worth your time to even think about while others things are important to do something about.

You see … everyone dies but not everyone lives. You can live SO MUCH better if you eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive.

Action:  Select five, two-minute periods that you will set aside each day for positive thinking only.