How to Stay Positive: 11 Smart Habits


“Having a positive mental attitude is asking how something can be done rather than saying it can’t be done.”
Bo Bennett

“To avoid situations in which you might make mistakes may be the biggest mistake of all.”
Peter McWilliams

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
Anais Nin

One of the very first things I started to work on consciously with my own personal development was to improve my outlook on life.

It was over 10 years ago that I started to delve into this topic and to step by step – and while sometimes tumbling backwards – build a more optimistic outlook.

An attitude that would over time become more and more stable so that I could not only look at the world in a positive way during good days. But also so I could stay positive and constructive even during tough times and keep working towards something better.

In this article I’d like to share 11 of the best, smartest and most effective habits for doing so that I have learned during over more than a decade.

I hope you will find something helpful here.

1. Find the optimistic viewpoint in a negative situation.

One of the simplest but most effective ways to build a more positive outlook has in my experience been to ask more helpful questions as often as possible.

When I am in what seems like a negative situation – maybe I have made a mistakes, I have failed or stumbled in some kind of way – then I like to ask myself questions like:

What is one thing that is positive or good about this situation?
What is one opportunity within this situation?
Doing so is a whole lot better than what I used to do in such situations. Because back then I usually asked myself how much I sucked and how things could get even worse now.

I do however not always use these questions right away. Oftentimes I need a bit of time to process the thoughts and feelings that arise in situation before I can do that. Trying to force optimistic thinking when you are still in an emotional turmoil or a bit shocked usually don’t work that well.

2. Cultivate and live in a positive environment.

Who you choose to spend your time with and the input you get from further away like the TV, the internet and magazines will have a huge effect on your outlook.

To be able to stay positive it is essential to have influences in your life that support you and lift you up instead of dragging you down.

So carefully consider what you let into your mind.

You can for example ask yourself:

Who are the 3 most negative people I spend time with?

What are the 3 of most negative sources of information I spend time on?

Consider the answers. Then think about how you can start spending less time with one of those people or information sources this week.

And how you can spend more of the time you have now freed up with one of the most positive sources or people in your life.

3. Go slowly.

I have found that when I go too fast, when I try to think, talk, eat and move around in my world really quickly then things don’t go too well.

Stress builds up. Negative thoughts about just about anything start to well up and I feel like my own personal power decreases.

But if I slow down just for a few minutes – even if I have to force it by walking, talking and eating slower – then my mind and body calms down too. It becomes easier to think things through clearly again and easier to find the optimistic and constructive perspective.

4. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.

It’s very easy to lose perspective, especially if you are stressed and you are going too fast.

And so a molehill can become a big and terrifying mountain in your mind.

A simple three step way to handle these situations so they don’t get out of hand is to:

Say stop. In your mind, shout “STOP!” or “NOPE, we are not going down that path again!” as soon as thoughts of this kind starts to spin in your head.

Breathe. After you have disrupted the thoughts by shouting stop sit down and just be still. Breathe with your belly and focus on just your in-breaths and out-breaths for a minute or two to calm your mind and body down.

Refocus. Question your mountain building thoughts by talking to someone close to you and getting a more grounded perspective on the situation by just venting or by getting his or her input. Or simply ask yourself this to widen your perspective and to chill out: Will this matter in 5 years? Or even 5 weeks?
5. Don’t let vague fears hold you back from doing what you want.

Sometimes you may want to take a chance in life. Start a new habit that feels unfamiliar, your own business on the side or ask someone out for a date.

A common trap when you want to do one of those things is to get lost in vague fears about what could happen if you actually took action.

And so the mind runs wild fueled by fear and it creates nightmare scenarios.

I know. I have been there many times.

So I have learned to ask myself this: honestly, what is the worst that could happen?

When I have figured that out I also spend a bit of time on trying to figure out what I could do if that that often pretty unlikely thing happens.

I have over the years discovered that the worst thing that could realistically happen is usually not as scary as the nightmare my fear-fueled mind could produce.

Finding clarity in this way doesn’t take much time or effort and it can help you to avoid much mind made suffering. And help you to get going, step outside of your comfort zone and take that chance.

6. Add value and positivity to someone else’s life.

What you send out you tend to get back from the world and the people in it.

Not from everyone. And not every time.

But what you send out there matters a whole lot.

What you give them and how you treat them is what you’ll get back. And they way you treat others and how you think of them also tend to have a big effect on how you treat and think about yourself.

So give value and spread the positivity by for example:

Helping out. Lend a hand when moving. Give a friend a ride in your car. Or if he or she needs information then help out by checking it up on Google or asking a friend of yours.
Just listening. Sometimes people don’t want any direct help. They just want someone to be there fully and listening as they vent for a little while.
Boosting the mood. Smile. Give hugs when appropriate. Play uplifting music when hanging out with a friend or suggest an inspiring movie for your movie night. Or encourage when someone has had a bad day or are going through a tough time.
7. Exercise regularly and eat and sleep well.

This is very obvious of course.

But I know the big, big impact a good night’s sleep or good workout can have when my thoughts are pessimistic and I have a lot of tensions on the inside.

And I know how much simpler it is to think clearly and optimistically when my belly is not empty.

So I highly recommend being careful about these basic habits that may sound boring. Because they do have a huge effect either way depending on how you manage them.

8. Learn to take criticism in a healthy way.

One of the most common fears is the fear of criticism. It can hold people back from doing what they want in life. Because having negativity flowing out of someone’s mouth or email and it being about you can hurt. And being rejected can sting quite a bit.

But if you want to take action on what you deep down want then criticism is pretty much unavoidable. So the key is learning to handle it in a healthier way. By doing so your fear of it will lessen and it will hurt less if you do get criticized.

I usually use four steps when I get some criticism. Maybe they can help you out too:

Step 1: Don’t reply right away. When you are angry, upset or riled up then is time to calm down a bit before you reply. Take at least a couple of deep breaths or a little time to process the message before you respond.
Step 2: Really listen to the criticism. Try to remain open and level-headed and figure out how this message can help you. Ask yourself: Is there one thing I can learn from this criticism? Is there something here that I may not want to hear but could help me?
Step 3: Remember that the criticism isn’t always about you. Some criticism is helpful. Some is simply attacks or someone lashing out because they are having bad day, year or job. To lessen the sting of such criticism – often really angry or overly critical in an unconstructive way – I try to be understanding. I think to myself that this person might not be feeling so good at the moment.
Step 4: Reply or let go. No matter the content of for example an email I try to keep my reply level-headed and kind. I may add a question or two to get more specific feedback that is helpful. And if they don’t reply or I have simply gotten a nasty attack then it is time to delete it and to let that situation go.
9. If something still gets under your skin then know what to do.

Sometimes something can still get under your skin and hurt you. Even if you use the steps above.

Two things that have helped me with that challenge are:

Let it out. Just letting that issue out into the light talking it over with someone close can be very helpful to see it for what it actually is. And to find a healthier perspective on the situation.
Improve your self-esteem. I have found over the years that with a stronger self-esteem things drag me down less and they don’t ruin my day as much anymore. Negativity from others bounces off me much more often instead. If you want to practical help with this then have a look at my 12-week, step-by-step Self-Esteem Course.
10. Start your day in a positive way.

How you start your day usually sets the tone for the rest of your day.

So be careful about how you spend your mornings. If you get going at full speed, lost in future troubles in your mind then the stress, perceived loss of power of over your life and negative thoughts will ramp up quickly.

If you on the other hand start your day by moving slowly, by having an uplifting conversation with your family or friend or you spend some time with reading or listening to inspiring and helpful articles or podcasts over breakfast or during your bus ride to work then that can make a big difference for how your whole day will go.

11. Mindfully move through your day.

When you spend your time in the present moment then it becomes so much easier to access positive emotions and to stay practical about what you can actually do about something in your life.

When you get lost in the past or future like so many of us have spent a lot of time on doing then worries very easily become bigger. And failures and mistakes from the past being replayed over and over in your mind drag you down into pessimism.

By moving slowly through your morning and hopefully through much of the rest of your day it becomes easier to mindfully stay in the moment you are in.

Another simple way to reconnect with the moment in you are in and to put your full attention there again is to focus just on what is going on around you right now for a minute or two with all your senses. See it. Hear it. Smell it. Feel the sun, rain or cold wind on your skin.

It might sound like a small and insignificant thing to do. But this simplifying reconnection with the moment can have a very positive effect on the rest of your day.

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5 Steps Towards Your Personal Independence

5 Steps Towards Your Personal Independence

‘The greatest security is to plan and act and take the risk that will make you independent.’ – Denis Waitley

I’m an Australian, and we don’t celebrate Independence Day like the Americans. Yet I have been on a journey towards my personal independence, and it is my goal to encourage and guide others to experience the same in their lives.

In order to achieve personal independence, there are some required ingredients. So allow me to share just 5 of them with you.

1. Define Your Destination

When I packed up our belongings and left with my wife and two children to travel the world some years ago, we had one destination, and that was to return home safely at the end of a period of six months of discovery.

It took us to Zimbabwe, Nigeria, England, Scotland, Germany and the USA and through a whole range of circumstances, meeting a wide selection of people along the way, our global vision was expanded and our lives were changed forever.

Throughout that time we ate strange foods, lived in huts, rustic housing with no running water and intermittent electricity, hotels, million dollar homes, and even a castle – overcoming life threatening situations, insurmountable challenges, lurking thieves, and even diseases.

It was a defining trip for me personally – to discover the purpose for which I was born.

And now whenever I embark upon any new venture the first thing I do is visualize the destination, the goal, the dream, or the result that I’m working towards.

2. Plan Your Route

There are many ways to travel from Point A to Point B, and invariably it’s not in a straight line.

But say you are working towards a particular target in 12 months, then work backwards in 90 day increments. Identify your benchmarks you wish to set in place along the way, for that smaller time frame period, that will guide you towards your destination.

Then break those down into 30 day increments. Once you have those then define what you wish to achieve each week along the way. And last but not least – what are you going to do on a daily basis to build towards your defined destination?

3. Anticipate The Best

Expect doors to open. Give your best without any expectation of return. While opportunities wait to be revealed, always continue in a state of preparation.

Don’t gravitate to the worst. Refuse to be drawn to the negative.

Think well. Think great. Speak possibility. Fill your mouth with faith and eradicate fear through a positive confession. Read and listen to material that keeps the positive dial in your mind turned to the ‘on’ position.

If any form of ‘worst’ comes across your path then treat it like a television and change channels immediately.

4. Act As Though You’re Already There

Before I could really afford 5 star hotels I sat in the foyers of 5 star hotels. Before I ever bought a nice car I took expensive cars for a test drive. Before I owned nice furniture I sat in showrooms and smelt the leather.

Before I ever succeeded in business I kept the company of people more successful than myself. I purchased a suit. I bought nicely polished shoes. I printed the best business cards. I created the most stunning web design.

Before I was, I acted that I was.

The performance was not for others. It was for me – to once and for all imbed into my subconscious that I deserved success and was worthy of it. Through these actions I demanded success to come to me.

All future success cannot but come my way because through my actions, my speech, and my habits I have become a success magnet.

5. Take The Risk

If you don’t ever leave the shore you’ll never get to the other side of the river.

There comes a point where you have to leap the leap of faith. For the cure for all fear is action.

Do your homework. Have a plan in place. But make sure your goals are measurable and realistic. Here’s a good idea.

I was recently told of a threefold strategy when it comes to the pursuit of goals.

Here are the three plans you should have in place when you set a goal…

  • Plan 1 – What is your goal if there are no problems?
  • Plan 2 – What is your goal if you expend a bit of effort?
  • Plan 3 – What is your goal if everything goes wrong?

You always want to live for another day – so in your risk management plan put some thought into it – but once you have done all the analysis don’t remain in a state of paralysis. Take the risk. For it is there where opportunity, prosperity and independence await you.

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Jobs and the Arts and Humanities

Champions team

When you think “jobs,” do you think “arts and humanities”? No? Well, maybe you should. You see, as the world gets bigger and the world’s problems become more complex, employers seek more critical, comprehensive, and creative leaders. And the arts and humanities provide just that.

Let me set the scene for you: A 2012 survey of employers conducted by the Association of American Universities indicated that, “73 percent rejected the trend towards narrow technical training and wanted colleges and universities to place more emphasis on critical thinking and analytic reasoning.” Another study found that, “78 percent of employers preferred job applicants knowledgeable about global issues and societies and cultures outside the U.S.; 80 percent found written and oral communication key; and 82 percent favored those with civic knowledge, skills, and judgment essential for contributing to the community and to our democratic society.”

These surveys are well-substantiated by leading professionals from all fields who underline that many of these skills are found in students with strong backgrounds in English, foreign languages and literatures, the visual and performing arts, music, philosophy, history, or classics, among others.

If you don’t believe me, check out The arts and humanities in the 21st Century Workplace site and you will discover that leaders from the world of politics, science, business, medicine, and beyond agree on the need for more students with strong humanistic skills.

On this site, you might find that in 2001 Google was hiring 4,000-5,000 students with a background in the humanities or liberal arts. Why? Because, they said, “developing user interfaces, for example, was at least as much about knowing how to observe and understand people as about pure technological skill.”

You might discover that for the Army, NYPD and State Department, the Fortune 500 companies, hospitals, local courts and schools, “the hottest job skill,” one for which they can’t find enough employees, is fluency in a foreign languages. They anticipate that, “roughly 25,000 jobs are expected to open up for interpreters (who focus on spoken language) and translators (who focus on written language), between 2010 and 2020, the Department of Labor estimates. That represents 42 percent growth for the field and does not include the military, which is also recruiting ferociously for more people.”

You might enjoy reading “A Trip to Mars” by Elaina McCartney, former NASA Senior Mission Specialist who operated the Mastcam cameras on the Mars Science Lab, Curiosity. The short version is that her employers saw in Elaina — a professor at Cornell University with a degree in English Literature — an interdisciplinary vision that brought a unique quality to a team in which scientists look at the pictures and try to put together a story, “a story that can easily fall short were it not for the dimension provided by the humanities — plot, characters, language, vision, beauty.” In other words, NASA recognized that this former English major could significantly contribute to bringing Mars alive.

You might enjoy a blog on “Leadership Through Theatre” by Susan Frost, President of a Marketing Communications firm. She states that, “Problem solving, good decisions, visions, and — of course — critical thinking, are all traits required in leadership, traits we chase in hiring, training we search for to help our teams achieve greatness, characteristics that are easy to define but not so easy to achieve.” And she continues by asking: “As leaders, how do we nurture these traits in our employees and associates? Content-based learning is not necessarily transformative. Transformation takes a different approach, one that the Humanities in general, and theatre in particular, foster through questioning and changes in perspective.”

And, if you are a student thinking of going into Law or Medicine you might be interested to know that, according to the recently published Humanities Indicators, in 2008, 22 percent of those holding advanced degrees in law (LL.B., J.D., and Ph.D.) had majored in humanities (excluding history). They found that the average test scores of Humanities students who took the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) had average test scores close to or appreciably better than students in the sciences. And that from 1991 to 2000 humanities majors were the highest-scoring group of majors on the MCAT, and from 2001 to 2009 only math and statistics majors scored appreciably higher.

Why are the CEO’s of successful businesses, leading scientists and medical professionals, entrepreneurs and computer programmers not interested in hiring students with only narrow, tech- or profession-based degrees? Why is it that high-tech companies like Cisco and IBM feel that recent graduates lack knowledge to “analyze large amounts of data or construct a cogent argument”? Because, they report, ‘”It’s not a matter of technical skill,” but rather “of knowing how to think.”

Getting a job is not about focusing solely on what you want to do, but looking at the broader picture. Think about including the arts and humanities in your education. They just might be the key to your success.

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Defining Success

Caucasian businessman standing on urban rooftop

We all define success differently.  The cynic in me acknowledges that some measure their success by their bank account, their job title, or their perceived superiority over their friends, neighbors, and coworkers.  The people I enjoy most are those who recognize that success is better measured by assessing happiness, realizing potential, and having reason to both give and receive expressions of gratitude.  At work I have been finding it a challenge to measure success.  We put in long hours, we complete numerous tasks, and we create a great deal of data, briefing slides, and thought pieces, but at the end of the day are we being successful?  I have found that to be an impossible assessment to make because we all too often fail to define success.

Sure we claim success upon the completion of a task, at the end of an assignment, and at fulfillment of a service obligation.  And while admiring our wake, it is rather easy to feel justified in qualifying our contribution as a success.  But just like anything else in life, the easy isn’t necessarily right.  It’s easy because we rarely define success on the front end.  Being an extremely reflective person, I spend my drive home at the end of each workday assessing the contributions and progress made.  As you might imagine, it’s too easy to fool myself into believing what we all want to believe…that the day was a success.

In an effort to help the team to which I currently belong better assess the success we may or may not be enjoying, I have initiated a little experiment.  Each Monday we get together as a team and each Division Chief (Note: The title “Chief” is not used in the Navy sense) communicates their top priorities for completion during the week to the Director.  After the Director either refines or validates the stated intentions, those commitments are documented for all to see on our webpage.  Those commitments define success and serve as our collective main effort for the week.  We make these commitments fully knowing that on Friday we will come back together as a team to assess our performance and hold both ourselves and each other publicly accountable for our ability to deliver on the promises we made to ourselves and our teammates.

Like a growing number of teams in the Department of Defense, we are required to do more and more without the benefit of additional resources.  We need to decide what is most important, as well as which “desirements” will have to fall off of our to-do list.  That said, I have found that too many are unwilling to tell their seniors “No”, only to hurt themselves and/or their team in the name of mission accomplishment despite significant resource shortfalls.  Regardless, it is incumbent upon us to define success, hold ourselves accountable for continued progress, and honestly assess the level of success we are or are not enjoying.  Success is not necessarily a task complete, but an outcome realized.

How do you define success?  Do you make any effort to honestly measure success?  How do you ensure that the time and energy you devote to your profession are in fact worthy of your time (and the pay you are receiving)?

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7 Things You Need to Have in Your Head for Success


1) “It’s here. It’s here. It’s here.”

Your success is already here. You just need to open your eyes, look around and accept it.

In a sense, sure, you’re faking it till you make it, but this at least allows you to start to believe that you’re capable of success.

Also, this allows you to know how lucky and successful you already are. Think about how much better off you’re than others, like the homeless, the hungry child in Africa or your friends who are in debt.

Start telling yourself that success is already here. To say otherwise is only creating a mindset of wanting, and that is showing lack in your life.

2) “I look at how far I’ve come, not how far I am from my goal.”

If you want to reach your goal, then always remember to see how far you’ve come since you started.

Never underestimate that for you’ve done MASSIVE amounts of work and achieved a lot since. It’s easy to downplay this simply because you think you have yet to attain what you want, most commonly riches and fame.

So remember how amazing you are. Just look at how much you’ve done and how come you’ve come. The journey is the goal anyway. It is what that’s going to make you ready for the success you deserve.

3) “I don’t compare myself to others’ success.”

Success is individual. It always will be. Never judge others for the success that they seem to have. You can’t see the full picture.

As said, your journey is what that is going to make you who you are. You absolutely need this! You’re a unique individual and so, trying to following the same path as others will never work out for you.

You need to focus on your own journey all the way. Keep working on yourself and you’ll see how it will unfold for you. You’d eventually create something on your own and that’s amazing.

4) “Be patient.”


It takes time.

Be patient with YOURSELF. Mastery takes a while.

Wanting things to work out fast is like expecting to strike the lottery all the time. It’s only going to make you anxious, fearful and frustrated.

So be patient. Take your time and chill out.

5) “There is no reason to fear.”

The pathway to success is wrought with uncertainty. None of us are psychic. We can’t predict the future.

Yet, you need to embrace uncertainty and make fear your ally.

When you feel scared about something, it means you’re in the right direction. You need to power on through and stop playing safe anyway, because you can fail where you’re safe too.

So stop feeling so scared. Stop whining about how stressed out you are. Stop thinking you aren’t good enough. Just give it a try and do the work. You’ll be surprised with the results.

6) “Look at these other amazing things I’ve done.”

When it comes to success, most people think it’s only about the attaining the money, fame or whatever typical indications.

But we tend to forget about the other things we’re GOOD at.

Maybe you’re a great dancer. An enthusiastic stamp collector. A good son. An astounding street performer. A great friend.

Don’t underestimate the rest of your life during your journey to success!

Never forget who you are. The things you do make you who you are, and that’s awesome.

7) “I’m a badass” (This is where you need to exaggerate.)

Maybe your business is struggling, but you’re still a businessman who answers to no boss! You’re making boss-like moves!

Maybe your articles don’t go viral, but you’re still a writer who dares to share your thoughts online. How many actually dares to do that?! You stand out already like a bright light of pure inspiration!

Maybe you don’t have a six-pack yet, but every time you hit the gym you’re way ahead of those who are sitting on the couch.

You’re a badass!

You’re a spartan.

You’re a boss.

You’re a champion.

See what I did there?

Be more confident in yourself! Stop being so insecure. Your imagination is that powerful so you might as well play it up.

This is how you can produce your best work.

Special bonus for Pick The Brain Readers

I hope you enjoyed the article!

Want more success? Then you gotta be happy. My book will give it you INSTANTLY.

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