How to Cultivate a Positive Mindset (A Step-By-Step Guide)

There is so much material and content around us, spouting essential ingredients of how to be positive in order to gain the success in life you’re chasing. It’s actually overwhelming (not to mention a billion dollar industry!)

You might also have become tunnel-visioned to believe only the secret tips and advice prescribed to us by mindset gurus at sensationalized forums, seminars and conferences can help us. Such stage educators seemed so polished and poised that it’s hard to resist that we can change our thinking without their help.

The truth is that you don’t need to sacrifice your life savings with a coach to turn your mindset around. With this step by step guide, you’ll realize you already have all the ingredients within you and the opportunities around you to start cultivating a positive mindset today. (I’m not denying working with a coach can definitely help. However, you can take a faster route not to mention a less expensive one!)

1. Allow Yourself Feel Negative Emotions

Stop trying to be positive with everything. It’s exhausting, let alone an unrealistic expectation.

Stop listening to everyone’s advice on what you should think. Take back the reins on deciding how you want to feel about something.

Furthermore, you’ll start to be that person everyone wants to be around. To be positive all the time is trying to prevent yourself from being human. We are born with capacity to feel a full spectrum of positive and negative emotions because they all have value, meaning and guidance for us.

When you allow yourself time and space to feel the initial sting of unpleasant emotions, you will find their intensity lessens and their duration shortens. Then, you’ve got more space to start directing your thoughts and focus in a direction that better serves you.

2. Increase Awareness of Your Current Mindset by Seeking Feedback

From those who feedback you trust will be truthful and fairly objective, ask them about what positive and uplifting energy they might experience simply from you being you. Also ask if they can provide examples of how they feel your mindset hinders you rather than helps you.

Asking others for feedback can be a challenging step. By doing so you’re showing you’re considering change. Beware that friends and family can often be bulls in a china shop eagerly dishing you advice and criticism from every angle. If you’re not ready for this, your soft, tender emotional belly will become an unwilling punching bag.

Remember that regardless of who you’re asking, you’re not looking to solicit judgment or opinions. You’re asking them to share with you their observations and experiences. The exercise is purely to help you gain heightened insight and choose where you might start practicing making changes.

If you do feel your feedback sources have misread the exercise as opportunity to stroke their ego, criticize you and lash you with an emotional cat-o-nine tails, don’t retaliate or respond. Thank them for their feedback, park it mentally into a box that you will go back to and review later.

Your after-thought might well be to simply empty the box! However, there also might be some truth the messages they’re giving too.

3. Recognize Unhelpful Thoughts and Language and Practice Reframing Them

Don’t hesitate to catch yourself mid-sentence and work on reframing your words and language.((HDPPG: Four Simple Steps to Reverse Negative Thinking)) Being able to catch yourself is a skill but you can become nimble with practice.

Go back to the unhelpful thoughts you came up with and see if you can make slight modifications to the hindering dialogue simmering in your head. “I can’t do this” might gently become “I feel like I can’t do this.” “That will never happen for me” might become “it hasn’t happened for me yet”.

Pay attention to the difference that different words make you feel. Notice how different sentences make you feel and look for the difference it makes to how others respond to you. Asking yourself if you would speak to a friend or child in the way you speak to yourself can draw incredible self-awareness of how your language works against you.

It can take a few training-wheel sessions with a coach or therapist to help you develop reframing techniques. Applying them long enough for you to start feeling and noticing a difference. The investment is well worth it. The benefit of this skill not only charges your positive mindset; it has a vicarious flow-on effect to those around you.

This guide on stopping negative thoughts maybe useful for you:

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts When You’re Overwhelmed

4. Carefully Choose Situations to Plant the Seeds of Your Positive Mindset

Keep it simple to start with. Only choose one or two contexts in your life where you feel you could practice more positive behavior and/or language changes.

Choose wisely, though. Be careful to avoid starting with situations where you feel – or have been told – you should.

‘Should’ is a word weighted with expectation. It also implies you need redemption because you made a lower-handed choice in the first place. You knew what you could do, be or say and you chose not to. That’s heavy stuff! It’s actually not the best starting point to try cultivating a positive mindset from. Trying to develop from situations tarnished with the stamp of reprimand always feels harder.

Avoid trying to make a massive mindset turnaround in a short space of time. It’s likely you’ll be met with raised eye-brows and a label of being inauthentic. Not being annoyed when your mother-in-law comes around unannounced and stays for hours yet again, might be too big a mindset challenge to start with.

Like a tree seedling needs a foundation of good soil for it to have a fighting chance, a neutral situation will give you a good foundation to practice and grow your positive mindset.

Consider a simple situation that is likely to repeat itself in your everyday life:

  • Greeting people at work when you arrive.
  • Picking up your coffee at the same café each morning on your way to work.
  • You and your partner’s morning routine before you both head separate ways to earn your living.

Choose contexts where you are emotionally and mentally indifferent where you could – not should – test simple behavior or language adjustments. You’re looking for calm steady waters you can set sail on to test new positive mindset strategies, and then observe how people respond to your changes, without pressure and without expectation.

5. Examine Positive Mindsets of People You Admire but Set Your Own Goals

Now you’ve chosen your context to start practicing changes, you now need to decide what changes you’re going to make.

Brainstorming possibilities can be challenging from your current mindset. Make it simpler. Look outside yourself for clues and suggestions.

Whose books inject energy into your soul through their written words? Whose TED talks, interviews and podcasts make you nod in agreement? Who has inspired you to at least make plans to take action toward doing or being what you have always wanted to do? Who are those people? What is it about them that resonates with you strongly?

Study them. Observe their behavior, their language and how they respond to setbacks and adversity. Watch them closely. Now compare what they do to how you normally react in similar situations.

The comparison is to help you gauge what changes you want to aim for in your behavior, your communication and your thinking. Remember, you are not looking to copy these people. The world needs the best of you not a carbon copy of Oprah, Tony Robbins or Jack Canfield!

Besides, there would be nothing more irritating than seeing a highly respected industry expert’s protégé start dressing the same way, trying to call everyone ‘pal’ because the expert addresses his or her trusted staff this way.

People see through copy cats. They are inauthentic and boring at best!

Taking the example of your greeting people in the morning when you arrive at your workplace, your current start to the day may unfurl follows:

  • You don’t acknowledge or talk to anyone in the lift.
  • You say ‘hi’ to the receptionist, Anna, en route to your desk.
  • You robotically say ‘Hi Mary, how are you?’ to your colleague without looking at her, put your bags down, place your suit jacket on the back of your chair and turn on your computer.
  • You sigh as you sit and think to yourself: ‘Same thing, different day; here we go again.’

Now, if you were to put an Oprah-like spin on this same situation, what changes might you aim for? What might feel most natural to you? What changes in your behavior, communication and thinking could you plant here? Let’s play the game again with two potential levels of change:

Do the above mild and marked examples of changes sound and feel like you? If not, rework the possibilities.

Turning up with a coffee unexpectedly for someone could be deemed creepy and very uncharacteristic of you. Changes you make need to feel like you can own them. They might feel strange at first but as people start to respond differently to you, you’ll want to keep exercising these features of your new positive mindset!

6. Exude More Positive Energy Through Your Combined Thoughts and Actions

Spending too much focus on trying to change yourself can derail you. It’s exhausting especially if you’re trying to exercise introspective reflection 24/7!

Ditch that idea and once again, turn your focus outward.

Look at those around you who you feel could do with an emotional or mental hand-up. You’ll not only be helping others, you’ll be greatly benefiting yourself.

In fact, researchers Naomi Eisenberger and Tristan Inagaki found giving can actually be more emotionally and psychologically satisfying than receiving. Their study examining neural activity via functional magnetic resonance imaging found that those who were in receipt of help experienced less stress-related activity, and higher reward-related activity in certain brain parts than those who gave the help.((Psychosomatic Medicine Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine: The Neurobiology of Giving Versus Receiving Support: The Role of Stress-Related and Social Reward–Related Neural Activity))

Being generous with your thoughts and actions not only provides a time-out from your own cognitive swamp. It can kick start your momentum to feeling good about something to start with. When you’re on a roll, you’ll be in a better place to starting doing inward repair work.

7. Be Wary of Unhealthy Co-Dependent Relationships

Whilst it feels good to be needed, it can become dangerous to be needed and depended upon too much.

Looking to sustain relationships where we fall short of experiencing the support, care and understanding fractures our self-esteem. We are prone to developing dysfunctional attitudes and patterns of thinking in such relationships, creating more opportunities to develop depression and other mental health ailments.

Think of the girlfriend who rings up to whinge and complain yet again about how she constantly dates losers or the best mate who’s always asking to borrow $100. She knows you will always listen and will be the shoulder she can cry on, and he is eternally grateful but never pays you back.

It’s one thing to be empathetic and supportive. It’s another to make yourself an emotional and mental dumping ground and enable yourself to be taken for granted. In fact, research has shown that sustaining negative relationships long-term can give rise to serious physical ailments.((Arch Intern Med.: Negative aspects of close relationships and heart disease.))

If you find yourself more often than not to be drawing the short straw, that’s a hint the foundations of your self-worth and esteem might need a review.

Starting to cull such dynamics in your relationships will feel difficult at first. However, a liberating feeling of freedom automatically clears for positive thoughts, ideas and possibilities to organically float into your mindset.

The Bottom Line

A positive mindset is not like a switch that you can just turn on and you suddenly become positive. Building a positive mindset is about taking baby steps in your everyday life.

With this guide, you will be able to cultivate an unwavering mindset and tackle any challenge, obstacle or goal no matter how hard times may become.

More Resources About Staying Positive

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