Positive Thinking

Often being optimistic is considered as positive thinking. But positive thinking does not end there. Over the years, I have learned that there are a lot many other ways in which one needs to have positive thinking.

When I was a boy, my father asked me to search for a bottle in a crowded cupboard. I was sure that the bottle was not there. I told him that. He asked me to search there. I did a reluctant cursory search and declared that it was not there, as I had told earlier. Later, when he searched in the same cupboard, he found the bottle. We face many such situations. Often we search “not to find” the object, than “to find” the object. Before searching for anything, we should pause a moment to align our attitude to ensure that we search to find the object, and not to prove that it is not there. This applies even when searching for a solution to a problem or when seeking some direction in life. Of course, when searching for probable theories, we need to wear the proverbial Black Hat after finding some possible solutions, to reject illogical theories.

When I was at Sonim Technologies, I worked with Dr. Thomas Hornung, who was our CTO. I learned another subtle aspect of positive thinking from him. There was a way of doing something, about which there was a divided opinion. Thomas felt that it will work. The team, that was supposed to work on it, felt it will not work. There was no way other than to try it out. Before starting the trial, Thomas pointed out that the team should not subconsciously get into a mode to prove their point that it will not work. If it works, it is good for everyone. So the focus should be on getting it to work. Often when we get to do a job, subconsciously we would be actually working against the very thing, so that later we can say, “I told you so” or “I knew it will not work”. Before starting a challenging task, we should pause a moment to align our attitude to ensure that we are working towards the solution and not against it.

Often a sense of false respect to someone puts us in a negative attitude. I have seen people talking to some monks. They say something like, “Oh, we are mere householders. Spiritual progress is not easy for us.” They think talking like this is a mark of respect to the monk. I feel very sorry for such people. When you have already declared something is not possible or very difficult, it becomes highly improbable that you will achieve it. To be able to achieve something, it is important to move around with people who have achieved it. It is also important to believe that you are on the way to achieving the same. Then it sends a message to our subconscious mind that it is normal to achieve it. It is just a matter of effort. It is for this reason, that the scriptures recommend Satsangha (company of holy people) as a very important activity to spiritual aspirants. It is simple: you cannot achieve something that you think is impossible.

Occasionally, some people do not work out to their full potential. At work, it is common to put under-performers into a “Performance Improvement Plan”. Their performance will be evaluated continually over pre-defined targets for a pre-defined duration, based on which it will be decided to let them continue or let them go. When getting into such a situation, often, we get into a subconscious attitude of wanting them to fail, which is bad and not fair. We need to pause and align our attitude to ensure that we want them to succeed. A similar thing happened when a tenant could not pay the rent for a few months because he was facing some setbacks in his business. I wanted him to pay and continue. Some friends suggested to ask him to vacate. I had to follow up with the tenant. Sometimes, I had to talk tough to ensure that he is not able to pay, and not merely not wanting to pay. Now, I had to align myself. Do I want him to succeed in his business or not? Do I want him to be able to pay the rent or vacate without being able to pay? The same situation arises when you want to handle someone who is delaying a deliverable, on which you depend on. It is easy to blame him, call him incompetent, etc. Often when we do that, we subconsciously want him to fail, so that we can exhibit our ego. We forget that if he succeeds, it will save us a lot of trouble.

This “wanting someone to fail” manifests in so many other negative attitudes. We savor bad infrastructure so that we can rant about it. We love complaining about traffic. We love giving advice to others on their failures. We need to constantly tell ourselves that we want others to succeed. We want everyone to do their best.

Positive thinking is not just being optimistic. It is having your goals, attitude and efforts aligned together. It is essential for effective efforts towards any undertaking.

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