Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life
A friend of mine, after having lost his job, found out that his home was close to being put into foreclosure. Everything around him seemed negative. Nothing seemed to go right for him, no matter what he did. With the economy in turmoil, people everywhere were losing jobs, and there seemed to be no new job for him on the horizon, no light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Whenever we talked, I noticed how much he would beat up on himself. Everything was his fault, nothing was fixable, his life was going down the toilet and he was surely going to lose everything—his home, his family, eventually even his friends would leave, because he was nothing but a loser. What was he going to do?
I was in nearly the same boat he was in, because I too was unemployed and my home was also in jeopardy of being foreclosed on. But I didn’t feel like a loser then, and I still don’t. What was it that was helping me feel that no matter what came against me, or what I would have to go through, that I was going to be all right? Was I living in denial? Or did I simply have a way of coping that was empowering me to think positive thoughts?
Reigning in Negative Thoughts, Choosing a Positive Path
I haven’t always been able to use the power of positive thinking, even though one of the first books I ever read all the way through was The Power of Positive Thinking, by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. The book belonged to my mother, and was in our home before I was even born. It was such a big, important-looking book, and my mother read and talked about it so much that I knew that one day, I was going to read that book. Still, I went through many trials in life before I learned how to actually apply the principles the book contained. For me, the key was in becoming more aware of the kinds of things that might precede “blue periods” or days of feeling down. I realized that if I paid close enough attention, I could recognize the types of things that made me feel sad or down.
So, I advised my friend to become more tuned-in to his thoughts and inner dialogue, to pay more attention to the things that seemed to trigger the feelings that made him think and say negative things about himself and about his situation. I believed that if he did that, he would begin to a see a pattern emerge, and that by recognizing the pattern he'd be ready to counter his negative thinking before it overwhelmed all his other thoughts.
“Down day” triggers for anyone tend to be things such as losing a very close loved one, losing a pet, a job, or some type of overwhelming financial decision or difficulty you have to face in your life, head on.
Thankfully, my friend listened. One day, he told me he had started visualizing things getting better for him (I had simply given him Dr. Peale’s advice from The Power of Positive Thinking). Instead of thinking negative thoughts about his situation, he started to pray while believing that things would get better. He replaced negative thoughts with thoughts about things he could do, no matter how small, to try to change his situation. In other words, he made up his mind that with things being the way they were, there was just as much of a chance that things could turn around, as there was they would not, and the only difference was in how he allowed himself to think about things.
He knew he had the choice to start thinking good thoughts, or he could keep on thinking bad ones. So he made the choice to engage his faith, and that helped him turn his mind toward positive, helpful thoughts, rather than just dwelling on negative, unhelpful ones. After all, there simply wasn’t a whole lot he could do about his financial situation, but he had complete control over his thoughts. He couldn’t change what had happened to him, but he could definitely change the way he looked at things, and that helped him change the way he was talking to him, about him.
Later, he told me that as he began thinking more positive thoughts, day after day, he started to notice he was no longer always expecting the worst to happen. Sure, he said, he might have been getting ready to lose one home, but he was absolutely convinced through his faith and his faith alone, that a better home or a better place to live was surely on the horizon for him if he lost the one he had. Sure, there would be financial fallout from having gone through the loss of a home, but he chose to believe there was good fortune ahead for him and his family. He had faith; he believed that he would be able to overcome any of the negative effects of losing his home, so that meant he no longer had to worry about losing it. He was going to be all right, no matter what.
The more he believed in positive thoughts, the more things began turning around for my friend. Positive self-talk comforted him, and he was able to finally believe that things in his life could change for the better, even when he saw no evidence that anything was actually changing. After a month of positive thinking, I asked him how it was possible for him to feel that things were changing, when he couldn’t see that they were, and I was surprised when he quoted something I had said to him many times before. Until that day, I never knew how I had gotten through to him. He said, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” He was quoting the same scripture I had offered him many times in the past when he wasn’t able to see any light at the end of his tunnel. I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was in that moment; to know that his faith was his evidence that things were changing. Because he was changing the way he thought about things, he no longer believed only in the possibility of negative outcomes. My friend was choosing to believe in the positive outcomes that had just as much a chance of occurring.
Before long, changing his thinking started helping him to change his actions. A few days after our last talk, he went online and researched potential options to foreclosure, and sure enough, he found one. Ultimately, he was able to arrange a “short sale” of his home, and sold it to his brother-in-law (who became sort of his landlord). That way, he was able to keep his home, legally, and he got a smaller monthly mortgage payment in the bargain! It was a payment that he could manage using his unemployment benefits, and he even had money left over to pay his utilities and buy food.
And even though it did not happen overnight, before long, he was in a better financial situation than before he lost his job. Getting his new mortgage gave him several months when he didn’t have to pay anything, and he used that time to engage in a full-on search for a job. Because his mortgage payments would now be more affordable than before, he was able to find a job paying a little less than what he’d made before. It was now adequate to meet his needs since his monthly expenses were less.
Learning to imagine a positive outcome to his situation, instead of only thinking about negative possibilities enabled my friend to focus on and to expect the best, no matter what. He learned that rather than focusing on the negative possibilities when it came to things that had not yet happened, he could choose to focus on positive ones. He could visualize good things happening just as easily as he could visualize bad things. And no matter what his circumstances seemed to be saying, he realized he didn’t have to agree with them! He could expect the positive, expect the good, and expect the best. By doing that, he was propelled to look for solutions, instead of simply wallowing in self-pity.
© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD