We cannot choose our circumstances in life, but we can choose the way we will respond to them.
The older I get, the more I realize just how important my attitude is to the direction my life takes.
I didn’t decide where I would be born or in what time period. I can’t control the weather, the economy or the outcome of any political election … at least not by myself.
What I can control is my attitude. It’s the one thing I, alone, control. I’m responsible for how I choose to react to every circumstance in life.
I’m a big fan of social media. I believe it’s enabled the church to share its message with more people than ever before. But it’s not all positive. In fact, social media has also exposed us to more negativity than we’ve ever experienced before. And because of this, it’s easier than ever to drift into all out negativity in our outlook.
While I don’t believe that positive thinking solves every crisis, I do believe being positive in our outlook is always better than the alternative. It’s always helpful to assume the best about people and to stay hopeful.
The question is, if I’ve drifted into a state of negativity that has affected my relationships and personal well-being, how do I become a positive person again?
I believe you can become a more positive person overnight! And all it takes is three simple practices:
1. Go to Bed Expressing Both Gratitude and Hopefulness.
You have no idea how powerful it is to express gratitude.
It’s powerful on a mental level because it puts us in a healthier frame of mind. It’s powerful on a spiritual level because it reflects our hopefulness that God is in control. And it’s powerful on a physical level since our bodies were designed to release endorphins when we think thankful thoughts.
We need to express gratitude for the big things and the little things we’ve experienced both recently as well as in our past.
And we also need to express hopefulness about whatever may happen the next day. I can’t always control what’s coming, but I can believe the best in advance.
2. Wake Up Expressing Both Gratitude and Hopefulness.
That’s right. Wake up and repeat those thoughts of both gratitude and positive expectations.
I don’t believe there’s anything mystical about this. I reject the idea that a non-living “universe” is somehow bound to magically send positive circumstances into our lives just because we think we should be happy and comfortable. The fact is, life is often hard and brings unexpected pain our way that we never desired. But I do believe that part of our humanity is the need for hope—the need to believe that the best is yet to come.
As a Christian, I believe that the best is always yet to come. While our bodies will naturally age, our spirits can grow onward into eternity. And the world we are experiencing now is nothing to be compared with the kind of world God is preparing for his followers. On a practical level, you will always be better off during a crisis if you were cultivating healthy, positive thinking leading into it than if you were living in a negative thinking pattern.
3. Practice Moment-by-Moment Intentionality in Choosing Your Attitude.
This takes a lifetime to perfect, but you can get started with it today.
Every time you experience something or interact with someone, you have two directions to go in your thinking. You can drive toward a positive reaction or a negative one.
Some years ago, I was on a mission trip in Russia. We took a half a day to tour parts of Red Square and the Kremlin, and we took a subway on the way there. I made a terrible rookie mistake and put my wallet, with $1,400 in cash (all I had with me on the trip) in my back pocket, making it an easy target.
Just as the doors of the train were closing, someone shoved me from behind onto the train and the doors closed. In that one second, my wallet was in someone else’s pocket on the outside of the train.
Thankfully, I had my passport in an inner pocket of my jacket, where my wallet should have been as well. But I was still cashless, and that’s a problem when you’re in a foreign country.
In that moment, I made the decision that I would be thankful for the tough learning experience and the story I’d get to tell repeatedly later instead of getting angry. The fact was, my anger wouldn’t have changed the circumstances anyway.
I smiled at my traveling companion and said, “Guess what? My wallet just got stolen.” He didn’t believe me, at first, because of the grin on my face.
We got through it. Some really good friends wired cash to a pastor in Moscow who made an ATM withdrawal to get me through the rest of the trip. I survived and still have very fond memories of the trip.
When someone is short-tempered or grumpy with you, you get to intentionally choose your next thought. When your tire goes flat or you’re involved in a fender bender—your fault or someone else’s—you get to choose your next thought.
It’s not easy because life’s not easy. But it’s doable.
Go to bed expressing both gratitude and hopefulness. Get up in the morning repeating those thoughts. And then, throughout your day, practice intentionally choosing how you will think about every interaction and unexpected circumstance.
You’ll become a more positive person starting tonight!
This article was originally published on BrandonCox.com.