The other day, I was told of a person who actually lost a friend, because they advocated looking at the positive rather than the negative in the world. We’re often told to have a positive attitude, and not just in self-improvement circles. Main stream advertisers, sports stars, Hollywood, our mothers, our teachers, and our bosses continuously remind us to turn that frown upside down. It’s a great tagline, but society as a whole doesn’t really support this optimistic mentality. We like the idea of it, but quite frankly, people who tend to see the glass as half full, who manage to put a positive spin on almost any situation, are generally seen as naïve, immature and even downright stupid. We’re supposed to face the facts and see things how they really are. We’re supposed to face reality.
The assumption is that if you don’t look the problem square in the face and keep staring at it, you can’t make it go away. But it doesn’t work that way. That’s like trying to appease an aggressive dog by staring it down. All you’ll do is make it angrier. By continuously giving attention and energy to the reality you’ve created by looking at what you don’t want, you just keep re-creating that same reality over and over again. Want a different reality? Try looking at something else; perhaps at what you do want…
I remember a conversation I had a couple of years ago, about the environment and general state of the world. I expressed that I wasn’t at all worried about the world. From my point of view, it is absolutely fine. Big picture wise, the earth and all its inhabitants, will always find their balance. I was immediately bombarded with passionately angry questions. How could I possibly think that way? How could I be so damn naïve? With all the wars and famine, people killing each other, oil companies spewing their poison into our oceans, genetically engineered food, lack of human rights, and whole host of other horrible things that proved that our world was surely about to die a miserable, nasty death, how could I not see the suffering, the horror of it all? How could I be so insensitive and just sit by and do nothing and stick my head in the sand? How could I not look?
My answer: Because I deliberately choose not to.
Most people honestly believe that it is their responsibility as good, caring human beings to seek out and stare down the angry dogs of the world. Let’s look at all the problems we have, and never let them out of our sight. Let’s continue to give all our focus, all our attention, all our energy to the problem. Because we all know what happens: the more energy you give to something, the less of it you get, right? Erm, no. So, how’s that approach working out for us, as a whole? Have we ended up with less wars, less drugs, less human rights violations, healthier food production, less famine, less pollution, less angry dogs?
The more energy you give to something, the MORE of it you get. Perhaps it’s time to try a different approach. Instead of giving all of our energy to the problem, why don’t we give our attention to the solution for a change? Instead of seeing the world as broken, why don’t we envision it as healthy, peaceful and balanced? Instead of focusing on human rights violations, why not see people as loving and respectful?
I don’t have to keep staring at a problem to be aware of it. I can look at it once, acknowledge it and then use it to help me define what I’d rather have instead. And then, I give all of my energy to that vision.
But how does that help the world? First, how does sitting around feeling miserable and helpless help the world? It doesn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact. And no one is saying that we can’t take action. But action taken from a place of fear and/or obligation isn’t going to help. Think of the drug war. There’s plenty of action being taken there, and all we’re getting is more drugs. Huh. Who’d have thought? (sarcasm alert)
Inspired action, taken from a solution oriented place will be a million times more effective every time. Because inspired action is solution oriented, not problem oriented. Every major industrial or technological breakthrough we’ve ever experienced came because someone was willing to envision a different reality – one where the problem no longer existed. How about highlighting the farmers who are making good money off of natural agriculture, so people who want to buy from them will know where to go? How about letting people know it’s possible to make ethical billions by doing a story on the corporations who actually have a conscience (yep, they do exist!) Or showing entrepreneurs who are doing business in the rainforests that are actually benefiting the locals as well as helping to preserve and rebuild the ecosystem? How about looking at everything that’s going right instead of all the stuff that’s going wrong?
And we can’t really blame the media (ok, we can, but it doesn’t solve anything). Remember that the media are just running a business which caters to its customers. With everyone focusing on the negative in the world (the problem), the media cater to that point of view. They show us horrible stories supporting the end of days story. The amount of negative news is completely disproportionately represented though. Far more things go right in the world everyday than go wrong. If no one was willing to look at the bad news anymore, the media would broadcast the good news. They would not cater to an audience that doesn’t exist. The nightly news isn’t causing us to focus on the problem. They portray only the problem because we refuse to focus on the solution.
Even Albert Einstein said “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Being deliberately naïve, consciously unaware of all the problems in the world and holding a vision of what we want the world to be is not immature or stupid. It’s courageous. Be one of the ones who has to courage to go against the bad news grain. Envision the world the way you want it to be and hold steady to that vision. Focus on the solution and don’t let anyone convince you that your approach, the one that you intuitively know is right, is the cause of the state of the world today. We got to where we are, by looking at what we don’t want. If we want to create a different world, we have to do something differently. In fact, one could argue that since the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, it would be downright crazy not to change our approach… 🙂