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Holisticonline.com

Are You a Positive Thinker?
by Sue Rotherham

The following questions are designed to help you to decide whether your outlook on life is generally positive or more negative. Read each statement and decide whether is applies more or less to you. If you agree with the statement more than you disagree, then give it a tick. If you disagree more than you agree, than give it a cross. Add up the number of ticks at the end.

1. I always try to please others if I can.

2. I am critical of myself much of the time.

3. I regularly feel under pressure.

4. I often find myself fearful of people or situations.

5. I regularly need to seek help from other people.

6. I tend to bear grudges against people.

7. I often believe that I am in the wrong or that I have failed.

8. Other people often make me feel upset.

9. I feel bad if I make a mistake.

10. I am a perfectionist.

11. I always have lots of things that I should have done.

12. I tend to look on the negative side of situations, usually imagining what will go wrong.

13. I am not clear on where my strengths and weaknesses lie.

1-4 ticks Your attitude to life on the whole is relatively positive. It is likely that you set realistic goals for yourself and usually achieve them. If you fail, you are able to look on the situation as a learning experience and move on to your next success. You probably have a positive self-image and view other people in the same light. You are quite possibly living up to your potential in your career and home life.

5-9 ticks There are almost certainly areas in your life which could be improved by a more positive attitude. The achievement of your goals, the way that others view you and the image that you have of yourself would benefit from some analysis and change in approach. Your quality of life and your achievements have some room for improvement through a more positive attitude.

10-13 ticks The negative view that you have of yourself and your life is almost certainly having a negative impact on your achievements. A more positive approach to everyday situations, a better self image and a belief in your ability to succeed could make a big impact on your quality of life and your achievements.

If you gave yourself more than 5 ticks, read through the following suggestions, which deal with each statement in more detail. Make a note of the ideas that appeal to you most, and make a positive commitment with yourself to put them into practice.

1. I always try to please others if I can.

"Other peoples' wants and needs are generally more important than my own. If I can go out of my way to help them I will. Then if there's time left, I'll concentrate on my own plans."

This particular view of the world can be a difficult one to change, since the positive feedback gained from helping other people can be addictive. And indeed there is always a time for thinking about other people more than yourself. However, taken to its extreme, it means that your goals and aspirations are never achieved. The chance for you to improve your career, your quality of life and your relationships is lost as you focus all your attention on helping other people achieve their goals. Understanding the difference between being 'aggressive', 'assertive' and 'passive' may help here. 'Aggressive' individuals put the achievement of their own goals before everyone else's and they are the kind of people who will happily enlist your support. 'Passive' people are those who will always put others needs before their own. And finally, 'assertive' individuals are those that can look objectively at a situation and decide which activity is the most appropriate at the time. Develop your assertiveness skills. Learn the art of saying 'no' politely. Remember that achieving your own goals is as important as helping others. You have the right to choose which you do.

2. I am critical of myself much of the time.

"I know that my skills aren't good enough, I don't have the talent to achieve, I don't like myself very much."

Its easy to get into a downward spiral of self doubt, especially if people around you give you sympathy, which just reinforces your view of yourself. Then, every failure is an added reinforcement and before you know it, you have a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby you convince yourself to fail and you succeed in doing so. Positive messages are the key to getting you out of this downward spiral. With each small success, praise yourself. Give yourself a reward or a treat. Remind yourself of how and why you succeeded. Seek positive feedback from other people. Get yourself into a virtuous circle of praise and success. Expect it to happen and it will.

3. I regularly feel under pressure.

"I suffer from the physiological effects of stress such as high blood pressure and the psychological effects such as binge drinking and excessive smoking. I often miss deadlines and seem to be achieving less-the more I work."

Make a list of all the activities you are involved in over a day or a week. Decide on those that are important and must be completed. Then look at those which are not important, but still take up your time, like reading junk mail for example. Make a plan to ditch those activities that have no importance, or at least limit the time they take. And those that are important and contribute to your happiness and wellbeing - give them priority.

4. I often find myself fearful of people or situations.

"I find myself avoiding certain situations in which I know I am going to feel uncomfortable, or worse, scared stiff. It's stopping me progressing at work, it's limiting my social life, I'm not achieving what I know I should."

Being scared may not necessarily take the form of blind panic, but may be a very mild version, which results in you avoiding situations without really knowing why. Firstly, try to establish which situations you are avoiding and whether there are any similarities between them. Do you avoid speaking to large groups of people? Do you dislike challenging projects at work? Are there certain types of people you avoid? If there is an obvious cause to these problems, such as lack of communication skills, or lack of experience in an area, you may already have your answer in order to overcome it. Failing that, picture yourself in a situation where you succeeded beyond your expectations. Remind yourself of how you felt, what you thought about, what the outcome was. Take deep breaths, completely relax your whole body - bit by bit, imagine that you are succeeding again and keep those images with you.

5. I regularly need to seek help from other people.

"I know I won't manage this on my own, I'm not capable, I've never done it before, I don't know how. Someone always helps me, I know I need some support."

Its very easy to find people to help when you're feeling insure or unconfident. That's partly because people get a buzz from being needed and from your gratitude. Or, more negatively, it can reinforce the power that they have over you which makes you dependent. This mindset can become so ingrained that ultimately you feel powerless to achieve anything on your own. Start by identifying your own strengths and positive attributes. What have you succeeded at in the past, however insignificant? Set some achievable goals, that you know require no help from other people. Give yourself a reward when you succeed. Build up to some more challenging goals. Use your skills and talents, if you need to know more-then learn. If you don't have the skills, then practice. You have an unfailing ability to develop your skills and abilities. As humans we are able to acquire knowledge, learn new skills, change our perspectives and develop our personalities in whatever direction we choose. Decide to achieve on your own and then learn what you need to in order to fill in the gaps.

6. I tend to bear grudges against people.

"I can't forget when someone does something to hurt me. It eats away at me and I get more and more bitter. I find it hard to forget and move on."

Being hurt by someone, especially if they are close, can be very difficult to forgive and forget. When the consequences have been a negative effect on your career or on your personal life, it can seem impossible to forgive. But forgiveness isn't always possible or necessary. It's the negative impact on you of dwelling on the incident that needs to be considered. You may not need to forgive, but you certainly need to forget and move on. The amount of time and energy used up in feeling bitter, planning revenge, or just feeling bad can be considerable. All it does is use up valuable time and energy that you could be using to achieve your own goals. Focus your thoughts and energies on what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it. Block any negative thoughts about other people from your mind. And if this isn't possible, analyze the reason why you were hurt in the first place, confront it, or the person, agree to put it behind you both and move on.

7. I often believe that I am in the wrong or that I have failed.

"I expect to fail before I start out, or I assume that people will think badly whatever I do. I am in the habit of talking myself into failure even when the chances of success are high."

Set yourself some achievable goals, ones which you know you can't fail at, like getting the car washed or writing a short report. Celebrate your successes. Establish your own set of values which you can stand firmly by. Make sure your actions are based on your own set of values and remind yourself that whatever you do is right for you and that other people have their own set of values which are no more valid to you than your own.

8. Other people often make me feel upset.

"I often find myself thinking, "he really upset me when he said that", or, "if she does that, I'm going to get angry"."

Believe it or not, we are entirely in control of our reactions to other people and situations. The foundation of positive thinking is the acknowledgement of that fact. If you know that you are able to react in any way you choose to any situation, you will be able to choose to react positively and in a way which benefits you. For example, if someone criticizes something you have done, try evaluating why they have chosen to do that. Are they right? If so, great, a chance to learn by your mistakes and improve your skills. Is there a hidden agenda? If so, identify it and deal with their problem if you choose to. Are they wrong? If your actions meet your own goals and set of values, then there is no need to react badly.

9. I feel bad if I make a mistake.

"I take it hard when things go wrong. I always blame myself and think that I should have done better. I'm very often feeling sorry for myself and thinking that things never seem to go my way."

Life rarely goes well all the time for everyone. Expecting success and positive results from everything you undertake is unrealistic. However, those individuals who seem to have the most success in their lives are the ones that tend to be more resilient and bounce back more easily when things do go wrong. Things may well have gone pear-shaped, but don't look for excuses and reasons to blame yourself. Consider how to turn the situation around. Expect some negative feelings, but acknowledge them and move on. Don't accept too much sympathy, it just gives more credibility for your feelings of self-doubt. Make sure your objective was realistic in the first place. If it had no chance of success then change it. Remember your strengths and past successes. Work on the basis that you will succeed and try again.

10. I am a perfectionist.

"I tend to revisit the minor detail of activities over and over until I am sure that every last thing is absolutely right. I spend lots of time finishing projects to perfection. I criticize myself and others if things aren't absolutely right."

Perfectionism is a useful skill, especially if you have a job like air traffic control. The ability to take care in getting something done right is a very useful attribute and used appropriately can add significantly to your successes in life. The problem arises when it becomes obsessive and to the detriment of you and other people. Many activities in life do not require perfection and the pursuit of it uses up valuable time when you could be achieving other important things. Save your need for perfection for those things that are important to achieving your long term goals. Mowing the lawn can be done well, but not perfectly. That job application for a position you have always wanted would benefit from more care and attention. Learn to prioritize those activities which really need perfection and those that just need getting done quickly.

11. I always have lots of things that I should have done.

"I find myself procrastinating about many things in my life. I am always going to get around to doing something, but never seem to. Either I find something much more exciting to do, I decide the task is unachievable, I know someone else will do it if I wait long enough, I get bored easily and leave things unfinished or I just can't get myself organized."

The first line of attack here is to find out why you aren't achieving. Is it laziness, is it lack of self esteem, is it the inability to concentrate on one activity? Once you're clear on why, you're in a better position to deal with the problem. One of the easiest ways out of this predicament is to have a clear set of long and short term goals for your life and then make up a prioritized and timed 'to do' list. Make these activities achievable and rewarding. Give yourself a treat when you have completed them. Be clear on the benefits to you in putting in the effort. Then make a commitment to yourself (or someone else) to achieve them.

12. I tend to look on the negative side of situations, usually imagining what will go wrong.

"From experience, I just know I won't succeed. Things always go wrong, I always fail. Why should I try again when I know what the outcome will be?"

Getting stuck in this negative frame of mind can be very destructive. You immediately see the downside to every situation, the possibilities for things going wrong, or reasons why you will fail. Having put so much energy into identifying all these possibilities, its then unsurprising that they are more likely to happen. Getting yourself into an upward spiral of positive thoughts and therefore success is the key here. Try using positive language.. "I can, I will, when I achieve..". Start with a positive frame of mind and a smile. Be bright, energetic, enthusiastic and don't accept anything less than success. Avoid negative people. There's lots of them out there, those who will tell you why you can't, or why it won't work. You can't change them, so avoid them. Be creative. Use your ability to generate positive ideas and approaches. Don't get burdened with problem-solving unless you have to. And finally, think positively about other people and the more practice you get, the more positively you will view yourself.

13. I am not clear on where my strengths and weaknesses lie.

"I have never really analyzed what I'm good at and as a result I think I am in the wrong job, or I may be involved in activities that don't make the best of my talents."

Think about the successes you have had in your life. What prompted them. Was it to do with your knowledge, your skills, your abilities, your personality? Is there some common factor that links these successes together like your ability to communicate, or your motivation and drive? Now think about your weaknesses in the same way. What prompted the failures in your life so far? Are there any common causes? Now having identified them, can any of these weaknesses be remedied. Can your knowledge be updated. Can your skills be improved. And those weaknesses that cannot be changed, how can they be minimized? For example, if your leadership skills are poor, maybe you should direct your career towards a technical specialist role instead.

No one can be positive all the time, but if you find that your glass tends to be half empty much more than its half full, then try sitting down on a regular basis and reflecting on your life. "Count your blessings", remember your successes, your good qualities and your strengths. Think about the potential that there is in your life to achieve anything that you set out to achieve. Take lots of time to relax and reflect, get a realistic plan in place based on some achievable goals and expect nothing less than unrivalled success.

Sue Rotherham is a Relationship Coach advising clients through her site at http://www.relationship-advice-online.com. She has many years of experience in multi-national organisations enabling individual and team relationships to achieve their full potential.

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