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  • Writer's pictureStarlene Justice

Are You Seeing the Path… or Just the Obstacles?

A positive mindset is not something you are born with.

It is not something that comes at a pre-set level; not something you either possess or don’t. And it’s certainly not something you call forth from the ether by having “positive thoughts.”

It’s something you CULTIVATE in a specific, deliberate way.

Our tendency is to believe that the OUTER informs the INNER; that the circumstances we encounter in life determine our mental attitude.

For example, if you live in a slum, have no job, and suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, you may have a negative mindset (characterized by the belief that most of your actions are doomed to failure, or that the likelihood of you succeeding at anything is already pre-determined because you are starting with such a deficit), which alters your courage, decisiveness, mood, engagement, your tendency toward kindness and empathy, and so on.

But if you have a great job, earn good money, and possess excellent health, it may seem self-evident that these things will inform your mindset and you will tend toward positivity.

Not so.

In fact, it is often a person’s mindset that determines their circumstances, and not the other way around.

How can this be?

How can your being “positive” or “negative” determine whether or not a car runs a red light this afternoon and hits you?

Well, it can’t. And I’m not suggesting that a positive mindset acts like a magic wand to remove all fear, disappointment, struggle, pain, and loss from your life. First of all, if such were the case, I would suggest you not use that wand, since we need these seemingly “bad” things in order to grow and evolve and be fully human. Second, I am using “positive mindset” in a very specific way, so stay tuned to see what I mean.

What your positive mindset can do for you is determine not necessarily what HAPPENS to you, but what you MAKE OF what happens to you. And, interestingly, seeing your circumstances not as a barrier to your success, but as the very situation you need to grow INTO your success makes an enormous difference in the actions you will choose to take.

And ACTION, my friends, is the great catalyst that moves the needle forward in your life.

I remember a time when I was doing a lot of visualization and affirmations (which, by the way, is a great way to begin programming your subconscious in a certain direction), but not taking any attendant action. This was in regard to the writing I had been doing. I was picturing myself as a published author and choosing specific phrases to affirm the same thing—but I wasn’t sending any of my work out. I recall one day having the realization that someone would literally have to come knocking on my door and demand the surrender of those manuscripts I was holding hostage in order for my work to be published. I’m not one to say that something is outright IMPOSSIBLE, but I would say that the odds were pretty strongly against it. I NEEDED TO SUBMIT MY WORK. I needed to take action.

Now, here’s the thing: I could have sat around saying, “I’m not good enough yet,” (and that would have been true) or “This process is going to take sooo long,” (and that would have been true), or “I don’t even know where to send the stuff I write,” (and that would have been true).

You get the point.

A negative mindset would allow all those reasons to take a front seat, which would have the effect of stalling any forward motion. A positive mindset, on the contrary, looks PAST these reasons (excuses?) and sees what CAN be done even in the midst of all the obstacles. This is not just “positive thinking.” This is literally A WAY OF BEING that takes advantage of what CAN be done, even in the midst of a litany of things that CAN’T be done.

It’s a focus on STRENGTHS, not on weaknesses. On ACTION, not on probable outcome. On IMPROVEMENT, not on assured success. On what you WANT, not on what you don’t want. On the things you DO control, not on those you don’t. On the PATH, not on what can divert you from the path. You can literally program your own mind to work this way, and you will see amazing results. Our minds don’t do it automatically. In fact, we are way more adept at seeing the obstacle rather than the way around the obstacle. But both circumstances are “true.”

In the case of my writing, I did start sending stuff out. Just shotgunning it, at first—like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. It took a long time. (My fear was realized). And I had to re-write, and re-write, and re-write (that fear was realized, too). But I did have success. And I believe success is always the outcome when we just keep winding our way through the obstacles toward the things that beckon us. You can choose to see the obstacle, or you can choose to see the path. Where you put your focus will determine your outcomes.

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