Be positive but stay realistic

Taking a positive approach to life doesn’t mean being unrealistic.

I’m excited. I’m happy to report that I’m spending a fair amount of my time at the moment working on a new and innovative approach to emotional health management, which I genuinely believe has the potential to really and truly help – well – millions.

When I’m able, I’ll tell you more, but for now I’d simply like to talk about a philosophical discussion I’m having with myself which is what you’d call a mood state which is exactly midway on a scale which has Extremely Unhappy at one of its ends, and Extremely Happy at the other.

If your own mood was at that point, what would you call it? Neutral? Neither happy or unhappy? Quite happy? Quite UNhappy?

It’s a tricky one, which I’m wrestling over, so would genuinely love to hear what Moodnudgers think, probably in the comments below.

My bigger point right now, though, is that when it comes to evaluating our current state I think it’s all too easy for you and I to see things in black and white when it would be better to recognise that there are actually many shades of grey between these two extremes.

What do I mean? Well let’s imagine your day is just starting, but unfortunately you’ve had a restless night, tossing and turning with anxiety about something which probably got completely out of perspective during the wee small hours.

Do you try to take a positive approach to the new day, bouncing like Tigger and trying to ignore your worries?

Or do you begin your morning like a pessimistic, gloomy and depressed Eeyore, excusing your bad temper to all those around you because of your bad night?

Frankly, the former is unlikely and unrealistic. The latter, however, helps nobody, least of all yourself.

Better by far to approach things somewhere towards the positive end of that Unhappy/Happy continuum – the closer to it, the better. But not so close that like Icarus you melt your wings off.

Taking a positive approach works best when it’s sustainable: kind of positive-ish is good to aim for.

Negative-ish is not always so helpful – although now and then inevitable, I know.

Let’s both hope for a spot of positivity today, though.

25 thoughts on “Be positive but stay realistic

  1. Hi John,
    Neutral sounds like a good word to describe that mid-zone.
    Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to Great’ talks about the need to face the brutal facts while at all times remaining positive and holding a belief that you will prevail. It’s a strategy that works well based on his research.
    I think the ‘positivity movement’ has not served us well in so far as it invites us to focus exclusively on the positive. I met a man at a seminar I was delivering recently and at the coffee break he made a point of telling me there were a lot of ‘negative vibes’ around the room and then went on to show me a rubber band on his wrist which his NLP trainer had given him. When he encounters negativity he gives this band a pull and ‘snaps himself out of it’. That will be valuable, I thought, when his mother dies…..he’ll be over it in a flash!
    There is a thin line between positivity and delusion and one we need to be aware of. Recognising positivity and negativity as opposite ends of the same charge and becoming aware of our relationship to either or both of them is important. It’s that kind of strategic perspective that adds value rather than a strategy of seeking universal positivity I believe.



  2. I have a phrase that I tell myself, when on the in between or perhaps at risk of an Eeyore day which is
    ‘I am doing OK’. It’s neutral and undemanding of me-but I find it really helpful (and sometimes I might add an ‘all things considered’ thought)
    So my in between status would be simple ‘OK’

    1. I think that’s good. I must admit, I hadn’t given it a name as such but a Scottish friend of ours used to say “fair to middling”, if ever you asked him how he was, so in our family, we tend to use that.

  3. If I’m im the middle I call it ‘OK’
    It’s an okay place to be – either a rest stop on a climb or a perch on a slippery slope!

  4. I think the middle ground for me I describe as “content”.

    Not deliriously happy not so sad and unhappy I want to change my whole life.

    Happy with life as it is as it’s going just content. It feels peaceful to be here.

  5. Halfway between awful and great… a bit like is my cup full or empty – to which I try to reply “it is only half full at the moment, but someone/thing is on their way to refill it” .. it sort of gives me hope when I need it.
    As Judy has just put it… it is ok …but could do better

  6. I understand what you are saying Jon. I sometimes have days which are neither up nor down and I sort of feel alright. I wonder if these are normal days which many people who do not suffer from any form of depression feel every day. I prefer the up days of course which are very rare and they are so so good precisely because of the contrast between the down days. Since may people do not have down days, really down days I mean (from lack of deep sleep in my case night after night), they don’t have the occasional highs . So I tell myself that these alright days I experience from time to time and more often now, are actually the best ones in terms of being a normal member of the human race. I hope this makes sense.

  7. I do relate to this question. I had the same debate with myself about how to “rate” the entire year 2013 which was full of extremes. My mum became ill and died, with many hard episodes between but, while this was happening, I started some work that I loved and met some fantastic people. In this case, it would be nonsense to “average out” the year and say it was neutral or just ok. It was full-on living! So, in terms of rating my mood on a single day, I am thinking of having a few categories. The idea is that if I survey my mood in relation to a few different spheres (say, work, friends, family, creativity) some may be down but some will be up and that may keep the Eeyores from taking over.

  8. ‘Fine’ is my magic word. It’s socially acceptable and polite when asked ‘How are you?’, by acquaintances; it allows one to take control of one’s own world if been pushed around by anyone ‘who knows me better than I know myself’; it suggests that we are all allowed to be ourselves. Generally my ‘fine’ is pretty active and upbeat. Others ‘fine’ can be rather headless chicken and therefore not very productive (but that’s just how they are); other peoples ‘fine’ to me would feel like depression.

    Today I’m fine. This means (for me) that I get out of bed when I wake up (providing I’ve had minimum 6.5 hours sleep). I make tea/coffee, feed cat, empty dishwasher, eat breakfast, put away aired laundry, go to gym for a workout, return by 9.30 a.m. to start the day.

    Being fortunate to work only part part time a start to the day, as above, leaves me with the whole day to do just what feels right for me on the day! Today, freshly made soup and bread for lunch and a 20 minute sleep after.

    So fine is fine – choice is the real luxury and of course sleep!

  9. I immediately though of content. I do agree with a previous poster that here in Scotland the phrase ‘fair to middling’ is commonly used to cover not happy but not unhappy.

  10. Difficult. “content” to me denotes an element of happiness as are human beings truly content without satisfying a need for happiness?

    Is it actually possible to be in a zone where you are not happy or unhappy. I would have thought that you are one or another, unless you have numbed your emotions and are in fact in a “null” state of denial of apathy.

  11. Jon, do a google search on ‘wild love – emotional scale’ and Google books will show you an extract from the book Wild Love. For me it encapsulates the fact that you can’t jump from abject despair to joy, but have to actively pick an emotion between the two on the emotional scale, and from there you can move upwards.
    Love you!
    Kate x

  12. ‘Content’ was the word used on the old EST Integrity Tone Scale to denote a roughly neutral point between the mildest “positive” and “negative” emotions. (I don’t know how I pulled this obscure fact out of my memory given that I’ve never been involved in EST in any way.)

    However, to me ‘content’ has positive connotations.

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