Focus on the Positive

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By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN

There’s no question that how you view yourself, other people, and the world around you has a major impact on your ability to be happy and successful.

Unfortunately, it’s human nature to dwell on the negative. We often have negative “tapes” playing in our heads, telling us that we’re not good enough, not smart enough, too old, too young, or whatever the self-doubt du jour is. When someone asks us to recite our weaknesses, most of us can rattle off a handful of negatives without thinking about it.

On the other hand, when asked to list our assets, most of us are at a loss for words. That’s because the negative thoughts are always right up front and ready to roll, while the positive thoughts are buried somewhere in the back, behind the “if only I was” and “if only I had” thoughts. During times of change and transition, negative thoughts and self-doubt take on a life of their own.

It’s easy to be negative and unmotivated, but it takes some work to be positive and motivated. While there’s no off button for those relentless “tapes,” there are things that you can do to turn down the volume and shift your focus from the negative to the positive.

Keep a “Positive” Journal

Pick out the perfect journal for you. What size, shape, color, texture, and design feel right? A spiral notebook or leatherbound, blank-paged book? Take some time to choose, because you won’t use it if you don’t like it!

Now that you have the ideal journal —

  • List your strengths and assets. Think of all the things you do well and what your particular strengths are. Include both work-related skills and personal attributes.
  • Ask someone close to you to tell you what they like about you, what your strong points are, and what you do particularly well. You may be surprised by what you hear.
  • List all of your accomplishments. It may take some time to compile, but start today. Go back as far as you can and write down anything you can think of. Have you graduated from college, raised a great kid, solved a tough problem, or overcome an obstacle?
  • We tend to think in terms of where we are now and where we still want to go. We forget where we’ve already been and all that we’ve accomplished. It’s empowering to look back at your accomplishments. When you see them in writing, you’ll be amazed by all that you’ve done.
  • Take time to remember any positive things — in your personal life as well as your professional life — that people have said to you or about you.
  • List things that you would not change about your life
  • What five memories make you happy? Do they bring up thoughts of friends or family members that you haven’t contacted in a while? Give them a call or drop them a note
  • Gather inspirational quotes, prayers, and sayings that mean a lot to you. Post a few where you’ll see them often — on the refrigerator, on your mirror, on the dashboard of your car, and on your computer.
  • Once you’ve started your positive journal, review it often. Keep adding to it. It’s not enough to just think about these things. You have to write them down and review them often. This is especially helpful when you are feeling down, experiencing self-doubt, or having a bad day.

What Else Can You Do

  • Listen to motivational tapes. There are a slew of them available today. You’ll find them in your local public library or any bookstore. Listen to a few until you find one or two that you like, such as Les Brown’s The Courage to Live your Dreams or Susan Jeffers’s Inner Talk for a Confident Day. Listen to them while riding in the car, exercising, or doing house work. Nourish your mind with positive thoughts.
  • Read inspirational books, including biographies of people who have overcome great obstacles. One that comes to mind is The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller. It’s an incredible book by an amazing woman.
  • Surround yourself with positive, motivated, upbeat people. This is one of the most important things you can do to stay “up.” Some of you are probably thinking, “I would — if I knew some people like that.” Seek these people out, maybe through professional associations. Talk to people you admire and ask them what they do to stay positive and motivated.
  • Let’s face it — many of you are spending your days with people who are negative, dejected, and devoid of spirit and hope for the future. And I’m not talking about your patients. In many cases, your coworkers are the ones dragging you down. You need to get out amongst the living. Go to professional association meetings, conventions, and seminars to meet people who are doing interesting, constructive things with their lives and making a difference. Associate with winners. Their attributes will rub off on you.

Take steps to shift your focus from the negative to the positive. It’ll pay off for you in unexpected ways — when you focus on the positive, that becomes your reality.

Copyright Nursing Spectrum Career Fitness(sm) Online (, All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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