What the heck does “positive” mean, anyway? Here are 22 ways I’ve come to understand “positivity”

I picked the word “positive” for this blog because I think that, if I am limited to one word, “positive” best represents the message I am trying to convey, and the way I want to live my life.

No one word can be a catch-all for everything meaningful. Far from it. But I like the word “positive” because I find that it covers so many different situations and approaches. Here are my ideas of the many meanings of the word “positive,” as well as a link to an article from this blog for each particular meaning:

  1. Forward-looking. Looking to the future. Focused on the potential, the millions of ways a situation can change and develop, as opposed to what is static and unchanging. This is critical especially if you are dissatisfied with things as they are, and want change. Related article
  2. Transformational. How we evolve and grow over time, as opposed to just “who we are right now”; who we become, and how we become these new, enhanced versions of ourselves.  Related article
  3. Inspirational. Positive things give you ideas, get you thinking about the marvels of what could be created – they put you in touch with the extraordinary. Related article
  4. Optimistic. Not permanently so – but generally aware, throughout everything, that where there is change, there are opportunities to learn and grow and evolve, and that this is a good thing. Related article
  5. Constructive. Focused on what can be agreed upon and built, rather than what can be fought over and destroyed. Always ready to propose an alternative way when criticizing something. Related article
  6. Learning and growth-focused. Critical thinking, the ability to take several different points of view and examine each of them for understanding, is a very positive skill. It’s what allows new doors to open when old doors slam shut. Related article
  7. Rich in meaning. Having a significance beyond just what is obvious. Appreciating the deeper context and complexity of things, and how no one person is master of it all. Related article
  8. Rooted in the truth. Not just desiring truth, but also welcoming it as much as possible, even when that truth is hard to deal with. Only when you are clear on how things really are can you truly see where they might go. Related article
  9. Curious. What better characteristic to embody in order to find such truth? Positive thinkers are curious people by nature. It’s easier to be optimistic when you are comfortable with your curiosity. Related article
  10. Fostering open-mindedness. Positive thinking shows us how to take in and be ready for that which is unexpected, outside-the-box, and new to our understanding – so that we may accept and even welcome such unexpected things in all their truth and better understand what the next steps are. Because denying something doesn’t make it untrue or non-existent. Related article
  11. Having a sense of inherent integrity. As in, confident in one’s own validity of thought. This doesn’t mean you are always right, or that you aren’t open to changing your mind. What it does mean, however, is that you understand that what you think still matters just as much as what the next person thinks even if you are wrong, and even if you do change your mind. Related article
  12. Respecting other beliefs, and actively striving to understand their value. Why would some beliefs that appear crazy and outlandish be so popular? Positive folks like to find these things out. Related article
  13. Promoting validation, empathy, and dignity. There is so much out there that judges us, makes us feel lonely and unstable, shames us, tears us down, makes us feel insecure, tries to break us, guilt-trips us, and so on. Positivity is the complete antidote to all this: ideas and actions that make us feel validated, like we belong, like we are stable, solid, secure, whole, undaunted by our fears, unashamed of who we are, and so on. Related article
  14. Fostering intimacy. All kinds of intimacy. People breaking down walls, getting closer to each other, learning how to form mutual trust. These are all important parts of a positive life process. Related article
  15. Emphasizing universal humanity and common cause. What I mean by this is captured in sayings like “an injury to one is an injury to all,” or Martin Luther King Jr’s “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” However, these sayings focus on the negative side of things. The positive interpretations would be “when you are healed, I am healed also,” or “when justice prevails somewhere, the cause of justice is advanced everywhere.” Related article
  16. Promoting a sense of contribution and purpose. Why do some people who “have it all” get depressed, while other people whose everyday lives are an awful struggle not only seem to be optimistic and content, but also actively inspire others? Having a sense of contribution and purpose has an awful lot to do with it. If you’ve ever asked yourself “why am I here?” then you know how important this stuff is. Even folks who don’t know it’s important, however, can really suffer from not understanding how they are supposed to fit in and harmonize with whom and what surrounds them. “Positive” things help us get in touch with that. Related article
  17. Encouraging sound mental and physical health. I believe these two things are intimately related; often, what we think is influenced by what we do, and vice versa. Although this blog mainly relates to the mental portion of things, I’ll be the first to attest to the benefits of biking to work in the winter, an activity that makes me feel alive and unfazed by the cold. Definitely a good way to set a positive state of mind. Related article
  18. Encouraging free, open, and safe exploration of our more primal desires. So much of the shame out there relates in some way or another to sexuality and power dynamics – and the shame compounds itself when we can’t have a clear conversation about it. Martial arts is often a positive place to explore physical movement and contact in a safe space, and movements that aim to free sexual culture from unnecessary constraints are often called “sex-positive,” of course. Related article
  19. Seeking emotional harmony. Many folks want to be happy, or free of pain and fear. We all know deep down, however, that you can’t truly appreciate happy moments without some less happy ones mixed in to give perspective. Positive people understand that there is a time to be sad also, and a time to admit pain and fear so it can be dealt with – because if you don’t, you will be stuck in the same place, and it will be harder to move “forward.” Related article
  20. Striving for balance, well-roundedness, and adaptability. Recognizing that growth, development, and knowledge happen in many different ways, and that each separate way has a contributing value. Often, the values that are hardest for us to embrace are the ones that will teach us the most, because they represent where we are most unbalanced and least well-adapted; these are often the paths to the greatest treasure troves of meaning. Related article
  21. Accepting of imperfection, and our inability to change certain things. This is something I personally want to get good at the older I get. It seems to me that when I interact with elderly folks, those who have a broad ability to accept things they can’t change fare much better than those that continuously brood about how things should or would be different. Related article
  22. Having a living sense of humanity – and humor! As seeeerious and deeeeep as all this stuff sounds, none of this in any way replaces the need to be able to break from “logistical progress norms” and just let your hair down! The Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, for example, is a super-intelligent guy who meditates on stuff for years on end (talk about serious!), but often laughs and tells a joke when things get very serious just to shake things up and get folks laughing and feeling their humanity. Related article

I hope this provides some understanding as to the breadth of what is meant by “positive,” at least when I use this term. It really is much more than any one thing, and I think that this combination of things is what makes the concept of positivity so powerful and full of promise.

This entry was posted in Beliefs and worldview, Debate!, Healing, Pass on the positivity!, Personal reflections, Zany or uncategorized stuff and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What the heck does “positive” mean, anyway? Here are 22 ways I’ve come to understand “positivity”

  1. I’m so IN LOVE with this post!! Thank you 🙂 Nice work!!

  2. Pingback: Positive thinking should be valued higher than other kinds of thinking | Positive Juice


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