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Problems, solutions, focus, and the limits of positive thinking in personal development March 16, 2012

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Solving Problems.
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There are times in most of our lives when we feel overwhelmed by problems, when the mere thought of starting or continuing with a life-changing personal growth or personal development seems beyond our capabilities.  And so, in these circumstances, we may tend to turn to an over-simplified type of positive thinking, often in the form of affirmations as a hoped-for way out of our dilemma.

And indeed, positive thinking is important as a starting point, but thoughts alone will not solve our problems. Tony Robbins emphasizes this point in his book Notes From a Friend: A quick and Simple Guide to taking Charge of Your Life.”

At slightly over 100 pages, this personal growth book is much smaller, more concise, and speaking personally, I found it easier to digest and implement than Robbins’ other books, such as Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within,  which number in the hundreds of pages and which are very detailed in terms of step-by-step programs to follow.

Robbins comments, “…positive thinking alone is not enough to turn your life around. You must have some strategies, some step by step plans for changing how you think, how you feel, and what you do every single day that you’re alive.”

He points out that our thinking and our belief systems ( including positive thinking) although not a cure-all, can play an important role, however, in getting us in a proper mindset for moving forward and achieving success in our personal growth efforts. He gives us this advice: “The only thing that’s necessary to make this work for you right now is to begin to believe that it is possible to change. The past doesn’t matter. Whatever hasn’t worked in the past has nothing to do with what you’ll do today. What you do right now is what will shape your destiny…You can’t ‘beat yourself up’ about what’s happened; instead you must immediately focus on solutions instead of problems.”

I could have used this advice about concentrating on solutions instead of problems, a number of years ago, when as a freelance consultant, I was at a low point in my finances. I had just left a business I had helped personally start and develop for five-plus years. I had been working full days every day on it, but revenues were not enough to live on, and so I had used up most of my savings trying to keep the thing going. Finally, I had to recognize that it was not going to work, and cut myself loose.

For some time, however, instead of making an effort at developing a program of goals for finding a solution to my financial problems, I spent a lot of time just worrying about the situation. Needless to say, this was not productive, as the time spent in fretting about the financial difficulties did nothing to relive the situation regarding the need for money. I was really focusing on the past and what had gone wrong (problems) instead of looking towards the future (solutions).

Eventually however, I started looking for new opportunities for consulting and began contacting people I knew in various industries and began to contribute to some small projects and then landed a one-year contract heading-up a significant project.  After that some new opportunities arose including several long-term profitable assignments.

From a personal development or personal growth perspective, I had been concentrating my energy on my problems and not on working on developing solutions. As soon as I changed my focus, positive things started to happen.  If you want to look at this scenario from the perspective of intentions and manifesting, you could say that when I was focusing on the problems and their circumstances, I was in a negative intention state and the result was negative manifestation, or a continuation of the problems.  When I focussed on solutions or positive intentions, positive results began to manifest.

Essentially, I was setting a goal when I started focusing on solutions; a goal of doing something tangible towards solving the problem of difficult financial circumstances. As a result of being in this “action mode” I was able to recognize and capitalize on opportunities when they manifested.  If I had stayed in the state of worrying and fretting about my “financial problem” it probably would have got worse.

Of course, when you focus on finding solutions, you do have to spend some time looking at the problem(s), but you will be doing so in a more analytical way, and you are taking action instead of stewing about whatever is causing you difficulty. Concentrating on the problem without investigating possible solutions sets in play negative thought patterns which can eventually result in significant frustration and possibly lead also to low self-esteem.

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