The big idea behind the positive thinking movement is that people can change their lives by thinking better thoughts. Ideas about positive thinking abound. You can find them all over the internet. And plenty of books are written on this subject too. Some of the more popular ones include,
- The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Peal
- The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne
- Think and Grow Ritch, by Napoleon Hill
- The Magic of Thinking Big, by David Schwartz
These authors all agree that what we think about matters. The Bible has much to say about our thoughts, and positive thinking is also for Christians. The goals of this blog post are to:
- Examine the reasons why positive thinking is essential to everyday life.
- Equipe readers with a Positive Thinking Indicator, so you can rate your own thoughts.
- Dive into Biblical examples of stinking thinking, average thinking, and high-level thinking.
- Examine what Jesus might say to someone at each of these three levels.
- Provide a simple strategy to move up 1-2 points on The Positive Thinking Indicator.
If so, then grab a cup of coffee, tea, or another favorite beverage and dive into the power of positive thinking.
The Power of Positive Thinking
Positive thinking matters because how we think changes how we feel, and how we act. In other words, our thoughts, feelings, and actions all intertwine. Or as I like to put it, people are a lot like a bowl of spaghetti–everything is connected to everything else.
I first heard this idea from leadership expert John Maxwell. I was in high school and attending Skyline Church when John Maxwell served as it’s pastor. Often, after attending the church’s youth group, I would ask my parents if I could stay for the second service to hear John preach. What my parents didn’t know is that I would walk through the front door of the church, straight through the main sanctuary and out the back door. Then, I would hang out with my friends.
Today, I can’t believe I did this! In high school, I had the opportunity to hear one of the world’s foremost leadership experts speak, and I blew him off. Fortunately, John is an excellent speaker, and on the Sundays I did attend, his words stuck. Plus, my parents are persistent. Books written by John Maxwell were strewn all over our home.
This is where I first remember hearing about the idea of positive thinking.
Positive Thinking and Our Attitude
In The Winning Attitude Your Key To Personal Success, John Maxwell describes how airplanes have an attitude indicator. A nose-high attitude means the plane is ascending, and a nose-down attitude means it’s headed back to earth. Like an airplane, human beings also have an attitude indicator. According to psychology, human beings are biopsychosocial beings. In other words, our biology (or physical health and wellbeing), our psychology (or thoughts and attitudes), and social (interpersonal relationships) all intertwine.
Personally, I like to think of the word biopsychosocial as a fancy term for the spaghetti principle–everything ties into everything else.
Your Positive Thinking Indicator
If people came with a Positive Thinking Indicator, I imagine it would look something like this image below.
At the bottom of The Positive Thinking Indicator is stinking thinking. Stinking thinking consists of awfulizing and catastrophizing. According to The Worry Cure, 85 percent of what we worry about never happens. With the 15 percent that does happen, 79 percent of people discover they can handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that negative thinking almost never produces positive results.
When I think of stinking thinking, I think of the disciple, Peter. In Mathew 15, Peter is on a boat with the other disciples, rowing across the sea of Galilee. A storm sets in and Jesus walks out to the disciples on the water. Peter sees Jesus coming and cries out, “Lord, if it is you tell me to come to you on the water.” Then, something amazing happens. Peter gets out of the boat and walks on water.
All is going well until Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus. As soon as Peter focuses on the wind and waves, he begins to sink. Even though Jesus–God in the flesh–is only a few feet away, Peter awfulizes the situation. Then, he cries out in desperation, “Lord, save me!”
Like many Christ-followers, I do the same thing. When life gets stormy, I sometimes fall into stinking thinking. I build up events in my head to be far worse than they are. The smart thing to do isn’t to panic. But it is to cry out to God for help. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.” I love that this Scripture is in the book of Peter. At an older age, I think Peter gets it. In the storms of life, you can I truly can cast our cares on Christ. This is positive thinking at it’s best.
Next on The Positive Thinking Indicator is average thinking. The problem with average thinking is it’s broken. Average thoughts are busy, stressed, and disconnected. Like an overcaffeinated flea, many people bounce from one activity to the next, always racing for more and never satisfied. Like a bad amateur plate-spinner, we frantically try to keep up, knowing that at any moment things could come crashing down.
My therapist and success-coach friends talk about young adults who are hyper-focus. These individuals are young, healthy, popular, and financially well off. Yet, they are also utterly exhausted and miserable. Their high-level success has come at a price. Many of these young professionals know that even if they did walk away, it would only be a matter of time before they fell into the same pattern again.
Matthew 10 tells the story of a lady named Martha. When Jesus taught at her home, she simply couldn’t slow down and rest in His presence. Instead, she frantically made preparations. Likely, she was driven by average thoughts like:
- I must succeed.
- I should do more.
- This isn’t good enough.
Martha kept up her frantic pace and then demanded that her sister help. On some days, I catch myself with a Martha attitude. To those stuck in average thoughts, I think Jesus might say something similar to what is written in Psalm 46:10, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Average thinkers can change their thoughts by remembering that all of life is in the Master’s hands.
At the top of The Positive Thinking Indicator is high-level thinking. High-level thinking is characterized by connectication, contentment, and joy. Connectication is a word I first heard from Glenn Stewart from Restored and Remarried. The idea behind connectication is that human beings are God-designed to connect, and good communication alone is not enough. Connectication implies authenticity and intimacy (or into-me-see). Connecticators are secure enough to know other people on a deep level, and they are secure enough to allow themselves to be known.
I think of Jesus and His encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4. Not only were Jews in Samaritan’s not supposed to associate, but this woman also had five husbands. Yet, Jesus has a divine appointment with her. First, He asks this woman for a cup of water, which isn’t too far off from saying, “Hey, do you have a minute to sit and do coffee?” Jesus’s thoughts appear to be, This woman matters! Christ sees her, knows her, and wants to connect.
High-level thinkers know other people matter and know that they matter. They know their life is in God’s hands, and, as a result, they are filled with contentment and joy. To high-level thinkers, Christ might reiterate the words of 1 Timothy 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” In other words, I think he would exhort high-level thinkers to keep going by making contentment and joy a habit.
Positive Thinking for Christians
Is positive thinking for Christians? I believe it is! Our thoughts matter. As we have seen, you and I really are a lot like a bowl of spaghetti–our thoughts, feelings, and actions all intertwine. So where are you on The Positive Thinking Indicator?
- Are you like Peter and drowning in stinking thinking?
- Are you more like Martha–consumed with frantic thoughts and unable to slow down?
- Or, are you in that high-level thinking zone?
Once you discern where you are, the next step is to take simple steps to move up 1-2 points on The Positive Thinking Indicator.
Breaking Out of Stinking Thinking
If you’re stuck in the stinking thinking zone, an excellent way to move up is to get back to basics. Simple aerobic exercise (like running and walking), a full night of rest (7-9 hours for most adults), and a healthy diet are excellent places to start. In the stinking thinking zone, taking simple steps to feel better is important because when we feel better, we think better.Taking simple steps to feel better is important because when we feel better, we think better. Click To Tweet
Breaking out of Average
Being average means being busy and stressed. To break out of average, you may want to try taking a deep breath and sipping your coffee–or another favorite beverage–more slowly. This is a simple mindfulness strategy that helps us get our minds out of the worry cycle and into the here and now. Next time you take a break, don’t guzzle your coffee so fast you hardly taste it. Slow down instead. Enjoy your coffee and enjoy the moment–where life is good.
Making High-level Thinking a Habit
Of course, high-level thinking is the goal. And the best way to get there is to make positive thinking a habit. In our family, we accomplish this through a morning routine. We even chose Smelling Coffee by Chris Rice as our theme song. After breakfast, everyone shares three things they are thankful for. Then, we end with a “best day ever” cheer.
Life in our home is not happy all the time. Sometimes life is hard, and we acknowledge this. However, Jenny and I want to teach our kiddos to be grateful even in the midst of life’s storms.
The goal of next-level thinking is not to pretend that life is all unicorns and rainbows–it’s not. But it’s also not all storm clouds and rain either. The best high-level thinkers know how to dance and celebrate in the rain.The best high-level thinkers know how to dance and celebrate in the rain. Click To Tweet
What would it take to move your thinking up one or two points on the Positive Thinking Indicator? How we think, feel, and act is important because attitudes are contagious. If you’re married, or in a serious relationship, one next step is to join our Joyfully Married Community. This interactive tribe is committed to taking a positive approach to marriage. Sure, we all have challenges–just like everyone else. What makes this group different is that building on strengths and creating a happy marriage is our aim.
The best high-level thinkers know how to dance and celebrate in the rain.
Finally, I’d love to hear from you. What thoughts on positive thinking would you add to this list? I look forward to continuing the conversation in the comments below.