The basic notion of positive vs. negative is being attuned to what is going right vs. being focused on what is wrong. The positive person is thrilled to be walking on the beach, appreciates the ocean breezes, the warmth of the sand, the joy of kids frolicking in the waves. The negative person on one hand,  gripes about everything, even the smallest of things – how far it is from the parking lot, thinks the wind is too cold and the ocean has a bad smell, hates getting sand in his shoes and thinks people should have better control of their noisy children. Same beach, two different perspectives.

It’s not really a lack of character that keeps many of us negative. It’s the way our DNA evolved over millions of years. The people who were not cautious and constantly aware of and avoiding danger got wiped out along the way and didn’t contribute that much to the gene pool over time.

It’s not surprising that so many people have that negative orientation. They view just about everything through a negative filter. They don’t see possibility but obstacles. They don’t see what is working, only what isn’t working. They are continually depressed or grumpy, grousing about all they don’t have rather than appreciating what they do have. Negative people just don’t know how to appreciate and see the learnings behind every obstacle.

Having a negative outlook,  not only poses as a health hazard, but it also limits your potential for success.  Your negativity blocks you from seeing the opportunities that lie ahead of you.  It hinders you from jumping onto the bandwagon of success.  You always see yourself as a victim and never the winner.

Author Shawn Achor spent 12 years at Harvard studying the connection between happiness and success. His research showed that happiness in fact leads to success (rather than the other way around as most people believed). Happy, positive employees performed at higher levels of productivity, were more effective in leadership roles, and received higher pay and more frequent promotions.

Being positive does not mean having a Pollyanna view of the world where everything is rosy and perfect. It does not mean that you live in wonderland. People who have positive mindsets aren’t always ecstatically happy and grinning from ear to ear. They recognize and feel pain, sadness, anger, and disappointment. But they don’t live there on a constant basis. They use these pains to their advantage. It becomes their motivating factor to succeed. It’s the difference between groaning your way out of bed every morning to face yet another dreary day, vs. waking up with anticipation about what the new day might bring.  

The key to being positive is gratitude.  If you are grateful for even the most unpleasant situations in your life, the more positive energy come to you. It’s simple mathematics of positive attracts positive, negative attracts negative.