Move over Pollyanna, there’s a new tool in town

“Positive thinking” sure has gotten a bad rap over the years. The term conjures up images of Pollyanna taking even the direst circumstances in stride and turning every frown upside down. For most people, positive thinking isn’t just a stretch, it’s incomprehensible.

As a psychological tool, positive thinking certainly has many benefits but it’s best used only after a thorough examination of your own thoughts, emotions and beliefs. Every individual has proclivities toward certain thought patterns and without an understanding of those patterns, positive thinking may do more harm than good.

For instance, some people have habitual negative thoughts. Without an understanding of the beliefs beneath those negative thoughts, applying positive thinking can actually cause such people to repress certain emotions. They then don’t get the benefits of positive thinking. Since understanding when and how to use positive thinking is an ongoing process, there is one tool you can adopt now that will set the stage for a better utilization of positive thinking.

Instead of acting like Pollyanna, try the exercise of using positive intent. This means expecting every situation you encounter will be met with a positive outcome, even if you normally think it can’t. Positive intent works hand-in-hand with “faith” and the belief that the universe is working for you and not against you.

An example: You get an angry voice mail from a friend who is upset that you didn’t invite him along for a weekend camping trip. You didn’t purposely mean to exclude him and his reaction has thrown you into a negative tailspin. You feel that his anger is an overreaction to the reality of the situation.

Traditional positive thinking advocates would tell you to ignore the situation, think good thoughts about your friend, and apply a big dose of compassion. In this case, however, that would ignore your own subjective feelings about the situation. You would be creating an energy blockage and setting yourself up for either a physical manifestation (headache, stomach ache, etc.) or situational manifestation (more of the same type of behavior from your friend).

Here’s where to apply positive intent. Realize that you have created or attracted the situation to yourself and understand that you will get a positive effect out of it. This way, you still allow yourself to feel your emotions and you’re doing so in a context where you can learn from the situation. The intent helps you comprehend that every facet of living can be used as a learning tool, pushing you towards greater understanding and fulfillment. Now the situation may be negative on the surface, but your positive intent means you’ll get something positive out of it.

The intent to have a positive experience sets up circumstances for you to learn something about yourself. Perhaps you have some unresolved—and unconscious—feelings toward your friend that the altercation can bring to the surface. Maybe the fight will help you get in touch with your own feelings of exclusion and set you in the direction of healing those feelings. Or, maybe you have a set of beliefs about what type of behavior you expect from your friends and this allows you to see your beliefs manifest in a very vivid manner. In any of those cases, you’re uncovering information about your thoughts, emotions and beliefs and using them as a benchmark for change.

Positive intent can be used in all situations. It’s a way of approaching life so that you always realize that actions, interactions and events are working for your benefit. It does take faith to get to this point, but even just the intent to have a positive experience means that’s what you’ll get. Law of attraction fuels positive intent: your intent, your desire and your faith that something good is coming from every situation will set in motion the types of experiences you’ll see reflected in the future.

Keep in mind that you may not always have immediate understanding about the events of your life. Sometimes the universe reveals itself a little more slowly than we would like, so faith in the process is paramount to your success. Again, the positive intent will bring you positive effect. The more you work with the process, the better you’ll understand it and the quicker the results will come.