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Improve Your Attitude: Turn Negatives Into Positives

Cute in cartoons, but don't be like Eeyore.

Cute in cartoons, but don’t be like Eeyore!

Have you ever known people who go through life in a bad mood? At my house, we sometimes call them Eeyores after the eternally pessimistic character in the Winnie the Pooh series. The funny thing about people who have a continuously negative attitude is that bad things seem to happen to them. They are the ones  that have their restaurant orders mixed up or lost. They seem to miss out on all the good deals by a day or always have their bills overcharged. They are continuously on the phone to fix an oversight. There is always a story about someone doing them wrong,  a never ending stream of things to complain about. Is their situation really that bad or is that all they are able to see? While there are truly awful things that can happen, if you can find a way to make something positive out of a bad situation, it makes a big difference in your quality of life. How can you turn negatives into positives? It’s easier than you think.

Look at the Worst Case Scenario

This might seem counterintuitive, but I’ve found that when you are staring at something that seems insurmountable, look at all the options, including the worst possible one. When I found out that one of the buyers of my business didn’t get her financing approved at the last minute, I was crushed. I felt a migraine coming on for the first time in my life. I have planned  for over a year, and have already gotten my head around the things selling will accomplish for my family. After a mini melt down, I went into analytical mode. What is the absolute worst thing that could happen? This part of the sale is for the branch office, not the main one. The main office sale is still on. The worst case would be that I would have to close the branch office and take a loss. I would still have enough income to cover bills, and it would help with my taxes. I just wouldn’t have a lump sum payment to kill my student loans this year. While disappointing, I could live with that. In the end, the buyer has resubmitted her financing, and it looks like we are on for March 1. I’m hopeful, but won’t be crushed if it doesn’t happen..

You can also view debt this way. If you have no idea how much you owe and are only making minimum payments, afraid to add it all up, just do it. What is the worst that could happen? You owe lots of money and need to pay it off. You might even have to file for bankruptcy. It might take years, but you can recover from that. Look at Donald Trump, not so bad. Short of kicking the bucket, most obstacles can be overcome if you are willing to change and move forward in a positive way.

Turn Setbacks into Opportunities

When I was finishing optometry school, I applied to several residency positions. All were in the Southern US, where I had always lived and was comfortable, although not necessarily happy. I was led to believe I was the top finalist for one of the positions in Memphis, where I prefered to stay. At the last minute, the residency was awarded to someone that didn’t go through the formal application process. I had already turned down another position so that I could accept this one. That was a double blow because I had no job, and I felt like a loser because they picked someone who didn’t officially apply over me.

I ended up taking a  residency position on the Navajo reservation in Northern New Mexico. This country girl did not know what the heck she was in for, but it ended up being the best thing that could have happened. I loved the West, and still live in the same area, just across the border in Colorado. I met my husband about six months after I moved here, and the position that I accepted was four million times better than the one I didn’t get. It taught me how to be an independent thinker and trust in my training and abilities. When you are out in the middle of the reservation, you’re pretty much it. There aren’t specialists in the office next door to help you out. Sometimes a missed opportunity opens the door to an even better possibility.

Start Saying I Can Instead of I Can’t

We all certainly have our skills and weaknesses. You don’t have to know how the final scene will play out. Don’t get so tied down in what you aren’t able to do that you miss out on the things you can. When we realized that we were $30,000 in credit card debt, that number seemed much to large to ever pay off. My husband’s teacher salary is only $33,000 a year, a whole year of work to pay off debt. It certainly seems impossible if you look at it that way.

What we could do was pay off the first balance of many. I believe it was around $800. It took almost no time. By focusing on what we knew we could do, the rest fell into place. We rocked it once we had the correct attitude. Take this month and every time you hear yourself say “I can’t” change your mindset. Maybe you think it’s impossible to save $1000, but I bet you can save $50. Build from there. If you can do it for a month, I bet you’ll never cross back over to the negative side.

Life is unpredictible. You can live it enjoying the positive things you have or moaning about the negatives. Most everyone who is reading this likely has basic necessities and opportunities to improve ourselves if we take them. I love to analyze options from all angles, but life is so much better if you can find a way to turn the negatives into positives.

What negative has turned into a positive for you?


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

84 comments

  1. I always use the mentality of thinking about the worst case. I find that it really helps me to progress something knowing that even is something goes terribly wrong, I know the absolute worst it will get.

    I also agree that your mindset can have a huge impact on your ability to achieve. Have you seen the movie “Yes Man”? It is all about changing your mindset and taking a chance.

    • I haven’t, but need to check it out. Thinking worst case seems negative but only if you stay there. Knowing you will survive and find a way around it has been extremely helpful to me.

  2. Nice post…and I love the “Eeyores” line! These are good tips! Thank you for reminding me to have a good attitude as I start my week 🙂

  3. Great post Kim! You never know what’s going to happen in any given situation, so that’s why it’s so important to not have a negative view on things. I had a similar situation soon after I graduated college in which I did not get a job with a company I really wanted. Long story short, the result was me moving as well and I met my wife very soon after the move. I think I came out on the winning end of that one. 🙂

    • I also remember your post about self employment and how you were in a dead end position at your job, but you used that as a spring board to where you are now. Very good attitude, John!

  4. Thanks for the reminder. I needed it after a crappy week back at work after the holidays.

    • I hope this week goes better. Just remember it is has been below zero every night for a week here and maybe that will make you feel warm and fuzzy!

  5. Your debt payoff is inspiring, especially after personally having a stressful moment this weekend thinking about finances and debt and whatnot. That’s also really cool how your residency worked out for the best! I think that taking things one step at a time is important and reaching the smaller goals (like paying off $800 of cc debt to start) really can make a difference.

  6. Our son, who is three and a half, often gets frustrated when trying to do something that he’s still learning, and he’ll stop and demand help, saying, “I can’t do it.” I’m trying to teach him to overcome the frustration and to believe in himself, reminding him that “Yes, you CAN do it.”

    • Our five year old is the same way. I am also trying to get her to never say “I can’t” unless it involved getting in the car with strangers or something similar!

  7. This is very difficult to put into practice when you are going through something difficult but the concept is still true. It does lead to peace of mind when you can try to be positive even when things are tough. It’s insurance for a stable and happy outlook. We could all use that.

    • I think have options is key. If all my eggs were in one basket, it would be harder to keep positive if something bad happened.

  8. Overall I’m a pragmatic individual and know my positive attitude has carved my investment success.

    Looking back, I had a stream of bad luck but instead saw it as opportunities. The first investment property I bought was right before the local RE downturn in 2008. My first set of tenants had to be evicted within 2 months due to willful damage to the property and I was laid off a few months after closing. I took this opportunity to take a step back to assess, and determined that I could renovate with my time in between jobs, refinance to pull out additional equity and finally place better tenants. Most of my property management skills were learned from this one experience and have been successful with tenants since.

    There were some additional setbacks thrown at me due to further unemployment but I took them head on and continued with my success. Had I had a negative outlook and quit RE investment right away, I would not be FI by 30.

    • I bet most would have dumped that property, but you saw it as an opportunity and it has made you better at what you do. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. I love Winnie the Pooh. The actual books (not the Disney stuff) is so layered that my kids had fun and I got some laughs that they couldn’t understand yet. AA Milne was such a sarcastic dude…..

    On the actual point: I always try to change my state when I’m negative….go for a run, put on some music, do some crunches…. Often changing my physiology will change my mental pattern.

  10. (I have that Eeyore!)

    It’s hard to think positively in the moment. Years ago I was looking for an internship to graduate and really, really wanted to work in corporate law (office, money, pretty shoes!). My BFFs got the two internships that I wanted and I cried and didn’t speak to either of them for a few days. Eventually I ended up in immigration which, while not something that I ever thought I would end up in, I LOVE. It’s much more *me* than corporate law ever was and I hope to one day end up back in immigration law (hopefully at a bank or as a lawyer but, you know, WAY down the road)

  11. I did the same with my CC debt when I was paying it off–I finally faced it head-on and re-recorded the “I can’t” script in my head for a new, improved, “I CAN!” one. It did the trick (along with a ton of hard work..haha!).

    • Hard work doesn’t seem so hard if you see what it CAN achieve (financial freedom) vs what you can’t do because you are not spending, going out, etc.

  12. I used to be generally pessimistic about life and suffered from episodes of depression. I got to a really low point in my life when my then-girlfriend and I broke up. After several months of wallowing in self-pity and despair, it was like a switch was flipped in my head.

    I still have bad days, but my overall outlook on life is much better now and I generally believe that I can overcome any obstacle.

    • I think we all have those days, and I certainly am no PollyAnna, but I usually snap out of it. I’m glad you found the switch.

  13. I find this a lot of times if you tell yourself that something isn’t going to work a lot times it won’t but if you go in thinking everything will work in most cases it will.

  14. Sometimes with real negative people, I’m not sure that more bad things happen to them, I think they just dwell on those bad things and make such a HUGE deal out of them that everything gets out of proportion. A postive person goes, “Lost my restaurant order? That sucks. Okay, well, I’ll have a cheeseburger and fries. Thanks!” And they get thir meal eventually and move on. Being more positive makes life seem better, even though it might not be. That’s whwat I think anyway.

  15. Funnily enough the negatives in my financial life are what has made me generally happier because I was able to face the music and am now in control which has made me a happier person.

  16. Jason Clayton | frugalhabits

    Fantastic post. This one trait is totally key to being successful. Is it any wonder that successful people are positive about nearly everything.

  17. Well said! I love using mental tricks to put myself into a better place for the long run. There are a lot of times when things seemed to be really tough, but with the right mindset, they could be overcome.

  18. I ended up going to a college that wasn’t my first pick. Or second, to be quite honest, but life would have been much different had I not stayed home and went to the local college. If I had gone away to school, I never would’ve met my husband so although I missed the whole “going away” to school part, I am so glad ife turned out the way it did!

  19. I have turned many negatives into positives, one being taxed more this year and getting paid less per paycheck is teaching me to be more frugal.

  20. Great post Kim, I do believe that you provoke your luck all the time. My Paris flat was becoming a nightmare, the tenant was dead, after 10 years living there the whole place was a mess, I wasn’t there to take care of renovations and it wouldn’t sell as is. I was like you ready to take a loss, and then decided to try one more time. Cleaned up, put a lot of ads, and got a buyer. She didn’t get finance the first time either but the second application was approved. And at a much higher price than all previous offers so it was worth the wait and hassle. Even if the opportunity isn’t great you can make things work just fine by being your best self at it.

  21. Thanks for this — it’s a good idea always to stay positive!

  22. I always look at the worst case scenario and find alternatives. If I am prepared for the “worst case” then I can effectively handle anything. My wife hates that I do this, but it sets me up to not be disappointed. When we had a bad year in 2010 and everything kept kicking us down, I was keeping upbeat. People at work call me the unluckiest guy with the best attitude. I don’t let life hold me down.

    • Great attitude! I remember when it was rumored that a pot shop (medical marijuana) was going in next to our satellite office. Everyone was distraught. Pot heads everywhere. But then I thought how much traffic it might bring. People buying pot generally have money to spend. I don’t discriminate! There is always a positive somewhere.

  23. I always think in terms of a plan B. When I go through the decision process, I have alternative plans. You always need alternatives. Many times you do not get your first choice and you have to find a way of adjusting to the alternative.

  24. This is a concept that many never “get” because they have been raised in families where complaining or being negative is the norm. The negative I have turned into a positive is this: While I am a huge proponent of a positive “can do” attitude, I didn’t realize that I can be negative at times until my husband mentioned it. When I look at my own family I can see what I have to overcome – negative bickering, focusing on the bad parts of life, and highlighting others’ faults. So now in family situations I like to say “if you’re not saying something helpful, please don’t say anything at all.” And low and behold, it works!

    • I’m curious if you have a large family. I’ve found that with several people I know who are pretty negative, they grew up with huge families. Maybe the only attention they got was negative so that’s all they know? My mom is one of six and she can be like this at times.

  25. Love this article. I have always been a glass half full type of person. You can always turn around bad situations, all you need to do is work at it.

  26. I spent 5 minutes trying to think of a bad situation that I turned around. I couldn’t do it. My approach is to forget about the bad things, but not before taking a lesson from them. It’s like I tell people, when I walk out the door at the end of the day, I have already forgotten about work, and focused my attention to the rest of the evening. I find it’s just better to take what you can from a bad situation then put it behind you and move on. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to live your life.

  27. Great post! The best thing you can do is to not hang out with other negative people, especially if you are in a bad space yourself! Seeking out positive people to surround yourself with in life is the greatest thing you can do for yourself. Keep writing, Kim!

  28. Your point “he position that I accepted was four million times better than the one I didn’t get.” is exactly how I view setbacks or things that do not turn out the way I wanted them to. I find that when things don’t turn out the way I had hoped it usually means that something better is in store for me and it is just around the corner. The thing is to be patient (which isn’t always my strong suit) and wait it out.

  29. I remember when I was in debt in my early twenties and it took me awhile to pay it off. But they key was to stick with a payoff plan…it worked 🙂

    • Glad you stuck with it. It’s very easy to get sucked up in the debt and let it ruin your credit. It takes years to recover.

  30. I couldn’t agree with you more about turning negatives into positives! Being an optimist is the best way, not only with money, but in life! Great post!

  31. I am ALL about the PMA (Positive Mental Attitude)! It changes everything. LOL @ calling them Eeyores btw! 🙂 I might steal that

  32. This is one of those posts that I need to share with a friend of mine. He makes Eeyore look positively chipper.

    I used to be more negative, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to move away from that mindset. Both by changing how I look at things and by changing who I associate with. Overall, life isn’t objectively easier if I’m positive instead of negative. But I can handle life’s stresses better and have more energy to overcome the inevitable challenges thrown my way.

  33. What a great post Kim. I have a member of my family who fits your first paragraph to a tee. I find her really difficult to be around for more than a hour at a time. It really is amazing how your outlook on life can influence your happiness.

  34. Wow. This was much needed. I used to be a very pessimistic person and on occasion can be one. Being optimistic is the way to go indeed!

  35. Great points. I am trying to be more positive and stop playing the “victim” card. It’s startling to see how easy it is to slip into a ‘poor me’attitude’

    • I absolutely is easy to feel sorry for yourself, and I think it’s OK for a brief moment in time. The key is to start thinking about other ways thay you are lucky and not dwell on that sad emotion.

  36. I could not agree more! I just had a moment like that this week when a project I was working on went south and it made me lose future projects and probably cost me a friendship. That’s putting it simply, but the point is I wasn’t happy working with her anyway, and it frees up time and mental anguish to work on projects I’m more interested in and working with better people. (I’m sure she feels the same way to be fair). And I just got a call yesterday for a HUGE project in Feb. Sometimes things happen for a reason. Hard to see that at first but whenever you look back you can see that it was true.

  37. The 2009 downturn was the negative catalyst to launch my site. 3 years later I retired from the corporate world. If it wasn’t for the downturn, if still be working, which is not as fun as not working 🙂

    Sam

  38. A recent example: two of my small appliances burnt up in the same day! (Yesterday). The silver lining? I get two brand new awesome ones (eventually, these things are pricey).
    I had a housemate for a little bit that we called Eeyore. He could make ANYTHING super depressing. It got old, quickly.

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