What’s the difference between positive thinking and positive mental attitude? Because, as far as I can figure out, positive mental attitude is just a fancier name for a way of thinking that is becoming increasingly discredited. Your attitude is created by your subconscious mind – the part that stores your belief systems – your beliefs about how the world works and your place in it. You cannot force or superimpose an attitude on your subconscious mind unless you unlock your subconscious potential and rearrange your fundamental beliefs – and I don’t know too many people who can do this as a matter of course.

The point I’m making is that positive mental attitude is a charade where we con ourselves into thinking happy thoughts on the basis that, no matter what life throws at us, we’ll be OK – all will be well. This PMA gives us a resilience that can overcome the worst that life can throw at us. But it is my belief that human resilience is one of our biggest failings – it means that we’ll “grin and bear it” and put up with almost anything before saying to ourselves “enough is enough, I’ve got to take action”. A quick eye cast over history will show just how far dictators, warmongers, ordinary politicians and global conglomerates have been let go by the ordinary populace being too resilient. But it’s OK, positive mental attitude will see us through!

Attitude comes from behaviour and behaviour is, generally speaking, reactive. Reactive behaviour does not come about as a result of reacting to the situation in which we find ourselves, our reactive behaviour (which often compounds an already bad situation) is dictated by what psychologists call our “stored knowledge” – the stuff that was stuffed into your subconscious mind during your formative years when, taken together, forms your belief system. You cannot force attitude on yourself by conscious decision – the subconscious mind will always win any battle with the conscious mind, hands down – every time. You cannot decide to be positive and then, as a result of that decision, you suddenly are positive.

I often hear people say “Well, I’m naturally a positive person or an optimist” – cool, I say, but that’s the point I’m making – it comes naturally to you because it comes out, automatically, from your subconscious mind. Whereas positive thinking and/or positive mental attitude are things we think we are – not what we actually are. I recently received an email from someone who told me that there’s a world of difference between positive thinking and positive mental attitude – that the Captain of the Titanic was a positive thinker but that it did him no good(!) – but that positive mental attitude will always see you through. I would suggest that it was the Captain of the Titanic’s positive mental attitude that led to him firing up all the engines to set a new record for crossing the Atlantic – not positive thinking. You might say, what difference does it make which it was – and that’s my point, we’re playing with semantics. Either way, this positive conscious mind stuff is more trouble than it’s worth.

Instead, you’ve got to rearrange your subconscious (we’re not talking about rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic!) so that you don’t try to force yourself to see a silver lining no matter how dark the cloud but that you see what’s happening for what it is. This is completely different from “positive whatever” – it enables you do something that the normal person will almost never do in their entire life – act, take real action, instead of real action, armed with all the available facts as to what is actually happening right here, right now. If something bad is happening that you can do absolutely nothing about, then it is what it is. But that kind of scenario generally only arises if you’re caught in the middle of a natural catastrophe. Almost everything else in life is the coincidence of a set of circumstances that provide us with the golden opportunity to act to better ourselves. This is language that is completely incomprehensible to the normal person who never, ever sees things for what they are, but perceives things for what they think they are – or in the case of positive thinking, for what they might like them to be.

Forget your positive thinking, forget your positive mental attitude – they could lead you up a dark alley and mug you and you’d be fine by that! The only state of mind worth being in is a clear and present state of mind. Clear – not congested by our “stored knowledge” that is decades out of date. Clear – of useless self-defeating thought. Clear – of useless self-delusionary thought (positive thinking). Clear – to simply see things for what they are. Present – in the here and now, unfettered by our subconscious formative years programming. Present – fully sensitized, using our five senses, to just this present moment. Present – which will give us presence, the one sure hallmark of successful people, of leaders, of people of action.

The most important thing we can do in our adult lives is to cultivate our ability to be clear and present – then not only will we not put up with what we don’t have to put up with, we will see the opportunities lurking in the detail of what is actually happening, that the positive thinker will never spot.

Author's Bio: 

Willie Horton, an Irish ex-accountant and ex-banker who has been working as a success coach to business leaders and sports people since 1996, has been living his dream in the French Alps since 2002. Each week his weekly Free Self-Help Video Seminar is received by thousands of people around the world. His acclaimed Self Help Online Workshop is being followed by people on four continents - they say that it's life-changing. More info: http://www.gurdy.net