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Positive Mental Attitude: You Choose

Positive Mental Attitude

Positive Mental AttitudePositive Mental Attitude is a staple of the self-help movement. But don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not about false faith or miracle cures.

Instead, it’s about exercising the most fundamental freedom you have: to choose how to respond to your situation. Positive Mental Attitude is a choice that opens up more options for you.

And that’s why it works for so many people. Because, with more options, you have more chances of getting what you want.

Why does a Positive Mental Attitude Help?

I’m sure you have met people with a cheery, optimistic and generous demeanour. Aren’t they more fun to be around than miserable pessimists, who feel like life is out to get them?

That’s just the start of why a Positive Mental Attitude seems to be helpful in life. Because there is a very real effect that we tend to get what we give. If we put out a confident, hopeful face on the world, we see a happy helpful place. But, if you look for all the bad things the world can do to you… you’ll find them.

So, why isn’t a Positive Mental Attitude just a way of ignoring the unfortunate realities of a complex world?

Because Positive Mental Attitude is not a ‘glass half full’ optimism that ignores the empty part of the glass. I see it as a combination of two things:

  1. An enthusiasm to savour the half that’s there, and
  2. An openness to finding the next delight to re-fill the glass

People with a Positive Mental Attitude don’t ignore the negatives in the world. They simply choose to put their focus on things that are a more fruitful source of pleasure, progress, and fulfilment.

What is A Positive Mental Attitude?

In many ways, Napoleon Hill cracked it when he introduced the idea in his 1937 book, ‘Think and Grow Rich’ (US|UK). He didn’t use the term – he used ‘positive thinking’. But the ideas were there. And it was one of his later books, ‘Success through a Positive Mental Attitude’ (US|UK) co-written with W Clement Stone, that coined the term.

That book combines homesy Bible faith with a good dose of what we would now recognise as Positive Psychology. But I like this short quote that, for me, sets the scene:

‘Your mind is an invisible talisman. The letters PMA (positive mental attitude) are emblazoned on one side, and NMA (negative mental attitude) on the other. These are powerful forces. PMA is the right mental attitude for each specific occasion. It has the power to attract the good and the beautiful. NMA repels them. It is a negative mental attitude that robs you of all that makes life worth living.’

Modern Approaches to Positive Mental Attitude

The internet is chock-full of lists of 7, 8, 10, 12, 89 ways to cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude. And most of them are solid.

They draw upon a number of modern psychological ideas that have a growing body of research that backs them up. We’ve covered many of them here in the Pocketblog. These ideas include:

Indeed, all of these are very much aspects of Positive Psychology.

How does Positive Mental Attitude differ from Positive Psychology

I’d say that there are two points of distinction. One is more pragmatic, while the other is more of a conceptual distinction.

Conceptually, PMA is a part of positive psychology that highlights the importance of focus on the good things in your life, and what you can control. Words like:

  • hope
  • optimism
  • courage
  • initiative
  • generosity
  • tolerance
  • kindliness

come to mind.

The more pragmatic distinction is that Positive Mental Attitude is a less sciency, more folksy articulation of many of the same ideas. But that articulation does not detract from the value of many of them.

How to Adopt a Positive Mental Attitude

Indeed, if the reduced focus on science in setting out what Positive Mental Attitude is and how to get it has its least impact on the quality of thinking and writing, it’s in the hands of experts who understand the science. They just choose a different way of communicating the ideas.

An example is Douglas Miller, whose Positive Mental Attitude Pocketbook is a gem of a book. Smartly structured, it will give you many sound ideas within a structured program of improving your own PMA.

There are really too many things you can do to open up choices by the way you respond to your situation, for us to list them all here. And I don’t want to offer you something as superficial as a list.


Instead, I’ll discuss one important concept; self-efficacy. This is the idea that you can influence events around you, by influencing yourself. You are in control of what you do and how you do it. So, whilst events will have an impact on your outcomes, so too will you. How you choose to respond to those events, and the decisions you make, are every bit as important as the things you cannot control – more so.

Believing in yourself, and that your experience and resourcefulness give you valuable capabilities is central to a Positive Mental Attitude. It give you a sense that you have choices and that they are meaningful.

So a great exercise, in the face of adversity, is to survey all your knowledge, skills, and experiences that pertain to your current situation. Ask yourself what each brings to your present sense of self, and what options they create. This is a firm way to restore your sense of control over external events.

What is Your experience of Positive Mental Attitude?

We’d love to hear your experiences, ideas, and questions. Please leave them in the comments below.

To learn more…

The Positive Mental Attitude Pocketbook is a mental toolbox of tips and techniques to release your potential and put new opportunities within reach.

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