Positive Thinking

By Leo Gura - March 18, 2014 | 19 Comments

The key to becoming a practical positive thinker.

Video Transcript

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Hey, this is Leo from Actualized.org. In this video, we’re going talk about positive thinking. I want to illustrate what I have to say about positive thinking by telling you a short story. This is a Zen story from a long time ago and it goes like this:

A Tale Of Fortunes

Once there was an old village. In this village, there were the villagers, and there was one odd farmer who lived on the outskirts of the village. He was a little bit different. The way he thought, his philosophy to life was just something that didn’t quite sit well with the rest of the villagers.

This farmer had a horse and one day, his horse went off and ran away. That was just as he went out and bought a new saddle for the horse. This horse ran away and took the saddle with it.

The villagers, hearing of this news, went to the farmer’s farm and said: “We’re so sorry! What bad luck you have. Your horse ran away.” The farmer looked at them and said: “Maybe it’s bad luck, but who knows? Maybe it’s good luck.”

They looked at him weird and said: “How could it be good luck? Your horse, your only horse ran away. What are you going to do now?” He said: “Well, we don’t know. Maybe it’s good luck, maybe it’s bad luck.” The villagers left his house scratching their heads and went back to their business.

A few days later, the horse returned to the farmer. It brought with it three wild horses. Now the farmer had his horse back, with the saddle, plus three new, untamed horses. The villagers, hearing of this news, made their way to the farmer’s house. They said: “Wow. What amazing luck you have!”

The farmer looked at them and said: “Maybe it’s good luck, but maybe it’s bad luck. Who knows?” The villagers looked at him puzzled. “How could you possibly say this was bad luck? You had one horse, it ran away, now you have that horse back AND three new ones. This is amazing.” The farmer looked at them and said “Maybe it’s good luck, but maybe it’s bad luck.” The villagers left shaking their heads, not sure what to think.

Then a few days passed. The farmer’s son had to tame and train these new three horses. As he was trying to train one of them, it kicked him, knocked him down and he broke his leg over a rock. The rest of the villagers, hearing of this news made their way to the farmer’s house. They said: “We’re so sorry. What terrible luck you’ve had!” The farmer looked at them and said: “Maybe it’s terrible luck, but maybe it’s good luck.”

The villagers couldn’t stand this anymore. “How could you possibly say this is good luck? Your only son broke his leg. Surely this is the worst of luck?” The farmer looked at them, considered their suggestions and said: “Maybe it’s bad luck, but maybe it’s good luck.” The villagers were just aghast, and they walked away angry.

A few days later, as the son was recuperating from the broken leg, he was lying on the bed. The country officials came by through the village, and they were conscripting troops for the army, for the war that was going to be waged overseas. They rounded up all the able-bodied young men in the village to go off to die in battle. They didn’t take the farmer’s son, because he was not able to walk.

A Simple Truth

So that’s the story. This is an old Zen story, and I have to give credit to John Kehoe who I got this story from and the way that he delivered it. It was really powerful for me because what this story shows us is: who really knows what is good luck and what is bad luck in life? The wiser of us, we see that it’s not quite so simple, that the things that are unpleasant that happen to us aren’t necessarily that bad for us. And the things that are pleasant on the surface aren’t necessarily good for us.

That’s a very simplistic way to think about life. In the end, you truly can’t tell, not until every last card is played out, what is good luck and what is bad luck. When you start to really understand this, and you start to take this in very deeply, then you start to understand what it means to be a positive thinker.

You can get a lot of little tricks out there that will help you think positively, be more optimistic. I think that, if you want to really cultivate positive thinking within yourself you have to start to take on this idea that there’s something deeper going on in life, and that it’s not quite so simple to figure out exactly what it is.

The Best Ff Times, The Worst Of Times

If you think about all the really challenging, really hard times that you’ve had in your own life, all the really unfortunate times, the ones that we would obviously label as unfortunate, and then you trace back the ripple effects from that through the rest of your life and into the present, a lot of times what you find is your greatest gifts there.

You find your greatest strengths there. You find your greatest growth there. You find your biggest lessons in life. You find your biggest successes stemming from that, being born from it. Those really challenging times, a lot of times are the seeds for our ultimate success.

Don’t be so quick to dismiss those as being bad. That is what you’re doing most of the time. When you’re thinking negatively, when you’re worrying, when you’re afraid, when you’re really angry, or you’re feeling hurt — it feels real, and it is real, it hurts, it gets you mad, it gets you anxious.

But if you start to become more of a positive thinker, you really start to buy into this deeper philosophy, you start to realize that that’s not necessary. That in fact, a lot of times you’re worrying about the things that are really good for you — the things that are really going to make you grow, the things that are really going to make you successful.

An Opportunity Arises

There’s something to this idea that there can be no problem that is not an opportunity in your life. I think this is what the core of positive thinking is — understanding that every problem, every challenge that you have, is ultimately an opportunity. This is not just wishful thinking — this is not said lightly. This is something that takes some study and some contemplation to understand. It takes wisdom to really understand this. You have to have some life experience to start to see the truth of this, the depth of it.

Because there’s a surface level understanding, and then a much deeper layer of understanding. That’s why you have to go back and look at your own history. Just try to prove it to yourself, to prove that this is true. Because right now, I tell you this, but you’re probably saying: “Yes, this sounds nice, and sure, it can probably work for many problems in my life. I can see that somehow I’m catastrophizing them, exaggerating them, a lot of times they don’t come true.”

“But you know, there’s just this one problem I’ve got right now, I’ve got this one problem that’s just pure hell. It’s pure hell, it’s pure evil, there’s no possible way that this problem I’ve got right here could have any opportunity in it. There’s no opportunity here, there’s no lesson to be learned, this is just purely negative. If I could remove it from my life, my life would be happy. I would be better, I just know it.”

Well that’s exactly what I’m trying to tell you. That’s not positive thinking. I understand where you’re coming from. A lot of times I get triggered like that too. I was especially like that a lot in the past — I’m still a bit like that today. But you’ve got to understand that this is the mode of thinking that you’ve been coming from for most of your life, and that mode of thinking has gotten you to where you are right now in your life.

Only So Far

That’s gotten you to where you are, but that’s ONLY gotten you to where you are. And I’m willing to bet that you can do better than where you are right now. If you really want to go to that next level, then what you have to do is start thinking in a different way. Sometimes you have to start thinking in a radically different way. A way that seems uncomfortable, a way that seems wishful thinking at first, a way that seems unrealistic, idealistic, fantastical.

Yet there’s something to this idea that nothing can happen to you that is not positive. I guarantee you that if you really look at it, if I really sat down with you and we really looked at that challenge you have right now that’s totally unsolvable, that’s ruining your life, if we looked at it we could pick out pick out something positive, something you could learn from it.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that all of a sudden your problem’s going to be fixed. It doesn’t mean your problem is not a real problem. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work to fix your problem. It doesn’t mean you don’t feel the pain of your problem. I’m not denying you any of that. But I am saying that once you adopt this mindset and you become a positive thinker, then you’re going to be able to Aikido a lot of your problems.

Aikido Your Problems

The art of Aikido is a martial art, and one of the philosophies there is that you use the force of your opponent as a vehicle of taking him down. When an opponent lunges at you, or he tries to do some move at you, what you do is roll with the flow, you roll with the problem, you roll with the punch that’s coming at you. You deflect it, you don’t just stop, block or avoid it, you actually use it, and you transfer the momentum from it into something that’s going to serve you.

So it goes from being a negative, where the punch is coming at your face, to all of a sudden, within a split second, to a big positive, because now you’ve got the opponent. You’ve taken him. Now you’ll be able to convert that punch he threw at your face into some sort of advantage for you, tactical advantage in combat for you. Now the opponent is lying on the ground and you’ve got him in some sort of pin, because you were able to do some move that Aikido-ed the problem into something to your advantage.

That’s what true positive thinking is. On a practical level, this applies very easily to every problem that you have. I want you to start thinking, from now on, for every problem that you’ve got, a little one to the biggest one, always remember to think “What can I get from this? What is going to be the lesson? What am I going to learn? How is this going to grow me? How is this going to lead to my ultimate victory, to my ultimate success?”

A Herculean Effort

This is something that is going to take a lot from you, because this is something that is very unnatural. Especially if you are prone to anxious, neurotic thinking and you’ve been doing it your whole life. You’ve got that habit built up, and it’s not going to be very easy for you to even remember this. It takes consciousness and awareness. Those problems you’ve got, what they do is trigger you, they trigger a base emotional response within you.

That response just comes about more or less naturally. It’s like a trigger — you get a stimulus and then you get a response. A stimulus and then a response. You’re just a stimulus-response animal, you’re not actually behaving consciously. If you want to become a positive thinker, then you have to remember what I’m telling you now. The next time you have a problem, big or small, you have to try to remember and stay conscious.

Even though you’re going to feel some of the pain, the fear, the anxiety and whatever else I want you to remember what I’m telling you and say: “Oh, okay. Even though this is a problem that feels very real, there’s still something positive I can draw from it.” When you’re able to do that, that’s when you really develop positive thinking.

Chin Up

A really powerful quote on this topic that I got from Tony Robbins really resonated with me and I want to share it with you guys. It goes like this:

“You will be truly cheerful in life the day that you realize that no matter what is happening around you, being anything other than cheerful will not make it any better.”

There’s something about this that rings very true, very wise, because the optimum strategy is to be cheerful in every situation. No matter how bad it is. No matter who dies. If you remain cheerful, that is going to lead to the best possible outcome. You’re not going to gain anything by being scared. You’re not going to gain anything by being angry. You’re not going to gain anything by feeling hurt or sad.

That’s not to say that any of those emotions should never be felt. You’ll be able to feel them, you’re not going to be able to stop them anyway. When you can really live from this place, you can almost feel how different your life’s going to be. Your life would be very different if you were always cheerful no matter what was happening. It takes strength and courage to be able to do this. That’s why most people can’t do it. That’s why people are so negative and their performance in life is so shot. Because they’re not cheerful.

I guarantee you that the quality of your life is going to be directly proportional to how cheerful you can stay no matter what’s happening around you, especially in those very negative times. You have to remain positive, you have to remain hopeful. You just have to do it. There’s something positive there for you to extract. That’s the reality. That’s the truth. That’s not wishful thinking.

The Challenge

To really bring this point home for you guys, I’m going to give you an exercise. This is something that you can practically do to really get your positive thinking muscles trained up. This is a really challenging exercise, so if you can do it successfully, I really applaud you. It’s called “The seven day positivity challenge”. You might have heard of it. What does this mean?

This means that for seven days — you choose when it starts — for seven days straight you commit to thinking zero negative thoughts. That means all you think are positive thoughts. Of course, even if you make this intention, negative thoughts will still creep up. That’s OK, but as soon as you notice and are aware of a negative thought, as soon as you label it, you have to drop it within sixty seconds and not think about it again. Move on to something else.

You either start to think something positive about the situation, or you just change topic entirely and start thinking about something else or just distract yourself. You’re not allowed to think about that negative thought anymore. Then, when another negative thought comes up, a little bit later in the day — again, you recognize it, and as soon as you recognize it, within sixty seconds you drop it and you think something positive or you distract yourself with some other thought.

The idea is that you do this for seven days straight, and you have to do it perfectly. If a negative thought comes up, and you find yourself thinking about it, and you notice you’re thinking about it, and then another five minutes pass and you’re still thinking about it, you’ve failed. If sixty seconds pass and you’re still thinking about it you’ve failed, and you have to restart the whole challenge from scratch.

This is a really tough challenge. I really encourage you to try this because it’s a lot tougher than it sounds if you’ve never tried it. When you do try it, you’ll realize, first of all, just how many negative thoughts you’re having. It will shock you. It’ll also shock you how much you dwell on them, even though they’re not resourceful at all. It will shock you how many unresourceful thoughts you’re basically having in your life.

It will also shock you at the potential that you have at mastering your own psychology. When you see that “Wow, if I can just eliminate all these negative thoughts, if I could just last for seven days straight with positive thinking.” You’re going to say “Wow. That’s a powerful potential change that I can make to my whole life. How would that impact my work? How would that impact my relationships, my family life, my money situation, my health?”

You’re going to see it. If you actually make it through seven days, you’re also going to actually prove it to yourself. Those seven days will probably be some of the best seven days that you’ve had in your life up to now. Because when you think positively for seven days straight… Wow! You’re going to feel it. It’s just going to make you feel awesome. You’ll probably going to also accomplish a lot of stuff. You’re probably going to be very creative in that timeframe. Go ahead and try that out and just see. See how good you can do. See how much of a positive thinker you can be.

Wrap Up

This is Leo, I’m going to be signing off. This was what I had to say about positive thinking. Please, leave me your comments here. I’m interested in what you have to say, I use your feedback to help improve my videos. Then like this and share this, so that other people can get the message — we want more positive thinkers in the world. That’s always a good thing.

Then, of course, check out my newsletter at Actualized.org where you can sign up for free. You get some nice bonuses just for signing up. You get an exclusive video series, you get a chance to win two hours of free coaching with me, which I give away every month to my subscribers.

Ultimately, you want to sign up because the information I send to you guys, the free weekly articles and other information I have for you — I’m going to have new stuff coming out soon — as all that stuff is coming out, what you’re really getting is more wisdom about how to start mastering your psychology.

Everything we’ve talked about here is just a little taste. A little taste of what you can actually have in your life, of the kinds of improvements you can make to create an extraordinary life where you’re living fulfilled, where you’re living excited, where you’re living happy and peaceful. That’s what I want for you guys. I want you to live big lives. So go ahead and check that out and sign up.

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Bob says:

I agree with this perspective Leo. I, for one, can easily default into negative thinking because it doesn’t require effort or sacrifice. It’s easy to bitch and complain about the most trivial thing because it takes effort to deal with shit and even more to let it go. I think I have forgotten some of the things we knew as children where we could unconciously be objective to many things because we hadn’t been taught yet that they were deemed important plus we weren’t really aware of conventinial views if right and wrong.

Leo Gura says:

Yes, we ALL default into negative thinking. That’s how the brain tends to work.

Angella says:

Great video. Thank you for sharing the farmers story. I completely agree with that philosophy. I wish you talked a bit more on this topic and gave us more tips, it was kind of short.
Thanks Leo.

Mark Liddell says:

Another great video. The hardest times to be positive is when the ego is in charge.
Mark7 Adelaide Australia

Tony Marino says:

Hi Leo,

Your presentation on positive thinking was excellent. I previously commented on one of your other videos. I want to repeat an experience I had 2 1/2 years ago, because it is more pertinent to this topic. One of my sons died (suicide) in September of 2012. I didn’t exactly think of it as the farmer did in your story, but I made a conscious effort to create some good from that tragedy. After going through the grief process, I took up meditation and yoga. I am a self employed personal trainer. I added a yoga certification to my credentials. I now teach yoga and do spiritual speeches. Even in one of the worst circumstances one can experience, it is possible to create good, both for me and others. Feel free to share this story if it can help someone.

Tony Marino

liz says:

I’m trying to listen to your videos on my smart phone and for some reason there is no audio ?Why could this be?

Sage says:

Another great, insightful video Leo. I’ve been doing a lot of negative thinking lately, to the point where people that are close to me have called me out on it when I didn’t even realize how much of a bitter, negative person I was being. I’ve been watching as many of your videos that I can, and rewatching them to learn how I can make a difference in my life. I’ve recommended your website and YouTube channels to a few people (I’m a little embarrassed to tell most people I’m relying on self-help videos however. Maybe I’ll watch some of your videos on how to stop caring what people think of me. lol).

Leo Gura says:

Embarrassed??!! Doing self-help??!! Pssssht… This is the coolest thing you can do! It’s others who should be embarrassed for not having seen these videos sooner

AMORIO says:

hi, Sage.

Be sure by doing a self -help you are doing the coolest thing after a self meditaion and been honest with yourself that some changement must be done in your personality.

Don’t care about other, because if you try to consider others, you feel awkward, embarassed so you don’t progress properly.

Your friends are here to encourage you.

BRAVO! BRAVO! Continue don’t stop.

WRITE TO ME ON [email removed]

Thanks to Leo.

good luck

AMORIO says:


from Morocco.

Thanks Dear Leo.

As I’m on vacation I’m each day with your videos and transcriptions reading them carefully.

I’ll share all the topics I have read with some Korean friends when I’ll be there by the end of this month.


Hi Leo, thank you for your free videos. I recently watched your videos on You tube and had to sign up on this site. I hope I am fortunate to win 2hrs. of coaching from you. I think it will be the kick that my behind really needs. Although I do consider myself ‘as being nice and cheerful’ I am a very negative thinker. I need to stop blaming others for my negative thinking and take control of my own thinking. I’m not an expert but I’m willing to try and apply this to my life.
Thank you… I am going to do the 7 days of positive thinking.

Britt says:

Another great video! Thanks for sharing your wisdom Leo.

Nahomi says:

It is amazing how we could take control of our minds to better ourselves. I work around a lot of negative people. At time, I find my self-letting their negative energies take over me.
I am thinking of taking your 7 day challenge on this video. I will also work on getting my negative mind into a positive mood. I love the idea of changing every negative into a positive.

Thank you so much for all these great videos!!


Adrian Navarrete says:

BROTHER, you are awesome! Im really happy that i found videos that i can actually listen to and not get bored and learn so much about how i can change my way of thinking, i really wish i would have found them sooner. I plan on watching a few videos every day. PLEASE keep uploading so i can keep feeding my brain with nothing positivity. I really hope we get to chat online sometime.

Mike says:

I just want to say Leo your videos changed my life thank you

Mike Duncan says:

I am very grateful for your videos I appreciate all your help to keep up the good work man, your videos changed my life in so many great ways

Elisabeth says:

First restart on the challenge – 8 hours in. Goes well until I try to study for exam.

I have some trouble distinguishing if I’m indeed being positive in a healthy way, or if I’m also suppressing and bottling up bad feelings. I guess it can be distinguished with more practice?

PaulN says:

As always, a positive, thought provoking video from Leo – gives me a boost each time. I appreciate the fact that content is derived from lots of background reading that is thoughtfully assessed then very well presented. Great work.

The subject matter reminded me of a good quote:
“Nothing can trouble you but your own imagination” – Sri N. Maharaj

Jim says:

I keep a wishbone in my pocket to remind me of this story

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