How to Change Your Perspective on Negative Situations

Would you consider your perspective helpful or detrimental to your ability to achieve your goals? Do you feel optimistic in the most difficult of situations or do you tend to be more pessimistic in the best of times?

Most people fall somewhere in the middle and feel good when things are good and poorly when things are tough. A person’s ability to change perspectives through challenging situations is one of the best measures of one’s potential to be successful.

Think of your perspective like your attitude or mindset in life. If you have a negative attitude, you tend to have a negative perspective on life. Whether your perspective is justified by past events or not is not the focus.

Similarly, if someone grew up believing they have the Midas touch and everything just seems to “go right” for them is irrelevant. Your goal should be to build a mindset that enables you to succeed in life, regardless of the situation.

1. Keep Your Head Up

Someone with a fixed mindset believes there are a lucky few who are blessed with the right genes to become successful.

Studies show someone with a fixed mindset is ill-equipped to tackle many of life’s challenges. They see failure and difficulty as a sign that they are doing the wrong thing.

You may have heard someone explaining why something was not meant for them by talking about how it didn’t come naturally. This perspective cripples the ability of many from reaching their full potential.

Someone with a growth mindset has a different perspective on life. They believe everyone can learn and build the skills necessary to achieve their goals.

They see failure as a sign that their approach was wrong, not as a sign they were wrong. As a result, they will regularly try new things until they achieve their goal.

Inventors are a classic example of a growth mindset. Their perspective about negative situations is that it is nothing more than a problem they have yet to solve. They see each negative event as being one step closer to success.

2. Change Perspective From the Inside-Out

For you to change perspective about negative events in your life, you first need to change the way you talk to yourself. What you say to yourself regularly will have an impact on the actions you take.

Consider someone who unexpectedly had their employment terminated. If their mind is full of negative self-talk, then they are telling themselves how inadequate they are.

People who believe they will always be a failure are not going to interpret events the same as people who see themselves as successful. There are instances where negative situations are created, in part, due to the negative statements you tell yourself.

In the situation of someone losing their job, what if they constantly told themselves, “my boss doesn’t like me”?

Do you think it will help or hurt someone’s interaction with their boss? How would this perspective impact the times their boss is nice to them? Or how do you think they would respond to constructive criticism?

3. Don’t Open Yourself Up to More Negativity

As you are probably starting to realize, if you don’t change perspective about the negative events in your life, you are opening yourself up to creating more.

If you believe your boss has a negative opinion about you, then you think they are being fake when they are nice to you. You think they are nitpicking or complaining about small things when they offer constructive criticism.

By continuing to negatively interpret events due to negative self-talk, you will continue to produce undesired results.

Now imagine if you told yourself your boss has your best interests at heart and is only trying to bring the best out of you. That simple change in your perspective better equips you to deal with the perceived negative events in your life.

When your boss offers you constructive criticism, you believe they are investing in your growth. When your boss is nice to you, you welcome the behavior because you see them as your friend and colleague.

When you change perspective, the same events that could have led to failure now work to your benefit.

Focus on What Matters

Your brain can only focus on so many things each day.. As a result, your mind will automatically filter out information it believes is unimportant to you.

A common example of this is when you purchase a new vehicle and you suddenly notice that vehicle everywhere. It is not that everyone purchased the vehicle the same day you did, it was that your mind was blocking the information. It did not believe that a particular make and model car was important to you until you purchased it.

For you to change perspective about negative situations in your life, you must change your daily focus. As was the case when you purchased a new vehicle, you can alter the events your mind recognizes.

Instead of focusing on negative events and how bad things are in life, focus on the things you are grateful for.

4. Find the Silver Lining

It is not always easy, but you can train your mind to focus on what you love most about life.

One great way to train your mind to focus on what you love in life is to create a happiness journal. The way it works is every time something good happens, you write it down in your happiness journal.

These events could be as simple as you woke up on time or ate a healthy lunch. They could revolve around the effort you put in at work to complete a project. Heck, you could even write about your commitment to stay positive throughout the day. Any event that can be celebrated should be celebrated.

Then when a negative situation occurs, you can flip open your journal to change perspective. Remind yourself how blessed and fortunate you are when you feel you have nothing to celebrate in life.

Read about your successes when you feel you can’t do anything right. Creating a happiness journal will significantly change your perspective about yourself and your life.

5. Become a Guardian Angel

The final way to change perspective about negative situations in your life is to help others. An amazing thing will happen when you start to spend more time focusing on the needs of others.

First, you will feel better about yourself because of how positively others view you. Next, you will begin to realize that while everything is not perfect in life, it could always be worse.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “first world problems”?

It is a funny way to help put negative situations into the proper perspective. While all negative events are unpleasant, there is most certainly a difference.

If you have an inconsiderate boss, while that can make work unpleasant on many occasions, it is still a blessing to have employment. Others feel that their spouse is irresponsible with money, but at least you have a spouse who loves you.

My daughter often talks about the fact that she has an older cellphone, but I have to remind her that she is blessed to have a cell phone at her age.

6. Challenge Yourself

There is rarely going to be a situation where you cannot find someone going through a negative situation. The problem most people face is they are too busy focusing on the negative events in their life to notice the negative events going on in the lives of others.

When you change perspective from yourself to others, you begin to realize there are a lot of people going through their own negative events, yet they are maintaining a positive perspective about life.

They continue to be grateful for the good things they have. And they understand many of the negative situations they have are tied to blessings – meaning they cannot experience the joy without opening themselves up to the possibility of experiencing pain.

Final Thoughts

To change perspective about negative situations is not about pretending negative things don’t happen, because they do. It is not about always smiling and pretending that everything is wonderful because that isn’t always the case.

Changing your perspective is about acknowledging that negative situations occur, but they do not necessarily cause your demise. You can learn from any situation, and you can always find something to be grateful for. When you train your mind to focus on the things you can control and the things going right in your life, you create an unconquerable resolve to create your dream life.

You acknowledge that difficult does not mean impossible, and you are therefore able to prevail where most people accept defeat.

Learn to Change Your Perspective

Motivation is one of the main reasons we do things — take an action, go to work (and sometimes overwork ourselves), create goals, exercise our willpower. There are two main, universally agreed upon types of motivation — intrinsic motivation (also known as internal motivation) and extrinsic motivation (external motivation).

The intrinsic kind is, by inference, when you do something because it’s internally fulfilling, interesting or enjoyable — without an expectation of a reward or recognition from others. Extrinsic motivation is driven by exactly the opposite — externalities, such as the promise of more money, a good grade, positive feedback, or a promotion.

And of course, we all know about the big debate about money. It’s surely an external driver, but is it possible that it can sometimes make us enjoy what we do more? A meta-analysis that reviewed 120 years of research found a weak link between job satisfaction and money.

And what’s more — there is some evidence to suggest that more money can actually have an adverse effect on your intrinsic motivation.

Regardless of its type, motivation is still important to get you moving, to improve, excel, and put that extra effort when you feel like you don’t have a single drop of energy left to keep going.

So, let’s see some of the best things you can do to keep the fire going, even when you’d rather just indulge in pleasant idleness.

Why Intrinsic Motivation Tops Extrinsic Motivation

“To be motivated means to be moved to do something.”

Generally speaking, we all need motivation.

An avalanche of research, though, shows that when it comes to finding the lasting drive to “do something,” internal incentives are much more powerful than extrinsic rewards.

Why? It’s simple.

There is a great difference when you engage in something because “I want to,” as opposed to “I must.” Just think about the most obvious example there is: work.

If you go to work every day, dragging your feet and dreading the day ahead of you, how much enjoyment will you get from your job? What about productivity and results? Quality of work?

Yep, that’s right, you definitely won’t be topping the Employee of the Month list anytime soon.

The thing with external motivation is that it doesn’t last. It’s susceptible to something psychologists call Hedonic Adaptation. It’s a fancy way of saying that external rewards are not a sustainable source of happiness and satisfaction.

When you put in 100-hour weeks in order to get promoted, and you finally are, how long does your “high” last? The walking-on-a-cloud feelings wear off quickly, research tells us, making you want more. Therefore, you are stuck on a never-ending “hedonic treadmill,” i.e. you can progressively only become motivated by bigger and shinier things, just to find out that they don’t bring you the satisfaction you hoped for, when you finally get them.

Or, as the journalist and author Oliver Burkeman wonderfully puts it:

“Write every day” won’t work unless you want to write. And no exercise regime will last long if you don’t at least slightly enjoy what you’re doing.

If you want to find out more about the different types of motivation, take a look at this article: 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams

Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation

If you are still unconvinced that doing things solely for kudos and brownie points is not going to keep you going forever, nor make you like what you do, here is some additional proof:

Studies tell us that intrinsic motivation is a generally stronger predictor of job performance over the long run than extrinsic motivation.

One reason is that when we are internally driven to do something, we do it simply for the enjoyment of the activity. So, we keep going, day in and out, because we feel inspired, driven, happy, and satisfied with ourselves.

Another reason has to do with the fact that increasing intrinsic motivation is intertwined with things such as higher purpose, contributing to a cause, or doing things for the sake of something bigger than ourselves or our own benefit. A famous study done by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant is case in point.

By showing university fundraisers how the money donated by alumni can help financially struggling students to graduate from college, their productivity increased by 400% a week! The callers also showed an average increase of 142% in time spent on the phone and 171% increase in money raised.

Internal motivation has been found to be very helpful when it comes to academia, too. Research confirms that the use of external motivators, such as praise, undermine students’ internal motivation, and, in the long-run, it results in “slower acquisition of skills and more errors in the learning process.”

In contrast, when children are internally driven, they are more involved in the task at hand, enjoy it more, and intentionally seek out challenges.

Therefore, all the research seems to allude to one major revelation: intrinsic motivation is a must-have if you want to save yourself the drudgery we all sometimes feel when contemplating the things we should do or must do.

6 Ways to Enhance Your Intrinsic Motivation

So, how does one get more of the good stuff — that is, how do you become internally motivated?

There are many things you can do to become more driven. Here are the ones that top the list.

1. Self-Efficacy

The theory of self-efficacy was developed by the American-Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura in 1982. Efficacy is our own belief in whether we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves. In other words, it’s whether we think we “got what it takes” to be successful at what we do.

Find intrinsic motivation with self-efficacy.

It’s not hard to see the link of self-efficacy to higher self-esteem, better performance, and, of course, enhanced motivation. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to put extra effort in what they do, to self-set more challenging goals, and be more driven to improve their skills.

Therefore, the belief that we can accomplish something serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy — it motivates us to try harder to prove to ourselves that we can do it.

You can learn more about self-efficacy in this article: What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

2. Link Your Actions to a Greater Purpose

Finding your “why” in life is incredibly important. This means that you need to be clear with yourself on why you do what you do and what drives you. What is intrinsically rewarding for you? 

And no matter how mundane a task may be, it can always be linked to something bigger and better. Psychologists call this “reframing your narrative.”

Remember the famous story of John F. Kennedy visiting NASA in 1961? As it goes, he met a janitor there and asked him what he did at NASA. The answer was:

“I’m helping to put a man on the Moon.”

Inspirational, isn’t it?

Re-phrasing how your actions can help others and leave a mark in the universe can be a powerful driver and a meaning-creator.

3. Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to give back to the world. It can also help boost your internal motivation by making you feel important in supporting the less fortunate, learning new skills, feeling good about yourself, or linking to some of your inner values, such as kindness and humanitarianism.

When you remove any external reward expectations and do something for the pure joy and fulfilment of improving others’ lives, then you are truly intrinsically motivated.

4. Don’t Wait Until You “Feel Like It” to Do Something

A great piece in the Harvard Business Review points out that when we say things as “I can’t make myself go to the gym” or “I can’t get up early,” what we actually mean is that we don’t feel like it. There is nothing that psychically prevents us from doing those things, apart from our laziness.

But here’s the thing: You don’t have to “feel like it” in order to take action.

Sometimes, it so happens that you may not want to do something in the beginning, but once you start, you get into the flow and find your intrinsic motivation.

For instance, you don’t feel like going to the gym after a long day at work. Rather than debating in your head for hours “for and against” it, just go. Tell yourself that you will think about it later. Once in the gym, surrounded by similar souls, you suddenly won’t fee that tired or uninspired.

Another way to overcome procrastination is to create routines and follow them. Once the habit sets in, suddenly getting up at 6 am for work or writing for an hour every day won’t be so dreadful.

5. Self-Determination, or the CAR Model (As I Call It)

The Self-Determination theory was created by two professors of psychology from the University of Rochester in the mid-80s—Richard Ryan and Edward Deci. The theory is one of the most popular ones in the field of motivation. It focuses on the different drivers behind our behavior—i.e. the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

There are three main needs, the theory further states, that can help us meet our need for growth. These are also the things which Profs. Deci and Ryan believed to be the main ways to enhance our intrinsic motivation—Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness (CAR).

If our jobs allow us to learn and grow, and if we have enough autonomy to do things our way and be creative, then we will be more driven to give our best, and our performance will soar. In addition, as humans are social beings, we also need to feel connected to others and respected.

All of these sources of intrinsic motivation, separately and in combination, can become powerful instigators to keep us thriving, even when we feel uninspired and unmotivated .

6. Tap Into a Deeper Reason

Some interesting research done in 2016 sought answers to how high-performing employees remain driven when their company can’t or won’t engage in ways to motivate them—intrinsically or extrinsically.

The study tracked workers in a Mexican factory, where they did exactly the same tasks every day, with virtually zero chances for learning new skills, developing professionally, or being promoted. Everyone was paid the same, regardless of performance. So there was no extrinsic motivation at all, other than keeping one’s job.

A third kind of motivation was then discovered, which scientists called “family motivation.” Workers who agreed more with statements such as “I care about supporting my family” or “It is important for me to do good for my family” were more energized and performed better, although they didn’t have any additional external or internal incentive to do so.

The great thing about this kind of driver is that it’s independent of the company one works for or the situation. It taps into something even deeper—if you don’t want to do something for your own sake, then do it for the people you care for.

And this is a powerful motive, as many can probably attest to this.

Final Thoughts

Frederick Herzberg, the American psychologist who developed what’s perhaps still today the most famous theory of motivation, in his renowned article from 1968 (which sold a modest 1.2 million reprints and it the most requested article from Harvard Business Review One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees? wrote:

“If I kick my dog, he will move. And when I want him to move again, what must I do? I must kick him again. Similarly, I can charge a person’s battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again. But it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation. One then needs no outside stimulation. One wants to do it.”

Herzberg further explains that the so-called “hygiene factors” (salary, job security, benefits, vacation time, work conditions) don’t lead to fulfillment, nor motivation. What does, though, are the “motivators”—challenging work, opportunities for growth, achievement, greater responsibility, recognition, the work itself.

Herzberg realized it long ago…intrinsic motivation tips the scales when it comes to finding long-term happiness and satisfaction in everything we do, and to improving our overall well-being.

In the end, the next time when you need to give yourself a bit of a kick to get something done, remember to link it to a goal bigger than yourself, and preferably one that has non-material benefit.

And no, don’t say that you tried but it’s just impossible to find internal motivation. Remember the janitor at NASA?

Because once you find your internal generator, you will be truly unstoppable.

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