Living Beyond: Developing A Positive Life

A Monthly Column By Dr. Asa Don Brown

picture of asa don brown

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” ~ Walt Whitman

Developing a positive attitude in the face of troubling and challenging times is a possibility. All-too-often, when people are faced with circumstances that are perceivably intolerable, they are conditioned to give up, or to give in to the challenge, rather than meet the challenge head on.

After all, what is a challenge? A challenge is “a task or situation that tests someone’s abilities (or overall persona).” (New Oxford American Dictionary, 2015, Online). When we are challenged by life itself, an event therein, a circumstance, a person or group of people, or an addictive force; we are being prodded to prove that we have the fortitude to withstand whatever adversity may come our way. We do not have to cower in the face of adversity; rather we can rise above the adversity proving a force to be reckoned with.


“If you say you can or you can’t you are right either way.” ~ Henry Ford

Whether you are overcoming thoughts related to an addiction, a life event, or negative personal thoughts or challenges; the greatest obstacle for an individual, is the individual themselves. The mindset is the overcomer. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, to overcome is to “succeed in dealing with (a problem or difficulty) or to defeat (an opponent).” Of course, as clinicians we must recognize that addiction and other psychological and biological disorders are more than mere mindsets, but overcoming protruding thoughts created by our own volition is within our control.

Developing a positive mindset begins by changing our core beliefs, attitudes and perceptions. As an individual, you have the power to change and to choose how you see the world. Are you choosing to see a glass half full or half empty?


“Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others.” ~ Confucius

Developing a positive mindset begins by accepting responsibility. Responsibility is the ability to act independently and without restriction. It is the ability to choose or make decisions without the need to gain authorization from another or group of individuals. Moreover, it is the willingness of being accountable for our deeds, actions, and personal lives.

If you are currently struggling with protruding thoughts, ask yourself the following questions:
• What is the catalyst of my thoughts?
• Am I in charge of my thoughts, or am I allowing others to influence my belief systems and perceptions of the world?
• Are you willing to accept responsibility for your thoughts?
• What are your ambitions for life? Do they include living life to its fullest?
• Is living life beyond the past important to you? Always remember, a millisecond ago accounts for the past.

Personal responsibility is the willingness to claim ownership of one’s life. It is the willingness to claim complete ownership of one’s deeds, actions, attitudes, and perceptions. When an individual accepts personal responsibility, they avoid seeking to blame someone else and are eager to accept complete ownership of choices made in life. For those who choose to accept personal responsibility, they are also willing to hold others accountable for their own choices.


“The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” ~ Anne Frank

The key to developing and living a positive life, is directly and indirectly a reflection of our perceptions and worldview. As you literally and figuratively view your person in the mirror, what do you see? What do you see when you view yourself in the mirror? Do you think of yourself in a positive way, or do you have feelings of indifference or disdain? Do you tolerate yourself or are you intolerant of your person?

The following are key elements for developing a positive life:
1) Always strive to speak positively about yourself, your life, and others.
2) Avoid entertaining negative self-talk.
3) Be certain to think daily upon the positive perspectives of this life.
4) Reject pessimistic and defeatist attitudes, perceptions, and self-talk.
5) Always speak the truth and focus on your positive attributes.
6) Avoid conversations of doom and gloom.
7) Always be appreciative of those central to your life (e.g. family, friends, and associates).
8) Do not be a person who expects or is excessively ready to accept failure.
9) Be certain to always think carefully through any major decision.
10) Avoid participating in water cooler gossip. Gossip is the antagonist of healthy conversation.
11) Be willing to heed positively constructive feedback, input and consultation.
12) Always seek to consume positive information (e.g. literature, music, social media).
13) Be a positive influence on your friends, family and associates.
14) Maintain and establish friendships that are positively rooted.
15) Employ a daily diet of positive thoughts, perceptions, and attitudes.
16) Focus on the positive perspectives of life.
17) Be a consumer of the outdoors and nature.
18) Physical exercise is the key to physical and mental fitness.
19) Be certain to always be well rested, relaxed, and prepared.
20) Live a life centered on mindfulness. (e.g. breathing, meditation, and journaling).
21) Always focus on starting your day with a song in your heart and a smile on your face.

A positive attitude comes from two places. One is the combination of experiences that create a sense of satisfaction and joy within ourselves. The other place comes from within in the form of mental discipline. Our positive experiences help provide context for developing a positive attitude. Mental discipline provides a way to focus our thoughts and push away distraction.

Do not get discouraged because developing a positive framework takes time, work, dedication, and motivation. The moment that you change your negative perceptions and worldview, is the moment that you will begin living life completely. Always remember that happiness is not giddiness, smiling or a visual attribute, rather happiness is the ability to have peace through the good times and the bad.

May you begin living beyond.

Dr. Asa Don Brown

Guest Contributor: Shari Weiss, Ph.D. Candidate

Author: Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., D.N.C.C.M., F.A.A.E.T.S.