Positive thinking is a discipline that trains the human mind to change a perceived reality by repeatedly making positive mental statements. We practice positive thinking when we derive a positive sense of well being, optimism, belonging, meaning and/or purpose from being part of and contributing back to something larger and more permanent than ourselves. Positive thinking is a process of choosing positive emotions from stimuli in the environment and applying them to our perceptions and beliefs. The objective is to create an outlook that translates into a new or better chosen reality.

A Positive Mental Attitude

A positive mental attitude is the belief that one can increase achievement through optimistic thought processes. A positive attitude comes from observing one's environment. Learning is partially achieved when a vision of good natured change in the mind is applied toward people, circumstances, events, or behaviors. Since it is difficult to quantify (measure) the effects of a positive mental attitude, it can be considered a philosophy and a way to approach life.

Emmet Fox and the Mental Equivalent

Emmet Fox (1886–1951), an early-20th century philosopher and New Thought minister, taught that the foundation for all true productive expression was positive thinking. He taught a technique he called the mental equivalent, which meant having conscious awareness of our daily thought processes and connectivity to God in order to realize any change or manifestation in the external environment. This concept was also taught by many mystics, including Rumi, Jesus, the Buddha, Gandhi, and others from across all wisdom traditions.

Fox believed that the doctrine of the mental equivalent was an essential metaphysical teaching: You will receive that for which you provide the mental equivalent. This is akin to the Law of Attraction, where energy attracts similar energies and conditions. According to Fox, a lack of positive life conditions arises from errors in thinking because we always demonstrate our consciousness. Negative thinking, such as unforgiveness, fear, worry, self-doubt, and a lack of understanding of the unlimited nature of the individual soul and of God, is a habit that can, however, be unseated with discipline and self-awareness.

Use Clarity and Passion

Fox also stressed the importance of positive thinking as a companion to developing clarity and passion when we organize our outlook on our life. He believed the secret to creating successful and prosperous circumstances with spiritual enrichment and material wealth was directly proportional to the mental concepts held in the mind. The Bible, he said, taught the power of positive thinking from beginning to end by giving metaphysics a religious and metaphorical language. To Fox, witnessing any demonstration or change in a personal condition begins with building a positive mental attitude, or the mental equivalent of what is desired. He believed negative external conditions in the world, such as poverty, ill health, or war, are the manifestation of mental equivalents held by people everywhere.

Build a Mental Equivalent for a Positive Mental Attitude

Since external conditions in the physical plane are the consequence of the mental equivalent held by one or more people, changing our situation requires consistent positive thought. Such thoughts must have two qualities: (1) clarity, or definiteness, and (2) interest, or passion for the idea. Knowledge and feeling, Fox said, are the two key ingredients to produce a successful mental attitude that results in measurable change in one's external environment. Fox emphasized that building health, inspiration, our true place, and companionship requires using clear and persistent positive thoughts and understanding God. Each individual, including the person who is attempting the demonstration, must know that he or she is one with God. Fox also believed that thinking clearly and with feeling leads to positive change because you have then built a mental equivalent to invite whatever is desired into your life.


Positive Mental Attitude

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