Positive Means Constructive, Not Superficial

After my last blog, I received the following email from someone who has become a cherished reader due to his frequent and rich feedback:


“A second take: positive, being part of a dichotomy, holds in its underbelly, negative; and thus 'positive' thinking always has a desperate quality about it, to being positive positive positive because of the elephant in the room, unacknowledged, negative; "positive people" to me seem naive and too cheery.

“Grounded in the full heart of knowing both sides, the yin and yang, that life brings death, there is a larger and stronger base of feeling/thought, a deep well to draw the water from.

“We may be saying the same thing, but there is my two cents worth.”


Here is my response to him:

We are saying the same thing except that yours is more eloquent. That will be my focus for next week. May I quote you in my blog post?

“You writing this reminds me that I don’t think like many or most people about positive. I think of it more as meaning constructive rather than destructive, optimistic rather than pessimistic, perceiving a challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow, and very definitely coming from a place of wholeness of all aspects of ourselves.”

Robert's response:

So much tied to how we interpret, so strange this faculty of speech and words we toss back and forth, each thinking we are using the small ball.”

What if your approach to being positive includes the negative? What if you were to be facile at giving constructive feedback in a manner that engenders gratitude? What if you could hold the bar high, use rigor, and be positive—all at the same time? What if you felt confident that you could have a constructive conversation about the most difficult topics and stay positive?

This is what being positive means to me.

How do I encourage but not push? How do I support someone to move out of blame or shame and into self-reflection with curiosity? How do I support people in learning how to take a deep dive into themselves with the belief that they will find gems, some of which are crusty from being hidden underground for a long time? Some of which appear as monsters, only to find that with love, they become angels who want to take care of you.

Positive is taking lemons, knowing that they are lemons, and making the most delicious lemonade.

Positive is finding the strength from deep in yourself to have the courage to bring up the most sensitive, delicate, and important issues in life, both personal and at work.

Positive is believing in yourself, despite the critical voices you have heard in your head through your lifetime.

Positive is committing to developing self-compassion and hearing an inner voice that knows your worth and believes in you.

Positive is believing in someone when they, themselves, start to doubt.

Positive is standing up for yourself, even though you are scared, learning to say no, saying yes when and only when there is a real yes inside you.

I encourage you to continue this list. See the practice for this week to support you in that endeavor.

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith is the founder and president of Rewire Leadership Institute®. A master facilitator, consultant, teacher, and coach, she has created and facilitated personal growth, team development and organizational change seminars, coached executives and teams, facilitated strategic planning and high visibility meetings, and supported culture change for over four decades. Judith works with a diverse range of companies from government agencies, non-profit, Fortune Global 500, to small and mid-sized family owned businesses including such organizations as NASA, Seaflow, Total Oil, Restoration Hardware, San Antonio Water System, and Culver Company.

Superb at supporting individuals, pairs, and teams in developing the skills necessary to realize their full potential, Judith helps executives, managers, and staff gain the ability to respond flexibly and rapidly to their changing environment. Through extensive experience and research, she utilizes a number of different approaches including the FIRO theory, systems theory, cybernetics, neuroscience, cognitive, positive, and success psychology.

As one of the world’s leading experts on the FIRO theory, she trains consultants internationally. A consultant’s consultant, Judith mentors facilitators, coaches, therapists and other professionals in the integration of the FIRO theory in their work. From 1981 until 2004, she worked closely with Dr. Will Schutz, the creator of FIRO theory. Independently, Judith developed FIRO Theory Profiling, which has been lauded as the first innovation in the FIRO theory instruments aside from Dr. Schutz’ own developments. She continues to develop courses that synthesize her studies and experience and are based in FIRO theory.

Starting in her teenage years, Judith has been a pioneer in her passion for authenticity, clear communication, and positive change. She is lauded for her ability to see others’ potential and help them realize it—be they individuals, pairs, teams, or organizations. Judith’s zest for life, appreciation for others, and generosity of spirit inspires those with whom she works.

An honor’s student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Judith’s desire and passion to learn about authenticity motivated her to move her studies to The Institute for Creative and Artistic Development (ICAD) in Oakland, California. As the youngest student in their teacher training program, she created and graduated with an undergraduate degree that focused on authenticity through California State University, Sonoma. Continuing on her quest to study authenticity and creativity, Judith began taking courses at California State University, Hayward where she also created and graduated with a unique Master’s degree that focused on communication, transformation, and the creative arts.

Interested in systems and change, Judith began experimenting with her innovative action-oriented approach to assess and intervene with families, groups, and organizations. Through this work, she became a much sought-after instructor, training masters and doctoral students in her seminal work. As chair of a psychology program focused on Creative Arts Therapies at Antioch University, San Francisco, she developed curriculum and continued to serve as guest faculty and lecturer at universities nationwide.

In addition to leading Rewire Leadership, Judith and her husband, Daniel Ellenberg, co-founded Relationships That Work®, where she serves as Vice President. She and Daniel co-authored Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnership, which applies the principles of Rewire Leadership Institute® to romantic relationships. Recently, they co-authored a chapter in Mastering the Art of Success: Volume 8. With Matt White, Judith recently co-authored Leading with Courage.

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