For Bo Parfet, the power of positive thinking isn’t a cliché; it’s a superpower. As a leader and prominent impact investor, he’s seen first-hand how positive thinking can transform businesses and the world in real, meaningful ways. But what does it actually mean to think positively, and what does science say about it? Bo Parfet breaks down the main tenets behind the philosophy of positive thinking and unravels precisely why it’s so powerful. Understanding the why behind positive thinking
Our thoughts are powerful things, and how we think and view the world can greatly impact the reality we create for ourselves. For example, the classic case of making a mistake or taking a risk and failing: Those who think negatively will likely be hard on themselves and potentially give up on whatever goal they were trying to achieve, while those who think positively will see the situation as a learning opportunity to grow from.
And it extends beyond simply shifting your mindset. Learning how to embrace optimism and positivity can impact your success in business and your individual health. This is something Bo Parfet has found especially true in his life and career. The more you can think positively, the easier it becomes to weather any obstacles in your way and come out stronger on the other side. In business, that kind of mindset can be the thing that ends up differentiating you from your competitors.
As mentioned before, positive thinking can also improve our health. Several studies have found that those who practice optimism enjoy reduced stress levels and lower rates of depression. In addition, training yourself to approach life through a positive lens can reduce your risk of a variety of illnesses and diseases, including heart disease and cancer, and can even increase your lifespan.
The stories we tell ourselves
So how do we begin to reap the benefits of positive thinking, especially if it’s not something that comes naturally to us? It starts with learning to recognize the stories we tell ourselves. We, humans, are storytellers, and that extends to the narratives we create within our minds. Oftentimes, the stories we tell ourselves are to help us feel more confident in our decisions or to help us feel like we’re doing the right thing. They remind us of our goals and commitments and can prompt self-reflection when those goals or commitments don’t line up with our actions in the real world.
Bo Parfet has found that the more we’re able to recognize the patterns in the stories we tell ourselves, the easier it becomes not only to align those stories with reality but to recognize when stories are hurting rather than helping ourselves. When we learn to recognize negative self-talk or narratives, we can intentionally chart a new course without letting ourselves fall into guilt, anger, or resignation traps.
Deciding who you want to be
Ultimately, positive thinking comes down to the idea that you can choose who you want to be and how you want to engage with the world around you. But it’s easier to choose who you want to be. That’s why it’s important not to ‘start from scratch. The first question Bo Parfet recommends asking yourself is, “who inspires me?”
Finding out who you want to be is much easier if you have a frame of reference. Taking the time to think about who you admire and why can help you identify certain traits, behaviors, and attitudes you want to emulate in your own life and career. For example, suppose you’re an entrepreneur who values adventure, humility, and a commitment to protecting the earth. In that case, you may find inspiration in Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and how he decided to run his company. Of course, identifying these people and traits doesn’t mean you have to copy them; instead, it’s more about finding positive attitudes and habits you want to embody and learning through the people who already embody them.
Building a positive self-image
When we start to recognize the stories we tell ourselves and identify the people who inspire us, we can begin to cultivate a more positive self-image. The last piece of the puzzle regarding positive thinking and building a good self-image is about seeing our true worth and potential. Self-confidence can also go a long way in improving mental health, from giving us more energy and motivation to pursue our goals to reduce the amount of stress and anxiety we face. Of course, it’s also an incredible asset to have in business. Hall of Fame football player Joe Namath puts it best, saying, “When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.”
People who are confident in themselves believe in their abilities. They have an innate sense of competence and know that they can figure out whatever problem may be in front of them. This isn’t to say they’re masters of all. In fact, confident people know where their own strengths lie and know when to ask for help. And in the case of failure, they don’t take it as defeat. Instead, they accept and embrace failure as something that will help them learn and grow in the future. This attitude creates a positive loop, sparking new confidence and wisdom every time a new obstacle is faced.
About Bo Parfet
Bo Parfet is the co-founder and CEO of Denali Venture Philanthropy, a hybrid entrepreneurial and social venture dedicated to supporting positive, creative, sustainable improvements in people’s lives. A member of the Explorer’s Club and one of only 127 people worldwide to complete the Seven Summits Challenge, Bo Parfet helped develop the Seven Summits Award Program, which offers grants to outstanding students performing field research in healthcare. Recently, he was featured on the podcast “Impact with Don Wenner,” a show interviewing professionals from a variety of industries to discuss how they create a positive impact in the world.