P is for People Who Live In A Positive Universe Rather Than A Negative Universe  


People sometimes seem to live in different universes. Some people seem to be always positive, some to be always negative. Some veer between these extremes.

There are several names for these different approaches to life. They may be called philosophies, attitudes, belief systems, mind-sets, mental models, paradigms or other names.

During the past 50 years I have met many people who have chosen to live in a positive universe rather than a negative universe. They take the following steps towards encouraging other people during their time on the planet.

They have a
positive attitude

Such people are positive realists rather than starry-eyed optimists. They choose to have a positive attitude towards life but are also good at reading reality. They then focus on what they can control and manage what they can’t.

People make choices every moment. They can choose to be positive or negative, to take responsibility or avoid responsibility, to be creative or keep complaining. The choices they make have consequences, both for themselves and other people.


People who stay positive do what they believe in. They may choose to do work that gives them positive energy, for example, rather than that which has the highest money or status. They then build on their strengths and follow the daily disciplines required to achieve success.

Such people often gain strength by choosing to serve something that is greater than themselves. A person will aim to serve their loved ones and they may also choose:

To serve a spiritual faith, a set of values or a philosophy

To serve a purpose, a mission or a cause

To serve a vocation, a creative drive or a project

A person who serves something greater than themselves is more able to withstand outside pressures. They keep focusing on what they really value in life. When in doubt, they go back to their inner compass and ask:

What are the principles I want to follow in life? How can I follow these principles, even during difficult times? How can I do my best to follow these principles during my time on the planet?

Such people often do more than follow their chosen life principles. They also take the next step.

They follow
positive principles

They study humanity at its best. They study what works, simplify what works – in a profound way – and share what works. They ask some of the following questions.

When do people achieve success? When do they find positive solutions to challenges? When do they perform brilliantly? 

What do people do right then? What are the principles they follow to perform brilliantly? 

How can people follow similar principles – plus maybe add other skills – to perform brilliantly in the future? How can I help them to achieve success?  


Such people often have positive eyes. When looking at individuals, for example, they ask some of the following questions.

What are the person’s strengths? What are the activities in which they deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs? What are the things that give them positive energy? When are they in their element – at ease and yet able to excel? When do make complicated things appear simple? 

When do they see the destination quickly? When do they go ‘A, B … and then leap to … Z’? What are the activities in which they quickly see patterns? Where do they have the equivalent of a photographic memory? When are they are calm, clear and deliver concrete results?  

What is the person’s successful style of working? Looking back, what for them have been their most satisfying projects? What made each of these projects satisfying? Are there any recurring patterns that give clues to their successful style? How can they follow their successful style in the future?

Such people also focus on when a team or organisation does fine work. They ask some of the following questions.

When have people in the team or organisation performed brilliantly? What were people doing right then? What were the principles they were following? How can they follow these principles – plus maybe add other elements – to perform brilliantly in the future?

Who are the positive people in the team or organisation? Where is the positive energy? How can we build on these assets? How can we build a positive culture that enables motivated people to achieve ongoing success? How can we enable people to do the basics and then add the brilliance?

Many people now focus on the positive principles that individuals, teams and organisations can follow to reach their goals. Martin Seligman, for example, helped to give birth to the modern approach to positive psychology. His work led to creating the Positive Psychology Center at The University of Pennsylvania. The Center says:

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive … It has three central concerns: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions.

Other researchers in the field include people such as Ed Diener, Robert Diswas-Diener, Christopher Peterson, Tal Ben-Shahar and Sonja Lyubomirsky. Senia Maymin, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Positive Psychology News Daily, writes:

Positive Psychology studies what is right with people and how people live the good life.

David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney took a similar approach when creating Appreciative Inquiry. This is a positive model for helping teams and organisations to develop.

Different people apply AI in different ways. Whichever approach they use, however, they invite individuals, teams or organisations to build on their positive core.

People clarify the particular area they want to explore. They are then invited:

To clarify when they have performed brilliantly in this area in the past.

To clarify the principles they followed then to perform brilliantly.

To clarify how they can follow these principles – plus maybe add other elements – to perform brilliantly in the future.

AI has been used by people in all walks of life to tackle challenges. People like the approach. It shows that they have already done what works. They simply have to do it more – plus maybe adding other elements – in the future.

In the video below David Cooperrider gives real life examples of how AI can nurture entrepreneurship and create encouraging environments. He shows how it can help to create a sustainable and successful future for the human family.

You can discover more about David’s work on his website. Here is the link.


They help to build
a positive planet

Different people choose different ways to plant seeds of hope during their time on the planet. Some do this by simply being kind, encouraging and helping other people.

Human beings are often at their best when they choose to be generous. As the Buddha said:

A generous heart, kind speech and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.

Some people help others by demonstrating the qualities that are admired across many civilisations. Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson wrote about these qualities in their book Character Strengths and Virtues.  

They led a research team that studied the qualities of moral excellence that are admired across different philosophies, religions and cultures. After extensive research, the team settled on six key virtues, though these are obviously interlinked.

Martin Seligman provides the following introduction. You can discover more via the following link.


When we look we see that there are six virtues, which we find endorsed across cultures, and these break down into 24 strengths. 

The six virtues that we find are non-arbitrary – first, a wisdom and knowledge cluster; second, a courage cluster; third, virtues like love and humanity; fourth, a justice cluster; fifth a temperance, moderation cluster; and sixth a spirituality, transcendence cluster. 

We sent people up to northern Greenland, and down to the Masai, and are involved in a 70-nation study in which we look at the ubiquity of these. 

Indeed, we’re beginning to have the view that those six virtues are just as much a part of human nature as walking on two feet are.



Erik Erickson, the psychologist, said that people often reach what he called The Generative Age. He described this as:

A concern for establishing and guiding the next generation.

The most common form of taking this step is being a parent. But it can also be expressed through encouraging people, passing on knowledge or leaving a positive legacy. Here are some examples.

A counsellor may help people to manage problems successfully … A nurse may help people to regain their health … An educator may provide tools that help students to shape their futures … A scientist may work to find a breakthrough cure. 

A chef may make nurturing food that feeds the body and soul … A singer may uplift people with their songs … An architect may make beautiful buildings … An environmentalist may make TV films that encourage people to appreciate the beauty of the Earth.  

A social entrepreneur may work to improve the quality of people’s lives … A lawyer may work for social justice … A trusted advisor may pass on knowledge that helps other people to succeed … A leader may build a positive culture that enables people to thrive.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you want to live in a positive universe rather than a negative universe.

How can you continue to have a positive attitude yet also be good at reading reality? How can you follow positive principles that work? How can you encourage other people?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to have a positive attitude – though also read reality – and encourage people during your time on the planet.  

Describe the specific benefits – both for you and for other people – of taking these steps and encouraging people.




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