I used to imagine ideal outcomes and then feel bad when they didn’t come true. There was always a large gap between what I wished would happen and what actually happened, so I’d end up disappointed. And I’d be confused about why I wasn’t happy, because I thought I was “being positive” by imagining pleasant outcomes.
But it turns out that “being positive” is not about imagining pleasant outcomes. Every type of person daydreams about pleasant outcomes, the difference is that happy people don’t mind when things turn out unexpectedly, they accept whatever happens and frame it in a pleasing way.
In other words, “being positive” is not daydreaming about things we already find pleasant, it’s turning everything we encounter into something pleasant. To a positive person, all experiences are transformed into a source of enjoyment. So if we wish for a bicycle on our birthday, but receive a wool sweater instead, we’ll face disappointment if we depend on idealized outcomes, whereas if we practice positivity, we’ll think of reasons we enjoy our new sweater.
It may seem that being positive takes a lot of effort and creativity in order to find reasons to enjoy everything we encounter. But like anything, it gets easier and more automatic with practice. And because of the pleasant feelings it generates, it tends to be self-sustaining.