Purposely Positive: How to Live an Intentional and Inspired Life


Worth reading 😎

A sometimes cringy and often personal self-help guide that encourages personal change from a New Age perspective.


Did you know the human brain is hard-wired toward negativity? You are constantly battling fear, self-doubt, and worry. These feelings keep you comfortable, but also right where you are. If you truly want to grow to become the best version of yourself, you are going to need to step outside of comfort. You need to intentionally create a positive experience. This book combines science and wit delivered through powerful prose that will allow you to bring your best self forward. Live an amazing life. Live intentionally. Live on purpose. Live Positive!

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Reedsy Discovery. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Once, as a graduate student in Engineering Management, I took an entire class on resistance to change, and why it is that so many change efforts on a corporate level fail the way that they do. At first I thought it was pretty ridiculous that an entire class would be devoted to this subject, but having read many books on motivation in the field of self-help, it is clear that resistance to change is one of the most notable aspects of life, as it refers to personal and institutional improvement. It is therefore little surprise that there should be thousands of books like this one. Books that seek to inspire someone to change, that give out a healthy dollop of flattering comments about people being the guides to their own lives, and having a beautiful true soul that needs to be freed of the burden of guilt and shame and timidity and perfectionism and so on and so forth. Aside from the author's personal touches, this book could literally be any hundreds of books that I have read, some of which the author includes as suggestions for further reading.

In terms of its contents, this book is a bit shorter than 200 pages and features a variety of short chapters with odd titles. Each of the chapters begins with one or more quotes that introduce the subject at hand, then proceed to be full of explanation points and words in all caps (because the author thinks that such a style is inspirational) and closes with a set of Purposely Positive Exercises (PPE) that encourage the reader to act on the subject matter of the chapter.  Although the author includes a great deal of cringy personal oversharing as a way of seeking to build intimacy with the reader, there is very little of substance in this book that does not closely follow the general consensus of New Age self-help, with a strong degree of Buddhist influence and a huge degree of focus on positive psychology as being the road to happiness for individuals burdened by worry, anxiety, guilt, and shame. Helpfully, the book closes with a set of recommended books and movies that demonstrates the author's familiarity with inspirational and self-help material as a whole, much of it of similar approach to this volume.

While in general I think it is important to recognize the sort of book that one is reading rather than the one that one would prefer to read, there are at least a few obvious comments about this book and its approach that are worth making. The author seems to promote a dualistic mindset that points to the superiority of the spirit over the defects of the brain and its bias towards negativity. There are also plenty of ways that the book demonstrates a certain contradictory approach, such as the way that the author cautions against a reliance on the dopamine and cortisol hormone systems that lead to self-absorption and isolation even as the author promotes a self-absorbed view of the reader as his (or her) own moral guide a la Invictus, ignoring the fallen nature of mankind that makes it impossible for people to serve as their own moral guides and the absolute necessity of external moral judgement, as well as external help and encouragement (such as books like this) when it comes to making important changes in life. Although this is by no means a bad book, it doesn't say anything that hasn't been said many times before by other writers with the same kind of worldview that the author has, or that won't be said many times more by similar writers in the months and years to come, given the immense popularity of New Age self-help thinking.

Reviewed by

I read a wide variety of books, usually reviewing three a day, from diverse sources, including indie presses and self-publishing, and I enjoy talking about unfamiliar authors and introducing them to my blog audience.


Did you know the human brain is hard-wired toward negativity? You are constantly battling fear, self-doubt, and worry. These feelings keep you comfortable, but also right where you are. If you truly want to grow to become the best version of yourself, you are going to need to step outside of comfort. You need to intentionally create a positive experience. This book combines science and wit delivered through powerful prose that will allow you to bring your best self forward. Live an amazing life. Live intentionally. Live on purpose. Live Positive!

Purposely Positive: An Introduction

“Life is like a room, and we are the painters. You can either choose to paint your room bright or dull, but always remember it is where you will always sleep.”

–—Terry Mark

First off, THANK YOU for taking a step toward living your ideal life. Thank you for getting out of your comfort zone to live your life with intention, instead of just passing through it. Thank you for realizing there is so much more potential contained within the seeds of your existence than you have let blossom so far. Thank you for accepting the call to be more impactful. The world needs more people to wake up, take charge of their lives, and create a more positive present and lasting legacy. Thank you for deciding to do as Ghandi said and “be a change you want to see in the world.”-Mahatma Ghandi.

And now let’s get to work.

Did you know that the human brain is hardwired to be more negative than positive? Ever since humans walked on two legs (and more than likely, even before then), our brains have continually worked to avoid punishment and move toward reward. Unfortunately, punishments—negative experiences, pain, Uncle Borgo getting devoured by a lion, etc.—leave a much deeper impression on our minds than rewards do.

From generation-to-generation, certain attributes are passed on, such as hair color, eye shape, knobby knees, etc. But there are other non-physical things that get passed on as well. Knowledge and capacity for learning is woven throughout our family tree, and that tree prospered, creating more and more branches because our ancestors figured out how to avoid certain dangers and shared that knowledge with future generations. Sure, they also passed on things, like how to make the best rodent stew and where to find the tastiest grubs, but those lessons didn’t have as much of an impact as the warnings did, such as how to run from predators and why it’s important to be careful around crocodiles.

We were taught from generation-to-generation that life can be quite dangerous and we should therefore act accordingly. Being cautious may have stopped some leaps from occurring, but being vigilant also kept our DNA thriving in the gene pool, and that’s why our brains are always on the lookout for negativity.

Believe it or not, there is a plethora of research on this topic. In a study conducted by John Cacciopo, Ph.D,[1] people were shown various pictures designed to stir up different emotions. There were two positive, two negative and thirty-six neutral photographs. The researchers then recorded the participant’s brainwave activity with each image. The results showed a greater surge in brain activity following the viewing of a negative image compared to when looking at a positive one. The participants’ brains were more active, more primed for the “bad” things than the “good” ones.

Another study in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General[2] found that people are more likely to assume negative intentions of another person rather than positive ones.

Pain is a great teacher, and the lessons learned last longer than the lessons learned from chocolate or certificates of merit. We have a ‘negativity bias,’ meaning we lean more toward negative perspectives and take larger actions based on negative instances than positive ones. Since we all have this bias, our brains are constantly seeking out warning signs, and negative information is soaked up like a sponge. Our brains are pushing us toward fear on an almost constant basis.

In order to combat this, you need to be vigilant in creating and noticing positive experiences, thoughts and memories. You need to actively work to pursue and attract positivity into your life. You need to strive to bring forth positive interactions, create positive atmospheres, and push yourself to learn, grow, motivate and inspire.

The purpose of this book is to arm you with ways to do exactly that.

This book is NOT designed to motivate you. There is a vast difference between motivation and INSPIRATION. Throughout this journey, the focus will be on the latter.

I mean no disrespect to any motivation you achieve, or any seminars you have been to, because they most definitely serve a great purpose. I work on my motivation daily. I listen to some amazing motivational speakers, read motivational quotes and books, and watch motivational videos. I simply want to differentiate between motivation and inspiration.

Motivation is like a bonfire, full of energy and raring to go. There is a place for that type of pyrotechnics in life, for sure. Inspiration, in contrast, is a slow-burn–a smoldering-coal-fire kind of heat. Inspiration is much more soothing and longer lasting; it warms and comforts the soul. Inspiration is more about awakening what’s already there, and fanning the small flames that are burning right now—which keeps them burning longer—rather than forcing it with a match, lighter fluid, gasoline, or hair spray, which will eventually go out.

In this book, you will explore many aspects of your soul, and I use the word “explore” with great purpose. Exploration implies adventure, discovery, a journey into the unknown (or maybe just the sort-of-known). In order to truly get in touch with your purpose and keep your inspiration “furnace” burning—for your own good and the good of all humanity—you need to be willing to move into uncharted territory. You must ask new questions, seek new answers, and investigate the terrain of your life quite differently than you have been. This book will aid you in making more inspired decisions around living an intentional, purposeful life.

In picking up this book, you undoubtedly conducted an interview of sorts. Maybe you are glancing through this chapter at the bookstore in the airport or reading the description on Amazon and thinking, “Who is this Joel guy and why in the bloody hell should I listen to him?” First off, I can promise you this: I am not a Master of Mentality, Prince of Purpose, Emancipator of Emotion, or Sultan of Some-Cool-Word-That-Begins-With-S. But my soul and my spirit tell me I have work to do in this world, and a large portion of that job description entails sharing inspiration with others as best I can.

I have devoted a large portion of my life to understanding the human condition more deeply. I studied Psychology, Biology, Sociology, Biochemistry and Physiology on my way to earning a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and then a Doctor of Chiropractic degree afterward. I’ve continued my learning endeavors through numerous post-graduate courses over the past fifteen years. I’ve read (and continue to read) hundreds of books on the mind, personal growth, motivation and inspiration. I’ve attended numerous lectures on these subjects as well.

I’ve also experienced friends who have lived lives and deaths of “quiet desperation.” I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that living a life without purpose can do to one’s soul, and the souls of their loved ones. I’ve personally dealt with debilitating depression, low self-esteem, and entertained thoughts of ending it all in my past. I also, on occasion, have watched the news, and I understand that in order to create a better world for ourselves and for future generations, there is work to be done.

If you want to live your best life, you must take more command of it. You must put in the work to live your life more purposefully.

I also know that you are worth the work, and the people you interact with in your life are definitely worthy of the results of that work. Be prepared to go deep and to illuminate your soul. This isn’t only to “figure yourself out,” but to find out how you can wake up each day and feel like you are on the right path, inspired from within and living purposefully.

My hope is that throughout this journey, you will realize you have a plethora of choices at any given moment in your life. You can decide to revert to negativity, or you can intentionally choose to allow each moment (good or bad) to spur you on to a more vibrant future.

At the beginning of each chapter, there are words of wisdom to inspire you and provide insight into what to expect from the work ahead. There are also Purposely Positive Exercises (or PPEs, for short because who doesn’t like acronyms) following each chapter. These are designed to help you investigate each topic further. These exercises are tools that will allow you to put this book into action.

And if you do, it will allow you to live with intention and bring forth the very best version of yourself.

Purposely Positive Exercise: Set Your Intention

All good things have a purpose behind them, so take five minutes to do the following:

•            What do you want to change in your life?—Make a list of everything you’d like to change.

•            From the list you just made, which area(s) of your life you would like to use this book to improve?—Choose one to three areas to focus on.

•            Set an INTENTION for what you want in each of these areas- For example, if fitness is an area you want to improve in, you could set an intention that you will “consistently exercise for at least twenty minutes per day.” If having some stress relief is a priority, set an intention to participate in twenty minutes of calm reading or meditation per day.

[1] Ito Tiffany, Larsen Jeff, Smith Kyle, Cacioppo John. “Negative Information Weighs More Heavily on the Brain: The Negativity Bias in Evaluative Categorizations”: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75.4 (1998): 887-900.

[2] Gawronski, B., Rydell, R. J., Vervliet, B., & De Houwer, J. (2010, October 4). Generalization Versus Contextualization in Automatic Evaluation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0020315

About the author

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Published on January 05, 2019

50000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Self-help

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