How To Be Successful In Life – The Bad Side Of Positive Thinking
Positive Thinking Does Have Its Negatives
You will have heard of the benefits of positive thinking. Over the last twenty years or so you will have been bombarded by psychologists and media messages urging you to ‘think positive’…’look on the bright side’…’smile and the world smiles with you’. Sounds good, huh?
Well maybe not. Maybe you’re tired of the false smiles; the relentlessly upbeat optimism and the trying to ignore problems, which you know, are still there no matter how hard you force yourself to be positive. You’re sick of feeling a freak because you still aren’t happy only now you can’t talk about it either because everyone keeps telling you to cheer up and smile.
That makes you feel guilty too. You can’t talk about your negative feelings because you don’t want to spoil everyone else’s happy mood. So now your body is awash with stress hormones that are driving you into an ever-escalating panic or depression.
You’ve discovered some of the negatives about positive thinking.
Positive thinking can be nothing more than wishful thinking
If your positive thinking is to have actual positive consequences and help you move forward in what you want to do, it has to have some substance behind it. It’s no good simply ignoring the problems and potential pitfalls, which may beset your plans. Don’t think ‘it’ll never happen to me’. That just makes you a sitting target. You have to be positive based on a realistic idea of what you can do.
Over-confidence leads to many problems
Viewing life through rose-tinted spectacles where everything is wonderful and you are all-powerful can be a dangerous practice. If you think that nothing can ever go wrong for you then you won’t plan support mechanisms or recovery strategies for when things *do* go wrong. You’ll be left with no Plan B because it never occurred to you that you might need one.
So then things go wrong – and what do you do? You fold under the pressure, panicking because you’ve no idea how to make things right again, no concept of where to go from here. You’re back to Square 1, waiting to throw that ‘double six’ of luck, which will give you that one lucky, break you need again.
But, you say – you don’t need just luck to succeed. Right! You don’t. Now you’ve begun to see beyond blind optimism and embrace your negative thoughts. Now you can take control again and begin to do something about making yourself successful. Rejecting total optimism in favour of a more balanced view, which accepts that from time to time things may not go according to plan, puts you in a much stronger frame of mind and in a much better position to succeed. You won’t get so discouraged by obstacles and setbacks that you give up on your plans.
People who are too optimistic may not work as hard
Why would they? It will all work out in the end, won’t it? … Well – possibly. But you stand a lot better chance of things working out for you if you take control of your life and accept that it is your responsibility to make things work out for you. That way, you can plan for success. You can admit that X, Y and Z may be potential problems and you can think what you could do about those things calmly and rationally way before you are confronted with a real problem. If you can think what to about a problem, it ceases to become a problem.
People who are more optimistic tend to blame other people when things go wrong
They haven’t looked inside themselves to see if something they did contributed to a problem. Everything happens ‘to’ them – this means they can’t easily take responsibility. In turn, they can’t easily take control.
So how do you get yourself out of the trap of positive thinking?
Accept your negative thoughts – your fears, your anger, your confusion – and deal with them practically. Only then will you be living in the real world. Forget those images of perfection, which eternal optimists thrust in front of you. Perfection is all relative – people will never agree on what perfection is – and striving for perfection takes a lot of hard work. So forget holding yourself up for comparison to some imaginary standard you call perfection but know you can’t attain. All that does is increases your anger, frustration and depression at not having achieved perfection.
A report by Harvard School of Public Health - Psychosomatic Medicine (2006) – shows that men who express anger in a controlled way have a lower-than-average risk of stroke and coronary problems. You can bet it’s the same for women too. Its author, Dr Julie Norem, is adamant we should fight the modern trend for relentless positive thinking because all it does is encourages people to believe that they could and should eradicate all anxiety and negative thoughts from their lives.
“Unless you’re a psychopath, that’s not going to happen,” she says. Instead, she argues in her book The Positive Power of Negative Thinking (2005) that you should adopt a strategy of “defensive pessimism”:
- think what could go wrong
- realistically assess your weaknesses
- plan for potential problems before they arise
This pushes you further along the path towards your goal and means setbacks are less of a problem. You can overcome problems more quickly and you are not overwhelmed by anxiety when problems arise because you know what you’re going to do about them. In short, you’ve taken control of the situation.
To your success
Andy Shaw – A Bug Free Mind