Why Positive Thinking Fails & What Does Work
Life has the habit of wearing us down. Will positive thinking really help us in defeat? Rejection? Frustration? Setbacks? Illness? Or, critics? We all are confronted with these kinds of challenges in life. It’s part of the human condition. Most of us do try positive thinking to get through it all. I have discovered that all of us are engulfed by insidious enemies more challenging than life’s ups and downs. We often ignore them and this leaves us defenseless in spite of our positive thinking.
Our Inner Voice and Positive Thinking
Scientists say the average human being has around 50,000 thoughts a day. Some suggest that 80% or more are negative. For example, have you ever had a great idea and thought, “If only I could sell it in Walmart or Target, I would make a million dollars”? Then you got busy and forgot the idea. Then a few months or a year later you saw your idea on the shelf at one of these stores! Someone else had the idea, too, but they followed-through. Have you ever had a kind or loving word to say to someone but hesitated and then never said it? Now you regret it. Have you ever wanted something and dreamed about it, but it never happened?
We had positive thoughts, but they didn’t necessarily help. Our inner voice often derails our attempts to win in life. We get distracted and forget, or worry about what would happen. Or, doubt kills any good that would come of it. Can you relate to this? Using a baseball metaphor, this is strike one.
The Media’s Impact on Being Positive
The media also feeds us negative headlines with seventeen bad news stories to one good one because we are attracted to that – which is sensational. Networks subtly tell us we aren’t good enough with over 15 minutes of commercials per hour telling us how we can improve our lives if only we had their products. We work less, watch over 4 hours of TV a day and the trend is up. By the time we are 65, we have witnessed over 2 million of these commercials. Companies aim their messages about being rich and famous at the higher economic levels, and talk about things others can’t afford, but manipulating all of us to buy while preying on our insecurities. In addition, all research shows violence is greater than ever on TV so our fears are fueled. Social media, too, is adding to the tsunami of negative noise with unending gossip and trivia.
These millions of impressions silently dissuade us from believing our positive thoughts or making needed or wanted changes in our lives. This is strike two.
Other People’s Influence on You
Other people tend to drag us down, too. Why? First, they are influenced by their own thinking and the media. So they reinforce the barrage of doom and gloom. Next, studies show people are ruder and less civil than in years past. Whether you are at the movies, market, coffee shop or mall, politeness and manners are out. Even politicians, our so called “leaders”, are grossly lacking in respect. This lack of civility infects our family, friends and co-workers who communicate with us daily many times. What do a group of friends or co-workers often do when talking over a drink, meal or during a social gathering? They complain and talk about how bad things are at work, with the government, and the economy. Can you relate? This is strike three-we are out.
As a result, if left unchecked, we are flooded with abusive communication that stops us cold from doggedly pursuing our positive dreams, desires and thoughts. Many of us quit and become conformists.
Self-help Gurus have it Wrong
Positive thinking isn’t the strangest secret. Positive thinking needs two other ingredients: optimism and action.
A study at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic determined that optimism is advantageous to our health. The researchers distributed the MMPI assessment to hundreds of patients to determine their pessimism and optimism tendencies. After thirty years, the results proved that, on average, optimistic people live about 13-14 years longer through a healthier life style, suffer less illness, and experience a better quality of life. Pessimism derails our positive thoughts, and causes us to believe in the negative alternatives. Optimism means we believe something is possible or that we can do it, have it or be it. This means moving positive thinking from the head to the heart which generates positive action. Consequently, optimism germinates a mental attitude that translates positive thinking into fuel for positive living.
Positive thinking is Pollyannaish day-dreaming when it is without positive belief or action. Certainly, thinking and action are intertwined. Positive action proves our thoughts are genuine and not superfluous deceptions of our true desires.
For example, if you are over-weight and think about losing weight, but never watch what you eat or exercise, the pounds will remain. When a storm is coming, you can’t think it away with positive thoughts; you have to do something to protect yourself. As a leader, you can talk all day about the importance customer service, but until you demonstrate it, the words are worthless. What we do means much more than what we say or think.
How Do YOU Achieve a Positive Breakthrough?
Aristotle declared, “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence is not an act but habit.” Positive thinking does not work in and of itself because so many of our thoughts are quietly transformed against us from our own mind and environment. We talk ourselves out of our positive thoughts before we act.
Everyone has positive and negative thoughts. Positive thinking without optimism and action is dead. With them it equals positive believing and acting. Belief is a choice, not a thought that translates into action. How do you know if you or someone really believes in a goal? Look at what they do. Optimistic action pays the bills. We become what we believe and do.
Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Steven Covey showed that successful people have seven habits not seven thoughts. The research and work by Martin Seligman describes how people can flourish as human beings by following systematic practices for a better way of life.
How do we create more positive believing? Here’s the key: all of us have to work at it daily if we truly covet a better life. If we don’t, we become subservient to the multitude of messages we receive that surreptitiously wreak havoc in our lives.
For example, over nine decades ago, Dr. Evan O’Neill Kane of New York’s Kane Summit Hospital, felt doctors were losing too many patients in appendectomy surgery, many because of the effects of general anesthesia. He felt that local anesthesia would be better for the patient but, not surprisingly, no volunteers came forward to test his hypothesis. Colleagues and the media scoffed at him. Until, that is, February 15, 1921.That’s when he optimistically performed an appendectomy with local anesthesia — on himself! In the process, he changed accepted medical practice.
Here are Five Choices that Create Positive Believing and Action
These choices give you POWER over the daily barrage of negativism and pessimism.
- Purpose-Clarify and crystallize your beliefs on this one question: How do you want to make a constructive difference in this world? Your answer gives you the inspiration to change how and where you show up in life. Now, what step will you take today to prove it? Clarity of focus brings consistency of intention.
- Opportunities–Get involved in learning opportunities: How can you develop your skills and talents to do the above? Lifelong education and training renews your spirit and challenges your creativity. Enroll today.
- World View–Change your perspective from self-concern to other concern. How? There are always people in need that could use your assistance. Where can you help someone today? Tomorrow? Samuel Smiles said, “It’s a beautiful compensation in life that when you help others, you help yourself.”
- Enjoy–Few face the end of their life hoping to work more hours or earn more money. Most want their loved ones with them. How about you? Where can you make more quality time for family and friends today? How can you relax more? How can enjoy life more?
- Results–What are your most important life and career desires? Here is a test to determine what’s most important to you? Look in your checkbook or Visa card statement and your schedule. What can you learn? Where do you spend most of your money and time? These are your priorities in life.
To Sum It All Up
We all have the POWER but we must “do it now” or again yield to the barrage of naysayers including ourselves. Rocky Balboa declared this reality: “You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.”
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