Dissecting Positive Thinking
“Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.”
– William James
Some people say that positive thinking is nothing but a delusion. It is… to them. Yes, only to them. To those who think that positive thinking is just a fantasy, it is. What we think things are – they are. Our thinking shapes our truth. It is the brush we use to paint our reality. It doesn’t mean though that what we think about something is correct and is the absolute truth. The reality that our brush called thinking painted doesn’t apply to everyone.
To those who think positive thinking doesn’t work, it won’t. They’d better not try it because their efforts are deemed to fail. It’s unlikely though they would try, given the kind of mindset that they have.
Those who consider positive thinking as crap also think of people who embrace it as not attuned to reality. Reality? Whose version of reality have the positive thinkers failed to tune in to? Have the idealists, realists, pragmatists, and existentialists (insert more “ists” here) already settled their disputes as regards the nature of reality? What I know is that the debates on whether reality is absolute or relative have not ended conclusively yet.
It’s so tempting to ask the question, “Is reality real?” Well, I just did but I will no longer explore that topic. Let me just share how Ran Zilca describes reality. He said, “Reality is not outside of you. It only exists in your mind, and you view it through your own unique lens, filtered by your senses, your memories, your mood, and your thoughts. A different person would look through his or her own perspective, and may describe a vastly different reality, as if the two of you are at not all in the same place and time.”
So, nobody should force on anyone the version of reality informed by his or her personal experiences and created by his or her own brand of thinking.
But is it really necessary to run the gamut from classical to contemporary philosophies to discuss and argue the essence of positive thinking? That is tantamount to analysis paralysis. Positive thinking is not an issue to be resolved but a decision to be made. Accept it if you think it works. If not – reject it.
There is no need to argue the rightness and wrongness of positive thinking because it is not a moral issue? Positive thinking does not involve a difference of belief but it is a matter of preference. There’s no moral dispute.
If for example, I chose to be optimistic, hopeful , and cheerful, I am not disagreeing with the pessimists. I am merely exercising my right to decide which mindset I would bear. My decision to embrace positive thinking would not affect the pessimists. It would not harm them. Would it harm me? How in the world could a mental attitude that expects good results and successful future harm the person having it?
Critics better not say that positive thinking has no academic credibility, that no empirical evidence could be provided to prove that it works. It is not true that the proponents of positive thinking have nothing but anecdotal evidence to prove that it works. The critics simply ignoring the latest findings in the field of brain science and are not seeing how practices related to positive thinking, like meditation and mindfulness, have been gaining wide acceptance. There are lots of studies conducted to establish a scientific foundation for this idea.
Evidence proving that positive thinking works are difficult to ignore unless the critics are intentionally turning a blind eye. A website called “The Pursuit of Happiness” published an article entitled “Review of Key Studies on Mindfulness and Positive Thinking.” The said article is a list of links to several studies conducted in the areas mentioned in the title (of the said article).
Simply type “studies on positive thinking” in any search engine and you’ll find a lot of articles and studies conducted about it.
Positive thinking is more than the “Law of Attraction” – the basic idea of the controversial 2006 documentary film “The Secret.” The principle “like attracts like” is not the be-all and end-all of positive thinking. The former is only one of the many ideas associated with the latter.
One strategy that advocates of positive thinking suggest is “fake it till you make it.” The critics call it absurd. But what if it works… the way a placebo drug does. Let people try anything that would get them out of a funk. Anyway, the said strategy is only one of the many strategies available for those who want to try positive thinking. If it doesn’t work – abandon it and try other available methods. Anyway, there’s nobody who really knows it works or not. There’s no harm if one tries it. Remember that Alfred Adler, the Austrian medical doctor and psychotherapist who founded the school of Individual Psychology, developed a therapeutic technique that he called “acting as if,” a strategy that gave his clients an opportunity to practice alternatives to dysfunctional behaviors.
The one thing that is difficult for me to comprehend sometimes is why some motivational speakers are discrediting positive thinking. The only reason I could think is probably they are trying to sell another self-improvement method and the only way they could get the attention they need is to say something negative about positive thinking.
The more we really try to dissect the essence of positive thinking using all the isms of intelligent people as lens the fuzzier it becomes. It is but a simple concept.
In Psychology they simply call it dispositional optimism.
Let’s simplify it further in a way that even the modest of minds could understand. Let’s call it hope.
It is as simple as this – Positive thinking is expecting that good things, rather than bad things, will happen… that success is attainable. Positive thinking is always trying until you get (and you become) what you want. It is a refusal to have limiting beliefs. It is deciding to choose only the positives in the different frames of perspectives.
Don’t get me wrong though. Yes, I have asserted (a few paragraphs back) that positive thinking is a simple concept. But making it work is difficult.
Positive thinking has been misconstrued as just that – thinking. It is not. It is not as simple as you close your eyes, take a deep breath, think about the things you want – money, good health, good relationship, peace of mind and what have you – think you have them, as hard as you could then when you open your eyes you’ll have them in front of you served hot in a silver platter. NO! It doesn’t work that way. That is not positive thinking but rather wishful thinking.
Positive thinking is just a springboard. Nothing happens if a person just thinks and doesn’t act. Isn’t that common sense?
In another article I wrote about positive thinking, I posited, “Positive thinking without positive action won’t work.” A plan of action is required – a plan of action that should be executed and vigorously pursued.
Thinking precedes action. People are (supposed to be) rational beings and whatever decisions they make, whatever course of action they take, they should think about it first. And which would be a better launching pad for the decisions we make and corresponding actions we take – a positive frame of mind or a negative one?
Believing that good things are bound to happen and that success is attainable would lead people to know their purpose in life. If people have no limiting beliefs they will be prompted to define clearly their goals and frame a plan of action to attain them. The process will help them develop self-discipline and become self-sufficient, organized, and focused.
Positive thinking is not as simple as it seems. Let me reiterate that for it to work, a corresponding plan of action is required. And that would entail a lot of hard work, dedication, and discipline.
Actually, the believers and critics of positive thinking are both correct. It works and it doesn’t. Confused? Consider this – “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.” That’s from Henry Ford. And here’s from Virgil… “Possunt quia posse videntu” (“They can because they think they can.”)
Posted on October 31, 2021, in Dispositional Optimism, Personal Growth and Development, Positive Thinking, Self-Improvement and tagged Dispositional Optimism, Personal Growth and Development, Positive Thinking, Self-Improvement. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.