Dec 122012
Positive thinking Chittenango Falls

Chittenango Falls

So you’ve tried positive thinking and it didn’t work. Or maybe you gave up because you didn’t know how to do it.

Then what exactly is this positive thinking, anyhow?

Positive thinking is basically thinking the glass is half full, as compared to half empty. It is where a person is using the thought processes drenched in optimism to clear the mind of stressful, negative thinking: Akin to looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, all in anticipation that things will work out well in the end.

Basically, it means to think the best is going to happen, not the worst. Sometimes though, this kind of thinking can be delusional.

Recently, I came across suggestions for positive thinking from an online source. Actually, there are numerous pages online giving advice on how to implement positive thinking in your life. While most of these suggestions were fairly helpful (with some tweaking), one stood out at me as very poor advice.

Turn ‘Can’t’s into Can’s’

It is the technique to turn ‘cant’s into cans,’ meaning that instead of convincing yourself that you can’t do something, you convince yourself that you can. The thinking changes from “I can’t do that,” to “I can do that.”

While this practice appears simple enough, it is not sagacious. It may work for some people, but most people feel disappointed when it doesn’t work. It becomes a terrible let-down and they give up trying this positive thinking idea. The reason why it didn’t work is that only a few people are taught how to implement this positive thinking to action.

A prime example is when students are advised to use positive thinking regarding upcoming tests. Initially, they think they can get a high grade on a test. Once they think this, they believe it. With this type of thinking, the students will study less (if they study at all) thinking ‘they got this!’ They become over-confident.

Subsequently, that very belief, or the practice of positive thinking, will do damage. Not only will they end up with a poor grade from a lack of studying, they are crossing over into narcissistic behaviors. The brain-washing didn’t work.

Another example of being disillusioned by positive thinking is that you can find your soul-mate, eventually. Unfortunately, if you have relationship barriers, such as thinking distortions, chances are you are scaring away any potential partners. You can use positive thinking all you want, but your actions will keep you from fulfilling your dreams of being in a meaningful relationship.

The disillusion of ‘can’t verses can’ made me wonder if all the suggestions for positive thinking are a bit off. The counsel given focuses on positive self-talk and taking on a positive attitude. Sage advice, but it starts with realism. You have to be honest with yourself before the positive thinking can work.

Positive Thinking: Optimism with realism

It is common knowledge you can reduce stress by eliminating negative self-talk. Telling yourself it’s going to be a bad day is negative self-talk, plus a self-fulfilling prophesy. It will be a bad day if that’s what you’re focused on, very similar to horoscopes. Whatever the horoscope states, you will ‘filter’ it in your life. So, you will overlook the good things by searching for the bad things to happen.

Positive thinking is changing your thoughts with optimistic ideas with realism. Optimism is often confused with being positive by disregarding realism, despite the probable outcome. You will not pass a test if you do not know the material on the test. This is being realistic. Thinking positive is knowing you can pass the test because you will study for it.

Looking at the world through rose-colored glasses doesn’t always change the colors, as positive thinking doesn’t always create a good outcome. Sometimes, you need to see things as they really are, but combine the optimism with realism. Take those glasses off.

That is the nasty truth of positive thinking.