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How Positive Thinking Holds Us Back

Caution sign warning of Positive Thinking Ahead

The world is filled with Negative Thinkers and Positive Thinkers. Most people understand the idea that negative thinking too much of the time can hold you back from achieving what you really want in life and what you’re really capable of.

But the surprising thing is that positive thinking can do exactly the same thing!

Let me explain, using somewhat extreme examples...

Meet Negative Ned

We live in a world full of excellent reasons to be negative, just watch the news some evening. Those who adopt the negative thinking philosophy complain that the positive people are living in a dream world and not looking at reality (which is a negative view, come to think of it).

Yet the negative thinkers choose to look at the very same world through a shiny pair of Gloom Glasses. Who wants to be depressed, miserable and cranky all the time?

While misery loves company, your company does not want to participate in your misery.

Positive Polly

There is another camp who is steadfastly committed to view things in a positive light, no matter what the circumstances. They visualize the world as it would be as an ideal utopia and then they fervently endeavor to live into it (so that it really becomes real). These are the “Conceive!, Believe!, Achieve!” people.

When things work out well, they’re called “Visionary”. When things go into the toilet (sorry for the mental image), they’re thought of as “Deluded”, “Misguided” or “Deceived”.

Flip Flop Freddy

The two examples I used may be extreme, but we tend to be more one way or the other most of the time. Neither approach is entirely wrong. Your personality, upbringing, and experiences probably influence which way you lean.

On some days, you may even bounce back and forth between the two (try closing a major sale in the morning and causing a minor auto accident in the afternoon).

The Problem

The problem with both of these approaches is that neither acknowledges what is really real in the world and, as a result, it becomes harder to deal with the real issues and discover real opportunities.

It’s pretty easy to see how that happens with the Negative Thinkers (they don’t actually think the new opportunity will work anyway), but how does the same thing happen with the Positive Thinkers?

Okay, now I’ve confused myself, so let’s examine an example to explore what I mean.

The Poster Child

There is a positive statement that I’ve heard various versions of all my life...

"With Conviction, All Things Are Possible"

or, less eloquently...

"If You Believe It Strongly Enough, You Can Make It Happen"

(I can see the epic poster on the break room wall now!)

On the surface, this is very inspirational and motivating! And it has motivated many a “go getter” to get up and get going. (When my dear mother was in her eighties, she once told me, “My Get-Up-and-Go has Got-Up-and-Went”. But that has nothing to do with this post, so I won't mention it.)

The Apparent Message

The message is clear; you need to have conviction to accomplish great things, which is undeniably true. If you doubt yourself or the worthiness of your goal, you’ll stop really trying at the first (imagined) sign of trouble.

But there is a basic flaw in this idea that actually makes success much harder to achieve. An underlying theme that in real terms discourages you from accomplishment.

Here is the problem...

The Underlying Message

The statement, “With Conviction, All Things are Possible” implies that things are impossible until you have sufficient conviction.

So, your goal is impossible for you in your natural state. But if you can work up enough conviction, of the right kind, and keep it going long enough without imploding or having a breakdown, then the impossible magically becomes possible and attainable.

It also implies that if you don’t have enough conviction, you’ll fail anyway.

The (Lack-Of) Power of Positive Thinking

Right out of the gate you are swimming upstream against the natural current of life!

This seemingly positive statement may actually be saying that failure is your natural state and it will take some real doing on your part, along with a bit of luck and fortunate circumstance, to come out differently.

How many people live their lives as if this were true? Millions! I’m sure you know many of them. You may have even been one of them, but that may be about to change. :-)

The Real McCoy

The implied, underlying message of the positive statement we used as an example is not reality (the one about failure being your natural state). Here is what’s really real...

You are successful and you always have been.

When you were a baby, you were laying on your stomach one morning. You wanted to be in a different position so you tried and tried until you rolled yourself over. Whoa! The world suddenly flipped upside down! That was awesome!!

Weeks later, as you lay on the carpet, you saw a brightly colored toy that was just out of reach. You willed it to come to you, but that didn’t do anything. So you flopped and grunted, and flailed and pushed until, millimeter by bare millimeter, you scooted forward and your chubby hand closed over the elusive prize! (It didn’t taste nearly as extraordinary as you had envisioned from its appearance. That was kind of disappointing.)

In the months and years to follow, you learned to walk, you learned to talk in full sentences, you started riding a bike and, if you are this far into the article, you conquered the daunting task of learning to read and write the English language.

Don’t you see? Success is your natural state. Achievement is second nature to you.

None of these incredible accomplishments were ever impossible for you. And there have been a million more since then.

You were made to achieve. You were designed to succeed. Success is your natural state, not failure! To not succeed, you’ve got to screw something up.

The Good News

So the goals and dreams you have for your life really are part of your future (and one day soon will become part of your present).

Of course, there are some things you need to do yet to get there, but achieving what you really want and long for is what you are naturally wired to do. The truth is, you are the only one who can stop you.

I reworked the quote we are using for an example. A more accurate quote may be the following:

Without conviction, what’s actually possible becomes impossible

            - Jerry Hignight

This statement says something similar thing to our original quote, but it implies(or, even states outright), that “Possible” is the natural state of your dreams and goals.

It also implies that “Conviction” is your natural state as well. That you already have it in you unless you quench it.

In the natural course of events, you instinctively move into that which you desire, value and strive for. You really are capable of far more than you imagine!

For something to become impossible, you have to allow your natural conviction to slip away; the same conviction that got you to that brightly colored toy when you had never in your life moved under your own power before.

So Be Who You Really Are

It’s OK to still use the original quote we started with and keep the poster if you find it inspiring, or if it has a really cool picture (such as an eagle’s profile or a dramatic golf green overlooking the pounding surf of a remote Hawaiian beach).

Just don’t buy into the illusion that success is something you don’t already have.

Rather, realize that success is a natural part of who you are. That you have had it in your DNA since birth.

That you have succeeded millions of times. That you have accomplished many amazing feats already in your life and will accomplish many, many more.

That success is as natural to you as rolling over or grasping a toy.

That the path to success, in the areas of life you care about most, is downhill and down stream from where you are right now.

You Can Do It!

What you dream of is actually possible, and it’s probably much closer than you think. You were made to succeed. All you have to do is to go do it.

Deal with what you have to deal with. Go where you need to go. Don’t stop for anything!

You have everything you need inside you right now to move dramatically toward that one success that will change everything for you and open up amazing new possibilities.

If that were not true, you would still be laying on a carpet staring at a brightly colored toy.

The Next Step

Positive thinking no longer holds you back. Just be yourself and do what you have always done. Succeed.

What are you waiting for?

About the Author

Jerry Hignight picture  Jerry Hignight is a businessman, author, coach, trainer and speaker. His current positions include:

  • Founder/Director of Small Business World, the social networking site
  • Editor in Chief of Serious Small Business Magazine
  • Executive Director of I Love To Help (an organization devoted to benefiting disadvantaged children at Christmas time)
  • Vice President, Internet Operations of Strategicare, Inc.
  • Project Manager/Lead Trainer of Delta Wireless, Inc.
  • Owner/Lead Designer of Dreamnet Design
  • Co-owner of Elegant Bag Creations (a MICHE retailer)
  • Growth Group Leader Coach and volunteer at River City Christian Church

Jerry served on the founding board of the Center for Fathers and Families, a non-profit organization that benefits families.

He is former President of Pacific Pointe Insurance Agency, Inc.

And if that wasn't enough, Jerry is also in the process of writing two new business books. It's no wonder he is the recipient of Motorola's Overachiever Award!

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Editor in Chief, Serious Small Business Magazine
02.10.2015 (876 days ago)
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