Positive Thinking Doesn’t Possess Magical Powers

In the workplace, a little positivity goes a very long way (especially in the early morning or at the end of a very long day). However, being positive doesn’t just mean bouncing around the office with a smile on your face all the time. In fact, the trend of “be positive” all the time is slowly disappearing. Is it more about taking “positive action”?

So, how can you be a ray of sunshine at your company without going overboard?

First, there’s a huge difference between positive thinking and positive action and not understanding the difference could be costing you in a big way. The difference between positive thinking and positive action is thinking doesn’t actually do it for you. You may have an idea and goal in mind, but without action, you aren’t really doing much. It’s easy to WANT to do something, but it’s much different when the plan is set in motion. There are quite a few techniques, some physical and some not, to help you continue with positive action on days which may seem near impossible. Some of these include:

  • Forcing a smile, it’s contagious
  • Instead of waiting, do tasks earlier than expected
  • Breath when starting to feel frustrated
  • Surrounding yourself with other positive people
  • Be willing to change
  • Knocking bad habits

Negative thinking comes with warning signs. Much like earthquakes often have “tremors” or foreshocks ahead of the main shock, people have early, often subtle, signs their negative thoughts may be worsening.

“My negative thought warning signs are, open the fridge and eat even if I am not hungry…..or go on a shopping binge.”

After some self-reflection, I can find the problem…but sometimes is so easy to give in to negative thoughts isn’t it?

So what thoughts or behaviour we can look for?

Are you a nail biter, hair picker, toe tapper, self insulter, impulse buyer, emotional eater, snooze button smasher or caffeine abuser?

In a lot of ways, these are all “self-soothing” behaviours, even if some of them can cause more problems than they solve. But they are also behaviours we have, which we often do without noticing. Forcing ourselves to pay attention to these behaviours gives us the opportunity we need to use more effective coping strategies.

One of these behaviours on their own might hardly be noticeable or not even considered negative. But when we pay attention to the timing and frequency of these types of behaviours, we can start to pick up on patterns which can inform us exactly where we are headed. They could be early signs of depression, a warning of an imminent panic attack, or just early signs you’re about to give up on your New Year’s resolution. Either way, when we notice these subtle signs, we can better anticipate increases in negative thoughts and take preventive or healing actions.

Another benefit of noticing these subtle signs: You may start to notice they happen around certain people, at certain times of day, or even in certain places. If you are able to identify these triggers to your negative thoughts or self-soothing behaviours, you may be able to eliminate the trigger altogether. This may not always be an option, especially if the trigger is an important job or close family member, but it may be a sign that you need to deal with that person or place in a different way.

All the buzz about the benefits of positivity, has led to some misunderstandings about the concept of positive thinking. Unfortunately, misconceptions about positive thinking could actually do more harm than good.

Positive thinking isn’t about establishing unrealistic expectations

Sometimes people confuse positive thinking with fantasizing. They imagine reaching their goals will lead to unlimited happiness. By saying things like, “I’m going to focus on all the positive things which will happen when I lose weight – I’ll have more friends, earn more money, and be able to meet the person of my dreams,” they romanticize the future.

But “focusing on the positive” becomes self-destructive when people establish unrealistic expectations. Just like it’s not healthy to think overly negative thoughts, exaggeratedly positive thoughts can be equally detrimental. If you overestimate how much of a positive impact a particular change will have on your life, you may end up feeling disappointed when reality doesn’t live up to your fantasy.

Positive thinking doesn’t possess magical powers

Somewhere along the line positive thinking seems to have been confused with magical thinking. There’s a notion if you think positively enough, you can make anything happen by using the power of your mind. All the positive thinking in the world won’t deliver you good fortune or prevent tragedy from striking.

When someone says his job interview didn’t go well, his family may say, “Think good thoughts,” as if thinking he’ll get the job will somehow influence the interviewer’s decision. Although positive thinking certainly serves many purposes, like helping us cope with tough circumstances, optimism doesn’t change the reality of a situation.

However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hold out hope or look on the bright side. But deluding yourself into believing, “If I think positively enough, everything will work out,” isn’t realistic. Idealism doesn’t prevent problems.

Positive thinking can’t replace positive action

Hopefully you wouldn’t get into a car and say, “I’m not going to wear my seatbelt today. Instead, I’m just going to think positively about arriving at my destination safely.” However, that’s exactly what many people do in the business world. Sometimes people seem to believe positive thinking is the single driving force that leads to positive change.

A business owner may say, “I’m just going to think positively about our revenue for the second half of the year,” or a salesperson might say, “I’ve just got to tell myself it’s going to get better.” If they stop short of combining their positive thinking with positive action, they won’t see any positive results.

Overconfidence isn’t the same as healthy positive thinking. Overestimating your ability to reach your goals could prevent you from taking the necessary steps to set yourself up for success. As a result, your “positive thinking” could backfire and leave you feeling unprepared for the reality of the situation.

Certainly optimism and hope serve very helpful purposes. But there should be a balance between positive thinking and wilfully deluding ourselves into believing everything will be perfect. Here are some strategies to help develop a “realistic but optimistic” outlook:

  • Don’t underestimate the effort required to achieve success. Thinking positively doesn’t mean you have to ignore the hard work required to reach your goals. Instead of thinking, “I’m going to become the best,” try thinking, “I’m going to work hard to do my best.”
  • Anticipate the obstacles you’re likely to encounter along the way. Thinking, “Nothing will ever stand in my way,” may cause you to overlook the realities you’ll likely encounter. It’s unlikely you’ll get to where you want to be without hitting any bumps in the road. Be willing to acknowledge the challenges you’ll likely face and accept success may require many failed attempts before you get there.

Resolve to maintain a positive attitude despite the outcome. Instead of thinking, “I’m going to win,” remind yourself you can choose to have a positive attitude whether you win or lose. Healthy positive thinking is about making a conscious choice to be positive about your life right now. Instead of focusing solely on what you need to make your life better in the future, consider all the things you have to be grateful for right now.