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3 Shocking Benefits of Negative Thinking

3 Shocking Benefits of Negative Thinking

Most of our actions in life have trade-offs. If we eat that piece of cake, we might see it later around our waistline. If we work overtime, we’ll see a positive outcome on our bank statement but miss time at home with loved ones.

Life is full of trade-offs.

Which made me wonder: is there always this trade-off? And is it possible to have too much positive thinking in our lives? Is it possible that personal development’s panacea that ails us can actually have a toxic effect if used in excess. After all, it’s said that it’s the dose that makes the poison.

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Looking more closely, I realized that too much positivity can be a dangerous thing. Take people who suffer from mania and believe they’re kings of the world, that they can fly, or possess super powers. Individuals experiencing such overwhelming positivity often become a danger to themselves as they are incapable of assessing risk.

This led me to an interesting conclusion: if we can have too much positivity, then on the flip side, there must be advantages to negative thinking. In other words: There must be some situations in which negative thinking helps us reach a positive outcome. It’s productive. It’s beneficial. Here are 3 ways I’ve discovered it to be true.

1. We Are Limited

We are often told, starting from a very young age, that we can become whatever we want — that we can do and have whatever it is our hearts desire. This, combined with nearly limitless options can leave even the most successful individuals feeling like they haven’t accomplished enough. By acknowledging or setting limitations on ourselves, we eliminate the vast majority of options that are only serving to steal our energy and attention.

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For instance, it is a waste of time and energy for me to dream about becoming a professional basketball player. I’m 25, 5’11, with no experience outside of the occasional pickup game, and I don’t particularly enjoy the sport. This option is not a good match for my skills or interests. In life, most of our options aren’t good matches for our skills or interests, for our unique personalities and passions.

While we often assume that having more choices is good, what we truly want are a few good options, not a limitless number of uncertain ones. By defining what we cannot or will not do, we enable ourselves to focus on the few options that will be meaningful to us.

2. Lowering Our Expectations

Another problem with being conditioned to believe that we can be, do and have anything we want is that this thinking inflates our expectations to unrealistic levels and often endows us with a sense of entitlement. To complicate matters, we often hinge our happiness on these external events – whether or not the world conforms to our expectations. But the universe doesn’t owe us anything, and unrealistically high expectations are rarely met.

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This is a sure path towards disappointment. It’s more effective to lower our expectations – if not eliminate them completely. If we’re not basing our happiness on whether or not our expectations are met, then we’ve eliminated one of our biggest sources of unhappiness and given ourselves the opportunity to be content where we are right now.

It’s one thing to aspire to do, or be, or have great things. It’s healthy to dream big and aim high. If we can do so without expecting anything, then we’ll be able to enjoy the journey, as well as whatever results may or may not come.

3. Accurate Risk Assessment

Remember our manic friends? Thinking that they can fly is not the only hazard of being overly optimistic. Incurably positive thinking affects all types of risk assessment. Taking calculated risks is one of the best ways to grow as individuals and to make breakthroughs in our lives. Taking risks because we don’t realize there are risks is simply dangerous. Take, for instance, engaging in unprotected sex, playing the stock market, and casino gambling.

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While it’s impossible to say with certainty that our attitude has no influence over the outcomes in these scenarios, it would be foolish to make positive thoughts to our success strategies. And this should apply to all areas of our lives: having a realistic understanding of the situations we find ourselves in is the most important thing. Then, we can be sure that our positive thinking isn’t fantasy, and it can be used to give us direction and inspiration. Otherwise we may eventually find ourselves flying without a net – and that’s not a recipe for happiness.

Conclusion

These thoughts that, at first glance, seem to be negative, really aren’t once we take the time to internalize them. They’re about realism. Realism isn’t positive or negative, and by having an accurate picture of reality we can make better life decisions.

And in that sense these negative thoughts are most certainly positive.

For more interesting insights into human experience check out these 

Featured photo credit: http://www.morguefile.com/creative/hotblack via cdn.morguefile.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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