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Why Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work … And What Does Work Instead

Why Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work … And What Does Work Instead

One of the most common pieces of advice offered to people interested in personal development is to “think positive.” In fact we are often told that personal success and happiness are virtually impossible to achieve if you have frequent negative thoughts.

I would like to suggest that telling people they need to always engage in positive thinking is one of the worst pieces of advice one could possibly get. Let me explain why.

What do negative thoughts come from?

If you are having negative thoughts—such as, “I’ll probably fail at this new project,” “He doesn’t really love me,” and, “I screwed up again”—they are the result of negative beliefs formed earlier in your life.

For example, the thought, “I’ll probably fail at this new project,” is the result of beliefs like, “I’m not good enough,” and, I’m not capable.”  The thought, “He doesn’t really love me,” is the result of beliefs like, I’m not loveable,” and, “Men can’t be trusted.” And the thought, “I screwed up again,” is the result of beliefs like, “Nothing I do is ever good enough.”

So what will keep you from achieving personal success and happiness is not your negative thinking, but the fact that those thoughts are reflections of the way you view the world. And you always act consistently with your beliefs about life, people, and ourselves. Even if you could get rid of the negative thoughts that arise from your beliefs, the beliefs would still be there running your life. 

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What do most people do to keep from having negative thoughts?

If you try not to be aware of what you are thinking, you will probably end up trying to suppress those thoughts. At worst that just won’t work. At best the thoughts will stop, but they haven’t disappeared; they have only been driven underground. They are like a beach ball you are trying to hold underwater: you can do it for a while, but eventually you will get tired of holding the ball down and it will pop out of the water.

The beliefs about yourself and life that cause your negative thoughts would still exist and would continue to drive your behavior.  So trying to put positive thinking on top of negative thinking not only doesn’t work, but also deceives you into thinking you’ve gotten rid of it when really you haven’t.

Moreover, suppressed thoughts and feelings usually manifest in some form of behavior when you least expect it. Often, suppressed anxiety results in stress we can’t seem to find the source of and suppressed anger often resulted in angry outbursts that seem unprovoked. In addition, a significant body of research has shown that suppressed negative feelings often result in illness.

An alternative to suppression is positive affirmations. Many people stand in front of a mirror daily and say out loud: “I am good enough. I am capable. I am loveable.” Rarely does this practice change anything because deep inside you know what you are saying is not true to you. What you are saying out loud is: “I’m good enough.” What you are thinking is: “But I know I’m really not.  “I am capable”—”But I know I’m really not.” “I am loveable”—”But I know I’m really not.”

Another way to understand why affirmations rarely work is to ask yourself: “Who would stand in front of a mirror uttering positive statements about themselves?” People who really believed what they were saying would never do that. So in a very real sense people who use positive affirmations are really reminding themselves of the negative thoughts they are trying to escape.

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How can we really eliminate our negative thoughts?

So, if positive thinking doesn’t work when we are having negative thoughts, are we doomed to live with that little voice that constantly invalidates us?

As we have seen, almost all negative thoughts are the result of negative beliefs. A belief is a statement about reality that we feel is the truth. As long as we feel that I’m not good enough, I’m not capable, and I’m not loveable,” are really true about us, we will act as if they are true. Our beliefs determine how we feel, how we act, and how we perceive things.

The only really effective way to eliminate negative thoughts and the negative beliefs that cause them is to eliminate the beliefs—not try to cover them up or pretend they are gone.

The Lefkoe Belief Process (LBP), which I created 29 years ago, does just that. Here are the steps of the LBP so you can eliminate a few of your own negative beliefs on your own. Don’t just read how to do it; actually identify a negative belief you hold, and use the process I describe to eliminate it.

How to eliminate the beliefs that give rise to negativity in your life

Take a look at a given belief and find the earliest possible source. What happened that led you to form the belief? For example, being criticized frequently by your parents for not living up to their expectations would led most young children to conclude, I’m not good enough.” Mom and dad not being around physically when young children want them or being there physically but not present emotionally would lead them to conclude, “I’m not important.”

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Once you’ve found the source of a belief, realize that your belief is one “valid” interpretation of your experiences. And then realize that there are other possible interpretations that hadn’t occurred to you at the time you formed the belief, but, nevertheless, could just as easily account for the events. At which point you realize your belief is only a truth, not the truth.

For example, being frequently criticized for not doing what your parents expect of you could mean you’re not good enough. It also could mean your parents have unreasonable expectations. Or your parents might think you’re not good enough but they are wrong. Or maybe you weren’t good at doing certain things but that doesn’t mean you’re not good enough as a person. Or maybe you weren’t good enough as a child but that doesn’t mean it will always be true.

We think we can “see” the belief

Then the crucial part comes: Put yourself back into the events that led to the belief and, as you look at them, ask yourself: “Doesn’t it seem as if I can ‘see’ [the belief]?” The answer for visual people will always be: “Yes. And you would have seen it too if you had been there.”

Then ask yourself: “Did I really see it?”  Because if you really saw it, you would be able to describe it with a color, shape, location, etc. When you realize that you can’t describe it, you immediately realize that, in fact, you never really “saw” the belief. You only saw events, but the meaning of the events—in other words, the beliefs you formed about the events—existed only in your mind.

At this point, for most visual people, the belief is gone. It existed and resisted being extinguished because you thought you had seen it. As soon as you realize you never saw it in the world, that it existed only in your mind, it is no longer something you thought you discovered and saw in the world; it is only one interpretation of many possible interpretations that has existed only in your mind.

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As the final clincher, ask yourself if the events that led to the formation of the belief have any inherent meaning. Did they have any meaning before you give them a meaning? By that I mean, can you draw any conclusion for sure from these events? You will quickly realize that the events that led to your belief have many different possible meanings; there is no one meaning that is inherently true. So, while the events might have had consequences at the time they happened—in other words, they could have been profoundly upsetting—they have no inherent meaning. Any meaning exists only in your mind, not in the world.

Don’t try to think positive, be positive.

To summarize: Beliefs are statements about reality that we feel are the truth, that are facts about the world. We are convinced our beliefs are true because we think we saw them in the world. Once we realize we never saw the beliefs in the world—that they were only in our mind—the beliefs will be gone forever.

Instead of positive thinking, which doesn’t work in the long run and which can lead to serious consequence, eliminate the beliefs that are causing your negative thoughts. At that point you won’t have to try to think positive, you will be positive.

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

3 Keys to Success in Life (That Will Change You in 2019)

3 Keys to Success in Life (That Will Change You in 2019)

Do you want to program your mind and hack your body to stay in a positive state, a state of action taking throughout the day? I suggest you read on.

We will look at 3 keys to success that successful people are doing that you can model to program your mind to be in the state of succeeding from the moment upon waking, and make decisions throughout the day that will lead you towards your desires.

The Biggest Obstacle to Success: Going on Autopilot

One of the biggest pitfalls in the modern society is to fall into the trap of going on autopilot, to be walking dead and do what everyone else are doing. Most of us are too busy reacting and responding to the environment and what’s happening around us.

While we should act and take charge of our own world and our own reality. We forget to stay focused and we forget about our goals.

Learn to be conscious. Being more conscious in your day-to-day decisions will lead you to take the appropriate actions to reach your goals.

Have a purpose with life, act according to your values, and don’t let people tell you what to do or how things should be.

When you start to make more conscious decisions, you will start to think about if this is going to take you closer to your goals or drift you further away.

Why are you doing what you’re doing right now? Why are you reading this? Nothing else to do? Or are you reading this site so you might pick up a thing or two to consciously incorporate in your life to improve yourself that will move you in the direction you want?

What are your goals? Be healthy? Lose weight? Be fit? Get the dream job? Have the dream house? Live the dream life? Make a certain amount of money? Start a family?

If you truly want to pursue these goals and actually see them come true, you need to start taking actions consciously.

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3 Keys to Success in Life (That You Can Start Doing Now)

There are 3 things we have to consciously start doing:

    Now I’ll show you how you can achieve each of them in details.

    1. Write down Your Goals

    The first thing you do in the morning will determine what your day is going to be like. Program your mind to be in a powerful state from the moment upon waking, and you are guaranteed to have a productive and great day.

    How you can do this is by writing your goals down, every morning. Then, once you’ve done that, circle the most important goal,  the goal that in the long-term will have the most impact on your life.

    Now ask yourself this question: “What actions can I make today that will change everything and take me closer to this goal?

    Write down all the actions you can think of, circle the two most important ones and start doing them. Don’t stop until it’s done.

    This is an extremely powerful method of getting in the right state first thing in the morning. Instead of wandering around half-dead and spending 30 minutes to wake up, you are hacking your mind to be productive.

    Another powerful reason for writing down your goals is that by reading them it makes us feel good, write them as if they’re already accomplished. You’re already there.

    Re-reading and re-writing them every morning will ensure you to be in a resourceful state where you act based on your goals. You will make conscious decisions throughout the day that will support your goals and take you closer to them.

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    Goals that are not written down are merely wishes. Learn how to set great goals here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

    The power of writing goals as if you’re already there takes us to point number 2.

    2. Create a Powerful Belief System

    Ask any successful person what their number one rule for succeeding is. They all have this in common:

    They believe in themselves and what they’re doing, and they are not afraid to say it.

    If you don’t believe in yourself, why would anyone else?

    When people ask you about your goals in life, don’t be afraid to say it out loud. If you have high goals, they might laugh and look at you funny. But if you’re insecure about your goals, you will make insecure decisions that will lead you nowhere.

    Go against the grain, stand out. After all, how many people in the world today are actually living the dream? Now, how many of these people will respond something in the likes of “I don’t know” if you ask what their goals are?

    Be determined and believe in yourself. People will respect you for having the guts for going after what you truly desire.

    I once heard a story about a guy that worked in a video store. Every day he would bring two magazines to work, one was an entrepreneur magazine and the other was a magazine loaded with expensive and fast-riding cars. His boss would ask him why he was bringing these magazines to work every day and his answer was: “I’m picking out the car I’m going to buy.”

    The response from the boss was like most average minds saying he was killing himself thinking like that, he would never ever get that car and would just end up disappointed when it never happened.

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    Turned out, the guy later quit the job at the video store and followed his dream. Some years later he return to the video store to return a video, and he did so in the car he picked out from the magazine.

    The same people were working in the store as the day he used to work there. Now can you imagine the looks on their faces when he turned up in the car they said he never ever would get?

    Priceless. And it all started by creating a powerful belief system.

    The first step to living and achieving your dream is to believe it and imagine it. When you believe in your mind that you’ve already achieved your goals, you will develop a sense of certainty. That certainty will lead to action steps, when you know what the outcome is going to be it’s much easier to pick out the actions that are necessary to get there.

    You are certain you will live in the body you want.

    You are certain you will live in the dream house with the dream family.

    You are certain you will have the job you want, and earn the money you believe you’re worth.

    By constantly repeating in your mind the images of yourself succeeding, you create neural pathways in the brain. Your mind can’t tell the difference between what you vividly imagine and the reality.

    Go out and day dream. Go out and believe, imagine already living your dreams and goals. With enough repetition, you become certain that this is the only outcome and you work backwards to find ways for making it happen.

    The next step in personal success that will lead to life success and happiness is to..

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    3. Invest in Yourself

    A wise man was once asked what the best possible investment someone could make. His answer was short, sweet and simple: “Invest In Yourself.”

    The man’s name is Warren Buffett. He is known as the world’s greatest investor. According to Forbes, he has a net worth of $53.5 Billion.

    Hiring a personal coach, getting a membership at a gym, buying healthy foods, books and education are not expenses. They are investments: investments in yourself.

    Some things you can do today to invest in yourself are:

    • Go to the gym and train. Physical training releases endorphins and makes you feel great. It increases productivity and energy levels. By investing time in the gym, you’ll be better able to handle daily tasks and what life throws at you. Forty-five to fifty minutes is all you need, it’s actually the best time to shoot for in a workout.
    • Eat good food. When you go to the grocery store after work, ask yourself: “What foods will nourish my mind and body to feel and perform better?” You are setting yourself up for greatness and consciously making yourself aware of what foods will empower you, therefore make better decisions.
    • Start reading books. Everyone buys books, but very few actually reads them cover to cover.
    • Stop reading books and start studying them. Few read the books they buy, but even fewer remembers what they read. Stop reading books and start studying books.
    • Study at least one hour a day. “One hour per day of study will put you at the top of your field within three years. Within five years you’ll be a national authority. In seven years, you can be one of the best people in the world at what you do.” – Brian Tracy
    • Take notes. Never leave home without a pen and a piece of paper. The best ideas often comes in the least appropriate times, write them down. Don’t trust your mind to remember them—it won’t. Writing it down right away will also allow your mind to store and come up with more ideas. Nowadays, you can use plenty of notes-taking apps like Evernote.
    • Learn a new skill. Learn something new every day, a new skill or a new word. One new skill every day equals 365 new skills a year. Now imagine where you could be a year from now if you start doing it today?
    • Do something for yourself. Yes, hard work is a major factor for succeeding, but at least once per month do something fun, something outrageous and spontaneous that makes you feel alive. Have fun and enjoy yourself.

    The Crucial Rule to Follow

    The last piece of advice and rule to follow: Keep on, keeping on.

    Sometimes, things get hard and the road seems too long. You just have to keep on, keeping on.

    Revisit your goals and start imagining, all of the sudden you’ve changed your state and you’re on the right track again. The track that will take you to greatness.

    Use these 3 keys to create your destiny and achieve what you want in life.

    Go get it.

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    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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