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4 Reasons Positive Thinking Doesn't Work (And What to Do Instead)
Don’t you just love how whenever you’re struggling with a goal or problem, the first thing anyone tells you is, “It’s okay, just think positive!”
While the advice is well-meaning, I’m sure most of the time you met it with a grateful, “Thanks for the encouragement. Yeah, I’ll do that.”
Secretly, you thought to yourself:
“That’s a bunch of B.S. I can’t just Vulcan mind-meld myself into conquering this problem!”
You know what? You’re absolutely right.
Willing yourself to results and applying the so-called “Law of Attraction” by simply focusing on the outcome you want was popularized a few years back by programs such as The Secret. But the fact is, positive thinking alone does nothing in the way of getting you results. This is true whether your goal has to do with attaining a certain level of wealth or completing a marathon.
Below are four reasons positive thinking alone fails to deliver results. To achieve your big goals you need to focus most of your energy on positive action instead.
You Need Feedback
For progress of any kind, you need a continuous feedback loop. Every improvement you experience stimulates and rewards your brain, making you feel good about the accomplishment. When you feel good about something you’ve done, you get more motivated to keep doing it.
When you experience a setback, sitting there thinking about how great the situation could become does little to make that possibility a reality.
It’s the positive action that gets you back on track as you reinforce in your mind that your action is producing results and getting you that much closer to your goal.
You Need Measurable Progress
The ability to track your progress is essential if you are to successfully achieve any goal. There is an explicit set of actions needed to get to your goal. When you complete any of those actions, it becomes a record of your progress towards that goal.
While thinking every day about how great it will be when you cross the finish line is helpful to keep you going, it is not the same as actually doing what it takes to get there.
Imagine if a coach were to ask you, “How did you do today? Can I review what you worked on?” And you replied, “I didn’t log any activity today…but I really spent a lot of time thinking positively about it!”
It’s silly to imagine this conversation taking place, but it really illustrates the importance of positive action over positive thinking.
You Need Accountability
The idea of being able to attract positivity and success into your life by simply thinking about it more often than others leaves out an important ingredient for reaching your goals:
Accountability. Without this key ingredient, all the positive thinking in the world won’t help you.
You could think about earning a gold medal…but they’re not just going to hand it to you. You’ve got to be the one to work for it.
You could focus on amassing a million dollars…but people don’t just hand out money to you for thinking positive. You’ve got to build something of value before you’ll get paid.
You Need To Be Realistic
Even the most successful people in the world experience negativity in their lives. Less than desirable events can and will happen to us no matter how much energy we spend trying to think positive. It’s naïve to believe that we can positively think away our problems.
Don’t get me wrong. Thinking positive goes a long way in changing your perspective on how to achieve goals in your life. But you’ve got to accept that there will be negative things that happen to you, and then act quickly to overcome them.
It’s like the saying goes,
“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!”
It doesn’t say think about lemonade, or wish you never got the lemons. It says to make lemonade. That’s positive action for you!
Producing any positive outcome in your life demands a progressive series of actions. Without action, there is little chance that you will “attract” any success in your life, other than a short-lived moment of bliss.
Thinking positive doesn’t make debts go away. You’ve got to take action to address them. A positive self-image goes a long way in getting healthy. But you’ve still got to put in the energy to exercise and eat properly to become truly healthy.
So the next time you hear someone tell you, “It’s okay. Just think positive,” say to them:
“You know what? You’re right. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go and make some lemonade!”
(Photo credit: Alex Proimos)
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