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4 Reasons Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work (And What to Do Instead)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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4 Reasons Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work (And What to Do Instead)

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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