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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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