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When Thinking Positive Is A NegativeWhen thinking positive means plastering on a forced smile and latching onto one specific result that you’ve decided is more favorable than another one, that you think will bring happiness, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment and unhappiness. Thinking positive in this way is really about forming expectations and attachments to outcomes and is almost always a negative.

It’s like wishing that leprechauns will magically intervene to make sure everything turns out as we want while unicorns frolic in the flower-filled meadow under a rainbow.  ‘Aint gonna happen.

Then, when things don’t go as we hoped, how can we help but be mad and sad?

That kind of positive thinking puts pressure on a person to control or manipulate events to try to make them go a certain way, which is frustratingly impossible and a sure prescription for anxiety and worry. (See blog: Life Gets Easier By Managing Expectations and The Dark Side Of Hope)

Find the Positive in the Situation Instead of Just Thinking Positive

I’ve found a better way. When any situation presents itself, I consider the possible probable outcomes, both desirable and those which may seem less-than-perfect, and stay open to and attempt to find the positive in each of them.  There is always some good to be found if you look for it hard enough. (See blog:  Look For The Good And You’ll Find It) In my own life, I’ve witnessed time and time again where something, which initially looked like an “oh crap!”, turned out to be awesome and even better than what I’d hoped for in the first place.

I don’t pretend to begin to know what is “best” anymore. “Best” is something I determine with my thoughts. It’s subjective and up to me.  I can make any situation good or bad with my thinking about it while I’m  it and my response to it. My experience and the ultimate impact of any event in my life is determined by my mind and my behavior and actions in the situation. (See blog: Responding Rather Than Reacting)

When I open up my thinking, consider the possible benefits of any circumstance, and ask myself “How do I make this work for me?” (See blog: One Little Question), the possibilities become endless. Next, I can move forward taking mindful steps, being receptive to unforeseen paths and choices that may present themselves as events unfold, while having faith in myself and the universe.

Positive Thinking Must Be Coupled With Positive Action

Then, I think positively and take positive actions.

No matter what’s present, I’m positive about my ability to handle and work with whatever comes my way and make something good of it.  I’m positive that whatever happens is in my highest good and that I can learn from it. Then and only then is being positive, having confidence and trust in yourself and whatever higher power you believe in, always a positive.

I saw an image the other day that said “Positive thoughts are not enough. You have to have positive feelings and actions.” Now, that one didn’t make me cringe!

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  1. This was interesting to read. I have suffered with depression on and off for most of my life and nowadays, I cannot take AD’d due to the horrific side effects nor St Johns Wort or 5-HTP as they interfere with an anti cancer medication. So I try Flower remedies and have recently bee attempting Law of Attraction and The Secret philosophy. According to the stalwarts who do The Secret, it has fantastic results and friends of mine seem to be so happy happy happy with wins on lotteries etc , it seems quite amazing. And yes, by being and FEELING (that is the key) positive, I have had one or two results in things happening. But I also get very suspicious of those who seem to love everything, everybody and never have a cross word to say. They are unreal, it is human nature to have peaks and troughs and trying to bury the troughs by ignoring every one of them is like trying to climb Everest in bare feet. Balance does seem to be the key but I do like the idea that WE will feel better about ourselves the less we expect. And I do agree that we have to make the best for us as we are all individual and the best may vary depending on how rough or good we feel on that day. You summed it up well at the end as it is the feelings and passion for something that create the energy for it to happen

    • Carol, thank you for your thoughtful reply. It certainly sounds like you’ve had enough challenges in your life to road test the positive thinking philosophies.

      While I never want to discourage anyone from being optimistic and positive overall, I do believe that too many of the trendy philosophies make it sound like there is a universal vending machine and all you have to do is think positive to pull the lever and materialize your dreams. I claim bullshit. I think this only sets people up for disillusionment and disappointment. Yes, be positive, but be positive about your ability to create happiness and success out of whatever presents itself in this life, take action, and be resilient and creative with what arises. That philosophy never disappoints.

      Blessings to you! 🙂

  2. Hi Debbie,

    Very nice way to describe this topic, which often seems challenging for many as there are SO many forced “think positive no matter what, or else…” messages out there. I think one’s general attitude is often key. If I always expect to have bad luck or things not working out the way I’d like them to, then often these things will happen. I know people like that and I am always amazed (well, not really) how they “attract” drama or bad luck. At the same time, I cringe at the “the secret” philosophy which to me focuses too much on material wealth and almost makes you feel guilty that you didn’t want it hard enough or have enough of a positive attitude if you didn’t get what you wished for.
    I, as you, have a general positive attitude about life and I like making little detailed “wish lists”, but that is not enough for everything to work out the way I want it. Being realistic and open to every possible outcome IS a very positive attitude to have, followed with making the best of a situation if it didn’t really go my way.
    Expectations, I think, is the greatest danger (both good and bad). I prefer to say that “it would be great if…but also ok if not…”.
    Thank you for another stimulating topic!

    • Michele, thank you for your thoughts. Sounds like you and I have similar philosophies. It’s hard to describe really. My outlook is optimistic overall, I think, but some might not think so as I tend to be realistic which could be interpreted as pessimistic. I don’t think so. I like to think of it as accepting and resilient. I mean, I can’t control anything anyway. So, while I don’t expect and hope for “the worst,” I recognize that there really is no “worst.” It is whatever I make of it.

      I used to be one of those people that attracted drama. No more. It is not that those kind of things don’t ever happen anymore. It’s just that I don’t get in a frenzy and whip them into chaos. I like this approach MUCH better.

      Personally, I think The Secret and similar philosophies are focused too much on wealth, staying in your comfort zone,and seeking emotional safety. They are setting people up, like you said, for guilt trips and disappointment. I prefer to stay open, resilient, and positive about my ability to make something good of whatever happens.

      All the best to you. Sending positive (but not too positive) energy. 🙂

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