The Positive Power of Negative Thinking

Contrary to the positive thinking industry, psychologists say that too much rosy-colored thinking can backfire, making us blind to potential problems and more vulnerable to failure. 

What's the Latest Development?


Psychologists have begun to dispute the positive thinking trend that has populated so many self-help books and motivational seminars over the last two decades. Nearly every technique in which positive thought is meant to bring about better results may actually backfire, they say. Positive visualization, for example, may demotivate individuals with a particular goal by giving them the sensation they have already achieved it. Even goal setting, that standard motivational technique of managers everywhere, runs the risk of creating a myopic business culture too focused on overly narrow targets. 

What's the Big Idea?

There is perhaps good reason why the positive thinking industry is a relatively new phenomena: The wisdom that advises against seeing the world through rose-colored glasses spans centuries. "The Stoics recommended 'the premeditation of evils,' or deliberately visualizing the worst-case scenario. ... Buddhist meditation, too, is arguably all about learning to resist the urge to think positively—to let emotions and sensations arise and pass, regardless of their content." Rather than purposely think negatively, we may be wise to reevaluate what we consider as negative emotions in the first place. 

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