When Used Improperly, Positive Thinking Can Set Us Up for Defeat
The power of positive thought has a double edge: on one hand it helps us cope when we're faced with difficult circumstances, but if not checked with a dose of realism, it can set us up for defeat.
The power of positive thinking can help us overcome insurmountable odds, but only if used properly. Amy Morin of Psychology Today writes that people who have a tenancy to look on the bright side of life, indeed, enjoy healthier marriages and higher incomes. However, being overly optimistic could lead to disappointing results down the line when it turns into unrealistic expectations.
Morin, a clinical social worker, explains the difference between positive thinking to cope and looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. The former helps us manage tough situations, while the latter can set us up for defeat. For instance, she writes:
“By saying things like, 'I'm going to focus on all the positive things that will happen when I lose weight — I'll have more friends, earn more money, and be able to meet the person of my dreams,' an individual romanticizes the likely outcome.”
She even cites one study, published in the Journal of Social Psychology, that suggests too much positive thought will result in less motivation to pursue your goals. The authors of the study write:
"As my colleagues and I have discovered, dreaming about the future calms you down, measurably reducing systolic blood pressure, but it also can drain you of the energy you need to take action in pursuit of your goals."
The damaging illusion of too much positive thinking can make some use it as if it had magical properties. She writes:
“That doesn't mean you shouldn't hold out hope or look on the bright side. But deluding yourself into believing, 'If I think positively enough, everything will work out,' isn't realistic. Idealism doesn't prevent problems.”
She offers as a way to curb fantasy idealism, people should combine positive thought with actions to better realize attainable goals. It's important to have a positive view of the future and by contrasting it with the action steps necessary to achieve a goal, as well as possible obstacles, people may reach a happy medium somewhere between optimism and realism.
Read more at Psychology Today.
Photo Credit: Andrew Yee/Flickr
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.
- At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
- See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
- There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
A consortium of scientists and engineers have proposed that the U.S. and Mexico build a series of guarded solar, wind, natural gas and desalination facilities along the entirety of the border.
- The proposal was recently presented to several U.S. members of Congress.
- The plan still calls for border security, considering all of the facilities along the border would be guarded and connected by physical barriers.
- It's undoubtedly an expensive and complicated proposal, but the team argues that border regions are ideal spots for wind and solar energy, and that they could use the jobs and fresh water the energy park would create.
Yes, a coup d'état.
- Though we know today that his policies eventually ended the Great Depression, FDR's election was seen as disastrous by some.
- A group of wealthy bankers decided to take things into their own hands; they plotted a coup against FDR, hoping to install a fascist dictator in its stead.
- Ultimately, the coup was brought to light by General Smedley Butler and squashed before it could get off the ground.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.