Positive thinking and learning how to stay positive is powerful. These are probably some of the first things you learned about in self-improvement.
What you focus on grows, so if you are always assuming people are judging you, if you always assume something bad will happen, if you always contemplate anxious thoughts and churn on them… Well, you’re putting garbage into your brain, how can you expect to get anything else out?
You don’t control negative thoughts, but you don’t have to believe, or focus on them. That’s one of the central points of my book, Mastery Of The Mind, where I teach people how to get out of negative habit patterns of thinking for things like fear, anxiety, and procrastination.
OK so let’s say you understand this concept and though you have some negative thoughts, you’re pretty good at focusing on the positive, or creating positive thoughts. Awesome!
But then, what happens when you are assuming the positive or focusing on it, and something bad happens? For example, you believe in yourself in getting hired for a new job. You fully do. You hear thoughts of doubt, but you quickly eschew them away and smile.
But then you don’t get that job.
You’re furious. “But The Secret and Rhonda Bryne told me to just imagine that I got the job, and then I’ll get it! I should just imagine acceptance letters coming to me in the mail!” As opposed to some people you actually prepared for the interview, you had the relevant qualifications, and you didn’t just BELIEVE you could get the job without doing some work (see Mark Manson’s article on the staggering bullshit of The Secret for more on this).
So you complain and cry and punch a pillow. What went wrong?
Positive Thinking Can Only Do So Much. Here’s Why…
The thing is that we can control how much we churn on something, we can believe something good will happen. We can put in hours of work and preperation into a project, a relationship…
But you still can’t control the outside world. And as much as The Secret or The Law of Attraction goes, they do not guarantee success. These things will make you feel good about the future, sure. And because you are focusing on the positive you will be in a better mood so as to attract more good (because nobody wants to hang around negative people)…
But you still can’t control external people and situations. You only control your own actions and reactions. If you are honest with yourself, you can only do so much.
How Can You Not Be Let Down When Something Doesn’t Go Your Way? How To Stay Positive?
Tim Ferriss offers a very simple way to fight this problem. Paraphrasing:
Most people make a big mistake with positive thinking. They think good thoughts and then something doesn’t happen and they are furious. What everyone should do instead is for sure focus on the positive, but always consider that the worst case might happen. Mentally prepare for it, so it won’t hit them and make them feel blind sighted. This way if something bad happens, they aren’t super depressed and they can handle it.
This is quite similar to the technique of negative visualization offered by Irvine in A Guide To The Good Life: We as humans adapt quickly to the things we have, even if we didn’t have them before and wanted them so badly. For example: a new girlfriend, house, or job. And even more so, what would happen if you lost our sense of sight. Do you take this for granted? That you can always see? What if you had an accident tomorrow and lost your eyes?
In this sense, it is best to focus on the positive and assume that good things will happen. But, always consider that the negative might happen – you might not get that job, you might not go on that trip, and that guy might not call you back.
Prepare For The Worst Case Scenario, But Keep On Being Positive
Do a quick check. How would you handle the situation? Eliminate your fear and anxiety of the future by preparing yourself:
If you didn’t get that job, you could apply for more. Or, why not apply for some more now?
If that girl didn’t call you back, you can always go find other people to date.
If you don’t have enough money for that trip you can make a plan to save up to go on it later. Or, you can take out a loan.
By doing this, you still think positively. Don’t stop doing that. But you are also rational and logical in that “Shit might happen, so here’s how I would handle that situation.” It also makes you more grateful for what you have that you might take for granted, even if it’s just an opportunity, say as a job interview.
Keep focusing on the positive and attracting it into your life, and periodically prepare for the worst case. That way if the worst case does happen, you’ll be ready…
Just don’t go assuming that every day armageddon will happen, demons will spawn from the ground, and mass floods will kill everyone.
Do limit yourself a TINY bit.
If you liked this article and want some help changing your thoughts, check out my book Mastery Of The Mind. It’s all about learning how to use your thoughts to get over mental wastes like anxiety, jealousy, and limiting beliefs.