Optimism Grounded in Reality

Why positive thinking isn’t actually very good for you.

It turns out, that positive thinking isn’t all that positive.  People who practice positive thinking are less likely to succeed and more likely to experience emotional shock and depression when their positive thoughts don’t create positive change.  The reason for this is that it turns out, thinking positive thoughts, makes you work less hard – and that translates into fewer opportunities to succeed.  See: http://www.newyorker.com/currency-tag/the-powerlessness-of-positive-thinking for a round up on some of the research.

So what’s an optimistic Humanist to do?  Give up their optimism?  No.  You will notice that I am using the term optimism to describe the Humanist approach, and not “positive thinking.”  Being optimistic is different from thinking positive thoughts.  Why? Because optimism is grounded in reality.

Positive thinking requires thought policing. And that’s incredibly hard to do.  It prevents people from experience the real emotions of stress and nervousness that often give us the nervous energy to try and change things, which leads to change – which is what most of us are looking for.  So why would we deprive ourselves intentionally of worry?

Optimism, unlike positive thinking, doesn’t eliminate the worry. Optimism is grounded in reality.  We may not succeed despite our best efforts.  But if you are optimistic, you harbor the thought that, if you try, you may actually succeed. No guarantees, but still, optimism helps us make the effort anyway.

And this to me is the real “secret.”  It you want to be successful in life, ditch the magical thinking.  Work hard and take responsibility to get things done.

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