Positive Thinking, Controlling Your Own Destiny, and Hope
When the going gets tough, what do you do? Get angry? Depressed? Try to look on the bright side?
There’s a persistent belief today that positive thinking is the answer to all problems. There are indeed many benefits to thinking positively, such as feeling happier, warding off disease development, and overall better health.
But when does positive thinking go too far?
The Dark Side of Positive Thinking
Supersurvivors, a book about how trauma survivors faced setbacks and then made revolutionary changes for success, written by associate professor David B. Feldman and journalist Lee Daniel Kravetz. And here’s what they tell us about positive thinking:
Telling yourself, “Everything will be fine” or “It will all be okay” if it probably won’t may undermine your ability to take action to make your situation better. For decades, psychologists and public health researchers have been interested in what makes people take steps to head off disasters.
Why do some people go in for colonoscopies or mammograms while others don’t? After all, these simple procedures could help prevent horrible tragedies.
Perhaps the most prominent perspective on this issue is called the health belief model. Adoring to the heath belief model, a number of factors predict whether someone will take a risk, but two of the most important are perceived susceptibility and perceived severity.
In short, if we believe that a particular action will put us at risk of harm, and that the harm is severe enough, we probably won’t take that action. Likewise, if we think a particular action is likely to protect us from harm, we’ll probably take that action.
The health belief model has been shown to predict health-promoting behaviors such as seeking out cancer screening, engaging in safer sex, eating a heart0healthy diet, and getting the flu vaccination.
In short, people who pay attention to the positives at the expense of noticing the potential for negatives, who believe that everything is (or will be) fine despite their being at real risk, may not take appropriate action to protect themselves. Their lack of belief in their own susceptibility may be dangerous.” – Supersurvivors
In short, positive thinking taken to the extreme leads to denial, often to our own detriment.
Positive Thinking vs. Realistic Thinking
Realistic thinking allows us to stay within positivity’s healthy boundaries. It’s taking an honest, objective view of a situation, and considering the worst case scenario.
Thinking about things going wrong sounds negative, but here’s what the difference sounds like:
Negative:“Things will always go wrong. I’m going to fail.”
Realistic: “I’m planning for the things that can go wrong so that I’ll know how to handle them. I can reach my goals and succeed because I’ve planned for obstacles.”
Success includes hard work, careful planning, and strategies to help you deal with obstacles.Preparing for the worst prepares you for the best. Click To Tweet
Why Some People Take More Risks Than Others
In the 1970s, doctoral student Marshall Goldsmith studied similarities of the most successful executives. He noted that they were somewhat delusional – an illusion they were great. As a result, they were open to trying more things, confident in their ability to make things happen, and control their own destinies.
There’s an important difference between unrealistic positivity and the positive delusions of these executives:
“Whereas denial-based positive thinking is a distortion of the situation, positive illusions are slightly inflated views of oneself and one’s ability to control one’s future.
Deny or distorting a bad situation may be comforting in the short term, but it’s potentially harmful in the long run because it will be almost impossible to solve a problem unles you first admit you have one.
In contrast, having an especially strong belief in one’s personal capabilities, even if that belief is somewhat illusonary, probably helps you to solve problems. “
– Shelly Taylor, Journal of Personality, Supersurvivors
Hope and You
The combination of optimistic realism and self-confidence creates hope. And that translates into better grades, superior athletic performance, self-esteem, and higher confidence.
“Grounded Hope = Realistic view of the situation + A strong view of one’s ability to control one’s destiny through one’s efforts” – Supersurvivors
Has there been a time where taking a real view on your situation helped you succeed? Leave a comment in the comments section!!
Supersurvivors, David B. Feldman, Lee Daniel Kravetz
Be an Optimist Without Being a Fool, Harvard Business Review
Role of Hope in Academic and Sport Achievement, Lewis A. Curry, C.R. Snyder, David L. Cook, Brent C. Ruby, Michael Rehm