Positive Thinking -- Does It Really Work?

By: Joyce Shafer

I received an e-newsletter with a comment from a highly successful individual arguing that positive thinking doesn’t work and why. He also claimed that when he expresses this opinion, some people get their knickers in a knot, especially those who’ve spent decades reading the books and attending seminars and, he added, without any significant change in their lives. Here are some other points he made.

  • No amount of positive thinking will create a shift for a couch potato.
  • Nor for someone who has deeply held negative feelings about what they can accomplish.
  • The 20% for whom positive thinking works were achievers to begin with.
  • No amount of positive thinking will ever shift how life is experienced for a pessimist.

He makes some good points; but I’d like to look at and expand on them.

Positive thinking and repeating or writing affirmations without taking action is like looking at ingredients in your kitchen and wishing for a particular meal to happen. Now, it’s possible you could feel hungry for something in particular, say, lasagna, and a neighbor invites you over or brings you a serving of lasagna. These are delightful occurrences; but more often than not, you’ll have to get into the kitchen and cook.

If someone identifies their nature (some of it learned) as pessimistic, that’s a huge step in the right direction. A pessimist doesn’t need to become an optimist; he or she just needs to acquire, develop, and rely on tools that move him quickly to where he prefers to be. The writer of the article is correct about positive thinking not working because what we attract to us is based on our deeply held feelings.

And, thank goodness. If the average person thinks over 12,000 thoughts each day, we could really get ourselves into some unpleasant situations if all of them came true.

I don’t know if the commenter is correct about the 20:80 ratio but more than likely, some of the 80% he placed into non- or underachiever pessimists have probably had some successes in their lifetimes. What he feels will create results is visualization. My thought is that positive thinking, affirmations, and visualization work if and only if an individual can touch a feeling of having it.

Previously, I wrote that my triggered reaction (learned behavior) falls into the category of pessimist. Because I decided that it doesn’t feel good to sustain this feeling, I’ve developed tools that help me move away from it so I can feel the way I prefer. My biggest motivator, and not just because someone wrote or said it but because I live it, is that whatever I feel the strongest is what I expand more of into my life. A significant distinction to get here is that this doesn’t mean I never have challenges enter my life, it means I choose my thoughts, words, actions, and feelings about everything.

It’s okay to identify what you don’t like or want then identify the opposite or what’s appropriate for you. The key is you have to let your feelings about what you prefer be stronger than what you want to change. Otherwise, your feelings stay on what you don’t like and you get more of that.

You have to intend what you prefer. You have to commit to it, no mater what it takes. Think about anything you’ve ever been determined to do. You did it, right? Go ahead and write your vision or goal down. Visualize it. Affirm it’s yours. But if you really want to charge it up, you’re going to have to believe it will be yours and allow it.

How I get in touch with a feeling is to recall a moment when I felt a particular way, let’s use successful as an example. I may start out bringing to mind what was going on and who was there, but I end up at what it felt like to know I’d chosen a target, taken aim, and hit it. I “stand" in the middle of the feeling until it’s so familiar I can call it up at will.

Some of the actions you take may not work. Those are called Lessons about How Not to Do It. If you’re committed to success about anything, your mantra can be, “There’s a way and I’m going to find it or create it."

The way to do positive thinking may be to state, “I’m positive I can choose to feel differently at any time. I’m positive I can choose to be open to good things happening in my life. I’m positive I can find the actions that create the outcomes I choose."

It’s not about what comes to us in life, it’s about what we choose to do with what we have, who we arePsychology Articles, and who we intend to be.

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