Get real

TRADE FORUM - Chris Malazarte (The Freeman) - October 23, 2015 - 10:00am

Can you still succeed without being a positive thinker? Of course.

Positive thinking is not the only route to success. As a matter of fact, the success of the human species, and even so for other species for that matter, to thrive in adverse conditions is not because we were “thinking big,” but because we were naturally hardwired as pessimists. Psycho-social scientists believed that the primeval man became better as a thinker because of fear.  The fear of our ancestors led them to be observant and innovative to avoid danger and survive in the wild.

Having said that, many of you would frown in disbelief for my being so cold to positive thinking or maybe way too laidback as to my views about success.

If you have followed this column, I did say against positive thinking not because it’s a bad thing but because positive thinking encourages people to think more of themselves like some kind of a superhero than to make use of their problem-solving skills in order to succeed. I think we should know that what’s being studied seriously by scientists is NOT positive thinking but positivity. If you really want to know the difference between the two, I invite you to check my past columns.

And if you think that by reading The Laws of Attraction/The Secret would get you to the top, you’re dead mistaken. A lot of people made it big in business or had achieved the pinnacle of their career not by reading the book, but because they worked hard for it and used their brains down to the last nerve cell to come up with better ways of doing things. Success, for the most part of it, has a lot to do with the way we think about situations; with the way we see and act on opportunities that come to us; and the way we deal with certain problems. Success is a product of a well-used human capacity.

But what about those who said “that we should aim for the stars and land in the moon…” kind of aphorisms? Are they not also important or valid? They are. But they are not to be trusted alone. We do need to be inspired once in a while but inspiration alone does not accomplish your personal goals. The birds in the skies, the whales in the ocean, the worms underneath the soil, prosper and flourish by their own resource not by thinking big. In other words, we are to work out our personal pursuits.

Insist on positive thinking at your own peril. I have seen people wasted their credit cards on books and “life coaches” that offer nothing but a dose of superman morphine. They make you think and feel that you’re flying but they do not tell you where you’re heading to or why you are flying to begin with!

I just love the way Barbara Ehrenreich of Time Magazine puts it “What we need here is some realism, or the simple admission that, to paraphrase a bumper sticker, "stuff happens," including sometimes very, very bad stuff. We don't have to dwell incessantly on the worst-case scenarios — the metastasis, the market crash or global pandemic — but we do need to acknowledge that they could happen and prepare in the best way we can. Some will call this negative thinking, but the technical term is sobriety.

She thus, also furthers, “Besides, the constant effort of maintaining optimism in the face of considerable counter-evidence is just too damn much work. Optimism training, affirmations and related forms of self-hypnosis are a burden that we can finally, in good conscience, set down. They won't make you richer or healthier, and, as we should have learned by now, they can easily put you in harm's way. The threats that we face, individually and collectively, won't be solved by wishful thinking but by a clear-eyed commitment to taking action in the world.

So if positive thinking is not the really the road to success, so what is it? Well, we need to pinch our face and end all this daydreaming and start moving our lazy behind forward.


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