In my previous post on positive thinking, I explained some of the perils of positive thinking and how it can lead to a lack of empathy and awareness about racial and class issues, as well as a solipsistic belief that what you think is what you attract to your life. Having detailed the problems with positive thinking, I now want to turn to the power of positive thinking and how it can be a useful tool in your toolkit, provided you keep yourself grounded and recognize that positive thought does not automatically guarantee success. Positive thinking has its uses, under the right circumstances.
There are only two books on positive thinking that I’ve found significantly useful: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. What has made both of these books useful is their focus on practical implementation of positive thinking in conjunction with other skills that are necessary for any venture. An important caveat must be noted about both these books: they were written by white men in the early to mid twentieth century, with little, if any, awareness of critical race theory or class issues. I note this caveat because if you choose to read these books, you’ll find the language somewhat dated and may at times have reactions to the lack of awareness these authors demonstrate. With that said, if you read these books with an eye toward what you can take and apply to your own life, you may get some good ideas. Here’s a few things I’ve learned about the power of positive thinking:
Two heads really are better than one. And three are even better than two. In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill introduces the concept of the Master Mind Group, where you meet with a group of people pursuing similar goals and share your challenges and on-going work as a way of getting advice and ideas. You also share your experience and ideas with them in regards to their endeavors. I’ve belonged to a few such groups, and they’ve been very helpful, because I’ve gotten ideas I wouldn’t have thought of and some needed alternative perspectives and challenges to what I’m doing, so I can do it better.
Your emotional outlook does have an effect on your perspective. The emotional perspective you apply to a situation does have some effect on the outcome, at least in terms of what you’ll notice about the experience. If you are consistently negative in your outlook, that does cause you to experience a given situation through that particular emotional filter. The same applies to a positive emotional perspective. In my experience, having a positive emotional outlook has helped me in a number of situations, including ones where the situation didn’t turn out all that great, but my ability to maintain a positive outlook allowed me to learn from the situation and find opportunities I might have ignored if I was being strictly negative.
Creativity is more than just artistic talent. In The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz talks about how important it is to approach problems through creative thinking. Sometimes an obstacle can’t be overcome directly, so learning to think laterally is essential. By cultivating your creative thinking, you can discover ways to solve problems that other people might write off as impossible. Thinking positive includes thinking creatively about problems, but also includes thinking creatively about life in general. Learning to examine a given situation creatively can help you discover solutions and opportunities, as well as appreciate the value of unorthodox ways of living your life.
Positive thinking complements other tools. Positive thinking, when applied with other methods, can be effective in any number of situations. Don’t just think positive, but look at what you are actively doing to implement that positive thought into action. A thought without action has only a subjective reality, but a thought that is turned into action creates an opportunity to manifest an objective result. It’s important to combine positive thinking with the other tools you are using. For example, if you own a business, positive thinking alone won’t help you run that business. But if you were to write a business plan and implement the actions of that plan while using positive thinking to keep yourself open to opportunity and your motivation and morale up, then you’d be effectively using positive thinking.
Positive thinking can be a useful tool, under the right circumstances. In my next entry, I’ll discuss how to implement positive thinking and still remain grounded in the realities of life.