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Please note that Current of Life was previously published under the title: Living Your Potential

Living Your Potential

Does Positive Thinking Really Work?

The Problem with Positive Thinking

In the 53 years since Norman Vincent Peale first introduced his book, The Power of Positive Thinking, many others have written on the subject.  The terms positive thinking, positive mental attitude (PMA), and positive mindset are commonly used today.

It would be difficult to argue against positive thinking.  Yet something makes us bristle when we hear the pat advice: “Just think positively.  Smile.”  We know deep down that positive thinking makes sense, but is it really that simple?  It might be, but simple doesn’t always mean easy.  It takes practice.

Pollyanna, take off your rose-colored glasses.

I’ve observed three blocks to positive thinking:

Block #1: The fear of overlooking a very real obstacle  The fear of inadvertently missing something important is a legitimate concern.  After all, we’re talking about positive thinking, not denial.  Sweeping things under the rug backfires. 

Key Point: Positive doesn’t mean unreal.

Block #2: The fear of being called a Pollyanna  There’s no getting around the fact that if you choose to be an optimist, you may occasionally get teased.  To some, cynical is cool. 

Key Point: Be selective when sharing your thoughts with others.

Block #3: The fear of being let down  I once saw a comic strip with the caption: “Avoid disappointment.  Aim low.”  There may be less emotional risk when you play it safe, but the logic is circular and doesn’t work.  You end up disappointed anyway. 

Key Point: Just go for it and promise yourself that if it doesn’t work out, you’ll think of something else.

Make it a Practice

How do you actually practice positive thinking?  There are some specific ways to do this, for example: using visualization, asking yourself productive questions, and uncovering beliefs or assumptions which no longer serve you.  The next several issues of Living Your Potential will expand on how you can build your positive thinking skill set.

Begin this week by simply noticing your internal dialogue.  What do you say when you talk to yourself?  Is it more often a critical voice you hear or an encouraging one?  If what you say to yourself is not as kind as what you would say to a good friend, take note.  Make it a point to be nice to yourself and notice the difference.

Here's to you,
Ginny's signature

© 2005, Virginia M. Kravitz and In the Current®. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to reproduce this article provided it is without any alteration, includes the copyright above, and if distributing electronically includes a link to

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