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5-a-Week: Positive thinking – a realistic approach


This week, we look at an article by LaRae Quy, who offers a different perspective, and five key points to realistic positive thinking.

Quy postulates that the possibility of a negative outcome should be weighed equally against the possibility of a positive one.  She suggests that ‘intelligent thinking’ is perhaps a more suitable term for positive thinking - positivity is not optimism that expects things to change for the better, nor is it pessimism that expects the worst to happen.  It can be as equally difficult for optimists to be positive thinkers as it is for pessimists. Positive thinking should not deny the contribution of negative thinking ('what if' scenario); it’s wise to prepare for the worst that could happen in business and life.

Quy offers five points to realistic, effective positive thinking:

1. Accept your Emotions

Observe your emotions and sensations as they come to the surface, acknowledge them but do not judge them as being either positive or negative, and then let them pass. Do not try to suppress a negative emotion simply because it’s negative.

 2. Embrace the Possibility of Failure

The all-positive approach of motivational speakers is relentless in its pursuit of perfection. The more realistic approach of positivity, on the other hand, does not reject failure. In fact, positive thinkers embrace failure as a challenge, a call to action to keep moving forward. They do not give up and walk away, searching for something easier at which they will finally succeed. They continue to approach the problem, but from different angles while at the same time honing their talents and skills. 

3. Look for Positive Options

Positive thinking is embracing the reality of a negative outcome in a situation, but continually looking for and finding the positive options that every situation offers. 

Thoughts are stubborn; once you let them take hold and grow roots, it is very difficult to erase them from your mind.

Whatever grabs your attention rules your life. So, you need to control your thinking. Researchers confirm that the very thing your mind focuses on is the same thing that you will start to notice in your daily life.

Your survival instinct has warned you of the possible negative outcome; now, you need to counter that warning with a positive response that will prepare you as you move toward the obstacle.  

Recognise the negative aspects of your situation, but don’t dwell on them. Turn your attention to the positive options available to you.

 4. Believe you can Prevail

Positivity is believing we can prevail in our situation, regardless of the circumstances. Prisoners of war and Special Forces soldiers (and most people who have survived extreme situations – RJ) have found that their belief in their own ability to prevail in extreme and adverse conditions is what kept them alive. 

Survival, in one form or another, is at the heart of mental toughness. It is prevailing over our circumstances and moving forward. It takes confidence in our abilities and a belief that failure is not the end—it simply represents another way to approach our situation.

 5. Differentiate between Visioning and Fantasy

Visioning is based on solid science. By visioning our performance repeatedly, our brain stores that information as a success. And with each success, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past. 

Fantasies, however, can lessen our chance for success. Those who are adamant optimists about a positive future will experience a greater shock when things go wrong. If people fantasize only positive beliefs about their future, they are less prepared and more stressed when things don’t work out the way they had hoped.

What have your experiences of positive thinking been, and would perhaps 'intelligent thinking' be a better approach (as well as being perhaps easier to sell to your team or boss...)?

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