Do you sometimes find yourself thinking negatively about yourself, about others, or about circumstances? Is your focus on what's wrong, on limitations, or on destructive viewpoints? Although negative thinking is often detrimental and scorned by many in society today, it is valuable. Negative thinking enables us to define and express our vulnerability, integrate trauma, and grieve the meaningful losses in our lives. It also warns us of imminent danger. Negative thinking cautions us against investing our hard-earned money in fraudulent get-rich-quick schemes, or against diving into deep water when we don't know how to swim. It is necessary in any design process to anticipate flaws in products, services, and projects so that they can be rectified.
We all think negatively from time to time. Do you experience worry, depression, or blame? Do you complain, criticize, or use words like "can't" and "won't"? Are you ever unreasonable? Do you direct your anger at people who have nothing to do with its cause or solution? Negative thinking can be very destructive. Negative thinkers often waste valuable ideas and opportunities for success by dwelling on why things can't be done. They anticipate failure in their endeavors and use their losses to validate their pessimistic perspective. They see life as a series of problems, focus on what they don't have, and are usually unhappy.
All of us experience varying degrees of negativity. Sometimes we have a few doubts about the workability of a situation, while at other times we are convinced that it can't work—under any circumstances. When we believe that what we want is unattainable or that whatever we do won't make any difference, we feel helpless. Here are some examples:
Craig, a real estate agent, has been divorced twice. During each marriage he created havoc because he couldn't control his temper. Now, lonely and disillusioned, he is afraid of intimacy and sabotages relationships with women. He doesn't believe that he can make a committed relationship work.
Miles sold his chiropractic practice after he broke his arm. He then invested in several unsuccessful business ventures where he was misguided and defrauded. He now feels hopeless, and believes that the grass will turn brown even where he waters it.
Some people have a slightly negative disposition whereas others are extraordinarily negative. How much of your time is spent thinking negatively?_%
Are you a positive thinker? Are you confident and self-assured? Is your thinking constructive and productive? When evaluating a situation, do you focus on the bright side? Do you think in terms of victory and success? Positive thinkers see themselves as good, loving, productive, competent, and worthy of life's favorable offerings. They concentrate on the value in themselves, in others, and in the world. They focus on how things can be done—and make them happen. They approach life with a "can do" and "will do" attitude, believing that the grass will turn green where they water it.
Consider Heather, a positive thinker. As an aspiring actress in her early forties, Heather believed that her age would help rather than hinder her. She took acting lessons from well-regarded teachers and zealously refined her craft. She approached each day enthusiastically and auditioned for roles whenever she could. For Heather, each audition provided an opportunity to display her talent. Believing that success would soon be hers, she persisted through numerous temporary setbacks and developed confidence as an actress. One day she was offered an important role in a high-budget film. She excelled in that role and went on to become a successful actress.
We all know that positive thinking can motivate us to be productive, efficient, and successful. But there are varying shades of positive thinking. Let's examine some of them.
You may be a positive thinker, yet your thinking could, in fact, be mediocre. Do you think you're quite good at your job? Are you a pretty good family person, friend, or athlete? Is your thinking rarely unusual? Do you feel comfortable being one of the crowd? American business writer Lou Vickery believes: "Nothing average ever stood as a monument to progress. When progress is looking for a partner it doesn't turn to those who believe that they are only average. It turns instead to those who are forever searching and striving to become the best they possibly can. If we seek the average level, we cannot hope to achieve a higher level of success. Our only hope is to avoid being a failure."
Here is a typical example of such a mediocre thinker:
Mary, a good-hearted woman, owns a modest home, drives an ordinary car, and lives a reasonably comfortable life. She doesn't aspire to the best things in life because she doesn't believe she could ever have them. Although she has some worthwhile goals, she is not excited about achieving them. She gets along quite well with others because she avoids conflict and does not make waves. Mary's mediocre thinking began early in life because, sadly, her parents constantly denigrated her intellect, behavior, and aspirations. She was continually told that she couldn't have what she wanted and that she must compromise. To this day Mary avoids taking actions that might evoke disapproval from others. Having settled for second best all her life, at forty-four she has not overcome her early restrictive conditioning.
Are you a mediocre thinker? When people ask you how you are, do you automatically respond with "not bad," "okay," or "pretty good"? Many people are in the habit of responding in mediocre terms instead of considering their options and figuring out a reply that is in their best interest. Best-selling author Stephen Covey suggests: "You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically—to say 'no' to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger 'yes' burning inside. The enemy of the 'best' is often the 'good.'"
Mediocre thinkers are regular people who feel comfortable being considered average in their thinking and actions. Their style of thinking is generally moderate and conservative. American actor and critic Uta Hagen believes: "We must overcome the notion that we must be regular. It robs us of the chance to be extraordinary and leads us to the mediocre."
Most people are committed to this middle-of-the-road form of thinking. Others simply tinker with it. How much of your time do you devote to mediocre thinking?_%
Does extraordinary thinking describe you? Do you think in terms of being more than ordinary, unusually great, exceptional? Do you prefer to think beyond the realms of mediocrity? Do you like to challenge the limited thinking of most people? Do words like "remarkable," "brilliant," "outstanding," "great," and "high achiever" describe you?
Extraordinary thinkers achieve exceptional results in all walks of life because they don't settle for the ordinary. Former NASA astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to venture into space. She admits: "My mission is to make unique contributions." Well-known real estate developer Donald Trump claims: "As long as you're going to be thinking anyway, think big." According to former Soviet and Russian political leader Boris Yeltsin, "It is especially important to encourage unorthodox thinking when the situation is critical: At such moments every new word and fresh thought is more precious than gold."
By listening carefully, you can identify extraordinary thinkers. Recently the chief executive officer of a large and successful oil corporation came to my office for a business consultation. His response to the question "What is the primary purpose of your company?" was "to create exceptionally high returns for our shareholders" as part of his overall statement. He was an extraordinary thinker.
Many extraordinary thinkers refuse to give in to seemingly insurmountable limitations and obstacles. Thomas Edison invented the electric lightbulb when everyone believed it wasn't possible. He succeeded after ten thousand attempts. When the world believed it couldn't be done, Roger Bannister ran the mile in four minutes. We don't know exactly how these people achieved their successes, but we do know that they courageously challenged and surpassed the conventional thinking of their time. Their extraordinary thinking may or may not have produced the best possible outcome, but it certainly provided the mental foundation for exceptional results.
Does this describe you? How much of your time is invested in extraordinary thinking?_%
By now, you are probably wondering how positive thinking differs from Optimal Thinking. Read on to learn that when you compare the levels of positive thinking—even extraordinary thinking—to Optimal Thinking, positive thinking is suboptimal!
Was this article helpful?
Learning About Letting Go, Moving On Can Have Amazing Benefits For Your Life And Success! Don't be held back by the past - face your guilt and fears and move on! Letting go is merely arriving at a decision, no more allowing something from the past tense to influence your life today or to cut down your inner sense of peace and welfare.