If you want to be successful, you’ve got to think positively—so the theory goes. Experts tell us that by embracing positive thinking, we’re able to reduce stress, become healthier and even live longer lives. There are people like Mark Zuckerberg who appear to always be smiling.
But if positive thinking were a key ingredient in the recipe of success, it seems as though more of us would love our careers. Just think happy thoughts and the world would be ours. But according to a recent study, 70% of U.S. professionals hate their jobs. That is a lot of miserable employees.
Clearly, while positive thinking can help us better navigate certain situations, it by itself is not our ticket to riches. And believe it or not, there’s a growing body of research that suggests that positive thinking is actually bad for us. Studies show that too much positive thinking can cloud our judgment, causing us to make increasingly worse decisions.
It turns out that thinking all of those wonderful thoughts might actually cause us to escape reality and begin living in a fantasy world where everything’s unicorns and rainbows. But as we all know, the world we live in is far from perfect. Spouses cheat on each other. Nefarious individuals rob their fellow man. Government decision makers drop bombs on civilians halfway around the world. Businesses fail. People get fired. Cancer exists.
Instead of being a perpetual optimist, what if you were better off focusing on the negative energy in your life and using it to improve your situation?
Leveraging negativity to achieve greatness
We’re all human. Invariably we have days that are better than others. Such is life. Instead of letting a negative situation clog our minds and derail our productivity, we may be better off embracing darker thoughts and leveraging them to improve our situation.
Maybe you, like millions of other people, have a few extra pounds you’ve been trying to lose since forever. You could either dwell on your excess flesh, thinking about how unlucky you are to have a less than optimal metabolism rate. Or you could decide that you’ve had enough and start working out rigorously to sharpen your body thereby sharpening your mind.
Dick Rowe was a man who’s best known for refusing to sign The Beatles. Obviously, a young band being passed over by a record label is likely to feel a bit discouraged. Rather than letting rejection derail their careers, the lads from Liverpool used the negative energy to encourage themselves to reach their full potential. We all know how that story turned out.
The power of mindset
We’ve all experienced the black holes of negativity our brain can take us to. You start thinking about something bad, one thought leads to the next, and all of a sudden, you’re at the end of your rope—and you don’t even know how you got there in the first place. As we all can attest, these low points aren’t exactly inspiring.
But there’s no need to wallow in misery forever. The mantra that thinking happy thoughts lead to a happy life has been debunked repeatedly. Positivity and negativity are both natural emotions. You’ll be a better-rounded person if you learn to control your emotions—not flee from them.
The good news is that you’re in control of the way you think. If you’re an extremely negative person, consider today the day you learn to change your mindset and take back control of your life. That way, you won’t have to ignore your negative feelings. You can take them for what they are. Let them inspire you to improve yourself.
Nobody likes the eternal pessimist
While studies have disproven the notion that optimism is a harbinger of success—positive thinking can actually create more problems than it solves—you shouldn’t become an eternal pessimist. Nobody likes that guy.
Still, nobody likes the eternal optimist either. Yes, when things are going terribly, it’s always nice to have someone around who tries to put a smile on everyone’s face. To an extent. Being alive, by definition, means there will be ups and downs. There will be times when everything seems to be working out in our lives, and there will be times when tragedies effortlessly accrue.
Your best bet is become in touch with your own emotions as best you can. Improve your emotional intelligence, and not only will you become more effective in all aspects of your life, you’ll be able to better understand where people are coming from—which means you’ll instinctively take the most appropriate approach to most situations.
Embrace your emotions and take the good with the bad. You can only bottle up negativity for so long. Try to act like everything’s great all the time, and you’ll only live to regret it. Let’s hope that occurs before the powder keg explodes.